Colin Hamley
Archive number: 642
Date interviewed: 24 September, 2003

Served with:

2/2nd Pioneer Battalion

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Colin Hamley 0642


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Tape 01


Where were you born?
I was born in Perth Western Australia. My Dad was a digger from the First World War and


shortly after the war he started on an apprenticeship. Well,, I think he had started on his apprenticeship before we went, but he finished it off when he came home as an electrical fitter. And work was pretty hard to get in West Australia in those days so in 1923 he decided to


try his luck in Victoria. So, he moved the family, I am one of three boys. I’m the second and the oldest boy, Don, he was twelve months older than me. And he was born in 1921 and I was born in 1922. And Dad, Mum, Don, and I moved from Western Australia to Victoria


in 1923. My younger brother was born in Melbourne in Moonee Ponds in 1924. Yes, so then Dad got a job with the Victorian Railways as an electrical fitter and we lived in, we


rented a house in Moonee Ponds. And we lived there at Eglinton Street, Moonee Ponds at that time.
Could I ask you how you moved from Perth to Victoria?
I have no ideas. I have never even thought of that question I have no idea how we came across.
The transport, you don’t know how you were transported?


No, it has never even crossed my mind to ask, but I could see that it would be interesting to know. I suppose the railway was running in those days across Australia or we may have come by ship because that is the way that most people travelled in those days was by ship.


I don’t know what happened to our furniture, and maybe we didn’t bring any furniture, and perhaps set up house when we got to Victoria. Anyway, we moved into this rented house in Eglinton Street Moonee Ponds, as most people did in those days. Only the very few affluent people owned their own homes


in the 20s. And so we moved into rented accommodation and we lived there until the war. Life in those days was


good but it was tough. We had no frills, we had no car, I guess we had a radio. Oh yes, radios in those days were the old. what they call them? They were wireless sets with cat’s whiskers and a crystal


and ear phones. No loud speakers or anything like that. We had no car; in fact, we didn’t even have a bicycle. But perhaps I’m jumping a little ahead of you.
No tell it how you want however you can recall.
We lived at Moonee Ponds and I went to Moonee Ponds West State School which


was fairly close by home. It was about half a mile away. We used to walk to and from school to Moonee Ponds West, which was a great school. But as I said earlier, things were tough and


we used to find that school was a fairly rough place. There was lot of, living in a working class suburb the kids at school were you know a mixture of types. A lot of them had been brought up in fairly rough circumstances and had tough views on life.


So, it was you know, we had to mix in with the rough and tumble and be prepared to defend ourselves on all occasions. And yes school was a fairly tough experience in those days, lots of fights round behind the shelter shed, before and after school.


But we had a lot of fun. We used to go swimming in the Maribyrnong River. We never had much money to go to the baths so spent most of our time swimming in the Maribyrnong River, play in the local parks. Mostly without football boots, football boots were a thing that nobody could afford. You might be able to


buy a few studs and belt them into our school boots and take them out again to go to school the next day. But so that was the, you know, the type of existence in those days. We are getting into the 30s and by then


the Depression had set in and a lot of our neighbours were being put out of work and onto the dole. And things were extremely tough and we used to try and help our neighbours with food or meals


invite them in you know now and again. They were tough times for a lot of people during those times. Dad kept his job. He was with the Victorian Railways and through the Depression he maintained his job with the railways although he was put onto shorter working hours at times, only working four days a week instead of five or six.


But never the less he had a job which was quite good as far as we were concerned because it meant that we could always have food in the house. Other families were relying on soup kitchens and that sort of thing to eke out an existence. The dole, a lot of our neighbours were forced to


accept the dole which was substance work and you would see the susso’s [people on sustenance allowance/dole] working on the street doing pick and shovel on the streets. I don’t think they worked all that hard, but boy they didn’t get much money, the got five bob a day or five bob a week, they got in those days for working on the dole.


doing pick and shovel work, so it wasn’t a lot to maintain the family on. I don’t know, I can't remember what Dad’s wages were but they weren’t much. He was getting probably about two or three pound a week which you know, when you equate that to present day values it is four to six dollars a week


to maintain a family of five, Mum, Dad and the three boys. So, you can imagine we never had any frills. We never went on holidays, we never ate out, there weren't many places to eat out in those days anyway. You might have a fish and chip shop or a little café


would serve steak and eggs or something like that. Restaurants in those days were non-existent virtually, well particularly for people like us. Going to school, when I was, I spent all my first primary school at Moonee Ponds West


and then I went on to Essendon High School in about 1934. I went to Essendon High School and I guess it was about four miles from home and most days we would walk to and


from the high school or there was bus that ran from Essendon to Moonee Ponds but that cost a penny each way. Once a week we would get tuppence to catch the bus to and from school


but we wouldn’t catch the bus. We would still walk and keep our money to spend at lunchtime to spend on a pie or sweet or something like that. Actually, when we went to high school, I think my father, see my brother Don who was only twelve months older,


was in the same form as I was. It was funny, I don’t know how they worked that out, he was in the same grade as me at school. HE went to high school and we were both in the same form and so Dad decided he would buy us a bike but buy one bike, not two.


It was second hand bike; I think he would have payed five pounds for it which was a lot of money to spend on something like a bike. Then Don and I shared the bike. He would have it one week and I would have it the next week and so


that was in our second year of high school we got that bike. The first year we walked all the time or caught the bus occasionally and that was typical of those days that you would walk to school.


What else would you like to know about those days?
So, with the bike was that, having a bike was a form of transport?
It was the only form of transport in the family, we didn’t have a car of anything like that, it was the only form of transport in the family, this push bike but boy we liked that bike and it was


a bit of a battle to see who had it at the time it wasn’t being used for school. The only agreement was that we would have it one week at a time to go to school. After that, there was no agreement on who had it at weekends or who had it after school when we came home.
So there was a few squabbles?
So, we had plenty of squabbles over that.


It was several years after that that before we got a second bike.
So, I’m imagining that the Depression hitting people so hard in the Moonee Ponds community, and people needing helping each other. Can you recall incidents of that, well for instance, was there a soup kitchen in the local area?


Oh yes, there were soup kitchens set up. I think it was at the Town Hall that they had to go to get to the soup kitchen but Dad, being a returned soldier from the First World War, was very heavily involved in the Essendon RSL [Returned and Services League]. And we spent a lot of time at the Essendon RSL, and the Essendon RSL of course


they also did a lot of work in trying to help out with food and clothing for the people who were pretty destitute at that time. A lot of life I remember in those days revolved around the Essendon RSL.


We joined a group called the Sons of Soldiers which was set up to try and help the sons of soldiers with education and employment and sporting, in sports. They ran a cricket and a football club,


and they used to run lectures for us, mainly on a Friday night when all the kids would go. And they would have speakers come in and give us talks on various subjects and you know, just try and help us along with our education and develop an interest in our lives.


And so, the RSL became a pretty focal point for us when we were kids and I think it was through the close attachment to the RSL, when the Second World War came along, it gave me some sort of incentive to join up fairly early.


Your father had been injured during the First World War hadn’t he?
Yeah, he had been gassed several times during the First World War and when he came home his lungs were always fairly bad. But he did recover quite well, but


he like a lot of others he learned to smoke, and he kept on smoking that’s the thing that worried me. He always smoked and,


anyway that’s, I’m losing track of where I am.
I guess I asked that question to get a picture of what your family was like I mean the hardship of the Depression but I guess with your father’s additional problem of his illness,


that would have made things?
Yes, he was a very healthy person before the war, a very fit person. He had done a lot of swimming, he was bought up in Western Australia and you know, as kids we lived by the Swan River and done a heck of a lot of swimming and boating on the Swan River. And in fact, I do have a medal that Dad won as a swimmer during the First World War.


It was rather interesting, you might like to have a look at it. It’s a medal that he won in Egypt in 1916 when they had a swimming carnival on the Suez Canal on the first anniversary of ANZAC [Australia and New Zealand Army Corps],


on the 25th April 1916 he won this medal for competing in the relay race on the Suez Canal. It’s rather unique.
He told you about that he showed you the medal as a kid?
Oh yes, he was always talking a lot about his experiences during the war and tell us all sorts of stories about what they did on leave and where they went


and all about the different people they met while they were on leave in Egypt and Cairo and then again in France and England. He was a great speaker, my Dad, he could talk for hours about his experiences and he was very interesting.


At night time when we were kids he would come in and sit by our beds and tell us all these stories about life in Western Australia when he was a kid and they used to go boating on the Swan River and go prawning and fishing on and swimming at Crawly Baths


and all their escapades they used to get up to. They used to walk through the bush to Perth though the bush from where they live down to the Swan River. He lives in Claremont in those days and they would walk through the bush down to Fremantle or to Perth through the bush and he had a great


store of stories he used to tell us about those days, and the war years about Johnny Turk, and going on leave in these little places in France and all the girls he met and that sort of thing. He told us a bit about the life in the trenches but he didn’t dwell too much on that.


And about some of the bombardments they had to go through and he used to talk about the Daisy Cutters the Germans used to shoot across to them and the barrages they had to put up with the mud and the slush. They had a terrible time in that First World War


I don’t think the Second World War was a patch on what the poor Diggers went through in the First World War. But they were a different breed; the First World War Diggers were a breed of their own they really were. I don’t know if the Second World War Diggers were exactly the same as the First World War Diggers looking back in retrospect they might have been but in those days I used to see them as something really special.
What was it about them were they tough or..?


They were really tough and they had been through all sorts of things they had been through hell, the number of Diggers lost in the First World War was incredible. I think we lost sixty thousand Diggers in the First World War, sixty thousand that is an unbelievable number.
Did your dad have mates from the war that he spent time with?


he had a lot of mates from the war that he used to see, of course he joined up with a Western Australian unit. He joined up in the 51st Battalion of the first AIF [Australian Imperial Forces] and I think later on the transferred to the 28th Battalion because his brother, his elder brother was in the 28th Battalion. There was my father like us, was one of three boys. Three of them had all joined up


they all went away. But his elder brother joined up the 28th Battalion and Dad went across to that later on himself. And he was in signallers the same as what I was in the Second World War. He had a lot of mates


and they used to often come out to our place, or we used to go and visit his old war mates.
What kind of fellows were they?
They were all extremely tough, all of them, and in my book I saw them as very serious, very orientated people, you know, serious people.


People who took life very seriously and honestly. They were a breed of their own, those First World War Diggers. I was very impressed with them. Anyway, I think they had a big influence on me, and you know, probably


more than I realised at the time. But looking back, they did have a big influence on my outlook on life.
Can you describe that at all?
Well, only I wanted to be like they were but you know, its sort of something.


It’s like hero worship, the same sort of thing, you just wanted to follow along the same track that they followed and do the same sort of things that they did, have the kind of attitudes that they had.
So, how did that manifest? How did that show up once you became a young adult and you were?
I think


I really didn’t became a young adult as a civilian. I became a young adult in the army because when the war came along in 1939 I was very keen to enlist, and I kept working on Dad to try and get him to agree to me joining the army. He kept fobbing me off because you had to


to be twenty, in those days, at least twenty to join the army and you could only do it at the age of twenty if you had your parents consent otherwise you had to be twenty-one. But I kept working on Dad to sign the papers to allow me to join up. Eventually, he did when I was,


in May 1940 he relented and I was in the army, but I was only seventeen. I hadn’t even turned eighteen, I was about two months short of eighteen.
So, what were the reasons for not wanting to sign the papers?
Oh, he thought I was too young but he kept saying, “It will make a man out of you.”


Well, I expect that if my son asked me now to be allowed to join the army and to go overseas and fight, and he was only seventeen, I would certainly not allow it. I would not sign the papers at all.


Well, really I was far too young at seventeen.
So, what did you do after high school?
Well, remember we are in the mid 30s and the Depression is still going all the way through the 30s and times are tough. And I


got to intermediate year at high school and one of the RSL members came along one night to the Essendon RSL and said he was looking for someone, a boy to take a job in the SEC [State Electricity Commission]


and was anyone interested. Well, the SEC was a government organization and it meant regular work and long-term work and it was very well sought after. So, I put my hand up and said, “Yes, I would like to join the SEC.” So, he spoke to Dad and I agreed to go and be interviewed for this job


because it meant extra income for the family. So, I went in and was interviewed for the job and they decided that I could have this job as a plan room attendant in the drawing office of the SEC in Williams Street in Melbourne, head office. And this was in my intermediate year, just at the end of first term of intermediate year,


on the basis that although I didn’t have my Intermediate Certificate, I had to agree that I would continue studying at night school until I got my Intermediate Certificate which would then allow me to qualify for staff membership in the SEC.


Now, I don’t know whether you realise, you don’t probably realise in the 1930s, the personnel in the SEC were either on staff or on day or what they called wages.


If you went onto staff you were eligible for superannuation schemes, but if you were on wages you weren’t eligible for superannuation. You were in a much inferior situation as far as


that was concerned but once you got on to staff you were really set for life. So anyway, that’s how I joined the SEC in 1937 in the middle of intermediate year. I finished off my intermediate at night school and was then confirmed on the staff of the SEC fully-qualified staff member.


But I was only fourteen when I joined the SEC and in those days of course, you were expected to go through to the age of sixty-five.


In those days if you joined the SEC at fourteen there was no reason why you couldn’t stay there until the age of sixty-five, it was expected that you would. That’s what happened to me from high school.
OK, so you had about three years with the SEC before you joined up?


Before I joined the army yes. The job I had in the SEC was a fairly, it was a mundane job, running the plan room, I was a plan room attendant very mundane job and I didn’t like it at all very much. I was hoping to get more into clerical work or in accounting or something like that.


I wasn’t very impressed with the job that I had at all but the money was good.
What did you actually do?
The drawing office was a very large drawing office. I guess there must have been around a hundred draftsmen employed by the SEC in those days and they would do


all drawings for all the of work for the SEC and it was divided up into electrical, drawings of electrical circuits, civil drawings for civil construction work, and mechanical plants. And all those drawings were held in a plan room


and there were thousands of them. Not only drawings but they also did tracings of all those drawings so that they could be printed for draftsmen; the draftsmen would draw a drawing and then they would all be sent to the tracing office. And all these, mainly girls, involved in tracing


the drawings onto a very clear linen tracing paper which they would then use to run through printing machines for the, to print-out of copies of the drawings.


But my job was to file all these drawings into, they were all held in clamps and held vertically in the plan room and I had to, when the draftsman came down and he wanted to get hold of a certain drawings or an engineer came in


and wanted a certain drawings they would ask me to extract this particular drawing from the plan room and bring it out. Get them to sign for it and then after they had used their drawing they would give it back to me and I would refile it. It was a pretty mundane sort of a job.


So, does that explain why you were also keen to join the army?
Yes, it was part of the reason when I look back. yes. Because a lot of things made me want to join the army. I wanted to emulate my parents and the old diggers and I guess I wanted a bit of adventure. And I guess the


the other one was, I was pretty fed up with the job that I was doing in the SEC.
Okay so tell me about the day you registered?
The day I enlisted?
The day you enlisted yeah.
Well actually we got talking in the office; there was three, four half a dozen boys


About my own age in the office and we all got talking and decided we would join up next Monday. And I was the only one that joined up. None of the others did, but I did really want to join up.


So I went home and got Dad to sign the papers. And by that time he had agreed to it. So I went in and went down to Flinders Street Station to the recruiting office and said, “I want to join the army.” Although prior


To that I made a lot of enquiries about the air force as well. Firstly I wanted to join the air force but to join the air force in those days they wanted a birth certificate, well that ruined me out from the start because I couldn’t provide a birth certificate when I was seventeen wanting to join as a twenty year old.


And then I thought the navy would be good, tried the navy but they wanted a birth certificate too. So then I thought the army, and the4 army they didn’t give a darn. They didn’t give a damn they would take anybody in those days.


They didn’t ask me for a birth certificate, they took the fact that my Dad had signed the papers and said I was twenty which had said I was twenty. They took that and agreed I could go in. so they sent me from Flinders Street down to a drill hall down in Sturt Street. And I singed up my papers fully,


And then they shuffled me off to Caulfield.
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 02


So, we will pick up from May 1940 when you enlisted at South Melbourne?
From Sturt Street Drill Hall they posted me down to Caulfield Race Course. That was a shock. It was the middle of winter and by jingo, it was cold, it was May.


I think I joined on the 6th May 1940 was the day I joined up and it was freezing. The accommodation at Caulfield Race Course was in the horse stalls, which you know a horse stall was just a stall open at the front and they just put flaps down at the front


to keep the wind out, or some of the wind out. Just sleeping on palliasses [hay-filled hessian bag] on these horse stalls and we might just have well been horses because we weren’t treated any better and yeah. Well, it was a terrible place. I will just go back a bit and retrace when I joined the army and I had to get Dad’s permission to join the army.


And he said, “Well, if you are going to join the army there is a chap from the Essendon RSL who had previously been the CO [Commanding Officer] at the 58th Battalion CMF [Civilian Military Forces]


whose been drafted form a battalion in the 2nd AIF.” And he said, “If you are going to join the army I would like you to join his unit.” And so I said, “All right Dad, if that’s the way its got to be I’ll join,” and I said, “What is it?” And he said, “It is going to be called the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion.”


So I said, “All right, I’ll join that,” and he said, “I’d like you to come up and meet him before you join the army.” So, he took me and this chap, at that time was the town clerk of the City of Essendon, that was his civilian job. So, he bowled my up to the Moonee Ponds Town Hall and


introduced me to the colonel and he was quite a nice guy. So, I was quite happy to join his unit. So, when I went out to Caulfield each day they would


draft off few people to a few units. Usually, they would call for volunteers but sometimes they would look at a person’s qualifications. So, if you had engineering qualifications you would get drafted into an engineering unit or things like that.


But I was there for about a week so they called for volunteers to join the 2/2nd Pioneers Battalion and I stuck my hand up and, “Yes, all right,” and, “Yes, you're in.” And within a few days I was drafted off to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion. But Caulfield was a funny place.


They kitted us, we went through all our preliminary drills, they checked us out physically and medically, and got our height and weight and descriptions. And all that went into our record books, the colour of your eyes,


scars, and that sort of thing. And then they sent us around to the kit store to be kitted out with our uniform. Well, my goodness me, they gave us these hats that came down over your eyes and gave you a uniform that fitted where they hit, and


these great big brand new army boots that had never been worn before. And we had to clop around in these things and I don’t know if you have ever seen an army boot, but the army boots we used in those days were like horse shoes around the heel. And they had metal studs all over them so that they wouldn’t wear out too quick


and the leather was as thick as you like, and the boots were so heavy. I have never worn anything like them in my life before so when we got kitted out, and the other funny thing, they gave us before that I had never worn before was long johns. They gave us these long john underpants and long john singlets to wear.


And I tell you what, although we laughed at them, it was that darn cold there. It wasn’t long before we were all into these, but the funniest thing was seeing these newly kitted out soldiers being taught how to march around the streets of Caulfield. They would take us out on short marches around the streets of Caulfield


and teaching us to march in unison and trying to get us used to all this new clobber. We must have looked the funniest lot of people you have ever seen, with all these hats that didn’t fit and all stiff and shapeless uniforms that didn’t fit anybody and these great big clodhopper boots


that you didn’t feel comfortable in. The old hat, the first thing that you wanted to do was to put it under a tap and rub it in the mud make it look a bit presentable. But yeah, it was remarkable how soon we got used to those boots. The boots although they were terrible uncomfortable


turned out to be extremely comfortable. Anyway, the original kitting out at Caulfield was really something, all those newly kitted out soldiers must have made a lot of people laugh and wondered how the hell they would ever make soldiers out of us.


Did you have any mates join up with you, were they there with you?
No, I didn’t have anybody with me at all. I didn’t know anybody but I tell you what it was a funny crew of people that I got mixed up with. The strangest lot of people!


At Caulfield there was a lot of pilfering with the newly issued clothing. A lot of people, civilians, coming into the camp. They used to throw them out over the fence but every now and again one of these guys used to get caught by the soldiers.


And while I was there twice while I was there they had caught these pilferers and thrown them off the stands at Caulfield, thrown them over the stands on to the ground below you know, killed them. Unbelievable, boy they were tough the old people in that army. There were guys that had come out of prisons and


men off farms, and a lot of people who had been through the 30s who had been humping their swag around Australia and never had a job in their life because of the Depression, and boy they were tough I tell you. A lot of them were young blokes like me who had put their age up


and there was also a lot of people from the First World War, a lot of the old Diggers. The age limits in the army in those days was the minimum age of twenty and the maximum age was forty. But the old Diggers were well into their forties, a lot of them, and they did the opposite way instead of putting their ages up they put the ages down


from you know, to middle forties to thirty eight or thirty nine. And there was a lot of old Diggers joined up and a lot of them weren't too well either. A lot of sick people joined up and of course, although they seemed to get their way through the medical examination, but when we got up to Pucka [Puckapunyal army base] and had to get into


living with other people. And a lot of them were sorted out and there were a lot of people who put their ages up or down were sent home again and discharged from the army.


