THOMAS SHIRLEY "SNOW"
NO. 1 WIRELESS UNIT RAAF
|visits since 2 July 2006|
The following is based on the diary of "Snow" Bradshaw of No. 1 Wireless Unit, RAAF. I would like to thank his son Simon Bradshaw for his assistance with this web page.
DIARY OF "SNOW" BRADSHAW
World War 2 broke out on 3rd September 1939 to the best of my remembrance and I was working with the P.M.G’s Department as a trainee Technician at the workshops in South Melbourne. During this training period, I had qualified as a Telegraphist Class 2 that means being able to read Morse code over the sounder and handle a teleprinter to acceptable standards. I enlisted in the Reserve Air Force Air Crew in March 1940 and waited and waited for my call-up. For this enlistment we were issued with a badge, to be pinned in a prominent position on our lapel, consisting of a circle of gold wherein an eagle at full stretch was suspended. Within the surrounds of the golden circle, were the words “R.A.A.F. Reserve”. That ensured I wasn’t taken by the “Man-Power “Authorities and either sent to the Militia or conscripted Co munitions or such.
Tired of waiting for my callup, I went to the recruitment Office in Elizabeth Street and signed up as a Wireless Operator. Having first passed a Trade Test to ensure that I could read Morse code over a radio. This made sure I was in camp within three weeks for they were short of people who could read Morse.
First Camp was at Laverton for my Rookies which lasted two weeks, you see we were skilled and they needed us!!! Then to Point Cook where we under went intensive training in Signals Procedure, the “Handling of Equipment” and the general application of needles, drill, etiquette and the formalities of Service life.
My first Radio course was No. 6 W/T Operator’s course and included Low Frequency Direction Finding, High Freq. the same thing, as well as the handling of our receiving and transmitting equipment. At no time during my training was I taken aloft in an aircraft for the actual thing - this was to come later. For Part of the Theory of the exercise, we were transferred into the William Anglis School of “Butchery” or something in Latrobe Street then marched down to the A.W.A. School of Radio in Queen Street. This was tough for there were no leave days at all. I used to ring a mate at Moonee Ponds and have a sound off at week ends but it wasn’t any good - we were getting our anti-cholera and anti typhoid injections then and weren’t allowed out.
This didn’t last too long and I was posted to H.Q.Laverton as an Operator with a badge on my arm ---- flying spark!!! A bolt of electricity with wings on it whereas the later badge was a handful of sparks or hot!!!!! While at the Laverton H.Q. I took my shifts at point to point communications M/F D/F H/F D/F Teleprinter xxx duties and whatever had to be done located on xxxx Laverton Air Base, was the Navigation School, No. 2 Squadron flying Lockheed Hudsons, No. 1. Aircraft Depot and a Research Unit. I, as the newest recruit got the jobs of “operator” whenever one was wanted- this led to all sorts of flying at IAD hours.
During my months at Laverton, I flew as radio operator with No.2 Squadron on anti-submarine patrols out over Bass Strait, covering the coastline from Mount Gambier to Mallacoota. Our overnight bases would be Warrnambool, Laverton, Yanakie, Bairnsdale and then to Mallacoota. My duties were general communications and the maintenance of a log book containing radio D/F bearing at half hourly intervals. The Captain of the aircraft would occasionally ask for a position and I had to have the latest ready for him. These exercises would last for the best part of a week before beginning all over again.
My duties with Navigation School were virtually the same, except there were night navigational exercises to contend with. Daytime cross country trips were alright for you could see where you were, but night time you had to be spot on with your bearings or else - clouds full of rocks and so on!!!!
I had three trips to Western Australia during this time, escorting flights of Anson’s and Fairey Battles to the flying Schools that were being established across the country. The drill was to overnight at Ceduna first night. Hotel accommodation and all second night we would be in Kalgoorlie, third night in Perth and end up at Geraldton on the western coast. The trip back to Melbourne was first class rail, and one cut rather a romantic figure, in uniform with a bag of flying gear, “carelessly tossed on the luggage rack”!!!!
My Mother and family, living in Sunshine were duly impressed too, as were the neighbours either side of her. While enjoying myself at Laverton I made the acquaintance of a couple of Officers - one then a S/Ldr. Laming and the other F/Lt. Booth. These blokes were from Southern Area Command, then located in Irving Road Toorak, to which we were connected by land line and teleprinter. I first became aware of Mum, as a set of initials NT the end of teleprinter messages, mostly during the night shifts when there would only be one operator on duty.
Due to my P.M.G training as an operator, I acquired a reputation as a “hot shot on the key, and this led to my name being known to the aforementioned Officers. There were another couple of Air Force blokes that lived in Sunshine, near my Mum’s place, of which more will be heard later. One lived opposite in Martin St. and he was an instructor at Navigation School - his name Bill Bolitho, and the other came from round the corner and he was Clem Blakeley you’ll read about him in some of the “Official” papers I sent with Dale.
Anyway, by this time my Log book looked impressive, with nearing 100 hours flying time in some five different types of aircraft. Altogether I was feeling pretty good with myself and what I was doing. I could handle any kind of communication equipment that was in use at the time and I had been promoted to Leading Aircraftsman. My right arm was beginning to look like I was doing something.
Then came a parade to the Signals Officer, and S/Ldr. Laming, F/Lt. Booth and F/Lt. Blakeley were in attendance. I was offered a “job” that would “prove both challenging and rewarding” if I accepted.
One of the other Operators from Laverton had just been posted to No. 3 Squadron in the Middle East, and I thought something similar was in the offing so I accepted. To my surprise I was posted to Victoria Barracks Melbourne, to attend a School, under the auspices of the Navy, to learn to read Japanese Morse Code. That should all be in capital letters for everything associated with this course, and I mean everything, was “Most Secret” or “Ultra Secret” until 1987, when certain freedom of information legislation was introduced which freed us from the restrictions and the provisions of the Secrets Act of the Commonwealth of Etc. “. . . . I am not aware whether or not any of you blokes knew just what I had been up to but the need for secrecy had been so impressed on us. In retrospect, who the hell would be interested anyway!!
On completion of this course, and reaching a degree of efficiency which all owed us to read this stuff “on air” we were formed into a group, I as the Senior Rank - Corporal - was in charge, so with a quick re-introduction to the 303 rifle, hand grenades, ammunition and bayonet we were posted to R.A.A.F. H.Q., Darwin, allegedly for on shipment to Palembang in Sumatra, as it was known then. The time would now be middle August 1941, and in case this following information causes you some embarrassment I will double space it so you can cut it out.
By this time I had personally met your Mum, and found I liked her and her Mum. I had won the middleweight boxing championship of the R.A.A.F Station Laverton, and the Inter Service Middleweight Championship, held at the then Stadium - now known as Festival Hall. Your Father and his opponent, one Bluey Truscott were awarded the “Fight of the Night” prize from an evening newspaper I think it was the Star, Not the Herald. I can’t remember the amount, but there was some money there. Could have been five pounds I forget. Enough of this - the trophies finished in the rubbish at Cheltenham for all that. There is some paperwork - newspaper cuttings and so on at the back of one of the photograph albums one of you fellers has regarding these exploits.
On the evening of Monday 23rd August 1941, we set forth from Melbourne, by train, armed with a letter of introduction to the Commanding Officer, R.A.A.F. Base, Darwin, - a cypher machine (Newman type), and a breast full of fervour. After an overload trip via passenger train, cattle train, and Army truck, with the final miles, 300 of them, by “Leaping Lena”, from Larimah to Darwin - a wood burning bitch of a machine with four different shaped wheels at each corner. This took the better part of two days, and on arrival we presented ourselves, letter and all to the C.O. one Group Captain Scherger. After reading our letter of introduction, he granted us accommodation, sleeping and eating, plus a place to work. This happened to be the upper floor of an old “Camera Obscura” building alongside the station Headquarters and within shouting distance, then promptly forgot about us. On the journey through the centre, we were in the company of some 300 men of the 2/24th Pioneers, who suffered our company with admirable fortitude. There are some photos here showing our “air raid” exercises from the train, our messing arrangements and living arrangements, up with which we had to put’!!!.
Our working gear consisted of one radio receiver type A.R.7., one long wine aerial, one “Newman” coding machine, and a stack of message forms and pencils. The technique was to read the traffic, code it with our machine, then hand it over to the Cypher Officer of the normal R.A.A.F. W/T/ organisation for encoding by “x” machine and on forwarding to Melbourne. As the whole of our traffic was “Most Secret” and “Priority” we were not looked upon with much favour by the by the Cypher blokes, and with active dislike by the W/T Section, due to our overloading of their limited facilities then available. Our “authority” precluded and interference or obstruction in any way by the establishment, so our efficiency was not interfered with, that we were aware of.
Original frequencies, contained in our original
instructions, gradually gave way to random search techniques, with the addition
of one more A.R. 7 received, borrowed from who knows where. This required two
operators on duty at all times and with the encoding requirements daily, time
became very short. Traffic at this time amounted to average 40 per hour from one
machine, and this combined with watch keeping of 24 hours per day, plus the
coding built up a work load that proved almost impossible to cope with.
The first evidence of strain or stress came when our Jim Wilson, attempted to take the head off one C.L. Hermes, with his tin helmet. Poor Jim was sent South for medical reasons and I haven’t heard a word of him since. Ted Cook was the next casualty; his physiology could not stand up to the transition from a temperate climate to a tropical one, so he had to go.
During this period, frequencies monitored were naturally restricted, although whilst traffic offered, it was copied. The Operators worked long, long hours to man the receivers, to the grateful thanks of our S.Ldr. Laming and F.Lt. Booth who paid us a visit shortly before the first raid on Darwin.
Occasionally, we would go for a trip into Darwin itself, just to have a break and to have a look at the defences that were being built round the area. The threat of action must have been becoming more obvious to those in charge for we were all issued with weapons. The other blokes got .303’s and as the N.C.O. in Charge, I was issued with one .38 Smith and Wesson revolver and a box of ammunition. Apart from the normal guards on the drome, we had to maintain our own security.
Although we had all felt the need for some direction finding facilities, due to the need for the utmost security required for OUR enterprise, only the vaguest Requests for bearings, on a certain frequency could be made to the operators at the normal R.A.A.F. D/F. Station. This was done without the authority of Darwin C.O, and/or Central Bureau in Melbourne. The risks were, we felt, justified as these bearings allowed us to identify call signs as being mobile or fixed. If They were mobile, the variation of bearing, over one hour, could lead to the identification of an aircraft or a surface vessel. Mostly it was confirmation of information already in our possession. In this way tables were drawn up, of groups of call signs belonging to certain areas, and when these were changed our own expertise in recognising certain operators’ methods assisted in confirming identification. Such was the quality of this work that tables of predictions regarding call signs were available right up to the end of hostilities.
Here I think I should mention our method of communicating our intelligence to Southern Area H.Q, Melbourne. On the beginning we had the raw intercepted traffic, written in our particular “shorthand”. This was common to all intercept stations and could be translated to the Japanese words with ease - however before this traffic could be handed to normal R.A.A.F cypher office bods, it had to be disguised, in case someone found out what we were doing, and thus added to the risks of blowing the “Servlce” wide open. Our intercepted traffic had to be coded, using a method known as “Playfair” which is a substitution method, using key words. I will lay it out for you if you would like me to but I think it would only lead to confusion if I did it here. I think I had better get it down on paper before I lose the brain I have left, and won’t be able to.
This work was then handed to the normal cypher blokes for encoding and onward transmission. As you will appreciate, a time consuming method, but we had no other.
On our travels we had acquired an “Anson” “Loop”, this is a piece of radio direction finding equipment normally fitted to Anson aircraft. This, fitted to our receiver gave us an indication of the general direction of the transmitting station, and coupled with our own guesswork, proved interesting and of value in identifying stations. This, of course added to the volumes of traffic and information to be transmitted south.
We had no way of passing any information we may have considered urgent, to our local authorities, except through one W/O Murdon, and old navy mate of our Taff Davis. This bloke was the Signals Officer at Darwin with direct access to the Commanding Officer, G/Capt Scherger. We kept him informed of reconnaissance aircraft heading our way, as we thought. Sometimes we were right and at other times there was no sign of them, submarines played a big part in our intercept traffic as they used to approach the coastline and take up a station and observe our aircraft and shipping and report.
Although these actions were reported and noted, there was nothing we, as a service could, do about it for we had no gear.. No aircraft, no ships, some anti-aircraft guns along the harbour edge, and some machine gun emplacements, in depth, back towards the inland to cover our retreat, when the invasion came. Very disheartening I assure you.
This situation continued until the 19th February 1942. Mind you the 7th December 1941 was celebrated in fine style for we were all then on 2/6d pence day deferred pay. No more money in our pay but 2/6d. per day was paid into a special account to drawn when we were discharged. Anyway at about 10.15 a.m. on 19th Feb. we had been copying what we reckoned were aircraft transmissions with signal strength improving every transmission, when we reckoned something special was on. Single aircraft had been active very early that morning then the volume of traffic oven all observed frequencies had increased then faded out to nothing - a fair indication that aircraft were heading our way. We passed our suspicions to Murdon and prepared our area.
The quiet was unbelievable, nothing on all observed frequencies for at least half an hour then we could hear them. In the meantime we had seen seven Kittyhawks take off and disappear to seaward, accompanied by one Hudson of 2 Squadron. One Kitty came back, landed and taxied to the hanger area, then took off again Taff Davis, Clarrie Hermes and I were outside on the upper floor balcony of our building looking for what we could see, and we saw one aircraft a Kitty, dive down on another one and fire its guns then turn and disappear into cloud. We decided it was time to hunt some cover on the ground. As we came out at ground level, we could see large volumes of smoke and aircraft diving down in the harbour area. The drome now came under heavy attack by fighters and dive bombers; you would hear the roar of the engines, then the machine guns or the noise of a bomb going off. You could see aircraft buzzing around near ground level seemingly everywhere.
With the noise of the hangers burning, our ground defence machine guns, and the screaming motors, confusion reigned Supreme. Our building and the H.Q. building weren’t hit during this initial attack which seemed to go into a lull for a while. I know we had time to look about our area before the high-level aircraft came into view. These flew above our anti-aircraft guns’ range from north to south and laid a pattern of bombs across the whole drome area, which besides making one hell of a. noise, started fires all oven the place. At this time there was no damage in the barracks area, only hangers, admin building stores and such. On the return journey, from the south, the pattern included the living quarter’s area, the hospital, and the mess halls. It was during this second high level run, that Taff Davis and I were burled by a near miss on the trench in which, we were. We were wearing gas masks and these were helpful in allowing us to breathe without much difficulty.
By the time were helped out dusted off, and checked over, most of the aircraft had disappeared, and apart from sundry fires, smoke and noise from the burning buildings things quietened down, Heading for the barracks area to check on the rest of our blokes, we were told that our C/O., had evacuated the area in his own Wirraway, between the dive bombers and the first wave of high level stuff. Great for our morale I can assure you. Our blokes were all there without problems, except where to eat, and sleep and so on. There was no power so a holiday was declared and we went to look at what we could see. No one in authority showed anywhere - it was everyone for himself, and on checking gear and finding something to eat we repaired to our own work place.
I remember the O.I.C. Stores’ asking me if I had any paperwork to get rid of for this was a golden opportunity. His store was burning and was being helped by paperwork of all description. Stores records I supposed and anything that you didn’t want to account for. There were no spare weapons or ammunition unfortunately as I fancied another weapon more substantial than my pistol. Our Barracks had been destroyed, so we decided to live and work from the one building. No one objected and we set ourselves up for the night time. Mid-afternoon there was a roundup of all able bodied personnel and a roll call from all Sections.
There were some missing so checks had to be made and then our executive Officer, one W/Commander Brian Eaton, driving in a staff car advised us - the whole assembled group of odd bods from everywhere, to evacuate the Station, and “get as far south as possible”. We decided we were better off where we were and waited. The road passing the R.A.A.F. Camp was the main road south, and by this time was crowded with all kinds of vehicle and people walking carrying what they wanted to save. One of our blokes a W/0 Swann, tried to introduce some sort on order into the R.A.A.F. personnel hanging about with moderate success. Some blokes left for places south but the majority stayed and although there was no power, roll calls were added up, bomb craters in the barracks area were searched and so on things became slightly organised.
Scratch meals were provided from the airmen’s Mess, and a guard system was organized from the blokes wandering about unattached. We were O.K. for we were of one group and had our quarters to work and live in and provided we could get some power we could get back to work. Our holiday lasted till next morning when partial power was restored. I responded to a Dental Treatment call, and was in the chair when the alarm went off next day - those fillings lasted me for thirty odd years, till they wore out. We had just begun to operate again when the Sigs bloke - Murdon - presented us with a Signal from Melbourne. Davis and Hermes were to go to Groote Island, Towers to Broome, Bradshaw to Wyndham, to man the Aeradio Station (Civilian Dept. of Air Control) and inform Darwin and Melbourne of Japanese movements - ship or air.
I was to be accompanied by a Cypher 0fficer - one Flying 0fficer Stewart, whose duty was to encypher my traffic for on-forwarding to Melbourne. The situation was incongruous to say the least. Here am I a Corporal, with an F/0 off-sider, preparing my work for transmission. He doesn’t know what the hell I doing and he works when I do. I knew it couldn’t last and so it turned out. 0n the morning of ? rd March 1942 Alf Towers boarded a Lockheed 1o of MacRobertson-Miller Airways, bound for Broome, and I climbed aboard D.H. 86 Aerial Ambulance heading for Drysdale River Mission via Wyndham. I had the Cypher bloke with me.
We saw the Lockheed take off as were making out approach to Wyndham then were all set to touch down. As we began to run along the runway our machine bucked and rattled and holes appeared through the fuselage and the engines on the starboard started smoking like hell. The Pilot yelled that were being attacked and to abandon the plane so we did as fast as possible. I reckon about 40 m.p.h. alight anyway. We threw our gear out as fast as possible and lurched out the doors. The last I remember was the plane, burning, trundling down the runway, and myself making a beeline for the scrub on the edge of the drome, about a half mile away. It may not have been as far as that but it seemed a lot further.
The Zeros, as we could see by now, were shooting up everything they could about the place. I know, I arrived in the scrub, threw myself down under the biggest bush I could find and watched. The aircraft blew up with a loud noise, the fuel dump behind the hanger was burning and a very large rhinoceros beetle crawled that should crawled, across the ground night in front of my nose. It was the first time I had ever seen one of those beetles. I could feel the heat of the fuel dump fine but I wasn’t going to move just yet. Eventually the aircraft went away and we came out from where we were to pick up our gear and see what had happened. We gathered our gear and found that there was room to live in the guard house erected near the entrance gate, the radio shack was O.K. The hanger and the fuel dump had been destroyed, the D.H.86 was destroyed, no one was seriously hurt and there was food to be had from the town. The local Volunteer Defence Commander turned up to see what had happened. He was a station manager from out back - a station named Carlton Station. He was equipped with a Thompson sub-machine gun and maps of the overland routes, and food and fuel dumps across to Hall’s Creek and the main road south. He wouldn’t give me his Thompson but the pilot of the D.H.86 and his mate went with him back out to the Station.
The Aeradio 0perator one Roger Wentworth, tried to maintain his radio schedules with Broome and Darwin, but there was no hope that afternoon. This Aeradio bloke lived in town at the Hotel and that left me, my Cypher bloke, and the two R.A.A.F. guards in occupation of the drome and the equipment. We couldn’t get a situation report away till the next morning, and although Darwin acknowledged there was nothing whatever from Broome. I didn’t catch up with Alf Towers till almost two years later in Townsville. Roger tried to keep his watches and schedules and when he wasn’t using the gear I maintained intercept watches on the main frequencies I had been given to watch.
