Archive number: 616
Date interviewed: 15 September, 2003
You are listening to the interview audio
So, we might start off with the pre-war life, so where were you born, where did you grow up, what school and that sort of thing.
I was born in, on the thirtieth of August 1918, a long while ago; I’m eighty-five now of course. I was born in Armidale, New South Wales.
My parents names were Cliff Veale and Mary Veale. I went to Saint Mary’s Boys’ school and then to De LaSalle College, Armidale. This was during the Depression days and my father was having trouble
in the job that he was in. And he and his mate were working week about, rather than go on the dole. This made it very hard for him to keep me at college and I got a job with Fossey’s [department store] in Armidale, when they first come to Armidale, and I worked for Fossey’s. They sacked me and, I don't know,
it was either because I went to an army camp or whether I had a rise of two and sixpence a week which in those days was like a fortune. During that period I was in the 33rd Battalion, Armidale. One of the prominent people at that time in there was a school teacher at the West
Armidale School. His name was Dougherty, who eventually become a brigadier general, quite a good man. When I left Fossey’s I went to Sydney and looked for a job. I got a job at a firm in corner of Castlereagh Street and Liverpool Street,
opposite Mark Foys [department store]. It was a pretty hard job and I left there and went to Barraba to M.C. McKenzie’s [department store] and I was in M.C. McKenzie’s Barraba when I enlisted in the AIF [Australian Imperial Force]. At that particular time there was a hold up in troops being called up.
I really do not know the reason but it probably was the first contingent had, 6th Divvy [Division] had gone overseas and I think the army might have been catching its breath. And so I went into Tamworth, into the showgrounds Tamworth, is this going alright...
as a private, and the first day
I was promoted to a corporal because of the, for the reason that a I had been in the 33rd Battalion as a militia man. I was in charge of the first guard that went to the Manila Road Camp which was a seven mile camp out of Tamworth. It was there that I volunteered for a new show which was called the
Independent Companies. Nobody knew anything about it, it very hush, hush company. And I was then sent down to Wilson’s Promontory. On the way down to Wilson’s Promontory I got sick and ended up in Greenslopes Hospital. And when I got to Greenslopes ah, to Tidal River, Wilson’s Promontory, the cadre course had been filled and I was demoted to a private, from a corporal.
There was another corporal there that was demoted too, was, his name was Jack Rankin. Our lieutenant was called Sleeman, he was the Lord Mayor of, later on of Brisbane. He asked that we should be given rank, our captain refused. Sleeman went to the
officer commanding and we were made lance jack [lance corporal], the worst stripe I’ve ever had in all my life. It’s the hardest stripe because you’re sergeant of the guard, you’re everything and you’ve really got little authority. You want, still keep on going?
We were still a very hush -hush unit in those days. And behind
the scenes, unbeknown to us there was a lot of trouble. Apparently from what was told to us in Kavieng later on, the government of the time gave permission for the British Government to recruit shock troops to go to Scotland and be trained as commandos when they were doing raids across into Normandy.
Because at this stage as you can understand the Second War had started. The result of this was that they pulled out round about eight hundred NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] and officers out of the infantry training battalions. And the army ended up with most of their knowledgeable people being
transferred into these commando units, so the army put a stop to it. There was also at that particular time units from New Zealand, 1st and 2nd Independent Companies. Now New Zealand followed the guide of the Australian Army and the result was that the New Zealanders went back to New Zealand and were never operated as commandos any more.
The powers that be that were controlling our units talked that after the training that we had gone through, that it was, that we should be some way or other put into the army as commandos. This then was agreed. Which resulted that the 2nd commandos [2nd Independent Company] went to Timor, we, the 1st [Independent Company] went to
Kavieng, New Ireland and the 3rd [Independent] Company went to Noumea. At that particular time Singapore was still in force and the 8th Divvy had been held back there as a guide, or not a guide but as a defence for Australia.
They broke up some of their units. One went to Ambon, another went to Rabaul and therefore we had a kind of a shield out from Australia with those people in position plus the commandos which were at Timor, Kavieng and Noumea. In Kavieng we were again broken up with a section going to
Manus Island, a section going to Buka in the Solomons, another one into Tulagi in the Solomons and luckily for me, my section was sent to Vila or Vanuatu [the New Hebrides Islands] as it’s called today. Our job was to train the Free French, cause they were frightened at that particular time that the Vichy French
might come across from Indochina as it was called in those days. And this is where I ended up. After a month in Kavieng I got malaria very bad and I was pretty sick. And so in Vila I was in hospital quite a bit. And
we got to Vila and two days after we got to Vila the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor. We received a signal from Kavieng saying that we were to stay in Vila, that the Independent Company that was in Vila [means the one in Kavieng] were gonna try and make it for, down to the [2/]22nd Battalion that were in Rabaul. The reason for this was that our
CO [commanding officer] hadn’t worked out that New Ireland was too small an island for guerrilla warfare, it was a narrow island and there was no facilities that could be used as a guerrilla warfare. When the Japs started to come against them, they had a boat called the Induna Star. They left
Vila and they had already placed the Induna Star on the west coast of New Ireland. They got aboard and they sailed down the west coast of New Ireland, with the Japanese looking for them. They were lucky in as much as it was clouded over and
the Japanese Air Force couldn’t locate them. They anchored one night in one part of the bay hidden and a Japanese destroyer was on the other part, on the other side of the bay. When they got down near Rabaul they pulled in at a plantation to try and find out what was ahead of them. And the plantation owner there told them that Rabaul had fallen and that the [2/] 22nd Battalion were on retreat. They sent a signal
down to Kieta in the Solomons asking how it was down there and they got misinformed to the fact that they said that the Japanese were down there. So they decided to make for Port Moresby or Australia and they got through the Japanese fleet at Rabaul. And they reached
within a couple of hundred miles or so of the Trobriand Islands, when a Japanese float plane picked them up. He come in and circled them and the adjutant made the men go down below and he tried to make it look like they were just ordinary fishermen or something. But the plane
circled again and come in and attacked, killed seven of the soldiers. The plane then directed a destroyer, a Japanese destroyer to them. They were taken back to Rabaul and at Rabaul the officers were taken off and the rest of the men were put on the Montevideo Maru. Ill-famed ship that
eventually sailed for Tokyo with I think one thousand, one hundred and twenty-five prisoners on board, which consisted of six hundred civilians and other people in Rabaul who had been left behind at Rabaul plus the Independent Company. In the Leyte Gulf the U.S. submarine Sturgeon
attacked the ship with a torpedo, sinking it, and the whole of the one thousand one hundred and twenty-five were battened down below hatches and they went down with the ship and perished. And in the meantime while this was happening we were still at Vila. One afternoon we saw on the horizon ships coming up everywhere.
The sticks of ships, the masts of ships and we went to battle stations. We had arranged outposts all through the island of Vila. We had machine guns where our idea was to fight to the last, we had a schooner on the north of the island, vittled [supplied] ready. And those that remained after fighting, the plan was that we would sail for the top of the Cape of Australia
knowing that the trade currents would possibly bring us down to around Sydney. This is how desperate it was. However we found out that it was the Americans who were coming. This was about, oh, half past four in the afternoon. The Americans had gone down to New Zealand and from New Zealand they were coming up to go to Guadalcanal, to stop the Japanese.
They come into Vila and because I knew I had mapped the island while I was there. When I say that I mapped the island, I did from the legs, legs are how you start a map, from the other units. And I had this map that was the, very knowledgeable because the previous maps, whoever had done it had never done any surveys of the island and the
information was incorrect. I was seconded to the Americans and I remained with them for possibly two months. After this I, with the rest of my people, went on board the Manoora. While we were waiting to go on the Manoora, one of our sections that was at Tulagi was taken out of Tulagi as the Japs come in and they
joined us and we all went back to Australia. In Australia we were given a month’s leave. When we come back we were sent down to Melbourne. While at Royal Park Melbourne an officer by the name of Fairfax-Ross came through the camp asking for volunteers to go back in behind the lines to try and find out what had
happened to the 1st Independent Company. It’s gotta be realised at this particular time there was no knowledge much coming out of New Guinea. And everything was in turmoil with the Japanese taking everything in their stride as they come down through, towards Australia. I was one of these eleven volunteers. We went by train to Townsville
and took over a ship called the MV Paluma. The Paluma was a new ship that was had been built in Townsville and was to be used from Townsville to Magnetic Island. It’d been taken over by the government and used as an inspection ship in the north of the,
near the Cape. And it was seconded to the AIB [Allied Intelligence Bureau]. It wasn’t called AIB at that particular time, it was called Ferdinand Party. The story of the Ferdinand Party which was later known as the coast watchers started in 1918.
There was a Captain Claire who was in charge of Western Australia at that particular time in 1918, just after the finish of the 1918 War. And he put a White Paper up to Melbourne intelligence stating that there was no surveillance of Australia and there was a great need for this.
His idea was to recruit people to watch our shores. The intelligence in Melbourne agreed to this. Consequently he was given permission to recruit people to do this job. He recruited government officials, station owners, anybody he could get. But there
was a problem. By the time they saw a ship come into a bay, say at Broome or Darwin, in those days, this is 1918, it would take nearly eighteen months to two years before this information got down to Melbourne. Therefore it was null and void because by this time the ship would have gone and they didn’t know where. But then the pedal radio come into being.
Now when the pedal radio come into being it closed the gap of communications immediately and made the thing viable. About this time also, Billy Hughes, the then Prime Minister of Australia at the League of Nations, agreed to take over the protectorate of New Guinea. So with New Guinea and the Solomon Islands coming in, this left another defence
perimeter for Australia. The planters in these places were given radios to communicate with each other and this brought the intelligence into being. At the outbreak of the 1939 war there was approximately eight hundred of these people that were keeping these
lookout for anything that was happening. But then at that particular time a Commander Long who was then the intelligence officer in Melbourne come to the conclusion that the people he was dealing with were civilians and therefore were not under his control. Plus the fact that if the enemy, any
enemy come against them, they could be treated as spies. He therefore decided to bring it into a service footing. He knew of an officer who was retired in New Guinea, his name was Eric Feldt. Now Eric Feldt had served with him as a midshipman with him in the
Battle of Jutland in the 1918 war. And he knew him to be a friend of his and knew him to be a good man. At that particular time Eric Feldt was mining in Bulolo in New Guinea. After the 1918 war Feldt had gone to New Guinea and for the rest, up until this war started had been in the services of the New Guinea Government.
Feldt was called back and given the job of going through the islands and bringing these spotters or coast watchers as they called them into the ranks. They were supplied with uniforms and so forth and such. And this is what was happening at the time when the Japanese decided to hit Pearl Harbor.
Right, how’s that?
At this particular time when Eric Feldt come into the picture, it was not known as AIB, Allied Intelligence Bureau. But when
General MacArthur arrived in Darwin and come down to Melbourne, problems started. Because the Americans wanted to be a part of the action. This was when the Allied Intelligence Bureau was started. There was all kinds of intelligence from the top. Spies, and they put into sections,
Z Force was one section, M Force was another section and FELO [Far East Liaison Organisation] was another section. Now Z Force was sabotaged. M Force was the coast watchers but M Force was only put into being so that they could control the army personnel in there. But navy still held
control of the men in the field under Feldt. And while these senior men were arguing who should be the boss, our people were dying in the field and doing the job. We lost forty-seven of the coast watchers that stayed behind in their positions, either as patrol officers or what have you. But they become part of the organisation right out through New Ireland,
reporting the advance of the Japanese and reporting the Japanese all the way through. In the Solomon Islands, a part of the 1st Independent Company they stayed there. I think they stayed there for something like eighteen months in there. In the meantime of course the Americans had started the Guadalcanal show, that’s where they come. But it’s gotta be remembered
that at this particular time the Japanese had got down as far as Milne Bay and the Solomons. And they were the first troops to stop, the Australians at Milne Bay were the first to stop them. And this is at times not recognised. But the unit was
even a militia unit and they put a halt to the advance of the Australians [means the Japanese]. At this particular time we were in Townsville, we were vittling and preparing a boat called the Paluma which I’ve just spoken about. We sailed the Paluma to the top of the Cape and across from the Cape to Port Moresby and
Milne Bay had just about finished, there was still spasmodic fighting all up along the coast. But from Milne Bay up, the fighting was still continuing. The Kokoda Track was still being fought and all that area was under the control of the Japanese. Now the first mission that we were told, that we were sent on was to
establish a route for shipping through a field of reef up as far as Oro Bay which is where Buna is. The idea was that they wanted the convoys to take the cargo up through this area and
by going through the reef areas and that the submarines couldn’t come in on them and therefore it made it much safer. So we started off and the officer in charge of the survey was Ivan Champion. Ivan Champion had been in New Guinea; well I think he was born in
New Guinea. And he’s noted in New Guinea as being a, well, a, what would you call him, he went up the Fly [River], he was the first man up the Fly River onto the Sepik, he did a lot of these terrific journeys and he was well known at the time. It was my job under him to go up the mast and
in those days my eyes were pretty good and I could tell what was the colours of the reef plus what was the tidal effects coming out from the shore. And I off-sided to him, and for this he named the lead reef, Veale Reef, after me and it’s on the charts today. We did approximately six months up there, in other words,
we were helping the convoys to go through to feed the troops fighting on the Kokoda Trail. So that was the first, while I was there, we did two other missions. There was the Trobriand Islands out towards Rabaul and Woodlark. The Americans at this stage of course started to come up into the area.
It was there that I saw the first torpedo boat that ventured into Tufi where we used to hide when we were doing these jobs. And we went into, we took some of their engineers and we went into the Trobriands. The idea was to find out if the Japs were in there plus the fact we had to find if the place was suitable for air fields. We did this on the Trobriands
and then we did another job on Woodlark Island for the same reason. That was in this period while we were doing the mission up to create these routes through the reefs. By this time the ship was needing to be refurbished and so forth and such. But there was a lot of incidents that went on,
one of these incidents is on the web in reference to one of the Japanese bombers coming over and trying to sink us. But there’s so many incidents that you’d be too long to tell the whole lot. We went back to Port Moresby and while the ship was being looked after there to be
ready to sea again, a party came through Port Moresby, three, that was Lieutenant Archer McHamilton and Lee Ashton. And this party was to go in behind the lines to Wewak which was probably five to six hundred miles inside the Japanese lines. The reason why they wanted a party in there was the fact that at that particular time we had
very few aircraft and we had very few shipping. And the allies had no idea what was happening in the north around Wewak and Hollandia and all this area. So they decided to send a party to see if the party could infiltrate into Wewak and try and find out what was going on. We had an officer who was, I always called him our key man,
was McCarthy, that was Keith McCarthy. Keith McCarthy was, had been an ADO, that is an Assistant District Officer in New Guinea when the Japanese attacked. He was at Telesia at the time. And when the [2/]22nd Battalion started to leave Rabaul with the Japanese after the Japanese defeated them there,
they were in a lot trouble. Because unfortunately the troops hadn’t been trained to look after themselves in the jungle and they were starving and the jungle of New Guinea is certainly not friendly. McCarthy saved hundreds of the [2/]22nd Battalion. He
controlled different people that went in, looked after them and they got to the western end of New Britain and there was a fleet under this Ivan Champion that I’ve just been talking about plus other, Bell and Hall, who had small ships. And they ferried these soldiers
across to Port Moresby. This is where the Tol [Plantation] incident happened too which is another story, where Australian soldiers gathered at Tol Plantation and decided to give themselves up. And where the Japanese tied their hands behind their back with fishing line and took em into the jungle and bayoneted them, except five
of them, the whole lot were bayoneted to death except five of them. That’s another story too. In the meantime back to Port Moresby. They were looking for one more man to join this party of three to go in and find out what was going on. And I volunteered. McCarthy was reluctant at first to take me because
I had been so sick with malaria. He said to me he said, “Well,” he said, “If you’d like to front up to a doctor and if he gives the okay you can go in with the party.” So I did this and that is how I become a member of Lee Ashton’s party, the Wewak party. The Wewak party, we left Port Moresby by Catalina flying boat. And
flew up, flew across the bay to the delta of the Fly River. We followed the Fly River up and we landed at a village called Yessum, on the Sepik. We didn’t know where the Japanese were. We made enquiries from the natives and we found that the Japanese weren’t up this far but Japanese patrol
planes come up every day up the river, at the same time. The Catalina of course went back to Port Moresby and the second day they returned with more cargo. What we did there, we got native canoes which are huge canoes, in the Sepik. And we made a bed across
from two or three of them. And we made three of these units but we couldn’t move during the day time because we knew that we would be caught by the planes. So we hid them in the day time and at night time we commenced our approach to Wewak. We had all this cargo which I wasn’t very keen on
because I couldn’t understand why we were taking so much cargo with us when we were gonna go so far in behind the lines. The first night out, it was pitch dark and a storm come, terrific storm come up. I was on the lead raft with Lee Ashton. On the second raft was a native
sergeant by the name of Nokamvan and on the last raft, , Jeff Archer McHamilton. And this is how we continued on down this river. As we approached a part of the river we saw a camp fire on the left hand side which was apparently a Japanese patrol. We steered the raft onto the furthest
side of the river and snuck through. Then the storm was still at its height and ahead of us we heard a roar of, a kind of a roar which worried me because I’d had a look at the maps and nothing was to indicate that there was a waterfall, I just still didn’t trust the map and I thought we could have been heading for a waterfall.
And I asked Lee Ashton and he says, “No, I don't think there’s any waterfalls here.” he says, “I don't know what it is.” So he talked in pidgin [English] to the natives but they were reluctant to even say anything at this stage of the game, they were too busy talking to each other in their own language. Then the Luluai chief that was on board, was in charge of them, he told Lee that they were at a place, and a place called marcelay[?].
Marcelay is a pidgin word for a devil’s place. And I said to Lee, “Well this is good, I don't know what a marcelay is and it looks like we’re heading for it anyway.” What is was, it was a whirlpool in the river and we were approaching this and I watched and there was nothing we could do but in the dark hoping that the natives knew what they were doing. The chief
went to the rear of the barge, or you could call it a barge at this stage, it’s a canoe. And he had a sweep oar, and he stood by the sweep oar and we got on the edge of the whirlpool and we were being carried around and all of a sudden the Luluai sung out, ‘iss-sah’, and each of the natives with his paddle
poised, dipped into the water with one mighty push and speared us along the side of the whirlpool and we careered out the other side of it. It was a hair raising thing. We got to the next village and planted the canoe because it was getting dawn. The second barge come through, they’d run into a bit of trouble and it was knocked about a bit.
But luckily we had waterproofed all the gear and there was no problems. We hid in this village for the rest of the day and we found out that the natives were a little bit hostile towards us and we couldn’t understand why. But it happened to be the village...
Interviewee: Lionel Veale Archive ID 0616 Tape 02
Ah, Nokamban, this was Nokamban’s village and he could, unbeknown to us he controlled them during the night and with some of his friends, kept them in line. The next night we set off and we reached a village that,
oh, I can’t remember the name of it now, but it was near a mission station, not very far from the mission station at Marui, on the Sepik. We expected a bit of trouble there because we knew that there was a German priest there. And with the Germans we didn’t know where their alliance, whether they were with us or against us. So we decided
to attack the mission early in the morning. The name of the village was Jependai, Jependai. The Luluai of this village was very loyal and he said that he would help us. And he declared that the mission people would not be with the Japanese. However in situations like this it depended, it always
was, it’s always, I get stuck for words, I always, what the, wait’ll I get going.
It’s alright, we can come back over that.
It’s funny I get stuck and...
That’s alright, we’ve got all
It was always good to make sure that the information that we were receiving was correct. So therefore we went ahead with the plan of attacking the mission. When I say attacking I mean to make sure that the Japanese weren’t there. So we’d just after
dawn in canoes we went to, the four of us, one went through the back and one went through the front door and one went through each of the two windows. At this particular time there was two priests and a brother sitting down to breakfast. We frightened seven years growth out of them as we come through into
the… And they, of course, you could imagine them sitting down to breakfast and you get four soldiers with Tommy guns bursting into the room. The priest told us that the Japanese weren’t there and that we weren’t to be afraid. This priest’s name was Father Hanson, he was a German, he couldn’t speak English.
He could speak pidgin English, he was around about probably thirty years of age, big blonde chappie. He told Lee Ashton that he didn’t want to know where we were going but he had a good idea where we were going. He stated that if the Germans were there fighting he didn’t know what he would do, he’d try
to be a missionary, but blood’s thicker than water. But in the case of the Japanese they were against everything that he stood for and he was definitely against them. And that if anything happened to us and we needed help we had to know that he was there to help us. So Lee Ashton got us together and he said, “Well,
that might be right,” he said, “But don’t tell him anything because we don’t know for sure.” The day that we got there, that same day, the second priest left for further down the Sepik where the Japanese had arrived at a mission station, had
frightened the nuns and told them that they were gonna take them to Rabaul, ah, take them to Wewak. The nuns had sent a runner up to the priests asking for help. This priest later on, he left there that day and he went down the Sepik to the nuns. And it was here that he and some of the New Guinea people that were still on the Sepik
organised the nuns and they walked overland to Mount Hagen and they got out. Otherwise the Japanese would’ve taken them to Wewak. We had trouble now in trying to get natives to carry the cargo inland because at Marui we were going to head
due north towards Maprik. And there was a problem with the natives, the natives wouldn’t carry. And the reason why they wouldn’t carry was the fact that the Sepik natives used to raid this area, which was called the Wasscook[?] area, up through that area there, they used to raid them and for when they were building a house tambrin, or a man’s house.
And what they used to do is this, they’d have four posts in the ground to build the big hut or big whatever it was. And they had to blood these posts. So what they used to do they used to raid these Wasscook natives, and they’d get a native and they’d come and they’d kill him over these posts and that was their ceremonies. So these were their enemy, real enemy.
And then nobody wanted to go into the territory see. And so the priest come to the fore. And he talked to the old Luluai and got them on side and they said yeah, we’ll pay them and they can, they go. The first village was approximately twenty-five mile inland. We had something like eighty or ninety carriers and I thought this was
absolutely stupid. Going towards Wewak through Japanese territory with a long line of carriers of eighty or ninety people, we couldn’t possibly get through. And I said to Lee Ashton, why is it? Amongst the four of them there was Lee Ashton had been a gold miner in New Guinea, Jeff Archer had worked on Bulolo
in the gold mines, McHamilton was a corporal in the [2/]22nd Battalion with McCarthy when the men were escaping from there and McCarthy had got him promoted to a lieutenant. I have to say that I’ve never served with better people than these three men, they were wonderful mates. But still in all, two of us
were soldiers and the other two, even though they were New Guinea volunteer rifle men, they hadn’t had the training that we had. As a commando, it was beyond me to think that we were gonna take so much cargo all the way in. So Lee Ashton, when we first started off, the first day we were sitting in a hut and he had said to me, “Lionel,” he said, “My name’s Lee,
that’s Jeff and that’s Mac. Now we are three lieutenants,” he said, “And you’re a corporal.” He said, “Now rank has disappeared.” he said, “You call us by our names, Lionel, ah, Mac and Jeff and so forth.” he said. “If you’ve got anything to say, say it to us, there’s no rank.
We are all gonna depend upon each other on a mission like this here. And the main object is to get the information and the information is the primary thing.” So with this in mind I fronted Lee and I said, “Why, why, why are we taking all this cargo?” And he told me. He said, “In the back of Maprik,” he said, “There’s a white
man. And he’s got a native wife and two daughters; one’s about seventeen and one’s about nineteen. And what we want to do is to get this cargo in there and establish a headquarters in there or a place where we can refurbish our gear or whatever we want to do with it. And that is the reason why we’re taking all this cargo.” So therefore I
understood what it was all about and it made me a lot more easier. We tried to train the natives that on the word baloose, which means airplane, that they were to hide but it was nearly an impossible thing. We set off and as we set off, how we used to go was that one would take the lead
and then there’d be this second and then two would take up the rear. And we kept changing this because it’s very hard on the nerves when you point, they call point. Because you don’t know what’s ahead of you and you’re responsible for the whole of the patrol as you move ahead. So Lee Ashton took the point and this is how we started off from Marui. We kept walking all day
and the natives, the carriers and that, they took with them what they call their spear men. I can’t remember how many but these men were their protectors and they had bundles of spears and they were their fighting men. And they kept walking along the side of the column all the time, watching out not for the Japanese but for the other natives. About
half past four in the afternoon or thereabouts we come out of the jungle onto an open plain. Ahead of us there was a spur of land away in the distance and to the north, and there was one also to the south. We heard a yodelling start and that was answered by a yodel from on the… the yodel
started on the southern end and then it was taken up again by the one on the north. And you could see that our natives were pretty frightened about this. And this is how these Wasscook natives communicated with each other. They didn’t have the drums, the garamunt drums the big drums, which I’ll talk about later. They kept signalling to
each other and as we approached it, this spur of land we come onto a swamp. So there was no sign of any natives so Lee Ashton and I decided, or Lee, he was the leader of the party, decided that we would go ahead and try and find out what was going on. We took with us Nokamban, this was the native sergeant that we’d bought from Port Moresby.
