Archive number: 1687
Preferred name: Tom
Date interviewed: 26 March, 2004
You are listening to the interview audio
Can you give me the summary of your life and war experience?
Well I was born in Texas on the 10th of the 12th '24. We lived there for a considerable number a years. I went to school initially in a state school and when the convent was built I went to the convent. I had in
1936 we went to Toowoomba for a few years. We weren’t there that long and I went to Christian Brothers College and then we returned again to Texas and I stayed there right up until I joined the army. I had various jobs from droving to working on cattle stations and on the roads, building air ports and what have you. I tried to join the army at the age of sixteen and they wouldn’t have me so I when I turned
eighteen I joined. Went to Brisbane initially to the exhibition grounds and from there I went to 11th AITB [Australian Infantry Training Battalion], which is a training battalion at Warwick. We did approximately six months there and we progressed because we were young and we weren’t allowed to go overseas until we were nineteen years of age, because they tightened up for people joining too young, went to the 25th
Infantry Battalion, which was a training battalion at Tenterfield in New South Wales. From there we went to the young soldiers' battalion because we were too young to go away at I think it was 18 AITB down in Nelsons Bay. From there when we were getting closer to nineteen we were sent to Canungra, which is one of the hardest places I’ve ever been to in my life in those days. From there I was posted to the
2/5th Infantry on the Atherton Tableland and we they just came back from the Wau Salamaua campaign, so we had a pretty easy time for a few months and then they started to hot up the training and from there we went to New Guinea to Aitape Wewak campaign and after the Aitape Wewak campaign I had nothing really to come home to. I wasn’t a
tradesman and so I decided to go with the occupation force and we were sent to 67 Infantry Battalion, which was formed at Morotai and the whole brigade was at Morotai and eventually in I think it was January, February 1946 we went to Japan. Stayed in Japan with the battalion. Came home in the end of '46 on leave and went back
and stayed right through. It was then they decided to change the battalions 65, 66 and 67, which were became 1, 2 and 3 Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment in 1948. So we stayed on in '48 1 and 2 Battalion came home and 3 Battalion stayed there and in 1950 we went to Korea. '51 when we finished our time in Korea I went back to RHU [Reinforcement Holding Unit],
which was a training unit for reinforcements going to Korea and in 19 during that period I was married in Japan and they said around Christmas 1951, “All married personnel have to go home.” So they put us on a boat and sent us home in December '52. From there I after a lots of leave because I had I’d been out of Australia from actually
1944 to 1952 really and so I had stacks a leave and from when I finished some of the leave they recalled me and I went to 4 Battalion, which was based at Ingleburn, and we trained the reinforcements for Korea and at one time had eighteen hundred men within the battalion. The battalion area couldn’t hold
'em so we had a tented camp out at Glenfield where we had a training establishment. From there I went to Seymour to the school of infantry and did a long course, warrant officer’s course of seventeen weeks, which was very hard. And of all things when I finished I was sent to Maralinga as the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] of the force that went up there and for an RSM with my background it wasn’t the best of postings. After the Maralinga I came
back and was posted to the school of infantry as warrant officer class one instructor. From the school of infantry I went as was selected to go as RSM at Duntroon and I was the RSM at Duntroon, the Royal Military College, for a period of oh a bit over six years. From there I was commissioned. In those days it was a quartermaster’s commission for senior warrant officers class one. When I was commissioned I stayed for a
couple a months still as acting RSM. From there I went to 5 Battalion, which was preparing to go to Vietnam. We were at Holsworthy and we trained at Holsworthy for a couple a years and in January 1969 we went to Vietnam. Completed a tour I think of fourteen, fifteen months and then we came back to our battalion area at Holsworthy. From there I went as to an
operations branch in the old Victoria Barracks, which was eastern command in those days and when that was running down they said to me, “You're either got a go to CMF [Citizens’ Military Force] or.” This colonel said to me, “Be my enlistment officer,” and I said, “Well I don’t want to be an enlistment officer and I don’t want to be at an CMF.” So he said, “I’ll give you a week to make up your mind.” So I took on the enlistment officer. I stayed there then
in York Street as enlistment officer for about eighteen months. Then I got a call from a friend of mine one morning and he said, “Would you like to go back to Duntroon as OC [Officer Commanding] headquarter company?” And I said, “How soon?” So I finished up there at Duntroon and then I had about twelve to eighteen months to do to finish my retirement, which at those days you retired at fifty-five.
So I didn’t want another move so I took my time. Retired and stayed in Canberra and from Canberra I from the army, I went to work at the House of Representatives in the bills and papers office. Stayed there until I retired and just lived at Waramanga and that’s about the story of my life.
How 'bout children? How many children have you had?
Four. Three girls and a boy.
And your son’s in the army as well?
Yes. He went to Duntroon in what, 1973 and graduated in '76. He did his time in the army and then when he finished his twenty years he worked for the International Red Cross in Central Europe in all the trouble spots as the armed forces delegate for a period of four years. Then he came back and he, he actually came back to do his masters in international law
and he did very well. So they asked him to do his doctorate in international law but he’s been working that hard that he hasn’t had time to finish it. I think he’s doin’ a bit of it now since he came back but he actually worked for the Asian Pacific Military Law Centre. He’s a solicitor and he mind you there was no corps such legal branch, so he’d he went through his service and then
transferred to the legal corps and just recently he went to Baghdad and did his four months and now he’s back again and I think he at the moment he’s still doing some work for the Asian Pacific Military Law Centre.
And I’m pretty certain he’s goin’ back to Baghdad but I don’t think he’d go back as a army officer because they especially signed him up just for a short period.
Thank you. Great summary. We’ll go back to the beginning now and I just want to hear a little bit more about Texas. Can you describe a bit of your childhood in Texas?
Well, pretty rugged. I enjoyed school when I was there. I wagged it a bit. Went trapping birds and rabbit trapping and things like that when I should a been at school. I left at the age of school at the age of
twelve. I found I when I was at school I enjoyed it but I was pretty wild and I liked to get out into the bush and at the age of twelve, because we weren’t very wealthy and in those days it was very hard going. You know no one had any money. So I left and went droving at the age of twelve and Texas was a very enjoyable place. It had
it’s right on the border. About oh the post office is one mile from the actual New South Wales, Queensland border and it had two parts of the town, the flat and the hill. The only thing that exists today is the hill because it got flooded that many times they moved the shops off the flat onto the higher ground. No, I enjoyed my life there. The I had various jobs because when I left school I went to I was droving.
Then I worked on a cattle station for some considerable time, don’t ask me how many years, and they used to pay you twenty five shillings a week, your keep and they gave you a tin shed to live in. So you had to just organise yourself but I enjoyed it and made some good friends and the cattle station is it’s still there. In my day it belonged to the Scottish Australian Investment
Company and from there I oh in those days you did rabbit trapping, anything to make a quid. I think you got one and six, when you were at school you got one and six for a pair a rabbits providing they weren’t bruised, which is pretty good money for a kid in those days, and from there when I decided to join the army at the age of sixteen I run foul of my father. So we never ever got on after that and
I stayed around Texas doing odd jobs and then I went down to Leyburn, which is out of Toowoomba. They were building an aerodrome there and who should be the first person I met was my father because he was a ganger. From there we went to a place called Wyberba, which is out of Stanthorpe, and they were building a road there and I worked in the blacksmith’s shop until I was close to the age
when I wanted to get into the army come hell or high water. So at the age of eighteen I went into Stanthorpe, had my medical in Stanthorpe and then went to the exhibition ground in Brisbane.
Why did your father object to you joining?
Because he didn’t sort a like the army and I was a fairly good worker in those days, well still
am. I would probably and he just disagreed with it and we didn’t see eye to eye anyhow. He was a very hard person. I was very well disciplined I can tell ya.
How did you survive the Depression in Texas?
Very hard. We lived on I can remember living on bread and dripping cause the Dumeric River or the Dumaresq, whatever they call it these days, is
a good fishing river. So we lived on fish, rabbits. It was very hard because there was no work for anyone and I can remember goin’ around with Mum and Dad and you’d go out on the roads and to find old rubbish tips and find I think you got a penny for unbranded bottles and a ha’penny for a branded bottle. Well pennies and ha’pennies in those days counted a lot and I remember my father had a
blood horse and it was only young, it was only three or four year old. Beautiful horse, which probably we would a been worth hundreds a pounds but in those days all he got for it was ten pound. He had to sell it for us to survive and he sold it to the police and the police force hardly ever used it because I remember used to ride up to the police paddock and there’d be what we called 'Old Blood', our horse, was there livin’ on the lap a luxury for years and did no work.
What did you do for fun in Texas as a kid?
I got into trouble. They had a common we used to we were all horse men. We were practically born and bred on horses and on the weekends we used to have our own rodeos. We’d muster, illegally muster all the stock on the common and have our little rodeos on the youngest calves and things like that. Play pitch penny in front of the Comonos
Eatery and anything else. Fishing, rabbiting and that was our life. Riding horses.
Did you have brothers and sisters?
Yeah. I had one sister who was younger and four brothers. The day or one a my brothers died while I was away at the war. The others I’ve got two brothers still living and one sister. Two of 'em have passed away
but because I was the eldest I didn’t mix mother, mix much with my brother. I remember with the one next to me, Neil, used to always be followin’ me and I didn’t want him to follow me because he and I’d go out rabbit trapping and hunting for foxes and things like that in the bush because I was a bushie. So we used to get into all the fights in the world and I can remember once when we were
droving cattle between Texas and Glen Innes there’s a place near Ashford and he was younger than me by about three years I think and the father, my father said, “Now you two go and water the horses.” This is when we put it down camp for the night and he threw some water over me. So I hauled off and I hit him in the chest and knocked him out and I was dead
scared that I was gonna get a belting so I brought him around and I said, “Don’t you ever tell Dad about that,” which he never did, and that’s the type a things we used to do.
What was it like being twelve and droving?
Pretty hard but I was brought up with horses and cattle and oh it was a hard life. It was your mainly pack saddle and there was only when I first
went droving I would a drove for a bloke by the name of Webber and it was pack saddled and you knew all the tricks of the trade because there was on the stock routes there was it was mostly eaten out because the cattle and sheep used all the stock routes in those days so you had to get good feed for your horses. So what you’d do you’d one a the gimmicks was to use your surcingle and tie down the fences so that they were about that high and you’d jump your horses over it.
Tie the bells down so, the tongue of the bells so they didn’t ring, and of course being the youngest at twelve years of age or fourteen years of age whatever you were, you were sent out to get the horses and normally where the horses were were right over near the homestead but I never ever got caught and no, it was a pretty rugged life and what’s more, when you're on pack saddles you're got no shelter. You just live in the open.
What were the what were some of the other men like? Had they was there anyone in that environment that had been in the First World War?
One, ah yes two who I were more or less like fathers to me. Oh no correction, three. Darkie Hope was an old Boer War veteran. He sort of fathered me. He was a piano tuner and he ran the local
billiard snooker room. Taught us how to play billiards and snooker and he really became like a father to me when I, I was never ever a drinker when I was young. You know even when I joined the army but occasionally you went into the pub for a drink and he used to drink a little tiny glass, a pony, about that big but when I’d come home the after I saw Mum, she’d be the first one I’d go and see, I’d always go and see old Darkie Hope and then
there were these other two who were World War I people, great people. Old I forget his name, Sweedman was one of 'em. Frawley was another one, who sort a looked after me and he in a way because they’d always stop and talk to me and ask me how the rabbiting was and how my bird trapping was going. So he because even though I was young we became great friends.
Did Darkie talk about his experiences in the war?
He was in the Boer War. He never ever mentioned it.
What did he say when you said you wanted to join the army?
He was all for it. Thought it was great and I used all the kids in those days if you had a few bob you’d have a bet on a horse and he always instructed me never to bet on a horse unless you were in the know. The no, he was a great man.
I’ve got to get a bit of a cold.
That’s okay. And why did you why were you so keen to join the army at sixteen?
I’ve never ever really put my finger on it. I just wanted to join the army and we were droving cattle and I said to Dave Cross and Jack Webber, they’d sent me out on a job to put some bullocks through into another paddock, and when I come back I said,
they were sitting down having lunch and I said, “I’m gonna join the army,” and they said, “They won’t let you in. You're too young.” Well they were right too so I dunno, I just had a feeling I wanted to join the army and when I got into the army I stayed in because I that’s what I wanted to do. I I’d thought the army was a good life.
Where were you when war broke out?
Ah I would a been in Texas. I think I was
in actual fact we used to there was a family, he was head stock man on Texas station and they lived on the Texas station was right on the river. You could practically throw a stone into it and they had a house on the river and they had a big family and they because I lived on my own in this tin hut they used to invite me over of a night and they had the old you know the old real old radios. The big ones
and we’d listen to the war news and that’s where I spent most of my nights because you had nothing to go to in those days. You had a picture show every Saturday and a lot of people didn’t have enough money to go to it anyhow but I was pretty lucky. Normally I could get to the pictures.
So what was the first reaction to the war then from for you?
I really don’t remember. No, I
Did the town of Texas change?
Oh well anyone knew each everyone else you know and particularly all the kids knew all the older people and people that were older than me they just disappeared, yes it did and a course there was some wild boys there that didn’t want to go to the into the army period. So they they’d arrive home in uniform and the next thing the provos’d [Provosts – Military Police] be out after 'em
and a lot of 'em never went past. Oh not a lot of 'em a few of 'em never went past Brisbane I don’t think but a lot a little bit older than me, say two or three years, they some of 'em went to the Middle East. Some of 'em were lost. Some of 'em went through the air to the air force and were in bombers. Never ever heard of 'em again and had a lot of casualties even from home in New Guinea and yes, it did affect it.
Were you there when the first casualties started to come through that people were missing or that families were losing
I can remember one particular chap who was a brother of a good mate a mine and they had a dairy farm and I used to say, his name was Digger, although he went to the into the air force. I can remember when they found out you know that he was missing in action. Yes, it did hit the place
and you know you thought about it because of the most of the people you went to school with, they were in higher grades than what you were and very sad.
What had you heard about the war that made you want to join?
Oh nothing really. I just I thought, “Well they move around and go to various places,” and I was a sort of a wanderer, always wandering round the bush on my
own and thought this was a good idea. I remember when I first joined the army this chap said, “What corps do you want to go in?” I said, “I want to go into artillery,” and he said, “Why?” I said, “They don’t walk,” and where’d I finish up, in infantry.
Well tell us a little bit more about joining up.
Well joining up we went from Texas by train. Pretty slow train in those days to down to Brisbane
and went to the exhibition grounds. They hit you with all this new gear. Red boots. Oh, khaki shirt with no collar and a couple of collars. Now fancy givin’ boys of our age attachable or detachable collars, whatever they call 'em. A big hat that no one told you how to put the dint in and you didn’t have a puggaree, you sort of have a piece of cloth was a similar
to the colour of the shirt and you sort of fended for yourself and a pair a blue braces and I can remember when we all got dressed they said, “Right you can go on leave tonight,” because you couldn’t wear civilian clothes. Everyone had to wear uniform and we all did the best we could because they knew we were all rookies. You know red raw recruits and this chap
by the name a Edmondston, he came from Texas. Went back there and he passed away not long ago and he went with his red boots, pair a SD [Service Dress] trousers on, his blue braces and this shirt with no collar, the hat stuck on his head with this piece a cloth round it and a chin strap under his chin and got on a tram and went into town to the pub and we're watching. “He’s bound to get picked up by the provos.”
He didn’t and that was the day they all went in I can remember 'em goin’ into the pub and even though I was in uniform they said, “No you're too young. Out.” So I had to stand outside in uniform waitin’ ‘til they had their couple a beers ‘til they come out.
What was Brisbane like at that time?
Well ya could find your way around it. Oh Brisbane in those days was a country town. They I think
the old Festival Hall that they knocked down just recently or sold all the stuff. I can remember that. Festival Hall was their boxing arena and of course being in the army we were all keen followed boxing and we used while we were at the exhibition grounds and the short few days we spent out at Redbank the before we went to Warwick we used to go to the boxing, which was very good, and Tommy Byrnes was a champion in those days and
well you could find your way around no problem at all. I wouldn’t even drive in it now or attempt to drive.
Can you describe the boxing arena and the one of the fights that you went to?
Well one fight I remember I wanted to see Tommy Byrnes because I’d we used to listen to the fights at home when Lyle Law, I think he was the lightweight champion of Queensland at the time, and Tommy Byrnes was an up and comer and oh we a few of us
said, “Now we’ve got to go to the fight at Festival Hall when Tommy Byrnes fights this Russ Milling.” I can still remember his name. He was a champion Filipino fighter. So we went to Festival Hall and we had really good seats but it last I don’t think it lasted two rounds and I don’t I couldn’t even see the punch bein’ threw. He just sort a jabbed, it was like lightning, and down went Russ Milling and that was the end of the fight, which was very disappointing but they did put on some you know
some other fights after that to fill in the program. No, we enjoyed goin’ there. It was well we you never had you weren’t paid much money those days so you didn’t go out boozing [drinking alcohol] and we were too young really. We weren’t boozers. Occasionally we might have a beer. No, I enjoyed the few days or few weeks we spent around Brisbane.
What surprised you about the army at first?
Oh I suppose so many people in the one place. Cause we went to Redbank and we were only there a few days and they used to have, I can remember they had the old horse and drays pickin’ up garbage. And you had all the people coming home from New Guinea that were shell shocked and they were everywhere and I
thought, “God how am I gonna put up with this?” And then some one day one corporal said to me, “Oh once you finish your basic training and get out to a unit it’ll be different.” And I think the few days or couple a weeks we were at Redbank all we did was lay pipes. Diggin’ holes and laying pipes but it surprised me to see so many people and so many people all goin’ the one way and but
when we went from Redbank to Warwick we didn’t have much time to think about anything once you do your basic training.
Did you have a final discussion with your dad about it?
I just went into the army and I’d better not go into the detail. I when I went into the army I had horses and
saddles and things like that and it cost me I think threepence a month to keep my horses on the common. Now threepence a month is not much, even though I was gettin’ paid about six oh I think six shillings a day and I forget if I had DFRB [Defence Force Retirement Benefits] was two shillings or something and I used to send home two and six to Mum. So when it all worked out I had about two shillings
to myself and no, I lost track of what we were talkin’ about then. I got
The final exchange with your dad about the war?
No. Then I had a letter from Mum and said, “Oh well your father sold your horses. It’s costin’ too much money.” So I didn’t get any money out a the horses, nor did I get any money out of all my gear and I had all this good saddlery and stuff, which
I went to Texas, oh this would be before my mother died. A few years ago and I went up to my brother’s place, which who has property, and he said, “You want, there’s your old saddle,” and I said, “And how did you get it?” and he said, “Oh Dad gave it to me.” I said, “Thanks very much.” No, he didn’t worry about me. I never ever heard never he never ever sent me anything and I didn’t send him anything either and I never ever told him where I was.
I did to Mum. No, we…
How did your mum feel about you going off to…?
Oh very worried. Very upset and the occasionally when I went home on leave she’d get upset too but no, she was a staunch supporter but Dad never ever worried. Couldn’t a cared less. I can remember, I suppose I shouldn’t say this
No really, feel free to tell us some of these stories. It’s…
I went home on leave and I think it was after New Guinea. No, it couldn’t a been. Must a been before New Guinea and arrives home on a Friday night and I didn’t have any money because I’d stopped overnight in Toowoomba and I’d bought a wallet and I remember this wallet. I still got it in me drawer, a kangaroo hide wallet with
no money to put in it. So when I got home I said to Mum, I knew she wouldn’t have any money. I said, “Has Dad got any money?” and she said, “Yeah. He’s got plenty because he’s got all his dealing money.” And I said to Dad, “Can you loan me a couple a pound ‘til Monday, ‘til I get to the bank?” He said, “No, I haven’t got any” and Mum just said, “There’s your father’s wallet over there,” and it had a stack a dough in it because he was a dealer in horses and cattle
but anyhow it was somethin’ that I passed over. It didn’t worry me that particular much. I waited…
Oh yeah definitely. I waited ‘til Monday. He was very hard on me but taught me a lot of good things. He was a hard disciplinarian, which stood me in good stead in later life.
When you first got to Brisbane what was the accommodation like where you were staying?
Tents, floorboards and palliasses full a straw. Oh I forget how many of us to a tent. Probably six or eight in the old, forget what they called 'em. The old Yank [American] tent that they had in the exhibition ground. It wasn’t bad. We were all confused. Didn’t know what we were doing and ‘til they put us on the train to go you know I think out to Redbank and
when we got to Warwick was totally different but we had fourteen be twelve tents and I think it was, I forget now, it’s still floorboards and palliassees. Half the time they didn’t give us straw so you had to cut the grass out a the paddock to change the straw in your palliassees.
Did you find it easy to make friends?
Found it very easy when I got out to a training battalion and
at Warwick we had a good group in our platoon that went through. I forget how long we stayed there. We probably would be four or five months. I’ve got it all listed there of how long I spent in various places. It’d be four or five months and we had a very good group and we had a lieutenant, I think he was out of the 2/25th Battalion. He’d come back from New Guinea. I forget if he was wounded and he’d recovered and they were keeping him in Australia for awhile. He was our platoon commander.
Great bloke. I don’t even remember any corporals or sergeants in our platoon because he seemed to be with us all the time and we finished up a great lot of friends, great bonding. We used to a lot of boxing and he was a keen boxer. He’d take us out of exercises and he’d say, “Right you, Jackie, Trevor, Dougie Moodie, Tom Muggleton
you can run home the ten mile because you're fit enough,” and we used to but Warwick was cold. God. You’d go down for a shave in the mornin’ and everything was frozen. Terrible place, even though I didn’t live far from there. Only what, Texas is only about a hundred, about a hundred and fifty four k [kilometres] from Warwick.
What would happen on a typical day at Warwick?
Get up of a morning.
Have your inspection and then start your basic training. Mainly on weapons, route marches and then as you graduated through all your weapons, well they didn’t have many in those days. You only had your .303 rifle, Bren gun and Owen gun and then they’d teach you sort of section tactics and as you progressed through your period they’d take you out on exercises, section exercises, platoon
exercises. And then towards the end they’d take you out on a platoon exercise up in Killarney in a, I don’t suppose it’s there now but in a type of jungle area, which was actually raintree forest, which was very good but no, I enjoyed my time there. Made a lot a good friends.
What was the inspection like? What would happen in the inspection?
Pretty hard. If you weren’t neat and tidy you’d probably be given
I don’t think they used to talk about CB [Confined to Barracks], you know confined to barracks. You used to have to do your half hour drill of a mornin’ and afternoon but I don’t ever remember any of ours doing that type of thing. They’d always send you for a run or do something like that with a pack on your back but I never ever got caught for that fortunately but no, it was hard work and you didn’t of course you didn’t go out. You were I can’t
remember going into Warwick many times at all on leave. I went in once or twice for a boxing tournament. I remember eatin’ a lot a cakes at the YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association] or something, which we’d never seen, and after the fight I was sick as anything. Can I wipe my nose?
I need a bit of a…
And were you surprised at how strict it was?
No, not really. Cause I was fairly well disciplined
and it was a sort of an environment that I fell into. You know comradeship and things like that. Even the mates that I when we left Warwick we didn’t all go to the same place. We were depending on their age. See we weren’t all eighteen. Some of 'em were nineteen, twenties and some of 'em I even later on when I was at the Atherton
Tableland you’d find out where they went to and go and see 'em and you no, you formed some life lasting friendships.
In that four months?
Yeah. Well you’d been changed from a civilian into a soldier and what’s more, you're also thinking because you were trained because the war’s still on and you know you're gonna go to New Guinea anyhow
and you know you're going to infantry. You're not going to any other unit. So you're gonna be in the front line. So I suppose that’s one a the reasons you sort of mate up and become very thick and pally [friendly].
What did the basic training involve?
Oh mostly weapon instruction. A lot of route marches. I don’t now why because later on in the army when I was an instructor no one dared put route marches in the syllabus
and it’d be weapon training, route marches, tactics.
What would happen in a route march?
You’d just walk, walk and walk and I think you got after every five mile or something you got a ten minute break and they’d do certain distance. You might do five mile one day and a couple a days later you might do seven and they’d gradually build it up until you could practically walk all day, or march all day. Didn’t call it walking.
What did any of the other blokes find it difficult to walk that long?
Yes. A lot of 'em found it difficult. A lot a people are not cut out to do a lot of marching. I don’t know why and when they later on when we got to Canungra a lot of 'em had a lot of trouble. Cause you're climbing mountains and living under you know operational conditions and if you didn’t pass your course in six weeks
of course you got sent back to do it again and they’d break down and cry. Grown men’d cry because, well you can understand it too. You went through sort of hell at Canungra in those days. I don’t think too many Americans surprised ah survived it because after we left there they put the Americans through and I did hear later that they didn’t do too good. Cause they
We’ll just stop there cause our tape
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 02
Canungra was after Warwick was it?
Yeah. Went to Warwick, when we completed our actual basic recruit training we went to Tenterfield. Now Tenterfield was sort of a more or less a holding place for us because it was mainly although our group were all young there were a lot of older soldiers there and you mainly filled in your time by
being sent to courses. Like machine gun courses, assault pioneer course or I don’t think they called 'em assault pioneer courses in those days and mortar courses and things a that nature. I remember I was sent to do a mortar course, which is the worst thing I ever did in the army because it caught up with me later and then they after the 25th Battalion
or whatever they call it, 25th Infantry Battalion at Tenterfield, we were still too young. So they sent us to the boys' soldiers' unit at Nelsons Bay and at Nelsons Bay I can’t remember really what we did. What I don’t think we did any training. I remember goin’ into the beaches in Sydney and drivin’ in steel pickets and puttin’ up barb wire and I
don’t even remember you know how long we spent there and then all of a sudden they said, “Right, you're off.” I remember when you went to you weren’t allowed to put where you were in your letters when you went to the young soldiers' battalion and because I received my letter from my mother and she her reading she thought I was in New Guinea and I was still in Australia and
from there we went put on a train and went to Canungra.
Before you go to Canungra, back at Tenterfield can you paint a picture for us of what that base was like and what the artillery training was like?
No we didn’t do artillery training. Mortar training?
Mortar training. Can you describe…?
Oh it was a normal camp. Lived in fourteen be twelve tents. Floorboards. Palliasses and that’s
one a the places I can remember they run out a straw and we had to go out in the paddocks and cut this long grass which is about that high to because after you use a palliasse and the straw for some time you got to change it and Tenterfield was a cold place and we did a lot a more basic training there. Probably tactics and weapon training and all those that went to individual courses went I think they were for six weeks. A lot a class
classroom activity and then you’d go out onto the range, which they had a range, and fire the mortars and I wasn’t keen on mortars whatsoever.
Can you explain what it is and how you use it and what you thought of it?
Well a three inch mortar you have a platoon in each infantry battalion and we always had a three inch
and it’s a separate platoon and they have three sections within the platoon and oh the training is pretty strict and you have to have good operators you know, particularly your number ones and number twos [mortar operators]. Because you’ve got to line 'em up with your oh whatever I forgot the like spirit levels, I can’t remember now, I’ve had a black out
and you got to be taught all that and you change your positions from number one, number two, number three and you trained in squads, in detachments and they well they're a shock weapon. You don’t want them to fall on you. See the Chinese were experts in sixty millimetre mortars. They never carried the
three inch mortars like we carried and they used the sixty millimetre mortar, which were like our two inch mortar, and they were absolutely spot on with 'em and they weren’t heavy. See you the problem with the three inch mortar it’s so heavy to carry cause you’ve got a base plate, a barrel, a bipod and plus your carry of bombs, which they only hold three to a carrier, and that’s why in most mobile wars
they either have carriers or jeeps or trailers. Something to carry the weapons. The same as they did in Korea. Initially they had the old Bren gun carriers, which were absolutely useless but no, they're a good weapon.
What does each position do?
What, each detachment position?
Number one looks after the sights to get make sure his bubbles and that are right. Number two adjusts it for him. Whether he wants to come up
or down. Number three looks after the bipod to position it if he’s got a go right or left, out or back. Yeah.
Can you explain a little bit more about the operation of the mortar?
Well normally in action you have what is known as an MFC, a Mortar Fire Controller, with the forward company or
with A Company and they your base plate position is normally further back in a safe area and the mobile fire controller calls back to the base plate position and tells 'em what ranges he wants, what type of fire he wants. Like if it’s got to be smoke or and he directs the fire to wherever it is and then he ranges
in on a particular on the form of his bomb. Now in a lot a cases they use a smoke to get the idea of how far forward or how far back that they want it when they're ranging procedures and they use mortars a lot for defensive position, when the companies are in defence at night and they’ll put a bomb forward, the mortar fire controller, and he’ll land it but to confirm it they’ve
because you have your base plate after your first bomb it will drive it into the ground. So your range is gonna change with the first few bombs you fire. So he he’d probably fire you know two or three so he can get an accurate position of where he’s gonna lay down his defensive fire if the platoon or company calls for it during their static position. Sometimes you can use it
when you're on the move but we in my time as a mortar fire controller we didn’t use it very often. We pro we did once in the battle of oh the apple orchard in Korea. I fired one bomb and don’t ask me where it went. I heard it fall because we were in the scrub and then we got word through on the radio from the battalion headquarters that
the American, oh jeez, parachute regiment were cut off and we were if we’d have been firing into 'em. So we couldn’t fire the mortars or the artillery.
Why didn’t you like it in training?
Mortars? I just didn’t want to be in it. I wanted to be in a rifle platoon and mind you,
later on I was in a mortar platoon for quite some time but I just wanted to be in, I don’t know it didn’t sort of have the environment that I liked and
Not enough action?