So, with your Pioneer Battalion there at Caulfield?
No, Caulfield Race Course was only a recruiting centre. It was from Caulfield that they were drafting new people to various units being formed and it was from there that I was drafted off to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion at Pucka.


So, what did you know about the Pioneer Battalion?
Not a thing, not a thing, and when I got to Pucka they wanted to know what sort of work I had done prior to joining up


and I said, “I have been doing clerical work.” “Well, you go into the orderly room. Do you know how to type?” “Yeah, I know how to type,” so they put me in the orderly room to start but typing with one finger and it wasn’t long before I was kicked out of the orderly room because I couldn’t type at all.


So they put me back into lines and they said, “Well, we will put you into signals section.” So I went into the signals section of the Pioneers which I liked. I loved it, we got onto Morse code and all that sort of thing but the other thing I had to do of course, when I got to Pucka, was make sure they didn’t toss me out because I was too young.


As a boy, I had done a little bit of boxing in the gyms and so I thought, you know, that’s the way to get in, there was a lot of boxing tournaments that went on at Pucka. So, I am going to get into this boxing thing and show them that I can hold me own.


So I, you know, I started. I was very keen to get into this and I did a lot of boxing at Pucka and I found that could hold me own pretty much with the blokes there. And that was the, in my book, that was my


way of trying to avoid being tossed out for being too young and make sure that I could show them that I could hold me own with most of the other guys. And there were some pretty tough guys there too. So, I did a lot of boxing at Pucka. We used to have boxing tournaments every Wednesday night.


If there was a boxing tournament, my name would be the first one down every Wednesday night and my parents used to come up and visit us at Pucka. They would often come up and find I had a black eye or a thick lip or something like that but, yeah.


What sort of boy were you when you joined up were you a little toughie yourself, were you quiet?
Well, I don’t know that I was all that tough but I had done a fair bit of gym work, and you know, in those days the gyms, there was a lot of boxing and a lot of wrestling done .


I did a fair bit of wrestling and a fair bit of boxing, a lot of gym work as a boy and the SEC, they had a very good gym. They owned a gym in the old Smith’s Weekly building in Flinders Street and it was a very well equipped gym with


boxing and wrestling rings. And a lot of very good wrestlers and boxers used to use the gym as well Les Harley, who was an Australian Olympic Boxing champion. He used to be there and Tommy Lewridge, who was an old time wrestler from Fitzroy,


the old Fitzroy Stadium he used to come along there and teach us wrestling. Every year they used to have a boxing and wrestling tournament, which I used to take part in.


But, I used to like boxing. Oh, you know, you would get into a few fights here and there. I never won every one but I had a lot of fights.
Did you have a lot of fights during your school years?
Well, they were pretty tough days and there were some pretty tough boys that I went to school with. One of the kids just around the corner from us


was a real big time tough in later years, Freddy Harrison. I don’t know if you know anything about Fred Harrison but he was a big time criminal in later years as a stand over man but Freddy and I used ride our bikes to school together.


He was pretty tough in those days too. We used to have, coming home from school, we used to cut one another off. Cuttings off was the game coming home on our bikes, and you know, you would finish up with your bike all mangled up


coming home from school. But I remember one day, this Freddy Harrison and another boy called Billy Cornford, he was about as tough as Freddy too. And we had been down at footy practice and we were at the Maribyrnong River and we were all going out through the gate, and Freddy bumped Bill Cornford’s bike as he was coming out through the gates.


And I think Fred thought he had done it on purpose, “Don’t you bump my bike like that,” and Bill says, “I didn’t do it on purpose.” “Yes you did.” And the next thing you hear, the boots right through the spokes of his bike. And then Fred turns around and kicks Bill’s bike


through the spokes and Bill puts his bike down there and Fred puts his bike down there. And Fred’s jumping up and down on Bill’s bike and Bill’s jumping up and down on Fred’s bike. So, they mangled one another’s bikes. Then they got into it and had a real ding dong go, blood everywhere. And in the end they shake hands and we all walk home together,


carrying their bikes over their shoulders. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen in all my life. But they were pretty tough guys. Freddy Harrison finished up joining the navy. He was in the


cast-iron flotilla in the Mediterranean that fed Tobruk when Tobruk was under siege. And he got decorated, Fred at that time, but he came back and that didn’t change him. He was still a real tough boy.


He finished up his life getting shot down at the waterfront at North Wharf in a gangland war.
So, when he was a kid did, he indulge in much criminal activity?
Oh, I don’t think he indulged in much criminal activity but he was always,


not that I know anyway, but he was a tough boy. He would be in a fight at the drop of a hat but we got on fairly well together. I got along quite well with Fred, I never had a fight with Fred but we


had a lot of fun.
So, by the time you got to Pucka you felt pretty confident that you could pull this off, being in the army?
Yes, I felt that I could pull it off and getting into boxing was the thing that was going to make me stand up and be counted in amongst all me mates. Well, one of the reasons I wanted to get into it was to make sure that I could hold me own


with all of the other guys.
So, tell me about the training at Pucka?
Yeah, well we went to Pucka at the end of May 1940. It was a freezing cold winter that year and I think the first job


I had when I got to Pucka was, there itself is another story: when we got drafted to Pucka they put us into a, they sent about twenty of us up, I think it was about twenty in the first draft. We were the first draft from Caulfield Race Course to be sent to the Pioneer Battalion.


Although, they did have a nucleus of NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] at Pucka, that has been drawn from other units but I was in the first draft of normal recruits for the Pioneer Battalion. So, they loaded us all onto a truck one day at Caulfield Race Course


and sent us off to Pucka on the back of this truck. Well, we got as far as the Sierra Sands Hotel in Sydney Road, I don’t know whether you know the Sierra Sands Hotel? The truck pulls up and everybody piles into the pub. Here’s me at seventeen, I had not drunk much in my life


and there they are, and they are all into the pub. And half and hour later they all pile back into the truck with an arm full of grog, and I thought what the hell have I struck? You know, real doers, all these guys. And


I don’t know how far we got then I think we got to the next pub at just below the, out near Wallan, a little pub out there.


Out we get again into the pub and half an hour later back into the truck and so it went on all the way to Pucka. By the time we got to Pucka everybody was as full as a goog. I wasn’t, maybe I had had a couple of beers but that’s all. So, I started to wonder what the heck I got myself into, I can tell you. But, you know, it was amazing how those blokes, that was


the thing, how those blokes all settled down as the time went by at Pucka, you know. We had all these characters drawn from all walks of life some who had never done a days work in their life, some who were farmers,


some who were ex-convicts, all sorts of people. Some were tradesmen, some were old blokes, some were young blokes, some were wild blokes, some were quiet blokes, and yeah, here we are all shoved together in this


camp at Pucka to settle down and try to make an army unit out of us.
Was there any trouble, stoushes?
Oh yeah, there was plenty of trouble, stoushes.
Can you remember any of those who was the cause of it?
Oh, I can, most of the people you stoushed with were people who


couldn’t really control themselves you know, and settle down easily amongst other people you know. A lot of the ones that got into fights


were the people who were loud mouths. But you know, it was the way we settled down I think, we knocked the edges off one another. If you had a loud mouth, well, you got quietened by somebody else you know, you got knocked into submission. You got knocked around, one way or another.


Either physically or mentally would be abused, or be assaulted or we would arguments, or we would have all sorts of wrangles until people settled down ultimately they settled down and accepted one another. It was really an amazing psychological experience


to watch all that happening, you know. Then we got sent out on training exercises, marching and drilling and learning how to use our weapons and camping out on the rifle range and shooting exercises and bayonet exercises


on the bull ring and learning to accept discipline from the officers and the NCOs as much as we could. And you know, and gradually settling down into a pretty cohesive unit.


Who did you form close friendships with at that point?
You started to meet a lot of people that were similar to you, you know guys, I formed a lot of friendships with the guys that I used to fight with, box with. But I also


made friends with one guy in particular guy, I don’t like that word, its not an Australian word and I shouldn’t be using it, certainly not an AIF word, that I found out used to work in the SEC as well


Jack Hocking. Jack and I became very great mates but you know one of my earliest friends a chap called Reg Smith. Reg was a great boxer and we used to spend a lot of time sparring together.


A wonderful bloke and a tremendous boxer too, but we spent a lot of time together on leave and then we got formed into a


our battalion, the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion was basically an infantry battalion although was also required to do a lot of the field, what you might call field engineering work.


Setting up bridges and clearing roads and semi engineering work, basic engineering work. And they formed the company for the battalion as an infantry battalion into four infantry companies and the headquarters company. The Headquarters


company was made of a signal section, and a anti-aircraft section, anti tank section and


a trade section, carpenters, armourers, armourers who worked on the, did maintenance on your rifles and your


machine guns, that sort of thing.
This is all part of the Headquarters Company?
Yeah, headquarters company also had the band, most of the bandsmen were also required to be


stretcher bearers and there was a regimental aid attached, a platoon who were responsible for the hygiene and casualty treatment. Treatment of casualties in the battalion.


I was posted to the signal section, which was part of the headquarters company. But then we got all sorted out into these sections and started to learn and get training in our specialised field of activities.


And we got into all the signal work, learning Morse code and learning how to use the radios we were equipped with and learning how to use flags, Alders lamps,


and how to use the telephone lines and telephone equipment. But the key thing we had to learn was Morse code because most of the equipment we used was basically designed to be used with Morse code.


Your flags were all Morse flags, and your lamps were all Morse code, even on your telephone line most of the time you were trained to learn Morse code on your telephone lines. And so we were then settled down to learn Morse code. Crikey,


it was Morse code night and day, trying to get our speed up on Morse code. It is quite a difficult thing to learn, not an easy thing to learn, but we used to you know, set up little connections between each other in our huts at Pucka, and you would be tapping


off Morse code to one another in bed at night. You would be tapping out Morse code all day on the D board until ultimately we did get quite proficient in Morse code. It took us months and months of training to get up our speed on Morse code.


We used to listen to the radio. Reuters used to send all of their world wide news in Morse Code, it was all done in Morse Code in those days we used to tap in onto the Reuters and try and read these Reuters code messages coming through on the


Radio which you used to get on the short wave radio. Twenty-five words a minute was our aim or better. But it took us months to get up to twenty-five words a minute it was quite difficult.
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 03


Can you tell me about signals operations and what your training was?
Well, we really trained for all sorts of eventualities whether we used, there were four or five different modes of signals that we were taught. We were taught how to communicate by


land line and usually telephones and perhaps the Morse key or by word of mouth or by using Morse flags. You know, with the dot going half way across and the dash going right across or by using,


at night we could use lamps. The Alders lamps where you would tap out Morse code on the lamp. What else where we taught? Heliograph, the old heliograph where you catch the rays of the sun,


you flash out Morse code. They had been used in the First World War, particularly in the desert areas. They reckon in the desert areas of the First World War they could tap out Morse code on a heliograph over a distance of eighty miles but


it was pretty useless in the Second World War, although we did use it in practice.
So, which techniques came into practice?
Well, in fact in practice the only time I ever used Morse code in practice during the war


was on the way across to the Middle East on a troop ship. I never used it again after that in warfare. All that Morse training was for naught because we never used it.
We are jumping ahead but why was that you spent all that time so intensively?
Because we were learning from what had occurred in the First World War.


We had been trained on First World War principles and we were trained with First World War equipment, which was all found to be quite impractical in the Second World War. And these days it will never be used, not for day to day contact but maybe for high tech


communications, they would use some form of ciphering devices but these days it would be far more sophisticated than what we used in those days, far more sophisticated.
Other than that you spent a lot of your time doing, that what about the combat


Well, we also had to combat training as well, everybody did combat training. We have what they called ‘bull ring training’, you went on to the bull ring and do all sorts of manoeuvres. You would do bayonet training and


grenade training with throwing grenades.
Is this with live ammunition?
No. We had one or two live ammunition training sessions at Puckapunyal in a special area


of Puckapunyal that was mainly used as the artillery range out in the back quarters. In fact, one of our boys was killed on one of those training exercises. We had a bloke killed by a ricocheting bullet but no, I think it was the only live ammo exercise that we ever did.


We did a lot of, we went out on the rifle range, we used to camp out there, they would march us out to the rifle range at Seymour, and I saw what they call the Seymour rifle range which is out of Seymour. And we would bivouac out there for two or three days and do shooting exercises on the rifle range.


And then we did a, Pucka had a short range rifle range or at the back of Puckapunyal where we would do, it was only a


thirty metre range where we would do pistol shooting or use the machine guns that they supplied us wit in those days which were pretty much First World War, not the Owen gun,


the Owen gun hadn’t been invented when we were doing our training. It was just coming out as we left. We used to use the Tommy gun, the old Tommy gun, and you used to fire it and it would go around in a circle like that and you could not control it, shocking things.


Or the Lewis gun, most of the ordinary troops weren't trained on the Lewis gun. We had a machine gun platoon, they did most of their training on the Lewis gun but we learned how to use the revolvers because most of the Sigs [Signallers] had revolvers. But we also carried a rifle.


How did you fare with that aspect of it?
Yeah, I loved rifle shooting and I loved the competitive nature of rifle shooting. And I used to reckon that I was a pretty good shot. We would go on leave and they would have all these shooting ranges around Melbourne and we would go in and they had a three-penny piece


on the, about twenty feet away from you. And if you could shoot that three-penny piece out with a P rifle you would get five pound or something like that. And we used to be in town or something like that, at the rifle range trying to shoot a three-penny piece out. I think you got three shots to shoot it out with.


Did you ever win the five pounds?
I came very close but they always found just a bit of ragged bit that hadn’t been shot out, and you didn’t get your five pounds. But I did like rifle shooting, but the only trouble rifle shooting for me was that I was a left hander and all the equipment was made for right handed. They never had any left handed rifles


which meant that I would shoot from my left shoulder, which meant that the bolt was on the right hand side and I had to bring the bolt over this way. And it was very awkward and in rapid-fire exercises I was well behind. I couldn’t keep on with the right handers who had the bolt on the right side for them. But I liked rifle shooting it was good.


What about the discipline side of things?
Yeah, well discipline settled down after you know but in the early days at Pucka, as I said earlier, all these guys rubbing shoulders, all these people with different attitudes and different life styles and different ways of life all rubbing shoulders and


getting into all sorts of scraps and knocking one another about, arguing with one another. But in the end, settling down into a cohesive group of friendly people. Discipline was another thing of course. On the parade ground you did


what you were told to do as best you could and we took some pride in doing. That I must say, but when it came to leave time of course going AWL [Absent Without Leave] and trying to get away with as much as you could with extra leave was everybody’s little game, everybody tried it. And if you


got caught, too bad, you did a few days in the boob [lock-up] or went on the parade ground to do drills with the regimental sergeant major. And he was a pretty tough cookie, and he would drill the daylights out of you until you just about dropped. Then you would be out there with a full pack on marching up and down doing this and that.


And the regimental sergeant major we had at Puckapunyal his name was, anyway he had a voice like a duck. Everybody used to call him ‘quack quack’ as soon as his back was turned someone would go ‘quack quack’ and he would say, “I’ll give you ‘quack quack’, put your quack quack on your back pack on and I’ll take the ‘quack quack’ out of you,” he would say.


And he would drill the hell out of them after that. Oh yes, discipline was a funny think you know, things like the sergeants had a sergeants mess and the officers had an officers mess, and we just had this great big mess up the back of the lines where you could go and have a beer.


But the sergeants always had, and the canteen closed down at what ever it was at six or seven o’clock at night, you couldn’t get nay more after that. But the officers and the sergeants always had their beer and it wasn’t long before somebody realised that if we got underneath the sergeants mess with


a drill and bit, we could drill through the floor and into the bottom of the barrel, and drain the barrel out into a bucket, and pass the bucket up the line. Yeah, that happened two or three times but the sergeants kept moving the barrels around a bit so that you couldn’t get to them


but that happened on several occasions. Discipline was good you know you always had your two-up [coin gambling game] schools. There was always a two-up school going on at Pucka either up the back, which they didn’t like, officially they were frowned upon. The MPs [Military Police] would raid you every now and again


and close them down for while. But if they closed them down up in the back they would start up another two-up school in the huts. And to make it nice and quite they would put a blanket down on the ground and use head and tail dice instead of pennies where you couldn’t hear it. And all you could hear was, “A quid in the centre. Who


wants it,… a quid in the centre,” and, “Righteo, all set in the centre,” and away it would go. “I’ll have ten bob here and five bob over here,” you know and they would sit around the ring and place their bets around the ring while they played this nice quite game of two-up which the MPs could hear it about half a mile away.


Two-up was a big thing and everybody played it at Pucka. It was suppose to be a fair game but I think the ‘ringies’, the guys that ran the game, always made far more out of it than anyone else did. They would take their draw out and throw two heads, like if you were throwing in the centre, and say you put a quid in and were spinning for a head.


Well, if you got a head the first time, so then you’re spinning for two quid, and then you would spin it a third time and four quid and then the ‘ringie’ would take ten bob out anyway. So when you’re spending for four quid you’re only spinning for three pound ten


but the ‘ringies’ did all right out of two-up. I was always looking in to run a two-up game but never really got the chance.
Sounds like you guys had a ball up there?
Yeah, the two-up games were run by some pretty tough characters most of the guys that ran the two-up games were guys that had been through the mill in their lives, pretty tough characters.


And most of them, I would say had done a few times in the jug. There was no soft characters, no kids anyway like me, I was, allowed to run a two-up game. And you had to have all your connections, you had to have your ‘nit keepers’, guys who would keep nit around the place to make sure the MPs weren’t anywhere near.


And yeah, that was life at Pucka. Wet canteen, I soon learned to drink beer and it wasn’t long, before I was a bit behind them on the way up to Pucka. I smoked cigarettes too. I started smoking when I was at Pucka


and the army taught me how to drink and smoke, and taught me how to do a lot of other things too I suppose.
What about, there were times when you did get leave or you managed to sneak out, AWL. What would you get up to when you were out of the camp?
Well, when we came down to Melbourne


on leave. I mean we only came home to Melbourne, the main thing we looked forward to was going out to eat or drink. We always headed for the city and usually headed for the same old pub although we knew ever pub in Melbourne. We got to know every pub in Melbourne,


some were good, some were flash, some were rough.
Was there a particular haunt?
Well, one of the was the old Fairs Hotel. You have probably never heard of it but it was in Collins Street near


Elizabeth Street, just not far up Elizabeth Street, near Queens Street on the south side. It was a very nice hotel and it used to serve a good counter lunch. And we often used to head for there when we were on leave that was where a lot of us to meet particularly the country blokes used to come down and like to go to Fairs.


And if we had a few extra bob in our pockets we might even go to Scots Hotel, which was further up North Street on the other side, but we kept away from places like Menzies and those sorts of places. We used to go the Hotel Australia and down below the Hotel Australia they used to have a silver grill, which was a really up market place to go to.


Particularly, if you had a girlfriend, you would take her to the silver grill, you know, feed her up on something nice down there, really good. The only trouble with the Silver Grill they had these Italian waiters who were always looking for a tip, you know. God we hated tipping. None on of the Diggers use to tip them. The waiters used to hate us because you never got a tip out of a Digger.


Cause they had all lost at two-up?
Yeah, probably was, but it just goes against the grain.
So, the army introduced you to grog, smoking when did women come into play?
Oh, well oh, before we went away but once we left Australia


I never saw a women. We left Australia in 1941 and back to Australia in 1946 and we never saw a women between those years, 1945 we got back, not 1946.
Was there a girl friend or a sweet heart before you took off?
Oh no, I had a few girls and I was only young and I didn’t have anyone really serious when I went away. I had a lot of acquaintances and a few used to write to me.


There was nothing serious in it at all. We were just friends who used to write and I would write back, you know. No I wasn’t, in fact I was lucky in later years I found that probably was a good thing because a lot of the guys that had serious


attachments to girls at home, or were married before we went away, they had a tougher time worrying about them in later years.
You mentioned before the commander of the 2/2nd, your father introduced you to him earlier in the piece. What was his name and who was he and what sort of man was he?
His name was


Nelson Wellington. Now if ever a man was born to be a soldier he was, he was a great bloke. He was a Digger from the First World War and he was a great soldier, and he was the commanding officer of the local 58th Battalion CMF [Citizens Military Forces].


