Date Interviewed: 20 April, 2004
Q: Start by giving us a summary of your life.
A: I was born in Perth in Western
Australia on the 11th of April 1921. I was educated at Perth Boys' High School. I joined the Postmaster General's Department when I was 14 years of age. It was the height of the Depression and it wasn't possible to go on for further education because of financial constraints. I applied
to the Postmaster General's Department position as telegraph messenger and succeeded in passing their entrance exam; commenced work with them at 19 and sixpence halfpenny per fortnight. I don't know why the halfpenny, but that was the salary they paid me. I went through a period of training with the Postmaster General's Department. In those days everybody
had to learn Morse code. I was one of them. Sent to a country post office down in a place called Pemberton a year or so after I joined the PMG [Postmaster General]. Stayed down there for about 18 months. Had a fairly busy time. As a kid of barely 15 or so I had to work the Morse line, the telegraph line, whilst the postmaster stood in front of the fire. It was a cold place,
Pemberton, had to light a huge fire first thing; that was the first job, 6:30 in the morning. Then I used to have to man a 48-line switchboard. I had a draw on the counter for stamps, postal notes and all those sorts of things. I was a general factotum sort of thing and delivering telegrams. My day was from about 6:30 in the morning till about 6:30 at night. I had a short break during the middle of the day.
From there I came back to the telegraph office in Perth. I was in the operating room there for a while and by this time I'd become interested in crystal sets, like most children of my age, and started playing around with radio. I also joined the Royal Australian
Naval Reserve as a cadet. I wasn't old enough to be a fully-fledged naval reservist. Because I had been fully trained as a telegraphist, the navy were quite happy to take me on board as a cadet. I became besotted with the navy. I wanted to join the permanent navy. My folks wouldn't agree because in those days getting a government job was like winning the lottery. So
they were quite happy for me to stay as a naval reservist and I did so until I migrated to Sydney. My family came over to Sydney about 1937 time. I transferred over from the post office and I joined the radio branch of the post office as it was then, as a very, very lowly junior assistant.
Still remained as a naval cadet until I was 18. When the war started 3rd of September 1939 I was asked to leave my position with the PMG Department and I was mobilised into the Royal Australian Navy as a telegraphist. There I stayed
through the usual induction courses the navy had at that time. I suppose about 3 months after the war started, about the late October/November, they drafted me to a minesweeper called the [HMAS] Goolgwai. The minesweepers in those days were deep-sea trawlers
with facilities onboard for streaming paravanes for minesweeping and they were ideally suited for quick conversion to a minesweeper. I was posted to Goolgwai with a small group of naval Perth gunnery fellows and signalmen and there I stayed
minesweeping off the Australian coast for I suppose about 12 or 18 months. Then I think I had a short spell in the hospital at Randwick. When I came out of there, they posted me to the examination service on HMAS Gerard. I was examining merchant ships entering port. Then down to
Flinders Naval Depot for what they call a WT3 [Wireless Telegraphy] course, it's a course that ultimately leads to leading hand, similar to a corporal in the army. After I finished the course there I came out as a WT3 and I was posted to Garden Island standing by a corvette called HMAS Geraldton. It was fitting out up
in Cockatoo Docks. In the meantime I spent my working days at the wireless station. The navy had a very large wireless station on Garden Island. I was watch-keeping at that stage until I got a call for a crash draft to HMAS Swan. Apparently the leading telegraphist on the Swan had taken ill and I
had to take his place. Away I went on HMAS Swan and it was convoying to Papua New Guinea and that general area. I became ill on Swan with infected tonsils. I was pretty seasick all the time. They decided that I should get rid of these tonsils so HMAS Colac was travelling south from
Port Moresby. They transferred me over in the middle of the Coral Sea onto HMAS Colac. I finished up again in Randwick Military Hospital. Had these infected tonsils removed. Then I was posted to the combined operations people. This was the land-sea-air warfare that was just being set up. I think Lord Louis Mountbatten was the
father of it. They established a base up at Port Stephens, which they called HMAS Assault. I was posted out as, I think they called themselves beach commandos. I have a bit of a smile when I think of it now compared to the special operations people in Services Reconnaissance Department. I was off to HMAS Assault and I had a group of
very, very young telegraphists. I think they were only about 17 or 18. I think some of them should have been still at school. They were a pretty wild, lively bunch. That was my group of radio operators. I think I was posted to the second or third wave Red Beach; I think was my posting.
The idea was that we had a medium size radio station; I suppose one would call it batteries on one carrier, transmitter receiver on another, and required four telegraphists to carry the thing. They would put us in these invasion barges and were exercising from about 3-4 in the morning til about 6 o'clock at night.
Running into the beach from these barges and setting up. Whilst I was there it wasn't a particularly pleasant job. These barges had young American coxswains driving them at the time. They had the happy
knack of putting these barges where they said on the beach, they dropped the front flap and said, "Away you go" but you weren't on the beach at all. You were often on a shoal. They called it Shoal Bay up there. These characters used to put it on the shoal and say, "Away you go": drop the flap and you jump off the front of it and you'd be up to your neck with water.
Whilst I was at HMAS Assault a very strange character came, Lieutenant Davidson, an RN [Royal Navy] fellow [Lieutenant D. M. N. Davidson, Royal Naval Reserve]. He was a green striper, which is special service, wearing jungle boots. Looking rather quaint compared to the rest of the navy people. He had with him a small group of sailors
similarly clad in jungle boots, navy hats and khaki military green shirts. They had a leading telegraphist with them and we virtually swapped drafts. He asked me whether I'd swap drafts with him. I asked him where he was going. "A small ship up in the islands to browse around." My assault ship was [HMAS] Kanimbla
heading for the Balikpapan landings. He was very keen to change drafts. There was an episode that pushed me into change over to his Services Reconnaissance Department and I volunteered for that after being checked for security and all this sort of thing. Donald Davidson called me in and said, "Well, Leading Telegraphist Young, you've now joined
Services Reconnaissance Department and they'll pay you 50% over your base rate of pay while you work with us." Next thing I'm on a train heading for Cairns to a very strange looking house called House on the Hill. It was called Z Experimental Station. That's where the Special Forces people were,
one of their forward bases. From there I was introduced to my next seagoing vessel, which was the motor vessel Krait. That was a shock to the system seeing that. From there Operation Jaywick was being formed. We started, after a lot of preliminary
training in the Hawkesbury River area here, very close to where we are now. Operation Jaywick completed. We came back to Exmouth Gulf and Davidson went off for his debriefings and Page [Captain R. C. Page Australian Imperial Force (AIF)] went off to marry his fianc�. Patty Morris [Corporal R. G. Morris, AIF], who had a wound in his foot, went to have that patched up. Davidson said, "You'll have to
stay here till we get back." A couple of weeks he was away. When he came back he said, "I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that you're going on 6 weeks' leave, but you first of all gotta take Krait to Darwin and hand her over to a group of people called the Lugger Maintenance Patrol." They were in Timor and some of these other places where we had people on. The bad news was they knocked
off our 50% money. That didn't go down well. He said, "Don't worry about it, it's only a hiccup. By the time you come back, it'll all be fixed up and restored." Never was restored. So I was not very happy about that, so I finished up. We went up to Darwin, handed the vessel over to the Lugger Maintenance people
after our leave and then shipped off to the Fraser Island where the reconnaissance department had set up a big camp for Z Special Unit people. It was a multi-national thing for training people in the type of warfare that special reconnaissance was engaged in. You name it, they were into all the dirty tricks.
I eventually felt, we'd have a handshake agreement on this 50% above our base pay. I thought that was binding. My first child had arrived. My eldest son arrived the day we left Exmouth Gulf to go onto Operation Jaywick. I was on 8 shillings a day and another 4 bob a day was 12 bob a day.
It was very useful as a young family. So when they wouldn't pay us the money when we came home I said, "I'll have to go back into general service." I couldn't get any promotion or anything like that whilst I was with SRD [Services Reconnaissance Department] cos it was primarily a non-navy turnout. There were navy people there, but the reconnaissance people were army. After a few attempts to get out,
I was able to get somebody to listen to my application. I returned to general service. I finished up going to a ship called HMAS Yanderra where I stayed until the end of the war and paid off from her in 1945 I think it was. After a period of
leave, back to the Postmaster General's Department radio branch. There I gained a fair bit of experience one way or the other technically and I was given the position of assistant radio inspector. The job there was chasing complaints from the general public about interference with their radio reception, powerlines and domestic appliances and things like that. Used to have to fit suppressors on them
to clean the noise out of them. I progressed a fair bit. I went back to school and did study. Eventually I progressed up the ladder through the radio branch and I went to Papua New Guinea with my family about 1956 as the district radio inspector for the whole of Papua New Guinea. My job was to establish
the radio inspection type of thing for the Papua New Guinea administration and also to set up a frequency monitoring station. There were good reasons as to why that had to be put in. After about 2 1/2 years in Papua New Guinea, they offered me a secondment to Kuching. I had two of my children at school and I turned that
one down and came back to Australia. I was offered a job in Hong Kong with the British administration. I said, "Yes". My daughter, my youngest child, decided to get married, so I turned that down. No use going to Hong Kong and have to come back to a wedding. So we finished up
going down, coincidental of that, my chief in the Postmaster General's Central Administration in Melbourne retired and they asked me would I go down and take his job on, and I went down there as chief inspector of wireless down in post office headquarters. From there I was appointed deputy assistant director general in the radio regulatory section. With the break-up of the
PMG Department into the Telecom Commission and Postal Commission, they created a new department of state, which was Department of Post and Telegraph; secretary chief man. I became an assistant secretary in that department until I retired. From then I was having a little bit of heart trouble. Fair bit. The medical people felt that I should
take an earlier retirement, which I took eventually and came up to the central coast of New South Wales to Ettalong, Woy Woy and that general area. I stayed in the same area every since.
Q: What was your father's job?
A: He was a foreman boilermaker in Midland Junction Railway Workshop. With the Depression all those people were put off. He had to finish up doing relief work. Those days, if they
were out of work they received a small amount of sustenance like tea, sugar, bread and stuff like that, and a day or two a week if they were lucky they could work on roads. They were very, very hard times. Many a day we never saw much of decent tucker. It was always bread and dripping.
Kangaroo tails were on the menu quite a bit cos there was plenty of them. My father used to bring home a few kangaroo tails. It was rather a red-letter day. Usually some fish and chips went with it, which was highly sought after. He never really
recovered from the Depression days. He came across the eastern states to try and get a job on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was a very, very good tradesman. He made a lot of his own tools. I remember him hand-beating a set of copper saucepans by hand out of sheet metal. They were absolutely perfect. A remarkably good tradesman.
He couldn't get a job anywhere in the eastern states. He was unhappy I think. The upshot was it created a few family problems and my mother and he parted. My mother, sister and myself came over to the eastern states and set up shop over here.
Q: Had your father served in World War 1?
A: No, he was turned down. He was born in Canada. In those days we didn't go too much into family trees like we have here. He had some problem with that; he was rejected. If your feet weren't
proper or flat or something or other they wouldn't take you on. He was rubber out there and didn't go to World War 1.
Q: What was Perth like in those days?
A: Much like a country town. Probably something like Newcastle. It was a very clean place. I had
generally speaking, whilst the childhood wasn't marvellous because of what I've just explained, the shortage of food and entertainment and the things children enjoy today was nowhere to be seen in my time, but we struggled along OK. Perth was a very, very pretty place especially in the wildflower season. I remember
I used to ride my bike as a messenger down at Pemberton; I used to go out with a couple of the lads. Just outside the town there were huge fields of brown Boronia. They were actually shoulder high. You'd wade through these things. You could smell it miles before you got to it. Gather up great
heaps, bring it home and distribute it around the place. Nothing too much startling in the childhood side of things.
Q: How did your mum cope with the lack of money?
A: I somehow feel that the ladies of those days were quite remarkable in the way they could create a meal virtually out of fresh air.
My mother was a fairly good cook as most mothers were I think in those days. That was the primary role, cooking and cleaning and rearing children. She used to make ends meet. I often wonder how she ever managed to handle things. There was always something to eat. It mightn't be too marvellous, but we survived OK on it.
Q: What did you do for fun as a boy?
A: Most boys in those days used to play marbles and big ring and little ring and all that sort of thing. We used to play with buttons. Some of the smart kids used to cheat by putting the buttons. The idea was that you had to pick a button up with a finger. If you could get it up,
you retained that button. Buttons are not always easy, particularly mother of pearl buttons. So some of the smarties used to rub their finger in the gum of a tree and it'd rub off; a bit of cheating. We had tops and we used to bolt tyres. We had hoops with a wire thing that we used to run around the place with. Play cowboys and Indians and all
that. I don't know whether kids play that now. That's the way we used to fill our time in. School was?there was always plenty of homework from school, so that used to take a fair bit of our spare time.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I started off at the infant school in St James in James Street. Then
it only went up to certain grades and we had to go to Highgate Hill, which was a little bit further away from where I was living, but we used to have to walk there a couple of miles. When I did 6th class I had to go to James Street High School and
there I stayed until I departed to enter the post office.
Q: What did you have as treats? You mentioned fish and chips.
A: During the Depression
I can remember there were soup kitchens and as kids you could go along and get a bowl of soup. They were free. Christmas time was grim because there was no money to buy toys or anything like that. My father used to make most of ours. He made a magnificent replica of a locomotive
all out of cheap metal. It was a pretty fancy piece of work. Then mothers used to make dolls for the girls and gollywogs and things like that. I remember I started selling papers. I did a few things to get a few extra dollars.
Before my voice broke, I used to do a bit of singing. I used to do a bit of Shakespeare. Everybody seemed to have a thing for tap dancing. I used to have a flare for that so we used to do a bit of Shakespeare and sing a song. I'd get a week's work at the Luxor Theatre, which was a vaudeville show. I'd get a pound for that week. That was very useful. My mother wouldn't even afford the price to go in to see me act.
That's how grim things were. Used to have to peek through a hole in the door. Then she started taking washing and ironing for the Bank of New South Wales. She used to boil these things up in a copper. Outside coppers were all the go in those days. She used the outside copper and stoked it up with black boy,
fairly fast burning thing. She used to get these tablecloths from the dining room at the bank. I never saw the dining room except for taking the things back to the lady who was looking after it. It was a pretty elaborate dining room. They did pretty well the bank people. Then
I got a job selling newspapers for the Daily Mirror in St George's Terrace. They gave me a stand on the corner of Howard Street and St George's Terrace. St George's Terrace is a pretty busy street. There were a lot of professional offices around there. I wasn't a very big kid at the time; I was a bit on the small side and rather lean
and hungry-looking. A lot of the solicitors around there used to give me a few sandwiches and things like that to fatten me up and keep me going. They were very kind to me in a few ways. So I sold papers there and did fairly well. So much so that I finished up employing two boys. The Turnbull brothers was their name.
I had the top end of Howard Street. Howard Street runs from St George's Terrace to the Esplanade so I parked these two employees at the bottom of Howard Street on the Esplanade. They were a bit slow. This is not much chop. As a paperboy you had to leap on trams and buses and run in between motorcars. You couldn't afford to be,
you had to get a sale. These kids were standing around like dummies so I finished up firing them. Nevertheless, I did sell papers for quite a while. I used to collect bottles. Every kid collected bottles. The flat oval-shaped wine bottles were worth four pence each. They were real big prize. Chaff bags used to fetch a similar price from
Sar [?] and Cooks, the produce people in Perth. So anything where there was a bit of dough to be paid. Everyone had to do this sort of thing. There was nothing unusual about it. When Dad would come home on Friday night with his bag of kangaroo tails, he had some fish and chips he'd buy from the local fish and chip shop and
that was really a red-letter day when they arrived. We didn't have refrigerators in those days. He devised what they called a Coolgardie safe. It was a metal frame thing that was riveted and covered with hessian. It had a water tray on the bottom and the top. The water used to drip from the top through the hessian down to the bottom.
It'd keep things reasonably cool. It was quite remarkable. I don't know whether he invented these things, but I know he used to make them. That was the refrigeration side of things. We were able to keep the roo [kangaroo] tails for a while because they had to be disposed of. Not much was thrown out.
Q: Where did you learn your singing and dancing from?
A: My mother used to play the piano. She wasn't a bad pianist either. In those days the Sunday nights around the piano were a ritual. My sister had a fairly good singing voice.
We all used to do a bit of dog howling around the piano on a Sunday night. Somewhere along the track, I was asked to go into a pantomime. A lady, Lucy Peters was her name, her and her husband used to run a dancing school. They used to teach all manner of dancing: ballet, but particularly tap dancing.
They conned my mother into letting me take some lessons with them. I guess that's how it kicked off.
Q: What was your act at the Luxor Theatre?
A: Usually a bit of an introduction song; something that
could be jazzed up a bit and do a bit of tap dancing after you finished your song. Bow out and away you go. I think that was really, but I, like most boys when their voices break, they're a boy soprano one day and they're a frog the next day.
That was the end of my vaudeville career. I did get quite a few engagements at the Luxor Theatre. It's long since gone now, but it was a scene of many interesting episodes I can tell you.
Q: Where did you pick the newspapers up from to sell?
A: There was a chap that was in charge
of the circulation. He had a big Desoto Tourer, quite a nice looking car in those days; big lump of a thing. He used to deliver the papers. You go to your stand. When you kicked off, you may take 50 papers or something like that with you under your arm, head off to your stand and then he would keep you stocked up. He would
stop his car, "How are you going? You want some more? OK." He'd keep you supplied. We used to work till about 8 o'clock at night I suppose. Say from about 4 o'clock till about 8 o'clock at night. Then we used to have to go home and do homework and get ready for school the next day.
Q: You were a sharp sales boy?
A: I'm not too sure.
I didn't go too badly in the newspaper business. Wasn't too bad.
Q: You left school at 14?
A: Yes. It would have been 14.
A: There was no money available. Dad was out of work. They didn't
pay them the sort of money they pay them nowadays. Somebody had to get some dough. I stole down to the post office and asked them was there any chance of a job. They said, "Fill this form in" or something like that and the next thing I know I had to sit for this examination. They started me off as a temporary and at the
public service examination was held in the December. I was a bit lucky. I wasn't a bad scholar I suppose. I had a mother that used to stand over me and make me do my homework; do the proof reading of the compositions. I was lucky enough. Many were called but few were chosen for that. They used to get hundreds of kids. They only used to take
20 or 30 of them. Might take a few more later in the year, but I was lucky to get in amongst the mob. That's the way it went.
Q: Your family must have been happy when you got the job.
A: My mother was ecstatic. I always remember the Australian
Naval Squadron came to Fremantle for a visit and was thrown open to the public. I went down, "I'm gonna join the navy." My parents were horrified, "You just got a good government job and that's where you're gonna stay." That was it.
Q: You decided to join the naval reserve against your family's wishes?
A: Very much so. I was too young. I'd have had to have gone in as a cadet anyway. Hadn't reached the age of 18 and my parents wouldn't sign the papers. They said, "You can be a cadet reservist and
be content with that. Stay with the public service."
Q: Tell us about your decision to join the naval reserve later on.
A: Even though I was a cadet, I had joined the naval reserves when I was
15. Then when we transferred over to the eastern states, I transferred over with the post office and with the navy as well. So I still remained as a reservist. When I turned 18, I became a fully-fledged naval reservist. I was a cadet no longer.
Q: As a cadet, what training did you do?
A: We used to have to go out to Swanbourne rifle range
and we used to do a fair bit of shooting with rifles. Even if I was a telegraphist there was still the basic training that has to be gone through. Then we used to have to do sailing. The navy had whalers and cutters and things like that, which we could take out at any time over the weekend and we used to sail around Garden Island
and get terribly seasick. Then we used to have to do our standard Morse exercises, which fortunately, because I had been taught by the post office, I didn't find that much of a strain at all. I think I was regarded as being a reasonable sort of
telegraphist, so much so that I used to do the sending from the boats to the rest of the troops.
Q: What was involved in being in the radio branch at the post office?