Oh probably that’s one of the reason but I was a sort of a rifle company person. I was trained in a rifle company and the only time that I’d was away from it
when I did this course and a course they don’t forget if they want you know it’s always on your record and when I went when we were goin’ in the occupation force, when I volunteered for the occupation force, the chap that was interviewing me he said, “Where do you want to go?” I said, “I want to go to a rifle company.” He said, “You can’t go to a rifle company because they're all full.” I said, “Surely you can fit another one in?” He said, “No.” He said, “I
note that you’ve done a mortar course. You can go to the mortar platoon.” I wasn’t too happy about that but anyhow I went to the mortar platoon and stayed in it while we were in Morotai and some time in Japan. But because there wasn’t much work for mortars as a unit in Japan I was sent out to a rifle company and that’s all I wanted to do and then when Korea started of course they wanted specialists so my name came up and I went
back to mortar platoon but I was only with 'em six weeks, which in my opinion was good.
Back in Tenterfield, what was happening in the world at that point?
Oh dear. Don’t ask me. I remember
The Pacific was well and truly under way.
Oh yeah. Yeah there was a lot of but we didn’t hear much about it because you were isolated. They never told you anything about it.
Like at when we were in Tenterfield I had I think a lot of transport units. We had a lot a lectures. I can remember that’s the first time I saw women units, the AWAS [Australian Women’s Army Service]. They had barracks there or tents barb wired off and I think we might have got five days leave from there. Well Tenterfield’s not that far from home so I got home pretty quick. I don’t remember much about
Did you mix with the AWAS?
So after Tenterfield you went down to…?
To Nelsons Bay.
And how long were you there?
I don’t know how long.
Pass me that over and I’ll tell ya.
Yeah. I think it’s on that one. Boy soldier, I can’t remember what we did.
I remember seein’ a bloke .. 5th of the 10th '43 to the 3rd of the 1st '44.
Okay. 11th to the 3rd.
Well a couple a months, you know.
Couple a months?
Okay. Oh we're rolling. So what happened there then?
Well only thing I remember we always went on route marches. I don’t remember doin’ any training with weapons. As a matter of fact I don’t think we had weapons and we did
a lot of work on the beaches around Sydney puttin’ up wire. I think that’s where we stayed in Sydney I don’t know. Whether they we went down daily or not it’s too far back for me to remember.
What did you think of Sydney?
I didn’t think I, I could find my way around Sydney in those days I think. When you're young you can find your way around anywhere.
But you were from Texas. It must have seemed like a big city?
Every everything was big. No, we used to go with my mates and the I don’t there’s a place I think we might a been based at Narellan out at Camden. They sent us down there for a few days and I think we used to work from there into the Sydney beaches.
There was a camp at Narellan. I can remember that almost missed it, cause I remember having ten pound and ten pound was that in those days was a lot a money. I practically kept all me mates because they didn’t have any money and ten pound went a long way. And I can remember three of us walked from Narellan to Campbelltown to the picture theatre to see Gone With the Wind and walked home and when we got home we were covered in paspalum because that country is covered in paspalum.
We walked over hill and dale and we were just, and all that whatever they call it, ertie [?]? You know that sticky stuff [paspalum seeds], all over it? We were wrecks, and for years later when I’d go pass through Campbelltown I’d always say, “That’s the picture theatre we used went to see Gone With the Wind,” and yeah, I’d forgotten about that. We would a been based there when we went from Nelsons Bay to do the work on the beaches.
I found Sydney all right. I can remember nearly fallin’ out of a oh something that went round and round and round at Luna Park and this bloke grabbed my arms and I had no control you know. I you thought, “God there’s the water down there. I’ll finish down there on the rocks or something.” Yeah, it’s Sydney fascinated me. I never went in any boxing or anything there. We never had time.
Was Sydney under threat at that point
or did it feel like they were?
Then why were you putting up the barbed wire?
I suppose because of defences. I don’t remember if they it was after the submarines came in or it was probably before. I don’t remember.
Had you heard anything about Darwin?
Not a thing. No, never heard a thing about it.
So after Sydney you went to ‘Killangah’
Canungra. Can you tell us about that?
One a the hardest places I ever been through and I was always fit. In Canungra you got up they greeted you and said, “Hello,” to ya and say, “There’s your palliasse.” You didn’t have floorboards or anything. You slept on the dirt in fourteen be twelve tents. You run down every morning, your platoon sergeant or corporal whoever it was in those days run ya down to the river where you had your wash
and your shave, cold water. You never sat down for a meal. You ate standing up. They had along the creeks and I’ve been back to Canungra many a time and I can’t I can see the sort a creek where we had. They used to build you know you’d get saplings and they’d build these tables out of saplings. There’s no timber or anything in 'em. She was pretty rough and just like something you’d put up in New Guinea
and that’s the way you lived and you worked from daylight ‘til dark. You learnt demolition. You had demolition training. Did lots and lots of tactics in the jungles you know section and platoon tactics. No bigger than platoon tactics we ever did. Lots and lots a times in the no you got, I think we got Sunday afternoon off in a week cause I remember three of us went in to Canungra, walked into Canungra.
Cause Canungra had nothing in those days. Only thing it had a railway line. It did have a probably an RSL [Returned and Services League] and a pub but there was no beer in the pubs and at Canungra if we could a got beer we’d a probably drunk it. Very, very hard.
What was the jungle tactics training?
Well mostly along tracks and booby traps, things like that because when you did in the jungle
you don’t you haven’t got any width. You're on tracks. You rely a lot on your forward scout and your second scout and the jungle is that thick that you can’t get off it in lots a places and that’s the type a training. And we had instructors that had already went through New Guinea, either wounded or finished their time and had been posted back in Australia waitin’ to get out a the army a lot of 'em because by that time they were
five year men but Canungra was very, very hard and if you had dirty fingernails you’d be sent up onto a one of the mountains near Mount Tambourine. They had a light there and you’d get sent up there. So no one ever had dirty fingernails but I can remember climbing mountains at night and you did a lot a night work and I remember Jackie Trevor sayin’ to me, “Hey Muggo,” he said, “are you feeling this hill?”
and I said, “Of course I am” and he said, “Well if you're feeling it it must be hard.” I can remember and I haven’t seen Jackie Trevor since and I he was a Brisbane boy but I never, ever contacted him after cause I lost track of him. We went through training at Warwick and Canungra and then we got sent to separate units but it was hard and I remember a boy, he died recently. He was in 2/5th Battalion. He was only a little fella and
he’d he was tough but they told him that he had to do his course because he’d failed the six weeks. They assessed you all the way through. They assessed you how you put up your you know your little humpy, your two man tent in the jungle which was only in those days all they were were a type a ground sheet where you got each of 'em had a male and a female. Well you’d clip in at night and two a youse’d sleep in it
and they did that all sort a training but very, very hard I can tell you.
So what happened to this young guy?
He had to do it again and it nearly broke his heart. He finished up comin’ to the same platoon I was in in the 2/5th Battalion and when you finished Canungra you are musclebound and it takes ya a long time to sort a relax. And from
Canungra you used to spend three days going to the Atherton Tablelands to your unit, or we did posted to I can tell ya a story about goin’ to and you were always hungry but when we actually finished Canungra they gave us greens and we had to dye 'em ourselves and you had to have camouflage ones.
So what you did was your you tied a knot in 'em and the legs you’d put in the green and the other one. So when your trousers top’d come out green and when you unknotted 'em the centre’d be khaki on the bottom. We looked the motleyest lookin’ crew you’d ever seen. Anyway on the way to Canungra, ah to the Atherton Tablelands, we were hungry and you used to stop off at stations where they’d feed ya but you got terrible
food and two things you never eat never wanted to eat in the army was eggs for breakfast, because of those tins. They were the worst eggs you could ever eat or peas, as we used to call 'em blue boiler peas, and I can tell ya stories about them. They float. Anyhow I forget where it was and the train was that slow you’d get out, shoot a kangaroo, skin it and get back on and we came to this siding
and all this food was on it and the train was just movin’ and I remember this chap says, “Hey Muggo. You grab a case a that and I’ll grab a case a these.” So we got two cases and the carriage thought, “Oh this is good.” You know we had equipment everywhere and you had this old hardwood seats and when we opened it up and guess what was in it? Tins of eggs and the other one had whitebait. It was, which was a fish, and it was terrible
stuff. So we never, ever stole any food again. Yeah.
Can you describe at Canungra the a day of training so that we get more of an impression of how hard just how hard it was?
Well you’d get up I forget we used to get up about daylight I think. I just forget. The first you’d do is you’d form up as a platoon and you’d go down you’d run down and I forget how far it was but it was a fair way
and then you’d have your wash and your shave and comb your hair and things like that. Run back and then you’d get dressed in your uniform, have breakfast and then they’d start you on probably weapon training. So probably TOETs [Tests of Elementary Training] on your rifles and particularly on the Owen gun because that was an important weapon for close quarter fighting and the Bren gun, which were the old Bren was a terrific weapon. They’d probably have all these new
fangled ones now but that was a magic weapon, the Bren gun, and then you’d probably do some demolition training. Probably some section tactics and then later in the afternoon platoon tactics. You would have lectures by people that had come back from the front and then I’d I forget what time we used to knock off. Probably five or half past, half five and it didn’t say that you had a meal and
went to bed. You’d probably do a night exercise and some a the night exercises go ‘til midnight and at the end I think you did a if I can remember correctly a week in the jungle where you worked day and night. They kept you goin’ day and night to make sure that you knew exactly what you were gonna go what you were going into when you went to New Guinea and that’s why I think a lot a people had trouble with being
you know they were so fit, when they relaxed or sat in the train for long your muscles’d ache and everything’d ache. But I remember when we left there, the couple a days we had in Brisbane cause accommodation in Brisbane was terrible at that time and you had to go around to these Red Cross places and People’s Palace to see if you could get accommodation if you weren’t in a camp. And I remember, oh I don’t know why we went round there but we went to
I think it was a Red Cross or something that they used to play games of snooker or probably cards. And might have been a weekend and we had leave before we went to the Atherton Tableland. And I remember this doctor’s wife there was said, “Oh we’ll take two boys and give 'em accommodation for the night.” So there was myself and another bloke and well they had a big palatial place up in Wickham Terrace.
So we stayed up I forget we stayed there one or two nights. God, we were treated like kings. You know sheets on your bed. Soap, hot water. It was great.
Why did you have to eat standing up?
Oh that was just part of it I suppose. Part of the training. They never had chairs or anything. I suppose some of us sat down on the dirt and ate but mostly you stood because you had somewhere to put
your dixie. Had no chairs or anything. I can remember a bloke we were lying on our palliasses one Sunday afternoon and they started a two up game and this chap, a mate a mine, they’d run out a money, well they’d run out of people to play. Anyhow he said, “What about you mate?” He was lying alongside me on his palliasse and he said, “I’ve only got threepence,” and he said, “Well you can spin for threepence,” and he spun for threepence
and he kept going. You know how much we won? Forty pound off threepence. Cause they started coming in this all these heads goin’. He just went on and on and on. Forty pound in those days was you were a millionaire. Oh no, I got I haven’t got sad memories about Canungra but it was hard.
Totally different now Canungra to what it was in those days because it was a lot a jungle. You know even the camp was a jungle area. It wasn’t developed
and I think there was a not many houses on Mount Tambourine. Probably half a dozen.
Were you looking forward to getting into the battle?
Well I don’t know if I’d say I was lookin’ forward to getting into a battle but you were looking forward to get to a unit. You were looking forward to go to a unit where you’d sort a be stabilised because as a boy soldier
you were sort a pushed from pillar to post [worn out] and you didn’t get much leave. Occasionally I think when we were in Tenterfield we probably got into town twice and that’s not much. I can’t remember, I think we had a bit a freedom when we were in Sydney. Warwick I hardly ever got into town at all. I don’t ever re I might a went in there once or something but those sort a things and you didn’t get to play football or
things of that nature, any sport. The only thing we ever were involved in in those days was boxing, which was quite strong in the army in those days or it was in later years too but I finished up givin’ it away because you get a belting even if you win.
Do you think…?
It prepared you for what you were going to?
Yes. Very much so. On the Atherton
Tablelands, as I said, when we got to a unit because if you went to a good unit you were so proud you know to say now I’m not too sure if I should have gone to the 2/25th but I finished up in the 2/5th. 2/25th was a Queensland battalion and the 2/5th was a Victorian battalion, or 17th Brigade of the 6th Division was a Victorian brigade in actual fact but by that time
there just weren’t enough reinforcements coming from various states. So they became a mixture but no, you were proud because it had such a good record in the Middle East and in New Guinea and we, initially when we went there they were pretty easy on us and we used to do sort of map reading and things like that. Sit down belong log, behind logs and fill in time smokin’ cigarettes but then
they decided, “Right, it’s time to start training and we're goin’ back to New Guinea,” then it really hotted up and you were out all the time on exercises. I remember one exercise we did half the platoons of the battalion had to go one way and the other half another way and it was in the Johnson River Valley I think they called it and it was jungle country. And we
had a bloke, we had this good officer who we thought the world of and I don’t know what had happened to him. And we get this bloke we christened ‘Zero’ because he was an ex-RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] pilot and we all reckoned he got the sack and we were goin’ around for days. See there was a prize to see which platoon got to the end first and we could hear these vehicles but we never, ever got any closer to 'em
‘til the chap called Bluey Robson was my section commander, I wasn’t a section leader then. I was his 2IC [Second in Command] and he him and another section commander went over and said, “We’ve been listening to trucks and cars for two days and we're not far off the road. We are lost.” And we were lost because he kept goin’ around and around and yet he didn’t have prismatic compasses. See he had the old compasses and if you took 'em near a rifle they’d throw 'em out
anything ten to fifteen degrees. Anyhow, they finished up convincing Zero that he should go over there and take his compass bearing and finally got out. I think we were the last platoon to get back to the battalion and I tell ya what, walking around in the jungle for three days in circles is not good. So we were taught a lot in one hit and the no the
exercises were pretty strict before we went to New Guinea.
What happened when you first arrived in the Atherton Tablelands? How were you put into units?
Oh I don’t know we just sort of when we got to the battalion we were allocated I was allocated to 7 Platoon A Company. I remember this chap that I said got left behind at Canungra, he later came and he was in 7 Platoon A Company
and he was a mate a mine. He’d we’d sort of joined up at the same time. We’d gone through everything together. He lives here in up in Brisbane. We entered the army the same rank together. He was in B Company 2/5th Battalion. He finished up he was at 67 Battalion with me and 3 Battalion and in later years we sort of got split up. We finished up at the school of infantry instructors together.
So we sort of it was only a couple a days between our birthday and what were we on? Atherton Tablelands. I’m starting to wander.
That’s okay. So…
Did many of your friends go with you into that same unit?
No. No always some of 'em went to the 9th Division. Some of 'em went to the 7th Division. I had two chaps from home who one I did my training with, he went to the same brigade.
He went to the 2/7th Battalion, which is just down the road from us, and you were just allocated to a platoon and I we were sent home on leave from the Atherton Tablelands. I can remember this and you were always frightened of doing anything wrong, being a young soldier that you’d get thrown in the boob [jail] because they’d send you to places like Yungaburra. And that which were very tough and we went home on leave and at this
time I’d given away boxing and because the 2/5th Battalion was a Victorian battalion it was mainly Aussie Rules [Australian Rules Football] but they were so many New South Welshmen and Queenslanders in the battalion they had a good rugby team and a course we were trainin’ for rugby. So when I went and that was very good because you had very strong competition. See, they had
test players and everything in those divisions that had played for Australia and we used to get trips away down to Innisfail. I remember goin’ down there to play the 2/3rd Pioneers and we were away a weekend, which was a good trip if you were good at your sport and yeah, that was very good. We really enjoyed it but I’ve lost track of what I was gonna say anyhow again.
You said that when you were a young bloke you were a pretty wild kid
at school. Did…?
Did the training change you?
Oh I think so. It steadied me down, yeah. Oh yes it when I was a kid I’d well my mother must a had grey hair when she was twenty five or something because she didn’t know where I was from daylight ‘til dark. Oh I can remember when I was goin’ to Christian Brothers in Toowoomba, to get off the track a bit, I wagged [truant] school one day because I was mad on birds.
You know if you go upstairs you’ll see all these photos of birds. So I rode my pushbike down the range. Have you been to Toowoomba, up that range [Great Dividing Range]? Well I rode a pushbike down there with my bird catching trap and a double bar end of it and a shell (UNCLEAR) to catch these birds. When I got to the top of the hill this police car come along. “Is your name Tom Muggleton? Come with me.” Didn’t wag it again. It frightened hell out a me.
Yeah. Yes it certainly settled me down, all the training and discipline although I was fairly I think I might a in those days worried poor old Mum but did it didn’t worry me. I could walk around in the bush, set me rabbit traps you know and at ten and eleven year old go out into the bush at night walk miles runnin’ traps by myself.
Didn’t worry. Wouldn’t do it these days, not at my age, but in those days you could.
Do you think that…?
And you didn’t close doors and you didn’t close windows. I can remember going home once and I arrived home at three o'clock in the mornin’ and my mother, the wind was blowin’, the curtains are blowin 'out the windows. All the doors are unlocked and all the windows are open. No security whatsoever but times are certainly changed.
Do you think that the life
on the land like that prepared you for some of the rougher army stuff or put you in a good position?
Oh yeah. Definitely, and I was always mucking around with rifles and a (UNCLEAR), shooting and things like that and fishing. We used to fish. Always in the river swimming when we should a been doing something else you know on those with tyin’, not
bars, pieces of wood on that. Climb up the tree and drop a rope and it’s a wonder we never got killed and because nowadays some of 'em have been oh not killed but finished up paraplegic and we could a finished up like that. Cause we never, ever explored under to see what roots or anything were in the bottom. We knew it was a big hole and that’s what we used to do. I suppose it was passed on to the blokes that were a year or two ahead of us in a small town like Texas.
I have fond memories of Texas. I don’t go back much now because I got no ties there. You know I’ve got a brother out there or two brothers and we used to go back a lot when Mum was still alive.
When you got to the unit in Atherton how did the blokes treat you?
Well, really pretty good. They were a lot of the older people that
were in, which was a bit of a problem later on because they were what they call five year men. See they went in in '39 and this is what, '44 and they were sort of you know had their time. They’d been to through the war in the Middle East and they’d been in the Wau, Salamaua campaign and they weren’t looking forward to doin’ another campaign and they just
although they did their job I suppose you know they looked on us as what they used to be like. They passed on all their experiences to us, which was very good. They used to tell you to what to do and what not to do and no, I enjoyed it. I thought it was great and a course they’d been through so much that they weren’t that many of the originals left. There was very few originals in the battalion.
Ah I think in our platoon there was two that had been through the Middle East and the Wau, Salamaua campaign. Paddy, he was a Victorian one. He sort a looked after me initially and ‘til I became a sectional commander and then I found it very hard tellin’ him you know one that a person that had never been shot at tellin’ him what to do and I forget
where Paddy went to.
How did that happen? How did you become a section commander?
Don’t know. Probably because of my training records and things like that. So I finished up, oh I don’t know when I was a corporal. You have a look you’ve got better eyesight than me on that to see when I was a corporal. Cause I was
Yeah we’ll have a look at it in a minute.
I was made a section leader. I wasn’t promoted straight away but I was a section leader in New Guinea as
a corporal. It was great as a corporal cause you went from six bob [shillings] to ten and six or six and six to ten and six. Corporals they used to say was the best paid person in the army in those days. Cause when you went to a sergeant I forget what you got. I don’t remember but it wasn’t much.
How long were you in the in Atherton?
Oh I forget when we sailed. I suppose we were there a good few
months. It’s got it on that thing.
Were you ready to go when you went?
Oh yeah. We’d been trained. Mind you, you still got it in the back of your mind of what’s gonna happen to you. You never lose that, I don’t care where ya are. You know people say, “Oh he’s fearless,” and things like that. That’s a lot a garbage in my opinion. Everyone’s nervous and some were worse than others
but no, it’s the job you do and I think another thing that helps you along the way you’ve got all your mates around you. Your section, and then you're got your platoon and normally your platoon commanders in those days were very good people and we didn’t have Zero for long. He went somewhere. I forget what happened to him. We had a good platoon sergeant who was a decorated person and then we got a really first class platoon commander.
Good life in my opinion. That’s why I stayed in so long.
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 03
Can you tell me about your journey from Australia to New Guinea?
Yeah. Went from by ship from Townsville to Aitape. It was a quite a pleasant trip and it was so good I remember sayin’ some a the chaps sayin’, “I hope this never ends,” you know because
it was smooth seas, not rough, and very good indeed and we arrived at Aitape. The sands were beautiful and white and the palm trees were terrific and I remember in later years when they had that great tidal wave and wiped it out I couldn’t imagine it bein’ wiped out and no, the trip was very good.
What were you thinking when you left Australia at that point
in regards to what you might expect to experience in New Guinea?
Well I probably thought to myself, “I wonder what’s gonna happen, if I’m gonna come back or not?” But you sort a put it in the back a ya mind you know. You don’t really think about it. You think about other things and you got your mates. I suppose on the trip we wouldn’t have had much money. I know they had two up games and dice games and all those
types a things and it really because we knew that when we got to Aitape we weren’t goin’ straight into action because the Americans had taken the beach head and the Americans never went in very far. They never went into the mountains. They were only took the beaches, stabilised 'em and that’s as far as they went and when we landed we were put into a camp and
we I remember we were put out in bases by platoons along the beach front. And we would patrol each day inland to a certain point, to a certain map reference, to make sure the country was clear, which the Americans didn’t do and I can remember early in the piece we only weren’t there very long but it was a stabilised camp. The RAAF was there
because when we went later into the mountains that camp stayed there for when we came back.
Why didn’t the Americans do that? Going into the…?
Well that was part of MacArthur’s plan. He’d form a beach head and didn’t worry about it. Once he reckoned they were driven into the hills and he would stabilise that beach head area and then go on somewhere else and
that’s the way they worked right through. MacArthur didn’t, readin’ the history on MacArthur, he didn’t worry about man power, losin’ people. All he wanted he had the support, he had all the ammunition and guns and support that he wanted to and he also had the man power at the time.
So why were the Australian troops going into what was the purpose of going in further into the jungle?
Well I we Australians have an ‘A1’ [excellent] plan that they always patrol. Now, not many countries do this but irrespective of where you are you should patrol to make sure that your areas are cleared and that was probably one a the reasons, to train us and we knew that an area was cleared to a certain point and they’ve always done that. I don’t care
where it is. I suppose if you had front line troops in Iraq at the moment I suppose you would patrol. Even though you probably see for miles they’d still patrol out into a certain areas and that’s one thing one of our backgrounds that we’d always do it.
And what’s the advantage of doing that?
Well it keeps your enemy from your own area and that’s one a the things which was brought out not only in New Guinea but
more so in Korea, in the mobile war, that you have always know where the enemy is or how far he how close he is to your perimeter and probably when we were doing it. It was we didn’t lose any men but it was good training.
So you said you weren’t very long in Aitape, what was the purpose of you being there?
Well I think only to get the unit stabilised
before we went into the mountains and started patrolling and fighting the Japanese because the Japanese had been driven back and MacArthur wasn’t worryin’ about it. His idea was that they could stay there and rot and that’s it’s written in the books. That was his idea and we were only I forget how long we were there and then the battalion moved into the Torricelli Mountains and we,
well I don’t know how many months we were there but I remember it was hard because all of New Guinea is hard because all you do is climb mountains. There don’t seem to be any down hill, it’s all up hill but there is down hill there’s no doubt about that but
We’ll just move that out of your way so it stops getting, so can you tell me about that moving to the mountains, to the Torricelli Mountains?
Yeah. We used to
we went by companies and we went into an area what was called the Maprik area and that initially was our base and from there they put out platoon patrols and section patrols and we had a particular area to clear. And once ya cleared that area you would go onto your next area and it was all on, apart from kunai ridges, it’s all jungle so you're on a jungle
track. You haven’t got any freedom of movement you know to your right or the left normally and we’d clear one area but of course you don’t know always know that it’s gonna be cleared forever as we found out as we’ll come to later, where they were back in the area and caught us where an area that we knew had been cleared because we’d cleared it.
What was involved in clearing an area?
Well, you’d mainly sent out
patrols and all your contacts and all your fighting was to clear the Japanese off that particular area and drive 'em back. And once you secured that area then you could patrol further out and further out ‘til you took a larger territory for your own use and you knew that it was cleared.
So how was that achieved? Can you describe exactly what you did for example in the first time you did that?
Well, the first time
was you’d normally sent out section patrols. You would do a recce [reconnaissance] patrol with a few men who are not gonna fight, right? Your recce patrol is to find where the enemy is. Once you’ve established that then you your recce patrol’ll come back and then you’ll send out a fighting patrol who will make contact with the enemy and if it’s section strength or platoon strength, knock him out a that area and take it over. Then your company will
come forward, stabilise that area. You dig in and then you move the same system is it moves on again.
So what sort of opposition did you meet when you were doing that?
Oh some areas not bad. Other areas quite heavy and you don’t always win. You don’t always because you send out a patrol, a fighting patrol, into attack you can’t always get a feature without losing a lot of your casualties and you're not out
to lose casualties. Well you hope you don’t lose any and if you do, you mightn’t think the sacrifice is not worthwhile to lose any more men to take that knoll because they're normally knolls or hills on tops a mountain and but we were pretty lucky. Most in most cases we took the hills at our first attempt but on a couple a occasions we didn’t and we lost good men and then had to
withdraw to our base and attack again on another day.
So can you tell me what the conditions were like apart from the actual jungle, what about how did the climate and so forth and the actual general conditions affect your ability to fight in those mountains?
Well, you were always wet for a start and rain seemed to, if I can remember correctly, if it didn’t come in the morning it always came in the afternoon. You were
always wet because it was always muddy and the trees seemed to be always wet. If you dug in your hole it’d fill up with water at some time a the day or night. Mosquitoes were a problem because most of us, not immediately but later suffered from malaria and the well you knew you had to do it irrespective of what conditions you were working under and you just got on with it and another thing that I always hated was leeches
cause they’d annoy hell out of ya but generally the conditions under which you fought were terrible in New Guinea. Really crook.
So can you describe to us your personal involvement in those first in the Torricelli Mountains exactly what your role was?
Well initially I was 2IC of a section, which is commanded by a good friend a mine who passed away a couple a years or last year
I think it was and I think at the time I was an Owen gunner and if we came into contact normally we’d be a set plan that he’d go, the section leader’d go one way and I’d go the other. And a certain number of the section would go either way with us or we’d we would always have a pre arranged plan but not always do pre arranged plans work out
and I can tell ya what, I was scared at times too and but it gives you great satisfaction if you are have taken a knoll or a hill off the enemy.
So when you in order to take a knoll were there many Japanese casualties?
Oh yeah. Yeah, but not…
But normally they’d normally you they would be dug in and you’d eventually take it with
grenades. You know throw grenades into their pit and then machine gun 'em as they come out and it would be a lot a casualties but if you were attacking late the Japanese would always remove their dead if possible. So you didn’t always get what they called in Vietnam is a ‘body count’. Cause you can never get a body count in war anyhow in my opinion.
So when you were involved in those first situations of combat
you were quite a young man. How did you respond to that situation of having to be faced with being killed and killing other people?
Oh yeah, I don’t know. I sort of just did it. It was something you were trained to do and there’s Helen, coming back.
So Tom we were just talking about how you felt about
being in that situation of having to kill people and possibly being killed yourself.
Oh well I didn’t I didn’t particularly like it. I can remember one time I was sent out on a recce patrol or before I tell ya this, you sort a become aggressive, I suppose it’s because of your training, when you go into action. I can remember bein’ sent on this recce patrol and we weren’t to make
contact, right, as I said before. You just find out where the enemy is and we came to this oh it was on a ridge line and there was a gully. Now I could hear noises and the forward scout put up his hand and we all went to ground and I went forward and he pointed out all these Japanese marines. Now I knew they were marines because they were very big men and they were all in
very good condition and they're digging in positions on this other side of the culvert. Now I really felt at in that situation that I didn’t care if they were armed or not, that we should shoot them because you're goin’ through such hard conditions to get to where you want to go and they're trying to stop you but I also had in the back of my mind that I wasn’t supposed to do it anyhow and if I did I would be ill-disciplined but in the
back of my mind I sort of would have liked to become aggressive because they were sitting shots and you didn’t care because that’s the thing that sort a grows on you where you're in that type of situation. So anyway withdrew, went back to the company. Sent out a fighting patrol and they’d disappeared. So they took it without any trouble at all.
So how often in those
mountains did you actually come very close to Japanese in hand to hand combat sort of situations?
Oh you hardly ever see 'em. I suppose in that instance on that recce patrol that would have been the best vision I had have of say a section or could have been a platoon of people because normally you're bein’ fired at,
you can’t see 'em and most instances they can’t see you either. You only have firing at a certain area, at a fox hole or a pill box or something of that description. So your line of vision and your view of the area’s not very good and then in some areas if you happen to get caught on a kunai ridge it’s totally different because the grass is a certain height but there’s no trees but line a sight
in jungle’s not very good at all.
So at what point in one of those situations would you know that you have actually been successful?
Because they don’t you're not drawin’ any more fire and then you gradually leap frog through and make sure all your trenches that were there are cleared and then you take up positions. You always put your people in a defensive position and send out, if
you’ve got enough people, send your patrol out forward to see how far it was cleared before you call up your company and tell 'em that you’ve taken a position if it’s a section or a platoon attack.
And what would be done with the corpses of any Japanese dead?
Oh just bury 'em in their own holes. Cause we’d you never use their hole. You always dug your own because your perimeter or who’s ever doing
it if you're in a platoon section your normally your platoon commander’ll say, “Right, that’s your area corporal so and so. That’s your area.” Or your platoon sergeant and then the corporal selects where your main position is is your bed bunk position, normally sighted on a track or an approach or de not a departure, an approached area, and so that’s one a the reasons you never use other
people’s positions. You’d never use a Japanese we never, ever used a Japanese position.