The time taken to process my material to the stage where I could go on the air and transmit it to Darwin was such that time used to run out each day when Aeradio watches had to be opened with the result that there was a back log of traffic. These I kept, in the hope that I could get them away. One night during this period, the Sergeant in Charge of the guard came to me in the radio shack about 9 P.m. and said that there were lights blinking across the mud flats that surrounded the drome there. I had a look but couldn’t read any sense into them so it was decided that we would have to investigate!!!!
I hope you appreciate the situation - me a Corporal, with the training I had had survived - a Sergeant of the guard who was much less of a country kid than I was, and a Commissioned Officer - Cypher type - armed with one point 38 pistol, one point 303 rifle and two bayonets heading out into the dark of the Australian bush, which could have been infested with Japanese or who knows what??? To my credit, and I have no shame in claiming such, I led this mob out into the scrub, downwind, I assure you, night up to the camp of a mob of abo’s who were on walkabout, dogs and all, with a hurricane lamp tied to a bush, gently swinging in the breeze, thus giving us the intermittent flashes of light. I don’t know who was most surprised, but maintaining a brave front we left them to their own devices and came back to the drome - chastened and thankful.
The following morning, across our night time tracks, there were large crocodile tracks so that behaviour was out from then on.
Mid-day on the 11th. March 1942 I was on watch in the radio shack when the rear section collapsed in a welter of noise and falling plaster. I headed out to see three Zero’s flying away from me but banking to make a return run. I threw the power switches and started to run to where we had put a series of 44 gallon drums down in the dirt as shelter holes. As I ran I was facing these aircraft, they were at eye level it seemed, and as I saw smoke peel back over the leading edge of the wings I knew there was trouble. However I made a drum and though there was a lot of noise and dust I seemed to be alright. Later I found that I had a hole in my head above my night ear that was stitched ten days later at the Batchelor Hospital. Following the strafing, a flight of nine Betty’s - medium bombers came over and dropped a couple of sticks of bombs down the runways, blowing large holes through the tough laid surface down into the mud below. This really put the drome out of action as far as the made runways were concerned.
My Cypher bloke decided then that he was being wasted and rang the Defence Corps Commander at Carlton, who came and picked him up and took him away. I presumed at the time that there was an overland route operating for people who wanted to leave the area. This rather effectively put a finish to my operations ay Wyndham, and as I had a sore head and some other dermo problems, I sent a signal to Darwin asking for relief. Lo and behold! Black Jack Walker, in his own personal Dauntless dive bomber, came and rescued me. He saw the state of the drome and promised to relieve the two guards of ours as soon as possible and flew me back to Batchelor strip and the Hospital. There my head was stitched and the sundry, fungal areas treated, My main concern during this time, was the great stack of intercepted traffic I was ‘■’ carrying - quite a bundle I assure you, No one - but no one was allowed to even see it !!! No one in that area I could refer to - no one I could leave it with and no one I could even talk about it to.
However I was eventually, put on board another of MacRobertson-Miller aircraft and sent to Adelaide, where we went through a medical check - I was diagnosed as “dermo and Anxiety” and put on a train for Melbourne. This was via Geelong and “look after yourself”. On arrival at Spencer Street I got a Taxi out to Brunswick where Mum, lived and they put me up for the week end, I was admitted to Hospital at the Showgrounds on the Monday and underwent my treatment for a couple of weeks as far as I can remember. I still had all this intercept traffic and. was getting uptight about it and eventually through Mum and her. Job then I was given a phone number. You have no idea the disturbance this caused. Big and I mean BIG Brass came out to the hospital and talked to me. Finally in one day I was discharged from hospital, granted permission to live out at Mum’s address, and appointments made to meet my old companions F /Lt. Booth and his mob at Central Bureau, in Commercial Road Prahran.
There they took all my traffic and questioned me at great length as to the what’s and the when’s of my experiences. This debriefing, as they later called it, took a few days, and then I was released to report at a school they were setting up at the Showgrounds, to teach others the art of “intercept intelligence”.
The School was a. couple of rooms with blackboards and the necessary electrical equipment for teaching Morse code. The blokes were R.A.A.F. fellows from round the country and besides myself, there was Taff Davis, and (Clarrie Hermes as instructors. Taff had set the school up and was working it O.K. and within days a group of Army blokes from the Middle East came along, They were from Corps Signals and were under the Command of a Colonel Ryan. Uncle Alan knew this Colonel and a number of the blokes on the course, though I didn’t find this out till much later. Uncle Alan was a Signals Officer with Ninth Division. After this mob reached the required standard of reading this Japanese Morse, a group of W.A.A.F’s arrived and I was given the job of teaching them. There were thirteen all told and after they reached the required standard we, me as N.C.O. I/c were posted to Point Cook to work as a detachment until such time as a location up north was prepared. hum knew all these girls and despite all kinds of implications that can be read into the situation it was successful. I wrote to them all for the 45th anniversary of our association and I received some wonderful acknowledgements - of that I feel proud and humble so there!!!!!
During our sojourn at Point Cook there were some problems
with security and the “boy and girl” situation, but I was able to cope mostly
except for one occasion. Our operations hut was down on the beach away from all
the work areas of the Station and we had a regular guard patrol. The guard house
was alongside operational hut - about fifty yards away so no one could hear much
In any event, I had left the shack about 9.30 p.m. with everything under control and the girls coping with reduced traffic quite 0.K. when I got a phone call at the Mess to say that there was a party going on next door and the blokes involved were trying to coax my girls to join in. I called a guard truck and hot footed it down to the area, to be confronted by a half dozen Sergeants from the Signals School, a couple of telephonists from the H.Q. building, and a bucket of grog. They were having a party in the guard house next door to our radio shack and wanted some more female company. The situation was getting out of hand and I asked one of the girls to ring for the Orderly Officer and sound an alarm. All she reported was intruders in the area, and all hell broke loose. Troop trucks, lights, rifles pointed everywhere, and one great to-do.
The result was I was called to parade to the C.O., of the Wireless School next day and to please explain my behaviour. I explained as best I could without giving away any information as to what our duties were. I was asked the question “What exactly are you doing there Bradshaw?” to which I replied with W/Cmdr. Booth’s name and telephone number, and a request that he refer his enquiries to him. The C.0. of the Sigs. School was one S/Ldr. Austin, Bunny to his compatriots, and he made the phone call whilst I was standing at attention in front of his desk. Well!!! you would not believe the change that came over that man. Complete silence for at least five minutes solid, then a “Yessir” and a “Very Well Sin” and “Thank you Sin”. The Phone was replaced and I was told that “That would be all except that if I needed any help with any problems at all, at whatever time, to get in touch with him personally, not through the Orderly Room in future” which let me off the hook. Except that He had a notation made on me Service Record - something about arrogance, non co-operation, and a lack of “Service Spirit”, whatever that was.
This left only the Sergeants to deal with. It came to a head within a couple of days - my habit was to work through the busy hours and after nightfall take a few hours off. I was on call from the shack at any time, but during the afternoons I used to go the gym and swing about on the bars and punch a bag etc., anyway there I was when they found me. The group from Sigs. School, with the Drill Sergeant the main aggressor. Well they sorted it out that I would have in fight him first!!! So we got into it and I was doing alright, a bit of blood but nothing too bad, when the C.0. Sigs. School and the Orderly Officer arrived. I didn’t even have to make an explanation, six blokes got seven days detention, plus Confined to Barracks for a month, and transferred to northern duty- which I suspect was Darwin. From that time on my only mates in the Mess were not of the “Signals” fraternity. I think this episode had same long term effect on my subsequent career in the R.A.A.F. though. I ran into the Drill Sergeant a couple of years later in Townsville and he treated me with the utmost respect and deference. He turned out to be very circumspect in his approaches to the President of the Mess and the fellows with whom I was on good terms. This coupled with one later episode, I think marred my chances of being given a Command of anything more than a Detachment, as far as the R.A.A.F. was concerned. Mum has always reckoned I blotted my copybook by going through the 0rderley Officer and not managed it through the Signals School mob but my primary and over-riding concern was SECURITY with a capital S. . . . Why I should feel defensive abort that after all these years I don’t know -just one of my hang-ups I suppose.
There were a couple of episodes at point Cook that helped prove to myself that I was on the ball and had a good grip on what I was supposed to be doing. One night we were wiped out as far as reception was concerned, by a continued loud splatter that just drowned all frequencies for hours With the help of an “Anson Loop” a direction finding, loop from an Anson Aircraft I was able to get an indication that the source of the interference was coming from the direction of OUR Hangers.
Though no one was working there at the time all indications were that that was the direction of the problem. Eventually it was traced to the C.A.C. Complex at Fishermen's Bend, and after the installation of appropriate suppressors on the welding machines all was O.K. for our reception. The second episode was that the girls had got onto a call sign which was strange to our systems, and as efficiently as possible put the Anson Loop on it and it was moving or altering reading significantly every quarter of an hour, they rang the Mess for me, and of course that sprang ears and what not.
Anyhow, I was roused and taken down to the hut and checked it out, and rang Southern Area for advice. I was told to use my own initiative. How do you like that???? All my training and experience told me that a Japanese aircraft was heading towards Melbourne from the Sale or Bairnsdale area, and to use my own initiative was one action only, so I did IT!! I sounded an Air. Raid Alert over the Melbourne Area through of course, Point Cook, Laverton and the A.R.P. Controllers at Air Board, That was something I tell you, to hear the JAP operator reporting his position every 15 minutes, and to go outside and watch the City blank out and to finally see him as he flew Over Laverton and Point Cook and then Head South East over the Bay and finally hear him prepare to land alongside his Mother Ship near Lakes Entrance. That was something I assure you.
The girls got a great kick out of that for they knew they were doing something really important for the War effort after that. There was no resistance whatever - no searchlights, no Ack-Ack nothing, but we knew he was there. I have since learned that it was decided to give him a clear run for the value of our intelligence was underlined and proven without any damage of any description, and there was no compromise of security. The prestige, if you can use such a word, of OUR little section, was enhanced very considerably after this display, with those who knew what we were about. We had a visit from our Wing Commander with congratulations and promotions etc.., I got my fourth stripe, a couple of the girls got their third and two of them became Corporals.
All very well but there was a War on up North, and I wanted to get back to it. Some of the frequencies we were given to monitor were devoted to really high speed Morse, 4O to 45 words per minute and. we were finally told it was a figure substitution code. The figures 1 to 10 were sent as single letters of the alphabet i.e. n z s m a i r w v o representing the figures. This is about one third the normal Morse code signal for that number. Very confusing for a time but we soon got the hang of it. The concentration required was terrific and we found a half hour on this was enough for one operator. You just couldn’t keep up. Letters of commendation from C.B.H.Q. are still in my possession, and as a tribute to those girls, I reckon they should get a big, big mention in any history that is written of the organisation. The Point Cook Detachment was posted to Townsville in January 1943 whilst I was posted to Port Moresby. There was a Forward Detachment there under the control of Taff Davis, who by now was a Flying Officer. This Detachment was located at “Kilo” Strip some way out of Moresby.
On arrival, per Flying Boat from Rose Bay Sydney belonging
to Qantas Empire Airways, I found that Taff had no information regarding my
disposition. I joined him at the watching of Air Channels from both Rabaul and
Lae, for their attacks on Moresby and Milne Bay. He (Taff) contacted Brisbane
for permission to take me on strength but this was referred back to Townsville,
who informed him that my services were required back there and I was to report
to the Signals H.Q., Port Moresby. I did this and was given the job of N.C.0.
in/charge Remote Receiving Station, Borah Heads, about seven miles east of
Moresby, on the coast.
We had a bank of receivers and a power plant and my job was to see that certain receivers were tuned in certain frequencies at certain times and that was that. There was a night air raid and some bombs were jettisoned in our area. I happened to be walking from our sleeping quarters to the operating room when one bomb went off. I was thrown about by the blast and found that my legs were literally peppered with little bits of gravel and bits of the bomb they told me. Anyway it took a few days in hospital before it was decided no infection was going to set in and I returned to duty. There were spare receivers available and I always had one or two tuned to certain frequencies to give me some idea if anything seemed to be coming our way. I got into the habit of ringing Taff at Fordet (Forward Detachment) if there was any activity and conferred with him as to the importance or not of what was happening. I had met a couple of blokes I worked with in the P.M.G's Dept. Harry Kroger and John Hutchinson - they were Army blokes and I used to ring them if anything was heading our way. They came to rely on my warnings to the extent that the Signals 0fficer got to hear about it and though I denied all knowledge of it he had me transferred to signals 0ffice Milne Bay. 0f all the places I served in this was the pits - wet, muddy, hot and mosquitoes by the million, day and night.
The Coral Sea Battle was on by this time and I experienced shelling from seaward for the first time. Just as bad as High level bombing in my book - the only difference was that the shelling was at night time and you couldn't see anything. With the dive bombing and the strafing, if the aircraft wasn't pointing at you, you had a fair chance of being missed but the high level stuff was so impersonal it just came down in a carpet and that was it, If the bombs hadn't hit by the time the aircraft were directly overhead, you were O.K. I was never engaged in Squadron work - always H.Q. to H.Q., and statistics to fill and checking that nothing coded was sent in plain language - all that sort of stuff. Being fed up with my lot and rather cheesed-off at my treatment by the C.B. organisation, I wrote privately to S/Ldr. Booth at 21 Henry Street, thanking him for his co-operation whilst I worked with him and expressing regret that apparently I was of no further use to the organisation, and although I would respect the secrecy provisions I had under-taken to observe, I could not but wonder at the organization’s loyalty to me. Boy did that get a response - within days I was returned to Moresby, issued with new kit and aboard a D.C.3 headed for Brisbane. Not Townsville as I as expected.
At the debriefing session that followed my reporting in at 21 Henry Street, I learned that the complete Administration Staff of the first wireless unit based in Townsville had been replaced and a new group was taking over - of which I would be an integral part. Whilst awaiting for this to come about, I was posted back to Townsville, where by thin tine, I had something of a reputation- been Darwin during the raids, been to New Guinea for the Coral Sea Battles, taught the girls and the Army Blokes - you realise the kind of stuff that in talked about. My welcome was far from warm except from those who had known me in the past never lost their friendship - even to this day so I don’t know what went wrong.
Arriving at Townsville, per favor of the Railways and Army truck again, I was assigned quarters and told that the operations room and the Radio room were out of bounds to me, and that I had an assignment, to carry out an inspection tour of our D/F. Stations throughout Queensland. One at Rockhampton, one at Julia Creek, and one at Tolga, on the Atherton tablelands. To this end, there was a Harley Davidson motor bike and sidecar made available, a handful of authority's, for fuel and accommodation and whatever and it was anticipated that three weeks should be long enough to complete the job. In retrospect, this was a ploy to remove me from the scene for a while, as there were some members of the original "Administration" still in occupation and as they had no jurisdiction over me, ‘out of sight - out of mind" seemed to be the order of the day. I left Townsville by train on 10th July and headed for Rockhampton. My bike and sidecar were in the Guard's Van. I arrived and carried out the inspection, both Technical and Personnel wise. Quarters, water supply, rations and equipment and made out my report to carry with me. I had made up my mind that I would keep them with me and present them in person at the end of the tour. It was here in Rockhampton that I learned that Gary had been born on 13th July. There was nothing I could do about it but get on with the job, so I headed off north west, heading for Julia Creek. I had remembered that it took me a few days to make that part of the trip but I truly didn't realise just how far it was till last year when we made our trip west and north through the territory. A bloke named Don Craig was N.C.0. I/C Julia Creek Station and we have remained on good terms since, as I hear from him through various' other blokes in Victoria. From Julia Creek I was granted seven days leave in go home and see my son, so leaving my bike at Townsville I headed for Victoria and Mum and Gary. They were in the Nyah West Hospital so it was a fair way to travel. I remember I took the Smith and Wesson and some ammunition home with me and young Geoff Shaddy got a kick out of using it down in the swamp area at Vinifero trying to hit a rabbit or two. My Mother at this time was living with my sister Evelyn, at Kamarooka, near Bendigo, where she was the local school teacher. I had no way of seeing them, as leave passes etc, took to your next of kin in those days, and nowhere else. Before July was out I was once again back in Queensland and preparing to take up my "Inspection Tour" where I had left it off, but coming out from Townsville on the truck were several other people whom I had known, operators and such like from the Unit and as we pulled in at the H.Q. I got off the truck, and walked with two other operators, past the guard into the Radio Room.
I walked around and said “Good-day" to those I knew, and as the shifts were changing, I accompanied the off-duty blokes back out to the truck and back to the living quarters. All was 0.K., till next morning when I was paraded, under guard, before the C.O. one F/Lt. Burbidge - flanked by two more Admin Blokes. I had beer in a prohibited area - deliberately eluded the guard - and had seen and read documents of a "Most Secret" nature, to which I was not authorised. Did I have any explanation, before a decision was taken as whether or not to proceed with a Court's Martial for my offences, as detailed above. I typed an explanation, pointing out that I had been working for this organisation before this particular Wireless Unit was dreamed of - I had been in action in the Darwin Area - and the Milne Bay Area and I was authorised not only to read such documents, but to interpret them and communicate my analysis directly in Central Bureau in Brisbane, by any means possible using the highest degree of Secrecy and Urgency then in use. I was in possession of such authority above the signature of the then S/Ldr. H.R. Booth Central Bureau, and in the circumstances I pleaded not guilty to the insinuations in the statement as well as being known to the majority of the operators - keeping a copy of my reply to the order - I went about my business of preparing for the trip to Tolga.
Waiting 24 hours for some re-action from the C.0. and getting none, I saw the Signals bloke and the Station Adjutant and let them know what I was at and having got their approval I took myself off to Cairns via Rail with my trusty bike and side-car. From Cairns I headed for Mareeba. At the 36 Squadron Base in Cairns I called at the Sgt's Mess and offered them chits for rations to cover seven men for seven days in exchange for a dozen bottles of plonk and a bottle of whisky, which I loaded into the side car. The blokes at Tolga didn't want anything but beer, and I was leaving the bike for them as their transport, they didn't make any argument when I borrowed it for an afternoon and a night to try and find you’re Uncle Alan, who was camped with the ninth Divn., then. I found him in Mareeba and we went and got some beer, with my paper work, from the Army Ration Store where he knew someone. 0nly one case though, but as I had left the rest of the grog back with the W/0. of his Mess, he reckoned we had done well enough. We arrived at the Ninth Div. H.Q. just on dark and I was invited in, of course. Alan fixed it with the 0rderley W/0., and the 0rderley Officer for me to stay the night though it cost his Mess the whisky. Because I had been to New Guinea, the blokes were all interested as to what it was like and so on. I told them what I could and left next morning after breakfast.
The job at Tolga didn't take too long - the main worry was the water supply, so I took a sample into the Army Hospital at Mareeba for testing. I waited most of the day and having received the 0.K. to use it with purifiers headed back to Tolga. The N.C.0. I/C was one "Sol" Solomon, who has been a big wig with the Wireless Institute ever since. I see his name on the Board of Management on some of my publications. His 0ff-sider was one Higginbotham. Haven't heard anything of him for years. Those blokes were all D/F operators as against KANA and/or straight Morse operators. The technique was to ring them, give them a frequency and sound the call sign orally to them. Gradually they learned what the Jap Code sounded like but in the beginning it was not considered necessary for them to be proficient operators on the Kana sense. Having completed my Inspection of the installation and made my report, Sol took me into Cairns and I reported to the T.M.0. for passage to Townsville.
It was a troop train with a lot of Seventh Div. blokes going on leave south. He, the T.M.0., made me In-Charge of the carriage. A mixture of civilians, Women Service personnel, A.M.W.A.S. and A.W.A.S., W.A.A.F's and some Army Blokes. All I had to do was count them on and count them off at each stop. No deserters see!!! All went smoothly till about an hour out of Townsville, when two Seventh Div. blokes came to me and offered me their guns. 0wens, complete, their webbing - the lot. They were shooting through. I accepted their gear and that was the last I saw of them. I handed the stuff over to the M.P's at Townsville - made a report and heard no more of the incident. I might have kept one 0wen, but I couldn't think how to handle two of them so let them go. Geoff would have liked one I'm sure!! Back at Townsville Wireless Unit, I found that our Mr. Burbidge had been posted away and the C.0.was one E.C.Hattam of Hattam’s Stores and his Executive Officer one George Guiver. I met him later in charge of Hattam’s Store Chelt.