It was dead silence and going through this swamp, jumping from log to log, trying to watch out if there was anything ahead was a bit eerie, a bit on the nerves. Eventually we got to dry land on the other side. Still no sign of natives, not even a sound. As we approached the village which was probably a quarter of a mile in, or, mightn’t have been that far in.
We found spears laying in the cluster in the grass off the track, just by chance, and it looked like this was put there in case they run out of spears. We got to the village, there was only a couple of mangy dogs walking around, running around the place, not a sign of anything. We’d been told by the priest
at Marui that we could expect trouble in this village, because just as the war started, two police boys had molested two of the native women and raped them. And the villagers had got the policemen and killed them so therefore they would be expecting trouble from the Government. So Lee stood out in front in the middle of the sing-sing
ground. The sing-sing ground is a big, a part of the ground with the house tambrin on one side of it and all the villagers, all the huts around it. He sung out in pidgin English, “We are not key-ups.” key-ups is a patrol word for patrol officer, “We are not the key-ups belong Government, belong look him out, belong this fella something before. We are
the key-ups belong fight him Japan.” There’s dead silence. So Lee said it again, he said, “You’ve gotta remember that we haven’t come here to have anything to do with what happened before about the police boys, we’ve come here to fight the Japanese.” Then a native started to peer out of the grass and the Luluai come up to
us and Lee gave him a trade axe as a present and everything was pretty right. So they went down singing and dancing and the patrol was brought across the swamp and into the village. As soon as we got there by this time it was around about half past five in the afternoon. The Sepik natives wanted to be paid and wanted to go back to the Sepik straightaway.
And I said to Lee, “Why would they want to be going back now at this stage of the game, it’s dark, you know?” He said, “If they stay here in the village tonight,” he said, “Half of them won’t have their heads on em.” He said, “These natives’ll kill em.” he said, “So,” he said, “That’s why they’re going.” And they off, we pay them and away they went. And they went back, and I don't know how far they went but they certainly left the village on their way back to the Sepik River. All that night
we never slept very much as natives were around the hut and in the jungle, singing out and going on. And it was a pretty troublesome sort of a night. The next morning, incidentally the night before, Lee had made arrangements with the Luluai that there would be carriers there to carry the cargo onto the next village.
Instead there was nobody, the natives all disappeared. So we sent McHamilton and myself down through the village to see who we could get. He said if you could get the women bring the women. So we ended up with a string of Marys they call them, the women. And they come back and we load them up with the cargo. Now the women can carry better than the men because that’s their job, from the time they’re little girls. And we started
off and as we did the men come in behind, they’d come back again and away we went again to the next. We had this problem all the way through with some of the agitators in the jungle screaming out and throwing spears, and but not at us but just to worry us. So we come to the second village and we pay this mob off and the Luluai come
up. Oh yes he was gonna do everything, he was gonna help us and so forth and such. So Lee gave him a present and we stayed there the night. It was a bit quieter that night but the next morning instead of the carriers, the Luluai appears bedecked in all his finery. And he said, “We have decided that instead of carrying, we’re gonna fight you.” And Lee said,
“Well, that’s very good.” this is all in pidgin English. And he, the Luluai said, “We are coming up now, we’re down below there.” There was a little creek and on the other side of the creek there was all Kunai [grass]. So Lee said, “You better come with me.” So we went down and you could see the tops of the spears, the whole village waiting in this grass. So Lee said to me, “Now I don’t want any of them
shot.” He said, “I will start from the left, and you start from the right and we’ll fire over their heads with the Tommy guns.” So we did. Well they went for their life, there was grass going everywhere and natives going everywhere. After about a quarter of an hour or so they come back and they said, “Oh well we tried you but we’ll carry for you now.” What they were doing was, they’d received word from the Japanese
that the Japanese would pay them if they caught or captured any white man and this is what it was all about. And they were trying to hold us up so they could get word to the Japanese. They come back then and they started to carry. On the third night, same thing happened, we had a
tent, japar silk tent and we were in the tent and their spears went everywhere through the tent. We were on our belly beside the, we used to have two logs either side as protection. And it was on again. One of the natives was screaming out that one of our natives had pinched one of his pigs. Well we knew this was wrong see. And he’s there standing, brandishing these
spears, and we were more or less pinned to the ground. I crawled out the back of the hut into a bit of a gully with a native Nokamban and we circled this fellow defined in the middle, and we got around behind him and we jumped him. And this was their fight leader and they were screaming and howling and going
on. And Nokamban’s got a .303 rifle pointed at his head, the rifle cocked, and he’s saying to me, “Master me kill ‘im pinnies, me kill ‘im pinnies!” And I said, “No, no, don’t kill ‘im pinnies.” And Lee come out of the tent and got up to me and Lee said to this chap, he said, “Carry ‘im cargo?” and this fella says, “No go.” And he said, “Carry ‘im cargo or me shoot
you finish.” And this fella says, “No go.” And so Lee said to him, “Well mate, you got more guts than I’ve got and I’m gonna shoot you.” So we let him go and they come in and they picked up the cargo. So we start off and by this time we’re getting pretty close to Maprik. But we’d found out that this tribe were having a hell of a fight with the tribe
in between Maprik. And we come to a road, this track where there was two sticks crossed. When the sticks are crossed that means to say, you come across those sticks, you got a fight. And this was a problem. And the natives with us were wanting to throw down their cargo, they didn’t want to carry it so we had to keep a pretty
tight watch on them. We had our three police boys with us and they were going up and down the line threatening them and that. So the next thing I hear is a shot at the top of the… Lee was leading at that particular… a shot. And I thought, holy mackerel, we’ve run into the Japs. And the whole lot of the natives were coming back, racing towards me. So there was a
big ant hill so I jumped up on top of it with my Tommy gun. And a fight leader was leading them and he got within, say, fifteen foot of me with a spear and he’s threatening me, he was gonna throw the spear. And I said, you do, in pidgin English, I said, you die first. So all of a sudden the natives at the back of him broke and went down into a gully. I put my Tommy gun on automatic and
I fired at one end of the gully and they flew out the other end of the gully. So eventually we got em all back. Then out of the jungle the other tribes start to come in, so we changed over, we paid one mob and we stop them fighting and we start off. We eventually got into Maprik and we sat down and this is where we were gonna go west and get rid of all this cargo and
develop a place where we could retreat to or what have you. But no natives again, the same old story again, this was driving us crazy. They wouldn’t carry, all the natives disappeared out of the place. Maprik, which was prior to the war, was a drome [aerodrome] and it was a hospital and everything. The hospital, there was case cards everywhere, the mattresses all
disappeared, buildings broken, it was all done by the natives all the way through, they’d just vandalised the whole place. So we didn’t know what to do. There was a mission station not far away and we got the priest to come in and we had a talk to him. And he said, “Well the reason why you can’t get
carriers is the fact,” he said, “The chap that you’re looking has been murdered, and his wife’s been murdered and the two daughters have been murdered.” And this chap’s name was Wally Hook. And when the Japanese had come in, had landed, the natives had turned against him and killed him so therefore we had no place to leave our stores. But the priest told us of a miner’s shack not far
away so we took all the gear there and we left it in this miner’s shack . And there was a local, we found a local police boy and we gave him the job of looking after it and we pay him. We found out later that the day after we left there, all the chiefs, all the natives had come and had arrived at this miner’s shack and took the whole lot of our stores. And of course the policeman didn’t go against them cause
he knew that it was impossible. So this left us now on the last approach into Maprik. The priest didn’t want to have anything to do with us because they thought that the Japanese would leave them alone. So we start off and we had then the trouble with the garamuts. A garamut is a
wooden log, hollow wooden log which the natives have a code and taps out messages. And we knew that as we approached Wewak that these drums would pass on the information and the Japanese would know that we were approaching them. So we worked it, we had a bit of a conversation about this, what we were going to do. And Jeff Archer said, “Well, I’ll tell you what we can do.”
He said, “When we get into any village, the first thing we’ll do is find out who the head, oh, one of the children is of the Luluai, who is the Luluai’s child. And we’ll grab him, We’ll make certain that this fellow is old enough to carry.” So the first village we get into, Lee
asks, “Oh where’s the number one belong the Lulai?” So any rate they skited [boasted], this one lad come up, he was, he’d be about eighteen I suppose, so we grab him. And we said to the Lulai, “You start the drums going and we’ve got your son, he’ll be the first to come.” So we shut the drum up. We ended up
as we approached Wewak we ended up with about four of these as hostages. We arrived at on the southern side of the mountains that were at the back of Wewak.
And we decided to stay there, it was about half past six at night or something like that, by then it was dark any rate. And we put guards on; of course we always did this. And a horse come along with a native on it. I didn’t know there was any horses in New Guinea, so we grabbed him and brought him in. And his story was that he was from this mission station where we’d
left previously near Maprik. He and another, this native and a brother, had gone down into Wewak to make salt. Now what they do they get the ocean water, the saltwater and they boil it and it comes out like white and black and they boil this and this is how they get their salt. Cause they’re always hungry for salt, you can get a day’s labour for
a tablespoon of salt. So what had happened was they were doing this and they were coming back with it when the Japanese ambushed em. This native happened to be on the horse at the time and got away. But the Japs got the other chap. So we found out that the home of this lad was in the swamp area, south of Maprik
or of Wewak. So we told him to go back to the mission station and tell the priest that we wanted him to join our patrol. So he did this. In the meantime this night, we just, we were talking and it was, we wanted to find out
what was happening at Wewak before we got there. So McHamilton and I decided to go with a native along a track towards Wewak to what they call a trig point. A trig point is… all throughout the world, they got these trig points, I think they still got em, completely accurate, showing exactly
where the position on the earth is. I know that they got the satellites and that now but even so they still use these in conjunction with them as far as I know. We set off and it was a moonlight night and this native knew the track. And we lost the forest, we come out of
the forest and we were moving through cloud it was so high and we got to this trig point oh around about half past ten at night so we decided to camp there for the night. And see what we could see in the morning because we knew, being a trig point, we should have a particularly good view of the coast. We could see Wewak down below us all lit up, now in
wartime, which happened in all battles, in Rabaul and Milne Bay and all that. They keep the lights going of a night, and Port Moresby, and rely on outposts way out in the jungle and that, spotters and all that to tell them when there’s aeroplanes and enemy aeroplanes are coming against them. So therefore they can keep on working all night. And this was happening in Wewak
and the place was all lit up and we could see it like a fairy land down below us. We stayed there the night and at dawn, lo and behold, coming in from the direction of Singapore was a convoy of ships There wasn’t too many of them, and we watched and what the Japs were doing was this, that they had a
jetty built out and they had trucks with coconut trees on em, full coconut trees. And when the ship was pulled in side ways, as far as it would go, then to this jetty, then these coconut trees were placed all over the ship and it, to make it look like it was a part of an island. Now they had plenty of plantations around that area
so there was no problem with this. They were unloading this cargo onto trucks which would disappear in towards Wewak. The reason for this, why they didn’t go in to Wewak was the fact that Wewak Harbour is full of reef and they couldn’t get them in there, and this is how they were doing it. So we went back and we reported this by wireless. We had
a set called an ATR 4 set, it was a dry battery set and in those days it was unheard of, it was a marvellous little set. So we then went forward over the top of the mountain and towards Wewak. And we made camp on the range, looking down into Wewak and it was complete jungle.
We had a tree that would be probably, say, two to three hundred feet high, I don't know it was a very tall tree and it was all festooned half way up with vines and what have you. We got the natives to climb the tree and make a rope ladder, not a rope ladder but a vine ladder to the top. At the top we camouflaged and made a platform. And what we used
to do is to go up this platform and we’d take a bag of grenades with us. Cause we’d worked out that if we were up the tree and we were attacked by the Japanese, coming down a rope ladder you couldn’t fight but you could throw grenades out. And if you threw enough grenades that’d keep their heads down, it was the only way to get down. We established our wireless aerial away from the camp,
in case anything happened. And so we start to watch the goings on down in Wewak. We saw them with a ship that had apparently been damaged. We saw them pull it on the side to a certain extent so that they could weld some of the plates that were near the waterline. We sent
out and our planes come over and bombed it. But there was another thing happening which was a bit of a mystery to us. Down to the north side of the island the natives had bulldozed a track. Or not a track but a very narrow kind of a drome. And the Japs were bringing in one and two
planes at a time and then with tractors they were taking them into a plantation. And this seemed to be a bit of a mystery why they were doing this. And we sent a signal out about this also. It wasn’t til years later after the war that I was at a dinner at Surfer’s Paradise that I was with a chap there and he said to me,
at this dinner, he said, “What show were you in?” And I said I was a coast watcher. Oh, he said, “What mission did you do?” I said, I did six. He said, “Six?” And I thought, oh well he thinks I’m telling lies. I said, “I did you know.” And he said, “Well what were they?” I said there was the Milne Bay show, I said there was the Trobriands, there was the Woodlark Island, I said there was Wewak, there was Long Island and Ooboy.
He said, “Did you say Wewak?” And I said, yes. “Wewak,” he said, “Who’d you go into Wewak with?”I said Jeff Archer, McHamilton and Lee Ashton. He said, “And your name would be Veale?” I said, yes, I said, what, do you know me? “Oh,” he said, “I’ve never met you before as you know,” he said, but he said, ‘The name rang a bell straightaway.” He said, “I always had a conscience about you people.” I said, “Why would you have a conscience, I don't know you?” He said, “Did you ever
wonder why the Japs attacked you when you were in Wewak.” I said, “Oh well,” I said, “They must have got on to us.” He said, “No, codes,” he said, “There’s always a code within a code. Like for instance if you said the blue dog jumped over the red log. Whoever broke that code wouldn’t know what they were talking about; they wouldn’t know what the blue
log was or the red dog, ah the red log whatever it was. And this was happening, in your case,” he said. “We had broken the codes and the Japanese information coming in, we couldn’t crack it because we couldn’t understand what it was all about. But when your information come in about the planes being hidden in the plantation, it all gelled together. And we realised that they were building up planes to attack
a convoy that was being built in Port Moresby. Because as you know, right, as you know it takes a while for a convoy to get together. You’ve gotta have supporting vessels and so forth and such. You’ve gotta have troops you gotta have the supplies and so forth and so on. And the Japs were getting ready to bomb this. So we decided to pull you out
and to bomb these plantations. But we had decided this when McCarthy, your boss, walked in. And he says, no, you can’t do it, you can’t let them know and we said, why? And he said, well there’s two of our parties have been caught and our codes are at risk. And if you send information in on the codes for them to get out it’s quite possible that the Japanese might
have the code broken and therefore whoever’s going in will get killed. And he said, after all he said, there’s four of them and there’s a convoy at risk and unfortunately we’ve just gotta just leave it go.” So they left us go. And of course when they come over and they started the bombing, it completely blew our cover. But this was the game that we were in and we understood this.
Interviewee: Lionel Veale Archive ID 0616 Tape 03
Okay you were finishing off where bombing Wewak.
Right. You’re right?
Yep, we’re rolling.
Okay. Of course they come in and they started bomb which blew our cover, but this
was a part of the show. What we had done, we had placed two natives, Kanaka nothing as we called it, that is with just lap-laps, that’s the cloth they wore around them and no uniforms or anything like that. Sent them as village natives, one to each village down below us. And their orders were to watch the Japanese and should they move against us
they were to get back and let us know. So what happened was that at approximately one, or half past one in the morning, these two natives arrived back with the information that the Japanese were onto us and that there was, they said around about five hundred, but it was hard to estimate. The whole position was this though, that
at this stage of the game prior to this, I left one part out. Archer and I had gone in towards Wewak and had found out that the ships that were being unloaded with their cargo, when they reached Wewak, they were
being trans-shipped onto barges and the barges were disappearing around Cape Moem, and this is how they, the Japanese were feeding and supply their fighting forces, that were at that time were fighting down in Buna. The Kokoda Trail was finishing off and so all the way down from Finschhafen, Lae, and all the way through this was one way that they were
supplying their people. And so these two chappies got back and told us what was going on and with so many troops that the Japanese had, they had plenty of troops, so they’d apparently sent out patrols everywhere to try and find us. These natives had stayed with one of the Japanese
units that were coming against us. And when it became nightfall, they’d slept and got away back to tell us. We threw all our gear down and all our gear that we didn’t want and we ended up coming down this mountain side in the dark. Which was near an impossible task, we’d fallen, stumbled and God only knows what.
And before dawn we reached the track that was leading from Wewak into Maprik. Nokamban and myself we went forward to investigate the track to see what was going on. And fortunately for us one of the Japanese sentries that was waiting on the track was smoking, and we found out where he was. We then searched around and we found that there was others there.
We got back to the other men and we went down into a swamp and across the swamp, across the track and on the southern side of it there was a huge area of swamps. The lad that we had got from the mission station had been born in these swamps and he said he knew the area. So
we decided this is the way we would go rather than going along the road, the track, going from Wewak to Maprik because we knew that that’s where the Japanese would be looking for us. So we headed down through the swamps and we had a lot of problems because we’d come across natives and they’d start their garamuts and then we’d have to get out of that ring.
And then we’d keep on going and the Japanese were patrolling the other track by plane looking for us as well as sending, apparently sending patrols out after us. We come down to cross a creek and there’s a whole number of natives waiting for us. One of the
natives rushed Lee Ashton to spear him and one of our police boys fired a shotgun at the whole lot of them and away they went. At the next village we were stopped by the natives again and when a native tried to hit Lee Ashton and Lee Ashton hit him and this chap had a
bone across his nose and Lee broke the nose and the bone out of the nose and this was day after day. Even when you went to the toilet you had to have somebody with you, you know. We got into one village and they let us sleep into one hut, they said you could sleep in this hut. And there was a terrible
stench in this hut all night, so there was a monkey, this monkey’s a little native boy and we asked him what was the smell for. And we found that this fella was an orphan, this little lad was an orphan. And that an old man had taken him and looked after him. But the old man had died and they had buried this old man in this hut about a foot underneath the ground and that was where the smell was coming from.
Before we left the village we heard that one of them had gone up onto the main road to tell the Japanese we were there so we were off again. We eluded the natives again and the next day we were again, getting late in the afternoon and
one of the police boys pointed out a native way back in the distance up a tree. I pointed this out to Lee Ashton and Lee Ashton said, “Oh he’s probably a native after bird’s eggs.” because they eat the bird’s eggs. So we went probably a quarter of a mile along and there was a creek running at the base of a cliff, tall, very high cliff and there was a track
winding up this cliff. We went up the cliff and at the top of it there was a village. The Luluai met us with open arms and he was gonna give us food and what have you and of course we hadn’t been eating because of having to carry, we were only having one meal a day and not much of that either. So we had a bit of a meeting. There was always in the village they had
a hut put aside which they called house key-up. That was for the patrol officer, and it was never used by the natives, it was always, so they showed us that. And it was a hut that was about eight foot off the ground and thatched roof and so forth and such. So we had this meeting and we decided that we’d stop and try and get the information, contact Port
Moresby and get all the information we had, cause we had a lot of information. We had found out about the cargo cults, we had run into places where they had built dromes for the planes. The dromes would have been about fifty yards long and about forty yards wide, brand new hut for the cargo. Their idea was that with
this cargo cult that their ancestors were trying to bring em in food or presents. And the ships out at sea, that was, their ancestors had brought all the cargo and this. And of course our people, the British’d bomb them. This is the story the Japanese told them you see, and this made it that
the natives against us again. There’s all this information, we had so much information we decided to get it out. So we were using a code called the Bull Code as our special code and been made for this job. And it was one that if you had a letter wrong the whole message would be aborted. So that it had to be put into code and then had to be decoded
to make certain, it was my job to decode it. Again it’s dark, it’s getting towards dark, it’s about five o'clock in the afternoon and approaching sunset. And Lee Ashton and Jeff Archer had taken their boots and, all they had on was their shorts and they were putting the messages into code. Jeff Archer, Lee, McHamilton
looking after the wireless was getting through the schedule time for Port Moresby. And I was sitting with my legs dangling down the pole that led up into the hut, that you climbed up into the hut from. And Jeff Archer come towards me and he said, “How’s the code, how’s it breaking?” I said, “It’s breaking alright.”
and he looked up and he said, “The bloody Nips, we haven’t got a chance.” And I looked up and Jeff Archer went straight through the building, out the other side of it he went. All this happened in a second of course. I looked up and oh, probably fifty yards or less in front of me was a Japanese officer sneaking up on me with a Tommy gun, of that sort. When he saw
that Jeff Archer had seen him he opened fire. Now when you fire a Tommy gun, the velocity of the bullets going out through the muzzle have a tendency to kick the nose up. So as a soldier you’re trained for this and you gotta know you gotta lower your rifle to get your target. We knew this but luckily for me he aimed too low and it cut the pole, the post leading up into the hut
pretty near in half. And when he started firing, all the other Japs started firing. And I thought there was thousands; all I could see was Japs underneath all the huts. And they started firing and there’s bullets going everywhere. What happened then was McHamilton on the wireless, wondered what the hell was going on. And he’s looking sideways trying to find out. And one of
the bullets collected the set. He jumped up at the same time as Lee Ashton went to go out the back door and both of them tangled up with each other and Mac nearly broke his neck because he was still plugged in to the set. Last I saw of them was that they fell out the back door. I had somersaulted back into the hut. And I always carried my revolver and that on a belt with me but we had been
days in the swamps and because of this it’d chafed the side of my hip and I’d taken the revolver off and left it on my bunk. I raced towards the other end of the hut where my bunk was and I picked up my webbing and I threw it on because I had my revolver and I had everything on it. But unfortunately a piece of bamboo sticking out caught up with the webbing and hung me up. At the
same time this Japanese officer threw a grenade in, into the hut and I saw it come towards me. Now the Japanese grenades were completely different to the Australian ones, the Australian 101. Because we used to call them the pineapple grenades because they were made out of cast iron, whatever it was, and they fragmented and they were lethal. The Japanese grenades were lethal too but they,
made em out of all scrap metal and all that and they were never reliable to break into a thousand pieces. The result is that this one, luckily for me, broke in half. Half the grenade come across and seared and hit me in the stomach, but come across my stomach, and luckily didn’t penetrate. A piece of it though hit me in the
head and I was bleeding like a stuck pig. I fell out the back door and on top of a native and in front of me there was a fence made out of fronds and so forth. And to this day I don't know whether I jumped it, took it with me or crawled under it, but it was about six foot high, I don't know, but I found myself on the other side of this fence. Now
my body was running so fast and my legs, I collapsed and I fell down into a gully. Now at the same time the Japanese patrol had split into two sections, one to the east and one to the west and they’d come around and they, and I ended up outside it and they come back onto the village. So here I am in the gully, and in New Guinea we’re only a degree off the equator which is about eighty mile or something like that.
And you don’t have the normal sunset, it just goes down, you get dark very quickly. So this is what happened. And I thought to meself, well, I’ve gotta get a weapon, and I heard somebody coming so I waited and I pounced on him and I’m fighting the hell out of him on the ground and I found it was Jeff Archer. “Oh,” he said, “Thank God I’ve found you.” And I said, “You got any weapon?” he says, “No, I’ve lost all mine
too.” And there was a rustle and we pounced on the rustle and it was Lee Ashton. And then back in the village we heard a scream, a shot, and another scream. No Mac, and we thought, oh well, Mac’s finished. And we knew we couldn’t wait for him, we had to keep on going. What had actually happened to Mac was that when he got out and the Japs all around him
there was a big clump of bamboo. He crawled into the middle of the bamboo and stayed quiet. And the Japs went chasing us and he was there. Later on that night when it got quiet he got out and by dawn he found the beginning of a little creek. He followed the creek down and he got to the big Sepik. He was a blonde chappie and he covered himself with mud and he was on the mud flats. Now this
priest had heard through the grapevine that there was something wrong and he had sent his natives out looking to see, that could locate us. And the natives reported back that they knew of a white man on a mud bank. We never knew how lucky he had been because it was completely saturated with crocodiles, there were crocodiles everywhere and they never got him. But the priest went down the Sepik River
in the canoe and got Mac and took him back. So Mac only had a couple of days there like this and he was as fit as a fiddle, as you’ll hear later on. So any rate what happened then was that it was complete dark, and the noises going on in the village and natives, Japs singing out, they were after us all over the place see. So when it’s
dark sometimes if you can get up high you can look down and you can see the outlines of this, that’s not if it’s real pitch dark, but you know. So Lee Ashton said, “Do you think you can climb this tree?” we were near a tree, “And see if you can see what’s ahead?” you see. So I was having trouble with my side because it was raw, absolutely raw. And I climbed the tree and down below me I could see where the Japanese
had started a campfire, you could see them walking around it and you could see the natives walking around it too you see. So I come back, start to climb back down the tree and I run into… up in New Guinea they got red ants and red ants they nest in a kind of a ball, like bees, and I run into it. And they swarmed
all over me. Well I couldn’t sing out, all I had to do was to put up with the pain, by the time I got to the bottom some of the ants are stuck in the wound and I’d hell, so they helped me get out of this. So then we started, our nerves started to give away a little bit at this stage of the game and Lee said, “Well we’re anchored, it’s pitch dark, we wouldn’t know which way we’re going, we could walk straight into the Japs
and I don't know what we’re gonna do.” And I said, “Oh we can always find our direction.” So Jeff Archer said, he said, “Oh you bloody commandos you know everything don’t you!” Now this wasn’t because he was a nasty man, it was just because of nerves, in my opinion. And I said to Lee Ashton, I said, “Do you remember what you said Lee when we hit the Sepik, that if anything like this happened it was every man for himself?” And Lee said to me he said, “Yes,
that’s right, but you’re not gonna tell me that you’re gonna leave us and go by yourself? Those head hunters’ll have you like anything. For instance,” he said, “You’re not proficient in pidgin English and half of em won’t even be able to speak pidgin English.” I said, “No I’m not leaving you, but I want to have my say.” He said, “Well, have your say.” I said, “I know the way to go in a straight line.” He said, “Well how do you know?” I said, “Well out there is the Southern Cross.
