Rupert Goodman
Archive number: 923
Date interviewed: 23 September, 2003

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Rupert Goodman 0923


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Tape 01


Theo, if we could go through where you grew up and where you were born, and that sort of thing?
Right. Do you want to ask me a question about it or?
Yes, basically if you can just in the first part, if you can go through briefly, I guess the main points of your life up until the war. So where were you born?
Oh I was born in Kew in Melbourne and that was near, what was called then the Benandarah cemetery. I born was born in the 25th of November 1915. So that meant I’m getting onto eighty-seven or eighty-eight. But that was a period.


1915 to 1930 was a period when I was going to primary school. And that was a primary school at Deepdene, a very good school. And I was very fortunate to have very good teachers, very good teachers, and they set me on the right track. This


teacher in particular at the Deepdene primary school said to me, “Look,” he said, “You’ve got to do your homework, and do your homework every night” and he set the homework. In those days homework had to be done by kerosene lanterns, not a hurricane lamp but a very nice


lantern, because there was no electricity on at that stage. So you could sit in the kitchen in front of the old stove and do your homework with the help of the hurricane lamp, or the lamp as it was. And that was checked every morning. The teacher checked you. If he gave you 12 spellings you had to know, and he’d check your 12 spelling next morning


and one mistake, one cut, so you learnt your spelling pretty well. And that proved the right, because in the end I became Dux of the of the school. And I still have the books in, there, which were presented to me at the speech night in Camberwell. And that was a very important


part of my life, in getting a good grounding in the primary school.
And where did you study after primary school?
Well then this man, I think the name was Waff, said to me, “Look Rupert, there is a special scholarship going, there are only 50 awarded over the whole of Victoria.


And these are very important, because if you get one of these, you can get free tuition at any primary, any public or private school in Victoria.” That was very important because high school charged fees in those days, and you had to be. Very few people went onto high school, because they couldn’t afford it. Well I went to this


examination, and low and behold I got one of these 50. It was the first time ever that anyone from that school had got such a scholarship. And it was great credit to the school. So then I had a decision to make. Where I would go to take out this scholarship.


I could have gone to Wesley or Scotch, or one of those public schools. But in the end I elected to go a high school. Are you a Victorian? No. I elected to go to the University High School. Now that was the top high school in Victoria, and it had some very good teachers, very good.


And so I had four years at this high school. And I had no trouble in getting through Intermediate and Leaving, Leaving Certificate. And Matriculation. That was important in those days. If you were going to the university you had to matriculate. And you had to sign the matriculation roll. And


pay your two guineas. Now this was a problem that I had immediately, because I didn’t have two guineas. My family I didn’t like to say, “Give me two guineas.” That was a lot of money. So I mentioned this to our minister, who was a wonderful man. He said, “Look here Rupert,” he said, “I think you’ve got a future ahead of you, I’ll pay the two guineas.” And there and then he paid the two guineas


for my Matriculation Certificate, which was wonderful. And at the end of four years at the University High School I was awarded a university scholarship. But again I had a particular problem. I had been living on the family for four years, in the Depression years, going to high school. And I thought, “Well I can’t


live on my family for another four years while I’m at the university. “What’ll I do?” So it just happened at that time, I received an invitation from the Victorian Education Department, to take up teaching. So there was no question about it, I had to take the teaching offer because it paid me a hundred and four pounds a year.


Two pounds a week. Now that was a fortune. So I said, “Yes, I’ll go teaching.” And that was a big decision to make in my lifestyle. So I had two years teaching as a student with other teachers, and then I was awarded a scholarship to the teachers college, so that I could


undertake a year of training in rural school teaching, which was another very interesting year that I had. And at the end of that time I passed that with great honours, and so I was sent out to one-teacher schools in Victoria. Now that is I had to go to a small school, perhaps 12 children, and I was the only


teacher, and I had to organise the school in different grades and teach these children. Probably the best years of my life when I was teaching out in those country schools. And I enjoyed it, and they enjoyed it too. I suppose one of the most interesting periods was when they took me home to the farm at weekends. And they thoroughly enjoyed the occasion


when they taught me to milk a cow. That was something new in my lifestyle, but that’s the sort of thing that went on very well. And in this meantime, I was picking up the odd subject on an arts course. Doing it myself, at night, and paying my own way. I picked up three or four subjects and


I was doing so well that the department then picked me up and sent me to secondary teaching. So I was shot off to high school, to teach in high schools. And it so happened that in 1939,1940, I was teaching at Box Hill High School. And then the war broke out, and that was


another big change in my lifestyle. Because I had to yes, make a big decision about war. And the staff, teachers staffroom, was a place where they were discussing the war, and many of these teachers were teachers from World War I. And when that war broke out in


1939, there wasn’t much doing for a while because it was a phoney war, not much war. And then when Hitler invaded the Low Countries and attacked France, and threatened to attack Britain, that is when the feeling in


Melbourne increased. There was patriotism everywhere. A great feeling that we should help the Mother Country. And then places like, well at school, the bugles of England were blowing all the sea. The Bugles of England and how could I stay. That sort of feeling went. And if you went past the Melbourne


Town Hall. It would be full with concerts. Patriotic concerts. And you couldn’t resist joining up as it were. So when 1940, I told the education department I was joining up. And


they didn’t have any say in it. Just went in joining up period. And that meant 1940 I was joining up. And that meant that I had to go through all the procedure. That procedure was all a bit complicated I suppose. You had to go through the medical examination and you had to


sign this and sign that. On the medical side, you were given what was called a ‘dead meat ticket’[identity disc]. That was something that you had to wear around your neck the whole of your period in the army. So that if you were killed, they’d look at this dead meat ticket it was called, and it had you name and your religion


and your blood group and a few other things on this ticket. On this, that you wore around your neck at all times. So you got that. Then you were sent to a place called Royal Park, which was a military establishment for training. And I didn’t know anything about the army. I’d never been in the militia.


I had no idea. So I was sent to this training camp for training. And there were two basic things that you had to learn. One was the rifle, and the other was the bayonet. And with the rifle you had to take it to bits, you had to put it together and you had to put it over your shoulders. And then they took you to the rifle


range. And they gave you one bullet. And they put the bullet in, and you had a shot at the rifle range to see how you were going. We had a old Scots sergeant major there. He didn’t think much of us at all. He said, “Oh, just as well it wasn’t the enemy.” He didn’t say that. Well anyway we then went back and we got the bayonet.


And there was a model, in straw, down there and you had to run down and put the bayonet through this model. And the sergeant major was horrified. He said, “You girls will never kill anybody.” “Let me give you a demonstration.” And he went down and he was shouting and screaming and he gave us a demonstration of how you’ve got to put a bayonet through


somebody. Well we learnt that. And then they decided, in the army’s funny way, how they were going to sort all these people out. So they had a procedure, which said, “Look, tallest on the right, shortest on the left, form a line.” And they said, “Right, here to here, you’re in the infantry, here to here,


you’re in ack-ack [anti-aircraft]. Here to here, you’re in something or other.” And then he got a message. “I’ve got a message here,” he said. “They’re very short of staff at the hospital at Puckapunyal, so you 12 people over there, get your gear, and get in that bus, and you’re going to Puckapunyal.” So before knew where we were, we were at the hospital at Puckapunyal. At the 4th


Australian General Hospital. And we were training to be nurses, incredible as it may seem. We were under supervision of the nurse. We learnt how to make beds and how to give injections and all sorts of things that nurses have to know. We had to learn that. And before long


we got a CO [commanding officer]. The CO of the hospital was a gynaecologist by the way. As it may seem. He was a wonderful CO, as it turned out. Before we knew where we are, they called us up and said, “Look, we’re going overseas.” “So say goodbye to your parents and we’re going very soon.” And before


we knew where we were, we were in a train going down to Port Melbourne, and we were getting on a ship called the Mauritania. A big handsome ship it was. And it hadn’t been at all altered from its normal running, so that when we got on the Mauritania we had first class material. The best of china and cutlery, the best


of places to sleep. The Mauritania was a very big ship, an important ship. And we thought, “Oh well this is very nice way to go to war.” And we went down and through the heads. And when we went through the heads in Victoria we picked up then a whole convoy of big ships. The Awatia, the Aquitania,


various other ones. And also we had the Canberra regardless. So then we were going out, and the first night out the Captain called us up and said, “Look,” he said, “There are two very important things you must remember.” “Don’t throw anything overboard because that will be a track for the submarines, and there’ll


be no lights after dark.” “If you want to smoke go down stairs to your cabin. But you mustn’t show any lights upstairs. They could give a clue to a submarine.” Well we thought this was all very well, that’s very nice. So we had about four days at sea, and then we pulled into Fremantle for a day and picked up some


New Zealanders. It was very impressive. The New Zealanders were on a ship called the Awatere, and as we left Fremantle they were singing, “Now is the hour,” and they were going over. And we were singing, I forget now what we were singing, but we didn’t have anything like that. Probably Waltzing Matilda or something.
How does Now is the Hour go?


Now is the Hour was a tremendous thing, flowing across the water. Anyway, we then had a big convoy and away we went across the Indian Ocean. And before long we were at Colombo. And our ship, the Mauritania, could go into the harbour. Some of the other big ships had to go around to another


port, because they couldn’t get into the harbour. We were lucky, or I was lucky. We had a few hours off and a few. We got off the ship, and low and behold we were picked up by a boy. And I don’t mean, I mean one of the master’s lads was called a boy. And he took us


home to his master’s place. His master happened to be the harbourmaster. And the harbourmaster looked after us four very well. Said, “What do you want, a bath?” “Well you can have a bath in there.” “Come and have some good meal, and then I’ll take you around and show you Colombo.” He took us in the car and showed us all around Colombo, and it was a quite a


day before we got back. But we didn’t get back on the Mauritania. We changed ship to a smaller ship. The small ship that was called the Nevasa. And it was a dirty old tub that had been used by families for years, transporting them from the Middle East to the Far East.


And it was a terribly dirty tub. Oh dear, cockroaches in the porridge and that sort of thing. It was filthy. But we put up with that for a few days until we got to the Middle East. And there, suddenly, there was a sign, a symbol, the sound, action stations. We were


likely to be attacked by enemy aircraft, so we had to assemble in the, what was a big mess room. And we waited there in the dark. We heard some guns going off, but we waited and waited. And then all was clear, we raced up on deck and we saw one ship was ablaze further


on, but nothing for us. The rumour was that the Germans had laid mines in the Suez Canal, so we couldn’t go up the canal. It meant we had to get off the ship and get onto a dirty old train. And it was filthy. And that took us around to Cairo. Do you know this area at all?


I’ve got a map there. I can show you where we went to. To Cairo, and then we were taken over to a place where they were building a tented hospital. It was a out from Cairo, at a place called El Kantara, and we settled down into


this tented hospital, out in the sands. It was pretty filthy out there in the desert. And we were warned about the Arabs, and only too soon, because they were very clever. You know when you have a tent and you have a line in the middle of the tent on which you put your clothes. Well until


we realised it, the Arabs would come along at night. One would undo one end, the other would undo the other. They’d keep on walking and walk away with everything that was on the line. So we soon learnt how to be careful of the Arabs. While we were waiting there, events were happening up the African


Coast. That was the time when the 6th Division were attacking the Arabs in this area. And they were moving fast, and getting thousands of Arab prisoners. But the 6th Division had gone up through places called Derna and Tobruk, and right up the coast towards Benghazi. And they


had captured a lot of Arab prisoners, incredible. By the time they got to Benghazi they had established a hospital, the 2/7 Field ambulance I think it was, established a hospital and waiting for us. So the CO said, “Well we are going to get on a little ship, and go up


as far as Tobruk. And that will only take us a couple of days. So we went down to the Alexandria and got on this, another dirty little tub. It was called The Knight of Malta. It was a little ferry boat that had in peacetime, ran between Malta and some of the Italian ports. So we, four hundred of


us. There were no sisters. Four hundred of us got on this ship, and oh, it was terrible. We had to get down in the holds, and it was fifthly. And we set off and ran into a terrific storm. The ship went this way and that way and up there and down there. The water came over the thing. It was terrible for two days and two nights. We were


absolutely at a loss. And suddenly one morning there was a grinding sound, and the ship had run aground. The ferry had run aground. And it was tilting over. And the captain a, very light pistol to see where we were. And we were about 400 yards from the shore.


And the ship was hard fast, so then he gave the order, “Abandon Ship.” So we had then to get over as best we could. He said, “Get over and get to the shore as best you can.” And so there was no ship and no lifeboats on that side. But everything was being tossed


overboard. So we went overboard, and made our way as best we could to this little sandy cove. And low and behold we all got ashore safely. But then the problem arose, “Where were we?” We had no maps. The CO had no maps. He couldn’t tell us. We had


a light breakfast from our little rations that we always carried. And the cooks, bless their soul, were able to light a little fire and give us a cup of tea. So then the CO said, “Well look,” he said, “I think there is a road that Mussolini built out there beyond the desert, up and down.” He said, “We will


have to find that road.” “So I suggest that we break up into groups of ten or twelve, and walk as best we can over towards that side in the hope that we will pick up the road.” So we walked all day, about six hours, and suddenly we saw this road. And the CO in his wisdom said, “Look, get down.”


“Don’t move until we decide whether the vehicle coming is one of theirs or ours.” Because at that stage the war was going up and down. Fortunately it was one of ours, well it was a British wagon, and we got them in tow. We went back to a place called Bardia. Before that we had to leave a guard on the


ship. We left a group of people there to look after the ship. We went to Bardia and had a rest, clean up. And I always remember, the Padre gave a thanksgiving service for our rescue, and say that we came good, through that service. And then, he said, I remember this, he said,


“Now you must not tell in your writing home any reference to this event, because it will be cut out by the censors.” He said, “If you want to say anything to your parents, tell them to get the Bible down and to read the 27th chapter of Acts.” He said, “That was the event of Paul. Now Paul had the same sort of shipwreck in that period.


And if they take their Bible and read about the shipwreck of Saint Paul, they might get some idea of what we went through.” Well the parents then were a little bit worried because their men had never been used to reading the Bible. And for then to write back home and say “Get down and read the Bible” we thought was a terrible effort. Anyway we went back to the ship,


in a day or two, and the engineers had built a road and a causeway. And with various pieces of timber they had made a track through to the boat. The boat by this time had come close to the shore. And we got back into the ship to get our belongings. And


we got our belongings and we got a few souvenirs. I got a very valuable one. I’ll show it to you later on. I’ve still have it. In the captains cabin I found the Very light pistol that he used when he fired over to the shore. And I souvenired this, and I still have it. I’ll show you later on. But then we


had to get moving again. And so the CO arranged with trucks and ambulances and anything else that we could get on board, and go up the coast. We went through to Tobruk and through Derna and various places until we reached this Benghazi. And there we found the, a few nurses had gone up there by ship, and we found


a little hospital, still operating. So we took it over, the place called Barce. We took over the hospital and got moving. Meanwhile the 6th div had been over passed Benghazi. But this was a time when the Grecian campaign started, and the troops were evacuated across to


Greece. However, we didn’t take much notice of that. Our troops, the 7th Div, moved on past Benghazi. And all was going well until suddenly one morning the DDMS [Deputy Director of Medical Services], that’s the officer in charge of medical things said first in, “Look you’ve no right to


be here, the Germans are coming.” “Pack up and get out as fast as you can, and get back to Tobruk.” Well that was all very nice. We had to leave our goods behind us and get in the truck, and make our way back to Tobruk. And that was about a day and a half. But it was a tremendous exciting,


not exciting so much, as dangerous, because while we were going back to Tobruk, we could see the Germans out in the sand, about several miles out. They were also going towards Tobruk. And they were very clever. They got ahead of us at one stage. And they got hold of a uniform of a British


MP [Military police] and stripped off. And put one of their people in this uniform. And at a certain point on the way back, this German, in this British uniform, was directing traffic down a dead end. And that meant that he was able to get two Generals,


and a lot of troops, goods and what not. We were lucky. We went the other way, and didn’t get caught. But the others did. So we got back to Tobruk, and then we had to see that the other troops that were coming in were taking over old


Italian forts and slit trenches and what not. We had to push through, and low and behold we found a hospital there was being run by the sisters. So we made ourselves into that hospital and helped. And that was going pretty well for a couple of days while the fortifications


were being set up. And then the message came through, “it’s too dangerous for the nurses, the nurses have got to go.” So the nurses that night were evacuated on a hospital ship back to Alexandria. And the CO called us up and said, “Look chaps, we’ve got a hospital there. 600 patients. We’ve got no nurses.”


“You’ve got to act as nurses.” “Go to it.” He said, “We’ll look after you, the medicos will look after you.” So there and then we suddenly found ourselves in charge of a ward, with the help of a medico. And that was alright for a day or so, and then one


morning when I was in a ward, suddenly the Germans bombed it. Bombed the hospital and various wards that I was in. I suddenly put a dish over my head, but there were about half a dozen bombs fell on that ward. The medico in charge of the ward was


shot to pieces immediately. We lost two of our staff and about 40 patients, all killed. And down at the wharf where we had another tented hospital. It was shot to pieces by machines guns. Lost a lot of patients and a couple of staff. And one of our favourite Medicos, who was an ophthalmologist,


tried to run about 20 yards into a slit trench, but he didn’t make it. He got cut to pieces. And so we then had to sort out this terrible mess. Some of those that were wounded we were able to send off to another section. Then we had to arrange to collect all the dead.