In fact I had come across him before, because as a kid we from the Essendon RSL. They organised a lot of us kids to go to a rifle club at the 58th Battalion and we used to go up there and shoot rifles on their indoor range. They were using 303 rifles with a


.22 calibre bore in them, just on a short range. And Nelson, and we did have something to do with Nelson Wellington at that time but not much. The guys who ran the rifle club were lieutenants, even sergeants in the CMF who helped us with our


rifle shooting up there.
So, what was it about him that struck you about him when you came under his command?
Oh, the fact that he was a dedicated soldier and he was a great organiser and he got our battalion operational very quick. And he was a great man on trying to develop


firm camaraderie amongst all the troops, and tyring to get them to develop a unit pride. One way he set about doing that was to set up an excellent band a brass band for the unit and he


was able to recruit a lot of first class musicians into our unit as bandsmen. And then he developed a concert party within the unit. We found that we had in our unit a great number of very talented artists, guys like Arnold Westgarth who had been


the organist at the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne and lots of other extremely good artists and singers. And


we had some very good singers amongst our blokes and I think they were found by accident. I think they were guys that joined up and when we formed the concert party we found that we had all these talented people. They were recruited especially as singers or actors or anything but the bandsmen were, they were culled into the unit.


So, we had an extremely good band and an extremely good concert party and the band was a great influence on the unit in the way that it was able to stir up the unit into marching properly. At Puckapunyal,


we did a lot of very strenuous route marches, at one stage we set out on a march from Puckapunyal to Shepparton, and back which is one hundred and forty miles, which we did in a week or ten days, I think it was. We had two days in Shepparton


and marched to Shepparton, seventy miles, had two days there and then we marched back to Puckapunyal with full gear and that was one of the longest route marches that any Australian unit had ever undertaken in training. We had a big, when we got to Shepparton we had a big concert put on by the


concert party, and the band, and a big swimming carnival on the Goulburn River. And that was a great. It was very highly publicised, that route march. It developed a lot of pride in the unit, having completed it.


Another route march we did was from Puckapunyal to Yea and back. And that was about eighty miles. That was about eighty miles across country, it was not on roads. The one to Shepparton was mainly done on the road on the major roads but the one to Yea


was done across country and under forced march conditions. And we were almost running at times, eighty miles but over very rough terrain all up and down all the way and you know those sorts of feats developed a great pride in the unit in being able to


achieve something that a lot of other units hadn’t been able to achieve.
Can you tell us a little bit about that situation the CMF, the chokos as it were, and the AIF?
Well, the ‘chokos’ were always sort of looked down upon by the AIF. They hadn’t joined up the 2nd AIF


in the main. We got a lot of time to go off to go to Seymour and we used to, you know, most of the time on leave there you would be in the pub. I suppose the most of time you are on leave anywhere you are in the pub, and if the chokos came into the pub, of course they would get chiacked


the next thing you know there would be a fight going on. And the next thing you would know, you would be lined up at Pucka. There would be a few chokos’ out there trying to identifying the blokes that had started the fight in the pub, and someone would get lumbered and maybe to


be confined to barracks, you know CB on the parade ground under the sergeant major.
How real was that antagonism?
Not that real, it was just something that provided an outlet for our exuberant sprits at the time because at that time we were pretty fit and we were ready to have a go at anybody.


You know, a bit of a punch up at the pub was nothing, you could take it or leave it. Its like these football matches you see these guys at the AFL belting the hell our of one another on the football ground and before they leave the ground they are all shaking hands. There was nothing, it was just a lot of fun, a bit of a punch up never worried anybody.


So, how long were you in Pucka for, all up?
Well, we were in Pucka until the end of 1940 and we were starting to get a bit itchy to get away. The 7th Division left Australia towards the end of 1940 and although we were attached to the 7th Division and we were suppose to go with them, for some reason or other we didn’t.


And came the end of 1940 we were very dissatisfied and very upset about not getting our final leave and not getting away. And they decided, because we were getting so upset, they moved us out of Pucka. They moved us down to Balcombe for a couple of months


to give us a bit of relief from Pucka and try and revive our sprits a bit. And we had, we went to Balcombe just after Christmas in 1941 and we spent three months at Balcombe camp which was very,


a much nicer camp to be in than Puckapunyal. Puckapunyal was every basic and unappealing and a long way from Melbourne, and a long way from anywhere really except Seymour and a few punch ups. But Balcombe was closer to Melbourne, close


by the seaside and we spent a lot of time on swimming parades down at the beach and carried on our basic training and group marching and rifle drills and all that sort of thing. But it was a very much more amenable camp closer to Melbourne.


You could get on the road and thumb a ride to Melbourne as easy as a wink. In fact, I remember one night I hopped out on the road and we thumbed a ride and got picked up by this Roles Royce. And it turned out to be, I think it was one of the Brockhoffs, the Brockhoff Biscuit family.


And this lady said, who was driving and she said, “Do you mind if we stop for a while in Mt. Eliza. I want to call in home and then I’m going on to Melbourne. You can go straight on to Melbourne or you can come and wait for half an hour.” And we said, “That doesn’t worry us.”


So we go into this magnificent mansion at Mt. Eliza and she gave us afternoon tea and we sat around there for half an hour while she did whatever she did. And then she came out and drove us off to Melbourne and that was the best lift I have ever had in my life. The other lift I had was just after the war, when I came back and I had been in camp at Darley near Bacchus Marsh.


And we hitched a ride down to Melbourne and picked up a racing group going down to Melbourne for the races and this guy said, “Do you ever go to the races?” And I said, “Oh yeah,” and he said, “Well, its on this afternoon in fact, back so and so in such a race,” and “Thanks very much.” I did that anyway when I came home.


I had two quid each-way on this horse and won at fourteen to one. If I had of known how good it was I would have had a hell of a lot more, but they were about the two best hitches I have ever had.
Christmas 1940 at Balcombe is that correct?
Christmas 1940. While we were Balcombe we had our final leave.


When you were leaving Australia you would get final leave for a few days and we had a big send off a big ball at Hawthorn Town Hall, farewell ball. And then we were packed off on to a train one morning, very short notice onto a train and shipped off


to Sydney. I don’t know how the word got out but when we went through Moonee Ponds station on the way to Sydney, half of our parents were on the station to see us off. It was great a great big crowd of people on the Moonee Ponds station to see us off. It was suppose to be hush hush and nobody was suppose to know, but half of Melbourne knew we were on our way to Sydney.


I saw my Mum and Dad, they were on the station when we went through, had a great big hamper for us to take with us and so off we went to Sydney. We got to Sydney, and in the harbour was this great big ship, the Queen Mary, and they offloaded us


onto one of the ferries and ferried us out to the Queen Mary. We were the first unit on board so we got the best accommodation, and we finished up in first class cabins on the main deck. There were six of us in a cabin. Goodness gracious,


you have got no idea. It was a fantastic ship and hadn’t been very much converted in those days. This was 1941m it had done a few other troop ship jobs but still hadn’t been converted really into a troop ship. Basically it was still as it was in peace time operations. Beautiful


ship. Here we are on main deck of the Queen Mary. So here we go, we leave Australia.
Good timing.
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 04


Ah, we knew every pub in Melbourne. There wasn’t any that we didn’t know, I tell you.
So Young and Jackson’s was one of the rougher ones?
Oh well. you only went in there, oh, I have been into Young and Jacksons many a time. There was a hotel next to that called the Port Phillip Club Hotel.


The Port Phillip Club Hotel was up a lane besides Young and Jackson’s and that was very famous for its oyster bar. They used to have an oyster bar in there and have a feed of oysters in the Port Phillip Club hotel, yeah. Oh, there wasn’t too many pubs in Melbourne that I didn’t know.


Well, I can't remember that I knew that many before I went away but I certainly got to know them when I got back. I missed out on the way over and picked them up on the way back.
So, before you tell us about embarking on the Queen Mary you mentioned the train passing through Moonee Ponds.


I’m just trying to picture your family. What it was like seeing you go and how much of an emotional time it must have been, and how proud they must have been?
Yeah, I suppose they were. See they used to come up and visit us at Puckapunyal when we didn’t have leave. I think we got leave


every third or fourth weekend from Puckapunyal but on the other weekends you would have visits from your family. The family used to come up and they used to come up by train and then by bus and they used to get off the train just before Seymour and then they would bus them out from there to Puckapunyal ,


and bus them back afterwards. And they used to bring up all sorts of goodies. I remember my Dad used to make these fantastic sandwiches, pork and pickled onion, and we looked forward to it. And Mum would make cakes and things like that and always leave a cake behind when they went home, which you always gorged yourself on and passed around the hut.


It was a great picnic after the family had gone home but the families were very proud and they did come up to Pucka and they did spend a lot of time with us. And they used to bring their friends up and Dad used to bring his old mates from the First World War. And I remember I brought a couple of his sig mates and a couple of guys who used to do a lot of boxing and


I remember showing off how good I could box for Dad and the other guys. They used to tell us what they did during the last world war and how good they were, you know, who they used to fight. Because Dad did a fair bit of boxing when he was a kid, he used to fight


and he used to love talking about those sorts of things. And they used to go to the stadium a lot and he had these guys, they used to go off to West Melbourne stadium and they knew all the old boxers around Melbourne. There was an old boxer in our unit, he was a lightweight, extremely good boxer you know a bit of a toughie, but North Melbourne in those days was a really tough area,


really tough. I mean Moonee Ponds was down and out and it was tough in a way, but North Melbourne was one of the toughest and Fitzroy were the two tough parts of Melbourne. This little bloke he was a light weight boxer and he took a bit of an interest in me, he reckoned you know I had shown myself to be a reasonable boxer and he used to love sparring with me. And we used to


do a lot of sparring together and that used to impress Dad when I was sparring with this top class boxer, up in the hut at the back of the lines.
Do you recall any parting words that your parents had with you before you took off?
No, except that


my brother wasn’t as robust as I was and probably not as wild and he was a much quieter bloke and Dad sort of set me up to look after him.


So, I guess that I let him down and that.
Colin, take your time and you just let us know when you are ready.
Yeah, that was the main thing that


you know, that they sort of asked me to do and I wasn’t able to do it. Anyway, we got away and, you know,


and life was never the same.
Colin, you started to tell us about the Queen Mary and the fact that you were in the first class cabin?
Yes, and away we go we were off on the Queen Mary. It was a luxury trip and what a ship that was. It was a fantastic ship you have no idea.


Who would expect to be going off to war in the Queen Mary, in the luxury life? I mean like we were, not everyone was, I don’t know how many decks it had, about twenty decks. And the further you went down the less luxurious it was and a lot came on late and they were down on the lower decks, sleeping on hammocks. We were on the main deck sleeping in the first class cabins with our toilet,


bathroom. It was unbelievable and everything panelled and lovely wood work. They put six bunks in instead of two but the only variation to the normal peace time and, you know, it was lovely. So, off we go on the Queen Mary


and they sent us off down the coast to what do they call it, the next harbour down from Sydney. And we had to wait down there until the Queen Elizabeth and that was in the same convoy.


They had the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary and the Mauritania, the Ile de France, and the Aquitania, five of the biggest peacetime liners in the world in that convoy.


And eventually, after about a week, the convoy was gathered together in the next harbour down from Sydney and we gathered together there, and set sail for the Middle East.
Had they been keeping you abreast of what plans they had?


To some extent they did but they didn’t tell us a lot. We did know that we were heading towards the Middle East but that was about all. We didn’t know exactly where we were going to finish up.


I, being in the signal section, they decided that we could, they would give us a the job of helping out. There was a navy signaller on the bridge who was doing the signal liaison with the other ships in the convoy to the Queen Mary. The commodore of the convoy was on the


the Queen Elizabeth, and the Queen Elizabeth therefore was the main ship in the convoy and it would be getting, the navy signaller would be communicating with the Queen Elizabeth ,mainly by flag or by Alders


lamp which was on the bridge, and they sent us up to help the navy signaller, to help maintain communications within the convoy, which was really got experience. Every now and again we would get up on the bridge with the captain and the navy sig and we would be,


well, we didn’t use the flags because they were all naval flags, which we didn’t know much about anyway. So, the navy man used to do that and when they wanted lamp communication we weren't allowed to use radio.


There was no radio communication allowed because of the possibility of interception by the enemy. So, all our communication was done by lamp or by flag and it rather interesting because on the bridge they had a lamp on either side of the bridge.


And the Queen Elizabeth used to steam in front of the convoy, we were on the right hand side and the Queen Elizabeth would signal to us and we would get the message, and we would pass it on to the Aquitania, which was steaming along behind us and we would have to pass on to the ship behind.


So, it was all right in nice calm weather, it was lovely, but when the weather was rough and the ship was going up and down like this, and across and back like that it was quite an effort to get your message to the ship behind. You would send a word from this lamp and the ship behind would move across to that side and you would have to race across to the other side


of the bridge and grab the lamp from the other side and send the next word from that side. And the back of the ship would go up and down and your communication was getting cut out all the time because you couldn’t get your signal through. And you were on this side or that side or up and down, and it was quite an experience I tell you.


What sort of messages would be communicated?
Mainly the changes in direction of the convoy or orders like to stream their paravanes. Or maybe, they used to put these stream paravanes out on the ship which were anti-mine devices and


they had a line, which went out to another floating device, which came along the side of the ship. And if they cut a mine cable it would cut it and turn the mine afloat. Not that we struck any mines but they were, and of course they had to do a lot of practice work.


It wasn’t necessary but they had to train the ships to do these sorts of exercises, and then they would get directions as to what direction they would go, or that they were going to do zigzag courses and the course they would take.


But there was no threat that you know of in terms of submarine presence?
No, well probably there was but we didn’t know about it. We were escorted by the HMAS Australia, if I remember rightly.


That escorted us as far as Trincomalee, which was the shipping port in Ceylon. So, that was our first stop and from Ceylon onwards we went alone because


the threat from submarines from there on was much greater than it had been getting across to Ceylon. When we left Ceylon the Queen Mary was on its own and the Queen Mary could do quite a lot of speed. It had a maximum speed of thirty-two knots, which was getting up toward forty miles per hour.


When we got into the Red Sea, the Red Sea there was a lot of submarine activity in the Red Sea, and we were on full speed ahead. We went though the Red Sea like a damn speedboat at forty miles per hour in an eight thousand ton ship. The ship was sitting up like that putting up like that putting out a bow wave like a speed boat.


It was unbelievable, and the Red Sea was as calm as a millpond and here we are going up it at forty miles per hour in and eighty thousand ton ship anyway.
What else do your recall of the trip over Colin? For example Ceylon it was the first time most of you?
You started to get the feel of some sort of exotic location.


You started to get the exotic feel of foreign lands and it was the first time I had ever had it. I don’t think I had ever been interstate before that and here I am on a world trip, but yeah, Ceylon was a very exotic place. We never go ashore of course we sat out in the bay


for about two or three days but the local vendors came out in their paddle boats and tried to sell us stuff over the side of the ship. A lot of people bought things like, the same as what they are doing, and I guess they are the same as what they are doing now,


carved elephants and tigers and things like that. And you would drop your money down in a hat or something like that and then they would put an elephant, and you would lift it up the side of the boat. But we could see the shore line of all these palm trees waving in the breeze, you know, and this exotic location. The sun was out


and it was beautiful, blue skies and all these birds used to come around and what sort of birds they were, they were like a gull but they would swoop down the side of the ship and take any tid bits off the ship, you know. And really remarkable, and you started to feel you were in some exotic location.


When did you first step foot on foreign soil?
At a place called El Kantara on the Suez Canal. I will come to that in a moment but I was going to tell you on the trip over on the boat on the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary was very well organised had a newspaper every second day


to tell us all about what was going on board the ship. We used to do boat drill every day and we had to race to our boat locations and everybody was nominated to go to a boat location in case of an emergency. And that’s about all we had to do and attend meals


but the rest of the time was virtually on our own. Although, we did have a few lectures on all sorts of subjects, like gas drill, and I don’t know whether if you knew, but in those days every soldier in the 2nd AIF carried a gas mask. A hang over from the First World War and gas was never used in the Second World War.


But everybody had a gas mask and we used to have to carry these damn gas masks everywhere we went but we used to have lectures on gas drills and what to do in the case of gas when we got into action in the Middle East. But then for the rest of the day we were left to our own devices. I personally, we formed a little card school and played cards.


I never had much money in my pay book. I played cards all the way over. We played pontoon and poker and this little poker school about half a dozen of us, and we used to play it every day on the deck of the Queen Mary, and you know, I was a pretty astute card player, I think. I used to keep myself in front all the way and get myself a few beers that I didn’t have the


money to buy anyway. And they had a boxing competition on the Queen Mary and as soon as they put out the application for boxing my hand went up and I entered the boxing competition on the Queen Mary. And I had about five fights in a week and I got to the finals and


in the middle weight division. And I tell you what, I was ten stone ten and I wanted to get in a welter weight. I was three pounds over the limit and I couldn’t knock that three pounds off to get into welter weight so I had to fight as a middle weight. And some of those guys in the middle weight division were pretty big


but I won me first four fights and got to the final. And in the final I got me best mate, Reg Smith, a fantastic boxer. By the time I got to the final I had broken me nose in the second fight and I had to fight every other fight with a broken nose.


And I wasn’t going to report because I knew if I reported it they would put me out. So I fought the last few fights with this damn broken nose. Every time I got a hit on the nose, I tell you what, it was really sore and old Reg used to come at me and bang, bang, bang. And he would say, “How’s your nose Col?” And, “Not too good Reg. Don’t worry about it.”


He finished up, he beat me. So all up, I finished up with one guinea the prize for runner up. I got the envelope there as a matter of fact, I sent it back and I must have carried it all the way through, no I must have sent it back,


Col Hamley Middle Weight Runner Up, One Guinea, imagine going through all that for a guinea.
What did Reg win?
He probably won two guineas. Anyway, that was that


and as I said the Queen Mary got to Port Tewfik, at the bottom of the Suez Canal, at the top of the Red Sea and we off loaded onto a little boat


which was called the Ethiopia. And the Ethiopia after coming off the Queen Mary we got on to this damn Ethiopia. Now, the Ethiopia was a ship that had been carrying pilgrims to Mecca, and boys did it stink. Oh phew, it was putrid and had never been cleaned, I don’t think.


And they shoved us onto this damn Ethiopia to go up the Suez Canal and I don’t know how long were on board. All day on this Ethiopia, going up the Suez Canal. I don’t know if you know, it but in some places it is narrow and it other places it widens out into great big lakes and


in some places you go along and you can call out to the people on the bank. And there are all these Arabs on the bank calling out to us and I think what we did at card school, we commandeered one of the life boats on the side of


the Ethiopia and we all clambered into this life boat and set up our card school and played cards all the way up the Suez Canal in this life boat. And you know, all these Arabs would come along and calling out all sorts of obscenities to us


on the side of the bank. And we called out a few obscenities ourselves I suppose, yeah. And then that was another case where you started to get that feeling of being in a completely different zone of the world. It really is, and exotic zone to see these blokes in their Arab garb


that you had only seen in pictures before, in the movies sitting on donkeys and riding the donkeys up the side of the canal. And they could speak English as good as we could, because Palestine had been a British Protectorate before the war


and English was spoken very widely in the Middle East.
So, they were hurling abuse at you it was in English I take it, what would they be saying?
No, I can't say to the camera.
Yes, you can, we want to hear cause you are giving us such a vivid picture of the times?
Oh, things like “kookti zubric”


which meant “show us your dick.” Catherine [interviewer]?
She has seen and heard it all don’t worry. So, what would you yell back? What was your retort or would you show them?


“You lika my sister Mr. George?” they would say, “My sister very nice, very hygiene, very antiseptic.” and we would call back, “Very syphilitic.” “Like a my sister Mr George? Very nice, very clean.” “Very syphilitic.” But it was a funny situation I tell you.


The Suez Canal was very interesting and I had never seen anything like that in my life. You see all these different people and sights and sounds and little Arab villages. The thing that struck us of course we were starting to get into a war zone and it was a real indication of coming into a war zone because the Suez Canal was very, very heavily fortified.


And we were seeing all these gun emplacements, anti-aircraft gun emplacements and seeing a lot of sunken ships because what was happening was the Germans were flying down the Suez Canal by night and dropping mines into the canal. And a lot of the shipping going up the canal were hitting these mines and being sunk. So, all the way up the canal we were sighting these submerged ships.


Partially submerged ships. And along the banks you would see all these gun emplacements, mainly Pommies they were, British anti-aircraft gun emplacements, every couple of hundred yards you would find sand-bagged gun emplacements. So, we were starting to realize that we were getting into a war zone,


for the first time. Anyway, we got to place called El Kantara, which is at the top end of the Suez Canal where the railway line between Palestine and Egypt crosses the canal. There, we got off the


old Ethiopia, and we were just bedded down. And this was quite late at night, nine or ten o’clock at night, when we got off and we bedded down on the banks of the Suez to spend the night. And we had no sooner laid down than


the air raid sirens were going and that was our introduction to war. We had never heard air raid sirens before. They had a practice run on the ship going over but this was fair dinkum, and not long after that we could hear the enemy air craft going over. We didn’t get bombed there but further down the line they must have been dropping


bombs or mines along the Suez. So, that was our first introduction to action.
So, you guys were pretty tough fellas. So, how was it with the sirens and the planes? The reality of it?
You started to wonder if you had done the right thing,


yes. But no, it was a bit of a frightening experience and makes you a bit nervous. That was the first, and being the first, it is probably the worst. I got a bit more of that as the years went by.


