Wireless Operations Units 1,2, 6 and 7
Date Interviewed: 8 May, 2003
So John can you start off by giving us a summary of your life to date so far
I can. I was born on the 21st November 1924 in Homebush in Sydney very famous because of the Olympic Games. In those days it was just an abattoir
and I went to school at Homebush primary and then to Fort Street High School and at Fort Street High School I was a champion athletic for that time I was there. I had to leave school at the end of the intermediate exam because of the death of my father who was a First World War veteran. I took up accountancy and I was article to a chartered accountant in Sydney for the three years before I joined up.
I joined up and volunteered for the RAAF before I was 18 and I was called up four days beforehand. I also had high hopes of being an aircrew but they found that I was colour blind so that put pay to that. I joined up as a telegraphist and was called there on the 17th of Rushcutter Bay on the 17th November
and spent my 21st birthday peeling potatoes and doing other things in a rookie's course at Point Cook because we went to Point Cook the next day after joining up on the train this is how vital it was. Now it's interesting that I was at Point Cook from the 17th November to until the 12 July and I was doing a telegraphy course, an ordinary course in telegraphy and
I passed out on that at 18 words a minute and that was the required speed, which you had to pass out at. Point Cook was quite an establishment, very cold in winter but we used to go on the route march every day from our barracks down to the school that we had taught telegraphy in and this involved a route march down the Burma Road as they called it and it took just roughly half an hour to go down that Burma Road
but it was wonderful exercise. Well the rookies entailed everything that you can imagine it was pretty hard sort of a life. We got leave to go into Melbourne at different times and I liked doing the telegraphy course I was especially good at code. Plain language was very bad for me because what I did I pre-empted what was coming through and you would often be wrong, but with code you just took down what you heard and so I topped the course in code
and because of this twenty of us, the top twenty were invited to another course to do another course we weren't sure what it was at that stage but we were sent to Townsville and we went to Townsville on the 12th July 1943 and when we got to Townsville we found things a little bit hotter and we were a special unit there though and we were all by ourselves
but we were part of unit called 1 Wireless Unit and we had quite a while at Townsville doing a course then on Japanese Morse Code. This course was called, well the Morse Code was called kana and this was quite a different thing altogether. Suited me because it was all code there was no plain language in it of course and it has over 40 characters in it compared with our 26
and all these characters have a symbol and you do you write them down in blocks in blocks of five or six and as you heard them. So we did this course and the course actually took about 3 months. I topped that course and the word was distinction so that sounded very much better then just topping it. So we stayed at Townsville not very long after that
and then we went to Moresby, Port Moresby and that was about the 6th October 1943 and we were at Moresby under canvas and part of one wireless unit and we were taking down Japanese Morse Code at Moresby on intercept you see it is all on intercept because you can't send anything back and if you don't take it down right well there's no excuse because that's it and its for the moment
and we found this fascinating as you would find and people who we discussed it with there very fascinated in the fact that we were doing something so radical as this as it was quite a fair way different from anything we done before. Well at Moresby we stayed there until the 20th February 1944 and we were then transported to Nadzab.
Now Nadzab is in the middle of New Guinea in the Markham Valley and very high Kunai grasses, the very tall grass in New Guinea is called loaded with scrub typhus and this sort of thing but we were then under American control we had American rations and if we wanted to go anywhere the black Americans who drove all the trucks they used to transport us wherever we wanted to go. We had a river nearby
where we went sometimes to have a swim in but we cut a field with native knives and played cricket there at different times and we were most intrigued because the American Air Force was but two or say one to two miles away, their head base, and the roar of these huge bombers and fighters taking off all the time was quite significant and of course at that time
they were involved in the Milne Bay area. They used to go there and bomb and they were very accurate apparently and they did very well. Now the airstrip at Nadzab though was just a steel matting in the grass and that consolidated everything and that was fine. So we spent the time at Nadzab until about August and then were shipped off again and this time we went to Biak.
Now Biak was an island, its off Dutch New Guinea at the top of New Guinea and it was captured by the Americans after a very bloody battle, and bloody is the word because the weather was shocking and its a coral island and it only has about one foot of over burden on it, or soil and the big graders came in and all they had to do was grade that off and the white coral was so firm
and intense that it was fine for an airstrip. Trouble was though that when we got out of the plane and or the while we were there when you look at the coral its so white it just about blinds you, it's the whitest of white but this was much more to action because it had been a very big Japanese stronghold and there were a lot of caves on Biak and they hid in the caves
and they had all sorts of goings on in the caves as well and we had quite an interesting time because the Japanese were still on the island when we went there it wasn't as if they were all gone and we used to have them come into picture shows at night and they'd sit in the back rows the Americans allowed them to do this because they were in complete control of them and there was no danger but they were so poorly fed
and so bedraggled that anything like this was a great happiness for them. So that we had the Biak situation and while we were at Biak we were put under direct American control from General Headquarters. General MacArthur had given the okay for this and General Akin was the signals man for the American fleet [actually Spencer B. Akin was Director of Central Bureau, MacArthur's signals intelligence organisation] and he was in charge of us,
and from Biak we were given orders that we would, under canvas of course we were at Biak, we were given orders then that we were to leave there very shortly and be part of the invasion fleet to the Philippines. Because we had great success in our kana operations and it meant that Americans were speeding up because of it they thought they would be much longer before they could invade the Philippines but he had to get there
before the weather set in with these typhoons and everything in the Philippines. So we were stripped of all our Australian gear and issued American rifles and American tin hat and American everything and it was quite hilarious really because our job was to sit behind a machine and intercept Japanese Morse Code a receiving set we didn't quite know how to operate
the American guns very well but they were part of the equipment. So we were then flown to Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea where the convoy started for the Philippines, now that has now been renamed Jayapura by the Indonesians and it was a magnificent harbour and there were over 600 ships in the harbour ready to go the Philippines and this was mind-boggling
and you couldn't believe there would be so many ships but they were all there. We then spent a few days at Hollandia, about nearly two weeks, to get ourselves acclimatised to things and had a fair number of picture shows we went to as were waiting to do something but we then go onboard and I was fortunate in that General Akin has picked six of us out,
four kana operators and two intelligence man and it was there job of course after we took down the Morse Code it was there job to then interpret it from an intelligence point of view and pass it on to general headquarters command for the Americans. So we boarded this ship PCEV - patrol convoy escort vessel it stands for 848 and this ship was General Akin's ship
and it was right a the head of the convoy. We had to aircraft carriers one on either side. Huge aircraft carriers and they were practising landing and taking off the whole of way to the Philippines steamed at 6 knots for a week which is very slow but the point was that the weight was from these big ships would have been to great if we had gone any quicker
so we though we immediately started intercepting and he had beautiful receivers, brand new ones in his cabin because that was the best place to have them and each shift that we did round the clock 24 hours you had to go into his cabin and his doorman on the door would let you in, there was no password it was just that we knew what to do and he knew us so we went in there and we took Morse Code down for roughly 4 hours at a time and we intercepted
for the whole week and we had a couple of good results with regards to sighting plans etc, but the Japs seemed to get very much confused about it and they saw all these ships obviously or a couple of the planes did and the signals they sent back to base as far as they were concerned they were wobbly, wobbly meaning that the guy sending them had a wobbly hand as it were
on his sending machine because he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Now I just want to butt in there and tell you when we were at Biak particularly, we'd be taking down this Morse Code of an evening there or daytime for the matter as well but particularly in the evening, dusk and dawn were very good times we would be taking this down and the planes would be flying overhead, the planes that were sending the Morse Code.
It started off as they started with a base and a call sign and then they went into numbers and we could tell how many people or planes were in the invading force and it sometimes got up to 24, sometimes 30 but they were mainly around about 15 to 20 and they'd send a call sign like just say abc that's the base, and they'd send the call sign ABC-15 well that would be
plane number 15 and they would chatter on the Morse Code key between themselves 15 and 24 or number 1 and number 6 and this is how it went and it's quite eerie when you think that you're taking down on your receiving set Morse Code that is being sent on aeroplanes that are flying overhead all we needed was them not to drop the bombs on us.
So we had this week it was a very steamy week and conditions was very nice ship but conditions were very steamy and we spent a lot of time up on deck when we weren't working and it took us a week and D-day actually was the 20th October in Leyte Gulf and this dawned quite a good day but a by the same token a very difficult day because the noise and everything
else was very horrific and the Americans were very, very well equipped two days before D-day the forward fleet with all the infantry and that they had landed and the whole convoy came to support them and of course carry equipment, because the equipment was the number one thing well we were in Leyte Gulf and for about 5 days
before we got off the ship but during that time we were just in the middle of holocaust that was a pretty terrible these kamikaze planes were just one day after we arrived the Australia was hit in mid ships. The Australia and the Shropshire were there they were two American cruisers and there were forty people killed on The Australian because this kamikaze pilot was pretty accurate he landed his plane
right on the mid ships and on the captain's command and that was a pretty dangerous thing to do. We had several air-raids there all the time and we were in the situation that with the main you know up the front of the convoy so that when they started bombarding the shore and that quite often the bombing went over our ship and this was done at half minute intervals
huge artillery and you can imagine the noise that there was from that so we were in Leyte Harbour there and it was decided that we would have a practice run as it were to land and we took some equipment ashore the first time and amongst all the ships that were there etc and we landed and it was quite interesting to see the fact that it was so well organised someone was waiting
for us on shore and it wasn't as if we took it and were dodgy or anything but the second time we went ashore that was for good and I will just butt in there and say that this PCEV-848 had a crew of just roughly about 120 or so and it was bombed and sunk two days after we got off it and 60 lives were lost but General Akin got off it and knew where we were and what we were doing there was no doubt about this
but they were all confused the Japanese didn't quite expect such a force to invade etc and they seemed to have a very difficult time coping with it. So we landed at a place called Takloban, which has a population of about thirty thousand and we went straight to American General Headquarters and then from then we were allocated to a campsite, which happened to be a Japanese vegetable garden full of fertilizers
and everything else and it started to rain. We had a typhoon one night and that was absolutely deplorable and it was very difficult but we intercepted all our Morse Code in two brand new trucks which had been sent up in the invasion fleet, beautiful equipment, brand new and it was very good but the difficulty was of course all the time the air raids were pretty terrific and although we weren't bombed we were copping
a tremendous lot of flak and that of course is what's round the bullets and things that are fired out of aeroplanes and you would be in your we had to wear tin hats all the time because of the flak falling and we had a great lot of bombing and some of these big bombers there were very heavy and you have seen photographs of those sort of things.
Well we stayed at Takloban from the 25th October to the 21st November and I remembered that well because it happened to be my 20th birthday when we moved we moved to a place called Tolosa [probably Tanauan] and that was 30 miles away and we went to Tolosa which was very much better it was a very pretty place right on the gulf and we used to swim in the harbour especially when the typhoons raged,
we had a couple of those while we were there and the sea got up and we were shooting the breakers and thinking we were back on Manly beach so that was very good and we had a lot of bombing etc while we were there and it all ended up quite well and there were no problems. We were at Tolosa [probably Tanauan] from November to February and completely under American control. What struck us about the Philippines
were the people, the women still had pretty dresses and everything else and to think they had put up with the Japanese all that time and they were very religious on Sunday they turned up for church and all that business and so it was great to see a new lot of people and course we were very young it was very good as far as we were concerned and then having done that I was heading home
in February of 1945 and flew by transport from Takloban airstrip in the Philippines we went to Hallandia first then to Darwin then Brisbane and it took us 22 hours to go to Brisbane in a plane so that was quite a lot of time and we only flew at about 10,000 feet we didn't have any of these great heights that we have today so I then had about
40 days leave because I was due for leave and come down to Sydney for leave and then after leave I went back to Strathpine in Brisbane and I met June while I was there because my grandmother knew her aunt in Sydney and they thought that I should go and visit them because there were three girls and that would be a good diversion for me so it was a great diversion. We were finally married on the 31st May 1947
and we got our wedding anniversary coming up very shortly. We decided that we would come back to Sydney to live and I would take up this accountancy because I was qualified, while I was at Strathpine before war finished as you know in August 1945, I did a secretarial course under the guidance of
one of the officers who had see that I didn't cheat or anything like that so I come out of there with an accountancy qualification and also a secretarial and this was a great help to me because I went into the accountancy profession but before I did that and after I went back to or got out of the air force, no it was after I got out of the air force, as well as
working in the accountant's offices. I was also invited to go and manage a mineral sand syndicate at Southport in Queensland and I did that and I was doing that when we were married and we decided that I could have stayed there and done that but I didn't and come to do a professional life. So we were in Gladesville and I started off this office with June was great help, she did all the secretarial work for me on the typewriter and all that and
I was a public accountant there and I was a public accountant there for about 30 years and I ended up with four partners and 25 on the staff so it became a very big show and I got out of that and I had some investments and finance businesses and all that sort of thing and looked after all my investments until I retired roughly in the 80's.
Now during that time I was heavily involved in many things. I was in three local councils, I was in Hunters Hill council from '56, '59 and as Alderman I was in Kuringai council from '74 to '78 as a councillor and I was on the Sydney County Council for those four years as well and represented all the councils on the North Shore as well as that I have had
a lot of experience on school boards. I was on Barkers College School Board for ten to twelve years, I was on St. Catherine's Waverley Board for a few years as well and then on top of that I was on the Home at Peace Hospitals Board from the Anglican Church for over ten years and on another youth board that dealt with people coming from all different parts of the world and they ran that Board
as a thing in the Anglican Church that meant quite a bit at that time it was at Cremorne, and as well as doing that I spent thirty-nine years in Rotary and I joined Rotary Club at Hunters Hill in 1958 and I left Rotary in 1997 just because of ill health and because of a hearing problem I have and it is very difficult in a hall to listen to people talking because of the noise etc,
and during that time I travelled overseas very many times. I was District Governor of Rotary in Sydney here in 1968-69 and I was on world committees one of them was the Montreal Convention Committee where at the time I was in the council there and we had a marvellous time in Montreal because we had letters of introduction to the Mayor of Montreal and one very humorous thing about that was that we had arranged to present credentials
and he come in at eight o'clock one morning and my dear wife had learnt French very well and said, Bonjour Monsieur le Mayor and he said Mrs Mayor, I speak English so that was quite a hilarious aside because then of that and being on the committee we were very well looked after in Montreal which was a great help. I was on three world councils for legislation for Rotary at Monte Carlo one of them
in France as well and also at Chicago, Illinois which is the headquarters of Rotary International. I have spoken in some forty countries in the world on Rotary as we've been around and so it was very much part of our life as well as having a business for a lot of the time and as well as being on Boards in Australia and in local councils etc.
I also have been on Senate in NSW that is in Sydney that is the Anglican Church and I was on Senate for twelve years and I have also been a Church warden and many churches about four or five and church secretary and all those things and as well as that I have written two histories,
I have wrote a 400 odd page history on Rotary and another history on Sir Johns Gordon and I have also received in Rotary the highest award, the Service Above Self Award which only a hundred are given each year that was in 1994 and I also during 1984-86 I was instrumental in raising over seven hundred
thousand dollars for Rotary House at Parramatta and that enabled Rotary in Australia to have headquarters so it has been quite an interesting life, it has been a very active one and at 79 I'm still going strong and hope I will be we've been very happy we have 3 children, 3 boys and one of these is in Vancouver
as a hotel manager, the second one or the first one really he is the second the first one is with The United Nations in Bangkok and he is a doctor, an academic doctor and the third one is an architect here in Sydney. We have nine grandchildren and we involve ourselves in many senior things these days and I have given a talk on my wartime experiences
to elderly people and I couldn't do this of course until 1991 when we were allowed to speak about our escapades as it were because before then it was highly secret and we had to sign when we left the air force that we wouldn't divulge anything like that to the people. So that is just a kaleidoscope but I think the detail will come out a bit later perhaps but
it is just a general setup.
Thank you very much John that's a great summary of your life to date, very interesting. How did you do all that work?
Well there, you go, you have to be willing, you have to be willing.
What we might do now is that we'll go back to the start, right back to the beginning. So can you tell us a little bit more about when and where you were born?
Yes. Well it was at Homebush and my father was first world war veteran and he had went over in 1916 and he was an engineer and he was in France and he has a diary which I have typed up and I found it many years later but he died very suddenly in 1939 when I had just turned 15. But going back to Homebush
I went there to the primary school when I was five and then to the ordinary school, public school until I was 12, and I liked school and I enjoyed school and enjoyed learning things, and playing cricket and those types of things and we had a very happy family and my father was a terrific musician, he come from a very musical family
but I'm afraid it missed me but my sister, I have one sister who is five years younger then me, and she is gifted with the music side but didn't exploit it at all and during I was in the Cubs and the Scouts and always fairly active. I did well at the primary school and I then went to Fort Street Boys High School at Petersham
and I was there for three years and during the three years I was class captain each year and I did very well in athletics. I was juvenile champion when I was 13 and junior champion at 14 and but I left school because of my father's death and decided see in those days you could do accountancy without going to university and if you settled down and did just that
you get through it quite quickly and that is how I did it in three years because its for a five year course they have at university now and I did it in three and I'm glad I did it because I went into the air force as you have heard just before my 18th birthday and I was qualified as an accountant and all the people that who went to fifth year, it was only fifth year in those days there weren't six like year 12, they all
come back and they had to decide what they were going to do in life because they didn't have any degrees or qualifications and having done the secretarial as well before I got out of the air force well I come back qualified.
Tell me a bit about your mother?
Yes. My mother came from a big family. They lived at Dundas out of Sydney and had fourteen acres but she had a tragedy too. Her father died when he was only 49 and she was only a very young girl
and so she lost her father at nine and her husband when she was 41 so she had a very difficult time, she had 8 or 9 brothers and sisters and they lived on this farm, it was 14 acres and had their own cows and fruit trees and all this setup and it was an interesting part, but of course
Dundas in those days was very rural but today its just a suburb of Sydney, but she met my father due to music because she learnt to play the piano and they used to go concerts because he lived at Ryde and my grandfather he was a famous organist and he was Englishman and come out here with my grandmother from England in the 1870's
and they never returned to England but we had the great thrill to see a lot of the family when we went over to England first in 1967, so it was a very close knit sort of thing, your entertainment in those days of course was just going to a dance on Saturday nights and that sort of things and he has a motorbike and sidecar and she was in the sidecar
and it the roads were mostly dirt in those days and there weren't like they are today but they were very happy. Very happy.
You mentioned your father was a great musician, what instrument did he play?
The organ, the piano and organ. He played the organ/piano at some ten or twelve Masonic lodges and churches and he played the Town Hall organ, he was a gifted pianist but it was right through the family
his two of his brothers were gifted organists as well they have all passed on now and I'm the Patriarch of the family.
So tell me did your father ever talk about his experience of World War I?
No he didn't. No, he really didn't. It wasn't done in those days. People know more about it today then they did then. He came back and they had terrible times as his diary shows, fighting in the mud of France and
fighting over nothing, because if you did gain ten yards it was another trench with mud in it and it was just terrible.
You talked about finding your fathers diary when he died. Did you find it immediately after his death?
No. I found it amongst, say about five or ten years
I found it but I have typed it out since then and have photographs and everything and my sister was very pleased to see it etc. You see it was the same as my experiences in the air force, I wasn't able to talk about them for fifty years or so and it was a similar sort of a setup. You think back and it's easier as you get older I think to talk about them rather than
just straight after it because it is important for you to be able to talk about it.
Do you have any memories of living through the Depression?
None accept the fact that life was limited. I remember at school in the primary school that some boys went to school without shoes on and this was one of the things that went with poor people.
When I went to school also at Homebush we used to buy our lunch on a Monday a meat pie was a penny and a meat pie with peas was a penny ha'penny. Those was the days when that was the value of money it was quite ridiculous. Train rides were a penny and tram rides were a penny and you can't believe that the economy of the country could exist on that sort of thing but that is the place that's used to happen.
There were a lot of poor people around during the Depression. There really were. One of my great memories was the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 and I was there with my father and I was eight as you'd realise and he had a suit on and I was very suitably dressed and even wore a hat and it was a great day and I remember it just as if it was yesterday but it was very difficult to get anything to eat though
and there wasn't a restaurant thing then that you could pop in and get a pizza or a hamburger or anything like that we settled for a cheese sandwich with dried cheese in it, I remember this at Milsons Point. It was a great day in Sydney.
And what else do you remember about the day the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened?
The day the Harbour Bridge was opened there were no trains running of course on that day. I remember that
a man rode up, De Groot rode up and cut the ribbon before Jack Lang and I remembered walking over it and thinking of how brilliant it was and whereas today they've sort of put timber in and covered over between when you go over the bridge in those days you had to be careful because you could really fall through it, but you were told not what to do but it is quite different from today
because it has been well looked after but the thing that amazed me was that all the stone come from our south coast for the pylons and we used to watch the papers at night and when they were building the arch, and the arch gradually got to meet in the middle and everyone was wondering whether it would meet because the cranes were on the end each side of the arch and it did meet and it all went well but
it made a terrific difference to Sydney because before that you used to have to go by ferry from Circular Quay to Milsons Point if you were coming up the North Shore the trains all then went from Milsons Point from a line that is still there but it went down to the water. It was on the north side of Luna Park and that's what you used to go across the harbour. I remember it well getting of the ferry and getting onto a train.
Q: So John we're talking about your family and your early childhood. Tell me a bit more about your mother. What was her name and what did she do?
A: Her name was Emily Mary Neville and she became Emily Mary Moon she didn't go to work as a girl because that didn't happen in those days the girls stayed home with their own mother and looked after the housework and those types of things had a little bit
of social life usually round church and friends but not too much and she met my father at a concert and they had a quite a secluded sort of a life compared with today. Its not as if they had all the things that you can to do like today because it was a long way to go anywhere and roads weren't very marvellous
and when they lived at Dundas it used to be a daily thing to go to town, to Sydney, and my grandfather, her father, my grandfather who I never saw as you realise was a salesman of a certain type, I'm not sure what he sold, I think it was mainly dried goods etc and if he went to Sydney he'd go in a horse and sulky etc and there was no motor vehicles
when she was a child you see and so it was a daily thing to go in from Dundas to the city and you would stay in the city at a hotel or something and come back the next day and this is just life in those days and we are talking about now World War One days.
Q: So getting back to your childhood and growing up in Homebush, can you describe what Homebush was like back then? I know it is
very different now.
A: It is very different it was, I walked a mile to school or I went on a scooter and I had an arrangement with the delicatessen that I could leave the scooter there during the days if I bought my lunch on Monday as I told you we used to get a penny ha'penny for the lunch they were the days. The local chemist was very important because he had the clue to everything and it wasn't the case of having two
or three chemists in the place you only had one of everything, you had a cake shop, the chemist, and the greengrocer shop and the Chinese laundry man and ordinary grocer shop and so it was and the dry cleaning wasn't in then, you didn't worry about dry cleaning much you just ironed things at home. Everyone walked everywhere, the bus service was very scarce and
mainly went and they were pretty old buses but they mainly went during business hours, and other than that very few people had cars. We got a car in 1937. We had a Ford car. It was a very nice car, it was quite different from today and when it rained you still went to school. You had a sour wester on and you walked in the gutter in the water and all those things children do.