That’s when this dead meat ticket became valuable. We knew who they were. Made a list of those. And they had to be put on stretchers, and got prepared for the trip out to the cemetery. And we had to bury those. And this was a beginning of a terrible event. This was


in April, and we were there until October. And in that time we had a thousand air raids. We lost several wards at different times. But we had to learn to live with air raids. Night and day, particularly at night. And various events took place in that period,


I’m writing about it at the present time. But it was an incredible period. This is when the Germans set the siege for Tobruk. They wouldn’t let anybody out, and we couldn’t get them in, so the siege sat like that for the next eight months.
We might just stop right there and change tapes quickly. We’ve just ran out of tape.
Interviewee: Rupert Goodman Archive ID 0923 Tape 02


OK, so you were just telling me about the air raids.
So, we had an old wireless out in the mess, and we used to go along and listen to that. And it so happened that there was a man with an English voice. We called


him Lord Haw Haw. This was William Joyce. William Joyce was an Englishman who had gone over to the Germans, and in the German radio he set up all the information about the war. It wasn’t accurate, but at least it was something about the war. And we called him


Lord Haw Haw [German propagandist], because he called us ‘The Rats’. He said, “Come on out of those holes you rats, we’re coming to get you tonight.” And he kept calling us ‘The rats’. And we didn’t mind, because we thought well it is a very good acronym, ‘The rats’. So we called ourselves ‘The rats’ and we’re quite proud of it. And this went around the world then as the Rats of Tobruk.


Well there were many events took place in that eight months. One of the interesting problems was that how were we going to get the wounded patients that needed care, back to Alexandria. Of course we tried the hospital ship first of all, but the Germans bombed the hospital ship. So we couldn’t used the hospital ship and we couldn’t use any


ship in the harbour. Tobruk harbour was a very good harbour. We couldn’t get any ship in the harbour in the daylight. So the navy came to the rescue. Fortunately while we didn’t have aircraft we had a very good navy. The Germans had no navy that they could use. So the navy worked out a scheme. They would use destroyers. And they would have a destroyer at


Alexandria, and it would sail up very fast in daylight, up to the Egyptian border. And in that period they would have protection from our Hurricanes. Our Hurricanes (UNCLEAR) and that was very good. And when the dark came they had to leave the protection of the Hurricanes, and go as fast as they could at the harbour of Tobruk.


And when they got to the harbour, they would drop the anchor. And on one side of the ship would be offloaded stores, ammunition, reinforcements, all the rest of it. On the other side of the ship would be taken on all the wounded. The captain would be looking at his watch, and at a certain time he would give the signal and up with


the anchor, and away the destroyer would go. It would have to get back to the border in time, at daylight, in order to get the protection from the Hurricanes [fighter aircraft]. And they used this technique all that period. We only lost one destroyer. We lost a few little ships, but by and large that was the way in which they carried the destroyer, carried the


wounded back to Alexandria. A wonderful job by the navy. That was a very, very important part of the proceedings, and of course they were able to bring in food and supplies. We had to remember we had no food


available in Tobruk, except tins of fruit and tins of meat and so on. But we had to rely on the navy to bring us in food from time to time. That was very important. The other important part that the navy played, was


in giving us protection from the Germans when the Germans were bombing the harbour, they had their very best Stuka [German dive bombers] pilots, and they were very good pilots. They were so good, that if there was a ship in the harbour, they could dive down and drop a bomb down the funnel. They were so good.


But there were a lot of ships of various kinds that didn’t make it, and they were left in the harbour. One of the ships that was left in the harbour was called the Ladybird, which was sunk, but left over about half of it was out of water, and it remained as


an aircraft signal. One of the problems that we had in the hospital from time to time, was when a ship was bombed in the harbour and all the crew came ashore, swam ashore, covered in oil. And then they had to be taken to the hospital and treated, with getting rid of all the oil. That was a terrible


job. We were lucky that we had some very good surgeons in the hospital, and they were able to keep things going. One of the ways in which they sorted out the people. I had a knowledge of German in my educational career, and so


I was put in charge of a ward of German wounded. And the medico who came along, Dr Ley, would give instructions and I could translate this to him for these Germans. Now the Germans themselves were very good, very interesting people.


I got to know them quite well. And at night time, for example, they would sing their songs and sing their hymns. And I got to know some of these. Well they were part of our own hymns were hymns like Nun Talla Alla Got; Now Thank We All Are God. And I would get


to know these hymns. Ein vestor Boog est Ein Shagot; A Strong Fortress is Our God. I got to know these, and a number of their German songs, and this was quite good. I appreciated it, and they appreciated it I think. They weren’t the wicked Germans. At least most of them weren’t, there were a few. There was one I recall


who was a blonde German, but he was burnt, incredibly most of him. He had been caught in a tank, but before he died he Hailed Hitler. That sort of thing. I suppose what kept the Germans at bay for the first time, was the initiative


of the Australian troops. Different altogether from the Germans. For example, when the Luftwaffe [German air force] had a technique called the ‘Blitzkrieg’ [lightning war], and that was their method of fighting all through Europe. The bombers would come in and bomb an area first of all, and then the tanks would


come in, follow that. And after the tanks, their infantry would follow, but the infantry by this stage had not much to do. Well this is a technique that they used against the Australians on the perimeter, on the border. And the bombing went on. The Australian troops, by this time, had long slit


trenches. And then came the tanks, and the Australian troops let the tanks go over. And when the tanks had gone, they got up with their bayonets, and fixed these German infantry. The German infantry had never seen anything like this before, and they turned and fled. And what about the tanks? Well the Germans had 330 tanks


to our 30. And there was a time when they were able to get through 30 tanks, and we were really in trouble, because we had no anti-tank guns of any sort. Our anti-tank guns were so miserable that they would bounce off the German armour. But when they had got through


to what they call the ‘Blue Line’, the 2/12 field regiment of twenty-five pounder’s [field guns], simply lowered their sights. They weren’t used to firing twenty-five pounder’s. But they lowered their sights, and fired twenty-five pounders, and blew 30 tanks to pieces. That was their initiative you see. This was an idea that they had. Some of


the other Australians, when they were seeing tanks up the other side of the boundary, used all sorts of techniques. For example, they could put an iron bar in the trailer underneath, and stop a car. Of course some of the more adventurous people


would climb up a tank, open the hatch, and drop a hand grenade down into it. Disabled everybody in the tank. These were showing the initiative of the Australian troops that the Germans didn’t have. Germans had to obey orders, and they didn’t have any initiative for doing something themselves.


And that really made the big difference between the two armies. This, I tell you, this doctor that I worked with in the German ward, and later on I was working with him in the theatre. He was quite a character, and I got to know him very well.


There was one occasion, for example, when we were in the theatre and he said to me, “Rupert,” he said, “I think this is coming fairly close, we’d better get down.” And he and I flattened ourselves on the floor, underneath the table. “Don’t worry about him,” he said, “He won’t know.” So the poor bloke up there who was anaesthetised didn’t know a thing as to what was happening. We were lying flat on the floor. He said, “It’s gone now, so were are alright.”


So we got up again and went on with the operation. He was that sort of character. An another occasion, he was operating when the patient vomited all over him. So what did he do. Dropped off all the offending garments, continued the operation, wearing his tin hat and his gloves


and his boots. The sisters would never have appreciated it, but it did the job. Well this Dr Ley, anyway, I got to know him well after the war. And strangely enough he had a place up there in Townsville. He used to go. He lived on Magnetic Island.


He used to go over to Townsville every day and back again. I used to see him quite a lot, because my work at the university took me up the coast. But there came a sad day, when while he was waiting at the wharf at Magnetic island, a man in a car up there had a heart attack, and he came down onto the wharf, went along and knocked this fella into the water and killed him.


After all his experiences in the war, he finished up like that. That’s incredible. But that’s the sort of thing that happened. I’ve been writing about the different times.
We might come and talk about Tobruk in a lot more detail in a little bit. Can you just tell me


quickly when you came back to Australia and where you went after that?
Right, when I came back to Australia, it so happened that later in the war period I was appointed Education Rehabilitation Officer, because of my educational background. And I was up in Labuan acting as a rehabilitation officer for the


POWs [prisoners of war] as they came in. But when I left the army, I should have gone back to teaching, but the commonwealth government took hold of me and said, “Just the man we want.” “We are going to set up a program in Melbourne,


of rehabilitating the wounded, the former wounded.” “So you will be the Educational Therapy Officer.” “You have to organise, in Melbourne, a program for the wounded, the blinded, the people who are incapacitated.” And I was


operating this for two years. But then the education department wanted me back. So they had an argument with the commonwealth, and eventually they took me back teaching. But they did the right thing in a way. They sent me back to the University High School as a teacher, and gave me


the opportunity then, of finishing my degrees. By going over to the University, getting my Arts Degree, getting my Diploma of Education, my Master of Education. I’d had the opportunity of doing all of these degrees while I was teaching at the University High. And the Professor of Education, Professor George Brown, was very good to me. He said, “Look Rupert,” he said,


“There’s an opportunity for a scholarship going at the Australian National University in Canberra.” “It’s the first one that any of the ex-service people have had, so I am nominating you for such a scholarship.” Again, low and behold, I was awarded the first PhD [Doctor of Philosophy] scholarship to the ANU [Australian National University] in Canberra. And so


we were married by that time. We had to pack up and go to Canberra, and live there for three years, and get a PhD. And that set me on the academic world of, with eventually, I finished up of the University of Queensland. Again with a similar sort of experience


because I was appointed to the external studies department, which in those days was very large, and it covered all of those students who were in the country and who couldn’t get to the university. And I would give them notes, all the rest of it. And we had 400 students in New Guinea at that time. I’d go to New Guinea.


And this for the rehabilitation work with the external studies department was a very big feature in my life. Anyway, will I go on from there?
What we might do now is go all the way back to the beginning, and I want to ask some questions about your childhood,


and growing up and your education. So that’s where we’ll head now.
Now we’ve reach the end, right back to the beginning. You said that you grew up in Kew in Melbourne. Can you tell me what that was like when you were a young child.
As a child? Well I suppose the important thing then, was Melbourne Football.


I had very no money of course. But when I was at primary school, before and after school I used to sell papers. Penny halfpenny a dozen. And at the end of the week, you see, I would have enough to go to the football. And everybody went to the football in those days. Football was your life, may still be. But yes, I


was able to get enough money, at a penny halfpenny a dozen each morning and afternoon.
And what team did you support?
I support Essendon. And I’ve been an Essendon supporter ever since. But no, football was your way of life. Everybody lived and thought and talked football in those days. Another way in which I


saved money. When I was appointed to the University High School, the transport into the city was by tram. And you got into the city, and then to go to the University High School, which was a mile up near the University. But in order to save money, and it was a cable tram in those days. In order to save money, you would walk


up to the university high school and walk back. And that would save a penny each way. A penny was a penny, and that was tuppence. And at the end of the week it was ten pence. It was amazing how you saved money, and thought of money in those days, because it was pretty hard living. As I say earlier, we came from a very poor family. I grew up in very poor circumstances.


What did your father do?
Well. Initially he was, what’s it called, a linesman. Now that was a person who was changing over the gas light’s in the city to electricity. And he would go up the poles and do various things. But then came the Depression, and


he didn’t have any skills of any sort. He had very practical skills. For example he made some of the first wireless sets. They were called crystal sets in those days. And you had earphones and he would move this and this and you could get. And he made these crystal sets and


sold them. And then a little later he made valve sets and sold them. But it was pretty hard going finding money to keep the house going. We had always had a very good back garden, and always had a fowl house, always had eggs. But


it was, and we used to get help from the church. Where we originally lived, everybody, it was a sort of community church. Everybody went to the church because they could walk to the church in that area. And this minister was very good. He would visit the houses,


the members, every quarter. He would come and see how you were going and what not. The church would often help in many ways. And he kept in touch with me. I’ve got letters in there that he wrote to me at Tobruk, from the church. And they are wonderful. But that was pretty hard going. He didn’t have any


training of any sort. He was just a man using his own techniques, in order to get jobs, and jobs were hard to find in those days. Because it was just happened that I grew up in the Depression years. From the middle of the 1920s up to the middle of the 1930s, was the Depression years, and it was very, very


tough going.
Do you remember any ways that your family would get around having no money? Any creative ways that your mum would cook, or anything like that?
Oh yes. I think they had to do that. And this is the kind of conversation you’d hear going on. “Well what can we do now to get some more money?” That was the main thing, of, how do you live.


In those days of course, in the Depression years, you didn’t get money from the government, you got vouchers. And you had to take the voucher along to the butchers or to grocers and get what the voucher gave you. So that it was tough going. And that is why I had to make those decisions not to go to the university. If I’d been better off


I could have gone to the University, and done all sorts of things. But I couldn’t do it.
Did your father have anything to do with World War I?
No. My mother had two brothers in World War I. My mother was one of ten children, and there was always wonderful whenever there was a wedding or a funeral, to see all of these people coming together.


One of mothers’ brothers was killed in World War I, at a place called Popparinga [?], near Maine [?]. One son, when we were overseas later on, we went to this cemetery, and I saw his grave. I was the only one of the family to see his grave, where he was buried in World War I. Took a photo and sent


it back. World War I was a big factor in everybody’s life of course. In 1925 it was still only yesterday that World War I.
Do you, being born in 1915, you still would have been very young when the war finished. But do you have any memories


No, I do not. I have no recollection whatever of World War I, or what happened, or what finished. I have no recollection whatever.
Would you hear people talking about the war, even as you said, you know in 1920, 1925?
No. Only in perhaps the church.


The church might have a special occasion, but not very much, no it didn’t. The church itself, I said, was a community group, and you went to the church for different things. On a Wednesday night there would be a gymnasium class. And at the weekend there was a cricket team, and you’d play cricket. You know it was that sort of


community. And the church itself, if you weren’t there by five to eleven, you wouldn’t get a seat. There was 200 people sitting there. And likewise there was a Sunday School. The Sunday school had very large attendance. Strangely enough the


man who was the superintendent of the Sunday school, had a daughter who was in the similar sort of class, and I met her recently. She’s going to the church here at Saint Paul’s Presbyterian Church. And we were only reminiscing recently, and saying about your father and so on. That was unusual


part of life. And the church, occasionally people in the church would bring some food or vegetables and help you out. But that period from 1925 to 1935, was very, very tough going.
Can you tell me a little bit about the University


High School? Where was it, and how was it structured, and that sort of thing?
Oh yeah. The University High School was a building in Carlton. Originally called the University Practicing School, because it was the school where teachers studying to do a Dip Ed [Diploma of Education], would practice. And it so happened that


1930, when I went there, was the first year of the new school. And the teachers were very good. Now I was lucky that I had such wonderful teachers, especially in English. I’ll tell you if you’ve got a minute, I’ll tell you.


Right, I was speaking about the University High School. And what a wonderful English teacher we had. Dear old soul, I can see her now. She introduced us to Macbeth. And we were only the first year there. There


would only have been about 15. Macbeth, it didn’t mean a thing to us. So she said, “We are going to have your first lesson on Macbeth.” And you had it arranged for one lad to pull down the blinds. We had blinds in that room. Another one to flick the light on; that was lightening. And somebody at the back was running a thing for the thunder. And then she


took the green cloth off the table. On the front we had a little table with a green cloth. And she put this over her head. And she came in. I can see her now, a shrill voice, “When shall we three meet again?” “In thunder, lightening or in rain.” And then we went through those ten lines of Macbeth, “Fair is fair and foul, is foul, hover through the fog and


the filthy air.” And we were just gaping at this. And then she started on Macbeth. On the story of what all this meant. But gee, it was a wonderful introduction. You can imagine it. And she was, kept us really interested for so long. And Macbeth is my favourite of Shakespeare. And I know whole streams of Macbeth, I could recite to you at great length.


And then we got into Hamlet, and that was also very good. But she was a wonderful teacher introducing you to Macbeth. But there were other aspects, other poems and poets, and there were some other teachers I had there. English teachers stand out for their wonderful


ability to convey to you the ideas behind poetry. It was very, very good. The other parts of the university high, of course you had four years there, and they were very good. Again you had things to learn and things to understand.


You learnt a little bit of French. A bit more German, and a little bit of science. You had to take some science, in order to matriculate and some mathematics. I think I took geology as a science. And I’ve got the certificate in there. You had to sign the roll and get


the certificate, before you could embark on any courses. So that it was very selective in those days, if you are going to the university. But it was a very good school, and I was very lucky to be in picking the University High School, for no reason. Well for one reason I had previously


sat for the entrance exam. You had to have an entrance exam, and I had an entrance exam, and then I didn’t have to pay any fees. You see every high school you had to pay fees, every quarter, unless you were on scholarship. This other, this scholarship that I won, I could have gone to Wesley or Scotch or any of those. But then there would have been other extras I couldn’t afford. So I decided to go


to the high school. And I did the right thing I think, in making that decision. But again I was going back. I was very lucky in the primary school, having a such a good grounding. See in those days, this, going back briefly. This teacher was so good. Well you had to. We only


had one teacher you see. Right, you had English, you had spelling, you had dictation, you had other English courses. And then you had arithmetic, and all those things. Everyone of those was important, and every one you had to,


you had to do well in. And he was a very good teacher. I suppose there was no suggestion in those days that you should have a course in driver education or something else education. You had to learn the basics, and they were there. And they stood you in good stead. And I can see the reason for them having been taught in primary school.


Things like dictation and grammar and composition. Now when I go through, in these books that I am reading, I go through and mark the mistakes. I’ll show you a book later on. Someone wrote a book on the ‘My Diary of Tobruk’.


