I was one of a family of eight and my eldest sister was a trained nurse. She was one of the first air hostesses and she was killed in the Kyeema when it flew into Mount Dandenong in 1938 but the rest of us, the seven out of seven, went to the war and they all got back so I was very lucky there.
Now there’s only three of us left but no, we were in Ballarat. I was born as I told you in 1913 and it was remembering the early days it was good because Dad was a pretty good singer and he used to earn a lot of money in those days but then came along the Depression in 1927, 28.
Dad was one of the first to be out of work so we had a pretty tough time the eight of us during the Depression but it bonded us so well. We had a very good relationship between all of us and the remaining ones went to the war. I joined the air force in,, let me see,
I must have been enlisted in 1940 in about May 1940 and I was called up in November 1940. I was aircrew. I was a wireless air gunner. We had the air gun and the wireless and I trained in Somers, [Vic.] just over the road at
Ballarat and Evans Head [NSW] . We trained in Australia then we got posted, by the way I’ve got one of my old mates living in the village, we’ve known each other for getting on seventy years and he’s in the village too. There’s four of us who are POW’s [Prisoners of War]. We’re still here so we have a great old time. We have a happy hour on
Saturday at five o’clock which generally goes on for about 2 hours at least anyhow that’s by the way. So getting back to the family, we had a pretty rough time in the Depression time in but it bonded us more and when we came out of it we all did reasonably well. But the biggest shock was when Elva my sister was killed. That sort of shattered us
cause she was a magnificent person and it was a great shock, however the war came then and my one brother Jack who was a lieutenant, he finished up a lieutenant colonel in charge of a battalion. He had the 2/6th Battalion for a while which is a Victorian battalion and he
was a very good soldier and he was awarded a Military Cross in Greece for something he did. His company saved lots of Australians. They blocked the Germans coming through and our bloke got through but he told them, “Keep the Military Cross.” and that he was only paid to do the job and that he was doing it and he’s doing it. In later years he said “I got Jack’s Military Cross,
it was handed down to me.” he told them, you know, what to do with it that he was only doing his job. That was him he was a bit pig-headed I think. Yeah so we all went to the war and of course I was prisoner for three and a half years and I don’t know what had happened to the rest and I was very relieved at the end of the war to find they’d all been in all the big battles.
Tobruk, El Alamein, you name it but they all got back. So there’s only three of us left now.
the other one Bill, lives up in Ringwood. So we’re very, very close. The family, we didn’t get the education that they get these days. I had to leave school when I was fourteen but we all did reasonably well without being millionaires or anything. But
we had reasonable jobs and we brought up families so you can’t ask for more than that can you? Then eventually I married an air force nurse who was nursing me in Heidelberg [Repatriation Hospital], Kath. We were together for forty three years and she died in 1992 in the village here
and that’s where I met Jesse and we sang a lot together and people who sing together stay together so we were the first ones to be married from the village.
I was brought up in Ballarat. The surrounds and the people there are very friendly, easy to get on with and we found in the Depression that we got close together because all the families were in the same boat. There was a few odd ones, you know, who had more money but the average family in the Depression had a pretty hard time
but we eventually all got a job and I got a job at a firm called ‘Motor Spares’, spare parts and accessories.
We had you know, we had footballs made of newspaper tied up and a cricket bat that were made, you know, hacked out of a bit of wood and we loved sport and we played sport. We were living in Mount Pleasant then near the Mount Pleasant school and we used to go up to the school grounds and eventually we’d get a football and we used to kick the football and another uncle in Melbourne who was,
you know, fairly wealthy gave us a cricket set so we were home and hosed. We had a very nice childhood, it wasn’t easy. There were times that we actually were light on for food it was a very, very tough time. Dad was very proud; he wouldn’t go on the dole.
the eldest we were at Ballarat High School. But they were the days, it was pretty tough being especially at high school when, you know, you didn’t have much money. So it was, looking back on the school times and Mount Pleasant.
It was good. Mount Pleasant, they were tough out there. When we went up, they had to sort these new lot, the Jones’, they and my brother Jack, the one who finished up as lieutenant colonel, he was in this famous fight he had with the leader of the mob up there. They weren’t, they were just, anyhow he gave this kid a father of a hiding and that made
the rest of us, we were OK from then on and it became known as the great fight that Jack who didn’t give up at all in the war. He was the same and me, I was inclined to talk my way out of everything but old Jack if anyone mentioned fight he was into it and now on the right track now.
They all went to Mount Pleasant school and it was a rather famous school in the early gold digging days. Now my I should mention this, grandparents on both sides came out to Australia in about 1851 and moved out to make their fortunes in gold but it evaded them. So
both families, the Sage family, the Jones family, the family originated really in Ballarat in the 1950’s so.
they had Welsh, Scottish. Mum’s family were Scots and also French - they got banished to Britain in the early days. So we had a, and then there’s a bit more of the Geordies, that’s from up north of England. So but I suppose the Scots and the Welsh were the main because the family,
the Jones family, had singers from Ballarat on and Dad was probably at one stage the best bass singer in Australia.
running it said that the evacuation would mean that Australia would lose at least one third of its soldiers being evacuated. We didn’t lose one and it was all organised but you’d have heard of him, he’s only a young man, General Monash, and he’s the one that organised the evacuation. They didn’t lose one and the Brits were saying you lose you could lose up to 50%. So the
Uncle, Tom, was in the last company to leave Gallipoli where they did all the tricks. They had the guns on the trenches with water dripping and when the water would start dripping the guns would go off and they did some amazing things but they got off and Uncle Tom was in the last lot to - - he got killed in France later on but
it was very interesting, you know, going back in history and all the uncles. I can remember the ones that came home from the war very much. I was about five, see I’m ninety in October and I can remember them very plainly coming home, they had a bakery and just a small bakery and all the…. I can remember almost every incident.
With poor old grandma, you know, crying her eyes out and, you know, the uncles who did make it were back and it was a, there were – I can remember Chinese lanterns and, but I say just the paper ones they’re only cheap with a candle in them, but all those things, I can remember those things.
got back that’s when we had our holidays because in those days you couldn’t go on a holiday because it cost money so you’d, I used to go to a uncle’s place up in Japarit, Japarit up in the Wimmera and he had a saddlery and I used to work there. He gave me five bob a week, that was big money in those days and
in those days, there were very few tractors around and the horses, especially up in the Wimmera and the callers, the horse callers, they’d have to be, you’d have to be charge them with, you know, get all the muck out, wash it and then stuff it back. I can remember doing that and I got the princely sum of five bob. But they were good days in many ways.
Very happy days, we didn’t have much money but they, you know, we were all together. We didn’t, we had the odd fight I suppose but no it was, I remember them with, you know, I’m glad I went through the POW bit cause I would never have met, I wouldn’t have had Weary Dunlop as a personal friend.
I did the eulogy at the funeral service of the POWs we had at the Toorak Uniting Church and then the big one was at St. Paul’s but I did the one at the eulogy and I just feel that, you know, just very proud to have done it cause he was a – anyhow I’m getting off track, he was just a great man that’s all. Any how
our childhood, we were poor but we always were a very happy group and I think my sister had a lot to do with that too. She was a special woman, so was Mum, there’s see that’s on the corner that’s the day I got home.
the uncles in Melbourne who were not short of a quid, they were pretty wealthy they were shocked so they sent word and give the money and I went back to the high school and the headmaster there was very good. He said “He can come back and finish this year”. So I finished the year and then Dad was still out of work so I just but before that I got a job in a barber shop
Right next to the cattle yards and the cockies would come with dirty beards and wouldn’t shave for at least a week and all I did was lather them up. I never got round to shaving them and sweeping up the hair and cleaning up generally. So I was glad to get out of that and that’s when they sent me back to school and strangely enough I topped the class
in quite a few things so there was eventually I couldn’t stand it that not having it still not having money and I eventually got the job and my sister got a job, we both got fifteen bob a week. We gave Mum ten shillings and five shillings you had to clothe yourself and you had to be magic! You had hand me downs from uncles.
There were we battled through and I can look back on my early days with a lot of, you know, joy. It was tough but it was good.
this bloke was the head of this fairly big butcher shop and Dad would hand over five bob and he’d get a weeks supply of meat for a family of eight for five bob. These are things that happened and then you’d wake up one morning and there’d be a load of wood in the back yard, didn’t have a clue wouldn’t know to this day who ordered it and then
the grocer would arrive with a box of groceries and you know, Mum would say “well”, you know, “who’s this” and she’s a dear, she’s a real lady and they’d say “don’t you worry about that, it’s all fixed”. These are the sort of things that happened. That’s where you found out in the Depression just how much people stuck together, it’s the only way they got through. So I can remember those days, yes and we’d build a
new house at Mount Pleasant when Dad was still working. He was earning quite big money and of course it just stopped off, he couldn’t pay the house off and so the house was booked to be sold at an auction and I can remember coming home from school and, you know, seeing that flag up and my stomach dropped but the house was not sold.
There was no bidders and what happened, the Mount Pleasant people they were pretty, you know, good lot they’d walk around the bloke and say “No one’s bidding for the Jones house, you know that don’t you?” and anyone of the strangers they’d say “well you don’t bid for that house or you could be in a bit of trouble” and so no one bid. So we still lived in the house
and paid rent. They are the sort of things that happen in the Depression, the old workers would, you know, mob up in and they’d just stand around and anyone that started to lift their hand up, they’d just go and have a talk to them and just as in other words they threatened them. Yeah so
I got a job on the baker’s cart, I used to get one and six or two bob a week, you go down to the bakery, a big bakery it was at say, half past six in the morning you get on the cart and work till 3 o’clock in the afternoon and you got paid, but I used to get a free feed and I used to nick a couple of yeast buns if I got hungry. So,
you had to do all of these things and it was good training. Anyhow it didn’t do me any harm I don’t think I eventually got a good job so I was lucky.
so rabbits was very high on the list of what you ate. My dear old grandmother used to work Friday nights too there and I’d go round to her place Friday night for tea and then go back to the shop that closed at nine o’clock and grandma would cook rabbit and you’d swear it was chicken. It was she, you know, she’d be an old
pioneer and what they could do with rabbit was amazing and I tell you rabbits, I still enjoy rabbits if you could, they’re too bloody dear now though. So it was times when you’d find that you’d come home and at the door there’d be jars of jam and something like that. Someone would just sneak in and they’d be making jam and they’d pass it on.
And everyone sort of helped everyone else. It was possibly, although it was pretty tragic times at times but, one of the best times in Australia where people really got together, they helped each other and of course it started I think from the early pioneers, they did the same thing and it had
probably eased off where they got better and then the Depression came and then the code came into action again where you helped people. It was the right thing to do.
and also, you know, you’d go and help like someone’s garden, or something like that, so you’d go and trying to, you know, do give a bit of help to they’d probably been giving you something and it was only this thing where everyone pulled their weight. Now if anyone didn’t pull their weight
they were isolated but you wouldn’t find it in Ballarat, now there was Lake Wendouree, where all the toffs lived round there, you wouldn’t find much of it there but Mount Pleasant and the other places where there were shoe factories and the shoes factories, you know, they might be working one day a week or this there’s pretty tough. But that’s where you saw
it, people really getting together and helping each other.
lots of roads, well you know Dandenong Road was concreted. The one that goes right through up to Ringwood and all those places, those roads, they used to work on. How they did it because they, you know, they would probably come to work with they might have a bit of bread and jam for breakfast but it wouldn’t be much. No the dole
was and you saw - - when I was at Ararat, now I became manager of Motor Spares, Ararat at nineteen but I was supposed to get five pound ten a week but I got 3 pound ten a week and I had to sign for five pound ten. So with that money there’s one brother who had a job as a jeweller in Melbourne
but he didn’t have enough money to pay his board so I sent him seven and six a week and my sister was nursing at the Royal Melbourne [Hospital], I sent her five bob a week so by the end of it, by the time I paid my board I might have had two bob and I was manager of this show, you know, you should be have a little bit of prestige and that was in ’33 so then gradually 1934
a was a bit better, ’35 and up to the time and when the war came it was starting to be another depression it was starting to move in but the war saved that cause they found money that the, when they have a war it’s amazing where the money comes from, but there you are. So in all experiences going through, you know, the early parts,
there was only three of us where we were doing very well. Dad was on about twenty pounds a week which then would have been hundreds now and then down in the Depression and then going through the Depression and gradually coming up till about 1939 it started to get better, ’39, then the war came. So it didn’t get much of a chance to
but and if he did he got in with a mob they were all blokes that had gone to school together and they were all, you know, finding it pretty hard and he’d drink and it was very sad because he wasn’t such a bad bloke but he’d been made such a fuss about when he was about to go to England to sing in England and
I think the war came. So it was pretty tough but I think it helped us for later on when we all had to go through a tough time and especially in the war, during the war we managed to, you know, get through without many problems.
