Archive number: 2539
Preferred name: Jack
Date interviewed: 11 January, 2000
You are listening to the interview audio
NB. This transcript is of an interview filmed for the television series, Australians at War in 1999-2000. It was incorporated into the Archive in 2007.
Maybe we can just start Jack, with you telling me what you remember from the Boer War? You said you remember a little bit about that?
Well I can remember Queen Victoria’s Jubilee; you see I was at that. But the First World War, I wouldn’t know much, I think I’d be about, what age, about nine years old, you know. But I knew this chap that went.
Sorry, the Boer War though?
Boer War yeah. I knew one of the chaps that went there because he wanted my uncle to go and he wouldn’t go, to the Boer War, which was, it was horses in those days
I suppose there were footmen too, but I think he was, they wanted him in the Light Horse you see. But what I can make out of it, there was nothing done much, I don’t know whether they got into action, there was, the Fall of Mafeking, that’s the street I live in, where I used to live, yeah. No I don’t know… I could just remember him coming back, Simon Strand, his name was.
Did he talk a bit, anything
about it to you?
Oh no, no, see I was only a little boy and he’d, he would be about twenty odd years old you see, and at my time, you see in my history, now you’re getting back is the other thing, I was always ignored.
Okay maybe we can talk a bit about when you heard, when you became aware that there was going to be a war, did you remember that time?
No I can’t just remember
that, I can remember talking up there. In the mallees [trees] you’re, way up there where I was is Underbool, that’s where I settled up there at Underbool, I had a block of land up there, before the war. But I was always with me Uncle Dick, I always called them brothers, but they were me uncles, if I say brothers they’re, see I had no brothers at all, only half brothers. But… see we went up the Mallee and I think it was nine… nine, nine, in nine,
about nine we went up… no ten, ten it was, yes, the war broke at nine, yeah.
And do you remember when the war broke out, do you remember how that was announced?
Well I didn’t know much about it, see I was only a working lad, and you had to keep to yourself. See in my early days you’s was like a, well, what you call a mongrel dog, you’d had your meals and go back, you never mixed with the others at all. And you never mixed with,
in my condition, I never mixed with the, I couldn’t mix with the others, they, they didn’t, they sort of had nothing to do, to being what I was you see, I was looked down on. That’s what I thought anyhow.
And why were you looked down on?
Well I was illegitimate, and that was an awful thing in that day. Yeah, yeah.
And so as a consequence you kept to yourself up the bush?
Oh no I had, no I went up the Mallee. See I went up with Dick and Alf, I got me broken leg
and I had no home to go to. So they took me in and then the Mallee broke out in about nine and they were, see my old grandfather couldn’t read nor write, but he had a milk round for thirty-five years and he used to sell milk and… wine. Wait a minute it’s closed up again, it just goes away from me, just leaves me you see…
so your grandfather used to run, had a milk run and then you went up to work in the country didn’t you, you worked on a farm, you were working on a farm…?
I worked for five shillings a week when I was twelve years old, thirteen years old, yeah. Then at fourteen, that’s what I was telling you the, my stepfather, my mother got married you see, I didn’t know she was me mother till I was seven years old. One of me, that I thought was a sister was me aunty and she said, “You can’t stop here anymore John.” and I woke up
there was something wrong, you see, never knew anything about it.
Okay, early days at school do you remember, did you sing God Save the King and do you think it was…?
Do you think it was more of an Empire?
Oh well it’s a bit, as a six year old, seven year old you see I started six year old, had to walk three, three mile, three mile to school. In those days… if you was over three mile, it was a bit over three mile you could,
what could we do… just can’t think now, brain won’t work. Had some privilege, I forget what it was.
But at school did, was there much sense of Australia being part of the British Empire do you think? Did you sing?
Well I voted for the old, I don’t, I voted for, for the Queen, yeah, oh yes, I was satisfied. English people are wonderful people, yeah. And you can’t trust
our guys. That hands over to the back a lot…money comes into it, money comes into a lot of things.
Yeah it does, it does. But in those days do you think people, you know saw Australia as part of the British Empire, do you think, did you think yourself…?
Oh course yes, yes, yes… see the old dago [slang for Italian], the French, the Italian you know, they was awful set on the Italian you know in my
time, yeah, but it’s grown now, they’ve all grown up you see. There’s a lot now foreign names got and an I or a T or something on the end, you know, they’re all good citizens, yeah.
But in those days it was different…?
How was it different?
Chinese you see, there was a lot of Chinese here in Bendigo when my grandfather was here, but it was before my time you see. But, there was a lot of Chinese here, yeah, where the high school, where Kev used to work, that was the area where they camped on, Chinamen.
And how did people think about
them in those days?
How did people think about?
Oh well they were low, supposed to be, I don’t know a bit young to me, but we always looked down on a Chinaman, you know [UNCLEAR] he was, wasn’t equal, in our estimate he wasn’t equal to what we were, yeah.
And okay, so let’s just move on. So the war broke out, did you read any newspapers about that, or
how did you get any…?
No, I never read a newspaper, see I had no, very little education, I never read a, no newspaper until I come back, well I might have looked at headlines and, I never read a book until I come back from the war. I’ll tell you a story about that, until I come back from war and I read On Our Selection [book about bush life by Steele Rudd], I could read, I taught me self you see. And I had a little bit of an education, see I left school at nine years old just when you’d start to learn anything you see. And there was sixty used to go
to the little school and only one teacher and a sewing mistress, she was to take the low class, there was, there was babies’ class and then a first class and second class, she’d teach them. She taught me how to knit and sew and all that sort of thing in those days, yes we had to learn that you see.
So the practical skills?
Yeah see I couldn’t read, hardly read at all you know, I could read a bit, what self taught. Well then I came out as an NCO [Non Commissioned Officer], lance corporal, went out as an NCO and then a corporal, well that was alright, a corporal alright. Instead of six bob [shillings] a day you got ten bob a day that was the money talk then you see. Well a sergeant,
I got up to a sergeant and that was only another half a crown [two shillings and sixpence] more a day. Then I got as far as I was, I wasn’t gazetted but I was acting company sergeant major and I could do the ground work, all the ground work but they… oh and I had a little bit of force. I said to the company clerk, I said, “Look,” it’s at company headquarters, I was to be, you know give me a try out as sergeant major.
I said, “I can do the ground work,” but I had no education. I said, “I’ve never read a book in me life or anything.” Well they sent an officer out, a captain out oh, a day or so after when they must of heard of it see, and he said to me, he said, “Here sergeant, you read this.” you see. And I looked at it and it was like a doctor writes, you know in big long carbon copies, and I looked at it and I said, “Sir, I can’t read that.” and never said a word, he read it all out. They sent me to an NCO school, sent
me to an NCO school you see and I went to that and it was in mid winter, in January, over there in France it was mid winter. And I got sort of frost bitten feet and half me time I could hardly walk around you know. And I remember they asked me to draw a map of Australia and I couldn’t, didn’t know what Australia looked like, let alone draw one. Anyhow I failed badly and they put me back as senior sergeant and I never got,
I went through the war as that, senior sergeant.
Well they must have thought you were a pretty good soldier to put you to be a sergeant anyway?
Well I, I suppose I was, I, you know when I was at, I’ve had officers come up and, ‘You take charge.’ two different officers, yeah, ‘You take charge.’
Okay, about getting paid ten bob a day then, was the money important in those days?
Oh God yes, oh yes.
Can you tell me a little bit…?
Well the poor old Tommy [English soldier] got two bob a day,
he only got two bob a day and we got six shillings a day, that was the difference, that was where the bitterness come in a little bit, Tommy only got two shillings a day, or half a crown, it might have been half a crown, yeah.
So what brought you to enlist in the army, you were twenty five at the time?
Well Gallipoli had fallen, and then it was practically compulsory then, it wasn’t compulsory but it was nearly to that. If you never enlisted you thought you had to enlist, we was going to go over
you had that feeling that you had to go over to [UNCLEAR]. And Gallipoli was only a botched up job, we had plenty, we had several chaps on Gallipoli, young fellows and there’d be an older soldier, older… older soldier, in our battalion and you could claim him if he was at Gallipoli, and you could claim him, because he was older and he’d come over. And a lot of, we had a few of them in that, and they said it was a real botch.
And they, you know they were, they ended up used to play cards with one another, yeah, yeah that’s what he told us, and I believe it was right.
Is this on Gallipoli you’re talking about?