But in big print it’s printed, ‘My Dairy in Tobruk’. And you wouldn’t believe that possible. My Dairy in Tobruk. But I’m always going through marking ‘i, t, and apostrophe s. All the mistakes that printers don’t even pick up. I can show you later on. It’s so important to have the grammatical side well.


Now one of the books that I had previously printed. Wyn and I went through, and sent it off to the printers. And it went through the system. When it came back, we went through it again, and there were a thousand errors, a thousand errors incredible as it may seem. So I’m


very, very keen on grammatical literature, English, that was my field. And I have every high regards for those teachers that gave me that grounding.
We’ve just reached the end of that tape again.
Interviewee: Rupert Goodman Archive ID 0923 Tape 03


Tell me about getting the offer to work as a teacher?
Yes, well that was, I suppose, fairly simple in those days, because there weren’t many people with my qualifications. And the education department was always looking for people who were well qualified,


to take up teaching. Although I didn’t have any experience as a teacher, the fact that my background as an educational officer and so on. It meant that the department was always on the look out and sending out invitations to the people to take up teaching. I needn’t have taken it of course, I could have done something else. What


made me take it more than anything else, was the fact that I would get a 102 pounds a year. That’s two pounds a week. That was the incentive. Although I must admit, my mother was very educational minded, and her father was the headmaster of a school in Geelong. So there was in the background some thought of


And tell us where you went to teach at first?
Oh, when I went teaching first. I’m trying to think of the names of some of those country schools. They had funny names like, Yackandandah or something. There was always one school that teachers, when


they were appointed, didn’t want to go to, because of the name. And that was called Upotipotpon South. I didn’t mind going to Upotipotpon but when they were appointed to Upotipotpon South, they wondered what they were going to be. But then I was sent to Warrenville State High. That was in the secondary side, and that was a fascinating school because it was


not a normal high school. It was a high school devoted to the country students. And it had a farm attached to it. And various courses were geared to the farm. And while I didn’t have anything to do with that, I was still teaching the basic subjects, but it was a very interesting school


nevertheless. And likewise when I went back to university high. University high was regarded as the top school for teaching the best students.
You mentioned that you had some wonderful, some really good years in the country. What did you particularly enjoy?
Well what I enjoyed most was that


I was in charge of 10, 12 students, and they were all very good students. Of course you had different grades. You might have had two in grade three and three in grade two. You had to organise that with monitors so that you could run a whole school. And the monitors were very good. And the students were very good and keen to take you


home at weekends, to their particular farm. From that point of view it was always a very happy and pleasant sort of a situation which I enjoyed. And I think they enjoyed too. Having a teacher.
And what kind of things were you teaching them?
Teaching them? Reading, writing and arithmetic. They were the basics. Those


were the three things; spelling, reading and writing. And you would get somebody, and if you happened to have a student, a boy, in grade seven who could read well, you’d have him as a monitor to teach some of the students down below. So that you had to organise ten or twelve students in such a way that they were


all getting something. And you could go along and correct them and assist them and so on. That was a very good system. That was called a rural school. And that’s what we learnt in the course at the teachers college. How to conduct a rural school. And that was very important. In those days of course, we‘re speaking now of the 1930s,


where there were lots of little country schools. Now, of course, they have got rid of those. There were lots of little country schools with ten or twelve children in them. And you had to organise it and teach them. And that was very good. Probably some of the best years of my teaching life.
And do you feel that you’re students, did they learn a lot?
I think so. I think they


learnt what was necessary, and they were very pleased when they could read or write, or do some sums. They were a very simple curriculum. It wasn’t much larger than that. And they had to do these skills, learn these skills.
What were you hearing at the time about the lead up to


war? What kind of things were you hearing about from Europe?
Not very much, until England was threatened. And then when England was threatened, there was a great feeling of emotion. The war was a long way away. Long before the Japanese war. England was threatened. And there was, as I said earlier poetry, there were songs


there were concerts. People were emotionally upset. “We must be able to help the mother country” and that’s the period when the enlistment period began. There were hundreds and hundreds of people lined up. that time when they established the AIF [Australian Imperial Forces]. And well they didn’t call it the 2nd AIF, until much


later. They established the AIF and by the hundreds. They were ready to go and serve and help the mother country. It was that emotional feeling that caused everybody to take on, serve the country.
Do you remember any of the poems?
Oh yes, plenty. Plenty.


Oh well, everybody knew the words of, and sang Land of Hope and Glory. And one I just said earlier, “The bugles of England were blowing all to sea. The bugles of England and how could I stay?.” And that sort of thing was going on all the time. And that had an effect, I think, on many people.


What kind of effect?
The effect was, we must help save the mother country. It was always the mother country. Our feeling and thoughts were about England. And this was of course long before the Japanese came into the picture.
Did you feel a part of the mother country?
Oh yes. I think this is true that all of our ancestors were only a


couple of generations behind. I’ve got a book in there. It will show the history of my mother’s family. The McGann family came out in 1804, or something. And how they established the industries in Geelong. They were very interesting people.


In the mother country, in Scotland and Ireland, they were used to building stone fences. There was plenty of stone there, and they built stone fences and stone walls. When they came to Geelong, they were surprised to find so much stone was around. And they picked up these stones and made stone fences. And it so happened that


they then found from that some of the stones were available for making cement. And they took the idea of making cement. And they eventually set up the cement works at Portland and became quite well-off in terms of using the stone techniques.


So what were the concerts like?
Oh well, if you ever see a free concert and packed to the doors, and the songs they sang were patriotic songs. The one I mentioned, Land of Hope and Glory. That still is a wonderful song. A song some people thought ought to have been the National Anthem. It was


so popular. There are still some concerts here in the city hall, and we’ve been to one or two of those. They are not patriotic in that sense, but they do sing some of these old songs.
And so when did you decide that you wanted to join up?
Oh well, I was teaching at Box Hill high school and


the staffroom, members of staff, mostly people from World War I. And in the staffroom they would be talking about of war, and the need for young people to join up, and so on and so forth. Almost putting pressure on you. So at that point I realised that there was a big crowd of people lining.


up at that point, to join up. And I simply had to be in it. And that took a while getting enlisted and doing all the things. And then it was purely by chance, as I mentioned, I finished up in the hospital. I could have finished up in ack-ack or anywhere else but I didn’t know any of those


other skills. Some of the staff, of course, had been in Cadets and had previous knowledge of army routine, which I didn’t have at all. I was going in cold, I didn’t know where I was going to finish up.
What kind of things would they say, the World War I teachers? What would the World War I veterans say


to you?
Well they were talking about World War I, and the fact that when they were enlisting in World War I, the young people, all the young people, had enlisted to go to the army, to go to the World War I. And it was almost right and proper for the young people, not that I was young. I suppose I was


fifteen, nineteen, eighteen, nineteen I suppose that was regarded as being young for the joining up. But it was a very risky thing. Well not risky, its one of those things that I had no trouble in joining up. Some people had trouble with the medical and all the rest of it. I simply went down and


signed up and went through all the routine. And as I said, finished up learning how to use a bayonet.
What was some of the routine you had to go through?
Well, you had to have a medical. You had to have x-ray, and you had to sign the form, and people would interview you about your background and so on, to


make sure that you were a fit and proper person to be in the army. And that had no trouble in all of that, and so before long I was out there learning to be a soldier.
What did your family think of this?
They didn’t have any thoughts. I didn’t even give them the chance. I just told them I’d joined up. No they didn’t, it was never discussed


and never, I suppose, never thought of. My brother, who had been in the militia, had also joined up, but he, let me see now, he didn’t last the distance for some reason. He didn’t make the grade.
Did they


say anything to you once you’d joined?
My family? No, I didn’t see much of them once I’d joined up. I saw very little of my family, because we were in camp all the time, and you were lucky if you saw them at the occasional weekend. And before long you were overseas. And you didn’t see much of the family. Occasionally letters or parcels, but


no, you didn’t see much of the family once you’d joined up.
Now you have already told us about the bayonet story. Were there any other stories from training that you remember?
No, only learning to use a rifle and use a bayonet. Those were the only two things I learnt. When I went to Puckapunyal I did learn something else. Apart from being trained by nurses,


I was give a fortnight in the VD [venereal disease] compound. Now there were, anybody that got VD was marked, not wanted in the army. And they had a big area surrounded by barbed wire, and the people who had VD had to be treated there. And I was give a fortnights experience


of training in this VD compound. That put me on the straight and narrow for the rest of the war, I can assure you.
What kind of things did you see in the VD compound?
Oh well, they are not things that one elaborates on, but there were people. There was one fellow


in our unit who got VD. It was in Colombo. And strangely enough, he was one of the orderly’s, and he knew enough about the orderly’s to get extra pills, and by so doing killed himself. He was the one we lost due to


a little knowledge was a dangerous thing. Yes killed himself.
What was it like to get VD? I mean what were the men like?
Oh, well you didn’t see much of them once they got VD. They were shunted off pretty smartly. And we had, as I said, a CO, who was a gynaecologist, and who warned us. We had lectures on it,


and he warned us of the dangers of it. And it was very easily picked up in the Middle East.
Were they ashamed? What were their feelings, the guys which you saw in this clinic for two weeks?
Well they were a bit unhappy because their pay was stopped, and they were put on a charge. And


they could be kicked out of the army altogether with a discharge, and that was very dangerous for people.
What did the nurses teach you?
Oh the nurses were very good. We, in affect, almost became nurses. We had to help with them with the


nursing. With the, well making beds. But in treating a patient, turning a patient over, to wash him at the back, so he didn’t get bedsores. And bedsores were important later on. And they, with the help of a medical staff, taught you how to give a needle. And later on we


learnt how to fill, get the right quantity for a needle, how to learn about it. And that was very important. And giving. I’ll give you one example about nurses. When we got to Barce at North Africa, we had a few nurses there that got ahead of us. And one night I was sitting with


her, about midnight, at the table at the end of this ward. And suddenly, a patient came along and he had a knife. And he said, “Have you every felt the urge to kill?” And this Sister Ely just, she was a very wonderful little woman. She went round and said, “Here Reg,


give me the knife.” And he handed over the knife, and then she’d say, “Lets take you back to bed.” And that was a wonderful experience I had of a nurse being competent and keeping her wits and so on. Just watching her how she’d handle that situation I learnt a lot. Yes, it’s wonderful. We had some very good nurses, but unfortunately we never had them very often.


We never had them for the whole of the eight months that we were in Tobruk. We did have them at Redbank, and we had them again at Labuan. But they were very good. We were very lucky that we had again good nurses.
How did you get along with the nurses?
Oh, pretty well, yes, pretty well.


I was, well very much, I think they realised that I had a bit more nous than some of them perhaps. And they treated me well, and they were very good. I had no trouble with them at all.
Did you learn any other things at Puckapunyal?


Apart from the nurses and the VD compound, no. We didn’t have time to do a great deal because before we knew where we were, we were being embarked. Yes.
What did you have to do in Puckapunyal before you left?
Before we left?


We had periods when we were being taught by the medical people. The medical people would tell us what the, how to make up a medicine or something. Now that was very important. We didn’t realise at the time that there would come a time


when we’d have to do this on our own. We were very lucky that way.
And ok, tell us about leaving? Did you have to, I heard that you might have to burn something before? You had to burn something before?
Oh before we left yes. Well we got up at about 3 o’clock one morning and the first thing we did, we had to burn the palliasses. We slept on


palliasses. They were straw contained in bags. We slept on those. Now I don’t know to this day why we had to burn them. But we had to burn the palliasses. And then go down, reveille took us down to breakfast.
Why do you think you had to burn them?
Well I suppose there were, there could have been some infection in them


or something. They wouldn’t want them to be used by somebody else. I don’t know to this day what the real reason was. And we had a very small breakfast. One egg and a slice of toast, I think it was, before we were embarked and down on the train. And down on the wharf. One of the things I remember about


at the wharf when before we embarked, was the number of times when we had to pick up and put down our kit. We had a lot of things to carry. We had a kit bag. Oh, another thing we had in Puckapunyal before we left, we had gas drill. And we had gas masks put on and


tested. When I came back I realised we’d had tear gas, or something like that, put through to check the tear, check the gases. Make sure they’re alright. We always had to carry gas masks for a long period of time. On your back they were. We had to carry a gas mask. And as well as that you had a bag.


Kit bag, two kit bags, one on each arm. And they were pretty weighty. And there was a time when you’d get all this, “Pick up your gear, and carry it fifty yards. Put it down, your gear. Pick up your gear.” And on the wharf this was a pretty heavy experience. But eventually you were given the orders to go aboard.


Ok, tell us about that time. Tell us what you were feeling as you went on board?
Well when we went on board. We saw this great big liner there. We thought, “Ooh, this is wonderful.” We went on board the


big ship. But when we got on board, we were surprised, because they hadn’t had time to alter the ship. And when we had our meals served to us we had the best china. And when we went into our cabin, we had a beautiful cabin, and all of that was wonderful. We thought this is wonderful of


the war. And we had this for four or five days until we got to Colombo. And we thought, “This is wonderful.” We had various pieces of drill, of course. But that didn’t worry us. And we thought, “This is wonderful for war.” It wasn’t until we transferred to the dirty old Nevasa, that we realised that it was a dirty stinking war.


What was the conversations you were having with other blokes on the ship? What kind of things would you talk about?
Oh not a great deal. We played cards a lot. And we didn’t have a lot to talk about, except football. We were still getting letters from home about who was beating who in the football. And that was important.


How was Essendon going at this stage?
Oh, they weren’t doing too badly in those days. The football, was even right through Tobruk period. When you’d get letters from home. Did you get the letter? When so and so beat so and so. Yes that was a very important part of your life.
How did you interact with the guys from other states?


Did you have guys from other states there?
Didn’t have a lot from other states, because ours was a Victorian Unit, you see. And there was of them, and they were all Victorian. And likewise the sisters were all Victorian. Though we had a bias towards Victoria, most of the time we were there. It wasn’t until we were in Tobruk that we met other


units, and people from other units. That was a different story.
Did you have any jokes about guys from different states?
Not from other states. We had plenty of humour. We had, in Tobruk, if I can just pass onto that for a moment. We had there, a printing press. They discovered something the Italians left behind. And they


had a printing press. And they printed a paper every day. And this was called, The Tobruk Truth. And it had in it information from wireless and other things. And in it, some humorous bits. Like, ‘A bomb fell on the sergeants quarters. Four mules were killed’.


That sort of thing. There was a lot of humour went about. That, I suppose, was a good thing. There was a lot of humour in the daily news sheet. That would keep you going.
Do you remember any other jokes in that?
I’ve got some more there, somewhere in my book. Don’t remember them all now.


I can tell you them later.
What kind of songs would you sing on board the ship?
Oh, they were the same old songs that you’d sing when you were at home. Occasionally you sang hymns. We had also, on board, a padre, a


Salvation Army padre, who had a gramophone. An old gramophone. And he used to take this around the wards and play records. The troops loved this. I’ve got a photo there of the old gramophone. And they would sing hymns, and they would want to sing, ‘Nearer, my God, to thee’, or something. But it was a very, very


popular gramophone. And the padre’s, they were very good. We had some excellent padres. The padre that we had, one padre, there was one almost for the Catholics, one for the OPD and one for the Baptists. One padre we had, he was very good. He was sort of OPD [other Protestant denominations]


that sounds like quite a silly denomination. And he would conduct services, from time to time, in an old bombed out building, where there might be twenty of us. And he would conduct the service, and he was very popular in kinds of things that he sang.


He gave for us.
What did he use as some of his ‘tools of the trade’ so to speak? ... For his ceremonies, what would he use?
For his ceremonies?
Like cups?
Oh, well he was able to find in the derelict buildings, all the materials he wanted for his services.


Occasionally he would conduct a communion service, from the materials that he had found in these buildings. And then on one occasion, he said in his memoirs how he wrote home. And he had been conducting funeral services, not from our staff, but from


people who had come in and who had passed away. And he had to take the funeral service. And he wrote on one occasion, to people at home, and they had written apparently, and said, “Is there anything we can do to help you?” And he said, “Yes, I’d like to have some copies of the New Testament.” And they sent over quite a stack of them. He was able to pass these around to those students


who wanted the New Testament. It’s surprising the number of students who wanted the New Testament to read, and think about.
Tell us about arriving in Colombo? What were you seeing when you first got there?
Well we were surprised at the difference. It was the first time many of us


had seen a native population. And we were surprised at some cases, the filth. And we were very lucky when we were picked up by this harbourmaster’s boy, and taken round in the car, to see something of Colombo. But it happened later on in the war, we would have spent three months in Colombo.


This is another reason why I will tell you later. But we weren’t very happy with what we saw there. Likewise, the Arabs. One of things that I should mention, that why Tobruk was able to succeed, it had only soldiers. Very early in the piece they got rid of all the women,


they got rid of all the Arabs, they got rid of all the other people. The only people in Tobruk for the whole of the period were the English soldiers, Australian soldiers and the Poles. The Poles came in to relieve us. And there were no Arabs. And this was very useful because it saved us getting any other diseases and things


like that. And the Poles, the Poles came in to relieve us at one stage, later in the siege. And the first thing they did was to go straight up to the wire and fire off at every German they could see in sight. Because they hated the Germans. The Germans were those who attacked Poland in the first part of the war.