A: When I went back into the radio branch I eventually
was appointed as an assistant radio inspector. My primary job was attending to complaints from the general public. Back in those days, you had to pay a wireless licence. About a pound a year or something to listen to your broadcast radio. Because of that, if you couldn't hear your radio programs you could go to the post office ad get a questionnaire and fill it
in and then a radio inspector would come out to see what your complaint was about. He would normally ask you to demonstrate your interference you were complaining about. If they were able to demonstrate that interference to the visiting inspector, he would go out with instruments and trace out where it was coming from. Then he would interview the person who was causing the interference and explain that they were interfering with the radio and
advise them on suppression methods, how to filter the interference out. Hopefully everybody would go away and live happily every after. Sometimes it didn't work out because you had strange people that used to hear things that they thought were coming out of their radio, but weren't. Some people are
a little bit, well, they imagine things. They were very difficult to convince because they were hearing things that we couldn't hear. Trying to tell somebody that they're imagining that they're hearing noises is not easy. I had some very unhappy moments in my time. I was pleased to get outside the
door. That was one side of it. The radio branch was responsible for a number of things. It used to inspect the radio installations on merchant ships on behalf of the department of navigation because we had the experts that were involved in that field. We would go aboard merchant ships and check all the
main wireless installations on the ship and the emergency equipment, lifeboat equipment, their DF [Direction Finder], all that sort of gear had to be inspected under the Merchant Shipping Act. It was the radio regulations that applied to the safety of life at sea. Those were the things that had to be looked at. That fell to our people because we had the experts to do the work,
whereas the Department of Navigation had ship masters and surveyors to check on ships' hulls and things like that and lifeboat equipment, but they didn't have the technical people to do the radio side. Then we used to look after all the examinations, the certificates of proficiency. There was a first class, second class,
third class certificate and broadcast operators. All those qualifications fell within our province. We were examining people to be issued those qualifications. In other words, before a technician could be employed in the broadcast station, he had to have a broadcast certificate of proficiency and a pretty solid technical examination too. The same with the first class certificate. That entailed a telegraph test,
25 words a minute Morse and also radio regulation paper and electro-technology paper. A practical examination on all the equipment then a traffic-handling test where you had to set up two ships and send telegrams. There was a fair bit to it. You had to have those certificates before you could go to sea as a radio officer on a ship. That was another one of
our responsibilities. There were illegal radios that were causing strife. They had to be chased down. They'd be prosecuted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act operating unlicensed radio equipment. It was jail or a thousand pound fine. Penalties were exalted.
Q: What kind of
people had the illegal radios?
A: A lot of them were high school kids that liked to dabble with the radio particularly when the citizens' band opened up. That was the big problem that we had to deal with. Kids were buying these CBs [Citizens' Band] and talking to each other. Some of the equipment that was coming into the country was pretty
ordinary stuff technically. Some of it had capability of causing interference to other services like aeronautical services and shipping services, particularly to broadcasting television services. That's where a lot of our complaints used to come from. A lady would ring up and say, "I can't watch my TV [Television], I've got a hearing pattern on the screen." You know straight away that it'd be a CB somewhere.
They were a bit of a problem.
Q: How old were you when war broke out?
A: I was 18.
Q: You were a fully-fledged member of the navy reserve?
A: Yes. I turned 18 on the 11th of April 1939 and I was mobilised on the 3rd of September. We had to go to a drill the week before, the war started
on the Sunday, and we had to go to a drill at Rushcutters Bay that week. I remember the naval fellow in charge, Lieutenant-Commander Shaw. He was a permanent service fellow. He said, "War is imminent," this is the Tuesday before the Sunday, "When the war is declared you must
get a telegram from us and you must leave your place of employment immediately. There's no ifs or buts. When you get that telegram, you must leave your place of employment and report to Rushcutters Bay." I think I got my telegram the day before, on the Saturday or something like that. We never used to work on Saturdays or Sundays. I
had to ring somebody up and say, "I won't be in to work on Monday, because I've gotta go into the navy." Everybody anticipated it, so it was no surprise.
Q: What were your thoughts on being drafted?
A: I thought it was very good; a bit of adventure. I didn't see anything wrong with it at all. I thought it was pretty good.
I didn't have too many complaints.
Q: What were you doing in the navy initially?
A: I went to sea almost?I'd only been mobilised a couple of months and 'bang' off I went to sea on this minesweeper with all these characters that had been taken over with the ship. They were merchant service fellows, fishermen; they were a rough lot too.
Trawlers, they're not too clean. They were awful special about having showers every day and things like that. And the crew's quarters were very, very confined. They almost sleep on top of each other. The living quarters were very smelly. If you're a bit squeamish in the stomach, because these trawlers would rock on a dewy lawn, they were so
terribly rough sailing on. My induction into the sea-going side of the navy, I always had stars in my eyes, the glamorous big cruisers, destroyers and things, but it didn't happen.
Q: Were you working as a telegraphist?
Q: What training did the navy give you as a telegraphist?
A: They didn't have to give me much at all. I had far better training from the post office telegraphist school. Although I was using a sounder in the post office and the buzzer style of thing, the musical tone that you mostly hear of, is a lot easier to read than the sounder. I'd been
brought up on the sounder, so the other was no trouble to me at all, plus I had my ham station. I got my amateur licence when I was 17 years of age. I passed the exam for the telegraphy post efficiency and I'd already built a transceiver unit. So I was well and truly into communication by the time I was mobilised. So I was a ready-made product
for the navy.
Q: Where were you based at the beginning of the war?
A: Our base was at Rushcutters Bay. That was the big naval base there. When we went to sea I suppose Sydney would be our base when we returned from our minesweeping operations.
Q: Did you live at Rushcutters Bay?
A: No, I didn't. I lived in Petersham actually.
My family lived in Petersham. I used to catch a train from Petersham down to Rushcutters Bay. The navy gave you a little tram ticket so you didn't have to use your own money.
Q: You must have been horrified when you saw the trawler.
A: It was a bit of a disappointment. Still, I suppose it's a ship. Something different.
A little bit of adventure. The crew weren't exactly what I would have regarded as navy crew. They were very rough characters. They were taken over when the navy took the trawler over. Put the skipper over and gave him a commissioned
warrant rank. The rest of the fishermen were made AB [Able Seamen]. They were wonderful sailors, but that's about it.
Q: How many crew?
A: I'd have to be relying on memory. I'd say about 20.
It's a very small crew.
Q: Tell us about your first operation.
A: You mean going to sea? I don't know whether, I know I'd be violently seasick. I wasn't the world's best sailor. I suffered from a bit of inner ear trouble. These perpetually bouncing small ships. They're only 230 tons. Very, very
rough seas. In those days you did a fair bit of listening. You had to do normal watch keeping, special watch keeping laid down for the telegraphists. You were only allowed to use the telegraph key under pain of death. You've gotta keep WT [Wireless Transmission] silence under
all circumstances. So the only time you'd be permitted to use the transmitter would be if you happened to sight an enemy submarine or something of that order. They'd probably let you send an enemy report. Generally speaking
transmitters, no way. Absolute emergencies. If the vessel was sinking you'd get the OK to send a message asking for some sort of help. Watch keeping, receiving was very important. You had to maintain a very, very careful watch
on your receiver.
Q: Where in the ship were you stationed?
A: In the minesweeper? Right underneath the wheelhouse. We used to sleep n the bows. I got into terrible trouble one time. I left the porthole open and the ship went to sea.
I was going up on watch. There were four of us sleeping in this tiny little compartment right up in the bows of the ship. I was in one of the upper bunks so it wasn't too bad. One of the chaps on the opposite side, he was sleeping in the lower bunk. He was a New Zealand guy; a real troublemaker too.
The merchant seamen in those days were very militant. They had good reason to be I suppose in some respects, but this chap was very, very union keen. This day when the ship went to sea, I'd left the porthole open and the seas were coming through the porthole. He's asleep as a case of something comes floating past his
bunk. He thought the ship was foundering. There was a bit of a stink over that. We went into storm there. That same bloke, there was a fairly big ventilator that they swing around to get the air. He was up there turning the ventilator around
and I think we were just about coming into harbour and I was sending a signal of our expected time of arrival. The down lead from the transmitting aerial was very close to this air ventilator that he was trying to turn around. The ship was rolling like mad and the down lead struck him by the ear. He wasn't very impressed. He got what we call an RF burn,
Radio Frequency burns. They're very, very penetrating. Took a bit out of his ear there. Somebody was gonna get court martialled over that. It all simmered down. There were lots of funny little things.
Q: Were did you go minesweeping?
A: Mainly off the east coast here. The Niagara had struck a mine not terribly far between New Zealand and Australia here.
The Germans were laying mines along our sea-lanes here. There were quite a few ships lost on the east coast of Australia. We had to keep those sea-lanes clear for the troop convoys.
Q: How did your boat do the
A: On the back of these trawlers there's a monstrous great, motorised thing for
Q: A winch?
A: Winch. Thank you. It's a winch. A huge
winch on the back of the trawler. They used it for pulling the deep-sea fishing nets in. These winches were really very, very big. They had devices on them for streaming the cables on them going out to the fishing nets. Those same, something like a davit
type of thing it was that these wires used to run through. They ran the wires through there and they used to put paravanes on them. They used to set these paravanes so they would sweep at certain depths and also at a certain angle off the ship. If you had three or four of these whips sweeping together they can sweep quite an area. The paravane has jaws like a
saw-tooth jaw on it. If they encounter a mine that's anchored they can usually drag the mine into the saw-tooth jaw and it cuts the cable and the mine pops up to the surface. It could be sunk by gunfire.
Q: What was it like when you did encounter a mine?
A: Interestingly enough, we didn't encounter any. We were fortunate that
the area where we were sweeping was fairly clean. We didn't actually strike any mines at all. It's no great drama. Once they hit the surface they can be sunk by rifle fire if you've got good marksmen on the ship.
And we had a 12-pounder there although that wasn't used to any great extent. We just had a few practice shoots with it. I had a bit of an incident with the Mariposa. You probably wouldn't know the Mariposa, Monterey with the Matson Line; big, white ships that the Americans used to use for the tourist industry before the war.
Beautiful looking ships they were. This occasion we were having a practice shoot off Sydney Heads. The Mariposa was coming out of Sydney heading towards Auckland. We're engaged in a practice shoot and we had a tug towing a kong-kong target. We all had to learn how to use this 12-pounder gun. Didn't matter who you were, you still had to
have a bit of a turn so as if the gun's crew got wiped out they had spares I suppose. On this occasion it was the signalman and the telegraphist that had their turn on the gun. The gun, we're all sorted out there?it was my turn. Just as Mariposa was coming out through the heads there I fired this 12-pounder.
Normally I think you fired it, once the vessel started to rise on the rolling on the sea that's when you fire your projectile. I fired the thing. I don't know, maybe I fired it too?I don't know. It skipped along on the surface towards the kong-kong target. It's off-shooting it so as it doesn't hit the target. This thing
bounced right towards the stern of the Mariposa and I never saw a ship change course so quickly. It got out of the way in a hurry. I got a bit of a reprimand for that. I said, "I'm a telegraphist, I'm not a gunner."
Q: How long would you be out for on each minesweeping operation?
A: You'd only be out for
a few days really because they didn't carry too much in the way of supplies and things like that; three or four days perhaps.
Q: Describe the cabins you were living in.
A: There was a large tin dish to wash in. That was about all the washing, no showers. It was pretty good to get into a decent shower and clean up
Q: What was the captain like?
A: Captain Double was his name. They weren't exactly terribly well educated these characters, as you might imagine. Most of them were English, Scotch or Welsh. Double, he wasn't a bad fellow, but his English wasn't terribly crash
hot. For instance, during the meal hour, on my watch keeping I'd still have to keep watch over through the normal meal hour. You'd hear Double sing out, "Get the wireless operator his dinner." The cook would have to rush up. He was very, very broad with his, the hospital ship [?] weren't too frequent. But he wasn't a bad bloke.
They all got on very well together. There were a mixture of Scotch and Welsh, pretty good blokes, wonderful seamen. They used to give us rhubarb because we used to get seasick. We had a coxswain on there, he was a leading seaman who took on the job of the coxswain.
He used to suffer terribly with seasickness. Being the coxswain he had to get all the crew going on all the jobs like the foreman as it were. He'd be so terribly ill and still have to carry out his duties. The seamen who were a regular merchant service crew used to really rib him and give him a hard time. He had a remarkable fortitude I thought to
cope with the situation. I don't know whether you've ever been seasick, but it's not the best arrangement, I can assure you.
Q: How did you finish up doing minesweeping?
A: I think I got a draft from there to another ship called HMAS Gerard.
She was engaged in a port operations examination of merchant vessels coming in. I wasn't on that terribly long before I got drafted to Flinders Naval Depot to do this WT3 course. I think they were probably preparing a lot of the guys for leading tels [telegraphers] on corvettes and things like that.
I wasn't on Gerard terribly long before I got a signal to say I'd got to go down to Melbourne and go to the Flinders Naval Depot and there I stayed until I finished the course. After that I was posted to a corvette called HMAS Geraldton. I never took up that posting because from there I was posted to Swan and from Swan to the combined operations people with HMAS Assault and was posted to
Kanimbla as my assault ship. I didn't take the job on Kanimbla either because I swapped drafts with this, he talked me into swapping drafts with him, so I went onto the Krait from there.
Q: Tell us about the Gerard.
A: It was an interesting ship. It was a sailing ship originally although it had a diesel
engine. I think it was a ship that was originally a German ship and was taken after World War 1 as war reparations. I think it had been used for certain trips down to Antarctica. It was a very, very stoutly built ship, not very big; a bit bigger than the minesweepers.
Might say about 4 or 500 tons, maybe a little bit bigger. Its job was, no ship could approach the port unless it had been examined out at sea. A ship was not allowed to come in until it had been cleared by the examination services. So when a ship was due to come into
say Port Kembla where we were mainly operating from, we'd have to go out and examine her. Establish her bona fides [authenticity] as it were and then the vessel would be allowed to proceed. Pretty monotonous job. Fortunately it was only a few months and then I was gone from there.
Q: To the Swan?
A: I went from there straight down to the naval depot at Flinders for this course I had to do.
Q: Tell us about that course.
A: I suppose there'd be about 20 guys in the course at that time. It was a
much higher level of work, responsibility and so forth. Like telegraph tests pretty much the same, but a lot more technical. The navy produced two very, very fine technical books called The Wireless Telegraphy Handbook or something like that.
I've still got my copies inside. I had to buy them for 10 shillings each. Interestingly enough I had them onboard Krait when I was away; wonderful textbook; absolutely almost the family Bible for technical information Parts 1 and 2. We had a lot of study there. We had to go back to school and do maths and things like that.
Then we had to do a lot of other incidental work such as manoeuvring procedures and ships in line. It was pretty complicated business the way the navy used to use telegraphy for manoeuvring ships in a group. If you had a line of warships they all had to proceed in all sorts of manoeuvres.
If they're engaging another enemy ship or something there was certain procedures for directing gunfire and all that sort of thing had to be learned. A big emphasis on the technical side this one.
Q: Who else was doing the course?
A: I'd say there'd be about 20 different chaps
of about my rank. I was what they call a TO2, a Trained Operator Telegraphist. That was a grade in the navy for communications. You went in as what they called as an OD telegraphist, an Ordinary Telegraphist; lowest guy in the deck. Then you do an examination, Morse examination and a bit of other stuff, and
if you pass that they make you a Telegraphist and you get a bit of extra money. The next one up is what they called a Trained Operator Telegraphist. You had to do a little bit harder exam and you get a few extra bob [shillings]. From there you go to what they call a WT3, that's the thing that prepares you for your first NCO [Non-commissioned Officer] sort of thing. Fair bit of
study goes into it; quite surprising really. Having my ham ticket and having been a post office telegraphist I didn't seem to have much trouble at all getting through these things. Most those guys were doing the WT3 course all went to corvettes. I went to Geraldton, but she wasn't ready to go to sea,
so in the meantime they kept me off on the Swan.
Q: What kind of ship was the Swan?
A: The Swan was a sloop. Swan had actually been in the first raid on Darwin and was still showing quite a lot of signs of damage to the vessel when I was drafted to her. But I took ill with these tonsils
and I only really had the one trip up to Papua New Guinea on her, vomiting all the time. I vomited a fair bit of blood and the skipper started to worry a bit. He said, "I think you'd better get into hospital and see what they can do for you." They weren't coming back to the coast of Australia. Colac was coming south so they just dropped me into a cutter and took me
across and I travelled back down in Colac.
Q: Where was the Swan based?
A: I suppose it would have been Sydney originally, but she was at sea most of the time.
Q: What was it like going into enemy territory for the first time?
A: On Krait?
Q: On the Swan.
A: I see. We were only servicing Papua New Guinea at the time
and the Australian convoys and that type of thing. So we weren't actually in enemy territory at that time.
Q: How many ships were in the convoys?
A: There could be anything up to 10 or 12 ships in a convoy; nothing as big as the Atlantic convoys. That time the submarines were starting to become fairly active
off the coast here, particularly Japanese submarines. All merchant ships had to go in convoy then; could be anything up to 10 or 12 vessels I suppose. Varied quite a bit really.
Q: Were you going through the Torres Strait?
Q: That must have been slightly hair-raising?
A: I suppose, but you never
think of those things. I think like all young people, they're totally indestructible. They think nothing ever happens to them.
Q: Did you notice the beauty of the reefs as you were going through?
A: Not on the Swan. We did subsequently on the Yanderra. We used to throw over a few depth charges to get a feed of fish.
Q: How long were you on the Swan before coming home?
A: I was only on that one voyage up. It wasn't all that special when I was drafted to her. I was waiting on Garden Island for the Geraldton. I hadn't been terribly well. I'd had sore throats and things like that persistently for quite a while. I had some medical treatment,
but that didn't seem to clear it up. On the trip up I'd started to haemorrhage rather badly and so they said, "You'd better get to hospital and see what they can do for you" and that's when I left Swan, travelled south on Colac and then to the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick.
Q: How long were you in the hospital?
A: I suppose I was in there for about 3 or 4 weeks. They say the worst thing an adult can get with having their tonsils removed is to get a cold. I got the flu and it wasn't too pretty. So that put me back a little bit. I was there 3 or 4 weeks I suppose.
Q: What was the treatment like then for tonsils?
A: Pretty basic. Not too much TLC [tender loving care] I can assure you. Quite remarkable cos they had a lot of World War 1 veterans in the wing where I was. One chap, I used to go over and see him when I was able to get up and walk around a bit. The poor devil
was lying in a bath of olive oil. He'd been badly burnt. I can't remember now whether he was in a tank or truck or something and it caught fire. All his skin was burnt away. The poor devil was lying in this bath of oil, I'm pretty sure it was olive oil. He was as bright as a button though. Then there was a guy called Dracula that used to come around and take blood out of
our arms every now and again.
Q: When were you evacuated off the Swan?
A: It would have been 1942. I'd say about towards the end of 1942.
Q: What was the atmosphere in Australia at that point?
A: Pretty horrifying. I was at Flinders Naval Depot when the Japs [Japanese] came into the war and the [HMS] Prince of Wales and the [HMS] Repulse were sunk. They flashed it on the screen. I can remember being in almost a state of shock. We couldn't believe we could lose the Prince of Wales, particularly as it was a state of the art battle cruiser.
It just didn't seem possible. I think everybody was starting to get extremely worried because at that time Menzies had decided to invoke this Brisbane Line concept where they were going to evacuate part of Queensland and somewhere around Brisbane, to the south. That brought it home to the people that this country was really in
deep trouble. It was virtually on its knees. We had very, very little to defend the country with, almost nothing. The British had taken the cream of our army people overseas to the Western Desert and Crete, Greece and all that sort of thing. Virtually there was nothing much left here.
We hadn't been married terribly long. I was most concerned because the Japanese weren't terribly up with the Geneva Accord. I don't think they were even signatories to the Geneva Convention at all. They didn't recognise it. Their atrocities from Nanking were
well read and known down here. Australians generally were starting to almost panic I would say, then the Americans, the first contingent, started to appear. That I suppose breathed a bit of reassurance into them. Generally speaking there were a lot of very, very worried
Australian people at that time. They were expecting the Japanese to land at any time. There was nothing to stop them.
Q: When did you get married?
A: I think it was February 1942. Hazel, can you verify this? When did we get married?