The brother Jack, who had finished up lieutenant colonel, he got a very big job after the war but and all the others did reasonably well didn’t they? No millionaires.
about four foot ten, and she’d brought up eight children and she was always a lady and going out to help people in this big funny, she’d go out to help people, someone else with a big family and then she’d come home to her own mob. But the elder ones learnt to
pull our weight. We used to, before we went up to Mount Pleasant, we had a shower and a bath there but the early place the copper and there was two troughs so you got the copper going and the hot water and the two elder ones we’d bath the rest of the kids once a week.
And never, you know, sort of this business of a shower a day that we’d never heard about that cause there wouldn’t be enough wood to get the copper going. No it was tough times but it didn’t do us any harm. Well with me because it was three and a half years as a POW I met some wonderful blokes and they’d all been through the same
or a strap but in those days he’d be away perhaps for a fortnight. He was travelling for Suttons and he used to earn twenty quid a week and he’d go up especially around Mildura around the First World War where and play a piano in those days, they were, see there was no radio then and to play a piano they were the thing and of course these
young blokes from the first world war they were growing grapes in the patty [?] , they were having a good season and they had a few bob. So but when the Depression came…..
we didn’t have a bike, I’d run to work. Mount Pleasant was out of Ballarat a bit, and no, looking back on those when we went up to Mount Pleasant we had a shower, we’d shower them but and then Mum even, you know, there must have been people she considered were worse off than we are and
you’d find like showering at one stage, you find a couple or two extra kids from up the road that was whatever in those days. So they’d join in the queue and we’d shower them too and oh now it was – looking back it was wonderful training I suppose and we,
yeah I tried to think now what I… there was something I was going to tell you but I’ll think of it in a minute.
fall back and then especially with trying to help your mates because - I’ll give you a poem called Mates. Remind me to read that to you because that’s terrific. So your background, see there are a lot of blokes that were POWs came from pretty big families, aircrew and one bloke we had he died up there, he used to have a big property and
when the royalty would come out in Queensland they’d always stay at this property. But he was, you could see that he was spoilt and he was quite a good bloke, he turned out all right but he died a pretty rough old death. So it was all training. We didn’t realise that, that little lady trained us, she also, when we took girls out,
she’d give us a lecture “Now remember you must treat her as you would your sisters and don’t….” so don’t I won’t put this bit in, but you scrub it out. So if on the Endau raid, when we got knocked around a bit, I should have been knocked off then, but I bailed out right over the target, but they told me to bail out, I forgot to unhook my muggy strap [?]
so I went over the side and I was out floating in air and the next thing I’m flat out, I’m back sitting on my arse in the floor of the back cockpit and that’s what saved my life. So they, people don’t believe it, but I was one of the first bungy jumpers in Australia. But that story,
now I don’t know why I brought that one in I’ll have to – why don’t you ask?
she just taught us, you know, what she thought was right and that was one, you know, you’d take a girl out, I don’t know where we got the money but we might have got to get into the film it was about one and six. So if you had three bob it must have been something big and she’d point at me, I can see her now, “You must remember you just treat her like a lady
like you’d treat your sister.” so there you are, that was our training.
So you think that advice made you lack a little spark or something?
Well looking back, at the odd times you had time to have a think about it, you missed out and it when you talk to blokes like Jackie Holmes and Ross McConaughey did the same we all reckoned that we probably overdid the mark, we should have at least got down on our knees and say “What about it I’m going over to fight
for my country.”. There you are. See they were trained too they were, the girls were their mothers, you know, sort of, you’d take them home and get to the front gate and a light would go on and as soon as they heard the gate and they’d say “Come on Dorothy come inside and you can bring your boyfriend with you.”
and so you’d sort of crawl up the stairs and go and meet Mum and Dad and that’s it and walk home. Good life it was.
what was your perception of what happened in World War 1 as a boy?
Oh as a boy we thought that, you know, there was only one thing to do. They were our heroes there’s no doubt about that. So you probably, it’s instilled in your mind that. Also the old ladies of those days, the front, if you’ve been to the front - Now when the war came,
I was at Ararat, so I had this lovely job at 8 pound 10 a week plus bonuses plus, it was incredible. An old grand aunt of mind came into the shop, she’s passing through going up to Sydney, and she said “How are you Ivor. I hope you’re going over to join the boys in the front are you”? Fortunately I had signed up with the air force and I said “Yes aunty, I have.”
“Oh that’s good” she said. Now today that’d be treated as anyone sooling [goading] you into the war it wouldn’t be very acceptable would it in some quarters?
‘Wanted urgently wireless air gunners’. Well to be a pilot or a navigator or a observer your education had to be up to the what do you call it? The oh, anyhow I was a year behind so my education wasn’t good enough to be anything but a rear gunner or a wireless air gunner and I had to go to school for six months
in Albury, at night school to bring my education up to the Intermediate [Certificate], that’s right that’s the word. I can’t complain about that. That’s another one I missed out on. I had a lovely teacher there, she used to say “Move over and sit in the desk with me.” and you see old dumb me wasn’t awake up that she was very interested in me but I think there was something else too - but that’s all gone.
Yeah so what was I on there?
for hitting the ball in the street and the you had a bit of a what’s-a-name in the middle of the road for wickets and you see something, you didn’t see many cars coming. It’d be the horse and cart coming so you’d lift it off and then to keep fit you’d get a motor tyre and go right round the block, pretty long block, put the bowl in the tyre on, that was there
And then I won the cross country 3 mile at school and the only training I had was on the baker’s cart getting up and down and riding the wheel and up and down, up and down and also when you got home you played sport and you ran the tyre round the block and so you’re on the move all the time.
But there weren’t many cars. The whole street, I can’t think of anyone that had a car cause the only people that had cars would have been someone that ran a business, grocer shop or something, but ordinary people, no, they didn’t have a car. I reckon I was 8 years old before I had a ride in a car, when I went to Melbourne to my stay with my wealthy relations
and they had a, he had an Italian, you’ve never heard of that one before.
Uncle Tom’s tree that, you know, he was killed and another one and I must have walked I don’t know, probably 2 or 3 miles and I found it and I found another couple and that was great, that was really an inspiration for me to be able to find that tree and think about Uncle Tom who must have been quite a bloke. So yeah, we
were very conscious of the Anzac tradition and the war I suppose. I joined the militia when I was 17 I suppose, so it must have been something stuck in my mind about the war, going to war… no that was the time
when the Japs were getting stuck into China and it was a bit of a touch and go there for a while.
you had to be lucky there. It was like you’d find families would say there’s 6 or 7 went and they’d lose 5 or 6 and then the other families, they’d still go into the front line and wouldn’t lose any. It was just an amazing thing really but Uncle Tom was killed by our own artillery.
I forget the battle now, but what happens the bloke who is grinding the mince somewhere along the line, the infantry are moving up and the artillery were sort of hitting just in front of them so they would get protection to go into action. Well somewhere along the line he must have missed, you know,
where he was going and he walked right into the barrage, they never ever found him.
but then we thought, you know, we had a talk among ourselves at a big reunion in ’84 that sort of started off we were all just finished work and we, I can remember, we had a concert in the concert hall. I had to arrange it and I had blokes from Sydney who were coming down
and oh I’m trying to think and some of the blokes that we’d had, had been quite big performers, you know, in civilian life. We had a wonderful reunion and we joined together, with the spirit of it was just amazing really and our families who went to that, that’s when it started, they started to ask questions and
that’s where it began and we began to talk and we find it wasn’t doing us any harm and now it doesn’t mean a thing, you know, I can talk to them and I’ve been talking a lot. I’ve been going round to schools talking about Weary Dunlop and Probus clubs. I’ve been going to schools right up as far as Echuca.
The kids today want to know, they just want to know all about it and so we tell them and it’s a joy because I went up the other day, to Elwood and I spoke to the kids at the Elwood Primary School and they gave me such a what’s-a-name I thought well,
it’s worth it just to. These kids want to know and they’ve got a right to know and I always tell them in there. I say “Don’t fall for the story that war is a great thing.” I tell them that war is obscene, men going out and killing themselves and another thing, I’ve probably got to watch it though and I say
“War is created by older men, politicians who know each other and fought by young men who are strangers to each other.” and I think that sort of pulls them up with a jerk, I think. Probably some of the people today would say ‘Oh you shouldn’t say that.’ but I think it’s the truth, why shouldn’t I say it?
I think it’s, we’ve just got to I suppose compromise because war is evil itself, it’s as Weary’s lady that wrote Weary’s book, lady Sue Edbury. I picked it up from her, I took her to the school here and she spoke to the kids and she’s delightful and she says “I want you”, I can see her now,
“I want you to know that war is obscene.” You know, and she said it’s killing each other, strangers killing each other, you know, if I go and tell Johnny Howard (Prime Minister) about that, I’d get a good kick in the arse but it is it’s a fact.
Was anybody saying that war was a great and glorious thing?
Well yeah because especially the old blokes who didn’t go, you know, seeing blokes saying “Oh if I’d only been there, you know, I couldn’t get there and I was knocked back oh I’d have liked to have been there.” and I thought you bloody old tits because half the time they got out because they were
Say what you like because this is for posterity, this is an archive that’s hopefully going to last for hundreds of years so it’s important for you to speak your mind for future generations.
But you take the First World War, it was created by men, cousins, you know, the nobility, the Kaiser Bill, he was a nephew of Queen Victoria and this happened and it’s the people who go, they’re slaughtered and they just haven’t got a chance and these other buggers sit on their bums and it happens.
So on that point well there’s 3 of us who would agree, the other one might not be so agreeable but that’s our attitude, war is obscene.
we learnt to sing the songs we sang at school, you know, gave the British, you know, that we were taught, you know, that they were the greatest and just like the Yanks are now and we didn’t have a chance to think otherwise. It’s only when we went through it and we saw what happened
did we realise that war is futile. Well look at us, we won the war and the only two countries who got out of it alright were Germany and Japan because the Yanks gave them anything they wanted virtually because of the scare of communism. So, you know, it all becomes a bit confusing.
This is where you start to realise, you know, what is going on and then even in this last bit, gee I shouldn’t quote I’ll be in jail, with the what’s-his-name, George W Bush, [US President] he went into this blindfolded because even now it hasn’t been sort of sorted out has it?
It just makes you a bit annoyed when you go into these things without thinking. In lots of cases all they’re thinking about is oil or money. So I’m not a communist, I’m just an ordinary Australian and I think I just want to talk a bit of common sense at times. So there you are.
I was flat out to be able to get the tram ticket from Mount Pleasant right up to where the high school was. So many a time I didn’t walk, I jogged up and I remember getting a ride home in a baker’s cart. I knew these bakers. You know how bakers poke their heads out and say “Are you short of, any chance of getting some?” you know, they quote
a loaf they didn’t have and they’d exchange well they were all fair dinkum and he’d spot me and say “Hop up.” so I’d get a ride right down through half way home on the baker’s cart. These things happened you know but.
the baker and the guys who came to collect the sewerage and the milkman and the coal man and so on. Do you think they helped to create a sense of community?