So, then we spent the night there at El Kantara, and the next day they marshalled us on to a train at El Kantara and headed north up into the Sinai Desert, up into Palestine. And that was an experience too because


funny things happened, the train would pull up somewhere. And all of a sudden from nowhere would appear all these Arab kids selling produce, eggs, bananas, oranges mainly and oranges and eggs. They were the


the things that they loved to see you. They appeared from nowhere and all of a sudden here they were dozens of them along the side of the train trying to sell something.
Was the train stopping because they were there to sell was there a deal there? Or because of toilet breaks or?
I don’t know why the train stopped.


The train might have stopped to get water or maybe the driver was an Arab and it was near his family home and had some financial arrangement with people along the way to stop off and sell their produce. It could have been that because the old Arab is a pretty cunning bloke


very cunning we had a lot of duel of wits with the Arabs. Usually we came off worse and sometimes they came off best.
So, where did the train take you?
Right up through the Sinai Desert and


past Gaza to a camp site called Hill 95. And there, we got off the train and were trucked into this camp site that had been prepared for us and it was a funny thing when we got there, to Hill 95, you know. We had been at Puckapunyal for that long


they finished up calling us the Pucka Caretakers. The Pioneers, the Pucka caretakers. And when we got there, there was a thing across the road, the unit next to us at Pucka was the 3rd Motor Company.


When we got to Hill 95 there was a sign across the road, “The Pucka Carrying Company” the transport company, “The Pucka Carrying Company welcomes the Pucka Caretakers” across the road. Amazing they had heard that we were coming and made it for us. And they camped us in these


magnificent tents and we had never camped in tents before, at Puckapunyal and at Balcombe, there were some tents at Balcombe but we weren’t in them. We were in these Nissan type huts. But when we got there we were in these tents that had been used by the British Army called EPIP [English pattern, Indian product]


tents, I think it was English patent Indian produced tents, with very high sides about six foot sides and then big bell tents they were, almost like a circus tent but they would take about


in a tent probably about twenty; they were big tents. We sued to sleep around in a circle, they had a central pole in the middle of the tent and around that central pole we used to put, they had a rifle rack, you put your rifle in there in the rack and lock them in because if you didn’t lock them in, in the middle of the night the old Arab would be coming in


and pinching your rifle. A lot of rifles got pinched until they started to lock them in every night. So that was the start of our desert type training. And they, I don't know why they trained us in the desert


I suppose most of the action in the Middle East was desert conditions. But they trained us in desert type training, and the hills around Hill 95 were all sand dunes, dry arid area and they got us onto training under desert conditions where we were


trained to
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 05


Well, we were at Hill 95 and started our desert training. At the time that we arrived in the Middle East it was just about the same time that the evacuation of Crete was going on and we had missed out on that. We had missed out on the Greece/Crete campaign


but we were seeing a lot of the people who were coming out from Greece and Crete coming back up into Palestine for recuperation and rehabilitation. And it was unbelievable to see all these desert trucks coming back, you know, covered with sand and camouflage which, we had never seen before. You started to get the feel of the Middle East and the feeling in the Middle East


was completely different from Australia all together. But there we were, training to do the same thing that they had been doing and we felt so behind a lot of those blokes with the experience that they had coming out on all sorts of vehicles.


Battle buggies coming out of the desert and motor bikes and side cars had been commandeered from the Germans and the Italians, and all these BMWs and exotic bikes and cars that were coming back. And all these guys with sand goggles on and head gear to keep the sand out.


It was unbelievable. They all went their own way and settled down in rehabilitation camp and we kept on our training in Palestine there for several months, doing route marches under forced marched conditions with discouraging the use of water bottles and


issuing us with salt tablets to off set the loss of salt from sweat and perspiration. And you know, on the sidelines, and you know the weather was so hot by God it was hot, you know. It was starting to get onto their summer and the weather was extremely hot in Palestine at that time of the year.


You would go and do the washing and hang it out and by the time you washed another pair of pants. The shirt was dry before you washed the next pair of clothes.
So, with that arrival at Hill 95, up until that point it was just a lot of fun boxing and playing cards and doing all this stuff that you loved to do,


and then reality started to strike?
As I said, when we came up the Suez Canal the gun emplacements we realised that we were in a war situation and when we got to Palestine we see all these guys coming out of the western desert from Greece and Crete. And start to realise that the war is a reality


and something we have to face.
So, what picture were you getting then of what would be expected of you?
Still didn’t know, and no one told us much and I don’t even know if our commanders knew too much. After we had been at Palestine for a couple of months we got the orders to pack up camp and we were going to move north.


Well, they didn’t tell us the troops, maybe they did, headquarters of the unit knew I guess. They sent us up to the border of Syria, that was in June 1941.
So, at Hill 95 you did desert training,


can you tell me a little bit more about that, you were trained to have to not drink very much water?
Yes, we had to do route marches on a minimum amount of water and given all sorts of instructions about not touching the local girls and not eating the local fruit. Don’t eat anything that hasn’t got a skin on, you might get


syphilis, and that sort of thing, way out information that we had never heard of before and we didn’t take any notice of anyway. But, you know, the war was changing and things had completely changed by the time, and we found the local Arabs


were a very funny crowd. I remember, one day we had a cricket match and we put the cricket match down and went back to have lunch at the camp, and came back. And there was no cricket match there, somebody told us that they had seen these Arabs with their donkeys with rolls of cricket matting across their backs of the donkeys


heading off in a certain direction. So, we chased after these damn Arabs and here they are with our damn cricket mats all heading off into the sand hills, there was no bush there. Those poor old Arabs, I don’t know if they have recovered yet, but they got blanketed. You stick ’em in blankets and toss ’em, blanket tossed them for half an hour each.


That really frightened the hell out of them and then let them go and got our mats back.
Was that something you learned at Pucka?
Oh yeah, I don’t know where we learned that and there were lots of blokes there that learned how to do all sorts of things in the army and there was never any shortage of ideas


about what to do under any circumstance. The Middle East was a real eye-opener to us and you would go on leave and of course the first thing you do. And there was lots of places to see and


lots of places to go on leave too. We mainly went to Tel Aviv and Haifa and Jerusalem. They were the main areas for leave and each one had its own area, you know, interest and particularly Jerusalem


was an interesting place to go to and see all these biblical landmarks. And to see the things that were produced in the Middle East and the markets that they held there, and we would go to the markets, and we would go into their hotels. And when on leave, we would usually stay in one of the


hotels in a town and most of them were fairly clean. But then we spent a lot of time going around the markets and buying all sorts of trinkets, a lot of leather wear and a lot of silver wear and a lot of


jewellery, ladies jewellery, which we sent home in parcels to our family at home. But, you know, on leave we would go to the hotels and have a drink up and good meals well decent meals and


we would go to the cinema or the guys would finish up at the brothels, which was pretty commonplace. They were all over the place.
Were they local women in the brothels?
All sorts of women in the brothels there. Locals, yes they weren't Australians. They weren’t camp followers like the Jap’s had. But


that was life in the Middle East and we met a lot of troops from all countries from all over the world and a lot of Indian troops and a lot of South Africans, British and


a lot of Free French. And a lot of dark troops from all places which was quite, you know, different from what we had ever encountered before. And we used to have a lot of fun, particularly with the Indian troops. They were fun loving guys; we would go out drinking with them


and we would tell them stories and they would tell us stories. Great, interesting people to mix with and we had a lot of fun and we would catch a taxi home. And we had a lot of fun with the local dealers who used to sell all of these post cards. A lot of the post cards were of local scenes


and a lot of them were just dirty post cards and the local Arabs were always up with dirty post cards, “Mr. George dirty post cards?” Mr. George they used to call us, always, “Sayeeda Mr. George.” Meaning G’day George. Everywhere you went you would hear, “Sayeeda George.” I don’t know where the George came from. I think it came from King George


and of course they were under British command before the war. The Middle East was quite a very interesting place for us to be in.
So, what were the cities again, Jerusalem, Haifa and?
Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv was on the sea. It was a coastal town


that was a great place to go to too. We could go for a swim there, it was a very modern town in those days. It was a very modern town and had lots of theatres and restaurants and lots of drinking places that you didn’t get in Jerusalem. And Haifa was much the same a bit further up the coast


towards Syria, and much the same as Tel Aviv. I went to Tel Aviv on leave several times. Jerusalem was, from a biblical point of view, was very interesting not that I was very churchy but, you know, you would see all these places that you had only heard in the bible.


It was unbelievable that you should be in this area.
So, who was running the hotels and the brothels?
The locals Arabs mainly.
They were muslim Arabs?
I suppose so. I never really thought about what religion they were.
Well, traditionally they are very conservative?


I know, but they ran all those things and the dirty post cards but we used to sit around the table and we would slip them in our shorts, and they would hand us about a hundred and we would give about seventy back “Where’s the rest of them?”. Oh, you know, “You got ’em all back” and


then we would finish up pulling them out from under our pants. But they charged us twice as much as we should be charged so it didn’t really matter. They would take it in one way and we were getting it the other. Whatever we bought we were paying two or three times more for it no matter what ever we bought.
So, were you given any instructions before you went on leave about behaviour


and what you could and couldn’t do particularly with the brothels?
Oh yeah, that was the main instruction when you went on leave was how to look after yourself in the brothels and when you went on leave you got what they call a ‘blue light outfit’. It was a tube of ointment


and a couple of condoms. Every time you went on leave all that went out with you. That was, you know, quite a different life to what we had been used to.
So, you would have had the patrols the military police?


Yeah, the military police, they were the unloved, no one loved the MPs. They all hated the MPs; anybody who joined the MPs was an outcast. You were never regarded the same if you were an MP, even after the war, if you said you had been an MP during the war you were an outcast.


So, they were pretty heavy were they?
Yeah, very heavy.
Did you get into any situations where you had the MPs on your back?
Oh, not too many, I tried to avoid as many as I could. I got into a few but I don’t think,


I was probably smarter than most of them and never got caught. We did a few things we shouldn’t have done. Like you would get a taxi at Tel Aviv back to Hill 95 and wouldn’t pay the taxi driver or pay him half of what he asked for, and then tell him to get lost.


He would go an complain to headquarters, but you disappeared before anyone found you. You never payed an Arab more than half of what he asked for anything, because you knew you were getting diddled [taken advantage of] anyway.
So, generally how did the blokes get along with the Arabs?
Oh, all right


in a sort of, you know, because we treated them as a bit of a competitive sort of way. It was them against us but, you know, they would try to out smart us and we would try and out diddle them.


And I don’t know who come off best in the end, whether they did or we did, I think they did, they were smarter than what we were anyway. But they were a very poor people, poor, you know. You would go into an Arab village and they were extremely poor places to go into, they were all mud brick houses


and very poor. I remember once we got asked, at Hill 95 it was too. There was a bit of trading going on with rifles and this other guy and I, they set us up to try and get some information on this rifle trading business and they sent us


to one of the Arab villages to make friends with the Arabs and get ourselves invited into their houses with the object of trying to get some information on selling, the rifle trading. And we went into these Arab villages and they gave us meals and that sort of thing


and we got quite friendly with them. And I didn’t feel like turning them in anyway, but we never found out very much they were too tight lipped to give us nay information. But in that case, I didn’t feel like turning them in anyway. So it was a bit of a wasted effort.
Why did you get selected to do that do you think?
Oh, I think my


boxing and they reckoned that we could handle ourselves if it came to a bit of a scuffle. I don’t know, but probably that was it. The other bloke that I went with he was a big brawny bloke, in fact he was a cousin of Archie Kemp who was a boxing champion before the war. He had done a lot of boxing too this other guy, Roy Peret.


Anything else about Hill 95?
Oh, I don’t think so that’s about it.
We have covered the training enough?


Yeah, I think so the training in Palestine? Well, that was mainly confined to toughen us up for desert conditions and, you know, they would troop us around and we would do lots of route marches through these sandy belts. It was really hard going, doing route marches in full gear through sand, you know, well up to your ankles in sand all of the time.


Think about marching on a sandy beach but on the soft part of the sandy beach, on the soft part of the sandy beach, it is really tough going and we would do maybe ten or twenty miles in a day with one water bottle full of water. Just one water bottle. I don’t know what was in them, probably about half a litre


at the most.
Were you still wearing the same gear that you got kitted out back at Caulfield?
We were into shorts and shirts we were out of the heavy, although we had the uniform with us. Later on in the Middle East because later on in the winter time the Middle East gets very, very cold. But we had better move along I suppose.


Tell me where you went next?
Then we moved up to the border of Syria because the Syrian campaign was about to start. The Syrian campaign, I think was an effort to, Syria, I say Syria in general terms, Syria includes Lebanon. The Syrian campaign


was moved to try and take control of that area which was dominated by the Vichy French under General Dentz to try and


get control of that area before the Germans pushed down through Turkey and Syria. They feared that they might come down that way and take control of the Suez Canal that direction rather than from the Western Desert. So they put us into Syria to try and get control before that happened.


That was the idea of the Syrian campaign and the troops were up against largely Vichy French troops with a lot of coloured troops with them and big,


black, I’m not quite sure where they came from, I’m not sure what nationality they were but they were very big troops, most of them. And I don’t know what their strength was but they had held Syria for quite a long time and they were very well organised


and very well set up in most of the commanding positions in that area, to defend it from any sort of invasion from the south or any direction I guess. They had built a lot of big barrack areas that were basically forts and the first action that we went into in


Syria was in to a place called Marjayoun in the central hilly section of Lebanon, southern Lebanon. I think it was the 15th June 1941, was our first taste of actual action and they sent us in to


take this fort from the Vichy French, this Fort Marjayoun which was a pretty bloody battle. And of course the French were very well settled into this fort area with heavy machine guns and artillery,


and field artillery and they had the whole area pinpointed. And they knew exactly how to land a shell onto any given spot that we were going to advance over. We got some pretty heavy casualties on our first day of action.


In fact, on the first day or the second day, we lost our commanding officer, Colonel Wellington. And he got wounded on the first day of action, might have been the second day and our second in command, Major Lang a returned soldier from the First World War


was also wounded. So, we were left without our CO [Commanding Officer] and our 2IC [Second In Command] in a short space of time after going into action in Syria. So, then we were, so then, Colonel Wellington was replaced by another


colonel called Monaghan. We used to call him Mad Monaghan. He could never wear a tin hat, although everyone else was obliged to wear a tin hat. He wouldn’t wear his hat and he was the gamest man I ever knew. He was a game man and he


then led us through the rest of the Syrian campaign, Mad Monaghan. He was a very determined soldier and wouldn’t brook any argument from any of his lesser officers; he knew exactly what he wanted to do and he did what he wanted to do. And he did it and you would often see him


out in the field sitting up on the front of the bonnet of a jeep, you know, directing action from here and there, incredible bloke, and he led us through the rest of the Syrian campaign, Mad Monaghan. Being in


signals, we spent a lot of our time at headquarters and we had pretty close contact with the colonel and the major and the officers of the battalion. And you would hear a lot of things going on there that the troops wouldn’t ever know about. I often heard him dress down a lot of his senior officers because he didn’t reckon they were


you know, he thought they should be doing something else other than what they were doing. And putting his point of view to them in no uncertain terms. A great bloke and very highly respected by our blokes. Because of that he got our blokes all stirred up and they would have followed him anywhere, I think.


They really reckon he was a great guy.
You said Nelson Wellington had an attitude of wanting to build camaraderie and bond between the guys in the company. So this Monaghan, was he similar, did he have a similar style?
Oh, he didn’t have a similar style.


He led from the front you might say, and do as I do or act like I act, he didn’t sort of. Nelson Wellington put a lot of thought into how he selected his men, how he developed them, what he saw to be the types


of activities which would lead to a bonding amongst the unit. Got them involved in their band and the concert party and in their sporting activities and things like that, you know, every little bit brought us closer and closer together. All this,


everything that gave us pride in the unit kept building up and building up and until the end and you felt you were a unit you know, proud of your unit, and we were very proud of our unit. That’s what Monaghan took over and all he had to do was lead from the front, sand he had the blokes behind him anyway.


And he did lead from the front and he did get the blokes to follow.
It would be good to get a picture of that first operation. What were you doing, you arrived there and you were told you were now at war?
Well, we were lined up


and we were assembled before dawn to attack this fort, this is our first day in action; across this open field in front of the fort and, you know, they had pinned down with artillery and machine gun. And they knew exactly where we were they could see us and we were making a head on assault on this fort


but, you know, we just got mown down. They had everything pinpointed, as soon as a head popped up, ‘bang’ and so in the end like we did, well, that first day was a shambles. My job was to accompany the company commander and maintain liaison with signals


with the other companies but I virtually didn’t see him and he went off and I didn’t know where he was. He was in a fox hole but I couldn’t find him. I didn’t know where he was, there was two of us allocated to this company commander but we couldn’t find him and we got lost. We were just out there, so we just took over infantry work and all we did


was shoot our rifles towards the fort. And we had no idea of what we were shooting at. We just fired in the direction of the enemy but, you know, the first day of action was a shambles. We lost a lot of men and we had quite a few taken prisoner on the first day,


who were rounded up by tanks they sent out of this fort, they sent tanks out now we had no tanks. We did have artillery back up which was trying to bombard the fort but we had no tanks and we had no aircraft and we were in a bit of a shambles, I tell you. All of our training gone down


the drain and to loose your CO and your 2IC in the very first days of action it was unbelievable.
So, what sort of scale are we talking about here, how big was the force?
Well, we didn’t know. The force that was trying to take the fort? Well, there was our unit and there was an artillery battery


and I couldn’t tell you what one it was, I can't remember. And on the frontal attack, that’s all there was, just us and the artillery to give us back-up, and I think there might have been some machine gunners there too,


the 2/3rd Machine Gun Company. They were also involved in the frontal attack but we were just sent in as infantry straight infantry to make a frontal attack on this fort. That was our introduction to action, which was pretty sad


effort actually, a bit of a shambles and in the end, we had to retreat but by that time they had rounded a few blokes and taken them prisoner and those blokes finished being sent off to France. The ones who were picked up there.


I think they went originally to Greece and through Greece and up to France. At the end of the war there was an exchange of prisoners and we eventually got them back. So, then after that first initial couple of days we retreated and replanned our action and


instead of making a frontal attack we then concentrated on out flanking them and coming in the back door as well as the front door. But mainly through the back door by cutting off their lines of supply. They had troops in the surrounding hills as well


and we had to go out and clean up those troops in the surrounding hills. And that was a bit of a bloody battle too. We lost more troops out there. I think in Syria out of a thousand troops we lost seventy-eight men killed, nothing compared with what happened later on


but that was quite a heavy loss. Eventually we surrounded them. And within a week we had that area cleaned up and we were able to move on up through the central section of Lebanon, down through a town called Jezzine which was in the hills very rugged mountainous country.


The Free French, they used a lot of mules and donkeys to move their troops through that country and we were trying to do it on foot and using motor vehicles. But they were able to move across country a lot easier than we were


because they were using mules to transport their supplies through the country. The area we cleaned up within a couple of weeks and then they pulled us out of that area and moved us down on the coast line to a place called


initially we went to a place called
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 06


A lot of sigs had rifles but some of them had revolvers as well. The sergeant and the corporal had revolvers. The Don R’s the dispatch riders all carried a revolver because they couldn’t carry a rifle. We just carried, as ordinary sigs, we just carried rifles.


So, you cleaned up there?
Yeah, and then we moved across to Saidon, to the coast just down below sixty or eight miles below Beirut, the capital. And they were dug in there along the coastal strip at Damour in…well, they were back in the hills as well.


And they had their infantry dug in banana plantations on the coast near Damour and we had to go in a clean them out of those banana plantations which was pretty, you know. They were well entrenched in there because they had fixed positions


they had got in. And they were well prepared before the war went into Syria, and so they were pretty hard to dig out but in the end we dug them out with, you know, by just going in as infantry and routing them out as much as we could. And once they got pushed out of Damour they were so close to Beirut


it was then that they surrendered and gave up the battle in Syria. And that was after about six weeks of battle and I think they didn’t want Beirut destroyed anyway so they gave up and surrendered. And that was the end of the war in Syria, only lasted six weeks.


Quite a short war I guess, in some ways. Although, we lost a quite a few casualties.
So, did you get the opportunity to use your signals training skills during that six weeks?
Oh yes, we were involved but we didn’t use any of our Morse training,


it was all landlines. And when we were in around Marjayoun there, we had to land lines out for various companies that were deployed around the area, and keep those landlines operating all the way through. We did that of course by laying lines out the back of a ute, you know, shooting along the road, out the back of the ute, dropping the line out of the back of the ute


and hoping like hell we didn’t get sniped off before we got to where we wanted to get to because we were pretty exposed doing that. And then, you know, mostly we did the repairs to the lines at night time. If the line got broken or damaged and we would have to go out and find the breaks and repair them and come back.
That would have been difficult at night?