February 1942? Would have been about February 1942. I was a child bride.
Q: How old were you when you got married?
A: I was 20. I hadn't had
my 21st birthday.
Q: Where had you met Hazel?
A: The Americans were starting to flood into the country by then. 1941 they started to move in in a fairly big way. They had warships
down at Woolloomooloo and they were all open to the public. I was with 3 or 4 different navy mates and we were out enjoying ourselves. Hazel and two or three of her girlfriends had met two or three American sailors and they said to come down and have a look at the ship. When they got there the policeman said, "You've gotta have an Australian serviceman
with you or you can't go on board". We appeared on the scene and these girls were walking away very disgruntled and I wanted to go somewhere. The navy guys struck up a yarn with them and I said, I know I had something on, because I
got into a cab and I was going to go. They said, "You can't go, we've got these girls here. Hang around." I very reluctantly got out of the cab. I met Hazel and we seemed to get on OK. She wasn't too bossy or too expensive, so we teamed up and
eventually we got married.
Q: What dealings did you have with American sailors?
A: I had some. Not until I joined SRD, then I did. You want to talk about it later on, do you?
Q: In 1942, having been sent off the Swan, were you happy with what you'd done so far?
A: I don't have any special recollections of being; it's just a job. You go from one ship to another, you do the same things when you go from A ship to B ship. It wasn't very much to get excited about really.
Q: Were you gung-ho [eager for action] to do more action stuff?
A: I think like all young blokes you
see things a bit lightly as it were. It didn't' start to warm up out here for quite a long while after really.
Q: Why were you posted to combined ops [operations]?
A: I think I just happened to be Johnny-on-the-spot [there]. It was only just starting to
form up this combined operations. I suppose I was the guy sitting around and hanging about there. Actually, I don't really know. You just go where you get drafted. They say, "You're going A, B, C and D" and you've just gotta pack your bag and hammock and
Q: Talk about the camp at HMAS Assault.
A: That was quite interesting in this respect that I had about the 6 or 7 young telegraphists that I had to take up there and turn them into beach signalmen or whatever
you want to call them. Beach commandos I think. They masqueraded under a term something similar to that. I thought it was rather humorous when I reflect on it. The camp itself was very, very basic. It was in those Anderson huts, the half-round huts. The chap in charge of the show was a
three-ring commander [a full Commander]. His first lieutenant was a lieutenant-commander, Lewis was his name and his nickname was Strangler Lewis, a real pig of a bloke. In my view he should never have been in charge of men. The navy had some strange people elected as officers. They weren't always
the best choice. The Strangler was one of those characters. For instance, I got 14 days stoppage of leave because I had a suitcase in the dormitory where I slung my hammock. You were supposed to stow your suitcases in a certain area. I'd just come back from leave and I was just organising myself and I
tried to put the case away. He came in through. He had a little regulating petty officer with him, Gibbons. We used to call him Monkey Gibbons cos he was a little bit that way. Monkey Gibbons and Strangler Lewis came roaring through this dormitory where I was, "What's that suitcase doing here? Get that rating's name and number." I got 14 days stoppage of leave because I hadn't put my case. Can you
imagine in today's navy? Those sorts of things don't win wars in my opinion. They just make you feel bitter about the type of people that are supposed to be the role models. Anyway, my 14 days, being a leading hand, you don't get the same punishments as the poor ODs [Ordinary Seamen] and that. I used to have
to take a party out that were doing 'jankers' as they called it, these young blokes. Had to run them round the oval, the parade ground, with bricks in their knapsacks and all the rifles over their head. I had a supervisor with me that was my punishment.
My assault ship was Kanimbla, but Kanimbla hadn't been completely fitted out as yet, so we were using [HMAS] Manoora. Manoora was about a 10,000-ton passenger ship that was on the Fremantle to Cairns passenger trail before the war. A beautiful ship: the Westralia, Kanimbla and Manoora. We were using Manoora, which was already fixed up.
The procedure was that the army people were putting on these exercises and the Manoora - there was a group of American marines who we were working with. They were mainly Negroes. We would be put on Kanimbla with all our gear.
My boys had rifles; I had a long barrel 45 [revolver], that was my weapon. We had these tin hats [steel helmets]. This is where it seemed to me to be so incongruous. These kids had to have these hats on and these rifles strapped on their backs and their bandoliers and all that sort of jazz; all their radio equipment with them as well.
We used to have to go aboard this assault ship and they lower these nets down over the side and you had to sc ramble down these nets at 3 or 4 in the morning, into these LCPs [Landing Craft Personnel], these landing craft things, various different types. And they're jumping up and down because in Nelson's Bay it can be fairly
rough. You get the seas coming through those heads there. These things are jumping up and you've got to try and get down with all this equipment, radio gear and everything. Then, to get up and then they line them up and on the appropriate signal each line go into the beach. The thing that really, I got used to this, being shortchanged on getting to the beach,
because the sand shoals were fairly prevalent and these things would hit the shoal and these guys would say, "Out you get". It wasn't so bad if you were just wading in water, but when you get it up around your neck in the middle of winter and you've got a greatcoat on and you're saturated, it's not too special. Then Lieutenant Davidson arrived with his team of
SRD operatives. Sharple, the leading telegraphist, was put into my mess and we were pretty chummy. He dropped it on me to swap drafts. He'd take my draft on the Kanimbla and I'd take his draft on Krait or wherever, he didn't name the vessel at the time. He said, "It's just a small vessel going up New Guinea there." I'd been used to small craft, so it didn't worry me too much.
I said I'd think about it. So on this occasion there was and all singing and dancing rehearsal, a full bit rehearsal. The navy, the army, the air force, I think it was the 7th Div [Division] that were up there in terms of there were soldiers everywhere. The air force was dropping dummy flares on the beaches, supposed to be bombing the beaches.
It was in the middle of winter, in June, cold as hell and raining. We got ourselves over the gangway. There was one of these kids that I had as a telegraphist, he was a darkish skinned boy. They were kids of 17 or 18 and behaving like kids of 17 or 18, all the clumsy falling over each other, dropping things. All the things that
18 year olds do. This boy particularly, he was terribly accident-prone. He had this massive shock of black hair and he was constantly throwing his head back to clear this hair out of his eyes, like a horse. They christened him Pelaco. You probably never heard of Pelaco shirts, but Pelaco
were manufacturers of beautiful white shirts. The buzzword for advertising Pelaco shirts was "Me think it no shrink it, this fellow" and it was an aboriginal chap with this beautiful white
shirt on. This guy got the nickname of Pelaco. So Pelaco's job was as front man on the battery carrier. The wireless station was mounted on two frames like stretchers. The batteries were quite big, very heavy. The radio was on the other one. Pelaco was front man on the battery carrier. On this
Mickey Mouse day, the full dress rehearsal day, over the side, onto the barges, all line up ready for the beach, Second Wave Red Beach or whatever it was. We got the signal to go into the beach and away we go, roaring. We hit what we thought was the beach and this American coxswain said, "Away you go". He drops the flap down.
As soon as he did Pelaco, you're standing there waiting ready to go cos you've gotta get off and get out in a hurry, and Pelaco goes charging off this flap and the next thing he's disappeared. There's no sign of him. We're all standing on the flap looking and all you can see is bubbles coming up.
What the hell's going on here? All of a sudden Pelaco surfaces. He's still got his tin hat on. I can see it to this day. It was one of the funniest sights. It wasn't funny at the time, but when I think back on it, this very dark skinned boy with his tin hat on and his rifle still strapped across his shoulder, and he's blowing bubbles and water flying everywhere. The batteries are gone.
Being the leading hand I was going to cop it. We'd lost lots of equipment so we all waded ashore very sorrowful. We'd fallen over. Our part was washed out with no radio gear. So we were sitting around the beach and the kids were grizzling and growling and wet and cold. One bright kid said, "Let's light a fire." Here's a total blackout of the beach. He says, "Let's light a fire
and dry ourselves." I can see it to this very day. They lit this damn fire. I should have had more brains to tell them not to, but I was just as miserable and wet as they were. They lit this damn fire. It hadn't been going five minutes when a jeep roared down and there was the reddest-faced looking army major I'd ever seen in my life. He's got a policeman with a band on his arm, a sergeant. And did they give us a payout. "Put that
so and so fire out." The words he did say, "Do you think this is a gypsy camp?" Those are the words he said. I got back to the depot very late in the afternoon, still soaking wet. Sharple said, "Did you think any more about the change of the draft?" I said, "Yeah, I've had this place. I'm fed
to the neck with it," something like that. We went over and saw Donald Davidson and Sharple mentioned that we had in mind swapping drafts. Davo [Davidson] was a pretty cunning rooster when I look back on it now. "It's a very serious matter, we'll have to give it very deep thought.
I don't know. See me tomorrow and I'll let you know." When I went up the next day he shook me by the hand. He said, "Well, Leading Telegraphist Young, we've decided to accept you into service with reconnaissance department. While you work with us, we will pay you 50% over and above your base pay" which was
another 4 shillings on my rate. I thought I was a millionaire. I think Sharple breathed a sigh of relief. I later learned that Sharple didn't want to go on this. I think he smelled a rat. He didn't want any part of it, plus I think he was about to get married or something. I was very quickly whipped away up to Cairns by train. Some army people in a jeep met me at Cairns station
and took me to the ES, it had a placard up that said, "Experimental Station". That was the House on the Hill. Quite a big old home a few miles outside Cairns.
Q: Was it at Assault that you first met up with Don Davidson and all his charges?
A: Yeah, I did
Q: What did you think of these guys?
A: We were pretty impressed with them because they were, to us, fair dinkum commandos. We were supposed to be beach commandos, all the people in combined operations, cos they were commando exercises. But these guys were really fair dinkum and they treated us to some displays of unarmed
combat. They were playing with arms and slashing at each other with these great stilettos and parangs. They weren't mucking around either. You had to be quick to get out of the way. Davidson was always the showman, a wonderful fellow. Always liked to play to the gallery a bit. I was very impressed with them. I thought,
"This is what it's all about".
Q: You think the exercises the bulk of you were doing there were a bit Mickey Mouse [trivial]?
A: I suppose when I've reflected on it I know that you had to have these exercises and things like that, it's just that sometimes they're not as efficiently carried out as you'd like. But nothing in war I don't think is ever
Q: How did the batteries deal with the seawater?
A: They were lost. Pelaco dropped them.
Q: But assuming you didn't lose them. Did getting them wet matter?
A: In most cases we were able to keep them up so they weren't in the water. But there's no doubt about it,
they didn't like seawater. That was the finish of them if they got wet. They were fairly well sealed though. They weren't like the batteries you'll see as a car battery with knobs and things. They were all pretty much sealed on the top. Canvas bags around them and things like that. So they did have some protection, but no way in the world could you drop them in the water.
Q: You felt the American sailors driving the landing craft were not that crash hot?
A: I didn't think so. I don't know what other people thought about them, but we seemed to have quite a few occasions where they hit the beach and they were quite OK. There were a significant number of times when they'd land on these shoals. It's understandable, cos these shoals are moving all the time. They're
quite mobile. I suppose if there's a shoal there it's gone tomorrow and you can go in there, but you can't, because the shoals formed in there.
Q: Describe the House on the Hill.
A: It's rumoured that it was Kingsford-Smith's grandfather's originally.
It was a very, very large home. I didn't get to see all the rooms in the place cos we were quartered in this shelter thing fairly close by it. There were other native troops in those similar Anderson huts close by too. So we used to go up to the
house for messing facilities. It was a two-storey place. They did have a radio station there. I didn't see the radio station. I think they used to handle a bit of traffic there, probably with Timor or people like that. So it was covered with
vegetation. There were trails, acres of ground it was standing in, but it was all tropical undergrowth; an ideal spot for training purposes. Davidson's favourite trick was to - these paths that had been cut through the jungle, all this vegetation - he'd straddle himself across a bough going across the path and drop down on top of
some unsuspecting people passing down the trail, put a headlock on them and with his knife, just as a demonstration of what can be done. He did it to Carse too [Lieutenant H. E. Carse, Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RANVR)]. Carse was later the navigator, Skipper as we called him, and Carse wasn't very impressed. Food wasn't too bad.
We weren't allowed to talk to anybody, we were totally isolated even though we had, I'm pretty sure they were Javanese or Indonesian of some description, in the hut alongside us. There was an enormous mango tree alongside, full of
flying foxes. These Indonesian troops used to be screaming and yelling and yodelling and going on and firing their rifles at these damn things. We later learned they used to eat them. We could go for a run along the beach or walk along the corals.
One of the sheds that were there, I walked into this thing and there was a magnificent Luger pistol, a German officer's pistol, hanging up behind the door. I think I said to Davo that pistol was there. He said, "You can grab it." So I grabbed it, but it was a 9 millimetre. The cartridge that goes in the Owen gun is
similar size, but it's something to do with the rims, I couldn't actually use the Owen gun ammunition in it. It was a beautiful looking gun. I don't know what I did with it. I probably left it behind. I thought to myself now what a marvellous showpiece that would have been.
Q: What did you think of all the cloak and dagger stuff you were getting into?
A: I suppose I thought it was all right.
It's a little bit different to the usual humdrum discipline of the navy. It was a much more free and easy place. Davidson was in charge of the sailors. He was such a great chap. He was such a human being and he'd never ever ask a bloke to do anything that he wasn't prepared to do himself. He was greatly admired by this mob. They'd do anything for him really. Just had that ability to relate
to the guys. They were still disciplined. I've got stuff that I downloaded off the Internet, some of his files that are in the archive. He kept a logbook on all the guys that he was training with these cryptic comments about them with pluses and minuses. Fascinating reading.
I thought generally I was pretty happy with it. I was a leading hand. There was only one other leading hand on the ship and that was Paddy McDowell [Leading Stoker J. P. McDowell, Royal Australian Navy (RAN)] the stoker. He was a leading stoker. So I was one of the higher rating types on the boat I suppose.
Q: Give me your impressions of the crew on the Jaywick. You've talked about Don
Davidson and you obviously had a very high opinion of him.
A: Yes, he was a very, very decent guy; very capable, competent fellow.
Q: What about Ivor Lyon? [Major, later Lieutenant-Colonel I. Lyon, DSO, MBE]
A: He was obviously a very good British Army officer. I don't know quite how he took to our people. I suppose it must have been a shock to the system as most British Army people think
when they meet Australian Service people. He was all right. He was quite OK. Very quiet fellow. He'd sit down, on Krait where the wireless equipment was, it was an operations room, it was a wireless room and it was a sleeping quarters for three officers. Lyon used to have the bunk on the
starboard side. Davidson on the portside and Bob Page [Lieutenant R. C. Page, AIF] had the one that ran between the two of them. There wasn't too much room to move around down there. What I remember about Lyon, his wife had been taken prisoner of war by the Germans. A German raider had
picked them up off the west coast. He was probably pretty upset about that, but he used to sit cross-legged like a yoga thing. He'd sit up there on his pillow for quite long periods. I might be down there fiddling with the dials. He'd sit there as though he was looking into space. I thought it was just remarkable. He used to speak to me now and again, but he never spoke
a great deal. He obviously had plenty on his mind to think about I suppose. He wasn't the same style as Davidson was. Davidson was always swashbuckling, a gung-ho type of guy. Lyon was the far more quieter of the two of them.
Q: What about Moss Berryman? [Able Seaman (AB) M. Berryman, RAN]
A: Moss was quite a good guy.
He was younger than me. He was quite a good hand.
Q: Buff Marsh? [AB F. W. L. Marsh, RAN]
A: Dear old Buff. He was the larrikin of the team. He was never happier than when he was pinching somebody or pushing somebody or tripping somebody up or making a pest of himself. Very jovial fellow.
Quite a good fellow. Never took anything terribly seriously I don't think.
Q: Joe Jones? [AB A. M. W. Jones, RAN]
A: Joe was exceptionally good. A very good fellow. Joe was older. He'd been on Manoora when she was an armed merchant cruiser. He was used to naval discipline and normal ship routine. Joe was a very, very
efficient guy, very quiet, unassuming. A very popular guy too. Very good.
Q: Happy Huston? [AB A. W. G. Huston, RAN]
A: Very quiet lad. Very, very serious. Happy, I don't think I ever saw him laugh. Everything was a big deal. He was a very, very serious boy, but very efficient too. I think he might have been the youngest member of the party.
He took everything very, very seriously. He did very well too. Quite good.
Q: How did he take his nickname?
A: I don't think he cared much about it. There's not much use caring about it. You get a name and that's it, you've gotta wear it.
Q: Crilly the cook? [Corporal A. A. Crilly, AIF]
A: Poor old Crilly. A hell of a good bloke. It must have been an awful shock to his system to leave the army and
to get mixed up with this bunch of hooligans who at every opportunity they got, they'd be having a shot at the army, how crook they were. Crilly used to take it all in stride, but he was really one of the boys. Fine fellow.
Q: He'd taken on this job as a way of avoiding discharge?
A: Yes, he wasn't terribly well and I think his mustering was as a motor mechanic. I'm led to believe that he was a mechanic in civilian life.
I think he was doing much the same in the army. Generally he wasn't very well. He'd been wounded a couple of times I understand. He was scheduled to be boarded out [medical board] for discharge. The original cook shot through and Laurence was getting close to departure time. I think Laurence was starting to get a bit concerned, so he went up to some army barracks and
lined all the soldiers up on the parade ground as they usually do I suppose, and asked for any volunteers to go to sea for a while for fun and games to step forward. The only bloke who stepped forward when the pack had moved away, the only bloke that was standing there was Crilly, so he got the job. So Lyon bought
him a cookbook in Cairns and said, "Study this cookbook." He says, "I'm not a cook. I'm a pretty good motor mechanic, but I'm not a cook." Lyon is alleged to have said to him, "Well there's the book. Start learning." He used to make these pancakes. You get on a ship like that, anything is good tucker, it doesn't matter what it is, but the pancakes were very popular.
They nicknamed him Pancake Andy.
Q: Cobber Cain? [Leading Seaman K. P. Cain, RAN]
A: Very quiet fellow. He'd been to sea on some ship. I don't know what ships he was on. I'm pretty sure he had also been in the merchant service for a period so he was fairly familiar with ships. Extremely quiet chap. Very, very presentable fellow.
A good solid guy. He was the oldest of the crew I'd say, below the deck as it were.
Q: Paddy McDowell?
A: Yeah, Paddy was unique. He was the sort of thing that films are made about I reckon; the type of rascal sailor that you see in movies. I think I wrote in my book that I can never forget my first
meeting with Paddy because when I went down and saw the Krait and the state of it, untidy, ropes scattered everywhere and filthy, dirty looking, I thought, "My God". I stepped onboard the thing, this grizzled-up, dried-up bloke like a prune walked
up from the engine room. All he had on was a pair of old khaki shorts covered in grease and stains and a navy T-shirt thing. He had a badge of a stoker on it. His fingers were like boot polish.
He said, "I'm Paddy and I'm the engineer." He referred to himself as the engineer. He's got an old durry [cigarette] hanging off one of his lips bent like a hockey stick. He's rolling one as he's talking to me. He was very, very sparsely built.
He was damn nearly all skin and bone. There wasn't much of him. And these funny old bandy legs sticking out from these shorts. He was a real fright. Not only that, he had one behind his ear. So he's got this thing that's out, I'm pretty sure, he's rolling one, he's already got another one stacked. He had a curious way of looking up under his eyes,
a quizzical was of looking at you. He started talking to me about the different boats that he'd been on and things like that. What he was doing was feeling me out I suppose to see was I a real rocky or had done any sea time.
Q: What about Poppa Falls? [AB W. G. Falls, RAN]
A: A very fine fellow. Poppa was the oldest of the canoe parties and he was a dour Scot. He was a very, very serious person and a very, very capable fellow, the sort of guy that would be handy if you were ever in a tight spot. He was a very dependable bloke to be with.