Yeah, okay. So you heard about Gallipoli, you were saying you felt like you had to go, what was the pressure that was put on you to, to enlist?
There was no pressure you just, you thought you had to go, the feeling was there, I must, you see all these, it was like a paper, you know, newspaper people boost things up
more than it is, and yeah. Thought we had to go. Well there was four of us, four of us went into Warren and enlisted and I was the only one got through, the other three was thrown out at Knowing[?]. I went up to Mildura and was sworn in there. Yeah and then when I got in, went in the army…
Closes up, the old brain closes up on me.
That’s okay. But when you went did you think you were fighting
for the empire, or what was it, was it any, did you feel…
Well with my education you didn’t know what you was fighting for. Yes of course you was fighting for your country more or less, you had to go. You really did, you had to enlist and go. I was, even if after the Second World War you see that was compulsory, the Second World War was at, they, we were called up but they didn’t take us, I passed but they didn’t, you could please yourself, you could enlist if you liked.
Okay so after you enlisted…
After you enlisted what happened then, where did you go for training and what happened there?
Well I, see this was, the 38th Battalion was organised here in Bendigo at the showgrounds, and we just, we were free, and when I enlisted in, oh I can’t, early in the, in the year…
I think it was April was it, 1916?
I was only in, wasn’t in it very long and we had to shift down to Melbourne, the battalion had to
go to Melbourne and we were in a reinforcement, we were not in the battalion then. We went down to Melbourne and Major Morsely came and he picked seventeen of us out of the reinforcement and put us in the battalion and the next week they sailed. And I didn’t know a right turn from left turn, all I was doing, going around picking up paper with a nail on a stick you see, learning the hard way, you know. I remember we’re standing there, me and this other chap was standing there looking at this fellow and he was
a Gallipoli, had come from Gallipoli, must have been there in the early days and he was the adjutant, and he had a few ribbons on. And we’re looking at him, by God he must be something, didn’t know what it was. And he’s looking at us and he come over and he said, “I could make you stand on your head.” frightened Christ out of us, he blew us up you see. He only done it for a joke though, but he was very stern, you know go crook at us [become angry] you see. But yeah, but in a week’s time we was down there and then we got all the damn dirty work, when we were down there. I was,
when the ship sailed, I knew quite a few of the, of the people there on the wharf, but I was guarding a mess… the officers’ clothes, kits, down below. And all I could see out of a porthole, I was looking out of a porthole, couldn’t see them you see, we got all the damn dirty work, being just come in. Yeah. And then when we got over to, over to England we were pulled out
to help unload the ship you see, which was probably a good thing, we didn’t know, we was there helping them unload the ship and we was about a week behind the others, the battalion. And we were in there a day or two and officer’s come along and he picked sixteen of us out for a raiding party. And we learnt all about raiding, I was a bomb thrower, I was the second best, there was a bloke better than me that could throw bombs, and I don’t mean out of the
battalion, out of the, the seventeen of us, we was picked out like that. But throwing bombs, you see I used to teach ‘em bomb throwing.
What was bomb throwing?
Well it was just a grenade, a Mills grenade. See a round thing, you’ve got him in your hand and you pull the pin and you throw him you see. Some of them would hang onto the bell you know and they’d throw it and they’d hang on and they’d pull it down and drop it to their feet. But you took; I don’t know whether it’s three or five seconds… I think it was five seconds before it exploded,
you’d have to grab him and get him around through the trenches was like that, zigzag, drag him around. And then the worst trouble was, is when they threw them over, if one was a dud and didn’t go off, you’d have to go out after it and pick him up. See probably the pin’s stuck, you see, that was the trouble, yeah.
But that sounds like dangerous work, that part?
Oh well yes it was dangerous work, yeah, yeah but you soon knew the job. You see you had a few seconds to get away, you wasn’t, you
wouldn’t be out in a paddock somewhere, you’d be somewhere where you could pop behind a, if you, if you went down, you know, see the, the thing, what do they call it, not a hammer?
Pin yeah, it was, it’d have to drop. When they took the thing off, the pin would drop and you had five seconds I think it was.
So when you were in England and you were trained, you went to training in England didn’t you, is that right?
Do you remember how you felt like before you were going to the front, for the first time you were heading into, into the front
for the first time?
It was a hard thing to answer, that. I just, I don’t know whether I could answer it. You were in with a wonderful crowd you see. Oh you felt alright, it’s just that you was there to do your job, you volunteered to do the job and it was, see I had a lot of narrow escapes, very, very close, yeah.
My nearest one was, I was standing with a corporal in the bay and he was, threw over, he was thrown over what they call a mini [UNCLEAR], and then we had what they call a coal box, he was pretty close to us at this place. And we saw the coal box coming over, it was top, tippling like this you see, and I run around the corner, the trench is like zigzag. I run around the corner, I
would have been a yard away from him and this… bomb dropped at his feet and they picked him up in a sugar bag. And I wouldn’t be a yard away from him, but I was around the corner, the blast just, he stopped the blast. That’s one, that’s me first and then New Year’s Eve in 1917 there was, this raiding party of us went over, never saw anything so deadly stupid, there was four of us got back, yeah.
Yeah and the rest was killed, most, most shot, silent raid it was, blackened your face, seventeen of us went over, I threw a couple of bombs, and it was in the mid-winter you see, January was mid-winter. Where they… our little officers sang out, “Bombers up!” you see. And I went up, being in the cold and I throw a bomb, I couldn’t throw it half the distance you know. Then when I went down, and I happen to go down on a,
was a, I don’t know what it was but I went down on a little sort of a gutter, it wasn’t a gutter altogether, it was sort of a little hole, I don’t know what it was, but it had ice on it. And I laid on the ice and there was, I think it was me mate come up alongside me and he was on top, and I was just like this, and, I heard a couple of bullets hit him, you know you could hear them go plonk, yeah. But…yeah, oh I had several very near, another, another time
a bullet in my, both shoulder blades, different ones. Another time, a shell was that close to me, I was that close to it in soft ground that it burst, when it burst I was right against it, the mud saved me, true as I sit here. Blew all the, the top of the roof off the building that was there. But the mud saved me, went down deeper than, before it exploded.
I was right up against it in the mud yeah.
So you were in the front line for quite some time weren’t you?
Oh I think, in and out, I was in hospital a bit, yes I was there for three years, a little over three years, I was there, I come back in 1919, in April, no not April, August, August 1919 I come back.
So what happened to, so you went through the first winter didn’t you on the front,
the cold, what was that like?
Oh it was a couple of winters or more. We went to…
You first went to Europe?
Seventeen and eighteen, yeah two winters, I thought there was another one, yeah.
Do you remember anything about going into the first winter, what was it like in the cold?
Oh well you know I, different things you know, there’s always little things hop up and your mind just gets away from it, especially my mind now’s gone away from it. See it’s bloody eighty years,
I know the comradeship was great in the returned soldiers, they were wonderful.
What about the soldiers at the time, was there a difference between the Australians and the other soldiers, did you notice the way the Australians, there was supposed to be…?
No, not much, there was that little bit of difference with the Tommy, because he was only getting, I don’t know two or half, two shillings or half a crown a day and we was getting six bob, that’s a private. There was a little bit there, you know a little bit of
jealousy there. But we always reckoned Tommies never had leaders, they had the head of the, you know the, hob knobs had been made, made to, officers to lead ‘em, they had no officers to lead them. Oh God I could tell you these stories about when we broke through, we couldn’t get up the road for Tommies coming back, that as true as I sit here, they were coming back, they had to, they broke ranks you see, yeah.
When was that, was that in the…?
Oh towards the end of the war, yeah.
But was there any difference in the way the Australians, you were a sergeant and promoted through the ranks, that was…?
No, no, well I don’t know what the English, they depended on the officer you see, they depended, whereas an Australian, if you was killed the next best to take over, see. If I was killed the corporal would take over, see that was the trouble. But I think
I told you I had two officers there they told me to take charge, one poor fellow he was a parson’s son, and he stood up when he shouldn’t have, down he went, got shot, you don’t stand up you know, you work. And when you, when a battalion, when a company goes into a battalion they never send the full battalion in, only half, in case they get taken prisoners or you’ve got the, go, yeah. See my company was I think
it was, it was down pretty low, was twelve, about twelve people in it, see, half of them would be out, and we were down wanting reinforcements, and as the reinforcements would come they’d parade sick that morning and away they’d go out again. And a lot of the officers done the same thing, yeah. One night and they were gone.