Oh yeah, because now the milkman, he’d come in and they had a can and a scoop and he’d ask Mum how many and she’d say, you know, she’d be on a - -she’d loved, she was one of the early specialists
on eating the right food and she’d say “Oh well, you know, we’ll have 2 pints.” or something and you’d see he’d look up and he’d go 1, 2 and give her a look and he’d give her another scoop and the extra one would go into every time. That’s what happened in the Depression, they would pick out, you know, where things weren’t going so well.
And the same on the bread cart. I’d go in, there was a family of 6 boys, one was with his in Singapore he got killed in the Levant where we got knocked around and I had my basket with the big double loaves, they were 11 pence, it was about that long
and she’d get 2 of those and she’d say “Oh I think I’ll have another one but I don’t know.” and I’m sure if I said to Uncle Harry, “Will I whip that in?” But you’d have to be careful cause they’d catch you, what stock you took out and what you brought in and what you sold so you had to be very careful. But there was a lot of that went on,
where possible the blokes would give something, you know, extra. Even the old Chinaman, when the old Chinaman used to come. See the Chinese bloke came with the vegetables twice a week, the butcher came 3 times a week, the baker came 5 days a week and the milkman twice a day. Now the
grocer came in once a week and he’d yell out, write it down and it would be delivered that day and if you didn’t have enough money they’d still deliver it and put it on the book that, you know, that we owe. So there were lots of things were done then, lots of butchers just gave meat away, you know, for nothing and
the bakers if they could they would, the milkman definitely and.
wasn’t right. No there wasn’t – religion in those days, there was definitely things going on between Catholics and Protestants. Now that it’s, thank God it’s gone. We’ve got a lady in this village, she’s a nun, she lives here
and she arranges for transport for all the cancer patients that have, you know, and the blokes and the ladies will drive them up to the big hospitals, the specialists and she insists on paying the petrol money. Well people here including myself, we make sure
that there’s local like the Salvation Army and there’s Catholic nuns, they’re the ones we put on the top of the list when we’re going to give money away.
who create war, fought by young men and women who are strangers to each other. Now we had that in the First World War, very pronounced when in France in the early part of the war at Christmas time say it could have been Christmas 1914, yeah it could be ’14 or ’15 where the
Christmas Day the, now wait on, the Scottish regiments for fighting could have been in ’15 no ’16 were fighting the Germans. Now the Germans were the not the tough Germans, the smoother ones
I think of the name, anyhow they joined them together, they had a no man’s land, shook hands and had a wonderful gathering and were singing and having a great old time and the high command were furious. They ordered them to get back and get in their trenches and keep the fight going. Now at Gallipoli after the big battle there where the Australians
had big losses with the Turks, the same thing happened there, they called a, they called off for a just a couple of hours so that they could bury the dead and there again the Turks and the Australians met. They exchanged cigarettes and chattered away and the same thing the high command’s heard about them, sent up word to tell them to all get back in their trenches and start fighting again. So see there’s two examples
that this did happen. That men are virtually, if they’re left alone they can sort of sort it out themselves it could have been just the same as on a football field or anytime, you know, when you see a big fight and you see them after shaking hands and they’re ashamed of themselves. Well that was two instances
that were in the First World War and I don’t know about the Second World War. I don’t think we offered to at the end of the war when we were released we didn’t offer to, oh wait a minute yeah, I’m probably coming in a bit early now. I remember talking with Weary after then Thailand and he said “I’ve been asked
to go over to Japan to give evidence.” you know, when they had the big..
I worked for the Japs for a while. And the Japs had sent some of their executives over. We had this big agency for Nitto tape and if you’ve seen Nitto tape around and we took this young bloke out for lunch and my partner who was in the war we were having lunch and he said “Of course Ivor
was a prisoner.” and this bloke, and his face got down and he got down and bowed and he said “I am so sorry.” A young bloke and I thought ‘Well.’ and that bloke Bill, Billy Griffiths was sitting next to a Japanese girl coming over here in one of her trips she did here and she was looking at him and in the end she said, oh I think
she’d been introduced, “Oh Mr. Griffiths.” you know, “How did you get that?” and he told her how he’d been in the hospital in Java and the Japs officer ordered the 2 Japanese soldiers to go and bayonet him because he said he’s not worth anything to us and Weary stepped in and he said, “ You kill me first.”
and they stopped and Weary saved his life, he needed a big operation to save his life. She was told this story and she cried and when she got home she wrote a beautiful letter to Bill, or for his wife to read where she said she was ashamed at being a Japanese.
deserve the medals for putting up with our - actually we didn’t mean any harm it just, even now Jack was here in the village and Ross McConaughey, Ross is in hospital now and I’ve been going to see him every day and I’ve got to see my wife everyday. So it just shows and I think he said to me, “You don’t have to come here every day you know
you silly old bugger.” so I won’t. It’s a friendship that just will not, will never go.
he was a liberal. Well those days Nationalists. He was funny that, you know, we what he was doing prior to that, you know, like the middle class they were inclined to be more in many ways, what’s the word?
They only see one party, that’s it. No one else is any good and you say you mention Labor. Oh no no that must be Nationalist and they don’t think or sort things out. It’s what their family has done for years probably feeling a bit uppity when they’re really battlers.
trying to work out. I had this big job. The first time in my life I had money that was pretty hard, you know, and I was able to help Mum and I had a lovely girl and so when I got home I used to home in Albury to Ballarat occasionally to see Mum and
the two younger boys, one was in the bank and the other he had a job. The youngest and they were talking about going to the war and I said, “Now you two boys you’ve got to stay home and look after Mum.” and Mum turned on me and the first time ever she said, “They’ll do no such thing. They will be doing what they want to do and you’re not to interfere.” and
that was the first time ever that she had told me off. I was trying to do the right thing so see that’s probably her generations were in the First World War had instilled in them, you know, you must go to the front and fight and.
Why would they say ‘the front’?
On the front, see the front is where the trenches in those, it was trench fighting, you know, like they’d been there in France, you know, up and down there they’re going like that to, yeah.
It was a bit different see, when the Germans were trying to, I think in the first place Germany would have aligned themselves with Britain if Britain would have aligned themselves with them and they would be the, you know, the top two and, but see it’s changed now. America’s the top
nation of the world and the top nations are never very popular cause the Americans are not very popular with a lot of people because they think, you know, that they’re what’s the word? They’re arrogant and so are the Poms when they were on top, they were arrogant. So and I think the French under
Napoleon were arrogant so when they get on top they show and then they work on the ordinary people to be the same.
With reference to religion, can you tell us how you saw things in school and after school before the war? From your experiences did you come across the conflicts?
There used to be things like, but no I can honestly say I never, I had good Catholic mates and what’s-a-name and my Mum would not tolerate that. She was very gentle and very she would see that we never were say anti-Catholic or anything like that. She,
brought us up to be very fair and I think it certainly worked with me anyhow cause I had just as many good mates that were Catholic and probably not as many but now I certainly would not tolerate for anyone being biased. Especially when you see sister, our sister here, what she does
and my biggest money I contribute would be to her as against and the other one there’s the Salvation Army lass and dear she’s a dear old soul too. So I feel that I’d rather give it to the locals than give it to the big shot and you see it by the way they, the stuff they send out
is going to cost you too much money.
it was early 1940 so everything wasn’t, we were way behind in our equipment. We had, those the aircraft we had was, they had one, I’ll think of it in a minute, and our own ones that we were building at Fisherman’s Bend [Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation], they were obsolete so the
Empire Air Scheme was probably as war goes, was probably the most successful move ever made as far as wartime. It was, but the death toll was horrific. For instance I think
British air crew it was something like 100,000, you know, it was up, way up and in Australia alone in the British bomber command we lost about 6000 and.
So that’s a big difference isn’t it and the other big loss. Gallipoli was 8,000, POWs was 8,000 but we had battles in Britain in the First World War where the losses were just horrific but see we’re treated as
shock troops, the Australians were, so they just went in and no mucking around, they were good and the same as the Scots and the Australians were considered the shock troops and the British High Command used to use them. I think they used to have run competitions with how many lost.
Spencer St railway station and we had lunch down there which was I can remember it was pretty good and then along came the blue buses and we were taken down to Somers. As soon as we stepped outside the bus there was no Mister. “Righto AC [aircraftsman] Jones.” he said, you know, and then it started. We were there for a month and I not being educated enough,
you know, I was battling a bit and I had to work hard to pass and I could have easily, you know, given that away if I wanted to because if you we used to get weekend or one day weekend pass and if you were behind in your in your work you had to stay behind and they’d give you hell, you know,
you’d work hard but in the end I got through in the top ten. There was 80, 80 of us went through. So Somers was good we had sheets and pillowslips and all sorts of things. That didn’t last long though and but we were treated like aircrew and we got the white thing you see, no, it’s not there.
The white thing in our caps that say we’re aircrew, you know, we thought we were marvellous and but the pilots were top in those days, 2 the observers and 3 the wireless air gunners and 4 the straight gunners. They’re the ones that missed out on the wireless but it was a bit of
a social thing, you know, if you were a pilot they used to think you were lovely so we were down the scale a bit but it all changed because in the end they were all aircrew, were in the same mess like there was officers and sergeants and warrant officers. If you were aircrew you were in the one mess.
At the end of the war, sorry I’m digressing we were in Bangkok and oh we had bits of uniform. I think I had a warrant officer’s badge. I’d been promoted from a sergeant to a warrant officer while we were POW’s and along came this British Squadron who were flying out the Brits home and they
invited us to the their mess, the aircrew mess and there was a little Australian Army officer there. I could see him there, little prick and he said “What are you chaps doing here this is an officers’ mess”? And I was just about to open me mouth and the two hosts, one was a air commodore and, you know, two high class, two good blokes
but they say “This is an aircrew mess and they’ve got more right than you have of being here.” and so he shut up, they were flying a Mosquito and they were going over to Japan and they wanted us to go with them. Well I would have been court martialled. Fancy bloody air group captain, that’s right and a wing commander telling us to
nick off with them over to and I was very tempted to go but thank God I didn’t. So that’s just digressing.
It was, you sat there, you had to get up to 22 words a minute and sit there all day and you see the blokes slumped over and we, oh I had to do all sorts of other training. It was all right but it wasn’t, what’s the word,finished? It was all done in a hurry.
For instance, the ones that went to Canada got longer and better training than we did because they had more time to, you know, get the thing ironed out. We were rushed in and then we did a month at Evans Head [NSW] for air gunnery [1 Bombing and Air Gunnery School] , now this is where we didn’t we hardly got any training at all. We had Fairey Battles, you know, Fairey Battles
Oh, they were fighter bombers but they weren’t worth 2 bob and they were sent out here and probably to other places for training and we had one month there and then we got our wings and
did, I suppose I did a total of about half an hour gunnery and it we weren’t we didn’t finish our training. Anyhow then we were posted to England to go on Wellingtons [bomber aircraft] and we were waiting, we got all our bags painted the right colour and that scrubbed. Then we had to paint our bags another colour and we were posted in the Middle East and that didn’t happen.
Then we got it painted green and we got posted to Singapore because Singapore then there was no war, the Japs weren’t in it and we were supposed to do more training in Singapore then fly up to the border where the tribesmen were, dump the old Wilderbeests [bomber aircraft] there and fly back to Australia to
Get the Beauforts [bomber aircraft] but it didn’t happen. So we joined this 36 Squadron. and I remember going into Singapore, look up at the sky and there’s 3 Wilderbeest flying over to welcome and I remember saying to the officer, British warrant officer who came on board I said, “Cripes who flies in those bloody old things?” he said, “You will be my boy, don’t you worry about that”.