And they hated the Germans. And I was looking after the Poles for a while, and I had to do a lot of work for the disabled Poles. After the war the Polish government gave me a medal for looking after the Polish. You’ll see it on my coat there. For looking after the Poles. But I didn’t learn any


Polish language. It was too difficult for me.
Interviewee: Rupert Goodman Archive ID 0923 Tape 04


Now, you are in Colombo. Tell us what happened next?
Well we changed ship to a small troop ship, called the Nevasa. It was a ship which was normally used, well had been used


for donkey’s years, by families and their troops, being transported from the Middle East to the Far East. And that had been going backwards and forwards for years. I don’t think it had any repairs, and it was full of cockroaches and weevils. You were lucky if you got any porridge, which didn’t have cockroaches or weevils in it. It was terrible. And likewise,


the sleeping accommodation was terrible. And we were pleased really, when we were going to get off the ship. We didn’t realise what was going to happen. At that stage we had no idea of where the war was, or what might happen. And we were surprised when we go to Port Tewfik, that we were down below and we were suddenly given the


signal, air raid signal. And we had to assemble in a big room there. I think it was the mess room, and await events. And we heard guns going off and planes, and we thought “Goodness me.” And then there was silence and we were allowed to go up on deck and have a look around. Fortunately nothing had happened to our ship, but one of the ships


not far off was burning. And the rumour was that the Germans had dropped bombs in the canal. We were very close to the Suez Canal at that stage. And as they had dropped bombs in the canal, it wasn’t safe for us to go into the canal. So we got onto a train, and that was just as bad. One of the filthy Egyptian trains.


And that took us to Cairo.
Just tell us about that air raid? What your feelings were when you were hearing this?
Well we were down below, and we were suddenly didn’t know what was going on. We were down there and told to, “Stay put,” and we could hear bombs going off, and hear a lot of airplanes. And we were very pleased when it all stopped and we


were allowed to go up on deck, and look around. And we were surprised to see this ship burning, and surprised when we got the order to disembark and get on a train.
What happened to the people on board this ship that was burning?
I don’t know. We don’t know which ship it was, or where it was. It was in the harbour somewhere. It wasn’t one of our.


I don’t think it was one of our transports. It was probably one of the local ships.
Which harbour was this? Which harbour?
This was in Port Tewfik. And the train that we got on, well we’d been used to trains in Victoria. They were usually fairly clean and at least they were going. And suddenly we saw this


train, and we had to get onto it. Hadn’t been cleaned or swept out for years. And looking out, we had our first view of the Arabs. And the Arab villages and so on. We thought, “Gee, this is terrible.”
What was terrible?
The sight of them. It was something we’d never seen before.
What were you seeing?
Dirty, filthy


looking Arabs, and where they were living. We were pleased to get off the ship anyway. We got off the ship in Cairo. And then when we got off the ship we were pleased to be taken around to the British barracks and given a good feed. And then we were taken to this hospital being built at Abdul Kieda [?].


It was being built in the tents. And we suddenly learnt about tent life, and about the Arabs that I mentioned earlier. We learnt how to look after yourself. We were surprised when we had to put a guard on the tents. We never thought this would be necessary. We had to do that to


keep our property.
Did you get out amongst Cairo?
No we did not. Not at this stage. No, we didn’t have a chance to get out into these cities. Later on in the war we did, but not at this stage.
Did you see the pyramids?
No, not at this stage. Later on we did. Saw the pyramids. No we had to


go into the tents and then get ready for the war. The war, we were starting to hear about the war. At this stage we were hearing about the way in which the 6th Division had ‘cleaned up the Iti’s [Italians]’ as we called them. There were thousands of them. You may have seen pictures where there would be one Australian


and bringing in several thousand Iti prisoners. They were so bad, in some cases, that one of the Iti’s would be carrying his rifle and the one Australian would be bringing in 5,000 prisoners of war. They were a problem later on. We were pleased to get rid of them.


Did you see these lines of Italian prisoners?
We saw some of them, yes, we did, because we had to then move up the coast. When we moved up the coast we saw a lot of these Iti prisoners. But that was after the shipwreck. The shipwreck itself was a event in the lives of our unit.
So tell us where you went from Cairo?


We went to the Abdul Kieda camp. And then from there we went onto the ship at Alexandria.
Just quickly on the tents. How many people would stay in each tent?
Oh about, they’d be about eight. They would be small tents. They weren’t very big at all, so that, only small tents.
And you mentioned the Arabs that


would take.
They were very clever. We used to sleep on regardless. We’d wake up and say, “Where’s our clothes gone?”
Would they try and sell you anything?
Oh yes, they did. They used to sell us things. And sometimes the Australians would do some bartering and take them. But at this stage, the Australians were


keen to get on with things. We suddenly realised that the war was up there, and it was time we got moving.
So tell us about going from Cairo? Where did you go to next?
Apart from the, after we’d been to this tented hospital, we went back to Alexandria to get on the boat, to go to Tobruk.
Just quickly on the tented hospital. What did it look like?
Well there were


a number of large tents. And we were put in, I think we were in the lines, where all the men would be stationed. It was still under construction, so that we didn’t see a lot of the hospital itself. But there were some longer tents, such as you might say, was a ward full. And there were


long tents for messes and so on. We could see these being built, but we didn’t take any part in it. We were there to sleep.
Ok, so, tell us what this boat was like?
The Knight of Malta? Oh, you could write a story about that. The odd thing was, before we got on the Knight of Malta, they gave us a meal,


and what did they give us but tinned herrings. And once the ship started to roll, there were tinned herrings all over the ship. It was incredible. People were down the hold, and the herrings and the ship was rolling, and there were herrings going from one side to the other. It was incredible.


What did it look like? What were they?
Well you can imagine what a ferry boat would look like, especially one that went from Malta to Italy. That sort of ferry boat carrying wogs there and back. It was terrible. And we don’t know why.


Well one thing we don’t know why, and that was the luck, and again it was luck and bad judgment. They didn’t put any sisters on board. And this was through a bad judgment. There should have been sisters on board, but there weren’t any.
Why, should there have been?
I think they bad judgment, on somebody’s part, because they


didn’t go.
What would have been good about having the sisters?
Oh well, you’d expect the sisters to be with a army unit. But had the sisters had been on board, they would have been a great encumbrance and a problem. If we abandoned ship and the sisters had to go overboard. It might be like another ship that we were on


a few us. I’ll tell you later on, coming back from the Middle East. There were four of us on it, and the captain in charge of us, said to the captain in charge of the ship, “You haven’t got any lifeboats, what will we do if something hits this ship?” The old sea dog said, “If anything hits this ship, you go over the side and get as far away from the ship as you can.”


So you are on board, the herrings are going everywhere. Were many of the men sick?
Oh yes, oh yes. Everybody. Because the ship was going over and the water was going over the whole of the ship. It was so bad. And we were very lucky in a way, very fortunate when suddenly one morning we heard


this grinding sound as the ship ran ashore. Ran into an outcrop of rocks. That was the beginning. And again it was a beginning of a big problem we had.
What time was this, when it ran aground?
About 4 o’clock. It wasn’t dawn. Not dawn. That’s why the captain had to fire the Very light pistol, to light up the


whole area, and show up how far we were from the shore.
How fearful were you, and others, for your safety during this night of storm?
Well that’s hard to say. We were very pleased, in a way, when we saw the shore over there, four hundred yards away. We were


pleased when that happened. We wondered what was going to happen when the captain gave the order, “Abandon Ship.” We thought that it must be serious. And that took a while to get everybody off the ship, and get them safely to land. There it was again. It was the Australians initiative that got everybody safely ashore.


They were clinging on to all sorts of bits and pieces. And then one of the sailors had taken a line across to the four hundred yards. And when they got over to shore they anchored the line and a lot of the people going overboard then could hang onto this line and get


on shore. That saved a lot of problems.
Did anyone drown?
No. We didn’t lose anybody, and that was wonderful. We had all sorts of gear that went overboard. There was one, when we went back there was one item. When we


went back the second time to the ship, a lot of the equipment and boxes and that had been taken ashore onto the sand. There was one very interesting crate there. It was marked x-ray equipment. And that had a history. When we were in Puckapunyal, somebody gave us a pianola [player piano]. And


we used to play this a lot. And one of the popular items they played from this pianola was Richard Tauber singing Goodbye. And when we left Puckapunyal, they thought, “It’s too good an item to leave behind.” So they crated it up and marked it x-ray equipment. And it went with us, all the way


to Tobruk. And we had this opened up and we had the pianola there, and it played a lot in Tobruk. Always Richard Tauber singing Goodbye. But the sad part about that was, that later on of course, in the fortunes of war, that Tobruk was taken over from the South Africans by the Germans.


And we often wondered whether the Germans finished up playing the pianola.
Did that ever seem strange?
We were amazed when we suddenly found ourselves walking across the Sahara in groups of eight or ten trying to find


a road we didn’t know where it was. And when we found it, being told to, “Sit down and make yourself unseen, until whether we see if this next vehicle is ours or theirs.” And I thought the, I’ve always laughed at our padre who told us not to mention


what we’d been through. In our letters that would be censored, but merely to say, “Get your Bible down and read chapter 27 of the Acts.”
What happens in Chapter 27?
27, that was Paul. Paul had a shipwreck there in the same area that we were. If you look up chapter 27 of the Acts, you’ll read about Paul and his shipwreck, and


that’s why we were told to tell our parents to read the 27th chapter of Acts and read about Paul’s shipwreck and you’ll get some idea of what happened to us.
Where was the ship wrecked exactly? Where was it near?
It was between Bardia and Tobruk. Nearer to Bardia. That was one of the first of the ships, one of the first towns


on that African coast.
What does it look like there?
No, I mean where you had your shipwreck?
Oh it was nothing. We didn’t know where we were. There was nothing, nothing at all to be seen . There was no town, there was a rock over there and rocks there. We often wondered whether the captain, who was Italian, whether he deliberately had


chosen the spot where we could be wrecked. Because he knew that coast pretty well. And he put it ashore at the very spot between the couple of rocks and what not. And there was a sandy beach where we got ashore.
What happened to the captain?
Well he disappeared. That was an interesting question.


He came back to Tobruk, to Bardia, but disappeared. And we wondered what happened to him.
So do you think he escaped?
I don’t know. He didn’t go back to the ship to collect any of his personal belongings. We got those.
What did he have?
Well I don’t know what was there, but we got into the captains


cabin and everybody got a few things, a few souvenirs.
When did you return to the ship?
Yes, we came back to the ship after two or three days. And we went back to do the salvaging. And a lot of the work had been done. The engineers had got down there and taken a lot of the stuff ashore. And then we had to get


trucks down close enough to take the stuff back to Bardia. All this time we were worried about air raids, because if any Nazis saw, enemy planes saw this ship there, they would certainly have cleaned it up.
And just quickly when you were swimming. Was there anyone panicking, like they were going to drown? Anyone who couldn’t swim?
No. There was no panicking. There were boxes and crates and


all sorts of odds and ends. And then the line came to hang on to. The very fact that there were four hundred on the ship, and everyone got ashore and no lives were lost. Remarkable.
So, how was the organisation?
Getting ashore. There wasn’t any. Every man for himself. Yes, every man for himself. The CO was very good when we got ashore.


The cooks were very good. They lit a fire and gave us some tea. And we had our dry rations. But the hardest job, and the hottest job, was walking. We didn’t know for how long. It turned out to be about 12 miles. That was the hardest job, walking across the Sahara, not knowing where you were going,


and how long it would be before you got to a road.
What had you brought ashore? What had you managed to bring ashore with you?
I didn’t bring anything ashore. But when we went back later on and did the salvage thing, I said I brought this Very light pistol, and also a book about Italian universities. I’ve got those here,


that I sent home.
We’re rifles brought ashore or?
We didn’t have rifles. See the this is one of the important things that happened in the case of the Centaur. As a hospital unit we didn’t have any armaments. Didn’t have any rifles.


When you were walking the 12 miles, did you have water?
Yes we had our water bottles, and the CO made sure that we had our water bottles slung over our shoulder, to take with us. And our dry rations, but we made sure we had those, when we were walking across unknown territory.
And you mentioned that you’d split up, so


how were you travelling in?
Small groups, of about eight or ten. And they were separated so that they wouldn’t make a visible sign from up above. And we were separated into small groups, and walked independently in the same direction.
And when you got to the road, what happened?
Well when we got to the road, the CO,


who was very good. And he was a man of fifty-five, and he was out in front leading them on. And when we got there he gave the message, “As soon as you get to the road, sit down in the sand and make yourself invisible.”
So how do you do that?
With sand, plenty of sand to throw around on you. “Don’t move until we see what


truck or vehicle might come.” Because at that time there was a lot of movement up and down the coast, between the Italians and British and what not. And there was just the possibility that when we got there it might have been the enemy truck. But fortunately it was a British truck.
How long did you have to wait for?
Not very long, not very long. There was a fair bit of traffic on that road.


and the traffic, the truck gave the message back to the next town, which was Bardia. And before long we had transport out to take us back to Bardia. And we were looked after very well by the British. And we had to stay there, I suppose, a day or so before we went back to the ship.
How hot


was it?
Oh, it was very hot. It was very hot. We had our tin helmets on, and that wasn’t any help.
What about lying in the sand or sitting in the sand?
Oh that was no problem. We were quite pleased to lie in the sand and throw sand over us. That wasn’t too bad. But it was hot, yes, it was hot.
Okay, so tell us what happened


in Bardia after?
In Bardia, the British were in charge in Bardia. And they were very good. They gave us good food and good accommodation and made us lay off and sleep for 24 hours. They were very good from that point of view.
And where did you go from Bardia, tell us?
We went back to the ship.
After the ship


I mean?
After the ship we came back. And I was in an ambulance with four other people, driving up to, up the coast somewhere, so that the other people, those who were not employed in the ship went back by truck up the coast as far as they could. And they had to make


the hospital. Well that stage we knew the British had, the Australians had taken a lot of towns on the coast. And we had to move fast up behind them to set up this hospital. We didn’t know where. But it was going to be at Benghazi.
So tell us what you were told about this journey travelling on the roads?
Travelling on the road. Well, that was


a matter for the drivers and the road. There was one road there, one part of it that was very good. Mussolini, in his wisdom, had built a bitumen road right along the coast. Because in those days, he was establishing little houses and little farms and so on, for people in Italy. But the bitumen road


was used quite a lot by both sides when the occasion arose. It was very good, and it helped us considerably, in getting up the coast. And some went in trucks and vehicles. I remember we went in with an ambulance.
And you arrived in Benghazi. Tell us what happened to you?
Well we didn’t get to Benghazi. We


went to this, we got to this town called Barce, B.A.R.C.E., which was very close to Benghazi. It was a beautiful town. It was a greenery, and it was lovely town. And the hospital had been taken over by the time we got there, by the 2/7th Field ambulance, and


they were running a good hospital. And we were quite happy to take it over from them, as soon as we got there. But we were going up there in dribs and drabs you see. Some of us would arrive in an ambulance, some in a truck. And as I mentioned, it so happened that some sisters were there, because they’d gone up in a boat to Benghazi. Whereas, all the other sisters were down in Tobruk. They’d been


offloaded there. So that it was a long time before all the units got together again.
And you mention this hospital was beautiful. What did it look like?
Well the hospital itself wasn’t so beautiful, but the area was beautiful. Green trees, green shrubs, and a town, an Italian town, with white buildings and so on.


It looked to be a very nice place.
And what kind of work were you doing at this stage?
I was a nursing orderly.
I mean what kind of people were you treating?
Well we were treating the wounded. We had a lot of wounded come in because our forward troops had gone beyond Benghazi to a place called,


forgot the name of it now, but it was El Al Geela, which was well beyond Benghazi. And that’s when they went too far, because that’s when they came in contact with the Germans. There was a town called Tripoli, which was further on. And Tripoli was the port whereby the Germans were able to come or


send their aircraft over to Tripoli. And that’s where Rommel came into the picture. It was Rommel and his team that arrived at Tripoli, that started to take action against our forward troops. And that’s when we got the message to “Get back, get out.”
Before that happened, were there any Italian bombing raids?
Not Italian bombing raids. The


Italians. Well they had some air force, even when we were in Tobruk. But the Italians never came down low. The Italians were up there, 10,000 feet up, and they would say, “Tobruk,” you know, and they’d drop a bomb or a series of bombs. And you would only hear them coming. You wouldn’t know they were likely to fall. They were contrast with the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe were trained German pilots, and if they were going to something


they’d get it. They’d come down low and do their stuff. Different altogether than from the Italians.
Ok, so tell us what happened from here when you said the front was changing, and the Germans were coming into the war?
We had to get back to Tobruk. And this is known as the ‘Tobruk Handicap’.


Getting from Barce down to Tobruk, while the Germans were behind you, and the Germans were on that side of you. And you could see the Germans out there in the sand, kicking up the dust. And you were going that way and they were going after you. As I mentioned, the occasion when they got ahead of us and set up some dummy troops,


and send down a lot of our people. We lost a lot of people in that dummy raid, including two Generals. And we lost a lot of the 2/8th Field Ambulance, and a few good many others. They were all taken prisoner. We were lucky. We were on the inside, and we got past that, and got to Tobruk. And just in time to beat the Germans. In fact


the Germans were so confident, that while we were there, on the first day, a German staff car drove in, and a German General got out. And then was surprised to find that the Germans didn’t hold it. So I suppose both ways, he was taken prisoner you see.
Did you see this at all?
No, I didn’t see


that. No. I didn’t see that.
So was it a story?
It was a story.
That was told. Tell us about the feeling in this ‘handicap’? What was it like?
Oh well, in this handicap, we had to get to Tobruk. It was thought that Tobruk would be the safest place to make for, and all of these trucks that we were in


and had to move fast. In fact some cases the trucks met some problems, because some of the troops were suffering from dysentery. The trucks had to stop while these people relieved themselves and then get back on and the truck could go on its way. But fortunately we got through to Tobruk


without any problems on our side. None of our unit were taken prisoner, and we got back there safely. But not before the Germans were out there. They were out there ready to take us, but we beat them there.
How far away were they?
Well, as far as the eye could see. You could only gauge by the sand that they were kicking up in


the desert. Over there it might have been five miles, or something like that.
What were people saying to each other while you were?
They were saying to the driver, “Step on it Joe, step on it.” And of course it was bumper to bumper, there were so many trucks. And everybody making it as fast as they could. They were very lucky that they.