A couple of nights later, returning from a picture show in the camp area, I blacked out and came to in the Hospital in Townsville. High Temperature sweats and nightmares and all - this was my first experience of malaria though I wasn't too aware of it. I have been told since, that our W/Commander Booth came to visit me and somehow or other he ended up with a black eye. He rubbished me later on about it but there were no hard feelings as far as I knew. Sufficient to say that I was transferred to Hospital in Victoria, diagnosed as "anxiety". I have come in think that this was a deliberate ploy to give me some time away from the situation that was in existence there. Sufficient to say that I was able to see quite a bit of Mum and Gary for a while. The treatment there was rest, a good diet and psychiatric counselling. I know I went along with whatever they did, including hypnosis, until such time as I was fit and ready to get back up north. Mid December 1943 I received a posting direct from Heidelberg Hospital to No .2 Embarkation Depot Bradfield Park Sydney.
There I underwent a course of Commando training - Sten Guns, Thompson Sub-machine guns, 303 rifle's, hand grenades- the lot. We had the water jumps the ropes from the roof bit the crawling along the ground under wire while the bullets whistled overhead and all that kind of stuff there was some unarmed combat but not much - how to cut a bloke's throat from behind and so on but no actual fighting with knives or bayonets on a man to man basis. At the end of this training, I was put in charge of a squad of blokes and we were issued with tropical kit - shirts and shorts, mosquito nets and so on and eventually we were loaded into trucks early one morning and taken out to Masot air strip where we loaded on to D.C.3 and headed for New Guinea.
We re-fuelled at a strip called Iron Range, near Coen on Cape York, waited overnight and early next morning took off and eventually landed at Port Moresby about 11 a.m. There we were separated and I was told that I would be heading for Nadzab over the Owen Stanleys the next day. As I had been there before I knew who to ring to try and find out what was going on. This didn't prove very successful, so completely uninformed, I lit out for Nadzab next day. Approaching the Markham Valley, which is over the ranges from Port Moresby to the north, we were informed that Nadzab had not been secured and that we were to be landed at Lae. That is about 12 miles from where I wanted to go but as I had no option, I spent the night on the verandah of the Sergeant's Mess of the Army Port Control Authority in Command of Lae. These were all Australian troops here and I was due out at the American 5th Air Force H.Q. Nadzab. Permission was obtained later in the afternoon for myself to proceed to the Australian Detachment at 5th A.F. H.g. I was delivered there by jeep to find a working party of R.A.A.F. blokes there, putting up aerial systems, erecting tent lines, digging latrines and the whole works. The N.C.0. in Charge was one Ted Morton, a Warrant Officer. We had a good relationship for years and it is only over the past ten years or so that I have lost track of him.
However for the next few days it was all hands to the job of getting this camp into working order. There were occasional raid alerts at nights usually one or two aircraft but the days of masses of aircraft raiding and straffing seemed to be over for me anyway. The Americans were wanting radios on the air A.S.A.P. and so it was that I concentrated on the getting the intercept sets in action as quickly as possible I had knowledge of the "operating frequencies" that the Japanese Navy was using in our area, so was able to keep an ear open for any activity thereon. I needed direction finders to confirm any suspicions I may have had and as the only communications were through 5th Air Force switchboards there was not a great deal of efficiency in those first few weeks of operating in the Markham Valley.
Port Moresby and Cape Gloucester on New Britain had the D/F's and our information was for information mainly rather than for general strategic needs. That came about soon enough with the arrival of the mob from Moresby Administration staff, cooks, guards, transport drivers, Medical blokes, Equipment blokes and the lot arrived so I was able to institute shift work on the operating scene. During the time I was being shifted round the countryside away from the "Organisation" there had been sundry ranks of all descriptions posted to the Unit, and of course, I had to fit in there.
The Administration staff were all non-technical, and being very conscious of their appointments, resented my free access to all aspects of the operation. I was capable and qualified to handle the standard Signals systems as well as being similarly qualified and capable regarding the Japanese Signals side, and the Intelligence interpretation aspects. I guess, with hindsight I should have been shifted away and held separate from the newcomers, for there turned out that there was a lot of valuable work for me to do before the show ended. From this area, it became apparent that there was an increase in the activity of the Japanese Army Air Service. Most of our work had up to date been concerned with the Naval Air Service, but owing to the reverses the Naval arm had had with the Coral Sea battle and the battle of Midway, the Army had decided that it was up to them to make the effort. Much detail work had to be done what with the identification of Units, their chain of command and so on and this proved to be the major item of interest until the battle of Hollandia, on 3rd. April 1944.
As a result of our intercept work we were able to catch about 170 Japanese aircraft on the ground. Because of a shortage of fuel they were unable to offer any resistance to the American 5th Air Force. As a result of this activity, our Unit was awarded a Presidential Citation - I would guess that this was as a result of the work that had been done over the proceeding months since MacArthur arrived. The established American Units, were not MacArthur oriented and used to supply information directly to Washington and by pass him except for what they considered he should know. 0ur Administration was there on sufferance so it was in our interest to supply him all our information, regardless of the area to which it referred. This was the main reason we were treated with such kindness and consideration right up through the Philippines campaign, through Borneo and eventually to the doorstep of Japan. We were made to realise there was to be no place on the mainland of Japan for us as an Intelligence Unit for he was in complete Command there and his Units had to bow to his directives. He had won his political fight for the time being Indications were that there were night time intruder flights into the valley originating from the Wewak Area. Nuisance and observation flights at night time.
No damage being done but keeping people from proper rest time and aware that there was danger up there. It was decided to send an observation party into the area with radio equipment in an effort to contain and if possible nullify the drome there. There was an estimated 40,000 Japanese troops in the vicinity and the hinterland, for Wewak was being made a gathering point for all the stragglers and survivors from as far south as Salamau and Lae. I think the tactics were to try and convince the Japs that we maybe would invade that particular area within the foreseeable future.
From Intelligence sources it was apparent that there was a general movement of Senior Military Officers throughout the S.W.P.A. and a tour of important bases by one of the really big Generals one Yamashita from Singapore. His travel itinerary was among the mass of signals intercepted from our area. We got no credit for this involvement but rumours were around later on after he was shot down in the Solomons Area. I was N.C.O. in-Charge this Detachment and we set off from Lae in Army Barges, in company with some members of the 2/4th. Independent Company, heading up the New Guinea coast for about 300 miles to the vicinity of the Sepik River where we were put ashore under the cover of darkness and headed into the bush. We were about 50 miles south of Wewak and apparently these Commandoes had been in the country before for they knew exactly where we were headed. I have some photographs of the party including Bluey Bagnell, Rupe Fisher, Jack Bleakley and Henry Atkinson - I can't remember the names of the others - occasionally one or more will come back to me but I deliberately don't dwell on it. Most of the blokes mentioned are in the phone book, but they have just about given up hope for me, as far as doing anything about medals, benefits etc.., in I'm just not into the scheme of taking all you can get - be it right or not. Anyway we got there and set up and contacted Nadzab and the job got under way. During the time we were there, we had to move twice I think from memory, when it looked as if people were likely to come to close. Our observation and contact time was early morning for it soon became apparent that night time was the time for ferrying aircraft into the area, and or for refueling for onward travel. We had one huge success from Wewak Area when we called in our aircraft during the night to confirm that there had been an influx of some fifty to sixty of a fighter bomber mixture, seems for the purpose of catching the Fifth Air Force on the ground, for activity began before daylight.
Our Location was about a mile and a half to two miles from the floor of the Valley, and thick jungle and Kunai grass was our cover so it was not possible to see with a great deal of accuracy. Sufficient that we were able to get our people there before take off, engines running, and crews warming up machines when the Lightnings, Kitty-hawks and Bostons came in over the tree tops and opened up. Fifty-five "kills" that morning without one loss to us. We found out later on that out observations only confirmed intercept traffic that Darwin and Nadzab had been copying with a great deal of interest. Our Radio gear was British-made A.T. 1082 - A.R. 1083 receiver transmitter combination driven by a 12 Volt cell or, as we had, a 2K.V.A. power generator. Two man job to handle that damned thing.
Aerials were long wires of 100 yards or more, and with an efficient earth system spread out enough, they were not hard to tune in for the frequencies we were using. Mainly we operated on 3.9 Mhz night time and 7.9 Mhz day time. These seemed to be efficient enough for the Japanese gear available at that time. I had begun to develop ulcers on my feet and legs round the ankles and as the only disinfectant was in a powder form it was not easy to keep the infection under control. The Allied Command then had made a decision to by-pass Wewak at that time and move on another 500 miles up the coast to Hollandia.
Enemy activity - Army wise - had increased in our immediate vicinity so it was decided that we could walk out -that in, three days till the upper reaches of the Ramu Valley, then another seven into the Markham Valley, always under the protection of those 2/4th Independent Company blokes, till the Ramu Valley where we were passed down the supply lines of the Aust. Seventh Division, who were at the time working up to the assault on Shaggy Ridge inland. By the time we returned to Nadzab although sick of the iron rations and the lack of changes of clothing etc., Bluey Bagnell had an ulcer on the inner side of has night elbow that looked like the inside of a rabbit, my legs were not too bad and the various colored dyes the R.A.P. bloke painted them with must have done some good. The fresh water showers and the clean clothes plus the food cooked by someone else in the precincts of a "Mess" helped lots. I remember there was a world premier of a picture on that night, on the side of a hill I've forgotten the actress ant the name of the film but I reckon Mum would remember if I asked her. She in not impressed with this exercise in any way but I am persevering in spite!!!
Another experience at Nadzab occurred when I had taken a work party out in the bush to cut poles for telephone lines for our remote receivers when an American Concert Party, in jeeps pulled up. They had seen our Aussie hats so stopped. It was a party of Bob Hope, Frances Langford, Jerry Colona, and one other blond girl whose name I can't remember. We were treated royally that night - front row seats and all. Some treatment!!!!
We, the Unit - No.1.Wireless Unit - had a visit about this time from the Air Officer Commanding R.A.A.F. and it turned out to be Air Commodore Scherger, under whom I had served in Darwin. He had been informed that there was an Australian Wireless Unit serving in the Area with 5th. Air Force, and decided to look us over. "Was there anything he could do for us?" - Some joke for we were on American rations and had access to their P.X. and all their goodies, cigarettes and so on but he really wanted to meet the blokes who had just been in Wewak. There was some coolness when he learned that I had been in Darwin during the early days. I didn't know then that there had been a judicial enquiry into the circumstances of the raids there, and though no blame had been attached to him, his record was not really spotless.
However, later on his Chief Signals Officer, one W/Cmdr Minchin called later and I was paraded sweaty clothing and all, and he asked how it was that I was still serving in the tropic area and was still an N.C.0. ??? My C/O S/Ldr Hattam, told him that the matter was being attended to and there it rested I had served under Minchin at Laverton in 1940/41 and had run into him at Milne Bay during my short stay there. I am sure he knew what work we were doing then. It was about this time that the American Command began to show that they knew we were there working for them. Our Charter directed that our lines of Communication went directly to their 5th. Air Force H.Q. G.2. which is the Intelligence area.
To all intents and purposes we were General Kenney's own personal intercept unit. American Intercept Units had their lines of Communication, through Channels which included Washington in all information. Half the time McArthur was not getting all the information available, but from us, through Kenney's G.2. All information was his. Thus we were in favor at that time. This is why we were given space on the vessels etc., involved with the shifts he required from time to time in His island hopping strategy. Anyway the next step was Hollandia, way up on the North Eastern tip of New Guinea and there was to be a landing there - by-passing those Japanese remnants massed in the Wewak area from the Buna Gono Salamau Lae campaigns. I have maps of the escape routes through that country that were used by the Japanese Army Command when gathering their forces together in that area. 0ur next function was to be the landing after Hollandia, as it was anticipated that the by-passing of the Wewak Force would precipitate a violent reaction from the Japanese air bases, from New Guinea, through to the Western Pacific - the Darwin Timor, Halmahera and Borneo Areas.
It was not considered necessary to send a forward party of our type until the facilities necessary could be erected, manned and used to their fullest, so we waited. 0n 2nd.April, it became apparent that there was a major movement of Japanese aircraft from surrounding areas, through Sansapor to Hollandia. This was followed very closely and by the fourth April it was noted that there were over two hundred aircraft at Hollandia. All types Fighters, Bombers Recon., and the lot. The secret was that they had no fuel for Admiral Halsey or Spruance, somewhere in the Central Pacific had destroyed the tankers bound for Hollandia for refuelling purposes. Somewhere between the Marianas and Morotai I believe, the tankers were taken care of. Sufficient to say that on the 4th April through to the 6th mayhem was committed on the airfield at Hollandia, by the 5th Air Force as a result of the efforts of No.1. Wireless Unit and their allied D/F. units scattered throughout the Northern Areas. We received a Presidential Citation for that piece of work and it is on record. I have some horrific photos of the damaged aircraft on the ground at Hollandia.
We monitored the landings and the subsequent movements of Japanese aircraft which in the main were frantic withdrawals of the survivors. Mainly to Biak and Noemfoer inlands. It in on record that the last remaining W/T operator at Hollandia, in the process of destroying his code books and such, made a last transmission "Tennou Banzai". I can still hear it you know!!! There was nothing left when our blokes arrived at the Signals 0ffice. The opposition was minimal, compared with estimates. This led to the bringing forward of the landing dates for the next step Biak Island. We prepared the groups of fellows to go with the gear required, the sets, power supplies, and the hundred and one million things needed at times like that. I know I didn't have much to do with the Operations Room or the Receiving Section for a few weeks there. I was given the job of collecting the "Forward Detachment" again.
We prepared for embarkation by air, direct for Biak as soon as the air strips were declared safe for occupation. The receivers were required to be in operation as soon as possible. By this time we had our own portable masts and the technique of throwing a wire over a tree no longer had credence. Everything was cut to size and the time required to get a receiving Section on the air was cut to minutes rather than days. Anyway on the 1st June 1944 we set sail for Biak Island per D.C.3. Allegedly the place was secure enough for us to get ourselves set up and give some value for our presence. I remember landing and being hurried to get our stuff and make way for the aircraft to go and get another lot.
We were three air craft all told and we more or less arrived together so we were in contact all the time. We managed to get ourselves sorted out, under cover and set up watches. Night time was an education. Air raids, spasmodic firing from round the perimeters and heavy artillery being fined horizontally over your head whenever the Japs thought they saw something like movement out to sea. To make the situation more exciting, light tanks appeared, not in our sector but not very far away. This was when we were introduced to the American Bazooka, anti tank weapon - a beauty too.
I never fired one, but the bloke in charge of our Security in the Area did. There was a feature there called the Western Caves. We landed on Bosnek strip, and this was edged by these coral cliffs about 100 feet high to the north of us, and it was in there, outside our perimeter, that the Japs had made their preparations to resist. Our main worry those first few days was fresh water for drinking. You could go and have a bathe in the sea, but you couldn't drink it. Each Section had to report with water cans each day for your ration, and towards evening on the second day ashore, two of our blokes went to collect water from the water point. 0ne only, McColl came back. He reckoned that the other lad, I am not sure of his name, I thought for years that it was Henry Atkinson, but at the re-union at 21 Henry Street, I was told that he was still with us so I have lost the memory.
Anyway, we reported the missing man that night, and again next day without success and eventually his remains were found inside the caves where he had been butchered to be eaten. This was later one of the cases used to convict them of cannibalism. After two or three days, we were directed to leave the beach area and make way with our equipment to a prepared position. I didn't learn till later that an attempt had been made to re-inforce the troops on the island. I'm sure we would not have felt so secure had we known. The air raids gradually diminished in frequency and our Administrative mob began to arrive from Nadzab.
Apparently it had been a bit of a touch and go situation for a day or two re the re-enforcements but what we didn't know didn't worry us. 0ne thing about the Yanks there, only the best was good enough for the essential staff. We had on operations room- tent lines a kitchen, a recreation hut, and showers set up for us before we could move in. The only draw-back the first few weeks was that the perimeter was only a matter of yards, maybe a couple of hundred, but not miles, away from us. The biggest thing to register was the number of dead Japanese lying about - they must have been slaughtered at this point for they were there in their hundreds. Bulldozers were being used to get rid of them when we arrived. Between the stench and the blowflies no one was interested in food much for the first week anyway. I know I wasn't.
0ur Commanding was one Mick Richardson, a former salesperson who knew nought of what we were doing or how and/or what techniques were used to obtain the information we were dealing with. He was concerned with Administration of the Unit entirely and beyond that had not a care in the world, except when the air raid alarms used to go off. Night time saw him taking off in his jeep for parts unknown, but which we suspected was the American Hospital which was reasonably close by. The routine was that daily summaries of activities had to be written and prepared for submission to G.2. of 5th Air Force and copies readied for forwarding to Brisbane by safe hand daily. My job there was to compile the Intelligence reports of the Naval Air Activity on a daily basis while the activities of the Army Air Force was overseen by one Sgt. Arch. Turnley, and he turned out to be one of the nicest blokes one could ever know.
He was A.I. F. and was an Intelligence Clerk seconded to us from Central Bureau. 0ur system was to complete the daily summaries up until the cessation of activity, round about nightfall and then send the paperwork down to 5th. Air Force H.Q. by messenger. Usually our own transport bloke in a jeep, and we used to take turns to go with him. Pat O'Shea was an ex-taxi driver from Sydney and was awake to all sorts of lurks. 0ne night it was my turn to accompany him when on the return trip we ran into a fire fight about half an hour's run from home. This was my initiation into what went on during the night hours so close to the perimeter The American M.P’s just pulled us up and sent us to cover - Pat and me - into the drainage pits on the side of the road. 0ut of the jeep and take cover, and if you thought you saw a movement, shoot it. I used the three magazines of my Thompson in bits and pieces but I don't think I hit anything.
Next morning there were a few bodies but nothing you could identify as yours. This was when I actually saw how big a hole a .45 bullet would make - quite a sight I assure you. 0f course all of this activity put us in a state of full alert for a few nights but there was no further activity near us. We had as neighbours the American 96th Infantry Battalion all black - but they served as a good warning system for us. The bloke Turnley I mentioned earlier was the son of R.G. Turnley and Son, Hairdresser's Suppliers of Flinders Street Melbourne and he used to service all the Hairdressers in the north western Victoria region. He used to call at Nyah West, Balranald and such places so I was able to keep in touch with him for a few years after the war. He died of cancer of the stomach in about 1950 to the sorrow of his family no doubt.
We were involved in another fine fight on Biak Island when we were sent out to find the Signals Headquarters of the Japanese Army group in occupancy. The perimeter only a matter of a few yards from our location and though patrolled pretty well there was always some cause for nervousness, especially at night. However we were asked to provide a squad to search and find the Signal's H.Q. if we could and of course bring back any paperwork we could. Myself, Turnley, Bob Bevon, Bluey Bagne that should be Bagnell, a young bloke named Geoff Something or other, I can't recall his Surname, Ken Lloyd, Rupe Tinker and I think it was Bleakley, doesn't matter anyway. We had five Thompsons and two rifles and bayonets and we set off across the perimeter. The first thing were the booby traps - grenades suspended over stones or tin hats, just waiting for someone to kick 'em or pick 'em up, there were a few corpses about and I remember one on the side of the track lying on his back with his legs crossed. Bevan took his rifle and sighted up - hockey one - hockey two - and smacked the foot that was high in the air. He was smothered in a green foul smelling liquid and I've not seen someone so sick for years, he retched and retched for quite a while.