But we had a Magarey Medallist [South Australian football award], you know, that’s the same as the big one over here, Brownlow [Victorian football award] Magarey is the one in South Australia. Anyhow we had 3 good months there but we didn’t get any training. Well I was old, I was 27 and I said to the officer “Why aren’t we getting any gunnery practice and more?” We were getting plenty of
wireless but no, oh they did give us trip round to all the dromes [aerodromes] in Malaya but we just weren’t getting any training and I said to him, “When am I going to get some gunnery exercise?” and these bloody old 1917 model guns we had, Lewis Guns and they said, “Oh no you’re going to take the
Wilderbeests up to north west front and you’ll leave him there, go back to Australia by boat and pick up Beaufighters [aircraft] and you come back and you do some training.” and well it never happened. So we went into action never having fired a Lewis gun. Didn’t have a clue what it was, just imagine the Zeros [Japanese aircraft] had 2 cannon
and our Lewis guns wouldn’t even reach them, they were obsolete. So there you are.
I’d say designed during the end of the First World War and it’s a biplane with a gun, a Vickers gun flying through the propeller in front and one Lewis gun at the back. Now a Lewis gun, 1917 was stamped on it, 1917 and we laughed we thought that was a big joke and
it was pretty good. It carried four 250 pounders or two 500 pounders or a torpedo and we did let one torpedo drop, this was at training and the Wilderbeest used to do 90 miles an hour at ordinary height.
Well when it came to this, dropping the bomb, it went straight down like that. Frightened the shit out of us, and you’d drop the bomb into the water and as you dropped the bomb and you curved away try and be missed by the whatever you’re bombing at, that was the idea of it. So we did one practice drop and that was it.
After about 1943 they had bomb aimers, straight gunners, wireless air gunners, navigators and all the key ones. But the early ones, you can see that the AG [Air Gunner’s] badge, the air gunner and the observer was just an ‘O’ which we used to call them flying arseholes
and they didn’t like that, but still.
I had a little platform, at the back to stand on and you had to move the gun over physically. Now it was an open cockpit so you’ve got a lot of air stream that I know when we did the raid on Endau we lost 8 out of 12 and
I looked over and I could see the fighters there and I yelled out to Buck Buchanan, he was the pilot, New Zealander, and I said he got it about half way there in the what’s-a-name when the zero having 2 cannon just blew the back. I was lucky because I must have been leaning forward because it just moved right across the
back of me neck and then when Buck.
His left leg, it was all hanging out and the observer, he was wounded in the arm, and Buck yelled out the petrol on the port side was gone. The struts were what’s-a-name, the wings were flapping and God it was a mess and Buck said
“Bail out!” So I looked over the side and there’s all these bloody boats floating round. It was a landing, the Japanese Imperial Guards Division and so I put on the parachute and over the side I went and I was floating in the air and they and I forget to unhook the monkey strap and
it pulled me back into the plane and I hit the bloody bottom with me Khyber [Khyber Pass - arse], and again I must have missed a burst because where I should be standing that’s where they, you know, really go a bit of good go. The what’s-a-name, not Spitfires the other one.
Anyhow I’ll show you the painting to give you an idea. This bloke, an English bloke, he followed the Jap down and got him and that saved us and dear old Buck he said,
“Stay where you are Jonesy.” he said “We’ll get…..” and he went right down and followed, you know, the bushes, the trees and we got back to base. Now he should have got a VC [Victoria Cross] or something, he got bugger all and I know on the way back I’d bandaged the observer. He had to put a
tourniquet on and I said to Buck, “Can I crawl up and fix your what’s-a-name?” “Stay where you are.”, he said. “No.” and we were flying down and next thing I saw a fighter coming from behind and I thought any bloody fighter, you know, could be anyone and I said to Buck, you know,
“Fighter 2 o’clock!” and down he dived. Now I had, you know, I had landed back in the plane and I unhooked the monkey strap that pulled me back, you know, into the plane. I unhooked and then when we got settled and we looked down and there was nothing in the sky and we looked like we were going to make it and I remembered
I hooked the monkey strap up again and then I saw this pilot, this plane, and I yelled at Buck and he dived down like that and I’m not kidding I went up in the air like that, I would have gone arse over head at the back without any parachute cause I hadn’t put me parachute on. So I’d had two lucky ones in the one day. Buck said, “Stay where you are.
“We’ll be right.” and he got the plane back. Now when he saw his leg, it was just amazing and so we, the NCOs, [Non Commissisoned Officers] got bugger all. Some of the pilots got their DFCs [Distinguished Flying Cross] but we, Buck should have got higher than a DFM [Distinguished Flying Medal but he didn’t, but that happens, you know, when you’re in a losing side you don’t get many
we got back and I had the Aldus Lamp. The Aldus Lamp was something they have in ships a lot but we being a torpedo bomber we had a bit of extra equipment. And so I’m flashing the light to the drome, see like just going I couldn’t remember the SOS and of course when we landed there was blood everywhere and
we got out and we got Buck out, the ambulance came up and the station commander, he was a group captain, bit of an old prick he was and he said, “Did you get the Japanese? Did you get the planes?” and I said, “Get the bloody planes?” and I said, “What in the hell do you expect us to do with these?” and I was just going like this and all of a sudden I felt a push
from behind, it was a pilot, one of the English pilots. He said “Shut up Jones, keep quiet for Gods sake, keep quiet.” otherwise I would have got court martialled cause I was abusing this group captain. He pissed off, he got off onto a ship and got home. I don’t know what happened to him.
with the ETA [estimated time of arrival], just a trial. I thought, well, “I’ll see if I’m still a wireless operator” and mainly they got the messages all right. So, but see, we had not done any gunnery practice and that’s what we were supposed to do when we did finished our training. It was ridiculous really. When the other
blokes on the Lockheed sones [?].
Then of course the Japs, they were pretty well informed by the locals and in the second raid we were in, we had two Albatross bombers from the British battleship the Prince of Wales and so we took off about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and
we flew up in formation and that was very slow. I remember looking over the two Albatrosses were in front, they could go a bit faster but either the Hurricanes were late or we were early because when we got over the target the Hurricanes weren’t there. So we got, that’s when we lost, you know, our planes and just as we were moving in to bomb,
in came the Hurricanes and they did quite a good job and we lost, in our raid we lost 2 COs [commanding officers] and we, our losses were about 60%. So
when we were POWs, some of the army blokes said, “Oh jeez, you know, you blokes, bloody air force what did they do, what did you do?” and I say, “Well how many did you lose in your raid”? and they’d say “Oh well, you know, we lost 20 or 30.” and I said, “Well we lost 60%, so shut up.” and in the end they suddenly realised that
what we had done was pretty good. Oh we did a couple of daylight raids. Oh this Endau raid was a daylight raid. Fancy sending us up in old obsolete planes like that when there’s a whole army of, the Jap ones, what are they? God I’m, it’s gone again, 96s and what’s the Zeros. They must have thought, you know,
this is God’s gift. But then the other raid in Java, we were with a Liberator squadron and who should be the CO of that the actor, Stewart.
But they did the raid and they pissed off but we had to stay on Java and we lost, we were down to 3 planes and then we did the last raid, then we lost another one so we had 2 and then the 6 blokes got into the 2 planes because they were English blokes and we didn’t get,
the Australians, didn’t get a guernsey and they flew off and then. See we only had a range of 200 miles. Well that’s only 100 to the target and 100 back and we used to be able to put some small tanks on but it stopped us, we lost a bomb by doing that so we used to try
and do it with the maximum armour, you know.
we asked could we have some training runs, you know, to see if we could do bombing at night. you couldn’t do much, just poke the gun over the side and fire it but there again we did sort of a dive, a shallow dive and then all these blue ones, pink ones, red ones, the bombs were coming up all round us.
one of our pilots, one of our crew. The pilot was killed, the other two, the observer and the gunner, they’d bailed out. They were two mates of mine, they got back but then we had to set the bombs on the aerodrome we were on so that we blew up the drome and then
we pissed off, we had a van, we got some tucker into the van and we went off to the coast and when we got down to the coast the natives weren’t very good. There was some Australians from number one squadron on the beach and they’d been in contact with Australia and arranged to send some
Dutch seaplanes over at nights, a German one I just can’t remember now the name of them and anyhow it was all arranged. They were on the beach, they had this radio and they were in touch with Australia but the Japs came in, machine gunned and bombed the drome where the Dutch planes were that were going to take us out
and that was it. So we went through a bit further and then we knew we were trapped cause the Jap planes would fly overhead, they knew where we were. So in the end, we just had to pack up. We found our squadron and the Pom said, “Yeah you thought you were going to get away didn’t you?
Well you’re back with us now”. So that’s how we finished up with them, but we only stayed with them for about 9 months. We were in a camp near Batavia.
we went out and bombed Kalijati and we bombed the landing later on in Java and again we’re credited with 3 transports. So the old kites, you know, did some good work and but there again
we lost 2 more crews but the acting CO, he was killed, the others went into the drink and got back and they were eventually taken prisoner and a couple of them were killed later, on the way to Japan when the
American submarines sank the ship they were on and they were lost, they were drowned.
So the Japanese actually arrived in?
Oh then we tried to escape, we went down to the beach then we were waiting for the Dutch planes to come from Broome to pick us up at night, it was all arranged and that’s when the Japs moved in. They must have got word of it, probably picked up the message, and they bombed the drome at Broome or one close to it and so our objective was
gone. So we got back with our tails between our legs to where British blokes now were and they had a bit of a go at us for trying to escape and not being successful and from then on we became one of the squadron and we had to drive back to, I forget the name of the place,
fairly big town where all the troops, all the air force blokes were gathered and surrendered and the Japanese Imperial Guards were there. Oh they gave us hell too. There was a big concert. They let us have a big concert and I sang and they collected and I came back with
about 20 guilders [Dutch currency] and so I was able to spread it around. We went and bought some bread and tinned fruit which we could get and that’s about the last good feed we had I think.
almost, you know, you’ve let yourself down, but it was completely hopeless, there was no way we could. We did, we eventually went to a tea plantation where we found our squadron and we were there for a few days and then a New Zealander came to me and said,
“I’m going to try to escape, will you be in it?” and I thought yes and our CO heard about it and said, “No you’re not, it’s hopeless, you will never get out”. We were going to try and find a boat on the coast and get off, you know. Anyhow he went ahead without me because I was ordered not to
and he had a worse time than I did. He had to work on that railway they built in Sumatra. They had to build another railway from Sumatra right up to the coast and they had a hell of a time. So did we too, but then we eventually went into Kalijati, that’s
where the headquarters of the Dutch went. All the pilots trained there, and we were there and we were actually in a hut. It wasn’t too bad, we thought it was terrible. That’s where I met the only Jap. He was terrific, Morista, and he apparently
took to us and was in charge of us. We used to march out of the camp, he’d be at the head and he’d have a quick look round and he’d take us over to the swimming pool ahead and let us have a swim and then he’d do the job we had to do and then he said, he could speak fairly good English, and then he said, “What’s the food like?” and I said, “Well, all we’re getting at the moment is rice”. I said, “It would be handy to get some sugar.” he said
“OK tonight you go up to where the wire.” he pointed where it was. “And we’ll have some sugar.” and I went there, we got the bag of sugar and when I got to where we were sleeping there’s a Jap, oh a real bastard, he’s got someone bailed up in a room not far from us giving him a belting and
if he’d have found out that we’d have gone up and got that sugar, not only would we cop it, they’d squeeze it, Morista would have copped it too. So I can remember we stood there with this bag of sugar behind me feet like that and I’m looking and he comes on and he looks me up and down and I thought I’ll look straight ahead. I didn’t move and then he looked me over again and walked on. Anyhow I handed out sugar to everyone. We did spoonful by spoonful.