We played cricket in the local cricket fields and that and you would have a game of cricket anywhere. Australian kids love playing cricket. It was interesting because the school classes were any size there was no question like today that they got to be a certain size even at Fort Street we had over 40 people every class during the 3 years I was there and now today I
think they only have about 25 maximum. So class sizes were not an issue in those days of course it was all a co-ed business up to 6th class and then there was a Homebush Intermediate Girls High School that the girls all seemed to go to. Girls didn't bother about going to do the leaving a lot in those days there was a co-ed high school
at Parramatta and that Parramatta High took boys and girls from a very early time but it was mostly different the sexes were separated at high schools and all those things I know that I was also in the road patrol this was something that you had to have a little flag and there was two on each crossing and you had to see to the safety of the children
going across the street. We had a little bit of trouble with drivers who wouldn't take any notice of us but this is what happened. We used to do drills the road patrol and compete with another local schools and those type of things. We had the cane at school there was no question that was taboo or anything like that. If the teacher really got angry with you he would hit you over the head and that sort of business so
it was a hands on deal then so nothing like today.
You mentioned Cubs and Scouts. Can you tell us a little bit about what you got up to there?
Yes the Cubs - that was an interesting exercise when you're younger as you know and then you go into Scouts this gave us a bit of a cross section because not only did children at your school go to it but others went to it because it was a local troupe and actually it was a church group and
it was very good as a matter of fact and the Scouts we had a lot of fun in the Scouts we built our own hut back of the local rectory this was when I was 13 or 14 and as well as having our own huts we had bonfires we always went on an annual camp and you go in a truck and you'd put all the kit bags or whatever you called them then, haversacks and your seats would be amongst
those so that it would never go do today, you would have say ten to twelve young children sitting in an open truck going along sitting on no question of seatbelts but that was the fun of the day. And then we would always have an annual day for the Scouts which used to be excellent and because you'd have a fair and a hoopla and all those sort of things but the Scouts particularly
always had find the person day and one occasion we were told who the person would be and it happened to be the Curate of the Church and he was parading up and down Homebush Road in real gear that a hooligan would wear you know and you'd never pick him for the curate and he just walked up and down and kids didn't twig for quite a while that this was him you know,
it was the very elementary things meant so much, there was for instance sixpence per week was a very big lot of pocket money and that seems terribly hard to understand but it was a fact that was all if you went to the cinema on Saturday afternoon like some kids did it was threepence to go in and that is three pennies as you realise and this was a
lot of people didn't go to the pictures really, you were considered well off if you went to the pictures.
Now tell me your father died when you were fifteen. What did he die of?
He died of diabetes but they think it was war related as well because you see when you think they were married in 1922 and he had only been home from the war because he didn't came back until 1920 he studied in England at Balliol College at Oxford
and he was a commissioned officer by then but we it was always felt that he died from war related you see they had gas and everything else in that First World War and it was very horrific but he died very suddenly he just took ill over night and died the next day so it was very sudden.
Q: That must have had quite an effect on you.
It was horrific. Absolutely horrific. Well he died on the 30th November and my
15th birthday had been the 21st and we had a great party and it was terrific but that year earlier though war was declared, the Second World War and he looked like having to go into the reserve, and you know because he was only 43 when he died so he was very eligible to do that but it really did have a great affect on us and that is why I decided to leave school
and do accountancy.
Q: What other affects did it have on you having lost your father, because it sounds like you were quite close to him?
Well I was. He used to champion everything I did etc, and it had a lot of affect on me from the point of view for having to leave school because I liked school and being class captain for three years I happen to know I would have been school captain at the end of the 5th year
and the headmaster told me so and I went and told him that I had to leave but as well as that I was doing well at athletics and enjoying that immensely and I spent a lot of time doing that quite often of a weekend I would go and race at a meet somewhere, like Lidcombe oval or somewhere like that, I had a string of cups that have since passed on as well as those runners that I have from Fort Street and it was
a very great joy to be able to was a healthy setup and I had a lot of good friends in that.
Q: Did you regret you having to leave school at that point?
I did at that time but I was very happy that I had when I was able to get through all that accountancy exams see there was no university course then as I have said before but what happened you
used to work all day you would work the whole week even on Saturday mornings you had to work for three hours and then of a night-time, two nights a week you would go for tutoring to a private college like Metropolitan Business College or two or three of these private shows they started up and that's what you'd do a night-time and you'd study other nights as well so you never really went out except on Saturday nights perhaps
it was not a very social sort of a business but it was well worth doing because I took it on and studied hard and got on very well.
Q: So would it be fair to say that you essentially became the breadwinner for the family after your father died?
A: No I didn't because I earnt one pound a week being an article clerk. I was one of the first years that had been taken on that didn't have to pay the accountant to train me I used to have to pay
the accountant so much to be article to him and he would then teach you accountancy. While I was given we were paid every month and I got four pounds three and four pence per month. We were paid on the last day of every month and that was what I got.
Q: How did your family manage financially?
A: Well my family managed financially through help from my grandparents
and living was very cheap then, it was in the pence instead of the pounds and we managed quite well because I did contribute to the home out of that pound. I paid my fares to go into the city by train which were not very great but I could always manage to give my mother some money and it is unbelievable when think of where money has got to but that was the case.
Q: So you
were fifteen when your father died and war had already broken out at this point so how were you hearing about the war? Where were you getting your information about the war from?
A: You got information in the papers from about the war but well was a week old sometimes when you got it. I remember for instance our first wireless set when my father was alive,
my uncle made it and I remember Kingsford-Smith flying over our place at Homebush on that flight when Ulm went out of the wing to fix an oil tank or something up and he come back on his Southern Cross and flew straight over our house [it was actually P G Taylor who climbed out onto the wing of Southern Cross, not Ulm]. I used to listen to the cricket a lot I was very fond of cricket and the ABC always broadcast the cricket in those days and ball by ball even the local matches
not just test matches and so I was very up with that, and we had this crystal set at a very early time but I remember well the test matches in England they used to use a pencil and tap it when the cricket bat was supposed to hit the ball and all this sort of business. It was very amateurish but it was a lot of fun. A lot of fun. Right back to basics.
Q: So what were you hearing about the war?
A: We were hearing about the war about the terrible advances of the Japanese etc, especially after they come into the war and bombed Pearl Harbor. We heard about the troubles with the Germans we were so sad when war was declared of course in March of 1939, I remember my sister was having her birthday party and we heard about it at night
and my father was quite upset about it because you know it hadn't been that long since the armistice of the First World War it was only twenty years and it wasn't very long so but you didn't get a lot of, you didn't get a lot of information there was a lot of people joining up you had to go into the forces and I wanted to do something that was useful rather than just be called up and take pot
luck so that's why I decided on a definite course like telegraphy rather than it was something I had never done I probably could have done clerical setup but I didn't want to do that because I had been doing that for the last three years and I took this other thing up and I had Morse Code in the Scouts but that was very peculiar Morse Code you know it was a joke really and a lot of fun but when you're
taking down Morse Code at forty words per minute it's not fun. It's hectic. It really is.
Q: You just said you had to join up, did you have to or was it the pressure?
A: No I volunteered. I volunteered.
Q: Was there pressure to enlist, was it expected?
A: Pretty well, yes. You see there were these mobile vans all over the city, I joined I went to the one outside the Town Hall and I found out all the situation and went home and told my mother I wanted to join up and
she had to sign you see but she signed even though my father had been in the first war but if she hadn't of anything could have happened to me I could have been drafted anywhere and I'm that sort of person who likes to know what's going on and give myself sort of a lead to it and that's why I decided I would volunteer.
Q: So you mention there was a van out the front of the Town Hall can you describe van and what went on in there?
A: It was just like one of these
vans that people tow up the north coast or anywhere on holidays and it was stripped of all that and there couple of two or three people sitting behind desks who took all your particulars. I only volunteered to go in four weeks before I was called up that was how vital it was for the war effort in those days, so that I got quite a shock to be called up so quickly because the fella had said, oh well during the next six months you'll hear from us and I suddenly heard
I received a letter that I had to go three days later and report down at Rushcutters Bay and we had a whole day doing medicals and everything else and finding out I was colour blind and all that and then I just settled on that because there was no good fighting it and you wouldn't believe it but we were told then that we go home and report the next morning and we were off to Melbourne. So it was that quick
it was pretty just as well it happened.
Q: Now you were eighteen at this point weren't you?
Q: Seventeen. So what was your mother's reaction to you enlistment?
A: Well she was I think she was settled in her mind that I would have to do something because boys just had to do something and it was better I felt to volunteer as I said to you then just to go in a draft because that to me to be one of a mob,
I've never liked being one of a mob I rather do something that I know I can do. So I took on this telegraphy and I took that on pretty well and I was obviously much better at code.
Q: Now at this point when you were enlisting and the war was going on did you have a sense of fighting for king and country?
A: I was terribly loyal. Oh yes, even when I went to school
the infant school even we had Empire Day which was a tremendous day and it always was and Rule Britannia that came out we used to love singing it, Land of Hope and Glory and all these British things, you see it was very British before the Second World war it was terribly British it really was and you see you must remember that the Americans only come into the First World War at the end so to speak the last
year of it you might say and they only come in a big way to the Second World War when they bombed Pearl Harbor and the Americans to us were sloppy with their dress and their attitude to life I've since found out there not because I've lived in America for quite awhile with different people through Rotary and everything like that but that was we were British, very British when I went to school and Empire Day
meant a lot it really did and it was the day that you we used to have plays and won say three people would represent India and another three Canada and some Australians and some New Zealand's you know it was the Empire and that was very important. I remember the Duke of Gloucester came out here in 1934 and my father worked as an accountant in the Master in Lunacy, in those days a dreadful name
I know but it was in Macquarie Street and they had a shed there at the front of their building and he arranged to that we could go in and we sat on this tin shed on the top of it and waving our little flags and the Duke of Gloucester and his wife and that was in '34 and that was great to see. It really was.
Q: What about, did you have a sense of being Australian at this point? Or was it more about being British
A: Yes. It was Australian it was how we did it but we loved to hear from Britain you see my grandmother being British as well she used to get letters and I got letters from her family overseas etc they were very good letter writers and was always aware of what was going on in Britain very much so and I was always sent from by an aunt a sister of hers a British pound note for Christmas and it was
always worth one pound five here and that would be a lot better if it was now.
Q: So when you enlisted did you feel like you were enlisting to fight for Australia or for the Empire?
A: No, for Australia. This is for Australia. We had to do something because we were aware of what the Americans did after they came in from Pearl Harbor and that shook them up very badly, they never forget that and
we were very much Australian at that stage I had no idea that we would be attached to the Americans that only happened through all this other business but I don't know if you know this or not but they decided to have a Brisbane Line in the war and everything above Brisbane they were quite prepared to give to the Japanese on invasion and Australia was just going to be below Brisbane and June came up in Brisbane they had Americans there quite a lot and it was a garrison city
and she knew all about the fact that Americans were there.
Q: So was there a real fear of invasion?
A: Oh there was. Terrible fear of invasion and you see the Coral Sea battle, that was the big battle that turned the war and this kana operation that went on and there was a code cracking business. They cracked the codes and the Japanese then
got so ridiculous that those you heard it said here before they also used to tell us which code they were using it was all done within the secrets of sending it but intelligence knew in reading it what it was.
Q: So getting back to enlistment, was it at Rushcutters Bay?
A: Yes Rushcutters Bay
Q: Can you walk us through what happened when you were having medical examinations etc
A: Well we all.
It would have been the day I got there I suppose about fifty people, fifty will do. We got there and reported and during the day you go through all the different things, you go through intelligence tests and you go through your medical tests and you're quizzed on what you really want to do and why you want to do it and you are asked about your family and what your situation was etc
and your health, well health was number one they really hounded you about your health it's a very drooling sort of a day it wasn't terribly interesting from that point of view but it was interesting that this was a new thing I had never struck anything like this in my life before although at school you'd know yourself you have your PT [Physical Training] days and everything else and you stripped and get ready for it and all the whole bit this was a matter which was quite different
it was being in underpants and this sort of thing hanging around waiting around to be examined and it really was an eye-opener to what was to come. It was very interesting in very many ways and it was something you couldn't buy and we realised it was to keep what we were doing and I realised I must say this
I didn't know where I was going or where I would be sent and from that day the number of people who were there that day they would have gone to so many places during the ensuing three years. It was just quite extraordinary.
Q: You mentioned that it was discovered at this enlistment that you were colour blind. How did this affect your goal?
A: I was philosophical
about it because it was pointed out to me that there was no use pursuing it because I was and I subsequently did another test on that about six months later and I realised I couldn't see them. There are numbers amongst a lot of bits and pieces and you have to pick the number out.
Q: So can you explain because you had an ambition to be a pilot? Is that correct?
And because of your colour blindness you couldn't become a pilot.
Q: So that must have been disappointing for you.
A: Well it was disappointing because that would have been an adventure at a top level you see and you go overseas to train, you first of all went to Point Cook here and then you went to Canada, Edmonton and those sort of places. I would have loved to have done that but I had a cousin who joined up and he ended up an air-gunner and he fortunately survived the war but a lot of air-gunners didn't. Wouldn't have been
so crash hot but I was very happy that I could be a pilot because you see in those days you didn't drive a car, I got my driving licence after the war I never drove a car before that whereas my children used to drive a tractor when we lived up at Glen Haven and the little boy who was the youngest of the boys he could drive the tractor at ten and he had no trouble getting his driving license and so that it
was disappointing but I was going into something that was structured in doing the telegraphy course and I made a great decision as it happened.
Q: Tell me more about telegraphy.
A: Well telegraphy is there is twenty-six characters and one to ten as well and it was taken down in those days on a tapper and
we gradually increased in speed and it wasn't just the dit-da-dit you learnt in the Scouts it was da-dit-dit-dit-dit you know it was very quick but down at Point Cook we got to eighteen words a minute and eighteen words a minute is what I would have been doing as a wireless air-gunner, if I had been an air-crew because they had to pass out at eighteen words a minute too. Passing out means to have your exam at the end of it so that
was where we built up to and it took six months really to be proficient at that speed.
Q: That's at the eighteen words per minute
A: Eighteen words per minute. Yes.
Q: So from Rushcutters Bay you then went down to Point Cook that was for your training. Tell me about your training. What was involved?
A: Well we used to go and sit in a very organised room each day
behind these sending things and that and you would have people out the front just like a teacher and everything and you would be asked to send signals and receive signals and everything else like that it was it sounds pretty uninteresting but it wasn't really because there's so much involved. We used to have Aldis lamp practising as well that's sending by lights etc and
there was a definite urge to do well in it because we it was a very great camaraderie to between all the people. I remember I've got a friend who is 81, two years older then me, and he was down there he gave me that book I showed you before and he remembers me because I was in charge of our group down at Point Cook as the Caller of the Step,
going left, right, left, right down the Burma Road as we called it because as our camp was a mile away from where we went down to the rooms to do our morse training. In the cold of winter it was really something, you had your grey coat on and you had to have your cap on as well and your boots the whole lot and if it was wet you still went you didn't stop because it was raining and each day and then what happened was the
air-crew trained down there as well because that was an air-crew base as well and the pilots used to at very low altitude fly over the Burma Road because that was their strip of take-off you see or landing and we often saw some of them not going as well as they could and everyday we used to down there and back again it was is good we got leave that was quite satisfactory
and you could go into Melbourne you could leave past safer than night or for the weekend and that was quite good because the train used to run from pretty nearby and a bus used to go to the train this was in Victoria and we got to know Melbourne quite and well and it was quite nice but we then had to join altogether in the mess and we used to have meals on the whole were quite fine
but nothing startling nothing as good as we were to have with the Americans later on but that was only part of the thing. We used to have concerts and sing songs as well as taking down this morse so it needs a break so for instance you do it at two hours and then you might go out and have a break and then for an hour and then go back for another two hours but we had a lot of marching drill as well. Terrific amount marching drill
and you had to pass out in that when you did your rookies, and rookies was peeling potatoes and doing all sorts of odd jobs around the place and that usually took about four weeks and that was the first four weeks I was down there and we enjoyed that though it was just a new life you very were free they were very strict on the rules but we were terribly free to come and go and this pleased me a lot it was a new type of thing
whereas I had been in the accountant's office where you go and sit down and do bookwork all the time.
Q: Was there a sense of adventure?
A: Oh yes. Especially when I was asked if I would volunteer to go to Townsville. I'd never been to Townsville in my life before and that was really good I looked forward to that.
Q: Can you describe the apparatus that you used to send and receive?
the morse for the training?
A: The sending is just purely like a thing that you, you know what a punch is like, a bigger punch and it has a handle on it and you punch it like that and it does the punching, well it is more like that and t a little bit of apparatus you have to be very docile with your wrist because the more you could do it like that you would be able to send better because you got to send
and be quite recognisable a dot with a dash see and when you are going dit-da-dit that is r well you got make sure you can't go Dit Da Dit because the dashes are Das you see you got to be able to but you become proficient by doing it and some people do it with their left hand and some with their right now the receiving of it you got a set just like an ordinary wireless set,
earphones, you always have earphones of course because you need to block out all other noise and just do that and you tune into a frequency but in that case you used to tune in sometimes to the people who were sending the morse there you had to read it you see that was good to see what there proficiency was like as well as your own but as it gradually increased so your instructor had
increased the thing you had to write it down on special paper and he'd have a look at it like any instructor would when you are doing anything, but there is nothing magical about it, it's just becoming proficient in recognising the signal but later it became a much bigger deal.
Q: How did you become proficient in it?
A: By concentration, yep it was mainly concentration because
it wasn't difficult because you only had to put earphones on and it just wasn't difficult you only had to concentrate on what they were doing I have trouble with plain language because you see plain language we were thinking that a lot of this was in aircraft or it could be on the ground but when they sent messages plain language and you've got say for instance ple you spelt that out well
I used to say that might be please and that and I probably wouldn't listen to the last two things as well as I should have and so with code you just write down what you hear and you regulate yourself to that and I could do that all day and that was fine and you do was quite different from plain language.
Q: Is code one of those things that you are either good at
it or your not or can anyone learn to do this?
A: Anyone can learn to do it but it is just a matter, well it is like anything some people are good at things that other people wouldn't want to do and we're all doing this with the best thing to do was give it your best shot, that wasn't even an expression then either: your best shot.
Q: So how long were you training?
A: For seven months, seven months at Point Cook and then we were offered the, well I was offered it because I became top of the class in code and they wanted people who were good at code, they said if you were good at code you would get first priority so I was on my way pretty quickly after that.
Q: Up to Townsville?
Q: What happened when you arrived up in Townsville?
A: Well we went up in the train no flying we went up to Sydney on the train, we were given
twenty-four hours leave in Sydney we had twenty four hours leave in Brisbane and then we went up on this train which was of course only three foot six gauge and some of the hills it goes up so slowly we used to get off the train and buy pineapples and I remember quite well the were three for a shilling or four for a shilling and we would hop back on the train and it was still going you know but that's how fast it was going and it was quite an adventure again because there were no sleepers
or anything you slept in your seat and at each station when it was time you had your pannikin with you that's a thing like this with a handle on it and that's what you get your food in and you'd have different stops you'd be told what the stops would be for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you would all dive off the train and line up for it and they'd be all geared up and you might have a bit of braised steak or something
and a dollop of potato that usually that dried potato etc nothing marvellous but that is how the troop trains were fed and we got to Townsville and it took us quite a long while to get to Townsville because it didn't go very fast at all and when we got to Townsville we went out to a place called Stuarts Creek and we set up camp there and I think we been the second crowd trained at Townsville.
We slept under canvas but we had an administration building that was quite good and that's where we did all our Morse Code in that completely new set-up there were two instructors, they were sergeants I seem to recall and very nice people, but I remember very well when we were doing the course they used to always listen in to Blues Hill the old radio show
always listen to that at lunchtime that just for a bit of diversion you know and they were very human and we thought that they were good because they did that sort of thing. But we were in our tents and everything else and we had to perform all the duties, you had to clean the latrines out in turn you know it wasn't as if you were favoured and we all did the same duties there was no favouritism at all we were all then LACs
which were Leading Aircraftmen and we enjoyed the life up there because of a night time you could quite often get together in groups of ten and talk about so many things of life it was a real experienced to share life on a basis that I would never ever had shared it if I had been in the forces.
Q: John, we've established you arriving in Townsville. What happened at this point?
A: Well we went out to Stuarts Creek and we set up camp there and we were greeted by these two new instructors who we had never seen before and it was there purpose to train us in this Japanese Morse Code that's called kana. Now the objective of that was to pass out at 30 words a minute we had been doing eighteen remember and to pass out at thirty but I noticed even in Bleakley's book [probably referring to Jack Bleakley's book The Eavesdroppers (1992)], that it's established we did much more than that at times.
Q: When you say pass out at thirty..
A: Well that means qualify. Pass out means qualify you get the stamp as it were and that's the situation. So we passed out at thirty but that took a little while too to get out because we were there from July
to October so you can say it really took a good three months because we did have a bit of leave up there as well before we went onto Moresby but we got there and we set up, now we didn't send any more Morse Code in the war ever we only intercepted on our receiving sets now the importance of the whole thing was right from the start was historical because we had been told what had been going on.
We weren't the first people to be do it they had run other courses before with great results and this is why they were getting more people trained in it because the Americans didn't seem to make a job of it like we did and that was the interesting part they wanted us to be for instance in the future doing this because of our great success and ability to receive it.
Q: Why hadn't the Americans been doing it?
A: I don't know. I don't know. They were trained
as a matter fact when you went into it from the American point of view you were a commissioned officer and heres us a LACs doing it and achieving great results so they handed it over and MacArthur instructed his intelligence men that it was the Australians that he wanted doing it and edicts were put out and everything else that so many Australians had to be sent so and so and
this was we were very favoured because he recognised we were the best at it.
Q: Can you explain to us what the kana code is?
A: Well yes the kana code it's all the letters of our alphabet plus another twelve and its sent so quickly that a 'n' is a half moon circle and 'w' is a half moon circle up the other way and there
that's how fast it is and it's got different symbols in it now it might sound silly to you but I can't remember them all because a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then but it was our code plus a lot more symbols. You still got the one to naught right up for the numbers; the numbers are the same, exactly the same, in the same Morse Code for the numbers as ours so it was only a variation in the language thing,
now we didn't do any Japanese language training at all that was not the bit it was the fact of the Morse Code the Japanese Morse Code and that was called kana and the speed of it had nothing to do with what it was called because that was the situation. Now as you did it you become more proficient at it and its quite surprising the difference between eighteen and thirty words a minute when you're listening to it you know but
you had to do this because they sent it so very quickly you see it seems to follow that they speak quickly and you probably know that with Japanese people and I'm sure that the code matched their speaking 'cos it was very quick.
Q: Now you mentioned letters of the alphabet plus further letters. What were those further letters?