So could you describe to us for example from beginning to end perhaps one of the more significant takings of a knoll in those mountains during that time? Could you tell us from the beginning what you had to do and the conditions you were under and so forth?
there was one particular instance where the hill that we came out of a jungle onto a track but the hill had been almost bare because it had been bombed that many times but we knew that the Japanese were there. So what it was, it was a platoon attack. One section went to the right, one to the left and one put down fire support or as we as they moved forward and
I think and we started throwing grenades and into where we could anywhere we could see movement or we were drawing fire from ‘til gradually the front platoon, which is you try on this hill particularly because it had been there was a lot of low scrub. And everything that had been just bombed out and they’d move forward and anyone out on the right as we went forward they would go further out
until we cleared all the pill boxes. And oh I forget to how many however there were quite a few killed, quite a few Japanese and we I think we had two or three wounded, which was very fortunate.
And what was your own personal can you describe what you did in that situation?
I don’t I fired a lot a rounds of ammunition but I don’t know if I ever hit anyone. So I can remember bein’ very pleased when we took the place. You know
I don’t know how people say they know how many people they killed because you don’t. You could fire two magazines out of a Bren gun right at something you saw moving and probably a Japanese or an enemy, doesn’t matter whether they were Japanese or not. And in those conditions you wouldn’t know if you hit him or not until you’ve got up and took the position. So you don’t know who
actually unless a person stood up and you got a clear shot at him.
And that didn’t happen very often?
No, not really.
Did you ever have an instance where…?
Where you could actually see the person you fired upon?
Not in New Guin…
In New Guinea?
No, oh only once when they’d after we’d taken this particular place we there was another knoll and our platoon wasn’t involved, it was 8 Platoon
and it was a higher knoll and we lost I think we lost a couple a people and we couldn’t get the bodies out. Now Australians are very specific that you don’t leave your dead if at all possible but we couldn’t get these blokes out because the opposition was too strong, or the that platoon couldn’t get them out. So it was dark, so they
withdrew back along the track but we could still see this knoll from the position we’d already taken and the next day when they attacked they put one 8 Platoon I think it was forward and 7 Platoon in reserve because you did you got no space to move right and left apart ‘til ya get to these clear areas that have been bombed out. And I did see two people you know the Japanese decided to withdraw and they were shot after they’d moved out of their
fox holes but normally not in the jungle you don’t.
Were they shot by you or…?
No, not by me. Shot by we were actually we could see the action and everythin’ was goin’ on but they were shot by someone in the forward section.
Did you have a situation in those mountains where many Japanese were actually surrendering?
I can’t remember any Japanese ever surrendering. Now in a lot of cases
I can remember one situation where they reckoned that the Japanese were starved and didn’t have any weapons and things like this and we were on this oh hill. It in actual fact it was a couple a days before the war ended. And a bloke in my section the gun was sighted on a track, the Bren gun, and he opened fire and the platoon sergeant came down and blew
hell out a me for lettin’ him fire. Well, I said to the platoon sergeant, “Now if you hear a noise or see somethin’ he’s not gonna wait for me to give direct give him permission to fire.” Anyhow there was a kerfuffle and they said no, there was no one there at all you know because the patrols that went out yesterday had cleared this area. And the next mornin’ when they get up, underneath the Bren gun pit were these two dead Japanese with
sticks of geli [gelignite explosive] that thick which no doubt would have thrown 'em into company headquarters. So it was very embarrassing for the platoon sergeant who reckoned that the Bren gunner shouldn’t have opened up.
What did he say afterwards?
Never said a thing. I my a chap I was a section corporal at the time and my mate, who had another section, which I used to be in as his 2IC, said a
few words to him. Yeah, very touchy.
How much gear were you carrying as you travelled through those mountains?
What sort of things were you carrying?
Not much. We would carry a shovel for digging in, I don’t remember, your toilet gear, your shaving gear and things like. In your basic pouches normally you would have
your Atebrin and your magazines and ammunition and I you know I can’t even remember what we, we had our little half man tent. I can’t remember what we used to put on the ground for covering or anything like that, it’s that long ago. I’ve had a complete and utter black out a what we had.
Do you remember what you ate while you were in New Guinea?
Yeah, bully beef and biscuits.
Plenty of it. I can remember they brought out a new operational ration and they it was in a can. It had a block a wheat block in it, which was very good. Supposed to last you I don’t know how many days and another thing I remember you used to buy 'em for a ha’penny when I was a kid, is those all day suckers. They had two a those done up in plastic
and a few other things. It was totally different. Now the first time I’d seen this was while we were in the Torricelli Mountains they decided that they were going to send this jock force patrol. A patrol it was led by a captain who had one arm and there was a great story how this captain got in the army with one arm and he was to lead the patrol.
Now he was from 2/2nd Battalion. Now 16th Brigade was on the coast and part of our platoon was had to go with and meet up at a certain area at some grid reference, and to form the complete patrol. Now if you pass that there’s a letter over or a sheet of paper you’ll see this chap’s name was, Maxwell I think.
Professor, he was the one armed captain. Now we were behind the Jap lines going to the Sepik River for six weeks I think it was although the paper the historical writing says only a month and the reason it took so long is it was he was running off trying to locate birds of paradise, which was a lot a garbage anyhow. If you're workin’ behind Japanese lines you you're lookin’ after yourself, not
worried about birds of paradise and we were behind the Jap [Japanese] lines for what, six weeks and we went down to the Sepik River and although we were sup we had the information of where they were, a lot a the main units, we also wanted to get these Indian POWs [Prisoner of War] out. So when we arrived they put in a blocking force and a snatch party went in and overrun the place
and got these Indian POWs and brought 'em out plus a couple of high ranking Japanese officers and brought 'em back to the position that was being held and then went back to our units. They used during the time that we were away they used to drop our stuff by air and a course they’d always drop it on a grid reference that had a kunai ridge. Now you never, ever got you never, ever got all the stuff that you were supposed
to get and what’s more, you had to grab it quick and disappear before the Japs got onto you. Now when I said before you know you know an area’s clear so when we got to a certain grid reference the 2/2nd Battalion and this one armed captain went back to the coast. We went back to our battalion and crossing the river and cause rivers in those days in New Guinea would be as wide you know
as at the narrowest portion as that house across the road. We got ambushed by the Japanese and we did we knew where the firing was coming from and we fired back but we got across and then I think we got all we got was one Japanese but we fortunately didn’t lose any of our own people. We were had I forget how many were wounded, three or four wounded and that’s written up in that thing there as
an historical article.
Can you describe a little bit more about that? Tell me what you heard and when and what how things progressed?
Well I first how I know about this operational ration, the first day that we went out I forget how many days we marched before we met up with the part of other part of jock force, we were issued with this ration, this operational ration. That’s the first time I’d ever seen it
and we were passing through an area that we’d already taken and how it stuck in our minds was that this morning the RAAF were doing a bombing run for us and it was foggy and one a the Beaufighters went through the cloud and cut the tail off the other Beaufighter, right? So they crashed and
Did you see that?
Yeah. We were standin’ on the hill opposite waitin’ to go in to take go into the attack on this place
and none of 'em were killed. They all got out. They parachuted out and I can remember we were on this track when they were carting the RAAF, they were all injured, but they the fuzzy wuzzies [Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels – New Guineans who aided Australian troops on the Kokoda Track] were cartin’ 'em out and the first that was the first day on this area where they issued us with operational rations. The second day we were almost ambushed and I could remember you
weren’t supposed to talk or anything, see. You were just supposed to keep quiet and this chap that I said earlier that had failed the first course at Canungra was yappin’ off and our platoon commander came back and he said, “If we run into any trouble and get casualties I’ll shoot you.” They were the words he said but he wouldn’t have done it but he was very angry. We wouldn’t a gone five hundred metres along this track
and we run into the Japanese and fortunately they must been a patrol coming towards us. So we both opened fire. I think we killed two Japanese and didn’t lose anyone ourselves. Now when I think it was that afternoon we met up with the 2/2nd Battalion people and as an eighteen year older or a nineteen year older corporal you don’t know much that’s goin’ on and our platoon commander he was a
lieutenant. And this one armed captain and he got our his orders and those days some days we would stop and form a defensive position and send patrols out, right, to see where the Japanese were or how far how close they were and this went on oh I suppose for weeks on end. You know you’d move, form a defensive position and move out ‘til you contacted and you didn’t let 'em know that you were there because
we all we were supposed to do was to find out where they were and to get these Indian POWs out. And that type of thing went on for the period that we were out and our main problem was our resupply because if you see paratroops come, parachutes comin’ down out a the air with food well cause the Japanese know exactly where you are. So you’d run out, grab the food or
whatever they used to be in those biscuit tins with a hole in the top, sealed lid, hide the or bury the parachute because you didn’t want to carry it because you had enough gear to carry as was your own and your ammunition. A great experience. Wouldn’t want to go through it again and it’s funny how things in history some people take the wrong concept on it. Really and
truly. Like that article that’s written I got it out a the Daily Mirror years ago.
What do you mean by that? That they take the wrong concept?
Well because the simple reason they weren’t there to get the actual thing that went on. So they wrote something different on hearsay.
So what sort of things had been written about what happened there that weren’t really accurate?
Well, one a the things about birds of paradise for a start. The other one was four weeks when it was six weeks,
or about a month when it was actually six weeks and I only run across that article accidentally. It was printed some time. I think it was printed in 1988 and see you don’t always get the truth in written statements.
Speaking about the rations being dropped, I have heard some stories that sometimes when they dropped those they were almost like grenades.
They just sort of exploded.
Oh they do too, yeah.
Did that happen?
Did you see that happen?
Yeah. They did they used to send I don’t know if they were buns or rolls and you’d oh a drum I suppose at about that round and about that high and it’d have a sealed lid and probably because say they were fresh and the gasses’d build up and they’d go 'boom'.
Now I can remember when we were at Morotai, we were forming up after the war, these blokes they had the tents, the fourteen be twelve tents, and they had these drums that they used to form as ration pack. They’d got 'em from somewhere cause they had a sealed lid and one morning the CSM [Company Sergeant Major] said, “Those tent poles are moving.” The tents poles were moving because they’d made a still, some brew in
there. It was ready to blow up. So that’s one a the reasons why they would blow. See they’d the gasses’d form up and when they’d hit they’d probably go 'boom'.
Were people ever injured?
No, not that I well not probably were but none in my time. None that I saw.
So going back to that operation with rescuing the Indian POWs can you tell us about that? About what the whole operation
and the progress of that?
Well we just went through, as I just said, you know we’d form up. Take a defensive position and send out patrols because as well as going to try and rescue the In POWs we had to find out where the Japanese forces were, or the main force were.
What did you know about these POWs before you actually went in there?
As a corporal I knew nought. I still don’t know anything about
'em apart from the fact that we went and got 'em and that was the sort of our plan. Apart from the fact that that was normally the routine. You’d put in a defensive position of a day or every second day and then you’d branch out your patrols in different directions to find out the strength of the enemy position without we weren’t a fighting patrol. Although we were equipped to fight because we were almost, oh I forget how strong we were. I suppose
a couple a platoons in strength because there was most of 7 Platoon A Company, the 2/5th and probably the platoon for 2/2nd and then the hardest part was after we got them out was to get 'em out and away but the snatch party, I wasn’t in the snatch party that went in. They probably reckoned I was too young and we were sort of formed the blocking force for them.
So where were you when they actually went in to get them?
we weren’t far out. We were only a couple a hundred yards.
So could you see the operation?
No. Cause, see, the jungle and I seen very little I knew the prisoners. I knew did see 'em because even though we were moving all the time you weren’t close up. You were always Australians always had gaps within each person, not like the Americans. Dash along with a
radio goin’ and things like that and I I’d I realised what position that the Indian POWs were, for the rescue, and what position the Japanese were but when the patrols split up. And we went our own way the Indians they didn’t go with us because we were staying in the mountains to fight on and the 2/2nd
Battalion people were goin’ back to the coast where they took the prisoners but we took the Japanese, cause I remember 'em at BHQ [Battalion Headquarters]. They had 'em in the natives had built you know bamboo cages for 'em. There was two I remember at our place after we were allowed to be cleaned up after we come back from the patrol. I could remember when you're talking about writings in press and that, our platoon the press
heard about this patrol that was coming back that had been to the Sepik and been out for weeks and they were all at BH
They weren’t with us and a course we’d had beards on, we were filthy and our clothes stunk and they wanted to take our photographs of us and our platoon commander went berserk so we never got we didn’t become famous. We never got any photographs taken. Never got wrote written up in the Texas news
or anything and we never saw the press again.
Were you disappointed?
Oh, probably as a kid you know you would a liked your a photograph in your home paper. I think the only time I ever got a photo in the paper is when I got married. They said, “Have a photo.”
What was the demeanour of those Japanese people that came out at that time?
How would you describe their demeanour?
Well they looked brutal and I think that’s the way they felt and we weren’t allowed to go near 'em but the natives apparently go used to give 'em a hard time because the Japanese gave the natives a hard time and I really don’t I don’t know because we were at BH
Their little section where they were held only for a short time for a
debriefing and then we went back to our own company and our platoon and I really don’t know how long they were held there or how long before they took 'em to the coast.
How many POWs were rescued that day?
About six I think.
And did you actually see the condition that they were in?
They weren’t too bad really. They were nothing they weren’t anything like the POWs, our POWs from Changi and the Burma railway. Like
they had clothes on. Now I can’t say how thin they were or anything because we didn’t have much to do with 'em but they were strong enough to march and they went and it was a long way. They went back to the coast and that’s days a marching, couple a days marching.
It’s amazing. We're gonna have to stop there cause we…
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 04
Okay. Excellent. Yeah, so what were you going to say Tom?
I from my experience and what I’ve read, although the as a personal opinion the Aitape, Wewak campaign was very tough and the enemy was very stubborn and hard to get you know when knolls and hills and areas. It was probably not as bad
as some of the other New Guinea campaigns. You know where they had better lines a communication and better support and things like that, like in the early days in New Guinea. Like the Kokoda Trail and things like that. It’s a pretty totally different concept I think.
Can you tell me a little bit more about Captain Marshall?
Well I didn’t I’d only it’s a funny thing that when you're in the jungle you hardly ever see
people. You know apart from your close friends, your Bren gunners. Even within your own section you do. Well all I remember of him is that he was a type of a flamboyant character. He was pretty rough and he was well-respected cause a the I spoke you know had dealings with the patrols because we used to go out on patrols together for the 2/2nd and 2/5th, our 7 Platoon people, and that’s about all I know about
him, apart from the fact of what I read in that.
And how often did he go after birds of paradise?
Never. Never. I nearly I if you if you're got time to read that, and the idea of what kind of a bloke he was he’d have probably swallowed that journalist who wrote that.
And what was the story about him getting into the army with one arm?
I think he approached General Blamey
on the Atherton Tablelands and he said…I don’t know if he ever had anything on General Blamey but he was he posted him to the 2/2nd Battalion, which was quite good. And I don’t remember anyone else with a disability like that and I probably would’a never, ever heard of it only I had come in contact with him through Jock Force [Infantry Patrol].
Was he able to operate a fire arm?
Yeah. Oh yeah.
So how did he do that?
I don’t know. I was never that close to him
but he operated a lot a things if you read that.
So who was in charge of your own platoon or section?
A bloke by the name of Lieutenant Flynn. Great man. Never, ever seen him I don’t know what happened to him after the war because it wasn’t long after that, no that was before that episode where I said these people
come in at night under the weapon pit with the gelignite. In that position we never went any further because the war ended because I was taking out a fighting patrol the morning we were told that the war had ended and I got down this kunai spur not far from the company. And I wasn’t keen taking, you know you were sort of you had an inclination that the war was about to end
and to taking out a fighting patrol is no joy and they we got word that the war was ended, to come back and boy did we get back fast. We went back faster than we went out, I can tell you. So we were in that position, that same position I was talking about with the Bren gunner fired and we were there a few days before they could move us back to an air strip
to fly us to the coast and I used to, bein’ a bushie [bushman], supply men fish. I’d get the police boy that we had with us. We used to take a heap a grenades and in the rivers you can throw grenades into the rivers there and you were gettin’ nothing if you don’t know how to do it. Anyhow this police boy and I, I don’t know how we’d ever got knocked off because we didn’t have protection. We probably
thought the war was ended and he thought it was ended and you’d go down and get into these holes and he’d say, “Throw over there” and you’d throw over there where the rock ledges were and he’d just get in and dive under, put his hand up into these shelves and bring out all these fish and I can remember that plainly. That’s how I used to fill in a lot a my time while we were waitin’ for planes to go to the coast. Cause we had to march back a long way before and they didn’t want to I don’t
know if we were the furtherest company forward but they sort of the closest people went out first and they flew us out to Wewak, which was like heaven. And you because you our tent was oh about where your car is and out that back door is the ocean and I think, I don’t know where they got the beer from because they had no food because the wharfie strike was on, that’s right,
and we used we were there a very short time and we couldn’t get any food, they didn’t run out a ration and I think we used to get one meal a day and then they’d feed us on vitamin tablets. Cause I remember General Robertson, he’d taken over the 6 Division then cause Stephens, General Stephens, he relieved General Stephens and I remember Red Robbie comin’ past the battalion one day and they all lined up and booed him.
And yeah, it was a beautiful area.
How did he react to that?
Oh he’d Red Robbie, knowin’ him in later years I think the CO [Commanding Officer] must a got a terrible blast. It didn’t come down to us. We never got it down at platoon section level but it it’s not you know when you’ve been in the mountains or whether you're in the mountains or on the coast or in the jungle for months on end and then you come out and you can’t get you're
livin’ on hard rations, bully beef and biscuits, and there’s not too many ways you can change your diet on bully beef and biscuits I can tell ya, why you couldn’t get three meals a day and I just forget how long it lasted. But I can remember we used to get two lots of vitamin pills, they had them, and one meal but I don’t know how many days it lasted. It didn’t last very long.
Did any of the men get sick from not having a varied enough diet?
Oh yeah, you had your casualties.
What sort of illnesses were there?
Oh dysentery. Dysentery and malaria. Scrub typhus was a lot of 'em, although we never had many cases of scrub typhus but if you got scrub typhus it was very bad. You hardly ever got back to the unit. Malaria was a problem. Dysentery was a problem but
there’s various types a dysentery they used to have. I was fortunate. I don’t know why but I never, ever had dysentery. I got malaria, which I suffered for quite a few years after. So did everyone else.
When did you get that?
Well I suppose I never, ever had it in New Guinea although they some of 'em got it. I probably didn’t don’t remember getting an attack until I was at Morotai
And how did it affect you?
You became you get hot and cold and the perspiration pours out a your body and you just shiver and you can’t get enough heat. You can’t, no matter how many blankets you put on you just shiver and perspire and regular I think we used to go to hospital oh about every six weeks and ‘til they found a cure because…
and in those days we used to be on Atebrin and they brought out a thing called Paladrin I think it was, was the name of it which cured me. And because I think it was as late as the end of '46 when I came home on leave and I was walking at home, I said to Mum “I’m goin’ down town,” or might a said, “I’m goin’ to the pub,” and there was only about four or five stairs on the front of our house
and I got to the second top one and Mum was standing on the veranda and I collapsed and they didn’t put me in hospital that time fortunately but they got the local doctor. In those days you could get a local doctor to your house and probably we were too poor to pay his bill too, but you wouldn’t get it these days would ya?
Just going back to New Guinea and when you first arrived there, what was your impression or view of the enemy?
Oh I don’t know. I’d actually didn’t I don’t think I hated him, put it that way. I knew he was our enemy and he was to be killed or destroyed and I suppose that was the only thing in the back of ya mind and what’s more, another thing is Becky, you're always thinking of your mate and
the probably the more people that you can destroy you're protectin’ your own people. That’s probably one a the thoughts in the back a ya mind but I can’t remember clearly of really of I had any set convictions on it.
You said earlier that you felt aggressive, that you had become more aggressive.
Well you do. You do when because they give no quarter
and on that particular day I really felt aggressive because we’d had a couple a people wounded on a patrol’a mine in this pitpit [wild sugar cane], it’s a type a bamboo, that a few days before and I mentioned earlier these five year men and this Paddy. I can’t remember his other name, he was with the patrol and I was sort of worried about him and then this day when I saw all these fit lookin’
marines I thought, “Well why I shouldn’t open up and kill 'em while I got a chance?” But I’d a been in trouble. I’d a probably got court martialled anyhow because it was only a recce patrol to find out what you know what their strength was and where they were. Although we had you know there would a been only about half a dozen of us, a Bren couple and a couple a Owens and .303s.
To what extent did you feel that your character changed at all after arriving in New Guinea
and being in this incredible situation?
Oh probably because you never think things are gonna end. You're just going through this same thing day after day, bad conditions and things like that and I think it completely changes your outlook but it I don’t think it with me it never,
ever lasted. It was just a probably a thing at the time and you couldn’t one a the things you couldn’t see an end to anything and you never got you know you never got any news, let’s face it. You didn’t know what was goin’ on back home or how things were or anything. You might a got a letter once every six weeks or two months, dependin’ how if they didn’t lose it or it didn’t get loose on an air drop if they were dropping it to you
and but whatever I thought in those days I think I changed you know within a few months after. It’s, see when the war ended there was no future for a lot of people because you went home on your points system. So the first people out were the five year men, which is natural. For me,
I’d a been there forever saying just waiting for a plane because a mate of mine, my section, old Blue, he told me in late latter years and I met him at Canberra at the war memorial at one function I went down to the 2/5th he said, “I was there for months,” and he said, “All we used to do is drink beer and have races around the airport,” because the war was over but they couldn’t get 'em home. And he
said in the end his father had some pull and got him home and he was there for months. Well with me, I’d a been there forever but I didn’t know that a course. I just decided that I they were callin’ for volunteers to go to Japan. I didn’t know what I was gonna strike in Japan or how long it was gonna take me to get there or no one told us anything like that.
How did you get the news that the war had ended?
How did you actually get the news that the war had ended?
We got it
from company headquarters on the radio and they got it to me takin’ the patrol out. Great news I’ll tell you but you haven’t got much you know you well you sort of feel free. That’s the feeling I had. You know you when you get when you're on patrol or in those situations you're always tense and let’s face it, you're always frightened unless you're tellin’ lies
and it’s just a relief. But I remember when I used to go fishin’ with this police boy I never you know the Japanese could a been there sittin’ on the bank waitin’ to ping you off but we never thought a that. Young and stupid. These days I would or in latter years I would have.
Well up there in the mountains would there have been Japanese people who didn’t know that the war had ended?
'Course there were, yeah. General Adasi was the bloke that had the divisions in the mountain and see
it was MacArthur’s idea that they could rot, see. He wasn’t worried about 'em or he wasn’t worried about the natives or anything like that either and the biggest majority of the natives were on the allies' side. And I don’t think there’d there would a been a more percentage on the Japanese because they wouldn’t a stayed there anyhow because they wouldn’t have got fed and the New Guinea native’s not stupid and in those days they were
outstanding. You know the police boys, your guides and the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels as they were christened.
Why were they called the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels?
Well I suppose because of their hair and the tremendous job they did of getting wounded and that out, see. To carry stretchers in that country it is shocking you know and they carried 'em across swollen rivers and
got 'em out to aid stations where no one else could see, and they're born to the regions. They're born to a certain area and they know it inside out and we always had, where possible, a boy who would be with the patrol who knew that area and
So how much, oh sorry…
And no matter where you went, when his area finished he knew the line of demarcation. Someone else’d take over.
Were they also armed? The New Guinea natives?
Not all of 'em, no. Police boys were. They were always armed. What they call the police boys but the carriers and that were never armed and
So they must have been in pretty dangerous situations doing what they were doing.
Oh they were. Magnificent people and
I don’t think we ever repaid 'em for the things that they did. You know you see occasionally they’d bring someone out here and look after him but generally I don’t think we ever gave 'em the recognition of what they did for the country while the war was on, unfortunately.
How close did you get to any of the New Guinean indigenous people?
Oh, not very I suppose.
You the people that are with you all the time you knew 'em by name and spoke to 'em all the time and they varied of course. If we were in an area you would have a police boy for that area or might have two or three and you’d get to know them and sort of you’d well in those days you become mates and you’d get to know if they were in a certain area your carriers because you had
the same ones. But then when you’d move into another area you’d have to do have because they’d come from different tribes and then
How did you communicate with them?
In pidgin. Don’t ask me to speak any pidgin these days.
But you could back then?
Oh yeah and they loved parachutes. Cause parachutes were no good to us and you didn’t carry 'em and you couldn’t afford to carry 'em for 'em to take 'em back
so you’d give 'em to the boys and that or the girls. The girls loved parachutes cause they come in you know red, blues and yellows. You’d see 'em gettin’ around in these parachute skirts and that. Yeah they were good and if we had well let’s face it, if you're in an infantry section you don’t get many parachutes I can assure you of that.
So what, they would actually cut them up and
Yeah. Make clothes out of 'em
and use the ropes of course and some of us would keep some of 'em’d keep ropes but you oh some funny things happen. You then you’d get an air drop and you’d get a cigarette ration. Mind you, for a non-smoker, I’m I haven’t smoked for years and years but in those days, it’s probably nerves or something you’d smoke anything. You’d smoke banana leaves
and I can remember you’d get an air drop but we’d probably wouldn’t see it but the ration would come forward to us and you’d normally get Log Cabin, the old Log Cabin tins of roll your own tobacco. And each platoon got a certain amount then it’d be split up into sections and I am not kidding when I say this, I have seen people who got free
tobacco and sold it to other people in those days. There are people like that you know. I don’t know why, I couldn’t come at it but it is.
You mean they sold it to the native people?
Sold it to their own mates. Yeah. That’s a fact. Fact of life. That’s true. So you wouldn’t be he must have one certain gentleman must have died with plenty a money, all I
can say, if he’d sell somethin’ that was given to him for nothing.
So how important was the role of those guides and so forth in your operations?
Oh very much. They were excellent and if we hadn’t had them we’d a had a lot more casualties and that’s why I say they were never, ever given the recognition that they should have been given. Mind you, I think when the after the war when we had, see during the war they had
PIB [Pacific Islands Battalion] battalions, Papua New Guinea battalions, which did a magnificent job but when the Australian forces were in New Guinea. And no one had staff PIB or ‘PIG’, whatever they called 'em, we used to those that hadn’t been there always referred to them as the black hand gang. Well I think the Papua New Guinea army was very strong but then they lost
it when they took over themselves. I don’t think it’s much chop these days. Well not currently it isn’t anyhow because I don’t know what’s wrong but they the poor old army doesn’t get fed and doesn’t get paid and but that’s a political problem.
You spoke earlier about how the Americans would move through the hills with their radios going and so forth, were how much contact did you have in your operations with the Americans?
Not, very little.
Very when you read the history of New Guinea they didn’t go the Americans, even in the early battles didn’t go far inland but that’s a problem with Americans is they like their radios and that and they stick close together. They don’t and they hate patrolling. Now you, to bear my point out have you seen anything on Baghdad recently like a
an explosion where a suicide bloke has blown a car up and the Americans are there? Where are they? They're all in a clump. Now that’d if that was a British or Australian they’d be out in the defended position protectin’ the particular area and they don’t do that. They haven’t mind you, I hope no high ranking officer reads, gets this tape out.
Don’t worry. We won’t tell them.
So how did the Australians get on with the other with the Americans or the British who were there?
There weren’t any British in New Guinea.
No British, at all?
Not that, no they I don’t remember any British at all. I don’t think there were. No, the Americans that we struck in New Guinea they had bases there when once during our campaign where they missed out on the Torricelli Mountains there was another we might a been in the Prince Alexander or the Torricellis
I don’t know, they were all mountains, we did come out and for a two weeks' rest and they all the Americans hadn’t gone then and oh no, we generally got on well with 'em. See Aitape is practically on what used to be Hollandia. Well I can remember to this day, as young as I was, right on the point of the top of where the hospital was
the old there was this big Dutch magnificent building. Brick. We never, ever got close to it but you could see it was brick and then I don’t know what year the Indonesians took it over didn’t they? What do they call it now, Irianjaya or something, which was Hollandia. No we got on well with the Americans.
What sort of things did you do during that rest period?
Swim. Didn’t do any training. I was I’ll tell ya how Australian soldiers are. We had, I won’t name this bloke in case he’s still living. We were in our tents. We, and what’s more we were well fed. You know when you're out in that area you're not on hard rations and bully beef and he woke me up at I don’t know what time it was but it was early hours of the morning.
And he said, “Hey, Muggo. Put this money away for me and don’t give it back to me.” You know how much money there was? Three thousand pound. He won it playin’ dice and that. Now I kept gettin’ woken up down at the RAAF, which was next door to us, woken up every hour or so. He was runnin’ out a money. I said, “I’m not givin’ ya any more.” You know how much he had the next mornin’? Nought. Three thousand pound. I still remember this bloke’s name and what’s more I associate
him with these two blokes whose names were Chilla. His name was Chilla and this bloke, who was a real larrikin in Korea, his name was Chilla and they're the same type. What you would call nice con men. You know larrikin con men. Yeah, three thousand pound. If I’d a had three thousand pound I’d a gone home and bought a property. I probably wouldn’t have but I wouldn’t have played it on two up or
dice or whatever they were playin’.
So what about drinking and alcohol at in New Guinea?
Well you didn’t
Was there much of that?
You didn’t get much. I forget. I remember bloke a bloke goin’ berserk and walkin’ into the sea. He’d been drinkin’ essence a lemon. I can remember that because they were all yahooin’, we were close to the beach and he drank, I think he might a been a cook. He’d a been the only one that’d get a hold a essence a lemon but I never, ever tried it. I’ve never been that bad for a drink.