Later on we followed our map and tracks down into a small valley where we sighted a building with masts and so on and reckoned we had arrived. We dispersed about and Turnley and I went in. Looked mostly like living quarters with clothing and such scattered about - two toed shoes, slippers and such. In an inner room there was furniture with drawers and desks. We were busy working on these when the boys outside sounded alarm. Our vacating of the premises was like lightning, trying to run at full speed over rough stones and small scrub with occasional shots following. Eventually we came to American wires laid about with mortars and bazooka rockets strung up waiting for someone in trip them.
Of course we were rescued and lots of fire laid down when we pointed out where we had been. We didn't get much of value from that exercise except that the area was alerted that there were enemy troops in the vicinity. Our Admin people were on the Island in full strength by this time so the duties were evened up with everyone with a job to do and no doubling up. We had a shake up when a Padre arrived to conduct Church Parades for we Australians. 0ur neighbouring island Noemfoor had been occupied and the R.A.A.F. was in evidence with their own regiment, Airfield Construction and the whole box and dice. The Padre discovered that our Medical Orderly Cec. had been gathering the remains of Japanese and after cleaning them up in a solution of lime and I don't know what, sending them back to Australia for the use of his Medical Student buddies, or so he said. The Padre insisted on a Christian burial for all the remains he had, and we all got a smack on the knuckles for our irreverence!!!!
1st. Tactical R.A.Ari. Air Force was the controlling body there and they dearly wanted us to be under their Administration, but thanks to influential friends down south we were left alone. My driver mate Pat 0'Shea told me he had busted his windscreen and asked if I would help him find another and when I agreed we decided that a whole jeep would be a better idea and so we set out for one of the picture shows being held a fair way away from our camp site. I thought he would make the change but was not to be. Half way through the show he says "Now is the time" so we left. He had located a group of jeeps parked together and decide on one so I was it. Write hairy without lights, flat to the boards, driving madly through the dispersal areas hoping the following jeep was him. Anyway we got it home and got busy stripping it. Behind the seat was a .36 calibre Garand, while under the seat was a .45 Colt Automatic with leather holster and a first aid kit in a metal box. Standard equipment for jeeps there. I still have the box, all our private papers are kept in it - very strong and if we have to evacuate they are all together.
During one of the daytime exploration trips on Biak, when Lloyd, Rupe Fisher and I were exploring, just to see what was going on - we were all off shift till the evening, and a group of Zero's, five all told, roared over our heads and opened fine on the drome we could see at the bottom of the ridge we were on. They opened fine overhead and frightened the held out of us and we look off for lower ground looking for cover. That was when I hit this giant bird catching spider. Full speed full in the face with its stomach splattered all over me. It was my turn to be as sick as a dog. Real crook till I got back to camp and was able to clean up.
They used to build a web between low scrub trees and during the night they would wait in the centre for small birds and so on. We had a good look at them, and they didn't improve with a closer inspection - a large hairy spider is a large hairy spider. Part of my regained reading at this time was the daily "Situation Report" and it was noted that a lot of the 5th. Air Force combat reports began with the information that "fighters were met at bombing height over the target so efforts were made to find out how this advance information was getting to them. After a few days air search it was found that there was a network of spotters scattered on islands throughout the area. This part of the Pacific has thousands of islands of all sizes and shapes, some too small to live on, some large enough to support life, and some only visible at low tide.
Anyway, on those large enough to provide shelter and some kind of protection, the Japanese used to have groups of men, sometimes a dozen, sometimes more, but their main function was to man the radios and report the movement of ALL aircraft they could see, friend or foe. We got onto this network and copied their sightings. With the bearings and plots of known strikes it was soon worked out that this was the “early warning system" that was getting their defences alerted in time to meet our bombers over target. Despite some other assertions, to this time there was no evidence that the Japanese had any workable long range radar in this part of the world. Even up to the Philippine campaigns there was no evidence of radar. All aircraft warning systems was of this that should were of this spotter type. I know now that they had radar, but it was not encountered until the Allies were approaching the ''HOME ISLANDS" That evidence was found on Saipan Island later than this date, which is about the end of July 1944.
I submitted a scheme, on my daily summary, whereby these stations could be taken out of operation by using the D/F capabilities of an aircraft of a group to home in on one of the transmitting stations. They had been copied many times transmitting "treaty aircraft circling overhead" amongst their bearing sightings and I calculated that if one aircraft could read that message it would be a simple matter to drop an anti-personnel bomb during the time you were in the "cone of silence", that is directly overhead, plus 15 or 20 degrees each side, you could remove the threat they were. The outcome was that I was called on to go along to 5th. Air Force, 90th Bomb Group, and demonstrate. This was highly acceptable to me off I went.
My friend Jules Archer, the husband of a friend of Mum's and also pretty good bloke. I won't say "for a Yank" for that would be an injustice to him I've gotten a bit ahead of myself here for his name at this time was Jules Segal he changes it later by deed poll to Archer (his wife's maiden name). His Son is out here now leading an expedition into Arnhem Land on the search for fossils - he gets a mention in the news occasionally a Doctor of Science (Palaeontology) or a Professor or some such - anyway he is the son of Mum's friend Eleanor or as we knew her Len. Enough of that I've got carried away again - Jules was a Public Relations Officer with 5th Air Force and I was to meet him on and off for years He came alone on the trip as an observer, and the appropriate publicity re the co-operation between Aussie's and Yanks was featured in Stars and Stripes. I had a copy of the article but it has gone along with a lot of other stuff.
The whole exercise was a success, but not as it was presented by them - the Yanks. We read our own sighting by the Jap observation station and turned to home in and made a run over the top. This was when the cameras took over - the pilot flew a course which would bring us over the station again on a 90 degree alternate track and as we had timed the "cone of silence” the navigator knew when to give the bombardier the "go" signal. I was listening to the transmissions from the obs. station when the "go" was given and counting down to eleven he suddenly went off the air. We assumed a hit as he never resumed transmissions on that bearing while I was in the area.
This was the period when we learned to play volley ball with a 8lb. medicine hall. Daytime activity was covered by the shifts and it was too hot to sleep daytime for the blokes who worked late so the court was always in action. A bloody, bloody game that with a heavy ball but we managed to enjoy ourselves. I received a notice shortly after this that I was posted back to Townsville, our rear Echelon by then, and on enquiring from the C.0. one Richardson, I was told that my application for Administration and Special Duties School had been approved. That meant Commissioned Rank and of course I was delighted.
The only thing was that some of the blokes had learned the location of an American Bomb dump and the parachutes attached to the anti-personnel bombs and the flares were worth souveniring. S0 - I needed one to bring home - Swan Hill being on the way to Port Lincoln where the School of Admin operated - it was a foregone conclusion that there had to be a parachute (silk) in my gear before I left Link. My Ol Mate - Pat O'Shea agreed to come with me, but I had to get the information from our blokes re the location and other details such as what was there, how to identify them and so on. Well we set off, found the dump and got to work. I found Pat a flare, the parachutes were red and set him to work extracting the chute and I got to work on an anti-personnel one - they had beautiful white ones. Pat got his out without mishap and came over to where I was working on mine. I had dismantled the rear of the canister attached to the bomb and was teasing the chute out and tucking it into my shirt as I did, and getting ready to cut through the cords of the chute I put my foot in the wrong position - behind my knife instead of between it and the bomb. There was a loud “Click" as I cut and we took of across the open ground towards our jeep.
Within twelve seconds there was one hell of a bang and things began to happen - vesicles starting up - blokes shouting and a wild bash back the way we had come - no lights and expecting any moment that we would be challenged. I had my "Intelligence" arm band just in case, but the wise thing was not to be caught. We got home without any trouble and the Boss wanted to know where I'd been. He for some unknown reason had stayed in our camp that night and I had to settle on a "Show" trot we didn't want to see again and he accepted it. The next morning, hat came to nick me up and lade me down to the airdrome to catch my plane back to Bust., and let me know then that if I never came back to his part of the world it would be too soon for him.
Really accused me of leading him into trouble and him being old enough almost to be my Father. I met him again in the Philippines, but to his great relief we were never in the same location for very long. He offered me a job if I ever came to Sydney, plenty of dough, not much work a bit of worry, but a job if I even wanted one. Fortunately I never had to put him to the test. I left link early morning in company with one Doug Ferris, an operator who used to fall asleep on the job till finally they put him onto traffic handling where the rhythm of morse wasn't a factor in his ability to stay awake. We spent the first night at Born Island, just off the tip of Cape York, and went on next morning to Townsville.
On arrival at the Station, I was told that there was an Army bloke waiting to see me. He had been there since the day before, and had been using my quarters - one Private Shadbolt my father-in-law. They made him welcome in the Sergeant's Mess and gave him permission to use my quarters as they knew I was on my way home. A very strange meeting I can assure you - takes a while to know just what kind of a bloke you are meeting. I suppose he felt the same about meeting me. He said he had to get back to his camp that night, so I made arrangements for him to attend the Mess with me, everybody knew him by then, but I had to go through the formalities, and with a good supply of grog, mostly wines and a small amount of beer I sent him on his way with our safe hand run in time to get him home before curfew.
He had been to the Middle East and had been posted with his unit to New Guinea but reckoned that was no place for a man his age. Too tired and too old to take that kind of treatment so he informed the authorities of his true age and experience. They immediately had him shipped south Bar eventual discharge. I didn't see him again till after the war was over. I know he had a ball with the American cigarettes I used to send home. Traded them off for beer out at the Ryah West pub, so your grandmother Shadbolt told me. Meanwhile back at the 1W.U Rear Echelon, I was informed that I was to report to 21 Henry Street Ascot Brisbane to see one Wing Commander Booth, so set forth on the bloody train.
Mind you I still had my "Combat Gear" - jungle greens, Thompson L.M.G. and the .38 Smith and Wesson and I wasn't going to give them up without an argument. Nobody at Townsville wanted to take them off my chores anyway and if I had been going on leave I could have taken them all the way home to Vinifera. I arrived in Brisbane fully armed and set out for 21 Henry Street on the tram of all things. I can't remember how the dickens I knew where this place was or a damned thing about the little things, where did my money come from, who did I ask to direct me - in Brisbane now I am lost and can't imagine how I found my way about. Anyway I got to Henry Street and of course no one was expecting me. Wing Commander Booth was away and the best thing was to find quarters at Victoria Park - there was a truck leaving with a change of shift at four-fifteen and Lo! and Behold! there was a shift of my girls on it. From then on life became easy. They were quartered in Victoria Park and knew all the ins and outs of the place so it was a Breeze .'!! I was Someone again!!
In due time I got a call that the Wing Commander wanted to see me so I paraded - to be told that there was an important operation coming up and I was to take charge of the group going with the Headquarters Ship. Go ashore when able, collect information from the Signal Station and wait for the Landing Party to contact me when they were set up operationally. This turned out to be Morotai Island - halfway between Biak and Leyte in the Philippines. I queried the Commission Course and the Wing Commander told me in so many words "This operation in more important and you will be relieved as soon as possible" Don't worry Flight, we'll get you your Commission because there are more and more operations coming up where you are needed." With hindsight, this rates with one of the more subtle "Cons" that I had worked on me.
Enough of that! I was delighted of course, and prepared with all enthusiasm to get together with the blokes that were to go. Then "marrying up" of the team took place out at a place called Breakfast Creek, where camp facilities were - Army, Air Force, Dutch, New Zealanders, Pommies and all, were camped under strict Army discipline. Lights Out - Reveille, No fraternizing with other Ranks, all that sort of jazz which I didn't like. The camp entertainments were of top quality for that time though. This operation took, it seemed, a very short tine and then we were all set to go. I was allowed back to Victoria Park for a farewell party in the Sergeant's Mess. A couple of "my girls" had been made Sergeants by this time so the occasion was quite agreeable again, all the girls had met Mum and knew She was a W.A.A.A.F. and it was source of wonder throughout the Mess that I could have female company whenever I was back there!!!, good things don't last long in war time and we duly set forth from Brisbane again by trusty D.C.3 for parts North.
We made Moresby the first day then departed for Hollandia on the North Coast. They weren’t able to get in there because of weather so carried on for link. There we joined the Headquarters Ship "Rocky Mount" and set up watches on the frequencies necessary. We sailed from Biak on 12th September with Turnley, of previous mention entertaining us with a beautiful rendition of a hymn of which I can remember little except "0h Lord above, we pray to Thee, for those in peril on the sea". He had a trained voice in the John Charles Thomas style, very strong baritone and the only time we could get him to sing was if he was three parts on the wind or special occasions such as we departing on a mission. There was never enough beer available to fuel him up for a full concert but a beautiful voice (to me).
We sailed from Biak for a landing on Morotai on the
morning of the14th September and were soon ashore and setting up Command tents
and aerials and getting the radios warming. We were some hundred yards in from
the beach itself, beautiful white sand coconut trees, no low growth as the
natives used to keep it cut down - we even had an eight holer set up on the top
of the sand ridge from the beach where we could in comfort watch the sea and the
birds and accomplish the basic reason for being there.
Things took their course on board, shifts were maintained and observations made on the general air activity, but nothing of importance came up till the morning of the 14th when before daylight the bombardment opened up. The usual ship to shore heavy bombardment, followed by landing craft close in laying down a barrage of rocket fire. Very, Very impressive when sighted for the first time I can assure you. In the early light they look like streams of fire leaving the front of the barges and heading inland to erupt somewhere back in the bush. I have an idea there are thirty two rockets in the single loading on the frames they use. It takes a few minutes to re-load and then they let them go in a series, one row at a time. Most effective too!!!
We came ashore the following morning to a fairly safe area, already cleared of the Japs and the camp areas being allotted for the support groups such as we, next door to the American Nurses bivouac for the first few days till the Field Hospital was fully operational. The use of the eight-holer- open to the beach provided some embarrassment when occasionally visited by visiting nurses, wandering around on a rest period. We had a marvellous view of the reef and soon in the off duty periods, some of the blokes were fishing and trying out the used belly tanks from aircraft as boats. Cut a hole in the top and then you had to get rid of the baffles inside to get your legs straight out in front of you, your backside acted as bedfast on the bottom and they were quite manageable. I have a photo somewhere.
Some of the blokes got some demolition charges - look like
a cake of sandsoap - a block about three inches high, four by three on the
bottom and about two by three on the top. The bottom was hollowed sufficiently
to put a coil of fuse and a detonator in. The blokes used to tie this to a hand
grenade and drop them overboard and then work like hell to pick up the fish
before they were eaten by bigger fish. I remember being out over the reef at
night in my boat with a fishing line when the whole thing rose up out of the
water about six feet I reckon then drop straight down again. Something very
large come up under me and lifted me and my boat wholly out of the water and
then either I slipped off his back or he or it submerged again. That was my last
time fishing over the reef.
The next morning a Boston made a forced landing in the water, within sight of us, but too far to swim out and we saw the crew release two rafts which inflated. Before they could get to the rafts they were dragged under by whatever, but they just disappeared and though the Americans got the aircraft to the beach with boats, there was no further sign of the crew. No one went fishing again out on that reef. That was where I first saw Bonito, a fighting fish jumping out of the water to about ten feet or more before diving back again. In literally hundreds, being chased by other bigger fish for when I saw it up here I knew immediately what they were.
Morotai is a long narrow island and the air strips were made towards the centre, while the villages were to the north of us. We were on the southern end about a hundred yards back off the beach camped in the middle of a grove of Coconut trees. I remember the moonlight there. The moon so big and you could really read a book by it outside. I hadn't seen a moon so large till we were in Goodnight. Guess it was the time of the year and so on. I know I sent Mum home some photo’s taken at night with a normal exposure.
During this idyllic time there was very, very little air activity, or naval activity that immediately concerned us. Our routine watches were maintained and there was only an occasional reconnaissance plane over. There were three night attempts at harassment but only by fighters who came in low, made one run and then disappeared out to sea. From our location we could see on the horizon the Halmahera's and we all knew that there were Japs there. Night time guard duty was a must and all lights to seaward were screened. With the accumulating number of ships that was going on there we all knew that another trip was in the offing so there was not much apprehension at night. Not like what was to come.
We got word to prepare for another embarkation so it was pack up the gear and stow it where we knew to find it and wait for further information. As I said before these good times never last long in the Services. Instruction courses again in the use of the weapons, down to the firing ranges, lots of rounds through the Thompsons and the 303's, the use of grenades, and this time a Bazooka. The Sergeant of the Guard got to carry that one and we all enjoyed letting one go from it. Awesome is the word for the damage trey can do. We duly found our way on board L.S.T.729 and were quartered on the tank deck. No provision made for our accommodation so it is all hands on the scrounge. I managed to find a camp stretcher and set up “home” between the tracks of a monster of a machine with a great gun barrel straight over my head. I can remember thinking about what would happen if there was a direct hit somewhere!!!
We had no word as to our destination but in the evening of the 17th October 1944 we were paraded on deck and given a briefing by the Captain, a Lieutenant of the American Navy and told that we were heading for the island of Leyte in the Lingayen Gulf of the Philippines. 0ur point of reference was a town called Tacloban and from there we were on our own. Each of us had a job to do and so on so "Good Luck" "God Bless" and all that stuff and we closed down for the night. During the night we pulled the anchor and set forth. There was a group of our fellows on the Headquarters Ship of our Group who kept watch on the relevant aircraft frequencies for the trip.
Very boring on the L.S.T. we, as Australians, had no duties on board. Salt water showers once a day, your water bottle filled morning and night and except for meal times, that was the only liquid to drink. Card games, books went the rounds until the early morning of the 20th October. The early bombardment woke everyone of course and this went on for hours. We couldn't get ashore for the first day, just sitting at anchor in the bay waiting for something to happen. Of course we had a grandstand view of all the activity aircraft buzzing around, landing barges shuttling back and forth, plenty of noise and smoke. The main fleet was further our in the bay beyond our sight and they kept up a continuous bombardment of targets as the situation called for. There were quite a few Jap aircraft about but they were searching for the big ships of the convoy thank goodness, not us. 0ur size was not significant for this operation so we didn't rate too much attention. We landed the second day in the afternoon and immediately set about setting up the station.
All the gear, now comprising a mobile Signals Station, was easily handled but the aerials still had to go up. It started raining and the wind came up and we had a hell of a problem keeping things under control. Sleeping space was a problem for everyone wanted wanted to have shelter and be inside the perimeter, small though it was. The, first days ashore in a new location are the worst. There was a village a few hundred yards away, but the Americans told us that the locals were tribesmen, meaning the equivalent of our abo's, and would be loyal to the person who was looking at them, so we were doubly wary.
Eventually the storm cleared and we were able to become operational. Things were normal until early December when an intercepted message indicated that our whereabouts were known to the Japanese and they were organising a paratroop operation to hunt us out. Needless to say there was an immediate evacuation and we were shipped out to a place called San Migual on Luzon Island, just north, 80 miles, of Manila in Lingayen Gulf. There was no landing to take part in here for the Americans had come in a few weeks before and had advanced south towards Manila and had spread out throughout the countryside in all directions. The operation for us was merely landing our gear, moving to ready sites and setting up operations.
I only made one trip to Manila on a sightseeing look-see. There were lots of "out of bounds" areas and on the eastern outskirts there was still routing out of Japs and the sympathetic Philippino's. One thing I vividly remember are the cages in which the "good time" girls used to live and operate from. There were no occupants while I was there but information given to us was that from twelve years of age, the girls were put to work for the pleasure of the troops - a fact that didn’t go 'down too well with anyone. We learned while here that someone on the Staff of the publicity machine had found out and had broadcast over our ^ ^si ^nd sisi^ (a) that there were Australians in the Philippines and (b) given them our names and occupations as "Specialist Communication Troops". I understand that there was hell to pay back at 21 Henry Street. Later I was led to believe that this happened before the paratroop scare, so we were well out of that area.