Yes well, you would have to go out on foot patrols along the line and try and find where the line had been damaged and it was quite difficult. Otherwise without those landlines the only means of communication with the various companies that were deployed in the field was either by foot runner or a dispatch rider.


And when the lines were down we had to use the dispatch riders to get communications to your outlying companies. And that was a very dangerous and hazardous occupation for the dispatch riders and they had plenty of spills because most of it was done at nighttime, not in the daytime because they were too exposed. So, we did it at nighttime and they would go out with


barely any light at all. The headlights would be covered over with just a faint slit through the head light through it for just the barest amount of light to come through. So, we had a lot of spills and a lot of broken arms and legs amongst the dispatch riders because of the spills they had getting out the back, and it was the road up there. None of them were made, in that area they were all


unmade roads, not bitumen like here in Victoria. They were all just country bush roads and bad ones at that.
And quite sandy I imagine?
Not in the hills, it wasn’t sandy. No, Syria wasn’t very sandy at all.


All that desert training that we did in Palestine was more aimed at the Western Desert rather than Syria. Why they trained us like that if they knew we were going into Syria and not the Western Desert. And they were the sorts of mistakes they made during the war and they made lots of mistakes during the war don’t worry about that.


Lots of mistakes, it is unbelievable how many mistakes were made. The other thing of course was our equipment was outdated. It was completely outdated, the old Enfield rifle, which had been the major rifle we used I think ever since the Boer War or maybe earlier,


was an outdated rifle by the time the Second World War came. The Japanese had a better idea, they used a much lighter gauge rifle than the .303 and more like a .22 very, light and the ammunition was light, enough to kill and it was light. So, you weren't weighted down with all this burdensome


gear and, you know, fifty rounds of ammunition is quite a heavy weight in .303. And you could carry two hundred rounds of ammunition in your pouches, your gear ammunition, and it was a very heavy weight to carry around and so was the rifle. It was extremely heavy,


and cumbersome, very accurate over a long range. You could fire accurately over three miles with a .303, you know, but it was completely outdated for the type of warfare that we went into. I suppose it was all right in Syria but when you got into the jungles of the Far East, you never found the Japanese with rifles like that.


Where you well supplied with ammunition?
Yes, we had plenty of ammunition, there was no question about that but we didn’t have back up like air force. The air force was almost non-existent in Syria even. The Vichy French, they had a lot of German air craft


doing reconnaissance and bombing work on us but we had nothing to chase them away with, nothing at all, and I don’t think I saw any British aircraft in Syria. We had the navy in one or two, we had the navy come in when we were at Damour fighting that action,


at Damour the Vichy French had a very strong emplacement up in the hills in Damour and they were firing down on our positions from the hills, you know, creating a lot of problems for us from that. So they brought the Royal Australian Navy in, HMAS Perth and


a couple of other destroyers were brought in off the coast, just off Damour, to bombard those positions in the hills. That saved us a lot. It was amazing to see the Perth steaming up and down, doing their bombardment of the hills. We could see them quite clearly from where we were steaming up and down


and bombarding these artillery emplacements in the hills.
You met up with the Perth later on?
Yes, we did. And what was left of the Perth boys.
So, did you have the British fighting along side you?
Not along side us, no. But there were British there, we struck some British mounted troops,


horse mounted troops what do you call them? I have forgotten what they are called now. There was some British mounted troops used in the central sector of Syria and I think they used them further inland


in Syria as well to get right around the back of Beirut, on the eastern side and into the north of Beirut. They used a lot of British troops there but on the coast it was pretty well all Australians.


So, when the war was over, after the armistice in Syria, we then we went into positions of guarding the major installations in the country and the area I was sent to north, was north to Tripoli, not the Tripoli in the Western Desert but there is a Tripoli in Lebanon. And we


went up to Tripoli to guard the Iraq petroleum companies, a big installation just outside Tripoli where they brought the oil across from Iraq to the refineries in Tripoli. And we were on guard there for several months then. Just camped out in the open


under olive trees.
Was there any action there?
No, but what we were on guard mainly the possibility of the Germans infiltrating with, they were expecting the Germans to drop paratroopers in there and we were always on guard against that happening.


Later on, we were moved from Tripoli to Damascus in Syria. In more central Syria, over the other side of the Lebanon Ranges and there again we were posted around, spread around various installations like the railway yards, railway marshalling yards


and places like that to guard against that, any attempts to blow them up or to take them over by paratroopers. But there was no paratroopers at that time at all in Syria, none at all.


What was the morale like after the Syrian action?
Oh good, because the strain had gone off after the war was over and back into holiday mode you might say, or leave mode and back


on to life. We didn’t go to Haifa, we went to Beirut or up into the hills, or over to Baalbeck and Rayack, and places like that. A lot of sight seeing old biblical sites and ruins of biblical days in those area s


which were quite interesting places to go on leave. But Beirut has not many biblical sites in Beirut, the sites in Beirut were mainly the bars and the restaurants and that sort of thing and the beach. There is a lovely beach at Beirut.


And there was a lovely beach at Tripoli too, we used to often go swimming on the beach at Tripoli and it was lovely. The blue Mediterranean and it was really blue, and it was at its best the time that we were there. While we were in those posts, Syrian campaign a few months


up until October we were around Tripoli and that’s more or less summer and autumn weather. And the weather was absolutely beautiful and the sea was calm and sparkling blue and we used to love to go down to the beach at Tripoli for swims and that sort of thing.


And about Christmas time we were transferred to Damascus, and of course it was coming on winter then and we were camped about twenty or fifteen miles out of Damascus in the hills. And then the winter set in


it was a very cold winter that year, and we were camped in Nissan huts, they had built Nissan huts to see out the winter in and we got snowed in quite heavily there, outside Damascus. There were several weeks there you had to dig your way out of the hut. Every morning you would open the door and get the shovels out and dig your way out before you could get out at all.


Cold, it was freezing cold, and the snow. We had quite a heavy blizzard and the snow would come in through the overlapping of the iron roof, you know, you would wake up in the morning and you would be outlined by snow in your bed and snow all around your pillow.


It was amazing and terribly cold.
Did you have heating?
Yeah, we did have heating. It was a wonder we weren’t all gassed, we had these kerosene heaters we used to light in the huts and there was no ventilation and I don’t know why we didn’t all die of carbon monoxide poisoning, but we survived it.
Can I just go back to the Syrian action briefly, I’m interested in the fact that you


lost some men killed in action, did you bury them there in Syria?
Yes, we did. As far as I know none of them were brought back to Australia. They were all buried in Syria.


It’s a strange thing we have never done a pilgrimage back to Syria and I don’t know that there has been any pilgrimage back to Syria. Like we have gone to pilgrimages for the people who died in Thailand and Burma and those places. But as far as I know, they are all buried in Syria.


So, where were they buried?
They would be buried on the spot where they died, pretty well. Initially and then after the war their remains would have been exhumed by the [Commonwealth] War Graves Commission and placed into a central cemetery, probably in Beirut.
Did you attend any of burials?
No, I didn’t.


How long did you spend in Lebanon, you were in a garrison weren’t you?
We were there until about the end of January 1942 and then we got orders to move back to Palestine


which we did. And came down to Palestine through the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth past the old biblical towns and went back again to Hill 95, which we had left before we went up to Syria. And we were there for a few days and we were reequipped but then we


were packed up hurriedly and left Hill 95 in a big convoy and shot down to Port Tewfik again on the Suez Canal, on the Red Sea, at the end of the Suez Canal and bundled on the Orcades RMS Orcades, I forget what they call it, the Orcades anyway,


in a hell of a hurry. And filled up the ship and set sail. Behind us was coming all our transport, all our packs, our kit bags, our major weapons, our machine guns,


even our rifles, and they were all coming in another vehicle convoy and they didn’t get on to the Orcades they were all put onto another ship, which was to leave just after we did


but it was a very slow transport ship. We left Port Tewfik in the Orcades, bound for we didn’t know where, we did hope that it was for Australia but we didn’t get to Australia. They decided to put us into Java.


So, what were you told rushing out of Hill 95?
Very little, the troops? Very little, presumably our battalion headquarters, they all knew I guess they might have been told but we weren’t told anything. We were just bundled out in a hell of a hurry and set sail.


How quickly and over what period of time?
Oh, within days it took us one day to come out of Syria down to Palestine and we were in Palestine for about two days, maybe three. And then we set sail for Port Tewfik and we got down there and I can't remember ever camping on the way down.


I think we went straight through to Port Tewfik without stopping by truck transport and bundled off the trucks and straight into the Orcades along with several other battalions, well the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion,


they came with us as well. And a hospital unit that Weary Dunlop was in charge of, they came with us and there was a few anti-aircraft


gunners, and a few Olds and Bolds, I think that’s about all there was. There was twenty-five hundred of us on the Orcades all together. Well, we had a thousand in our unit and 2/3rd Machine Gunners had nearly a thousand in their unit. That made up most


of them. The others were just small groups and we set sail and ultimately finished up in Java, having been first of all put into a little port called Osthafen on the south end of Sumatra. They took the Orcades into this little port to Osthafen,


and they unloaded put us onto lighters and took us into the wharf. And we got into this wharf, I suppose about seven o’clock at night, just on dusk. And they were going to move us up into central Sumatra


I think to try and save a major aerodrome in central Sumatra. But by the time we got to the wharf we could hear the Jap gunners. The Jap guns firing and from what I can understand they were only about fifteen miles away. So, after sitting around on the wharf for a couple of hours,


you know, without any transport, without any ammunition, without any machine guns. And you wouldn’t believe this, they did issue a lot of our troops with pick handles. It was most unbelievable that they should do this.
Without the picks on the end?
Without the picks, that’s right. Without the major instrument, yes.


And after sitting around on the wharf for about two hours they decided there wasn’t much point in us landing there. So, they bundled us back and decided to send us back to the Orcades. By this time it was dark and the Orcades had shut down all its lights. It was completely blacked out and we didn’t quit know where it was and we didn’t quite know if it was still there.


And the pilot who had brought us in from the Orcades to the wharf decided that he wasn’t going out again to the Orcades. So, they had no pilot to take us back out and in the end they persuaded the captain of this little lighter to turn around and take us out to the Orcades.


And he was trying to find his way out through these very hazardous reefs, and perhaps mine field as well, to try and find the Orcades in the dark. To our great relief, we did see the Orcades loom up out of the dark and we were able to climb back on board in the early hours of the morning.
What sort of vessels were you in?
Little lighters.


It was unbelievable that they should do that to us. But, you know, yes, so then we set sail from there and they moved us around to Batavia in Java.
Sorry to interrupt you there, so that I can understand that a little bit better,


what was the purpose of landing at Sumatra with the Japanese so close by, and without any weapons?
Oh, you can tell me that. I don’t know at all.
But was there an expectation that the weapons because they were on another ship, is that right, following you, is that right?
Yes, that ship hadn’t arrived so we never had any weapons.


When they landed us on Java it was the same situation. When we got to Java we had to scrounge around to find transport, get the Dutch who were holding, the major, who were in control of Java. It was a Dutch East Indies country. And we had to scrounge transport from the Dutch


and machine guns and what ever we could off them, rifles, ammunitions, scrounge, yeah. We landed on Java with virtually nothing. And this was all brought about from what I have read since by the British High Command.


See, British High Command under Wavelll wanted, originally they wanted to put us up into Burma instead of putting us in Sumatra or Java. They wanted to put us into Burma to bolster the troops in Burma to try and avoid the Japanese pushing through Burma into India but Australian High Command like the government in Australia objected to that.


And they won their day on that but they couldn’t stop him from putting us into Sumatra and Java because then the threat of the Japanese coming down through the islands onto Australia. So, they were anxious I guess to either slow up or stem the flow


through the Dutch East Indies to Australia.
Did they have Singapore by then?
If I remember rightly, the day that we landed in Java was the day after Singapore fell. I think that’s right. Of course then the Japanese turned their


eyes away and turned their eyes further south because we were on Java, which was held by the Dutch. And then the Japanese started to bomb installations in Java where we were.


Initially, we were put on guarding the aerodrome outside Batavia. I forget the name of the aerodrome, anyway, one of the main aerodromes outside Batavia, and the Jap’s started bombing there and


they more or less bombed us out of there I guess. So, we moved further down into central Java and then the Japs started landing troops on Java and they landed a very massive force on Java. There were are two and half thousand strong


the only other troops allied troops that were on Java, as far as I know, I think there was an American artillery regiment there. But they were the only allied troops on Java apart from us and a few allied stragglers that had got


away from Singapore and landed on Java. So, then the Japs landed on Java and we engaged them in action but then to our complete surprise the Dutch decided that


they weren't going to oppose the Japs in Java. They were going to preserve Java. I don’t know if you knew that but that is, so we were then left on our own to hold Java. This small group of allied troops


the 7th Division and of course the rest of the 7th Division, after we landed in Java, we were the first of the 7th Division to leave the Middle East ultimately like we were the first. And behind us the 7th Division was coming and I think the plot was originally that the 7th Division would go to Java. But by the time we got there and the Japs had landed


we were only there a week and the Japs had landed on the place, and of course the rest of the 7th Division was diverted back to Australia. It never came into Java at all and we were on our own to hold Java. We did put up a battle for about three weeks but we were hopelessly out numbered, absolutely hopelessly outnumbered.


And the Perth and the Houston.
What did the Dutch do, did they withdraw or surrender, what did they do?
They just put their hands up, they didn’t do anything. They didn’t combat the Japs at all and, you know, we were absolutely staggered when they told us that they weren't going to fight. They weren't going to combat the Japs


and then we met the Japs head on at a little town not far out of Bandong, put up a battle there for about a week. We couldn’t hold them and they had us absolutely surrounded. The Perth and Houston were sent around to pick us up from a coastal port on the south side of Java a little place called Cilacap .


We were ordered to try to get to Cilacap and try and get picked up by the Perth and the Houston to be brought home. But the Perth and the Houston both got sunk on their way around there, they met the Japanese fleet in the Sundra Straits and


was sunk so we had no way out of all. Then the orders came for us to surrender, so we had to lay down our arms and surrender, scuttle all our trucks and things, put sugar in the petrol tanks and run the engines out, put all our rifles and what ever we had into the rivers,


scuttled all the money that we had. We had a lot of gold and money. I don’t know where they got all that from but they dumped that into the rivers in Java and we got rid of every damn thing that we had. And then we were surrounded by the Japs and they took control of us. And that was the start of the next three and half years’ saga.
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 07


We were completely surrounded. We were ordered into a little place called Lawangawu in central Java and stayed there for about three days without really coming into contact with the Japs much at all. They had us surrounded but they didn’t


come in and harass us at all. They allowed us to try and settle down and try and get something together again but we’d lost a lot of our stuff. We had lost our gear, our packs and things were all scattered all over the place and we didn’t have any great food rations to speak of


that we could call on.
Do you remember how the order came through to surrender or was there no choice regardless?
No, it came from high command to our colonel, which ordered him to lay down his arms from the Allied High Command in the Far East,


Wavell’s Headquarters. Wavell had put us there and now Wavell had told us to surrender, we never had much time for Wavell or his decisions.
How did the man, well obviously, you were in a tight position there. How did the men, what did you all think of at the time?
Oh, we were all absolutely disgusted but there was nothing that we could do about it, not a thing.


A few of our troops did break off and got back into the hills to try and get themselves off the island under their own steam but the majority of the troops stuck with the battalion and faced up to the consequences straight away.


But those guys that went into the hills were ultimately recaptured or killed. They were let down, well, I don’t know about local natives, the local natives; they turned a lot of them, some for money and some through fear of retribution by the Japs.


But they were all turned in or surrendered or were killed in action. So, then we were moved from this camp in Lillies to be put on a train and moved down to Jakarta or Batavia, as it was known then.


And they bundled us into a big Dutch army barracks known to us as the Cycle Camp. I don’t know how it got its name but it was always known as the Cycle Camp. It had previously been Dutch army barracks and


it was there that we first came in close contact with the Japs really and boy that was, you know, it was a very unsettling experience, I can tell you. They were not very pleased to see us at all and they gave us a very


rough, well, they gave us a very early indications of what life was going to be like from there on; treating us very very roughly and making us feel very nervous about the future. But


I must say that right from the start we never thought that it was going to be a long term situation. We always had the idea that it wasn’t going to be long before the allies bounded on to Java and we were all going to be set free again.
What made you think that?
I don’t think we had any firm foundations. I think it was hopeful thinking.


Largely hopeful thinking, it was always going to be three months away and in fact that three months went on right through our whole captivity, never looking at more than three months ahead. And I think if you looked any further we would get far too despondent I guess. They started to make themselves very obnoxious right from the very start.


They were harassing us day and night in the camp to, when you look back, if we had taken them prisoners, we might have been the same to them but when you really look at what they were doing, I guess they were trying to get on top of us to make sure that


we knew who was the boss. And they continually walked around the camp harassing people, standing them up, making them bow to them which was a bloody awful experience, having to bow to a bloody Jap. And even these days when I see somebody bowing to a Jap, by jees


it makes my blood boil. But it was something we never ever did. And bowing was a form of inferiority and you were just made to feel inferior by doing it as far as we were concerned. But to them it was the normal thing to do, to bow to each other. But they made us bow to them instead of saluting


and that was very hard to take.
But they knew that that would be very hard to take?
Absolutely, they must have known. I’m sure they did know but they harassed us day and night although we made the best of it as we could. We settled down for a while, the worst thing of all was the change of diet and that came immediately. The rations we had when we went into that camp were pretty meagre,


and the Japs immediately put us onto their rations which was rice and vegetables which we made some sort of stew. From day one, we were on rice and stew three times a day but the rice we got wasn’t rice as you see it in your kitchen here.


It was rice that had been swept off the floor of factories and it was full of weevils and grubs and grit. So, it wasn’t very pleasant to eat, I can tell you. The vegetables they gave us to make our stews out of were in fairly short supply anyway from the very start. And


that was our biggest hurdle we had to overcome initially, was to get used to this form of diet, which we were going to be suffering for the rest of our days. We did have early on some supplies of our food, it was dished out in a


highly rationed form on odd occasions. But gradually, we were able to supplement the rice and stew with it and make it a bit tastier, but as that petered out we came down to the basics, this rotten weevilly rice


and watery stew and, you know, the other thing that we had to become adjusted to and that was right from the start, was the lack of sugar. And no such thing as coffee or tea and we had to make do without those sort of things. To do without coffee, as a substitute for coffee,


the cooks found a way of grinding up the rice that was sticking to the sides of the cookers. After they finished, they had this claggy rice they couldn’t serve out to eat, they took it off the sides, dried it, and crushed it up, and made what we called


rice coffee. Well, it did have some taste but its resemblance to coffee was very, very slight, and if you had a little bit of sugar it wasn’t too bad.
In that early period, how much physical violence was directed at you?
Oh, quite a lot, it was there that we first came in contact with the


Koreans too. And the Japanese used the Koreans as prison guards in charge of the prison camps. They were run by Japanese officers but largely the guards themselves were Koreans. And the Koreans were far more aggressive and far crueller


than the Japanese. Not that the Japanese were saints. They were buggers but the Koreans were far worse, they were very sadistic. They were extremely sadistic people and


so Java, although we thought it was really terrible to start off with. It was probably the best days that we had as POWs because things only got worse. In that camp in Java where we were initially, anyway, we were allowed to run sporting activities


within the campo and we used to play volleyball. The volleyball was introduced to us by the Americans who were there, who were survivors from the artillery unit. And also they brought into that camp the survivors of the USS Houston.


A lot of the survivors of the HMAS Perth came into our camp as well. Of course both of those were cruisers and both had a complement of about five hundred in each case. About half of them survived the sinking of their ships and so we had perhaps not all the Perth boys, and not all the Houston boys but


we had about, I suppose, close to two hundred of each from the Houston and the Perth. And about four or five hundred of the American artillery unit, field artillery unit.
How many Australians?
Well, we would have had all the survivors of our unit ,


which by that time would have been I think it was nine hundred and twenty landed in Java, about


I forget how many were killed in Java. About sixty or eighty killed in Java and another thirty or forty went into the hills. So, I guess we would have been pretty well, all the rest of our unit was in that camp, a bit over eight hundred


along with the Americans and the survivors of the Houston and the Perth, and the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion survivors. And


there might have been a few Englishmen too.
What about the Dutch? Were any of the Dutch troops taken prisoner?
No, they didn’t have the Dutch in that camp. The Dutch were camped somewhere else, but we did come into contact with the Dutch later on. The Dutch prisoners, but what used to irk us was to see a lot of the Dutch people walking around the streets


with swastika armbands on, you know, which really go under our skin. But what we found in Java, the Dutch women were very; I think they had more guts than their men did. They were the ones that really gave us a lot of support when we were in working parties.


And they would throw food into our, you know, they couldn’t come and give it to us, but they threw it on the sidewalks in amongst the troops and we had a lot of time for them. As for the Dutch men, we had no time for them at all, no time, the Dutch army troops.