No, you did got very little alcohol. What ya got you enjoyed. I forget the ration that we would we’d have got. We’d a probably got a probably a bottle a day or probably two while we were out, I don’t know. Can’t remember.
Well how close were the relationships between the men in your platoon or section?
Excellent. Like a family and I mean that. Really like a family and if you lost
someone it was like losing a brother. No, very close. Even within your company but there’s a different feeling between platoons. You know those in 8 Platoon, we were in 7, those in 8 and 9 well you didn’t in that type of combat you didn’t have much to do with the other platoons. You only more or less had dealings with your own platoon, although you knew all the blokes in the other platoons you didn’t
really come in contact with 'em very often. No, the mateship was fantastic and I think that’s why Australians always do so well in campaigns and they look after each other.
Why do you think you developed such a close relationship?
Oh I don’t know. Probably because you're close together all the time
and because most Australians as type have an outgoing outlook too, I think has something to do with it and that’s probably one a the reasons and you play where possible a lot a sports together. You if you're not actually anticipate in the sport itself, involved in the sport, you either go and watch it you know you
back your platoon or your company or what whoever, which is good in my opinion.
How important was it in terms of your actual operations to have that close relationship do you think?
Oh terrific because you're sure that even if you're unfortunate enough to get hit someone’ll look after you. You don’t think a gettin’ killed really. Well I suppose you do in your subconscious but
you know you won’t be left. They’ll do everything possible to get ya out, which is a great assurance you know to have that but later on I’ll tell you a few stories which I wouldn’t like to been involved in of people bein’ left. Different armies, not ours.
In New Guinea or…?
No, not in New Guinea.
Did you lose any of your mates from your
Yeah, we had I think there was about six and yeah it knocks ya about and it takes you awhile to get over it but then again you’ve got other things on your mind and you soon forget about it. Oh, in certain times you remember 'em but it’s a big
loss even the chap gets wounded. I can remember when we were crossin’ the river comin’ back from that patrol that we were away for six weeks for and we got the wounded and we had to walk a hell of a way along mountain trails to get to the hospital that was set up. We used to go down when we could to see 'em and I don’t I can’t ever remember 'em comin’ back to the platoon. They probably were shipped home but in those
days you’d do that.
How did the platoon deal with somebody dying? Were there any ceremonies held or…?
No. They normally go out and take 'em back to battalion if they can get 'em back. The I remember once we put in a this corporal I said that got on this hill we’d attacked, we’d a taken one hill and he got killed and we couldn’t or they couldn’t get him
out, 8 Platoon, and this mate of his come around and asked for volunteers to go in at night to get him out before they but they would have had to get permission from the company commander to go forward but people volunteered to go in the night to get him. So you're they're a very close knit group of people.
Did you have any sort of belief systems that you think helped you get through
Yeah, I said a lot a prayers. Oh no, yeah I’d been brought up as religious and still go to church every Sunday. Yeah, that helps. I’m not out and out died in the wool religious but I do say prayers and I do go to mass.
So how much did that help you during that period?
think it helps quite a bit. Gives you oh what’s the word for it? Some assurances type a thing. I think it helps. Other people’d probably say no, but I know a lot a blokes that prayed that’d never been to church.
So when you were you said earlier you were frightened in many situations, what how did you cope with that fear?
Oh, I don’t
remember. I think when it all stopped you were pleased that you were still breathing. I can remember people saying, “Let’s get out of here,” and things like that, they were frightened, but you can’t go. You got a keep on because if you run you only got a come back and do it again. I don’t know how I coped really. I was young and probably helped me. As you get older you probably got a different outlook on it, on life.
I’m sure the outlook of the people who were ready to come home like the five year men and people my age or older, a couple a years older would be totally different. Not that we ever discussed it. You never, ever discussed things like that.
So how did that combat situation in the mountains in New Guinea compare with other wars which you were involved with later? Was it different in any way?
the jungles in New Guinea, well we didn’t have jungles in Korea when we fought a totally different war cause in my time you were a mobile force. Vietnam, not the jungles like New Guinea. Totally different war because it’s more mobile. No one ever marched into the field and marched over mountains to get to the combat zone, they were flown there. You didn’t have to carry your wounded and dead for miles over mountains
because you got a medivac helicopter on a buzz of a radio to pick up your wounded or dead in Vietnam but it was early in the piece in Korea you marched through snow and that to get 'em out but in later years after our time they had choppers. I can only remember once in Korea where a chopper was used to get any of our wounded out and that was at 401 we did a dawn
attack and we lost a lot a men and a lot a wounded. And they brought a one this chap, oh he lives down at Uranquinty now, he was hit in the back and he was that bad that they brought a chopper [helicopter] in and took him out but all other cases in those days we walked 'em out or they were walked out to a road junction somewhere where the RAP [Regimental Aid Post] could pick 'em up.
So how would you describe the main challenge I suppose in
what you were involved with in New Guinea? The biggest challenge of fighting there?
Oh that’s hard to say. Probably to get it over and done with and to come out alive. Being young it’s an experience and you and the thing in the back of your mind of course, you know you’ve got a do it. You're Australian and you're gonna go cause a
hell of a lot of people volunteered so they must have all had the same thoughts. You I don’t think we’ve ever had any trouble, Australians, to get volunteers to go to war. I really don’t.
Were you surprised by the difficult conditions that you were in in New Guinea? Had you been prepared properly for that?
Yeah. Well the problem when you're hangin’ like a monkey on the side of a track you know with mud all
up over your boots and that, I don’t think I used to you know it was instilled into us by our instructors in basic training and that that things like that’d happen. No it wasn’t. Yeah, some of it was a surprise and you don’t really think how steep the mountains are and then once you get up you got a go down and go up the next one and I can remember a particular place that we climbed
in New Guinea. And they said there was a strong contingent of Japanese and we went up this thing and there were no Japanese within cooee [close by]. They were there. It was like climbin’ up you know straight and the next day they found out that there was across this great gorge was some Japanese in the village. So we our
platoon had to escort a mortar section out to a certain place where you could practically see this village where the Japanese were supposed to be but it was over this great it was like a canyon. And we escorted 'em out and gave 'em protection while they were firing and I tell ya what, they lobbed mortars in the centre in this village. Couldn’t get anywhere near it and the old Japs were there right enough because they were takin’ off. They couldn’t a been
you know entrenched and the gorge it went down seemed to go down forever because you can’t see the bottom because of the canopies of the trees and this place was like a, oh if I remember correctly it was like a big arm. And it sort of finished and it went down into a great gully but that was the hardest mountain I’d ever climbed in New Guinea and I don’t ask me how high it was but it was just the it was a track like that
and you know after a company a men go over it, it’s mud and slush and I can remember we got to the top just before dark and that’s would a been all the monsoon rains, or a type a monsoon rains that you get every afternoon. Wet, mud. No, I’d I have no I have no intentions a goin’ up for laughs to walk the Kokoda Trail
and I have no intentions of goin’ back to Korea to have a look how bad it is or how good it is. As a matter of fact I was when I got commission from Duntroon, on my posting was as training officer to Goldie River in New Guinea but within a matter of days I was posted…that fell through and I was sent to 5 Platoon to go to Vietnam, or eventually to Vietnam,
but I’ve never been back to New Guinea and I have no you know no desire to go back.
Oh I don’t know. As we as you get older you sort of lose the desires for that I think. Well I do anyhow. I would prefer to go somewhere around Australia than to really go overseas. You know there’s…
I just wanted to ask you how many miles
did you travel on any one day while you were in the New Guinea mountains?
Oh, that’d be hard to say. Very little. Very, very little. You’d go very slowly and I wouldn’t like to estimate it. I was it’s that long ago and I was that young. Not very far.
So how long it would take a long time to get anywhere?
Oh yeah. Mind you, you can travel you can do a fair distance if you got no interruptions
along kunai spurs and that. You could probably do a considerable number of miles but not in those days because you had enemy and plus the conditions under which you were fighting. So you didn’t travel didn’t go very far at all. You weren’t knocked up by walking I can assure you a that and when you took a patrol out a course you didn’t go very far either because you normally had a contact or
you knew where they were. If it was a recce patrol you found out where they were. If it was a fighting patrol well you’d have a contact and if you won they’d bring 'em forward, bring the rest of the company forward. No, you didn’t travel great distances.
Oh sorry, go on. Before we stop the tape.
Not like the distances we travelled in Korea.
Oh okay. Well we’ll get to Korea soon.
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 05
Can you tell us the atmosphere where you were when the war ended?
Can you tell us about the atmosphere? What happened when the war ended where you were?
Well when the war ended, as I said earlier, I was leading this fighting patrol out and I got this radio message you know that the war had ended. Jubilant. Couldn’t get back fast enough. We went back I suppose to the company ten times faster than what we went
out and there was great joy. All around the hills where the companies and that were they were yelling and screaming and no, it was fantastic and a totally different you know relief. You knew in a sort of a way even though the war was ended that the Japanese didn’t know it was ended in our area cause we were all already been told that you know a lot of 'em were isolated and but it didn’t make any difference to
us. We had this great feeling and when they flew us out to Wewak. God, I don’t know what it’s like to win a lottery but that’s what it was like, or would a been like. It was fantastic.
And when you got back to see everybody else was what was happening at the camp?
I think they gave in those days they had no refrigeration or anything like that and I can remember we got two bottles of beer each. That was the first thing. So we got
I don’t know it was something like string or toggle ropes and walked across and put it into the ocean. As we was drinkin’ one there were, oh half a dozen of us and we were on this bank lookin’ out into the islands and sayin’, and drinkin’ hot beer mind you, and sayin’, “Isn’t it pleasant,” you know. “No one’s shooting at you. You haven’t got to worry about climbin’ hills at night and filthy.” And I can remember quite vividly
I got this little it was on that side a the face you get a lot a diseases, tropical diseases and this, fortunately I didn’t have it when the war was on or when we were in the mountains, it come up like a little pimple. So I went to the RAP, oh and they put some a this gooey stuff on it. It finished up all that side a my face was all festered and I tell ya what, it was the most uncomfortable ugliest thing
and as quick as it came up, whatever they put on it was sticky stuff, it went and I never, it was never scarred but it was terrible. I was like a leper. All the side a the face was all went all round there all festered. I’d forgotten about that.
That main camp in New Guinea, can you walk through it and give us an image of what you’d be seeing when you walked through the camp?
Rows a tents. All I can remember of our camp when we came out, they’d already had the tents erected mind you, is rows a tents in the battalion areas. The cook house were on a road going into the jungle and that run up to a point which, oh I don’t remember where it went to because we didn’t have any access to areas and we certainly walked that far in the mountains
we weren’t gonna walk looking. On that side was the ocean, which most of us used to and it wasn’t a beached area, it was sort of nice palm trees with shade and it’d dip down into sand and the sea. We used to just go over there and sit down for hours on end and I suppose the rest of the battalion did the same thing but we never, ever went out of our own area in the short time we were there.
We just stuck I think oh I don’t know how far away there was a big air port not far from us in Wewak. My time there before I left was mainly camp bound. I didn’t go anywhere apart from we’d get our beer of the day and go and watch, you know look over to the islands and say, “Well I wonder is any Japs over there?”
And when you got to Wewak how long were you there?
Not long. They for some unknown reason I don’t know where I got the information from but they sent round and ordered, the general information, they sent round an order to A Company order room and they said, “They're calling for volunteers to go to Japan.”
And a few of us discussed it and thought about it and I said, “Oh yeah. I’ll throw my hat in,” and I can remember a chap out of 8 Platoon and his name was Jones I don’t know his and he gave me a lecture and said, “You shouldn’t go Tom. You should go home.” And I said, “Well I might be here for months and months and months because I haven’t got any points to get home.” “Oh,” he said, “that’s a point.” And
that’s the only one that tried to talk me out of it.
Why did he think you should go home?
Well he was a great family man and he reckoned I should a gone home to see my brothers and sisters and my mother and I can’t I think out of our company, there may have been more. I can only remember one, one other that went out of our company and we when we said we volunteered to go we were moved down to another
battalion area on the beach and we were only there a couple a days because it was what they used to call a CMF battalion, 30th Battalion. And then we went by small boat, probably a corvette or somethin’ to Morotai and that’s where they were based, the occupation force to go over was based in Morotai. That was their forming up area.
What was the atmosphere on Morotai like at that point?
it’s hard to say. People were still arriving by corvettes and destroyers and things like that where they were forming up the force and you were more or less isolated. I know we used to all go to the one barber because I can remember they formed a we knew we were 67 Battalion and we knew that 66 was 9th Div [Division] and
65 was 7 Div and most of the majority of us were 6 Div and I know there was a we were there a fair while. They started running NCO [Non Commissioned Officer] courses and we went out on one a patrol once, oh a long way away and we were there for two or three weeks patrolling. And then I was selected to go to an NCOs' course when all the trouble started
and they had a mutiny and they lined up and marched as a brigade but I wasn’t there for that because no one told us about it and the funny thing, the chap that was later my company commander in Korea was OC of the NCO school and he didn’t know anything about it, he even told me in later years, and this went on it was all very you know well run.
I don’t think anyone ever got into trouble over it. No one was court martialled and those that wanted to go home could go home when they could get them home and those that wanted to stay stayed and the majority stayed otherwise they wouldn’t a had a brigade to go away but we were there ‘til oh must a been February '46. So
Yeah. So we were there for the Christmas. I just forget when we arrived but I know we were I think we arrived in Japan something like the 14th or 12th or 14th but we were there for a fair while then and I can’t remember what I can remember us always havin’ inspections every day. You lined up and I was in at this stage in mortars and I didn’t have a clue on mortars and you used to have to put all these mortars
out and have 'em all shined up and goodness knows what and this and apart from us the machine gunners and assault pioneers were building things and generally I don’t think we ever did any training, real training and apart from this time we were away for weeks down on the coast of Morotai somewhere I don’t and the time I was at the NCO school and so
I didn’t mind my time on Morotai. I was pretty well occupied. I had a lot a good mates and but it that’s what caused the trouble like people you know after the war they want either wanted to go somewhere or go home.
So did you see the mutiny happen?
No I was away
You were at school.
I just know about as much about it as you do. You know what I’ve read and what people there told me and they didn’t tell
us and we were a few mile away anyhow. We were probably never got there it we it would a been cold. I didn’t even know it was gonna happen even. So it were just something that I don’t think it was came up on the spur of the moment. It must a been thought about for a while.
What were you told you’d be doing in Japan?
Well we were told initially that we’d be patrolling, finding ammunition dumps and fuel dumps
and things a that nature and that’s actually what we did. Our platoon but the mortar platoon in actual fact when they arrived at the Kure wharf were of all things attached to the provos for I forget how long, say a week. And all we did was patrol the streets and don’t ask me why we patrolled the streets because we wouldn’t pick up any of our
soldiers anyhow, but that’s was our job and I can remember we were livin’ in what they was eventually to become NAAFI [Navy Army Air Force Institute], the British navy where we were and we were upstairs. And a course we slept up there, all our platoon and we used to have, oh cold, used to have these hibachis, you know these round Japanese things with
coals in 'em and we’d go out and buy a carton a Kirai beer and come home and put 'em in these hibachis to heat 'em up so we could drink it. And that lasted a week and we went to Kurashiki where our where the whole brigade was in actual fact and the we were in an old naval area I think. The barracks were run down terrible
but they weren’t bad. We had good clothing and that and they had an old you know these hot water systems where they put hot water through the pipes and it was quite comfortable and apart from that first week I never, ever felt the cold in Japan. I don’t know why. I can’t remember and when you went on guard duty you know even as a sergeant you might have to stand a four hour shift but I don’t remember being that cold that I
felt uncomfortable. Probably because I was young. No doubt it was cold because it snowed but we were at Kurashiki for awhile and then they formed they sent headquarter company and part a B Company over to what was known as the barrack it was a steel works barracks. They had a big steel works, it was steel works too and they had barracks there and we were accommodated over there and they used to call us
68 Battalion cause it was out the back gate and across another across the road and our OC who was Major I B Ferguson, who commanded the 3 Battalion in Korea at one stage. He was our 2IC and he was always also OC headquarter company at the time because they were fairly short of officers. So headquarter company were fairly look well looked after because Fergie always looked after his troops. So
we were there for a for a fair while and then they between General Robinson and MacArthur they decided that they would send a composite battalion to Tokyo that to do guard duty on the Imperial Palaces. And I remember part of our company was selected to go so we went for that and I think the tour of duty was for about six weeks but Tokyo
those days weren’t nothing like it is today or twenty, thirty years ago and I know we used to we had an empire house which was run by Australians and the guard commanders used to stay in there and I forget where we were billeted. We were billeted round some American places in Tokyo. It was quite a good time because you did your guard duty and you went on leave when you were off.
Those that weren’t actually on the Imperial Palace guard were billeted at Ebisu camp and they would go into all the legations you know the Australian embassy and those places and guard them. So we went to moved from Kurashiki to a place called Okayama. Well I don’t know anyhow that’s on the way to Tokyo and it’s a long way up
but we actually you heard a the Gloucester Cup? It was a competition run by the governor who was a the Duke of Gloucester and there was a cup that was competed for by the infantry battalions and it was very strong in Japan. And there was a you had a mortar section, a machine gun section, a rifle platoon and you trained for months.
Everything had to be perfect. We were sent to a place they called Nipponbara. Oh it was way to hell up out on the coast line. Little beknownst to us it was an iron on an ironstone ridge and we were in a camp and the camp was in a U and when they put the tent up none a the snakes could get out. In one day we would a killed about forty-six snakes and they were all
of as we found out later non-poisonous and I was the mortar section sergeant, which I hated, and my boss was a lieutenant before he got Darcy Lachlan. Great bloke and he taught me all I wanted to know about mortars. He said, “You're doin’ it Muggleton whether you want to or not,” and so I did it and we used to fire into this copse
and because it was a great ranging place and I didn’t know that there was a little Buddha shrine or anything there. So they reckon I was and we got all these storms and lightning and one day I go over and after this storm and there’s blokes sittin’ on their stretchers everywhere like dogs with distemper frothing at the mouth. They’d been struck by lightning. You know minor strikes and I
got the blame for it because I blew the tip off part and we would a been up there over there for months and months training. And our platoon sergeant, the mortar platoon sergeant his name was Joe the Ghost they christened him cause he never worked. The only thing Joe ever did was mark the roll book and go to the boozer [pub]. So he’d had
a hard, can I tell a joke? Had a hard day this day and we used to come home and you’d have to clean the mortars every time you come off the range. And when we get up to the mess we had a little sergeant’s mess in a marquee and an officers' mess on the ridge away from company headquarters and Joe was drunk and I really got stuck about him. “Here’s me out on the range all day burnt, wind burnt and you're full.” So
he decided well the best part a the thing was to go to bed but he went to bed in the nude and put his put the mosquito net over him. So our CO wouldn’t let ya drink, well we were always on the range anyhow, so when we came in and cleaned up and had our shower and that, which we had down on the little creek with those buckets. And he we’d have a few beers before dinner and then have dinner and probably have a few beers after because we always had
an early night and my tent and Joe Veitch’s were alongside the net. And down in the creek were all these frogs, millions a little frogs about this long and in those days you used to get a fifty Nuffield free bags of cigarettes a week I think it was. So Jimmy Thorogood gave me this tin. He said, “Here,” I said, “I want something to get some frogs in,” and he said, “Here.” So I went down and I filled it up with frogs
and these blokes knew what I was gonna do and I lifted up the tent, edge of the mosquito net and spread 'em all on the end of his stretcher and they just went and they just sprung all over him and the next minute this scream come out. He took off in the nude with this mosquito net hangin’ and he couldn’t run far because he got tangled up but it cured him a drinking when we were out working during the day.
Anyhow we worked there for a long, oh we were there for months and the battalion by this time was in Okayama and the group from Australia come up and tested us and went through all this. When it was completed they said, “Oh you won the Gloucester Cup,” which was a great thrill after about six months work you know day, every day for seven days a week. And in, and Fergie who was our company commander as I said before, the
2IC, got us into a Japanese hotel for a fortnight right on the sea and we were free to do whatever we want. We were disciplined, we weren’t allowed to run away to villages and that, and the fishing fleet’d go through of a morning so this mate a mine and I decided we would go fishing with them. So we gave 'em a hoy one mornin’ and we had a canoe or something or someone rowed us out in an old rowing boat
and anyhow didn’t know any Japanese but we made 'em understand that we want to go fishing with 'em. So Kel and I went out all day and they're catchin’ these fish. Now the Japanese they have when they catch the fish they put 'em in this tank and had it alive. These you know they're pullin’ fish in and hand over fish. Like in two days, they used to pick us up every mornin’ and drop us at night, in two days I caught a toad about that long and Kel caught a black and
white fish. I said, “That’s got a collar or a jumper on.” That’s all we got. Never got another fish and these characters pullin’ 'em in usin’ the same bait.
What was their secret do you think?
Don’t know. Must’a talked to 'em or something. Anyhow we had a great time. That’s how we used to fill in our day and it was oh a really great holiday and I think it was sort of a leave, at one stage it was a leave (UNCLEAR) from the Brits [British] because the Brits had a fairly firm base in Okayama.
Anyhow went in and finished the two weeks. We went to Okayama back to the battalion, which was a shock to the system because we were back within a battalion after bein’ by ourselves for so long and everyone’s sayin’, “Oh,” even the house girls are sayin’ “Tommysan” “Dassisan” you know and we had a game a oh we used to play a lot a sports in those days. It was a terrific place because
in the battalion in those days, as I said before, you were like a big family. Had all your mates, you were close knit and no matter where you went in sport whether you were playing or not you always had your supporters and we played a hell of a lot of sport. I remember breakin’ my leg there and I had to go all the way down to Iwo Jima to get it plastered and we were there for a few months and then we went back down to Hiro
but our life in Japan was really good because the simple reason you did your training, you did a lot a guard duties. You had your own laundries within the battalion and the soldiers were perfectly dressed. You never seen soldiers dressed like 'em and you’d do your guard duties in Tokyo or your normal guard duties around Kure. You had any amount a sports that you wanted to play and it was really a
great period of my service and everyone was the same. Mind you we had a few no hopers too but you get them in every walk a life. We but we were a big family and we looked after 'em and oh we run another we had a training establishment up at a place called Haramura. You heard’a Haramura? You it’s a wonder you haven’t interviewed someone that’s been to Haramura.
Well it was another naval college training area and we were the first to go there and we used to do a lot of field training. Go up from the battalion at Hiro and the reason we were in Hiro at this stage is because 1 and 2 Battalion had already come home and we thought we were coming home too because you know things had run down in Japan and the war rumours started to spread in
about Korea and but we were by that stage we were a pretty run down battalion because we were only would a been half strength I suppose. Only sufficient to supply guards and things like that but a great life. Well paid. Holiday.
What was the atmosphere of the people in Japan? I mean how did the locals respond to…?
Initially when in initially we went there I think they looked at us as barbarians, I really do and we looked at them you didn’t know what to think or what was going to happen and I can remember reading I’d read up on kamikaze pilots right, and this period that we were with the provos for the that week I was
walking along the streets of Kure and everyone these two people come along and everyone got off the footpath. I didn’t know what the hell was goin’ on but we continued on whatever we, well we were patrolling. It was I forget we used to go in pairs I think and I didn’t find out ‘til later that they were kamikazes, trained kamikazes and of course they were like gods and treated like gods. People got out a their way but in later years when I’d had
I sort a followed it up and I watched documentaries on 'em and matter of fact there was on either Discovery channel or one of 'em not long ago about all the pilots. They just couldn’t get enough and the reason these people were talkin’ about the kamikaze pilots because they were the instructors and weren’t allowed to fly and but generally it started to ease off and I think the word might a spread because within
your battalion you had your messes. Normally your barmen and stewards in your officers' and sergeants' messes were Japanese, that could speak some type a English. In the laundries the cooks, most of the mess staff were Japanese and I think they thought that we weren’t as bad the barbarians that we were cracked
up to be and then you had what they called house girls who looked after your rooms and things of that nature and generally they I think that after the first few months tensions sort of eased and the time I spent there I got on quite well with the Japanese as a matter of fact and the little barman we had you used to call him Yuki-san which means ‘snow'.
As a matter of fact I had a racing bike with a the mate a mate of mine we gave it to him when we went to Korea. There was all hell to play over this racing bike because my mate’s mother reckoned it was, she gave it to him and it shouldn’t a been given away or shouldn’t a been sold but we bought the bike off another bloke. But anyhow this Yuki-san I’ve never seen him since because all when we left 3 Battalion
had the best set a silver and we’d just ordered I think I forget if it was a seventy piece or a hundred piece dinner set with the battalion crest on it for the sergeants' mess and it was all put into storage and none of it was ever got. It was all broken into. Even our trunks. I never got a thing when I came back from Korea. Not a thing. All gone. As a matter of fact I don’t know really what
I had. I know I had a lot a football stuff and things that I’d put away in trunks and that but we never got a thing.
What was your job in Kurashiki?
What was your role in Kurashiki?
Oh, I got promoted to a sergeant as a mortar sergeant and we trained for mortars ‘til I was blue in the face and I will not pull any punches, I hated mortars. And
we did a lot of we did a lot of basic training in all weapons but then again you did a hell of a lot of parade ground work because your main apart from your patrolling you used to go out and patrol the Hiroshima area, Iwo Jima when we were over there looking for caves and ammunition and things like that. And we would have walked miles and miles at Hiroshima
out in the hills and that lookin’ for stuff and that’s generally when we first went there that was actually our role in Kurashiki ‘til they found they reckoned they’d found everything you know. And all the demolition experts had said, “Yes, we’ve got it all,” or “We think we’ve got it all.”
Did you find anything?
Oh yeah, we found a lot of ammunition, weapons. Found a lot a things in Iwo Jima. See we were one of
the first to go to the island of Iwo Jima, the two islands, we actually had our hospital there initially the 130th AGH [Australian General Hospital] but we and if you got malaria, which I got regularly then. You would a been taken by boat from Kurashiki to the hospital and I did go over because in later years to play football there because I used to represent football and it was a nice island. As a matter of fact I went
into it was a naval academy when we first went in there and I we went into this what was the academy and remember the Prince of Wales and the Repulse that got sunk off Singapore? There was an oil painting of these two and through my mind, not being a thief, I thought, “I ought to knock off knock those off because they will be knocked off,” and I thought, “No, I’d better not. I’ll only get meself into trouble.”
We go back the next mornin’. The place was locked up and they're gone but Iwo Jima was an interesting place because it was all tunnels and they had I I’m not too sure if it was a submarine base but right alongside the island was this massive battleship that had been sunk. And’a course Kure was a very large naval port, probably still is, but that generally what we did when we first
got to Japan.
What was Hiroshima like?
Very bare. Nothing. Just dust. Terrible when you look at it. For miles and but they resurrected the area pretty quick and of all things at the point of impact they had a blasted canteen there. Australia’s put a canteen there in later years.
So you go in there if sightseers and that if you went for a tour or goin’ to Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was a sacred island. It’s still there. They’ve had a they’ve probably still got a white horse but it wouldn’t be the same white the sacred horse used to be stabled and a beautiful place. I think in the latter part the Australians had a recuperation set up there and they also had a hostel because I remember goin’ there when Thel
and I, when I went back on my five days R&R [Rest and Recreation] but a beautiful island but generally we were very well occupied in Japan through guards. Initially we worked hard. Lots and lots of area we covered on foot. You’d come into these villages at night and of course the old mayor’d present the platoon commander and the platoon sergeant with these great flagons of saki.
Never, ever could take to saki. I think there’s probably some in there my daughter brought me back from Japan once on a trip she went overseas. Never drank it. I could never take it. I know blokes who used to drink bottles of it. Do you like it?
I didn’t mind it actually, yeah.
You're supposed to drink it warm.
How did you meet your wife?
I often ask her that.
I think in the latter part when we were at Hiro, before Korea, our pay sergeant met a lass who was a nurse at the hospital and I don’t know if I was best man. I still don’t remember. I’ll have to go and look at the photos it was that long ago and I was either there as a guest and
a mate a mine was there as best man or something. Anyhow he finished up getting engaged to Thel’s friend, although we were all friends these three, and I might a been best man at his wedding. And I think I might have gone to Joan Simpson’s house at one stage and Thel was there but I never used to we were only discussing this not long ago looking through old photographs.
You know the old nostalgic thing and I said to her, “Really, how did I meet you?” and she said, “At Joan’s,” and I said, “I can remember this lass,” she was a nurse too inviting a bloke a good friend a mine, Temple Lesley, we went into the hospital. And I never used to go to the hospital and they’d invited us to a dance and I got
into all the trouble in the world because Ruby was a real character. Lovely person but she was a real wag. Anyhow somehow I finished down talkin’ to Thel, see, and when I got come back I really got blasted. So I didn’t go over there. I said to the my mate, “Well I’m not goin’ in there again.” Anyhow we I was in there on guard duty and you used to the sergeant used to sleep at the hospital. You used to guard the
Kure docks and the C-in-C’s [Commander-in-Chief’s] residence and that and I think I saw Thel a couple a times and then it just sort a went from there and then what happened? Oh, the battalion was coming home to Australia and this is before the war started, the Korean War, and bein’ a mortar man
they sent me, another corporal and Lieutenant Bennett. Now Lieutenant Bennett is Sir Phil Bennett who was governor of Tasmania for years. We were all sent home to do a mortar course at the school of infantry at Seymour and when this course finished we were supposed to go to Enoggera as the advance party because to receive the battalion when it came back. Anyhow only we did about I don’t know how long, probably two three, four weeks I just forget
of the course and it was Friday night and you always worked an extra period during the week so that they could get the people that went to the cities away at three o'clock on Friday and anyway the CO said he wanted to see us. He said, “You people are do you want to go to war?” And we said, “What are ya talkin’ about?” And he said, “Your battalion has been listed to go to Korea. Do you want to go back to your battalion?