Q: Taffy Morris? [Corporal R. G. Morris]
A: The effervescent Taffy Morris. He was a Welsh guy. He was a sick bay?I think he was Royal Army Medical Corps. Taffy had a very good singing voice. A very lighthearted fellow, very easy to get on with. He used to rag the Australian sailors
quite a bit. He had fairly good vocab [vocabulary]. He used to give them as good as they gave him. I always remember Taffy; his job was to feed us all these tablets he had, dozens of tablets. We used to have this great ration of tablets. It was routine every morning that we had to line up and get our shots as it were: malaria tablets, vitamin tablets. He used to throw
them down your neck as he went along the line like this. He was always singing. He had a very fine singing voice. Fairly well in the music department. He had a good knowledge of classical music as well as the pop music of the day. He was always singing away.
I think I wrote something about it in that book of mine. He came skipping along the deck full of the good things of life. Some characters would be lying in the engine-room trying to get a bit of sleep. Taffy had a fairly loud voice. He'd be screeching out something from a song and the next thing you know a missile would come flying over at him and he'd have to duck
to dodge it. The only time I ever heard him sing as he got hit with a bit of debris off a tomato sauce bottle. It unfortunately discharged a Bren gun. We were all witting around. This projectile whizzed around amongst the leg and the feet and finished up hitting a tomato sauce bottle. A big part of it cut an artery in Morris' leg,
in his ankle. He had a pretty bad time of that. They stitched him up; he was OK.
Q: How about Ted Carse?
A: A good bloke, Ted. I feel so sad when I hear people try to rubbish him because I always said, "I never heard Ted Carse waste a word." Whatever Ted said was worth listening to. He was a chap of immense
experience. He'd been in the permanent navy at the very end of World War 1. I don't know whether he saw the tail end of Jutland or no, but he was in the navy at the very end as a midshipman. He was permanent navy. After the war they had these treaties where they were scrapping ships left, right and centre and we
had to sink some of our ships. They put off a terrible lot of navy people: sailors, officers, the whole lot. Ted left then and he went into the merchant marine service where he was a deck officer in the merchant service. He was also a general rouseabout. He worked on pearling luggers.
He was a man of many, many parts. Tremendous experience of life he had. A very good seaman, very good sailor, very good navigator and very popular with the sailors. He is the only fellow as far as I'm aware that had what I call proper credentials. I say that you've either got a degree; you've got a certificate,
you've got something, a bit of paper to certify that you have certain skills. Like Davidson and Lyon were very good at what they were supposed to be good at and they had a fair bit of experience on small ships and things like that, but I'm not aware that they had master mariner's qualifications
whereas they could have, but I don't think so, whereas Ted did have. He had a proper master mariner's certificate and I always think of him as the only bloke who measured up as far as having qualifications that would qualify him with the Safety of Life At Sea Convention where you've gotta have a master's ticket or a mate's ticket or something like that. You've gotta have that bit of paper. If you
don't, you're not it. Ted did have that as far as I'm aware, cos I've seen a letter which explains that he does have those qualifications. A very quiet man. He never threw his weight around with the crew. He was very, very popular with the crew. The crew idolised him. Ted
would say something. Whatever he said you'd be very foolish not to take account of. I've seen Ted leaning against the wheelhouse or something like that, smoking fags, he was a very heavy smoker, and he'd look up at the sky. He'd be watching it for a while and he'd say to Cobber Cain who was virtually the Coxswain, "Cobber,
get some of the boys to check those drums up forward there. We're gonna get a blow shortly. In the next half hour or so, she's gonna be rocking around a bit. Make sure they're all tied down and ready for heavy weather sailing." You can bet your life that within that timeframe he'd be right. You could be sailing on an oily sea,
not a ripple, and I'll guarantee within a half hour the sea would be absolutely boiling. There'd be waves breaking over everything. He just had the ability to read weather. I had quite a high regard. You couldn't help but like the guy. OK, he used to drink a bit, but show me the sailor that doesn't. I've never met one. That's all they've got to do when they come to shore is to drink.
He used to have a few grogs. I think you might want to know more about that further along in the interview. No, I thought a lot of Carse. He got them there and he got them there without casualties. That's gotta be worth something.
Q: Bob Page?
A: Very nice
man. A very, very nice person. Very popular with the troops. He was much the same age group. Bob was very good at what he did. He was studying medicine and he was very helpful when Taffy suffered his injury to his ankle. He was able to stich him up and get him on deck again. I thought Bob was a very decent guy.
Q: How did you relate as a crew
when you first got together?
A: Very well. The guys in the canoes were sort of?I think they probably saw themselves as being a little bit different than the crew on the ship. But generally speaking I can't remember hearing any brawls, arguments or things that I would have regarded as
not being in the best interest of the ship's company. They all got on very well together. I'll say that Lyon and Davidson picked the crew very carefully. The result was really quite obvious. They were very compatible. They came from many walks of life. They were a good team. The best ship's company I've ever sailed with I'd say.
Q: What do you know about how the crew was selected?
A: I understand that they went down to Flinders Naval Depot. I wasn't in that side of things at that time. I'm sure this is right, cos I've read a lot of these diaries and reports about this. They went to Flinders Naval Depot and selected I think about 40 fellows. Fairly new entries I think they were,
the majority of them. And they took them away and they put them through certain training places and they filtered them out. Davidson very carefully monitored each to see whether so and so had a problem or this one could be difficult to get on with and things like that. They were quietly weeded out and sent back to general service. He finished up with a
much more condensed team just around the corner here at Refuge Bay, near Lion Island. That's where a lot of their training was done at this Refuge Bay camp. I wasn't at the camp. I didn't join the team until further along from there. The team were trained there and the army provided certain army instructors to teach them all about explosives and weapons,
Bren guns, Owen guns, all that sort of thing. They used to have to come ashore here to Patonga to get their supplies and that. Then they'd row across to Refuge Bay and had to go up a rope to get to their camp, which was up on top of the cliff. They had to be pretty fit. You'll see photographs out there of them exercising in their fold boats around the
base camp area there. They used to exercise in these fold boats in all winds and weather. They did 360 degrees rollovers and things like that in the ocean to get back inside of them. From there Davidson still had too many and he had to get rid of
a few more of them. They were very carefully watched to see who was quarrelsome or irritable, who might be a bit temperamental. He finished up with the team he finished up with. It was a pick of the crop.
Q: When you were selected, how immediately were you informed?
A: Almost straightaway. I think I was on the train to Cairns within a day or so,
Q: What did you think?
A: I suppose I was a bit intrigued with all the secrecy, but then I wasn't told anything and I apparently wasn't to know anything. I was very much in the dark and I suppose I'd be thinking, "Had I done the right thing or have I done the wrong thing?" The money was the big attraction. So I wasn't
worried too much about the incidentals I guess.
Q: Did you meet the crew at the house on the hill?
A: I met some of them. How Donaldson and these fellows came to be at HMAS Assault, Krait had already picked up her operational crew over here and had started on her
journey. She kept breaking down all the time and the skipper they had on there apparently was the same skipper that Lyon had met in Singapore when he first saw the vessel up there. I've heard a few little stories. I never like to say too much unless I'm an eyewitness to these things, but some of the guys that were on board
when it happened said that he wasn't as compatible as he could be for the rest of the crew. So it was decided to look elsewhere. I guess this is where Ted came into it. The vessel had made a fairly big start, breaking down all the way up the east coast there until it got to the Lindeman Islands near Maryborough. The German Deutsch engine that was in it
blew up totally and it had to be shovelled out of the ship. So they split the crew up and sent some down to Assault and some went to, the lucky ones I think went to Coolangatta or Surfers Paradise, around that way. They were put in hotel accommodation there. The crew were spread out a bit.
They all came together in Cairns eventually and that's when I met them. I did meet some of them at Assault, but not to converse with cos they were isolated. They weren't supposed to talk to anybody. I suppose as a leading hand I didn't worry too much about them. I had my own business to look after.
It's really Cairns when we all officially met.
Q: What did you do training-wise initially?
A: I was already what you'd call a specialist in the field that I was working in. So there wasn't any training much for me. Even as a naval cadet I was a member of the navy rifle club in Perth. We used to go to
Swanbourne Saturdays for our shoots. I wasn't an expert, but I'd had a fair amount of experience with 303s. As far as the Owen gun goes, I was given an Owen gun, a Smith and Wesson [revolver] and some knives and things like that. The old parang's still hanging
up in the shed. So I suppose in my field I was trained. I was a leading telegraphist, a reasonable rank in the navy, as far as experience goes. I wasn't going to be hanging limpets on ships, so I didn't need to play around with limpets or anything like that. My basic job was to maintain communications on the ship.
As a seaman I was issued with those firearms. Everybody had to have firearms. Even the sick bay fellow, who's not supposed to carry firearms under the Geneva Convention, Taffy I'm pretty sure had firearms as well. As far as my training goes I was already a trained person. All I had to do was slip into the chair and I was away.
Q: You came down and trained in the Hawkesbury?
A: I didn't. The canoe parties did. The chap I took over from was at the Hawkesbury, but Krait had already started on her mission north at that time. That's when she blew up and they had to get this new diesel engine flown up for her. By that time
the leading telegraphist had gone. He'd taken my place at HMAS Assault and I'd moved on to Cairns to away the arrival of the engines of the ship to carry on its journey.
Q: What did you tell your wife you were up to?
A: Nothing. You weren't allowed to tell your family anything. They were paranoid about security. Couldn't tell
them anything at all. All she knew was that I was going to sea on a ship and that was it.
Q: What did you think of the Krait when you first saw her?
A: I thought it was the most dreadful thing I'd seen in my life. Even my trawler days, when I think of them, I thought they were bad enough, but nothing could equal Krait, I'm sure.
Q: Describe her.
A: God. She was dirty, untidy, full of cockroaches the like of which I've never seen in my life. They were monster big cockroaches. You could almost hear them walking around they were that noisy. I don't know whether you can find words to describe how it really looked.
It looked so crook. It was terrible. Then again, it was fitting out. All ships when they're fitting out are usually untidy. There's tools everywhere and stuff all over the place. It was really a very, a most unimpressive sight, I can assure you.
Q: Who was fitting her out?
A: Paddy was checking on the engine.
He was a very, very competent engineer Andy McDowell. He was getting all the stores ordered and getting them delivered and things like that. My radio gear arrived and that had to be installed. Generally speaking everybody was fairly busy loading the ship with stores, it had to be fuelled and there was a
tremendous amount of fuel carried on the ship, which was of interest to me when I saw extra fuel tanks on the ship. I was thinking to myself, "This doesn't sound to me as though they are going to be just cruising around Port Moresby cos they couldn't want all those additional tanks on for fuel." Basically that's what it was all about. Stores coming
down and being stacked. It looked untidy. Nothing properly stowed.
Q: Why did you think it would just be around Port Moresby?
A: Sharple said to me, the guy that I took over from, when I said to him, "What's this vessel?" He said, "It's only a small thing." "Where are you going?" He said, "We're only gonna be around New Guinea waters there." I knew there were
small ships working in that area doing survey work, mapping beaches and things like that. I thought perhaps that was it. Nobody knew much about what it was all about anyway, cos it was an absolute secret where it was going to until the vessel got underway. I suppose I took Sharple on his word. "Well, if she's going to New Guinea,
I'll be up." When I saw the fuel tanks and the limpet mines and the cases of hand grenades and arms and things like that, it didn't ring true to me.
Q: Describe a limpet mine.
A: I'll show you one.
Will I slip out and pick it up for you?
Q: Let's do that on the next tape.
A: A limpet mine was a container that I think they put about 10 pounds of this explosive, plastic P808 I think it was called. It was a new plastic explosive developed by the British, which was far, far more destructive than anything previously.
It had little flexible, well they were fairly big magnets, on either side of it. The cortex and all the firing gear was put on the top and the idea was that if you put it anywhere near metal it would cling to it. There were timers and things like that which was arranged for the detonation of the thing and
at the appropriate time these things would fire and away they'd go. They were alleged to be capable of blowing, I think they claimed it would blow a hole about a yard square in the type of steel that was being used in the merchant ships of the day. The merchant ships at that time were nearly all riveted. Welded ships were only just coming into fashion. There were
a huge number of ships were still riveted. The idea was that you lower the limpet down under the water and it hangs onto the side of the ship. Gotta be very careful the way you put them on and make sure it doesn't clang. If you hit the side of the ship you could hear it quite clearly inside. Put three of these on each ship. They'd blow a fair size hole in it. What
compounded the problem was that in the detonation would also loosen rivets and the plates, in addition to blow holes in the thing it would also rivet some plates and compound the damage quite considerably.
Q: That was the benefit for you to be mining riveted ships as opposed to welded ones?
A: I'm not too sure what they would have used in World War 1, but I think I'd be correct in saying that the use of limpets was more pitched towards World War 11 activities than World War 1. I'm pretty sure the British had been using something similar. I think the Italians also. I believe the Italian frogmen
were, I think Horspite was one ship they sunk in Alexandria harbour or somewhere in the Middle East. The Italian limpeteers or whatever you want to call them, the frogmen that put mines of some description on the hull of the ship. So the feasibility was very well established by that time. They may have used them in World War 1, I don't know. They certainly were up and
running in World War 11.
Q: What other amendments did you see were being made to the Krait apart from what you've mentioned?
A: How would you mean? Like how would she be different from her normal? When the vessel was captured
she was being used as a mother ship fishing boat, going around the various camps, I believe. This is just repeating what I've been told about her earlier history that she was actually used to spend her time sailing around Singapore waters. I'm led to believe that she was built on the island of Singapore. Whether that's true I'm not sure. I believe she was. I think it was
a great many years ago. I've heard the admiralty people saying, "See that clock on the wall there, you can see some iron handmade nails in there. They came out of the side of the vessel." The admiralty said that that type of pinning of planks to
the hull had not been used since the time of the century, so she was obviously very old. I've heard various comments about her age, but she was quite an old vessel. Apparently she'd been operating for years up in around Singapore retrieving fish and taking it to the fishing markets on Singapore Island.
Q: Where was the fitting out happening?
A: It was in a very, very quiet part of Cairns, up the river there, away from all the prying eyes. This area where she was being fitted out was fairly remote from the camps, from the
slipways and yards. So there wouldn't have been many people interested in her. I couldn't imagine anybody wanting to be interested in her cos she looked so terrible. Nothing to be admired I'm afraid.
Q: Tell us about setting off from Cairns on the Krait.
A: That seemed to go OK, although we went up
the barrier reef and there again Ted's seamanship came to the fore. We were steaming along and all of a sudden Ted called a halt and said, "We're going to stay here for the night." They dropped the thick. When dawn came around at the break of the heads his seamanship felt they weren't in the right spot so we
got out of that little situation and proceeded on our way towards Thursday Island. We stayed at Thursday Island for a day. I can remember that I had a lot of friends with the naval wireless station on Thursday Island. When the ship tied up there
I went up to the main wireless station. My mates had just received beer ration, so we had several beers up there. More so than we should I'm afraid. So when I came back to the ship I was a bit worse for wear. Next morning, I'll never forget it as long as I live, to this day I can't buy some of these things.
Crilly had turned on what we called goldfish in those days; it's herrings in tomato sauce. Big, round tins and these herrings are floating around in this gooey, oily supposedly tomato sauce. These things were floating around and they're almost looking at you. I've forgotten what else he had there. He had some
[UNCLEAR] with him. Tinned tomatoes and these herrings were floating around amongst these watery tinned tomatoes. I had these things. Then we left TI [Thursday Island] and the waters there are very, very rough because of the coronus bottom, shallow water. It's very, very confused seas. You get waves coming from all directions. Boy was
I seasick. My wife wouldn't dare put a tin of tomatoes on the table even to this day. Herrings and tomato sauce would be totally banned. So it cured me. From there we went to Darwin. From Darwin we went to Exmouth Gulf. Exmouth Gulf was our stepping off point. That was
where we went from.
Q: What evidence did you see of the damage to Darwin?
A: We didn't actually go ashore in Darwin. We were tied up alongside the Platypus. We didn't really venture ashore there at all. We were only there a day or two and we were on our way again. We were starting
to run a bit late. We had to get across the, plus the fact it wasn't a very healthy place to be hanging around anyway. We were always a bit worried about Japanese aircraft giving our shipping a hard time from Thursday Island on and through to Darwin. It was a pretty ticklish piece of water getting from TI across to Darwin.
A lot of ships had been attacked by Jap planes in there. We were lucky, we got through OK and then we finished up at Exmouth Gulf.
Q: What telegraphy equipment was on the Krait?
A: It's a set that I'm very, very familiar with. It's called the 85AR8 as its type name. It's a 50-watt transmitter and it was an all band
receiver. It's a combination of three components: the transmitter, receiver and the antenna tuning unit. It was originally designed for Hudson bombers, it's an air force set actually, but a very, very good piece of gear. So much so that the navy finished up putting it on quite a few of their ships. It had a capability of worldwide communications.
50-watt transmitter, and I think up to about 25 megs [megahertz] was quite OK; crystal lock and also VFA, Variable Frequency Alternator, on it so you could move around quite a bit on the communication bands. A good piece of gear. The antenna wasn't' much chop because all it was was an inverted L. When I got to
Exmouth I was able to persuade the big American submarine base there. The Americans there were very kind to me and put a huge copper sheet under the hull of the vessel for the radio earthing system. And it improved the radio efficiency quite a bit once they got that decent earthing on the set.
They were pretty good that way.
Q: How long were you in Exmouth Gulf for?
A: I suppose we were there for a couple of weeks. They had to wait on the operational canoes to be flown out from the UK. The type of canoes, as you'll see when you look at those photos, are two-man canoes, whereas the operational canoes were three-man canoes. They were coming out
from the UK. We had to wait for them. Whilst we were there, they put us ashore in the American sub base. That was like 5-star accommodation. The food was tremendous there compared to what we'd been having plus there were showers. Sure they were cold-water showers, but they were showers. You could have a decent shower and a decent feed.
We enjoyed ourselves there. They separated us and put us away from the main camp. The only bloke that was allowed anywhere near us was a darkie, a very young Negro. They allocated him as our rouseabout come cleanup boy. I'll never forget,
the boys used to spend their time playing poker. This darkie, he'd take a hand of poker with them. He had the longest neck. He seemed to have the ability to crane his neck. He'd be playing with his cards and he seemed to be looking at about two blokes up at the cards that they had. He was a funny fellow. They caught him cheating. Did they give him a hard time? They
chased him all around the perimeter. He was terrified. These larrikins play hard; they play for keeps. This poor devil; I cant' tell you what they were planning to do to him, but it wasn't too special. He managed to get out the door. I'm not too sure that we saw him again.
When he was allocated as our parlourmaid I suppose to clean up the joint, it didn't go down very well with the white American navy fellows, particularly the southern chaps. One chap there, his job was on a
tractor sort of thing, cleaning up trashcans and things like that. He was from the south, very strong southern accent. He hated this black chap. He didn't see why he should, he said, "You blokes shouldn't be fraternising with him. Keep him outside." That was just an aside.
Q: Were you
disguised as Malay fishermen at that stage?
A: You'll see some photographs there. That'd be the poorest attempt of Malay fishermen you could ever imagine. When we left Exmouth at the last of the debacle with the fractured dry shaft of the vessel and the USS Chantelier came in and lifted our stern up and did a rough weld.
Captain Horsley was the skipper on Chantelier at the time, the American ship. He leant over the rails and said, "That's only a rough weld, but it'll get you guys down to Fremantle where you can get into dock." He had no idea where we were going. After we left about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and we left in a blistering southerly.
As we got down to the head of the Exmouth and turned, we were grossly overloaded. Lyon insisted on the sail, we had a sail on originally, being put up. As we went through the heads at Exmouth, this huge roll came out from the Indian Ocean at that time, the monsoon, they were giving the Krait a terrible battering.
They rolled her over an all the scuppers on the area that was cut out to allow the water to escape on the deck, they were all blocked up with drums of fuel oil, kerosene and stuff. The water couldn't get away. It'd get on the deck, but it couldn't escape. The vessel was starting to, and as she turned the sail, the boom swung out and these rollers were rolling around. She was laying over at a very acute angle. We thought it was going to go over. Ted Carse sprang to the rescue; he'd been dozing in the cabin, "Get that so and so sail down." So they got the sail down. He took over and changed course a few points,
bring her on.
Q: Describe your station on the boat with your wireless.