A: Well there was different letters that were the reverse of an 'L', that was one of them I remember
particularly and others were just sometimes a combination of two letters and with having done this for so long but not having been connected with it since 1945 which is just on sixty years ago or nearly, I'm afraid that's I can't fill that in anymore than that except with speed and the fact of proficiency they were
the two things they stressed on us all the whole time speed and proficiency and in the final test we had to do I know I got the lot right.
Q: What techniques did you use to build your speed up?
A: Just practice, pure practice and terrific concentration this is where my ears have packed up you see since but that's what I've been told because with some people that happens.
Q: Were you wearing a headset all of the time?
A: Oh yeah.
All the time. All the time. And you see it was so we would only do about an hour at a time and then you would have a break for quarter an hour, half an hour, and then go back to it and then concentrate on different parts of it on different days like you would have a numbers day with a few characters as well and it was a fellow say
he'd send it badly and you still had to take it down you see because we'll get to the other part no doubt in a minute about the way the Japanese did that, but it was very fascinating to me it really was and all I had to do was take down what I heard.
Q: So if you didn't have to have a knowledge of Japanese and I'm just trying to understand how a message sent in Japanese would be in some way
translated by you.
A: Well what happened was that in earlier battles around Milne Bay area and down in the other part of New Guinea they cracked the code because they found a lot of documents where this code was referred to and there were about four or five different codes and this in itself is fascinating and there's been books written on it and films been made about it everything and there's an Englishman
had a great deal to do and they worked on this. The thing I could never understand was that the Japanese would do what they did and become so open in the way they sent messages they'd tell you everything 'cos I didn't know what they were telling me but our accuracy was that great that it meant so much to the Americans well I showed you in that book they reckon that the war finished two
years early due to our efforts and that's a long time
Q: So once you received the code were you translating it into??
A: No, no. I had to take it down in block form and I'm sure there was five or six in a block and that's the way sent across the page
Q: You would write down the letters and the numbers
A: As they come over across the page and then the person sending it he gives the call sign
first and when the Japanese sent it, for instance say there was a raid on from Ambon they had a big centre at Ambon and they used to raid New Guinea from Ambon very heavily well they would send the base would send the call sign and then it would go on and send the call sign then say plus one well that would be the first plane and that plane would have to answer when it took off and call back the base so we knew
there was one plane in the air and they went through this up to thirty some of the raids were by thirty planes and they chatted between one another and we took all that down as well they might say aircraft ABC-22 to aircraft ABC-17 and the sort of message I heard from the intelligence crowd they send two miles to so and so
fearing attacks and that sort of thing and they'd talk between one another like you would expect them to as well as the base calling them with special information and all that right to the ence degree was known by intelligence once I had it down.
Q: So you wrote it down, it would then be passed onto somebody else to translate.
A: Passed it on to a cipher officer. Yes, a cipher officer and an interesting fact there was that in Moresby
one of the cipher officers was Donald Robinson, the former Archbishop of Sydney whose father I knew very well and Don is now in his early eighties and he come along to an address I gave a local church here an old peoples day and he come along especially to hear it because he is fascinated by it because he never did that he did a cipher course, he was a sergeant and he did a cipher course and they used to breath down or neck to take the sheet as we
Q: They would then do the translation
A: They'd do the translation and send it to headquarters. Yep.
Q: Now I believe the Japanese indicated which code they were using. Can you describe that for us?
A: They did. No except for the fact that they were all named and I'm not sure what they were named but they were all named and they would send that as well as sending their base name they'd send the base
that had a number, not a number, a name or it might have had four letters and underneath that they would put using code so and so I didn't know that but I was told that and they would say what code they were using so it was no trouble at all for the accuracy of us was number one.
Q: Once you as part of your transcription indicated the code that would then alert the cipher operator
as to how to do the translation.
A: Yes and some terrific things come out of it real secrets come out of all this even at the Coral Sea battle bit there was a lot of that included in it, it was just amazing the accuracy was so terrific that the Yanks were absolutely enthralled with the accuracy.
Q: Did the Japanese ever know that the Allies knew the code?
A: Well I can't see they didn't. Somewhere
they must've know but how much they knew I don't know but to me I can't understand a nation being at war and giving away as much as they did over the Morse Code key.
Q: Now I know in the case of allied cipher messages that they would quite often start a message with a lot of hash. Were the Japanese doing the same thing?
A: Same sort of thing. That right oh yes. Yes I don't know whether it was to put people off
or what is was we were never told to the degree that we were good but every but we would get back some information say a month later that thanks to your efforts, its in Bleakleys book, thanks to your efforts a whole convoy of shipping was completely destroyed that was given a notice out that such a convoy was leaving
such and such place to go to such to go such a thing and it was wide opened to be bombed.
Q: You must have been astonished at such a thing.
A: It was astonished really at the results we got but of course as I said to you before our force in the whole matter and our dedication was of paramount importance. You had to go there always on any shift, Dog Watch,
Dog Watch is usually midnight to five o'clock in the morning and there might be two of you on Dog Watch because you didn't have a complete setup with Dog Watch because you might do it one night and someone else the next night you had to be really rigid in your address to the whole thing because it was up to you and quite often it was up to you what happened in the war the next day and this how vital it was and
its obvious you can see from things in Bleakley's book that there's secret messages and everything in that book that were sent and it's just amazing what they gave away on the Morse Code key. Thrilling when you think about it. Terrific.
Q: Actually, it might be best not to mention Bleakley's book because people viewing this in the future may not know or be familiar with Bleakley's book so just talk about it from your knowledge even if it quoting
things from it is probably best not to keep to referring to it.
A: No it is quite okay with me.
Q: So were you actually receiving Japanese signals towards the end of your course in Townsville?
A: Yes. Yes. 8945 is the frequency. I remember that because we did it so, that was the big frequency because they used to use also some other frequencies if that was busy
and we were aware of all of all the frequencies it was the duty of the people on duty at that time to go through the frequencies or we had a shall we say a fellow in charge of each shift and he would go through them and say, you take 8945, and you take 6404 and these sort of things and so you would sit down for your shift you'd do that and one of
some of the frequencies mightn't be operating but we knew they were the frequencies that were used so we always looked after say about six frequencies and that would cover all there activities.
Q: You would be briefed as to the appropriate frequency and you would then adjust your receiver?
A: I would go and sit down, put my headphones on and turn my receiver on and tune it in
to 89 and make sure you had it fully tuned and do a little bit each side so that it was right.
Q: Was the transmission or was the reception always loud and clear?
A: No it wasn't. It depended on the weather a bit but as we got further up into the Japanese situation closer to the different bases it was very clear. It was very clear in the water going to Leyte. Very clear.
Q: Cloud cover could make a difference?
A: Not a great deal no but out in the sea as you might know here of a night-time in Sydney reception you would never hear in the daytime because of the night thing and that was the same then it really was
Q: Approximately how many frequencies's were there?
A: I'd say overall about they used five important ones. They might have used another
one at other times but there five important ones.
Q: How was it you could tune into a Japanese message and not be cross-cut or confused messages from the Allies for instance
A: Well they didn't use those frequencies. These were the Japanese frequencies that they used and they were very clear and if there was an interference on any frequency it was not because of
cross-cutting it with the Allies they were very clear that they knew that they were not to use those frequency at all being so much information from the Japanese through their frequencies.
Q: Did they ever change their frequencies?
A: Sometimes but they'd usually change them to one of the five but they usually tell you they were going to change it. I do happen to know that but and that's silly isn't it.
Q: With my limited technical knowledge
I am wondering if they ever change to a frequency which was totally unknown and you would have to go searching for that.
A: No. No they never did that it was a simple matter. It seemed they had a simple approach to it. Which is interesting when you think about it isn't it. They were devious in so many other ways but this was a very simple approach.
Q: So at what point during your course at Townsville were you receiving messages that
could then be passed onto headquarters?
A: When, no that wasn't the case. Our thing at Townsville was practice and what we were receiving at Townsville was being monitored further up we were just using the frequency and practising on it and they were showing us the speed and everything else we had to take it on now we didn't use them straight away but before you could pass out
you had to listen in to the frequency and get hold of it and that was how they knew you caught on but you didn't do it at first it was only towards the end of the time that we were there.
Q: So where precisely were you in relation to Townsville as a city?
A: Only about three miles out. Three miles out and we were right next to a Mitchell Bomber Base from the Americans and they flew over the camp at hundred feet and these were
the twin engines bombers you've seen photographs of them and also the P-38 fighters but the bombers were the ones you would just hear a roar you couldn't hear another thing while they were passing over it was very nerve-racking in its on way you got used to it in time though.
Q: Can you describe the facility you were actually housed in?
A: We were in tents and there was a mess hall and we had our
operating room, the toilets were dug in the ground and they were heavily deodorised etc. It was very basic, very basic indeed it was nothing flash and there were trees all round because you see the point was that when we were there Townsville did have a few air-raids and the people weren't
informed about a lot of things that went on as you know the same with Darwin you now find these tens of air-raids that went on and you didn't know about it, no-one did ell we knew up there much more than you would ever hear in the papers it was in the days you realise that like today that you're right in on the thing happening like in the Iraq war we had you see we didn't have that sort of business the technicalities, technical
things like today so it was quite different.
Q: So the information was much more basic
A: Oh yes very much more.
Q: So was it the population in general in Townsville who knew a little more of then what was being filtered out elsewhere or only the service people in terms of war news as it affected Townsville?
A: We had a daily order and that was a published sheet of any information that we should know and movements and
those sort of things and it was published purely for our benefits, purely for our benefit you didn't for instance how a daily newspaper. You wouldn't go and buy a daily newspaper three miles out of Townsville, three to five, but you wouldn't have a daily newspaper.
Q: You mention the hut where the equipment was stored. Was that an operations centre?
A: Operations centre but it was very basic and it had a lot of
aerials and that sort of thing out of it and it was in a well cleared area but it was very basic it was nothing fancy at all
Q: What sort of construction was it?
A: Wood construction. All we needed was the equipment and the good instruction and we got very good instructions. I liked the two guys that were the instructing us
but very approachable and you know it was very good stuff.
Q: They were obviously seasoned operators
A: Seasoned operators yes, and they'd instructed other courses as well as I said but our course apparently did as well as any that had ever done there and it was good to think that was the case you see there were twenty of us in the course
Q: And everybody passed?
A: Oh yes they all passed but its quite funny how
we all went from there to Moresby, Port Moresby and that was quite good because we were generally all together but we suddenly caught up with a few others who were tacked on to us from previous courses it we had that basic number of people. You got to know people pretty well.
Q: Did you have much to do with Townsville?
A: No. Not a great deal as such.
Q: Did you go in there for any kind of R&R?
A: Oh yes. We went in there and I remember someone sent me a pair of shorts at one stage and they needed taking up and I went in there to a Red Cross hut of some sort and some ladies were doing sewing and you could leave them there for a day and come back and get them tomorrow and I know I told my grandmother about this I think it was the Red Cross and she being English she used to call me ducky quite a bit, it was an English expression ducky
and she was very impressed with people who would do that for the war effort because this is what people did acknowledge what other people did for the war effort and we were on our haunches a bit there as Australians and that part of Australia where we were at Townsville well that was going to be given to the Japanese if they got there you see as I said to you the Coral Sea battle helped
Q: Did you talk to any of the locals about whatever fears they might have about Japanese invasion
A: No I don't think they honed in on it greatly but I don't think also that Townsville population decreased at this time a lot of people went down south, they didn't stay there because it was pretty dangerous stuff.
Q: Could you describe Townsville as you knew it at that time?
A: Well it was a hick place
it was nothing you would want to go to because it didn't have a lot going for it, it had a harbour which was quite nice but and Magnetic Island is another place that's off Townsville and Magnetic Island I slept on the beach there one night because we went over to have a look over Magnetic Island and there was no way of getting back after about four o'clock or something and I
was involved in something I'm not sure what it was but there were three or four of us we just dug a whole in the sand and slept on the beach for the night because it is very warm its tropical as you realise but you do those things when you're young, active, and it was quite an experience. My best experience was that I went from Townsville to Moresby in a Dornier aircraft the others went on different planes but I was on a Dornier aircraft
it was a very rough morning with wind and rain and all that and it took three goes to get out, its a sea plane, to get off the sea and they put us in and screwed down the hatch after we got in so there would have been no way to get out of this thing until someone met us and unscrewed the hatch and it made a dreadful noise, a drone, a real droning noise and it took us ages to get to Moresby something like
six hours it really took us a long while but it was one of those things that droned on and we weren't flying very high I guess we were only flying about a thousand feet, that sort of business, but that was a real experience and something that I did have a ride in different aircraft and flying boats and that sort thing but this old Dornier it was, it was a German thing.
Q: You say Townsville
is a hick town and yet it was transformed by World War Two
A: Well it was you see but it got great opportunities as the war moved on and that's what was quite something
Q: That hadn't actually happened while you were there
A: No. not while we were there no. It was at its basic worst when we were there.
Q: Did you go into any of the local restaurants or the pictures or anything like that?
A: Yeah but there weren't a lot of them I think if you wanted a beer at the pub it was only on
at certain hours say for instance it might be on from twelve to two or something like that and they only used to get all over the place only used to get things in very short supply even Brisbane was the same you know there was no good saying I going to have a drink of beer at my usual pub because you didn't know they have any but you can't believe that can you but that was the case then and Townsville was worse then Brisbane of course because it
was just a town on the north coast of Queensland.
Q: Pub with no beer
A: Pub with no beer.
Q: Now could you describe the importance of accuracy in receiving signals?
A: The importance of accuracy was number one it really was and the concentration was terrific you did well because you were so young and you had a receptive mind now my mind
at seventy-nine is much different from what it was then I can tell you it was what I it suited me fine because I say it myself I was very neat and honed in on something that I was real interested in and this was right up my alley doing this code but the accuracy meant and it could have meant all the difference between a message being given and not given
because if a message has the wrong information on it was worse then having no message at all and that's how accurate we had to be and you can't ask them to send it again because you're intercepting it.
Q: I believe you always saw yourself as an achiever?
A: Yeah I did
Q: Can you explain that a bit?
A: I think it was my British inheritance heritage though because I admired Britain
for what they have always done as I said at school I loved singing Rule Britannia and all those things I altered my opinions of Americans completely or have since having travelled extensively in their country I've been to about twenty states of America and have been very well received but I have always been an achiever and I've?
Q: What does being an achiever actually mean
A: I am driven by an inner self to do well and not to go into something half-heartedly, boots an all as it were you know and I've done that in local government and Rotary and all sorts of things since and it was not surprising to anyone who knew me well that I do well in this course because that was it.
Q: You have spoken about the absolute
concentration required did you ever hear of among any of your colleagues or in other units who might have found this experience stressful
A: Yeah I did.
Q: How did it affect them?
A: Well we used to say they went troppo that was the old story for it you see an there were two or three in our unit who were like that but they would fly off and say things and do things you know that
I would find difficulty in understanding that because I was not like that but there were two or three people in our unit who did find quite difficulty in the concentration of it.
Q: Can you give an instance of how they might let off steam?
A: Yeah. They'd yell out and stamp out of the room as it were where we were sending it and say I've had enough of today I can't take anymore of this
and it's the concentration.
Q: Were any of these men removed from their positions?
A: No they weren't, what happened they were very they were trained into the position put it at that way they took more time and they might have to do another hour or two here or there to get themself but they were very understanding men who were the instructors. Very understanding. Delightful people and older than we were too
they would have been twenty years older than us and they had had a lot of experience.
Q: So when you say trained into the positions?
A: Well they needed more training then I would for instance because of their inability to adapt. That's what it really comes back to me but that is the same in a lot of vocations.
Q: So nobody gave up on them.
A: No one gave up on them. They were tolerant.
Q: What about once they were closer to the front line and they were doing things for real
did anyone snap under pressure then
A: A lot of this happened at training rather than when it got real there was a sense of duty came into it as they neared front lines and that sort of thing and this is what happened. For instance when we first went to Moresby they were continually having air-raids and all that sort of thing whereas when we left Moresby we didn't have air-raid or anything like that so we were chasing the front line all of the time and
got a lot closer to it later one but there was a great tolerance shown with this because well it was so unique that Australian war records don't record the fact that we were ever there and this is what its about.
Q: Now, could you define for us what the Wireless Operations Unit was?
A: Wireless Operation Unit. Well it was called - all the units
were called WU [Wireless Unit] and we were 1WU in Townsville when we went into the Philippines we were 6WU and then become 7WU when we were coming home so it was a company of men with an officer in charge probably one sergeant and one corporal and the rest of them LACs and that was the unit so it
wasn't something though that people had to be disciplined in or anything like that we were there for a special purpose and as long as we were on duty when we should have been and agreed and did the right things at all times in the camp it was a lovely life we were not bothered because we were specialists and we were respected as specialists.
Q: So can you draw the distinction between that experience and people who were disciplined? What exactly do you mean were not disciplined?
A: We didn't have a lot of parades because you see we were all on shift work and you'd do say during the day possibly four hour shits and Dog Watch was five hours and to have a parade you could never have the people that were on duty at that time so parades generally were not important.
We were treated more as professional people you know what I mean by that you see it was usually the plebs as we called them who have to line up and we didn't have to do that the only lining up we mainly did was at the mess with our pannikin to get the food.
Q: Just to get my terminology right they were known as Wireless Units not Wireless Operations Units
A: Yes Wireless Units.
Q: They were Wireless Units were there?
A: There were eight. I think there were eight. They numbered a couple more you see we come back from Tolosa [probably Tanauan] because our time was up in the Pacific we only had eighteen months roughly your allowed to be that way then and these people who took on from us and went up to Manila in that way I'm sure they were? there might have been nine.
Q: They were all operating simultaneously?
A: No you see what happened was, I don't know what happened to one in the end because it all happened in the beginning in one but as you went into different operations you become a different unit number and that's how we become 6WU when there were 24 of us who went into the Philippines we were 6WU.
Q: So it was a progression?
A: Yeah. It wasn't to anyone's benefit it was a progression due to postings, because they could post people as a unit.
Q: And why was the information about the units activities embargoed until 1991?
A: Well it was like everything else I think. In the Australian Government set-up they think its thirty years now isn't it that
they throw all the papers open to the public and the press come out with all these statements as you know from time to time this was something that I think had to be fixed up at top level somewhere but it took all that time and when I showed you earlier today that writing that said that it had been from 1991 for the first time we'd been able to give you this and they gave it to us in a big way
its quite interesting to think that it did take all that time but it become it was right on the line that you were not allowed to say anything about it and we had to sign for it and I think having signed that in my mind I just forgot about telling people about it. I used to say "What did you do during the war?" "Oh, I was with intelligence", and that covered them but I never spoke at home about it
because I was asked not to and I don't think too many people did and they had a place in Brisbane called Central Bureau and that where all this intelligence was in fact before all the big invasions and everything MacArthur had his headquarters there and I think that's where it all started from but its amazing to think that it was all that time before it was allowed to be spoken about I
didn't think of talking about it because I had signed a thing to not say it and it was a couple of years after that it was about 1993-4 that I first knew about the whole thing being allowed and I had just found out lately when I have been talking to different popple there so astounded about it and just think it is unbelievable that it was so secret.
Q: So if you went along to ex-services gatherings did you ever feel a sense of loss in not being able to explain?
A: No, because it's just not on - we were told not, and we signed that we wouldn't and it was enforceable at law so it was just forgotten about and I think that's why I've never felt and never, I've only marched once on an Anzac Day and
it was up in Mackay in Queensland while I was up there on a Rotary thing and it was a local march etc and I agreed. I've never felt we've really been part of anything else you know like the general set-up of things and being attached to the Americans we haven't got a lot of people to march with and as well as that they come from all over Australia now the card I've got there signed they come from six states in our unit so
it wasn't just a thing that was put together in Sydney as a unit see and I think we've never had that unit attachment and so this is the thing.
Q: You talked about the act that all of you in the unit were so young and the reasons for this?
A: Well it seemed from what my experience that it is the time of age group eighteen year age group, nineteen, twenty that your resilient particularly to what's going on if you've got a purpose in life that's where you are really setting
it up your trying I suppose to impress people by the way you act your whole being becomes very important and your deciding what you think is best for you in a career and its with that sort of attitude I think that we learnt to take down this morse and the concentration on it. Some people who are average people who aren't really
special or will take anything you see in life we've got people who are specialists by people who are generally we've got people who don't want to be part of it to that degree and are happy to go along in a lower degree an I think that the thing is that the achievement is to be special and if you can't be I think a lot of it and this is not a snobby remark but it probably depends
on your schooling to quite a degree and Fort Street in those days was a specialist school there were only five us from Homebush Primary School got there out of forty odd you see so that was a great start in my education then there was the opportunity to do well in accountancy and that meant that I had to do work all day and study at night whereas today and I'm not knocking people but they
do it at university mainly and they go on these business administration degrees and all sorts of fancy names that emanate from accountancy you see but there specialist in that degree and they come out of that and they have had had no practical experience they come out of university trained now here we were with this getting practical experience all the time like I had with my accountancy.
Q: Looking at that age group was it also a question of reflexes?
A: I think so I'm sure of that. The reflexes at that age are tremendous with compared as you get older etc and there was no settling with marriage or anything like that and there were not many love affairs because it was war time and it was a bit young for that. So that you gave your all to it.
Q: Would you say from what you've been saying that you were a group of loners or integrated team?
A: There were enough of us to integrated if there had of been half that number we would have been as good I found that when we went on the invasion that was a pretty lone sort of a thing because there were very few of us.
Q: How many people in each team?
A: Well there were twenty-four and we were called the Australian Foreign Legion but on the ship going up to the
invasion fleet going up into Leyte there were only four operators, and two people who were deciphering it and all that and that was a pretty lone team because especially Dog Watch was midnight to five and you were there on your own doing Dog Watch and the old man in charge it was his bedroom next door and its very lonely
on a ship in the middle of the night. You've probably been on a ship and you know that as there is not much going on in the middle of the night and there wasn't much going on either in the Morse Code situation from the Japs but we had to be on because it that was our command.
Q: So there was one of you on duty at anyone time there'd be were four of you on the ship so that?.
A: Usually two at a time but Dog Watch one.
Q: And what was the length. How many hours for each shift?
A: Well five on Dog Watch but usually four during the day if there is a lot of activity you might have to double up and do eight. You see there was all this flexibility going on but there it was an important thing and we were told how important it was that we did well and I think that was the achievement situation and we've been told since that in a big way as you know. It's a thrill to think that
you were a real part of it.
Q: So there was real camaraderie among operators?
A: Oh yes. Oh yeah.
Q: Can you tell us the backgrounds of the other people even if it referring to what state and countries they might have come from, the other operators?
A: The twenty-four of us, I think there were nine from New South Wales and eight from Victoria, three from South Australia, seventeen that's twenty and one from each Queensland, Tasmania
and there was one Englishman and there's one more there somewhere but it was basically the two big states New South Wales and Victoria were the thing but you see there were only nine from New South Wales but they lived all over the place they didn't necessarily come from Sydney.
Q: On what basis, if there was common ground here, but on what basis were you all recruited?
A: Because we volunteered
Q: But what was the criteria for a suitable volunteer?
A: His age.
He had to be eighteen but it's a bit solid but when you think they called me up even before I was eighteen this is how they wanted people in the thing but there were a couple of blokes there over twenty and twenty-one at that time.