If you want to go back to your battalion you’ve got to volunteer, sign this document.” So we signed it. We wanted to go back to the battalion and we signed the doc and we were on the train that night. Got as far as eastern command personnel depot and I think they sent the corporal first, lieutenant second and me last. And I remember givin’ some conman and I gave him a couple a quid, he was an ex-RSM mind you, to send this good
ray a hat I had a mine I had with a parrot feather in I used to wear to the races home to my mother. She never ever received the hat and I gave him some money to send and she never, ever received the money either. Anyhow I eventually got back to Japan but prior to me coming home I went in to see Thel one night. You used to be able to get a what they called a taxi if you wanted to go to Kure. So I went in on the dupe
and sort a one thing come to the other, “Now you're goin’ home and I won’t see ya again,” sort a thing. So we decided to get engaged. When I got to Sydney I said to Phil Bennett, we were always good friends, and still are. I said, “Where can I buy an engagement ring?” “Oh I’ve been through that,” he said, “I’ll I know just the place.” Went down this place and got an engagement ring or something and I had the measurements and sent it
back to her. And I don’t know if it was too small or too large or what had happened but I think it fitted okay. And it went from there and then she stayed at the hospital while I was in Korea and some of her friends had by the time I finished in Korea I don’t know where the others went to. They’d already gone home the people our friends who got married.
Where did you get married?
In Japan. Kure.
Can you tell us about the ceremony?
Yeah. Very good. I had a night
out, the buck’s night the night before or two nights before and we played football and a course in those days you had short back and sides and I had these scars, blood scars all at the back a me neck. Probably still got if I could find the photograph and the nurses and the hospital staff put on everything. Got married in a chapel an RC [Roman Catholic]
church in Kure, which was built by the army, and a friend of ours old Father Bryson married us. And we had the reception at what I always call 130th AGH but I think by then it had changed because we’d gone to Korea to the war and they changed it to BRITCOM [British Commonwealth] base hospital or somethin’ but I always called it 130 AGH. And had the reception here and at midnight we were taken by someone in a
car who owned a car to Hiro and we got the train to Tokyo and we didn’t have any accommodation in Tokyo and I stayed at in the sergeants' messes and she stayed at the hospital and the next day a mate a mine and his
That was your wedding night?
Yeah, that was our wedding night but it was great. They really looked after us and we had to go to Yokohama and this bloke was
you have two when you're overseas or in those days you have two weddings. One church wedding and then you have to get married at the British consulate or embassy. So we go out to Yokohama. This bloke drove us too and he I’ll tell ya about it as I progress they have a British flag across a bare table and an Australian flag and you just go through a brief ceremony and then you are legally married
and this massive hotel, and I’m not kidding I don’t think there’s one in Australia like it. It was called the Kona Hotel. Before you go I’ll show you some snaps of it and it was supposed to be the story goes that General Robinson beat general, oh I don’t know who it was, one a the generals, American general and they had a bet. Whoever won the golf tournament would
take this over because it was Japanese. It had a eighteen hole golf course, a nine hole golf course, swimming pools. It had everything and it was magnificent. Set on the sea. Isolated. Magnificent grounds and I’d never, ever been there but anyhow I had months and months a leave so they gave me three weeks leave. So I had three weeks and for nothing apart from
what I spent on…
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 06
Yeah, anyhow we arrive at Kona and I’d never seen Kona before and it was absolutely magnificent. I knew that it was a leave hostel but I never had an opportunity to get there and I was there for free for three weeks and it cost me one and six a day sterling for Thel. Big dough. Absolutely magnificent. Anyhow during
our honeymoon I get a call from my mate, who’d already come out a Korea as I had and said, “We're gotta go back to Korea.” I said, “What a time to tell me.” I said, “When?” “Oh,” he said, “they're thinking about it,” and I get a phone call the following day and he said, “No we haven’t gotta go back to Korea.” I said, “Thank god for that” because we’d had a rotten time in Korea and I said, “What was all the kerfuffle over?” And he said, “Oh they
made a mistake. Those, the originals of the battalion, did nine months instead of twelve months.” Anyhow I think apart from my wife I finished up at Kona with three painted ties, a dozen golf balls and nothing out a three hundred pound sterling.
Pretty good honeymoon.
It is. I often wonder what became of it.
What was the room like?
Terrific. First class and
the swimming pools you sort a looked out a the dining halls over the swimming pools and there was a cliff and you could hear these divers. You know they train these girl divers and you’d hear 'em whistling as they come up. You ever read about them? And you’d hear them every day. I forget what they dived for but I was never fortunate enough to go back there. Oh god, it was a lovely place but I don’t know whatever became of the place
and I think you must a had an in to get there because I was very fortunate insomuch as the major in charge of the registrar, the registrar of the hospital. Between him and my company commander they’d organised, see when you came out on your five days leave you had to go to Tokyo from Korea and from the time you come out a the
front line you’d you had five days when you arrived in Japan. Well he’d they’d between 'em fixed it up so that I could go to Kure instead of Tokyo for my five days and the same when I finished my time. Now I can still not understand how I had all these leave and no one ever took any off it. I arrived in Japan with nothing, dirty filthy clothes and I had no someone knocked off
my gear. And I stayed at the 1 Sig [Signals] Regiment when I was waiting you know for our wedding to come off and no one ever took any leave off me. I was just a wandering minstrel no one wanted and when I we got married and come back off the three weeks leave they someone rang me up and says, “Oh Muggo you got a report to 1 RHU, that’s your new posting.” Had a married quarter and everything.
Nothing to worry about. It was terrific.
What did you like about Thelma?
Oh, I don’t know. Something probably just caught my eye and that was it.
What was she doing?
She was in medical records and no, I’ve been lucky. Magnificent wife and
yeah, I struck gold. I don’t know it I had no idea you know that I’d meet someone and get married and least of all my mother, who got the shock of her life when I told her. And that was the only time I become famous at Texas apart from the things I did before durin’ the army when they put this photograph on what was I then? A sergeant. “Sergeant Muggleton marriages Corporal Fleming,” in the local newspaper.
What was the British consulate wedding ceremony like?
Pretty drab. Drab and short. I didn’t oh they congratulate you and I don’t think they even smiled and I had a this character he was one of the few blokes I knew in Japan that had a car, a civilian car, and he was a how I got to know him I don’t know. Paddy someone. I’ve forgotten his name. I still try to remember
his name but he was in Tokyo and he was goin’ down to Kona on leave. He says, “Oh I’ll fix youse up. I’ll drive you to Yokohama.” Didn’t have to worry about getting trains or getting to Kona or anything. I was looked after like a king. King and queen a Japan. Yeah, really great but we weren’t there long after we got married because they decided that
the married people though a lot had gone home and I think what was I, about six months instructing at RHU and they didn’t mind you know I’d been in Japan that long and I didn’t and once you’ve been to another war you're sort of non compos mentis anyhow. You don’t know what you want and you sort of don’t want to stay in the same area anyhow. You want to get
goin’ and we had a crook trip home because she gets seasick and she was expecting our eldest daughter and coming through Sydney Heads we oh an old mate a mine, he died not long ago. He was a brigadier. We were playin’ poker. The only time I’ve ever had a royal routine comin’ through the Sydney Heads and he say, “We’ll stay up
all night to see the Heads, right?” It was that long we’d seen 'em. Like you know how much money I won? Ninepence for a royal routine and that was
Tom I just want to clear something up. I’m not sure were you in yeah, I just wanted to clear up whether you were in Korea before you actually got married. Did you actually…?
You were. So we were sort of confused. You went to Japan and then you went to Korea. So can you just tell us the
chronological order of going to Japan, getting married and
Went to Japan and our tour was nearly two of the battalions came home and it was running down and we were supposed to came home three of us that were sent home to a course. And before I came back we became engaged. I can remember because we had a Japanese driver and we were both in the back of a jeep. So he didn’t understand what I asked her anyhow and
when we came home the battalion was listed to go to Korea and they we only did two or three weeks of the course and when I went back I used to see her before we went, when we weren’t out in the field. And we were engaged when I went to Korea and when I came out on five days R&R they organised for me to go to Kure to see her. Then when I come out we got married. They must a organised that because it didn’t have wait too long.
Okay. So you actually went to Korea, fighting in Korea while you were engaged?
Oh okay. So how did Thelma react to you leaving to go to Korea?
Not too good. Very sad in actual fact because when we sailed, god I forget when we sailed. It was some time in September. 1950 and it was pouring rain and I can remember her and a few of the Japanese wives, which they
didn’t have weren’t supposed to have in those days but a lot of 'em came back to Australia and yeah it was very sad. I used to write to her when I could, which wasn’t too often in the early stages or it wasn’t too often period in Korea because Korea, we only had the one night you know because you went from it’s not that far from Japan to Korea. We had
I forget what ship we went on. American Victory I think. One of the American ships.
What did you think about leaving Thelma behind to go and fight another war?
Oh well it was a it was like going with one family and leaving another cause I’d been with the battalion so long you know you were sort of part of a real family. I was sad but I couldn’t get out of it because I’d been
part of I did I wouldn’t have got out of it anyhow because I would a felt guilty for the rest of my life or one weighed one thing up against the other.
While you were in Japan, at what point did you actually realise that there might be a war in Korea that you would have to go to?
Didn’t know anything about it. Never even the few weeks before we came back to Australia to do the course, and neither did the battalion. They knew
nothing about it. So we were back in Australia oh they must a started to do something about it. No, never heard a word. No rumours whatsoever.
So what was your reaction when you realised you were going to go there?
Part of a soldier’s life sort a thing. Well I didn’t want to stay, having been with the battalion so long and being home with a couple of mates I wanted to get back to the battalion as quick as I could.
And apart from that fact, Thel was there and it didn’t really worry me at that stage. All I wanted to do was to get like back home to the battalion cause we used to call it home.
So tell us about going to Korea.
Well I think we sailed on the 26th. Arrived in Pusan in the afternoon.
Got off the ship and we was moved by train to a place called to a river, a dry river at Taegu and we went in the oldest train I think in the world. It I think the it the seats were made out a those old vegetable boxes and we formed up there as a battalion. We weren’t I suppose there a couple a days and a course we had all our vehicles as well, what
we didn’t have sufficient vehicles to move a battalion. It was only more or less your echelon vehicles and we were there a couple a days. Did we moved into a what you call a sorting out period and we patrolled what was an operation what it was called the Plum Pudding Hills and what did we lose? We got a captain killed and a couple a blokes wounded or three blokes wounded
by mainly mines and well it was a mine. Blew a carrier up. The mortar platoon and machine gunners were allocated carriers, the old World War well I reckon they were Crimean War but they were supposed to be World War II carriers. They were absolutely useless and I was in the mortar platoon at the time as mortar fire controller and we worked in the Plum Pudding Hills
for a while and then they decided that they would move us to Seoul. Now most a lot of us went by road but the rifle companies with no vehicles they flew to Kimpo airport. Took us three or four days to get there because these carriers kept breakin’ down and that. We arrived that area for awhile and then we they decided that they were gonna break out and move north.
So they broke out and they moved north and in actual fact there was no really fighting because the Chinese hadn’t entered the war at that stage and we were fighting North Koreans. So we moved north and but the rifle companies were always in the hills. They were either patrolling on the hills and the battalion was on vehicles going up the road. Now the roads in Korea those days
were what you see in you know in Cambodia and that. Tracks between paddy fields. That’s all they were. There was no bitumen road and they were very narrow and you couldn’t pass if one was goin’ south and the other one was north you had to find somewhere where you could put your vehicle before the other one could pass. Now we had oh a lot a contacts but no actual fierce fighting and we’d
had a contact out of this is we were in northern Viet ah northern Vietnam, northern Korea and on the way at Khe Sanh or somewhere the battalion headquarters with the help of oh what? B Company or platoon these North Koreans, there was fifteen hundred of 'em, surrendered. They thought we were Russians and in actual fact the battalion 2IC was the
leader of the push and he pulled out his weapons and said, “Righto, we're all prisoners.” So they took fifteen hundred prisoners and the only reason was that they thought we were Russians and come too close and then they got surrounded but as we got north we would a won the race, not that we was interested in any race into the northern Korea capital P'yongyang. But MacArthur wanted his first cavalry division, which was his household cavalry in
Japan, he wanted them in first. So we got put in reserve and they went in and took P'yongyang but they never had a shot fired at 'em. So when that was all sorted out after two or three days we started to move north again and we got out of wasn’t far out of the northern Korean capital, the capital that we run into trouble. At the time I was with C Company as a mortar fire
controller and I the company commander asked me to bring down full mortar fire so I fired one round a smoke because we were in a lot a trees and that and I heard it land but we couldn’t see it. And then we got an order from battalion that there was to be no fighting because one, 87 Airborne Division had dropped and were cut off and we were advancing. So C Company took the advance and oh I don’t know how many they took a lot a prisoners,
killed hundreds of North Koreans and we had we didn’t get anyone killed. We had about ten wounded I think. It’s known as the battle of the apple orchard and…
Why was it called that?
Because it was actually in an orchard. It was on the left of the road and I walked across with someone else across the road, it was only a dirt track like you see out in the bush and I heard a noise and I said to this
chap, whoever I was with, might a been a couple a blokes with me. I said, “There’s someone over there.” So we walk over and it looked as though a bulldozer you know how bulldozer’ll make a scrape out when they drop their blades and then lift it and here’s about eight paratroopers. Spotless they were. They hadn’t been doing any fighting. They must a got when they dropped and got cut off and he says, “Good god Aussie are we glad to see you.” So we got 'em back and
took 'em over to the company headquarters alongside the along the road and never, ever seen 'em after that although they were known as the their nickname was the Gasasans. Now gasa means an umbrella or something in Japanese cause they were paratroopers and that’s why they gave 'em the Christian the name of Gasasan. We the battalion has a lot a dealings with 'em when you know to and from with their association and our association
and the Battle of Broken Bridge was a very good, what would you call it action for the battalion because it even though we got a lot a reinforcements before we left to go to Korea about a battalion, so four hundred men. They’d hadn’t been sorted out in a battle in the field. It was a good time to sort 'em out. So it was a feather in the cap of the battalion and the brigadier said so.
So you were talking about the Battle of Broken Bridge then.
Well you ment…
Oh, you mentioned Broken Bridge sorry, I…
I thought, yeah so I was confused.
Well I’m ahead a myself.
So you're yet to reach Broken Bridge?
We hadn’t reached the Broken Bridge. A couple a days later we did. Now the Broken, it was a massive bridge but they’d blown it and the river oh I forget the river Taedong or something and there was no
one on the south side but there was a lot a people on the northern side. I was with B Company at the time and A and B Company managed to get across but no one else could and C Company was in reserve and Don Company went down to the down the river to hold a crossing so they could get the vehicles through the next day. But when we got across the river we struck trouble, really big trouble,
and because people don’t realise this, but when we were in Japan we were trained very quickly on 3.5 and 2.5 rocket launchers, which we used against the armour and that night B Company was on one side a the road. And A Company was on the other and down come the tanks, the North Korean tanks and motor bikes and goodness knows what. So they
fired a the tank fired and there was an American artillery officer with B Company headquarters and it hit him straight through the neck, blew his head off and caused a lot a trouble. Now they tried to get these 3.5 rocket launchers working but they were still had a lot a grease on 'em and well let’s face it, we weren’t proficient in it or efficient I should say because we never had enough training in it.
Mind you in a couple a days we did and so they fired rockets and they didn’t go and they fired everything, Brens and what have you. It didn’t affect the tanks but it affected the motor cycles and things like that and a Russian jeep and it was pretty hectic. We had a couple killed or we had more. I think we got lost an officer and a couple a sergeants and some privates and quite a few wounded.
We stabilised there the next morning and sent out patrols and being an MFC [Mortar Fire Controller] I had this beautiful target, it was about oh about five to eight hundred yards ahead and I called back to the base plate position to put down severe fire from the mortars. And we had these American walkie talkies cause once you turned the corner they wouldn’t work. So I called and called and I even walked
over to the river bank and yelled out and no one took any notice of me and so they disappeared. There was tanks and everything and so in the afternoon I decided to, “Right, cross the river and go down to the border base plate position,” and when I got there I struck the OC and he said, “What are you doing here?” and I said, “I’ve come to get a radio.” “You have left,” what did he say, “You have deserted.” I said,
“What a heap a garbage,” and I said, “I haven’t had a radio. Yesterday afternoon when I had a target youse didn’t have any mortar bombs.” I said, “This morning when I good view of a target I got no communication.” Anyhow we sorted it out. He decided that he wouldn’t court martial me and they gave me an up to date radio, which the Brits had already had but we’d only got 'em that day apparently. So I crossed the river and went back to the company and
we had a lot a trouble there and, at the Broken Bridge. And years later a chap that was a platoon commander at the apple orchard had a was at a conference and he reckoned the Battle of the Broken Bridge was classified as a skirmish. So I wrote an article and told 'em, “If you're lookin’ down the barrel of a 234 tank I got news for him. It’s not a skirmish,”
and it went down like a lead balloon because he was a general and I was a civvy [civilian] at that stage but it was we had a really rough time. I suppose we were there a couple a days and then we moved further north and when we started moving I was transferred to Don Company. That’s as an MFC you were moved everywhere.
Just before you go there can we talk a little bit more about Broken Bridge?
Before you keep going.
So can you describe the conditions that you were actually working in in Korea? The climate and the environment and…
Well I it I forget when that was. That was before we got into the it was normal hot weather. We were poorly equipped because we went with 1945 patent equipment. We had what, .303
rifles. Owen guns, Bren guns. 3.5 rocket launchers was a the only thing we had for against the tanks and we had poor equipment and poor clothing because we were in those old SD uniforms you saw in that old photo of the sergeant and that’s all we had and we had steel helmets. Well I think you could follow the Australians in Korea because they discarded their steel helmet at every opportunity and put their slouched hats on. So not too many
people had steel helmets by that stage but the…
Why was that? Why did you discard them?
Because they're useless. They give you a headache. They're hard to carry and I don’t know you can’t get used to wearing 'em. They might a wore them in the Middle East and that but we never, ever wore 'em. We just preferred to wear our slouched hats so we threw 'em and so there was a few hundred dollars worth a steel
helmets from the time we left Pusan ‘til we got to North Korea.
Did you have…
Oh the condit…
Did you have a sense at the time that you were under equipped?
Yeah. We knew we were under equipped and not only that, we knew our communications weren’t up to scratch but the fortunately they rectified that quickly and we didn’t have any rations that you could put out
and carry for twenty four hours in those days, see. You still had the old dog biscuits and bully beef I suppose and you hardly ever got a hot meal when you were on the move because you just don’t have the facilities but fortunately about that time we were a we were allotted the Americans' what they call the sea ration. There’s various types a sea rations but the one we got had three meals in it and you had
various types a meals like chicken and vegetables, small tin. Chicken and vegetables, ham and lima beans, hamburgers, pork and ham which there’s I think the biggest amount a ham amongst the pork ah correction the beans was a piece as big as your little finger nail. That’s all you ever found in it and they were very good rations. Plus you got a packet a cigarettes, toilet rolls, two small tins of fruit and
they were excellent and when a company was in position because I liked ham and I liked chicken and vegetables. My boss liked ham and lima beans so you used to swap 'em or if you got sick of eating one you’d swap with someone else who wanted to swap ya. So they were a really good ration and we didn’t have any trouble carryin’ 'em because we can put 'em in our plastic pouches and that and the conditions at the Broken Bridge apart, well they weren’t too bad because it was summer time
and we although our uniform we were had was rotten and uncomfortable and we hadn’t washed and or that for days. As a matter of fact I think the first time that we ever got a bath in Korea or a wash in Korea was about three months later, I’m not kiddin’, because you're on the move all the time.
What was your brief before you actually arrived in Korea about what you would be
trying to achieve?
Oh I wouldn’t have a I would not have a clue because they never gave us any brief. They just said we were going to Korea and we’d be attached to the Americans but we were always attached to we would be with one American formation one week or two days and then we’d be with another one. So you never knew where you were and I’m sure commanders knew. There’s a couple a books there that I’ve got. They
didn’t know where they were either. So it was pretty haphazard and Americans, don’t think I’m knocking them all the time, but they go straight forward or straight back and they don’t go to the flanks or look after the hills and they don’t patrol. So they got a problem and they had a problem there because they took their ground troops from Japan who’d been doin’ guard duties and things like that. And they probably weren’t,
although we weren’t very much further advanced anyhow because that’s what we were doing but at least we had a few exercises and we did a lot a rifle work, where they didn’t.
So why did you think you were in Korea?
Fighting communists. That was the main aim and at that stage no one liked communism and a soldier goes where his unit goes
and you don’t I think when they lined the battalion up I wasn’t there. “All those that volunteered to go take a pace forward,” and there was only a half a dozen that didn’t take a pace forward and they were posted out to guard duties in Tokyo. I don’t know how you’d feel if you didn’t take a pace forward but this bloke still writes to me occasionally but I’ve never met I haven’t
seen him since.
At what stage was the 3 RAR [Royal Australian Regiment] formed?
So that was prior to that…
Prior to going to Korea and now your unit joined that regiment?
We were 3 RAR yeah. We initially they were 67 ah correction, 65, 66 and 67 Battalions. Then when they gave 'em royal assents go made the regiment 1 Battalion
became correction, 65 became 1 Battalion, 66 became 2 and 67 became 3. But when the others came home I think they came home in '48 and we stayed there. So we stayed with the battalion the whole time except that they changed the name and they had a royal instead of Australian battalion at one stage.
Did that change anything for you being…
…part of that?
Nothing. They were just the same. Same people. Same commanders. Same organisation except
we were probably we did get people from other battalions that wanted to stay and didn’t go home with their battalions, which were quite good because there was some valued people come across. But we still had a see our initial reinforcements to build up the battalion came from 1 and 2 Battalion at home but the majority of the reinforcements later, well
we got some then was from K Force [Korea Force], special enlistments for Korea.
So when you, you landed in a in Korea and very shortly afterwards you had your first casualties?
And you sort of des you described that briefly before but what exactly happened that those people were killed?
Well he was in he didn’t know he was in a mined area and it wasn’t marked and the carrier went across this mine and it can happen anywhere.
See in Vietnam we lost a lot a people through our own mines because the Vietcong used to thieve 'em cause the minefields weren’t under control of fire all the time and they became experts at it.
But that mine in Korea would that have been put there by the North Koreans?
Oh it would a been put there by the North Koreans when they're done. They push down to the Pusan triangle. They almost got before the Americans came into the war on the Pusan
triangle they were in big trouble. They almost got pushed out and the push back a course. If it had been probably a different so try if the Chinese had a been in the war at that time because they totally different fighters than the North Koreans.
How did you find the North Koreans compared with your experience in New Guinea…
…fighting the Japanese?
Not as good as a Jap. Not as good a fighter as the Japs and nowhere near as good a fighter as the Chinese.
Why do you say that?
Because they're not as efficient and they won’t stay and well a funny thing about Koreans they're very brutal. They are brutal, that’s their nature and they're very hard to get on with or a lot I have a lot a friends, Korean friends here that we did do work for 'em. I’m no longer involved with 'em because I’m not president any more and they're nice people but the you can get brutal people and they were in the POW [Prisoner of War] camps in
Changi and on the Burma railway. And they're no different when they you know are up against it and most of our POWs were under North Koreans in the POW camps and but as a fighting soldier then they weren’t to the standard of the Japanese were in New Guinea or the Chinese were to be in future months.
So that situation where you actually captured fifteen hundred Koreans, can you describe that scene a little bit more?
Well I don’t know much about it because I was in a rifle company up in the hills but apparently they saw all these, it was at a place called Khe Sanh I think it was. Yeah, or we’ll say it was. It was somewhere around that area and they just came marching along the road, think they were comin’ to see their comrades but they turned out to be their enemy
and they were North Koreans, they weren’t Chinese and so we were lucky and they were taken by more or less non combatants because battalion headquarters is not armed to fight. You know they're got weapons but they're not armed to fight a battle and they're not in the hills. They haven’t got a defensive position like the companies have and that’s how it come about.
So they marched along,
discovered that they weren’t their…
It was too late.
But they didn’t put up any fight?
No, well they by then being a smart old head Colonel Ferguson had already organised part a B Company. They had 'em under rifle fire if needed and actual fact we didn’t know anything about it ‘til the next day cause you're in rifle companies are normally out in the hills.
What about the Battle of Apple Orchard? Did
you participate in that personally?
Yeah. I was with the…
So what was your role in that? What were you doing?
Waiting for a target to fire at, which I wasn’t allowed to do because of the Americans and they only used small arms. See, I was the mortar fire controller then. So I couldn’t fire anyhow because I was with the company commander.
From where you were could you actually see the actual combat?
So what happened? Can you describe that for us?
Well they the orchard was actually on a slope oh and little gullies and they’d already cut whatever they had in there within the orchard, could a been wheat or something, and they were in stacks. Now when the North Koreans started to get a belting they started comin’ out a these stacks because they were hiding in the stacks and C Company put on a rifle bayonet charge.
And they captured a hell of a lot and shot a hell of a lot and the others just disappeared. It was in no, you could see the lot of it and on the right side was timber, timber features, and on the left side was quite clear you know where they’d cleared through the orchard itself.
And did your battalion have many losses?
Nothing there. No killed we got a couple wounded that’s all. Broken Bridge we did.
So moving onto Broken Bridge then, you’ve said a couple of times that you really had a lot of trouble there. Can you go into a bit more detail about that?
Well we there was two companies that took the brunt of it, A and B Company, because they one was on the right of the line of advance and one was on the left and we had a river between us and battalion headquarters. At that stage we didn’t know,
well I didn’t know where C and D company were because they were further down. C Company was in reserve I think and D company were guarding the fjord where they were gonna put the vehicles across the followin’ morning. But it was a very hectic night and when you're under tank fire you know and machine gun fire and you're not properly dug in because we didn’t have time to dig in. By daylight we were dug in I can tell ya that.
you were when the firing started were you sort of taken by surprise?
Oh no, not really. We knew they were there. Well we didn’t know what strength they were in because some had already given themselves up, which was a bit of a falsehood in a lot a cases because you think, “Oh well they're tired. They're not gonna fight anyhow,” cause some of 'em already surrendered but they did fight and it was pretty we had a pretty bad night
at Broken Bridge and I was very upset when the bloke said it was a skirmish and that. The noise of a tank without it firing’s bad enough when you're in a little hole. All they need to run over the top a ya and we were only a low a very low ridge because the higher ridges was further out where they’d lined up the next morning when I had this good target and didn’t have any radio, any communications.
Can you tell us how you spent that night in Broken Bridge?
Cold and miserable even though it was in summer time and we wouldn’t a been any further than here to your car away from the tank. And these motor cycles and vehicles when they came in but fortunately the tank don’t know why just took off, which was lucky for us. If they’d a stayed there we’d a been
So how strong were their forces? How many Koreans would a been there do you think?
Oh I don’t know but it was a fairly large blocking force because in the days to come we really struck their actually final resistance I think would a been a couple a battalion strength. Not at the Broken Bridge but at Chongju, which was our next battle, which wasn’t far ahead. Oh about how far was it? About forty ks I suppose.
So that night at Broken Bridge, you spent the night cold and miserable.
Yeah. Cold and miserable.
Whether you're gonna make it or not. That goes through ya head and you're pretty useless because you got no communications. See my job was to if I would a had communications I probably well I couldn’t a done anything about the tanks and the people that were in close cause you're bringin’ mortar fire onto your own people but out on the following morning I
could have. I’d never seen a target like it in my life and nothing. They just escaped.
What did you have to defend yourself in that hole that you were in?
I in those days I think had an I had an Owen gun and they Owen gun and open in that type a warfare’s not much good at all. Okay in close quarters like jungle and by
that time the Own gun was more or less out a date but we hadn’t got the new sub machine guns and we didn’t get 'em for some years after but it was a good weapon the Owen gun for close protection.
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 07
And technically years later when I was instructin’ I was at the school of they were a very good weapon but you got to have time and be taught how to use 'em. And everything was rushed when we went to Korea. We just didn’t have the time to we had to do so many things but didn’t have time to do 'em and the you know the our main exercise, which we did at Haramura, was washed out. Everything was rushed and we had to go by a certain date
and so these things were, well they weren’t overlooked I don’t think. People thought they had they did have enough time to learn 'em but they didn’t because some of 'em were still had grease in 'em and they wouldn’t fire and some of 'em had all hooked up incorrectly. When you're fiddlin’ around in the dark with a weapon you want to know what you're doin’. Not something new where, “I think it’s here,” or, “I think it’s there.”
I mean we're rolling now but is it can you tell us without maybe mentioning names or anything what happened with the group that didn’t know how to use the…?
They just carried the weapon and didn’t know how to, they said someone said, “Well I’ll you should go down because we're in this area and there’s no one around and we're not within enemy contact and fire the rocket launcher.” And the bloke said, “I don’t know how to fire it,” and
the bloke carryin’ the rocket said, “I don’t know how to fire it either.” So that was an American oh I don’t know what it was near there. It was probably a base unit and someone went down and got hold of a sergeant who knew something about a rocket launcher and he just taught 'em in a matter of time. Dry day. Daylight and they were very efficient with it.
How long had they been carrying it?
Oh for a few days.
They were a very effective weapon against tanks but they weren’t effective at the Broken Bridge but they learnt quickly.
So that they had it at the Broken Bridge but they hadn’t perfected how to use it?
The people have written articles and said we did this and did that but you know I don’t believe everything that’s written in print
and no, and that’s the Broken Bridge all our what we did.
So what happened after the Broken Bridge?