A: The radio equipment was squeezed in behind the companionway that went down into the officers' accommodation, the bleak stroke operations room, a bleak stroke radio room. It was only very small, about 9 by 9 feet. Barely
enough to squeeze down there and the cockroaches of course. They were all down there too. That was my posse. I had to keep single operator watches. That means I had to spend at least 8 hours a day on certain channels that the navy had given me to monitor. Other times I'd monitor Tokyo Rose and the forms of information of benefit to the crew.
Q: They were keen to hear what Tokyo Rose had to say?
A: Yes, she was quite a remarkable lady as I recall. Good command of the English language I must say that. I was able to rig up a speaker down aft so we could play a bit of the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation], Tommy Handley's show were very popular. Keep the morale of the troops up a bit so they got a bit of news and
what have you.
Q: Was there an explosive charge on your gear as well?
A: Yes. I'll say. You know the size of a generous size beer case that was packed tight with P808 [plastic explosive]. It was sitting right on the top of my
radio equipment about that far from my nose. The cortex that goes from the timer and detonator ran right across my desk, right across my ashtray as a matter of fact. I was smoking cigarettes and the cortex started to smoulder and I thought "Jesus, what's gonna happen next?" Fortunately nothing happened.
Q: Did the ship have a rowboat
as well that had been modified?
A: Yes, we had a small service boat. It might have been 15 foot long, if that, round about that. It was only a small thing. That was Davidson's secret weapon. He'd got some copper water pipe and he drilled holes through the sea down through the
hull. He'd pushed the water pipe through those holes so they protruded from the bottom and then he'd sealed them to make it watertight. The he attached the corrugated hoses that they used to have on the old gasmasks that we wore too. He'd taken the charcoal container off and put the hoses one on
the end of each water pipe with ordinary hose clamps. His idea was that if the vessel was intercepted by a patrol vessel of similar size, a destroyer and down I suppose, they'd lower the rowing boat down on the lee side away from the inspecting vessel.
They had one of my distilled water carboys. These were fairly big glass containers, they call them carboys; they carry distilled water for batteries. So I had a few of those onboard. As I used them up they'd take one of those. Joe was the most Asian-looking of the lot of us I suppose.
When he was all stained up and had his sarong he didn't look too bad as a Malay fisherman. He was to hop in on the lee side. Davo would have 3 or 4 of these limpets with him. Joe was to pull over towards the vessel and Joe was to say something in Malay like "Water?" one or two words, hold the carboy up to signify
he wanted water. By that time Joe was supposed to have got alongside this thing that Davo was supposed to slam these limpets on the side somewhere towards the stern area of the vessel. Joe was to paddle like hell down the stern of the vessel before these things went off. They were set with a very, very short time fuse, only a couple of minutes. Fortunately the occasion didn't arrive for that to be put to the test, so we were pretty right
Q: It's a hair-raising plan.
A: It's rather a futile plan I would think when you think back about it. For starters, I can't imagine the Japanese being stupid enough to allow the boat to get that close to it anyway, although you don't know; hard to know the Japanese minds.
Q: When you were in Cairns, what were the rumours among the crew about what you were gonna be doing?
A: There was lots of speculation. Paddy was a pretty shrewd rooster. He knew that he had fuel onboard for about 13,000 miles steaming. So you wouldn't be going to Port Moresby with that sort of cargo onboard. He was pretty much a wakeup. But he wasn't saying a great deal. The boys used to,
all the lower deck lawyers used to be up there pontificating on what they thought was going to happen. Some suggested it could be Surabaya, which is like Jakarta today; others Tanjungredeb and maybe Timor or something like that. But they were all well and truly wide of the mark when Lyon called them to clear the lower deck.
Q: At what point did you get informed?
A: I hoisted the Japanese flag at half past 7 in the morning on the 3rd of September. It would have been a day or so before the day previous Lyon
called them "Clear the lower deck" and got all the troops up forward. Then he started to issue his, "We're going to Singapore." Nobody said anything. Taffy later told me that he nearly fell over the side. He'd only just got out of Singapore in the surrender circumstances. Going back he thought Lyon must have
lost his lid. Nobody else seemed to be greatly concerned. I think some of the kids were saying, "You reckoned it was gonna be bloody Surabaya." He told them that's where they were going, to Singapore, and that from here on in strict security precautions were to be put into play. There'd be no smoking until we get back. That went down like a lead balloon.
He said, "We'll be flying under the Japanese flag and you've all gotta stain yourselves black and wear sarongs like Malay fishermen. Nothing but nothing is to go over the side. No tins, no paper, no nothing that would betray the presence of Europeans to any sub that may happen to be charging his batteries on the surface and something floats past. 'Hello, some Europeans around.' These are the rules."
Everyone said, "Oh yeah" and went back to work. There was muttering in the seamen's mess, the non-smoking. Teddy and Paddy were very heavy smokers. Paddy was doing the three in one act when I met him. Carse was a very heavy smoker too. Everyone smoked on board.
It didn't take Lyon long to wake up that that rule was not going to be too popular. So he relented then and said, "You can smoke at any time of the day on deck, but absolutely nothing is to go over the side and no butts or anything in the bilges because of the flogging of the stumps. At night time, absolutely no smoking
on the open deck. If you wanna smoke you've gotta smoke under cover." So the canvas flaps were lowered down and there they stayed for the rest of the journey. We were able to have a few cigarettes. What we lacked in tucker and water we made up for in cigarettes. We had thousands and thousands of cigarettes. The Americans gave us a hell of a lot of cigarette packs. Lucky Strikes were the equivalent
of 2 shillings a pack. We were trading with them. We had heaps and heaps of these First Aid kits on a belt. We had loads of those. I don't know what the hell we were gonna do with them. We used to trade those with the Americans for fags. So we had huge quantities of cigarettes onboard.
That solved that problem.
Q: What went on in the aft deck area that was covered by the canvas?
A: Everything. That was our main quarters, our messing arrangements. The officers used to sit separately; they wouldn't eat with the troops. So they
used to sit on that forward hatch near my radio cabin. They'd sit there and eat their meals. Taffy would have to run up their pancakes or their M&V [meat and vegetables] or whatever they were being served. Crazy when you think about it.
Q: Did the rest of the crew resent that aloofness?
A: I don't think they cared. I think they preferred to be on their own anyway, quite frankly. They could say what they thought.
It was noted, but nobody. It was typical; the officers always segregated themselves from the troops.
Q: Who were your best mates amongst the crew?
A: I got on very well with Taffy. Taffy and I were pretty good chums. Poppa Falls and I used to kick around a little bit ashore there. He and his wife and Hazel and I used to go out a little bit when we had the
opportunity back in Sydney when we got back on leave. We were all pretty good mates. It's hard to say that there was any one particular person rather than the other. Crilly was always a very popular guy. He was good fun to be with.
Q: What were the action stations in the event of encountering an enemy vessel?
A: My action station was
the wireless cabin. They had a couple of openings in the canopy thing mainly for aircraft. The rest of them had to crouch down in the gunnel of the ship really. Ted Carse and Lyon used to take over in the wheel house cos Carse had that plunger that used to send us all
to glory if the need be. He used to be up there with Carse in the wheelhouse. That thing was wired up from there. Paddy would be in the engine room. He had Buff Marsh helping him; he semi-trained Buff to help him with the engine. I have a feeling that Moss might have also been seconded for a bit of engineering training. I'm not too sure, though.
Q: Describe the disguises you were wearing.
A: Helena Rubinstein came up with this black dye with a spirit base. We had to paint all our bodies straight over with this black dye. They gave us sarongs to wear.
We weren't allowed to wear our uniforms onboard. Weren't allowed to wear any badges of identification at all. We each painted each other. Needless to say there was some frivolity on the mess deck, there always would be with blokes. Buff Marsh I think hopped up on the prominent part of the ship and did the hula with his skirt on, or his
sarong. The painting of the black wasn't' good at all really. If you had the slightest pimple or something like that and it got into it, it used to sting like hell and create little ulcers and that type of thing. The black stain was very uncomfortable. Perspiring and sweating
like we would in the tropic compounded the agony of it really.
Q: Did it stay on OK?
A: No, it rubbed off on just about everything it touched. You'll see, I'll show you my diary after, you'll see signs of the black stains still on there. It came off quite easily. We had to be topped up all the time. If we'd got hold of Helena Rubinstein, we'd have gone crook on her.
Q: How was the ship made to look more authentic?
A: It was typical of the type of vessel that's very, very common in those waters. So there wasn't really much needed. The less that was done about it the better. So no attempt was made to dress her up in a seamanlike manner. Ropes were left strewn all over the place,
so if aircraft comes down they'd see it was a very untidy looking ship they'd say, "Oh well, that's natives for you" and they wouldn't worry about it.
Q: In the event of encountering enemy, who was supposed to be on deck pretending to be natives?
A: The only people that would be on deck would be Ted Carse
in the wheelhouse, probably with Major Lyon. Everybody else would be under cover except if they were gonna lower that dinghy over the side, poor old Joe Jones would have been up there with his coolie hat on and his water bottle.
Q: Do you think your disguises would work in broad daylight?
A: I would have doubted it really. As somebody said to me once, "How in the hell do you
have sailors with blue eyes and ginger hair with sarongs and stained faces?" It was never really intended to be all that effective. It was just that it might give you some cover from a distance. That's all really. I don't think it would have been all that effective quite frankly.
Q: You didn't disguise your hair?
A: Not really.
Davidson had ginger hair. It was pretty hard to disguise.
Q: When you were told you were going to Singapore, what did you think personally?
A: I didn't think much about it at all, quite frankly. I think you get conditioned that, you know what they say in the
navy, "Sailors are not paid to think, they're only paid to do." You're not supposed to have any brains if you're a Jack-me-hearty tar. The officers would have the brains. I suppose we didn't think much about it at all. One port is as good as another I suppose.
Q: But you'd just had an addition to the family.
A: Yeah, but I was much younger. Young people see no fear.
Nothing seems to enter them. They don't think anything's likely to happen to them.
Q: When did you hear about your child being born?
A: Just before we left a telegram came. There was some suggestion they may have delayed the departure awaiting that telegram. I think Donald Davidson's wife was in touch with Hazel, or Hazel was in touch with her or something like that.
Q: What rationing was
in place on board?
A: Grim. Water was a very big problem. You know the army water bottle; you got one of those every three days. That had to suffice for everything: drinking, washing, cooking, eating, whatever. You got one of those every three days. So water was really a struggle. Food, when the fresh food petered
out things didn't go too well. Poor old Andy did a wonderful job I think with his pancakes and the other stuff. He used to have to cook in seawater cos he couldn't spend any of the fresh water. They had the first of the dehydrated food, which was really bad. Dehydrated mutton, dehydrated carrots, dehydrated onions,
dehydrated potatoes. All that food was all dehydrated and it was awful. It was so bad that guys just wouldn't eat it. I think we probably came back with almost as much as we went away with cos it's just terrible. We used to survive on army biscuits were very popular. You know the dog biscuits? We had
corned beef. The soldiers had beef. It's in a tin. We used to eat a bit of that. I can remember getting by on a handful of raisins for lunch. So no, meals weren't, food was very bad.
Q: What about hygiene?
A: Very good.
That's one thing I've noted that they were very particular. All the chaps had to wash and shave every day, and take these tablets. They were very carefully monitored to make sure you took all these tablets. You couldn't afford to have anybody sick on the thing. If somebody got appendicitis they would have had to throw them over the side I suppose. No, hygiene was good.
We were able to keep ourselves pretty clean. We used to wash ourselves in seawater. We had salt-water soaks. If you wanted a hot wash the cooling system used to discharge over the side from the engine, it was warm, sometimes really hot. You could have a hot wash there if you wanted to. There was only 18 inches of freeboard between the water
and the gunnel in the waist of the ship, so we used to wash our plates in the hot water and clean them up. The troops kept themselves very clean.
Q: What toilet facilities were there?
A: Rather primitive I'm afraid. There was a sponson. It's a
timber planking band that runs around the ship. For toileting you used to have to slip over the side through passgate. Poor old Crilly's pots and pans were all over the place there. Climb out over the back of the ship and sit on the sponson and we had a bucket there with a rope on it and used seawater to clean yourself up with. It was one of the worst things of the show. Then they'd
be with their sarongs. When they stepped back over, poor old Crilly is trying to peel something for tea or lunch and the troops would step, and he used to go off his head. He used to scream like mad at the guys cos the water would be dripping off them. He didn't like that one little bit.
Q: With the body dye and the salt water, did your skin suffer?
A: Yes, we all had scabs and eczema and
running sores. They healed up once we gave the dye away of course.
Q: You were involved in the flag raising ceremony. Describe that.
A: It was my job to hoist any flags on the ship. We had two Japanese flags: one that we hoisted
to the after mast at the stern of the vessel and the other was spread out over the top of the wheel house for aircraft purposes. There was a little bit of joking and going on when we pulled down the blue ensign and hoisted up our Japanese flag; a bit of ribald laughter and carrying on. But
both those Japanese flags were made in Australia, in Melbourne I think.
Q: What did you do to make them look more authentic?
A: They got some of the diesel and we sprinkled that on it and dragged it up and down in the scuppers to dirty it up a little bit. They were pristine white when we got them. So we had to age them slightly. Worked out OK.
Q: How did you feel about sailing under a foreign flag?
A: It didn't mean a great deal to us then, but since it means a great deal to me now when I realise what the consequences could have been for breaking the Geneva Convention. You'd have nowhere to go, no rights whatsoever. Cos the Rimau [Operation Rimau; the second operation into Singapore launched from submarine] fellows, those Japanese flags was on Rimau. That was brought up in the court
proceedings. That's something that was not done, really.
Q: Where were the canoes stored?
A: They would have been stored in number 2 hold I think. The hold next door to the wireless cabin anyway. I'm pretty sure they were stored in there.
Q: The canoes sent from England were not quite what they'd expected.
may have had a few shortcomings. I can't really remember. I wasn't involved in playing with the canoes. They certainly seemed to be an improvement. The two-man canoes wouldn't have been good to them because they had nowhere to stow their explosives and food and water and all that sort of thing.
Q: What did you think of this plan of paddling into Singapore harbour by the canoeists?
A: I don't think we thought
a great deal about it. We knew they were going to do that. I suppose we thought it would all work out OK cos someone had done their homework on it.
Q: What was the daily routine on the ship on the voyage up?
A: Pretty much the same as any other ship. There was the watch keeper's for the engine room, the watch keepers for the lookouts. Yours truly keeping
single operator period watches. The officers were doing pretty much the same. There's nothing too much different really.
Q: What were you listening out for?
A: I had some frequencies that were given to me. The navy said that these had to be guarded. If I could spare some time to jack up to other channels I could do that, but during my single operator periods I had to guard these channels in case they got a recall
or something like that that would require us to change direction or go somewhere or do something. So I had to sit there hour after hour listening to nothing but silence.
Q: That must have been hard.
A: Very boring. Although I had my WT manuals, these two handbooks I mentioned to you.
Actually I was studying for my first class commercial wireless officer certificate at the time and these two manuals were very helpful to me in the studies that I was doing. So I was pretty happy that I took them along with me really.
Q: As a radio freak I guess we could call you, it must have been
fun to be able to do what you wanted and modify your equipment.
A: You could only do it within certain limitations. Actually I've since become rather critical of SRD because I feel that they lacked a fair bit of expertise in that particular area, the communications area. For starters they gave me one set,
I had some spare valves, some spare 807s and some spare receiving valves. No test equipment. The only test equipment I had was an alternator that I'd made myself. There were virtually no spares for the equipment whatsoever. To send a ship on a mission like that, I became a radio surveyor for the PMG later on when I was doing the merchant shipping work, and when I think back
on what a radio surveyor looks like when he does an inspection on a ship, there'd be no way in the world that ship would have ever got out of Sydney Harbour. No emergency equipment, no spares, no nothing. They gave us two of those American walkie-talkie things, SDR522s or whatever the hell they call them. What a cracker. You could yell further than you could transmit with them. So we didn't bother taking them. They weren't worth their lot.
I feel very annoyed I suppose even to think that that send people away without proper backup equipment. The AT5AR8, when they installed it, it runs off two jenny motors. There's a small 220-volt jenny motor that provides the high tension for the receivers and there's a 550 jenny motor that provides the high tension for the transmitters. They sit on a common
chassis. This is mounted about that high off the deck. When the ship goes to sea the water pours down there and there's at least 6 inches of water slushing around in that area all the time. It's never dry. The power supply has these small glass fuses that you've probably seen plenty of. They sit in a panel and they were
mounted on a Paxolin strip of material, which was common for the day, but it doesn't' like seawater. When seawater splashes on those terminals and you switch the gear on they start to smoulder and get very hot and they start to cook, which meant that, and it's not very long before the fuses go open circuit. I used to have to keep a penknife handy. As soon as the things started to smoulder, when they got
wet, I'd have to chip all the charcoal away all around. I think I said in that thing I wrote that by the time we got back to Exmouth those glass fuses were hanging independently on the ends of their connecting wires. All the Paxolin had all been burnt away. Instead of mounting the power supply high up on the roof somewhere. It would have been sensible. But no, they put it down there. It's just ridiculous.
The installation left a lot to be desired I found. Earthing is fairly important on small ships with radio equipment. It forms an important part of the overall transmitting capability. It works in conjunction with the aerial, the radial sort of thing. If you haven't got a decent earthing system on the thing the radiation
efficiency of that aerial drops fairly considerably. That's why I had the Americans put this very large copper plate underneath the hull. That improved things quite noticeably. Shortage of spares, should have been an absolute duplicate of the station, that's what should have been there. Imagine sitting out in the China Sea somewhere in those busy shipping lanes. There's a hell of a lot of shipping floating around up there.
If you suffer a major breakdown, what do you do? You can't call anybody, if you've got no spares. No communications whatsoever. Over the years I've become rather critical of the people that did the communication side of that. I don't think they did a very good job at all.
Q: Perhaps if you'd been on the crew earlier you might have solved some of those problems.
as long as you could get somebody to listen to you. There are so many experts in these things and a lot of them don't like being criticised. Being a ham, they're masters of improvisation I always think, the radio guys. They're all a bit mad I think. They spend their whole waking hours playing around with radios, improving radios
and doing, and they come up with some wonderful ideas. The big HSO [?], Sarnoff [?] of whatever his name was, the big engineer who became a bit of an RCA [Radio Corporation of America] in America. He was a ham. So was Dollbord, the American politician, he had one of the biggest ham stations I've ever seen in my life. So just because they're amateurs is
not to say they're not very professional and have a very competent understanding of the technical side of it.
Q: Did you find the problems frustrating, or did you enjoy the challenge?
A: I suppose it gave me something to do. It's only in later years when I've thought back and I think to myself "For God's sake. How
in the hell could that happen?" You're much older and much wiser. You're probably more capable of looking deeper into the ramifications of such incompetence.
Q: Did you notice differences in the behaviour of army and navy aboard the ship?
A: No, not at all. I've always said some of the happiest days I can
remember in the services were when we were serving with the army, when we went back to Fraser Island, which was basically an army station. A few native blokes there, but nearly all army. We got on wonderfully with the army.
Q: What about between the Pommies [English] and the Aussies?
A: I don't think that we had any serious problems there. They were very young sailors. Paddy was a Belfast Irishman
from World War 1. Davidson was RN. Lyon was an Englishman. Carse was the same. No, I can't recall any unhappiness at all there.
Q: Describe the problems in entering the Lombok Strait.
picked up the canoeists.
Q: I mean on the way in.
A: Well, we relied a lot on intelligence provided by other nationalities, principally the Dutch. They gave us a heap of information. One of them was that we could anchor off Nusa Basar
Island off Nusa Basar, which is the western entrance of Lombok Strait, and wait for the appropriate time to go into the strait to go through. There's a very strong tide goes through there cos you've got the Indian Ocean coming through and you've got the Java Sea trying to get out. It becomes very, very confused, the seas there, very rough indeed. We approached
the strait and in the late afternoon we got our first glimpse of Mount Rinjani and the other volcano on Lombok and Bali. Just poking their heads through the clouds. When we got close to the entrance of the strait, say about 6 in the evening, we were heading towards
Nusa Basar and a searchlight dropped a beam, almost looked as though they dropped the beam on top of us. Everybody thought we'd been sprung. Ted Carse said, "No way. That searchlight is 20 miles away and you will be well down on the horizon. They wouldn't be seeing you. Not yet anyway." So we breathed a sigh of relief. That was the first indication that things were not as had previously been recommended.