So did people get sick of being on the front then, did people get to a point where…?
Well you’ve got to obey orders you see, you have to do, you have to do what you’re told, bloody hell yes.
Oh a lot of little things crop up, you know, oh yes.
But did people get like trench fever and stuff hit people, didn’t they, were you aware of that?
Yeah, well I had what you call trench fever, that’s down in the legs there.
Yep, but what about shell shock [battle stress], you got that later, what about when they’re in the trenches, did people get …?
Well I only saw one man, he frightened the life out of me, we were advancing and we were, in what they call a sunken road, but we were just off of that, and he came in and fell in the thing and he was, oh, oh. And that put the wind up me [alarmed me], I had
to get out you know, he was all, like that shaking. That’s the only time I saw a shell shocked man. Yeah he was shelling this sunken road but was a little bit over and he must have dropped, he was shelling the road alright but we were just, oh about from here to that, away from the road down in a, a bit of a, like somebody had dug a bit of a pit. Not very deep, we was laying down in that, away from the blast, you see.
Oh yes, but it’s pretty hard to talk now.
No that’s good, that’s fine, we’ll just cut there for a moment. So there’s a story about when you first went to Lark Hill, can you tell us about that?
Yes well we went to this Stonehenge, I don’t know if you know where the big rocks are and that thing there, we was there, you know around. And there was, well they used to say that one Australian was good, I don’t know how many Germans you know,
all publicity. And there was a sergeant there, a big sergeant there, all dressed up you know, prisoner of war, there were a few prisoners of war, and he could talk… he could talk good English you know and about half his size, you know. And he sang out, like they’re, they were going to win the war and all that you know. And I said, “By God, look at him, one was, we was as good as six of them.” I was, that
went through me mind, I looked at him you know. Then they convince you, see you make believe, yeah make us, make believe a lot in the army, you believe what you’re told. They tell you things; tell you bloody awful things sometimes, yeah. And you’d believe it, I don’t know where, what it is, what it is in the army you do as you’re told, you’re, you’re to that stage, what the officer tells you, you’ve got to do it.
And you were telling me they tell you awful things, you mean that some of the things they told you were what,
Well, that, well, one Australian was as good as six or so many Germans, and I know when I met this German, I was, there was three or four there, what went through me mind I felt as if one of us was, we were only about half his size, or bit bigger, bit bigger, wasn’t as big as that. Yeah so always had that, this big smart looking fellow, not a regular German officer, a German sergeant he was. Yeah I think he was there for that purpose, you know.
Was there anything different about what you thought the war would be like and what it was like when you got to the front?
Well it’s actually, it’s hard to tell your imagination, you know with the war. You had to be there to know what it was like; you see you hadn’t any idea what it was like at all.
Did you think it would go on as long, did you think, how long did you think you’d be in the army when you first joined?
Well no we thought it would be over in
no time you see, we were going over there, we wasn’t going to get over there, that’s the same as the Gallipoli blokes that thought when they would get over, ‘Oh the war will be over before we get there.’ That was in their thought, that yeah, as it was they lost it. Yeah. A strange thing to, I don’t know whether you’d want this, I had an uncle in the war and he was… missing believed killed, that’s how he was reported that, and I
believe just of late they found a hat, an old hat of his, he must have had one of the felt hats and must have had his name on it. And yeah somebody was saying that they found a hat of his. But that’s nearly eighty years ago.
And people say that the Australians were better, or good… what sort of solider was the Australian soldier, do you have any idea?
Well the Yanks [Americans] you see, we never got on too well with the
Yanks, the Yanks were, ‘God damn where’s this God damn rifle!’ and they’d had revolvers to shoot. ‘God damn shooting gallery, where’s this God damn shooting gallery?’ No we never got on too well with them. Yanks was talked over us as you understand, that’s their style. They won the war, they done this, they done that, you know, yes. I, I think they did help a lot coming in yes. No we wasn’t
overfriendly with the Yanks, with them. And it’d be a surprise that… a lot of the French people that you met, like where the Germans has been, they didn’t give a damn who won the war. I could tell you stories there.
Sorry what was that, what do you mean by that?
Well they were all spies; I could talk for a week on it. Yeah, I was in a party, I was in a party there, this was when we were in the advance,
you know, wait ‘til I get going again. And they took us out, see I was in that raiding party, most of it, what was left of us and that we were, took us out on a bus three nights, not running, and we thought, and they told us this, this is the worst thing into it, don’t tell anybody if you’ve got a secret, because the first thing you tell a mate and away it goes like wildfire. Well they told us that, we thought it was serious, they’d take us out of a night and leave us out of a night
and bring us back again, no action you see. And the second night, or one night, I think it was the second night I was out, we were going to have a bath, a shower, I think it was a shower and damned if I didn’t run into a fellow I knew from Eddington, he was in that. And he gave me a new shirt, that’s what he gave me. And I told him about this dangerous thing we was on, you see I let the cat out of the bag. But it was only a hoax to see where the spies was. That’s what we come to the conclusion, we never went over.
Alright thanks we’ll just…?
Bill Steinfeldt[?], he was up at Underbool, he’s a blacksmith at Underbool and he was a good, he was friendly with most of all the others. Yeah very friendly you see, I think he went, he sort of joined up in the Second World War. I know he was, he told me he was, they used to put him, I don’t think he was a fighting soldier, some other sort of soldier you know doing odd jobs. They used to lock em up in a big thing, nothing for em to do, and they’d lock em up in that
and play cards. He told me that himself. Yeah he wasn’t in turn mind you; he was with other soldiers, yeah, yeah.
So how was your future wife’s family, were they treated any differently during the war because…?
Well, Bill, the oldest boy, him and I were great friends in the young, early days. They had a block of land on the other side of the line to where I was, see I was north of the line. And they were south, and I used to,
but I didn’t know her, I’d seen her, I didn’t know, oh then. And… how I come to meet her was just before the war, must have been just when the war was on or something, I can’t think of the, I went to a dance one time and I escorted her home, took her home, you know. And said goodnight to her. And then when I got, never by, never struck me nothing, nothing wrong like,
when I had me final leave, I met her again and I give her a bit of a kiss and, and I asked her would she write to me, and she said, yes. And she was writing to three or four other chaps, she had a, in the boarding house, they had a boarding house, and she was a waitress, she wrote to them. And I used to write to her, and send little presents. When I got to South Africa and had a bit of money I sent her a few presents over and different things.
In fact there’s some of ‘em still going, what I sent her. And that start to bind us up and she dropped off of her friends, dropped them and just used to write to me and send parcels ‘cause she was in a café, where they sold cigarettes and all that sort of thing. And if you sent a cigarette over by sea you could hardly smoke it you see, there’d be the sea air. But if it’s in a tin it was alright, but if it was in a packet you could hardly smoke ‘em you see, the sea air on them, that’s what we reckon.
Yeah, and when I come back she had to wait four years before I could eat it, she was a waitress all right. She waited for years for me, yeah 1923 we got married.
Had a wonderful wife, she turned out to be a wonderful wife, yeah.
Can you just tell me again how people met through the war like that? Would you be able to tell me that story again, how
people met through the war, like sending things?
Oh well they sent parcels, you know, they, what do they call them, they had an organisation, women’s something, they’d make knitting, knit socks and scarves. And I remember they used to knit a balaclava that went over and you looked through and, I got one of them and they took it off us. It was no good for the hearing you see, they reckoned it was but it wouldn’t affect it, but they took it all off us, yeah. You couldn’t cover your ears up.
But people met
did they after those letters, how did that happen? People would get together after writing to each other would they?
Oh well you see you’d answer, somebody would put this note in with their address on it, and you’d answer it you see. When I come down here, after I come down here the second house where I lived in Mafeking Street blowed if there wasn’t a girl there that I used to, what did I do, oh her fellow, a fellow named Jack Plim, was
a relation of hers and she know Jack and she used to send me parcels, and I don’t know whether I answered them or not, I forget, somebody would have answered though. You don’t know them, but a lot answered them, lonely people, yeah. Yeah had no friends and that.
And they would meet after the war then would they, after they’d start writing?
Oh yes, yes, yeah.
Did you get any leave during the war?
Oh yes, yes.
Could you tell me about what happened?
Fourteen days every year, fourteen days. I’ve been to, oh well it was Scotland, we’d get four days leave when we was in England every
now and again you’d give us four days leave to go to London, and just for a couple of days you know. But I’ve been up the, we used to get leave to go to Scotland; I think I went twice to Scotland. I’ve been to Ireland, I went to Ireland, both sides, had great experience there.