If you drop the axis of the Southern Cross three and a half times it’s length and drop a perpendicular to the horizon that is due south.” Ah, well it started, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes I’m sure, that is normal commando training” And I said, “And it’s probably in the Boy Scouts too.” So any rate Lee said, “Right, you take over the patrol.” so away we went.
But they were after us and we were going through kunai, first of all Lee couldn’t walk so I took my boots off and I gave them to him because he couldn’t walk, his feet was too tender. And I’d been on board the Paluma for the last six or… so my feet were hardy and so I gave him my boots. So the natives, we saw them way in the distance, you know
they had sticks of fire. And they set fire to the kunai. We come across a small creek and we got under the water and got out of the fire. So we kept on going. When it become dawn, what we were doing, we were heading, what I forgot to tell you was that my idea was this, that
we knew that there was a track going from Marui to Maprik, which we’d already travelled. And that was going north to south, or south to north. Now my idea was if we could go in a western direction all the time we must eventually run into that track because we knew that we were east of it. So that was the only way we could do, no matter, we just kept on going on a westerly direction, and this was the idea see.
But when it become dawn I looked back and I find that we were walking over grass that was probably six inches or three inches high and I could see our tracks way back to, there was dew. And our tracks were in the dew, you know you see dew and the way it went, see. So we’d come across a fairly wide stream so we decided to
go into the stream and hopefully that there wouldn’t be crocodiles in it, because it was a fair way from land from the sea or from the big river. And any rate and instead of going west we’d go back towards Wewak to put em off the track. We did this hoping to God we wouldn’t run into a crocodile and we got to the other side of this creek and
it was a kind of a little valley. And the valley was specially timbered and the grass was around about, only about two foot high in it. It looked like there’d been a bushfire or something through it and that’s how it was. So we start off and the next thing we hear up the top of the valley, Japanese singing out.
And apparently with the natives they’d worked out where we were going, so there was nowhere to hide. Except to the left of us there was a place where the water had eroded the earth and it was only around about two foot at the very most deep and there was a clump of bushes over it and that, so we crawled into that. I think that’s the most horrifying day I’ve had in my life.
There was twenty-one in the Japanese patrol and this was about half past seven in the morning. And from then on till about three o'clock in the afternoon they kept coming down in an open formation prodding everything with their bayonets. And because of this rough ground and the Japanese were a bit lazy they steered away from it and
we kept in there and, they missed us all day. But you can imagine how our nerves were. So the next thing that happens is that everything become quiet. We waited til about four o'clock and we decided to make a break for it. And so we headed up this valley and we come to a swamp, a sack-sack
swamp. Now a sack-sack swamp’s got needles in it, , it’s like prickly and it was pretty cruel to walk through it but there was nothing we could do. So we got through it and in front of us there was like a quarry, and you know around about going up about five hundred yards or something like this here. And
we thought we could climb this and there was plenty of bushes and that like a, tall grass and we’re congratulating ourselves that we’d beat them. We got within about say fifty yards or so of the crest of this place we were climbing and a whole wall of natives with spears rose in front of us. We turned around and we pelted down into this swamp again, right into the swamp. We
covered ourselves, our faces with mud because of our white skin and the natives ringed us. They got right around the swamp and they just closed in on us. And one fella sings out, “Master me sorry too much along you pella.” And Lee said, “Yeah he’s sorry for us, I bet he is.” And he said it again and then Jeff Archer said, “Well you know,” he said, “We might be able to talk these fellas
out of this.” ‘Cause Lee knew New Guinea, he’d been a gold miner up there. And so Lee sat down,”You come and talk to me.” And the native says, “No God,” he said, “I’m not coming to talk to you, you’re not the boss now, you come and talk to me.” So they come in and they got us, they belted hell out of us. One of them had one of our trade axes that we had the day before and so we knew
that they were part of the show. And this old Luluai said to Lee Ashton brandishing an axe in front of his face, he said, “We’ve sent a runner to the Japs.” The Japs were camped about five mile away. He said, “So they’ll fix you.” So they belted us up to the village. And this village was more or less a fortified village, I’d never seen one before in New Guinea like it, it had like the old
western days with the big poles all the way around it. So they threw us on the ground near the house tambrin. And they’re all talking amongst their own language. Again it became dark and all little campfires outside the little huts, they’re all cooking their evening meal. So we decided our own chance was to make a go for it because we didn’t know how long it’d take for the Japanese to
get there, and the Japanese had to believe what information they were getting from the natives. So we decided and we said, right, and we were off. Well, as soon as we start to go we couldn’t get out, the dogs attacked us, the kids attacked us, the women attacked us. And they’re hitting us with everything they can get, stones and sticks and God only knows what. And when we got to where there was an opening,
the warriors were waiting for us with their spears and they belted hell out of us with their spears and dragged us back up and threw us on the ground again. So when we got our wind and we were cut and bruised, and Lee said to the chief, there was two chiefs there at this time, another village had come into it. He said, “You know you two are gonna be in a lot of trouble when the British come back?” He said, “When the Australians come
back here you’re gonna suffer because these yella men are not gonna win.” He said, “The Australians and that have got a lot of ships and a lot of aeroplanes and baloose…” and talking in pidgin English. So they started talking in their own language. And then all of a sudden one of the Luluai said, “We’ll let you go.” Course we thought by this time the Japs should have arrived, you see.
So they led us out of the village, down a track and whispered to us, “Now you go and we’ll go back and tell the Japs that you’ve escaped.” see. And they’d trapped us in an extinct volcano, crater, full of lawyer vine and God only knows what. And their idea apparently was the fact that if we hurt ourselves, the Japs couldn’t blame them for it. So we’re in
this and we knew that if we didn’t get out of this, that it was the end of us. And Lee Ashton had a, his watch on with an luminous dial so we took turns using it so the others’d follow. And we just, we kept all night at this trying to get out, we were unsuccessful on lots of occasions but when dawn started to come we found that we were on the edge of it. And we saw the natives had put natives around
it, as guards waiting for us you see, so that we didn’t get out. So we saw a native go to the north or whatever it was and we crept out and got out. And not far from where we got out there was a track leading south. So we started to go along the track and the next thing we hear a hell of a commotion in the village. The Japs had arrived and they were coming down
and the natives and all that and away in the distance we saw them coming down in a formation, in a great big line see. To the right of us was nothing but, for miles was swamp land, just kunai swamp, tall grass. So when we come to a bend in the track I stayed behind, we got a place where we could get into the swamp, the two of
them went in, I went back with some grass and erased all our tracks. Then I crawled backwards into the swamp and replaced the grass so that you couldn’t see it. We got within oh, probably a hundred yards inside the swamp and down they come. And we went under the
water with the reeds, and stayed there and they went past us, and we beat em. We had, I can’t remember now, three or four days in the swamps. By this time it had become what, about four or five days, five or six days without food. And what was beating us was the fact that we were up to here in water, and you couldn’t rest.
And we saw a big mound of grass ahead, we crawled onto this mound and we thought oh, now we can have a sleep. We were there for about ten minutes and we were under the water cause it just sunk down with us. Then towards the last day we saw a forest so we took nearly a quarter of the day
wading through this swamp to get over to it. So we got into this forest I should say but it was like the everglades. And as we start to go into it we saw, you know when a crocodile goes along and his nose, you see the ripples coming out from the other side. And we knew that if we went in there we’d had it. So we had to go back into the swamp. Eventually we struck dry ground
and we come along and we run into an old lady, a real old native woman. And we had a razor, of all things, a razor blade Lee had in his belt, you know in a kind of a pouch. And we gave this old lady a razor blade for a piece of, it looked like raw liver, it was sac-sac,
sago. But then we were worried about her telling anybody and we weren’t gonna kill her, we let her go, you see. She disappeared mumbling and it looked like she was half out of her brain anyway. So we slept that night, glad to be out of the swamp but still very hungry. The next morning we could see away in the distance, some palms.
So I volunteered to go up and see if it was a native garden, see if there was any food there. So I couldn’t move very fast because I was just about had it. But I got to this, it was a village and I couldn’t get in but there was the garden so I thought I’ll get out the garden. And the garden was as bare as cement; there was not a skerrick in this. So I come back and then Lee says to me, “Did you ever think of looking
underneath the ground?” And the thing never struck me that there was food underneath the ground. And then this was on the banks of a little creek too that we were hiding. And to the west there was a bit of a ridge and then we saw a native, fully armed with his spears and his wife and two little girls or little kiddies, they were walking along it. And we thought well that could be
the Maprik road or track. And so we might have been all equal but being the corporal I did the work. So any rate I crawled out and I found it was the track. So when it became dark we headed down this track towards Marui. So
we kept on going and we had various things happening all the way through. One of them was the fact that we coming down to this little valley along this track and all of a sudden lights went everywhere, and we thought, oh God we’ve ran into a Japanese camp. And what it was, was fireflies, disturb one and the whole lot go, and it just lit up like fairies you know. Then we run into
two natives and we, they were cooking a meal and it was sac-sac grubs. And their story was that they’d run away from the Japanese and they were heading around the Japanese and they were heading back to their own village to get away from them, so they weren’t any problem. But they’d got all these grubs out of the sac-sac see.
And I look at these grubs wriggling around and Lee said, “Well we’ve have to eat em.” And I thought, oh God, I couldn’t eat them. And one of the natives said, “Master, any good fella bush? That’s good fella meat, you know.” And he’s pushing em into his mouth and they’re wriggling around and I thought I’d rather die than eat them. But the next morning I ate em, we cooked em on the top of this forty-four
Interviewee: Lionel Veale Archive ID 0616 Tape 04
We’re rolling now, so you were saying?
Right. When it became towards dawn the next day we had reached Marui. But the problem was we didn’t know if the Japs had reached Marui before us. So we decided to
watch the mission station and see what was happening. Suddenly we saw the priest in his white robe coming down a track near the river. And I being a Catholic, the other two said to me, “What do you think he’s doing?” I said, “Well, I think he’s going to say mass.” So we waited.
Well none of us had any clothes on by this time, except, you might as well say g-strings, that’d been ripped off and God only knows what. And the nat-nats, the mosquitoes, nat-nats the pidgin English word for them, they attacked us. And they, you’ve gotta see them to believe them in the Sepik. They swarmed us and they drove us mad while we were waiting
for this priest to come out of the mass, saying mass. So we jumped him because it was all we could, because we were pretty feeble by this time. And I said to him, must have been in my, “Where are the Germans?” And he says, “I’m the German.” He said, “But the Japs are not here.” So he took us into the mission station.
And he said, “And Mac’s here.” and there was Mac as large as life, not a thing wrong with him, physically fit, feeding like a bull. And here we were, absolutely shocking. All the needles from the nat-nat had started to fester and all we could do was to… we couldn’t even eat properly, we just had a little bit and we went to sleep. This priest then put
guards out with natives to watch. He’d received a message from the Japanese that they were coming out, looking for him. He decided to close down the mission and go right up into the Wasscook area, right up into the Lakes area. So when we were able,
we went by canoe to the village that we’d first arrived on the Sepik to attack Marui, when we’d first come in, Jependai. Cause he knew that that Luluai there was loyal. So we got into Jependai and then from then we went to the Wasscook Lake. Now he sent one of this natives, who was a Catechist,
down the Sepik River and up the Yuet River and, to notify our people that we were heading for this Wasscook Lake. Normally they wouldn’t go looking for four people in a normal army but we had so much information, this was the reason why the
allies were interested in us. When we were in Jependai we saw an initiation ceremony of the natives where they, you might see a native with a real shiny design on him that’s risen up, you know. And we saw that, how they did it and so forth
which was quite interesting. But we got into this, onto the lagoon, the allies sent in a Jap plane, ah, the allies sent in a Catalina I should say, after us. He couldn’t get down and we thought, oh, what’s gonna happen? Second day they had another attempt and he got down and took us back to Port Moresby. Now we tried to get the priest
to go with us and he wouldn’t. He said, “No,” he said, “First of all, if I go in he said, they’ll intern me.” And he said, “Secondly, these Japanese are doing everything against what I’m teaching and what’s my belief in life. Therefore I intend to stay here and look after them.” So we got back to Port Moresby.
The Catalina took us out and when we got to Port Moresby Lee Ashton said to me, “I’d like to help that priest.” And I said, “Yeah but he’s right in behind the lines.” And he said, “Well what do you reckon he’d want?” I said, “Oh, what do you mean?” He said, “Well, you think of what he’d like.” I said, “Well I know he’s after a missal, a prayer book, that he wants to translate into pidgin English
and also into the dialect of the natives up there.” He said, “Will you get it?” he said, “And we’ll work out something.” So I got to an American padre who got me an American missal and they handed me over to G2 which is the American intelligence. They in turn got onto a bombing raid that was gonna happen onto Wewak. And they put me in touch with the pilot. Now this
pilot and I, we got this book and we wrapped it in oil silk. We made a little parachute, we got out up on the top of a building and we dropped it to see if it’d work and so we reckoned it would. So I then briefed this pilot where this Wasscook Lake was, where we thought the priest was. He was allowed to break formation as they
went in to attack Wewak just while they were going over. And he went down and the next day I asked him what had happened. And he said to me he said, “Well, all I know is that we pushed it out of the plane and it opened.” He said, “It floated down and we saw a native in the canoes paddling out.” He said, “That’s all we could…”he said, “I had to go back into formation.” Well that was alright. Years later,
not years later, I should say months later I was on one of these missions and a native walked out of the jungle, I think it was at Finschhafen or something there. And he said to me, “Dat’s all in me, pass belong pader.” I said, “What, you got a letter from a priest?” I said, “What letter? I don't know anything.” He said, “Oh yes, here it is.” and he handed me this piece of bamboo,
and in it was a letter written from the priest. And this letter, it was a piece of the bamboo was sealed up each end with red clay. And that letter must have come four, five hundred miles right down through from Onetalk. See their clan, they all have a clan, and this is where this initiation ceremony and all this here. And
apparently it went from clan to clan and they’d found me. And how they’d found me I don't know and I had that letter. And the letter from the priest saying he’d got my book and it’d dropped into the Sepik and got a bit of a baptism but I’d wrapped it up so well, and went crook on me because I hadn’t signed it and so forth and such. And so every time later on that I had to look after natives and, you know in the camp I kept asking about the...
And one fella said I got two friends and they know what happened to him, so he brought his two friends. And they told me that the Japanese had got this Luluai at Jependai. And the Luluai was looking after the priest, supplying him with food and so forth and such you see. And he was still hiding in, near this lake. And
the Japanese tied the old Luluai up with the old water torture, do you know anything about the water torture? The water torture’s where they hold the nose and tie their hands and legs together and they keep pouring water into the throat, and hitting the stomach with the flat of a stalk and which will eventually burst it. But the Luluai wouldn’t give up, he wouldn’t tell where this priest was.
So they had all the villagers out looking at this here and so they decided that they wouldn’t get any information out of him so they got scalding water and poured down his throat. And when this happened the Luluai’s son rushed and they shot him. And by this time the Luluai of course died and the natives told where the priest was.
And they got the priest and they executed him and decapitated him. And so that was the end of him. So we got out and we had leave and we come back from leave and I went to Hindorf, to the Milton Tennis Courts. That was our camp and when I went there, there was Lee Ashton,
Jeff Archer , McHamilton there. And I’d been promoted to a sergeant, see, McCarthy had promoted me to a sergeant. I went into Hindorf House in Queen Street, Brisbane which was on the third or fourth floor was our office there and I went with them. And when we went up this office, we were introduced to a Major Caporn. And
I was introduced; the others knew him you see. And Caporn said to me, “Who told you, you were a sergeant?” I said, “My CO.” And he said, “Well, I got news for you, you’re a private.” I said, “Why am I a private?” He said, “I said you were a private.” I said, “Well I’m a substantiated corporal.” Well, he said, I’ll have to be court martialled see. He said, “I’ll soon court martial you if I get any cheek off you.”
And I couldn’t work out why this was going on. And straight away of course Lee Ashton, Jeff Archer and McHamilton got hostile towards this officer. And he turned around and he said, “I’m your senior officer now you’ll do as you’re told.” Now I went out of that office as a private. So they straightaway went across and we went into McManus, Commander McManus. And he said, “Well I’m gonna look into this.”
So I went back to camp mystified why I should be, I hadn’t done anything. And then the next thing I get ordered about a fortnight later to go into Hindorf House. I go in and I stand before this major again and he said to me he said, “Well you think you beat me but you haven’t beat me.” He said, “I’ve been ordered make you a sergeant. But I tell you this,” he said, “You got six month’s probation as a
sergeant and in that time I’m gonna see you’re a private again.” And I said, “What have I done Sir?” He said, “I told you before, you open your mouth and I’ll court martial you.” Well, I never found out till later but what had apparently happened was this. That when McCarthy had come out of New Britain, he’d been sent down to Melbourne into Z Force. And apparently he’d had a hell of a row with this Caporn.
And Caporn, when he saw me realised that McCarthy had promoted me without the right procedure. You’ve got to go into regimental order see and be gazetted. And McCarthy being a New Guinean and not knowing anything even though he’s a major, he didn’t do it. So this officer saw the opportunity of belittling McCarthy, and this was what it was all about. And that followed me then the rest
of the war. I was recommended four times for a commission, I never got it. I was recommended for a decoration, I never got it. All because of, the last show, when I was in Lae, I was to go in behind the lines with two other chaps and Lieutenant Commander Patterson who was in charge then. He said, “Well you’re not going unless you get a commission.” He said, “I’ve sent a signal down to
Brisbane that you be given your commission.” That afternoon he showed me a signal that’d come back and it had, ‘Veale has got all the promotion he’s likely to get while he’s in the AIF.’ And that was exactly what happened. So...
How did this officer have the power to do this?
Because you remember me saying about the AIB when the Americans come in and they were fighting amongst each
other and that, they formed M Special Unit. And they put this officer in charge of M Special Unit. He wasn’t in charge of the field work but he was in charge of rank, leave, all this kind of thing. And because he’d had the row with McCarthy, well, he saw the opportunity of belittling McCarthy and that’s what happened.
What was his name?
Caporn, yeah. And that’s what happened, he’s dead now but that’s what happened. And it didn’t do me any good but that’s, it’s water under the bridge now but I never went anywhere with it see. Well I then went back to, we, I found that we had a secret camp out of Beaudesert [Qld] called, Tabragalba. It was the homestead of the
then lord mayor of Brisbane. And in that camp we brought in the fuzzy-wuzzies [indigenous New Guineans] as you’d call them. We brought them in and we trained them there. We formed our parties there. We also brought in this AIB Allied Intelligence Bureau; there was Americans from the Philippines that were all different kinds of intelligence
come in to that part of it. They used to go in by submarine and bring out potential officers and NCOs on the Philippines, they were trained out of Tabragalba and then they’d be put back in again, and all these kind of things were happening out there. And it was a sealed camp and the Beaudesert people really never knew what was going on there, you know. This went all through the war. And there was of course at Canungra, but we never had any
connection with Canungra at all, it was just a straight out set up there. So while I was there I met my wife, she was a telephonist and she had a few inklings what was going on but we weren’t allowed to, they reckon I only knew her a fortnight before I married her because we’d known each for a couple of days and then I’d disappear.
I’d disappear for three or four months and then I’d turn up again and this is how it kept on going you see. But when I come out of that office in Hindorf House, McManus said to me, he said, “Well, how would you like to go on another mission?” He said, “If you went on another mission, you’d be away for six months.” and he said he couldn’t do anything about changing your rank then.
And I said, “Yes, I’ll volunteer.” So I then volunteered for the next phase of my missions. And that was Long Island. Now this Long Island business was a part of another operation in as much as the Japs had been forced out of Milne Bay and Buna had been taken at this stage.
But Lae and Finschhafen and New Britain the Japs still has possession of and they were still fighting in the Solomons of course. So our job was, they were gonna put in parties, along New Britain and the Vitiaz Strait onto Long Island and Umboi to keep a watch on the Japs before they started their, the
offensive. So in the meantime the, our forces, the divisions were going up through Lae and Markham Valley and up through that part of it there. So we left Tabragalba and we flew to Buna. And
at Tabragalba before we left, how I got into the party was that they put the names of the officers up on the wall who were gonna be the leaders. And a mate of mine who had been in the 1st Independent Company, we decided to go with a chap by the name of Lieutenant Hall. And so we were going in to Long Island
which would be at that particular time about three hundred mile or so, you know, in behind the Jap lines. And our job was to watch what he was doing on Long Island and they were gonna attack [Cape] Gloucester on the western end of New Britain and that was our operation was to keep that in mind. So when we got to Buna there was another party there, with
Captain Money. So we’re to go in on Umboi, there was a, three in that party too; we were to go in by torpedo boat. At the same time there was about five other parties but they weren’t gonna go in by torpedo boat because there was too many of them so they went in by submarine. And they landed
up near Rabaul or the side of Rabaul, a village called Bain, B-A-I-N. This all happened at the same time so we went from Buna with a flotilla of torpedo boats and when we got out to sea, three of them broke off and they took us up through
the straits between New Britain and the mainland and landed at Point Kiau. We had a bit of a problem because when we went overboard at, naturally, at one or two o'clock in the morning we went over with a rubber barge. Oh we couldn’t get any landing things so we had a kind of a, it was about eight foot long by about
four foot wide. And when we hit the beach we found that we’d arrived at the bottom of a cliff and we couldn’t climb it. And it was low tide but the problem was that with the noise of the torpedo boats they would draw the crabs [attract the enemy], so we had to signal them to go. So we had a lot of trouble trying
to get up this reef, ah, this cliff. And it took us till about midday the next day before we got up the cliff, near Point Kiau. That night we nearly had a disaster because what had happened back at Buna, was that my mate, McLennan was taken away
from my party and Corporal Young was put in. The reason why McLennan was taken away is because they needed another signaller to go into a party that was going in, this mob that was going in to New Britain. And at, by this time they had landed on the Trobriand Islands and were using it as a base to get into New Britain too.
Matt Foley, one of the men going in there, accidentally fired his revolver and wounded Mac in the ankle so it was all a coincidence you know but, that this happened. So I had Young with me. Well Young was a really good signaller and a crack shot but he had never been in action. And if you get a
chap that’s never been in action, he’s a bit of a problem to start off with. We were sneaking all our gear up into the jungle, and he brings in a tin of bully beef, not bully beef, biscuits, and threw them in on the top and, oh. So we line him up and we warn him now if you go the toilet or go anywhere, you tell us, don’t you leave camp without us because it’s dangerous you see.
That’s alright. We all took watches, now my watch was from about one o'clock onwards. And I’m laying down and when you slept you generally had the lanyard, your revolver around your neck. And your rifle pretty close and so forth and such. Bright moonlight night and
I got a poke in the ribs by Ben Hall, the Leader, he says, “They’re all around us.” he said, “We don't know how many.” He said, “There’s one behind the tree, if he comes out I’ll finish him.” And he had an American gangster Tommy gun, you know, with the magazine on it. We used to use those when we did the landings sometimes, well we did, because
they had such a fire power, they had fifty rounds. But they were no good in action because they fired from a spring and spring loaded the bullets into the breach. And if you’ve got the magazine dented by just hitting it on a rock or tree or anything like that, you’d get a misfire, and it was dangerous in war. The Tommy gun used to, when we got in,
we used to make a dump away from our camp and plant this Tommy gun with, suitably water proofed, so if we had to, I’d jumped and we shot through, well we’d have something to come back on. I said to, whispered to Hall, I said, “Where’s Youngy?” And that’s the only thing that saved Youngy’s life because Youngy’d gone to the toilet and hadn’t told anybody. And he was behind this
tree, and if he’d have taken one step out he’d have been cut in half by this Tommy gun. So we, he’d learned his lesson that night. So the next day we started looking for the Japs and we found them. They were at an inlet. And first of all
we went down, we found some in a barge. And we got away from them then we found the next lot in this inlet and the sides of the inlet were pretty near sheer, like a fjord and they were down below us so we decided to bomb em.