Even our officers, Australian officers, but they never replaced it with anything; I’m a bit crooked on them about that. So we all did it, you know, spoonful by spoonful and we at least had sugar with a bit of rice,which was good. And that’s where a mate of mine, he died later at the railway.
He was a farmer and there was a goat in the camp. I don’t know how it got there but we were sort of looking at it and saying, “Gee, we’d like to cook that goat.” But one of the Poms had it for a pet and my mate said, “We should get those dogs balls out.”, you know, like the
sheep. And all the Poms came round and he went down on it with his teeth and he did the operation. Got rid of the goat’s balls and everyone clapped, but then the goat became the pet. That’s the trouble, we couldn’t eat it, so it ended up in disaster. But I’ll never forget dear old Mick.
A couple of the Poms fainted, they’d never seen it, oh I hadn’t seen it done before but I didn’t faint.
Now they were paid the equivalent to, say you’re a captain in the Australian Army you’d get the same pay as the equivalent in the Japanese Army. They’d have to pay some money for rental but I don’t know what it was. We didn’t get anything and that’s when we realised that the officers wouldn’t cop, you know,
they would come through pretty good. In the end, in the Australian Army and Air Force, the Australian officers lost 3%, we lost 34%. So if the buggers had given us our commissions we’d have had a different. But as far as I’m concerned, we would have missed out on meeting
and making the friendships with the blokes. That was important, we met some wonderful blokes especially later on when the troops, the troops from the Middle East, landed in Java and we met some, eventually we joined up with them. That was later on, I’ll tell you about that later on but we met some wonderful blokes from the 2/3rd machine gunners and 2/2nd Pioneers and we became
almost brothers. We became honorary members of their, after the war, their battalions.
but in that camp it wasn’t too bad. We had shelter and we had a place to sleep. I had parachute silk to sleep, you know, to cover me. No it wasn’t bad there and we could get - - everyday it rained at about 5 o’clock
and we’d stand out in the rain and get a decent old shower so it was good. We thought it was crook cause there was some pretty nasty customers there, looking back, no we were pretty well off in that particular camp.
Ross McConaughey, he tells people that he played full forward for Collingwood and they say, “When was this?” and he’d say, “In a prisoner of war camp.” This was in the early days when we were first taken prisoner, when we first got to Singapore. In Singapore they’ll tell you about it later but
that’s where they had football games and they had two teams, Collingwood and Carlton, and this mate of mine he played full forward, didn’t any have any boots and he kicked 4 goals and won.
What time of the day did it take place and so on?
Yeah well there was 27 bombers would come over in the morning and then another 27 bombers would come over later in the afternoon and we would get bombs. that now we were on Sembawang Drome, which is one of the biggest in the world and
so the Sembawang is where the Australian squadrons were, the Lockheed. So we’d almost have it, you know, on time when they were going to arrive and I’ll tell you a funny thing that happened. The CO we had a battalion of Indian Army there
sort of protecting the drome and the commander and the boss of the battalion set off to liven up the day a bit. We had a boxing competition between the air force blokes and the army blokes, Indian Army blokes that we thought was very good. So we got into the drome, had a bit of a meeting and no one volunteered and
a mate of mine volunteered so I thought, “Oh well I’d better be in it.” I couldn’t fight me way out of a paper bag but anyhow the competition started and our blokes were doing alright they were holding their own. It was all going very nicely we had a big ring between the two hangers and then it came my turn and my mate Gil Sharp who lost his leg at Endau, he was a boxer.
He used to box at the Fitzroy Stadium in those days and if you won you got 3 quid and if you lost you got a quid. See that was big money and he said, he didn’t volunteer and he said, “Now all you’ve got to do.” he said, “Just go in there and lead with your left.” and he was going through all the business and I’m trying absorb it and anyhow my opponent was a young Irishman
who was apparently a pretty good boxer. I found out later he was a golden glove boxer so I don’t think I’d have lasted long. So we get into the ring and old Sharpie saying out, “Now just lead with your left, just dodge around you’re quick on your feet, just do this do blah blah blah.” and I happened to look up and the flag was up for the yellow. It means that the
planes are on their way, pretty close and I had a quick look at it and I’d get into the ring and I got round and it’s gone up to red. Everyone cleared out and they shot through like a Bondi tram and I was left standing in the ring with the Irish lad. We shook hands and ran for cover ourselves so my only boxing competition was saved by the
Japs coming, you know, over yeah.
The information they had from Singapore was amazing. They had a pretty mixed race there they had Chinese and they had some Indian but they were well informed. Right down the line when the
bombers left when they went over, you know, close by and they used to send over 27 at a time and we would we were flat out, you know, in the poor old Hurricanes [fighter planes]. They had about 7 or 8 Hurricanes and the rest were
Bulldogs, no. it was an American plane, they had scrubbed them over they were, you know, sold cheaply to the British government. Buffaloes, you know, these Buffalo fighters were alright. The blokes did a wonderful job but in the end they shot down more Zeros
than they shot Buffaloes. It was just purely and simply the gutsy pilot. We had one New Zealand squadron, one British squadron and one Australian squadron of Buffaloes and they did a pretty good job.
We had some Catalinas, half a dozen Catalinas there which used to, oh they were mainly reconnaissance. The Catalinas are the ones that warned us that the Jap fleet was now moving in and no one would believe it and they didn’t do a thing down in the headquarters but they were
supposed to not make a move till they were sure that something was going to happen. Well it was sticking at them a mile long and so we were caught, we were bombed, we’d played football that day and we’d won the premiership and we’d got into the grog a bit and we went to bed and we woke up in the middle of the night and the Japs were bombing us they’d bombed
our quarters and just a bit over. Lucky we weren’t all knocked off but they weren’t very accurate. Say it was only about a matter of 20 feet or 30 feet that they missed the whole lot of our barracks.
into life and, you know, the anti aircraft but see no one knew. It just happened that was it. They were told there was a Japanese fleet, you know, making towards Singapore and they ignored it. It’s just one of those things. They’d been out in Singapore too long the ones that were there they were, you know, some of the
battalions had been there for years and our squadron had been there since about 1924 and they mostly had obsolete guns and planes and everything.
because it was pretty shattered and when you and the guns, you know, the big guns in Singapore they were pointing the wrong way they were pointing out to sea and they were huge guns but it was not till almost when the Japs had finished did they swing them round and point them up towards Malaya where they could bomb the Nips [Japanese].
The whole thing was just badly organised they’d been out there too long I think. We needed someone with a bit of initiative to fancy letting. We got bombed we didn’t know that the war was on for a start and it was just one of our blokes wrote the book Glory and Chaos.
But our squadrons did pretty well considering that we had the obsolete planes. We hadn’t finished our training and all these things happened but we’d spotted that we did a good job and so did the other. The Australian squadron, number 1 and number 8 on Lockheed [aircraft] they did a good job up
at Kota Bharu. Again they bombed the landing and they didn’t have a clue it was fine. They came back from a reconnaissance and told the headquarters down in Singapore that there was a fleet approaching where they were at Kota Bharu and they ignored it. “Oh we don’t want to upset them, we don’t want to start a war” that was the attitude.
at which the Nips just had a day out.
But the Japs we didn’t think much about them. See they were our allies in the First World War. Their war ships escorted our blokes over to the Middle East and they were our allies. So possibly, you know, we had a…
It’s hard to explain we didn’t know much about them really but we didn’t prove to be wrong it was our government and all the big knobs weren’t aware of just how good the Nips were. How their, well the Zeros were the best
fighter in the East. It was only when the Brits sent our some Spitfires; the Spitfires could handle them and some of the Americans but what they had out there. We bought the obsolete planes that the American Air Force didn’t want the Buffaloes and the same with the Poms. What we got out there were just obsolete.
There was none of this business of doing suicide acts no. Although ours is like Gallipoli it was just plain guts that they did their but it was an awakening for us to realise that we were fighting a nation that were better equipped and better trained than we were because
see we started too late. They’d been doing it for years they’d been fighting in China for years. They had all the tacticians to get them well trained because they’d been fighting in China since about 1932 around that bit in the early 30s. So they came into battle,
they were trained and our boys went into battle, they weren’t trained because they didn’t have time and they didn’t have equipment. The anti-tank regiment didn’t have any anti-tank guns but eventually they got them and they gave the Japs a bit of a hiding but only, you know, for a short time because they in numbers and everything they overrun us.
But no we didn’t have enough guns to equip our battalions.
Who told you about these things, these myths that you found out were myths?
Oh it was attitude, must have been spread by intelligence or somebody cause but it was pretty well, like when we got there see, the British in Singapore had been there for years, well God they’d been there since donkey years
He was good. See we only had one division so they had one battalion at Timor, one in New Guinea and one battalion with a few odd bods to do signals and things like that but fancy leading one battalion to try and
defend a place like New Guinea with this one battalion, under-equipped in guns, no artillery, no tanks or anything in those days. So they did some wonderful, those in Ambon they did a hell of a good job there, but they had no hope.
oh a lot of work done so the torpedoes we had were useless and then the bombs, we eventually got some of the bombs so we were able to do some bombing in Java but by that time the Wilderbeests, for instance the wheels, we landed in Java without our
ground staff, nothing was there, no spare parts, nothing and some of the wheels were stuffed with grass, you know, they’d sort of blown out the tyres and the tyres were stuffed with grass, that’s fair dinkum but we still flew and the landing, I wasn’t in that one because I was running around and driving an ammunition truck.
I didn’t know it was an ammunition truck at the time but it was and because we didn’t have enough aircraft for everyone by that time we’d lost, oh I suppose we’d be lucky if we had 6 aircraft.
When they got there, all their guns and ammunition and everything were on another ship. So they had to land with nothing. They got the guns from the ships armoury, Boer War guns so they had nothing, no equipment and they then tried to scrounge what they could from me, Dutch and apparently they weren’t very
co-operative and so they went into battle with obsolete rifles and no machine guns. It was just a complete cock up and they did quite well considering and then the Dutch gave it away on March 8th and
the Brits and Australians wanted to fight on but they had no support. I don’t know what happened to the machine gun battalion. Fancy the machine gun battalion without any machine guns.
When we first went to Kalijati their big air force but we didn’t get much help there so as usual we just had to battle on with what we had. Our bombs came over in a little old ship from Singapore. How it got through I don’t know but it did and the ammunition
came over because I was driving this truck with a old British bloke who had retired from the air force and then dragged in again. He was a hell of a nice bloke and we were sitting driving this truck and I said, “What’s in this?” and he just grinned at me he said, “Ammunition.” and from then on
it was a bit uncomfortable however we did a lot of things and we got away with it but we didn’t get much help at all, no and the Americans came and went. They took off after bombing the landing and they took off back.
28th January because we did our trip to the landing in Singapore on the Malayan coast. I think we had about 6 or 7 planes and in 100 squadron we had about 4 I think and
we flew out of Singapore and some came over by ship and we landed in Java and we then went down to where the Dutch Air Force and their headquarters and head training and head drome there at
I forget the name now but anyhow and then we had to reform, find out about the torpedoes, if we had to do a torpedo attack. The torpedoes were U.S [unserviceable], you couldn’t use them and we had to scrounge what we could for the aircraft. We did and we’d found
enough bombs to bomb up and they came over, I think they flew over cause when we flew out we didn’t have bombs on and I’ve come out in an Albatross [aircraft].
It was nothing and the next day they sent these battleships in, went into shallow water without any air support. The admiral knocked the air support, didn’t want didn’t need it. It was just arrogant, you know, the British Navy we’re going to knock these Nips right off their, we’ll fix them.
So that’s when that battle in shallow water where they couldn’t manoeuvre and the Japs with their planning was perfect. They had torpedo bombers to go in and they couldn’t turn around, they were in shallow water and these huge battleships were just blown to bits. That knocked morale around quite a bit.
Did you feel that there was going to be a Japanese invasion of Australia? You felt certain that Java would fall?