Just after Christmas I was called to the H.O. and informed that I was posted back to Brisbane, once again “for further training and re-assignment". My mate Turnley reckoned that “this was it" - back to Brisbane a spat of leave then over to Port Lincoln S.A. to the School of Administration far Officer Training. I had no information from my own C.O. except for the posting but ever hopeful I set off, arriving back in Brisbane the second week in January. After a couple of weeks waiting, my old mate Wing Commander (by this time) Booth saw me and gave me the story again - my Commission had been recommended and was in the pipeline, however in the meantime there was an operation being prepared for the Borneo area and I was to meet the team chosen out at Breakfast Creek - go through their training with them and in three weeks leave with them for Morotai Island to join a convoy that was gathering ready for the Borneo Operations. Such a trusting fool I did as I was told.
This self criticism is I assure you a result of growing older and seeing the situation with much older end wiser eyes. In those days I was as eager to do the job, as well as please those in authority above me as I was when first chosen for this work back in 1941. I believed them for I wanted to believe them and all that kind of thing. The thing is that we arrived back on Morotai Island on 5th March 1945 and began to get ready for operations. I was senior N.C.0. in Charge, and we had no Officers as yet, so there was only a receiving station set up in our own tents purely for training purposes and to give the blokes something to do while waiting. We had no communication with Operations and no set up to actually use any information we may have gathered. I kept all the priority traffic that the blokes copied but there was nothing we could do with it, except for record purposes.
The real war had moved away from us for the time being. We learned and practiced driving four by fours up and down ramps, and in convoy line astern, and to stop and evacuate them in a hurry, all that stuff that we might need to be able to do. On 25th April we want aboard the Headquarters Ship the "Rocky Mount" with the O.I.C. Aust. Seventh Division; I think it was General Wootton, and Lo. and behold, A.V.M. Scherger and his staff of R.A.A.F.1st. Tactical Air Force. This was the first time I had served under R.A.A.F. Control since 1942. We were only a group of eight operators and our job was to pass all traffic to a F/Lt. Bryce, a Liaison Officer, who then passed it to the Intelligence Staff of 7th. Div. Our group were not coming as a group - just operators to man the listening watches while the operation was in progress. We learned then that we were heading for Tarakan, off the East Coast of Borneo.
The next two days passed at anchor and during the second night we left, arriving off shore in the early morning hours of the 1st May. During the trip there were a couple of aircraft warnings but nothing of consequence come about, the main gist of the signals we intercepted was that most of the "fighting" troops had been taken to the Philippines during the last few weeks leaving mostly garrison and oil field maintenance troops in the area. The landing went without much opposition, we had two aircraft approach and then it seemed turn and leave the area fortunately!!! The main job of this occupation was to secure the oil installations and create an airfield suitable for long range fighters and medium bombers, and besides elements of the Aust. 7th. Divn there was the R.A.A.F. No 3. Airfield Construction Squadron (I think).
I know I was still on board when I heard that a F.Sgt Bradshaw had been killed in action during the night. First time I had come across the name during my whole service, found out he was a Tasmanian from Ulverstone - no relation tho'. Met another of that family back at Central Bureau during change over from Borneo to Okinawa. Wasn't a pleasant meeting for I told him when I was introduced that he had a hell of a reputation to live up to, which pleased no one, particularly the ''top brass". However back to Tarakan - word filtered back from the troops ashore that the area occupied was proving unsuitable for the construction of a suitable airfield and the operation was to be abandoned.
Holding troops of the 7th. Divn. were to be left to secure the oilfields and the port facilities and F/Sgt. Bradshaw (me) was detailed to carry out an "on field" inspection with a view to reporting on the suitability or not of the terrain under control, for the establishment of a Radio D/F Station. This meant spending a couple of nights ashore so away we went. First night after walking miles and miles - all transport was Army and full, all hell broke loose round the early hours and of course everybody on the alert. Stayed that way till daylight when we found the corpses of some ourang-at-angs that had been on a forage just before daylight. Poor bloody things nobody told them about the war!!!! Second night went off 0.K. with just the usual night noises. This was where I really learned to look askance at night - out of the corner of your eye if you want to see what's in front of you. Everything moves and in the morning it's still there.
Some of the fellows who could not accept that would get up at daylight and grub around chopping down small bushes that had been moving around all night. That had bothered me for a bit but mostly I was there only to pass a night then be on my way to somewhere more comfortable. On Tarakan that was back to the H.Q. Ship and comfort. My conclusions were that there was no advantage to be obtained by trying to install a H.F. D F. station there the worst weather and ground surrounds I had come across so far, besides we had D/F at Tacloban in the Philippines and Nadzab in the Markham Valley and at Darwin so I wasn't too enthusiastic about the project anyway - my view coloured by the speed with which these stations could be established with a Warrant Officer in charge of a group of four operators. All senior in rank to me - enough said.
Anyway Tarakan was a "no go" operation for Wireless Units and I was recalled to Morotai to prepare for the next operation on the west coast of Borneo - Operation 0boe 6. This time we had mobile radio in the form of 4 by 4 trucks complete with power plants - the only thing was we had to rig aerials before we could operate. That was o.k. for they were only long wires and they went anywhere as long as it was up!!!! I will type directly from my diary from here on (with suitable deletions) for things did get a bit blubbery here and there about this time:
31st May 1945: Two letters from home. Jimmy Moare is one of us now; his application for aircrew has been knocked back so he is now one of us for good. We moved from camp to the assembly area for loading onto the ship. We have full packs - our kits were handed into 9 T.M.0 and we were left with two changes of clothes, water-proofs, one blanket and two towels. Pockets are filled with tins and bottles of pills of various colors. Looks like rain so we are trying to rig some shelter. I am Duty Officer from midnight to 2 a.m. so my hip will probably not have a chance to become sore. (H0W OBVIOUS THIS IN HINDSIGHT). The night is cold and already we are tired and dirty. Worried about letter from home. Thank God Lesley is at home with her Mum. Human nature being what it is, her being there is just another added protection.
1st. June 1945: I managed to have a bit of broken rest after knocking off at 2a.m. We moved out to the loading point, about a mile and a half march. Hugh Melinsky, English Lieut. attached to us for experience, tried to march his group full pack and all at attention for the trip. It lasted about 5 minutes and the blokes sat down on the side of the road and told him where to go so he went. A rather arrogant Pom. On board L.S.T. 696 at 1010 a.m. and in need of a feed. Breakfast was at 0430 a.m. and the blokes are hungry and thirsty. We are quartered on the tank deck. Pretty hot and dirty. I counted 110 ships altogether before a meal line was formed and we got coffee and sandwiches of beans and spam. Alright to fill a space. My feet are pretty badly infected, five ulcers on the right foot and four on the left. The Yank Doctor treated them and gave me some sulpha drugs to take. I have to go back daily for dressing. Fortunately I was able to scrounge a stretcher to sleep on. The Halmaheras are only five miles out on the port side. Coming aboard I was photographed with groups twice, by the Army Official History bloke and by the "Wings" representative. The boys all have wet feet after the catwalk to the L.S.T
2nd June 1945: Still at anchor - breakfast at 0615. The crew of the ship is Yank and look no tougher than our blokes - more picturesque with bandannas round their heads and large knives at their waist and so on. I had my legs dressed by an A.I.F. medic this morning. Plenty of colors in the paint he used - told me to keep on taking the drugs and walk bare foot where possible till we get there. During the night it rained heavily - I was good and dry. Watching the Yank signallers I can’t help noting what a lousy lot of operators they are. Rough and quick training I guess. I must realise I have been reading morse code now for ten years so shouldn't be critical. Read “The Pay-Off" a murder mystery paper backs that there seems to be an abundance of on board. The convoy at night reminds me of an ordinary waterfront. I wish it was Melbourne and I was with Lesley. Lights out at dusk so I'm off to the cot early.
3rd. June 1945: Still at anchor. Raining all day today. My right leg is improving Mango and Tapp (Mango Myers and Don Tapper) came over from the "Rocky haunt" our H.Q. Ship. Plenty of games of "Two-up" and dice everywhere. I can't join in far I am a poor gambler and hate to lose. I kept bank for one of our blokes Ron Warlow and he seems to be doing alright for a while. He asks me for the bank and I leave for I'm not interested. Worrying about Lesley and home and what she is doing. Maybe it would help if I knew what was going to happen within the next week or two. Perhaps - I don't know. I can only hope. There are some strange people on board that's for sure. Don't wash, don't shower tho' it is salt water, don't clean their teeth, smell to all heaven. “Say Aussie, got any "whorey" books down there? If so lemme know and I'll change 'em with you". (Don't you dare Laugh Simon or I won't quote any more of this)
4th June 1945: We "up-anchored" and "a-weighed" at 0400 - the 110 ships are in convoy position - two great lines - spaced well apart. We are heading west. We went through the submarine and air alert procedures, and the drills a couple oh times. From where I am I'd have to fly through the top deck to get out but I'll take that in my stride when necessary. I learn that some oh the boys have busted their ‘emergency rations’ which means trouble later on. Our oil boat is rocking and rolling like a beaut but there is hardly any swell. Tom Davis and Alex Watkins were a bit Squeamish and not able to eat any tea. Hugh Melinsky is causing Tony Carson (another Pom attached to us for experienced) a bit of trouble for his consistent superior attitude on board. Thinking of Lesley and Gary and read "Magnificent Obsession" by Lloyd C. Douglas.
5th June 1945: It rained heavily again today - all the boys camped on deck were flooded out. Breakfast in the rain - cold and windy and there is quite a sea running. The lifebelts are a nuisance and everyone in dirty. I am wearing a pair of shorts and sandals on account of my feet. The showers were made available today. They are salt water and so far none of us has any salt water soap. Won't take long for a trade of something takes place I reckon. At night we are not allowed any lights down below - hot and sweaty. How do people fail to appreciate the stupidity and the emptiness of these war operations? To all intents and purposes this is simply a cruise for most of the boys. I see no signs of strain, Aircraft cover us all day. No one has a care for what lies ahead for everyone else but ME. Bless you both and keep you safe please God.
6th June1945: Raining heavily again and our ship in rolling heavily. Yesterday we passed the Talaud Islands from which we should have been spotted and undoubtedly were, for there is a Jap 0.P. located there. At 1800 tonight we were joined by a large whale about thirty feet long. I couldn't sleep so went up on deck to watch the sea with the thousands of little lights. It is nice and cool up here but my imagination plays up too much. A year ago today the invasion of Europe took place Our L.S.T. took place in that invasion at Normandy. They tell us that these ships are U/s after one invasion trip, but so far we haven't been stressed with hits or groundings so here's Luck!!!!
7th June 1945: At 0530 we passed Zamboanga and suffered a pang of jealousy for the place was all lit up. We are within a few minutes of a civilisation - the first since leaving Australia two thousand miles behind and still going further. Our convoy was joined by more destroyers and a couple of cruisers. There are a few birds about but I haven't any idea how far away land is. I read a selection of adventure stories by Peter Russell. I managed to scrounge a bucket and spent an hour and a half washing. Feel much brighter and easier for it. Read "An Island in the sun" by Ernest Gann. The Yanks aboard are beginning to show a little apprehension over what may be ahead. All kinds of rumours are floating about. The usual bout of hunger is making itself felt. I managed to acquire a box of “K" rations. (I've blocked out the next five lines in my diary - must have been feeling too up-tight for anyone else to read it huh!!!)
8th June 1945: Borneo is on the Port Bow (gone all Navy now) has been all day, Afternoon we had a fighter escort of P.38’s (Lightnings). From 1700 we have been swinging round past Palawan. A good meal at tea time but I'm not having much success sleeping. I planned a pedal car for Gary, and the injustices of my position continued to take over. (He never did get the pedal car but he got a 1927 Baby Austin) My mind would not focus on anything else.
9th June 1945: All alerted at 0500 this morning. Everyone is busy packing up and cleaning guns. Ron Barlow gave me 500 Guilders to mind. We heard heavy gunfire at 0400 but couldn't see anything. We were briefed at 1500. I have a party of eight men - two Tommy guns and six rifles -we are to land tomorrow. Once on the beach we must move round to the right and keep going till we find the Assembly Area. Everyone is a bit keyed up tonight.
10th June 1945: We dropped anchor in Brunie Bay at 0430. The shoreline is alight and the Lighthouse is working. At 0615 a “Nick" dropped a bomb close to the "Rocky Mount". We are there miles off shore waiting for the bombardment to begin. At 0730 the rocket barges and the Destroyers opened up. I would hate to have been on the receiving end of that lot. At 0915 the first wave of infantry hit the beach. A Jap Tanker opened fire on a destroyer but was blown in half for its trouble. Some mortar fire came BACK and wrecked two L.C.I’s.
The Liberators gave a grand display of bombing from where we are. I can't help thinking that it is quite a good position for me, after having to take it for so long. We landed at 1700 and moved through the township and through to a coco-nut plantation. The only thing wrong is that Melinsky insisted we move through to the left. The ground is wet and the bugs are thick. The road ahead is out of bounds because of snipers. An unexpected land mine alongside does not keep us very comfortable. Our water supply is light so we have to scrounge coco-nuts. Mortar fine and grenades are heavy all night. I am on guard 3.a.m. to 5.a.m. and during my stint I hear sounds across from us. In touch with an Army Unit next door, I report in and am told "We will take care of it". Just as daylight I hear some automatic weapon fire and on going to have a "look see" I find that there is a trench of women who have been gunned down." On protesting about it I am told to mind my business and if I don't want to, can I spare men and medical supplies to care for them - they were the remnants of the Japanese "Joy" houses and are rotten with disease for which we have neither the facilities nor the equipment to care for them. We are in the front Line of an offensive action and this is a very minor matter and please 'Buzz off" and get on with my job. Most of the township in wrecked. The "Poor show" of it is that a small party of Americans, as Port Director's Staff, came in second ashore in "Buffaloes" and looted the whole place. Bulldozers are working on most of the roads.
11th June l945: Breakfast at daylight on hard rations. We went over to have a look at the remains of the women in the trench but they had been mostly covered up and tho' a couple of the blokes were a bit green, there was nothing to be done about it Tony Carson, John Hucker and I set out to find the assembly area .The M.P's said that snipers are on the road - they had taken out five before we began to move out. After about an hour we located our assembly area and found the rest of our mob. F/ Lt. Bamage and I went back to bring up the rest of our team. We had a mid-day meal of rare rations - no water - coconuts and with relief loaded our kit bags and extras onto the weapons carrier. In column of route!!!! We marched up past the old Government House and in what used to be a bit of a public park, we set up shelters for the night. I had dawn guard duty - midnight to 0400 so with an early tea and a shower from the roadside drain, I changed trousers had to wear the same shirt for it was the only green one I had and I didn't feel like wearing my faded khaki at night with all the activity going on after dark. Heard there is mail on the beach but there is no way of reaching it tonight. We'll send someone down in the morning. If you're game enough you can smoke on guard duty tonight - it is supposed to be so safe. None of us reckoned we'd take the chance anyway. All quiet till after I had taken over at 2250. There was a single shot and I heard one of our blokes yell. Yelling back to shut up, I moved to where they were sleeping and found Roy Tanner and Roy Ward busy. Ward had been shot in the left elbow; the bullet had entered his left arm just above the elbow and exited at the wrist. He had been laying on his back with his hands under his head and we reckoned that if this had not been so the bullet would have gone through his left temple.
He and Roy Tanner were under a blanket with a torch and they were trying to stop the bleeding and the noise. I yelled to everyone to grab weapons and be alert, you know Australia needs Lerts, then helped Wardie get dressed, wrapped a blanket round him and took him out to the weapons carrier. I remember it was pitch black and you could just distinguish things against the skyline. The C/0 and F/0 Magnus crawled round the guard posts, came back to the Carrier and began to talk about the situation. Ward asked if he was going to be left here all night without medical attention, and when no one answered, I asked him if he would walk with me down to the R.A.P. about a half a mile behind us in the direction from which the shot had come. He said he would and climbed out of the Carrier and we began the trip.
We arrived at the R.A.P. Ninth Div; without incident and of course, had to make out a full report to the M.P's. I was forbidden to leave the area alone so I waited until I was on my own and just left. On the way down we walked in the middle of the road, not making any more noise than was necessary and we were not challenged at all, but going back I reckoned I'd have to do it the quiet way so stuck to the grass on the edge of the roadway. 0n my left on the way back was a large ditch and then a hedge about ten feet high. I've no idea what was behind it but suspect it was part of the Government House grounds. Adrenalin pumping I was sneaking along with my "clicker" working and I heard running feet, soft not hard so dropped and waited, and there came a squad of perhaps fifteen Japs trotting down the road heading towards the Ninth Div. Hqts. I only had two mags for the Thompson gun so waited till they had gone past, and judging when I had a chance I opened fine towards their rear.
That alerted the guards of the perimeter of the H.Q's and all hell broke loose behind me. There was so much noise I just waited till it had all quiet down and the jungle noises took over again. I got back to our area and by using the "clickers" made my presence known and was allowed entry to our site. All very quiet and time was getting on for me to be relieved. I woke the relieving Sgt Crawley, and he reckoned as he had only khaki clothing I ought to help him out and change the guard. I changed each guard post and I was pretty shaky by this time and damned thirsty, I had used all my water. I reported to the C.0. and got permission for a bottle of water and went to bed. Three thirty and two more shots are fired stirring up the area. I knew everyone was awake for there is something different when a camp is alert. I crawled round the inside of the perimeter, making contact with each of the guard points and Davis signaled with his foot that something was amiss.
I crawled up the length of his body and he whispered to me that some one was in front of him. I looked night into the eyes of a Jap who had apparently come down the creek bed and found himself looking at Davis. I fired and yelled "Intruders" then there was some firing from behind me, inwards the Communications Tender. Someone had spotted a shape on top of the canopy, and when I fired, so did he. Things became very noisy and confused from here on for some time. To this day, I cannot recall any incoming fire - it all seemed in be going out from our area. Eventually quiet was resumed and there were only the jungle noises to contend with. I had an attack of the shakes by now and tho' I was able to check and hand over to Crawley, I was unable to stop shuddering and finally as daylight was coming on I got up and readied for the day.
12th June1945: Daylight and after breakfast on our own rations we cleaned up the area and began to look for our camp. Special Investigation 0fficers from R.A.A.F. Command turned up and wanted a report - this investigation took from 0915 to 1100, and by this time most of our blokes had gone, including Magnus and the tender and carrier - presumably looking for our Camp Site. All done by numbers!!!! Arrived at the camp site at 1125 and without a drink or a meal began to build the kitchen and the tent lines. No sooner started work than a random shot from the west whistled over the top - no one hurt but everyone ducked for cover. Took a while but gradually everyone began work again. The artillery is located about two hundred yards behind us. The actual front is about a mile in front to the west of us. Finished the camp at 1800 and had the first good cooked meal since the landing. Hot tea as much as you can drink but only two cups in your water can per man till morning. Lots of noise from away to the west but relatively quiet here - no radio equipment so just had to settle in for the night.
13th June 1945: Guard Commander call at 0330 and win nothing but strays whistling about rather quiet except for the artillery. They seem to be shooting towards the mainland - toward the east - seems a hell of a long way for the guns to carry but during daylight you can't see anything dropping in the water so they must be carrying. Breakfast with as much tea as we can drink - porridge was made of crushed ''Peak Frees's" biscuits I think tho' no one left much on their plates-all too hungry I reckon. Parade at 0900 where the C.0. marched me out front and had quite a few complimentary words to say. Finished with three hearty cheers from the “Parade" - back to my position in front, and dismiss. Later I asked if some note could be made on my record - having in mind a couple of "demerits" I reckoned would be there from way back - but the official reply was the "daily Sit-rep" would have it all and any such action would have to come from "C.B. " We have word from 9 Div. hospital that Ward is 0.K. weak from loss of blood but otherwise "fair enough". He will be posted ''South'' so we'll be lucky to see him again here.