So we got back and we sent a signal in to bomb but what we didn’t realise that when aircraft bomb, they bomb in sticks, and we were in as much trouble as the Japs. There was bombs going up everywhere and we were lucky that we didn’t get done ourself. So we got back and we established a camp near Point Kiau but away from it. And then this officer
decided that Youngy and I should go round the island and find out where the Japs were and he’d stay at camp and look after the wireless. So away I went with Frank Young and two natives. We got to this fjord or inlet and complete jungle, terrible country. And
we decided that we couldn’t go back because Long Island is actually an extinct volcano and there’s a, Lake Wisdom they call it, the mouth of the crater and there’s still an active volcano. So we couldn’t go inland because it was sheer, it just climbed, so I decided to climb down the side of this
inlet and try and sneak around the back, hoping that we wouldn’t run into Japs. We knew that they were in there but we just had to watch out. We’re doing this, sneaking down the side of this, it was easy to climb down because of the, it wasn’t that sheer at this particular point, but it was completely wooded. But half way down Frank Young hits a rock and away goes the rock.
And I thought, oh that’s gonna be good, we’re gonna have friends down there waiting for us. But it was volcanic soil and I found out that there was rocks breaking away all the time so I thought well, the Japs will... So we get to the bottom and we’re sneaking through and all of a sudden there’s three Japanese out shooting pigeon, walking around looking for pigeons
and we’re in the middle of em. There was a huge tree that had been blown down or rotted down and the bottom of it was hollow. I got the two natives then shoved them up the what’s name, then Youngy then I crawled in then I got some bushes and pulled em in. And there we were with the Japs going around firing at pigeons. We’re in there and one of them come near the tree
and had a pee and it’s coming straight through the, and I’m thinking, I’m hoping that this native doesn’t say anything cause we’re had it, you know and away they went. And when they went away we got off the other side and it was on the top of a kind of a delta, we couldn’t get down or didn’t know that we could get down at this particular
time, we tried and no matter where we were, we couldn’t get down. So we had to climb down a cliff that was oh, I don't know how far, it’d be five hundred feet or something like that. We got water vines and tied em together and we got down, eventually got down by using em one after the other, and we got to the bottom. But what was, the problem was that we hadn’t had any water. And
we dug into the sand but it was too brackish. That night we set off again and we waited and the sea was coming in, we were watching the tide and eventually we got around the point and we come to a village, and I was leading, bright moonlight night again. And I saw a village so I kept on going
and Youngy, being pretty green to the show, sings out to me, “Hooks, there’s a village in here.” And straightaway we hear somebody sing out and it was apparently a Jap on guard. So I gathered them together and I got them past it and we got up past the village and got into a bit of shrub see.
And there was commotion and everything died down, but the next day here we are without any water, and it’s all bare as anything and about a couple of hundred yards down you could see where there was a spring. And we saw the native women coming out filling their gourds with water and going back. So we decide to get down to the spring, so this was the two natives and Youngy and myself.
So eventually we get into it and there was a little bit of cover around see. We no sooner get into it and have our water that we wanted and coming up the path is a huge native coming up, with his spears and his two piccaninnies, a little boy and a little girl. What the hell are we gonna do, you know. So we worked it
out that Youngy and I’d go the father and the two natives’d grab the two kids. So they grabbed em. Well you can imagine the father when somebody grabs his kids. And there he is and I’m got a Tommy gun stuck in his belly I’m saying, be quiet, in pidgin English, or you’ll die, you must be quiet, see. And he’s frothing at the mouth pretty near, see. And
eventually I quietened him down to a bit. And on his side he’s got a huge boil, more or less a carbuncle you know. And I said to him, this boc, in pidgin, I’ll have at look at that for you. And eventually I quietened him down so I got out; we used to all have our medical gear you know. So I cut into it and I gave him a full
dose of morphine. I had a morphine needle and I stuck that into him and quietened him down. And I operated on it and got it all out and did that and then he was all over us like a rash and he was alright see. And so we continued on and he said that he’d bring the Luluai’s out to see us. So we hid in the jungle waiting.
And about dinner time out they come and the Japs apparently only visited the village now and again, they went back to this, where they were. And what they were using this, do you remember me saying in the early part of it that the barges we saw the barge traffic coming down from Wewak. Well this was one of the places as they come down towards Lae and these places. This was where they used to go in there with their barges and hide, and it was a pretty big camp because
I could tell that by later on, they, what was left of it. And any rate they come out and they all lined up and I go out to them and they all salute me. And I said to them, “Have you got any man he sick?” Because that was always a good way of getting the confidence of the natives see. No got, no got, haven’t got anybody sick. And
then one of them brought his little piccaninny girl out to, and she was probably, she would have been about, nine months, ten months old. And her whole body was covered in, we call it cous-cous, it’s a sore, it’s a germ that goes all over the body and it’s like the top of a cauliflower weeping, you know. And when I went to war I had my old Irish ointment that my
old grandmother used to make and it was a tin of it. And it was beeswax, it was eucalyptus, it was horehound, it was a bit of everything in it and it was damn good. And so I thought, oh it won’t hurt the kid so I smothered the kid with this see and away we went. And just to digress, but later on, about a month later it might have been, I went to this village, and same village, and I said, “You got some fella man he sick?” And nearly the whole village come out. And I said to the old,
when I’d finished, I said, “Why is it that when I first come here you said there was no sick and now all these people turn up?” “Oh,” he says, “Yeah, but you number one doctor.” And I said, “Why am I number one doctor?” And they brought this little baby out and there wasn’t a blemish on it. The ointment must have been strong enough to kill the germs you see. So they took me down into another hut and they said to me that we don’t think you can fix this bloke. And
he had, what was it, where the fingers drop off and all that, oh I forget the name of it. But he had that and I said to him, no I said, in one moon he’ll be dead and he was dead alright. They knew enough to keep him away in a hut by himself. And it was the old disease, that used to, oh it’s just going
off my memory at the present time.
Was it leprosy?
Leprosy. Yeah it was leprosy, yeah. And his toe, there was a big yellow mass there and he’d lost a lot of his limbs and I bandaged it for him just, more or less as a relief, you know. And but what happened then is we got back, we had a few incidents.
On the way back we come to what we used to call a round water, what used to happen is there’d be kind of a lagoon and it’d silt up, the sand’d silt up you see, and it’d make it a lagoon. Well in this case we come to it and the sand had been washed away and there was a, we had to wade across it you see.
Interviewee: Lionel Veale Archive ID 0616 Tape 05
Of course I was getting so many people to look after that I was running out of medical supplies and I had to send back all the time for medical supplies and this didn’t go over too well. Another thing that used to happen too was that
at about eleven o'clock in the day they used to put a radio session on the air and it was a fellow by the name of Harold Koch and he had a plantation in Gasmata and he was really good with the natives. And so I let them listen to it see, so that night when I went to sleep, I’m around about fifteen mile away from base and the natives got at my
wireless trying to hear what was going on. They turned it on alright, couldn’t hear anything and the next morning, batteries are all flat, I couldn’t get out. And I had to send back for twenty mile or whatever it was for more batteries, so I learned a lesson with them. But on this island I got, Hall sent me out by myself because after my episode with
Youngy I didn’t trust him. It’s bad enough when you’re in these situations to have somebody that you trust. It’s not that anything was wrong with Young, he was not only a nice bloke but he was an extra good radio operator and a good shot but he wasn’t a bushman as far as I was concerned so I used to go by myself. I used to take a native
with me, and at this particular time when they started, the allies started to attack New Britain and the Americans were to land in Gloucester. Now when they were landing in Gloucester the Japanese attacked from Wewak and Madang with planes. And they used to go out to sea and come down through the centre, between the mainland
and New Britain. And of course I was sitting right in the middle of them. So the natives’d sing out ‘baloose’, because they had very good, keen hearing and they could hear before me. And I had a plan worked out with them and I’d get my compass out and take a direction on my home station which was either Port Moresby or Milne Bay. And
I’d put my two arms up to two trees which there were plenty of trees around. The natives, two natives had the aerial tied with, at the end with a stone, they’d throw the stone up in the tree and up go the aerial and down. And we’d have to do this quickly because we knew that we were getting DF’d [DF – Direction Finding, tracking by radio emissions] by the enemy coming in. The lead planes, there’s generally two lead planes, Pathfinders, and they’d
come down very low off the water, probably five hundred feet off the water and they’d come down. And apparently from what I can gather there was a needle in the sets that they’d be searching for the signal. And once they got the signal, the arrow would point towards the signal and once they passed it, it’d point back towards the signal which indicated very clearly that the signal was coming from Long Island and I was there.
So then that caused the trouble, they sent out planes after me, the two wheeler planes, little bi-planes and all this here. And I’d have to go off the air and hide. But I’d say, number one wave coming over, so many planes. And when I started, the first thing I said on the signal was ‘o pip, o pip, o pip’, which meant Op. Priority. And soon as my home station got that,
they would say hold and they would net my voice in to all the dromes, the allied dromes. This gave the planes, the fighter planes to stay on the ground longer, therefore preserve fuel for the incoming Japanese bombers. And we were pretty successful because you’d see so many planes coming back and a lot less
going home. On one occasion there was a big flight coming down and they went away from the island to the west to try and dodge me and I picked em up. And in the middle of the conversation, my signal, I saw the planes turning at right angles and then going back the way they come. And McCarthy come on the intercom and said, “Veale, get out of there, they’ve DF’d you!” and it was true. But this was going on for all the time
that the operation was being carried out on Gloucester. After that eventually the Americans, we got a signal that the Americans were gonna take the island. But by this time the Japanese had left and I went down to see how many were left in this camp. When I got into the
camp I found out that I couldn’t, my signal wouldn’t go out, Apparently, it was the minerals in the mountain at the back were killing the signal and I couldn’t get out anyway. And out at sea it was that far off that the heat waves were breaking up the ship. There was a ship and I couldn’t work out why it was there and I was trying to signal for them to move on. So I
watched it till dark and then the next morning the ship’s still there, still anchored out in the sea, so I decided to have a look at it. I had a native canoe and two natives so I got banana leaves and I put the banana leaves over me. I cut my gear down to a revolver and a machete and grenades and I decided to go out and have a look. So as I got closer with looking from under the banana
leaves, the natives paddling, I couldn’t see anybody on board. And eventually I come to the stem of the boat and I decided to have a look on board and as I passed under the stem of the boat, expecting the natives to stay there, I jumped up onto the ship, underneath the cover of a gun that was pointing out. And what happened, the natives shot through
and left me, and here I am at sea on a Japanese boat and what was I gonna do? So I, it took me oh, quite a while to go from one cover to another until I got down to the wheelhouse. And when I got into the wheelhouse, what would it be, the port side of it had been heavily bombed near the wheelhouse and there was a
terrible smell underneath a tarpaulin and this had been burned and the deck had been burned and it looked like what remained of a body there. But there was nothing I, the wheel was just, the rudder was just more or less just going from side to side. Then I had to go down below deck and I had no clue as to if anybody was down below deck. So I come to the,
the hatch going down below and I decided to jump down it rather than go down it. I did this and there was all the cabins and I had to go from one cabin to each other. And this was a bit hairy scary because you didn’t know what you were gonna find. But I found nobody and when I come to the engine room I got down into the engine
room and I found that the engine was only half a foot out of the water. In other words something was holding up the ship but she was sinking. I came aboard then knowing that there was nobody on board and I signalled to the natives and they come aboard then. And we opened the hatches and it was completely full of cargo. So oh the natives were in the glee, you know, they were in the delight to get at the cargo but I couldn’t let em do this because
to the south there was a storm brewing and it was coming up fast and black clouds. So I got the log of the ship, the log was still on it. And later on when I come out of the war, I struck a chap at this Southport Post Office, he was in intelligence. And he used to come to me and get me to hold his mail over
because he knew that I’d been an AIB. And he was the one that had translated the log, and he knew all about, just a coincidence. But I eventually got these natives into the canoe and because then it started to rain and we knew that we were in trouble and they knew too because the waves started to come up and the canoe was too frail to be in big waves, and we headed for shore. All I could do was to
bail with a half a coconut shell and we ended up on shore drenched to the bone. The storm come up and that night the ship disappeared, I would assume that it had sunk. Another thing happened was that I had Youngy with me at this particular time and I don't know whether I
said anything about the, I was talking about the round wood, and I seemed to have gone off them. What happened with him, the sea had washed in, so we had to wade it. So I covered, I went across first and Youngy covered me, and we could find no signs of the Japs. But when he was coming across, I looked
back as I was covering him and what was coming in behind him was a shark. The shark come in from the sea and Youngy’s coming along with his rifle over his head coming in, and the shark’s cruising and I thought, well, am I gonna shoot the shark. If I do, if there’s Japs there I’m gonna be in trouble, what am I gonna do. So I’m watching Youngy and I’m watching the shark and the shark went oh probably twenty yards away from him, was following fish, you see. Youngy nearly died when he found that the shark had been behind him.
But we found where there was a Japanese barge had come in and sunk and we found signs of where the Japs had been there, had been on that particular part of the island. Another thing that happened to me was I was coming along the beach by myself, cause I went around this island probably about twenty times or more, doing these patrols by myself. Another bright moonlight night
and all of a sudden out of the ocean a rogue wave come. And it got me and it tossed me, and it tossed me into a giant tree that’d broken off or fell down. And I was cut and bruised and the sand went all up through me. So, all through my clothes, so the next morning I take my clothes off don’t I, to try and dry them out, and I got horribly sun burned. But I got back to camp and everything was alright.
Well then we heard that the Yanks were landing. So they never really wanted to believe us, no matter what we said about a landing or anything like that. We’d sent them out information about this particular bay they wanted to land in but they landed an American, and when he landed I found out that he was a doctor. And Hall
sent me out with this doctor to have a look at where they were gonna land and so forth and such. Why they wanted this island, they wanted it as a radar station because it was sitting right in the middle of the Vitiaz Straits and it was in the right position to put a radar station in as they attacked New Britain. So we had a bit of trouble with this doctor because he saw the natives and all the diseases and
that and he said, “Oh we’ve got to do something about this here.” And he took my bandages and he wanted to bandage all the sores. And he said to the natives, “You tell them in pidgin English that they’ve got to wash their hands and they got to...” and I said to him, “You’re talking about natives.” “You do as you’re told.” So anyway I told them and the next time we come through they were having a sing-sing and all these bandages around their heads. Because he should have known they’re primitive people and they didn’t know, didn’t understand.
When we come to the area where the Yanks were gonna do the landing, I indicated the coral underneath the sea that was dangerous. And he said, “No, this is where we’re gonna put the, I want you to put in landing lights. I want you to put one
landing light there.” And I said, “You can’t put one landing light in because if you don’t put two lights, one above the other, the ships can come in at any angle and you’re not getting the right direction.” But he argued with me about it and then he went back and he told Hall that I was insubordinate, that I wouldn’t listen to him. And I said to Hall I said, “Well if they’re gonna do the landing and they listen to him, they’ll all be on the rocks.” So
he went and then the morning that the landing was about to take place, I was sent down by Hall and I put up leading lights for the Americans to come in. They come into the island; they couldn’t get in very close because of the reef. They’d landed in rubber boats and when they landed they didn’t put out a perimeter, they just started to unload their boats. And I couldn’t understand this because one of the principals of war is that you must protect your
landing. So any rate that all went alright and I left em and I went back to camp because I’d just about had it. And all of a sudden they sent a runner, the officer in charge, I think he was a colonel, that they wanted to see me. And when I went down back to the beach he said, “We’re in trouble.” And there’s a barge getting pounded to death on the beach. He said,
“It’s got the generator on it for the radio gear.” And he said, there was around about a hundred soldiers hanging on to a big rope, trying to stop it from getting bashed to pieces. And I said, “Well what can I do about it?” And he said, “Well, what we want, if we could get a rope in onto it, the torpedo
boats can come in so far but they can’t come in over this reef. We could get a rope onto that and then a torpedo boat could pull it out.” And I said, “Oh yeah, that’s right, well why haven’t you done it?” He said, “We can’t do it. We’ve tried. Do you think you could go to up the natives and see if they could do it?” So I went up to the village and I had a talk to the chief, the Luluai. He said, “Will you come with me?” And I said, yes. So we got a canoe and we shot the breakers and we got out to sea.
And we got to the torpedo boat and, the first torpedo boat come, there was quite a few out there. And I told him what we wanted, we wanted a big rope to take in and put on the end of this barge. So he said, “Well, you go over to that torpedo boat over there, they’ve got plenty of ropes.” So I went over and they’ve got a huge pile of rope that they used to tie up ships on the aft deck. And this
American said to me, “But how are you gonna tie this onto your canoe?” I said, “No we’ll tie a small rope onto the end of the rope and attach it to the canoe and then we’ll shoot the waves with the canoe and therefore we’ll pull the rope behind us.” He said, “Oh that’s a good idea.” We did this but when we got to shore or half way there we found out that the Yanks on the torpedo boat hadn’t tied the other end on.
And we ended up with about a half a mile of rope dangling behind us. So any rate eventually the sea abated a bit and they were able to do something about it but they weren’t happy with this harbour. And they got me to go out and go to another bay that I knew of. This bay was alright but it had nigger heads in it. Nigger heads are columns of coral that
grow up from the ocean floor and they’re sharp and they’d sink a ship. So we had a look at it and so they decided to use Bangalore torpedoes which are really a length of pipe full of explosives and they put them down and they go off with a, they’ll shift anything. But when we come back from this bay, we come back to the original place where the barge was getting belted,
the skipper of the torpedo boat said to me, “Is it possible that you could swim ashore?” I said, “Why?” He said, “We can’t go in any further, because we’ll get caught on the coral.” And I said, oh yeah. I said to a native with me, I said, “What do you reckon?” this is the same chief. He said, “Oh yes it’s easy.” So I said, okay I’ll swim ashore. So the native let himself over the side and of course me, I dived over and when I come up the shirt smothered me, plus the fact that
I could swim but I wasn’t a strong swimmer and I didn’t realise this. So I got into a rip and I’m starting to drown and I’m saying to the natives, “You go finish, leave me, go on, you go”. And he says, “No, you’re not gonna die.”So he had me by the scruff of the neck and by the time I got to shore, we were waving to the Yanks and the Yanks were waving back, we’re singing out you know, for help but we weren’t getting it. I ended up unconscious and the American
doctor had to bring me around. Eventually we were taken off this island and we were taken off by torpedo boat. And by this time the Allies had taken Gloucester and they’d also taken Lae, they’d also taken Finschhafen so now we’re at Finschhafen. In the interim, while this was happening on
Long Island, if you remember my friend McLennan that went to Torokina and got shot by Matt Foley through the ankle. Now when he got shot through the ankle, they had to have a signaller to go into this party that was to land on New Britain. And they took another signaller who was about to go on leave, and he took Foley’s place. Now when this party
landed on New Britain they had to be in certain areas at a given times because of the operation so they could give information about it. There was Skinner’s party, there was Murphy’s party and there was also another coast watcher party that already in there, was helping em. And Murphy,
Murphy’s left to go by himself to down through to Gasmata. His battery went on the blink and they had to get another battery dropped in, but it clouded over and they couldn’t get the drop of the battery. So they’re running out of food and Murphy decided to go from inland to the beach to see if he could get some food from the natives. And there,
in his party there was this sergeant, I can’t just off recall his name, I got his name there somewhere. And a Captain Barrett who had been in the Middle East and been captured and escaped, and he had this, a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal], he knew what he was doing. And any rate they got near the coast and Murphy sent one of his police boys into the village to find out what was going on.
Instead of the natives turning up there was eighty Japs turned up. And they went to cover and they fought the Japs and everything went quiet. Barrett rose to his feet to see what was ahead and a Japanese machine gun cut him in half. Murphy and oh, I can’t remember his name, crawled backwards
into the jungle and escaped back. But the Japanese had sent the natives around the back and they’d captured the both of them. They got the sarge and they tied him up on a pole like a pig and they brought him in and they decapitated the sergeant, they killed him. Murphy was captured; they captured Murphy, and one of the natives,
one of the natives with Murphy had got away and had got back to one of the parties and told them what was going on. Now when these kind of operations were going on, base kept a strict watch on em and the signals had to be sent out on the hour, I think it was on the hour, so that everybody knew what the others were doing, if they were okay. They didn’t send any message but just acknowledge that they were okay. And when this didn’t
happen, they sent a ‘J’ signal. And this is what happened with us in Long Island. We got the ‘J’ signal and they wouldn’t talk to us and we knew that we were in trouble. So that saved our bacon because when the Japs come looking for us, well we were able to protect ourself. But Murphy, they took Murphy back, the Japs took Murphy back to Rabaul and at the end of the war they found him in a cookhouse there.
Out of all the coast watchers that were captured, he was the only one I think that was ever kept alive. They court martialled him after the war, because apparently he gave the Japanese the information of the names of everyone of the parties. And they found a map with all the parties, their locations marked on it. But in the court
martial, our people wouldn’t go against him, principally as I heard it, that McMahon said that under torture anybody would break and I think this is pretty right too. So that happened while we were on Long Island. When we got back to Finschhafen,
McCarthy met us and he said, “You done a good job, how about going in to another job?” We got home, got into Finschhafen about half past seven in the morning from the torpedo boat. And we said, “oh, we’re going on leave aren’t we?” “No, no, you’re not going on leave. There’s an urgent job needed.” and then we found out that Murray’s party that had gone in with us at the same time as we had landed on Long Island,
had landed on Umboi, the island down below us, but had landed in the middle of the Japanese. And they had been very lucky to escape. But that left Umboi with, they didn’t know how many troops, forty or fifty thousand or thirty thousand or what, they didn’t know how many. And it was a problem because it was right in the middle of the Allies as they advanced to the north and something had
to be done about em. So any rate Hall and myself and Young just volunteered that we’d go back in. So we were taken up to a big marquee and McCarthy and Hall went in and when I got to the marquee door entrance the provosts [Provost Marshals – military police] stopped me. And he said, “You can’t come in here.” So any rate
McCarthy turned around and he said, “Why can’t he come in here?” “Restricted. Only officers can come in here see.” And just then the general’s aide-de-camp come up and said, “No, they can’t come in. This is where we gonna have this conference.” And McCarthy being a wild one he said, “What the hell would they find out, they’re going in to do the job, what would they know that they’d pass on to anybody?”
And just then the general come along and he said, “Let em in.” So we went in and in this marquee was a big mud map of the whole of the island and all these Yanks standing around and McCarthy, and we’re standing there watching. And they started to tell us what they wanted. They wanted the three of us to go into this island and report within a fortnight fortifications and where the Japs were and so on and such.
The island was around about fifty mile long and about thirty mile wide. And we had to get this information within a fortnight. So everything’s very serious and McCarthy says to them, “Sir,” he said to the old general, “Do you think my men are Mickey Mouse and the seventh Dwarf?” You could hear a pin drop, they all looked at him, you know. And the general said,
“You’ll have to explain yourself.” “Explain myself?” he said. “That is a stupid request, that you’d think that three men could go in and cover that island within that time. The only way they could get that kind of information was to go to the Japanese commander in charge and ask him for it, because you’d never get it, you can’t even walk the distance. Anybody with a bit of common sense would know that.” So the old general
then more or less, apparently he wasn’t listening properly and he said, “Well what do you think should happen?” And he said, “Well, if you want that information so quickly, you should put a fighting patrol in on the east coast and one on the west coast of about thirty men. Backed up by sea craft that can take them off quickly and have communications so that they can carry this out.”