Yeah it would have been Java yeah. I remember there was one Jap he’d come and tell us, “Darwin, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb.” and I think we said, “Bullshit.” and he said, “Bullshit bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb.” and that was a true one there.
Tell me a little bit more about Morista?
Oh Morista was I would say in truth a gentleman and he treated us like human beings and I think he ran a bit of a risk but he sort of bought sugar and put it under the wire there for us to get. He could have been, you know, disciplined and they would have been, you know. But he was
a very intelligent, he was a handsome man, a big man and he treated us like, you know, human beings and he’d bring us in, have a quick look round to see if there was no one around and we’d go in for a swim in the swimming pool and he all sorts of things and another time we had a load of rubbish and I was driving the truck and the two Poms on board
and they said, “Oh he meant us to go outside the gates.” and I thought, “Oh God.” you know, anyhow we went through the gates and I saluted the guard and we went down the road and we got to the shop and we didn’t have much money but we all bought a couple of bananas and things and we came back and saluted again and went in and he came down Morista came and said, “Where have you been?” we told him,
He said, “Oh no.” but he didn’t, you know, the normal ones would scream and give you a bashing but he said, “Oh no.” and he forgave us and I told these two Poms I said, “I told you we’d be in trouble.” anyhow that’s gone. We could have got shot.
we thought it was bad there but nothing to what happened later on building the railway. The bashings there were horrible. It wasn’t too bad in Java they hadn’t reached the stage where there was great urgency. Now if we’d have stayed in Java and had to build that railway going up to
Sumatra right up the top, it was a different story there. That’s when the bastard and they what they did to the Australian nurses that were captured in Sumatra is horrifying. The last of those nurses, they were Betty Jefferies and Wilma Young, just died a couple of years ago. They were absolute wonderful people and
the other nurse [Vivian] Bullwinkle she was a gem. They were real cards but, you know, they really were special people but that’s what they had to put up with in Sumatra when in their camps was I’d say even tougher than what we had to put up with because they had to stop the Japs from
saying that they’d demanded that they do the, you know, they wanted sex from these girls, they didn’t get it. They’d beat them hands down they did all sorts of things. They disfigured their face with what they could find to make them look ugly and then the
Japanese officers apparently gave it away but they were outstanding.
Oh we went down to Makasura near Batavia and we were prisoners there for, now this was, we were captured in March and we did Kalijati and then we went by train, didn’t have to march, went down by train to Makasura and that
wasn’t bad. There was no great urgency about what we had to do, we were just doing jobs, you had to work.
Now if you went to an ordinary high school, I remember old what’s-his-name, he was one of the big knobs, at Ballarat when we had to go there when we finished our wireless [training] to who would get commissions and he’d said, “Now what school did you go to?” and I said, “Ballarat High School.” and he went, “Of course yes well of course some people have to got to go those schools
haven’t they?” That was the attitude so a mate of mine, best mate there, he went to Geelong Grammar but he didn’t get a commission. Apparently they thought he’d be immoral, Fairbairn , the bloke was named, he went to Geelong Grammar. So I thought old Mick will get a commission but he didn’t.
Now in Makasura we were part of 36 squadron with the Poms. Now when we were in Makasura and had been there for a while, in March Weary Dunlop at the head of what became known as Dunlop force and he was in charge of all these Australians and they marched in the camp and oh, you know, you see this big bloke there and the bloke would say, “How you going mate what do you do for crust?”
you know, you could hear all our own language going on and the Poms weren’t exactly giving us much of a go, like we had been the aircrew but our own officers, none of them offered to come and volunteer up to the railway so we weren’t mad about what they did or didn’t do.
So I went to, I don’t know who I went to, might have been to Weary or his adjutant or someone and I asked could we join the Dunlop thousand as it was known and they said, “Oh yeah well we’ll get you”. So I don’t think the Poms were very pleased about it.
come from the Middle East, the 2/2nd pioneers that had come from the Middle East and the important one too is 2/2nd it’s a medical unit. Weary was CO of them and when we went up the railway they were fantastic.
So in one way it was a not a mistake but we walked into working on the Burma railway and having done that I’ve got no regrets. We met some wonderful blokes so what would have happened if we’d have stayed behind is we would have been separated from our officers and we could have gone off in small groups to other islands where they had a shocking time.
So we were at least with the greatest of the leaders as POW’s. So we were lucky in that respect. He’d, no doubt about it, the boy from Sheep Wash Creek he was the greatest.
We had a funny looking cricket ball, someone made it up and then we had a test match, we played the Poms and beat them and there was only a few Australians and we played the New Zealanders and we used to hit it over the fence and you’d have to get the guard, all depends who was on guard. Some of them would just give you abuse and you couldn’t do anything and some of them you’d
talk to them and you’d try and make a bargain that they’d throw the ball back. The cricket bat you wouldn’t read about it anyhow we took it very seriously and we had another day when Weary Dunlop was a good middle distance runner in his university days and
there was another officer there who was an Australian in the Royal Air Force and he was another good bloke, he was a terrific bloke and they had a bet. They ran approximately 220 yard race and they both would be about 6 foot 4, 6 foot 5 and at that stage they what’s-a-name hadn’t gripped where
you were going downhill but it wasn’t, you know, so extreme and anyhow they had this race and Weary beat him by about a head and I can remember that and anyhow it was these things, you know, we saw it happen and thought this is the bloke for us. He just sort of, even over there he was,
everything he did you could see that he was positive. He knew what he was doing; he wasn’t frightened of the Japs. They didn’t worry him at all as later on they tried to execute him and he told them to go ahead and they just didn’t do it.
it wasn’t a too bad a camp though that tucker wasn’t too good. That’s where I sang a duet with a dog. On the night before we had to go and leave the camp. The Nips let us stay up all night it had never been done before and we had a concert and they had an old battered piano they found in this camp
And they gave a concert and I was going to sing Wandering the Kings Highway. That was one of the songs then, so I’m singing away and everyone’s starting to laugh and I thought gee I can’t be that bad and I looked round and there’s this bloody old mongrel dog sitting on this horse just howling like a what’s-a-name. Disjoined duet so I gave it a good kick up the bum, got rid of it
and then started oh well I never lived that down.
You know when old Bob [Robert Menzies] managed, he sold the ships to Japan before the war and they called him pig iron bob. This ship would be about 6000 tons and they have about 1000 of us on board. Fortunately we were only going about a 5 day
trip to Singapore. We had to be in the hole and it wasn’t much bigger, oh it would be about twice as big as this room I suppose with 600 to a hole and if you wanted to sleep you had to say to the bloke next to you, “It’s mine turn, can I go first?” and you’d sleep, you know, and just probably leaning on a bloke
and if you wanted to go to the toilet, right at the end of the ship they had 3 just single toilets. Now just imagine 1200 blokes a lot of them at this stage had dysentery and so if you wanted to go down to the toilet you got in the queue and as soon as you got in the queue and you did what you had to do you’d go back and get in the line again cause you knew you were going to, the dysentery you were going to
want it. So this went on and they used to down the hole and the Japs would more or less throw the rice down to us and that’s where Weary was in our hole where we were and then some of the blokes got on deck when the crew were hosing down the deck and so we all started to scramble up
to see if we could get on deck and get a hosing down and oh then the screaming and the Japs were running around in circles and waving. I don’t know if they were waving their opponents or anything but they weren’t very nice. They had to go back into the depth of the, it was a shocker.
We got to Singapore and that’s when we went out to Changi and we got to Changi and Changi was like heaven on earth because the blokes were walking round there in uniforms saluting each other and see they’d had access to the barracks. There was lots of uniforms there. We were pretty ragged we had 12 months in
Java without any clothes and we’d done work in the dirt and we weren’t so hot. So we got out to Changi and there they are and saluting each other and we were known as the
Java, not rebels the Java it wasn’t a very nice one anyhow. The Java something it wasn’t very nice at all anyhow.
In Java we used to say “I’d better sharpen his…” over home down at his uncle’s pub down here in Melbourne and we got off the trucks at Changi and who should be struggling up with an old tin leg made out of, the blokes had made in the camp was Sharpie and I said, “How did you get left behind?” and he said,
“Oh the bloody officers got on first what do you think?” This was in the hospital I went to see him at the hospital after Endau and I said to the matron or the senior sister there he I had to see a Sergeant Sharp who was Australian. She said, “Australian? Sharp?” she had a bit of a giggle “What a man! What did he think he is?”
The first thing he had asked me when he got out of the chloroform with his leg off, he said, “Any chance of drinking gin?” and fortunately I don’t know why I did it but I did have a bottle of gin. So I brought it out for him and I gave it to this sister, she said, “Oh well I suppose I better give it to him.” and dear old Sharpie.
So the next time we met up with him we thought he’d be back in Australia gone off in a hospital ship because a hospital ship did come in towards the end but they were mostly all officers, very, very, you know, cases were pretty hopeless but he missed that but he became a legend in Changi
Sharpie he’s a villain but a good mate.
a mechanic, you know, he used to trash cars and everything and they’d go to a crashed plane and pulled it apart and this bloke made legs. I don’t know how many see there’s roughly well over 200 were leggies. Some at the railways didn’t get back but the ones who got back they made legs for them.
But old Sharpie he’s still alive. I must ring him again he’s up in Queensland and he’s lost his wife and I rang him up and I say, “How you going Gill?” “Never better.” and I say, “Yes stupid old bastard. Tell us how are you?” but he’s still alive.
He said, “My boys they’re all strutting around with hats and saluting each other” but how in the hell could we when we were ragged, I know. But when you live in a place where you haven’t got any change of clothes or anything and you go out on working parties and my boots were absolutely tattered, you know, the toes were poking out
and Sharpie saw it, he said, “I’ll get you a pair of boots.” cause being a leggie I eventually got 2 from him, one black and one tan. So I had those boots up the railway, gee I was pleased to get them but they didn’t last that long. Yeah so we stayed in Changi for about 10 days. We had showers,
they had showers, the food wasn’t that hot but it was a lot better than we’d ever seen in any other camp.
Rocky McHale. Fancy he’s a country boy, he didn’t care a hoot for any of the Japs or anyone and I remember one time up the railway at Hin Tok, we hadn’t seem meat for a long time and these types were driving cattle they were a bit scraggy, through the camp to take up to the Japanese forces further up, you know, near Burma and
Old Rocky, I think we both had amoebic dysentery and Rocky said, “I’ll get one of these bastards you watch”. I don’t know how he did it he hit the cattle on the head somewhere, down it went and he and another couple inside, a quarter of an hour they had it all stripped up and all the blokes were coming up meeting and having dysentery, you know,
not on very good tucker and to go onto something solid like that was crazy. Anyhow I can remember sitting down and we all had a fire there and a pot and I boiled the meat and ate it and I had dysentery and all it did it made it bloody worse but we did have it. But Rocky cleaned it all up, we cleaned it all up and
the Nips are running round in circles wanting to know where their cattle had gone and we were sitting there, you know, it must have got lost in the bush. But that’s the type of blokes you’d met, old Rocky he was. The town he was in I can’t remember it now but he was president of the hospital, he was a
good cricketer, footballer, he was one of those country blokes, he was terrific. But I saw him just before he died and he was still, you know, battling it out but you met them like that, there were hundreds of them.
Then did you go to the railway?