I don’t know how far it would have been from Barce to Tobruk, a couple of miles, certainly the trucks were lucky they filled up with petrol before we left and they got there.
Were there any delays on the way?
As I said, the only delays due to the traffic and the sometimes accidents.


What was the feeling like when you had a delay?
Well they were ready to get onto another truck and get moving. They realised they had to get ahead of the Germans if they were going to make it.
What were your first impressions of Tobruk when you went there?
Well we had been there previously on the way up. On the way up it was quite a


nice Italian town. White buildings and a big church, and there was still a lot of Arabs there then. At that point it was quite good. When we going back. By the time we came back it had suffered a bit by bombing raids. It wasn’t quite the same town and there was still a lot of Arabs there to be transported.
Tell you what, I think it’s lunchtime now so we’ll
Interviewee: Rupert Goodman Archive ID 0923 Tape 05


So can you tell me what it was like when you came into Tobruk, when you’d come back from Barce?
From Barce and we had to get back into Tobruk and


first thing we did was to start up the hospital with the help of the sisters.
Can you tell me how you start up a hospital? What’s the procedure that you go through and?
Well there was a series of wards have to be established, and a sister or a doctor has to be put in charge of the ward. And a nursing orderly, such as myself, to help them.


That’s the normal procedure. But as it happened on this occasion, because of the dangerous situation, the nurses were evacuated.
When did they evacuate the nurses?
First day after we got back into Tobruk. A hospital ship came in, and on the advice of the senior medical officer, they were evacuated.


Away they went to Alexandria. And the CO naturally, was very upset, very perturbed. He made a great speech, “How can I run a hospital with no nurses?” “And it takes four years to train a nurse, and how am I going to manage with the nursing orderly’s and the medicos?” And we said, “Well we’ve got


to do it , that’s all.” And he called us nursing orderly’s up and he said, “There’s a hospital there with six hundred patients in it, we’ve got to run it, and there are no nurses.” “So, get to.” He said, “The doctors will help you.” So we had a number of wards established, with patients.
What were the different wards? What


kind of different wards?
Well different wards. Some were established for dysentery patients. Some were established for nervous patients. Some were established for people who had serious disabilities, anatomy and so on. And we had a number of


wards. A couple of wards; one ward full of Italian wounded, one ward full of German wounded. All of these wards were in separate buildings around a square. And the CO said, “Well, get to work.” And that’s when, as I mentioned, the next night, we had the big air raid, on the hospital. And killed the patients, killed staff.


And the CO had to start again. Reorganising the hospital.
Tell me about the air raid a little bit more? When did you hear that the planes were coming?
Soon after we got established, suddenly we heard the air raid coming, and the bombs were coming down. We could hear the bombs coming.


The bombs were coming down, and we had no means of protection. When the bombs came down they created terrible tragedy straight away. A medico was killed. Some staff were killed, and about 40 patients were killed. One of the staff killed, was the youngest member of our unit. He wasn’t there. He was


away over about 250 yards away, in another building. And a piece of shrapnel about that, went straight across the square and hit him through the heart, and killed him straight away. He was the youngest member of our unit.
Was there anything about the building that would have let the Germans know it was a hospital?
No, every building had a


red cross on it. They should have known it was a red cross. Their argument was that the hospital was in a dangerous area anyway. There were other areas, other buildings that were legitimate targets, and they were going for those, and they missed their target and hit the hospital.


But that didn’t account for the fact that over the next period of eight months, we had a thousand air raids, including many on the hospital. Some just missed the hospital. Some hit the wards. In one case, hit the Italian ward, killed some Italian patients. So that there was no excuse really for the


Germans hitting the Red Cross hospitals. Well as well as that, they had attacked the Red Cross hospital ships. So that there was no reasons for them not observing the Red Cross insignia.
And as a unit,


how did you deal with losing the people in that first bombing raid?
Well it took a while to establish ourselves. We had to take account of what had happened. Some of the wounded we could move into other wards. Others that were dead, we had to


take records of them and move them out to the cemetery. Others that were, we had to of course reorganise the ward. Take away all the beds and so on, that were dissembled, and get new beds in from other wards, and start again. We


had lost one of our senior medical officers, and had to get another medical officer to take over from him. We’d lost two of our orderly’s. We had to get two more staff in. Re-staff the hospital. And down at the beach hospital, which was part of the hospital, we lost a lot of people down there. A lot of staff, a lot of patients. We had to get another


ophthalmologist. See this hospital, they were very lucky in a way, that because the hospital was cut off, it had all the facilities of a modern hospital. The x-ray, a pathology, dental. All of those departments were part of the hospital. And that was very important, because patients requiring this type of treatment had treatment


on the spot, before they went to surgery. So for example, the x-ray department was there. It could x-ray a patient coming in and see where the shrapnel was, mark it, and give it to the surgeon. And that saved a lot of time going to Alexandria. And the same, a very important was pathology. We had a lot


of problems with ticks and so on, in the wards. And they had left their mark on patients, and we had to take samples, blood samples, and send this to pathology, and they had to examine the pathology,


examine the blood samples, and send those back to the surgeons. And the same with dysentery. Samples had to be taken, and sent to the pathology, and then brought back to the surgeon or medico, so the treatment could be given straight away. So from that point of view it was a complete modern hospital, stuck in the middle of an air raid situation.


tell me about the cemetery that you had to take the people out to?
In the first stages, taking the patients out, the victims out to the cemetery was quite a job. Because at the cemetery various devices had to be done so that the person


concerned would be limited, and would be marked in the cemetery. In some cases a bottle was used in the cemetery, and the details were put in the bottle, and that was sit into the cemetery. And that was the simplest way of doing it for a long period of time. We couldn’t do much until the end of the war really. Before we could


work out who the dead were. As I said earlier, it was important we got the dead meat ticket and found out who they were, and put a mark those in the casualty returns.
And take me through, in the hospital, what would have been a typical


day for you, what your typical duties were?
Well later on, I’ve got a chapter in there. It would vary according to your roster. In some cases you were allocated for duty at the surgery side, with the help of a doctor. Other times you were allocated to


the German ward, with the help of a doctor. You would be allocated from time to time to different parts of the hospital, and that was good, in the sense that you had the experience of knowing what was going to happen. To experience in the dysentery ward for example, would be quite different from your experience in the neurosis ward.
So tell me about the dysentery


Well that was very, very difficult. Flies were a menace in Tobruk, a serious menace. And we had to take all sorts of precautions regarding flies. In the case of food, our CO was a fanatic. When we had a mess, he arranged for a


screen to put down at the entrance to the ward, to the mess. And then he had in front a big tin, a barrel of water and Condy’s Crystals. And you had to dip your hands into the Condy’s Crystals before going into the mess. And also you had to dip your


food utensils into this, and give them a wash before you went into the mess. So he was a fanatic. And a fanatic to the extent, very few of the staff caught dysentery. He said, “I’d much sooner you went out and got shot, rather than dysentery.” But outside there was a lot of problems,


for dysentery patients coming in. And that meant a lot of work in the ward. And hygiene. Hygiene was a very important factor. And we had some very good ideas. A medico and some staff had arranged for dysentery pits to be established.


These were pits with a long seat on them, and with separate seats and so on for the collection of faeces. These faeces had to be burnt each night, in order to protect them, and then they were covered over with lime and so on. So that the


protection. And that was a lot of work, because there were 20,000 Australians, and we didn’t have much scope with them. Then there were another thousand odd patients, and they had to be protected. And that was a big job, the hygiene side. We had a contractor, I’ve got a photo of him there,


who had to do the rounds, especially in hospital wards. Picking up the faeces and putting them in the pit, and then ready for burning. And keeping the flies at bay was another matter, but dysentery was a big problem.
And how, as a orderly, how do you care for someone with dysentery?
Well you’ve got to take


precautions yourself of course. And they’ve got to be led to the place where they can squat. A bigger problem was the case of the wounded who were, couldn’t do anything except use a pan. And that had to be taken and emptied and scrubbed and disinfected. And that was a big job.


And we did pretty well considering that sort of situation. When it came to dysentery problems. I’ve got some statistics there, they are quite interesting.
Amongst the dysentery, would you talk to them about what it was like, I guess, on the front line at all?
Oh yes. We did, they did


tell us, talk to us quite a bit about the front line. And we knew a lot of people in the different units. We knew a lot about them. They were very good in talking about their experiences.
What sort of things would they tell you?
Oh, a question of fighting the Germans and how they did it. And some of the


units suffered very badly. The 2/24th battalion and so on. They suffered badly in units, because of the situations they were in. There were a number of occasions when the battles on the front, they weren’t


so much battles as escapades on the front were very serious. And these happened to be at Easter time, when there was an Easter battle and another area called the Salient, where the Germans had broken through. And those two were very, very important battles. And we heard a lot about them through the patients


that we got.
And you mentioned the, another one of the wards was a neurosis ward? One of the other wards, not the dysentery one, for neurosis?
Neurosis required special treatment, and eventually we had an expert on neurosis who was able to take the


serious ones down into a cave, and give them some quietness and protection while they were recovering. Neurosis, NYDN in some cases, Not Yet Diagnosed Neurosis, they had to be treated carefully. Some of them recovered. Some of them were no further use to the unit, or they had to be sent back


to Alexandria. Some were given other jobs to do. And they had to be treated with great care.
What sort of symptoms would they show?
Symptoms. Well they would be very scared every time there was a raid. And they would be a problem as to what to do with them.


And eventually they had either to go into the caves for a while, or they had to be sent back to Alexandria.
And what would it, when they were on the front line before they were brought to the hospital. How would they start to display this neurosis, that would then bring them to hospital?
Well they were apparently alright until they


got the serious bombing raids on the hospital. At the front, day after day, night after night. They had no let up from it and that, of course, was a serious matter for some patients, some soldiers.
And how, before you took these men into the caves, how would you treat them in the wards?


We could only, with the help of the medico going around, diagnose them. He was an expert at diagnosing a patient, and what they were worth, and what we should do with them. And when they were sent off to the cave, or when they’d say, “Look, this man is so bad we’ll have to send him to Alexandria, and evacuate him on the next ship.” But a fair number of


troops were alright. I suppose about four percent of the patients were always in danger of getting neurosis.
Did you ever visit the caves?
Oh yes. I saw that, and I’ve got a copy of it there. And talked to the patients, bring them back to normality.
What would you talk to them about?


Oh tell them, “Don’t worry, it’s alright.” “We’re winning the war,” and that sort of thing. “Don’t you worry, settle down and have a good sleep.” “We’ll see what happens later.”
What would they say when you said this to them?
Well they were pretty good that way. But they were no further use in many cases, as a front line soldier.
What did the caves look like?


How were the wards set up in the caves?
Yes, like a hospital. Once you went in, as I said earlier, Tobruk had a lot of caves, and some of the caves were very deep and very long and very big. As good as a hospital ward. You could set up a hospital ward in there, and they were deep down and the patients wouldn’t hear any of the bombing at all.
Would any of these patients act


Not really. They wouldn’t act strangely. They would just feel that they ought to get away from the bombs altogether.
And did anyone ever teach you about the way you


should talk to people with neurosis?
Only the specialist who was there. He would give you some advice. “And when you see this fellow, have a good talk to him or something.” We had a very good specialist in neurosis, a neurosis specialist. And he was able to sort them out.


Would any of them have dreams or nightmares, or cry out?
Oh yes. They had that sort of situation, yes. They did and, many of them had that situation even after we evacuated them to Alex. That was a kind of situation that was with them for most of their lives.


Crying out, and shouting out and being hysterical and so on. That sort of situation was with them forever.
What was your feeling or attitude towards the bombing raids? Were you frightened?


Oh well I was pretty busy most of the time. I didn’t have time to do much. But we had a very interesting question. We had to, often have the discussion about what you should do when you hear an air raid coming. Should you take the optimistic view or pessimistic view, and say, “Well if my names on it, I’ll get it”?


Or should you take the obvious, and get a shelter and get out and protect yourself? Now I always took the view that as far as possible I would protect myself, and get away from the bomb. If there was a shelter handy, to get into the shelter. And did I tell you the story about my


comments to the CO? No, well that was a very interesting story, and in the end it appeared in all the major books. There was an occasion, one night, when there was a terrible air raid. An ambulance caught fire and had to be moved out of the square. There was stuff going up, there was stuff coming down. And I was standing behind the pillar and watching


all this coming and going. And there was, across the square, there was an air raid shelter. And I thought to myself, “Well it’s silly standing here. If there’s a chance of getting across the square into that shelter, you ought to take it.” So there came a time when there was a bit of a lull, and I set out across the square. And then I heard a loud voice saying, “Stop


running, that man.” I looked around, and there was the CO, up there, bald head, directing traffic. He didn’t have any fears at all. And I’m alleged to have said, as I turned my head, “It’s all right for you, you baldy headed old so and so, you’ve only got five years to live.” “I’ve got fifty,” and kept running. Well


he didn’t hold this against me. After the war he used to tell this story in the pubs around Melbourne, and shout a drink. But as it happened, well he only had five years to live, and I’ve had fifty.
Why did he tell you not to run?
Well, because it creates panic. If anyone’s running in the


middle of an air raid, it creates panic. And it’s better to stay where you are. And if you can get into a shelter, do so, but don’t run.
What would you do with the patients during an air raid?
Oh well the patients during the air raids were, depending where the raid was. They were advised to get under the bed, if they could.


That was the only precaution. If they were able, they could walk to the end of the ward. There was a sandbag air raid shelter at the end of every ward. And if a patient could make that, he should. In some cases they couldn’t, and they could stay under the bed. Unfortunately we’ve had a number of, and I said,


the Italians ward was hit and a number of beds and Italian’s were killed. We’ve had a number of air raids during the next few months, occasionally patients were killed.
Was there a siren for the air raids?


No. We couldn’t have a siren. The best you could do would be to make sure that if you heard it coming, that you took reasonable precautions. Most of these, well they could happen at any time in the 24 hours. Sometimes at night, or in the morning, or in the day. You just had to take


whatever precautions you could. And get into whatever shelters you could.
Where would you sleep?
Well, that was the interesting thing. When these air raid started, the CO said, “Now, you’ve got to spread out.” “It’s no use having a shelter that’s got all the cooks in


it, or another shelter that’s got some of the surgeons in it. Or another one that’s got so and so.” He said, “Spread out, and its no use being around here, get out into the sand.” “Dig yourself an air raid shelter and stay in that, and keep it away from the hospital.” So everybody then


dug out little trenches all around the place. And those were, as I said, in that photo. You would dig a trench about four foot long and four foot wide. Sand bag it up, and then you would get a piece of tin from down in the city. Put that over the top and then put sand bags over that.


And then put some plants on top of that, so that it would be camouflaged. And then you would live in that hole. That’s why they called us ‘rats’. You would live in that hole all the time, until you were on duty. And one of the problems was that you had to be careful because of a lot of those holes had


ticks in them. There were little animals and things in them, and you had to be careful not to get bitten by a tick. But they served their purpose. Nobody got hurt, or hit, while living in those sand bagged pits. Occasionally


we’d have near misses. There’s one lad there. I’ve told his story. We had decided to give him a 21st birthday party for his birthday. And we had one of these trenches. We had two of them together, and covered over. And we were just getting


ready for this party when an air raid started. And bombs were falling all around the place, but nothing hit ours fortunately. But we did eventually have, and we had a hurricane lamp inside. And eventually we were able to have a birthday party, and above


all, wish him many happy returns. But occasionally when it was serious, they gave us a tot of rum. That was a small amount. A couple of nights running. So we kept, some of us kept the rum, and used it for priming the primer stove. See the primer stove was our


life blood there, because the stove in your dug out, you could light it and boil the primer stove, and make a cup of tea. So we were lucky, some of the people who had the rum, they snored their head off. I’ve got an account there of a kind of snores that you would


hear across the various pits of people who had taken their rum internally. And didn’t hear anything from them.
What shifts would you work in the hospital?
What shifts?
Oh well you worked pretty long shifts. If the shifts were there, you’d work until such time as somebody relieved you. It would be about seven or eight hours at least, before somebody came to relieve you. So it was fairly long work, fairly hard work.


And you had to be prepared, of course, for changes and that. We did have problems say with water and washing. We were able to get down to a little cove near the hospital, beach hospital. And have a swim and a wash. So that was very nice, except that you had to have somebody on guard


for air raids. And a couple of times an air raid cane over and you’d see a dozen of these people in the nude, going off, going into sand somewhere to hide, before the air raid came. And that was, that took some doing.