So then, this colonel he was, this aide-de-camp, he says, “And who do you think is gonna be in charge of these patrols?” And McCarthy said, “Well, Hall can control one and Veale can be in charge of the other one.” So the colonel said, “Well, we’re not having enlisted men in charge of our men.” And McCarthy said, “Well I’ve got news for you, my men are not going in.” And he said, “Because, you mightn’t think this, but I’d rather lose
thirty of your men than one of Veale. And the reason for this being, that you can go anywhere and pick up three men here but you can’t pick up one of Veale. And the reason why you can’t pick up, not that he’s any better than physically but his knowledge of this kind of work has gone over the start of the war till now, and you just can’t do this kind of thing overnight.” So the general turned around and he said, “Well do you think you can give us some information?” So
that afternoon Hall and I went up in a plane and we went over this island looking for places where we could get a place where we could land. And the American pilot thought we were mad because we kept on going, we didn’t tell him what was going on, we just kept. And we getting ground fire from here and there and then we knew we couldn’t land. So in the end we decided that there was one place, another place, Marcelay, that’s the place of the devil. We knew that
was a place of the devil, that we’d have a crack at that. But the reason was because it was all coral and there was breakers coming in but we knew that there’d be nothing there. So we didn’t take Youngy, we left Young behind. And we took two natives with us and the first night we went out, the sea was breaking so heavy that we just couldn’t make it. So we went back and the
next night we went in. And we shot the breakers, we had a hell of a time, you know, trying to keep the boat, the landing craft, because those rubber things were pretty hard to handle in the surf. Eventually we were dumped on the shore. And we signalled to the torpedo boats, incidentally when we were going in these torpedo boats, before we did the landing we always went down below deck on a red light,
in a cabin with a red light, they were supposed to get your eyes accustomed to the dark. And another thing, when we come to the landing part, we went in with three torpedo boats and two of them stayed at sea criss-crossing themselves from left to right while the other would go in. And they had three Rolls Royce Merlin engines in them, three motors, and they would cut their port
and starboard motor and go in on the mid-ship motor, and they had an exhaust that used to go down underneath the water, that they could bring into operation and this muffled the sound. So they’d just drift in it and they could just have a murmur where the other two out at sea of course, it was different. But that was a part of the operations. Any rate the next morning come dawn, we had,
another thing we did once we hit the beaches, Hall’d go one way and I’d go the other way, for about a minute or two minutes, in the dark to see if we could locate anything. Because listening and using our ears, and there didn’t seem to be anything so we’d signal the torpedo boats to go, because by them staying there we’d only draw the crabs. The next morning we tried to make contact with Port Moresby and our radio was on the
blink. It got such a pounding in the surf that here we were on the island the two of us with two natives, and no way of communicating. So we thought, oh well, we’ll see, we’ll keep on going and get the information, maybe we can get the damn thing going. Hall was a ham, you know what a ham is. Ham is an amateur radio, what do you call em, a radio operator,
any rate. And so I had a bit of an idea that he could do something with it. So we kept on walking, we decided that we’d keep away from the natives till we found out what was going on. And that night we come into a glade, and we were gonna camp there that night. We no sooner got in the glade and natives appeared from everywhere and we were right in the middle of them. And I said to Hall I said, “Well this is good.” And he said, “Oh yeah,” he said,
“They won’t go down to where we landed cause that’s the place of the devil, they won’t go there.” So any rate the old Luluai’s there you know and he looked a seedy lookin bloke. So Hall says to him, “You go and tell the Japanese that the Americans and the Australians have arrived. Tell them to throw down their weapons, we’ll take em prisoner. And if they don’t we’ll shoot the whole lot of them.” And I said to Hall, “Well that’s good isn’t it, there’s two of us.” He said, “Yeah, but he’s gonna
tell the Japs anyway, so this might be the only ruse we can use.” So the next morning, the old Luluai, “No, no, I’m not with the Japs, no.” But the next morning he disappeared and he told the Japs. So we’re going towards where, we knew the Japs were and we’d appear out of the jungle, we’d go back and the Japs were on the run to the south of the island see. And they thought we were the scouts coming in, so we
just kept behind them. And then we couldn’t still make contact see. And some idiot in Finschhafen or somewhere else sent a plane over with a canister with ribbons on it and dropped it. And we wouldn’t go near it because they dropped it right in the middle of the Japs. And one of the natives got it before the Japs, and got it to us. And they said that in the signal that they were sending a submarine and the submarine would surface at such and such a
point at such and such a time. That was a stupid thing to send in because if the Japs had got that, they would have been waiting for them for sure. So we got into a Japanese camp that’d been abandoned and they had some radio gear there but Hall couldn’t read the writing on the valves, cause in those days it was all valves, couldn’t get the set going. We get out to this point, another storm blew
up, submarine didn’t arrive. Its engine broke down somewhere and it didn’t arrive and we’re still in there. So the next morning Hall gives it a belt under the ear, the radio, says damn thing, and all of a sudden it started squawking. And apparently it’d been soaked and it’d dried out. So we eventually got through and
different things happened while we were going, which I related in my book of Long Island. But we come to a stream and this stream was about two to three foot deep, but flowing slowly, not fast, and really warm water and it fell over a precipice and dropped down, not far away from us. And
it was coming out of a volcanic eruption to something in the middle of the island. When we got our signal out they told us to go down to this bay and that they were sending help to us. So we got to this village and we established a camp there and at this set time we went down and the next thing we see out to sea
the three torpedo boats, then one come in. And McCarthy steps ashore and he said, “I brought the Yanks.” And before that happened they sent in seven planes, these planes round and round this big bay and as if they were gonna shoot it up and we looked up and they were American planes. And Hall said to McCarthy,
“What, the Yanks are landing?” He said, “No. It’s not my idea. It’s political and the Americans want to join the coast watchers.” And Hall said, “Well they’re no damn good at it. I know that, I’ve fought with Brisbane about it.” But he said, “You know the politics down in Queen Street. They want the Americans and they’re landing an American officer and three other men.”
So that’s what we got and Hall said to McCarthy, he said, “Well this is really good, you come in here, you shoot up the place, tell the Japs where we are, what we’re doing, then you leave and leave seven of us here. It’s senseless.” And McCarthy said, “Yes that’s right.” Well McCarthy was having trouble with, we didn’t know at the time, with headquarters because
he was our anchorman as I’ve said before. And he didn’t agree to any of this because people in behind the lines had to be protected, they had to be backed up. He told me then at that particular time that I would be leading my next party in myself and that he’d put me in for a gong [ a decoration]. I never ever saw the gong and I never ever got the promotion either.
Interviewee: Lionel Veale Archive ID 0616 Tape 06
Okay, rolling. Right, continue.
Right. So we went back to camp and then we had to chase the Japs or chase em but find out what was happening on the southern end of the island. We knew that there was a big
village, not very far away from this village that we were in. Incidentally this village, the Luluai of this village was a good man. He, before the war, there was a Lutheran minister there. And he become a coast watcher too. But
he escaped from this island and went across to New Guinea proper and he wrote a book called oh, about the coast watchers, about himself and the coast watchers. I was the first in his house after he left and it was spotlessly cleaned, the natives had left it spotlessly clean. And there was one of those camphorwood boxes there belonging to this chap’s wife
and nobody’d ever touched it. And this Luluai made all his village go up for prayers every afternoon. So he was, apparently he was pretty loyal to this minister. So they told us that in the other village that we were going to approach, that it was very pro Jap, and that there was one native there that was causing a lot of trouble. And
so we decided to be careful as we went, as we always were of course. Because we didn’t know how the Americans were gonna react because they were green troops as far as we were concerned. We found out that the chap in charge, the lieutenant in charge had been in charge of kitchen picquets. And we couldn’t work out why they would send a man like that into an active
job like that. But that’s Americans. Any rate we approached this village and I always was in charge of protection more or less, setting ambushes and all this kind of thing, or make certain of the security of the patrol. So I set the,
the Americans and Young, who had come in with them, on the approach of the village, and Hall and myself and Nokamban went forward. As we got into this village we see a native with, talking to some other natives and he seemed to be the Luluai we thought, the chief. And down in the middle of the village there’s a hut with
of all things, glass windows and flying a Japanese flag. And we thought, what’s this, see. And as we slept, crept through, we couldn’t find any sign of the Japanese so we eventually got to this hut and as we went up to, this native rushed forward and very hostile and said, “What are you doing in my house?”
And Hall turned around with the Tommy gun and fired a burst at his feet and I thought he was gonna shoot him. And this was the Japanese number one, native. And the Luluai was nothing, they’d sacked the Luluai and they’d put a lot of hardship on these natives. So we line this bloke up and Hall
told him that he was gonna hang him see. And eventually we bought the patrol in and we found out that there was no Japs, the Japs had left. We then brought the Luluai back into his right position and told this Japanese number one that we would eventually hang him but in the meantime he was to stay with the patrol, because we knew that he’d have information.
So we set off to go further down the island and we got to the next village and had a lot of trouble trying to make contact with them but eventually we did. And they told us that the Japanese had left the island. But we knew from handling natives that they would tell you something that you’d want to know, they wouldn’t tell you the truth all the time. So
we kept on moving down to where the swamp area and we found plenty of indication of Japanese camps and all this kind of thing as we went but all deserted. So we come to this swamp area and as we come into it we found that there was forty-four gallon drums with lengths of pine or planks tied to them,
leading over to a spit of land on the other side. So I set, not an ambush so much as secure positions on this side of it so that they would give us help in case we were in trouble. So then this American lieutenant, Hall, this native and myself, decided to go across.
I went across first and kept watch while each one of them come across. As we moved through this complete nightmare of jungle, muddy ground and that, I noticed that there was two wheel tracks. Now the Japanese used little bicycle wheel tracks, little carts with bicycle wheels on and one of these
tracks hadn’t filled up full of water. These were the kind of things that we were more or less, not trained in but become part of. And I just signalled to Ben Hall what had happened, and he nodded that he knew what was going on. Because if the water, somebody had to been there very recent otherwise that would’ve been filled up because we (UNCLEAR). We moved cautiously forward then all of a sudden we were out in the open and to the left of us and about
five hundred yards away were two barge loads of Japanese, on the beach loading. And as soon as they saw us of course there was hell to pay and this native started to pull on a Japanese shirt. So Ben hit him in the back with the Tommy gun, he says, “You move and you’re dead.” So we’d hit the deck. So then the Japs are starting to fire and I looked around for the American
officer, couldn’t find him, he’s shot through like a Bondi tram [run away fast] and left us. So we kept retreating back and the Japs are firing at us see, and like there’s, it’s all jungle and that you know. And any rate we got to where this, where we had to go across these planks and it was a distance of a hundred yards or two hundred yards, I can’t remember. And as we were going to get on it, this native says
“You look!” and coming down the bank was a patrol of the Japs. If we’d have got into the middle there we’d have been dead ducks. So Ben says to me, “I wonder is he changing his idea?” see. So there was only one way to do it and was go into the swamps. So we went straight into the swamps up to our neck in water and the Japs are firing, and it took us oh, a good couple of hours of wading through this swamp with bullets going everywhere.
Eventually we circled right around to where we knew this track was and there, sitting on a log, is this American officer. And Ben says to him, “What are you doing here?” He says, “Oh I’m fighting a rear guard action.” And Ben looked at me and he says, Ben says to him, “Well, where’s your men?” “Oh, I didn’t have time to pick them up.” And he’d left all the men still in the middle of the Japanese.
So the rest of the afternoon I had to extract them, I got em out. So when, his men come out there was three of them, two of them were ordinary soldiers but the third fella was a good bloke. I said to him once, I said, “Why aren’t you a sergeant or rank?” And he said, “I was once.” I said, “I thought so.” Quiet bloke but a good bloke you see. I said, “What happened to you?”
He said, “Oh, over in the States I had a girlfriend, and matter of fact I’m going to marry her, I still got her as a girlfriend.” He said, “We were at a dance, an officer come up and he said he wanted to take her out to her car. I objected and he persisted and he went to thump me but I got in first and I floored him.” And he said, “The MPs got me and I was court martialled.”
He said, but it didn’t do him any good. I said, why? He said, because he and the unit went to the Philippines he said, and I’ve never heard of them since. So they put him in the boob [jail], he did, I forget what they call it see. So he was a good bloke and so when, the others were alright but they just ordinary soldiers. Any rate they wouldn’t have anything to do with their officer, they were, they, you know. And so then Hall said to me, “Well, I’ve gotta go
back, we’ve got to get a drop of gear.” And he always did this with me as I said previously. And I said, “Well, you don’t expect me to go in under the command of this chap?” And he says “No, I’ll have a talk to him.” So the lieutenant, they sung out to me and I went over and Hall said the lieutenant wants to talk to you. And he said, “Well, I’m a bit worried about what happened, the men don’t want to talk to me and that.” He said,
“You will be completely in charge, if you’ll take me.” I said, “Righto, but you know that I am in charge?” Yeah and he says, right. So Hall went back and I continued on. But after the second day I had trouble with this bloke, he started to try and take over and I had to pull him into gear because he was senseless. He was so senseless that in a fighting patrol that I had the guards out, and we’re
having a rest at dinner time, and I noticed the natives making marratta bags you know, from the fronds of (UNCLEAR). And I said to this, one of my police boys, and I said to him, “What are you doing there?” “Oh,”he said, “The number one belong America he wants these bags.” I said, “What for?” He was gathering sea shells to take home to his wife. It was absolutely senseless. And of course
I told him I said, “You’re in a fighting patrol, you might be dying tomorrow!” see, he wouldn’t listen to you. And I said “You’ve watch those lawyer vines.” and he got one in the earlobe, and it went in, you know when you get them in and you can’t pull em out, bleeding like a stuck pig. Oh, I had trouble with him. And any rate we run into a village and the Japs had just left. We followed them down, I went down with this third American and left
the patrol in the village. And we found a big camp, a Japanese camp with big shelters, tent, not sheds but made of marratta and all that kind of thing. And we get in and the Japs had gone from there too. And but there was mortar shells, there was
everything in it see. So we get in and having a look around, and then all of a sudden out at sea there’s about eight planes come along out at sea. And I said to this chap, I said “Don’t worry, they’re our aAlied planes.” you could see the Americans see. All of a sudden they turned, and I said, “They’re gonna come in on us!” And you know those banyan trees with all their roots down
to the ground? I grabbed a native and the American and we got into that and they come in and they completely got stuck into this camp. And one of the rockets went through a big shed and smoke was coming out everywhere. And I went over with this native and there he is, he’s putting the fire out with sand,
and at the end of it on the marratta, on the matting, he’s got four inch mortar shells, stacks of them. If it’d gone up we’d have all gone up. And I sent a signal back to headquarters that they’d been notified that the area was clear of Japs, why had they done it. Somebody’d fouled up again you know. So eventually we get back to this village and this American didn’t want to set guards, see. “Oh the
Japs are gone.” I said, “No, no, you set guards all the time. You’re not in charge, you know that don’t you?” He said, “Yeah, but you’re too cautious.” I said, “You can’t be too cautious in this kind of a game.” So one of the police boys come to me and he said, “You know that bloke we’re gonna hang?” I said, yeah. He said, “He wants to go on guard.” I said, “Go on guard?
He can’t go on guard, he’s a prisoner.” He said, “Well he wants to go on guard.” So I had a talk with Young, you know, Frank Young and I said to him, “What the hell’s going on here? I tell you what, I think I’ll let him go on guard.” And Frank says, “You can’t do that.” I said no, but I said, “Get the name and the police boy. Get him to go down to that hut down there, and get up into that hut, so that he can see that guard post.”
The guard post was just under him he said. “And he’s to keep this native under guard all the time and watch. I’ll put him on guard just to see what this is all about.” cause I knew he had a lot of information and we were trying to get it see. So I took all the bullets out of the rifle and put one bullet in it. I got this fella and I said, “You want to go on guard. Master Hall’s
gonna hang you.” He said, “Yes, that’s what I want to, I want to go on guard. I’m not as bad as what you think.” see. So I put him on guard and about a quarter of an hour later a native comes up, he said, “He wants to talk to you.” see. So I go down, I said, “What do you want to talk to me about?” He said, “I think you could be my friend.” I said, “Oh yeah, you’re gonna get hung aren’t you?” He said, “But I’ve got a story, I’m not as bad as what you
think.” So I knew that he was being watched by this other place up the top, there was a garamut there so we leaned against the garamut and he started his story. He told me that the natives thought he was hard he said, but if he hadn’t of been hard on em the Japanese would have killed the whole lot of them because they were killing them anyway, you see. And he said, to protect them he said, this is what I did. I said but yeah, you went to the extreme.
He said, I had to go to the extreme. He said, but these natives down here he said, they’re, he said, they were all pro Japanese. And I said, how do you know. So he started his story. First thing he tells me was that there was an airman, his plane had been damaged after a raid on Rabaul and he was coming back and the engine started to
go and he knew that he couldn’t make it. This was at the bottom of this island see because this is in the Vitiaz Strait and you’ve got New Britain to the east of it. And he said, he had to ditch. And there was one of these dream islands, they’re islands, outcrops of sand where coconut trees and they come up and there was one of these. So he ended up, the plane ended up crashing, oh, I don't know how far but
a little way from this island so he swam to this island. And but he was at a loss to know what to do because you know he’s in behind the lines, he’s got no food, got no communications, so he went to sleep anyway. And a village at the bottom of this island, one of their natives was out fishing and then what he used to do sometimes he’d catch a fish and instead of getting
right home he’d go to this island and sleep for the night and then continue on the next morning. And he caught a glimpse of this airman so he snuck up on him and had a look at where he was sleeping then got in his canoe and went back to the village. Now when he got back to the village the Luluai who was this pro Jap bloke saw him and he said, why are you back here, why
didn’t you sleep on the island for the night? So he told him. So straight away this fella went and told the Japanese. So the Japanese said you go back now and send this native back, or you go yourself, back to this island, and tell the airman that you’ve gotta bring him across to the mainland to feed him, that you can’t keep taking stuff across.
So he did, so they went across to this airman and they enticed to come over this night in the canoe. And as soon as he hit the beach and he started to walk along a path this native disappeared and the Japs grabbed him. They tied him up with wire and he just disappeared, the native didn’t know what happened to him after that. So that was one story then he said that’s not the worst, he said,
this is a true story too and he said you can check it out. He said, on New Ireland in Kavieng there was a sergeant major there, a police man. And when the Japs started to come and when the Australians left he said he was worried because of his rank, he knew that the Japanese would make him join the Japanese Army. And being a loyal bloke, he didn’t want to do it. So he decided to quit so
he got his wife and two little kids and he got down the south end of the island to the Namatanai, which is a town down on the south end of New Ireland. He then went across to Ulapatua, which was a short distance across the island to where, nearly opposite Rabaul. He got there and eventually got to Rabaul but when he got in to Rabaul he
found out that too many natives knew him because he was a sergeant major you see and of course he, you know, it’s a pretty high rank in those days, in amongst the police boys. So he found out that he was in more trouble than enough that the Japs were going looking for him again see, so he decided to keep on going. So he eventually got down the whole length of New Britain and he got across to this island in the Straits, this is
Umboi. And he was going to get to a friend of his who was a Luluai there. And his object was to try and get across the Straits right over the New Guinea proper to where his wife’s village was. And he thought that up in the mountains that they would be safe which he probably would have been too. Any rate he got to this friend of his, Luluai, and he made his own little
garden and he used to supply vegetables and that for not only himself and his wife and two kids but some of the villagers too and they were all pretty friendly. He used to go out fishing and do this see. But then he heard what these other natives had done to this airman, plus the fact that two of their villagers who had opposed them had disappeared. So he told them,
told the villagers they had to watch what they were doing, this was at their village, that the Australians would be back and they would have to pay the penalty for what they were doing. So of course this Luluai that was friendly with the Japs he went and put him into the Japs. So he was tending his garden this day and the Japs arrived and
they caught him before he could get away. They took him in and tied him up all night and he was bleeding, and they belted him. And then this Japanese officer sent out word to all the villagers that they were to appear at this big village on this next day and under pain of death they had to appear there. So they
all did. Then he marched this major in, sergeant major in. And they put a post in the middle of the village; they tied the sergeant major to the post with his feet and his chest, leaving his arms free. Then this Japanese officer got up on a box or a stand and said to the villagers, “You
see this man here before you that has helped the, or wants to help the Australians, well if you do this, this is what’ll happen to you.” They got this chap’s wife and two little kiddies and they put them on the ground in front of him away from him. Then at a signal from him, this Japanese commander got his sergeant to go to this sergeant major that was staked up.
Got his arm and put his arm out to the right and he said, “This is what’ll happen.” and with his sword he cut the arm off. And the sergeant major didn’t slump but he was more or less straightaway, he was in more or less a trance. And then he held the other arm off and he cut that off. And he said, “And this is what’ll finish.” and he went bang and he decapitated the sergeant major.
He then got this chap’s wife who was a young girl, fairly young girl and handed her over to these Aramot natives as a moll, left her there. And I thought well, there’s too many things here, got to be a bit of truth in it see. So I said, “Alright, I’ll find out about this.” He said, “Well, you do.” So
I started and my work then was to find out each part of the island was free of the Japs. And it is a very hard job that because you never know when you’re gonna strike the cows you know. And in the meantime I had no way of paying these natives for their work, you see, the villagers. Of course Hall had got a drop way up the islands and I never ever saw
any of it too because he was playing ducks and drakes with the villagers and paying em with the, you know, and this was going on. And any rate I went back to this place that had been, we’d nearly been blown out of Kingdom come. And I found some, I think it was picric acid, I don't know to this day what it, it was an explosive any rate. I found some detonators and some fuse and I took this
Yankee bloke with me, the good bloke, and we tested it out see. So I said to the Luulai of this village that was helping, I said, “I’ll shoot some fish for you.” And mushu, that’d be good, tomorrow morning. So any rate I got all this stuff ready you know and short fuses on it and all this there and I’d had a talk to him and he said, “Well, we’ll take a lakatoi [canoe] out with a fire on board it, they put sand and that,
we’ll go out in this, see. And he said, “I’ve got two shoot boys.” These boys on the plantation were called shoot boys and they had little glasses they put over their eye, they used to go and get the fish you see. So we get out on this water and Marion Harbour is the name of the place, this is the end of this island. And it was about twenty, twenty-five foot deep, white sandy bottom, outcrops of coral, beautiful place. And any
rate instead of just the village come out there was three villages, there was more natives than Kingdom come. And I thought oh God, the Japs are gonna be here with them any time now you know, there’s that many of them. And any rate away we went and the Yank was with me, and I gave him the job, he was to light the fuse and see how, right, and I was to shove, throw, we didn’t know how long it was gonna take. We had tested them but you know. So
I got a signal from these two natives way out in the distance and they’d run into a shoal of kingfish. And they start frightening the shoal, the canoe went out with them and helped them and brought the shoal of kingfish. There was fish every coming in, big shoal you know. And I entered them with the explosives. Well, I’ve never seen so many fish, the canoes were actually sinking with the fish and there was fish everywhere.
It doesn’t last very long. But onshore the women knew what was going on and they had fires and they heated up the stones and they were all ready. So when we get ashore they had a big sing-sing that night. And here they got these hot coals and they got the fish in them and they cook em and it was really good you know. So I was able to pay them all see. But as I went through this area I started to make a few enquiries, and each one here and that and,
and I found that this fella’s story was right. I found that this sergeant major’s friend had got the two kids and in some way got the girl to escape and he had her hidden. So I went with one of the natives and I went up into this village where they were a bit away from everything. He’s, oh no, it’s not here.
Eventually I got his trust and he brought her out and she cried, she thought that I was gonna hand her back. I says, no, what I’m gonna do, I said, you and your two children, I said I’m gonna send you back to your village. So I got her back in to a point where I could get her. And then I went searching for these two, there was two of them mixed up in this, the Luluai and his mate. I’ve got em lined up and
calling their names, and soon as I mentioned their names they stood forward and I told them what had happened. And they said, oh yes, nothing, you know, couldn’t care less. So I took em prisoner. And so then I sent two groups away cause I knew they couldn’t send the woman with her two children up and then these fellas with em see. But I sent this rogue bloke that’d been in trouble, I sent him in charge of one. And I,
I’d signalled to Hall to, not to do anything to him till I come you see because I thought he was alright. And he proved to be alright too but he was a hard man, a real hard man you see, and this is what had caused him the trouble. So we sent em across to Finschhafen to be tried and damn it all we struck another one of these gay blokes over, we had two of them in the show. And this fella sat on the trial and said well natives
don’t know what they doing and sent them back again. And of course this really worried me and nothing I could do about it, we’re in a situation of war and you can’t go looking after these kind of things you see. Eventually I cleared the bottom of the island and then I got back to Tarawe, which is in the middle where we’d started from. And we got a signal that the Americans were coming and they were gonna
land. And they landed at Gisram Plantation, and I went with a native up to make contact with them, made contact with them and the Americans then come over the island and we were taken back to Finschhafen again. At Finschhafen I, instead of going on leave I become the camp sergeant, they called me.
And I looked after the whole camp you know. We had one incident there that was of interest. I was told by Patterson the commander officer that I had to put the camp under alert that there was people coming in from New Britain that were important. And did you ever hear of an author named Quinton Reynolds, no, you’d be
too young. Quinton Reynolds wrote a book called, Sixty Thousand to One, about New Guinea. And he denigrated the coast watchers saying they’re a lot of rabbits and what have you, see. And this was the whole story. Patterson got onto me and he said, “We got some Yanks coming in, one’s a lieutenant
colonel, an air bloke. He’s not to be allowed to contact the Americans.” And I said, “You can’t do that.” He said, “Yes we can, because G-2 the American Intelligence, and the Americans want us to do this.” And so I went down with the guard and torpedo boat come in with these blokes, I forget how many there was, there was about five or six of them.