After the Broken Bridge we moved forward. I went to Don Company and we were doin’ sweeps. We didn’t make any contacts and then they moved us up by vehicle. Now I’ll tell ya something here. When you're going forward the Americans would always provide you
with vehicles. When they bugged out you could never get a vehicle but we were moved, oh
What does that mean 'when they bugged out'?
When the run out and left us and we were taken by vehicle some distance and then we debussed because they had some spotter plane I think it was, if I remember correctly, said, “There’s our enemy at a certain area.” So the two
leading companies, Don Company was on the right and A Company on the left and I was with Don Company and then I was told to go to A Company. And by this time the CO had put Don Company on the left and A Company on the right and we run into lots a trouble. They had tanks which were built you know they had 'em in pits in against the sides a the hills and I forget how many tanks were knocked out in that day. We had a lot a trouble, both A and
D Company takin’ we A Company took the right hand hill and D Company took the left. Oh I’m not sure the number a tanks they knocked out. One a mate a mine knocked one out with a Bren gun. I don’t know how but he did. He won a silver, American silver star for it and we consolidated the position on the hill. Now when I got the company settled down I found that they had an MFC there, a
mate a mine, and I said, “What are you doin’ here?” He said, “I was sent to A Company,” and I said, “Well, A Company have got two MFCs now and Don Company had none.” So anyhow nothin’ you could do about it because we were in action and Don Company got a fairly good goin’ over. The North Korean resistance was fairly tough. I think it well in actual fact it was their last line of defence and I don’t know
what happened in D Company but they lost quite a few casualties. We had a lot a banzai. You know the Japanese used to charge forward calling out “Banzai, banzai.” Well the North Koreans did this night. Mortar fire didn’t seem to do any good with 'em and we had a little FFO [Forward Fire Officer], what they call an artillery forward officer. He was an
American and I said to him, “How close can you get your artillery shells?” And he said, “Well how close do you want 'em?” I said, “Well drop a few and see where it lands,” and I tell ya what, he stopped the banzai chargin’ because it shook our teeth and he I never seen that bloke again but he was a terrific forward observation officer. Really good and that stopped the banzai charging, or the banzai charges but we know knew that we’d killed a lot a people
that night but the next morning when the daylight come up not a body, cause they’d taken their bodies with 'em. But they’d had got bodies the afternoon before when we were advancing and takin’ there and Don Company at one stage during well we were havin’ trouble they got, well they weren’t over I suppose you’d call it over run but they knocked the North Koreans out and won and didn’t leave their position.
Now that was as far north as we went, that Chongju was our final battle going north. We consolidated that position with A on the right, I don’t know where the other companies were, B and Don on the left and A on the right and we were moved I think about two days later into a reserve position and the CO, they were forward enough. They used to the North Koreans used to fire these mountain guns
and one shell came across and a splinter hit no one else but hit the CO and he died a couple a days later. Now we an American recce combat team, which is about a brigade strength, went through us and they were gonna do wonders. They were gonna go the Yalu River. See the idea was to get to the Yalu River the between the river runs between North Korea and Manchuria and I
forget how far it was, probably thirty four kilometres. Well thirty four kilometres is not far if you were you're going by vehicle and they were going by vehicle but the next day they run over the top of us cause the Chinese came in and that was totally different. Cause the Chinese had moved their
Before you go to the Chinese can the tell us a little bit more about the CO. How much did you know him and how did it affect the group when that happened?
Well the battalion was pretty down for a few days
because he was a battalion he came to the battalion prior to us going to Korea and he wasn’t with us long, probably. Oh, mightn’t a been a month because the colonel that we had was moved on and Green was called, I think he came from staff college and he had about four weeks. Month, say four to six weeks and he sort a run the battalion in but he
was a brilliant tactician and everyone liked him, even thought they didn’t actually some of 'em probably never, ever seen him and the rifle companies never seen much of him because the simple reason you BHQ [Battalion Headquarters] was moving along the roads and the companies were out on the flanks to the right and to the left. But those that knew him and the company commanders and that that had dealings with him, takin’ their orders from their own groups, thought the world of him
and initially I suppose they thought we didn’t even know the CO had been hit. We heard A Company was up on a hill and we heard this gun fire and land and that was it and just forgot all about it and we eventually got word that the CO was hit and he was badly hit because I think he died they rushed him back to
one of the American hospitals but he died probably two or three days, mightn’t a lasted that long but then see we in contact, when you're in contact in battle you don’t get the information back. Headquarters probably had it but it doesn’t get down you know to section company level. Probably the OC might a knew but it no, it was very sad.
Did you know him or what did you know of him before that before he died?
Well, I knew of him because he was our he commanded
one of the he was one of the youngest colonels and he commanded 2/11th Battalion in New Guinea and my company commander later was a was promoted in the field in when Green was CO of the 2/11th Battalion. I didn’t know him very well. I knew him you know to speak and had spoken to him but he had a good reputation.
What was he like to speak to?
Oh quite good. He more not your normal
oh you know forward officer. Very reserved he was. A very reserved type a person. You’d hardly think you know looking at him that he was a fighting man but he was and he made a in the short period he had with the battalion the battalion did so well and probably wouldn’t a without someone else at the time. Although we had a very good 2IC. He took over but…
He didn’t look like a fighting man but what was it about him that
made him so good?
His tactical brain. He put it in operation and he had long experience. He was Middle East, New Guinea. So he knew what he was doin’ and he can he could control his officers and he had the well he didn’t have the battalion that long. He would a had a really good reputation if he’d a hung on for a period of time but unfortunately that wasn’t to happen.
And that was really our we sat there at Chongju and then when the Chinese didn’t come in when they came in they didn’t come our way. They went down the centre but they’d already been in Korea because they’d come in under dark and they had divisions. Somethin’ like sixteen divisions. Well the Americans got the word of it and bugged out and what we call a ‘bug out’ is a run out.
They just anything they can carry hop on a truck and away they go and they couldn’t care less. So they just run through us and left us and we were the furtherest unit within cooee. No one to protect us. We were there by ourselves and we were there we sat there for about two or three days waitin’ for the organisation who put us there to bring transport to take us out and eventually transport
arrived and they took us they took the battalion back to the Pukchong area. Not actually to the Broken Bridge but in that area, lower down and they went and a bloke by the name of Captain Fred Ness and myself were left. We were the last vehicle out. We were the last to leave North Korea, Australians to leave North Korea or in that area the last of anyone and we had a we
travelled by road in the dark to blow any vehicles of ours that broke down and that were left. And we arrived at the Taejon River I think it is if I remember correctly but it was a river at three o'clock in the morning. And in the morning when we crossed the river to go back onto the southern side we had a new CO and he was the CO that we had prior
in prior to Colonel Green arriving and we're filthy dirty and hadn’t had a bath and he’s in sitting in with a big yellow collared fur green jacket and polished jack boots. So I crossed the river and was put into position and I was transferred to B Company and that’s when all hell broke loose on that 4th of November and Guy Fawkes night, 4th and 5th of November, and the Chinese had come our way.
And one a the worst things about it was that both A and B Company ah correction, A, B and D were attacked. C were on the ground, flat ground in reserve and they took a hammering. Lost a lot a men and but beat the Chinese off but in the middle a this the CO decided that BHQ, which
was on the river, was getting shelled and fired on from by machine guns. So he decided to withdraw and a course some a the old rough nuts that had been through New Guinea and that said, “You can’t withdraw in the time a battle,” and he gave the order that, “You will withdraw,” and a course the brigadier had already told him to put a company on the bridge head. He didn’t want anyone to get across the crossing where the vehicles crossed, which he didn’t do,
and then he told the companies to withdraw. Well A Company was knocked about that much they they’d already lost their company commander, their CSM, one platoon commander and they had a young platoon commander in charge and two of their platoon sergeants had already gone. So they were completely disorganised but B Company, who I was with, was an old head and he says, “I’m just not moving.” So he stayed there and so did D
Company and it was a complete, how we never got slaughtered I to this day I’ll never know but anyhow we they moved BH
A Company eventually dribbled back to the battalion headquarters, which went about a thousand metres down the road, and the next day wasn’t so hale and hearty because we’d lost so many men but the CO was apparently
sacked and our 2IC, Colonel Ferguson or Major Ferguson, put in charge of the battalion and we had him from then on in our day until we left Korea.
Can you describe that a little bit more? The details of what was happening over that period? How you lost so many men and what you were doing?
Well we lost so many men because the simple reason they were being attacked and you can’t you shouldn’t break contact when you're being attacked because
you you're gonna lose men anyhow and they’d already lost, well A Company had already lost their company commander, the CSM. One of the platoon commanders if I remember correctly and two platoon sergeants. So that’s a lot out a the battalion, ah correction out a the company, and then they had another junior lieutenant that had to run it but he was told to withdraw
and probably takin’ orders from the CO, “I’ve got a withdraw,” and it was the wrong time to withdraw because he lost he didn’t get many more killed but he got wounded and they were disorganised. They were everywhere. So they didn’t know how many A Company had until they dribbled in the following day but the other company, two companies, that stood firm they took casualties but nowhere near as bad. It was a very, very rough night but fortunately
there’s one thing about the Chinaman. He will make contact and put up a good fight and I don’t know why it is. He either runs out of his ammunition runs low and he disengage or moves to somewhere else and that’s probably one a the reasons that saved us there because he took a lot a casualties but he disengaged, which was fortunate for the battalion.
So were you it was a two night conflict was it? Went for two nights?
More or less two nights, yeah.
So can you describe just for someone who can’t even imagine what’s going on in a two night conflict what do you what do you physically do? What is your job for those for that period and are you engaged the whole time in the conflict?
No, because my job at that time I was a mortar fire controller, right? Our we fired mortars but the Chinamen have that many men, see you
the Chinamen can take out a battalion and put a battalion in back in or they can lose a battalion and still have another battalion comin’ at ya and mortars weren’t doin’ any good. And we were running low on ammunition and they will disengage after they’ve attacked and get driven back and they’ll go back into another re-entrance or something or over a low rise and reform. Might wait for hours. So all you’ve got to do is wait and there’s a
waiting period and it just goes on and on and
So would you move at all?
No, stay in position. You stay in your normal position. Probably make your trench deeper if you can. If it’s not winter time when you can’t dig. You know you can’t get through the ice and ground. No, you don’t normally don’t. Then if you don’t get any contact for a certain period you will put out clearing patrols. Say it happens at night
and you you’ve lost contact. First thing at daylight you’ll put out a clearing patrols even though if they're gonna run into the enemy. You know you that’s part a life because you make sure that your perimeter is sound and you know where the enemy is and that goes on all the time but it was a rough time and changin’ over COs, two COs in what? Matter of a few
Can you give me a…
…sense of a of placement of where people are for those two nights? Are you at the back or at the front of that group of…
No. You your companies, A Company was on the left out in a feature, B Company was in the centre on a feature and D company were on the right in a feature and C Company were back near the river in reserve. BHQ was sort of on the bridge head and they were coppin’
fire. That’s why they said oh they’d get out but he made the wrong blue. You don’t get out when you're under fire and
Who’s standing near you and who’s in front of you or behind you and where’s your CO? I’m just tryn’a get a sense of the real structure of the
Well, you say well for instance there’s battalion headquarters, right, and he’s got all his own defences with signallers and things like that. Your sniper section and a few others. All the odds and
sods. He’s got the padre, he’s got his adjutant. He’s got his IO [Intelligence Officer] and they're in a little group on their own and they're not really self protected because they’ve got functions to carry out all the time and they can’t be out in holes looking after defences. We when your companies are forward they're in an all round defensive position and they stay that way and they protect one another. Like for instance if we had to protect this knoll with my
platoon you would have any tracks leading it in to you’d have all your strong weapons like your Bren guns and BHQ would normally be in a hollow somewhere to protect them because they're got their radios and facilities. So can’t get your company commander knocked off, or you hope you don’t, and your radio equipment, your platoon commander forward, and your platoon sergeant’s got radios as well but they're still out in the front line.
So you're got all round protection. Does that help ya?
Yeah. Kind I’m getting there and where are you placed in relation to the Bren guns?
Well Bren gun’s normally in a place where you think their attack’s gonna come from. If it’s gonna come up a re-entrance or if it’s gonna come up a track and me as MFC in those days I would be with company headquarters,
probably back behind a little ridge or something. Not actually in the front.
How long would it take to get that all in place cause that sounds like an enormous
No, not long.
You're born to it. Trained to it. You go into position and say we we’ll say there was no enemy there. You do it whether you have an enemy there or not. At the end of the day’s march they’ll say, “Right, 410 feature we're going to the tonight.”
Now we might be lucky and there’s no enemy there at all. So we go straight on to the hill and the company commander will say, “Righto, 1 Platoon there. You cover that area. 2 Platoon to that area, 3 Platoon you're in reserve in that area. Company headquarters’ll be here.” Now the platoon commander will look after his platoon, say 1 Platoon. 2 Platoon’ll do the same and 3 Platoon’ll do the same and then the when they're settled down the OC normally goes round with the CSM
and checks with the platoon commanders just to see whether their mo their strong points like their Bren gunners it was in those day are positioned. So it’s it becomes automatic. You do it day in and day out. When we first got to Korea before we were diggin’ holes you would dig down, spend hours digging down and you’d just get it finished and, “On the move. Fill 'em up again.” Away you’d go. Australians always filled
their holes in. Don’t never leave anything, scraps or anything about. So you get used to digging holes but in the winter in Korea you can’t dig holes unfortunately.
Why do they fill the holes?
Oh well you they fill it for a reason. Mainly to protect themselves. It’s been opened up and they put any food scraps or tins, anything like that. You don’t leave 'em laying around. Or
your latrine systems. They someone’ll be allocated to dig a latrine system for a section, that section, company headquarters. So everything’s filled in before you leave the area, unless you get knocked off the hill but then again not too many Australians get knocked off the hills. If they're got a defensive position you’ve got time to fill your holes and sometimes you might get knocked off a hill but you haven’t had time to dig holes anyhow. But it’s a must to have a good hole and you have a good parapet
and you have your grenades and your ammunition and everything ready and in time for an attack to come.
You said that you know that two night period there was sort of an hour on, an hour off, what do you do in the hour off?
Oh some if you got two men to a pit well you some will try and get sleep. You don’t if you're likely to get bullets thrown at you you don’t sleep. The 4th, 5th of November, yeah.
I forget if it was one night or two nights on the 4th, 5th or it was afternoon, night and the day. I’m not sure but I think it was over a period of two days. We always say the 4th, 5th of November. Guy Fawkes night.
Are you kind of a is there a sense of tension for that whole period?
Oh yeah. Yeah you it’s a sense of tension because you're looking for the people that should be there that are not there and you find
it hard to get people out under like your wounded out. See your band is all what normally like when we were in Japan we had a good band. Well when we went to Korea all those bandsmen they're trained as stretcher bearers and they're allocated out to companies. So we were pretty fortunate in that way. We had very good stretcher bearers, we had good RAPs and unfortunately though in the early part in the mobile war
you had to walk 'em out. Walk 'em to a road way or something cause we didn’t have the helicopter facilities. They did later on after we’d done finished our time.
So how did the stretcher bearers know where to go and how to get into the wounded?
Oh well you’ll have a stretcher bearer with ya. Say I’m MFC of A Company, there’ll be a stretcher bearer there and someone’ll yell out well say, “I’ve got a
casualty of so and so’s hit.” Well he’ll go over. Someone’ll go with him. If it was me I could go with him or if I was otherwise engaged someone would go with him and then if they're too bad they you you’ve got to get 'em out yourself to a certain area. To the others to come forward and pick 'em up from battalion headquarters. It’s not a nice task I can tell ya.
What do you hear in the time that in that say in that two days, what sort of things are you hearing?
You're listening for the next attack. That’s really what and you get time to eat. It doesn’t matter you can light your little stove or whatever you got at the time because they know you're there anyhow so you haven’t got to protect that.
When the attack happens what are you hearing then?
wait for 'em. Wait ‘til they come or if you can see 'em you fire at 'em and you let 'em get as close as possible for the best results you can get but it’s better to pick 'em off if you can before they get to your holes.
Are there are people shouting? Is there any human noises coming out of that?
Oh yeah. The they normally make a noise. The Chows [Chinese] are brilliant at making noise with bugles and yelling out.
That’s their life. The bugles at midnight in a snow country where it travels for miles is very eerie. Very spooky. The first time I heard it oh god, you wonder it was oh I forget where it was. It was another bug out when we were left but they didn’t think the Chinese were there and the whole country is covered in snow
and I was on company headquarter guard duty. I used to do twelve ‘til two I think most times and they’d given us these wet weather snow boots which I couldn’t use. They hurt my feet. You know the moisture really ruined my feet and I could hardly walk. So I got I always kept the old AB [Ankle Boot] boots that we’d worn for years and I put them on and I was right as rain and then I no sooner got 'em on
than I heard this bugle and a bugle in snow country and in snow country you can see a long, long way particularly when you there’s no timber or there’s particularly in Korea and those days. See they Japs cut all the timber out and a lot of it’s only scrub and you can see a long, long way. And I can I’ll tell ya a story as we go on about getting punished takin’ a patrol out at
midnight every night for a week and if there’s mosquitoes flying it’s that it’s that bright you’d be able to see a mosquito but no mosquito’d live in that place.
So what happened when you when those two days were over? How did that come to an end?
Well, once you lose contact you reorganise and we had to sort things out and we went back into a position. The Chinese just disappeared and they used to do
that a lot and the A Company was knocked about pretty much and this is still in the Pukchong, oh not on the Broken Bridge but in the Pukchong area. See at the Broken Bridge Pukchong village was down the river, oh I don’t know, say a mile or two miles. I don’t know if it was that. Might’a been five hundred yards but and you got to reorganise the battalion. We got reinforcements in. A Company was disorganised. Well they’d lost so many and
particularly the platoon officers and platoon sergeants. So the person that was battle 2IC, Major O’dowd, he Ferguson became the CO, the new CO, who was the 2IC and he’d been with the battalion for years and everyone all the old people liked him, the originals, and he reorganised the battalion. Got reinforcements. Binnie O’dowd took A Company and I was with A Company
then. It’s funny how they move mortar fire controllers about. This is after about initial period of six weeks. That’s all it is, the initial period, and I went as the company ser major. He asked for me to go as company ser major and we got reinforcements in. Two new officers. Reg Saunders, I remember the first Aboriginal officer. He came as a platoon commander. Another bloke Harold Mulray. So we had
three platoon commanders, three platoon sergeants. I was CSM. New company commander. Someone else came as 2IC and he didn’t stay long, a new one came later on and the whole unit was reorganised. We stayed in the Pukchong and we were there a long time and that’s still in North Korea and we used to do a lot a long range patrols but we never had actually any battles like we did going up.
There were contacts and then we were there for a long period and then something happened. The Yanks [Americans] bugged out [departed] from somewhere so we were put on a vehicle as a what they call you fight a rear guard action or you're put in as a blocking force and 27th Commonwealth Brigade was made up of the Argyle Battalion, 1 Argyle Battalion the Middlesex, and 3 Battalion and we were always the bunnies. So
when they pull out they wanted someone stopped or blocked they’d send one a the battalions or the brigade and this happened for months on end ‘til the it took us weeks to get what, I remember writing about this. We would a withdrew four hundred mile, not kilometres, in a matter of two to three weeks. Not us,
but the Americans and a course you get left on your own and I don’t know how the battalion never got slaughtered many a time. Well we were lucky, we got out of it.
Why were they bugging out?
Well they just took too many casualties and they wouldn’t stand and fight and they wouldn’t patrol and I suppose you could say that they weren’t well trained for a start. If you read some of MacArthur’s books on
MacArthur the initial intakes into Korea were very poorly organised. As a matter of fact he hasn’t got a good reputation at all and that’s one a the reasons but the our brigade always, well that’s probably why we didn’t lose as many men as the others and they’d leave vehicles and everything, tanks the lot because you can’t get 'em out. One vehicle’ll block a road.
See they the Gloucester regiment got wiped out. They lost what didn’t get killed or wounded were taken POW and they were Gloucesters, were 29 Brigade. The only time we ever seen the 29 brigade is when we come back through P'yongyang and someone said, “That that’s the Gloucester battalion or 29 brigade,” and we thought, “Oh well a British battalion, that’s good,” but they were never on our front anyhow. We never, ever
What was the general feeling in your unit toward the Americans?
Pretty crook. Pretty crook at times. No, they didn’t have a good reputation. On not our I wrote an article once I read a book where in Korea this bloke said they had a camp and they had this big sign ‘through these portals march the greatest
soldiers on earth' and I had to do someone was doing a writing for I think for the archives the War Memorial. So I just wrote the thing and I said, “They must have improved a thousand per cent after we left.” So that wouldn’t go down too well. Probably this won’t either.
No we have heard things like that before. How were the Chinese different to the North Koreans in that two night battle that you were telling us
organised. Absolutely brilliant with a sixty millimetre mortar. They could lob it on a pin and you never we got caught on the open a few times at later stages and took a lot a casualties through the sixty millimetre mortars. Plus the fact they were organised and they're brought up in the army and they're trained and they live on the smell of an oil rag and they always wore that you know that sort a
kapok uniform but for some unknown reasons, either they stretched their lines of communications either they I never, ever found out whether they can’t keep their ammunition up or they can’t keep their food up. It’s probably in a lot a cases why we weren’t knocked about worse because they would sort a break contact and you wouldn’t see or hear of 'em for two or three weeks. They might make contact somewhere else and a course they the Chinese are not stupid.
They’d know the weak points. Like the South Korean army then was known as the rock, the rocks. They were absolutely useless and every time we had rock support was never there. They were supposed to be on your right doin’ this and doin’ that but they weren’t and the first and another thing I wrote in this article too I didn’t know who were the fastest, the Americans or the rocks.
About going backwards?
Yeah. Oh no. No Korea was hard. Really hard.
Were they the Chinese obviously out massively outnumbered you?
Oh yeah. Yeah. Be thousands. They didn’t where we're flat out getting a few reinforcements to reinforce a company they would have regiments, or probably not regiments but battalions. They no shortage a numbers at all and they move
they walk in the darkness. It was said that when we first made contact with the Chinese at Pukchong on the 4th and 5th of November that at that time I don’t know who, well general intelligence I suppose there was something like sixteen Chinese divisions in North Korea then. So that’s a lot a men.
Did you know that you were fighting the Chinese at that point?
Oh yeah. Yeah.
would you know that?
Oh, totally different people.
Totally different type a people. Better organised. North Koreans we did I don’t think we wouldn’t have contacted any North Koreans after Chongju. Whether their army was disintegrated and the North Korean army mind you would have taken a hell of a lot a punishment from Pusan right through. You know back up north to
say thirty four ks this side of the Yalu River. That’s a long way and some a the American regiment ah some a the Americans like the marines and things like that, which are a good stabilised unit, they took a pounding in places too but they all going forward they would have taken a lot of North Korean casualties. But then when the Chinese come in a course they took casualties because they were cut off
at the reservoir and those places but marines had a hard time but a lot a the other units well weren’t well known units.
You said at Chongju they would remove their dead at night?
If they, yeah. Not under…
Did the Chinese operate the same way?
Yeah you don’t oh well if they can they remove their dead, yes. Yeah they’ll remove…
We’ve heard about that before and someone was saying to us that it was a tactic to remove the dead?
Yeah it is.
So that nobody had any idea. Yeah.
So you don’t have any idea of numbers. So you can’t and either side can knows, see in Vietnam they had this stupid idea of body counts. Now if you're in the heat a battle how the hell do you know how many you killed and if you're still in battle you can’t say, “Hey, Tom slip down there and count how many dead we got.” It just doesn’t happen. So I don’t know why but that was an American idea, a body count and you’d go to
conferences and they’d say, “Hey yeah, so many knocked off today,” which is a lot a garbage. Probably just boosts their morale. No, I don’t believe in body counts and it is a tactic that they remove their dead. It’s the same as the Australians. You don’t leave your wounded and you don’t leave your dead. No, they're a good army. I got the utmost respect for the Chinese as a fighter. I don’t want to front 'em up again.
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 08
But Jed Galloway’s book. He wrote a book on it. See they only write the most of the stuff’s only written up to the Battle of Kapyong, not and they give very little in the battles in the north. Mainly it’s around Pukchong and Maryang San, which the battalion was involved in but one in my time and I was gone
when Maryang San was on. Cause they were a sort of then in a defensive position, like World War I. You know they were sort of fighting in trenches and they would send out patrols at night and so would the Chinese.
What were the conditions like when you were in this situation with the onslaught of these Chinese? What were the climactic conditions at that time?
Weren’t bad. Weren’t bad at all then.
So at what point did you actually confront a situation
in winter time?
Oh I forget where it was but I know it was very, very cold. It we at one stage we didn’t have sleeping bags. They sent us to Korea with a blanket, right, that you used to wear as a roll on your back and when your blanket got wet of course it was wet for days because you couldn’t get it dry and gradually you
would get a sleeping bag and mainly from American ambushes, where they were ambushed. We would knock off the sleeping bags and well, one way of gettin’ 'em. So eventually we finished up I think we got some type of sleeping bag, a nylon outer or a nylon inner or something, but the initial stuff we had was no good at all and I just forget when we were issued with we were issued with American sort of
semi rainproof pants, which we pulled over our SD uniform, a pile cap, which was fur lined. Excellent, kept ya ears warm, and a wind jacket and that’s the only thing in my time that we had to keep us warm and I tell ya what, it gets awfully cold. As a matter of fact it gets that cold when we were there for months and we got
a bottle a beer and it came up to our company after dark and it came in a in straw you know how they fit it in straw? And I thought, “I’ll keep mine ‘til tomorrow. It’s too late to enjoy it now.” Put it in the bottom of my hole. Two o'clock in the mornin’, laid on it, and two o'clock in the mornin’ went 'bang'. So I lost my bottle a beer. It was cold. It was terrible. Absolutely
terrible but I, 4th of November I just forget. I’ve lost the it’s that long ago I’ve lost where we had winter and where we had summer.
November would have been reasonably cold in Korea?
Yeah, it would been I…
But that’s all the gear we had. We had terrible conditions. I really think in my time in the army it was the worst conditions I’d ever fought under
or served under and because you were always on the move too what’s more and I can remember the first time wherever we were someone said, wrote up in a book it was at Pukchong but it wasn’t, they bought a mobile shower unit over and you went down as a section or a platoon at a time. We hadn’t had a bath for months and what’s more, it probably was that time a the year too because the water was too cold
to touch anyhow. I can remember you didn’t have that much water and we didn’t carry water bottles like they do nowadays and I can remember shaving in a remember those little caps a tobacco tins? Little round ones? And I went to comb my hair and I put this water through my hair and it all stood on end with the ice got in it. I didn’t bother tryn’a comb it any more. Didn’t bother, only reason
I was shaved because we were told to shave.
So you say that the conditions that you fought under in Korea were worse than any other, even than New Guinea or Vietnam?
Yeah. Worse than New Guinea. At least in New Guinea we were hot and wet but in Korea you were cold, hot, didn’t have the clothing and you were on the move all the time. Totally different
What were your own personal thoughts about the way the Americans were ‘bugging out’ as you say?
Hated it. I did. I lost all even today and I had good friends that I met in Vietnam that I had associations with that I was out in the bush on the odd occasion they used to go, no that turned me off the Americans as a fighting soldier.
Totally, and a lot a my mates are the same.
What did you think they should have been doing?
Well they should have been, A they should have protected their area by patrolling which they don’t, well they probably do to a certain extent in some areas but they just won’t hold ground. I don’t know if it’s their commanders or what it is and you lose more casualties
by withdrawing than what you do with staying in your defensive position and that seemed to be the idea that they and it’s true. It’s written in every book on Korea that they did bug out and it’s common knowledge. That’s where we got the word from. We never we always called it withdrawal but bug out was common. You know if it got too tough they’d bug out but they lost equipment and things like that.
Did you see any situations
where you thought there were unnecessary casualties because of bugging out?
No. Not really. We were very fortunate, I’m not speaking about the Americans. They probably did but not with us. We would a we would, as I was sayin’ before, put in a blocking position or fight rear guard action or something like that and we were very, very lucky that we didn’t lose more men than what we
did because I think the Chinese knew too that 27th Brigade’d stop and fight and they wouldn’t run. And we got out a some terrible situations without casualties that we should have lost probably lots.
What was it about the brigade that you think allowed you to get out of those situations?
Good officers. Good NCOs and they knew what they were doin’ and by this time we’d been in so many contacts. We’d been up and down, across, over hills, down dale and it was a pretty professional unit or they were all of the Argyles were very good. I wasn’t so keen on the Middlesex but they did their job. You sort’a you get to like and dislike battalions.
Don’t ask me why. It’s probably the way they carry out their tactics or the way some it’s like within your own unit. Some companies will cop the whole lot a the flak and other companies can walk into the same thing and not get a casualty. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles or the dice rolls.
Did you lose any close mates in Korea?
Oh yes. Quite a number. Good mates
that we were brought up with, oh been with 'em since the end a World War II. Yeah, quite a number in Korea unfortunately.
In what circumstances were they killed?
Oh mainly in attacks. Shot. We lost what, two sergeants at the Broken Bridge. We lost a good mate a mine at a place called Doc Thu. Lost
about five close friends a mine you know. Weren’t within the company. We lost a lot within the company but A Company, we had a terrible trot with wherever we went we’d run into trouble and I’m not kidding. That’s written in books but we never lost any senior NCOs funny thing. You know the same sergeants were there when we started and they mainly all there when we finished.
Some of 'em got wounded and went out and came back but we, apart from the original CSM in A Company that went over with the battalion and I took over after six weeks he, Sticks McGavin, he was the he was CSM of the company. I think he was the only one of that group that got killed. It’s hard to remember back you know and into certain
places. As a matter of fact it’s very hard I to remember things that people write. They write stories in our journal and I’ve never heard of the places. I don’t
I think they make 'em up.