So, we were in that camp until October 1942 and then in October 1942 they decided, well, while we were there we had been working around the wharves in working parties, working around the wharves mainly cleaning up the debris that was left over. Particularly, around the oil wells and the oil installations.


The Japs were scavenging all the old oil and putting it into drums and we were rolling those drums around getting them ready to put on ships to be transported back to Japan. And they were scavenging around the town and pulling down all sorts of metallic statutes,


and grabbing all the metal remnants that were lying about and loading it on to ships and shipping all that back. Any bronze or copper and even steel, all been scavenged by the Japs and sent back to Japan. So, there we were until October and in October 1942 they decided


to send us off on, we didn’t know exactly at time where we were going, but they bundled us off into two parties to leave Java and I was selected in the second party and my brother Don, he was in the first party, and they left,


they left Batavia two days before we did and they were shipped to Singapore. And two days later I was in the second party that left Java and shipped to Singapore as well. And when we got to Singapore of course, we expected to catch up with them but


we didn’t they stayed in Singapore two nights, and they left Singapore, the day that we arrived in Singapore, they left. And I think we left by sea from Singapore and were sent up to Burma. We stayed in Singapore for three months.


But that boat journey over to Singapore was the first of two sea journeys with the Japs, and they were unbelievable. They bundled us into holds of the ship.


I don’t know how many but there was probably five hundred of us in the hold of this ship. It was a very small ship, the Dai Nichi Maru, in insufferable conditions. It was hot and you weren’t allowed on deck except to go to the toilet.


The toilets, but they were just platforms built over the back of the ship. So, you clambered out onto this platform and did what ever you wanted to do which dropped immediately down into the sea below, and you were lucky if you didn’t drop down too, and after you went to the toilet you went up in little groups to go to the toilet, you were bundled straight back down below into the hold again.


So, a lot of the guys by that time were crook and they just couldn’t make it and they had diarrhoea and dysentery, and just couldn’t make it out to the deck, they were pooping in the hold. And it was a shambles, the food was absolutely shocking, we got two meals a day on the ship, just rice, shadow soup and


vegies over the top. But ultimately we got through that and we got to Singapore. We spent three months in Singapore. We never say the first party again until we got up to Burma later on.
Had the Japanese in Batavia


known that you and Don were brothers, were they aware?
No, I don’t think they knew that, the only people who would have know would have been people in our own unit. I don’t think they knew we were brothers and they didn’t do anything to keep us together. I don’t know when we were separated, I don’t know why they did that maybe I don’t know it was done deliberately by our own blokes, for one reason or another.


I don’t know but we were separated and anyway.
Sorry, you said a lot of the guys had diarrhoea and dysentery what sort of state were you in by the time you got to Singapore?
I wasn’t too bad, that was the first. We were taken in early April end of March and this was October


so seven months later on, the first six months wasn’t too bad. A lot of the guys had got sick, there was quite a lot of dysentery in Batavia, a bit of malaria but not a lot. But in general, we were still living off the fat that we had when we were taken prisoners.


We hadn’t got down to lower limits at that stage, by the time we got to Singapore we were in fairly good nick comparatively. Singapore was a different kettle of fish to what we had been in. In Singapore the Japanese had gathered all the allied troops


and put them into a big compound at what were previously British army barracks at Salarang, it was in the Changi area, in the precincts of Changi but it wasn’t the Changi Gaol. Some people seem to think everyone went into Changi Gaol but


we arrived in Singapore, there was no troops in Changi Gaol. It was full of civilian internees and we went into this Salarang where all the British and Australian troops were that had come out of the Malayan campaign. That was more or less the prisoners were left to their own devices to a large extent .


in Singapore, at that stage. The Japs had built a barb wire fence around the whole area and had surrounded it with guards and they used a lot of the Indian Sikh soldiers. The Sikhs had defected from the British and had gone over and joined the Japanese.


They were put on guard around the barracks to supplement the Japanese but there were Japanese there as well of course. Well, the Sikhs, it was a bit disappointed to see these ex-British troops being used as guards, never the less, I suppose they probably didn’t get a good deal from the British anyway.


Probably, thought they might get a better deal from the Japs. That period in Salarang was, to some extent, fairly relaxing. We did have working parties; they sent us off on working parties along the wharves, into the godowns along the wharves stacking and loading materials.


It wasn’t too bad because you were able to pinch a bit of stuff here as we handled it and there and bring it back into camp. Of course, you had to be pretty careful about doing that. Every night when you came back into camp there would be an inspection of all the troops before you went in, you would be counted as you went in and counted as you went out.


And inspection of all the troops to make sure that they didn’t have anything on them that they shouldn’t have had. That involved a lot of slight of hand, you know, stuff would be passed from one row to another and that sort of thing and people found all sorts of places to hide things, under their armpits and in their crotches.


All sorts of places to hide things, which meant of course, that you couldn’t bring anything big back. You could bring cigarettes and little trinkets and things like that. But Salarang wasn’t a bad time, the food was crook but it wasn’t as bad as it was in Java because there


had been a Red Cross ship into Singapore at the time that we got there. And that had landed a lot of rations and clothing into Singapore which the Japs had distributed to the British and Australian troops that were there. Not that we got much out of it and we did get a little bit we got some benefit out of it.


The other thing we used to do there, they developed a lot of vegetable gardens in Singapore there as well to help feed the troops. And to a large extent we were working on these vegetable gardens as well as going out on working parties to the wharves and that wasn’t


to bad at all. When you were there you were mainly on your own with officers and NCOs to supervise what you were doing rather than the Japs. And the Japs also had these; they allowed us to use a lot of vehicles in


Singapore, what they had done was stripped down all the motors and left the wheels and the steering wheels on them and they allowed us to use these as trucks. Now, they were exciting things to get onto because you would get on the top of a hill and have a steering wheel and no brakes half of the time, about twenty or thirty blokes on the truck and go off down the hill, you know,


and cross your fingers and hope that you hit a hill before you came to a full stop. And then when you got to the bottom of the hill everybody got out and they had a rope on the front and pulled it up to the top of the next hill. It was like being a kid. It was great fun. We put stuff on the back of those trucks and went back and forwards from the gardens


to the campsites, cut a lot of wood out of the forests for firewood for the camp. There was no power on at that camp and all the lighting was artificial, cooking was all done on wood fires


stoves or ovens. But the Japs allowed us to run concert parties there too and in Singapore they had developed a pretty sophisticated sort of a concert party and there were a lot of very well known actors who were involved. Guys like Slim de Grey


were in the concert parties in Singapore and they use to put on a wonderful concert there. They had a fairly strong sporting associations operating, footballs, cricket and Ben Barnett, the Australian cricketer, was a POW [Prisoner of War] and he played I remember seeing Ben Barnett play


cricket and football in Singapore. He was a great footballer. But all good things come to end and they decided to move us out of Singapore. They sent us down to the wharf at Singapore and loaded us on to a,


sent us down to the railway station in Singapore and loaded us on to a train. And they took us up through Malaya by train about, you know, crowded into these damn cattle trucks, barely able to sit down. There was that many in each one, it was stinking hot and by that time we had a lot of sickness in the camp. Singapore was prone


to a lot of sickness, a tremendous amount of malaria in Singapore, and a lot of dysentery. And I developed a fair amount of dysentery in Singapore and it was really the first time that I had got dysentery. And I wondered what the hell had hit me, you go to the toilet and it just streams out of you. And you come back and sit down and about an hour later you are off to the toilet again,


and you come back and an hour later, you are back to the toilet again. And all day long, all day long, but I got over it there but a few people got very very ill. One of my mates was extremely ill and I thought he was going to die. When we left Singapore


he was that sick we left him behind back in Singapore and in fact he finished up getting shipped off to Borneo and died on that march in Borneo. So, it didn’t do him much good. Anyway, they shipped us out of Singapore by train up to Penang


and at Penang they loaded us on to a ship in Penang and in the same sort of conditions that we had been on the trip over from Java to Singapore, you know, and in extreme heat. But by that time,


a lot of the guys were a lot worse physically than they were leaving Java. So, the trip up from Penang to Burma was pretty obnoxious but we got within in about one day of Java and we were heading for


Moulamein in Java. And on the ship we were allowed up on the deck a bit more than the other boat, up a few at a time to stay on deck. I was up on deck this day and I looked up and I could hear this aeroplane.


Bloody Japs, three of these planes flying in formation over the top of us, they are Japs. Not they’re, not they’re British and all of a sudden they let fly with their bombs. There were three ships in our convoy, the ship we were on, there was another ship about the same as ours and it was full of mainly Dutch prisoners of war.


And there was a little escort vessel a semi, what would you call it, a corvette. It was an armed vessel escorting us,


yeah. When these bombs dropped I thought, “Oh bloody hell.” And I was up on deck with my mate and I said, “We’re going to go down. I’m going down to put some togs on. Put me swimmers on and grab me wallet.”


So, I raced down to the hold and grabbed me wallet and I was in the hold when the bombs hit, one stick each side of the boat and we were down in the hold. And the hold got peppered with shrapnel and there were holes all over the side of the ship but up on deck where I had left me mate. He had got hit by shrapnel on deck.


He had a great big wound in his back when I got back upstairs. But the other ship the bombs hit in the front hold which was full of Japs, and the Dutch were in the rear hold. And apparently, there was tremendous loss of life in the


other ship. And, you know, that ship, we could see that it was going to go down it was completely hulled and it just went down the front and the Dutch survivors swarmed out of that ship and into the water. And that boat was down in under twenty minutes, it was on the bottom.


And then it was comical on our ship because for a start, they had a field gun mounted on the back of the ship. I don’t know what that was for, probably anti-sub, just an ordinary field gun and the Jap gunner; he must have decided that he would have a go at these planes with it. And so


he loads up his field gun and lets fire but he mustn’t have closed the breech properly and it backfired and blew him halfway up the ship and set the deck of the boat on fire. And he had all his ammunition stacked around him and here we are with a great big fire on the backend of the boat. All of this ammunition stacked around the gun,


goodness gracious me, and anyway, we had a lot of the Perth boys on board and a number of them had been through all this before in their training, they were able to unload the ammunition over the side and get the fire out. And the Jap machine gunner on the
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 08


The Jap machine gunner on the front end of the boat, he decided to let fly at the aircraft to, you know, although about I don’t know, it must have been about twenty thousand feet or something and all he did was hit the wireless mast and brought the wireless mast down and blew that to pieces, yeah. When the guys of the Perth saw


the wireless mast come down they were ready to take over the ship. You know, they had a fair chance sailing the ship to India but the trouble was the little escort vessel was still there, they hadn’t been hit and of course that had wireless communication to the shore.


And there was very little that could be done so we missed that opportunity. Anyway, we set about picking up as many as we could of the survivors from the other ship the Japs and Dutch and brought them on to our ship. Our ship was then completely overloaded because there were hundreds that came aboard our ship.


I don’t know how many, probably three or four hundred off the other ship on to our ship. There wasn’t many Jap survivors. They were Dutch survivors, in fact most of the Dutch survived, and then we set sail from there to Moulmein up the Solway River in Burma.


And unloaded and were taken off the ship at Moulamein and then we were marched off the ship into a civilian gaol at Moulmein, which was still full of local civilian prisoners. And that was a funny episode because we were there for little over a week


in the civilian gaol. And that gaol was right below the old Moulmein Pagoda of Rudyard Kipling fame, “by the old Moulamein pagoda looking eastward to the sea, and a girl waiting, and oh, she waits for me.”


And we were right below that big pagoda. It was right up above us and the civilian gaol was down in the valley just below it. And at night time, all night long the guards would call to one another. I suppose they were saying, “How ya going mate?” “Okay, how ya’ going mate?” “Okay,” and all around the perimeter of the gaol,


from one guard to another and this used to go on all night long. We stayed there for about ten days in this gaol and then we were taken out and moved up on to the start of the Burma Railway, at what was then the Eighteen Kilo Camp


near the start of the railway. And set to work from there building and clearing a track for the railway virtually cuttings and building embankments for the railway to run on, a level railway. But, yeah, as we


we were all very pleased when we moved through the town of Tampaside which was outside of Moulmein. When the local people sort of, they were really on our side and they showered us with food and things like that and encouragement and we were really taken with that, with the way the local Burmese people.


Then that was the start of the Burma Railway and that was in February 1943 and we started on the railway then. The other group that my brother was in they were up at the Forty


Kilo camp. They had been there probably three months before we were. We were being trucked up to the Eighteen Kilo camp when we passed a working party on the side of the road and


amongst this working party was my brother and he was calling out to find out where I was because the trucks were going through fairly slowly. And as we went past he called out to me and threw a handful of cigarettes and things into the back of the truck. And that was the last I ever saw of him.


It wasn’t long after that that he died, actually, on the railway. So went into this camp at Tampaside, you know, this is the land of milk and honey because according to the Japs every future camp was going to be better than the last. But it was


the start of the end as far as conditions were concerned because conditions in Burma in 1943 were the worst conditions that we had to endure as POWs. It was a shocking time 1943. We got there in February and initially the work wasn’t too bad, we were set to work building or clearing the track


and building embankments. And building embankments meant digging out earth from the side of the track and transporting it up on the side of the track and making a level embankment. And we were given a quota per man, per day and when the quota was finished you were allowed to go home.


And I think initially the quota was a cubic metre per man, per day, which wasn’t too bad but what it meant that you had to dig out this metre and load it onto these little, by the way the Japs had no virtually no mechanical tools,


it had to be done by hand by pick and shovel and by physical man power. And they used these rice bags strung on a pole which was supported each end onto a pole and there would be a man one end and the other end and you carry this pole between you, on your shoulders with the earth in the middle. So,


as one man was digging out, he would have to dig out three metres because there were two other people carting sand and you would move the earth from the hole onto the embankment and dump it and come back and pick up another load and do the same. And that would go on all day


until you had exhausted your quota. That wasn’t too bad, a metre a day, we got through that all right, but we were stupid, you know. We started racing because as soon as we finished we could go home, so we would hurry our way through and get home early and of course that meant that the Japs were saying,


“Well, you can do a metre and get home, at three o’clock. We will give you a metre and a half, and you would get home at five o’clock.” So, naturally because we were getting home early up goes the quota to a metre and a half. Even that wasn’t that bad but


it made things a lot worse was the distance you had to travel to dump your load, you see. You’re digging out here and the further you went along the track the further you had to carry it. And it was a slower turn around of soil if you were just carting a few yards to dump it it was all right but a hundred or two hundred to dump it, it slowed things up considerably.


So well, we resorted to a few tricks to try and overcome that by moving the pegs when the Japs weren't looking, move the pegs back a bit. But you couldn’t move them back too far; it would be pretty obvious if you moved them back too far.
How would the pegs be used?
They would peg out the area that you had to excavate.


The Jap engineers would peg out the area that you had to excavate. They would measure it out and peg it out and that’s the area you have got to excavate, that’s the depth you have got to go and yeah. So we learned, you know, go slow, don’t over exert yourself.


And then of course we moved, we kept moving along the line from camp to camp. The next camp we went to was a bit further up the line and we were still in the dry season but were still in about April, no, March probably.


And the roads up there were shocking because the local Burmese, their only means of transport was ox carts on the roads and the old ox carts would churn


the road up into a fine powdery dust. And you would have dust about a foot deep on the road and we got terribly terribly dusty. So, after we finished work we used to usually bath on the way back in a creek or something like that before we came back to the camp.


But if you walked on the road after you had your wash it wasn’t very long before you were covered in dust and you were filthy again. And water became a real problem in all the camps in Burma, water was the biggest problem. If you were near a river you were very lucky.


Because if you were near a river you had fresh flowing water going past your camp all the time but that didn’t happen in many camps. And in most camps to get water you had to dig wells which meant in the camp you were dependent on well water which was in short supply. So, if you came back dirty there was no way you would be able to wash, you would just have to exist like that until you went out to work the next day


and go to that bathing site the next night. And in any case, the Japs had elephants working on the line as well and used them as their mechanical means of moving things and we always had to get to the water holes before the elephants got there because they used to bathe the


elephants in the water holes too. But if you missed out and the elephants got there before you, and you got to the water hole, it was covered with elephant poo a couple of inches thick, all over the top of the, you put up with that but never the less. So, on we go and we finished that camp and the next camp we went to was the


Eighty-five Kilo camp and the Eighty-five Kilo camp was a really good camp. It was on a river so we had fresh flowing water in the camp which meant that when we came back from work we could bathe in the river and we didn’t worry about the lack of water supply in the camp.


And the camp buildings were in good condition. They had been newly built, they weren’t old and the buildings they housed us in were built of, they were bamboo structures and they were thatched at the top with palm leaves,


the atap palm, which had a frond about so long and about so wide and made these atap-thatching things, which they laid one over the other, all the way down the roof. If the weather was good and there wasn’t too much wind the atap roofs were pretty good.


They didn’t let the rain in at all, and along the sides of the huts there were just openings, no windows just openings to let the light in. And the same, the doorways were just openings, there was no doors on any of them and we used to sleep on decks, raised decks about


two or three feet of the ground and that was covered with split bamboo slats, split bamboo slats in some camps that you went to, that had been used before, particularly had been used by the natives before we got there, were full of bugs and body lice. So, you know, very soon got used to living in Burma with bed bugs and body lice.


All of our clothes were covered in body lice and the only way to get body lice off your clothes was to boil them and of course very few of us had anything to boil our clothes in and the water was in short supply anyway. And it was pretty hard


to get close to a fire as well, as that so all the way though Burma we lived every day with body lice and bugs and that was great.
How much were you wearing?
Yeah well, by the time we got to Burma our clothes were in very short supply and probably had one pair of shorts and a shirt,


a hat and a pair of boots, by that time your socks had deteriorated and they were useless. And the boots were starting to wear out. The Japs did issue us once or twice with their little rubber sneakers, they had these little


rubber boots that they used with the split toe, the big toe was split off from the rest of the shoe. And they were like a gym boot, a light gym boot rubber sole with canvas sides but the conditions up there


didn’t let you maintain your boots in good condition at all because it was so humid and so wet. And everything tended to rot quickly, but we were at Eighty-five in April and then the wet season started in April 1943


and then things started to deteriorate very quickly once the wet season came in because, you know, the rain the mud and the slush and our shoes started to fall to pieces very quicker. Food supplies that the Japs were prepared to give us were hard to get through the trucks were getting bogged,


and the medical supplies were starting to peter out and so we were, and malaria and dysentery were starting to occur at far more frequent intervals than ever before.


We all started to go around with dysentery or malaria and then the Japs of course, there were so many men sick we couldn’t fill the quotas that the Japs wanted for working parties. And so the Japs started to get very desperate with us, you know, and make us have sick parades every morning. And they would go through the sick parades and


all the people who were sick had to be paraded in front of the Japs and they would go through them and sort them out. And, “Na, you’re not sick enough.” If you had malaria there was nothing obviously wrong with you. You had malaria, you couldn’t show the fact that you had one hundred and five degree temperature. So, your out on the working party, you know,


and that’s the sort of, that’s what we started off with in April/May 1943. That’s when things really started to get crook and it wasn’t long, we weren't in the Eighty-five Kilo camp very long before they wanted us down


and they pulled us back from Eighty-five and moved us to the camp called the Eighty Kilo camp. And the Eighty Kilo camp was a camp in great disrepair and it had been used by native coolie labour that they brought up and it was full of, it was in very bad repair, and the rooves were leaking and the place was full of mud. It was


absolutely mud-covered and so the way I reckon, they would never leave us in a decent camp like Eighty-five, they had to find somewhere worse for us to work. They put us into Eighty and by that time the Japs were getting a bit desperate because the job was running behind time and they were getting


into this area where our blokes were sicker and sicker and they weren't getting the numbers out so the job was behind. So, they started up the speedo, speedo plan. Then they kept thrashing us along and putting more and more sick people out to work and not providing us with medical supplies to keep people in good condition. Not


supplying us with the food to keep us in decent condition, they worked against themselves actually, because if they kept us in a healthy condition and fed us and provided us with medical supplies they could have had that line completed well ahead of schedule of what they did. They defeated themselves really. The blokes got sicker and sicker and the speedo went on, and we were working and not coming back to the camp at five o’clock.


You would work many times till twelve o’clock at night and you would be two or three k’s [kilometres] away from camp where you were working. And you would be walking back to camp in the early hours of the morning and by the light of bamboo flares or when you were working you were working by the light of flares. The Japs used to light these flares for you to work by


and things started to get really crook. And then the worst problem we ever had along that line was the tropical ulcers started to make their appearance when we were at the Eighty Kilo camp and these tropical ulcers were shocking things. They used to affect mainly our legs and they would develop into a little sore


any little sore became infected with these tropical ulcers. And that sore started to grow and grow and grow. And these poor cows with scars like that, tropical ulcers as big as that, right into the bone and just the bare flesh, shinbone showing and you could almost see behind the shin bone. We had nothing to treat them with except bathing with hot water.