When we got up to the entrance to the strait, we could see car headlights and trucks driving around. The island was populated. Then the idea of anchoring there was out of the question because of the depth of the water. It was extremely deep water there, maybe 3 or 4,000 feet of water there. No way in the world you could anchor there.
So we had to press on. In doing so we entered the strait under very adverse circumstances. We should have been going through with the tide going from the Indian Ocean through into the Java Sea. We were only capable of 6 1/2 knots. That would have been very beneficial for us to have, cos it's about 7 or 8 miles of tide. It was blowing the other
way. So we were beating against that and weren't' making any headway. I think I made a note there that we went into the strait about 6 in the evening and at midnight we were still in the same spot almost, till the tide changed. Then we were able to get through. But by that time, instead of being well clear of the strait and heading towards the Kangean Islands, we were still in the other end of the strait. It was daylight and there were fishing boats
everywhere. It was like being on Sydney Harbour for all the shipping around us. But they didn't pay us any attention. Nobody worried us so we just carried on. It wasn't a very good feeling just the same.
Q: What happened after that?
A: We eventually got through the strait and set our course across the Kangean Islands and made a run up the side of the islands there and hit the coast of Borneo, trying to keep out of sight as much as we possibly could.
Q: What was the atmosphere onboard like at that time?
A: Pretty good really.
I don't know how the officers felt about it cos you'd never know. But as far as the troops were concerned, they didn't seem to worry very much about it. The routine was the same day after day. Nobody worried greatly.
Q: Did you think about dying?
A: I don't think so. We were un-killable at that age. No. I don't think so.
Q: What were your thoughts about the Japanese?
A: We were fairly well clued up on their behaviour
cos they'd been fighting in China for a long time and it was the Nanking problems where they did some dreadful things to the Chinese. In general, their record for inhumanity was pretty much legendary. We didn't think a great deal of them.
Q: Before you set off, what
had you been told you were going to do?
A: We weren't told very much at all. I think the general idea when we were steaming up through the Barrier Reef that it looked as though we could be heading towards Papua New Guinea. I don't recall that nobody did anything to dissuade us. As far as we were concerned it was just
another ship. That was about it.
Q: What was it like being surrounded by other boats?
A: I can assure you that when we came out of the Lombok Strait there was a bit of teeth gnashing went on there when we saw the shipping. Terrible lot of fishing done around there. They were all little fishing
prows and things like that. There seemed to be hundreds of them; quite a lot of them. We sailed on and they never paid us any heed. None of them rushed over to see if they could sell us any fish. I have the feeling the Japanese flag might have had something to do with it because we'd been hearing a few rumours that they weren't terribly happy with the way they were being treated by the Japanese.
There were some difficulties with food shortages, particularly rice shortages and things like that. We'd never know. It's just an assumption that perhaps they saw the Japanese flag and gave us a big miss. But had be struck one of their patrol boats - they had some of these very large Chinese junks, which they had rigged up as patrol
craft - they could have been another kettle of fish altogether. Fortunately we struck a heck of a lot of junks up there, but every time we struck junks, Carse was pretty burnt, as soon as the lookout would spot one of these things Carse would do a few calculations as to its course and speed and then move the ship accordingly. A few points starboard
or to port. So we didn't look as though we were avoiding them, but we weren't getting too close to them to have a closer look at us. Pretty good that way.
Q: How close were you to these junks?
A: Less than a quarter of a mile. I can remember one occasion that we were in a group of islands there. More up towards the Mergui Archipelago,
it's just peppered with these small islands. The Japanese had a lot of fortifications on these islands, bases and that. We came up on the starboard side out of some of these islands came a naval pinnace. There's all these suited Japanese sailors sitting around the back of this pinnace. I don't know whether they were going on shore leave. They came out and went straight across
in front of us. It'd be no more than a quarter of a mile, if that. Not one even looked around. That's how close they were.
Q: What was the scenery like here?
A: It wasn't too spectacular as I recall. Not that we ever got all that close to make a critical examination of it, but just palm trees and the usual stuff you see around the islands.
Q: Did you catch fish?
A: When the canoe people were dropped and we had to take the vessel back to Borneo and try and hide it over there, Ted Carse, this is where I get cranky with that Silver woman, I shouldn't say so I suppose, Carse showed in my view the most calmest and coolest courage
in that he stopped the vessel in the middle of the Java Sea and said to the guys, "Break out the fishing lines. We'll do a bit of fishing." On another occasion he said, "We're gonna see if we can scrape a bit of the green weed off the bottom of the vessel and get another half knot out of her. So he put the little boat over the side and some of the boys were in there scraping weeds off the side of the boat. It doesn't say much for a person being
panic stricken like this woman suggested we was. Never heard anything so stupid in my life.
Q: How long had you been out of Exmouth Gulf before you dropped the canoe men?
A: We left Exmouth about the 26th of August or
something like that. The canoe parties went into the harbour about a month later. 27th was the night of the show time. So about a month I suppose.
Q: What was the weather like when you dropped them off?
A: Varied from magnificent calm, sunny days to violent storms like, we call them
Sumatras up there. They're like small typhoon type things. They were very bad. I see the seas come straight over Krait, virtually smothering it. You couldn't put lookouts on top of the wheelhouse; they wouldn't last 5 minutes. Then these things disappear as quickly as they come. You can always tell when they're coming. You get
signals. We had the master weatherman onboard. He was excellent.
Q: How can you tell a Sumatra is coming?
A: The surface of the water is like a mirror and stays that way. It's usually very hot and humid and the barometer starts to fall. Then you hear this sighing noise, wind sighing. That's usually the start of it. Then
the rain pelts down and the seas are up and very high. So you've gotta be on your game when that happens.
Q: What were you doing in that month before you dropped the canoe men off?
A: We were looking for a place to hide the vessel, cos the Dutch said, "You can take Krait
right up to the harbour and you'll find that there's endless little inlets, particularly around the Sumatra area, where you can take Krait up there and cover her with palm leaves and vegetation and you'd never be seen at all." But we never struck any of these things. Everything we looked at was either
populated with native villages or worse still Japanese observation posts. They had some quite major observation posts on some of these islands. I imagine they would be part of the shipping control or something like that. Some of those army posts were very, very well populated; a lot of soldiers on them.
Q: What did a Japanese observation post look like?
A: Ordinarily they have a watchtower up in the air. They've got their flags flying. All the huts are visible for the troops. The watchtower usually gives it away that it's an observation post of some description; plenty of those.
Q: How long were the men supposed to be out for in the initial Operation Jaywick plan?
A: I'm not sure, because it would have depended, had they been able to have hidden Krait virtually around Subar Island or something like that, it would have been simply a matter of dropping them over for a couple of night.
They dropped them at Pandjang, which is about 30 miles south. Although Krait went up to virtually the entrance of Singapore Harbour, cos the lights of the harbour were quite visible. But it was decided that it would be better to drop them further back and let them paddle up a bit longer. They were pretty fit these fellows. Not take Krait too close in case of examination by
police boats or as it turned out, the Rimau fellows were right in the harbour with that junk they captured. There was a Malay police boat that came over and looked at them. So that was where there was a problem where they were sighted. So it made sense not to take Krait right into the port area there, because it could have been too easily sighted. Some curious character could have
wanted to know more about what it was doing there. So it was decided that they drop them about 30 miles south of Singapore. They had to paddle a little bit further when they came back to Pompong Island was the pickup spot. That was about 60 miles away.
Q: What did the canoes look like?
A: I'll show you the photographs out there.
They're just like the kayaks you see. Like these surfboats you see. Very similar. They're about 2 foot 7 wide and about 17 feet long. They carry about 700 pounds of gear. They're a fairly big lump of a thing.
Q: What navigation equipment?
A: They had a compass that would be almost identical to the field compasses they were issued with. They were pretty good.
Q: What time of day did you drop them off?
A: It was close to midnight when we dropped them at Pandjang. We had to go past a wretched Japanese observation
post that was fairly close to Pandjang Island. We had to sneak past that. You've gotta be careful of moonlight. That's one of the worries. Moonlight can be quite strong. There was a Japanese patrol boat that was doing regular patrols around that area. We could hear this thing coming. Fortunately we didn't encounter it, but the canoeists did.
They logged its patrol time. It was just as well that we didn't run into that thing. It could have been a different story. We dropped them just close on midnight. I think we lost our anchor there. No, we lost it on the pickup time, the second trip.
As soon as we dropped them we went off back towards the coast of Borneo. We ran Krait up and down in the shallows off the edge of the coast there. We kept her there in the shallows so no vessel larger than her could get in there. They' d have to be the same size almost. So that was Carse's idea to keep her in the shallow water. Anyone that wanted to have a look at her they had some chance of defending
themselves. If they were out in the open sea they could have been gone, finished.
Q: Describe the mood when you were dropping the men off.
A: Very sad in a way, because I think by that time we had a feeling that what they were gonna try and do was almost mission impossible. We didn't think we'd ever see them again. It was pretty sad.
I'll always remember I was standing beside Ted Carse when Lyon went over the side. He was the last man to leave when we dropped them. I remember him clearly saying to Ted, "Listen Ted, if we're not back at the rendezvous by such and such a time, you are to turn around and take her straight back to Australia."
When I read another person's account of that it just makes me wonder cos it's so far wide off the truth.
Q: Who was in the canoes?
A: There was Lyon and Huston. They were the pair in one canoe. Davidson and Falls, who were both way and
ahead a far stronger pair. They were really the brawn of the whole show. Joe Jones and Bob Page were in the third canoe. There was a fourth canoe there. I think originally they had thought of a fourth canoe. I think Berryman and Marsh were supposed to, but it was decided against that because Carse had no crew then. He had to have crew to run the ship.
Q: Were the canoes disguised with Japanese flags?
A: No, the canoes were just blackish rubberised canvas. They had a little blue japara silk sail; they could put a small sail up on it. The equipment the fellows wore were not unlike the Viet Cong suits,
navy blue japara pyjamas, which were proven to be very unsatisfactory because they were too hot. Didn't breathe.
Q: What did the men take with them?
A: They only had what they call 4 by 4s. They were like a kerosene tin and they had 4 men's rations for 4 days
in there. That includes everything. A magazine to read, tobacco, cigarettes, vegemite, PKs [chewing gum], dried fruits and tinned meats and vegetables and general ration. It was supposed to last 4 men for 4 days. So they took some of those. They took water with them. They were fortunate enough to be able to strike
water on quite a few of the islands that they stopped at. They island hopped up, after we dropped them at the 30 miles point, on most islands during the daytime. They would only travel at nighttime. They wouldn't be seen then.
Q: What did you do after you dropped them?
A: We headed back to the coast of Borneo as quick as our legs could carry us. Just spent the time cruising up and down in the shallows of the Borneo coastline, bumping ourselves on the bottom occasionally as we got in too close. Doing the odd bit of fishing and bottom scraping.
Q: Did you see much marine life?
A: We saw a fair amount of the junk type. It's amazing the amount of junks that seemed to
operate in those waters. They all carry cargoes at various places they have to visit; some of them small, some of them large, some of them very large. We saw quite a number of them. A fair amount of aircraft. We had one occasion that was a bit distracting. It was not long after we came across from Lombok Strait towards
the Kangean Islands. I suppose we were still bathing in false security, Tokyo tourists. The main mast had a crosstree at the top and rattling [horizontal lines fastened across the ship's shrouds (ratline)] used to run down on either side that you could go up. They're rope things.
The mast was attached to the front of the vessel with a chain and a strong steel wire; a chain where the cathead was on the bow of the thing. That went right up to the top of the mast where the crosstree was. Davidson was sitting cross-legged on this crosstree
and a couple of the guys were lounging around on the foredeck taking in the sunshine. Somebody was supposedly on duty on top of the wheelhouse. All of a sudden somebody yelled out, "There's an aircraft coming." By that time, this Japanese fighter, Zero, had come in fairly low and swept up behind us.
A Zero or a floatplane? I can't remember now. Might have been a floatplane. Similar size anyway. It came right up on our stern and by that time someone had yelled out there was an aircraft and Davidson flew down from that crosstree about 100 mile an hour to the front of the vessel. There was a great scurry with characters trying to get under cover to get off the deck.
The plane was only a few hundred feet up, wasn't terribly high. It obviously came down to have a look at the vessel and it swooped up over the side of it and carried on, waggled its wings and away it went. We were definitely off balance there. That's when Lyon issued the declaration that nobody was allowed to be on deck unless they were authorised to do so, or they
were doing something. Everybody else had to remain under canvas at all times. At nighttime you could come out no problem. During the day nobody was allowed to be seen on deck at all because we were certainly offside there for sure. You should have seen Davidson fly down this wire to the cathead in the front of the ship. It looked quite funny. It wasn't funny at the time; it had quite serious
repercussions I suppose. The lookouts got a bit of a dressing down. Lyon gave them a lecture about security. So things were tightened up considerably after that.
Q: While you were waiting for the canoes to rejoin you, how did you pass the time?
A: We were flat chat [constantly busy] cos we were working 12 hours a day cos we'd lost half our crew. So we were
working what they call watch in watch. You've got a 24-hour day you'd be working 12 hours at a time. I had to close down the wireless watches and help out with the normal deck watches, because they were so short of crew. They didn't have enough people. So in addition to doing the lookout duties, I had to try and squeeze in a bit of time on the radio as well cos we weren't too sure
whether the canoes had been successful or no. We didn't know what we were going back into. If they had been caught, we could have been going back into some sort of ambush. So it was pretty important to try and get some sort of information, which we never ever did. Nothing was ever mentioned about it.
Q: What was it like not knowing?
A: It would have been a little bit disconcerting, but I go back to the point that young people don't see things the way we see them now. They wouldn't pay much attention to a thing like that. That'd be something pretty much routine, I suppose. We were far too tired to think really. As soon as we could get some stand down time we had to get our head down and try
and get a bit of sleep. We were all very, very tired.
Q: When did you go back to meet them?
A: The dates, I can tell you them if I refer to the diary.
It would have been in October, probably the first week of October.
Q: What new duties were involved in the watches you did when the men were away?
A: The capitulation of Italy. It left the war. That was the cause of much jubilation of course. One down and two to go.
I used to get weathers for Ted Carse wherever I could and time signals and things like that. A radio operator has a fair amount on his plate really. He just doesn't sit there with a pair of cans on his ears fiddling. He's got schedules to look at, weather reports and you must keep in
post particularly for the midday shooting of the sun for time signals for that sort of thing. So you've gotta be on the ball a bit there; all snippets of information that may come through from broadcast stations or anything like that.
Q: Which nationality broadcast stations?
A: Interestingly enough Radio Australia was still audible. The Australian short wave broadcasts. The BBC was coming through.
We used to hear Tokyo Rose very loud and clear. She was entertaining if nothing else.
Q: Explain what you mean by shooting the midday sun.
A: He'd try and get a noon position of the ship actually. That's where he needs a bit of help from the radioman.
Q: Describe what it was like
embarking to the rendezvous point to pick the men up.
A: We were a little bit late getting to the rendezvous on Pompong, because we'd run into a bad Sumatra on the way. That had put us back about 4 or 5 hours I think from our rendezvous time, which was supposed to be round about the midnight time.
When we weren't too sure what the hell we were going into, we had to sneak past this blessed Japanese observation post and fortunately there was no moon, so we were pretty right. Carse went in and dropped the anchor and everybody's waiting there with the fingers on the Owen gun triggers and the Brens and things like that, cos they weren't too sure what the hell was gonna happen.
Then it was Davidson, playboy as he is, tried to sneak onboard undetected. He was a bit lucky he didn't get a burst from a Bren gun. The blokes were pretty trigger-happy. Davo slipped over the stern and closely followed by Falls. Naturally we were more than delighted to see them. But boy, they were really beat cos they'd paddled 60 miles from
Subar down to Pompong. It was pretty stressy stuff. They were pretty beat. We had a little bit of a chat about what had happened. We got the gist of what had happened. We were worried about the other two canoeists, cos they weren't there. So we hung around till dawn. By that time Davidson had turned
in. He was pretty tired. He and Falls had turned in. Carse said, "We're not gonna hang around here in daylight with those patrol vessels coming up and down". So he ordered them to weigh anchor and come back in a couple of days' time. That's when this person claims that Carse had to be persuaded to come back. It was nothing like that at all. Because Carse told the crew,
and we were there when he addressed the crew, he said, "Look, if they're not there, we may have to take Krait right up into Singapore Harbour and see if they're on those islands right inside the harbour there. We can't go back without them." That's why I get so cross with that certain lady because I think they credited
poor old Taffy with that business about the revolver. Taffy was almost put on trial over that. When we went back to Singapore for the 50th anniversary, Pat Lees was the president of the association. He had a meeting and he called us. We were all summoned to that. I don't know whether I'm getting ahead of my story a little bit, but
he was asked straight out, "What's this business about this revolver." No one knew anything about it. Taffy didn't know what we were talking about; didn't have the faintest idea what we were talking about when we said, "That person in the bisso [probably book by L.M. Silver at the back there mentioned that your name was associated." Poor old Taffy. I've never seen a man so stricken.
There was no truth in that whatsoever. It really upset him terribly. I don't know whether he ever got over it. You can imagine on a small ship like that there couldn't be a thing happen you wouldn't know about. No way would anything happen that you weren't, eating, sleeping right alongside each other all the time, you'd know immediately.
Certainly nothing like that happened, I'm sure. I don't believe it did. It wasn't in Carse's nature to start with. Not in the slightest.
Q: What did Davidson tell you about how the operation had gone that first night?
A: He mentioned that 7 ships were reported to be destroyed.
I won't say they were sunk because I think they floated some of them. They'd probably be sitting with their bottom blown out something like that. Just a description. Davidson and Falls went right in underneath the wharves right alongside Singapore proper. The Japanese guards were walking up and down the wharves whilst they were underneath the wharves under their feet.
They followed a tug through the boom defence to go inside. The whole place was lit up like Luna Park. There was no blackout or anything like that. The Town Hall was chiming the chimes. There were a few ships in there, but nothing big enough to waste limpets on, so they went back through the boom the same way as they came in.
Q: Who were the next people to arrive?
A: When we went back, Carse said, "We'll give them a couple of days" because Davidson said that some of them were tiring a bit. I think Lyon was the one that was tiring a little bit because he wasn't as?well,
the rest of the crew were exercising all the time daylight till dark, so they were good as could be. Lyon had other duties to do, so he couldn't do the same amount of exercise as them. He was a little bit more weary, but still quite up for the trip. I think his canoe suffered a little bit of damage. It went into one of the other canoes and damaged. Maybe that made the paddling a little bit harder.
They were there on the island, but they were on the wrong part of the island. They saw the vessel going down the channel going away. Must have been very frustrating for them.
Q: Where were you for the two days before returning to the rendezvous point?
A: We just went back down the Mergui Archipelago, steamed for a couple of days more towards the coast of Borneo.
There wasn't much else you could do. You couldn't possibly stay hanging around when that patrol boat was there, coming up and down. It would have been fatal for all.
Q: What was the atmosphere like turning to come back again?
A: I don't think we were too greatly concerned about that so much because
we'd picked up Falls and Davo so we couldn't see, perhaps there wasn't quite the same tension as there was before when we didn't know whether anybody had been caught. If you study the history of the thing, if you read Lyon's report, he makes mention of
when Krait sailed away after picking Davo and Falls up, he made contact with some native fishermen or something on the beach there on Pompong Island, and arranged to get some food off them. I don't think Bob Page was terribly much in favour of that because we'd gone to considerable lengths to avoid any contact whatsoever with the indigenous population.