Yeah we went to the railway; we did our railway trip 5 days in a metal rice truck and 40 of us in the truck. We couldn’t sleep because there wasn’t any room so you had to take it in turns to have a snooze and just imagine when it came to they’d pull up
and tell the blokes to, you know, a lot of them had dysentery and this is funny but it’s not really. So when the train was going they’d have to poke their arse out, pull the door open where the Japs if they saw it they’d put on a great act but we had the sliding door open and then they’d poke their Khyber-passes out the door
and then eventually we’d get a stop and see the bloke take off into the scrub and the Japs running around with bones [?] trying to herd them back. It was like a mad house.
wait a minute yeah 43, we were taken prisoner in 42, yeah 43 and that line had to be ready. Some starting from the Burma end and some from the Thai end and the British had tried to work out how they could do it in
1912, do a line up to Burma and they were told then that it was dangerous, the conditions would be horrific because, you know, they wouldn’t have proper medical, even better than we had but it wouldn’t be tops
And they estimated it would take 5 years to do. Now they did it in 10 months and a loss of over 100,000 bods. So anyhow we got to the train at Ban Pong and we got off the train there and we did have trucks which the ones later didn’t.
They had to march up and we were driven up to where the river quay is and we went up to a place.
very badly run, you know, the hygiene and everything was crook. That’s where Weary would excel. He would do something about livening up the well the whole place, the cookhouse, the latrines. Our blokes were easily the most outstanding as far as
looking after the camps. They would build the latrines with, ah… built in bamboo, you know, they’d flatten out and our place had the lowest deaths on the railway.
The camps were, you know, they didn’t have the knowledge or the will to look after the sick and this is where he excelled. He started off when he left high school at Shepparton,
no Benalla, he did pharmacy. So he won the gold medal for the best pharmacy marks in Australia and that’s when doctors saw this young bloke and they said we’ve got to get him into the, he wanted to be a doctor, a surgeon. So he had that background, the pharmacy which helped a lot in the jungle
cause there were lots of things they could find there. He and another Dutchman worked up another spinal injection for operations. Didn’t always work but they did their best because the Japs took all the medical supplies from them and that’s where they were cruel and when the war finished they would go down but warehouses full of
Red cross parcels and medical supplies and that’s where they all, bastards.
that the plan there they had was wrong. So we stayed at Konyu for I suppose about a week. That’s where we had a very good feed. I was sitting on a log with a mate of mine who was a pilot, fighter pilot and he said, “Don’t look now Jonesey.” he said, “There’s a bloody big snake right behind us”. I looked round and there was a huge cobra. So
we got up smartly and there were quite a few of the mob there and our little air force mob and we killed it and we cut it up and we ate this cobra. It was the first feed we’d had of anything but rice for a long time. So we cut it up into slices and we built little fires someone had some matches and we put plenty of sticks in and we built fires and each grilled his own.
Little bit of fish oh steak, like fish and even Weary wanted a bit but we couldn’t give him any because we were looking after ourselves and there wasn’t much to go round and that same camp, Konyu, there was a
Pommy camp just down a bit and there I found my pilot that was wounded. I thought he was home in New Zealand but they didn’t send him home and he had a very, very badly injured leg and he was knocked around but gee he had guts.
and he said, “For Christ’s sake don’t sing that again.” he said, “The interpreter was turning himself inside out.”, you know, and anyhow we walked back to our camp there was nothing there, they were all sleeping on the ground and this Nip guard he said to me “You sing for British, now you sing for me”. You had to try and put on a face so I said,
“No I won’t sing for you”. Well did he perform and the blokes are saying “Sing you stupid bastard”. So I ended up singing, he said, “You sing Molly and Me.” Now have you ever heard of a song called My Blue Heaven?
that was tickling me naval base and then I put up such a terrible form because at that time I was, you know, a bit shaky and I was singing “Baby makes three.” so he said, “You’re no bloody good.” and he gave me a clout and went on his way and so I was lucky. Anyhow that’s where we saw Weary, what terrific
organising power and ability. We had 3 doctors; we had Weary Dunlop, another physician and then dear old Arthur Moon who was a wonderful surgeon. He was a gynaecologist but he was terrific surgeon anyhow there’s a bloke developed pains and right on the river bank.
There’s no tents or anything it was just open and he got this peritonitis and so that had to, that’s right a burst appendix I suppose and it was pretty serious and so they told the Japs and at least they lent him a lantern because it was the middle of the night and they did this operation on his bloke, his name Jonas and
they rigged up a bamboo table and they had bits and pieces and the what’s-a-name Arthur Moon who did the operation and the other bloke put him to sleep. They must have had a bit of , they had a few drugs at that time, and then they did this operation and saved his life. He went right through as
a POW and even with all the best, he had to be a very good surgeon to do this, but they did it without any proper instruments and sterilisation. Well they just used boiling water I suppose and they had to boil the water and they saved his life, anyhow and that’s where we realised what we had, that we had
3 very good doctors, one a brilliant one and the orderlies the ones from the 2nd Casualty Clearing Station they were fantastic. They were mostly, as I said before minister trainees. A lot of them after the war became ministers.
So that’s when we saw we guessed that we had something very special that that’s where we realised more so that we were lucky and then we went up to Hin Tok camp which became our own camp and that was away from the river, from the Kwai Noi, and it was up on the road, what we call a road. It was a main road through to
Anyhow we then had to set to work and we built huts there and no the huts were built. Someone had been there before us, we had huts to go into, tents leaky bloody tents because it rains up there. We had at one stage 40 days and 40 nights, no kidding and it was there
that they had a hospital tent and we were 10 to a little tent. So you found a space, if you turned over you had to tap the bloke next door to you and the bloody rats used to come and pull your hair and if you had anything that looked like food it’d be knocked off.
So that was the start of Hin Tok.
line and a 5 mile walk back and by that time most of us didn’t have boots so it was pretty rough and rugged. We built an elevated part of the line, built it up high, and then we did
cuttings, we did two cuttings. But the huge, you know, depth and you do so much hammer and tap. The hammer and tap one had the drill while the other took over the hammer and you switched round and we started off we had to a metre a day and they put the fangs in, then it went to a metre and a half
and in the end it was 2 metres a day. Well we wouldn’t get back to the camp till about 12 o’clock at night and then we’d have to cheat. What we did, you’d have a hole and you’d do your say about a metre. You never looked round and you’d see someone. A Nip would put a nursing stick down the hole close to you. So you’d have a quick look round
and then you’d see another Nip coming so you’d put it in, jam your drill down it and you had a metre start and that was the only way we got through so you’d finish up doing another metre but we got 2 metres recorded for us. So we did a lot of that, we had to. We wouldn't have, we’d still be there. So that was really tough and when we first went to the camp we weren’t in
too bad a condition like over in Java we did get some food at times but then after about a month at Hin Tok we started to go down the zeza [?] started, the dysentery and all the other and then the other, I’m trying to think of some of them
the ulcers, leg ulcers. My mate here Ross McConaughey got a very big wound, here it hadn’t healed after what over 60 years and it’s still open and that’s a bush ulcer.
the native tobacco we got, the killer brand dog but it sort of stopped the hunger pains but we lived mainly on rice and sometimes there’d be 800 men on the camp or a bit more and they would give one small pig. So if you won a raffle you might get a bit of pork
But not very often and then Weary found another, something that the natives knew about called ‘katunedu’[?]. It was like a pea and they had some vitamins and so he switched over to get bags of that because the Thai traders used to come up the river and we’d have to walk down to the river and carry the stuff back and
it helped a lot, but then came cholera. Now cholera’s a terrible..
only for him and the cholera, now the cholera would be, you’d see a bloke going out to work in the morning. He might be 9 stone, there wouldn’t be many 10 stone and would get hit with cholera. By the time he’d get back, helped back to camp he’d be down to 5 or 6 stone
and would probably die that night and we lost. Now what they had to do then as they lost fluids they’d have to have sterile fluids to give into something what do you call it? Intravenous and they made
needles out of all things. What they did to some of these blokes they were clever and so you could start going out in the morning, by the time you got back at night you’d be down to even 4 or 5 stone and then our blokes got the idea, they got water from a spring and they came through in bamboo pipes. This is what our blokes did and then what they’d do
they’d make their water sterile and then they’d do a drip and they had a drip into the vein and they did it all from nothing and so our record of the cholera, we got a lot, we lost a lot. I think we lost about 80 to cholera but compared with some of the others. By that time the natives were coming up through the camps
from Indonesia and Malaya. They’d been promised big money but they weren’t and the women were there, the children and oh it was so sad to see it and they brought the cholera up and it took a while to, they had to fight it and again Weary, he was just magnificent the way he organised things and he had a good staff too
and we I think we had the lowest casualties on the line.
they soon learnt the word and you’d got out to the line say dark in the morning and you could get back to the camp till you’d done your, you know, 2 metres and if you had to do it, it was like slaves it was and then you’d walk into camp and by that time you were bare footed, mostly bare footed
and Weary would be sitting on the log waiting for everyone to come in. I remember I came in once with trench feet when the rain was very heavy and I didn’t have any boots and like trench feet they had in the First World War your feet become soggy and spongy and they’ve got probably infection and
I came in and I was struggling in. I was walking on my heels because the skin had come off on your feet. I’m walking there and all of a sudden a bloke came next to me and he just took a look like that, didn’t say a word and grabbed me and slung me over his shoulder. He was a big bloke but he, you know, wasn’t fit but he did it. He carried me into the camp and dumped me down at Weary’s feet and didn’t say a word
to me. I still don’t know to this day who it was and Weary took one look and he said, “Oh, mmm. Trench feet.” he said, he said, “All I’ve got is Condy's Crystals.” and we used to have basins made out of bamboo, you know, slice bamboo down one half, both halves would be a basin and that’s where the ends where they were blocked where it used to go
right through. So you’d get a say about that length where it’d be a block at each end and then you’d cut it in half and you’d have 2 basins which they have to use for the hospital. So I sat on my feet with that Condy's crystals and my feet went all brown and I sat there for about 2 hours and Weary said to me, “I’m sorry but you’ve got to go out tomorrow.”
He said, “They’re really putting the boots in there.” and so he would have done anything. He probably some did get off but you found that if you were a sergeant or, you know, you were expected to put a bit more in than anyone else which we did and we eventually me feet went very
brown and I hobbled out next morning and then I think somehow I got a pair of Jap, sort of sandshoes things, and I was able to walk reasonably well. So these are the things that happened. You had to be and then you’d see the officers walking round with boots on, even shiny and that used to sort of
rub you up the wrong way. Good luck to them I suppose. Oh there was one bloke, a major in the 4th Anti Tank Regiment, he had a great big, the blokes had to carry up like an officer’s box. They have, you know, for all their bits and pieces and they carried it up and they opened it up and it was full of food like tinned stuff
and he got in his tent and he never came out of it. Big man he was too. I forget what we called him but it wasn’t very. The blokes grabbed good names but he was just an odd one. Yet when the war finished he was racing round like a hero, but before then he didn’t do a thing, didn’t even look like doing anything and he was a major.
Thank god we didn’t have many of those, but they were there. So that’s going to Hin Tok. So Hin Tok is where we saw Weary Dunlop at his best. He did 2 other camps. He had a wireless in his kit, for the medical supplies, he had a false bottom
but one of the Japs found it I suppose and they were going to chop his, you know, and they brought in the kempei-tai, they were the secret police. He just told me he said…
I’m not familiar with that. Kempei-tai?
No the kempei-tai were the Jap secret police, you know, they used to prowl around. The Japs hated them and they found this radio in his kit. Of course he wouldn’t dob [inform on someone] in anyone anyhow so they had him tied to a tree
and this was down at Konyu I think and ready to go and they said, “Alright now are you going to confess or do we kill you?” he said, “Go ahead.” and he told them to go ahead. And this bloke, this kempei-tai bloke must had something because he didn’t go ahead with it and at the end of the
war when they were sorting out, you know, to catch these blokes who had been really cruel he refused to give the name of that bloke because he’d let him off. That was Weary, you know, his attitude.