No, or very negligible, amount of medial supplies to treat them. There was a drug that the Japs did have, and they refused to give us any quantity of it, it was a drug called Iodoform, which was very effective in treating these ulcers but they would never give us near the quantity we needed. And these poor blokes that had bad ulcers,


they were in shocking pain and without anything to treat them they resorted to all sorts of means to treat them. All sorts of home made remedies, someone came up with the bright idea in the First World War a lot of blokes had been saved from gangrene, because they were very much like gangrene, possibly were gangrene, I don’t know. A lot of blokes had been


saved from gangrene by getting fly blown and the maggots would eat away the bad flesh and left the good flesh behind. So, some silly coot decides that they will try maggots in these wounds. Well, the poor cows that they tired it on, the maggots used to irritate something enormously and they used to go crazy with the pain, but so they had to give that away


but gee they were shocking. I got a couple of ulcers and they didn’t develop very big. I only got them about the size of a ten cent piece on my legs and when they moved us out of the Eighty Kilo camp they moved us from the Eighty Kilo camp to the Hundred Kilo Camp, this is in the middle of the wet season


and I might tell you the wet season in Burma is wet, it started to rain towards the end of April and it rained constantly. I don’t think it stopped, it varied in intensity. It rained, I would say it rained constantly from April to October, it hardly stopped and you know, the


ulcers developed in a lot of these poor guys, it was ulcers that carried a lot of our poor guys off.
Why did they withhold that drug?
You tell me, I don’t know. I'm sure they had the supplies. They traded, a lot of the Japs, they traded, they got hold of the supplies and sold them to us


sold them to the doctors, but they wouldn’t give it to us. It was unbelievable.
So, you are saying earlier in the peace even before the Eighty-five Kilo camp that there were supplies coming through and readily available?
In the dry season they were coming through far more readily, but once the wet season stated then things became much worse.


We used to get, occasionally they would herd a few cattle off along the line and drop one cattle off at that camp and another cattle of at the next camp. But one cattle amongst, see in our camp we had about a thousand men, but half of them were Dutch.


And when I say Dutch, they weren't Dutchmen they were Dutch officers and Dutch NCOs but most of the troops were natives from Java, Javanese. And we had about three hundred Americans and we were about two hundred and fifty Australians in that camp.


Now, another thing, another problem we had there we didn’t have a doctor. We didn’t have an Australian doctor and we relied on the only doctor. Well, there were two doctors in the camp, one from the American navy but he was pretty useless a gynaecologist and a bloke there was a guy named,


anyway, he was an American doctor from their field artillery unit. He was extremely good and he worked himself to death and he finished up dying himself at the Hundred Kilo camp. He couldn’t even keep himself alive but he kept everyone else alive, but I was going to say something else there.


We had no doctor, the most senior medial person we had in our camp was the chief petty officer off the Perth who was a sick bay attendant. And he was the only guy in our camp who was anywhere near qualified amongst the Australians,


otherwise we had to rely on these Americans and yeah, those camps were unbelievable. You would rise before daylight in the morning, it was dark when you got up, you would go to the cook house, you would sludge your way through the mud to the cook house, get a bowl of pappy rice,


and maybe a little bit of sugar, a sugary syrup to place over the top of it. And that’s what you would go to work on and you would work all day. The work involved many things, most of the work we were on was clearing the track and then later on we,


when the track was being laid, we were involved in working in the quarries, quarrying blue metal out of quarries and blasting it out. That meant drilling with a star drill into the blue metal quarry and setting gelignite charges and blowing it down.


And once it was blown down we would lever it out with crowbars out on to the flat ground and then break it up with spaulding hammers. And then after you had broken it down with spaulding hammers you would nap it up into small pieces for blue metal on the railway line for ballast on the railway line.


That was a shocking job because in those quarries you got, we were without boots and the sharp edges of the stones and that, cut our feet to pieces. And the chips off the rocks, when you were spaulding it would fly into your shins and your shins were the most vulnerable part of your body as far as ulcers go and that was what generated a heck of a lot of our ulcers.


And yeah, so that was a shocking time and the food supply was terrible. We would have to work, we worked down the line, we rarely worked close to our camp. Most days would have to walk one, two or three kilometres to work, and come home the same way.


When the meals were cooked in the camp they would have to be sent out along the line, take the carriers who were taking the food probably half an hour or more. It might even get to an hour to get to you, and by that time it was all cold.
Who did the carrying?
Oh, there were usually people who were on light duties.


They carried the food out along the line, people were categorised either fit for work, fit for light duties or too ill and they were the three categories in the camp. The Burma Railway was a shocking time for us. The other thing that made life extremely hard there too was that there was absolutely no salt and there was no salt


in your food and I don’t know if you have eaten your food without salt. But boy there is no taste in food without salt and sugar, we couldn’t get sugar. Well, we got a little bit of sugar but very little and as for individuals getting hold of some sugar it was almost impossible, but you could get it if you were able to trade with some of the natives along the line.


You could buy a little bit of sugar from them but it wasn’t white sugar like we eat today, it was molasses really. And from what we could understand it was molasses that was fed to horses, it was horse molasses in blocks of sugar and about that thick and about that long and that wide. And you buy it in a block like that.


So no sugar, no salt, we were really on Pritikin diets. I suppose when you come to think of it there wasn’t much heart disease. There was every other disease, but we didn’t have much heart disease on the line, could have been Pritikin working. We certainly lost weight.


You know the guys were getting down in weight. You would see these big guys that came on the line, heavily built guys, and they would sag away and all they would have here would be great big bags of skin on their stomachs. It was unbelievable and we used to talk about food and


I could never say that I didn’t enjoy my meals because no matter what I got I was determined to like it.


We used to have a lot of arguments because I would say, “It’s the best meal I've had for a week.” And someone would say, “Ahhh, you’re stupid. How can you like that?” And I would say, “I love it. It filled me stomach.”


And that attitude might have got me a long way through because a lot of blokes found that they couldn’t stomach the food, particularly if they were sick and they gave up eating. And the slogan became, ‘your passport home is in the bottom of your dixie.’ But a lot of blokes never saw the bottom of their dixies.


They didn’t eat and a lot of those were the ones that went down. Particularly if they got sick. They just could not stomach the food.
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 09


It was at Hundred Kilo camp I had my 21st birthday and I don’t think anyone knew about it except me mate and blow me down and he forks out a packet of cigarettes. I can see them now,


a packet of Capstan cigarettes blue, ten. He had saved those since, well, he must have had them in his pack since before we were captured or soon after. And he gave me a packet of cigarettes for my birthday


and I was a committed smoker by this time. And along the line we smoked what ever we could get, some weird and wonderful things we smoked along that line. I remember even in Java, we started smoking some weird and wonderful things because we couldn’t get cigarettes and when we were out on working parties there we would pick up butts from the side of the road.


And when we came home we would open them up and put them into a pipe and smoke them in a pipe. And we used to pass the pipe around, you know, from one to another. Up along the line we used to get hold of this, couldn’t get proper tobacco, you would get the tobacco that the natives used to smoke and was it strong.


You would take a draw back and you would feel your scalp lift up it was so strong and take two or three drawbacks and you would have the hiccups. It was so strong, it was shockingly strong stuff. And they had these, in Burma everyone smoked cigars even the kids. You would see them in the street smoking cigars, great big cigars and little kids about so high,


but we never got any good cigars. But we used to be able to get hold of these green cigars, I don’t know what they were actually, but I think they might have been ceremonial cigars, but the outside was banana skin, just dry banana skin and inside


was a mixture of tobacco and incense and I don’t know what else, but when you puffed on them they used to crackle and smoke and sparks would fly everywhere. They were shocking things to smoke but we would smoke them, we would smoke anything, we tried everything we could, everybody was trying to find a substitute for tobacco wherever you went.


This is in the camps and on the lines, so you had natives there?
Well, clandestinely you couldn’t make direct contact with the natives because the Japs wouldn’t allow that but if a Jap wasn’t looking and there was a native around the working parties .


to try and trade off tobacco and things, what ever you had, clothing, watches or what ever you had, clothing or watches or things like that to seel to them in return. Can I close down for a minute?
The Japanese as well?


They were probably worse of than we were because they had no organization like we did or what the army did. They had no organization to back them up and they were almost every man for himself and God help those who couldn’t help themselves and they were dying by the thousands and, you know, there was nothing we could do to help them very much but they were certainly very badly treated by the Japanese.


And worked very hard the same as what we did so they had, you know, they were getting nothing from the Japanese and they were quite prepared to trade with us and get something from us.
How did that actually happen, did they approach you during the day?
During the day


while we were working along the line, the Jap guards weren’t there all the time and when they got the opportunity they would make contact with us or we would make contact with them. There was a lot of people that got into trouble because of that, I remember one occasion when well, this bloke was.


he was a, we were working in the quarries at the time and he was a powder monkey. He had a pocket full of detonators in his top left hand pocket, and he was trying to do some deals with a couple of the prisoners, this was a native powder monkey


and a Jap caught him and caught our bloke as well and bashed the devil out of the both of them. We were a bit worried about the poor old native, but we were hoping that the Jap would hit the detonators with his fist because if he had of he would have killed the native but he would have killed himself as well.


But he bashed hell out of this bloke and we all knew that he had a pocket full of detonators in his top left hand pocket.
You were watching this guy?
Yes, we were watching this going on. Lots of guys got bashed up for trading with the natives but it was a very risky business. Actually, on a couple of occasions my mate and I were able to get


out of the camp and travel down to one of the native villages one night and do a bit of trading and bring some stuff into the camp and sell it off amongst your mates. But I remember, one time we went out and very unadvisedly brought back some alcohol


made of liquor and it caused a bit of pandemonium when these guys got drunk cause they couldn’t stand the alcohol in any quantity. And they were drunk and carrying on like two bob watches, and we thought, “Oh God, keep them quiet or we will have the Japs here in five minutes.” And in the end, I think they went to sleep and things quietened down a bit and we got out of it.


But I tell you what I was worried for a while. That was pretty risky business leaving the camp to go into the native villages. We had quite a few nip keepers in the camp to keep an eye out for the Japs and they would sign when to move, when to come in and when to go out.
How did that work, were you fenced in?
We were fenced in but you


would find a hole through the fence underneath which we camouflaged or we made a hole and then you would go in and out through that hole, put the camouflage back over the top of it when you came back in but very risky business. I was only game to do it a couple of times then I gave it away. Guys were getting shot for the same thing.


At one point you went to hospital was that the case?
Yeah, well that was. Righto, that was after the line was finished, after the main railway line was finished we were moved down to a base camp in Thailand, a camp called Tha Makhan which was alongside the bridge on the River Kwai. And there we were,


from that camp we were relocated to other working groups. And the working group that I was put on was to go back up the railway line for a second wet season up in Thailand, up towards the Burmese boarder. And spent the second wet season


doing maintenance up in Thailand, up towards the Burmese boarder. That wet season was wet but no where near as wet as the year before. It was estimated that the year we were in Burma there was two hundred and fifty inches of rain that fell that year, in that area that we were in, so you can see it was pretty wet. Two hundred and fifty inches in six months.


That is more than an inch a day on average in six months. Six months is a hundred and eighty odd days and we had two hundred and fifty inches of rain but the second year that I went back the rain was pretty heavy, but no where near as heavy as that.


Cholera didn’t make its appearance that year in Thailand like it had the previous year cholera had taken off a lot of people not so much in Burma but a lot of the camps in Thailand were hit by cholera and cholera is a very deadly disease. If you contract cholera, and unless you have antibiotics to combat it, you are dead within a few days.


Its like, I mean you get diarrhoea and then dysentery is ten times worse than diarrhoea and cholera ten times worse than dysentery. You dehydrate so quickly that your body just can't stand it and within about three days you would be gone. Your body goes into terrible spasms, muscular spasms because you go into


cramping situations all over your body, for the lack of hydration. This year was the second time we went back up the line, malaria was very bad and the dysentery was very bad but we didn’t have cholera and of course I was by that time, I had been getting continuous bouts of malaria


ever since we had been in Burma. And it was getting on for two years and I was having a bout of malaria about every couple of weeks and malaria was a disease which affects you for about five days and then if you had the type of malaria which I had, which was malignant malaria,


then you got it about every five days. You can get what they call benign malaria and you get it one off, you get it once and that’s it. Malignant malaria and it occurs every now and again. And then there was another type of malaria which is cerebral malaria in your brain and, you know, that is a deadly malaria. You die of that very quickly. But with malignant malaria you keep


getting this recurrence of malaria. It settles into your spleen and every now and again it will come out. If you take quinine or something you will overcome it and it will go back into your spleen and sit there until the thing builds up again and come back into your system. And I had been having this on and off for a couple of years. It affects your blood count.


Your blood count goes down, my blood count went down to almost nil, you know. When I say nil, it went down to as slow as it can go and you are still alive and this was after I had been in this camp up in Thailand for the second wet season and I had come


back to Chung Kai. And it was there, and I had also been suffering with a lot of skin complaints, you know, and my body was covered with sores and I was really a sick boy, I tell you.


So, they gave me a blood transfusion at Chung Kai and that blood transfusion had an incredible affect on me because within a few months of having the transfusion the malaria left me and I started to get completely well again. They also gave me,


at the same time of the blood transfusion, they gave me an intravenous quinine injection which I don’t know, I don’t know which helped me the most, but I certainly recovered very quickly once I had that blood transfusion.
What were the circumstances that lead you to be taken to hospital? You were in a camp up near the border?


where I was taken to hospital was at Chung Kai just up stream from Tha Makhan where the bridge on the River Kwai is. And I had been getting, I was very ill and I was getting worse and worse and weaker and weaker and, you know, they decided that they would give me a blood transfusion. And I can tell you that was a pretty desperate move in those days


to get somebody to be able to give you a blood transfusion, anyway, particularly to have someone compatible to give you the blood transfusion. But the blood transfusion was done in a tent and it was virtually man to man, out of him and straight into me.
Who performed this? Who did this for you?
I can't remember the name of the doctor but I think it might have been Major Fisher


but I couldn’t tell for sure. I was pretty sick and didn’t take much notice.
An Australian Regimental Aid Post was it?
An Australian doctor in the hospital at Chung Kai, it was a hospital. Chung Kai was basically a hospital camp but one thing about those, my condition also saved me from being selected


prior to going up the line on the second wet season prior to that the Japs had selected a lot of people from the Tha Makhan camp to go to Japan and because I was so ill, and I had all these blinking sores all over me and I looked terrible, they wouldn’t take me. They wanted people as healthy as they could to send to Japan.


They didn’t want to be carrying too many diseases into Japan I guess. And because of that, I escaped from this party that my mate was on. They got sunk on the way over there with a heck of a lot of lives lost. He was one out of about one hundred and eighty survived. And I think there was about two thousand on that ship.


Only about a hundred and eighty survived.
So, this is getting very close to the end of the war?
Yes, 1944 now, when I had this blood transfusion after the wet season, that meant it was about November 1944. And we’d been backwards and forwards from Tha Makhan to Chung Kai.


And the British and the Americans had been bombing the bridge on the River Kwai and sending down these bombers along the line at low level, strafing the camp and the ack-ack post [anti-aircraft fire] that was guarding the bridge and dropping bombs on and around the bridge. And


it was a pretty fearful sort of camp to be in and I was sent back to Tha Makhan for a few months. Frank, my mate, was sent back and I decided to go back with him. We didn’t want to be separated and by crikey, that was a hellish camp to be in for a while because of the bombing of


the railway. And you would hear these big flying fortresses [Lancaster bombers] coming down the line with their cannons all blast, you know, and they were about a hundred feet above the bridge, and they were dropping bombs. And they dropped a hell of a lot of bombs on that bridge before they put it out of action. It was pretty hard I think, the thing was, they had to drop delayed action bombs.


That was probably what was happening; they couldn’t drop percussion bombs because they were flying so low it would knock the aircraft out of the air. They were delayed action bombs and delayed action bombs had to be spot on and in the right position when it exploded to make any damage to the bridge. If it landed on the bridge and rolled off before it exploded


it couldn’t do any damage but most of them were landing in the river anyway. So, then I was pleased to get out of that camp, I can tell you, and then they moved us out of there and sent us down into central Thailand to a camp called Petpuri, to a camp called Kuishi Camp to work on


building an aerodrome for the Japs. That meant clearing a vast area of bushland and levelling it, and yeah, that was in early 1945


and we were there building that aerodrome until the end of the war. They also had us on building big tunnels around the aerodrome but we didn’t know what those tunnels were for. But the rumour, those tunnels were being built and apparently it happened at a lot of camps,


around all the POW camps on similar sorts of projects. They were going to herd the prisoners into the tunnels and smother them. Anyway, that’s all hearsay and I don’t know if that is true or not but that was the rumour.


Then one day in August 1945 we went out on parade one morning and we stood on parade for about two hours and no Japs approached us. So, we returned to the camp and told to stand-by until the Japs were ready for us to go to work. And


just about the whole day went and we weren’t called out to work, which was the most remarkable thing that had ever happened to us. And of course rumours started to fly around and the next morning, about seven am, a party of British and American paratroopers, commandos, entered the camp and told us that the war was over.


And we were free but we weren't to leave the camp, they had locked up all the Japs and confined them to their quarters and that the war was over, and that was a big relief. So, then here we were sitting in this camp and


nothing to do, no work to do. They wouldn’t let us go out of camp initially, the officers wouldn’t or the people in charge wouldn’t. So, we had to sit in camp for a few days and I sent out, and of course ever one wanted some grog to celebrate with, and I went out


and they brought in some of this darn native whisky and ladled out a pannikin of native whiskey to each person that wanted it. So, we sat down one night with a pannikin [small native cup] full of native whisky and started to play cards and I can remember it was the first night that we were suppose to be free. I started playing about eight o’clock and


ten o’ clock I went out like a light. The native whisky put us right out and I didn’t know a thing until next morning, unbelievably strong stuff. We were in no position to take it anyway.
What was your weight by then?


Well, we didn’t have scales to weight ourselves on. My normal weight was around eleven stone and I guess I was down to nine stone.
So, how long did it take for you to be moved out of there?
It took many weeks before we left that camp. I think


we were there for at least three weeks, maybe four before, in the meantime, they flew a lot of supplies into us, dropped supplies by air drop, and let us have a bit of leave into the local towns.


Oh yeah, I think at least three weeks, maybe four. We were flown out of there by Dakota aircraft to Singapore. And yeah, I was telling what was her name the lass who rang me before?


Serena when we got to Singapore and I went into the cookhouse and the only thing I wanted was a piece of bread and jam and butter, bread and butter, and jam. And I thought the cook was going to knock me back. It was the sweetest


thing I have ever tasted because even after the war had finished we were only on local rations. We didn’t get decent bread up there in Thailand, and you know, it was marvellous.
So, coming home, do you want to tell me about coming home?


Yeah, well coming home was a sad thing because while I was away my mother had died. She died of cancer in 1943. I think that it was probably brought on by her two boys who had been missing for so long. She never knew where we were and I think it was several years it was confirmed that we were prisoners.


They had no word from us at all in the meantime for two years at least. The Japs did let us write a few cards, you have probably seen them, minimum cards that were pre-printed, you cross out, ‘I am well, I am not well,’ and you crossed out what ever, ‘I am working for money’.


Well you had to leave that in anyway, a whole lot of stupid of little lines pre-printed. And all you could write down the bottom was, “Give my love to Mum, and Dad and my mates”; that sort of thing. You had about two lines to say about ten words and if those cards got home you were lucky. I never got a card home, I don’t thin ka card came home from me


until well into 1943. In the meantime, they had no word at all about me. I think one of my brother’s cards got home that I was okay at that stage.
So, you didn’t know that your mum had died?
No, well no, I didn’t really.


I got one card from home about 1944, which was just signed by my Dad and my brother. And I thought that’s funny, it didn’t say anything about Mum, just signed by Dad and my brother. And that sort of gave me an inkling that something was wrong with Mum


or something had happened to her but I didn’t know how or why. And it wasn’t until I got a letter from my Dad when I got to Singapore and he told me then in that letter about what had happened to Mum. Yeah, it was pretty sad and when I got home the family had more or less broken up.