We had to keep well clear of everybody and not to be seen by anybody. That was the cornerstone of the whole security issue. I even feel now, when I reflect back on it, I think after the trouble we went through to keep ourselves out of sight of the native people, because you couldn't trust them too much, it wasn't a good idea to trust them because some of them were
collaborators with the Japanese. The Japanese were offering inducements for them to drop off any escaped prisoners and things like that. If one of them, even what they call kampong [village (Malay)] talk, talks amongst the native villagers, some of that information could leak out and run it to the nearest Japanese police station and pass the information on. So in
some respects one doubts whether Lyon was very wise in making contact with those fishermen to get food for the simple reason that it could have compromised the whole ship's company on coming back if somebody had wanted to dob them in [betray them]. Apparently they didn't bother, so we were a bit lucky there. It's a bit scary.
Q: Tell us about Lyon's crew rejoining the Krait?
A: Yes, when we came back for the second time they were waiting for us and came aboard, there was no dramas at all. Very tired men just the same. So they all rested for a period, regained their strength and then we set sail back to Lombok Straits.
Q: What physical shape were they in?
A: Pretty knocked about. Particularly with hands blistered, blisters on the seat and all that sort of thing. Because you've only gotta get a bit of sand or something in those things and it turns it into sandpaper really.
Q: Describe the morale.
A: Pretty high. Very high. They were all elated that everyone had been picked up and
the operation had been a success. We suffered no casualties, the morale was really very high.
Q: What had the canoe men heard or seen of the ships being damaged?
A: They were in the harbour when they started going off at 5 in the morning, some of them. They were paddling furiously of course to get out. They heard the explosions. Lyon had a telescope rigged up on one of the islands
they went to to make some observations from and there was a very thick pool of smoke over the whole of the Singapore Harbour. There was plenty of evidence of damage there. They were rushing up and down madly, patrol boats rushing up and down. It was a vastly different situation from when they went in.
Q: What was the procedure of deploying the canoes?
A: After we had dropped them?
Q: No how did you get the canoes up on deck and how did you launch them?
A: The canoes all fold down to a knapsack
type of thing. They're made of bamboo and things like that. The light wooden slats and they stretch the fabric once they get the frame of the canoe, like pulling a sock on, pull this rubberised cover over the whole lot. They're very light. Two men can carry them quite easily. So it's a matter of just lifting them straight onboard and
disassembling them. Shoving them back down in the hold.
Q: How would you put them over the side?
A: They were just lowered over. They were really quite light.
Q: They must be tricky to get into.
A: Yeah, it does require a fair bit of practice. These chaps could do 360-degree rolls in the ocean no trouble at all. They seemed to
be very well experienced in handling them.
Q: While you were waiting for the canoes to return, what of the accusations that Carse started to lose it mentally?
A: It was rubbish. I never saw any sign of that. I was with the guy all the time. I had to give him his daily noon
sightings. Even beyond that, we were very close together. Never saw the slightest trace of any problems whatsoever. He did say, I've got his log outside there, he did make a comment in there that he had to remind some of the younger members of the crew I think it was of the need to
keep their guns clean and maintained properly cos their lives could depend on it, which you can imagine in a regular army, if you didn't clean your rifle your sergeant major would have you hung, drawn and quartered, which is only natural. After all, he is the master of the ship. He's quite entitled to speak to the crew and say, "Make sure your arms are fit and proper" cos in a situation like that every man is dependent on the other. No good one man letting
the others down. But never, ever did I see any suggestions that he was losing it. When a bloke stops the vessel and says, "We're gonna scrub the sides", hardly a mark of a person that's losing it, I would have thought. Or encouraging the crew to do a bit of fishing.
Q: And he wasn't drinking?
A: I never saw him drinking.
As far as I'm aware the amount of grog that was on that ship was very, very minimal and was only there for medicinal purposes. I can't see where he could have been drinking. We'd have known about it for certain. So I can't say that, neither can any of the rest of the crew. Somebody must have sprung him. All the other writers that have writ about
Operation Jaywick, they never raised these points. They presumably would have had access to the same material as this woman had. We've asked her to produce the evidence and she can't produce the evidence. She shilly-shallies around. I don't know quite where she is. She's been asked to produce
the evidence and she says she's lost it or can't lay her hands on it. That's not a journalist. They're usually very, very particular; particularly a research person who needs to keep documentation, would have everything catalogued, would know where to put everything if they're fair dinkum. No, I can't buy what she says. No
way in the world.
Q: You've got Carse's log here?
A: Yeah, it's outside sitting on the table.
Q: That book also gives the impression that his log had a number of caustic comments about the younger crewmembers.
A: No. He mentions the fact that he asked the younger crewmembers to look after their firearms because their lives could depend on it. They were a bit slack.
But then they were very tired. These are only kids of 17 or 18 years of age. They're not mature men. He does make a point, and I agree with him here, that he felt the ages were a little young and that his recommendations for any future ventures of this kind, to try and look to people with a few more years on them. Maybe 26-28, something like that. If you
look at Rimau, there were no youngsters in that, they were all fairly, one or two RN middies [midshipmen] or whatever they were, a bit younger, but most of them were 26 or older. Some of them were around the 30s. I can quite see Carse's sense of his comments there. There's not much use sending a boy on a man's errand. I think
they were dead lucky. I always call it the mission that had no right to succeed because it had all the ingredients against it. Even the navy were horrified. They made some very caustic remarks about Lyon; they reckoned he had a screw loose for even thinking about it.
Q: Once you had picked up all three teams and were getting out of there, what did
they tell you about what they'd done? You must have been desperate to know.
A: We were of course. We were fairly familiar. We thought Davidson and Falls efforts were most remarkable. They should have got a VC [Victoria Cross] I reckon to have the hide to go in behind a tug going through the boom and wandering up and down underneath the damn wharf where the Japs were walking
up and down over the top of them, then to have the hide to go back behind another vessel, like the submarines in Sydney Harbour here. Then go searching around the roads to pick their targets up and bung-ho, away they went. Jones and Page went across to the big storage tanks
there. They didn't seem to have much trouble at all in picking up targets there. But Lyon and Huston seemed to have a problem in finding a target. So they finished up putting all their limpets on that one tanker, which went up in a big ball of smoke and flam. Normally they don't touch tankers cos they're too hard to sink.
A: Because of the buoyancy tanks.
The Ondeen tanker that we filled off at Exmouth Gulf had an enormous big hole on the side of her where she'd been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. She was a fairly modern ship. She turned up the speed and she was able to overrun these submarines even though she had this hole. The hole simply filled up with seawater, so you've got oil in one side and seawater in the other. So what the hell, it doesn't mean a thing.
She was able to get away. Fortunately the other bulkheads held to get out, so same thing with the tanker with Lyon's mine. I think he might have been getting a bit desperate cos it was probably getting close to zero hour. I think they were all set to go off at about 5 am. He must have felt, "I can't find anything else, so I'll try the tanker
and trust in God and see what happens."
Q: Especially since the mission was his baby he must have been getting edgy.
A: I'm sure he would be. If anybody was edgy, I'd say Lyon was the bloke that was probably more concerned than anybody.
Q: When could you swap stories with these guys?
A: About 48 hours on, because they were all beat and just wanted
to die for 48 hours. We were able to get a little bit of an understanding of what transpired. Then Lyon decided to splice the main brace and he opened one of his bottles of rum and told us to bring our pannikins forward. Off we went and they gave us a generous tug of rum. We toasted the success of the
operation while we were standing around on the fo'c's'le [forecastle] of the ship slapping each other on the back and saying what good blokes we were and how smart we were. Off the side deck comes a huge, big freighter straight across the front of our bows. Lyon said, "There you go, chaps. You can't lower your guard for one second." So he said, "No more drinks until we get back to the home port." That was it.
Q: Had you observed radio traffic to indicate the explosions in Singapore?
A: None whatsoever. There was radio traffic because the Americans had deciphered it. There was certainly radio traffic, but nothing that we could make any sense out of. Even Tokyo Rose didn't make any comments about
explosions on the wharf or anything like that.
Q: Given what we now know of reprisals against the local population, do you think the raid was worth it?
A: Funny you should ask me that, because other people have asked me that question, not often, but I have been asked that question. You'll probably be thinking about the 10th of September.
It's hard to say because when the operation was finished the curtain was pulled straight over the top of it. There was never any publication of the details and very, very few people were informed about it. The reason for that was that they thought the Japanese might try and do the same thing again here. On the other hand, some people said, "Why didn't you release it, it would have been a big morale boost for the mob". So on one side you've got
people who say they should have blown it up in the press and on the other side, "No, keep it secret". I can't believe that the Japanese wouldn't have known something about that type of warfare because the Italians were fairly well to the fore in that style of thing with their frogmen and things like that. I rather fancy that the Japanese would have been fairly well informed.
It never happened, there was not a word said, so as far as the worth of it, OK there was allegedly 30,000 tons of shipping destroyed or damaged. So those were 7 ships that would have been taken out of the mainstream of the war at the time when I imagine the Japanese
would have been very keen to have those ships working full steam. They weren't going all that well at the time. The American submarines were starting to give them a bit of hurry-up. It's hard to know. I met one of the Chinese ladies who was involved in that Tientsin turnout. She was a prisoner in Markham Street Jail. I think they
murdered her husband. She told me something about what transpired there at that time. It was thought that that was where these explosions had generated from, around that area. No, I don't really know whether I could say it was worth it or whether it wasn't. I suppose
these things happen in war and it's part and parcel of the goings on. There was the turnout over the Tirpitz. The British did much the same over the Tirpitz in Norway.
Q: Describe the voyage home. Was it different from the voyage out there?
A: Yes, it was indeed.
After we picked the crew up and we'd had our tug of rum and we were starting to think about home and all the things we were going to do and home only seemed to be a few days away. We were making very good time towards the entrance to the Lombok Straits. So much so that Ted Carse reduced
speed so we wouldn't get there too early, in daylight anyway. After the vessel had entered the strait around midnight, Joe Jones was lookout on top of the wheelhouse. He turned around and saw something black that looked like a sail. He watched it for a while. Then the sail seemed to be getting bigger fairly quickly, so he watched it a bit further
and then decided to call Ted out. Ted came out with his binoculars, had a good look at it. He said to Joe, "That's no sail, that ship has a bone in his mouth, in its teeth" meaning the bow wave. He was right again. He was always right. Carse was never wrong I don't think, in his comments. This thing came up.
As it came up it was travelling much faster than we were. So Lyon ordered everybody to action stations and that's when Davidson came down and said, "I'm terribly sorry about this, Young. It's a bad blow. Good luck" and then he disappeared up the companionway. I just switched the radio gear
on stand by. I thought if somebody, probably Carse or somebody would pass me down a position report in case I could get a position away, some sort of signal out. It wasn't terribly special. This thing came up. I've got a sketch of it out there. This lady I've been telling you
about tends to poo-poo that it was only a motor launch. It was a pretty big motor launch. Davo did a sketch of it and measured it against our silhouettes; find out the name of it. It came up on our port quarter. I reckon you could have thrown a heaving line from it onto our ship
it was so close. Normally on a thing like that, through the speakerphone they sing out "What ship, where bound?" and things like that. We thought, "If gonna get an address like that in Japanese what the hell are we going to reply to it?" Nobody spoke Japanese on the ship and nobody had much of any lingo at all. Davidson and Lyon could speak a little bit of colloquial Malay, but that
was about all. We could see them on the bridge there; they were having a good look at us too. We were having a good look at them.
Q: You must have thought you were about to die.
A: Yeah, we thought that was it. I think we made a mention that we were more cross than anything, because we'd come so far, we'd set out to do what we thought we were going to do and to get so far, it made us really very angry to think that now it was gonna
all go up in smoke. So there'd be no doubt. You wouldn't have survived it cos there'd be no way I could see Lyon ever?we had those L tablets onboard too, potassium cyanide tablets. If you were taken prisoner, the Japs weren't too particular in extracting information.
There was no doubt in anybody's mind that this was gonna be the final time. For some reason the thing dropped back and then came back a second time and then for some unexplained reason did a tour off at a great rate of knots, foam and waves and all this sort of thing, back towards Mataram, there was
a Japanese naval base there on Lombok called Mataram. It seemed to be making in that general direction. We just steamed on out into the Indian Ocean at 6 1/2 knots. I'll tell you something, there were a few white faces through Helena Rubinstein black paint. The people that
would have been really concerned would have been Lyon, Davidson, probably to a lesser extent Page, but the older people would have realised the seriousness of the situation. Like we weren't terribly slack ourselves, but the younger guys probably wouldn't have the same feel about it. I don't think I'd ever want to go through the same exercise
Q: Were you manning your weapons?
Q: You would have had no chance of shooting it out?
A: We would have had no chance in the world. Particularly - I'll show you the silhouette of this thing - it had what looked like a 12-pounder on the bows to start with. I think there was another one mounted a little higher up from that. This thing was like our old V and N destroyer class.
The Stuart, Voyager, Vendetta, that very, very long quarterdeck, very much like the V and N class destroyers. She could have rammed us and we'd have fallen apart. There wouldn't have been a chance in the world. In Lombok Strait, you wouldn't last 5 seconds because of the very strong tidal drag. It was a pretty
Q: What is it like to be close to death and snatched out again?
A: You cannot believe it really happened particularly when you know that they are watching you, that they've seen you. We subsequently learned later on - we had a silencer on our funnel - a vigilant officer of the watch on the bridge, cos they were standing out on the wings of this
thing, would have said, "Why is there no diesel noise from this ship?" Their own ventilators were running too, so that may have masked any noise perhaps. We also became aware that we were supposed to be flying a two-flag signal hoist, which was a security signal hoist that all the smaller ships in those areas
were required to display, which changed every so often. I don't know whether it was every second day or once a week, but the hoist was changed from time to time. That's reasonable, I can understand that. We had nothing to fly it on, so that may have been another plus; the fact that they chopped our mast down 60 miles south of Singapore. When they knocked the mast down,
I wasn't very happy about that cos that was the end of my radio aerial. I had a string of jerry-rig [make do] underneath the gunnel of the ship, but with no mast up it may have been one of the factors in our favour that anybody looking at the vessel would say, "Well that guy is not carrying a radio. There's no radio mast, no sign of any aerials, so it must be a local in the area here." It's a chancy
sort of?maybe that had something to do with it. The thought has been argued down through the years, why the vessel wasn't challenged. That's that first thing that may have happened, somebody comes alongside and "What ship, where bound?" Even if it's "Have you got any fish onboard?" To let a ship go like that is just unbelievably slack seamanship. Maybe it was a young
midshipman who was officer of the watch. Maybe he thought if he stopped this vessel, it looked all right, typical of thousands of ships that operate there, why stop it? Would keep him out of his bunk for a few hours. Maybe he had to go to a dance on the depot. You could never believe it ever happening.
Q: You were sitting by your wireless set with those explosives.
A: It's almost chilling. Yes, indeed.
Q: If things had gone badly, you wouldn't have lasted long?
A: I don't think you'd have found anything. There wouldn't have been enough to bury I don't think.
Q: When you slipped free into the open sea,
how had the mood changed on the ship?
A: I think Bob Page's comment that when it was well and truly out of audio range I might add, "Well so long, and if we don't see you some more, well so long" type of thing. There were a lot or worried people there, I'm sure of that.
Q: The controversy
over the signal you sent on behalf of Carse?
A: Fortunately I've spent a fair bit of time and money in researching all the archives and records and things like that. I was fortunate to persuade the archives to give me copies of all the original documentations. So I've got the original signals in there. All the details
between Admiral Christie, the arrangements he had with Lyon about breaking WT silence, that's all in there. Where this woman fails to get any truth into this, at my level, I would have been born and bred on WT silence. There would have been nobody, even her, would have appreciated the importance
of WT silence on a naval warship. So for anybody to send a signal, I think she suggested that I sent it off on my own volition. For instance, I never had the bull's code, the code that was used to encrypt the signal. Lyon had that. It's a little two-page transposition code. Very, very simple code, but Lyon retained that
under his pillow in the bunk. I wouldn't have known what the ETA [Estimated Time of Arrival] was. I wouldn't have known what the text of the message should include. So there'd be no way in the world I could have put that signal together to start with, cos I wouldn't have had the information. If you read my diary that I did at the time, it indicates
there that a signal was to be sent, and also in Ted Carse's diary, he makes it clear that "Tonight we will send a signal to Admiral Christie at Hot Shot." When I sent the signal, when I called Coonawarra and Coonawarra did not, which one of the stations I was told would be listening out specifically for Krait's messages. I called Coonawarra and
not a sound. So it was a very quick call. I mentioned to Lyon that I had not made contact with Coonawarra. I suggested that it would be unwise, because we were barely 80 miles from Lombok Island at the time, and I'm certain I said to Lyon, cos I logged it in my logbook that I warned Lyon about the possibility of a
Vet kok HFDF [High Frequency Direction Finding] equipment on Lombok Island, because there were rumours that on the northeastern tip of Lombok the Japanese had an airbase there for patrolling out over the Indian Ocean. I would have said to Lyon that, "HFDF almost certainly would be at that station." The frequency that I sent mine I think
was 6610, you never forget these things. I said to him, "It would be unwise" although at 80 miles at that hour of the day, the chances of being heard would be small cos of the sky wave effect at that distance, if we were further out 2 or 300 miles different kettle of fish, but close in it would be mainly ground wave communication
and I don't believe that would have been heard. Anyway what I did say to Lyon was that we should wait because of the worry of this, I knew that HFDF was only just starting to come into play around the time of the war. The British had done a lot of work with HFDF and the ad kok system was the system that was probably
mainly used by most countries I would think. The next time we'd agreed we'd call 48 hours later, I called Coonawarra again. Not a sound. Back quick as a flash came VIX-0 in Perth, VIX-0 is a coast station that's normally operated by OTC [Overseas Telecommunications Corporation]
operators, but who in wartime comes under naval control. So VIX-0 came back to me as quick as a flash and the operator's name was Rupert. He's dead now. I met him after the war and we discussed this signal. Being a ship's radio officer he was a very expert telegraphist too, so the exchange of traffic would
have lasted seconds. So the chance of anybody getting a bearing on us would have been very, very remote. Sometimes if you're stumbling along sending IMIs repeats, repeats, repeats, it's pretty grim. But VIX-0 took my traffic immediately. There was no IMI whatsoever so the whole exercise took half a minute at the very most. Very difficult to get an HFDF bearing
on a transmission like that.
Q: So the message was not something Carse asked you to do off the top of his head?
A: No. Lyon would have been the man that, he had the codebook. He would have had to have composed the message and I would say in conjunction with Carse, and I believe it was Lyon that gave me the message to transmit. Now, if Lyon was not happy,
he would have bawled me out in no uncertain manner. He wouldn't have?Lyon never said a bloody word. Yet I saw Lyon reprimand most severely chaps on two occasions. One when the fellow fell asleep and another when a fellow lost a towel and hat over the side. Those guys were given jankers, meaning that
they were punished. Brown water or something like that, rations stopped or something like that, and made to spend a longer period on the cross-bridge. That was Lyon. He wouldn't have hesitated. If Lyon was going to dispense justice to anybody, you got it immediately. Never heard a sound or a word. The information is there in black and white
for anybody to read if they want to. This is why I can't understand why this woman didn't take the trouble to do what I did. It would have cost her a few dollars, and they knocked me back the first time I tried to get it from them. They said that it was classified information and they were not prepared to release it. I persevered and I eventually got it out of them. So I got the whole lot. Also a bit of other information went with it too.
That's why I say a lot of the stuff that woman has written I can't relate to at all. I was there. I'm sure I'd know if these things happened that she claims happened. She tried to get out of me the name of the bloke that lost the towel and the, no, I wouldn't. That goes to the grave with me. I won't betray my colleagues.
I couldn't possibly do it out of fairness to the guys.
Q: The towel and hat were recovered?
A: Yes. They were floating on the surface. The poor devil, he really got a dressing down. So did the poor devil that fell asleep on the watch. They were exhausted. It's hard not to I suppose.
Q: How did you recover the
hat and towel?
A: By the time we got back to it, it would have moved about 3 miles I suppose. Because when a ship's got way on like that it can't stop like a motorcar and do a U-ey [U-turn]. It has to stop the engines and reverse it to get it around. So it takes a fine period of time.
The thing was floating on the surface.
Q: That must have been a relief to Lyon.
A: Yes, it certainly was.
Q: Did things easy up as you came closer to Australia?
A: Yes, I think that'd be fair to say. We were actually more nervous of our own people.