Getting your water was a problem. We had a distillery, which took sea water, and therefore distilling. But that was pretty poor stuff to make tea out of. And then there was the question of the laundry. There was a town laundry, but you had to do a lot of it your own. And this was


a problem. You see, when you have a six hundred bed hospital and you have to do their laundry, and do your own. In some cases we were able to get a big tin, a barrel, cut it in two and fill it with sea water, and wash it in that way. But that was a big job washing


and laundry. Keeping that up to date. But we managed alright.
You mentioned that sometimes you’d have to assist a surgeon Can you tell me what your duties there would be?
With the surgeon? Well I can only say


what happened in the German ward. When the German surgeon, Dr Ley, would come the rounds. He would give the same treatment to the German wounded than he would give any other ward. And he would examine them and say, “Well this patient needs surgery,” or he would undo the surgical dressings and do them up again. And


he would look after them, and say to you sometimes, “Do the dressing up again,” or “Give him the same treatment, give him something or other, as you do for other patients.” And that was interesting to see. At least the Australian surgeons played their roles in the hospitals.
We’ll just change


tapes there quickly.
Interviewee: Rupert Goodman Archive ID 0923 Tape 06


Coming to the question of wounded. I was very lucky. On numerous occasions I was very close. The worst that, the two things that happened to me. One of course was hearing, you can’t have a thousand air raids and a thousand bombs dropping around you, without affecting your hearing. And the other


mishap. I did have an occasion when I fell running, and did my knee, the cartilage. And the surgeon looked at it and said, “Look Rupert,” he said, “There’s nothing we should do about that. We won’t touch the cartilage. We’ll just let it settle and do it’s best.” And I’ve had this cartilage ever since. This


problem I’ve got with my knee. So apart from the wounded knee and hearing aid. I was very lucky that I didn’t get any direct wounds at all.
You mentioned an air raid earlier where the hospital was hit, and 40 patients died. You mentioned this earlier. But I’d like to ask some more about this. I’d just like to ask for you to describe that for me?


Describe the scene in the ward would be unbelievable by modern standards. Every bed in sight was a shambles. There were limbs everywhere, heads, legs, arms. In fact we had a sergeant who was a bit of a character, just as


well. He had the job of gathering all the wounded and onto stretchers. And I can recall him now saying, “Look Rupert, I need another leg.” “Have you got a leg to put on here?” Or, “I need another arm.” He would put together a body, and that would be taken away and we would go on again for the next lot. He was quite


a character that way. And that was a big job, clearing the mess away from the bombed ward. It was quite a job.
What about yourself during this heavy raid?
Well, after that first raid, I was lucky. And I realised how lucky I was. And all I could do was to help the people with all there


problems. In some cases we had enough stretchers on hand, and we could take some of the people to other wards. In other cases, some of those patients helped themselves. I can recall some of those who didn’t get wounded saying to themselves, “Good God, I’m getting out of this. I’m going back to the front line,


it’s safer.” They’d duck out and you wouldn’t know that he’d gone. He’d go back to the front line. He said, “It’s safer.” But we did have problems in sorting out who was killed, who had gone, who was wounded and so on. That took a lot of sorting out, and it had to be done


for making lists of people.
How did you feel about the Germans at this stage?
Well the Germans. The German air force, the Luftwaffe, were, they were very good as far as air force are concerned. But they, for some reason, didn’t know where they were bombing perhaps. And there was


a lot of feeling against the Germans who had perpetrated these bombing raids. And again when they bombed a hospital ship there was a lot of ill feeling about the Germans when they perpetrated this kind, of these kinds of acts. On the other hand, it appreciated that the hospital was situated in an area where


There were lots of other targets. Oil distilleries and air force summaries and other areas that they weren’t obviously going for those targets, they were going for the hospitals.
How did you survive this raid? What were you doing?
I was lucky. I was in the ward, and all I had over my head was a


tin, a basin over my head. It was all over so quickly, that you didn’t have time to think. If you were not injured you had to be up and doing something, and that was the luck of the game.
And so, did you see the hospital crumbling


around you?
Oh yes I did, I did. Indeed I will show you a photo in there later. The building just crumbled around you and there was nothing you could do about it, in the hope that you might get out of it. And it was a terrible situation.


Where did you rebuild the hospital? Did you rebuild it here or did you?
The hospital?
In Tobruk?
Yeah, after this air raid. What did you do with the hospital?
After the air raid. Well we had about eight different buildings around the square. And we had another beach hospital. This was unlucky to have been the building that got hit. A number of other buildings didn’t get hit.


So we transferred patients, where possible, to other buildings and tried to carry on while we tidied up this building that got hit.
How do you treat bomb victims there?
Bomb victims?
Yeah. Shrapnel victims. How did you treat them?
Well we had


a lot of, this was the major problem that we had the whole of the situation in Tobruk. We were dealing with bomb victims most of the time. Unlike a normal battlefield, where you might be dealing with battle wounds or shotgun wounds or something else. We were


dealing with bomb wounds. And they varied, depending on where the bomb hit. The bomb may have hit there, and you could be there. There were a lot of chest wounds. There were a lot of head wounds. And what we called head and gut wounds, were given top priority. If they were hit badly in the head, there was


often little hope for them, and they were evacuated to Alexandria as soon as possible. There were other occasions where the bombing had hit the limbs, hit the legs. People had lost their legs, and some of those were in very poor shape when they were brought in. But bombing raids were a major factor


in all the surgery we had to do.
So how would you approach, say, a head injury? What would you do for them?
Well for head injuries, this is a matter for the particular surgeon. He would have a look at the head wound, and decide whether or not a head wound could be repaired or sent on to


Alexandria. Many of those cases could be sent the same night or next night, to evacuate to Alexandria, because there are some occasions when even surgeons, the best surgeons couldn’t do much. We had a brilliant surgeon there, named Colonel Littlejohn. He had done tremendous work. He was so


good that when the patient of wounded would be brought in, he would have them lined up in patients, in various stretchers, and he would look along and decide which ones he would operate on. And he would mark those, “Send those into me first,” sort of thing. And he invented what was known as the Tobruk


Plaster. Up to that point, if there was a wound from the chest downwards, he couldn’t send those down while there was movement, and he arranged for plaster to be inserted in the legs right through to the chest, and these were known as Tobruk Plaster. And by that means the


plaster enabled people in plaster could be sent to the ships for evacuation. But the plaster would give them some stability while this was on.
So explain that again? The plaster was inserted? I don’t understand? How was the plaster arranged?
The plaster was arranged between the legs and the chest, and it would stop


any mobility then from these limbs. And that could be put onto a stretcher and sent down to Alex on the next night. And that was saving this particular man’s limbs. He was very good. We had some brilliant surgeons there. Others who specialised in different parts of the


body. And this man I mentioned earlier, Dr Ley, L.E.Y., was a very good surgeon. A man named Ackland was another very good surgeon. So we were very lucky. When the hospital was established, that we did enlist a large number of


Collins Street specialists, into the unit. They were top specialists in all their categories. And we had those all through Tobruk, right through the Redback [?]. We had this wonderful array of surgeons. That was tremendous.
How did they get along with the other men, surgeons?
No problem. No problem at all. The one thing about the unit, at that stage,


the unit was, felt it had some corporate being, corporate body. Probably the shipwreck helped in that, but it was a corporate body, and they knew each other well, and they helped each other well. And that was the strength of the unit at that point.
How would you treat a bomb victim with a


kind of gut kind of injury?
Well the surgeons had that job. Gut wounds were given priority. And as I said, fortunately we had the x-ray lined up so they could find out what the problem was. And the surgeons would deal with gut wounds before they were put on the destroyer, to go to sail.


The hospital record later, I have some figures there, shows that while we lost about 700 patients, we had about two and a half thousand wounded who were able to get back to Alex. So that the number of lives saved by the hospital, in proportion, was tremendous.


Were you in these surgery, when operations were?
Oh sometimes. Sometimes I was on duty, and had to help Dr Ley, and these others. You all took your turn. And there were no sisters there. You had to help the surgeons, and you got to know particular surgeons, and they would call on you to help. We had


a very good system for getting individuals to line up the particular trays with all the equipment on it, and get that out, and have it ready for the surgeons. Sometimes those surgeons would operate for eight hours without a stretch. They were wonderful


What kind of things would you have to do in the operation room?
Oh well if I was in there, I would have to make sure that the various trays were ready for the theatre, and make sure they were sent. Sometimes in the case of Dr Ley, I would be helping him at the table. But I didn’t have a lot to


do with the operating side, because I was involved in the Italian ward and the German ward quite a lot.
What kind of things would you learn at these moments?
At the hospital, learnt quite a lot, yes I did. Just watching these famous surgeons


at work, you learnt a lot, even though you didn’t have to do anything. It was a wonderful experience, and I would have been happy to do medicine after the war, because I knew so much coming into me at that stage.
You mentioned earlier one improvisation of the body plaster. But what


other improvisations were made, kind of inventions or use of things to get by?
Well I can’t recall any of those because I wasn’t on the spot. But the surgeons were very good. Australians generally were good at improvising. If they didn’t have something, they would find a way of improvising to


get the thing away. And that was so in the case of soldiers in the front line and surgeons in the theatre.
What about yourself?
Well all I can say, was all I did was to talk to the Germans and sing Germans songs to them.
Tell us about becoming, getting into that role, being involved with the German and the Italian


Yes, that was quite an interesting episode. While I was in the German ward the surgeon would do the rounds, and he knew a bit of German, but he would talk to me and I would tell him also what the German interpretation was, so that he could talk


to the patient as well. And this was very important. I learnt a lot of German, and I was able to talk to the German wounded, and they talked to me, and I learnt their language quite well. I got to know their feelings, as German wounded. And when they sang German songs, I could join in with them.


What kind of songs would they sing?
Oh, mostly hymns. As I said earlier, Ein vester burg est un sur got; A strong Fortress Is Our God. Non darker alla got; Now Thank We All our God. These, and they were pleased too that I could join in with their hymns, and sing with them. It gave you a different outlook on the German wounded,


German soldiers. These were people who could talk to you about their families and so on, and would be quite interested in what you were talking with them. They were quite different from the Italians. Sometimes I was in the Italian ward. The Italians were quite different.


They were more rural types. And were used to dealing with people in the country. Whereas the Germans were very efficient city people, and they were quite different altogether from the Italians. Italians didn’t want


any war. As I said earlier, they ran away and were taken prisoner. They didn’t want to fight. Even though Mussolini sent them off. Whereas the Germans were Hitler’s mob, and they were forced to join the Hitler mob, and be Hitler’s soldiers.


There wasn’t much that they could do about it. But they were, when you got to talk to them, they were a very interesting people.
What kind of things would you learn from them?
Well you’d learn a lot about, we talked about the education for example, in my field. And we’d talk to them about where they went to school and what they learnt, and how their schooling was


indoctrinated by the Germans. And that sort of thing was quite interesting. And they were interested too in what I had to say to them. And by the end of Tobruk we were able to converse in German quite well.
Would any express regrets?
Well I think there were in some respects,


particularly when they had photos, and they dragged out photos to show you, of their family and so on. And yes, I think there were some regrets.
Were there ever arguments? Like philosophical arguments?
Not really, no. I think they had realised that


they shouldn’t have been fighting in this way, and they were a bit unhappy. They were all hoping that they’d get through safely.
How did they react when the German Luftwaffe [German Air Force] would have an air raid?
Well almost, in some cases, apologetic. When they


knew that the Luftwaffe were playing havoc with the shipping. One of things you see, the difference between the two situations. The Germans had plenty of aircraft. The Australians had virtually none. The Germans had no navy.


Australians had the strength of the navy. And the Germans had a lot of infantry, but the Australians had trained infantry, but a different category. And they were used to attacking the German infantry. So that was the difference between the two lots


of Germans and the Australians.
What would they say about Australia, and Australians?
They didn’t know much about it at that stage. They didn’t make any obvious comments about the Australians. They realised, I think, at that stage, that they were


on the losing side. And most of these people were being evacuated anyway. We evacuated them, the same as we evacuated the other people back to Alexandria, if they were wounds were serious.
You mentioned they were Lutheran’s. What kind of behaviour would they display, as Lutheran’s?


As Lutherans?
Yeah, what would they do?
Well its very interesting. The Germans were mostly Lutheran. The Italians were mostly Catholics. And when I was in the Italian ward, they would have mass every day. Their padre would come in and conduct mass with them. Whereas the Lutheran’s


were more like Australians, because we have a Lutheran background many of us, and they were quite happy to be known as Lutherans, or to talk Lutheran. Their padre would come in and give them Lutheran


sermon or talks and so on.
And what were they like?
Oh I thought they were very good. Of course I had known a lot of the Lutheran background, and I thought it was very good. And the same, a lot of our people, when we had services, mostly Church of England, because


that seemed to be, in those days, when people were asked what religion was, they was always C of E, always Church of England. All of these dead meat tickets that we found, nearly all had Church of England on it. Even though they might not be Church of England, but that was the standard reference when they were having church services.


What kind of things would they saying, seeing you knew German? What kind of things would the padre say? What would the German padre tell the Germans?
Well he was giving them Lutheran Scripture, a Lutheran background, Lutheran theology, about what would happen in the case of


after death, and so on. He would give them the Lutheran theology background, and that I had a fair idea about. And that, of course, went over, I think, quite well, because they were nearly all Lutherans in that German ward.
What kind of similarities did you notice


between yourself and the Germans and the Italians?
Well the Italians were not military conscious. They were almost family conscious. And they would frequently show you the photos of their family. They would frequently talk


to you about where they lived, and their background. Germans were more, perhaps military inclined, and certainly more inclined in terms of the army, and what their commitments were.


And how did this compare to the Australians?
Well the Australians were a mixed lot. You can imagine the Australians when we had, we used to have church parades, and OPDs would take over. The Australians weren’t particularly religious conscious.


They, as you know, they had to follow the routine, but occasionally some of the wounded who had seen perhaps


the difficulties of being a soldier. Perhaps they had other thoughts and had other discussions and arguments about the religious side of life. But not a lot. I think the Australian soldier just took it as it came and


he was there to do a job, and fight and kill, and he wasn’t particularly involved in religious side of it.
Did you ever come across people who wanted to harm the German or Italian POWs?
No. No I didn’t see that. As I said earlier, the only time I saw that was when we had Poles. And the


Pole’s took over from the Australians. And when the Pole’s came in, they went straight to the wire. They wanted to kill every German in sight. But that, of course, relates to the fact that the first aspect of war, the Germans invaded Poland and killed off a lot of their families and people. And they had a reason for that. So they wanted to kill every German in sight.


Whereas we didn’t have that situation. No Germans had, would have killed us, or killed the British at that stage. But unlike that, the Pole’s were different.
What did you think of the Pole’s?
Oh they were fierce fighters. They were. And I had a job at one stage of


collecting the Polish wounded, and looking after them, and getting them back to the wards. And, in fact, they gave me a medal for that. But they were good soldiers, I mean, soldiers as soldiers. They were there to kill.
Would you communicate with them much?
Only to the extent that I didn’t speak their language. But


only to the extent that we had some sort of communication.
You mentioned a few tapes ago about the pianola. Where would you play this and sing along to this?
The pianola, we would play in our mess room. We had a room which was called the mess room, and that was a room where you could go and turn on the fiddle wireless and read the


newspapers, and so on. And then there was this pianola, which you could play. We didn’t have many rolls, but we had a few. And every one, the favourite one was Richard Tauber, singing Goodbye.
How does that go? How does that song go?
Oh very well. It was a very famous song.
Any words from that?
No, I don’t know.


What other entertainment?
Well we had a concert. The British put on a concert down in one of the cave holes. And you could hold about five hundred troops down there in this hole. And they could arrange for a program, a concert. That was wonderful. The other thing that we did


later on in the siege, when things got a bit quieter, we played a cricket match. That was a problem because you had to find a flat area, and you had to get an area where if you hit a ball somewhere you’d have to make sure you’d pick up the ball and didn’t pick up something else. But we had a cricket match, and that was


something quite different.
Describe that in more detail for us? That would be great. Where exactly was this cricket match staged? Where exactly did you have the cricket match?
In the square. You see the hospital was built around a big square. This was formally Italian barracks. There was a big square, and then there were buildings,


eight buildings all around this square, that became hospital wards. But the area in the front, at one stage, you could flatten it out and have a cricket match.
Did you get to have a bat?
No, but I can show you a picture there later on of the cricket match.
How did it go? Who did it involve? Who was the two teams?
Oh we were


playing the English. And it was very good, yes very good. (UNCLEAR) but that had to wait much later in the siege when things had quietened down.
Do you remember who won the match?
No, I can’t tell you who, where it finished, or who won it.
What kind of


jokes would you have with other mates, in Tobruk?
Yeah, what kind of humour would you have?
Oh there were jokes that were put out in our daily newsletter, The Tobruk Truth. There was always a couple of jokes in that somebody would send in, and have them published. And they were always very popular. Just


can’t think of them at the moment, but they are in my book there.
What about rumours that would get around Tobruk? Do you remember any rumours?
Yes there were plenty of rumours. And this is what started the Rats of Tobruk. When we were listening to William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw; he would be telling us rumours of all kinds.


Why we couldn’t get out of Tobruk, and so on. Yes, there were plenty of rumours that went the rounds, but none of them had any substance, and that’s why the Tobruk Truth, that was put out every day, was so valuable in scotching any rumours that might have got about.
How long did you think the siege would last?