So when you lost a mate how did you cope with that?
It was all in a day’s fighting I suppose. You providing they're not within your own company or within your own
section you sort a get over it. You hear it travels down the bush telegraph. Oh you gradually get over it because the simple reason is that you think about it a lot but it gradually goes. It’s part a the business but it is hard.
Did it make you more aware of your own mortality?
Oh yeah. No doubt about that.
The oh no, yeah it’s very sad. Even year, years later. Unfortunately but that’s part a war.
Did you ever see any signs of anyone behaving in any sort of cowardly manner in Korea?
Never. No. No I never, ever seen that
and I don’t I can’t ever remember an instance of anyone tellin’ me about it either, which is good because if it happened you’d find out.
What about fear? You said that you were afraid…?
Did people show their fear?
Not really. You probably get nervous. I can remember at Chongju when I went up to the company. See in North Korea when they bury their
dead they bury 'em sitting up and they have a mound and at Chongju when I went up the hill and into the company area. And this other MFC was there I said, “What the hell are ya doin’ here?” He said, “Get down. You're too young to get knocked off,” and we were we didn’t have time to dig in. We were behind this grave but they have a lot a graves in North Korea. They're like mounds. With the grass on 'em or stones on 'em
and so we hid behind one a them. Two of us behind it. I’d forgotten about the way they buried 'em up there. I never, ever remember seein’ 'em in South Korea. See P'yongyang’s supposed to be a big city but when we went through it was nothing and every village you went into and every place that you searched in a village there’d be a photo of Stalin. But
see where South Korea’s fertile, North Korea’s got a lot a hills and it’s not a fertile country. So I really don’t know well I know why the they have these famines and things like that and always after food and they put all their money into their soldiering and their military machines rather than feed their people. I can understand that because they haven’t got that much country you know to cultivate.
What could you see of the war affecting the civilians in…?
Oh terrible. Heartbreaking because the battles up and down the roads were always clogged with women, children and old men because the young people were at war. See kids in South Korea they’d be put in probably at fourteen or fifteen would be given a gun and rushed off to a battalion or something. No it is, it’s shocking.
The times in the situations we were in you would, not so much when you're in the hills but if you're anywhere near the roads and the battles are goin’ backwards and forwards you’ll see miles upon miles of refugees and the poor people they're got nothing you know. They didn’t have anything to start with and they got nothing when they're comin’ back. Now they’ll come back south, probably get belted again and go back up again.
Oh no, it’s terrible. I and more so for the little kids but it’s not much one a the problems was too the refugees were always on the roads although we weren’t on the roads very much. It was only but because we were in the hills or on the edge of the roads in the hills but they always that’s their only access
see, to walk along the roads. It’s the only way they can get, and they know when the Chinaman’s comin’ or they know when someone else is coming cause they bug out quick. No, it’s the suffering is shocking for the refugees and unfortunate mainly were old men, women and children, not young people.
When you say it was one of the problems that they were on the road what do you mean?
Well they had nowhere to go
and the transport had clogged the roads up so that transport couldn’t didn’t get through and when you’ve been up and down that road a number of times they just won’t get off the road and I probably I don’t know but I would say they would a been a lot lost through accidents you know with vehicle and things like that. I don’t know for sure but I can’t see any when you look at 'em and see the way things happen and the
amount of traffic, war time traffic that’s goin’ up and down. Not their traffic, it’s either one army or the other and normally the Chinese haven’t got much well I didn’t see any Chinese vehicles. North Koreans did but I didn’t see any Chinese. They probably had 'em but a long way back.
Did you have any personal contact with the Korean civilians?
No. No we never seen
anything like MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital – television show] I tell ya. There were no boozers we were ever allowed to go to.
I was wondering what you thought about MASH actually?
I used to enjoy it but we used I’ve watched MASH that many times. Oh, it was a comedy but it didn’t happen that way but and the countryside’s, a lot a that wasn’t taken in Korea.
So what we saw in MASH wasn’t at all reflective of the reality?
Not really, no.
No. Although it was a good show. I’d like I like watchin’ it. Good acting and things like that.
When the Americans bugged out to what extent did you feel abandoned?
Oh after awhile you got used to it. Didn’t take any notice. It was part of the job. The one a the problems was that I said before to Nicole [interviewer]
you could always get transport if they were gonna put you forward into battle, right? Well when there was a bug out on you’d never get vehicles and that’s written in books and I don’t know just where but there’s a couple a books over there you can have a look. We could never get vehicles. Now, when I spoke about that long distance I think in the last day or something when we got the big
withdrawal when we got back to Uijongbu village when we had we were there for three weeks that was the longest break we had. That was Christmas 1950 we had at Uijongbu and three weeks' break and the companies were we would have done a hundred and thirty mile that day along those roads and not our doing. We were taken back to a line but we’d gone four hundred
mile I think it was in two or three weeks after all those battles goin’ up and you just run comin’ back and what’s more, we got out on whatever was going because you weren’t allocated vehicles. Some of the companies were but I remember A Company on one of 'em we come out on guns, sitting on guns. I couldn’t find when we arrived at Uijongbu, I said to my company commander “We're about eight missing
and we can’t leave 'em too long before we put 'em you know send a signal to say they're missing in action,” but they turned up. They all arrived safely. Probably stopped off on a boozer in Seoul or somewhere but we had that was sort of at the end of the big push you know. Up and in the bug out coming back and
the three weeks we’ve spent in Uijongbu we were in defensive positions but it’s no we had Christmas and we got parcels from home. Parcels from the Red Cross. We got beer and you had to drink it straight away otherwise it blew up because you couldn’t keep it. You know you couldn’t keep it warm because the temperature was so long. No, that was really good. It was a sort of a
after months and months up and down didn’t know where ya were and to have a break but you never seen the other companies, you only seen your own company and then on New Year’s Day it broke out again and we were off. We started our track back up north again and we went Ridgeway had taken over then. Walker had got killed
in a jeep accident and he came over to take over and I and I think about that time MacArthur was in trouble with, who was the president of the States in those days? Oh I can’t remember. I should remember it but Ridgeway took over and he made a total difference to the American army. He said, “There’ll be no retreating,” and the we went forward
and we went to a place which they called I’m not sure if it was Kansas Line [Defensive line established in Korean War] we called it D Line [Defensive Line] and it was snow. Look it was snow everywhere and we went out we there was an old school house and that’s where battalion headquarters was. We're on this straight line along the ridge and other battalions were also on this line and they used to patrol to a place
called Inchon. I think it Inchon if I remember correctly. Anyhow, A Company was sent to do this patrol to Inchon and we had to find out where all the how concentrated the Chinese were. So there was already a patrol out there from one a the other companies. So we got the information and that. I was with the company commander. So we went put the companies out in their positions and I forget which was which, whether it was 1 Platoon
and forward, 1 and 2 and 3 Platoon in reserve I’m not sure and company headquarters was in this escarpment you know where the road went through and we allocated the OC had sent out this recce patrol and they were all ex-commandos. And I don’t think they were all from I’m not sure if they were from his platoon or not and I said to the company commander, “Can I go with Angus?” Angus McDonald was the bloke in charge,
“Can I go with 'em tonight?” He says, “What do you want to go for there for?” “Cause I’m sick a sittin’ sitting around.” He said, “No.” I’d better not swear. He said, “You're stayin’ with me.” So, oh it was absolutely freezing and this patrol had to be back by a certain time and they were only to go a certain distance. Anyhow, we waited and waited and then one a the platoons
made contact with the Chinese and if there was a certain between the company commander and the patrol leader he’d organised if they weren’t back by a certain time or they got blocked off they’d come back another way and we were to withdraw. We were to withdraw anyhow. So the Chows they really attacked. They harassed us all the way. They’d we didn’t know that the patrol had been
taken. They’d got the patrol and we were the luckiest people in the world. They followed us right back to a relay station and the relay station, they had a section coming down off the mountain the Chinese, but the relay station spotted 'em. It was a platoon ah sections from B Company and only for them and only for fighting a rear guard action
we’d a lost the whole company and I think the five, five of 'em were taken POW. They released the officer in about two weeks. They released the corporal in about six weeks and the other three oh must a done about two years I think. Cause I was RSM of 4 Battalion at Ingleburn and I went in with the CO
to meet 'em you know when they come back but you couldn’t see 'em because they were under security. They put 'em through a race and they did it hard. They were in the North Korean, ah North Korea mind you in the POW camps up north. So I was lucky I my company commander wouldn’t let me go. The next day the signal our signaller came up and said, “The OC wants to see you,”
and I said, “Oh yeah?” So I went down to see and he said, “What are you volunteering for today?” and I said, “No, I’m not volunteerin’ for anything today.” “Well you're volunteering to take a patrol out at midnight for the next week,” and that’s when I was saying before you know it gets that bright in the snow you see people for miles and miles and miles. I used to go out at midnight every night. It was absolutely useless because you know both sides could see every bit of movement there was for thousands a yards
but that was my punishment. So we had to wait up ‘til oh midnight. So we built a big bunker. Scrounged a bit a pipe somewhere and used to sit in there playin’ cards ‘til midnight, the patrol. I said to him, “What company do I what platoon do I get the patrol off?” He said, “You get 'em from company headquarters.” Stretcher bearers and medical people and what have you.
So that was one lesson I learnt.
Did you see those men when they came out of the POW camps after two years?
No, never had one I saw the 50th anniversary at Kapyong two oh, when was it? Two or three years ago I went back to the battalion. No I haven’t seen 'em. One I think two of 'em are dead. Three of 'em might be dead I think. I think there’s two of 'em are still alive but one of 'em had one of
them was oh they did something to him. They brainwashed him because he was bitter and twisted. I had a long chat to him at back at the battalion the 50th anniversary. No, they were knocked around. Probably they were I know a couple a blokes that are POWs from the British army that I know well in North Korea and they reckon they had a bad time and the North Koreans were the worst, their guards, mainly North
Korean guards they were very bad.
While you were in Korea and you sort of headed north, then you retreated and then you headed north again, what did you think about what was going on in that war?
Like a yo-yo. Part of a well they kept tellin’ us initially that, “You’ll be home by Christmas.” This was MacArthur’s idea but the more the closer it got to Christmas the worse it got. So you were up and down. No it was when Ridgeway took over we thought
you know sort of got a new lease a life and you could look ahead. “At least when we go forward they're gonna hold,” and that sort a boosted your morale considerably and he did too. He made 'em hold and cause the Chinese were building up all the time. While you're sitting on one line they're sitting on another line and they're digging caves into those mountains in North Korea and that. I’d hate to ever try to invade that joint.
There’d be holes there’d be tunnels from one side a the mountains to the other and we on the way north, going north again, we probably did it the hardest of the lot because the simple reason was we were transferred to different areas. And it was all hilly country where you were in the hills the whole time and you had to be provided by all your ammunition, food and that come up
by porters, South Korean porter trains. So it was pretty tough goin’. I remember when I went out on five days' leave I had to come down off this mountain, which has taken us you know along the ridge probably a few days to get to our position before these two knolls that we we’d eventually taken. We took one and then went I went on leave they took the other one and those hills were high. I’m not kiddin’
and it was a little bit like New Guinea in a way because you were only on a track whereas other places you had time, room to spread out but we weren’t there long. And we were to go into the rest area and I had a look at this rest area on the way out because you had to come down off this mountain and they rendezvoused and picked me up in a vehicle and took me back to the battalion
and I had a look at it was the best copse of trees and it was on a river or a creek. I don’t know if it was the Kapyong River or what it was it’s that long ago and I thought, “Oh wouldn’t that be a lovely rest area.” So the battalion went into there and I was on R&R and we’d a stayed there because we’d been in the line so long we were gonna have a good rest but then a course
the 6 ROK [Republic of Korea] Division run out and Kapyong happened. So the battalion was only there a couple a days and I was on my way back from Japan and you couldn’t I got to the air port and they said, “You know you're not goin’ anywhere forward. The battalion’s wiped out,” or something. They’d there was a Middlesex warrant officer. He said, “I’m goin’ forward CSM.” He said, “Do you want to go to 3 Battalion?” I said, “Yeah.”
So I went forward with them but I only got as far as BHQ and I couldn’t get forward to the company and if they hadn’t have held Kapyong they would have taken Seoul again and if they’d a taken Seoul that’d been about the third time that’d been about the end I reckon. Cause the Chinese wouldn’t a given it up as easy as the North Koreans. So the…
I wanted to ask you at what point during these battles did you manage
to find the time to go to Japan and get married?
Oh that was after this.
After my time finished.
It was all over and done with. They bought out a brought out a system, well we all went on five days' leave. I was one of the last to go from the company on five days R&R and that system really upsets your organisation because say if a sergeant leaves 1 Platoon or a sergeant
leaves 2 Platoon or an officer leaves or a corporal his place has got to be filled by someone and particularly if you're goin’ in and you're unfortunate enough to make contacts. So you haven’t got that experience and it’s upsets the whole system, not only from a section right through the battalion and we all went all got five days R&R. I know when I went because I arrived at Iwakuni
on the 13th of April because it’s 13th of April’s Thel’s birthday and I went by train to Kure. I don’t know, I must a had my stinkin’ uniform on. I couldn’t a been I couldn’t a smelt too good when I got off amongst those nurses because I didn’t have time to have a shower and I don’t remember where I got my clothes from. You know decent clothes. I must a got 'em from somewhere because I was lookin’ through some photos up there and I had one at
this sacred island so I must a had my civilian clothes or something. It was that long ago I can’t remember.
So while you were in the midst of the really heavy, heavy battles in Korea were you thinking about getting married?
Not really. Not really. I think I really think my company commander and the register from 130
oh it was the old 130th AGH organised it because I didn’t have anything to organise when I my time come when I came out and no, I wasn’t thinking of gettin’ married. Oh she probably we our letters whenever we could write would have probably said you know, “We’ll get married when you come out.” But I didn’t know when I was coming out anyhow and I that period was confusing because I when I did come out I didn’t go
to a unit. I went to some unit that I’d know knew a few blokes in and not no one probably wanted to own me. I was a nomad and of course the we we’d said if I come out at a certain time I think they were pretty well organised all the nurses and sisters and that.
How much did you correspond while you were in Korea?
Much as we could but it was pretty hard at times.
Oh in a place like Uijongbu where we weren’t active for three weeks I probably wrote a letter every day but then you wouldn’t have an opportunity to write probably for a week or two. If you're in a static position, yeah they were pretty good on mail and mail got to you and you could get mail out.
How important was it for you to get letters?
Oh terrific. Give you a real boost to get a letter and to get a letter and to have a shower or a wash
and clean clothes. God, I never thought clean clothes meant so much to people. We must a really stunk you know. So I could imagine when looking back on World War I, those poor buggers in that mud and that for months and months on end and terrible and they had cold and hot conditions both. No, I was pleased to finish my time in Korea
and so was everyone else but unfortunately what happened was our battalion was not relieved as a battalion like every other battalion. We went out peace meal. So all the old originals they went out first because they’d been overseas for years and then and a quite of a lot of us went back to RHU as instructors. By this time I’m I was a warrant officer Class 2 and it was a sort of an end of a
family. It was really sad. The battalion was still there but we didn’t have a home any more and fortunately at RHU was a bit like home because all like WOs [Warrant Officer] and sergeants and the officers we’d been together on and off for years and years but that didn’t last long. Six months I think I was there and then we were came home.
The Korean War is often referred to as the forgotten war.
What do you think about that?
It’s a fact.
Well, I don’t know I it probably they forgot all about it because it was so close on top of World War II and it was so far away a lot of Australians wouldn’t know anything about Korea or where Korea was. So they weren’t interested and it weren’t wasn’t publicised so much. The Australians in Japan probably and the Brits in
Japan knew a lot about it but no one else did and a lot of us came home piece meal whereas others I think when 1 and 2 Battalion went they left as a battalion and came home as a battalion, which was totally different.
Does it bother you that many Australians don’t know about the Korean War?
Yeah. Yes it does. When you go to the war memorial you don’t see anything about Korea. Matter of fact
I’d, the guides there who used to be at RMC [Royal Military College – Duntroon] when I was there I said, “Where’s the Korean thing?” They said, “Oh down there Tom.” So I go down and I finally found it and I think there was a painting or a photograph of Reg Saunders and mortar crew and very little else and Vietnam’s not much different but they did have a really good one on Korea before they made you know that two million dollar extension at the back? They had a good Korean
one but they put it I think they made a mobile tour out of it didn’t they or something like that it went so all around by train and I don’t think they ever put it back again but the thing that’s there at the moment is a disgrace. I reckon anyhow.
So I think that those who do think about the Korean War we probably think about things like MASH and think that the Americans fought that war. How important
was the Australian role in the Korean War?
Oh very, very important and it was recognised by the American generals and see when we finished they changed from 27thBrigade to 28th Brigade plus the fact they had 29th Brigade there and they did a terrific job. They won the Australians and British won some a the biggest battles that were there. Kapyong and Maryang San.
In Australia or you read history books, even MacArthur’s books and things like that, you don’t hear of many battles that the Americans fought do ya? So yes, it was very important and I and it of the Americans in those days, the senior ones, I don’t think MacArthur ever bothered about Australia like he I don’t think he could care less but the senior generals that were there at the time did.
Can you tell us about the American presidential citation that the 3 RAR was awarded?
Well that was won at Kapyong. If you posted strength during the Kapyong battle, 23rd ah 23rd, 24th and 25th at that time you were entitled to wear it for life. If you
weren’t you can’t wear it. While you're a member of the battalion, current, you're allowed to wear it, the citation. Do you see that one on the wall?
Oh I’ll look.
There is. There’s one on the wall there that was presented to me.
What significance did it have for you?
Oh great. Boosted the morale. There’s not too many given out. At Kapyong the Princess Patricia’s [Light] Infantry, the Canadians, they got this citation as well
and we got it. Unfortunately the Kiwis [New Zealand], the artillery missed out and I think the reason they missed out they were forward. They weren’t with us all the time. No, I think it’s very important and it’s very, very oh I’m proud to have it you know and I’ve on the stairwell there I’ve got a painting of Kapyong and the citation that was given from General Ridgeway. It’ll be good for the
oh I don’t know whether the grandkids or granddaughters might worry about it one day. No, very important.
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 09
(UNCLEAR) from artillery or mortar.
Can I ask you that question then? Is that okay if we talk about that?
Right. Oh okay. So why have you ever considered then what the best way to die is in a situation like that?
Oh no, not really. No, not really but now I’ve thought of it I’d probably prefer to be shot than you know have shrapnel at and artillery or mortar shrapnel tearin’ your body apart. At least shootin’ ya’s nice and clean.
The other parts a couple a my mates in Korea died by splinters from shells and they thought they were all right. You know they got 'em to the RAP and then the splinters moved and one of 'em hit a heart artery or something and bled to death and they did no thought they’d that they’d done everything for him. Just things that happen. It’s like Colonel Green. See no one thought he was mortally
wounded and which was unfortunate. I suppose you're gonna go, you're gonna go. One way of lookin’ at it. No I never thought of it Nicole. I don’t know why but.
Did you ever think, was there ever a time where it all just felt futile?
Oh plenty of time. Yes. Plenty of times
I said, “What am I doing here?” I remember sitting on a hill in New Guinea one once and I don’t think I was on guard, I was just sitting down. I might a been havin’ a cigarette or something and where I was sitting just became jelly cause there was an earthquake and I thought, “What the hell am I doin’ here?” and I can remember that as if it happened yesterday. Just
something out of the blue. Yes, a lot of things are futile.
I know that you deal with death really well because you’ve faced it I suppose so often in those conflict situations but was there ever a time where you just thought, “This killing is crazy,” or…?
No, I did I suppose that I’ve always been trained to do it. I I’m probably
more frightened of or was more frightened of getting some disease than bein’ shot and you know some of the diseases that they get are terrible and the older you get the more you think about it.
Yeah, I suppose in that situation your mind is just kind of focused on what you have to do.
That’s right, yeah. See in our house you're not allowed to speak about age. I
keep sayin’ that, “Well I’d love to turn back the clock,” and Thel’ll say, “Sshhh” and she said, “Why do you tell someone your age?” and I said, “What’s the difference? You're as old as you are and you can’t do anything about it,” but women have a thing about age don’t youse? She hates anyone my eldest daughter, gawd. My son’s almost as bad as her talkin’ about age.
Do you talk to your family about your war experiences?
No, not really. I gave 'em the tape. They give they all got a tape of the ones that they did down at whatsaname. Oh, my granddaughter’s always ringin’ me up. Yeah, she does things at school you know on my grandfather when he was in the war. You know you tell her things and they you know whatever they do, five, ten, fifteen minute spiel they’ve got to give. She’s interested. She’s the one that’s goin’ to Sea World next week. No,
How does that make you feel, that she takes an interest?
Your war experiences? Your granddaughter?
Oh, good. Yeah, it is good. My son never asks me and he was what, he spent twenty-odd years in the army.
How did you come to leave Korea in the end?
How did I come to leave? You were allocated
you were told when to go and normally when your time came up you just went. As I said, the battalion didn’t come out as a battalion and we were just listed to go you were called up to the company commander and said, “Righto, put your pack on. Down that hill,” and they’d have someone to meet you but I didn’t realise that when I got out and went back to RHU
or went back to Japan that a lot of my old mates had beaten me out because they’d been you know told earlier and they were all in different companies so it…
Was there a sense that it had finished?
Was there a sense that the war had finished?
No but I tell ya what, I was pleased to get out and so were they cause we had really had a rough time and looking back,
not on the battles themselves that’s a thing you're sort of trained to do over the years and years. But it was the blasted conditions and we didn’t have the clothing and things like that and never had stuff that we should have had, which they did get later of course, and that mat that’s all we had in those photos you see there. That’s all we ever got.
We thought we were very well off with a wind jacket, a pile cap and some so-called weatherproof pants that didn’t keep the rain out anyhow. No, I was I was pleased to get out. I had reasons to of course and so had the others but it became an end to an era because see, we’d some of us had been together since New Guinea. Well most of us since Morotai
when the battalion was formed and we’d been with 'em right through and we’d only been home on leave once in all those years. So it was…
Did you miss those boys?
Did you miss those blokes?
Yeah, and when we all came home and went our separate ways some of 'em fell by the wayside. You know got on the grog [alcohol] and that and because we used to look after each other.
You could get on the grog but someone’d be there to look after ya and brace ya up the next morning but when they get home and on their own and you didn’t have that esprit de corps a lot of 'em fell by the wayside and oh they was really went bad. Good people. You know marriages broke up and things like that but, yes.
Could you see why that was happening? Could you understand
Well some of 'em yes I could. Yeah and but some of 'em just I don’t know why. Good friends. They had good wives but just went by the board. The grog got 'em. I couldn’t put up with bein’ sick every day but.
Why do you think they resorted to the grog?
I don’t really know. It’s probably a habit and I will say this. The army sort of fosters you having a drink and well let’s face it, most people in the army in my time either smoked and drank. There wasn’t too you wouldn’t find too many non-drinkers and every dinner you go to they have alcohol.
If you're in a battalion, I remember the battalion before we went to Vietnam. If you had a function, say a battalion function, they’d normally give have a long weekend or a long weekend so people wouldn’t drive. You know rushing too and from, which was a very good idea. You know rather than say, “Knock off Friday night, be back here Monday morning.”
They’d knock off Thursday lunch time and give 'em time to get home and back. Oh yeah, they’d they had a lot a good things in the army. A lot a things in later years went bad though unfortunately.
And do you think people turned to alcohol in some ways to kind of get rid of the memories or…?
Oh no I don’t think
that’s an excuse really. I really don’t. If you're not strong enough to face up to what you're doin’ without havin’ a drink there’s somethin’ wrong with ya. No, I don’t believe that. I know it’s what a lot a people say but I’m not a believer in it. I don’t think I’d put that up as a excuse in any way or form.
When you finally came back to Australia how difficult was it to adjust to Australian life?
Pretty crook. For a start I had my wife but I remember getting I wanted to go somewhere and I went to Central Station in Sydney and I wanted to go out to 1 Battalion to see some old mates and I said to a bloke, “What platform do I get the train to Ingleburn?” and he said, “Me don’t speak English.” I thought, “God.” So I tried another bloke and he told me the same thing and I thought, “What have I come home
to?” you know because I’d been away years and yeah, that sort of put me off balance but well when we came home we were living I was initially when we came home we were living at Gladesville with my Thel. And her sisters owned a place there but we stayed there because we didn’t have any accommodation and I didn’t know where I was going and
what was that? Oh well that’d be February, March or something like that and I kept sending because we were expecting I didn’t want to leave her on her own because we were expecting our first child and I kept sendin’ urgent telegrams, because I’m a Queenslander, to east ah personnel depot and I wasn’t gettin’ any answers and I had all this leave. I had months somethin’ like
over two hundred days leave and so in the end I said, “Well bugger it. I’ll have to,” you know I had actually had three weeks' leave. I asked for a further two weeks and I nothin’ happened so I took it anyhow after sending three telegrams. So then I thought, “Well I’m not gonna get an answer.” I rang up and I couldn’t get anyone to I got a train up to the personnel depot in Brisbane and they said, “Oh we’ll have the provos here. You're on a charge.”
I said, “Good.” This it I’d arrived Saturday afternoon and this warrant officer was listening to the races and he said, “You're” I told him who I was and they said, “Oh yeah, you're on a charge. You're in trouble,” and I said, “Oh good.” I said he said, “You’ll go before the OC tomorrow morning.” So anyhow I went before the OC and he said, “But why did you go AWOL [AWL – Absent Without Leave]?” I said, “I didn’t go AWOL at all.” I said, “I sent four urgent telegrams
and the reason being,” you know, “my wife was expecting this first child,” and this major, I still remember his name, Major Ross, he said, “Is that true?” and this warrant officer says, “I don’t know.” “Have a look in his file,” or, “Get me his file,” or somethin’. So he goes and gets the file and pulls it out and here’s these three urgent telegrams. He said, “Case dismissed. Now I want to see someone why this wasn’t actioned,” because they're supposed to action it, even give me an answer, “Yes” or “No” and if they’d a said, “No,” I’d a gone back straight away
and then I yeah, so it was a problem. You do have problems.
But how did you feel about that coming having spent all that time…?
I didn’t feel at all. I was ropeable and I had earlier had an interview with a colonel at 11 national service because we wanted to come to Queensland, I’d never served in Queensland, and I went out to see he said, “Yes I’ll accept you,” but in the meantime Thel was still at Gladesville. And I went out home to see
mum and on the way back I got a telegram to say oh where I stayed with some friends. One of our friends who were married in Japan, and I got this phone call or a telegram to say that I was posted to 4 Battalion New South Wales and that was the training battalion for Korea. It wasn’t the 4 Battalion as such which later became part of the regiment, it was the original 4 Battalion which
in the end when the Korean War finished but they were still sendin’ people there, as peace keepers more or less, they changed it to a depot battalion and I was there from what? Oh, '52 I went there. I would have been '54 or something. I think I left I played I was selected in the Australian services team to play against, who was it, Fijians and we played at
Parramatta, Cumberland Oval, and then I went to the school of infantry to do a long course and then I went to Maralinga to trap dingoes. As an RSM wastin’ his time doin’ seventeen weeks course and they send me to a place like a Maralinga. It was full of boffins.
So what did you have to do there?
Well I was RSM but you really had nothing to
do. You had air force was runnin’ the transport, right? You had an independent squadron who were of engineers who were in the field all the time. You had navy who were the cooks and the people that run the stills, the water to convert it salt water into fresh so you really had nothing. There were you didn’t have a real discipline problem or a couple a times I did but I sort that out and an RSM who should a been in an infantry battalion or somewhere.
So, no I can’t sit at a desk and I had nothin’ to do sittin’ at a desk. They had a chief clerk, an adjutant and I could a got myself into trouble but I didn’t. So I used to fill in the day. I’d go out and cart wood for the cooks and do anything. Trap dingoes. Go at least I was cleared the secrets. I used to go up to Emu, which was the previous atomic site, and
I was that was twelve months and Thel added it up the other one day here and she said, “Do you know that we’ve been separated fifteen years?” and I said, “You don’t want to tell that to anyone,” but she said I lost count when she got to fifteen years. You know you spend twelve months here, twelve months there, fourteen months here. Soon adds up and she sort a reared the kids
How does that affect the marriage then?
Didn’t affect ours. None at all.
But a bit of an adjustment period when you go back though?
Yes, there is cause you're used to doing what you're been doing and but I’ve always had plenty pretty strong family ties and we never don’t we’ve never had any trouble
and we’ve never had any trouble with the kids, fortunately and they all keep in contact you know and they all ring each other or visit each other. So they're pretty stable.
How hard is it to be a you know a devoted father when you're involved in that kind of work?
Oh, pretty hard but the point is I’d like the army or I loved the army
otherwise I wouldn’t a stayed in it so long. Yeah, it’s pretty heartbreaking at times. You're sitting in a mess over say Keswick barracks in Adelaide and you don’t know where you're goin’ to and your family’s back at Ingleburn and she’s got to oh how many kiddies did we have then? We had two and she’s got to look after 'em and on her own and then I went to England before I went to Duntroon, the RSM at Duntroon. That was one
of the stipulations that I go to England. So I had to go to England and go visit all the colleges. I was at Mons and Sandhurst, Irish guards, Scotch guards and she couldn’t go because they limit your time you're gonna be there. If you're under twelve months you can’t take your family and that’s another break. You got to come home and adjust and then you then you got to move to Canberra. So you got to up
she’s been on her own and then you up sticks and go to Canberra to a new environment, which I didn’t want to go to anyhow cause I didn’t volunteer to go there. They selected me.