What was that like, what was that like did you meet anybody?
Oh well they were all up agin [against] the war, a lot of them was all agin, you could see in …
Yeah Dublin I was trying to think of, see there’s three classes of people there in Dublin, what they call the shawl crew, rich people, they wear a big shawl over ‘em, see they go around with this shawl on them. And I had, in Dublin, we went to Belfast first, I went to Belfast first there and I was in Belfast at a while. Then we went down to Dublin, suppose to go over where this, what was that, where all
them soldiers drowned and they told us this is where they drowned, where the, there was something on, I used to know the history but I’ve forgotten now.
Yes I’m sorry, I don’t know either.
It had a name, some name, some great war it was, but, between the English and …. But yes and I went into this convent there, this fellow that I was with, I picked him up over that island, like his mother was Australian, and he had an aunty,
a nun over in Kildare, a place called Kildare and when I went there, big brick building around, we went through a little gate and into them. And when we got in there, there was about, oh, seven or eight nuns there and they were talking away to us as nice as anything, had a meal there for us all, waiting there all round. Mother Superior was there with them, and I was no Catholic you see, I was in fact no religion at all. And I remember talking to one little nun
there and she said, what was it again, she said, “It’s very strict here,” she said, “You’ve got to, you… you’ve got to get up in the morning so early and come and, you know pray.”
But you said they were against the war in Ireland, can you tell me a bit more about that?
No I don’t know anything about it, but they were, for some reason, like they’re still arguing in Ireland now. They don’t want to go with England and yet I think they had a contingent
of Irishmen over there. But I see there’s the Protestants and Catholics I think, I don’t, I’m not sure of this, I think there’s the Protestants and the Catholic and they can’t agree.
And what about in Australia, from history we know that there were people that were against it here, do you know of any stories, or any people that, did you know?
Well there’s a story of up, up at Morrowville[?], where, I don’t know whether it was, I think it was the Second World War, I’m not sure now,
there was a, that was a great, Morrowville was a lot of German settlers in and around the early days was up there. And they got into the pub and, how they were, and they were talking about how they were going to win the war and all and they got a train down, put them in the bloody train and took em down and then interned them. So that’s the yarn [story], I don’t know whether it was a fact or not, yeah that was, they got a few beers into ‘em and Germany was going to win the war you see.
But were there any, what about people that didn’t go to the war,
here, how were, how were they treated, do you remember?
Well anybody, see the Second World War was compulsory, you had to, everybody had to enlist, I had to go up. See it was compulsory, but they didn’t take me, I could volunteer if I liked, you see.
But what about in the first one, was it, did you ever …?
No that was, that was, what do you call it, what’s the word?
Okay but you were at the front when conscription, remember when conscription came out, do you remember anything
about that, when you …?
Well I, well let’s see that’s eighty years ago and I, very faintly I remember, well it was in, conscription that was sort of, well that was in all the time you see. See as I said I was called up, everybody was called up.
Yeah but you were, you volunteered to go, but do you remember when…?
Oh that was the First World War.
Yeah in the First World War?
But the Second World War was…
Yeah that was different, but I’m just thinking in, if you can think back to the First World War, when you were actually in the front, you were in
the Western Front, they had conscription back in Australia, do you remember anything about that?
With Billy Hughes [Australian Prime Minister]?
Oh Billy was over there, thought he was going to win it and the soldiers voted out of it, they all voted against it. Yeah, oh Billy yes, yes, he was the Prime Minister then, I remember, remember him being in London, they gave us, to hear him, a little old man and he’d talk like anything, you know, and we were all, put us up on this theatre, we were up on the, way up on the top and the bottom was,
nobody in the bottom at all, I don’t know for what reason. And old Billy started the speech and the, the soldiers jumped over the top and slid down the… I remember that you know, slid down the pole, the rail to going up, come down one after the other, they come down. So they could hear him you see, they couldn’t hear him way up, yeah old Billy, yeah.
Interviewee: John ‘Jack’ Lockett Archive ID 2539 Tape 307
You were just saying when you came back from the war you were nearly, you just said a little moment there. When you came back from the war you were nearly at breaking point or something, what was that about? Nervous breakdown or something?
Oh well I went to, I went to Melbourne around and I remember different things there, I was too frightened to go out there for a meal, I was that bad, yeah, breakdown, yeah. And I used to dream
of it you see. But then I got over that, it worked off of me that I used to have the horses over there, over in France. You see it was wearing off, but in the bad time oh it was, it’s an awful thing to dream about, yeah sort of a nightmare, yeah. I don’t know what you call it.
How long did that last for?
Oh well you wouldn’t know, you wouldn’t know how long like it was, I had it for a fair while, you know on, alright the daytime, it’s when you go to sleep you’d be dreaming of it you see. Yeah, you’re not too bad in the daytime, yeah. Although especially up in the Mallee you were on your own a lot, which is what you should never be where say for a breakdown, nerve, you should, the more company you get the better you, the better it is. But I was on me own nearly all the time you see, before I was married.
Yeah and that was the worst thing out, although I had, used to have a man working for me but he wouldn’t be with me much you see.
And what sort of things would come back to your mind?
Oh well just, oh that’s a pretty hard question to ask, you know. Just you, it’s a strange feeling you get you know, a breakdown, nervous breakdown, well you know what, what, now what, what people get it now, yeah, everything goes wrong. Yeah.
You dream of it, you’re not too bad in the daytime, but you dream of it you see, when you go to sleep you’re back at the war again.
Alright now we’ll just pick up on conscription, you were talking about Billy Hughes back in London and the guys, the Aussies in the theatre you saw them. But do you remember what your mates thought about it. When the conscription vote came out, do you remember?
Well they nearly all voted against it,
nearly all voted against it, that’s what buggered it up, nearly all the soldiers voted against it and old Billy thought they’d vote for it, but they didn’t.
Why was that do you think?
Well they just reckon the foolishness of it, it’s a bloody, when you think of war what the hell do you want to fight in war, and what’s a lot of them heads done, oh bloody hell that was murder, sent them over like a hive of bees. But they had no experience, no experience at all, old [General] Birdwood
and them, he was only a parade ground man, but for God’s sake don’t print that, he’ll shoot me, but that’s what we thought of him, he was a parade ground man, yeah.
And so people weren’t prepared to, to bring anybody over there, make them go to the war, is that right?
Oh well you volunteered, of course then it’s compulsory was in you had to go, you see. But see, as I said I was a First World War man,
it was compulsory for me to enlist, but they didn’t, wouldn’t take me. Didn’t force me to go, I wasn’t forced to go, I could please meself I could volunteer and go or stop home, yeah. Being a returned man and being through all the war you see.
And do you remember, okay do you remember towards the end of the war when the war changed and, were you on the front line when the…?
No I was just out of the line at that time, right when…
Well can you remember the last time you were in the line and what happened there and take me through to when the war ended?
It’s alright I can, oh yeah, yeah, oh it’s… I can remember… I can’t get started on it. You see you’d be four days in and four days off, four days in and four days off, no sleep much you know. And I remember Mont St Quentin,
we were got at Mont St Quentin, I think that was about near the last I was in, they only done one more after that. I was a sergeant over the mob in there, we were that bad, we’d done our four days on and they were all asleep in the bloody front line, well there was no front line, we was advancing you see, it was the front line. They’d bring the artillery up in the night time and then at day break, at dawn, they’d fire
all that , a creeping barrage and you’d follow it up you see. So as to get them going you see, and then you’d stop and then next morning you’d do the same thing again, you see. Well we had four days of that and no sleep much of that. I was sound asleep, then I was sergeant over a few of the men, I was sound asleep I can remember sitting there and an orderly come along, woke us up. It was, get out if you can. Yeah they, the other troops had gone over the top of us, the other, relieving us, yeah I remember that
you know. God you’d get shot if you were caught asleep you know, but you couldn’t keep awake. Sitting down there and not a shot fired, you know very silent. Yeah we had them on the run you see.
So that was, exhausted, you’d been …?