Oh you did think about home. It’s further down the line when the line was finished we went down to another camp and one of the officers called me in to his, I think he had a tent and he said, “I’ve got some bad news for you. Your Mum died”. I think we had
two, 25 word letters in the whole three and a half years and someone had got a letter saying that they’d seen it in the paper that my mother had died. It wasn’t as it turned out when I got back, no when the war had finished my brother Jack he was a lieutenant colonel he wrote and he said, “Everyone’s alive, Mum’s quite well.” and
it was grandma that had died but it knocked me round for quite a bit and I remember one of the officers, he was our dentist, Jock Clarke, he just died recently, he got me into the tent and gave me a real talk and soothed me over, they were terrific. We were very lucky
to have the officers we did under Weary. I think he picked them out himself.
It saved me, I wasn’t that worried about it but quite of a few of the ships that did take blokes to Japan to work in the mines there. Our blokes worked in the mines and the American submarines got 3 or 4 of them.
A lot died in those and some were rescued by a US submarine at one stage. They saw all these bodies in the water and they thought the Nips won’t worry about them and all of a sudden they saw apparently a fair haired head, you know, they got in and they rescued about 30 odd I think and they got back to Australia and they were quarantined.
They weren’t allowed to see anyone; they weren’t allowed to say anything.
any vitamins. Lots of skin diseases and we had our heads shaved, not shaved but with the clipper and I think it was a good move because the lice they used to drop from the when you were in huts later on they’d drop from the
attaps, [thatched roof] you know, the cover and you’d look and you’d be scratching there and the bloody what’s-a-names there would be dozens of them. But you got used to these things you just accepted it, you did your best and that was it.
But some of them enjoyed it I think, having the power to get these white blokes, you know, on their toes. But the people we had in that Hin Tok camp we remember, you know, that was a very special time
between January and October when we went through that really terrific time and this is where we found out what mateship will do for you and you saw blokes who were real tough and when it came to looking after their mates they were more like women, you know, even more so.
It was something you’d never see again, never want to see again but it was. The way they treated each other and the way a lot of them sacrificed themselves too to save their mate.
but see there was so many NCOs and we were the air force ones so we weren’t sort of in the inner circle actually. So we mainly were treated like just ordinary private soldiers but we didn’t complain because you had to do all sorts of things. You’d take a party out I was alright with Bill the bastard because I could get inside and say
“This man does speedo know he’s sick, got malaria.” and old Bill would say, “Mmm.” and he’d say, “Over there.” and grunt so I was able to do a few things. I might have looked like his brother but I was able to work on it at times but you had to be careful you didn’t overstep the mark. Yeah so
what were we talking about? Yes well when we had to work those long hours and it was pretty hectic at that time I got amoebic dysentery and I had a light job digging graves up in the rocky. It was all rocky country and
we had to drill for what do you call the things? What’s the name where the trains go through you dig into the mountains and make a..?
Another bloke did too we’d just get out and sing to the bloody monkeys up on the hill and later on when we were sent down the line a bit when the railway was finished, to a supposed rest camp, we’d formed a choir and we had a quartet party and we called ourselves
the, oh blimey it was a well known quartet in those days, quartet singing was very popular amongst blokes and so and then someone would write the music if they could find bits of paper I’ve still got some of the music that was written for us and I’ll think of the name.
It’ll come in a minute, but we did all that and if Weary wanted a concert you gave a concert.
We had a little tent that was a hospital, a leaky tent and I was in there and the first night in, the bloke on one side of me collapsed, he had cholera and then the next night the bloke on the other side collapsed, he had cholera. I don’t think they lasted the day and you would call and the doctor would say, “Ivor get out of this, come on, you’ll have to go out on the line but
if you stay here you’ll cop it.” so he saved me life. So I had to go out to the line. It was supposed to be light duties but light duties there was no such thing. But later on after Hin Tok camp finished
we’d finished the railway there. They had Hin Tok railway station and we’d see the Nips going on the same as we did in trucks and going up by the hundreds, you know, going up into Burma. So the line did start but the line
where that bridge is the bridge used to go like that. We came back and I’m not kidding it had at least a foot [12 inch] swing and we’d say, “Jeez I hope we didn’t do any nasty things to the bridge here” but that’s what we used to do. They used to try and stop the bridge from being, you know, operational but it didn’t work there was no hope.
being built it was very difficult to do. When you could you’d get a holiday and Weary would say, “Can you fix up a concert for tonight?” and we’d get together, you know, the odd bods and we’d make a concert. We had some very good singers and comedians. I remember walking back from the line with
an interpreter Jap and the reason I was walking with him, he said, “Come here.” and I had to carry his bloody bag and he said, “Your concert.” he said, “I went last night it was very rude.” and I thought, “What’s he on about?” cause it was only just humour. It was probably a bit all blokes, you know,
you didn’t worry too much but I was tickled pink. He went crook he was going crook about it, oh no it was very, very rude.
jokes, you know. We had Mo McCackie was a very good comedian [Roy Rene, a performer in Australian vaudeville] and his cousin was there and he was a dead split of Roy Rene. Roy was a comedian and he was Jewish and
they’ve got some very smart comedians and this bloke was a dead split of him, he was his cousin. But he was very serious we couldn’t get a laugh out of him. Oh, later on, as we went back further down the line at one stage we formed this, The Sundowners, the quartet Sundowners, I’ll show you the photo of it up there
and we weren’t allowed to practice so we’d get in among the trees and very quietly we’d sing these songs to get the harmonies right and at one stage we were in a choir with the, they were Poms and they were some of the things they sang they were old English, you know, folk songs and we didn’t
know and then we had some very good musicians who’d write the music, write all the parts and write what you had to do it was amazing and then I was in a couple of plays. Oh at one stage I took a part from a bloke who had jungle fever and I had to learn the
parts very quickly and I remember making an entrance to the stage and another bloke came to the other stage and he said, “Shut up you silly so and so you shouldn’t be here now get back you don’t come in till later.” and these are things that, you know, the mob would think that was great. Oh it was interesting and then we
then supposedly ‘Rest Camp’ but it wasn’t too bad though, Tamuen.
UNCLEAR and 2 of my mates were there. They were pretty, but 3 of them were there they did get a bit of, you know, bit of a chance to recover and I was at a camp with amoebic dysentery and they called for volunteers to act as nurses for the
what’s-a-name ward. So I thought oh well I’ve been and I’ve got it and I ended up being the ward master and the Poms didn’t like that much either because I didn’t have any qualifications except I hope common sense and Weary was in that camp and he seemed to approve it.
You had to be versatile, you had to do what you can but having that amoebic dysentery which the Japs were scared of especially when they were getting ready to go to Japan when I said, he said, “You bloke sick?” I said, “Yes dysentery”. I think he gave me a clout across the mush [face] and said to get out of the line so I didn’t argue the point with him.
and then the doctor called me over he said, “We’ve got to send a party out to a place called Nakum Nyoc[?] now will you go as orderly?” because there were other more or less professional ones but they were in the camp. He said, “Can you take on the job?” and I said, “Oh I’ll give it a go.” and
So I took this party to this camp where we digging out holes for ammunition because we were right in the middle of a Japanese division and we were doing the jobs they wanted to and digging, putting ammunition in, burying it and doing all sorts of things. So
special troops?” and Lady Mountbatten came early on and she was in a jeep, no bigger than a jeep and she had 6 Ghurkhas, that was her bodyguards. So I can see them sitting there now looking ahead there, you know, don’t you touch that lady or we’ll knock you off too and she came to our camp and all the blokes didn’t have
pants of anything like we were getting a bit low on clothes. So they streamed into the huts and when Lady Mountbatten came she said, “You must have a lot of sick people here.” and bit of a dag she was and at that stage we had a warrant officer in charge of the camp. See the officers had all been taken away, that was another one ready to knock them off.
and when he was going we said, “What about coming out to Australia as the Governor?” Well he did come out, he was a good bloke and we said to Lord Mountbatten at Singapore, “What about coming out to Aussie?” “Oh” he said, “No” he said, “I’ve got a job here”. Well he finished up in charge of India didn’t he?
Anyhow it was very interesting but she was a lovely lady.
a couple of months before I got home but it didn’t worry us we were in Bangkok and we were at the university. We were there and we got fed well and, you know, we were occupied. But Weary stayed, he was the last man to go. He made sure that we were all on ships and then he flew home because when we got home he
I didn’t go as a guest to his wedding but we were outside on Toorak Road watching it from the fence. If he’d have spotted us he’d have dragged us in and he married Lady Helen who hadn’t seen him for 6 years.
More than that probably 7 years and he proposed to her not from Tobruk, the Middle East anyhow when he was over there he proposed to her by telegram.
one bloke said to me, he said, my girlfriend had got married and you couldn’t blame her but he said, “Why don’t you go and ask Sister Spicer to go out?” so I summoned up the courage and I went up and I said, “Would you like to come out and have dinner with me?” because by that time we were getting pretty right
and she said, “Yes I’ll go” and that’s how it all started.
then my present wife, we did a lot of singing together. She was a singer, an ARIA finalist and she was a real professional and we sprang a friendship from the village, we were both in the village and I think she asked me to, she said, “Now what are we going to do about marriage?” and I thought, “Ooh.” I thought,
“Who’d want to marry me?” But there she is she did and we had 8 or 9 years, very happy times.
3 left now. I’m the eldest but oh it was in many ways I wouldn’t have missed it because it went you saw life in depth, you know, all sorts of things
happened that you never thought could happen and I’m very thankful to be alive but this shattered me quite a lot with losing Jessie. She’s still gentle but she doesn’t when her face lights up but I’m not her husband I’m just a bloke.
I think it could be her first husband she’s reverted back cause he’s long gone but she could revert back to thinking about him. But she thinks about me but I think I’m her boyfriend I must be courting her. But having had the experience I’m
glad I’ve had the experience of being with blokes like Weary and having such great mates. I’ll never regret that because I still think he’s the greatest Australian of the 20th century. I might be biased but I’m not far off the target because he
was a real larrikin, but a lovely larrikin, very gentle except, you know, if there was a fight on and when he played rugby for Australia and he loved that. When he died, he died wearing his wallaby jumper, he had it on.
Into the sweet and scented air
Of a quaint old Cornish town.
Born from afar on a gentle breeze
Joining the murmur of southern seas
Distant sounds of an old world dance
Played by the village band per chance.
On the comet came floating down.
I thought I could hear the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and the big trombone.
Bassoon, flute and euphonium.
I heard the sound of the floral dance
And then I heard such a bustling and prancing
And then I saw the whole village was dancing.
In and out of the houses they came
Old folk, young folk just the same.
In that quaint old Cornish town
Every boy took a girl round the waist
Whether they knew one another I know not.
Whether they cared at all I know not
But they kissed as they danced along.
And there was the band with the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and the big trombone.
Fiddle, cello, big bass drum,
Bassoon, flute and euphonium.
I heard the sound of the floral dance
And then I saw the whole village was dancing.
In and out of the houses they came
Old folk, young folk just the same.
In that quaint old Cornish town
Every boy took a girl round the waist
And carried her off in tremendous haste.
Whether they knew one another I know not.
Whether they cared at all I know not
And there was the band with the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and the big trombone.
Fiddle, cello, big bass drum,
Bassoon, flute and euphonium.
For each one making the most of his chance
All together in the floral dance.
I felt so lonely standing there
That I could only stand and stare
For I had no maid with me.
Lonely I would have to be
When suddenly pacing down the lane
A figure I knew I saw quite plain
With outstretched hands I rushed along
And carried her into that merry throng
And fiddle and all came dancing down
And there was the band with the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and the big trombone.
Fiddle, cello, big bass drum,
Bassoon, flute and euphonium.
All together in the floral dance.
Dancing here, prancing there, gigging, jogging everywhere.
In around and about the town
Hurrah for the Cornish floral dance’.
but not much and the other ones, younger ones they just, oh Bill was in Tobruk and El Alamein and he’s still alive and the youngest Lloyd he joined up later too. So we’ve, you know,
Mum had 5,6 stars, the mums had a star, you know, for everyone. She had 6 stars also what’s-a-name. I think that she’s proud of it not that she likes war.