Camp is completed, all radio's in place, power supplies hooked up and working and we prepare for operations at 1730. All is in readiness except that Melinski directs that we cannot go on the air for there in no Intel. 0fficer (Hermes) in attendance. I did my best to explain that I and been in the game as long as Hermes and had carried out all the appropriate duties Intel. and Radio for the past three years and my duty was to get on the air A.S.A.P. and in defiance of his rank only, I opened operations. Set up watches both on the intercept frequencies and the point to point to Morotai. Was threatened with all kinds of dire consequences, but I reckoned I was right for although his rank was superior, his appointment was for a Liaison and 0bserver function, not operational, so I reasoned I was 0.K. Contact was made with one Nick over the Miri area, south of us on the mainland when to make life easier Hermes, Turnley, Rogers and the crew from the "Rocky Mount" arrived. Plenty of cigarettes and a bit of mail.
0ne from Mum and one from my Mother. We were able to send a couple of the stylised cards "I am well and safe and I will write again is soon as possible" type of thing. They took weeks to arrive home but I suppose they are better than nothing. My night foot has broken out in the area of the top again and it is difficult to walk with boots on. No walking much for the next few weeks I hope. Roy Wand's absence means that I'll have to over-see the radio room and write the daily Intel. report but I've been doing it for so long now it doesn't worry me much. Turnley will take over the Army Air business and Hermes will relieve me of much of the paper work as far as the Intel room is concerned. We each have a place to sleep, food to eat and plenty of water to drink so things aren't too bad. I'll stick this out till Ward comes back or there is a relief then I'll start stirring for some action for myself.
14th June 1945: Took over the daytime watches at 0800 - not much activity here-my foot was attended to by a visiting R.A.A.F. Doctor and is much easier. From our camp we have a marvellous view of the Beaufighters bombing and strafing a pocket of the Japs. Just like at a movie, plenty of noise and shock waves but all going away from you - a pleasant change I can tell you. The Army boys are full of praise for the Beaus. and they would need to be for we just learned that on "D" day, our Liberators dropped a few on them in mistake. I reckon I saw that from where we were. The rocket barges had wandered up and down the beach area letting go at whatever they had to, and we saw the Army boys come ashore and head for the scrub. Then way up high came the Libs. and the bombs, we reckon, began to full on the edge of the jungle, where our fellows had gone in, and further inland from there. I suppose these things can happen but for the sake of communications it could all be avoided. We were all most concerned with keeping our eyes on Japanese opposition, by air or by sea, appearing in our sector so we could do nothing about another situation. I knocked off at 2330 and though two planes came over during the night and dropped a couple of bombs they were nowhere near us so not to worry too much. 0ur boys identified them as Jills - a naval torpedo carrier usually - but there is no confirmation other than call signs and the Units to which they belong. Small matter.
15th June 1945: 0perations again - heard Ward has
been transferred to a R.A.A.F. hospital on Morotai leaving on Wednesday. Heard
that the A. & SD. School is closing at the end of the year so it looks as tho' I
am through with any hope of being Commissioned. The bloke to relieve me has to
come from Luzon and by the time he arrives and I possibly make Australia, twill
be too late. My own stupidity seems to cost me once again. I reckon I'm right
but must be making a mistake somewhere. This is the fourth year I have applied
myself as fully and as conscientiously as has been possible but time and again I
am passed over for promotion. Lead a detachment in the field - anywhere, anytime
sure but to get near the rank that says a man has done something - it seems no
way can I make it!!!! Wrote home today - not a good letter I s’pose but I'm a
bit browned off with this war.
The artillery behind us has not been so busy since the barges with the troops took off although when they do open up we can still see the shell bursts on the mainland. There are a few stray shots about but not much to worry us. I closed down at 2330 for the night watch. The blokes tell me that there is a huge bulldozer slammed up against our telephone lines down towards the water point with a large notice on it "Please lower your scoop. You tore hell out of our lines last night and signed “Four weary signallers 0400" we reckoned it is a good joke. Listening to "Voice of America" tonight we heard a hill-billy version of Waltzing Matilda and were not impressed.
16th June 1945: Got myself all stirred up and wasn't able to sleep last night so went to the R.A.P. and got some pills to help. John Daly was supposed to report to me for instruction but it appears he has given up the idea of working as an Intel. Clerk. The cookhouse and Airmen's Mess burned down tonight - one L.A.C. Sheppard seems to have been responsible somehow. A red alert at 2100 - nothing from our boys so we didn't pay much attention. Nothing came of it so the radar seems to have mucked it up. A party of Japs have holed up in some caves about three quarters of a mile west of us and they got a couple of Army boys there this afternoon - that makes about twenty casualties in that area so far. We reckon the Beaufighters will be working them over tomorrow. We gave Tarakan a raid warning of three hours tonight, by a flight of six aircraft, so far it hasn't come off but there is an hour to go yet. Nothing doing in our sector so I'm off to bed.
17th June 1945: 0ur aircraft turned up over Tarakan and were severely dealt with so we were told. Another feather in our caps over the Radar boys!!! I turned up for work early wanting to be in on the news of the raid on Tarakan but Clarrie (Hermes) told me to have a day off. I did my washing and went down to see Wardie. He is cheerful for he knows the war is over for him, as far as active service is concerned anyway. His arm is a mess alright and he hasn't any use of his fingers but that could improve with therapy so they tell us. Got some mail from Mum, and wrote home. The Artillery has been working all day but after a while it doesn't seem to be so loud or intrusive. John Hucker and Melinsky are at loggerheads - Melinsky seems to think he is the bloke in command of anyone beneath his rank - a matter that doesn't wash either with the fellows or our C.O.
18th June 1945: Australian Spitfires and Kittyhawks arrived. The strip is only second class and a couple of Spits. were wiped off landing. Doug's arriving daily now with lots of Australians and big Brass of the R.A.A.F. all wanting to look over our operations. Thank goodness Hermes has the job of telling them "No dice". If I had my way I'd shoot 'em. They should have been here days ago.
19th June 1945: Another landing on the mainland opposite. We have a grandstand view of the action as far as the barges going away, the artillery firing, the shell bursts etc. Impossible to get any information as there are no channels into which we can hook for intercept. We don't have enough sets to randomly search anyway. Lots of activity at night from the "pocket'' but nothing seems to be heading our way. Wrote home to let them know that everything in 0.K. plenty of cigarettes and all for free !!! I believe they are per favor of the Yank Port Control Authorities. If there are no cigarettes I roll my own with pipe tobacco or Bull Durham which is dust anyway. You prepare to roll one as Australians do then pour in enough of this dust to what you reckon, then try and twist each end of the paper to keep the bloody stuff in there to make a smoke. Some times it works and at others it doesn't. I believe there are some papers made into tubes that you are supposed to use with thin Bull Durham - comes in a little calico bag with a string drawn thro' the top and you pour what you need out of it closing it of course with your teeth in traditional cowboy fashion.
20th June 1945: The boys landed at Mini 0830 today. We took last messages from the W/T there also messages from Major General Ishihara. At 1730 we logged a Dinah coming this way and scrambled the Spits. They shot her down about 30 Miles south of us. The Controller of the Mobile Fighter Control Unit and the Intel. 0fficer 1st. T.A.F. R.A.A.F. were very pleased with our show. Ron Warlow and Len Carrig were the operators.
21st. June 1945: Hectic night last night. After heavy bombardment two parties of nips broke out of the pocket, just above the strip and played hell. Ten Americans and five A.I.F. boys were killed. Everybody on edge here for the firing was very heavy. A red alert with a bogy indicated 20 miles to the south. Two Nips crossed the strip and got to the beach. Flattened the Salvo's hut and killed the I/c.
22nd June 1945: More break out activity last night, everyone alert and touchy 53 Nip bodies lined up on the beach. We attended the funeral Service for the A.I.F. blokes - Two Nips in easy seeing distance - one had hung himself from from the roadside and the other held a grenade against his stomach. 0ne P.0.W. at the Camp gave the information that six weeks before we landed there were over 400 Australian P.O.W.'s here. He took the Interpreter in an area in which a pit was uncovered. There were a large number of bodies in there. The people concerned began exhuming today; about 100 Australians bodies were taken away by ship. A compound for P.0.W's is close by us.
A Jap 0fficer and his family? gave themselves up and are comfortably installed. The boys went to see the bodies down the road on the beach. I am not interested any more - a .5O calibre makes a hole of a certain size and a rip with a .303 makes another kind of a tear and that's that. We have a report that there are thirteen Nips in our area in the bush, (from Army H.Q.) so guards have to be mounted 24 hours a day and kept alert. My operational commitment has been changed by Hermes - we are waiting for replies from C.B. for my detachment and/or disposal (that in my phrasing) 0ver the point to point link there are three days signals on hand. Seems that Darwin is using ‘Most Urgent’ for all their Signals at this time and we can't get through. Our permanent site is being cleared; the bulldozers have been there all day. Double guard again tonight.
The 0perators are coming on watch armed. The D/F site is under way - everyone is broke and it doesn't seem as tho' there will be much money around for a while. The little Chinese girls are beginning to make rude signs to the boys. The Nips killed were rotten with V.D. so the R.A.P. bloke says. After our first night ashore one wonders why anyone would bother chasing the women of any age hereabouts. I saw the wood being burned under the kitchen cookers was Ceylonese Cedar - a beautiful timber reserved here in Aussie for the most expensive furniture. Here the weather board sides are of Cedar and I suppose that where you live you make the most of what you've got. Paint does not adhere too well to the cedar I s’pose because of the oil in it. 0ur training frequencies are of major importance operationally, as to Naval Air activity so we will have to allocate some more of our receivers to those rather than Army activity - wonder what Turnley will think of this ??? 0ne of the guards on the Jap Compound in a Ghurka, was a prisoner of the Nips for close on three years. He in charge of the whole compound of them and I believe he in giving them hell as so he should.
23rd June 1945: We have been informed that the battle for Okinawa ended yesterday. More shooting and dark figures scurrying about during the night and early this morning. The mob near us counted 35 Nips on the road outside our camp area. The Nips were doubling down the road as a squad when the A.I. F. bounced them. A lad in the meal line today dropped his dinner and fell shot through the stomach Ron Heron from Sydney. He died tonight and the burial is tomorrow. Don Craig and myself took the Thompson guns and beat the scrub but found nothing and were relieved by some A.I.F. lads - they know more about this type of work than we do.
A Jap killed a guard on the perimeter and took his Bren, in broad daylight, he in still roaming around free too. Keeps everyone on their toes and down low. More firing from the town area - keeps everybody on their toes. The Transport Sergeant gave us an example of his technique for survival - at breakfast line-up he had his machete and took to the outskirts of the site. He reckoned these two bushes had been creeping up on him all night and he was going in take care of them. Roy Tanner had a run-in with a python and Mango Myers had a session with the Mycosol which gave some light relief in the camp.
24th June 1945: The Army Chaplain was killed last night, the Nips stuck a sword upright alongside the roadway and when the Padre stopped his Jeep in pick it up he was beheaded and left on the road. His jeep was located down on the beach area. The A.I.F. are mopping up throughout the whole area now. Saw some prisoners filing past the camp - Punjabi's are in charge and someone reckoned one of the Nips was the 0.I.C. Executions Brunei - hard to believe but any excuse to hang one of them is enough I reckon. Two linesmen of the A.I.F. were running lines near our site when a Nip jumped out with a bayonet and stabbed one of them The number two wrestled with the attacker and managed to stab him and take his gun but didn't kill him so there is one Nip loose round our area tonight. Our C.O. F/Lt. Magnus sent a signal re my pips to C.B. today - they may be awarded in the field - one never knows - also wrote a very nice personal recommendation to the powers that be. Clarry Hermes thinks that I should be out of here within a matter of a couple of weeks, for there are things happening in which I should be included He says. Oboe 2 is sailing from Morotai on 26th of the Month. A bit of strife between John Hucker and Melinsky and it looks as though Melinsky may have to knuckle down to some time on the Intel board for a change. Morotai was raided by five Sally's last night and we never knew a thing about it. Must have been on Army frequencies for there was nothing on our board.
25th June 1945: Too early to waken after such a late night. Last activity finished 0345 and the daily report has in be ready at 0830 for onward despatch by 0830 Seem to have duplicated something there but no worry - my diary said I saw 0430 on my watch before I got to do the 0830 report. Quoting again - A red alert tonight, but fortunately no planes came over. A few shots are still whistling about, just up near the strip. The O.P. summary says there are only about 50 Nips left in the area. No deaths today - Our total Australian casualties to date are killed 53 - wounded 130 - missing 1. Miri township entered by our boys today but is unoccupied. All Aust. and British P.O.W'S are being forced marched to Bundu Nuhan North Borneo. John Hucker was sent out on recon. and info. gathering today. Melinsky it seems has undertaken some responsibility for field reports. Conference regarding operations this day. Fields of responsibility were hatched and it seems I am redundant. That's 0.K. by me for there is action elsewhere in which I can be involved now that this area is stabilised. Just after midnight action nil around us. Everybody keep low and keep your weapons loaded and cocked. Lots of lead close to us but no casualties. Squads of Nips on the rampage through our areas but with the holes we had dug no casualties thank goodness. I begin to think I am losing control of the situation.
27th June 1945: 0n duty at 0800 in the 0perations Room. No one killed or injured during last night's affray. Melinsky tried to appropriate a film belonging to six of us - tried to claim it as being of "Historical significance" and created quite a furore. 0n demand ‘twas given back and nothing further was heard of the incident. Seems to me that these Pommies here to learn, have to "make a mark" for themselves, regardless of the venue. At 1000 a tommy gun opened up close to us, and some grenades followed. We were swamped by A.I.F. blokes and with gun-fire and sundry explosions the situation came under control quickly. We heard two for the day and about 60 to 100 still loose in our area. Got four letters from home - two from Lesley and two from my Mum. 0ne from Roy Ward - he is in Hospital on Morotai and may not go south. Lesley has not had any mail from me for three weeks and is upset. I feel no loyalty in C.B. or the Service as of now and I know just what to do to get myself out of here but somehow I have this sense of loyalty to the blokes who gave me this opportunity to serve in this field - sort of "don't let them down - you can do it so do it" kind if thing" Ward being wounded had upset the whole scheme - I was supposed in be relieved and go back to Brisbane and then to the A.S.& D. Course but here we are and there's nothing can be done about it.
The C.0. reckons it'll be right but he is only a newcomer to this organisation and he doesn't know how things work in this scheme. Either you are an "Old School tie" bloke or you have some Technical expertise that gives you an academic stature or you are nothing. Too bad that the Admin. had to rely on ordinary run of the mill blokes from wherever to work the instruments for them. As so often happens in this war, you have the administrators and the "doers" and never the twain shall meet. The blokes who can do and are doing the things these Admin. wallahs are being promoted, decorated and knighted for, never come within a bull's roar of being recognised. I've had the lot of them and if I could see some way to tell the story of what we've done and what we have achieved for our side despite them, I would and damn the consequences. Finished reading "Gone with the Wind." Gave a warning on a ''Dinah" but cloud was 10/10 and the Spits missed him. Dinah was a (high speed twin recon. craft - one of their best - bit like a Mosquito)
28th June 1945: Very quiet on the Ops. front today. Only occasional shots can be heard from the area. We had indications that three Betty's of the 13th. Butai (Army Group) from Malaya area being programmed to raid our area tonight - We'll have to wait and see for they are about three hours away. 0ur friendly Dinah tried again tonight but the weather kept him away.
1st July 1945: Pretty quiet from the 0ps. front so I had a couple of hours away from the joint. Hitched a ride down to the ration point and had a look about. An interesting memorial "Erected to the memory of Color Sergeant of Her Majesty's Brig. Columbine"; he died fighting Balinini pirates 1879. Also 20 Marines names killed about the same time. Seems piracy has been and still is an honorable way of life in these waters!!!! There are 35 Australian graves, including a Chaplain in the Cemetery, also 10 American Navy personnel, so the war is still on. 0boe 2 operation at Balikpapan is taking place today. The Seventh Div., going in there. There are no indications on the frequencies we are covering. This is crazy for we are covering the entire spectrum of the Jap Air power, Navy and Army, in this area and there is absolutely N0 reaction. One conclusion is that they are fresh out of air power and we all hope so for this has been going on long enough.
2nd. July 1945: Had been on duty since 0700 when at 1100 a phone call - I was to report to the Transport and Movement Office on the strip A.S.A.P. - Fortunately you don't have much gear to pack so I was able to make it. Movement order said to report to Special Army Group at Zamboanga a.s.a.p. Arrived at 1545 and found myself food and accommodation for the night and was advised to wait till the morning to find this Special Army Unit. Washed my smalls for it had been a few days since we had had enough fresh water to give them a good going over. Some of the blokes from the Transit Mess are going to have a look at what is left of the town so I go too. Hardly more than three standing on top of each other but plenty of rough shelters. Booze to be had pretty well anywhere but not of the Service kind. The girls didn't look too good either. The Yanks had organised the whole town and though there was no confrontation, it seemed better if we didn't try to look without joining in so back "home" we went.
10th July 1945: When I woke this morning, sitting just inside the tent, was an aboriginal of the Philippine Islands - we found out he was a Moro tribesman, and he had come down from the hill country looking for whatever we had that he could use. Wanted food but mostly weapons as far as we could understand. To trade he had a kit of three weapons in the form of swords or knives, depending on the length, was the proper description. The largest would be about three feet plus the handle, while the smallest was a very wicked looking six inches with a hook arrangement at the end. Don't know whether it is for eating monkey brains or human??? They all had a tapered blade and from the hilt, near the handle, to the tip, the edges were a wavy pattern. I think the weapon itself is called a Kris in Malaya, so I reckon the same name would serve here.
These people all seem to be Muslim by upbringing right through these inlands, so I reckon the same name would do for all traditional things. 0ne of the blokes in the tent with me, a Sgt. Pilot Freddie Brown flying P.40's with the R.A.A.F. managed to acquire a set of these. Freddie and I had been lads together in the P.M.G's Department and tho' I would have liked to have been able to bring one of these sets home I was traveling light at the time, and had no money or cigarettes to trade. After Breakfast, washing my clothes and a general tidy up, I left to try and find No. 60 O.B.U. and eventually reported for duty. This took me the greater part of the middle of the day when I checked in with one Captain Barry Pascoe 0.I.C. Forward Detachment of A.I.B. Units then operating on the western side of Mindinao Island. It was then I learned that this mob had been operating under “Z" Force, whereas my mob had always been referred to “Y" Force under the same Command - at any rate we had that much in common. There were some more blokes due in at any time so it was "make yourself at home" till we all get here though there was no further briefing at this time.
11th July 1945: More blokes for our group began to arrive this morning - tho’ there were no visitors waiting in the tent this time. Seven altogether and of them all, I had only met one, Jim Clarey a Cpl. whom I had run across in Brisbane while training. This made just nine all told and tho' there was much speculation, no one really had any idea exactly the job we were being prepared for. All weapons were cleaned and polished and a Cpl. Martin, a Bombardier, seemed to be the 2 i/c/ the group, because I was the specialist in Jap. communications, that was my job and the others just got an with theirs. Two radio sets arrived and we set to, to get them ready. My lot was essentially for monitoring purposes while an Army bloke named Waldock took care of their set. It was to be the main communication Unit and he had all the times and freq¬uencies and the scheds, set up. I was given the emergency freq,s only, sort of last resort but I didn't mind. Keeping busy didn't leave much time for thought - good thing. Supposed to be a briefing this afternoon but wasn't on for some reason - maybe tomorrow. Wrote a couple of letters, one to Lesley and one to Mum, just to let them know I'm still here. Lesley's birthday and Gary's in a couple of days. I reckoned, when I left Borneo, that with a bit of luck at least I would be able to ring them from somewhere in Australia but I reckoned without the machinations of the “Powers that be".