Oh well exhausted and that and then it’s a nerve racking job you know, you don’t know what minute you might stop a bullet. Yeah and a shell, they were throwing a few shells, but they never threw such a lot of shells then, because they were going back. They
were getting their guns back and we were just following them up, yeah. They couldn’t get set, and they never, you’d see, think, they had guns there nearly wheel to wheel, or a battery there and another one over there, and they were just leisurely firing, you know not jamming them in and firing back, they just casually firing away, quite casually. Yeah, you think you know like, but there was nothing doing they were only hunting them back, get, putting the wind up them, they were going back,
and we were going forward and they were gradually going, you see a certain distance.
So it was back to the Hindenburg Line wasn’t it?
Well back to that, I wasn’t on the Hindenburg and I, our bloke, but they never stopped the Hindenburg Line, they went straight through it, the Germans. No there, that’s what we were told, I wasn’t…
So where were you at when they declared, do you remember when they declared the Armistice, do you remember that day and where you were?
Oh I could, we could remember it, no I can’t, I was at some camp somewhere,
a convalescent camp I think. Yeah… yes a convalescent camp, word came through that, that peace was declared.
How did you think about peace…?
And then old, Kaiser Bill [ Kaiser Wilhelm II, German head of state], you see they were cousins, Kaiser Bill and our king. Kaiser Bill went up the little island, stopped there a fortnight and come back and they done nothing to him, done nothing to any of them, they’re all them bloody, all
them soldiers killed they, oh God yes. That’s what I was always up against, they should have had a day for them fallen soldiers, see Anzac Day there’s a lot of, they’re full of ribbons, like I’ve got them now, bucksy [?] ribbons, what we call bucksy, no valuables among them, they’re all just odd, and they’ve got them now and I think they’ve got them somehow that kids can wear them now. But I saw, see they do have a little place for it, but I thought they should, but that was me
own opinion, they should have had a day for the fallen soldiers that they lost over there, full day. But they didn’t, they only, a little ceremony up there at the shrine, they have it ever year for the fallen you see.
So what do you think about Anzac Day, is it, so what do you think about Anzac Day then, is it?
Well I’ve softened because I’m going to them now, I never went to them you know for a good while, I wouldn’t go because
I reckoned it was, should have been, should have been a day put aside which there was only for a few minutes for the fallen. And it’s nearly all them fellows go now, like I’m nearly among them now, great lot of ribbons and they’ve only been to, been to some island or somewhere, no bravery in them. They could wear them, which is alright, yeah. And I think they’ve nearly got it now for the kiddies to wear ‘em, their sons to wear them now.
Oh yeah, oh well, what pleases me doesn’t please a lot of other people.
So you think we’ve made too much of Gallipoli then and not enough of the Western Front in terms of the war?
Oh well it was a bungle that was, that, look I had a nun, I’ll tell you a little story I had a nun… just before Anzac Day, she come in to talk to me up here, was talking about that and she was going over for Anzac Day and she called it,
this last Anzac, just before this last Anzac, and she told me she even had Lyons. She knew that I’d been in France you see, and she wanted information… information about France. Well she said, “They think the world of the Australians over there. And at Gallipoli they think the world there, they’ve got it done up, oh really marvellous.” She showed me all the photos she had there, you know, you know they respect the Australians very much.
But at the time of the war because we were, we didn’t think much of the Australians because we were the ones where the Germans had been, they treated the French well, they didn’t give a damn who won the war. But that was only when we were advancing, I think in France they were alright. Yeah.
So do you, what do you think of the…
It’s pretty hard job for, the way my old brain is now and to think.
No you’re doing a good job, I’m, I can’t remember now you see, so it’s me. Did the war change Australia a lot, in the First World War? What sort of impact do you think it had on, it’s a big one isn’t it, I suppose?
Well they done a lot for the soldiers in a way, I think, and yet they, lots of things, they done em’, they told me you know like
one job they got in Melbourne where from…you know along the beach there they had the soldiers doing that job. Where, digging them stones out, you know where they go, you go from, is it Geelong, you come along the beach from South Australia. Where you come along the beach there, oh it’s got a name. And they had the soldiers doing that, nice job to put a soldier in, but,
digging out big stones yeah. ‘cause I heard they’d be pretty shrewd, I don’t think they’d work too hard, they learnt their lesson.
What do you think about the soldiers today, like in Timor and those kind of places?
Well in my opinion there’s nothing better than the returned soldiers, doesn’t matter what lodge you are, I’m in a lodge. But soldiers would come over, wherever, wherever you see a soldier there’s always something there to bonding. There’s something there binds you, a soldier
yeah. Class distinction …. there is that little class distinction there, there’s something there, superior. I’ve been a solider, there’s something there, I couldn’t explain it. There is something yeah, when you
get down there. And I suppose it’s dying out now, I don’t know, pretty hard question to ask. But when I came back from the war there was, to be a solider well it was a bit of an honour, some of them, some of them wasn’t much a soldier too, some you couldn’t knit a solider.
What about the people that never went to the war, was there a difference between the two, the two people?
Oh no, no, no, not that, not that you’d notice,
no, no, no, never, never, no I don’t think, they wouldn’t be that narrow, no …. yeah free country you can do as you love, yeah where can you go and get it better than that, the returned soldiers, the mateship there. Yeah friendly you know.
But what about, do you think the war created us, did you get a stronger bond between…?
Oh course you did, you meet a soldier, well I do, as soon as you meet a soldier you know there’s some…
I don’t know what the word would be, friendship, comradeship, yeah, straight away. And yet he might have been a rotten soldier. We had a few of them you know, yeah.
And how did the mateship, how did those things express themselves when you were in the trenches, what did you, how did you treat each other?
Oh that’s a hard one, that is. Well you know, well you’re more like kids if you can understand, little kids, hard to
explain, yeah. Friendliness it’s, we’re all friendly, all there to help one another, like the friendship was there, that’s the best way I could explain it, like little kids, not young, little young kids but like you know like a lot of kids together. You know how… and the old Salvos [Salvation Army] was good, they were wonderful, yeah, they used to be there when we were coming out of trenches with a bit of cocoa in a tin and give you
cocoa, hand and drink it. We had the Red Cross, they’d give you things that, give, all the, the damn Red Cross done, the way I’d see it, they, they used to give to the, see the front line is, was five kilometres, we had, you were in the front line if you had five kilometres. Well then look at the crowd that would be in there, I was in the real front line. We didn’t get that much things, all these other, other blokes was all dressed to the nines you see, the artillery and all them legs shining and
I can’t think of the word…
They wore, didn’t wear putties, they had, what do you call leather around the legs, what do they call them?
Not gaiters, I’ve got a name.
Leggings, yes, leggings, shiny leggings, shined up all well dressed you know, us blokes was in the trenches we got very little, very little. They were getting all the things there, but then they saved a lot up I think,
you add a lot up, and when, this is what angered us, when the war was over they bundled stuff into us, socks and things but we couldn’t, see we had to carry it all on our back, we had to leave them back and the French got them all. I’ve seen big cheeses, you know these big old cheeses like that, bundled them in there, do what you like with them. There wasn’t many but I see one place yeah, big cheese, couple of big cheeses in, yeah.
So how did you pass the time in the trenches when
there was no accident, when there was no action, what did you, what did you get up to, did you play cards?
Oh you get, oh God no, you had to look over the trenches all the time. Oh you had to watch over your trenches you know didn’t know when it might be a big pow wow yeah. Yeah. I could tell you a few little stories still there, but it’s oh …
Oh well, they’ll say that old bugger’s exaggerating, but I’m not exaggerating at all, no.
How did you feel about, did you have any cobbers [friends], mates that got bowled over?
Oh yeah, well they’re all cobbers, some are better than others but there’s a lot of them got away sick and that you know. You see waiting for a Blighty [a wound that would cause you to be sent to Blighty – England], that’s a wound, yeah these wounds, and that’s what I never, you see I had that bullet wound, I could have got away on that, different things I had, blown over and I never paraded
sick. Yeah, I was nothing wrong with me you see, but there was a lot of them, see the reinforcements were pretty cunning, they’d come in and they’d had enough of it in one night and they’d parade sick and they’d get away. Yeah, there’s a lot of them done it, and a lot of the officers done it. See an officer one night, wouldn’t see him again.
So what did you think about the officer class, was…?
Oh they were alright, you had to look after yourself, I suppose. It was only damn fools like us
was stuck in the trenches all day. That was our place you see. No we never thought, there was a soldier, never mind what he was in, good luck to him. But I never knew he was, see I found out afterwards you could pick out what you wanted to get into, you could get into the ambulance, you could get into this, volunteer for the ambulance and that, but I never knew, you just volunteered to go where they put you.