So we took em up to our camp, and they wanted to contact their own people and we wouldn’t let them. And, you can’t do this, you know. And we then took em the next day onto a plane and they were flown to Port Moresby. And apparently at Port Moresby they were flown straight back to the Straits. And what had happened was this, this fella who was a lieutenant colonel, his plane was shot down. And coast watchers saved a lot of air men in New Britain and
all the way through. Because if they were shot down, if they could get to a native, they’d get to a friendly native, they’d contact the coast watchers’d go and get them. And get em out and then send em out by submarine torpedo boat or anything like that. Now this particular bloke had got shot down and he had, I think, two or three of his crew with him see. And I think it was Roberts on New Britain took him in and he said, “Righto hand over your codes, I’m in charge now you know.”
So Roberts handed a signal to his radio operator, “What’s my position?” And MacArthur, the MacArthur sent a signal back from his headquarters leave, move camp, leave airman in bush. And so he was really in trouble and that’s what it was all about. So when he got back to the States of course they wrote this book about, and that was what it was all about. But this American bloke that I was with, he
wanted me to hand over my codes and I had a terrible row with him too. I said, “I’m quite certain the Americans won’t hand over their code to me and there’s no way that I’m gonna hand my code over to you.” but we had all this trouble all the way through, see. So eventually we were gonna move out of Finschhafen and move back to Lae. The war was going on see and once the war moved out of New Guinea area coast watchers were not
much good. Because it’s not only knowing a language and speaking a language it’s knowing their culture and all this kind of thing, that’s important. And we knew all this see, but once it moved up to Borneo and those places, we were not much good for it because we would have to be taught again. So they moved the camp back to Lae. And we used to have trouble
with drinking water because you never know whether a native up the village somewhere up the top were using the water for latrines, or you know, you’d get dysentery, you’d get everything. So it had to be flamin’, I don't know what they used to put in it and all this and it tasted horrible. And at this camp we had in Finschhafen at Gregor Harbour, we found a spring up in the mountain. And amongst my men I found that there was one fella a plumber.
So we tapped the spring and we had to get pipes and of course you couldn’t get pipes to you know, to bring it down into the camp and that. So I had, oh one fella he was navy and he was a bit of a rogue and he’d do anything, and he used to drive the big American truck we had, see. He said, “I’ll get it.” I said, “How you gonna get it?” And he said, “You’ve gotta know what I’m getting first.” So I said, alright, I said,
“I’m not saying anything about it, tell me afterwards.” So he got with this plumber and worked out what they want, lengths of pipe and so forth and such. Then he gets dressed up in an American uniform, with another fella dressed up in American. Drove this great big truck into American base, standing on the side waving this, with papers you know, showed some of it, loaded the flamin’ thing up with everything he wanted and drove out of it again.
And any rate we had this all the way through and there was, this, it was only a small creek and on the other side of it they put in a, is it running out again?
Interviewee: Lionel Veale Archive ID 0616 Tape 07
Three, two, one, rolling.
Where was I?
You’d just gotten all of the supplies from the Americans.
Oh yeah. The Americans across this little creek from where we was camped, there was a flat area. And the Americans come in and built one of the
American camps there belonging to artillery that would later go onto the Philippines. The commander come to me and he asked me is there any chance of building him a native style hut for the officers, so I had around about two hundred natives there at that time. So I built a real, it was really a lovely hut. I did all that then we used to play them basketball and all this. And
he come to me one afternoon and he said, “I’ll tell you this, we’re moving out at dawn tomorrow, the whole camp.” He said, “Now, if you want to get stuck into the camp and do what you want with it.” see. Because the Australian Army, they lived in amongst the, a foot off the flamin’ water they were, the Yanks were up high, you know, they had their ice cream.
The Australians did it the hard way. But when you relate to it, it makes em more fit for the battle they’re fighting than being softly looked after. I think this is important. So any rate I got the natives cause we were going down to Lae, we knew we were leaving for Lae see and I was in charge of the camp. So I knew we’d be in trouble if everybody saw
this, so I got the natives and we dug a passageway inside the jungle and inside the jungle we built, we cleared the whole area. And I had two natives watering these trees that we’d dug out, with mud and all. And all day long they had to keep watering them to keep em. So at dawn the next morning I had all the natives ready and when the Yanks went out of the hut we went boof. And there was timber, there was everything going and we had natives that’d worked in forestry before.
They were stacking it and planting it inside you see. And I thought to meself at the end of the day, I thought, we’re gonna be in trouble here because somebody’s gonna go looking for us. So I went down through the camps and told everybody, “Hey you know there’s a camp going up there.” So there were soldiers coming from everywhere pinching things. The day after the provosts arrived and I’ve got my natives on a tin hut belting hell out of it. “What are you doing up there?” you know? They said, “Oh,
we wanted a bit of tin.” “Where’s the rest of the camp?” So we disappeared and left em. So we left it for about a fortnight or three weeks and we had our boat, this Paluma that I’ve talked about. And we shipped all that down to Lae and we built a lovely camp at the expense of the Yanks, down in Lae. Well eventually I was sent back to Australia. And I
then became a sergeant, camp sergeant at Tabragalba out of Beaudesert and I was in charge of that to the end of the war. But in the meantime I ended up starting to do funny things. I went down into my girlfriend’s place at the time, to stay the night, and I found myself out on the front verandah with not a stitch of clothes on and my boots in my hand.
Then we went to the pictures and a gun went off and I’m underneath the seats and I was starting to break apart you see. So they put me in hospital and I ended up I had dysentery, I had hookworm, I had malaria, I had the whole works. And in the three months that I was in there, the doctors used to use me to go and interrogate natives in pidgin English.
But I never went back into action after that, they kept me out of it, until the end of the war. And that’s how I ended my war. Oh and in the meantime of course I got married there. It was funny getting married too because I went down to the pub and I forget the size of it, big keg of beer, you know, real big ones. And he said oh don’t worry, pay for it when you come to get it see. So the wedding
goes on and when we go to get the beer there’s no beer , the Yanks had given him a better price. But ah, and I had a full guard of honour of, from majors and captains and God only knows what. And another thing too that with the wedding photos, there was nobody to take wedding photos. So I had to hire a taxi and bring the whole bridal mob from Beaudesert down here to get our photo taken down in Nerang Street, Southport.
We did this and about a fortnight later when I go in to get the photos they said, “Oh no you didn’t get any photo taken here.” And I’d paid them, paid them the whole lot And my mother in law knew a friend who’s a policeman so she saw him. And he fronted up, he said you better do something or he’s gonna, they’re gonna take you to court. So they fronted up and the pictures are absolutely shocking, they’d spilt stuff over the front of them or something and that was my wedding photos.
So I was in camp coming out and I got a telegram from my father in law who was at that time, postmaster, Southport, saying there’s a temporary job here if you want to come in to it. And of course I was going to go into business. So I took it, passed an exam and stayed in the post office. Then decided after twenty years that I was going nowhere. I pulled out
and started a business, called Atlin Enterprises and then Atlin Wholesalers and that’s how I. And of course cancer caught up with me and put me out of action so I had to give it away.
Did you ever have any more sorts of problems in regards to those sorts of problems that put you in Greenslopes initially?
Well, when I come out and I went into the post office I ended up back. I don't know really how long in hospital there for again,
but they could have been the problem. But there again all these chaps that went into action with me, they all died and some of them died at early ages. Lee Ashton, McHamilton died, I don't know when Archer died. But I’ve always thought that because of my breakdown as it was more or less at that particular time, it gave me the chance to go into hospital and for them to clean
up my body you know. And even though I might have had three months in there and a spell when I was in the post office, after that I seemed to settle down alright. And I was alright ‘til I got cancer of the throat and thyroid and that never stopped me singing. Because although I’m no an expert as a singer, I’m a good chorister. I could, you know, and I’ve sang by myself on the stage, so it never affected me
then. Well then I ended up with stomach cancer and I had the ‘B’, cause you got A, B and C. A is when you got the polyps and B is where you got the cancer inside the bowels and C is when it gets through. Well you’re finished then cause it goes through into your glands. So I went through that and this year I’ve had trouble with hernias from my stomach and they opened me up and they put that mesh
and staples in my stomach. But I’m still here, I’m eighty-five.
What sort of things do you think contributed to your breakdown?
Well I think it’s just the constant tension, that’s what I reckon you know. Like, you know, like it’s not a case of every month, it’s a case of every day isn’t it, every hour? See,
you’re continually, your nerves are continually on edge. Like for instance I come back from one mission and I was walking up Pitt Street, Sydney with a girlfriend. And one of my friends who was a bit of an idiot, come whirling up, hit me on the shoulder. And I threw him up in the air and he landed flat on his back in the middle of the, and that was
reaction. You had this; your body was on this kind of a field all the time you know. And you had to watch it. So I think this is the, you kind of get programmed into this and that’s how it is, you see.
How would you, on a day to day basis on those missions, were there particular ways that you had to deal with that tension?
No, not really, you just, I
I can’t imagine anything like that; I am a person that can kind of take meself out of it. I don't know whether I should be saying this on air but I have to be careful that I don’t float out of myself. Did you ever hear of this, ever hear of anybody doing this? And I’ve been to the doctors about this and
it can happen. Where you can float out of your body, in your mind, and you’re looking back into your body. It’s a funny, terrible experience, because you’re thinking, and, and, you know. And I’ve had this quite a few times.
What sort of situations does it happen in?
Well if you’re not careful it can happen any time but I haven’t had it so much lately. See the same thing is when I come out of the army. I used to have nightmares, but I never remembered the nightmares,
but everybody around me remembered them. I went playing bowls down to, I think it was Lismore, sleeping in a motel, and I got nearly a black eye and all bruised down here. And I said, “What happened here, I can’t remember?” And my wife said to me, “You wouldn’t shut up so I hit you, in the middle of the night.” She said, “Everybody knew,” like, you know, this terrible roar coming out of me. That’s how
my body was, you see. But everybody’s different I suppose, we’re all machines.
And this sort of out of body sort of thing, did that happen during the war, was that something you had to keep an eye on?
Well like you know, for instance, if you remember when they were marching us up to the village when the natives caught us. I said to
Archer, I said, “This looks the chicken’s last march to the wood heap.” And he said, “What do you think you’re joking about?” You know like these are the kind of things that kind of lift you out it, you know. If you try to get serious about everything and I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, it takes over and you haven’t got a chance. Like in cases where I’ve struck accidents, I remember coming back from Anzac Day once, on the old road
up here and somebody got hit. And I ended up with this fella, with his head in my white shirt and blood all over me and there was a girl there and he was swearing. And I said, “You better go because you’ll hear him.” She said, “I’m a nurse, I’ve heard it all before.” Well if anything happens like that, I don’t stand back and look at it, I go into it, I, you know, and that has been, always been a part of me, that kind of thing. So...
Can you contribute any
of that to the specific training you had for the Independent Company?
Well see I suppose I was a soldier from the time I was about fifteen. You were allowed in when you were sixteen and I put my age up and that was when I was in the 33rd Battalion. Well you’ve had training all the way through, plus the fact that my father never went to war but my uncles did. And I’ve got a photo in there of; you’ll see it in the museum, of an uncle of mine
which I was always proud of, you know, and he was in the 14-’18 War. And he was laying in a railway cutting in, got to be careful what, I don't know what the name of the town was, I’ve got it in there, Ypres or somewhere like that. And there’s a chap come along taking photos. And they’d just had a German raid and dead bodies
laying everywhere. And he said to this photographer, “No good taking photo of us because we’ll never be able to see it.” And this photographer said, “Well, you never know.” And he said, “Here’s my card and if you get over to Blighty, (as we used to call England in those days), Here’s my card.” And he got that photo, his name was Kirwan and his photo’s in the museum, they gave it
to the museum and I got a copy of it in there, there’s been in a book. So you know I used to love war stories from him when I was a little fella and...
What sort of stories would he tell you?
Oh I can’t remember them now but used to be the stories of France and all those days and you know, but they’ve been so long way ago but it still installed me that a soldier you know, that you wanted to be a soldier. And of course
somebody asked me were we the forerunners of the SAS [Special Air Service]. Well I feel that the SAS is a combination. It’s like, it’s in other words it’s like an old car and a new car. You know you get the old car, it’s the family of the new car isn’t it. Like it’s, they build on it, and build on it, and build on it. See and that’s what I think about the SAS is that they’ve learned a lot from us and
our era, they weren’t any better soldiers than us, we were just as strong. See there’s another thing too, they look at photos and they say, look at the terrible conditions of the 1914-18 soldiers. Well it’s gotta be remembered that that was a different era. And in those days those soldiers that were fighting in say, Gallipoli
and those places, their home life was pretty hard. They all had, a lot of them had dirt floors and they were farmers and all this kind of thing, which made them seasoned for this kind of warfare. And therefore it didn’t affect them as much as what it would a modern troop now, where they’ve gotta have you know, rubber cushions, as they lay down, which they’ve got to now and all this kind
of thing you know. The same time when you hear some of what happens to the troops these days, it’s not easy, you know.
Can we at this point talk a bit about the commando training because we didn’t, we kind of spoke about it briefly, but can we talk about it in a bit more detail? Sort of how hard was the training and what sort of...?
I might be wrong here but I think you’ll find that they looked for soldiers that had at least four to five months training. So the basic training we all knew before we went in. You know, when you first went in to the army, the first thing they tried to install in you was discipline you know. Because you’re coming out of civvies and you go into that. And it was pretty hard,
you shaved with cold water and this kind of thing. And I remember in Tamworth when we went in there in the middle of winter kind of business, and you’re in a great big barn, one of the horse barns or cattle barns or something like that. And you’re laying on the floor with just a, your first thing you do when you get there, they give you a palliasse, you know what that is do you? A
palliasse is an envelope [of hessian] and you fill it full of straw and that’s what you sleep on. And you know a lot of us went in Civvie Street, civvie clothes on, and they didn’t have uniforms or anything, they were getting em and they didn’t have any arms and you know. And I went in in my good suit and you ought to have seen it after. And
then they had what they called the bull ring. And it’d drive anybody up the wall. It was a ring of soldiers; you’re all in a ring. And there was a corporal or a sergeant or instructor in the front. And he’d teach you how to salute, then he’d teach you how to fix bayonets, then he’d teach you all these little things you see. But it was putting you into discipline, discipline.
Was that hard
Well, it was foreign to us, put it that way. But of course, you know the soldier, he, like you had to salute an officer. So an officer’d be in Tamworth walking up and down and a mob’d get at one end of the street and they’d keep up saluting. The poor cow couldn’t go anywhere, he’d be saluting, saluting, saluting. And he’d say, “Hey don’t, forget about it.” “No I can’t Sir, we gotta salute.” So soldiers are pretty hard to contain once they get
going. But we had, see the route marching and all that from Civvie Street, into that kind of thing is very hard. Out at the back of Tamworth out on the hills out through there, and day after day. And then we thought we were going to the desert and they’d take you out on a route and you weren’t allowed to drink until dinner time. And there was a chap used to come out with an old cart with a horse, full of drinks and there was no
way in the world that he’d give you a drink because they told him if he did he’d... And there was some funny little incidents, we had our dog, little dog, and they made a little rifle for him, and when he used to get knocked up they used to carry him, you know all these little things. And so, there’s many incidents that happened while we were even in training. When we went into the commandos...
How did you, what brought your attention to the fact that they existed and
how did you, why did you decide to go join the commandos?
Well, I was around about doing how many months, and what had happened you see, the day that I went into Tamworth, the exact day, they made me a corporal because I’d been in the 33rd Battalion in Armidale see. So once I become a corporal I was in charge of the guards, I was
in charge of the sick parades, and the mess parades, and this kept on going. And of course the men were training all the way through and there was bayonet fighting and all that kind of thing you see. And they were using me for this and I was more or less an instructor, and I could see that I wasn’t gonna go anywhere, I was gonna stay in the camp forever. At the time
I was going with a girl out at Manila. And I went out to her place and when I was coming back in the bus, there was a sergeant major, one of the sergeant major’s there and sitting with me. And I said to him, “Oh look I’ve had a gut full of this army, I don't know why I ever joined it.” He said, “Why?” I said, “Well I joined it to go overseas and they’re going out every day overseas.” And we used to have a lot of trouble with that too, with them going overseas, because you’d be sergeant of the
guard see. And you can imagine it, there would be these fellas due to go out say, at four o'clock onto the train, and all their sweethearts, their mothers and their sisters and all lined up at the gate, and they weren’t allowed to see them. See, because they’d said their final leave and that was the, because otherwise they’d disappear. And I remember once there, I got out to the mob and I said, “Now if you people behave yourselves,
there’s a netting wire fence along there, and I’ll let them in on one side and you on the other side, see.” You know, and they thought I was the best in the world. And so these were hard times, you can imagine saying goodbye and a lot of those fellas never ever come back either, you know, they. And you know they were reading the paper about different things, like while you’re on guard, there was,
the food was absolutely shocking. We were getting rabbits still with the newspaper on em and all this kind of, you know, in the stew. And so the men decided to go on strike. So the next morning they called out for markers, cause the bugle’d play the markers, all bugles in those days. And the markers went out and stood there, they blew the fall in and there’s not a
soldier moved, the whole camp. So there was a, I remember him, a Captain Smith, and he was from the ‘14-’18. And he come down through the line and said, “Boys, you can’t do it you know, you’re not in Civvie Street now, you’re in the army.” He said, “You’ve gotta go back and if you don’t we’ll get somebody else to make you go in it.” And somebody sung out, “Yeah and they’ll join us too.” And he knew well they would join it.
He said, “Well, there must be something bothering you and what I want you to do is get two delegates to come up and talk to me. And don’t be silly, go on duty and then I’ll make certain that this is handled.” So any rate they all went back on duty. And they sent two chaps up; nothing was done about it for a week. And then it happened, he come out and addressed em. What had happened was this,
they had civilian cooks see. And the meat was coming into the camp and the civilian cooks were lining up, getting the meat and wrapping it up in newspaper and putting it in the garbage tin. And the garbage contractors were in cahoots with them and they were taking the meat into Tamworth and selling it. So the men, all they were getting was stew with
curry in it and rabbits. So that stopped straightaway, they sacked the whole damn lot of them. And the orders come out, with us that were in sergeant of the guard, that at any time, instruct our men that anybody coming in they were to be stopped and checked, cars had to be searched coming in see or going out. That’s alright, I’m saying to the guard and I hear a scream and I go out,
and here’s one of my guard with a, in those days the cars had the what’s name, the radiators were on the outside. And there’s one of my guards, standing there with his bayonet right through the middle of a radiator. And this civilian screaming his head off see. And my guard said, “I told him to stop, halt, he wouldn’t, so I stopped him.”
So I sang out, “Officer of the Guard!” and the officer of the guard, so we were paraded before the old man. And at any rate the colonel says to me, “What happened?” So I told him and the guard’s standing there. And colonel says to his friend, “Why didn’t you stop Bill?” “I’m not gonna stop.” He says, “Well, you’ll stop next time. Dismissed.” See he knew what was going on. But this is the kind of thing that happened. Another
funny incident too, so, oh then you were saying how hard the commandos were training, weren’t you?
Or how you came to know about the commandos, that you were talking to the guy on the bus.
Oh yes. He said to me, “You really want to go?” And I said, yes. He said, “Alright, well I’ll see about that.” So the next morning he come down to me and he said, “Come with me.” and he took me up to
the CO’s Office. And at that time it was, I think he was a Brigadier Arnold, you know Arnott, Arnott, of the biscuit people. And he took me in and then he went out and he left me there with Arnott. And Arnott said, sit down. And I thought hello, something’s happening here, because a soldier doesn’t go in to see his CO and be told to sit down see.
And he says to me, “Have you ever heard of Lawrence of Arabia? You’ve heard of Lawrence of Arabia, have you?” And I said, “Yes Sir, I’ve have.” “Would you like to do work in the army like him?” I said, yes I would. He said, “Tell me, do you think you’d be afraid to die?” I said, “Well, it’s never happened yet but I don't know.” So, he said, “Well I got a job for you. I’m gonna move you out and move you through the camps.”
And he’s telling me what I had to pick; the age of the, how long they’ve been in the army, all this kind of thing. “Well I want you to recruit as many as you can for this unit. Now nobody knows about this unit, it’s a hush hush unit so away you go.” So I went through the camps and when I got into one camp I know, I had about thirty-two of them, fellas, decided they’d come with me. And they were, they didn’t know what they were going into either but they were wanting to get out of the army too,
get away from this doldrum of you know, being in the army, the way it was going, not getting overseas to fight. So we’re on parade this morning and sergeant major come down with two men under arms and they arrested me. And they took me up before the CO of this camp. And this fella says, he said, “Corporal Veale, you’re recruiting for something that nobody seems to know anything about, this is strange.” And I said to him,
“Sorry Sir, I can’t talk to you in front of the guards or the sergeant major.” And the Sergeant Major, his face went as red as, you know, he was gonna have a piece of me. And this captain said, “Alright, sergeant major, just go out and leave me with this silly bugger will ya?” So they went out. And he says, “Now what’s it all about.” And I said, “Well Sir I can’t tell you anything either now. All I can tell you is this, that this is a number that you’ve gotta ring if I get
into this kind of trouble.” He said, “That’s Brigade.” And I said, “Well possibly, I don't know.” So he rang Brigade and he said, “I don't know what it’s all about either. What they’ve told me there, they won’t be much but you’re okay. There’s a couple of blokes in this camp I want to get rid of.” and he told me their names and they were Fifth Columnists [spies]. He said, “I don’t trust em and I can’t do anything about it, investigate em.” So after that every parade, we used to be called out to secret service
and we’d be marched down to headquarters and we learned map reading and unarmed combat and all that. And one day there we’re looking at the Brigade, boxing turn out, you know Brigade’s a pretty big thing. And I was with my mate there looking at it and I see, Lionel Veale’s gonna fight George James. And I said, “There wouldn’t be two of each of us there would there?” He said, “No. What’s all this?” And they’d
put us in to fight each other in these big tournaments. And I said to George I said, “Can you fight?” “Hell no,” he said, “I can’t fight.” And I said, “Well neither can I.” so we went down to Brigade and there was a wrestler, well known in Australia at that time called Billy Miskey, a wrestler, and another fella by the name of Joe Palmer, there was one of the Palmers who was a top grade. And so they got us in the ring and showed us a few spars, and so that night we got into the ring and
we’d made arrangements that we wouldn’t hit each other hard, just spar. So George hit me a bit hard and I hit him a bit hard, and it ended up we belted hell out of each other but that’s how it went. George never come back, he was one that went down on the Montevideo Maru. So these little incidents that happened, so.
What’s a Fifth Columnist?
Well they were actually all through
the war, they used to sabotage things, they were spies, they did all this. That was in our war they were called Fifth Columnists.
And so he gave you...?
The information that he thought these two, he thought, and I don't know, I passed that on to headquarters and I don't know what happened after that, all the information I could get on em, because they wouldn’t be wanted in the show. But mostly amongst the soldiers if you come across any of this thing the boys find it out themselves, they’re
very astute at this kind of thing, you know, the normal soldier. But see then I went on, I think I might have told you this, that I went on final leave, didn’t I? And then I went, I was back to a private and so forth, and that’s how I went overseas. I don't know whether I told you about one instance when we come up, when we were going overseas. When we come up by train, did I tell you about that where we come to Darling Harbour
and we weren’t allowed to get information out anywhere. And course what the soldiers did they wrote letters and put tuppence in the envelope and threw them out the window to anybody as they come through a town. And when we got to stations we had to have meals. They had armed guards there and they had women from probably Red Cross or something like that, with all meals on the stations and fed us.
Once we got to Sydney the train didn’t stop at Central or, it went down to Darling Harbour on the, not the Manly side the other side of the Harbour. And there lined up was the Gilandia, a ship called the Gilandia that was sunk in Darwin Harbour during the raid up there. And it was a big ship and we were all loaded on that and I remember there was a sergeant
major that gave us heaps, he called us everything as we were going on board. So the boys didn’t say anything til they got on board, and once they got on board he’s walking up and down and they called him for everything. So one of the chaps, I don't know what rank he was, he might have been a sergeant or something. Somehow or other he got word out to his girlfriend that he was going see. And whereever she was working, they wouldn’t let her off, so she sacked herself and she got down to Darling Harbour
to say goodbye to him see And when she got down there the ship had left and the ship was underneath the Harbour Bridge going up just near the zoo, up through there. And so she hired a motor boat and out she went. And she’s waving to him you see. So the boys, you know, they’re all on aft deck and the ship’s going along. And there was a great big pile of rope you know, big rope like that there on the deck, you know, about that high. So they got this chap,
they tied a rope underneath his arms and lowered him from the top of the deck, this is a big ocean, down to the speedboat for him to kiss her goodbye. And the provosts, the naval provosts come in, and on board there was bags of potatoes. Well they opened one bag and they got these potatoes and they belted hell out of. So we kept on going and when we got to Brisbane,
in the interim the doctor on board had refused to go any further with the number of troops on them because we’re sleeping everywhere, sleeping in hammocks and. So we pulled in to Brisbane and we were given half a day leave, well didn’t they go mad. I remember the No Stop sign, they had it in the middle of a tram, directing traffic, oh, but they were all back on time ready to go, they all wanted to go overseas, they were all back there.