What did you learn in your time in England?
England? How to drink stout. I didn’t learn much at all. In the way I learnt a lot of how they
run the cadet system, which was the reason I went there, and how they differ from one college to another but Sandhurst and Duntroon run on similar lines. I didn’t learn anything from the guards because they're totally different whether it be the Grenadier, Irish or Scot. The only the Irish drink more and when I went to the Irish depot I arrived
there on Irishman’s Day and the sergeants' mess overlooks the asylum and they had all the officers visitin’ and they said, “Oh that Australian. We’ll have to dress him up tomorrow for the officers', sergeants' mess cricket match.” And I said I had no creams [cream-coloured cricket uniform] or anything. “We’ll get you everything,” and this major I think he must have had a private income because he had everything. He got every the stuff for me and what should happen?
I was fielding in the out he hit this lofted drive and I took it. Beautiful catch and I thought, “God, I’ll be popular after he’d goin’ out of his way to get me everything.” Yes, that’s an experience to go to those guards' depots. Mons the second, well Mons was the second lieutenant’s college. That was quite interesting and they looked after me really well. They well they all did. Sandhurst was good
and well it was well worthwhile bein’ at Sandhurst because they're similar really on the lines of Dun or Duntroon’s on Sandhurst’s lines.
What did you have to do at Duntroon?
Well you were responsible for all the discipline and all the ceremonial, all the drill and in those days when I was there a course they weren’t academic orientated like they are today.
There was I wouldn’t know I can’t remember the actual percentage of academic to military work but it was I suppose I wouldn’t be tellin’ a lies we would a been in those days about seventy to thirty. Nowdays it’s probably the opposite direction apart from the college itself you know where the Duntroon. Not talkin’ about ADFA [Australian Defence Force Academy]. I’m talkin’ about ADFA not the college itself I’m sorry.
You run a full time job. You start early, you finished late. You were responsible for all the ceremonial and you got called out in those days. When I was there cadets used to do guards of honour at various places like say opening parliament house. The war memorial, Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. Sometimes you’d have to do
cata (UNCLEAR) parties at funerals, which later that changed after I left because they went more academic and no, great experience. My six or six years and a bit at Canberra.
How did Australia prepare for Vietnam?
Not too good I don’t think. They put a lot of effort into it. We overall
the battalions that went there were well trained. Put a lot a time. You know we spent days, hours, day in and day out and physically fit all the time before we went to Vietnam, 5 Battalion and Vietnam’s a totally different concept altogether to New Guinea and Korea. Cause I went to
what did I go I went to Vietnam with the advance party in 1969, in January, and I came home in not sure March or April '70 and that was 5 Battalion’s second trip. They’d been there oh I forget what years they went there. No, it was a good organisation.
We spent most of our time in Nui Dat and the task force at Nui Dat.
So why did you have to go?
Well, I when I got commissioned at Duntroon I was they had what was called a quartermaster’s commission. Well put it this way to put it quite bluntly, for old senior warrant officers and they had nowhere to send me anyhow because as
RSM of Duntroon you're the senior warrant officer or a senior warrant officer and my first posting, as I said earlier, I was posted as training officer Goldie River in Papua New Guinea. And then they changed it and sent me as quartermaster to 5 Battalion. Now what an RSM knows about quartermastering you could write an essay on a cigarette paper but I had to learn and I learnt fast to
get a battalion to Vietnam with all their weapons and clothing, barracks and all the thousands of things you got to do to keep 'em there for fourteen, fifteen months. And in the time I was there I lost my RQMS [Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant], three CQs [Company Quartermaster], which the CQs are company people. They're company Qs [Quartermaster] and your RQMS is your 2IC plus the fact I used to get dobbed to go out as liaison officer
while the battalion was on operations. You’d they’d say, “Oh get the QM [Quartermaster]. He can go and do that.” And you’d be lobbed in a Possum [call sign of Bell Sioux helicopter] or a helicopter out in the midst of some Yank team that’s sittin’ out there and you find out where all the minefields are and where your battalion is operating so you can warn them out and but actually I wasn’t in battle. We got a few rockets and things like that
onto us but nothing to fuss about. The hardest worst time of my army career. It was a job I didn’t like. It was a hard job and it never finished and everyone complained. Yeah, I had officers sayin’, “I want to do this,” and, “I want to do that,” ‘til one day I said to this certain major I said, “The sooner you get a few
bullets whizzin’ around your head the better,” and I really thought I would be put on a charge but nothing happened and the end of our tour in Vietnam we were invited to these to who was taking over from us? 7 Battalion, to the sergeants' mess and this particular bloke was invited too and he’d had a few drinks and he said, “Tom, what you told me was true.” No, I could’a got into trouble in Vietnam a few times because
I said a few things that I shouldn’t a said to the wrong people at the wrong time. No different, totally different plus you worked irrespective of your battalions in operations or not well it doesn’t make where you are you're seven days a week and seven days a week for a year and if your battalion’s on operations you're there all the time. You're got to be by your radio, by your telephone because they
might want ammunition. They want replacement gear and everything and no, didn’t enjoy it at all. I was pleased when my time was up and I got out of the quarter master system. I went from one sublime to the ridiculous because I went from a quarter master to an operations officer. You know the old eastern command barracks in Sydney. No didn’t, and Vietnam’s not a good place.
The Australians had a very good idea. In Vietnam they never had any Vietnamese within the compounds of the task force area, whereas Americans don’t do that, see. They have and that’s the worst thing you can happen cause they probably would be workin’ in a base today and tonight they're tunnellin’ underneath it and that happens. I’m not tellin’ any lies there. It really happens
and generally it’s a terrible climate in the wet season and I’ve never seen so many people whether you were dark skinned or fair skinned you suffered from prickly heat and my RQMS he was dark and he had these red blotches over ya. You had Americans had a certain thing that you could spray on and give you a bit of relief for awhile but the only way you could get rid of it was go up in a plane
but then a day or two after when you come back again, say you went somewhere in an aeroplane you’d when you were up in the atmosphere it seemed to go. Come back down, down a couple a days and you're covered in prickly heat again. Nearly drive you mad. You got two distinct seasons, a wet and a dry. Dry you're dust, wet, you're wet all the time. No, they can have it as a tourist country. I don’t want to go there either.
What were you
hearing about the Viet Cong?
What did I what?
What were you hearing about the Viet Cong?
Oh well we had good intelligence there. You knew what they were up to. In the Phuoc Tuy Province they knew what units were there but they’d a never won that war. No matter what they did because one bloke’d be smilin’ at ya today. He’d be doin’ somethin’ else against ya tonight and all the work that they put in building schools and
was a waste a money. Waste’a time.
Did you feel that then?
Yeah, I felt it then and I’m sure some of the blokes bein’ shot at were felt it then.
You say it was a completely different war? Is that what you you're talking about?
Yeah. Well for instance you went to a battle zone or to your area where you were going to work by chopper, right?
You came back by chopper or you might go by road or by APCs [Armoured Personnel Carrier]. Your medical casualties were quick as a flash. They had great medivac [medical evacuation]. They’d have 'em from Vung Tau to the hospital in a matter of moments whereas they didn’t have that in New Guinea where they had to cart 'em over trails and same in Korea initially. So you had a lot a things goin’ for it
and of course you had a lot a things against it too. You had mines, which are worse than bullets in a lot a we had I forget what our percentage of casualties were with mines but they were a lot. I really don’t know. You should a heard something on it. Have you interviewed many Vietnam people?
We have heard a lot about the mines actually. Some of the…
Well they laid these thousands and thousands and thousands of mine and they built the fence
and they had a company out at the horseshoe but they actually weren’t protecting the mines. A minefield should be under cover of fire so you could look after it but I read a true story written by a bloke that they could lift, a team of three could lift a hundred and sixty eight mines in a night. Now that’s a lot a mines isn’t it and we had some dreadful casualties from the mines. Really dreadful
and I think there’s a book comin’ out about it shortly. That friend a mine he told me someone sent him a draft copy of a book he’s writin’ about the mines, minefields in Vietnam.
You were only there for a short period really. Was it five months or six months?
Fourteen. Yeah, I went in…
Oh, I thought it was less.
Fourteen. I went in January and come back the end a March.
The following year?
Oh, okay. Right.
And what was happening in the war in that time when you first went there?
Same thing that went on all the time. I think, I think they might a cut out the bombing of Hanoi or northern Vietnam. I just forget now. That’s so long ago. The same thing that went on all the time. The Yanks must a lot a dreadful amount of casualties in Vietnam
because I can’t remember too many battles that are listed as being won. And I read a true story on a class graduate from West Point that a particular class and a lot of 'em went to Vietnam and were posted to infantry units or special forces unit. And
they a true stories of various battles on fire support bases and taking hills and they suffered dreadful casualties. I and unless you're there you can’t say why of course. You don’t know whether it’s tactics or wrong you don’t know why it happened. You don’t know why.
You were pretty critical of the US [United States] in Korea. Did you feel that they’d improved by Vietnam?
Well I wouldn’t like to say anything about 'em in Vietnam because I didn’t have that much to do with 'em. I met some good people in Vietnam, Americans in Vietnam when I used to be dropped in you know to these teams that were they were working there all the time, some officers and warrant officers. And we used to have 'em into the battalion when the battalion was in out of operations and they were great people. I got on very well with 'em.
Did you talk to blokes
coming back from the conflict very often?
Yeah, all the time.
And what were you hearing from them about what was happening?
Same all the time. Same old stories you know. Put they hated mines. They were frightened of mines and well the pressure’s put on 'em because they had this stupid system of what did I say? Earlier in the piece about casualties? Oh,
Body count and I used to go to conferences at task force headquarters and they’d say, “Oh well so and so’s,” you know “body counts” and same with the battalion. A heap a rubbish in my opinion. Mind you I wasn’t out there shootin’ 'em either but they’d probably say something against me but no, I don’t know. We probably,
well all wars are wrong aren’t they? No one’s a winner really in the end.
Do you think that?
Well, not really. We haven’t won. We didn’t do any good in Vietnam. We probably did some good in Korea because at least they're in their own place and we're not doin’ too good in Iraq are we?
No, like we win the war but we
don’t win the aftermath of it.
Peace or the sorting out of the place and no, I think looking back on Vietnam if it was the same thing happened today as it was then I’d still go mind you but I can’t see really what good it did because look at all the
multi millions a dollars a stuff that the Yanks lost there when they just walked away and gave it to the South Koreans and they're…and I can tell ya what, the South Koreans had no hope a (UNCLEAR) because they didn’t have their heart in it for a start. Those ARVN regiments and that. All they was doin’ was gettin’ good money and good food and getting look after and they certainly weren’t gonna fight. Even a dumb old quartermaster like me could a told 'em that but look at the
it must a cost 'em billions. No, they didn’t win or none of 'em won did they in Indo-China, even from the days of the French. They had a hard time.
So by Vietnam, had you become more cynical about the concept of war?
No, I don’t think so. I think I was about the same as I was always been.
Have you been proud of what you’ve done your contributions to the wars?
Oh yeah, I suppose I could say so. Yeah.
What would be a one of the proudest moments for you in all of that conflict you’ve faced?
Oh yeah. Now that’s a hard one Nicole. Oh I would say being long being belonged to two
magnificent infantry battalions in New Guinea and Korea. Not so much Vietnam because I wasn’t a operational soldier. Yeah I’d say that’s my most and more so with 3 Battalion because we’d been together that’s that long that we were a big family
and it was a family and I can remember when the priest that married Thel and I used to say mass up the road. They had a chapel up the road from the battalion and a certain officer we used to parade church parade Sunday morning. So he’d marched all the RCs up to this RC chapel and this certain priest, who’s passed
away years ago had was a heavyweight boxer, was Australian heavyweight champion. Also played international rugby. So this officer halted 'em, advance, so and so, so and so and he said, “After mass I want to see you.” And he said a mate a mine and he said, “Rusty you and Tom wait too,” and he tore strips off him [yelled at him]. He said, “Don’t you ever
march troops to my church again,” and he was a magnificent man. Really was and he stayed he never came home. He had a, Ellen [interviewer] would be interesting in this, he had a mission at Kyoto. Came home years later. Came home to die in actual fact and he died
before I could get up to see him. He came to Sydney and I didn’t know he was home and then I read something in the paper and when I enquired he’d already passed away. I didn’t even get to his funeral. No, Vietnam wasn’t enjoyable. I don’t know why. Probably because everyone was anti it. Mind you when we came home I’ve never seen anywhere
this so-called display of anti-Vietnam veterans ever. Not since I came home and I don’t believe it exists and some mates of mine who with the training team and with the battalion say the same thing but they seem to punch it out all the time. One of the things I think that is probably the problem, was a problem, was because national service was were committed
and they might be you know probably the general public were against that and that’s why the people say they're anti but I’ve never had any trouble with people. They’ve always treated me with the utmost respect. Never have any problems on Remembrance Days or Anzac Days and I’ve been everywhere to those and just recently we had the fiftieth
anniversary in Brisbane of the Korean War. It was fantastic and there were a lot of Vietnam veterans there and I don’t suppose there’d be many Korean Vietnam veterans now. They’d be gettin’ light on the ground because of most of the Korean blokes were World War II. So they're getting a bit light.
Interviewee: Thomas Muggleton Archive ID 1687 Tape 10
There’s just one thing I wanted to ask you about something you were speaking about earlier. You went to Maralinga. Were you there for the atomic blast?
Yeah, fourth test.
Can you tell us about those?
Well I can remember the blast at One Tree, which was the first one they let off in 1956, and they had everything into position you know. They had tanks, they had
every type of weapon possible in position to see how it went and we everyone was back at the village in those days. And when the they have to wait for a certain time to get a certain wind to carry the dust in a particular area or particular trough and you turn your back to it. When the blast goes you wait a few seconds and then turn around and see that there’s
nothing there any more, and you can’t see it anyhow, and then you're not allowed into the area. Only the experts and they have these atomic disposals teams with all their chemical rigs and everything that go in and see how things are and what damage is done to tanks. What damage is done to artillery pieces and shelters and dug outs and things of that nature but after that one, the ground
it was a lotta salt bush area which that country is, looked like, just like glass. As if someone had sprayed the whole place with glass. Then a few days after it disappeared. Another one they let off at night and we were out went out to that and you carried out the same procedure. You weren’t, you're not allowed anywhere, you gotta be back so many miles from it
and they let it off at night but unfortunately, and they didn’t know this, that the cloud shelter came across. And they thought it was clear and it held the blast in and it real it really rattled the place ‘til it finally got away and was very enlightening that one. Yeah, very interesting.
What do you mean “enlightening”?
not too many people see atomic blasts but that one at night, you never really seen anything you know. You saw the blast but it was whatever happens to the atmosphere at night with this cloud coming down, it holds it in for a certain time. You think you're really in a big war with all the big guns firing and then it gradually disappears and the other two weren’t as big as those two. They were smaller
and they same similar result but you were the whole area’s radioactive for years and years after but it Maralinga was a very big village you know. They had about I think it I was there for twelve months. They had fifteen hundred boffins alone in the village. Initially we built the area,
Camp 43. Well put it this way, the 7 Independent Engineer Squadron I think it was, they did all the really hard work. They worked from daylight ‘til dark and there was a lotta people there. The RAF [Royal Air Force], they were had an airport down below. Very hot. Very cold at night. The Canadians were out here, few Canadians, the
atomic experts. Few army people. No it was inter it was an experience but another thing I wouldn’t want to do again. I could a when you're sent to a place like as a trained regimental sergeant major there’s you're wonderin’ if they want to put you out to pasture. And from there I came back and had to go to the school of military instructing on stuff that I should a been doing all the time.
Tom, you’d actually seen the effects of an atomic bomb when you saw Hiroshima, were you concerned about being there for those blasts?
Not really. No, because I spoke to so many people on the team. You know the Sir William Penny, he was a great old bloke. He was the top scientist there. He I got on well with him and they used to tell you practically what was happenin’ and what this’d what it’d do and this’d do but
they have a lot of trouble and they're very what’d you put it, very firm. They will not let 'em go unless the climatic conditions are right. I remember the first one at One Tree was postponed and postponed because there’s a big build up to let off an atomic bomb I can tell you. I don’t know the anything outside our range or how workings there but I suppose all the outside world’d know about it, particularly in Western Australia and
Perth and those places. No, I wasn’t worried about it.
When you say it was interesting but you wouldn’t want to go through that again, why not?
Well it, it wasn’t my type of work. Wasn’t cut out for to me it was a waste of twelve months. Put it this way, it was good to go there, like a lotta people went just to see the atomic blast as observers but not
to work there for twelve months and see exactly the same thing. And it’s twelve months out of your army career more or less, although it never set me back.
There was a lot of criticism, or there has been a lot of criticism, from people about exploding those atomic blasts in Maralinga.
What were your thoughts on that? We might have to pause there.
So are we rolling?
Yeah, there was a lot of criticism about those atomic blasts. What were your thoughts on that?
Well there has been a lot of criticism and there was a Royal Commission held into it and I was when I worked at Parliament House I was called or some lawyer rang me up one day and said, “You're I need to interview you at the Attorney General’s Department,” and I said, “I can’t go because I’m working.” And he said, “Mr Muggleton if you don’t come I’ll subpoena
ya.” And so yes, I went over and I was interviewed and they were going to fly me to Sydney and I think they paid me a, I’m not sure if they paid me a cheque or not, which they never ever got back and never asked for it. And they wanted to know what went on and why certain people were claiming for cancer and things like that and I said, “I can’t even remember the person
that’s claiming.” He claimed that I knew all about him. That he worked in transport and things like that. No, I don’t think they looked after the people from Maralinga and they’ve had oodles and oodles [many, many] of commissions into 'em and they’ll never be looked after and I know a lot of the, particularly the engineers that worked in that place, that have died of cancer. Quite a number have died from cancer and they’ve but they’ll never get any compensation. Too far gone
and I think if they held 'em as they did someone should have paid the families compensation of the people that contracted cancer from that.
You were talking earlier about the Vietnam War and the fact that you didn’t really see any of that anti-Vietnam vet [veteran] sentiment.
What was your own experience then?
What, coming home?
Well when the battalion came home we marched through Sydney. We had a magnificent turn out as if we were coming from New Guinea or the Middle East and I don’t know what they complained about and everyone we met, anywhere, I had never ever heard of any anti-Vietnam and they it surprised me and I’ve spoken to mates of mine in Western Australia and other places and they said they don’t know where it comes from, so.
Someone asked me about what’s that thing they're supposed to get?
Post traumatic stress and I said, “Can I get that? I might get a pension.” No, lotta garbage in my opinion. I don’t know where they get it from. I ah well I think I’m still sane and I don’t suffer from post traumatic stress [disorder]. Or I hope
So you don’t think that being involved in those sort of dramatic situations where your life is threatened and you are involved in killing other people actually has any lasting effect?
I suppose it does on some people but no, I don’t know. It’s never it’s never ever affected me. Oh well, I don’t think it’s ever affected me.
Do you think your time in those wars, in New Guinea, Korea and Vietnam changed you in any way?
Yeah. Made me grow older quicker. Probably more mature quicker. No, I don’t think it changed I probably I haven’t changed over the years and people say I haven’t changed over the years. So I you can only go on that and can’t enjoy a beer these days, that’s the only thing or one of the things.
You were involved in three major conflicts. What
are your strongest memories of those wars? Your own experiences in those wars?
Well in New Guinea when I was young and very fit, but New Guinea was terrible under the conditions under which you fought and the type a country you fought in because of the mountains, the tracks, the rains, the mud. But you can’t compare New Guinea with
Korea. Korea was dreadful. We were we fought under horrendous conditions and if I had to say which was the hardest, I would say Korea but the three are totally different. I think it was the conditions under which we fought in Korea and because we
were in the mobile stage. See we weren’t in the static stage and we were up and back and we rolled in refugees and things like that, which didn’t come later. See after we finished our time the thing sort a stabilised and it was more like Gallipoli warfare with trench warfare. Although they broke out and captured a hills on Maryang San and that but generally over a period of a couple a years that’s the type of warfare it was. They went out,
crossed minefields and tryin’ to get prisoners and things like that. Both sides a course and no, the whole three were totally different. Climatic conditions totally different but I would say that Korea if I had to, if I had to make a decision, would a been was the worst I felt.
And you didn’t, in New Guinea at least you knew you were doin’
something. If you took a hill you sort a kept it sort a thing, but in Korea you’d take a hill or take win a battle, probably capture a lotta miles and lose lives and get a lotta people wounded and finish up gettin’ nothing. But in the end you get something because for the simple reason they're still north and south whereas Vietnam they're only one anyhow so we lost out there, didn’t we?
What are you views about the Vietnam War and the whether we should have been there and whether it was worthwhile?
Well, I don’t think it was worthwhile in the end because they never got anything out of it. They lost and I think we should a been there. I never had any objections to us not being but we didn’t win it and that’s the main thing. You gotta win.
So tell us about your involvement with the Korean vets Queensland Korean vets association.
Well they started off when we when we initially when I retired Thel and I used to come up to Malabar. You know where that is? The army place there at the airport? Which they sold about two years ago and I don’t know what they're ever gonna build there. They're building an RSL [Returned and Services League] thing I think and we used to have a get together of all
the ‘oles and boles’ from 67 Battalion and 3 Battalion, which is the same that we’ve been talkin’ about all day. And we’d get together in Southport and it was good because people’d come from all over the place and bring their old photographs and that and then a certain couple a blokes decided that they’d like to start a Korean veterans organisation. So we got I got roped in and we started it and we got it going. Got all our
own organisation, our own bank accounts and things like that and initially the initial president he wasn’t there long because he had a heart attack so I got roped into the job. So I was there six years and we did a lotta good but the problem is, with Korean veterans now, initially we used to get a great group of people at the meeting but they're gettin’ too old.
See, some used to come from Brisbane, Murwillumbah but now a lot of 'em are just can’t get around any more. They can’t drive their cars so the numbers are dwindling and each year they're gonna get smaller and smaller and six years is a long time bein’ in the one job and I said, “Well,” a couple a years ago I said, “I want out.” But they couldn’t get anyone for the job so I had to volunteer for another year. Then finally they got someone to do it and now
I’m out of it. Well, you're never out of it really. They still call on ya for things.
What’s the purpose of the association?
Well, the purpose of the association was to look after the veterans that are here or anywhere else. We still have 'em in Western Australia and someone’d go and visit 'em in hospital. Try and look after their welfare. Do Veterans Affairs jobs for 'em and things like that and put forward you know certain things that go
to Canberra for the ministers for medals and all that, which we’ve lost out on. But generally it’s I think all these organisations because ours, the people are gettin’ too old cause they're World War II and mostly Korean blokes.
What about Anzac Day? How important is that for you?
Oh, it’s still important. We normally go somewhere Anzac Day. This year we're goin’ to Brisbane
but yeah, Anzac Day I look forward to.
Why do you look forward to it?
Oh well, remember. See old friends and you see a lot of people that you don’t see normally. You know a lot of 'em shut themselves away. They don’t get around much and let’s face it, when you get to a certain age you're not a socialiser. You become sort’a anti-social,
whether you want to or not. You know a lot of people like goin’ to clubs. Some don’t but mostly like Anzac Day or Remembrance Day you get a good roll up.
Why do you think it’s important to remember?
Oh I think it’s important to remember all the sacrifices that are gone by people passed away, keep our country free.
That’s my opinion anyhow and most of the people that went to these wars are all volunteers. Some of 'em weren’t but bear in a minority but not often. Even in World War II you had I suppose we had a certain amount a conscription. I don’t remember we had it or not, did we?
What would you say were the best or are the best memories of your war time experiences?
dear, that’s hard. I say the same things I said before. To be a member of 2/5th Infantry Battalion and 3 Battalion, who were sort of a family and all your mates and you're together. You played sport. You took the good times with the bad times and it’s sort a hard to break from
I suppose. You still think of 'em even today. I for instance I wouldn’t you still have memories. I wouldn’t be goin’ to the Atherton Tablelands if I didn’t you know it sort a brings back a nostalgic, brings back memories.
Do you ever dream about your war experiences?
Yes, I have I don’t dream, I have nightmares. Yes I did, and up until oh
recently yeah. I have some dreadful dreams.
What sort of dreams?
Well, I’ll tell you one that I had on and off for awhile. I had two that I had on and off for a long time. We, I don’t know, don’t ask me if this was Korea or Vietnam. We had, it must a been Korea. We had a recce patrol. So we went in and the idea
was that we were to get into these boats when we got to the town and go in and do the job or find out what we were supposed to do cause we weren’t supposed to have weapons when we went in. So we hid 'em all in the bush by this tree and we marked the tree. Went in, did the job. Brought the boat back. Went to find our weapons and all the trees were cut down and the place was bare. The other one that I had
dreamt about for years was that a I was wounded in the chest and this truck was going. It was an old Jimmy truck [General Motors Corporation truck] that they used to call it and I jumped on the tail board and I’m hanging over with part of my body inside and part of my body outside. And I used to have this and it never came to an ending but I’d was never in that situation and never near a truck anyhow, but I had it and yes a dream about Chinese
jumpin’ out of trees and I haven’t had 'em recently but for years. Oh, and not so many years ago that stopped. Oh yeah. I but next day they're forgotten about.
So some people might say that was a lasting effect of the war on you.
Oh. I don’t think so.
I should’a told 'em about that. No, I forget about 'em the next day.
Were you ever wounded?
Oh, I got a little bit of shrapnel in the neck in New Guinea. Apart from that, no. So I was lucky but I stayed on duty. I don’t think it was ever reported. Still a little mark there. Bit of a grenade or something.
So do you have a final word that you would like to say to all Australians?
Oh no. I think I think we need good services. A good military service plus the army, navy and air force and they need supporting and we gotta have 'em. Without 'em we’d be lost and they need to interest school children in history more
of the wars in my opinion. We tried to do it here with our organisation. You know to go into schools and so do other Vietnam veterans and Korean veterans and World War II.
Why do you think it’s important to get children interested in the history of the wars?
Oh to get 'em I think they should know what’s happened to their country and how it’s come about and I think they are more interested these days. You get more children now going to,
say, Remembrance Day services and Anzac Day marches than you ever did before, which I think is a good thing.
Given your experiences in those three conflicts, what is your view about what’s happening now with yet another conflict in Iraq?
Oh well, I think they I don’t think it was a bad idea to go into Iraq
but for some unknown reason I think they’ve messed it up, the aftermath, and I really do. Cause things don’t seem to be goin’ as planned. Things might change after June or whenever they have when do they hand the well they hand over certain things in June I think their own running of their country but I think the Middle East is a problem,
not only in Iraq and no, I think we had a go there. I think we I don’t think we should withdraw our troops while we have civilians there and embassies and things like that. We have 'em I don’t think we’ve got any at the moment any front line troops there. Most of 'em are air traffic controllers and things a that nature. Transport and security people
but I really think it’s a trouble spot. I don’t think it’s gonna you sit down at night and think listen to the news I don’t think it’s gonna change much but you hope don’t you? You hope all these things come to an end and get some good out of it.
All right, Tom. I think oh, I just wanted to ask you about your thoughts on your son’s involvement in going to Baghdad and…
Oh we were worried about him but he’s pretty experienced. He’s been in all these trouble spots before. He knew what he was goin’ into. We were pleased to see him come home and I think he was pleased to come home and oh no, he wanted to go and that was it. He was he’s not a front line soldier although he went out a lot he worked with the navy and things like
that. So he went out more than most of 'em most of his legal system do but they worked long hours and in the time he was there he said, I think he said he had one day off and they worked from seven o'clock in the mornin’ ‘til eleven o'clock at night. That’s every day of the week. So when he come home he was a type of a wreck. He couldn’t settle down to do anything and I think he said, I asked him how many beers did he have over there? He said, “I had three,” and he could
name 'em. He went to the Brits for Christmas lunch and I one night I asked him, “Why?” He said, “When you're working from seven ‘til eleven and when you go out anywhere you’ve got to have escorts, gun escorts, you gotta carry guns yourself,” he said, “you why waste time goin’ to a bar to have a beer when you wanna go to bed?”
Did he tell you much about what he saw there?
Oh not really. Apart from the
security. He said it’s pretty high rate security. You know you can’t get in anywhere. You gotta go through everything and they're well escorted wherever they go. He said the Australians a got good camps. Very good camps. Where he was it wasn’t much good because I think there were officers living in double bunks in an old palace and I think they were in the chapel part of it. Had to
walk a long way to the toilets and the sanitation was, like all those countries, terrible. I can remember years ago when I went to the toilet in Beirut and got hit over the head with a broom cause I didn’t know you had to put money in a saucer for usin’ the toilet.
Having been in the army yourself for so many years, how did you react at first when you knew your son was going to
Duntroon and so forth?
Oh well, I’ll tell ya my reaction. He got a Commonwealth scholarship to do law and that’s all we thought he was ever gonna do and when he said he wanted to go to Duntroon I didn’t mind him goin’ because it was quite good but the applications were closed. So I was in G3 Ops [operations department] then at Victoria Barracks and I said to someone the next mornin’, “Are the
applications for Duntroon closed because Paul’s interested?” And he said, “We’ll fix it up.” So it was fixed up in one day and he was up for his medical and everything in no time. No, I didn’t worry about him goin’ to Duntroon. Duntroon doesn’t hurt 'em. They get good training, good education.
And when he told you he was going to Iraq?
Oh well, he’s free, white
and twenty one. No, we were worried about him going to Iraq. I probably wasn’t as worried about him as his mother was, having been a soldier, and he wanted to go. So that was it and now he’s back. So it’s good to have him back. We worried about him. They, well he used to ring up from over there. It’s not like in my day. Nowdays you can send emails and phone calls. We didn’t have that. You had to wait
for a letter to arrive to and from.
All right. Well I think we’ve about…