And you end up throwing bombs?
Yeah, I was a bomb thrower, yeah.
That’s a dangerous
job. So what about the Germans, how did you think about them in …?
Oh they was alright, they was the same as us. When we took ‘em prisoners, I’ve taken prisoners as good as gold, they would do as you was told, go on get the hell out of here. They’d… I’ll tell you a little story. We had three or four prisoners and there was a little officer, German officer, talk good English, often I’d laugh over this,
you know. And I had a little officer over me, he came from Geelong, I can’t think of his name, oh little officer. And this German, you see a German officer can demand a, or should be able to demand an escort to take him out for safety. And this little officer, ‘Go get the hell out of here, go on, go!’ and he wouldn’t go you see, and he had a, this little Aussie officer had a, had a little Pommy [Englishman] for a, they all have a… what do they call em?
No, no batman, batman yeah. And he give him a little prod in the arse with this, this… jab and off he went. But you had to see it to see it, you know he give a little dig in the behind with this, with the bayonet. And he was arguing, he could talk good English this, that was one thing you see, it was very laughable you know. Yeah he didn’t wait for anymore. Yeah.
We can demand it, an officer could demand a
yes, but whether it was carried out, you know.
Apparently during the war they had a couple of Christmas armistices where the people came over and buried the dead, did you have anything to do, no…?
No never in that, no, no. I think they did where, where they’d have to do that, no. No, no I was never in that. Yes when they were, sent them over like flies and shot them down you see. Well you see you wasn’t supposed to, I’ve had
officers looking for a sick man, that was up towards the end of the war, saw these red, have a Red Cross on. I saw them come up to the trench looking for this man; we took him prisoner through the night. He was there, oh tell you a story, but they were looking, I reckon they were looking, they was Red Cross, we never fired on them, let them go. You didn’t fire on a Red Cross, no he could walk around. Yeah, I don’t know whether he’d walk over to your line, I think you might grab him there,
but yeah as long as.
But did you ever start to wonder why that everyone was fighting the war in the end. You know like why all the ….?
Oh no it’s a pretty hard, especially me with a poor old education, I had no bloody education at all you see. There they tell me… yeah.
Some people got sick of it?
No it was, hard thing to, you see I was going to tell you too, why we was
so long coming back from France, coming back, we went over to England and they picked out the… all the NCOs, company sergeant majors and sergeants, were in a mess of our own. There was eighty of us there in this mess and… they were letting the privates back, rushing them back the best they could because they’d had a front and they’d riot you see. Not getting back, there was heavy ship move,
I think it was, I think two or three ships we were de-barred from, we was going, you’re going on the next ship, yeah, no you can’t go. Three ships.
This is the end of the war you’re talking about now?
Yeah end of the war; we were in England, in England. And then there was eighty of us in a camp, any sergeants, sergeants majors yeah. All in this, to go as you like, go anywhere you could walk around all day you know, there was no discipline there, well there was a bit of discipline, but not like in the army. See there,
peace was declared.
So, I suppose we’ll continue that. So what happened at the Armistice to you, after the war ended what happened for you? You went back to …?
Well we could go around, I had a mate with me, we used to walk around all over the place there. Walk around of a daytime, go around different things, walk around, have a talk to anybody, or everybody, just like human, retired gentleman we were.
You went to Paris
Oh that’s in England, I’m talking about England yeah. Oh, I was only in the Paris you know that was just after the war, you could get a pass for, Rouen, or somewhere, you could get a pass for Rouen but you’d miss that station and you’d go onto Paris. There was any man doing it you know. And you had to jump off the wrong side of the train when you got into Paris, we got off there and there was, oh there was a dozen or more, all on the same thing.
We thought we were the only ones. My mate he was a sergeant too. We put a week in there, and then they put us on a train to come, we was right out of money, I had a penny I think and I think, I believe it’s home now somewhere if you could pick it out. I had a penny left and no money to, just enough to pay where we stayed, this New Zealand woman was looking after these, you know running out of money and she used to put them on the train. And we got on the train
in a first class carriage and oh we’re mucking around in there like damn fools, we got off the, when we got off the train instead of jumping off the platform and clearing out, we went up, walked up to the, where there was a… a private solider, Tommy private solider there, and the gate to go out, you see. And you see for a… this Tommy he wanted to see our pass you see and oh you
can’t do it you see, had to be the same rank, he couldn’t do it, couldn’t, couldn’t inspect it. We turned around and walked back and jumped off and away we went. But we nearly got caught for that you see. Oh we give him, we give him a false name, 38th Battalion, Joe Blake or same name like that you see, both of us, and then we turned around and away we went. But we didn’t get to, we run off yeah, but we heard no more about it, they, they were all doing it you know.
And plus the war was over and people were…?
Oh that’s, the war was over, yes.
People were having a bit of fun?
Oh God you know the things they do, oh God.
Like what, there were lots of parties?
Oh you know all skylarking and that. What would I say, I minded, we all had sort of a mind of our own, you know more, it’s hard to explain now, yeah, yeah. You could take to a certain extent and then he’d play up a few,
but the Tommy would do as he’s told. Yeah, oh I tell you another little story I had, I often forget. When I was in camp one time you never, I never wore me stripes you know, but they knew I was a sergeant and I picked up about half a dozen Tommies and all a mixture, about a dozen of them, and to take them for a walk, for exercise, took them for a walk. And just about, oh half a mile away there was a beautiful creek come down, or a dry
creek. And in the middle was a nice green island and I said, “Well come, on we’ll sit down, lay down in this.” We’re all laying down in this and who should come along, was a Tommy officer, Yankee junior Tommy officer, who, you know and he told them halt, “Who’s in charge of this?” and nobody moved, not a soldier, I never, I was in charge but I didn’t have any stripes on. Nobody moved and he, he, got up and off he went again. Yeah, yeah
but you had to be in it to see it you know, yeah laying down there half asleep some of them, none of them never got up, you supposed to an officer, get up and stand up you see. Yeah, they never got up, they just laid there. Yeah, and he was a junior officer I think anyhow.
And were the Australians bigger, they talk about the Australians because they were country soldiers, they were bigger than the Tommies and all, what do you think about that idea?
Well I, oh I don’t think there was a, no I
don’t, know they were. They, Tommy was a more average soldier I think, I don’t know, they didn’t like a too big a man you know in the army. Any big man he’d get a good job, yeah, too big of a target you see, yeah. No it’s a long time to think back.
What about you know how did, did any of you,
did any of the men at the front who were doing the all the fighting ever see themselves as heroes or anything like that?
Did ever the men ever see themselves as being heroes or anything like that?
No I don’t think there was any of them ever, there got, there was an odd one done little odd things. See…oh what do they call it, what do they call the first medal I can’t think of it. You’d get that for anything; a lot of it was damn near an issue, yeah. No what did they call it,
not a red… Red Cross.
Mentioned in Dispatches, that’s the term?
Oh well yes there’s, there was some of them got Mentioned in Dispatches. But it’s who you knew, it’s not what you knew, yeah, yeah you had good cobbers you’d, yeah. Yes.
But there was, there was a guy who was Jacka [Albert Jacka, Victoria Cross], do you remember from Gallipoli, a guy
Well that’s a policeman.
No, yeah that’s right, no he was…
The old Jack Sour.
Yeah Jack or something, Jackson we used to call him.
Jacka, oh well I would never, see I know nothing about Gallipoli. No I was never there; no all I know of is what they were told by young soldiers after the war. They were volunteers, probably on the track over when the war ended, when, when Gallipoli fell you see. See all they told us, if we’d have landed
where we was supposed to land there wouldn’t have been, wouldn’t have been anybody got there. Yeah, it was a mile up, they went a mile up. And then they ended up playing cards with one another, that friendly, so they told us, I don’t know, that’s their word. Yeah. And I believe now, what I was telling you the nun said they astound you what they do over there, what, what the Russians are doing for the Australian soldiers. You
know this, the graves and that, look after them, she said they’re most beautiful, she told me last Anzac Day I was talking to her.
The Turks in Gallipoli?
Yeah, and Gallipoli and then she had, I think I was telling you, she had a map of where I was in Armentiers and all that and showed me where I’d fought you see, and that’s what she wanted to say to go back, go over there and say I’ve been talking to a solider that fought in there, Armentiers and all around there you see,
that was one of her missions. Yeah.
Soldiers that deserted, were there any soldiers that sort of…?