Q: What skills did they need to bring to the job?
A: None. No skills. Well you had to have a schooling of some sort
and you had to be in good health and you had to want to do the course, you had to name the course that you wanted to do when they asked me I said I wanted to go to air school but because I'm colour blind I can't do that and I want to do some course that's recognisable and they said to me will you do a telegraphy course and I said yes that would be fine but there was another man his name was Moon also he come from the
southern suburbs in Sydney he was a couple of years older than me. He was a telegraphist with the GPO and he was on there Morse Code 'cos they used to send everything by telegram you see that all went by the board, teleprinters as you know took over from that, he had it as a vacation but he didn't do as well as me in the kana operations in fact he didn't go on the kana
operations I remember that now. He didn't they only picked out the top twenty they wanted from Point cook he didn't go on it. I think having been his vacation it was not enough challenge to do the thing and he just took it as a matter of course rather than a special effort.
Q: Now bringing us back to this Dornier flying boat trip to Port Moresby I believe it was a slightly
bumpy take off.
A: Oh terrible it took three times to take off, revved it up and it only did eighty miles an hour and that meant that it took off at about fifty to sixty it couldn't take off on this day because it was windy the harbour very bumpy and it took us three times to take off so that wasn't my best flight.
Q: You were sealed in what would have happened if you crashed?
A: I don't know. I wouldn't know. I wouldn't be here.
Q: So you arrived in Port Moresby. What were your first impressions of Port Moresby?
A: Locals who were indigenous and not nearly as refined as the Sydney scene but an outpost
of Australia's as it was at that time.
Q: Can you describe the town?
A: The town was very basic, wide streets the main street is a wide street but the other streets aren't very wide and there were a lot of very old vehicles and things because there was no new vehicles and that sort of thing. I've been back there, I went back there and there is side of this which is interesting
I went back there in 1973 when I was governor of Rotary and I'd been to Brisbane to represent the world president to a conference and Moresby or New Guinea is allied to the district in Brisbane and I said to their district governor I will come up there with you and so I went up there and went to all the clubs and there were nine clubs up there and I revisited the Nadzab and Lae
and all these different towns and was very well received but it got a bit better by then but that was thirty years later.
Q: So when you arrived in Moresby where were you sent?
A: I was just sent to the camp
Q: Can you describe the camp for us?
A: It be very hard for me to picture the camp at Moresby because don't quite a different sort of a camp there
was another unit there I think at the time and it was a happier enough set up though very humid and hot and it was nothing like the joy of the next move because that was to a nice place but Moresby was very business like from the point of view of war because not that far from Kokoda and all these of things they knew the war was on in a big way up there
and it was a war city and there was nothing flash about it. I think I only went into Moresby a couple times while we were there and I guess I was there for five months.
Q: Kokoda had happened of course by then. We're looking at July 1943 were there still fears that the Japanese would break through and come south?
A: No there were no fears but they had to get rid of them quicker then they were doing that was what the trouble was you see it
hanging over them as it were and they wanted some good victories and they got some good victories you know 'cos Milne Bay was a good victory and the Morse Code, kana had a lot to do with that because they intercepted some great stuff there.
Q: Had that happened prior to your going up there?
Q: That's interesting because we have spoken to a couple veterans that were at Milne Bay and they said it all seemed to happen in a great hurry.
A: That's right
Q: Are you able to tell us how interceptions at Milne Bay did save the situation?
A: No. I haven't had any experience about that but I've read different articles on it and its quite obvious to me that the fact that they knew of Japanese attacks and when they were going to attack through intercept that it astounded everyone and that follows on what that other person has told you because suddenly
we were expecting them instead of wondering when they were going to be attacked and they knew exactly when and this is how great it was they gave all these stupid things out the Japs did and said when they expected to be over a sight to bomb it was there was a few funny remarks I remember there's one about someone at Milne Bay who reported from intelligence that there was a raid on expected to be here at
just say 10am and when they arrived at 10.10am they sent back your late with your information so there was a lot of humour to it as well but I didn't know anything about that because all I was doing was taking down the Japanese Morse Code but it was so far reaching obviously and we did so well with it that its been a thrill to think we did so well.
Q: Port Moresby when you arrived, we've talked about the camp,
did the operators have their own camp in Port Moresby?
A: Oh yes. Yes there was a wireless unit you see.
Q: It was a wireless unit camp?
A: Yes we were still at one while we were at Port Moresby that was the setup there.
Q: So how large was your camp was it a couple of dozen tents for instance?
A: There were roughly four to a tent so it would be let me see, four, yeah probably right. You see there were
different people in the camp who had to be cooks and different people who had to be administration and that sort of things so I guess there could have been thirty tents. We always loved it to rain because we could race out and have a shower because those sort of facilities were at a premium always and it was always we had more showers out in the open it just worked very well
but I remember at Moresby the food at times wasn't crash hot it really wasn't but there was quite a setup and they had the men who were cooking and all that we weren't with the Americans you see there that was Australian
Q: What sort of food did you have?
A: Oh very basic food. The bully beef and the potatoes that were all dried and that sort of business and we didn't do very well
with food but it was basic and it we always did complain about food but when you think about it that was the least of your worries wasn't it.
Q: What about beer rations.
A: Yeah two bottles a month I think it was. Yeah something like that.
Q: A month!
A: Yeah a month, oh it wasn't big times. That happened at Nadzab too as a matter of fact I didn't drink a lot I used to sell mine and the Yanks
would give you even then a couple of dollars for a bottle of beer and that was a lot of money and so I thought it was better to sell it 'cos I didn't need it and it was just one of those things.
Q: Now I presume that in Port Moresby that the centre of your activities would have been the operations room. Where was the operations room in relation to the camp?
A: Well it was right there but it was set apart. See all that the people did
who were at Moresby were either involved in taking down Morse Code or, this is Jap code kana, or were there for the reasons of intelligence or administration or cooking and that sort of business so it was a complete unit as such it was getting further away from the action all the time we had a few
raids when we first went there but they petered out because of the fact that the war was moving quite swiftly and it was so swift at one stage the Yanks had to sort of watch out for their lines of communication that they got a bit long.
Q: Could you describe the operations room for us?
A: Yes it's just an ordinary room with nothing on the floor except boards and round. It's more like a room
where you'd have shelving and you might have shelving on two sides of it probably three receiving sets on each of the shelves and then in a room attached would be the intelligence people and they would, I never went into the intelligence room because it was a specialist thing you didn't sort of and you were never even asked
you didn't ask the intelligence people could you go in but they would tell you I've had them breath down my neck a bit when there was some real hot stuff coming over and they were sort of grabbing the paper you know to take it out there because that's how it goes.
Q: Would the intelligence people themselves be doing the translation or would they pass that onto a cipher clerk?
A: No I understand that they could do so much but other than that
they passed it on but the Americans in all that I've read about it they really had all the codes and everything else and they seemed to be particularly good at that part of it but not so good at taking it down.
Q: The Americans? In terms of speed and reflexes?
A: Yes that right that is why they wanted us to do it you see.
Q: You had the skill
A: Yeah it was just basic it just happened that we could do it better.
Q: Could you talk about what you actually did in Port Moresby and for how long you were there and just talk us through some of the thing that you did do there.
A: In Port Moresby there were natives to quite an extent there and they were roaming in the camps at times and they didn't cause
us any trouble but we didn't go in huge trips away etc we might have gone out for the day and taken some photographs I think of Rouna Falls are in that part of New Guinea and that was a very pretty place but put it this way the whole thing was around intercepting and
although it was nice to get away for awhile, we might have played baseball with the Yanks I'm sure we did again we weren't with the Americans but there were Americans there in another unit and we fraternised with those to a degree and we'd go into town say or but the war was the thing you were thinking of all the time it wasn't as if you were having a good time
Q: Where was the war up to
at that stage when you were there in Moresby?
A: Well when we were in Moresby the war was in the Milne Bay bit and heading westward the closest we got to the war before Leyte was at Biak and we went straight in there as soon as it was made stable
Q: So while you were at Moresby what sort of messages were you receiving? Can you recall some of the
key messages that might have indicated?
A: No. Not at Moresby. We were still not in the front set-up of things I think we were virtually still be practised at Moresby there is an efficiency you get with it like everything else I suppose but we went I don't think top proficient operational at Moresby we were at Nadzab and I think that
was the big crutch of things because right on the American base there also as I said with the big bombers and everything all the time coming in and taking off and this was a real forward move by the Americans.
Q: So if we look to what you are actually doing in Port Moresby was it primarily still training?
A: I think that it was having our first experience at operational stuff on a war footing.
Q: Were the
messages you were receiving being passed on or was it still
A: I'm sure they were still being passed on but I think they were also being taken as well by people higher up than us I think they worked out that the proficiency was the big thing that they needed and they achieved the proficiency it was well organised and it startled the Americans to think that is was so well done.
Q: Were you interacting with any Americans in Moresby?
A: No not
particularly, only socially there was no real interaction.
Q: What sort of people did they strike you as socially?
A: Very loose in their attitude when I say to that, oh come in buddy, how are you?, you know there lifestyle was different from ours it was a looser type of lifestyle meaning that they
weren't under such, well they were under command, but the thing with them is I enjoyed watching Hogan Heroes which is a thing that's on here now on Fox every night its on at 7 o'clock and it is absurd to the extreme but its typical of general American deal on a base there looser than we are on command it's not the British deal and this is the main
thing between them the Brits and the Americans its been right through.
Q: So this looseness you're referring to means that they weren't standing on the same kind of ceremonies that the Australians were.
A: No more casual, very much more casual.
Q: Did you find that a welcome situation.
A: Oh yes it was quite different. They seemed to be nice people or I know they are but it was different it was quite a different set-up you know and all the black Americans were the drivers of the trucks
as I said before and they were very generous if they were driving a truck you could always hail them and they would take you anywhere.
Q: Were their any exceptions to that rule for the black Americas were any of them in other positions for instance?
A: No I didn't see any black Americans in positions in those days they were very much doing menial sort of tasks.
Q: People have spoken about that even within Australia during World War Two there was a kind
of separation of black from white
A: Well that's right that's the case and even in America today it doesn't always go over you know if they take over a street in a town then you can forget the street because it goes down in value terrifically and that's one of the fears of the whole thing but there are some very wonderful people who are black Americans but they generally well they've come from Africa you see and Africa
forebears and that and they being a lower class of people which you can understand I think Americans have done very well with their black Americans I really do.
Q: So what was your view of the New Guinea natives at that time?
A: Well they just seemed to be a very don't care lot they're not reliable generally and that's been proved here ever since the war and thy have had so many Prime Ministers
and this sort of thing that Australia's got a liability up there especially with Bougainville and these places Australia's had to virtually go in there and see that they run properly so that there big thing about them is that there not administrators or top brass people like that there the more work type people and they can't manage a lot.
They really can't.
Q: Did you have much to do with New Guineans during World War Two?
A: No. Not a great lot. I saw them more when I was over there in '70. They're not impressive, they're not impressive at all. You treat them more like Fijians and that sort of thing where they've got there local villages and all that and that's an important factor you see and they're used to village life a lot of them they don't live in great houses and this sort of business.
Q: A real sense of local community.
A: Yeah local community. Very good in the local community, that's where Rotary helped them so much with the local community setup.
Q: Can we talk more specifically then about the move to Nadzab and what changes this brought for you.
A: Right it was a big move and I was there six months where as Moresby you see
I was only there about five months but having come from training at Townsville it was a different setup we went to Nadzab as fully fledged people I had never heard of it before and I think a lot of people have never heard about it now but it is in the Markham Valley a very lush area, very lush area and it was a pleasure to be there because you get a night breeze
but still mosquitoes we always used to sleep under mosquito nets in any case that was an issue it was issued for your mosquito net and even at Moresby there the mosquitoes were very bad but Nadzab was a nice place we were under American domination there and we got American food and we mixed with the Americans very much more than we had
previously as I said to you we could see the whole going ons with the airstrip with all the bombers and fighters and all that business which was very interesting. We could play cricket there and we played a few games of baseball it was because we got the locals in to cut the Kunai grass down and it was very funny with the Kunai grass its full of scrub typhus apparently and one day we were going
somewhere on the back of the truck that a black American was driving and we had an air-raid and the air-raid signals went off and everything else and he stops the truck and he says, Kunai grass, here I come and he just dived in the middle of it so that he wasn't with the truck you see that's there type of thing they act on impulse terrific lot they're reliable they're good drivers they drive too fast but they're
terrific drivers. Brilliant drivers.
Q: I had no idea that Kunai grass was a conductor of scrub typhus can you explain how that could be?
A: Well it's an insect and it lives apparently amongst the Kunai grasses you see some of it can be six feet high and there is a terrible lot of it up near Markham Valley.
Q: What sort of insect are we talking about?
A: The scrub typhus insect it gives you I believe it's got something to
do with typhoid and it I have never experienced it but we were always told not to go roaming in it and this is what we were instructed.
Q: No you say when you got there you were under American domination does that mean you were under American command?
Q: How did this come to pass?
A: Well because the Americans wanted us. They realised we had something going for us that they couldn't dominate
and they realised that our efficiency in it was the way to go.
Q: How many of you were there that the Americans wanted?
A: Quite a number. I would say there would have been oh I'd put it at fifty but there were different types of people as well and it opened up quite a bit we sort of caught up with some others there to lose them all again a bit later
it was just a how it happened but it was a very established camp we had, very good and we used to go round the place taking photographs of different things and the food was good and there was a chapel they built there for church services which was a very nice chapel and we just felt that we were more important at Nadzab and that we really had the thing going well
now I tell you who do you remember John West on radio here on 2BL he was with a unit and he was broadcasting on an FM radio, community radio at Nadzab. He was at school with me he was at Fort Street with me, he was the deputy of the class captain and I was class captain and he was the deputy so I got to know John quite well.
Q: Was he up there with the ABC?
A: Yeah I think he was.
You see the Australians helped New Guinea so much by sending people like that and he was up there he was programming and everything, announcing.
Q: This is simultaneous with your presence in the Nadzab area?
A: Yeah. It was about a mile from where we were and they had a hospital that was set up very well too and if you had anything wrong with you, you could go on sick leave and go to the hospital and see a doctor.
Q: Now you've implied or
indicated some way that there were already operators up there. You were by no means the first group to go up there?
A: I think we were the first group but I think another group come from somewhere else and that we were all simultaneously arriving.
Q: So can you talk me through the process which led to the Americans wanting you as a group?
A: Not from specific noticing it, nothing like that
but from what I heard we could not find other people taking down the kana and on enquiry we found that everyone of the Americans that were doing it were commissioned people and getting a huge pay situation out of it but they weren't achieving the success of it and they weren't doing it to such a point that in things that have been
written about it I think I've shown you they commend us for what we did and the fact that because of us we shortened the war by two years.
Q: Were the Americans that were doing it older on average?
A: Yes. Yeah a little bit older. Well the commissioned people I would say that they were the 25-30 group they weren't as young as us generally we had a few people a bit older than us but not a great lot
only about 3 or 4, 5 years.
Q: This may account for it then.
A: Oh it could, it could yes definitely. They didn't see the accuracy of it was needed that we could reduce but that they didn't seem to have its attitude I think they didn't have the attitude.
Q: From your conversations with the Americans did anyone put into words why you as a group of Australians had been chosen?
A: No. We particularly noted it because
later on General Akin was just absolutely ecstatic with what we'd done and MacArthur issued an edict that to take us away from Australian command to their command and to send certain people immediately to Biak and there is another island there called Awai and all the intercept was done by our troops
in Awai and Biak and the Americans were not involved in intercept and he gave instructions that that was to happen
Q: You described the Markham Valley and the general vicinity. What was Nadzab itself? Was it a town?
A: No it's just a place apparently. There was just a village virtually that it was no big deal you see it is not far from Lae and that's up on the coast and it took about an hour
to get to Lae.
Q: So there was a native local village there was it?
A: Yeah, more or less when I went back in the '70's you couldn't even see where the strip was because it was forty years later.
Q: So you were on the edge of the strip?
A: About a mile away.
Q: About a mile away. I presume you are operating in an operations hut. How was that compared to the one in Port Moresby?
A: Yes that's right. It was better it was one thing the Americans did well wherever they
were located they saw that they got the best available so this is why we thought it was great getting your tucker from them because it was definitely better than what we ever had.
Q: Can you describe the American tucker?
A: Yeah. We used to get pancakes for breakfast and we'd get grapefruit, segments of it as well as just the juice we had butter for the first time and beautiful rolls
and that sort of thing and then they got onto the ham and eggs which is a very favourite American setup rather than bacon you don't get a lot of grills with them they don't go for grills a great lot or especially with wartime food but it was great stuff compared to what we used to get and then we got coffee and of course we weren't old enough to really know about coffee then and you didn't have a lot of it in Australia pre-war
there was not much coffee it was mainly tea this is the British deal again you see so that we got to know American way of life this was to help me later on greatly because I understood probably a lot better than most people did when they come in touch with them.
Q: To get back to the operations room and how much better it was than Port Moresby, in what ways was it better?
A: It was a bit bigger I remember quite well and not only that but there was an efficiency about it that seemed to be
well it was my style of thing I liked that I thought it was good to have that efficiency.
Q: In what ways was that?
A: Well in the conduct of people, the people who were the intelligence people and everything the giving out of daily routine orders and all this sort of thing seemed to be done in a more efficient way.
Q: Who was in command of you at this stage?
A: There was a Flying Officer,
an Australian but he was under direct control of the Americans.
Q: And the Americans were what the US air force
A: Yes. As a matter of fact it was the Fifth Air Force, the American Fifth Air Force and we were with them there at Nadzab and also at Biak and we were very much under their command.
Q: Right. So it was in Nadzab that you actually really got down
A: Oh yes and we knew it was going to happen at Nadzab because there was quite often a plane that would come back from a bomber particularly that was damaged and you would see them landing and often two or three of them caught fire because they couldn't quite make the strip and all that we knew we weren't far off it at Nadzab and we weren't because it was from Nadzab that the Americans really got that advance going in a big way.
Q: So you would actually see planes approaching in flames?
A: Not in flames but on contact with the ground you see as I mentioned before there were no concrete or bitumen, as they called them, strips, the strips they landed on was that mesh, steel mesh that was buried into the grass so it stabilised it and so that's what the strips are made of and that is different from when we went to
Biak because the coral
Q: So they would land and burst into flames?
A: Yeah, some of them. Due to damage they would only come in on two engines instead of four and this sort of thing you see.
Q: Would they be crash landing?
A: More or less yeah, just made base we've seen we used to see different people parachuting out of them and that sort of thing too. We weren't on site with them there you know like in their air force deal but we could see it all going on.
Q: You could
see it out the windows in the operations room
A: We could, we could see it from our camp it was because the Markham, it is called a valley, and we were on the other side of valley from them where they were landing it was we knew that we were getting close at Nadzab, we found out we were at Biak.
Q: John we've got to make a correction in terms of nationalities of certain ships.
A: Yes this was in Leyte Gulf and the two cruisers that were there were the Australia and the Shropshire were Australian cruisers I think I might have said American but they're Australian cruisers I will talk a little more about it when we get to Leyte.
Q: Now were talking of Nadzab and we referred to the fact that this was the first time
that you were really on line terms of results. Can you talk about what you were achieving there?
A: Yes it was obvious to us at Nadzab that practice did make perfect and it become a natural thing to do rather than something you might feel a little bit hazy about or you wouldn't feel you were so confident but as we went on and we took this down that this thirty and over
I can tell you it was more than thirty words a minute quite a lot of the time it become apparent that we were getting better at it and it is like anything in life I would suggest to you and later on I will just explain it to you that when we got to Leyte how important we were to the effort completely it wasn't just a part of it we were it and that's how the thing went. Now Nadzab gave us an opportunity to do that because it was getting closer to the
front and we were all very much aware at Nadzab that it wouldn't be too long before we were going further on and getting part of it and especially seeing all this Fifth Air Force stuff that was landing and being damaged and going out in the middle of the night on bombing raids and all these things it was nearly on for us and that's what it was.
Q: You used the term we were it, can you specify in what way you were you it?
A: Well we were it
for our part that it was important that we weren't just doing this thing and it was part of the war effort what we did was important to the Allies not just to us and that's the thing that we had to get into our mind.
Q: Can you talk about your achievements in terms of results in Nadzab? By results I mean knowing the information you were passing on was getting results.
A: No not
at Nadzab no. Later on I will talk about that because it was fundamental in the war being won but not at Nadzab we were just getting nearly there as it were but what we did was excellent but by the same token it wasn't the ultimate that we could do but we were improving all the time and it was becoming a real part of us instead of just an exercise.
Q: At Nadzab you were receiving Japanese messages. You were writing them down.
A: Oh yes and writing them down and they were being decoded and being fixed up from that point of view but I think they were being compared with another lot being written down from other groups round about who proceeded us but as it turned out our particular unit of six
wireless units it become a real thing it was the thing that MacArthur praised that Akin praised and become so relevant that we got messages through that thanks to 6WU this happened but that didn't happen at that point it was just a bit further on.
Q: You've referred to comparisons being made with other units with this had been with?
A: Wireless units that had
had more experience.
Q: And they were now out of the field or they moved elsewhere.
A: No they've moved elsewhere they moved on just a little bit there was a Awai was an island not far off Biak and then there was Biak and this is where we become a real part so that in this lush Markham Valley which it was and its known for being lush with the high Kunai grass and all these
things it was a great time to sort of relax to a degree before we really got stuck into it that's the way to look at it because you see as far as Nadzab was concerned we were there March, April, May, June, about five months.
Q: When you say relax you are you including in that statement recreation activities?
A: Recreational activity was playing cricket or we
might have a game of football or baseball and we also enjoyed many films at that time because the Americans were really hot on getting films we saw a lot of films and it was a pleasant time it really was the calm before the storm.
Q: How long did that time last?
A: Well about five months at Nadzab.
Q: And you were a group of what six Australians?
A: No, not at that stage we had a unit at Nadzab or part of about fifty people who were taking down Morse Code and Japanese kana and we were part of a bigger group there but it all started to happen when we left there because some went some places and went other places where we went of course was always towards the front
Q: Fifty people who were
what a mixture of Americans and Australians?
A: No they were all Australians. They were all Australians
Q: Did all these people remain operators?
A: As far as I know it become very local you see because as we went on it we seemed to get less in number but more in expertise you lose track of people because your not with them you see and that's what had happened when we become the
foreign legion there were only twenty-four us and that twenty-four were a very cemented group that did a terrific amount of work as 6 Wireless Unit.
Q: At Nadzab were you under American control and command?
A: Not command just at the end we were otherwise it was just American supplies and all that type of thing food and we were part of that.
Q: I suppose what I am also looking at
while you were at Nadzab is was predominantly RAAF organisation in terms of who organised what was happening.
A: Yes we were all in the RAAF except some people in the Intelligence Section were in the army.
Q: Who was in charge of you while you were at Nadzab
A: A flying officer, a RAAF Flying Officer.
Q: And what was his name?
A: Foster. Foster.
He did a good job. Quentin Foster.