Well we had no idea. We were very lucky, when the time came in October, when we were being relieved by the British. The British came in and took over the hospital. And we were being relieved. That was an incredible period. We were


taken down to the docks and waited under the hospital area until the ship came in. That was the Napier, HMAS Napier, destroyer. And we were able to get out on the Napier, and get on board. And it went off safely.


The captain said straight away, “Now get on there, hang on as best you can.” “If any board falls overboard, this ship will not stop.” So we managed. When we got down to Alexandria.
I better stop there, we’ve just ran out of tape I think.
Interviewee: Rupert Goodman Archive ID 0923 Tape 07


Just before we talk about coming home to Australia. I know that there was a siege at Tobruk. But was there any chance of recreational leave?
Not there. No, not at all. We had a day or two when we got out of the


siege, but we had to move on to our next assignment.
And what sort of things would you do on those day or two?
We had the opportunity of looking around some of the towns like Cairo and so on. But not very much because very soon we were called


up and our next assignment was to take over a hospital in Jerusalem an Italian and German hospital. The best address we had in the army. The Street of Prophets, Jerusalem. And it ran right down to the old city. Damascus Gate. And the first time we had all the sisters together. And


it operated as a hospital. We had very good quarters. But most of the time we were ducking down to the old city. And I recall the best guidebook, that some of these rough soldiers had was The Bible. And we took the Bible down and we were looking at


this point, and that point, and arguing. There was one major argument concerned the death of Christ. We went to the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and there laid out was a beautiful gold coffin, right through there. It was beautifully laid out.


And then we were watching this for quite a while. And I remember talking to one of our members. And I was saying to him, “Now what are you thinking of Joe?” And his reply was, “How I could get that gold.” But then the next day we went over the hill far


away to the tomb. And we stood there and looked at the tomb where wheel was rolled away, and where Christ, apparently, was buried in that. We had long arguments about whether Christ was buried there or in this gold tomb. But we saw a lot of the old city.
What other things did you see?


In the old city. We went out occasionally. We went to the hill of Bethel, and had arguments about that.
What kind of arguments did you have then?
We had, wherever we went in the old city, we had arguments about a particular. We went down to the Wailing Wall, to see


the Jews putting their crevices in the Wailing Wall. In fact the troops used to, in our year, made another verse about that, when things were crook. “It’s down to the wall, for a bloody wail, the tears would fill a bloody whale, oh bloody, bloody, bloody.”


And we spent, or we could of spent weeks going through the old city.
How did you use the Bible as a guidebook?
Well the Bible would give you the area, for example, of the Crucifixion, and of the four


stations of the cross, and so on. We would be looking at those and having long arguments about. And buying up any books that had references to them. It was a wonderful education. But that didn’t last forever. There came a time in a few weeks after that, where we were


told to pack up, and go down to the wharf at Tel Aviv. And down to the wharf, to get ready for onward movement. And that’s when all the rumours began to start. “Where were we going?” And this is after the period of the Japanese invasion. We had just learnt the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor


and bombed Darwin. We were getting very excited. And when we were told we were going to get on board and go somewhere, then the rumours started; “Where were we going?” And we all hoped that we were going home. So eventually we got on board the ship. At least most of us. The


unit got on board the ship, which was taking them towards Colombo. I was a bit unlucky in a way that I and three others and the captain were put on board a little old ship called The Gogra, G.O.G.R.A. It was terrible. It was so slow; it couldn’t do more than eight knots. And it was so slow it didn’t join the convoy. The convoy


went on. And this was a terrible, one of the worst times of my years. We just didn’t know what was going to happen to us. And we were watching all the time we used to see occasional smoke in the distance. Occasionally we would see a wreckage of a ship we’d pass. And


when we had the medico with us. When he’d asked the captain, “What about some lifeboats on this thing, there’s no lifeboats?” And the old captain said, “Don’t you worry about lifeboats. If anything hits this ship, you go over the side and swim as far away from it as you can.” And then the captain said, “Look,” he said.


We were there to help the staff. It was a ship full of ammunition and armed troops. So he said, “I don’t see any field dressings on this ship.” And the captain said, he was a nice old English captain, “If anything hits this ship, you won’t need field dressings.” Anyway we went slowly, slowly. And eventually we made


Colombo. And we got into the harbour there, and it was incredible. That harbour was full of ships. You could walk from ship to ship to go ashore.
So the hospital in Jerusalem. What was the difference between this hospital and the way the hospital was


run in Tobruk?
Well we had, first of all, patients from all manner of troops. We had British, we had Poles, and we had all sorts of people coming into the hospital. And not all of them were battle casualties. But these were in a hospital, these were a running hospital. It was an Italian hospital and German hospital,


and we took them over as hospitals. So they were running as complete hospitals. And there was no problem that way.
And what kind of patients were in them?
Patients were very good, of all kinds. And some we had to evacuate. But by and large we were doing pretty well


in the hospital.
Where had most of the patients come from?
Oh they had come from local campaigns. There were various campaigns on at that stage. And these came from all sources, and we had to act in a general way from wherever they might have been. And that


was no problem. The sisters were there for the first time, and running the hospital, and we didn’t have that much to do.
What was it like working with the sisters?
Oh well, very well. We got on well with the sisters. They were very nice people, and very competent people. And we didn’t have a lot to do. We tried to get off as much as we could to get down to the old


This might be slightly off track, but earlier you showed me the picture in your diary, that the man, the Free French soldier. Can you tell me about meeting him, and when he drew that picture?
Oh, that was very early. That was only a very small group of Free French that happened to be in the area. And he had some disability.


And we were asked to take him. But there were very few Free French in that area, that we had to look after. That was unusual for us.
And how did he come to draw in your diary?
Oh well, I was writing up my diary and I showed him that. And he said, ”Let me give you something to remind you of me.” And I thought that was marvellous.
And can you describe, for the camera I guess, the


Picture that he drew?
The picture that he drew? Well he drew a picture of him lying in bed and the sister standing over him giving a certain treatment, and he had his hands in a certain position, which made a very good picture. Typically French I might say.


Did many people keep a diary?
Not many. And indeed the CO said to us many times, “You’re not permitted to keep diaries.” “If you do keep a diary, be careful to destroy them if we look like being taken POW.”


So anyway, I kept that night after night, day after day, and brought it home with me. That was very lucky, because now I’m using that for my book, so I can get the exact material.
What sort of things would you write in your diary each night?
Well one thing I wrote in the diary


which wasn’t in the. You see the unit had to keep a diary, an official diary, for the record. And it was a job of the CO and his offsider, to indicate in the diary what had happened day by day. Well I, most of that diary, appears to be related to


air raids. The number of air raids, and the number of planes that went over. The number of bombs, the number of people who were killed, and so on. And that goes on, day by day for eight months. And that’s very good. Now I can look back and I’ve got the record.
What did it mean to you to write in the diary?


Well I was that way inclined I suppose. I was a literary person. And I was very keen to write day by day what was happening to us. And write in the diary. And the events of that period. And looking back now I’m very pleased that I wrote. And it’s actually, it’s a better record than


the official record that the CO was keeping, because I had the details. Anyway that all passed, and we got out of Tobruk, and we went to the holy city of Jerusalem.
How did you feel about getting out of Tobruk?
Oh we were very pleased. We didn’t look back. Once we got out


we were pleased to get out, and never looked back. And we got out safely, and that was important because going off on the HMAS Napier, you had to think carefully, and hope carefully, that nothing would attack you. After all the eight months you’d been there, you wouldn’t want a torpedo or something to attack you


while your getting out. But fortunately we got out in one piece.
And so how did they get you out safely? Was there any sort of, you know, did they have to take you out to sea?
No. We went out on an Australian destroyer, called the HMAS Napier. And we got on board that, and to hang on and


sit where we could. And that took us right down to, first of all, to the border, and then to Alexandria. And there were a couple of scares when the ship had to divert, and swerve away from some projected missile. But anyway, luck was with us, and we


got back to Alexandria.
How long did you spend in Alexandria?
Not very long at all, because we were taken to the British barracks, and given some good feed, a wash, clean up. We didn’t stay there very long. And we had then


just a couple of days leave, when we could go to Cairo, or any of the other big cities there, and have a look. But that wasn’t very long before we were on the track again.
And so you mentioned when you were leaving Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. When you left, when half


of most of the unit went on to the bigger ship, and you went onto the smaller ship, the very slow ship to Colombo.
We were on a little ship called The Gogra.
And why were you put onto that ship?
Because it was a ship carrying arms, ammunition and some troops, and they had to have a medical unit on board in case of any mishap. So


one doctor and four of us were put on that ship, to look after them in case of eventualities. But it was a long, slow, dangerous trip. I’ve had more fears of being lost at sea on that ship, than any others. Anyway we got to.
How long did it take to get to Colombo?
Oh it took us four days longer


than the big ship. You see all the rest of the unit were on a big ship called the, I think it was called The Devonshire. But when we got to Colombo, we were lucky to get into the harbour. The harbour was chock full of ships. You could walk from ship to ship to go ashore. They were all held up because of rumours, and the Japanese, and whatnot. And then there came


a rumour one night, that they had picked up a Japanese aircraft carrier, near the Andaman Islands, which were nearby. And they feared a Japanese invasion, or bombing of the harbour next day. So they gave the message for all the ships in the harbour to clear the harbour. And then we watched ship after ship went out of that harbour away from the danger zone. And believe it or not


a big storm blew up, and covered all the ships that had left the harbour, had gone out to sea. And no way in the world that an aircraft could see them. There we are. God stepped in again, and we had that protection. Anyway.
Did you spend time in Colombo?
After 24 hours


we all went back into the harbour, and it was an incredible sight. The Japanese had bombed the whole of the harbour front, and created havoc in that area. But they didn’t get any ships, because there were none there. And then the aircraft had come down from Bombay and they dealt severely


with the Japanese aircraft. Well then the problem was what to do with these ships. So they got to work and decided, against all rumours, that the next convoy would go to Australia. And away it


went. But about half way to Australia, the rumours said that we would go to Burma. So the convoy turned around. And as it happened, for various reasons beyond our knowledge, we went back to Colombo. And we disembarked at Colombo.


And we were taken off shore, taken off to a hospital. There was a hospital there, the 2/12th Hospital [2/12th Australian General Hospital]. But we were taken to an area where there was a school, and we took over the school, and established a hospital. And the rest of the convoy went off somewhere else. Didn’t go to Australia. Anyway we were


stuck in this school, and then the CO said, “Well look, we think the Japanese might invade Colombo.” “We’re going to establish a field dressing station along the coastline, at this point.” “And we want you, and you and you and you.” And I was one of the unlucky ones again. We got about twenty of us and he said, “You going up


to a place called Welasara.” It was a tea plantation. And he said, “You will prepare a field dressing station there, ready for any eventualities.” So we set up a field dressing station on this field, on this tea plantation. It was fascinating really. We saw the tea plantation was still at work. And there


was a mountain of tea there. And the women wogs were there, picking out the leaves, out this mountain of tea. Throwing it over board. And there was also a laboratory where these tea people were checking the tea, as it was made, to make sure that it was the right. You’ve seen these people


with wine testing. Well this was like tea testing. Anyway we were there for two months I suppose.
Did you drink a lot of tea while you were there?
Yes, we did. It was wonderful. The tea was laid on, and that was wonderful.
And where did you live while you were on this plantation?
Well we had a couple of buildings there belonging to the


tea plantation, and we had good. And we had this Dr Ley, as I’ve mentioned. He said, “Well while you’re here chaps, you’ve got to be busy.” So he had us doing things. We were rebuilding the area. And he gave a name to everything. This was Goodman’s Garden, and this was somebody else’s patch. And


What sort of work were you doing?
Oh making gardens and making areas that could be used by the people.
What was your interaction like with the natives, who were working on the tea plantation?
What were they?
What was your interaction like with the natives who were working?
Didn’t see many natives there. One night we heard a concert going on down in a village. And we went down


and stood off, and watched one of these native concerts. But we didn’t interfere in any way.
What was the concert like?
Oh, it was fantastic. The music was good, and we enjoyed that. But anyway we were sent back eventually to the hospital and prepared for.
Just one more question. Can you just tell me how you’d set up your field dressing station?
Yes. We


first of all, we got about 12 beds from various sources, and set them up in the home of this area, this man’s place. And we had a number of experts. And we were busy, as a matter of fact,


treating some of the staff, who had got malaria. And they hadn’t thought about malaria you see. And we didn’t have any Atebrin. And they were getting hit down with Malaria. And we had to send them back, by ambulance, back to the main hospital. We eventually had, we all had to pack up and go back to the


main hospital. Later on, the CO said to us, “Well I’m pleased you’re back.” “I was only reading a report from the army medical people, which said, “In the event of an invasion these people must be regarded as ‘written off.” Nice reading that after you’ve got back


safely. Anyway we got back.
What did you think about the fact that these people were to be ‘written off’?
Well this was the army. Typical. We were fortunately back safely to the unit, and before long we were put on a ship to go home.
Did you get to see much of Colombo, as a city?
No, not very much at all. No.


Did you see any sort of nightlife, or?
No. No, we were on the ship called the Devonshire and we one of a number of ships that were headed for home, we had hoped. Unfortunately on this ship we struck an outbreak of dysentery. And our, that funny bloke I was telling you. He had


a big board up and he said, “Look,” he said, “We’ll take a bet on this, and I’ll put up here every time so and so runs to the toilet, we’ll put the mark, and we’ll see who wins.” Anyway that was it. We got safely back.
Who won the competition?
We got safely back to Fremantle. And now that was a tremendous feeling of course,


being able to look on Australia again. And then we went around to Melbourne, and there we disembarked. And all our gear and all the rest of it. But what happened of course, when we got off with all our gear, we got on a train and were sent to Seymour, where we left. And there we


were sorted out into another area, but we were given a few days leave then when we were at Seymour. So we could go home and come back. And we were due back fairly soon.
What did you do on leave?
You couldn’t do much except to go home and see a few friends, and go back again.
What was it like to see your family?


Oh well, wonderful. You could imagine, wonderful.
What did you talk to them about?
Oh, about where we’d been, and what we’d done, and so on. We never stopped talking.
Were they interested?
Oh yes. They were, at that stage of course, they were telling us about the Japanese invasion. And they were very concerned that the Japanese would invade


the place. And we got to the stage where the Japanese had bombed Darwin, and been close to the Coral Sea and so on.
Did, just talking about your parents. Did they ever receive that letter that the padre had asked, told you to write, with the Bible verse?
Oh yes, they had. We had to explain all that.
Had they understood?


Had they gotten down the Bible and had a look?
No, they didn’t know what that was all about. So we explained that and sorted it out.
What was their reaction when they?
Oh well, they laughed that off. No, but when we were then at Seymour, we got notice, we were going north. So everything was packed up again and we got on a train and away we went north.


just while you were in Melbourne, on leave, or just when you were in the city. What was the reaction of the general public seeing you in uniform?
They were really wonderful, and they were delighted to see more troops in uniform.
How would they show this delight?
Oh they were so pleased, they’d slap you on the back and they’d ask you to go and have a drink, and that sort of thing. They were


delighted to see us. Especially at that stage, there were increasing numbers of Americans coming into the city you see. And they weren’t all that popular, the Americans.
Did you have anything to do with them?
No, I had nothing to do with them. We were then put on a train to go north.


And we went through Sydney and northern places. Brisbane. And then we were sent out to some unknown place called Redbank. We’d never heard of it and didn’t know what it was. And we we’d got to Redbank they were building a hospital, for various reasons. And we had to help in the establishment of this


wooden come tent hospital. And it was at a stage when there was a great fear about the Japanese. And at that stage there were a lot of casualties coming through from the Kokoda trail. And a lot of casualties


coming through from various shipping naval disasters. And we were in an area. They had decided that Australia would have, in the event of invasion; they would have an area for


evacuating people and troops and casualties, from Brisbane through Redbank, to Ipswich, and then up to the Darling Downs. You see all the schools were closed, and all the students were up in the Darling Downs. And all the people had to dig slit trenches, and sandbag them.


And evidently there was a great fear, among the people, about the Japanese invasion. An incredibly. So we couldn’t do very much except arrange when this hospital was built, to prepare for the patients. Most of the patients, as it happened that we got, were malaria, from New Guinea. We had at that


stage a new drug called Atebrin [anti malarial drug], which was supposed to keep the Malaria at bay, to keep the Malaria at bay. And we all had to take it. The only problem was, the rumour got around about taking this. Well first of all it made you yellow. And secondly the rumour


got around that it made you impotent.
What was people’s reaction to that?
They didn’t take it. Now by this time I was made an officer. And the job that I had was to get a sergeant, and we’d line up all the troops up, and they’d have the packet of Atebrin, and a glass of water, and you’d go along the line,


and you’d say, “Right, swallow this,” “Drink this glass of water.” And you had to go along the whole of the line to make sure they had this Atebrin.
Were the men angry?
Well they weren’t angry, but they were a bit upset about it, a bit concerned about it. They didn’t want to get malaria, but they didn’t know about this knew pill that they had to take.
Would you try and


combat these rumours at all, and say?
Well we could only do our best to combat the rumours. And of course it was very bad at that stage, because we would send up to New Guinea, a battalion of troops, say eight hundred or so. And within a month, you would have six hundred back with Malaria. Until we got the Atebrin well


established, we were losing a lot of people with Malaria. And we had several wards full of patients with Malaria. So anyway we had to establish this big hospital at Redbank. You know Redbank at all? No. It’s out there, about 17 miles out. And it was a hospital just being built.