12th July 1945: Normal routine for an Army Camp this morning and the privileges of my rank still hold, all must front up on time etc!!! Briefing will be at 0930 with full equipment so off we go. There is a Sgt. Parry, an Englishmen in the Mess with me, he is older then I am and seems to be a weapons specialist - knows all about all the weapons we have - booby traps and etc., doesn't mind me being senior in rank but obviously knows what he's there for and just gets on with it. Had a good look at my weapon and magazines and although prefers the Sten only because he hasn't used a Thompson on active service. Came from the Middle East when some of the Seventh and Ninth Div. Corps troops came here and reckon as long as I am meticulous in my cleaning I shouldn't have any problems - I hope so anyway.
Briefing got under way during the morning with maps, and reams and reams of paper to be read and noted. It seems that we are to go inland from Labuk Bay on the north coast of Borneo and try and intercept and or locate a column of P.0.W.’s being moved from Jessleton to Sandakan overland. Also if possible, locate the Area Signals H.Q. in the Sandakan area for the rescue of documents of any description. We were an observation and Intelligence gathering party and that was our PRIME function. We would be escorted in till we met up with others of the “Z" Force keeping tabs on the general movement of Jap troops. Contact was to be avoided at all costs and should there be any emergency communications needing H.Q. attention, radio Skeds could be broken for there would be listening watches on the emergency frequencies at all times. Disposition of the enemy, numbers and condition of P.O.W.'s with grid references to be reported daily after initial sighting. Japanese communications to be relayed daily, at least those carrying any degree of priority or importance - primarily after nightfall. We leave in two days time by L.S.T.'s and then by barge so sounds o.k.
16th July 1945: The last couple of days we spent going over the maps and the gear, radios weapons and etc. just making sure that all worked alright. Tomorrow we set out for Labuk Bay. Our L.S.T. with quite a company of infantry and stores. Apparently we are to supply a couple of parties who have been operating on the mainland for a matter of weeks now. The group to head us in the right direction will leave us the second night ashore and make their way in the direction of the Capitol Sandakan. We know that our blokes from Labuan have landed at Jessleton and are making their way inland. From what we gather there doesn't seem to be much heavy engagement, only light skirmishing with the Japs trying to get the P.0.W's out of the area and themselves as quickly as possible. Last night in the Mess tonight so we had an issue of Aust. beer it was frowned on not to drink it and save it to give to the others so I just put mine back in the kitty and hope the rest of the blokes enjoyed it. Pretty hot and sticky but off to bed by ten - tomorrow is another day.
18th July 1945: Spent most of yesterday getting gear on board then had to wait for the tide till the early hours of the morning. We reckon we'll be on board for at least 36 hours before landing time and the tide being what it is; it's bound to be another early morning job. Half dark can't see properly down the ramps and head for cover a.s.a.p. I'm feeling just a bit fed up with my lot again. Sleeping on the mid deck is an acquired art and even after all this time I've not acquired it yet.
19th July 1945: My birthday today and I wish I was with my family - 25 today and I don't feel very enthusiastic. Early this morning we set off due west and it is strange, in the middle of the ocean, not another thing in sight - ship's radio tuned to our freq. back on Labuan waiting for a call but thank goodness no sign of any aircraft at all. Most boring of all jobs I reckon - on board ship heading for an active area - you haven't much with you for relaxation. I can't become very (interested) in the crew's library on these boats. I know they don't have much room but most of them seem to be comics and they're either cowboys or detectives. We play cards but that soon palls as I'm not into playing for money mainly because I don't have any much at any one time.
20thJuly 1945: We must have changed course during
the night for this morning we are heading South West - no sign of movement,
either plane or ship from the watches - incredible to me just how thin the naval
and air forces have been stretched in this area. Jim Parry put on a weapons
inspection this afternoon that included me so every¬thing out and to pieces and
oiled and polished. Marvelous how quick and easy it becomes after a thousand and
one times. Nothing else to relieve the boredom - the troops are standing watch
with the crew at all times and tho' I have a fiddle with my radio, the boat
effectively screens all reception, even Tokyo Rose!!! Thank goodness my feet are
behaving themselves this time - last landing the salt water showers seemed to
aggravate the tinea but this light brown stinking stuff the R.A.P. bloke on
Labuan gave me seems to be keeping them in good order or is it that I change my
socks more often ?? He reckoned he got it from a chemist in Sydney for his own
use but it seems to work for me. Lights out and we ought to be there on the high
tide tomorrow morning - Hope so.
21st. July 1945: We came ashore in the early hours of this morning on the high tide and I'm sitting on the edge of the scrub eating some of the tinned rations that we'll be living on for the next coupla weeks. It is evening and the L.S.T. has vanished over the skyline and we are about to move off and find a spot to pass the night. There don't seem to be any traces that such a mob came ashore earlier for the blokes have cleaned up pretty well. Peter Waldock had run a brief contact with rear H.Q. which was successful and I had run a sked. with our blokes on Labuan which lasted a bit longer than I wished. We are conscious all the time of Jap intercept possibilities, so make contacts as short as possible. Word comes to move off so I'll write more of this as I get time. My poor book is beginning to show signs of wear - hope it lasts till I'm back.
22nd July 1945: Last night we headed off into the interior following the maps we had been given. The main Company left us at what appeared to be the Labuk River and headed to the east, while we headed westward, following a creek which fed into this river. We knew we had to find a way through a range of hills ahead of us before we were likely to be able to gain any knowledge of what was happening. We have been at this spot since early daylight as it has been decided we mustn't move much by day. The main object is the establishment of an observation post at the highest point of these hills if possible, and send scouting parties out each direction until contact of some kind in made. I've never been one to have long meaningful conversations with people or even remember much of any conversation not directly concerned with the matters in hand so I have nothing to draw on, to let me know how the others are feeling about coming events. I know I'm wondering, just sitting here writing this.
Night came quickly and it was in to the creek, up to the knees, not able to see much, knowing where your next in line is mainly by touch. 0ff with the capes for word comes back down the line that they make too much noise then it began to rain Too soon you are wet through and you look forward to finding a dry spot as soon as you can leave. Harry Martin and Capt, Pascoe are alternating the lead scout's job and we are just following. Soon the word came to "Stop" - with the jungle noises and the creek you would wonder if anyone could hear anything else out there, but Martin reckoned he saw movement on the left side of the creek so it had to be looked at. Mud at the bottom was about boot depth and the only way you could keep moving was to count your steps in groups - one group after another - not one step at a time.
Eventually word came to carry on but there was a Jap sentry post on the downstream side - the side we were on - so it is across, under the bamboos and the dripping rain. The creek banks got deeper here and it was decided there was enough cover close in. Eerie to try sneaking about ten feet below a sentry post but I guess the creek made enough noise for we all got through the cutting without alerting anyone. Now we were in a tunnel of vegetation, and the night noises were worse. This tunnel proved to be the home of hundreds of leeches, all rabidly waiting for a belly full of pure Aussie blood. Frantic slappings and gruntings till Pascoe quieted everything down "Just let 'em fill and they'll drop off". It took about two hours to reach the junction of the creek and what turned into a stream.
The vegetation had given way in the occasional cleaning and we had to wait till it was cleared by the two forward blokes. This meant crossing downwind, one at a time, till we were altogether at the bottom of on escarpment, wet through, itching like hell with our clothing full of fat slimy leeches. We had to climb about two hundred yards almost straight up through the bamboo you could only last for about five minutes without a rest and by this lime the radio was weighing a ton. Jim Parry relieved me for a spell with it but I reckoned it was easier to carry the radio than his Sten as well as my Thompson for the guns kept tangling in the scrub. Pascoe the driver on this lurk of course he only had his pistol binocs. and his map case and compass.
Seemed like hours of torture but we made it and found that the hill ended in a sheer drop of seemes miles of feet. Plenty of boulders and low scrub to disperse and we spent the next while chasing leeches out of our clothes. Moonlight only gave you an idea of what was a leech and what was a bloodstain - daylight was the only time to make a real job of it. So we bedded down and waited far the daylight. This was the opportunity to clear all our clothing of the leeches and although the Japs were within shouting distance everybody took the opportunity, in turns to de-leech himself while still observing the basic concepts of concealment and readiness. What a view this morning - at least two thousand feet of mountain range, and all covered with rain forest and bamboos and we had to make our way to the top of the range before we had any chance of seeing anything of use to anybody.
After a meal and clean up we headed up - Pascoe and Martin exchanging the lead as the other bloke got tired. I had walked across the Torricelli Mountains of New Guinea and I had done a couple of training camps in Queensland and I wasn't as distressed as some of the other blokes who had only done one or two training camps.
You sink into a kind of hypnotic trance, senses alert but taking the hurt out of whatever you are doing by counting. One ten another ten and another ten and so on. It was a repeat of the night before but worse by a thousand times - always aware that somewhere out there someone may be looking at you. Hand over hand, bamboo to bamboo all the time looking where you put your hand and listening to the slitherings and the slappings of the other things in there. Even with ten minute breaks every ten minutes it seemed we were all done by the time we reached a clearing between two of the hill tops we had aimed for.
Utterly done and with hardly enough gumption to post guards we all de-leeched again and I reckon the majority slept. I know it was dark before it was suggested that we try and contact rear H.Q. and report our position. Pascoe had his maps and was keeping an eye on our progress, and it was a wait till nightfall only a couple of hours, before we tried. Guards were posted, ten yard intervals and in pairs. I was left with Waldock for he had the other radio, and tho' I had listened for half an hour, I had nothing to report and that left the two of us. Night coming quickly everyone made his night position as comfortable as possible and contact was made to the rear. No contacts, no casualties, no sightings so we carry on. Sentry changes during the night - you sleep for two hours then you are wakened for the next two and so the night passed.
Daylight and a further de-leech for those who still had em - rear H.Q. reckoned we were one valley too far north - appears there are some other Allied parties in the area. Pascoe however, decided that for the next twenty-four hours we would just keep under cover and keep watch. Low cloud with occasional broken sunlight kept the area under high temperature and high humidity all day. Wait and sweat and keep looking and listening. I listened every half hour, covering the Jap frequencies I had been given but there was nothing. From his maps Pascoe decided that there had to be a track within a thousand yards, and according to his maps, an all weather track, and because time was dragging he decided to take a couple of men and take a look. Martin Holland and Rayner went with him and he gave us three quarters of an hour before we either took some action to relieve them or pulled out the way we had come or divert and continue in the general direction we had been working. Half the team alert, the other half de-leeching or trying to sleep, as much as the humidity will allow - the radios were dead so we waited.
Suddenly Lind of the forward post came in followed by Holland and Rayner. They told us that Pascoe was gone, dead from snakebite. He had gone forward on his own leaving Holland and Rayner where they could cover him and they gave him fifteen minutes. They went looking for him and he had tried to treat himself - slashed his trousers then his leg and tried to tie a tourniquet round his thigh, but couldn’t make it. He died in Martin's arms. Couldn't say anything but his notebook showed by sketch, that he thought he had seen some movement across the next valley. Martin was i/c now and decided that we would move after dark to the top of this ridge, then across the bottom of the valley and on the other side where we should be able to see what there was to be seen.
It was decided to move the main observation post and the radios up to the area near where Pascoe had died. He had been put between two large rocks, smaller rocks and bushes had been put on top of him and wrapped in his ground sheet as tight as possible we reckoned with the map reference we would be able to find him later on. We were all spread out at the proper interval and it seemed that Lind was gradually taking over. He was a Bombardier and seemed well versed in the art of weapon placement, even more so than Martin, though in my book, Martin was the more experienced of the two. Guards were placed and we settled down to wait. It was Martin who first saw movement across the valley half way up the other side. I called rear H.Q. after it was confirmed that Japs and a large column of prisoners were moving into view. I had map references from Lind and they, H.Q., reckoned they would put a plane over later in the day, for observation purposes. The plane arrived just as we were getting ready to crank up the radios for more information from H.Q. A R.A.A.F. Liberator at, we reckoned about 5000 feet. Using the glasses you could make out the roundels O.K. and as he crossed west to east over us, then turned up the valley, across which was their camp. The Lib. made a couple of trips up and back the valley then turned and exited directly above us.
We felt like waving, but of course that was no good, tho' we reckoned they knew where we were. Contacting H.Q. and reporting the aircraft, we were told to leave the area and continue with our original mission. A sked was made for 1600, that day and we began to get ready, leaving in the same order as we came in. Lind had told us that there would be others in the area to keep an eye on the column so there was not much worry about whether they would disappear from this time on. Main thing was that they had been found. Martin and Lind agreed that there would have been about three hundred men all told. Impossible to see who they were for all were in rags and bits of clothing but there was nothing we could do about it for we had other things to be concerned with and these blokes are pretty single minded. We knew that we would have to wait till nightfall before we could get away from our observation spot and this would prove to be about the hardest job of all. Just the waiting in as complete a silence as we could muster. Daytime noise is only a fraction of that at night, although your imagination gets full rein.
Some short time after mid-day the sound of aircraft became a reality and everyone tried to make himself invisible in the grass and the surrounding shrubbery. Finally four Spitfires of the R.A.A.F. came into view, heading across our valley and the adjoining hill. We reckoned the Lib. this morning must have seen something that warranted a strike. They made a wide turn then peeled off and dived one after another down into the next valley where we had seen the column. We could hear the explosions of the bombs and the rattle and roar of their guns. Smoke gradually rose and after two runs they formed up in line astern and flew off to the south. Seemed that we were being abandoned, just a personal feeling, for I was beginning in question my presence here with this mob. Eventually Martin made his way back to the group from where he had been keeping watch on the column. He told us tat he had been watching a Jap Officer with binocs looking at this general area since the air strike. Getting near sundown and it was decided we quietly make our way back down to near the clearing we had crossed on the way up.
Lind was leading and he stopped us within reach of the original cleaning to tell us that a Jap company was in residence so we had to go back and wait for the night noises to take over. Then we could hear it - the general noise of a party coming through the scrub. Human mumbles - a breaking twig, a rustle not in keeping with the general background - wait and sweat then the general level of strange noise grows less and less as you hope they leave the area. You imagine you can hear our fellows begin to relax then - out from the bush stepped a Japanese soldier and he just stood. He was within a foot of Bird's bayonet. We could all see very clear details of him, from the star on his helmet to the frayed edges of his belt and the mud on his uniform. He looked round him, all round, except directly at the rocks and bamboo and the scrub where we were.
He squatted down with his back against Bird's rock and lit a cigarette He smoked quietly, spitting and yawning and probably day dreaming. We all could smell the cigarette, and it was one of their stinking ones - no western tobacco. Later we all reckoned we hadn't smelt anything like it - probably because none of us had had a smoke since the beginning of the operation. Finally he stood up, dropped his butt, stood on in, had a last spit, looked around again and moved off. Seemed a long time till you could hear breathing, stretching, and relieving the aches. Lind reckoned he had been there six minutes by his watch and we had to agree, but HELL it seemed a lot longer than that.
Clarey had blood dripping from his mouth, where he had bitten his lip to stop the aching that was going in make him groan, at least. I couldn’t swallow even with plenty of water in my bottle. One of the blokes reckoned his heart was stuck on top of his Adam's apple and it would need a sharp painted stick to get it down to where it normally belonged. Martin reckoned we should try to contact H.Q. before setting off back to the riverbed, but Lind reckoned if these Japs were searching for parties they probably had the radio frequencies covered and he wouldn't take the chance. Finally it was dark enough for us to consider making a move and what was tired and very awkward on the way in was much worse going back out. You couldn't see clearly and had to rely on feel and touch and the vague shape of the bloke in front.
When the moon came out it made things much better and eventually we were ready to cross the clearing and then about five hundred yards to the river. All quiet and no alarms as we arrived on the bank. Everybody checked weapons then “ready to go”!!! Martin led the way into the water, then three of them, then me, with the rest of the team bringing up the rear. I had got across under the shelter of the bank with the others when the machine gun opened up. Lind and Welling were in the open and seemed to cop the first mad burst, no one could see any damage but you could hear them breathe out and fall. We could see the spitting pin-point of light downstream and everyone tried to line up on it and let go. I was firing single shots for there were some of our blokes back there with grenades and we only had a certain amount of ammo. Welling had had the radio pack and I saw one of the blokes get to him and yell that the set was broken just before a grenade went off and the machine gun stopped.
The Army bloke I know as Parry began to cross the river
when there was another burst and he fell. The last I saw of him was him rolling
over and over down the river. It was getting noisier downstream and Martin
reckoned it was a party of Jap infantry on the way to mop us up. The order was
No Shooting unless we are spotted, and knives and bayonets the order of the day.
The only knife I had been issued with was a mess knife but I had had one since I
joined up - my old fear of the dark re-asserting itself from my childhood. I had
bought the thing hours before leaving for Darwin and had it in my possession up
until about 1959 I reckon. Anyway we set off upstream, sticking as close as
possible to the bank. We could hear the noise of the Japs behind us and we were
heading for the shelter of a high cliff we could make out against the skyline.
Ahead we could hear another group and Martin found himself up to his knees in
soft mud, an open space in the jungle but mire and mud and not the running water
we had been following.
The rear group caught up with us and Martin organised them to wait here with the Bren and the grenades then follow us into the swamp as soon as contact was broken, we would wait at the first cleared area we could find. While waiting, a red flare was fired and hung in the air - we could see figures coming, and while grenades blotted out the flare intermittently, Martin caught sight of a large Jap Officer swinging a sword at him - I got him with a quick blip to the middle of his body, and we could hear Rayner running toward us upstream. He had been in the rear party with the Bren. I saw him get stitched across the body from a light weapon - I fired across the flickering light and it stopped then Holland was alongside me, bayonet fixed and his rifle held high. He tangled with a Jap who was at him and the next thing I knew; he was beating the butt of his rifle into the head of the Jap down in the mud. I had used two large magazines and as I changed to the third I saw Clarey wrestling with another Jap. It registered then "Where the hell are all these bastards coming from?" I saw Clarey go down and then run his bayonet into the Jap, put his foot on him pull the bayonet out then vomit all over him. He started to double up and I grabbed him, put his arm over my shoulder and started after Martin who had headed into the swamp. We reckoned the yells were when they found one of our blokes so they could have a celebration or bolster each others courage or something.
I still had my radio on my back and as it was the only link left it was vital to keep it intact. This with Clarey was proving to be one hell of a load and progress was one long long haul with not much progress till Waldock turned up and took Clarey from me. He and his party had found some dry ground and as the noise from behind had died down, so we reckoned we could take a breather. I don't remember being so done in, either before then or since. Absolutely done, and if it had not been for the thought of THEM behind you, you would have given up long ago. The dry ground was at the bottom of one of those giant jungle trees you see on the films now and again, with the roots going upwards in sections, with each section divided by the wall of the next one, from its immediate neighbour for the whole of the circle round the bottom, This proved to be relatively dry and sheltered for with our capes we could rig up a shelter for the wounded Lind and they put Clarey alongside him. Looking at Lind we could see there wasn't much we could do for him for there wasn't much blood round his mouth or his wounds so we reckoned in was bleeding internally.
We dressed him with the gunshot pads as best we could and though he was very thirsty, we could only give him a sip at a time. Looking at Clarey was a different matter though. He came round momentarily as we began in take his shirt off. He recognised Waldock and myself then went back to sleep??? or passed out whichever. We opened his shirt and saw where the bayonet had entered his chest high on the left side, then sliced down his ribs and left a large lump of meat and nibs exposed. His shirt, done up had held him together and somehow slowed down the the bleeding until we loosened it. Martin and I dived into our gear for our housewifes, looking for needles and cotton. Together we had about a dozen needles, a whole reel of cotton, thoughbeit black, and a half a dozen safety pins, as well as the bandages of the gun-shot pads. Martin reckoned we would have to sew him up to try and stop the bleeding and so we went at it. The other blokes maintained watch and checked in every now and again, but the outside was all quiet now, so we reckoned the Japs had taken the other bend in the river. The only disinfectant we had was the little glass tubes of iodine so it was wiped on the wound. Should have been enough to pour on but all told we only had six of the little glass dispensers, so we painted. It must have been hurting because Martin sent me to find a stick of some firmness to give Clarey to bite on. He made such a noise when we went to sew him. He reckoned he would pay Martin back when he got back to base for this but by the time we finished the stick was just a mess of chewed-wood and we had to use precious water to wash his mouth out.