Q: What was his role on a day to day basis?
A: Well his role on a day to day basis was wasn't a severe character role it was just to see from what I gleaned that the thing was flowing well as a unit and in very much direct contact with the American forces and this is where we
were able to build up ourselves with ability and dedication and those sort of things because it was very much a strenuously done it was done so that it would be without error.
Q: So with this group of fifty people were you still attending lectures and forms of instruction?
A: Not many forms of instruction no we were if
there was anything that we needed to know that was special we learnt that but generally speaking we were doing a regular course of interception.
Q: How many of you would be working in the operations room at any one time?
A: At Nadzab I'd say there'd be about ten.
Q: And what would the others be doing?
A: well the others you see if you take ten and you take four
shifts of five hours each well that's getting into numbers quite a bit because you only do one shift and the shifts were about five hours and often Dog Watch was about five hours sometimes six it depended on just what the situation was. You see it was very intense just sitting down and taking down Morse Code hour by hour you've got to have a break take the phones off and just have a break ten minutes here
and there and that what its about.
Q: You'd be sitting I presume at a desk?
A: Yes at a desk. No not a desk more at a bench.
Q: And would you have the radio receiver in front of you
A: No. You would put it a little to the side so you could work as well usually with our left hand and write with our right hand you see.
Q: Working in terms of volume
A: Both. Volume and frequency.
Q: So there would be two sets of knobs for those.
A: Oh yeah. Yes.
Q: And what you would have a notepad?
A: Yes we had a pad that was very like an A4 pad and it would be ruled down with columns about five columns to the page and you took it down across the page.
Q: Across the page and then onto the next line obviously.
A: Yeah that's right.
Q: Using a fountain
pen, a pencil?
A: Mostly a pencil but the thing with it was that neatness was very much to the fore because as neat as it was it would be more intelligent and that also could be decoded easier if it was neat and that was quite often one of the guys would come in and say, ah, there is a neat page.
Q: How many decoders
were working there at Nadzab?
A: There'd be about six.
Q: And they'd be working in the same room..
A: Yes in a separate room yes. I've just checked out a couple of things about those too and I will tell you about it later on.
Q: And presumably they would be working on a rotational shift basis.
A: Oh yes, they were on a shift basis they were governed by our shifts so there were quite a few of those around you see five or six of those on each shift so this come up to the compliment
of the fifty.
Q: before we move on to Biak which was obviously a field of greater achievement. Are there any other aspects about Nadzab that we haven't covered?
A: No I don't think so seeing all the films was something that gave us great joy and as well as that we used to have leave for a day and we could go into Lae and it was quite a
dirty run because it was a dirt road and we would get in the back of trucks and that sort of thing just standing up while but you could get relief from the boredom, the so called boredom of it this was it
Q: Could you give us a description of Lae at that time?
A: Not particularly no. Well it had a lot of strafing and bombing and the big thing about that is
that is when that happens you see the coconut palms just lopped off etc because that's what happened when a shell went through it and it is such a desolate scene when you see a lot of these at all odd angles and everything else and boats say on the beach all pranged up it was desolate the scene it got better all the time because the war moved on from there
but Lae had quite a [indecipherable] and Finschhafen which wasn't very far from Lae was a very much attacked place. You see a lot of these attacks took place by the Japanese on the beaches they come in off the sea they mostly didn't parachute in or anything like that they actually invaded from the sea and that's what I will tell you about later because the loss of life was unbelievable.
Q: So with Lae and Finschhafen you are basically describing places that had only recently been attacked
A: Yes they hadn't been attacked that long in the last six months put it that way.
Q: You mention picture shows. Were they happening on a nightly basis?
A: Pretty well a nightly basis you used just take a long a can, or a can which was like a petrol can that type of thing, cushion if you had one and you might get
a plank a couple of props either end and you'd sit there say three or four of you and that was usually a one show, one picture show and it lasted for say up to an hour an a half but it was very great relaxation.
Q: Do you remember any particular titles?
A: No but I remember that John Wayne come and visited us on one occasion there and he went right through New Guinea I think and there were others as well but it is very hard to concentrate
back on titles then I think some of the titles are in my diary but they're not in my head.
Q: You mentioned just the one feature film were you also being screened newsreels?
A: No. We didn't see a lot of newsreels. I used to love those Foxton's newsreels but we didn't see a great lot of those we used to get some news through these daily routine order
sheets that might have come out of a newspaper somewhere because it was the orderlies rooms job to print those and make them available and if they saw any news around like for instance there had been a bombing raid and so many planes shot down they would give us this information all the time.
Q: Just getting back to the picture show, was it a permanent picture show or one of these travelling mobile cinema trucks?
A: Very much a
makeshift screen and that and be propped up and all these things.
Q: So we're not talking about a permanent venue.
A: Oh no, no. and while you were watching the picture show you might have an air-raid and so it would be held up for half an hour. Nothing was permanent.
Q: Did many of the locals come in and watch the picture?
A: yeah a few locals come from time to time the fuzzy wuzzies and they
got on very well with Australians they really did. The Australians were kind to them they would go to the mess and get some food and those sort of things at times as well. There diet was quite different as well especially from the American diet.
Q: When John Wayne visited, what happened then?
A: Well he just came as an ordinary person and he didn't wear any great uniform or anything he had a open necked shirt on and that
he was very unassuming, very unassuming he got a great ovation and that sort of business but it was all part of the scene etc.
Q: Did he deliver a speech at all?
A: No not really just to say hello guys, pleased to see you, keep up the good work sort of business it was nice complimentary sort of few words.
Q: It sounds like a morale boosting tour basically.
A: Well it was you see. That's why he was there really
Q: I think Gary Cooper and several others toured as well
A: And that's why the pictures were on for to get our minds off what we were doing and it was quite good stuff it was a good way to go.
Q: Always American movies?
A: Oh yes that would be right, yes all the time.
Q: Because of course British films were starting to make a mark at that time.
A: Yes that's right.
Q: Alright so moving us on to Biak
what was the first you knew that you'd be travelling to Biak?
A: About a week before we went because they'd been having great success with bombings and all this sort of thing the battle for Biak was one of the bloodiest ones in the whole war up to Leyte because it was this coral island and it took a long while to take instead of a walk over and there were a lot of losses on it the Japanese lost a lot of people
on it and the Americans lost a lot and they landed on the wrong beach and this sort of thing you know just like the ANZAC business and that can happen you see because you are dealing with currents and water your in craft and they don't really know where they're going because they've got to follow instructions and quite often you see you got to change course because of ack-ack [anti-aircraft] fire from the shore. The Japs got a bit of surprise though the weight of the troops that
really landed at Biak but the supply lines as far as the American troops were concerned were getting a little bit extended and they were gradually getting things much quicker than they thought they ever would and this caused a bit of a problem and they had to have a bit of a hold up for awhile until they all caught up and there was another place called Awai that was another island some 150 miles from Biak and it had airstrips etc on it
and they captured this island and used they used it for the bombing of Biak because it wasn't so far to go not nearly so far as Nadzab so they used this island of Awai and with great success but it was a pretty torrid setup all the same with this coral island you've only got as I told you the foot of dirt at the top and rest of it was just hard, white coral it was just amazing. They had two
or three strips there and we were camped when we got there right besides one of the strips.
Q: Can you describe the journey to Biak?
A: Well I can describe it but it wasn't very exciting. All that happened was that we were in a military transport plane that took you around in and you sit in the military transport plane around the edges of it and all the equipment and everything is in the middle and generally pretty cold because
they flew at about ten thousand feet and there was no comfort in them at all and its not the case when you are flying forty thousand feet like they do today and they were quite slow compared with what you are talking about today and that sort of thing.
Q: Once you stepped down from the plane what were your first impression of the place?
A: The first impression of the place was I couldn't see a thing because of the coral
it is so white you couldn't see anything that's whiter and you wouldn't believe it.
Q: You're talking about the coral airfield?
A: The coral airfield. You see you weren't taking up to a waiting shed and looked after like if you travel now in a commercial aircraft it just went down there the plane just went down to the end of the strip the closest where they thought that you could go and you all just got out on the strip and straight onto this coral and we just couldn't believe it
if you had dark glasses on it didn't matter much but you see it was absolutely blinding and so we got out in terms of going places we didn't go very far at all because we set up our camp pretty well right next to the strip because the trouble was they with the coral they couldn't erect a lot of buildings and things like that because you couldn't have foundations
and we didn't have cement or anything it was usually done by wood and those sorts but you couldn't drive the wood into the coral.
Q: So what did the camp consist of?
A: The camp consisted of American tents, there square as you probably know there not like an Australian tent there more of a square then and there were quite a lot of Americans there doing all sorts of things they weren't just operators of they were American troops and
transport people, people that were getting ready for things and issuing instructions and that type they were very kind to us they were very ready to say hello and discuss themselves you know where are you going and we didn't know where we were going then but it didn't take us long to find out they didn't know either there security was pretty right and they were all
in this war and they knew that it was on it was really savage. Biak was the greatest mess that I've ever seen it was just shattered and there were a lot of hills and low mountains and the Japs never got out of those dugouts sort of things for quite awhile they were still in them a month after Biak was taken because they just had to sort of stay in there and fend for themselves they root them out as they were
seen but they didn't cause any trouble because they had no weapons and it was at Biak that quite a few of them used to sit around at the pictures in the back rows and have a look at it.
Q: And nobody minded?
A: Nobody minded because the Americans had their guards all around everything and they guarded our camps and tents at night and that sort of thing.
Q: Did you personally see any Japanese on Biak?
A: Oh yeah. There was no trouble that. Very bedraggled, very bedraggled and small people that was the first impression.
They were smallish people and bedraggled.
Q: What was their attitude?
A: Well their attitude they didn't speak English most of them and they were just herded like do this and do that and they knew what that meant they looked too when you saw them very much conquered because they'd been in battle for quite awhile on Biak they put up a great resistance much to the surprise of the Americans.
Q: You used the terms routed out was there any efforts being made to actually go up there and take them out by force?
A: Oh yes out of the caves etc. When it was pretty much established that it was alright we went up in all these areas when we were on leave etc for a day just to have a look at them oh and there were a lot went on in these caves I can tell you there was a lot of entertainment by geisha girls that had been there and that sort of thing
it was quite an island of substance and I think it was a great disappointment to Japan that they lost it so quickly because it was a real fort base and they thought you see because of the coral and the difficulty of taking it that they were pretty safe there.
Q: Had they dug these tunnels or caves?
A: No they were in the cliffs overhanging the
there airport which was on the sea level more and they rose up a bit like just say like a volcanic cliff would and most of these were coral.
Q: So they contained natural caves which the Japanese had moved into basically.
A: Oh yes that type of thing but they also lived there rather than in tents or anything like that and that was where it was difficult to capture the place because with aircraft fire and ack-ack
and all this sort of thing it was quite different because you couldn't see the enemy a lot of the time and these shots would appear out of caves where guns were and everything like that and it was really bad news for a while.
Q: So when you were there approximately how many Japanese were still on the island?
A: There could've been up to two or three thousand.
Q: Now how many of you RAAF men from the
WU had actually gone to Biak in this one consignment?
A: As far as we were concerned the twenty-four of us were there.
Q: The twenty four that had been at Nadzab went straight through to Biak.
A: That's right we went to Biak and we were there about five weeks.
Q: You were there for a total of five weeks?
A: Five weeks at Biak.
Q: So once again there was an operations room obviously?
A: Yes there was an operations room but
I think it was in a tent I don't think it was a building because there were no buildings standing at Biak there was nothing standing it had just been flattened it really and I would say I just can't remember exactly but I would say there was an operations room was in a tent.
Q: Now at this point you were under American command?
A: Oh yes very much so we were there because General MacArthur said we were to be moved there
that's how it was it was his direct command, he issued a headquarters order.
Q: Do you know why he wanted you there?
A: Yes because he reckoned we could do the work better the Australian intercept was much better than anything he'd ever seen he issued instructions that we were to be under that we were taken off RAAF command
into his GHQ General Headquarters command.
Q: Did you have any Australian predecessors?
Q: You were in the vanguard were you?
A: We were in the vanguard of that he asked for us to be in the Biak, Hollandia transfer and then Hollandia in the fleet to Leyte our twenty-four.
Q: So at what point and that would include where were you when they made the decision
that they wanted you there in Biak?
A: Well just before we left Nadzab that's when the issue the command come through and it was a secret naturally headquarters demand.
Q: Had you had Americans observing your work?
A: Well I think that's right you see because all the intelligence had to go back to Americans situations because the air force
had to get there instructions from someone and so our intercept and what we did and took down that was sent back to American command. It's quite obvious.
Q: I see so they obviously looked at this and thought?
A: You see this is what it was about. Yes you see there were so many results of accuracy as to when an invasion was going to happen and in fact there was one case that they didn't believe that it was so accurate and they didn't do enough about it and they lost a few people.
Q: What was that case?
A: This was the case further down, Finschhafen was one place that they lost people at that they shouldn't have but the accuracy of the whole thing was not just taken for granted it was really proved as it were.
Q: Can we just stay with Finschhafen for a moment had this been any information that you had passed on?
A: No we didn't know anything about Finschhafen but it happened down there with other WU units
and who were earlier than us but they our work come in for the battle of Biak from Awai and Nadzab and then when we went to Biak and we started on command we started taking down our intercept bit that strengthened the whole thing straight away but we really got our
orders as a result of the latter part of our Nadzab operation.
Q: Just going back to Finschhafen for a moment because this intrigues me you referred to the other WU units were they operating entirely under RAAF command?
Q: So they weren't part of the American infrastructure at that time?
A: No this was the first time that America had taken over the intercept.
Q: Was Biak very much an American controlled island?
A: Oh yeah totally there were no people on it that were Australians except us.
Q: Just before we move onto your work on Biak in further detail, I'm intrigued a little further about these caves, you mentioned geisha girls I mean what sort of things went on in there.
A: Well you see the geisha girl entertains the Japanese in great strength and when we went to Japan we appreciated it and saw just what went on and we saw films about
it and that type of thing and that's there chief entertainment angle its very big time thing in Japan.
Q: A geisha girl is basically a hostess.
A: Basically a hostess.
Q: With a non sexual connotation.
A: No, no there are sexual connotations with it as well.
Q: Is with it as well?
A: Oh yeah. You see they had a big setup in Biak and that would be especially done for officers and higher ranks and they would
have lived like this.
Q: Did you ever hear of other forms of prostitution among the Japanese?
A: No not particularly that was the one we heard of greatly and saw evidence of at Biak it was obviously something that the Japs thought they had for quite some time and they didn't they were moved on it was quite something. It was Dutch you realise that.
Q: Biak was Dutch in the first place.
A: Yeah, Dutch. Biak and
Hollandia were both Dutch.
Q: Apart from the geisha girls and obviously the troops in the caves what other Japanese people were living in the caves? Were there women and children for instance?
A: No not Japanese it didn't get to that it was wartime people there through wartime but I would say there was quite a good officer setup there because it was a real base and I don't think they ever thought it was going to happen
so quickly that they wouldn't be there.
Q: Were the geishas treated properly as geishas or did you get the impression?
A: Oh they would be, oh yes it was all very proper.
Q: It was all very proper according to Japanese tradition.
A: Top level stuff, oh yes.
Q: So they weren't being treated just as any ordinary comfort women?
A: You see its part of everyday Japanese life even now it's all organised in a very big
way when you can go to Japan you can go to these bars for instance you probably seen pictures of this and you can pick up a geisha any time you like but this would have been on very top level stuff for officers this is what I'm talking about.
Q: Comfort women elsewhere were probably for the lower ranks. We've heard all kinds of stories about that.
A: But there was terrific loss of life there and we saw very little evidence of any
local people at Biak we only saw Japanese and then the Americans who for there part were living there like we were you see besides the strip where we were camped this was the American Fifth Air Force and these are the people that were doing all the good work that was resulting from our intelligence and they were so accurate with it because we were accurate
and this what the whole thing you see in a thing that was written it was stated I think I showed you this yesterday that the war was shortened by two years because of our work there in intelligence.
Q: Right so let's look at what you are suddenly able to achieve at Biak. Can we talk about your actual work there and your achievements because you foreshadowed this on a couple of occasions?
A: Yes well what happened there
air raids were frequent because we had taken over a big base and as well as that we were right next to the air force was this was all American stuff and they were still Japanese raids were still taking place on places further down like Lae and Finschhafen and down that way and they were coming over Biak to still bomb that and we'd be
in our tents taking this stuff down of a night and you'd hear the planes flying over as I told you before but it wasn't just one or two planes there'd be squadrons of twenty-five and twenty and all this sort of business but we knew how many were in it because when they called up their base and everything else they all called up with a number after the call sign as I said to you and we knew how many people were in it and we knew where they would be going we knew the time they gave all this out it and so it sounds
terribly elementary but this is the extent that the code had been broken the extent that they were being simplistic in what they were doing on their morse key and in their planes etc and the Americans couldn't believe I don't think at one stage that they were getting the information that was so accurate on the spot and I think I mentioned before that one time before
they were ten minutes late and they just made fun of that because it was so accurate you know but it was very, very top stuff.
Q: How quickly were you able to hit your stride in Biak?
A: Pretty well straight away, pretty well straight away they wanted us there so badly that all the tents were ready for us when we got there so there wasn't a problem at all from that point of view.
Q: Did you start work immediately?
A: Yes pretty well immediately
and we worked in a tent there to I remember that quite well because as I say you couldn't put a building up in Biak except if you had some cement and all that sort of business and we didn't have time to get cement.
Q: So who was in charge of you in Biak? There must have been an American?
A: Yes a Flying Officer of some type.
Q: An Australian
A: It might have been Forster still; I'm not sure about that
because things were going a bit quickly at this stage and who was in charge of you didn't seem to matter much we had a job to do the intelligence people had a job to do as a result of what we did and it was just top level stuff and it went very quickly, time went by very quickly.
Q: Were the intelligence people Americans on Biak?
Q: So they were Australians again so it was an integrated Australian team of operators.
A: This is what the Americans wanted
they backed us in as it were to be the team they wanted.
Q: How many intelligence people were there on Biak?
A: Well out of the twenty four there would've been I would say six or eight and that meant that we worked pretty long because you see out of twenty-four say there were eighteen or sixteen well we had to do that twenty-four hours a day so there were only about four
on a shift though so that is how it worked.
Q: So you're on Biak it's obviously an urgent situation do you have a recollection of what kinds of crucial information you were receiving?
A: No we didn't know the type of crucial information we were receiving until we got further on we knew it was important we had no trouble taking it down because we were pretty efficient and obviously we
were efficient and the amount of information that come out of it you see there was not only a bombing raid what happened was that ship movements and everything else were given and on other frequencies there were another two or three frequencies that naval people used and we were onto those as well then and we were given some terrific information on it through this intercept of where a certain ship was where
a convoy was where they were steaming to how many people were on it when they expected there it was just as if it was a game of chance.
Q: So the information you were receiving were from all sectors of the Japanese service?
A: All sectors of Japanese service at that stage because we did find another two three or four I just forget the number of different frequencies that weren't aircraft.
Q: John continuing the story on Biak and from Biak.
A: Yes well we were in Biak from the 25th August 1944 until the 1st October 1944 and this was a time that when we knew things were hotting up because there had been these good results from our intercept etc
now while we were there General MacArthur sent a wire to General Akin who was in charge of all the intelligence section and he was one of six generals there were six generals altogether who looked after the American forces with MacArthur in charge and this insisted that the twenty-four men that he had placed under American control with an agreement from the Australian
Government and us leaving the RAAF being part of the American General Headquarters situation we were then taken to tent one day very close to the about a week before the 1st of October and we were told of the impending invasion of Leyte and that our troops would , the twenty-four of us, would be very much involved and that
General Akin had decided that four of us kana operators and two intelligence staff would go on PCEV -Patrol Convoy Escort Vessel 848 which was General Akin's ship and so it ended up then that within two couple of days we were fully loaded with all American equipment and we flew to Hollandia where the convoy was waiting and when
we got to Hollandia we were there altogether for nearly two weeks but the weather wasn't very good and he didn't want to start this convoy off until the weather improved now this was the biggest convoy that had ever been on water there were over six hundred ships and they included aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers and supply vessels and all these things and a lot of LST that's Landing Ship Transport [Landing Ship Tank]
and the others the eighteen others they all went on an LST with other people in fact and on that LST they had to lie and sleep between tanks or whatever the equipment was on it, it was a very uncomfortable trip especially as it was not a very wide vessel and it was very open and if the sea was a bit rough or anything you really copped it whereas we were on a ship that took
roughly about 150 people I suppose all up and we had bunks and everything else in it but like all ships especially naval ships and things like that it is very stuffy down below and I'm sure you understand that and I used to find that it was very difficult to sleep in those conditions and quite often during the week it took to get to Leyte I used to go up on deck and have some fresh air now so on these ships
also it took exactly a week to reach Leyte Gulf we only went at six knots the whole way and it was because of the water being stirred up that sort of thing and it was quite a difficult time because it was very hot you see you crossed the equator between Hollandia or Jayapura as its called today and Leyte so there was that to do and I think that we all know how hot it is at the
equator so we crossed the equator it was during one evening that that happened but there was no hilarity about that at all there was no hilarity on this ship full stop we had two pints of water fresh water each day on the ship and we used to sloosh ourselves with salt water which we used to dangle a bucket over the side to get and then finish off with lathering up a bit with the fresh water it was only the last night that we each got a bucket of fresh water
and after six or seven days that was pretty acceptable there was no doubt about that, now during the trip we were right up the front because he wanted us up the front to know that was going on you see there was a big discrepancy in the time factor of when ships further down in the convoy got there compared with us we were there just after invasion time and this
LST didn't come in for another couple of days because it was just only one of the ordinary transports so we were on duty and we were in General Akin's cabin with two very nice fine brand new interceptor sets and he told us as well taking down any frequencies that we knew of that we should try and roam a little bit to
see if we could pick up any other frequencies well now that was pretty successful because we did pick up a couple extra especially to do with shipping but what happened was the Japanese weren't expecting the Americans to take off on this convoy like they did and when a single Jap aircraft one morning saw the whole fleet as I've explained to you before the sending of the Morse Code on his Morse Code
set had a very great shivery attitude with it and he just couldn't believe I don't think it and on another occasion there were two planes that come over and they shot them down so there was no problem with them but they also employed and got the Japs involved in defending different islands on the way up like Borneo they had they very good set up
of Balikpapan and different places up there and they bombed them with another air force bombed them they had a couple of air forces up there as you realise the Americans did and the Australians they were doing that bombing but weren't involved in the convoy at all but they were engaging the Japs on all this other stuff so it took their minds off the fact or ever thought of a convoy going up there.
Q: There were a couple of Royal Australian Navy ships
in this convoy?
A: Yes they were the Shropshire and the Australia they were in the forefront too and I think I mentioned before that there were two aircraft carriers particularly one on each side of our ship that practised landings and take offs most of the time on the way up because this was a good thing to do but it was a very stuffy sort of situation we had to take down because it was pretty dramatic and it was all on us sort of business
but there was nothing we had to find out it was mainly to intercept anything that happened to that convoy on the way up that was the direction, when we got there it was different matter entirely.