Oh well there was some yeah, oh God we had them you know. No that was the trouble you see, when you come back from in the line you do your eight, seven or eight, it was four days on and four days off, but you’d only be in support line, you’d be in the front line for four days and then you were, what they call the support line, you’d be there, you could get your nights sleep there, if you wasn’t out working mending trenches.
Now what was the question?
About the people had enough of the war, deserted and got out of it, was there any….?
Yeah well I, yes, oh I had, oh there was an odd one or two you know, I remember one fellow I was guard over him, you had to bloody well keep awake you know, and this fellow used to go out. It was in the winter and he’d go out and pinch wood, he was, he was, he used to live in, live with a girl in…
a woman in Paris somewhere, he told me. But he said, and he’d go out and you wouldn’t see him in the dark, you wouldn’t know where he could go off. But he said, “I wouldn’t run away from you.” But this other fellow I know his name, and I knew him well, he said, “Bugger, I’d run away in a minute if I got a chance.” Yeah, yeah and he gave, he gave me his word that he wouldn’t go, I could nearly trust him you see, and he never went. But I don’t know whether he ever went at all, I don’t know, but that’s what he said to me. This bloke was,
I remember him saying, this bloke said, “Now if you make off I’ve got a bloody bullet in this, you’ll get that.” This sergeant that was in charge of him you see. Yeah.
So it sounds like the Aussies meant…?
Oh well they wouldn’t solider. I had a bloke… oh God now this is, I don’t know whether it’s right, I’d better not tell this, no. A bloke yeah that wouldn’t soldier and he was in, in that place
where, yeah where I am now where I used to live, the blind, I call it the blind home. He was in there and I went to see him and he didn’t want to know me because… he ….
So what happened to them, those deserters?
Oh well I, they’d get bloody put in clink [gaol] and different things if you caught them you know. Yeah I don’t suppose you could make ‘em do it. But they’d get a bloody rough hand if they get into them gaols, oh God yes, yeah,
you do as you’re told there they tell me.
And after the war were there any big parades and stuff in London or in, were you involved in, when the war was finished were you involved in any big parades?
I tell you, I’ll tell you now and another thing that very few know and very few was in it, I was in the contingent there that was the first contingent to march through London with the fixed bayonets. We were picked out and we marched
through London and I think we marched before one of the kings. I don’t know about that, I can’t, just remember, marched before some royalty. Yes and they picked us out with, they had fixed bayonets. Yeah there was plenty of other marches, short marches, but with fixed bayonets we were the first Australians to ever march through London with fixed bayonets. And I was in that contingent yeah.
So what did you think of the people who’d threw in the towel and deserted, was there any, what did the soldiers, like yourself, in the field think?
Oh well at that time well it’s pretty hard to say, you know, if you wouldn’t soldier well good luck to you I suppose. Yeah, I don’t know whether… I suppose there was a feeling you know you…well it’s hard to explain isn’t it? It’s just a bit hard to explain.
I don’t think they discarded them all. This bloke I told you about, he didn’t want to know me, he was in that hospital there and I’m pretty near sure he was the bloke. But I had no, I didn’t disown him at all, he made out he was blind and yeah.
But the war was hard on people I suppose so you had to forgive them a bit huh?
Oh well yes, yes… we’re all different. But I was lucky, by God I say, when I think of it
the things, three or four, about four, four or five, I could have got killed in any of them. Yeah, but I wasn’t to be killed, that’s my belief, I just wasn’t to be killed.
Do you think, do you feel, how do you feel about that of coming through the war and surviving it all I suppose?
Oh it’s a pretty hard old question. See I, when I come back, you got a great thrill
when you come back, you’re back in Australia, you know, it’s a great thrill to come back. But then it wore off and then as I said, I very near had a nervous breakdown, that wasn’t too happy, living on me own and I wasn’t married at that time. When I come back like, that was, what was it, I never got married until I was twenty-three and I come back in 1919. August 1919, we was a good while getting back,
being sergeants we were kept back, missed a lot of boats, several boats. Promised three different boats and at the last minute we were pulled off.
You said it was a great thrill to be back?
Oh God yes.
Do you remember, can you describe what it was like?
Well we got, no there’s another bloody thing, of course they couldn’t do much with us, they were rushing us back. When we got back you’d think we, we was, there’s thought we’d have got some bit of an honour shown to us. But when I
think of it now, no we come back, when we got back to… where was it down, down in Melbourne, they put us in a bus and brought us to a, I don’t know where it was, I couldn’t say where it was, somewhere around St Kilda I think it was. And as we got out of the bus, you were lined up there and you went through a doorway and you give your number, I’m Sergeant Lockett and Sergeant Oduet and some of that and they’d call your name out and you’d
get down like a sheep and go along the race. You see, that’s the welcome home we got, yeah. And I remember when I come down, my uncle was there and he tapped, he had a cane and he tapped me on the head. See they were, we was fenced in like a race, where the crowd couldn’t close on. But he leant over and tapped me on the head; well I went round and come up to him that way. Well then my girlfriend was there too, to meet me, yeah.
With two or three others, yeah, I always remember that.
So how did it feel like being back in Australia for the first time, ‘cause you’d never been out of Australia before had you? The war was the first….?
No, no, no.
So coming back to Australia was a new thing?
Oh well you, it’s a hard thing to explain, top of the world you felt, you know sort of, well it’s a hard thing to explain, you know. I’m free; I’m away from the danger, yeah.
But then I was just on a, I didn’t know it at that time; I was just nearly on a breakdown you see. While I was with the soldiers I was, when I got on me own that’s the worst thing you can do. I had a bloke that was a returned soldier, he was a butcher up at Underbool, and he told me a story, he said, “I used to…” he had two sisters, and they used to get him in a cart and drive around the country and he said, “I’d be frightened of me life,” but he said, “They cured me.”
Show, drive, driving in rough country you know, yeah. That’s the word he said to me, “They cured me.” Yeah you’ve got to do something to get yourself out of it. But you don’t know them things. But it’s all over now. Had a pretty enjoyable life, pretty hard life. You ever go up Mildura way?
No, I’ve never been up that way.
Well I’ll tell you a little story up there that I done there. In, wait a minute it’d be in 14, 13, 14, there was a drought on, where I was with me brother down at Nunga. And we went up there to Carwarp, you know where Carwarp is, it’s about forty mile this side of Mildura. It was thrown open; Carwarp was thrown open in the early days,
and there was no house there, they had a meeting there and there were two or three, two or three settlers there but we never ever saw them. And the road goes through on the, where Carwarp’s on the left hand side of the road to go into Mildura, well that road, block on the right, right hand side, that first block as you go through the little reserve there, I rolled that three, about four or five hundred acres, rolled it with horses, yeah, up there.
And so that was when you were farming, before the war?
No that’s after the war.
Wait a minute, wait a minute.
Oh no, no that was before in 1914, yeah.
And did that, did the drought have any effect on why you, you know was there no work around and it was hard to get, did the drought affect why you went to war?
Well I nearly forget you see. Well it was always dry and if you grew any bloody wheat
you got no money for it. I grew, one of my harvests I was ‘til April, before I got finished, April. I had a, I had a big [UNCLEAR] and then a, a seven foot stripper. By the time I cleaned up and the bloody white ants and things it was in… April, April before I got cleared up there. And we got about two bob a bushel for it, nothing, yeah. I know Robert took,
I took sixty quid out of it to go for a holiday, I said, “I’m going for a bloody holiday!” and I took sixty quid out and I had nothing, basically nothing left, back on the slate again. But I was in the closest settlement board and they stood to me well.
Interviewee: John ‘Jack’ Lockett Archive ID 2539 Tape 308
I got ten shillings, they doubled me money. And that was a lot of money in those days. There’s quite a story there you know. I was with their, their family, different family, different ones, Crystal Waters and others there, for seven years, ‘til I broke me leg. And then I went back there again and then, I was going to go to New Zealand, I had a, I was there for seven years.
But was it tough on the land, did you have to, did you have to,
being on the land you had to kind of know how to do things and fix things, did you…?
Oh well of course you did.
Did you reckon that helped you, do you reckon that helped the Australians to be good soldiers though, being able to fix things and do things?
Oh I don’t know, I suppose they, what’s, I can’t think of the word, there’s something there; they use a word for it. There is a… the Australian, I can’t think of the word. There’s something… oh no good of me trying. The way my old brain is now anyhow it won’t come to me.
Well they’re able to sort of, you know
just do things?