Useless trying the radios here in the swamp so we sat and waited till daylight. Frequent checks made sure the radios were still active. Lind died during the night and we covered him with the jungle rot and made a note on Pascoe's maps just where we left him. That's two of them now out here with just a map reference to mark where we thought they were. The others are just missing - Hermes must have had some idea as to what this operation was to be. Maybe I'll meet him again some day and find out just who was organising this use of me. Clarey was waking occasionally and wanting to drink but as his own bottle had been emptied long ago, there wasn't much to go around. Eventually we gave him a quarter bottle, to be administered by his watcher. Daylight at last and there were eight of us left, first priority was to contact Rear H.Q. and it was decided that Waldock and I would try and find higher ground then attempt contact.
We set off through the swamp, back on the road we had come the night before, mud and water up to our knees and just a silent wade, as far as we could tell. We came to the river junction and turned downstream, in the belief that THEY were upstream. This proved to be O.K. till we turned to the downstream edge out from the cliff. A single shot took Waldock in the head and that left me. 0n my bloody own - now prove that you are a soldier mate!!! An Airman - no the Air Force didn't want me - not in the crew anyway and that's where I wanted to be - not enough of the "0ld School Tie" for them or some such reason.
However here I was stuck in the middle of the jungle in Borneo and on my own trying to find my way out. 0h Boy did I have some thoughts about those people with whom I had worked in the early years I grabbed Waldock and dragged him into the underside of the cliff out of view from above. There was nothing I could do for him except take his dead meat tickets from round his neck and grab Pascoe's map case so I'd have some reference to work from. I stick to the sheltered side of the bank and move as quietly as possible, just taking my time tilI I came to the spot where we had crossed the river some four days ago. I reckon it took me hours to get out of the river and up the bank, then through the scrub to the top of the hill, near where we left Pascoe. I opened the radio and there seemed to be nothing wrong, the lights lit and the meters jumped so I called. There was consternation at rear H.Q. when I gave the correct idents.
We had been written off and I was to stay where I was, as near as possible for there was a party within a few hours of me and they would try and make contact before night. Half hour skeds were arranged while daylight lasted. I made myself as inconspicuous as possible at the bottom of one of these "Banyan" trees, I think they are called. Crawl into a division of the root system and wait. First sked was daylight in the morning if no contact tonight. Last contact, just on nightfall, they reckoned they were only two grids away From me, but 'twas too dangerous to carry on. I don't think I slept, maybe dozed with my back against something solid I seemed to drift in and out of sleep all night.
The daylight sked. and they were on the move - I must wait where I was for there were Japs in the area, who seemed to be moving ahead of them as they came through. Finally we met, a column of Aust. Inf. Battalion blokes "mopping up" in the area. The Aust. Captain one Richard Matthews of the 2/51st. Battalion 7th.Aust.Divn. took many, many notes as he questioned me as to how when and where. I didn't know but all this while they had their column going about their business - they found Waldock precisely where I had left him - they even examined the wound to establish the calibre of the weapon used but eventually I was allowed to relax - shower - change into dry clothes – pants and shirt. And they gave me my radio back!!!! I found out later that Lind had died during the night –Clarey had died after we left on the way out. I suppose the clip board and the pencilled sheets are in there somewhere. There was a three hour walk back to where they had set up their temporary H.Q. and from where I could get transport and so I left their tender mercies with a group going back for medical treatment. I had my radio, my Thompson one half mags of rounds and my pack on my hip and a lift the last few miles was most welcome.
I'd better make a note here that Clarey was an ex pro-fighter from the Newcastle area I believe and wasn't the brightest but was a first class infantryman in the Army's book. I found him to be pleasant and very friendly and protective during my time with that mob. Finally by jeep we arrived at Rear H.Q. where the casualties were off loaded and it was my turn to front the brass again. Having shown my movement order attaching me to this group it was O.K. to try and get me back to Zamboanga but I asked if there had been a major Japanese Communications centre in this area and was told NO - the main centre had been at Jessleton on the west Coast and as I was supposed to heading that was the way I had better go. I asked about Sandakan and was informed that that was the Administrative H.Q. for this area and as I had to board the transport there I could visit with an escort.
It was during this visit that I came across a small brass cannon in the rubble of the township and promptly confiscated it and it is still with me. Then it was time to catch the M.T.B. torpedo boat back to Zamboanga and see what was in store. The trip took eighteen hours, roaring through the sea, dumping empty drums as they used fuel and all the time on the lookout for stray planes or ships of the other mob. This area was pretty under control now and there were no surprises, day or night or during the daylight hours though the radio blokes seemed to monitor their skeds all the time. Eventually we docked and I prepared to find out what my next move was. Down to where I reckoned I would find 60 O.D.U. only to find an R.A.A.F. Transport and Movement Office - all R.A.A.F. personnel to report to here type of thing so I duly followed along tho' I reckoned I deserved a bit better treatment than this. There I met one Kevin Ryan, by now a P/O with whom I had served on my original rookies course at Laverton. He told me to sit quiet overnight and he'd find out what was what.
2nd August 1945: Orders have been given that I am to proceed to San Miguel, on Luzon Island of the Philippines (I think that should read Philippines) no matter - I set off per D.C.3 headed for Fordet of 6 W.U. at San Miguel where further orders would be awaiting me. Reporting in at the T.M.0. at San Miguel I was sent in a transit area for overnight accommodation and to report in by phone the fallowing morning. I wrote to Mum and my Mother trying to be careful about where I was but the whole place was buzzing with rumours that the invasion of the mainland of Japan was about to take place. I wanted to be in that. Downtown was off-limits unless there was a crowd of you but I had no money and everything I needed was on issue from the Yankee P.X. so I decided to give this 6 W.U. a ring and see if I could get some information as to what was going an. I didn't know the 0.I.C. one F/Lt. Davis - not Taff with whom I began this caper but an appointee from outside - He knew of me and told me to sit tight and he'd know where I was and there was another team building and I should hear something by tomorrow.
3rd. August 1945: Called to the 0.I.C.’s office about 1000 and told to prepare myself for on movement to 0kinawa - the staff of one General Courtney Whitney, G.2 of General McArthur's Staff. Others of the Australian Central Bureau Staff were on the way and we should all be there together within a day or two. Didn't like it much in one way - no Admin. course so no promotion but being there and being able to get to Japan was a nice prospect. Anyway there was nothing I could do about it so I went along with it. Waiting is never easy but eventually night came.
4th. August 1945: Awakened in the dark and told to
get going, to the Mess then out on the tarmac waiting for orders to board - this
time a D.C. 4 tri-cycle undercart four great huge motors with flat edges on
their props cut off like a fan jet blade -didn't make much better than the D.C.3
but carried twice as much. We arrived at Naha airfield on Okinawa about ten that
morning - coffee and fruit juice - bread and chilli con carne if that is the way
you spell it - looked like thick gravy to me but was appetizing. Change from
what we had been eating anyway. No great fuss - just move into the transit area
- bed and everything provided and wait.
5th. August1945: Some activity this morning. Called to the phone in the Camp Commander's Office and spoke to the side kick of General Whitney. Yes our group was scheduled to arrive soon and just wait where I was till I was contacted. Wrote home again. Don't know whether this mail will get home but the past coupla years it has worked pretty well so here's hoping. Got myself a new pair of boots - Yankee issue lovely fit but tan colour - suede leather so no cleaning!!!
6th. August 1945: At breakfast a call Australian Flight Sergeant Bradshaw report to the Commander's Office immediately. Did so and heard that a directive had arrived from General McArthur's H.Q. that all Australian members of the Intelligence organisation were to be returned to the mainland of Australia immediately. Pack and be ready within the hour. Nothing else but obey tho' I could have hidden myself on that island in many, many places. Packed and ready I waited and just after lunch was ordered out to the strip to board an aircraft bound for Manila.
7th August l945: Arrived Clark Field Manila mid afternoon and immediately changed planes D.C.4's - and headed for Morotai where we arrived after dark. There being no other Australians aboard I found it curious out after the night on Morotai. I boarded a D.C.3. headed for Australia. I think it was on this part of the trip that my shirt suddenly became dyed a dark blue from the pen I was carrying in by pocket.
8th August 1945: Overnight on Horn Island where I ran into Bob Gray, a little pommie that I had trained with somewhere along the line. He was a Warrant Officer and in charge of the Mess on Horn Island so a good time was held by all. Horn Island was as far as Bob had got and seemed quite envious of my travels but I hope I am one of the lucky ones.
9th August 1945: Left Horn Island about daybreak called into Iron Rouge for fuel and continued on to Brisbane where we loaded at Archerfield about 1600. Rang the Mess at Victoria Park and prepared for the night.
11th August 1945: Have been trying to see the Wing Commander at 21 Henry Street but the only answer I get is that he is not available and he will get in touch with me when he returns. Not very happy with nothing to do so decide to help out one of the other blokes in the mess, trying to get his Operator's Certificate so spend most of my time over in his office helping him get ready to sit for his exam. His name is Lem Macey and he accompanied the first post war Polar Expedition to the Antarctic region. I feel I should have done something about that but that's past.
As a young bloke I was lacking in confidence, couldn't run as fast as either of my brothers, couldn't play football well enough to get a game in the school team couldn't play tennis well enough to warrant being taught by anyone who could play reasonably well, and couldn't play cricket well enough to get a game. I must have been well endowed with fear, for from the fourth grade the harassing began. A couple of kids used to wait for me and I'd end up with a blood nose or a smack in the mouth. My Dad had enough of this after a while and got per-mission for me to get out of School ten minutes earlier than the other kids. It was hell for leather for home then before they could catch me. Dad had got an old pair of boxing gloves from somewhere and he used to make me put them on with him each night after School till such time as he reckoned I had some chance of looking after myself. My elder brother used to stand aside at school and watch me get my ears belted off - just wouldn't lend a hand. Something I've never for-gotten and I think maybe forgiven either. However came the day when Dad told me to wait at school till the right time to get out and see what happened. 0utside the school yard it began - one Jack Alford was the first - with big brother just looking I swung as hard as I could straight at his nose and that was that. Colin Lunn was the next and tho ' I lost a bit of bark no great harm was done and time was getting on so we quit. Next day the school "champion" Freddie Stammers offered me out after school - no argument or lead up to it - just a straight out "see you after school" proposition. I agreed on condition that we used the gloves and the mere fact that I agreed to fight him was enough to keep all the bigger kids on tenterhooks. Anyway I ran home and got the gloves and the match was set. We sparred for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, I got a whack in the ribs and I gave one or two back but that was the extent of that. No harm done but a lot of respect for yours truly from then on - there used to be kids come to our place to spar after school until I started work. From that time, Bob Campbell and Ian Hemphill used to come regularly for a round or two. Can't remember what happened to those kids, some went to the war but I have had no contact with them or that town since 1936-37.
Nothing taught me so well the meaning of fear, and what it took to overcome or control it as to get in the ring, gloves on, and ready to do battle. Whenever I was there, I was affected with a strong feeling of anticipation of what might happen next - what if? and who would tell Mum if needs be? I was always tense, literally quivering with excitement. I would have half a dozen pees from the time my hands were bandaged and my sandshoes were laced on. The not knowing what or whom you might meet kept me keyed up, ready for and anticipating the worst. Perhaps my friends didn't know it, but I used to literally crawl into the ring. At least to me it was a reluctant entrance. I never liked to fight. I was afraid to fight, but I had to face the fear and I used the fact that I was bigger than my elder brother by now and though I couldn't beat him at his "thing" he certainly couldn't beat me at mine, no matter how how, this fear had to be faced and I haven't yet found a better way to overcome this fear or feeling inferiority, I suppose it is, than to stand up to it and somehow fight it.
After all, if the word got around that a kid didn't want to fight, that he was afraid to fight, he had better be prepared to defend himself against all comers - this I know!!!!! I never lost this sticky sensation of fear until the dreadful moment actually arrived, when I started across the ring to size up my opponent. Always he was bigger than I was, someone who looked tougher and hairier, and meaner and much more experienced. Then I was no longer afraid, I was scared silly. I was so tense that I'd quiver right down in my runners. Finally the bell. Moving out into the ring the first hard punch. Then something happened. I didn't know what it was and I cared even less. When leather smacked me hard in the face, it seemed to knock all the fear right out of me. I no longer cared how big or tough or mean the other bloke was. He was hitting me. Hitting ME. Things changed. I don't know how, but I'd come to realise that I wasn't just standing there, or moving away or covering the punches. I'd swarm all over him, arms flailing like pistons, fists flying, banging away with all my strength somehow I'd weather all the punches thrown at me, even those that struck home, and constantly I'd be slamming my own right into the target, either round the nose or fair in the guts. I always had the feeling that I must fight my best, that I had to put everything I could into the battle. If my opponent was easy, then this grim determination usually ended the fight in a hurry with the other bloke unable or unwilling to come out again and very occasionally flat on his back. But if he was as tough as I always feared he was going to be, then he would have to earn every minute in the ring with me. Because I was so busy swinging I forgot to be scared. I was twenty when I was paired off with a bloke who had done a lot of fighting. This was down at Laverton and the reputation he had was that he was mean and liked to cut his opponents up a lot before putting them down. As I was a newly fledged radio operator down there I had no friends as such but there was an old bloke from the Airmen's Mess who stood in for me in my corner and he said not to worry as you could tell from his face that he could be hit. He was in his early thirties and had been in the Air Force for years. His nose had been broken and his ears were twice the thickness they ought to be. His cheeks and the area round his eyes was wrinkled and scarred from his many battles. The only thing that seemed fair was that we both weighed round the 158 - 160 pounds. I didn't know who my opponent would be until I was in the ring. For a while I had the floodlights all to myself, no one else appeared. Then along came this character vaulted the top rope like a spring, all determined and cocky, and absolutely ready to beat in my brains. When I saw this bloke I was ready to leave by the other side of the ring. My friend, from the cookhouse put his hands on my shoulders and told me to steady just relax and look at him. Look real close. Finally the referee called us into the middle for his instructions and I stood quietly while this other bloke jumped round like a lunatic, shadow boxing, weaving in and out, putting on a show that he considered to grand and fearsome.
We both came out at the bell. He danced quickly from his corner, I moved out cautiously in a crouch, and as he came in I aimed for his stomach and with all my strength I threw a right. I missed. My fist thudded flush against his heart, a cruel blow that sent him reeling across the ring, where he came off the ropes and collapsed. And he stayed down for the count of ten. Then he jumped to his feet and screamed hysterically that he hadn't heard the count; he berated the referee in an amazing scene of outraged innocence. The referee was so confused he didn't know what to do and he turned to me. "Let him come on" I shouted. Only one punch had been thrown and this was not the way to end a fight. This time my opponent was more cautious. His feet sped across the canvas as he tried to spar with me. He was a real fancy Dan, long left hand flicking in and out. But he hadn't hit me yet, and I reckoned he wouldn't suspect me of going after his heart again. I ducked a left jab over my shoulder and shifted onto my right foot at the same time swinging my right to his heart as hard as I possibly could. His eyes opened wide and his jaw sagged open - a sickly dazed expression spread over his face as he sagged to the canvas. This time the referee counted to ten loudly. When he threw his arms up the other bloke didn't move. I was scared again in a different way. He couldn't move. People rushed into the ring, and half dragged half carried him into the dressing room. I learned later that he was 0.K. but on meeting him as the licensee of the Nyah West pub I found out that he never went into the ring again. That helped my reputation round the Nyah West area for Alan Jack and Jim were (there) that day. His name was Klugg and always greeted me with a big smile and made a fuss whenever I was there - not very often in those days though. I learned something important that night. That fight taught me that just because a man looks mean and ugly; it doesn't mean that he is tough. It just means that somebody has used his face as a punching bag and if they could then so could I. This attitude stood me in good stead pretty well through my early years - even up until we were living in Goodnight. I exuded confidence and used it to settle quite a few differences. However, as I was training in at Victoria Barracks one S/Ldr Burgess or Uren came to see me and pitched me a yarn that as the boxing titles of the R.A.A.F. and the Armed Services were being held over the next few weeks - he had heard that I was a winner at Laverton in the middle-weight division would I consider entering to represent Air Board. They were very short of talent in this field and for the good of the Service and particularly Airboard, if he got permission from our Naval Commander Newman for time off to train would I enter? Well with the urging of my fellow course trainees I agreed. My particular mate at that time Taff Davis, ex Navy, undertook to supervise my training and arrangements were made for us in attend a gymnasium in Little Collins Street; I remember Bjelke-Petersen was one of the names of the proprietors. As a matter of fact he challenged me one afternoon to have a work out with one of his boys. I didn't know at the time but the young fellow was a State Amateur Contender so I got a bit of a drubbing and when it was suggested I join his gym for instruction, Taff let him know that we had a much more important fight on our hands and if he was so concerned at the fighting skills of the boys in uniform perhaps he could see his way clear to donning a uniform and teaching them. We were told in no uncertain terms where we could go and what we could do. 0n reporting for duty at Airboard next morning Taff sought out one F/Lt. Rushen, some Welfare or Public Relations wallah of some kind and told him the story. We were told just to continue with our training arrangements as usual - the situation would be taken care of. Well I never saw that particular bloke again and our treatment there was one hundred percent. The Air Force Titles duly came round and I met and defeated one A.C.2 Truscott - ex Melbourne footballer, at that time an Aircrew Cadet trainee at Point Cook. You imagine a gorilla against me. I remember that all these middle-weights I fought seemed to be taller, heavier built, longer arms, better feet, all the advantages of a good big man against a good smaller man. It came to pass that I got the decision anyway and we won a special prize for the "Fight of the Night" sponsored by a newspaper the "Evening Star" which soon disappeared from the streets of Melbourne. Probably as a result of many such ill managed sponsorships!!! The usual after-math of such carryings-on, black eyes, lumps on the face and so on were in evidence for the usual period of time, plus the number of high ranking Air Force blokes from Airboard who wanted to see this specimen who managed to bring a title to the sacred precincts - something that had never happened before or since as far as I have been able to find out. Then come the inter-service eliminations. How I wished I could just disappear and "let's forget the whole thing." No way were these big brass headaches going to let this opportunity slip. Represent we must. There was one young bloke from Tasmania Jackie Clements, who had taken out the Lightweight title who worked at South Yarra, a Sergeant Wright from Laverton who had the Welter-weight title, myself the middle-weight and this was the extent of the R.A.A.F. representation in 1941. Thank goodness the Army didn't front in my division so I didn't have to fight before the final night when I met the Navy !!! He was a Leading Seaman Stoker from Williamstown. The usual thing, twice as big and hairy into the bargain and to this day I haven't been able to recall a single thing about the fight itself. I remember being dressed after showering and lots of people wanting to congratulate me and shake me by the hand and I do remember I was wearing the wrong sweater. Mum had knitted me a dark blue sleeveless sweater and that night I lost it. I saw the Air Force Doctor at Headquarters the next day about the lack of memory, he took one look at the scar over my right eye and swore that never again would I be allowed to take part in a boxing match and there ended the saga of my boxing career. I was involved in a stoush or two later in my service career but never as a sport or hobby. I wasn't in the habit of stepping aside for anyone or backing down on an important issue so naturally there are confrontations now and again. That is life as she is lived. I was young and fit and used to like to train and pass time in the gymnasium working out on the bars and swings and there was usually someone else there punching a bag or somesuch and then a spar was on. I used to wear a protective helmet like the bike riders wear but 'twas never the same as being a 'fair dinkum" hit out. I'm not sorry now though for I did enjoy my brief moment of "fame".
I'd like to thank Simon Bradshaw for his assistance with this web page.
© Peter Dunn 2006
This page first produced 2 July 2006
This page last updated 14 August 2007