Q: Anything happened to that convoy from the Japanese side you mean, so you were basically after intelligence from the Japanese on Japanese movements?
A: That's right on Japanese movements but they didn't have much movement as far as they were concerned because they really didn't
know about the convoy
Q: So there were no Japanese ships that approached?
A: No it was a very cheeky move, a very cheeky move but this is the way MacArthur was in the swing of it and he good generals taking ... a couple of them had a donnybrook on a couple of occasions on who should do this and who should do that but that was just the whole thing.
Q: Did you have a fair amount to do with General Akin?
A: Yes quite a lot he was a very affable man and he was the
type of man that'd say "Good to have you on board", and this type of thing and nothing was a problem for us to go into this cabin and to take all this down you see this particular ship I didn't have a lot of room on it that we were on and I think he thought the safest place to have the receiving sets was in his cabin and it was no trouble to go in and that and we had a great camaraderie with him and this followed up later with him just giving us all
the accolades all round the place and he felt he knew us so well that he could do this.
Q: And so the receiving sets were indeed in his cabin.
A: Oh yeah brand new ones and we've never seen the likes of them at all so we scouted round with different trying to find other frequencies and we did find a couple I remember that quite well.
Q: Could you compare those sets to the ones you'd been using?
A: No they were more up to date obviously yes and the reception was better on them the reception
was so clear in fact as we got on near the day that we reached Leyte the reception was so good that we could hear it without having our earphones on it was so loud and that was quite remarkable.
Q: In other words as had the earphones lying on the desk there you could actually hear it broadcasting through the earphones
A: Yeah that's right it was very loud and that is how clear it was and you see there are a lot of islands as you know in the Philippines group and
even when we got there it was very good reception it really was good.
Q: Now were the ships themselves carrying the aerials for these sets?
A: Oh yes they had aerials oh yes there was no doubt about that.
Q: So that would have helped and the fact that you were moving towards the Japanese probably would have helped?
A: They had everything on it that needed to have on it and General Akin was on it too so he was right up to date and a very nice man as I've said.
Q: So it was a fairly tense time was it?
A: Oh yes very tense because
it was like into the valley of death 600 and 600 was the number I've given you but that was very intense and you didn't know what to expect next.
Q: Did you feel stressed by this at all?
A: Not particularly the thing that got us down was the heat the oppressive heat it was very bad indeed
Q: Yes you said a very stuffy situation so even when you were in Akin's cabin using the sets?
A: Very stuffy. Yes there was no air-conditioning much in those days you see we are going back now a long way
Q: So that would have placed you under a lot of additional pressure.
A: Yes it did fans and that I seem to remember we had in it but its very difficult with heat to be doing a job that's a stressful sort of job and time goes slowly when that happens if the conditions aren't right the work isn't as right either.
Q: Did you find it very tiring?
A: Yes it was pretty tiring it was and it got into a worse situation when we got there you
see we were one week exactly on the water before we got to Leyte Gulf
Q: Could you describe your arrival in Leyte Gulf and then onto the island of Leyte itself?
A: Well the arrival in Leyte Gulf it was not like going onto a wharf or anything naturally but in Leyte Gulf itself when we got there the first thing we noticed going on was all the bombardment going on and that was due to the fact that the equipment and everything for that didn't come with our
invasion fleet to a great extent some of it was in the invasion fleet but it was the backup the main equipment come up independent of us and two days before we arrived they started bombarding and this was a terrible bombardment they threw everything at the Japs but the Japs got a bit of surprise with that but as the time went on they had big back up which caused the Americans a
lot of problems.
Q: So what could you see as you approached Leyte?
A: You could see you know how you see the volumes of smoke and bombs landing on places and all that that was the type of scene and the noise was pretty deafening as well and you could see in the distance landing craft going in so that it had been well prepared though and the intelligence on it had been terrific it wasn't our intelligence but the intelligence he had on it was terrific.
Q: So the land was being shelled by sea and being bombed by air was it?
A: Yes that's right the bombing was taking place as well and especially the carrier bombing.
Q: Just returning to a statement you made a moment ago about it being a stressful situation for you how did you deal with the stress?
A: By not thinking too much about what it was I think that was the only way to go because there it was not a day in those days that you could talk stress over
with anyone today its become fashionable thing that if you're stressed you go and get consulted and you go and get help with it but there's no help then you just had to get in and out of a situation there was no other way you didn't console one another much I don't know why but perhaps it was because we were good at the work, the four of us I mean, as well as pretty reliable customers
I mean we probably had a pretty good rapport with everyone and they very responsible people the four people taking down that Morse Code, the Jap code kana, they were responsible people but they weren't the type to burst into laughter you know just throw up signals and do the wrong thing they were really dedicated people and I think that is why they were chosen as well.
Q: Was it
on this stage of the journey that you saw the kamikaze aircraft crash into HMAS Australia?
A: No it was when we landed, when we arrived at Leyte Gulf that that happened on the first afternoon and that was a pretty terrible setup because it was a very good shot as far as the kamikaze aircraft were concerned because they picked the bridge out and landed and it was a terrible setup of course and you couldn't imagine an aircraft, look it was no different from the
planes crashing into the building in New York it was that type of thing that you couldn't believe that an aircraft would specially bounce into a ship
Q: If you saw this could you take us through moment by moment what you did see with the kamikaze aircraft?
A: Oh the kamikaze aircraft, well on the day that we arrived
there was very little kamikaze activity the Japs generally didn't have a lot of activity in the air at all they weren't prepared for it but as the days went on it become very much more evident that there was going to be a big fight over everything and when a kamikaze plane comes in your not sure whether it is a dive bomber or a kamikaze plane and it comes usually fly's in its best setup is when you have clouds
it comes out of the clouds unseen and before they can do much with it, it crashes pilot and all and the pilots of course have a going away ceremony and everything else in Japan is what they did it was a very noble thing to do for your Emperor and the people of Japan to be a pilot its just like in our war of the Middle East where they have bombs planted around them and they go in for the kill and there
just blown to bits but these had all sorts of things in them that tore things apart it wasn't the bomb itself went off and then the shrapnel stuff in it, it just sprayed everywhere and killed people as it went.
Q: So that gives us the overall context of how they worked could you describe for me what you saw on that occasion?
A: Yes well I saw that happen, I saw the plane go out of the clouds
Q: Almost like you are reliving it like a movie sequence
could you tell us could you describe for us almost walk through what you saw happen there?
A: Well we suddenly arrived in a situation that was war territory and we had never seen this before to this extent we'd never seen the results of it before but now here we were and some of us two at a time would be sitting down at the receiving set monitoring
frequency's for approaching aircraft and this sort of thing and we did quite a bit of this and got some good results out of it, it was very good indeed and it meant that for intelligence that they were able to tell folk that there was a squadron coming in, it had so many planes in it and it was timed and all these sort of things and now as well as that
there's great activity on the water and Leyte Gulf was full of ships and a lot of them weren't that very far apart and its just a hive activity of people carrying out instructions, firing guns and the Americans always fired five times the number of rounds that they need tried to hit aircraft that were coming down and flying over and dropping ordinary bombs not kamikaze planes
particularly at all and it was general mayhem that's the best way to describe it we did not know for instance we were on constant alert and we got had to keep our life jackets on and tin hats on all the time because the shrapnel that was coming down from the guns as they fired the shrapnel is deadly as you realise because it is just lead
and if you get hit by that you haven't got much hope.
Q: Now when the kamikaze went into the HMAS Australia where were you?
A: We were under a hundred yards to its left.
Q: Were you standing on the shore line?
A: No we weren't on the shore.
Q: You hadn't arrived on the shore line. You were in the gulf. You were still onboard the ship you had been travelling on.
A: Oh yes. Oh yes.
Q: I know you've told me bits of the story until now but could take me through moment by moment of what you saw.
A: Well it was in the afternoon and the noise was very deafening as I say because guns were being fired and aircraft were overhead and it is like one of those pictures that you see of complete mayhem everything happening at the one time and this plane just come straight out of the cloud and headed with a very terrible noise (veteran making noise) terrible noise and it didn't
come out of the dive and went straight into the bridge and immediately after within ten minutes we were picking up all the signals that's by the light as to what their trouble was and first of all it said many killed. Direct hit on bridge. Out of service.
Q: When the plane hit what was your own reaction? It must have been quite shocking.
A: Oh it was, it was but you see it was a war and I suppose that from itself
didn't make it terribly different from what we saw what you could expect to see in war time you see the number of ships in Leyte Gulf was unreal it really was and it was really a sitting duck for the Japanese but they still didn't believe I don't think that it could happen.
Q: Can you remember what ran through your mind when you saw that happen?
A: Well I just wondered whether we'd be next or when we'd cop one this is what happened and within two days it did happen and
we were off the ship then but it went to the bottom with sixty lives this is the ship PCAV-848
Q: This is after you disembarked?
A: Yes and Akin had disembarked as well so they were after him of course because he was the signal man that was in charge of that part of the operation
Q: Once you saw that kamikaze attack on the Australia were you afraid it might happen to you
A: Oh yes and we saw a lot
of kamikaze attacks after that and in subsequent days and it got more brutal as the time went on because the Japs were sending more down but in the next three or four days we were able to pick up signals and everything else that were very loud and we were able to determine that they were kamikaze aircraft they just had a different signal I just forget what it was but it was a different signal and we knew immediately say that ten
kamikaze planes left Manila because that is where they were coming from because that was in the hands of the Japanese then and that would set sail, not set sail but fly to Leyte and this is what they then had to be aware of and the fighters went up then and they chased them and quite often they were shot down before they got to their mark but there were a lot of casualties with kamikaze aircraft.
Q: Staying with the Australia for a moment;
once the plane had hit what happened to the people onboard
A: Well forty eight died I think it was forty eight [30 died, 64 were wounded], and the rest of it the message said "Australia out of action", and there was another ship that went with it as a convoy with it and I believed it retired to Brisbane or Sydney for repair but it was not it
took no further part in Leyte.
Q: Did people end up in the water as a result of that?
A: No they didn't, it wasn't blown like that it was a direct hit and the crew that were involved on the bridge and around the bridge mainly were killed where they were it wasn't that it blew up like that and you were hit with what's in the bomb instead of the bomb exploding
Q: So you're hit with what is actually in the plane, you're hit by the bulk of the plane itself and there was no actual explosion?
A: Oh yes there is an explosion but the explosion doesn't blow everything apart it only thing is it blows itself apart all this shrapnel goes everywhere and it was a very deadly exercise and there was only one plane that did this and as I say I believe there were only forty-eight people killed.
Q: Did you understand the kamikaze mentality?
A: I've studied it since and I've even been in England at a museum and sat in a kamikaze plane because they had one there that's been captured and rebuilt to what it was and it is a very interesting exercise. It is a very deadly machine but it's very personal. It's personal for the man that's flying it, and it's up to him what happens no one else he's got to make his decision
what he will do and where he will hit if he goes into a ship they were mainly into ships or on the ground but they mainly bomb ships that was their big effectiveness.
Q: So as a result of that study were you able to imagine yourself into why the kamikaze pilots were doing what they were doing?
A: Because it was a very vital sort of action and it had such great results it was a terrifying setup
and it brought into account really a surprise element, terrific surprise element it was very good from that point of view but when we suddenly worked out on the frequency that it was a kamikaze squad they didn't do nearly the damage they could have so that was very fortunate.
Q: Once you'd seen the plane hit Australia did you then move below decks? Did you move back to your station?
A: No, there was no good doing that. There was no need to do that.
Q: You referred to receiving message following that was that your next shift?
A: No it wasn't it was with the Aldis lamp.
Q: It was with the Aldis lamp? Okay.
A: They sent all the signals to the Shropshire which we intercepted.
Q: Can you tell us for the sake of a more general audience what the Aldis lamp was?
A: The Aldis lamp is more like a lamp that's like the old
guard's light on a train and it has a shutter mechanism on it and you send Morse Code on it and a very bright illuminated white lamp and you can do it from 200-300 yards sometimes depending on the weather and we had had some training in this down at Point Cook and we were able to read it we didn't have one we didn't send it anywhere but we read the message and
that is how we knew what it was.
Q: So when you were on deck seeing this attack were you on duty in terms of taking Aldis lamp messages.
A: No we did it because we knew how to do it and it was just one of these things on impulse
Q: How long did it take you to work out the kamikaze frequency?
A: We had made suggestions to the intelligence people that there was something different about it and it
just had another Japanese symbol in it something like this in a different part of the message and we cottoned on to this and it was right.
Q: So you were able to tune into a frequency which informed you obviously and the Allies more generally of kamikaze actions?
Q: Before they happened?
A: And we only to do this through our experience and work that we'd been doing
over the previous three to four weeks.
Q: Now it seems to be that we've missed a bit of a link here in the convoy steaming towards Leyte because I leapt ahead to deal with the kamikaze thing and I interrupted your flow of recollections before when you were talking about the convoy before so can we pick up from where we left on where you were in the General's cabin receiving messages. Could we continue the story on from there?
A: Yes well it was just very
routine you see when you are even on deck there not much to see its like on a ship if you go on a cruise ship all you can see is water if you go up on deck well we could see an aircraft carrier on either side and in the distance there was always a bit of a haze from the spray and all that and up the front you can see other ships but its not a very exhilarating sort of a things because its rather droll because there is not much to see
at all and the bit of it was of course we had this terrific work that we had to do that was under extreme pressure to make sure we made no mistakes so I know Dog Watch is for five hours and that's a very lonely thing to be even the General's cabin for five hours from midnight to five o'clock and I didn't hear him snoring or anything like that
but it was a pretty dead sort of a thing to be part of.
Q: The General was sleeping in the background
A: Oh yes he come in and go to sleep and everything so that it was a very human thing this was the human touch to the thing we didn't have any entertainment but it was a very good relationship we had and he could see how reliable we were and this made a terrific lot of difference.
Q: So you are in the convoy
its a fairly routine sort of experience by now, can we cover the arrival at Leyte Gulf?
A: Very routine. Yes the food was very good onboard by the way they looked after us very well with American food onboard so that was that and then we landed at Leyte Gulf and we went to shore two days later to take some equipment ashore a barge pulled up and we had to be fully equipped ourselves and we come back again
and the next morning we got off permanently and it was that night that the thing was bombed and sunk.
Q: The ship you had been on while it was still at anchor?
A: Yes it was anchored in Leyte Gulf they knew what we were about and where we were so this were just a bit ahead.
Q: How do you think they knew what ship the General was on?
A: There was good intelligence on there part I will just go forward a little bit more and tell you this that
we been onshore into our camp and that about a week later Tokyo Rose who was a Japanese with an American background she had a nightly session on the radio and she brought all the news up and all the results of everything and it was all Japanese orientated but she named every one of us one night and promised us a certain death and that was the
message that she gave to us that night we used to listen to it because it was all you know you could listen to it if there wasn't much else happening on your receiving we knew where all the entertainment things were and we called that entertainment and she knew everyone of them and she promised she welcomed us to Takloban and promised us certain death.
Q: How did they know that information?
A: Well they reckon there was from what I read
they reckon there were people who were although they were high up in the American situation there was a nigger in the wood pile somewhere getting the information of what had happened and who we were and giving it to the Japs you see that happens in wartime
Q: What was your reaction when you were promised certain death?
A: Well we sort of looked at one another and thought now well we can't do much about this
but for a week or so after that we were just wondering whether we could cop a direct hit in our camp or anything but although they knew that much we never did have a direct hit.
Q: But that must have been fairly unsettling?
A: Oh it was terribly unsettling. My granddaughters thought it was terrific.
Q: But at the time it must have been very unsettling?
A: Oh yes but you seen then just take it we were only guys that were nineteen, I was only nineteen
it was something you just think of nineteen year olds today in that situation I don't know how they'd go it's a different world I think we were trained in the minute to expect anything and it certainly was anything but this is what happened.
Q: Did it make you feel insecure?
A: Not really because there were a group of us it wasn't just as if it was one of us but they were very accurate they didn't get one
name wrong they were obviously reading it off a list they got from someone.
Q: Were you looking over your shoulder at every shadow?
A: Well this is right and especially when we heard air raids signs and all that sort of thing and then what happened when we went ashore that second day it was so well organised that there was a vehicle waiting for us and they took us to general headquarters and we saw a lot of Filipinos on the ground
waving and everything else but our slouched hats intrigued everyone and they realised that we were different from the Americans and there were two or three war correspondents who got a terrific shock to think that there were any Australians there because everyone said there are no Australians except on Shropshire and Australia and possibly engineers somewhere but not you know doing anything important
and it was written up in the paper here in a couple of newspapers about a week after the invasion that we were there.
Q: But your activities were supposed to be secret?
A: Well this is right you see but I tell you what it's like newspapers everywhere they put anything in them at any time and you doubt the accuracy of anything in them and this was the whole bit.
Q: Now you've given us good descriptions of Lae and Biak could you give us a description
of Leyte as you found it?
A: Well Leyte is a gulf it's not a place it the gulf roughly in the middle if you look at the Philippines and it was called Leyte Harbour really and the town that we landed at is Takloban and that has a population of thirty thousand
Q: Could you describe Takloban for us?
A: Yes well Takloban been very badly bombed there were some
building standing that were quite okay but imagine the Iraq situation all the people come out when they people who were friendly to them instead of wanting to blow them up or do something and we were very well received there were some building that were standing general headquarters were using a building that was alright the shops in the town was pretty well intact because its no good
bombing shops that's not an advantage to anyone but they had no supplies or anything and there main trouble, the Filipinos was there lack of food very hungry people now the girls looked pretty hazardous they often had nice coloured dresses and that but they had been terribly bashed around the shins this is what the Japanese seemed to like to do with poles and this sort of thing and they' bash them into submission and they all had very bruised and very sore shins that that you could see had happened quite often.
Q: Why had the Japanese done this?
A: Well they wanted the women you see particularly the women this had been done to because they wanted them to submit to them sexually and that was the whole thing it was a very poor place very poor there
was nothing about it that it looked very much that it had anything going for it its not a place you would even go to but it was a very deadly sort of a place because of the war and there'd been some terrific softening up of it as well aircraft was bombing it and destroying certain stuff but it was not like the photo of the Biak where everything was just stripped that wasn't the sort of
thing that went on they were after the actual enemy there rather than all the fauna and flora and that sort of thing so it was typically embattled place and we went from general headquarters to set up our camp which in fact used to be a Japanese vegetable garden and it had the fertilizer all around the place it was very smelly we had a typhoon while we were there at hundred miles an hour and this blew everything
over and it was feet deep in mud and water and everything but we had two vehicles that we were using there at our first camp at Takloban all set up beautifully with receiving sets in them and everything else and we were able to be efficient pretty well very close to after we got there
Q: When did the typhoon occur in sequence of events?
A: The typhoon occurred just roughly a few days after we arrived.
Q: So obviously there
was a tent city setup?
A: Yes the same tent city but it wasn't very elaborate and in fact when the typhoon come all the tents fell down and we had nothing dry and we were all covered in mud and we tried to put the tents up again but the rain was so bad the rain prevented this and it was a very miserable situation.
Q: What did your operations room consist of?
A: The operations room
was like two caravans but they were high just a bit further up off the ground they were metal I don't know whether they were wood inside and metal outside but they were very, very much brand new and had very good equipment in them and it didn't take us long, good aerials there was an old DF -Direction Finder thing there the Japs had been using but that didn't seem to find
anything but we got huge reception there huge reception and moonlit nights after the typhoon and all that they were absolutely terrific now we quickly intercepted some very hot stuff there because the whole situation was now don't forget we got to Leyte on the 20th October and we got into our tent business and into our trucks
and we were doing our intercepting about five days later and we are now talking the 25th October.
Q: So John you we were talking about the hot stuff you were intercepting at Takloban?
A: We got to Takloban and actually started transmitting and receiving on the 25th October and that was roughly four days after the fleets landed in Leyte now on the 11th November which as you can see is less than two weeks later
we were given the greatest accolade of all time from the Americans for what we'd picked up the Japanese were sending ship after ship, troop ships, down from the Japanese part of the world into the Philippines and down past Manila on the other side of all the land mass because it is very thin land mass and there's a place called Almok [probably Ormoc] which is opposite
Tolosa [probably Tanauan] which in a turn is thirty miles south of Takloban and they were sending these convoys down to Almok now we got a message and congratulations on the 11th November the whole convoy had been sunk and that it was due to our efforts that the information we had passed on the accuracy of it there were seventeen ships completely lost and
they gave us very generous praise and this made us all feel pretty good because that's a terrific loss if you think about seventeen troop ships lost there could be two thousand on each troop ship.
Q: How did you receive this praise?
A: We received it from the Americans through our intelligence department people like the people who were deciphering all the code that we were writing down they often contacted them
about any matters they wanted to, to tell us any news about what we'd been doing or anything not that we knew about in Japanese but we got right onto this is one of the other frequency's that we got on to through our dilly-dallying around with switches and everything and listening in and it was very, very good because this was passed straight on to the Fifth Air Force the Fifth Air Force sank the whole convoy
they gave us the credit for it which was very generous but still it was right but for that they wouldn't have known anything but they knew the exact time they knew the place the convoy would be at they gave all this over on the radio.
Q: Its very surprising that they actually did that.
A: Yes they gave all the information out and it was very handsome information and it was absolutely terrific to get it.
Q: Its amazing to think that in some ways they had this intelligence that would be able to provide your name you know with Tokyo Rose announcing it over the radio and yet they didn't work out that you guys knew what was going on
A: We were a step ahead really. Another thing that I just wanted to tell you about the kamikaze aircraft was the fact that these men who were trained and gave up there lives to fly them that was for the Emperor
the whole thing in Japan meant so much if you were doing something for the Emperor and you had the honour and glory of death and eternal sort of repose as it were because you had given your life for the Emperor in a special way and you made the decision yourself and you decided that you would say goodbye to your family there was always a celebration the night
before it happened and you took off the next morning, blessed and ready to do a job for the Emperor and to receive the honour and glory of Japan so it was a very big thing and when we got onto just exactly where they were coming from and started shooting a lot down it was a great benefit for us as well because it stopped the American forces being in a lot of trouble with these kamikaze pilots
Q: I mean the kamikazes are quite amazing in a lot of ways.
A: It is only a very small plane.
Q: Do you think there would be many Australians who would do that kind of thing, the kamikaze thing?
A: I don't think there are personally and I'm not knocking Australians but I'd been amazed that people in the Middle East are prepared to do this as well I'd think there'd be more people in the Middle East who have done it through
these bombs they tie round themselves and plant themselves then in the middle of a crowd very similar to the Japanese situation the only qualification being or difference is these guys could really fly a plane but it is horrible destruction never to be seen again, never to buried or anything else because you blow yourself to bits and that was what it was but it was a very honourable thing to do and
once we found out a lot more about the frequency that they were coming up on we were able to do a lot for the Americans with that you see they use this back route as it were the sea channel on the other side of the island because they were driven back by the invasion of Leyte and as I mentioned a little while ago Leyte is only a gulf and the land mass is Takloban
and then thirty miles south Tolosa [probably Tanauan] the other side I guess could be twenty miles across to this Almok [probably Ormoc] and they were landing craft there to augment their battlements but we certainly got a few smashed up and this was the difference but that's a lot of losses and it was a terrific setup.