Yes that, that’s what I mean, they can do things, where a Tommy would, he’d, he’d have to go to a blacksmith’s shop, you’d makeshift, makeshift, do it, where as you’d have all makeshifts you see, yeah.
So do you think that, so there was then some connection between being working on the farm and having that sort of skill to be able to fix things?
Oh I think it’s born in you. See I was a farmer when I was just, worked on a farm as I was telling you when I was thirteen you see, so it was in my blood,
and I liked it, I really liked it and I had to live on me own you see, have your meals, you was like a mangy dog, yeah. Yeah you never had anybody there, just have your meal and out you’d go.
I’m just trying to get you to describe what it was like, for the men, what would they be feeling say, say the day before, ‘cause often you went over at night time, or day, what did the people feel before the…?
Well you know that’d be a hard question, you know I’ve been right through it and now
I was telling you about the Tommies coming down the road wasn’t I and we got there and they sent, they sent the… scouts out and they were supposed to have gone twenty mile and there was nobody there and the Tommies saying, “Oh the Tommies’ just behind us” and they were coming back. Well we went up certain distance and… it was just like anything else, we never struck them and they, they were there, I don’t know where, they must have, they were further, I don’t know how far we went,
but we went up on buses and the Tommy’s said, “They’re just behind us.” They broke ranks you see, we couldn’t get up the bloody road, they were coming back in thousands there. Yep, and there, and, well I don’t know about thousands there was hundreds, they were coming back.
So did they use the Australians because they were tough soldiers though in those battles, ‘cause the British…?
Well there was some difference there, I don’t know, it might have been more like say the,
the Tommy was more disciplined than the, you couldn’t discipline the Aussie as much as you could the Tommy, I don’t think. I think that was the reason. We were more, you could discipline him alright but he, you know, there was some, something there, I don’t know what it was. Yeah, I couldn’t tell you what it was.
Did you ever come across mustard gas attacks or any of that sort of stuff where you were?
Yeah, yeah, yes what they, not mustard gas, I
never had mustard but the other gas, I never come through, you see I, I helped, had them carried up the, like what you get gas in now, you know the big cylinders, two to that, we took it up, that was up in Armentiers, took it up to the front line there and they put it out there, forgot to let it go and they brought it back again, they were frightened the wind might turn round and blow it back on them. But they never let it go. But, no I was never, but I’ve been in shell gas when we were going up to [UNCLEAR], you could tell the difference in the, they’d fire it in a gun,
you know and it would go sort of a plop thing, to a one going bang. The other one goes sort of a plop if you understand. When we was going up they were throwing them over, they knew we were coming, bloody spies again now you see. Yeah but there was, see in there they had to tunnel, they were supposed to have three tunnels from, I think there was, oh it must have been, what towards a mile, this was the story, and we never knew what they done with the dirt. And they had a tunnel
right under the, right under it. And when it went off there was nobody there to, they’d all left it you’d see, they blew and spent all that money and they had three tunnels, some of them was only started, that’s what they told us. And they never saw any dirt, yeah. So but they’re all furphies [rumours] you see and they fly like anything, that’s the stories you know.
Did you have to, did you ever have to get into the trenches and
drop bombs on Germans and, like in battle, what was, what could, what was it like having to face somebody…?
Oh I could tell you tales there. I’ve been pulled out… oh well you think I’m skiting [boasting] about it. But I was pulled out at one time there was… I don’t like talking about it. For some reason… there was a little NCO, or
little sergeant major, he was in the army. And he was up at Armentiers, and he used to pick me, he wanted me to stay and I said, “No I’m…” told him I had no education you see. And I wouldn’t take ‘em, it was read out in quarters that I was, I was a lance corporal, and someone just pinned a little bit of glass on me. But that’s away from it. But another time they expected a raid over, but the Germans come in around the back of us, as I was saying
it was swampy country, and they come in the back of us and come up a trench and grabbed one of our officers that we, one of our, our men that was there. Grabbed him and there was some reinforcements in it sitting down on the side and they never got into action at all. And this little sergeant major come up, said, “Lockett you go down and see what’s on down there.” And I rushed down and this, this German officer that came over,
he was grappling with this fellow that was on, he was a private, not a private, yes he was a private, he was suppose to be looking over the trenches you see. But he must have been down on the, standing at the corner there and, on the trench like a communication and that, he was there. And one of the Germans must have threw a bomb to them, and they left to go back, they had to go back over, and then get over the trench and go back behind us, if you understand it was all
swampy country, they knew it well. But as, and I was picked out I said, to go down there with it, and then I had to go down and report to the headquarters, down this…. And as I was going down I had me finger on the trigger, you know watching and I looked down and here’s this big German officer, he must have threw a bomb when this officer was grappling with him and it went into his heart there, just a cut, they told me it was just a heart, and he was laying dead on the floor. But I’m looking ahead you know and
I look down, kicked his feet, looked down and here’s this German you know. And we could see where they got over it, got behind us you see. Well if, if you could have woke up probably the, the trench was up and got, you would have got the others, but nobody thought of that, yeah. ‘cause it’s a bit hard to explain unless you go through it.
No, you did a very good job.
But this little officer, buggered if he didn’t get killed, he was the only person that was up in Marseilles, no Ypres,
at Ypres we were up there, we were coming out and he was at the, he was sergeant major there, battalion sergeant major I think he was.
So how did you handle it when people were killed like that?
Oh well you never, there was Red Cross. See Red Cross does the work, you never, you just walked on and left them go, you never, they wasn’t laying about, not like where the others sent them all over and they shot them down in bloody hundreds. You would hardly
see a soldier that was killed, you know like this officer he got hit with that, but you never took it, you never stopped to help them, , you had the duty to go on. There was Red Cross’s job, yeah but they wasn’t that bad, you wasn’t bloody dying everywhere, no. Especially when we had him on the run. But I don’t remember any talking about that. Wait a minute…my grandfather and I’m the same, I never start a job
on a Friday. He would never, he was an old sailor you know, as I told you he was only ten when he was, took to this old sea captain and then he was on the sailing ships and they said that, “A sailing ship will never start on a Friday.” And I would never start work, start a new job on a Friday, had that in me, yeah. I did, I did one day and the, it was harvest time, oh no it was a Sunday, I’d never work of a Sunday you see, but I had a fairly good crop up there and I wanted to get it
off and I was working of a Sunday and the next week I had more breakdowns than enough, so I never ever worked again. Yeah.
So did the superstition go over to the war though with you, were people superstitious about things in the war because of the…?
Oh I don’t know that anything, I don’t know whether much about it, I don’t. I don’t know much about that.
Of all your experiences of being in the war, and all the things that you saw happen
and when you came back to Australia, you know did you… you can sit back now Jack, you can sit back. What do you think the war achieved, what did it achieve?
Bloody well nothing, bloody well nothing. War was fought, I couldn’t see much out of it. Some of these bloody heads ought to be put in it. No the bloody war, old Jones as I tell you before, old Kaiser Bill and our king were cousins and they done nothing to him,
he went up the bloody island and had a bit of a holiday and come back, and they did nothing to him. No, I don’t know what it was fought for, bugger if I did. Of course and Hitler was a, that’s where, that’s where a bit of, as I say hypnotism comes in, old Hitler, old Hitler can control people, he could sort of hypnotise them. He had that power, I’m sure of it, yeah, he had that power over him you see. That’s like in religion, religions
only a, what do I call it…can’t think of the name of it now.
So why do you think people go to war then to start with?
Well because you’re called up to go, these damn heads that don’t go there, they call you up and you’ve got to go, yeah. See the heads do it, but they don’t go near it, they don’t go near it at all, you’ve got to go and fight, fight for your country. Yeah, somebody that’s, you know. Oh…
no I had me superstitions and different ways. Another one I’ve got, you’d never get me to put me, me right boot on first, now there’s a funny one for you, never, I don’t ever remember doing it. I learnt to put the left one on first, I’ve picked me right up, I’ve put it down. Some, some superstition you’ve got in you. Yes I know that one on Friday, the old, I’d never start a job of a Friday, that’s from my
grandfather, he, they’d never go out sailing.
So do you think you’re a lucky man then, you think you’ve got, you’re blessed with life?
Oh of course I was lucky, I was lucky, I’ve had luck on my side a good bit you see and… oh I don’t know, I could tell you some stories up there, but oh you don’t want to hear my stories.
Thank you very much.
INTERVIEW ENDS. Tape continues with memorabilia.