What other sorts of things did they get up to?
I remember they paid for beer to come aboard. Of course it was a no-no, they weren’t allowed beer see. So they got one of the crane drivers on the wharf, they’d worked him out that he was to pick up these great big cartons of beer; I don't know how many cartons there were. And to bring it up and when it come near the second deck, they were waiting there to grab it, and they, you know. So just as it was coming up, an officer comes up and he’s
leaning over, looking over the side. So one fella walks up and salutes him, he says, “Sir, if you stay here for much longer you’ll be seeing something that’s no good for discipline Sir.” And the officer saluted him and went to the other end of the ship. The next thing that happens, there was a, I think he was a Greek, he come aboard with two clothes baskets full of pineapples. Well a lot of us had never seen much of pineapple,
you know, we were country, Armidale and Victoria and down through there you see. And he was selling, sold the pineapples, but his price was like selling em for twenty dollars each kind of business, you know what I mean. And the word got out that he was robbing everybody, see, and the boys didn’t know it. They said, oh, we’ll fix him. So he went ashore and he got permission to come back again, the next thing he bought double the quantity. So
one of the boys started an argument with him and by the time he turned round there wasn’t a pineapple left in his baskets, they took the lot. And he went to the CO about it see and the CO said, “Well look, you got your profit on your first load, I’ve heard about this, just get off the ship.” Oh, you know, these are the kind of things. I remember when I was coming down to Vila when I was in
Rabaul, this is about, I told you about Rabaul when I come in through there. As we were waiting for one of the Burns Philp’s boats to take us down through there, our boat the Induna Star was at the wharf and they had a case of beer. In those days beers used to be a full bottle and they’d have it in straw, and they were packed in a big case about, oh, about that big see. And when we
joined the Independent Company everybody put in ten shillings which was a lot of money in those days, to form a canteen fund. So the boys that were going down to Vila with me, they argued that, that was their profit on this beer and they weren’t gonna see it anymore because they were going to a different place and therefore the Kavieng mob would have the whole lot of it. I said, well you still can’t have it. So they come along to me, see I was in charge
of it see. They said, “If we could drink all the beer and yet nobody would know, would that be alright?” I said, “How would you do that?” They said, “Leave it to us, we go and tell you that, nobody’ll know.” And I was never much of a drinker. I said, “Oh well, you’re on your own.” So what they did, they opened the case, they got the beer, they drank it and they left two bottles. Two bottles that they never
touched see. And they had a real party, they put it all back in this case exactly as it should be, they got the case and put it up on a hoist and they kept dropping it till the beer ran out the bottom. So that when it got to Kavieng all it would be is broken bottles, with the stain of beer inside. This, you know, takes a lot to trick em.
Interviewee: Lionel Veale Archive ID 0616 Tape 08
Okay, tell us what you were just telling us about the commando structure.
Not the commando structure,
the coast watcher structure. The way it was that once you came,
although you’re army and a commando, once you agreed, volunteered, for every mission you went, you volunteered. And once you volunteered to go into a party, they call them parties, a party generally consisted of an officer or actually three men, four men at the most. Once you volunteered to go in there, you became completely under the control
of the navy and the army did not have any control over you. And that was rather unusual and of course we used it to our fullest extent at times, when we could, you know. But when we were in Kavieng, just one small incident there. We found out that when we got there that we could get our dhobi done, you know what dhobi is, your washing, done for
a shilling I think it was a week or a fortnight. And even though we’re getting four bob a day, to get somebody to do your washing was pretty good. So the natives were lining up and the way they went, they could go to a magistrate and get another wife if there was enough work for the wife see. And there was that many of them lining up wanting more wives that the magistrate had to go to our CO and said, “Well you’ve got to do something about this.” So
in our group we had one chap that was from New Guinea, I can’t just recall his name. So he decided that instead of this that they’d form a washing line where they could do the washing, but somebody had to pay them. So every Friday night, there was one of the houses up there, lovely house, with polished floors, that they’d have a gambling night. And the
proceeds from this gambling night would go to fund this dhobi line. So what were they gonna race? They decided on little turtles, little baby turtles, around about say three or four inches long. Now they had all this worked out, there was a committee that run it. You could be an owner for five shillings; you could be a bookie [bookmaker]
for five shillings and so forth and such all these kind of things. Now the racing track was white circles in the middle of this beautiful polished floor, starting with one furlong, two furlongs, third furlong and finish line. Now the rules of the game was that the turtle had to finish with two feet over the
finish line. The starting point was a piece of, I don't know what it was because plastic wasn’t in those days, like plastic. It was put on the starting line with, attached to a piece of string. And when the starter said go, he pulled it up and the turtles would wobble off in their direction and everybody’s screaming and going on cause everybody’s betting horses you know, there was bookies. It
cost you five bob to be a bookie too and they had all these bookies and that. And any rate, it so happened that one syndicate amongst the boys was winning all the time. And they couldn’t work it out so they set out an investigation on this. Next thing a big sign come up, batteries shall not be used. And what they were doing, you’re allowed to bring your mount, your turtle, from the saddling paddock which had
green grass which they ate and that. And they had a native that looked after all that. From the saddling paddock into the starting see. And each turtle had a piece of, actually it was First Aid plastic on his back with a colour or a number, and that’s how you knew your horse see. And these rogues as they brought the horses or the turtles from the paddock to the starting line, they got wild chilli and rubbed it on their finger and rubbed it
it on the goat of the turtle. And soon as they lift the starting, away went the turtle, flat out looking for the, so they were disqualified. So yeah, they got up to all the, they had a donkey or something racing up there. And the natives decorated it with bananas and God only knows what, but they all ate the bananas before the race. But there was a lot of things,
there was some queer things that happened. I was on guard there at headquarters once and I got word that there was something happening down in one of the harbour. And they thought it was something under the water. And this is before the Japs come in and we all thought it must have been a submarine that’d come in there with a party ashore to have a look to see what was going on you know. But yeah there was quite a lot
of incidents like, down in, when we were training down in Wilson’s Promontory. You know, it was very hard training; it was all day, all night, raiding each other. Some of it was very humorous, there was people by the, they were called, I think it was called the BBC or something like that. They, actually they were civilians in a working group that built huts and all that kind of thing. They were more or less under the
control of the army. And down at Tidal River at Wilson’s Promontory there was an old bridge you see and it wouldn’t stand the work that had to be put onto it because of the army. So they built a new bridge. So they were doing exercises and all that and it was decided that they, commandos could blow this bridge. But
to blow the bridge they had one group protecting it and the others had to blow it. This was pretty hard because you know, , they didn’t have much cover to work on. So they got all the top brass down on the big hill to watch this manoeuvre you know. Any rate there was a young leutenant and a couple of the boys, they said, we’ll do it.
They got gelignite and they put it in hessian straps around their stomach and they got a snorkel and they drifted down this creek, cold as hell you know, under it. And when they got to the old bridge, they put all this explosive on it. But the lieutenant said we gotta give them a good show, the brass is up there watching us. So they tripled the charge see and away they went. Next thing, up went the bridge
and there was that much force that it blew up the bridge to pieces and got the new bridge and threw it on its side. And there was hell to pay about it. These are the kind of things that happened. And you get different things like the whole of Australia at that time, this generation wouldn’t know what it was like to see it you know, there’s soldiers everywhere and different things that went on.
For instance in Hyde Park in Sydney you could get a meal for one and six. You know a three course meal for one and six. That’s, what, fifteen cents isn’t it, yeah, fifteen cents. And any rate, that was supposed to be for the soldiers on leave coming in from battle you see. They never could get in there because all the base wallahs as we called, they knew about it and they got in there and they were getting,
so, you know.
Base wallahs, what are they?
Base wallahs are the, more or less the office workers, you know, they got in on it but it didn’t last very long because the boys decided to do something about it. They got amongst em, they soon decided not to go any more. Yeah, there’s a, I remember the old Trocadero [dance hall] in Sydney. I remember, I was going with a girl and I decided I wouldn’t
have a girl anymore because I kept disappearing on these jobs and I you know, I didn’t mind going to a dance but I didn’t want a permanent one, and this one, she was a lovely girl too. And I went to the Trocadero and she was there. And she’d gone in with some friends or something and I started to dance with her and I was on the far side of the hall. And we sat down and there was a little girl sat down and she had real bushy hair. And then
another girl come and stood in front of me, she said, “You danced with my boyfriend.” This little girl said, “Oh I didn’t know he was your boyfriend.” because you know, you dance with anybody. She said, “Well I’ll show you that you’re not gonna do that.” And with that she pulled her jumper off, in those days it was not known and here she had a pair of brassieres on and she stand up, and she got this one by the hair and she uppercut her. The girl, the blood was flying everywhere see. Well there was an Australian soldier beside this girl
and he jumped to his feet and he said, “Now you leave her alone.” She said, “You get out of my way, I’ll do you.” so she slapped him, hit him. So he clocked her. And the Yanks were there, and the Yanks said, Australians clocking, bashing girls, and it started, oh. So I got Joan and I said, “Get at my back, we’ve got to get out of here!” And you’d hit a bloke you know on the slip before and that. It ended up on one great big mass of a
fight and there was hundreds of people there see. And we got to the front door coming out and I remember there was a blonde bloke, thick set soldier, coming, “What’s going on here?” and he’s coming in. And about five minutes later the provosts are lumbering him into the back of a van, I don't think he knew what it was all about, and he ended up getting caught in the whole thing. And in those days too you see, we’d go down to Martin Place there, down to the Quay, and the ferry used to leave
there, and it’d go out through the harbour and we’d dance for two or three hours then come in and then they’d get another mob. Luna Park was another one that was on. I was doing a school at Randwick and that plane come over from the submarines. And there was an alarm set and we were put into buses and they’ve stopped all the, they had traffic cops on all the way down to the Quay; we rushed down to the Queen Mary. And
we went on guard and I was on the monkey bridge, that’s the bridge on top of the bridge. And we had machine guns and that you know because we, they didn’t know what was going on. And used to be, you know, you never knew when you were getting off the damn thing, getting of watch. Because they’d put you down about D or something deck, and the boys would go down, they couldn’t find their way out, and they’d be walking around all the ship trying
to get up. And then the division started to come aboard while I was there with the soldiers going over to the Middle East. And that was all on there, while I was there. And we saw a different, I saw a, you know they come out with the ferries with a big notice, is Bill Jones there, you know and they’re racing around the. And there was one fella wanted to go to the toilet and he goes out the back of the
ship, and he fell over cause he’s full. Fell over, and there was a rope hanging over the side of the ship, and he’s holding on the rope, trying to keep his head above water and the ferry’s going around and around, nobody taking any notice of him. Oh, you know, all these things made up the wartime Australia. And then of course when the submarines come in, the first thing that happened was that everybody put their lights on, lit up the whole harbour. They were lucky that there was,
and there is a map showing the number of ships that were sunk around Australia and that’s tremendous, you know.
So you were there that night?
No I wasn’t there that night, no, no, I wasn’t there that night. I can’t remember where I was, I was probably down at Wilson’s Promontory or something I think, where I started.
What was it like going on a mission then coming back?
Oh, I never, I used to get seasick, I
was always seasick, I’d get seasick when I was going into these missions. But once I got overboard into the rubber boat, it was finished. Because you kind of, it’s the same that I think in action you know like that time in the, when they hid me in the hut. Well I don't think you got time to be frightened, well I never was any rate. All, it’s the same as what I was saying about when there’s an accident, I like
to go into it, I don’t like to stand back. It’s just been, that’s the way it’s been, I don't know how other people think but that’s the way it’s always been with me, you know.
Tell us, with going to New Ireland the very first time; you used to survey the harbour, survey harbours?
Tell us the details of what you’d do?
we went down to Namatanai which was the east, the southern part of the island. And I don't know whether it was to be an exercise or what it is but they broke us up into groups of three and four, like you know. And as an NCO I was in charge of it and I was sent out. Sometimes what they’d do, train us was this, that they’d send you out for three days and give you a day’s food. And this become a bit of a problem. But they’d
give you a day’s food and you’d be out for three days, and they’d give you native tobacco. So you had to learn how to trade, and of course the point was we didn’t know pidgin English. I remember we went into one village and we’re after a fowl and we knew the name of it was cockarook, see. But this old Luluai, he got, he didn’t know what we were talking about either so he started to skite [boast] about his number one cockarook, how good it was,
see. And the boys thought well that’s the one so they killed it. And the Luluai got stuck into them and they did all their dough all at the one time and he took all their tobacco off em, you see. But when you do a map, you start off Point A and you take a bearing on Point B. You have a fella with a stick or something like that, and you, compass bearing, compass bearing. Then you go to Point B and you take a compass
bearing back so that you got it, and you have a book. And I’ll show it to you afterwards, I think I might have one there. And you put the, whether it’s concave or convex, all the way up, you put the degrees up the middle of it and you put these all on the side of it, on either side, so that you know exactly what it is. And see when you’re taking short
distances, well naturally you got a lot of bearings, but then you can get the whole lot of it and you get the complete thing, then you draw that onto paper, that’s that. Well it so happened that this book that I did that with, I don't know how it happened, but I ended up getting it back to Australia. Apparently I must have taken it to Vila with me. And I was always interested a bit in that. And when I become into the coast watchers when I come back from the Wewak mission,
I was talking about it to Lee Ashton. And they knew that Namatanai which is well and truly the Japanese lines at the time, that they’d taken off the, taken out all the navigation guides in the harbour, see. So therefore they didn’t know but I had it on this book. So I went to the geographical section of the army and we put it all on the map and drew it all in.
That was just plain luck that I would have had it but that’s what happened you see. But that’s how you do it. And apparently even, I was talking to a surveyor and he said they do, even though that they got the satellites, they do still use those trig points when they do this kind of thing to check, double check and that, you know, got to be so accurate with em.
And where had you learned all this?
Oh well that’s all in commando training and that, you know, it’s a part of
commando training in those days any rate, and unarmed combat was another thing. We had bayonet fighting, nearly wrecked myself with bayonet fighting. I did a school at Randwick, an NCO school, and I had a bayonet instructor there, from the 14-18 War. He said, “To be a bayonet instructor you’ve gotta be very agile on your feet.” And he said, “They will tell you to teach bayonet fighting with the scabbard, you know the scabbard,
on the end of the bayonet, but it doesn’t give you the right feeling.” He said, “You gotta have the naked blade and you gotta be agile on your feet, see.” So I was taught this. So when I got down to Vila I was training the Free French you see, and of course I didn't know the, what Frenchmen were like, how they get really agitated and that, see. So I had them in a ring and it was a sandy floor, I had
my army hat on and I had no shirt on and just a pair of shorts, see. And we had what they call a parring stick which is about six foot long and on one end there was a pad, on the other end there was a ring. So what you did, your chaps, they were all around you with their backs towards you. So you tapped him on your shoulder, see, and wherever you put that ring he had to put the bayonet through. But this fella got that agitated he decided he wasn’t gonna go the ring, he was gonna go me. And he kept fighting and he’s coming in and he’s got a
naked blade, and he’s onto me with a, on the end of a rifle, and all I’ve got is a flamin stick six inch. And I’m beating his, thrusting, and he’s coming at me see, and he lunged at me and as he lunged at me the end of the stick hit the boss, that’s the thing that holds it on. And the bayonet kept on coming, it hit me in the forehead here and I ended up with eight stitches, he split my scalp open. And I, they’re all talking in French and
going on. And I said, no, it’s alright. And of course I pushed my hat back and soon as I pushed my hat back all blood was in, all over me. So I ended up getting eight stitches, that taught me to be more careful when I was bayonet fighting. But there again I went to the, what would you call it, the Land’s Office there at that time, and they had a map of Long Island, not Long Island, Vila.
But it wasn’t accurate because we knew that where they put in creeks and all that kind of thing, they weren’t in existence. So sections that went out and did these kind of things, and I drew the map and I had this map and the Yanks wanted it right or wrong you know. And because what they were looking for, they were looking for a place where they could put their big ships,
in, not complete, out of complete danger but safely you know. And I knew where there was two islands and they, this is why they handed me over to the Yanks for about a month. But I found them; these Americans had come down from the coast of Maine up near Canada. And they had all their
winter gear, and I remember their beautiful sheepskin coats and all that. They put em in a great big pile and poured petrol over them and burned the whole lot. And you know, at that stage of the game we were shocked at it. But different things, this, there was a colonel in charge of this and he got me to teach them different things and that. For instance on the island where they were, they decided they weren’t gonna
build latrines, what they were going down, they were using the beach as latrines. And I warned him, I said “You’re gonna be in trouble with this.” “Oh no that’s what we’re doing.” So any rate of course the tide come in, churned it up, took it out to sea, brought it back again like sewerage you know. Next thing you got flies, next thing you got dysentery haven’t you? There was also a lot of lime there, and there was a fly there that if it touched the, if it laid it’s egg and that, you’d get dysentery.
They learned. And any rate we were coming back from this place to Vila and this big harbour, they’d found these two islands, which was ideal because on the eastern side of it, it was so shallow that even a submarine couldn’t attack, you know. And then it had the entrance coming in and the other entrance on the other island well they could, more or less, guarded by gunfire see. So he said to me, when
I’m coming in from the sea, he said, “Now if you see anything wrong here let me know, because these boys are from the coast of Maine and they’re new soldiers, see.” So right ahead of us, there’s a beautiful great big green hill, you know, I don't know how high, a quarter of a mile high or something like that. And there’s five great big white blobs, in this tree, on this hill as we come in. I said, “What are those up there Sir?” Oh, he said, “Oh, you Australians
haven’t got four inch mortars have you?” I said, “No, we got three inch.” He said, “Well those are the mortar pits. That’s where we’re gonna have our mortar.” I said, “And what about the fifth one?” “That’s where all our ammunition is.” I said, “Well that’ll be good. If they blow the centre one they’ll blow the four guns out.” So we go up, and he says, “I’ll show you how far these four inch mortars can go.” And, because in the Australian Army, there’s
always a set thing that you do do to fire any weapon, you know, like you just don’t go and fire it. And a pimply faced fella come up and he said, “Sir, can I fire it?” “Oh yeah, you can fire it.” And he’s got, do you know mortars at all, have you had anything to do with them? Well they’re very sensitive in the nose you see. And you drop it down, there’s a pin at the bottom and when the thing hits the bottom, it starts to fire projectiles, and this is what takes it on the way. And this
American’s got it by the fins letting the danger part go down. And I didn’t wait, I’m off. And they’re all singing out to this fella, “Hold it, hold it, hold it!” And the perspiration’s running down this fella’s face. Somebody got to him and took it off him. At this same stage of the game I’ve seen an American sergeant sitting on a case of gelignite, with a stick of gelignite in his hand, with a whole mob around him, showing them booby trapping and
how to, you know, do booby traps. He’s putting a detonator down through the gelignite. Well detonators are very fragile; he could have blown the whole lot of us to... This is how insecure they were you know. Not that I think all, the Americans are, there are a lot of good soldiers amongst them too. But I think they’re such a big force, that you get these idiots amongst them. And I always say that you get bad privates
but if you get a bad officer, he kills a lot of people, and that can be too you know.
You were mentioning Vila, what did you think of the Free French?
Free. They, well I, there again, I don't know much about the French because this was only a very small...
We trained this detachment see and I don't think they ever saw action either. So I couldn’t really make a comment about Frenchmen, how they were in battle or anything like that. I knew that these people were very lax because they were part, the families used to come up and see them every day and all this kind of thing, you know. I know there was an air raid over and when they all went to their pits, they’d all left their ammunition in their lockers cause they’re too heavy to carry,
you know. But I couldn’t say that that is a norm for Frenchmen. So, the...
What was the feeling like in Vila at the time?
Oh they were all on our side more or less except we didn’t know who was Free French and who was not.
Did you feel that the Japanese were gonna come at the time?
Well no, the Japanese never gave us a thought I
don’t think, I can’t remember, but of course the point was this that two days after we got there they hit Pearl Harbor. And we went around and we rounded up all the, there was a lot of Japanese around there see. ‘Cause the Japanese had people right through the islands there. For instance the, I don't know what rank he was but he was in charge of intelligence on the Solomon Islands. Now he had a, I think it was a dry-cleaning show in Rabaul, see. So this is how it was.
One of my friends there, Wiggly, he’s still alive but I don’t think he, got cancer of the throat now, he’s down in Sydney. And he reported there was battleships, this is before the Coral Sea Battle, in Kieta Harbour you see. And unfortunately the media got it, somebody let the media into it and they reported what a great job they were
doing, that there was capital ships in Kieta. Now this happened in, a few times with the media and it’s a, you know, it’s not on. You know, a story’s a story but these fellas have gotta be sensible about it cause you know you can’t do. So what the Japanese did, first of all, this particular chap sent him a letter by the natives, he knew that he’d eventually get it. Saying to him, let’s forget about the war for Christmas and come down for Christmas dinner. How stupid was he,
you know. And then they landed a couple of bloodhounds, from a submarine. And they put them in a tin shed on the jetty see. So Wiggly sent a signal out and they sent a plane over and bombed the shed, killed the dogs. But he did a good job, he got a Silver Star, and but he earned it, he really earned it. That Solomon Island mob, they were good soldiers too, you know,
the, they never got the credit. I think the one that dipped out on credit was the officer that was in charge of them. He was only a young fella see and you’ll hear the story about Mason and Reid. But Reid couldn’t send signals so the commanders had to send it. And they, the first place they were under rank and they complained to the navy and the navy gave em more rank than the
officer in there. But mind you those two men had more knowledge of the natives that the commandos because they were too young. But they stayed in there for eighteen months and they did a good job. See on New Britain I think the coast watchers were the only fighting men on the island for about ten months you know. They held up the Japs, the Japs didn't know how many were there and were worried about it, you know.
In Vila, you made hideouts or...?
What in Vila?
No we just had dumps, you know, like all around the island, just in case cause we didn’t know what was coming and that’s what they were gonna do, fight to the end. Well you know, they, we didn’t know what to expect actually, who was coming against us.
And you suffered with malaria at one stage too?
I had malaria pretty near all the time, I got a malaria about a month, I was thirteen and a half stone when I went away and I ended up eight stone five, come back to about nine and a half stone and that’s the way I stayed after that. But I had malaria pretty, I had a lot of low fever, you know where you get it at, an intermittent fever, you’d get at say, six o'clock at night. Well six o'clock tomorrow night you get it and that wears you out, you know, had a lot of that,
with it. It was only malaria that I had really, then I had the hookworm of course and the dysentery, well you always get a part of that.
How did you deal with it?
Well drugs like, dysentery, you had the sulphur drugs, sulphur [UNCLEAR], that kind of thing you know, that’d stop it. And before the sulphur drugs come in, it was very hard. We had, with
malaria, you have to line your troops up and you’d have to sign em off in a book to have quinine, we were all on quinine, liquid quinine. And then we had powdered quinine in cigarette papers you had to swallow, it was pretty basic at that stage of the game. And then they come in with the Atebrin. But see the Germans, the Germans had the Atebrin and of course it stopped once the war come in. But then the Americans I think they got it going again, you know, they...
But the Americans used to take it in big quantities, you could see it coming out on their skin, they were green you know, with it.
You got the hookworm going barefoot?
Well I got hookworm and I suppose it would have been from that.
Describe what it was like going through these Japanese areas, what was going through your head?
Well I don't know it’s you know, it’s pretty
not so much, well it’s scary, but it’s, you know, you’re on your merit all the time, you know, it’s. You know that you couldn’t make a mistake; you know you had to cover your tracks and all that kind of thing. And that’s why I used to use, in those particular instances, I used to wear a, I wouldn’t say that all the boys did that. Cause each instant would be probably different you know, depending whether and
I, they ended up giving me; I can’t say for sure whether it was my idea, but it could have been. They gave me shoes with the imprint of a naked foot on the bottom. But they made the mistake there of making an upper and putting it on an upper. Well see as soon as you went down on, in the mud, there was the imprint of the naked foot but there was also the shape of the boot which they should have woke up to themselves on that. See, it should have been
just the naked foot without the upper. And see you talk about drugs now, in that Sepik show for instance, the leader of the party had little things like a little football and when things got tough he’d give you one. Another thing too, we had tablets we could keep awake. But what, we’d pick one out of the group of two or three and we’d say, you’re it, and give him the pill.