Q: It's a remarkable achievement. Now by this
point your WU is obviously a very specialised and highly trained and experienced unit, I'm wondering perhaps not with your WU but with other WUs whether or not errors were ever made in this area of the frequencies and interception?
A: Well you mean we made errors taking it down. The only error you can make taking it down is to get a character wrong or a block wrong now
a character as I told you I just forget whether there five or six but they are in blocks and you write them across the page now if you had one wrong I don't think it would matter very much if you had a block wrong you might get a time wrong or a place wrong or something like that and that could be more dramatic but we used to say amongst ourselves did you get any blocks wrong you know today and I might've said
I had a bit of trouble with one block but its two or three characters right so this was the high degree of efficiency with it the way you'd get it wrong probably would be because of static or something like that because you can't ask them to do it again you had to go on with it you see so that's the answer to that they generally we were proficient enough to cope with it that and the people who were decoding got on alright with it too.
Q: And you've talked a bit
about the stress because you obviously can't make errors and you only have one chance at this. What was the mood like within the unit when you were working when you were ??
A: It was quite alright we didn't dwell on that we couldn't make mistakes because it is not human to not make a mistake but we were generally trained so well that there were very few mistakes and it didn't worry us and cause us any panic
if we did make a mistake because honesty is the best policy with it and you can even point out to the man who took the sheet from you look there is something wrong with that line and that was easy to do because you spoke to him as he come in and got it unless you were in the middle of a flight where they were taking off from Ambon and they were going say to Biak to raid it and it was a few hours it was important you were on that frequency and you had to keep taking that down
because every minute someone is talking to someone from plane to plane, base to plane or plane to base you know and you don't want to miss a thing so if the fellow come round to take your sheet you knew he was there you would just pass it on to him and begin writing the next sheet and he would come out to see you when he knew that you know could talk to him so it was a highly trained stuff in a different kind
of way because you didn't know what you were taking down but you knew how to take it down and you knew the style you had to take it down in.
Q: Now you mentioned way back when we were talking about training that some of the young men that were training would stress out and freak out about what they were doing did that ever happen when you were active?
A: No it didn't happen in the Philippines it happened before that when
we hadn't had much practise at it and that was likely to happen at anytime but as you get more proficient and they took that as matter of course and got right involved in it so that it didn't cause us a lot of trouble.
Q: We've touched on this a little bit too but I wanted to talk about it a bit more the relationship between the Australian soldiers and the American soldiers, what that was that like?
A: Well now when we were in Takloban there was only our unit there were no Americans and our intelligence people they dealt solely with GHQ General Headquarters US army we had no conversation or no talking
at all to American troops after we left the boat because when we got to Leyte Gulf and got off that we become a unit again but still under very much American command but yet we had our own flying officer in charge of it so that it was a very important thing from that point of view but General Akin
chased us up to take photo of the whole twenty-four of us and write on the back of it his appreciation not long after we found out about the seventeen ships we had sunk and he just thought that was just simply terrific but he come and sent an American film man to take our photo and sent one of his aids to bring it to us and he wrote on the back of it and everything but apart from that sort of thing we didn't see
any American people now the camp at Takloban we had this typhoon and we had a lot of rain while we were there the mosquitoes were unbelievable they really were and it was swampy land as well smelly fertilizer stuff and everything in it and it was really bad news so that you always had to be careful to sleep under a mosquito net which was a general issue but when you had a typhoon and you were all wet you don't seem to care
whether it was doing you any good or not but there were a lot of mosquitoes but they weren't malaria mosquitoes but they stung very well and now we were in the camp and couldn't get out for periods of two days at a time because if it rained heavily because this creek came up and it went over our heads you'd stay in camp on tin rations and there pretty terrible like bully beef and things like that
and dry biscuits but you just took it in your stride because you knew it would all be better probably tomorrow and although it wasn't so marvellous by the same token we didn't go without food but we had all that all that trouble getting out of camp and into camp through the weather conditions.
Q: Now we've talked a little bit about the typhoon that occurred I'm really keen to know
exactly what happened. If you could walk us through exactly what happened when the typhoon hit the WU.
A: Well the typhoon hit at about eleven o'clock at night and it's a wind that comes and its more like the tornado you see on TV but it doesn't come with a whirl like that it is just a direct wind and it was at least a hundred miles an hour and it just demolishes everything in its path because nothing can withstand it
and that what happens it's as easy as that it hits it demolishes everything and keeps going well then when it demolished the tents and everything you just can't it doesn't have the force all the time but it has that force for about an hour or two hours and then as it starts decreasing you have to start wondering who you are going to put your tent up in the middle of the night pitch black everything wet, everything we had was wet
we didn't have a thing that was dry
Q: Can you put yourself in that picture can you tell me what you were doing while the typhoon was happening?
A: I was first of all I was duty and had to walk from the receiving truck to the tent and this used to always cause me a lot of trouble especially when it used to rain because you get bogged in the mud and you can't walk very well in that as you know you've got to pull your foot out and its quite
impossible but I found the tent and it was flattened and the guys were just standing out in the rain because they couldn't do anything but they were hanging onto beds and everything we did have I think we had iron beds there I'm not quite sure but I think we did I don't know where they come from but I think we did and we had to put that tent up again eventually and stay inside it but the tent no part of the tent was dry so we were putting up
a completely wet tent we were all completely wet all our haversacks were wet all our gear it was just terrible the receiving trucks were right because they were too high for it and they were parked in the lea of a mountain that was nearby so that they didn't get the worst of the wind so it was just complete devastation its the most ridiculous thing I've ever been in because I could do nothing to help myself.
Q: What was going through your head at that time?
A: Well everyone else was in the same position and we were all chatting about it and wonder what's next what's going to happen next and the mud was unbelievable it really was so that it was an experience put it that way but you'll always hear and you'll remember it when you hear from here on about the Philippines and those areas that have had a typhoon you'll know what that means its not very pleasant
Q: So what happened next?
A: Well what happened next after that the weather fined up and we went into Takloban more than we did before there were continual raids they threw a lot of aircraft into it the Japs did and they realised that it was a last ditch effort for them because the next move would be to Manila but they kept it up and the Americans kept
it up too and there were a tremendous number of planes used and we had a mountain near right adjacent to our camp and we'd often go up on that mountain and watch a raid they were over from us say about a mile and you'd see these planes come in there might've been twelve in a flight and the akak would start you'd see a plane hit or you'd see one
blown up completely in mid air what was left of the flight would turn round and go home so it was like a cowboy and indians thing that if you lose you turn around and go home and it was the same in the air but the noise is unbelievable and the flak that's around is unbelievable too because everything that's fired its got to have a casing usually a lead casing its got to come down out of the sky
and as close as the raids were so we'd get flak in the camp and this happened quite a lot but no one was killed fortunately we had that fortunate part of it but we seemed to be on the edge of everything you know with the ship when we come up and that was nice and the LST was quite okay they didn't have a bomb and they landed quite safely they were
other eighteen men that come up and they were quite okay and they joined us there before we went into camp at Takloban so the whole unit was together it was excellent really and everyone sharing the experience of coming up from Hollandia to Leyte Gulf and they were all bemoaning the uncomfortable trip they had amongst all this equipment and things like that so that the
days went past and we did have less air raids but altogether I was at Takloban just on a month from say the 20th October until about the 21st November well I remember that it was my twentieth birthday when we went to Tolosa [probably Tanauan] and this is thirty miles south of Takloban.
Q: Just before we get Tolosa when you are at the top of the mountain watching the raids taking place what would you do when a Japanese plane
A: Well you know you'd say ha, ha another one gone and that sort of thing because it was so frequent and on this mountain also there were quite a few bodies especially when we first got there because they had been on the in Tolosa in the country was all flat and then this mountain happened and while we were there there was a unit camped the other side of this mountain
an American unit and we had dive bombing about sometimes three or four hours of an evening or three or four hours of a day and you'd hear the planes come over and the whir of the bombs as they went and this was only on the other side of the mountain but once again we were on the right side and the noise of that is pretty deafening and its pretty terrible when you can hear the whining of the bomb and you know you know its going to hit shortly and then you hear
the explosion and it's a bit nerve racking hearing a place being bombed like that but that went on quite regularly and after awhile you didn't get blas� about it but you didn't worry so much about it
Q: You mentioned there were bodies
A: Yes the Japanese bodies.
Q: Can you describe the sorts of things that you saw in that respect?
A: Purely mainly infantry but
they were just small bodies of Japanese might be one without an arm or one without a leg one without a head and they were just there rotting fully clothed they didn't have time to bury there dead we didn't worry about it.
Q: What kind of impact did that have on you seeing those dead bodies?
A: Well I guess when you saw the first ones it wasn't too bright but back to
Leyte Harbour for just a minute they were a few dead bodies floating around there as well and there was a ship or a barge really that went round collecting them all and putting them aboard and taking them away for burial and they were Americans as well as Japanese and this happened and its just wartime
Q: Now I've heard that during this time there would often be souveniring of
different articles you know by the Japanese and by the Americans
A: Yes well we weren't into that I would be the last person to rob a dead body because that's not on no one robbed a dead body that I know of in our unit I know what you are asking sometimes you might've found a souvenir on the ground which is quite a different thing but there were no these bodies were nearly all say five or seven days gone and it
was pretty terrible smelly stuff and so there was nothing like that went on at all.
Q: You probably wouldn't want to go near a rotting body would you?
A: No you could smell them yards away because the humid weather, hot humid weather it was mostly when we were there just roughly about 90 degrees a lot of the time.
Q: Now you were describing that there was an American unit on the other side of the mountain and that there would be bomb raids
on that unit and that the sounds of those raids taking place had quite an affect on you I'm wondering did that ever affect you while you were working the sounds of a bomb raid taking place?
A: No because when you've got your earphones on you only hear what is on the earphones you wouldn't be practising on that at all we would have air raids while
while we were taking down the Morse Code we'd never left the caravans we had when there was an air raid on because we reckoned that was just a good a place to be they were very solid you see we were only under canvas so it as better to be inside that then trying to hide under tent but we were never bombed as such but we copped a lot of flak
in the, that's what its called all this lead that comes down, we copped a lot of that in the camp all the time but you the see the thing was with the photograph that I have that I was showing you with the twenty-four people in it they were very well knit together and we got the name of the foreign legion from the fact that we were different and someone
suggested it at one stage at Takloban that with our slouch hats on and being so different that we should be called the foreign legion and so the day that we decided that they all sign the card with twenty-four names on it and it stuck ever since and we were very proud of it.
Q: What was the morale like?
A: Morale was high, it was very high even with tin foods and all that that was taking its
course we all knew it had to get better and you wouldn't worry about it you'd put up with it but we were very fortunate to not lost a soul not from the point of view of trying to lose anyone but so much was going on that you could've been killed by and we were very fortunate very fortunate.
Q: You mentioned before the flak that would be flying, is that where the saying copping a lot
of flak comes from?
A: Oh yes, oh yes we were washing in the creek one day doing our washing it was quite or say about two o'clock in the afternoon and the sirens went you could hear them all over the place when the sirens go and one piece of flak fell within six inches of one of the boys doing his washing and just made a huge splash see you don't know it
it just comes down bang we all had our tin hats on though doing our washing but of course if it missed your head it could rip your arm off because some of it was quite big pieces you see the bombs that were dropped aren't small they were quite big bits of bombs
Q: What was his reaction when the flak fell?
A: He got a bit of a shock
Q: What did he do?
A: I don't think the language was too good but he let out a very bit of expletive language
those Japs again
Q: So can you tell me about some of your mates?
A: Yes well as we said yesterday there were nine from New South Wales, eight from Victoria, three from South Australia and the rest were one each from Western Australia, I think it was Queensland and there was an Englishman with us I don't know how he originally got into the numbers but he was there.
They were all basically about my age I think I might have been the youngest but there was not much in it there was a group that had just turned eighteen when they enlisted and then there were a few of them older say about twenty-three, twenty-four and there was one guy I know who was twenty-five and he was the daddy of them all and we'd often have a chat at night time if we weren't on duty and that about things in life
for us how different it was in Victoria from New South Wales and all those things and we were a very closely knit lot of people we realised we were all in it the same and it was good to think that you had the camaraderie of the people but as there were say only nine of us this is in out of twenty four of us in New South Wales I only ever caught up with three or four of them again they've all died now because they've
died in the last particularly ten years so that there is not I don't march on Anzac Day because I got no one really to march with because most people march in units they were in and we didn't have a unit that came from Sydney or anything like that and it was just one of these things I reflect on them greatly but there is nothing I can do by going to a march.
Q: We might talk a bit about that later on.
A: Yeah Okay.
Q: Did you have a best mate during this time?
A: The answer to that is yes the mate that was my best mate come from Victoria and he died, he come to New South Wales and he become the Liberal Party organiser and June and I went and saw him at Yass and the guy
died about two or three years after that and some head complaint and I don't know what it was but it might have been five years after that and he was married and had two children and it was very sad.
Q: It's quite tragic.
A: Yeah I didn't even know he had any complaint we had been to visit him in Victoria when we were down there in Melbourne he was the one that was pretty well
closest to me but I've had a life that hasn't been full of terrific best mates I've had a life where I've had to be an individual and met a tremendous lot people, a tremendous lot of people involved in all my affairs but I have never been a terrific best mate person and I don't worry about saying
that I perhaps haven't had time because I've been very busy.
Q: Well it sounds like although there was the camaraderie and stuff the role that you played that the job that you had was very much an insular job and suited your personality perhaps.
A: Oh it was it was stuff I couldn't talk about to 1991 and that in itself was something that you wouldn't say was a best mate thing would you
you see because you signed this thing and it was enforceable and you couldn't do anything about talking my kids never heard about it they only when I typed my diary and gave them all a copy and my sister they got the shock of their lives.
Q: So during this time what sort of communication were you having with your family back home?
A: That's interesting that you ask me that. Our address
when we were in the Philippines our mailing address was c/o The Post Office, California USA and that's where all the mail come from and that's all my family knew about so that answers that very well doesn't it.
Q: So did your family have an idea about where you were?
A: No they didn't
Q: Did they have any idea about what you were doing?
A: No they weren't allowed to we couldn't write back and say
what we did or anything they used to send us parcels a cake on occasions sometimes it would arrive there mouldy and that but you know they were quite generous but we shared all these things like the tent had four people in it and if one of the people got something from home and it was edible they'd share it around and we all did this all the time that's the camaraderie of it the thing we're all in it together we
Q: I'm wondering if you ever did eat a cake that was a little bit mouldy.
A: We'd slice it back to see if any of it wasn't mouldy but that wasn't a problem but we got a little bit annoyed at one stage when going forward from where we are now at Tolosa [probably Tanauan] we were there for Christmas and we got no mail for about until ten days after Christmas and we
hadn't had any for about a month and we had no parcels or anything for Christmas and so when the parcels turned up it was New Year and so we had Christmas and New Year but we had very good food with the Americans they looked after us very well especially on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas and we had turkey and all these things and it was not poor food or anything like that.
Q: That must have been a little bit
depressing not hearing from your family?
A: It was it was and the boys got a bit depressed at times about that because there is nothing like a letter to sort of buck you up but that is an interesting thing when I tell you the mail was all c/o Post Office to San Francisco.
Q: So surely your family must have been curious about where you were and what you were doing.
A: Well I might you and I'm saying the truth about this my family were concerned in their own way
about it but they never let me know I have had a difficult family with my father having died course he'd gone before I even joined up and they were people they didn't show love and that very much they really didn't we've been astounded at some of the things since we've been married that they go on with and everything else and the loving part of it isn't top
priority it never has been there were no letters arrived for me like some people got while they were there but you would share you letters half the time and then you'd realise that's not my crowd you know but you realised that and I think it was no good worrying about it just like we haven't worried about it ourselves we've never had a lot of cooperation
Q: How often would you get a letter from home?
A: Depended on when the mail was sort of brought to us generally speaking it wouldn't be more than once a month.
Q: That to you in particular?
A: Yeah. You see I only had at home my mother, a five year younger sister that was my family at home I had some uncles and aunts and things like that but
I don't know everyone did there own thing they knew me well but there not a loving letter writing type of family its just one of those things.
Q: You were away from home and the mail arrives for the unit and there are some guys there who get lots of letters how did that make you feel you
didn't get that?
A: Well I didn't expect a lot, I didn't expect a lot because I knew what my setup was I used to just be amazed at some of the letters some of the guys got but still that's life that's quite something now that hasn't made me hard-hearted I don't want you to think that because I do a lot things for a lot of people and enjoy the company of people and everything else but its just a fact its like in our married life
that we've done all the battling and we've had to do a lot of things on our own that you would've thought you would get some help with more loving with so it hasn't been something that's just happened at that stage of my life its been the case most of the time.
Q: Has that influenced how you led your family?
A: Yeah it has because we've done a lot for our family
that was never done for us and we've been solid about it and everything else but then again we realise again with them that they have to live their lives you see having two of the family overseas now one having been there since '75 the other ones been there since earlier than that we part from going to visit them from time to time we haven't seen a lot of them but we love them we send them faxes and everything else
but in the day and age that we live now you don't expect a lot at all because life is much different these days your caught up with it differently.
Q: So getting back to Tolosa what happened there?
A: We went there on my twentieth birthday and I was at Tolosa [probably Tanauan] for about two and a half months January, February, about three months.
Q: Did the unit do anything special for you on your birthday?
A: If we had a cake from home or anywhere yes you would have a piece of cake but no there was nothing special they might have said you know happy birthday and that but there was nothing dramatic about it. Tolosa was a very nice place a very pretty place we were camped in the school grounds, the high school grounds and I remember this well because it is right on Leyte Gulf Tolosa is, and when the wind got up the sea got up the surf was tremendous it was like Manly
and we had a great time there with surfing but apart from that what I was going to tell you the schools normally have a rostrum as you probably know and when we had to have shots of injections you'd walk up one side of the rostrum have your shot in the middle of it and walk down the other side and there were a few people that collapsed walking down the other side because this was something
the needles were very blunt they really were and it had to be a very firm jab to have the injection but this was a feature of Tolosa when we had to have needles
Q: What shots were you getting?
A: Typhoid very much so and malaria there wasn't a lot of malaria around by we had a vaccination before we went and that lasted five years we didn't have to have that
again we had to have these shots and no one liked having the shots even at that age because of the blunt needle mainly and they really built up the horror for having it and some people do that you know with shots even today and yet today to have a needle is nothing compared with what it used to be.
Q: Were there side affects?
A: Only drowsiness mainly and a sore arm there were no skin affects or anything like that but
now having said we were in the school grounds that was the school building that we used to take down our intercepting in and there was a municipal building near at hand and that was where the intelligence people they did all there decoding there and working out things.
Q: So John you were telling us about the intelligence people in Tolosa and where they were situated.
A: Yes well we were camped in the school grounds and we were having the injections I mentioned that to you didn't I and we had square tents again there and the intelligence people were in a building the municipal building that hadn't been destroyed or anything by gunfire and they were in direct
consultation with the Americans all the time now we become more than twenty-four at Tolosa [probably Tanauan] because we joined another group that had come up independent of us and after the invasion fleet and they were to take over from us when we left and then they were to move further north to Luzon and all the northern parts of the Philippines so that they were a new lot when they got there and camp at Tolosa
was very much bigger and it was quite a setup and we were relaxing a little bit more there then we had but the big thing that was pointed out to us at Tolosa that as far as that went that in 1944 that's from the beginning to end of it MacArthur had advanced from Lae to Leyte and that was a long way to do actually have a
front go sweep right through it with the great success that he did and this was something they let us know about in a big way because it was Lae to Leyte it all seemed to rhyme they liked to the know Americans liked to know about success I know you realise that yourself because this is just how it goes but it was an interesting time and to think they shared that with us I think that was a nice
way to go and when we first got to Tolosa we had a lot of air raids because Takloban airport was only about five or ten minutes away this was only thirty miles you see and we went down in trucks when we shifted camp down to there and as I say it became a much bigger camp because of the joining of all these people and that meant also we could have a much bigger intercept team
and it meant they needed a much bigger intelligence team because they had to do decoding and deciphering and all that and it was from there they had tremendous successes again because the time was going by and things were really hotting up for the American forces they were gathering speed and there was a big battle for Manila and everything else and it went swimmingly because we were right not our group
but the other group that came they were right in the middle of all the intercept and it went particularly well. Its interesting to note that we had plenty of entertainment there with regard to theatres and that but we had the cock fights too because the ring it was in all those towns it wasn't in Takloban but down that way in Tolosa and others there's a cock fight
ring and Sunday afternoons was the time and they breed these cocks and put a razor sharp ? have you seen a cock fight?
Q: No could you describe it for me?
A: Yeah they bring there best bird they fed the bird well, exercised it well and its got to fight another bird and cut its throat and they put a razor sharp a cock has got a razor sharp, what do you call the thing
that comes out of its foot?
Q: A spur?
A: A spur, its got a spur and on the spur they bind this razor sharp thing oh about 2-3 inches long and they fight and they know what they've got to do because they are fighting cocks there bred as fighting cocks they're violent and they bet on them too there put in the ring by there owners and
they bet on them and the one who cuts the head off the other one first wins and they share the money its even betting because you can't have more than even betting if there are only two people and but someone wins a lot someone loses a lot the other people well some people lose the cock as well and this is how it goes but this is a really down to earth thing as you can imagine and it draws crowds from everywhere on the Sunday afternoon.
Q: I presume you are
talking about the locals at this point, this was organised by them?
A: Well this were all the locals and a very casual lot and slightly bronzed skin the Philippine people have as you probably know but the men mainly attended the cock fights and the boys played two up in the same ring as the cock fights were in but it was a regular thing and I think that went for a few hours after the cock fights so
that there was a lot of getting around things down at Tolosa that we hadn't had anywhere else. The Christianity setup was quite good there as I think I told you before they all went to church on Sunday and in very colourful garb and very well dressed and you can be proud of any country that looked as good going to church and none of the churches were bombed thank goodness
and the tolling of the bells brought a new sense of direction to us all because we hadn't been hearing bells toll and that sort of thing in war and on lovely bright Sundays this sort of thing it was a joy just to watch everyone going to church because it was a terrific set up.
Q: Did you yourself go to church?
A: No I'm not a Roman Catholic and its all Roman Catholic religion there and I think a lot of it was also in
Filipino so that it wasn't an attraction as far as we had padres though the camp from time to time so, American padres so that was an interesting factor to and as I already told you we had a lot of swimming there so Tolosa was a very much nicer place for us to go to and it had a lot of it was a very pretty place it had a lot of flowers in it
and a lot of normal life sort of business and you could see the Filipino's going after there business as very much the normal.
Q: What was the relationship like between the soldiers and the local population?