And the nurses, and Wyn will tell you, she was there. They had to live in tents. It was very cold living in tents. And the showers were open air, and cold. And there was a very primitive area. And we had to eventually make do


with these. We had long huts, they were timber huts for the patients, and tents around there for the staff. And that took quite a while to get established as a part of the Australian contribution and to overcome the fear of invasion. And that took some time.


Eventually, after the Coral Sea battle, the fear disappeared. Of course this was after the Darwin raid, and after the Centaur, things like that. Were very, very serious, and people were very concerned about a possible invasion of Japanese.


Did your, you spoke earlier, about this desire to protect England, and to fight for England. How had this changed hearing about the Japanese?
Yes, this changed completely. Because we then had to join up, and a number of serious things happened. First of all, all the A class men


were sent north. Any B class men were held in the south. A lot of women were sent to the north, the sisters and some of the VADs [Voluntary Aid Detachment] were sent north. There was a great deal of concern about the north. There was nothing to do with Britain by this stage.


And of course by this stage Britain was doing pretty well, with the help of Americans and the air force and so on. But we still had the problem of fighting the Japanese.
We’ll just change tapes.
Interviewee: Rupert Goodman Archive ID 0923 Tape 08


Were you aware of the idea of Brisbane Line, as such?
No, not particularly. Not at that stage. But looking back, this was what was happening. Somewhere the authorities had decided


on this line of evacuation back from Brisbane, through Redbank, through to Ipswich and then to the Darling Downs. And that was the line of evacuation for civilians and wounded, should the Japanese had invaded. And that was what was called, I think the, Line, the Brisbane Line.
What were you aware of at the time?


Only aware of the fact that we might have to evacuate patients along that area.
Apart from the Malaria. What other diseases were you noticing from patients coming back from fighting the Japanese?
Oh, well there were some very serious diseases. One of them was called Scrub Typhus. And Scrub Typhus caused by


a rat or a tick, running from a rat and biting somebody. Now Scrub Typhus was virtually unknown at that stage, and was almost fatal, in the beginning. They had no cure, and eventually they were able to conquer this Scrub Typhus. But it was a very serious disease.
How did they conquer it?


Well they found another, the scientists found another anti-venom, that was able to knock that on the head, but it certainly caused a lot of casualties.
What about injuries? Were you noticing anything?
Yes, we had quite a few injuries.


But mostly the people who were coming off the Kokoda trail were suffering from diseases. Some from weapons and so on. Yes we had for example in the hospital at Redbank, we had two wards for example, two wards full


of patients, and every one of those was bedridden. And this required a lot of attention. And this is where sisters were very good. And whether it was a sister or a matron or orderly, if somebody wanted a bottle we’ll say, and he is bedridden, one of the sisters or matron


or whoever was passing would get the bottle and attend this sort of person. Now that was a tremendous piece of nursing that had to be done.
What was it like to work with women again?
Oh no trouble. We were, we had some very good sisters, and they were first-class sisters too. And we


appreciated what they were doing. But it was a big job, and then there was another ward full of malaria and other diseases, all in this hospital. And all had to be attended to.
How was it different working with women?
Oh, no different really. We had the odd ones before. But again, this


was a problem of helping the sisters when it came to turning a patient over. Some of them would be impossible for a nurse to do it, and they required some help. And turning a patient over, and washing him, and attending to bedsores and things like that. And they appreciated having a male to do that sort of work. The CO,


at this stage, was still very concerned when they decided to send a lot of his best, North, and to other areas. He insisted that they wouldn’t send important people. Now he said the important people that he had were in the wood heap. You


needed first class axeman, to do the chopping up of wood. See, at that stage, we didn’t have a lot of electricity. And there is a story I can tell you. We had coppers, and they had to be fed. And on one occasion we had a copper, which was used for the boiling of bedpans and things like that, to


sterilise them. And other copper was for tea. And there was an occasion one night, when a sister saw one of these troops, from a nearby camp, rushing in and helping himself to boiled water. But it was the wrong tank. Yes so we had to


use the best that we could. Well all of that slowed down after a while, as we beat the Jap’s back up north. Things down south became slower and slower. And they appointed me as Education Rehabilitation Officer, to attend to the needs


of people coming down and who would be discharged, and what they might do when they are discharged. And also to set up some education facilitates, to overcome the boredom that some troops and staff might have. And that was a big commitment. And we got a lot of help, and a lot of people sent south


after they had had some advice and treatment from us. But then there, moving quickly, that was the end of 1944. By then, the Japanese were well up in north, and being well beaten. It was decided to send the 2/4th up to Labuan.


And they were sent up there to set up a hospital, to meet the oncoming POWs.
Just before we get to that, I’d like to ask you about at Redbank. Is this where you met your wife?
Tell us about this?
Well my wife was a VAD. That is Voluntary Aid Detachment.


And she was working there as part of the nursing staff. And that is where we met, and subsequently married, in 1946. She was appointed to the x-ray unit, as a radiographer. That was a terrible thing. I’ll tell you more about it later.


Anyway that’s where we met.
How did you get to like each other?
Oh that would be a very personal question. It so happened anyway that they didn’t send the VADs overseas. And this was a tragedy, when it came to pension rights later on, with the DVA [Department of Veteran’s Affairs]. If you didn’t serve overseas you couldn’t get


a gold card, for example. That’s another story. But some of us went by ship. I was one of those who went up by aircraft. And I flew up to Labuan, and again set up an area there for


the rehabilitation of POWs that we’d met. We brought them in from Kuching. We brought them in from different places. And we were appalled of course, because first of all there were medical problems that had to be treated medically. And that was unbelievable their state that they were in. And we


helped them then, as best we could, before they were air-loaded back to the mainland.
Describe what you were seeing? Describe what you were seeing in the POWs?
Well with the POWs we had to rehabilitate them. Tell them what life was like, and what they expect life to be like. And how


they were going to be treated, and so on. Because they didn’t know. They didn’t know what to expect, after the treatment they’d had with the Japanese. So we did our best to rehabilitate them for their work, back when they were discharged.
So what would you tell them in these circumstances?


Well under those circumstances, we had to tell them what to expect when they got back to Melbourne, for example. And what sort of training that they would need to have. And what sort of facilitates were available for them to get more training, as well as more medical treatment. And they had to combine both the medical treatment and their


training, if they were going to live a normal life again. And that took some explaining of course.
What kind of medical facilities would they have? And what kind of training would they get?
Well this was a big problem when they got back to Melbourne. And it brings me to the next stage of my career.
Well we’ll get to that. I’m more interested, still


interested in more of the questions of POWs? What did they look like to you? What were you seeing?
We’ve never seen men, as skeletons, so miserable, as they were when we saw them. It was unbelievable. When we got them back to the hospital from Kuching, and those places.


It was unbelievable. We’d never seen any human beings so miserable, in terms of physical size and ability and so on. It took an awful lot of getting them back to normal health. And we didn’t want to delay that unnecessarily, but we wanted them to be in a reasonable state for the time they were


sent back to their relatives. And that took a little time.
What did you think when you saw these men?
Well, it’s one of those occasions when you wonder what to do with the Japanese. They would let the allied people degenerate to such.


But eventually we believe they were the fortunate ones. Those who were unfortunate were those who caught in various other situations, and just didn’t survive.
How did you feel about the Japanese, seeing these men?
Well at stage I certainly felt very


hostile to the Japanese. And if anything could have been done to the Japanese at that stage, I would have been pleased to have it done. You had to see them at that point, the contact between the POWs, Japanese, to realise what a terrible event it was.


Did you have any contacts with Japanese at this stage?
Yes, I did. And in fact, one of the Japanese officers gave to me his sword. I’ve got a samurai sword out there, which I brought home with me. I’ll show you later. But not to, in terms of any contact, in terms of friendliness or discussion. They didn’t speak English to that extent, and we didn’t have


any contact with them.
Why did he give you the sword?
Thought he was doing the right thing, I think. I think he thought he would, he might save himself something if he gave me a sword.
What was the mental state of the men you were seeing?
The mental state. That was hard to say, but they were certainly


very, very, not unhappy, but certainly of a state where they didn’t realise what the world was like. They had been out of the world for three or four years. They didn’t realise what the world was like, or what to expect of the world.
Where were these POWs coming from? What parts


of the?
They were coming from the islands, north of Labuan. But also from parts of Borneo, and parts of Kuching, and where there were prison camps, and that was in a part of the islands.


We went down on ships to bring these people back from the prison camps. And that was a terrible experience.
What did you see in these prison camps?
Oh we were only looking to get the men, and get them on board the boat, and get them back to civilisation as soon as possible. It wasn’t our job, we


didn’t make any inroads into prison camps or what was happening there. That was somebody else’s job.
Did the men tell you what they’d been through?
To some extent, yes. They were pretty tight-lipped about it, particularly when so many of their friends had died


from their experiences. Yes, that was a terrible episode. A terrible episode from the hospital point of view, meeting these, and greeting these POWs, and trying to do something


for them.
Would any of them break down?
The POWs? Oh yes, oh yes. And required the best of our sisters to get them on the straight and narrow path and talk to them, and comfort them and so on.
Were any getting very mentally unstable?


Well it’s hard to say at that stage. We didn’t have them there long enough for that. That would be a further job for the medical staff a little later.
Did any of the conversations you had with the POWs stick in your mind?
Oh well not really, they weren’t there long enough. We were doing our best for them. But they were


taken on board as soon as possible after they’d had some treatment; medically, and some food. That was more important to get food into them so that they could become more like human beings, and put some flesh on the bones that


we saw.
What would they eat? What would you feed them at this stage? What food?
We’d give them a special diet. We had all that worked out beforehand. In fact we had to take a special diet to these POWs, and feed them, and get them back into normality.


That took some time.
As part of your job, would you talk to them about what they had gone through?
No, not so much about what they’d gone through. It was to talk to them about what they were going to see in Melbourne and Sydney, and how they were going to be looked after, and treated, physically, and in terms of medical treatment.


And when they were ready, what training facilities were going to be available to them, and so on.
What kind of training would they receive, when they went back?
Well that had to be decided, and by people like me, when I was in Melbourne. And depending on what they’d done before, what they wanted to do in the future. This was a big, and the training facilities were there available


through retraining for repatriation in those days. And that was a big issue.
And what kind of medical treatment could they look forward to?
Well, they could look forward to anything at all. Everything was open to them. The Repatriation Department, as it was then, had their doors wide open for the POWs.


And that was a big job for the repat. Anyway I will tell you how I came. Are you finished with Labuan?
I’ll just ask you one last. Did you ever humour any of the guys, or try to cheer them up?
Oh yes, we had to do that of course.
How would you do that?
Concerts and what not. And the padre’s


were very good. And there was a lot of work that went on in cheering up process, yes.
How would you do it yourself?
Oh well, I guess as myself, as far as I was concerned, was pretty hard because I had been. We found it more difficult than the POWs themselves. We got such a shock, seeing these people,


and knowing, in part, what they’d been through. It was harder for us to get used to, than it was really for them coming out of their situation.
Did any of those fellows have a good sense of humour in their situation?
No, I can’t say that that was a feature of these people.


No. They all wanted to get home as soon as possible, naturally. And a lot of things had to be done for them, before they got to get home.
So tell us about, you wanted to tell us about going home?
Well after the end of the war, while I should have gone back to teaching, the commonwealth government,


knowing my background, took hold of me and said, “Look we’re going to give you a special task in Melbourne, and we’ll call you an Educational Therapy Officer. And your job is to set up a program of training, for these POWs. And arrange for them to be


Interviewed. Arrange for them to know what their disabilities are, what their background was. And how you are going to organise training for the disabled, the blind, the incompetent, neurosis, and all these people.” And I had that job for two years, as an Educational Therapy Officer in Victoria.


You mentioned neurosis. Did they recognise this as a condition? Did the department recognise neurosis?
Oh yes. The repatriation and the medical people knew all of these symptoms. But after two years, the Education Department wouldn’t let me have any further extension of


my period. They grabbed me and sent me teaching again. And that’s when University High started again.
Tell us more about this role. Like what kind of things would you be doing in it?
Well first of all we had to arrange certain areas. We’ll take the blind for example.


There had to be a special area set up for the blind. And arrangements made for them to be treated, and given whatever facilities might be available. And the same with the people who were amputees. People might have lost an arm, or two arms, or a leg, and they had to be treated in terms of what


they could do, in terms of training. And the same applied to all the disabilities that we had.
What kind of work could you get the blind?
Well the blind people of course, had to be given facilities so that they could get about and keep their own facilities. They were not only


given the appropriate walking sticks and the help. But when they were taken back to their homes and their families, they had to be shown and helped. And the families had to be shown and helped as to what a blind person could do in a family situation. How he would go to the shower, or toilet, or


shave, or whatever. In the case of married people, that was another problem, that married people had to get used to looking after their husbands. And that was quite an exercise. But these situations had to be treated on the one to one basis. And they were wonderful what was done in that


And what kind of work, say, crippled man get into?
Well in those days they couldn’t do very much for them, because there were no modern devices and technology and so on. But they could be helped to lead a normal life within their family


situation. And that was the main thing.
And you’d returned, you mentioned you married your wife in 1946. How did you come back together?
1946. Well we got married in 1946. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you privately afterwards.


It, of course, was a time when you had to set up a family and build houses, and start to lead a normal life again.
How was your settling back in? How did you find settling back in?
Well I was perhaps lucky. I was so busy on


the educational side, I didn’t have time to think about what was going to happen to me. From the time I had got through my various courses and set up a lifestyle, and what I was going to do with my life, and so on. That was a different story.
Did you ever have any trouble with memories


of what you’d seen at war?
Not particularly. We had a group of the unit. A group of the unit that met frequently, from time to time, exchanged reminiscences. But gradually a lot of those died off. I think there are only five of us left now,


of that unit. Every time I get a letter from somebody in Melbourne, it’s about somebody else who’s died.
Apart from settling people back in. How did your job work with the POWs? How did you go with settling them back in?
Well we had to do a lot of personal


work. If we had a blinded person, we had to go to the family, and talk to the family.
What about Prisoners of War? What about the POWs who were skinny?
The POWs likewise, had to be. Even when they had all their faculty’s, you still had to help them readjust into normal living again.


And you can do that on a personal basis, when you’ve had opportunities to go to a family and see them. And likewise with people who have lost a limb. That was also difficult. They’d lost an arm or a leg, or both. And in some cases


they had scars on their face, or somewhere, reflecting on what they’d been through.
What would you say to their families?
Well, mostly they were very supportive, depending on the situation. In some cases there were


families, there were children that had grown up since they left and went to the war, six years previously. And children had to get accommodated too, to these situation of their father. And that took time, and took a lot of help. Sometimes the


ministers, the padres, were a big help. Sometimes the Salvos [Salvation Army] were a big help. You needed help from various sources, to talk to families and bring them into line again. That took time.
As an example, what would be something that you could say to a family of who were having say, trouble,


as their husband had returned from something like a Japanese prisoner of war camp?
Well sometimes you would have to talk to families separately from the husband. And indicate what to expect from their husband. He might have strange dreams, or he might have problems in


talking to people now. And tell them what to expect, and then get hold of the ex POW, and talk to him about what’s going on in the place. Now that took quite some time. You had to be a, not an occupational therapist, but you had to be a therapist yourself, in order


to help these people.
And where did you gain your knowledge to talk to people about these issues?
Well through many years of service in the army, it had become naturally to me as to what I would be doing.
And what about the information about what would happen to the POWs. Where did you know about this?
Well, that came later, and


much later in some cases. Places like Sandakan, and where there were. I think, five thousand killed and only a couple survived. Some of that didn’t come until later.
And so what did you do after this work?
Oh well


it’s a long story. I think I told you that I went back to University High, mainly because I was appointed there, so that I could complete my own career. And I was able to complete my Arts Degree, my DipEd, my Master of Ed [Education], Bachelor of Ed. And then the


President Gordon Brown said to me, “Look Rupert, your one of the first ex service people who has gone through this sort of training.” “Now there is the opportunity for you to get a scholarship to go to the ANU at Canberra.” He said, “this will be the first one, nobody else has got it, you’re the


first one.” And low and behold I got this scholarship to go to Canberra, to do a PhD. And that meant another big upsurge. I had to take my wife and family, and go to Canberra for three years. And that set me on the road to university work, and academic work, and so on.


And you travelled a world a bit?
After that, yes, I got involved, when I was at the UNESCO university. And the UNESCO people thought that I was the type they wanted. And they sent me off on various missions to other universities. Especially the


to other countries, to help them in establishing other universities. At that time I was on the Senate here, of the university, and I was well established as a university person. And so I was sent down to help Haile Selassie, in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, and


help him, and advise him, on how to run his university. And then I was shot to Indonesia, to help Suharto. And advise him on how to establish a university of world standing. And then I went to various other places, listing in my who’s who. Germany, I got a scholarship


to go to Germany. We went there, and I that was at Hamburg. And when I went to Germany, I went to Hamburg. And when I was there with the students, I said to them, “Do you want me to lecture to you in German or in English?” And they said they wanted English. So I said, “Well I will


lecture to you in English, and answer questions in German.” So we had quite an exercise there in Bremen and Hamburg.
I think we are just about to run out, so I have one last question then. Do you have any final words on your life story and your service?
In the service?
And in your wartime service?
In my wartime service. I suppose I was lucky in all


the things that happened to me, and all the things I did. God was on my side, or somebody was on my side. And I was able to live it out, and get the appreciation of what happened to me and what I did in that time. Six years is a long time out of a normal run of living in the community. And I survived it.


Well done, thank you very much.


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