Because once he stopped taking it he’d go out like a light and somebody’d have to look after him. See another thing too that what I used to do is that, say for instance I was coming to the end of the day. I’d come to a spot where I’d decided I was gonna camp for the night. So I’d dig a hole in the ground about that deep. Have you ever seen tinned heat? Well it was a jelly [petrol] in a tin. And
you put that in the bottom and you boiled your, whatever you had, your rice, mostly rice on that, and it didn’t give out, off any fumes but it was intense heat, you cooked. Well then you cover that up and you’d put all, broken stuff over the top of it. Then when you went to sleep for the night see, when there was only one of you, well you certainly can’t keep guard. So what you’d do, you’d crawl up underneath thickets, something that would make a noise, and you’d sleep
there. And you found too that you, your nerves, you wouldn’t take very long for you to wake up you know. Out again?
No, no, no, that’s alright. We still got five minutes, yeah. This was a pretty intense feeling, how would you communicate that?
How would you talk, communicate messages with other people when you were in this situation?
Do you mean by wireless or what?
No, no I mean there’s four of you, you’re not wanting, you’re not making much noise, how would you communicate?
Oh well you know like, for instance Hall and I if we were going, say we were approaching a Japanese camp, I’d be doing that way and he’d be doing that way. And then we’d touch our head or something like that, then we’d change over and we’d keep doing that. Keep looking ahead all the time and so
that, more or less you got used to each other, what you could do you know. And that’s the same as when I was talking about Umboi there, see with the water coming and these are the kind of thing. Same as leaves turned over, all that kind of thing you know. And I think as I said before that once you come in after you out on leave, even though there was thousands of noises in the jungle
you were attuned to them. And if there was one noise out of phase or out of, you picked it up straight away, you know. You lived on this kind of thing.
Did you have any kind of extra sensory kind of feeling?
Oh, not that I know of, not that I know of no.
What about a feeling as you approached something?
I can’t really remember that you know, but when things happen well you,
you know, you just went, that’s the whole point. Yeah.
Interviewee: Lionel Veale Archive ID 0616 Tape 09
On some of the missions that you told us about, when you were going into areas when you were going to be there for a long time, what sort of provisions did you carry with you, for food and things like that?
Well we had mostly,
rice, we had dehydrated foods, always carried curry. But bully beef and the Australian biscuits. Everybody throws off at the Australian biscuits, but see it was mostly vegetable. And the difference, I don’t want to think that I’m throwing off at the Yanks all the time, but the point was the different, with the Australians and the Yanks, was just that they went to a lot of sweet
stuff. And they couldn’t hack the Australian biscuits. But we found that the Americans feet used to break up quicker than the Australians, because, first of all you gotta have a lot of salt, sometimes you had to have salt tablets. But the Australian bully beef was pretty good this way. And the biscuit was good too because it was so hard but you could make it into something. The only thing we never liked very
much was the M&V, that’s the meat and vegetables, they were a, it was a shocking concoction. But when they used to drop to us by plane, say, we used to use a lot of rice. Well they used to put it in a bag and they’d drop it, but they had a second bag. And when it hit the ground the first bag would explode and the second bag would catch it. That’s how we used
to work it that way, see. But living off the land is a bit of a no-no. Some places you can get something like watercress or something like that. But not very much that you can eat. You can eat the tops of coconut trees. But we never got very much fish or anything like that cause we couldn’t go out fishing you know, we were more or less inland from it. But
most of the food was, I think it was eight by ones, I think they were, I can’t just remember now. But they were packed in units of eight. There were like one meal for eight people, there was four meals for four people and all this in units, you know, like that kind of thing. But we seemed to survive alright with our
cooking you know, flour, we used to take with us. And we used to make our own yeast from lemon trees, wild lemons or something like that. I suppose each one of us had different ideas and that.
And during that same time, in your stories, you spent so much time with the natives of New Guinea. Overall what was your general opinion of the natives?
natives were pretty wild at that stage of the game. You see, some of them, hadn’t been so very long under control or civilised. But as far as boys, that is when I say police boys, I found some of them very loyal, you know. I had an occasion where, I don't know how it happened but I sent the boys out before I got out,
on, you know, it so happened under the circumstances warranted it. And when I got down to Lae they said to me, “Your boy’s had it.” I said, “What do you mean?” “He’s committed suicide.” And I said, “Why?” And they said, “Well, we don’t know.” And he had, he’d had stomach pains and that you see and I was treating him. And when I sent him out in his mind he must have got it that I was giving him away. He
got a .303 rifle, he tied it to the tent pole in the middle of the tent, he put the muzzle into his stomach, and he put his big toe on the trigger and pulled the trigger. And of course when the bullet went in it hit his backbone and blew a hell of a hole out. And by the time I got him too, rigor mortis had set in and of course they all wanted him to be buried as a soldier. Well in those days, you couldn’t get a minister that’d touch anybody that’d committed
suicide. So I said, “Oh well, we’ll do this.” So we had hell’s own trouble trying to put his clothes on him because rigor mortis, he’d come up into a ball, and we had people sitting on his legs, straightening him out. So eventually we got his clothes on him and we got somebody, didn’t tell em what happened, we buried him. But, you know, you get this kind of thing. But they can become very loyal, and course you get some
treacherous blokes too, you see, just like normal people I think you know. That’s what I think of them anyway.
What do you think they thought about having this war fought in their country between...?
Well they didn’t consider it their fight and therefore that was a lot of the problem. They
more or less thought that we were more or less fighting on their ground. And you know, and I don't know how really they thought about that. ‘Cause they, you know, the masters up here and they’re down here they are, so you know, it didn’t work that way in those days. It’s a bit different now of course, they’re got more input. But although at the present time in New Guinea, there’s a lot
of problems because the greed is there. They’ve always been a bit like the Australian abos [aboriginals], that they look after each other. Like you’ll find that the Australian Aboriginal will have all in his own home and all that kind of thing. Now they are the same and we always had to be very careful when we’re going into operation
and check the boys what they had because they’d have extra packs. And the problem with it wasn’t so much having the extra packs that had to be carried. They’d carry it, but the point was it’d give you away, you know they’d give em to a one-talk they call em. Well he goes skiting about it and the next thing you got the Japs on you, you know. So we had to be always very careful of that.
Speaking of the Japanese, what was your opinion of the Japanese as soldiers?
Well they again were different, you see some of them were six foot tall. And they were the Imperial Guard and they were to be reckoned with, you know. But they didn’t mind dying for their Emperor, that was the whole point. The thing that I’ve got against the Japanese is that their code of honour is terrible. There was so many beastly
things they did, like on that Montevideo Maru. Oh and their kazees[?], I told you about their kazees didn’t I? About, when they took all the missionaries from Wewak. Well now they had the little boys there under ten, they gave em a banana each then took em to the end of the battleship at full speed and threw them over into the wake. You’ll hear different stories
all the way through. For instance, in this story I’m writing now, sometimes you’ve got to evaluate what you hear from soldiers and that, because sometimes they’re just talking and they’ve heard this and it might be a rumour. But in my report there from him, in his report, he states that in New Britain there was two young native boys that the Japs killed and ate. And he said in it, I
wouldn’t put this into my report, if I hadn’t evaluated and checked out that this incident is absolutely correct. Now they were cannibals, that has been proven time and time again. On the Kokoda Trail a lot of the soldiers were found with their rumps off, or their calves of their legs off and so forth and such. They also found Japanese with tins of human meat in
them, ready to cook and all this kind of thing, so it can’t be disproved. And they were, in the Tol Massacre well they had no reason to do that and this was the navy. The navy I think was more barbaric than the other soldiers but they got those chaps at Tol Plantation and I forget how many there was, there was a hundred or something like that. And they took their pay books off
them, then they tied their wrists with fishing line and they bayoneted them to death and they had no reason to do that. Now they did that in Hong Kong to the Argyles. But in the Argyles, it’s reported that they had a, what would you call, a fenced off portion there. And they’d let a couple of the Argyles out at a time and they had bayonet practice with them. So, you know, this is the...
The Australian, in my opinion, some I’ve been told, oh but the Australians’d do that too. Well in battle it’s a different thing. If you’re on a fighting patrol, you kill everybody, wounded and everything, because you’ve got to. You can’t leave them, people behind to tell where you’re doing and what you’re doing. That’s a different thing, that’s not atrocities in my book, that’s battle. But to get a prisoner and torture him
that’s a different thing altogether. And I always say that if there’s three Australians together, one fella gets out of line and gets a bit cruel, the other two will bring him into gear. And I think that is the Australian way of life, and that’s just what I think about it.
Did you have any personal experiences with people maybe getting a bit out of line or a bit cruel or...?
Not, not in my, for instance those fellas I went into Wewak with, you wouldn’t have got better blokes than them.
See for instance, Archer, I never got on that well with Archer but I recognised him as a good soldier and a good man. See, in life you’ll find that there’s somebody that you don’t like, and yet other people like them. It’s just that your chemistries are not mixing. Now Archer, the only reason why I had problems with him was he used to always be trying to take the mickey out of me. For instance I’d never seen tinned heat in my life when we went in. And he gave me this tinned
heat and I thought it was soup and I put it on to cook you see. And it caught, he said, “You couldn’t even cook water without it boiling.” you know what I mean, this is what he used to do to me. But he was not a sour kind of a person, but a dour would you call it. And yet he got decorations and he was worthy of the decorations he got, you see. And
as far as decorations concerned, I’m want to know what they’re all about. My mate, coast watcher in New Britain he got an MM [Military Medal] and he deserved every bit of it for what he did, you see. But these blokes that are fifty miles away and get a decoration, it’s becomes political, well I got no time for them. See when I was in the Beef Steak & Burgundy Club, one night there I was introduced
by the president to a chap that was, I think he was a brigadier, and he was DSO [Distinguished Service Order] this and something else and that. The president turned around to me and he said to me, “Well Lionel, you got an MID [Mentioned in Dispatches] didn’t you?” I said, “Yeah, but you don’t get a feed here with it.” And any rate this brigadier turned around and he said, “I remember one of my officers getting one of those and he did everything he could until we got him something better.” And I turned around to him and I said, “Well
Sir, I don't know whether you ever earned that DSO or whatever you got there but I’m bloody certain I earned my MID.” And he shut up like a book and the president come to me after he said, “You fitted him didn’t you?” See, I’m a bit cranky and you know, this might be bitching a bit again about the MID, Mention in Dispatches. Now I’ve just found out, that when they put it out on the web that I’m not, officially an MID cannot be used as a pro-nominal.
And yet a good politician, he can use it, a runner can use it, all these people can use it. And yes, even, you know, you don’t get an MID for nothing. And yet, Canberra, one fella said to me, he said, when I asked him about it, he said, “Oh, I’m not quite certain whether you’ve got a piece of paper for this.” And I said, “Well, it must be the wrong
piece of paper that I got here because it was gazetted by the King in England and also gazetted here in Australia.” And when you say, the King, some of them say, the Queen, you’re wrong, you know. But they forget that our war was fought under a King not a, you see, and that’s how it is. And I just feel a bit cranky that we don’t get that recognition. Apparently, they changed the laws of decorations and that in ‘50 something or other and we don’t come under it.
But that’s how it is.
What did you receive your MID for?
Oh I’ve got it in there, recognition for my service in behind the lines, that’s what it says, service as a coast watcher see. But so that’s how it goes, anyway, water under the bridge.
Just some questions about your time in Beaudesert. Can you describe to me your general role when you were training at the camp in Beaudesert?
Well we never trained there because we were already trained you see.
Well, when you were training others.
Oh well it was just normal being in charge of the whole camp as far as discipline, as far as leave and all that kind of thing. In other words you’re a sergeant major.
It was a job as a sergeant major, even though they called you sergeant you had the same work as a sergeant major, you were responsible for all that. See I was, when I first started I was a bit soft I remember. We had an officer that I was under and he was a bit hard, and he wouldn’t give em leave passes or anything like that. And as soon as he left,
I lined them up and I said, “Well if you behave yourself, you can have leave passes into Beaudesert, you just go into Beaudesert without a leave pass and that’ll be okay.” So then the CO rang me up and he said, “Hooks, he said, what are you doing with the troops? I believe they’re going into Beaudesert at eleven o'clock a day and getting full [drunk].” And I said, “Alright, I’ll fix that.” So the ration truck was going in and I went out to it and I said if anybody goes in to
Beaudesert by his own, by this truck, he’s on his own. They not only went into Beaudesert, but they turned up full and went up to the orderly room. And of course the CO rings me up screaming he said, I says, right, so I come up and I said, well, we got problems. I said, we gotta do something about these blokes. So he and I had a talk and I said that I wasn’t prepared to break these fellas of their rank in as much as they did a hell of a job, in behind the
line, and I didn’t think that they should suffer, you know, even though they were playing up, but we had to have some way. And I said, I wish I could have some way to get them to Canungra and get the fat out of them. He said, that’s no problem. I said, why? He said, Bandy McDonald who was the CO of Canungra, he said, a friend of mine. So we got in the staff car and we went over to Canungra, and Bandy McDonald said, send em over here and they’ll wish they were dead. So we lined them up, the corporal,
I brought him back to a private because he shouldn’t, he was not operational and he should not have been in charge of the vehicle full, so I bashed him back to private. But the others I sent to Canungra for a fortnight’s training. They reckoned they never slept all the time they were in there. And after they come back they’d come to me, look, if they’d done anything, look we’ll do anything, we’ll work in the garden, we’ll do anything, we don’t want to go to Canungra. And we brought em under control But strangely enough about the corporal that I brought back,
after the war I met him, he was a foreman in Thom, not, Butler Brothers in Brisbane. I went, he said oh, you were the fella that knocked me back to a private. I said, yes I did. I said, you’re a foreman here now. He said, yeah. I said what about if one of your blokes played up, what are you gonna do with him? Would you sack him? Probably. I said, what do you think I did with you. He never commented any more, you know. And that’s how it was.
You mentioned earlier that there were some of the New Guinea natives at the camp in Beaudesert. What were they doing?
Well we brought em back here and we trained em you see. And when we started, see, the war in New Guinea towards the end of, we started guerrilla warfare. And what happened was that they took
Gloucester and then they took Arawee and as they tried to, see, it’s very mountainous island. And the only way they could keep the supplies up to their troops was by barges. And of course they couldn’t move because we had the torpedo boats, the American torpedo boats and planes, and they couldn’t move because the, the. So the Japanese then decided to withdraw all their troops to the Gazelle Peninsula,
which is where Rabaul is, that part there, and they were bring their troops back. And there was two parties, one on the north coast and one on the south coast of guerrillas. Now they used to train a lot of these natives, they’d bring em out to Tabragalba and they’d train them there. As I said before they were also training the Americans for the Philippines there, see. And all different kind of things,
I’ve even struck at the end of the war, some that were working in China, so it was a kind of a special camp you know.
Did you ever observe the reactions of New Guineans when they first arrived in Australia? Was there any sort of culture shock or anything like that?
When we arrived up there?
No, no, when the New Guineans who came to train...?
Oh down here.
Oh I don't know they were, they were funny, like
see they used to put em in the hospital in Greenslopes when I was there for three months. And then I’d take, I remember taking em into Brisbane. And I couldn’t get em to walk with me, they’re walk in a line behind. I’d say, you stop one time there. No go, no go. There’d be about five of them. I took them into the Courier Mail and they all got a stamp you know, with their name on it, and they thought that was a , they were like little children you know. They’re out of their
field you know. But when we went into Tabragalba, there were troops in there before and they had cats, and you know how cats multiply. Well I’d reckon within a month there wasn’t a cat there, they’d ate the lot of them. The pussy, yeah, they’d ate em. Yeah. But it seems so long ago now. And then the,
the Filipinos, they, I remember coming home from town one night, and probably a bit full we were. And they had Philippine guards on this bridge and we decided to try out how good they were and we threw them into the creek, you know. But, yeah, you had to be pretty physically fit all the time, that was the main thing, you know. It
was important to be that way because if you broke down in the jungle well you’d had it you know.
Kieran [interviewer] mentioned this a little bit before, that when you’d been on these missions in New Guinea, these intense experiences and then you’d come back to Australia for a bit of leave time, did you almost have a sense of culture shock coming back to Australia after what you’d been living through New Guinea?
No, it just
seemed to be a normal transition I think you know. I never felt that, it was, you know, we’re all a part of, see the whole of Australia at that stage of the game was you know, at war. You know like we’d go to the dances and you had to be careful there. The Americans come in, in Beaudesert and I remember there was one of
our fellas, looking for a fight, wasn’t the Yanks’ fault. He objected to a Yank wearing a straw dipper that we used to buy for one and six. And they got into a fight outside and both of em could fight. As soon as there’s a fight on, the girls are all left in the dance hall and the boys are all out, see. And an American provost pulled his revolver to stop it and our cook who was an ex pug [boxer], hit him underneath the jaw and knocked,
flattened him one. He was laying in the gutter and they kept on going. So, there were these little skirmishes see. And any rate our CO got word from the Americans at Paylen Creek that they were to keep our troops out of the town, the Americans were coming in, so. At the time the officer in charge said well what you boys do, do you want to stay in camp. And of course the scream went up, so we went into camp and
the Americans marched out of the camp and went home. Same things happen like, there was the old rattler [train] from Brisbane to Beaudesert you know, there that used to travel along at ex-nothing speed. And when we got to Nathania Junction, I’m there this night and I was camp sergeant at this time, and any rate there’s a hell of a blue on. And I go outside and there’s one of our blokes with his feet and this Australian soldier’s trying to put him out. And this,
this was probably about six or more Australians under the charge of a lieutenant. I said, “What’s going on?” He said, “They can’t go on this train, this is where it stops, you can’t go on any further.” I said, “Why can’t he come on?” They said “Because it can’t carry them.” And the guard come up, he said, “Well, we want all these soldiers off.” And I said, “Now look, you keep out of this. In South Brisbane, you sold all these soldiers a ticket, to go to Beaudesert.”
And I said, “That’s as far as what you can say. If you didn’t want em to go you shouldn’t have sold them the ticket.” And I said to the lieutenant I said, “Well I’m the camp sergeant major out there and my men have got no way of getting there and this is the way they’re going to go.” He said, “Well, you’ll be in trouble.” I said, “Well so be it, there’s our number, you ring the CO tomorrow morning.” He did and he was told what they could do. Because, you know, like it, this is, have these little kind of, it was
all part and parcel of the army. And you know like the same as the Brisbane fight, you know that ended up over girls and that there. And they brought in the 4th Commandos to clean it up and soon as the commandos got in and they joined the show. I remember going up, that was when we were going up to get on the Paluma. We got to Townsville and when we got off the plane the sergeant met us, he said, “Well, you’re gonna be out in the showground. But I’d warn you that nobody
goes into town of a night. Or if you go in to town the whole of you’se are gonna...” I said to him, “What’s going on?” And what had happened was, the 4th Commandos were going in and they fought in Wau. They were in Wau, their plane was coming down over the top of the Japanese and some of them were wounded as they got out of the plane, and the plane was taking off and taking em back again. That’s how bad it was up there, it was a terrible fight that one, Wau. And any rate these are the boys that were going up there see. And
apparently two of them went up to a dance and when they got there the Yanks had the dance see. And one of the American provosts shot one of them in the leg, apparently he wanted to go in. So the two of them retreated down to the town, he didn’t shoot him very bad, just grazed him or something like that. And of course he went down and got all his cobbers [friends] and they were going in to action, they were just ready for a scrap. They ended up with I think about forty Yanks in hospital and they got the
girls and made them dance with them and the girls hated it. Because we come into Townsville just after that, and I tell you what, you’d fight your way into town and fight your way out, it was a shocker, I tell you. So that’s where we got the boat the Paluma ready for action, you know, and got it out.
How did the girls respond generally to you guys in uniform?
Oh alright but naturally the Yanks had all the money and we had nothing and that was made
a big difference. It’s like Civvie Street; you could get bad soldiers and good soldiers. I remember one of the things used to be now if you were in Melbourne, or you were somewhere else, it used to become very lonely when you’re a part of a big show, like that you’re by yourself you know. And up on the wall they had, I think it was CWA [Country Women’s Association] or something like that you know. And they had a notice there that any soldier that wanted to
go for tea for the night with a family ring this number. So I thought oh I can’t, I’ll go, I’ll ring. So I rang. I got out this station somewhere in Melbourne, and two young girls were there to meet me, they were lovely young girls, they were about eighteen and nineteen you know. They took me home and there was another girl at home, that made three. And I was the only one see. And their
father was a 14-18 digger and a lovely family and they said, “Oh we’re gonna have tea here tonight and cook you a family meal. But there’s two other boys coming in and we’re going down the train to pick em up.” Course these two fellas arrive, they didn’t know who they were. So in the conversation these two fellas get me aside and they said, “Now these sheilas [women], they’re alright. We’re gonna go through the park and…” you can imagine what’s gonna happen you see. And I thought to meself, well I’m by myself and there’s two of them,
what am I gonna do. So any rate, when it come after tea I volunteer to do the washing up see with the old fella. And I’m out in the, so when I get out in the sink with the washing up, I said, “Listen, tonight when we’re going home, don’t let the girls come with us.” And he said, “Why?” I said, “I’m not saying why. Suggestions have been made to me and I don’t want to talk about it, just do as I ask you because there’ll be trouble.” And he shook me hand see. Well there was hell to play when
we’re going, and all the way they moaned, the old bugger he wouldn’t let em come. But you see now these are the kind of things that can happen. I know of another case where a family looked after one and got him back the next time he come on leave. And he learned that they were going on holidays and they went in, and this fella went in and pinched everything in the house. But see, you can’t related that to all soldiers, but the point is soon as that happened, the soldiers get the blame. It’s the same today, like one footballer plays
up, the whole footballer plays up, doesn’t it, you know. And it’s just a part of nature that they blame everybody that comes into it.
Just as we’re getting near the end, can you tell me about sort of the first time that you marched on Anzac Day?
The first time.
And what was that experience like?
Well you know like in those days it was, I was very proud of it, you see. And
I used to march in Brisbane. And I remember I was marching down past the Post Office and where we turn to go up. And as we, and I was carrying the, I think I was carrying the flag, we used to take turns and I was carrying the flag and I was heading it. And a big sheila come out all dressed in black, and she’s got a black (UNCLEAR) and she had on it, ‘In memory of the girls raped by the Australian
soldiers during the war.’ So as I come towards her I said, “It’s alright lady you’d have been unlucky, they couldn’t have got a bigger bag to put over your head.” And the crowd roared laughing. And she went back into the crowd. We used to cop that and then, especially in the Vietnam War. Oh, you know, they’d call us murderers and all, everything you know. It depends you know, I saw in Sydney where a girl run out with a tin of paint and a
brush to put it over the soldiers you know. Things that did happen, you know.
What does the tradition of Anzac Day mean to you?
It, well Anzac Day is I think is the mainly is the birth of the nation. Because before Anzac Day we were colonials true,
we were part of the British Empire but we were subjugated completely by them, whatever they did, we did. And I don't think they had the respect for us, that they thought that we were completely colonials. But after Anzac Day and the way our troops fought, in Gallipoli and France and all these places, I think it became recognised that we were a new nation, and a nation to be reckoned with. And I think that’s something that, I’m a bit disappointed with the schools up here
that a lot of teachers and that, don’t want to hear about the war, they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Because when I went out selling my books, I went to the high schools and I struck one here. And I said to her, “Now that you don’t want to buy my books, could you tell me the reason why, because that’s what I’m interested in.” She said, “Oh my children, they’re too young.” I said, “How old would they be?” She said, “Oh, they’re only eighteen.” And
I said, “Well, a lot of our people were dying at eighteen in this war. I don't think you understand about it.” And this is what it is. And as I think I said, I think the soldier that has fought the battle doesn’t glorify war. Because he sees so many horrible sights, so many of his friends dying. But he realises that he’s gotta do it to keep his
Is that what you were fighting for?
I think so, I wasn’t fighting, I had to, we had to fight to keep the enemy from Australia, you see. And when I first went in, a lot of the reasons why boys go to war is the fact that their mates go and they want to go you see. They don’t want to be, the mannish things come into it, you know, if you don’t go you’re a sissy or a coward or something like this
But I think later on when the Japs come into it, well it was a different question altogether. It was unfortunate that they had the militia in the AIF because I got a friend that plays bowls with me. And he saw more war than probably any of the AIF, and yet he was a militia man all the way through. And I think the government should never have made that distinction although a volunteer fighters are different altogether from people that are forced into action, I
don’t believe that people should be forced into action. I think that was fought out in the 14-18 War when Billy Hughes [prime minister at the time] tried to get conscription in and the men in the front line voted against it you know, voted it completely out. Yeah.
Do you have any final words that you want to wrap up
with, that you want to say, or...?
No except that we old soldiers, we’re dropping off now, which is only natural because of our age. To me, even though it’s been a hard war, it’s been a very exciting, and I’ve probably experienced things that I would never otherwise experienced in my life.
I’m very satisfied with my life, in as much as I’ve had a family that have been a credit to me as far as I’m concerned and that’s the way it is. I’ve got no problems anywhere.
Excellent. Thank you.