Dad in the meantime he was, Mum died in 1943 and Dad was very upset because he virtually didn’t have a home to bring me home to. And oh, for some reason or other, he got himself involved with one of the ladies that had been helping Mum through her sickness and she was spinster and he decided to ask her


for her hand in marriage. Anyway, he got married and he was married to this woman before I got home. So then he had to tell me that not only had Mum but also that he had remarried, which was a bit of a blow. But he was very keen for me to get me to


accept his new wife, which was a very sad arrangement. Anyway, I got home; the younger brother is still alive.
When did you find out about Don?
Well, I found out about Don, Don died two days after his 22nd birthday in 1943. And I suppose that it was a week later that I


heard that Don had died, word came up the line. We weren’t allowed to communicate between camps along the line but there were people seconded to drive trucks between the camps and a lot of our blokes were seconded to drive trucks for the Japs up and down the line. And the word came up through one of them that Don had died at Forty Kilo camp


two days after his 22nd birthday. Pretty sad, anyway.
You have just had years of extreme


difficulty and your coming home to all of this. You must have felt like it was turned all upside down?
Well, it was life altogether. The family had, my Dad had moved out of the old house. He had another house and all of our childhood possessions had been distributed to someone or other maybe got rid of,


I don’t know. But life was never the same and things went there when I got home, no photographs, things like that. None of the old treasures that we had at home. They were all missing and yeah, anyway.
So, what did you do?
Well, I lived with my Dad, because he had virtually done


it for my benefit to establish a home for me when I came home. And the only thing I reckoned it was up to me to make the best of it, which I did. I lived there for several years with them and in the meantime, through the rehabilitation training scheme that was operating after the war,


it gave me the opportunity to do some further training. And they gave me an aptitude test and asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to be a farmer but they wouldn’t buy that and I didn’t have any farming experience. But I did want to go onto the land a be a farmer but they said, “No,


you can't do that. We are reserving the farming for ex-farmers or people who had been farmers before the war” and they had all this soldier settlement land to distribute and they wouldn’t let a greenie go on the land like me. So, they said, “What else do you want to do?” And I said, “I was studying bookkeeping before the war.


So, I would like to perhaps do accountancy.” So, they said, “All right, we will give you an aptitude test and we will see what we can do for you.” And they did that and the test, I must have done fairly well, because they offered me place at Melbourne University to do commerce. And I snapped that up


although I was in the middle of the, I had come back in the October and I had leave until December, then I had to go back and then they found that I had amoebic dysentery. And so they sent me off to hospital up at Darley where they cleaned that out of me, and then they sent me back to Melbourne to


be discharged. And I was discharged at Darley on the 1st March 1946 at Watsonia. And they gave me two months leave, which meant February and March,


and then I went back to my old employment with the SEC. And then the okay came for me to start my university course in, I started that in May 1946. But they wouldn’t let me do a full year’s course because I was starting late


and I was starting off a university course based on an Intermediate Certificate. And they said, “You can do a Diploma of Commerce course and if you pass your first four subjects we will call that a matriculation. And then you can go on a do a degree if you can.” So, that’s the way I went about it and I finished up doing the four subjects ultimately


and got matric and then went on and finished the degree. And then went back to the SEC to work. Well, the SEC had let me do it full time at the uni and they used to take me back to work on the Christmas vacation but the SEC were tremendously generous while I was away. They


put aside a War Saving Certificate I think every week while I was away and I think that was a pound war saving they put aside. And I got all that when I came home and I got all me pay, no I didn’t get all me pay, I got all me sick leave, accumulated sick leave while I was away.


Anyway, so I was very pleased by the way the SEC had treated me. So, when I finished my course I went back and worked for the SEC and I never left them. I stayed there until I retired in 1981, and yeah.
Why didn’t you get all your pay from the army?


I got my pay from the army, seven bob a day, a private got five bob a day. And because I was a sig I was in group two I got an extra two bob a day, which was seven shillings a day or seventy cents, yeah. We got paid that and we got a gratuity at the end of the war and that


amounted to a couple of hundred pounds.
Interviewee: Colin Hamley Archive ID 0642 Tape 10


So, I was hoping Colin, what the work entailed in the camps. I feel like we have skipped a bit of time towards the end of the line, we jumped ahead to your second wet monsoon.
Well I couldn’t keep you talking all night.


You could.
Well you’re starting to run out of tapes.
That’s the only problem. Maybe, I was just thinking if you could fill in that bit of time when you went back to that Eighty Kilometre camp, which was the pits, and then Chung Kai where it was the following year. So, moving down the line I guess


towards the end of your time on the line?
Righto well, actually that time is a little bit confusing. I am not too sure on time slots on that but we had, I was sent back up the line. It is funny, you know, everywhere you went, you went with your own mate and they tried as much as possible to keep mates together


so they didn’t get separated, because everybody realised that a lot of your survival depended on your mate and how you responded with your mate. And those without mates were very badly off, you know. There wasn’t any, I don’t think, that didn’t have some sort of mate and we used to form up into little groups.


But my mate and I both went back up the line in 1944 onto the railway line to do maintenance, which was a very wet year. And we worked through that year and that was a real crook year because, a real crook few months because it was extremely wet and we went back


in the wet season, we didn’t start off in the dry like previously. We started off in the wet and the rain and the camp we were in was right besides the river and the river flooded. And our camp was cut off from the mainland by a big flow of water that surrounded the hill that the camp was sited on. And every


morning we used to have to walk down to this river water and ferry our gear across to the mainland before we could get to work. And oh, that was pretty hard work up there that year because we were cutting down a lot of trees for logs


because the railway line had corroded. And a lot of the culverts along the railway line had rotted out. They were built of green timber and had rotted out within that twelve months because of the constant moisture and humidity. And we were involved in a lot of rebuilding the culverts and in some cases repairing the bridges that had been built.


And the malaria was extremely bad that year and so was dysentery so the work force kept dwindling and dwindling and dwindling, until there was only a handful of men available to go out to work. And fortunately for me


or unfortunately, fortunately I guess, I maintained a fair amount of strength throughout that period and I seemed to be going out to work more often than most, but it was taking it toll on me.
Sorry just the noise of the paper.
It was taking


its toll on me and by the time I got back to Chung Kai I was a pretty sick boy and it was then, that I told you earlier, that they put me into hospital and gave me that blood transfusion which more or less saved my life. And unfortunately, I didn’t find the name of the bloke that gave me the blood transfusion.


I would have loved to have known who it was; I often regret that I never found out who that bloke was. I didn’t even know who the doctor was that performed the operation but I think it was Major Fisher who was one of the medical officers along the line.


Colin, you mentioned the fact that what got you through was the food, no matter how bad it was you ate every meal and the transfusion perhaps helped save you life. What else, what were the other keys to getting you through?
One of the keys is that I was extremely fit when I went into camp.


I wasn’t over weight, I was fit, and I was young, and I didn’t have a wife to worry about like a lot of people who had wives and families to worry about. A lot of those fellows went down very early in the piece with nervous complaints. But I always found that I had good mates to rely on


to help me out when ever I was in trouble and you were in trouble a lot of times along the line. Trouble like things, like if you were really crook with diarrhoea at night and the toilet was a hundred metres away from your hut and there was no light to show you the way, and you had to stumble your way down there. And you had to rely on someone to help you to get down there and get back.


And we had a bloke in our camp and he was another good friend of mine who was the boot maker in the camp. A guy named Jack Dale and he was from Bendigo, and prior to the war he was a boot maker and he’d taken over the job of boot making in the camp


from another chap that had been boot making had passed away. Sorry where were we?
Mate, toilet, diarrhoea, being?
I was telling you about Jack Dale, who was a friend of mine,


who was a boot maker and he was in high demand for everybody who had a pair of boots and including the Japs and of course, they had no boot maker either. They used to use him a lot and Jack used to get hand outs from the Japs because he had repaired their boots sometimes they would give him a handout, that was very helpful cause he would share that amongst his mates as well.


It was incredible the way he would mend the boots too, because he had no nails and he had very little leather and he started repairing a lot of the boots with green hide from animals that were killed in the camp. And he used to use wire for nails and he had a last, and he would cut the wire


off about three quarters of an inch long and he would tape it down on the last. And the top, he would bend over and it held the soles on that way and it was quite an ingenious way of doing it. But Jack, he realised that he was in a privileged position because he was working in the camp all day


on boot making helping out the boys and the Japs and he realised he was in a privileged position. So, at night he took on the responsibly of taking sick people to the toilet and he did a marvellous job in that wet 1943, carrying people too and fro of a night time. And you have got no idea of what the


toilet was like. The toilets were just a big hole dug in the ground they were about ten feet deep and about five foot wide and across the top they just put bamboo poles. And in the wet season of course the hole would fill up with water and it was just an open hole.


And the maggots would breed like mad and you would go down there at night time and the bamboo would be covered with maggots and used to have stand there with bare feet while the maggots crawled all over you. And it wasn’t that unusual for some poor cow to slip off the slats on the top and finish up in the pit


and be dragged out in the middle of the night, to be cleaned. And fortunately, it was raining just about all the time and you stood them out in the rain and it washed them down in the rain under the eves of the hut. But oh, it was a shocking situation. He did a marvellous job and he helped so many people. He was one; he should have been decorated for what he did.


Well, they were some of the sidelights to camp life up there.
Can you think of any other ways that mateship saw you guys through?
A lot of it was sharing food and what ever you had with your mate.


Nobody would ever, if they had anything to share, in my book would not share it with their mate. If you had something extra you shared it and if anyone was sick in hospital there was always somebody to go and see him


and talk to him, and take him along and tid bits that they could. Anyway, they could and there was plenty of ways to help. But mateship was a big thing in the camps. Mateship meant everything. IF you had a mate you could share things and laugh together and tell stories. We had another little mate and he had one of these jobs running up and down the line


and we have a few dollars and we would give him these dollars and hopefully we would get him to buy us some tobacco and drop it in when he was coming back up the line. But, often those months would go by and you wouldn’t see him, and all of a sudden, one night and he had a bucket full of these rotten green cigars. And I thought good God fancy spending our money on that,


these green rotten stinking green cigars. The worst things you could ever smoke in your life and it is a wonder we all haven’t got lung cancer out of the tobacco that we smoked on the line. No, mateship was a big thing; you had mates to do all sorts of things for you. And the Australians more than anyone else, more than


any other nation, that was more evident than anywhere else. Even the Americans, they didn’t develop the same mateship or it seemed pretty evident that they didn’t. The Americans were brought up in the days of independence of one another and standing on your own feet was a good thing and


trying to be on their own. And they thought that was great, more than relying on anybody else. The Dutch were in a very bad position from our point of view, what we saw of the Dutch, they looked down on their coloured


troops and didn’t treat them near as well as they should have. And in fact, we used to think they looked after themselves and let the troops survive if they could. We didn’t hold them in very high esteem at all.


I hope this doesn’t go out, oh well. Well, we weren't very happy with the Dutch anyway because of the way that they let us down in Java.
Were there times when there was tension in the camp and were there times when that would come to the fore?
It did in some ways.


Perhaps I shouldn’t talk about that.
It’s up to you?
No, I won't talk about that, a bit racist. But that’s the way we found it, we found the Australian


bonds of mateship stuck far better than it did with the others, even the English. And it might have been there but it wasn’t the same as it was amongst the Australians, not that we had a lot to do with the English along the line. We had a little bit to do with them but it didn’t seem to us that it was operating the same amongst them as it was amongst us.


It might have been but it was pretty hard to judge.
Other than working to the bone, what sort of punishment was metered out for misbehaving in the eyes of the Japs? What was the standard sort of punishment?
Oh, yes. It varied. It was usually the butt of their gun or rifle, a kick in the legs


or a smack across the face or a hiding with a lump of three-by-two. But oh, they did all sorts of other things,


they made a lot of people stand in the sun holding up a rock above their head for hours on end, and made other people just stand in the sun, which was bad enough for hours on end, all day perhaps, until they collapsed.


Oh, they were very malicious to animals. I have seen them do terrible things to animals. They seemed to get pleasure out of sticking cigarette butts up there nose and poking things in their eyes.
And you were on the receiving ends of a few of those beatings?


Yeah once or twice. I got beaten with a lump of four-by-two once for, we had a bit of fight with a guy on the line one day. And he’d been, and he was one of these guys and he thought he was a tough egg and he was a bit of a stand over merchant. And he butted into


the meal line, the back up line, if there was any food over after everybody, they used to dish it out a pannikin full of this, for each person. And if there was any over you would form a back up line and this guy, he was a bit of a stand over merchant, he jumped in and pushed these guys and jumped in the


head of the back up line and pushed the other guys out. And one of the boys came up to me and told me what had happened, and said,” Can you do something about it?” So, I go up to him and I said, “Thanks very much Rocky for doing that.” And I said, “Big deal mate, you got your food but you are not going to eat it.” So, I tipped it out and bashed it out underneath and knocked it


out of his plate, onto the ground. So, then we were into a ding dong fight and of course I knew that was going to happen. And the next thing, the Jap was there and he saw the fight going and he comes up with a four-by-two and by God he laid into both of us with a lump of four-by-two, and just about knocked both of out with a four-by-two.


But, then the Jap did what the Japs often do, they are bloody unpredictable. He sat us both down and gave us both a cigarette and that was the Japs. You could not predict what a Jap would do, you could never predict never predict, and there you are, made us shake hands and give us a cigarette each after he had belted the hell out of us.


Those sorts of things went on.
So, there was obviously a lot of maltreatment and brutality?
A lot of brutality. We used to have names for all the Japs of course they all had nick names, the Boy Bastard and Louvre Lips and Macken,


he was a real bad one. The Duck Shooter, he used to walk around with his rifle under his arm like a duck shooter. Dillinger, named after Johnny Dillinger the American criminal. We never had an Al Capone,


but he was a mate of Al Capone’s. All the Japs, and particularly the Koreans, had these names and the word would go around that Macken or Johnny Dillinger was on the rampage, the word would go around camp quickly, and everybody would duck for cover and get out of the road and make sure they weren't there when he came into their end of the hut.


Duck around the other end of the hut and come in the other end. And they were forever searching our possessions and anything that they figured that we shouldn’t have. And some of things that they figured that we shouldn’t have were books and things like that. We needed books for cigarette paper.


We used to use the books for cigarette paper and we got very adept at splitting paper down the centre and opening it up and making it nice and thin for the cigarette paper. In fact my mate had a New Testament, and I worked on him for months and months and months to smoke his New Testament.


And in the end he gave in and he said, “Well, you can smoke it but you have to read every page before you smoke it.” And it was nice, thin paper, really good stuff. We finished up reading the whole of the New Testament and smoke it in pretty quick time.


That’s what life was like, it was pretty cruel and it was very bad but at times we had lots of laughs. And we would laugh about lots of things and tried to laugh as much as we could, and make jokes of things rather than take them too seriously.


You were talking about how the Koreans and the Japanese were quite different?
Yeah, the Koreans were cruel very cruel very aggressive and they, of course always were looked down upon by the Japs and treated as second class citizens by the Japs. And I think they passed that attitude on to us


to try and make us feel in their way as the same as the Japs were treating them. But no, I didn’t like the Koreans one little bit.
You said that the Japs were unpredictable. You said there was that human side making you shake hands?
There were one or two Japs and there was one little bloke in particular.


He reckoned that he was a good boxer and somebody told him that I could box. And he used to like to talk to me about boxing and what I did and who had I fought, and that sort of thing, I wouldn’t trust him an inch because one day he was good to you and the next day


completely different. I would talk to him but I would never treat them as friends you couldn’t. There was I think one guy who had been brought up a Christian and he was an interpreter.


And he was in a fairly influential position in the camp being an interpreter, and he appeared to be quite good in his attitude and tried to temper things down but, you know, he was only there for a while and we changed camp, and we lost him. But while we had him


we did find that we were being treated just a little bit better than normal, maybe he was able to pass on our messages a bit better. But the doctors were always at the Japs to try and get them to release more and more medical supplies and to allow people to be relieved from work. And the doctors took an enormous


amount of punishment in standing up for the sick in the camps. We were terribly grateful to all of the doctors and I don’t think there was one doctor amongst all the doctors that we struck all along the line, that we didn’t hold in the highest esteem. They all did a tremendous job and they put themselves out and tried to get the sick people not to work.


And they took a lot of bashing for that too. They did, from the Japs and they would stand up against the Japs and say, “No, they can't go to work, no they can't go to work.” Until the Jap would loose his temper and take it out on the doctor. The doctors were wonderful and they were very adaptable and they did a tremendous amount


of experimental work along the line, doctors like Colonel Coats and Weary Dunlop. And a lot of people medico type of people who developed drugs along the line to enable them to do some sort of operations under some sort of anaesthetic.


We found a lot of the Dutchmen were very skilful in this respect and there were a lot of good Dutch chemists who helped develop anaesthetics out of what they could find. There were various roots that they were able to extract chemicals from for anaesthetics and that. It was amazing, what they did. But the old doctors, they did a marvellous job and I can't speak


highly enough of Colonel Coats. He did a marvellous job and he stood up to the Japs. He really did ,and took a lot of bashings and the same as Weary Dunlop, although I never saw Weary Dunlop although I did come across a lot of people who had dealings with Colonel Coates. I met Weary Dunlop after the war and got to know him quite well but,


was a marvellous man, and see Weary had the great stature and he used to look down on the Japs. And I think the Japs were a little worried about his size but they often made him step down into a hole to talk to them, to bring him down to size. But he did a marvellous job, Weary Dunlop.
Were there any times


when you had those small victories against the Japs, when maybe they made errors and you were able to secretly enjoy their misfortune or you got one over them kind of thing?
The Jap system was the sergeant bashed the corporal, and the corporal bashes the private, and the private Jap


bashes the Korean, and then the Korean bashes us that was the way these things worked in those situations. It was wonderful to see some of the Japs getting bashed up by their own blokes and that happened quite often, you know, you would see it and they would bash their own blokes just as well as they would bash us. They were wonderful sights to see but you knew


in the end who was going to get bashed along the line, was going to come down along the line to us.
How was, I mean you said you were able to see humour in things and the fact that the medicos were doing their bit and everyone was pulling together


which I imagine keeps morale at a certain level. What about the role of the officers, was there still a hierarchy?
Well, the officers never had to work, they had to go out on the line and supervised the troops. Now, that put them in a pretty onerous position, although they didn’t have to work they had to be the contact point between the men and the Japs.


And they were in a pretty onerous position on many occasions, and we had a lot of our officers bashed in trying to stand up for the men, trying to get the Japs to accept the men’s point of view. But not all officers were the same and some officers were far better than others at doing that. And some didn’t quite make the same stand as others but a lot of the officers put themselves into


extremely onerous positions. I wouldn’t have liked to have been in their position. You were far better off down the line working your guts out hoping for the best rather than be up there facing the Japs all the time.
I'm sure there any many more stories there,


is there anything else about that time that you would like to put down on the record?
No, I don’t think there is anything else, gee I have talked a lot haven’t I?


Life was frustrating; it was a terrible frustrating time being a prisoner. You had no possessions, you had no food and in some instances you had very little to look forward to. The end looked like it could be coming for everyone.


So, it was a terribly frustrating time and the only way we got over it was trying to put a time limit on how long it was going to be. It was only going to be a few months more before something was going to happen. See, there were radios in the camps


and there were a lot of rumours in the camp, but the radios had to be kept so secret that when you heard a rumour, you didn’t know if it was a rumour or the truth going through. You couldn’t rely on what was coming out from these secret radios.
You didn’t even know who had the radio?
You never knew who had the radio. They kept that extremely secret, they had to, not that I think anyone would have dobbed them in intentionally.


But unintentionally, it was a different thing you could have.
Did those rumours give you hope as well?
Yes, they did to some extent but you didn’t know how far you could rely on them, you know. I guess in retrospect you look back and a lot of those rumours were right.


And they were right but at the time when you hear them. And, “Oh, it’s just a rumour and it’s not true,” you know, and in retrospect if you go back and look on them you realise that you should have listened to them. Like everything in retrospect. Towards the end we did keep hearing rumours that there were commandos in the hills


outside our camp. But, how could you believe that? It’s like trying to believe that there is a God. You hope there is a God but you don’t know that there is a God, you don’t know. No one knows, people tell you but you don’t know. It was like these commandoes, you keep hearing that there were commandoes but how could you tell?


No one knew, and the rumours came around the camp that they were in the hills and they were going to take over the camp. But you just put it into the hope basket and let it go at that.
We did talk about coming back, well you talked, can you tell


how those experiences shaped you as a man upon return?
Well, I think they have made me very philosophical about life. No matter how bad things are, things can always be worse and there is somebody worse off than what you are and I look at life that way and I have never worried about great material possessions.


I’ve had a reasonably good life and financially successfully life, not that I'm wealthy or anything like that. But, I have always had enough and that’s all I have needed, just enough, and it had made me feel that way all my life. And I have never liked, I have never felt the need to be wealthy.


I would rather felt the need to make life more meaningful as far as I can to help people and that’s what made me go into the scouting movement to help the kids. And to develop that feeling amongst kids that life is about living a worthwhile life than making a fortune.


And I sort of hope that I have developed that sort of attitude amongst my own kids who I must say I am very proud of too. They have all been tremendous kids, I am extremely proud of them. I met Val at the SEC, when I was back there, Val worked at the SEC; she is another product of the SEC,


which I am very grateful for. But life, when I came back, was into living life and making up for those years that we missed out on and that what made my university course so hard to complete successfully because I knew I had to earn myself a living


in the future. But I knew I also had to catch up a lot of living in life and I had a lot of very good friends who felt the same as I did, and for many years we had a wonderful time living it up, a few beers here and a few beers there and that sort of thing.


And I joined the


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