A: Well the locals always talk to the troops and as a matter of fact some of us got down at Tolosa got our washing done by them you had to pay them something like two shilling or
something like that and they'd do your washing for you and iron it and bring it back to camp so that it was a very close relationship much more so than anywhere else we went until Strathpine in Queensland because the same thing happened there but this was quite a joy to be there and just feel a little bit of the strain had been lifted although we still had to intercept and it was still very much down the line that it was
accurate but the air raids did go off as time went by and the food was quite good as I told you Thanksgiving Day and Christmas very big festivals for Americans and they carried the festivals on in the Philippines and it was quite something and we got to the stage of
coming back from Tolosa that's where we went back to Takloban and then in a C-47 plane that took us twenty-tow hours to fly back to Brisbane via Hollandia, Darwin and then to Brisbane.
Q: Getting back to Tolosa you mentioned we were talking a bit about Christianity things like that and I'm just wondering how you
maintained our faith throughout your wartime experience.
A: Well it was a very personal matter because wherever you are with a lot of people in such a mixed situation as that in those days there was a terrific difference between the Roman Catholics and the Anglican religion and there non conformist churches as well and the Roman Catholics seemed to think about going to church much more than
anyone else and the Anglicans were second to them and then the others didn't seem to worry about it so much but at times when we had a lot of talks between another in the evenings and that I remember we read a lot of books at Tolosa as well it was a much quieter sort of a thing then had we used to discuss a lot of things about religion and everything else because there's one thing in the army, air force
they don't stop you talking about religion like a lot of different organisations do some of the things about joining it is you don't talk politics or religion and this is a standard sort of a thing it seems to be in Sydney right now but we all kept our faith well and we all looked forward to the days of getting married for instance in due course because all of us by the time we were in Tolosa were past
twenty and so it went on.
Q: As a Christian what outlook did you have on the war and its implications of the war? What were your feelings as a Christian?
A: My feelings of the war were the fact that is was something I had to be involved in I had no choice I wasn't a conscientious objector or anything else
and I just thought that with all the upbringing I had and the joyous part of cubs and scouts and being part of church over in Homebush and Strathfield and that this was just another part of my life that I had to do something about and go on from there. I had some very good friends who were rectors at churches etc I occasionally got a letter from them
I came back here after the war and renewed friendships with them in a big way and we had our children baptised by different ones of them because they had always been friends so that I had a very good friendship with people, Christian people and this made a great help you could often in quiet times think of these things particularly because they had meant something to me playing
tennis at the rectories on Saturdays and all these things before I ever joined the air force you never forget those sort of things because they are real and personal.
Q: Was there a conflict for you as a practising Christian as someone who believed what war was and the realities of war?
A: No no there wasn't we all spoke about
what religion we all spoke a lot about what religion meant to us and it didn't cause us a lot of problems at all it really didn't and it was a very as time went by this group who we had known for three years at the end of it they knew everything about everyone about each other and they were
all accepted for who they were and they also were accepted for little different differences they had and different activities and that but there was no in fighting it was a very pleasant sort of a thing to be with and that was important.
Q: Yeah mateship
A: Yeah mateship that's right.
Q: Before we go we travelled back to
Brisbane but before we do travel back to Brisbane you mentioned surfing before and I was just wondering what you used as a surfboard?
A: We didn't have a surfboard but we had a bit of wood and we would get a bit of wood there was a lot of wood floating around Leyte Harbour as if you might think and then we'd get on with one of the locals and say, could you get me a piece of wood, this square or something a bit of wood that you could stretch your arms and put that out in front and shoot the breakers and that was quite good
the water wasn't too bad its dirtier than our sea back here but it wasn't too bad.
Q: How effective was the plank of wood as a surfboard?
A: Quite good because when I grew up you didn't have surfboards the best we could do was those rubber boards that you used to hang onto and hire from the beach and that sort of thing so it wasn't a surfboard regime that I went in the air force from I just want to tell you
about the losses at Leyte, the Leyte campaign itself was a very tragic thing for the Japanese they lost sixty five thousand men these were armed personal, infantry men that type of thing and that's a terrible lot of people when you think about it but when you think about seventeen ships that we sank that were a lot more ships than that sunk but that was just one item
they wanted to give us credit for but when you think about that it's a lot of troops isn't it, sixty five thousand and they were cracked troops in the Japanese eyes well then they lost half their fleet because that was bombed tremendous losses with the fleet and the lost hundreds of aircraft and thousands of pilots etc who were flying men that were flying the aircraft
the losses were terrible extreme losses and then they lost a lot more after this, this was only up to Leyte and then they lost a terrific lot after this now I should tell you also, can I talk to you for a few minutes just about Strathpine?
A: Right. Because after I got back to Brisbane I had forty days leave and then we were posted back to Strathpine which is some three quarters of an hour or so outside of Brisbane
a lovely camp there an air strip it had but it wasn't in use by that time it had been used before when nearly before we joined up even but it was being used as a strip then but we had a very nice camp we had proper buildings where we were doing some intercepting from etc we went back but we weren't doing this frantically or anything but what was going to happen according to the powers that be and we were told
we were going to the coast of China that was our next step after they'd got the whole thing together from having the different reports in from how it was going at Manila and all types of places and we envisaged that we were going to China and from there we'd intercept because the Americans would be having bases up
there and bombing Japan and all those things well of course all this was put paid for when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and I want to tell you that we've been to both places in Japan and we've seen all the ruins with seen the terrific memorials that have been in place there and in fact I even spoke to the Rotary club at Nagasaki
in English and it was translated into Japanese on one visit. We've also had a lot to do with Japanese people so the war hasn't just made them enemies for life they were under a certain rule and they believed what their rulers were saying Hirohito and all of those people that led them, Tojo
they all believed in a creed as it were and these people all took it up and fought for them now further to that which is very important in my Rotary career I was district governor of Rotary '68-'69 and that year the first Rotary national president was a Japanese he was first one ever they've had none since so his been the only one and I got
very close to him and delightful man and following that we have had Japanese people stay in our home students and we've travelled far and wide in Japan and met their families in Japan being rigorously entertained by them and if we were to go there tomorrow they'd drop everything to meet us and show us around so there is a great fellowship that's being created by that and through all of this intercepting
and everything you might have thought we had grown a bit of a hatred for the Japanese now it hasn't happened we all did a job they did there job and we did ours and we believed in what we were doing and they believed in what they were doing.
Q: Do you understand hatred from other Australians soldiers perhaps those who were in New Guinea and in the frontline? Can you understand
their hatred that still may or may not exist?
A: It seems to me that it depends on how much you were personally involved with the person if for instance like on the Kokoda trail you'd be trooping through the mud and in the bush and the mountains and all that and you were popped off to a body of Japanese people I would feel you would probably hate them because they were real enemies
but although we probably popped off more people than they would because of the fact that all these convoys being sunk and everything through information that we were able to gleam through our expertise we never come in touch with a lot of Japanese people in wartime the dead bodies were about the first lot we ever worried about although we had see them at Biak in the pictures the theatre that we had there
and we would have seen them at Nadzab in the early days and all that sort of thing but we didn't develop a hatred for the person because we were never involved with the person on a personal level there's a big difference because the fighting that went on and the gallant things that were done by Australian troops you know right through New Guinea and Borneo and the islands was absolutely tremendous,
but that's the difference.
Q: Where were you when the Atomic bomb was first dropped on Hiroshima?
A: At Strathpine
Q: And how did you hear about that news?
A: We heard about on the radio yes we heard it on the radio and I was in Strathpine you see the Strathpine bit I went back there just from roughly March until November so I was there quite awhile
you can say eight months and then in the August war ceased and we had joined in all the gaiety in Brisbane with June and we had a very happy time to think that we suddenly could live as human beings again instead of having to have wartime things around us that we were free.
Q: When did you actually meet June?
A: I met June when I went back to Strathpine and my
grandmother from England who lived in Gladesville, Sydney, knew June's aunt who was a milliner in the same suburb and thought it would be a very good idea if her grandson got to know one of the all of the three girls that this aunts sister had in Brisbane the aunts sister being Junes mother and so I rang them when I got back to Strathpine and they invited me out for dinner
and it went from there.
Q: Just before we go into the love story. Can you tell me where was Strathpine and why you were there?
A: Strathpine was past a place called Bald Hills and it was about a three quarters of an hour to an hour outside Brisbane and it's on the train line as well we used to go into Brisbane sometimes
in back of trucks and this sort of thing to go the city but my greatest joy there was I used to go into town quite a bit because I was allowed to and I was friends with the agendum now the agendum had a jeep and he used to drive me in and I would stay overnight at one of the hostels there the army or air force hostels and he would pick me up the next morning
and take me back to Strathpine and this was quite a delightful setup because that meant I could see more of June and it paved the way for the future because after, well I better not get onto after Strathpine at the moment, but it became quite a pleasant place to live we had Strathpine Annie we used to call her who did all the washing for us and we paid her a pittance say one and six to do all the washing something like that and it was a very happy time.
Q: Just so we can make it clear can you just briefly describe the trip from Tolosa to Strathpine and how you come to be there?
A: Yeah there were just roughly about we didn't all leave there the twenty-four didn't all leave together some left before others I was in the second lot to leave and there were about twelve and we were
driven up in trucks to Takloban airport and that was where we boarded a C-47 army transport we met a lot more soldiers going back to Sydney and other air force personnel that hadn't been in our particular thing like RAAF boys who had done a lot of work up there and
this was a transport and you sit round the edge of it although there was not much in the middle at all and it was very cold because as I think I told you previously here that it flew at about ten thousand feet it was very slow and we went back to Hollandia we stayed overnight in Hollandia then we went to Darwin and from Darwin to Brisbane and total flying time was twenty-two hours it was a long time whereas today they are flying from the Philippines
to Sydney in about six so that was how we got there and then I went on forty days leave when we got back because I had all that due to me and I hadn't met June then you see because I came down back to Sydney and had the leave and then I went back to Strathpine because I knew that's where I had to report to and that was forty days later.
Q: So we touched there briefly
that you and June joined in the celebrations
A: VP Day! [Victory in the Pacific]
Q: when the war ended can you describe the celebrations that you partook in.
A: Euphoric. It was terrific all her family her father who Principal of Brisbane Tech. and her mother and her other two sisters and she and I were all marching abreast down
the main streets of Brisbane like everyone else and singing gaily and just so happy that war had finished and this went on for quite a few days it was just amazing they way it went on and Brisbane wasn't as big as Sydney of course but I happened to be there because I was at Strathpine when that all happened so we had a great time, great time it was a new era had began very happy time.
Q: So what did the end of the war mean to you?
A: Well the end of the war meant to me that I could do something with my life that I wanted to do you see I was a qualified accountant and had passed my secretarial exams also when I was at Strathpine and so that put me in quite a privileged position and when I got out of the services on my 21st birthday in November 21st 1945
I then went with the guy who had trained me to be an accountant before I went not in his office but to Aberdeen which is out of Scone and I worked there as a clerk in the meat works because labour was had to get and he by a little juggling got me out I got out very early you see war finished in August and I was out in November a lot of other people didn't get out until the following year because
it took a lot of work to get this done well what I did then and this will come back to June what I did then I also worked at another place for about twelve months the different jobs I had and then I decided to leave that accountant and go with another man because who wanted to pay me more money when we got married, we got married on eight pound week and that was very good pay then
it was and absolutely terrific pay the basic wage was about three pound ten so that was a good wage and that man was concerned about a client who was involved in mineral deposit syndicate which is a mineral sand syndicate at Southport in Queensland and it was on the Nerang River and I was offered the job to go up and manage it which I did and this leads into our marriage
I went up there and was there for at least six months I had a jeep at my disposal which you'd been hearing about from my shaking hands with people in the street and it was a left hand drive and taking the rotor out because it was the only way that you could lock it up and I drive from there and we had every weekend together there for quite awhile up in Brisbane and June come down there for some weekends and it was very good and
I was then asked if I would carry on there in that managerial capacity I was paid twenty pound a week and twenty pound entertainment which was a huge salary it really was but the entertainment was too terrific it really was all the people who hadn't been to war or anything they had a different outlook on life then they wanted to be happy and you know party on
and all this sort of business it wasn't getting me anywhere at all so June and I made the decision that we'd get married in Brisbane on the 31st May '47 and we decided that we would come back to Sydney and I would go into the profession of accountancy again so we came back and I went with another guy for a while and I left this fellow who
had the connection and I went with another fellow who promised me a partnership well that didn't happen so I decided to do income tax returns and that sort of thing and I did that and then after another year it might have been eighteen months I went out on my own we started it in our own home at Gladesville and June was the typist and looked after the telephone
and all this sort of business and we gradually got more clients together and it ended up thirty years later when I got out of it but I told you before that we had four partners and twenty-five on the staff we bought an office in Gladesville and practised there and there were very many funny great and wonderful things that happened during that time and its gone from there we have children and they all
went to school and have all done there final certificates at school one of them went to Sydney university, the architect the other went into the merchant navy and passed his first mate certificate and then went to England and got his degree in Cardiff and then he went to Cambridge and got his economics degree there and then to Liverpool and got his
doctorate there and he was studying until he was about thirty two and the other one after he left school and he went to East Sydney Tech and did a hotel management course and he came out of that and passed very well and he has been in Canada since 1975 and he's managing a hotel in Vancouver.
got a wonderful legacy there by the sounds of it.
A: Yes very good indeed.
Q: How do you think your wartime experience influenced your later life?
A: Well it's hard to say but I can always reflect back on it but I don't think it's influenced a great deal because as I've explained to you we haven't had that big family setup at the back of us
and we've always had to be the ones that did our own planning our own stepping out as it were and you see in the situation as it goes I had thirty nine years in Rotary now this was another thing that become a huge apart of our life and we'd been all around the world with Rotary and sometimes we were away three times a year travelling overseas and all that sort of a thing and
we've met so many people from so many places and the war experience has been interesting in that you could share it a bit with people from overseas who you knew had also been away at war and we haven't been able to go into intimate details with it but its certainly been able to put you on a different plane with people when they knew you were returned serviceman if you didn't just go to the war at all but as I've told
you about Japan it opened doors in Japan the mere fact of who we were which is quite interesting because no one had a grudge against us for fighting against them in the war we've never had to worry about it most of the people in the generation see we went to Japan first in 1972 and we had kids in our home before that but none of those kids knew about the
war at all they used to ask us what happened and they were not educated in Japan in the fact that there was a terrible defeat in the war they all knew about Hiroshima and Nagasaki which was pretty terrible in its own regard but it was never referred to or brought up in conversation the nicer things were always done the arts or the tea ceremony and all these things that make Japan great as a community
situation it is quite different from ours or us at least we've been in Tokyo when there's been a riot on for instance but that had noting to do with the war but the fact that I was in the forces I think its given us great strength because we have always been pretty independent and its given us strength through independence and the other thing that's given us a lot of strength as well is being involved in a lot of church work
tremendous lot as we discussed the first day that we had these talks and I'm putting this down for you because you see they were a top level as well just being at the local level and my thoughts and input have always been greatly appreciated wherever I've been in that work and June the same she's been a great strength to me as well as
to other people and its been a situation that people know us today as John and June they don't separate us into John and June they know us as a unit and that's helped us a lot in life without the big family backing as it were we've made our own life around ourselves and we spread out from there as it were
and the kids are all happily married and working their lives out as well and next Sunday is mothers day as you know and we've been invited out to lunch with our youngest ones family and everything else because they're here the others aren't here but these things are upheld all the time birthdays and family get togethers and there is a lot of joy in that.
Q: Now I believe you wanted to clarify the family context when we were talking before about letters home and communication with the family and you were saying during a tape change that do with English stiff upper lip and you wanted to clarify that.
A: Yes the point with it was that Englishman generally and I say this because we've met a lot of our relations in England
when we first went there in 1967 and we were quite delighted to meet them but they were a different lot of people my father had met a lot of them after the First World War 'cos stayed on other there at Balliol College at Oxford and did an engineering degree and he become a lieutenant in the army through it but he met a lot of them and he had a very great
English type background because of his mother and father being out here she came out on a fifty dollar deck chair on a boat and this is how they migrated in those days and he got this all the time through his growing up and he obviously joined voluntarily the AIF to go away and fight in France in 1916 and he was at an early of twenty when he did that he felt it was his duty
to go you see things in England in those day were duty its your duty to do this and your duty to do that and that's what he did and he never spoke very much about the war in fact I was only fifteen when he died as you know but he never discussed the war with me at all he never discussed it in our home it was a pretty terrible war as you know but since I've had his diary and I've typed that up for the family etc
they've all been quite surprised what grandpa did and what he was about.
Q: You mentioned, I think your words were there wasn't much love or there wasn't much showing of it.
A: Not much showing of love, no not much showing of love.
Q: but it was there
A: it was there I think but I don't know whether they knew how to get round it or not you see I've got a sister who is very, very aloof and you would never think she was the sister of anyone you know and that's just the type
of thing which has been very awkward for us at different times and for the cousins its been awkward as well and its got to the stage that they're talking about having a reunion for instance and she said to me on the phone when I told her about it don't send me an invitation I wouldn't go to that.
Q: John perhaps we can go into a bit more detail about the fact that you had to keep secret the role that you did during the war, can you talk more about that?
A: Yes I can talk more about. You see it didn't come up to me as a worry because I had signed a document that prohibited me from discussing it the threat of the law
I was pretty interested in this because suddenly out of the blue in 1991 I was told that something had been written about it which has revealed it all and this put in my mind it didn't give me great joy but it put in my mind a relief that I could now speak about it and after all those years which was a
terrific number of years '45 to '91 it's a lot of years but I'd accepted that and I'm a sort of person who will do that if I know that I'm not a real law breaker at all if I know that a law is the law and as silly as it sometimes is today in Sydney life I will stick by the law and I've had to do that in local government and the Sydney County Council
Rotary, church and all the different things I've been involved in and I'm not a law breaker it wasn't hard for me to accept that I had to do that but I was terribly relieved that I could now speak about it because I felt it was a story like you've heard and you've realised yourself that its quite a story and it's the joy of being able to put it down I guess now that relieves me even further and
that's why I would be happy now to go to Canberra on appointment and give a lot of the stuff I've got here on this war to the archives because you've got it on tape and I feel in years to come it could benefit Australia in doing this back drop and that's what its about and it's a very personal thing because it wasn't done with a lot of people at a time but it was done very judiciously
and selectively and its rewarded me very greatly to be able to be recognised and I think that's been the thing as far as I'm concerned its nice to be told it's a good story.
Q: It's a great story.
A: Yes well that's the point and I think it comes out like that and then as you said rightly that possibly another person wouldn't sit down and do all this but I just
feel its something to be proud of and I'm happy to sit down and do it.
Q: Did you confide in anyone?
A: No June didn't even know about it she only knew that I was in intelligence and she knew some of the people because we did meet some of them after the war but she wasn't at me all the time what did you do, where did this happen and where did that happen you know because we understood one other well and we said now we can't talk about this we accepted that we've done
that all our lives we've known things that can't be done yet we would have loved to have done them but we haven't done them because we were just asked not to.
Q: You just mentioned meeting up with your mates after the war were you allowed to talk about it with them reminisce?
A: No we didn't do that at all we would've probably discussed something that was community wise say
we were in the Philippines but no one knew why and we might say, when we were in the Philippines that was different wasn't it? Or something like that but it wouldn't be prolonged conversation or giving away any secrets at like that I was terribly delighted when I knew about all those ships we sunk and everything because that was a real war effort to think that you'd been instrumental in doing that and they're the pleasant things that you think about
that you've done for you king and country or your queen and country now and that's it.
Q: How important was it for you to keep in contact with your mates that you served with after the war?
A: Not greatly important it wasn't greatly important at all it was the fact that I would say in one regard that the man who died he would have said to me we're going to Yass, if you coming down that way call in and see us well we were going that way and we called in and saw him and nearly froze to death
that night because Yass is often below zero and he didn't have a very well furnished house and we were so cold it was just unreal but there was no great thing in it okay we'd been there another man who came to live not far just a couple of miles up the road who I knew very well I went to lunch with him one day and just had a chat about things you know but it was no great
hurrah as it were he said to me as a matter of fact he was the type of guy who really get upset by air raids and things like that he said to me a couple of times oh, do you remember some of those raids they were tough you know and this sort of thing but it was never any more than that that was done and the attitude of another one of them I can think of is or that's all very well to be able
to gone through all that but I'm pleased I'm not in that now and so that was they type of thing it wasn't any big hurrah or anything like that.
Q: What does Anzac Day mean to you?
A: Well Anzac Day is a day that I know celebrates and gives thanks to people who have been to World Wars and there been a lot of them now Vietnam and the rest of it.
I think that its a great day though now telling the people they can wear their father's ribbon if his not here or they can march with his fathers and everything else my boys would never do it now that is the first thing that is interesting and the reason they wouldn't is that they have never heard from me until of late about the war and I gave them a copy of my diary because I typed it out and gave them a copy of it and after all this time and
they're all married with there own kids its not a big deal they respect Anzac Day as such and so do I. I think its great that people can get together but they've got to get together with someone they know and I don't know anyone right now who I was in the war with and that's a remarkable situation because although we were in these wireless units they were very personal as well and I once marched on an Anzac day in 1986
and I know the date very well because I was in Gladstone, Queensland at that time on a Rotary thing and I naturally marched because I was representing a few people in it and everything else I was glad to march for the sake of the day I didn't know a sole I was marching with and the governor of the day up there whose conference was he wasn't a return man either so I just marched with a few Rotarians who had been away
had there medals etc and I marched with them because I was a representative of high authority and they were meeting on that day and that was the first thing they did was to honour Anzac Day and naturally I went with them when you are one out and I see all these banners on Anzac Day of this one and the other one I just feel as a one out personality that it would be a very lonely day as far as I'm concerned
I wouldn't feel like being happy and gay on the day because it doesn't mean that to me at all and its not supposed to with anyone is it, it is supposed to honour the deeds of people and that's the real crux of the thing and that's the reason why because I think you realised that in being able to talk to you about all these things that I have that I've been able to put them together on a basis
of unit and speak about them like that but I haven't gone overboard with anything, about them, about me I was part of a situation that I liked being in at the time because I volunteered to do it but I feel okay that's now set aside I come back to city life and do my best in city life and I've done my best in city life as you realise and
enjoyed doing it we've done a lot of it together and of course as Junes told you before we were married she qualified as an engineering drafts women so we had a good basis for marriage a very organised basis and I'm a very organised person and that's why we've hit it particularly because of our organisation one with the other and we've got a terrific esp. between us its quite amazing the number of times
that we said you've done something (you've done something) and I have or she has and didn't tell me she was going to do it or she brings up something I was thinking about you know say what will we do on Sunday, who'll we take presents to or something and I've been thinking of that and this happens all the time with us so we're right on the right wave length and this why I think we've
had a successful fifty six years together.
Q: So John we're going to actually finish up pretty soon but before we do I was wondering if you had anything else you'd like to say or clarify?
A: No I'm quite happy and I'm happy to have done this for you and with you and I've given it my best for it and I thank both you people have done your best for me which has been very good and we've both been very happy to meet you.
If you'd like to take photographs of any of the photographs I have, I'd be very pleased if you did it and I will from here as I said before get things together and put them in the archives of what I've got, because I think that's the place for them, so thank you very much indeed.