We couldn't get rid of that Jap flag quick enough. We were worried about, and American submarines even when we were up there during the time we were in the Java Sea area there, we were more nervous of American submarines than we were of perhaps even Japanese ships. The Yanks have got a habit of being a bit trigger-happy. We'd heard that Admiral Christie had issued some
instructions to be on the watch for this vessel and to exercise caution. They'd have a copy of our silhouette I've no doubt. So they would have had a fair idea of what we looked like. I've heard people say there were reports that we had been seen by American submarines. Whether that's right or not I wouldn't have a clue. It's quite feasible.
Q: Do you think the success of the mission might have made people like Lyon quite cocky?
A: I would think so. I think as a truthful answer I think if you succeeded once probably say, "Why can't it be done again?" On the other hand, other people,
who were very much opposed to them, and there were quite a few fellows that I know today that were brigadier rank, fairly well up, that were bitterly opposed to Lyon going back with Rimau. One of them was a chap I was talking to at the 60th anniversary last September. He's also the president of the Commando Association of Victoria.
He said to me that he was violently opposed to the second operation. I'm pretty sure there were others too. But when you think about it, you might get caught once, but it'd be pretty hard to, the average person would get caught a second time really. Taken some sort of precaution surely.
Q: How do you feel today about that
decision to keep the mission secret at the time?
A: I don't really have any opinion. I can see both sides. I can understand that there was always the concern about 'loose lips sink ships'. You can't tell anybody where you're going and there was strict censorship. I suppose I can see the value of that. But then
at the time when morale was pretty low, sometimes if you get a bit of a victory like boost people up a bit.
Q: You must have been getting short of food at that stage?
A: We were desperately short of water. The water barrel we had up where the main mast was, that was emptied and had to be broken up, it was a wooden one.
The one down aft was in a big steel tank. It was pretty foul. It was just like seaweed, green slime by the time we got back. So water was a problem for the whole voyage really.
Q: What was your reception like on your return to the Exmouth Gulf?
A: Captain Horsley, he was the captain of the USS Santa Clair that did the work, came in when we damaged the bulking system. I sent a radio ashore to the base at Hot Shot telling them the bad news and they said they'd do what they could to help. They signalled Santa Clair who happened to be steaming just outside
fortunately. She came in and came alongside of us and took us guys off and put us ashore and lifted our stern up and it was a great team of navy artisans who swarmed all over the boat and repaired it. Horsley, when we were leaving, he leaned over the rail and said, "It's only a rough weld, but it'll get you guys to Fremantle where you'll get
it fixed up." Admiral Christie was there when we left and I can remember Horsley and Lyon walking down towards the water where our little dinghy was just before we left. Obviously he was talking to Lyon about the possibility of checking Lombok Strait out for any untoward devices
that might be damaging to their submarine fleet. All these signals are all documented. I've got them inside. The originals are all there. So when this lady starts talking about those sorts of things she obviously hasn't got the original material. When we came back we were a few days late. We were due back on the 18th of October
and we were near the Monte Bellos [island group just north of Exmouth] and we struck some very, very bad weather. It put us back a little bit. So I think we might have been a day late or something like that. When we came in we had to send an amended ETA when we came in, Horsley was there and took our lines as we came alongside. I thought that was a pretty decent thing for him to do. He stood the mooring sailors back and he
tied them up. I thought that was pretty good really. They made a great fuss of us there. Mind you, the sailors didn't know what was going on, but Horsley knew, he'd been told. We weren't charged for haircuts or anything like that. It worked out pretty well.
Q: Were you superstitious?
A: I don't walk under ladders purposely, but I'm
not too sure that I'm a superstitious person. My mother was very superstitious. I don't think I am.
Q: Was the crew of the Krait superstitious?
A: No, I don't believe. Lyon was. He was incredibly superstitious. There were a few incidents there that were quite staggering.
Davidson made some mention of them in that book that his wife wrote. He wouldn't sail on a Friday, no way would he sail. If we had a lot of good luck that'd worry him. He didn't like good luck. It might bring forward the bad luck at the wrong time. He was really superstitious.
He was quite an extraordinary person, Lyon, when you look at him. I understand he never got on terribly well with his fellow officers in the regiment in Singapore. I've met his mother and I met his wife, Gabrielle. The Australian Government sent me to London at one stage
on attachment to the British Post Office when we were undertaking certain work out here. I was with them for a while. Whilst I was there, the Home Office people ran me down to Surrey to have a look at this police academy. It was a big, old stately home down there, a magnificent looking home, gardens and that
the police had taken over to train the officers of the police department. They just introduced a new type of VHF [Very High Frequency], UHF [Ultra High Frequency] radio online communications system, which we were very, very interested in from the technical side of it. That was one of the things I had to
have a bit of a look through to study on. Whilst I was down there, I happened to say to the inspector of police or whatever he was that was looking after us, I was wondering if there was (UNCLEAR) farm, "Is that still around, or is it carved up for real
estate?" They were asking me why and I said, "There used to be a lady who I knew had this estate. I was wondering if there's any record of it." There was another young police inspector standing there and the boss man said to this young man, "Have a look at that for me, will you?" I suppose about 20 minutes later this young inspector came back and said, "Mr Young,
that [telephone] lying there on the table, if you'd like to pick that up, there's somebody there that would like to speak with you." When I picked the phone up, it was Gabrielle Lyon, Lyon's wife. She was so pleased to talk. The upshot of it was the guy from the Home Office and myself had to go down to her premises and she had an apartment there. A wonderful artist; a very capable artist in oils and that sort of thing.
It was the most memorable day. I think back on some of those things and they were the brighter moments of the whole show, to go to talk to some of the relatives that their husbands didn't come back. They still like to talk about things. What Ivor did, when he did this, what did Donald do here and this sort of thing.
Donald Davidson was a showman. He could have been on the stage. He used to wear a monocle. I think his eyesight was as good as mine. I'm sure this monocle was an act. Wally Falls who was his partner on the limpet operation told me that "When we were putting those limpet mines on those
merchant ships and I'm holding with the hold-fast on the side of the ship, Donald Davidson said 'Just hang on a moment longer, Wally'. He fishes out somewhere this blessed monocle and puts it in his eye while he's putting the limpet mines on this merchant ship." Talk about more hide than a rat with a gold tooth. He couldn't believe it. That's a fact. He was wearing his monocle. I could
tell you quite a few funny little incidents, things that you wouldn't believe that some of these crazies did. I suppose we'd better get on with your subject.
Q: You talked about the Americans being trigger-happy.
A: Well, they had a little bit of a habit that the Japanese had armed a number of these
larger junks. They were a bit of a worry. Some of these junks were probably as large as the submarines. I don't know what sort of armament they were carrying, but obviously they were a bit of a pain in the neck. The submarines used to surface and shell them, not place torpedoes on them. It was always a bit of a worry to us that
if they wanted a bit of target practice, they'd come to the surface and for afternoon fun, "Let's go and gun the ship." So we were worried that we might encounter some of these gung-ho types. Fortunately it didn't happen. It wasn't a worry.
Q: Was there rivalry between the Australian and American navies?
A: I always hesitate to talk about something that I wasn't a party to. But I am aware that there were situations where things didn't always go smoothly. You've probably heard about the Battle of Brisbane and things like that. There were some problems. General MacArthur wasn't the most popular man out here.
He and Field Marshal Blamey didn't always see eye to eye. Some of these unhappy moments reared their head in the Services Reconnaissance Department. MacArthur wasn't in favour of Jaywick, not at all. It was Field Marshal Wavell, the British CinC [Commander-in-Chief] out of India, where they just started the SOE [Special Operations Executive].
People had moved into India and were starting to spread through Burma with little secret groups like Force 9 I think was the Burma thing and Force 126 was the Malaya where Lyon was first involved with Force 126. These came under Field Marshal Wavell, and MacArthur wasn't very stuck on this sort of thing.
He wasn't really over-confident at all. Lyon was getting nowhere when he was trying to set this operation up. He had to go to the Governor-General of the day who was a British chap. Lord Gowrie was Governor General of the day. He
was awarded a VC in World War 1. Lyon's father was a brigadier-general in World War 1, artillery. He and Gowrie were apparently chums from World War 1. So when Lyon was getting the run-around down here trying to get support, he, as a last resort, approached Governor-General Gowrie on the old boy tactic, "You knew my father" sort of thing.
It was Gowrie really that made it all happen. He opened all the doors for Lyon to proceed with his mission. The Americans weren't one bit interested at all. Yet, once we got up and running, they were very keen to make use of whatever information we were able to get. I suppose in general it wasn't too bad. I've stayed
at American bases and I've always been courteously treated. So I've got no personal growls really.
Q: Back in Australia, what were your instructions?
A: Very clearly we had to say absolutely nothing to anybody about where we'd been, what we'd been doing, under pain of death type of thing. Had to remain absolutely secret. Above all, your relatives were not to know
anything about it. Those were the clear instructions. So we only just had to say we'd been roaming around the Pacific around the islands, island hopping.
Q: Where did you go from Exmouth Gulf?
A: From Exmouth Gulf we took her right up to Darwin and handed her over to the Lugger Maintenance group, which was another one of these strange
organisations. I think from there, Krait was busy helping to look after the commandos in Timor. She made a few trips across there, which is another story that hardly bears repeating. We then, true as their word, Davidson said, "We've got a DC3 [Douglas DC3 transport aircraft] for you and there's no restrictions on weight." Normally
at that time you were only allowed to take a handkerchief and a toothbrush just about. Really light travelling. Davidson said, "You can take whatever you like. You can take whatever you like off the ship except the ship's compass and the ship's chronometer." Those were two things that you weren't allowed to touch. So I helped myself to all the spare valves, they were 807 type valves, which were very important in ham
radio, so I was keen to get my hands on those. So there wasn't a great deal, apart from the valves, that were of any great use to me, because just about everything else was finished. And I took the ship's vice. There was a vice on the back of the engine hatch tray, only about a three inch vice, but I was about one of the last people to leave the ship, everyone else had gone. I saw
this vice there and I thought, "God, I don't have a vice. Why don't I take that?" So I undid it, popped it in my seabag and I brought it home. Would you believe, I've had that vice all these years and it's only about three months ago when my son from the west was over here and Hazel said, "He's a Krait memorabilia fan". So I gave him the vice. He took the vice back with him.
He's got quite a lot of stuff. I've given him a heck of a lot of stuff. I thought he should have the vice. I've had it all those years. I've still got the parang that they issued me with. What's left of it's hanging up in the garage. I used to chop the firewood with that.
Q: You heard the news that you hadn't been paid the extra 50% of your pay.
A: Yes. Before we
took the vessel to Darwin, Davidson came back from his fortnight debrief in Melbourne and he said, "I've got some good news and I've got some bad news. The good news is that you're going on 6 weeks leave and they're putting on a special DC3 for you. It's your plane. You can go to Eagle Farm, take it wherever you want. You've gotta take the ship to Darwin first and then you can go on leave from there.
Down to Katherine and away you go. The bad news, you know that 50% increase in your salary? Well, it's been discontinued." Everyone's saying, "Oh, chiselers," a great upheaval and grumbling. Davidson said, "Don't fret, it's only a clerical hiccup. By the time you come back from your leave, you've gotta
go to Fraser Island" to the commando school there "and by the time you get there that money will be restored. I promise you." It never, ever was. Then I said to Davidson, when I got to Fraser Island, and what made it worse, guys that had been junior to me in Flinders Naval Depot had now picked up petty officer's ranks and things like that, and I got nothing.
Not a kind smile. So I said to Davo, and they did try hard, but the navy said, "No way. Leading Telegraphist Young is to come back to general service." So I said to Davo, he was my eldest boy's godfather too, he said, "If Young wants a promotion he's gotta come back
to general service. No provision for giving promotion to people outside general service" in the navy anyway. So I put in application to be returned to general service and nothing happened. I put in two or three. I'd say Davo tried very hard, he knew I wanted to go back to general service. It was the only chance I had of getting a few extra dollars.
He and another guy, Major Israel, he was an army guy, a pretty decent bloke, they did a bit of talking on my behalf and I got released and taken back to general service. That's what I went to HMAS Yanderra and had a very pleasant war after that.
Q: Tell us about meeting your firstborn child.
A: I thought he was pretty ordinary, quite frankly. Kids are not all that prepossessing at that age. He was yowling and howling and going on. Hazel wasn't able to feed him properly and he wasn't getting any food. That was what was making him howl. When she took him back to the doctor he said,
"You're not feeding him" and put him on Laxogens and all that sort of thing. He never looked back after that. He used to bawl and that used to irritate a bit. Not too happy about that lot.
Q: What was Fraser Island like then?
A: Very interesting. Very basic. There was a camp that had just been set up, so everything was fairly,
I won't say crude, but it wasn't all that crash hot. We had to sleep in tents. We had a mess where we could eat, that was OK. But we weren't allowed to leave the island. We were there permanently. Not allowed to go over to a hotel or anything like that at Maryborough.
We were involved in training other people in that type of warfare. By that time there was a bit of euphoria over the success of Jaywick and started to recruit all types of people, ex-Timorese, Dutch, Americans, all manner of nationalities were trained there in the foldboat type of warfare.
I was trying to teach Malays signals. I used to ride out to a Malay camp on a horse. Can you imagine a sailor on a horse? A Department of Information journalist was on the island. I got my horse out of the stable and here I am in sailor's rig on this darn horse. This bloke said, "Hang on. This I have to get a photograph.
A sailor on horseback." So I had my photograph taken on Fraser. I used to ride out to this Malay camp and teach these Malays signals. They were a pretty useless crowd. I never thought they were all that crash hot. I don't know where they were going to, probably back into Malaysia somewhere with British Army officers I imagine. They used to tease my horse like mad. They used to stir the damn
horse up and start prodding it with sticks. The horse would be going berserk. On one occasion one of these Malays got on top of the horse. The horse took off and the Malay fellow had his arms around the neck of it. The horse shot away back to the base. You know what happened,
it threw him off. I had to walk back to the darn base. I wasn't terribly happy. Fraser Island was full of interesting little things. For instance, they had a great habit of playing pranks on each other, the soldiers and the sailors, cos the sailors were quartered there as well. The favourite trick was to get plastic explosive on a short fuse and
throw it in your mess hall when you're having a meal. There'd be blokes going everywhere. Or come along and cut the ropes on your tent in the middle of the night. You'll be sound asleep and the tent would collapse on top of you.
Q: What news did you have of the progress of the war?
A: There was a fair amount of censorship on at the time. We were only told what they wanted us to hear I suppose.
That was about the only news that we really relied on. They released news bulletins and things like that. I suppose we got the same news as the general public really.
Q: Where was the rest of the Krait crew?
A: There was only 14 of us. We were all put onto Fraser Island. The canoe boys
were involved in training people in canoeing and that sort of thing. They had a big pool with small boats up there. They started to call them snake boats. A lot of them were junks that had been made Australian. So Ted was put in charge of that.
Davo and Lyon used to flit in from time to time. That was how it was really. I used to teach signals. We all had a job to do.
Q: How long were you on Fraser Island?
A: I'd say close to 6 months. I think I left about the middle of 1944.
There was rumours starting to circulate that another operation might be in the offing and there was talk about going down to Laverton in Melbourne to do parachute jumping and things like that, although they used to do parachute jumping later on Fraser Island. There were civvy [civilian] planes up there that used to drop them. Nothing came of it. I was more interested in getting a few extra dollars. I had put my application in for
relief. When that came through I said, "Ta-ta". That was the last I saw of them. I just happened to be in a hotel in Melbourne one Saturday morning and I ran into a couple of the guys from Fraser Island. They said, "Have you heard about Davo and Lyon and his mob? The Rimau party?" I said, "No." He said, "They're missing." It was the first intimation I had that something had gone wrong.
A party of 23 is a very big party.
Q: Did you know of the planning of the Rimau?
A: No, I had no idea. The only thing I knew was the rumour that was floating around vaguely that another operation was being prepared. That's all I heard. Normally those SRD parties was only
very small parties. They were twos and threes. Some of the Aegis parties were a little bigger. The ones that parachuted into Borneo were larger. As a general rule those that were dropped from submarines and that were fairly small groups. So 23 for the Rimau was a very big operation. The problem is with big operations like that, the security, being fairly strongly rumoured
there was a fair bit of security leakage around Fremantle. People that were not overly favourable to the Allied war effort were there and observing all these things. 23 people, big security risk with all that number.
I think that was one of the factors that perhaps brought about the problems. I noticed that the skipper he's mentioned in a commando paper I got yesterday. He was a lieutenant-commander who
was on this British submarine that was to pick them up. They blamed him for the Rimau disaster. He failed to keep the rendezvous or something like that. Some of the blame should be at his feet.
Q: How did you get more news of Rimau?
A: Nothing much came out of it until after the war.
Obviously the authorities knew they were missing and had a pretty clear indication, because they'd intercepted Japanese messages concerning the capture of these fellows. Buff Marsh was one who was picked up and put in some police station somewhere in Sumatra or somewhere in that general area.
There were snippets of information being signalled by the Japanese about the names of these fellows, which was pretty clear indication that they'd been caught.
Q: What thoughts went through your head on hearing of their capture?
A: I suppose the thing that stuck in my mind really was had they paid me that money I would have stayed with them, cos I was a bit keen to get a few dollars. Had they re-instituted
the business of the 50%, I would have said I would have stayed with them. As I was one of the more experienced radio guys, it's almost certain that I would have gone with them on Rimau, so I reckon they saved my life by welshing on the 50%.
Q: On Fraser Island, did you go to the Yanderra?
A: Virtually yes. I came back to the naval depot at Balmoral I think it was at the time,
and then virtually a draft came through for me to ship aboard the Yanderra.
Q: What kind of boat was she?
A: She was a converted merchant ship, I think of about 2,000 tons; a fairly modern ship. Belonged to the Adelaide Steamship Company and the navy had taken her over as a scientific vessel I suppose. Australia was very well to the fore
in radar development, the engineering aspects and the scientific side of radar. We made very big contributions towards the success of radar. Our engineers here, a lot of them civilian engineers, were with AWA [Amalgamated Wireless Australasia]. They used to produce these new designs and put them on our ship for testing. We very often had
civilian engineers and scientists onboard the vessel when we went to sea. It was the only way to see the experimental model. One of the things was if anything went wrong in bad weather you can be sure who'd get the job. It was the Yanderra what would have to put to sea because we had the most effective radar equipment in the fleet.
Q: What did you enjoy about the work on the Yanderra?
A: I had four telegraphists onboard so I didn't have to do watch. I was only there in a supervisory role. I often did the dogwatches, like 4 to 8, to give them a break. It used to do a lot of coastal patrolling with experimental work for the radar gear,
used to do a lot of work along the Australian coast, and up to Papua New Guinea and in these places. Generally speaking it was fairly quiet; pretty uneventful really.
Q: You had a pretty pleasant rest of war?
A: I always remember Davo saying, when I was leaving, and he said, "Well, when you're dangling your grandchildren on your knee you'll be
able to tell them something about your war exploits". He made some comment like that as we said our farewells. I think they might have put a word in and said, "This bloke's had a fair bellyful. Give him a bit of a break for a while. Give him a good draft." I don't know whether they did or no, but Yanderra was a fairly quiet number, particularly after what I'd been used to.
Q: How did you hear about the end of
A: We were getting signals all the time at sea. We had a pretty fair indication what was going on for most signals. We were getting signals all day and night long onboard the Yanderra. It was a ship that had a fairly big communications usage really.
We had a fair idea what was coming.
Q: How did you celebrate?
A: Funny you should ask that, because only Sunday when my family were sitting out there, enjoying this barbeque, that came up. We were talking about Bowen. I happened to drop a casual comment that I was modestly familiar with Bowen because that was where my
paying-off party took place. All the way down the coast we were getting demobilisation signals and my name was there in the demob that came over the radio along with some of the other guys on the ship. They were mainly leading hands, POs [Petty Officers], COs [Commanding Officers] and things like fairly senior ranks that were being demobilised first, because they'd been in longer
than most people and you got points for the number of years that you were there. We decided to hold a party in Bowen. I won't go into detail, but it was a very memorable party.
Q: Why won't you go into detail?
A: No, I don't think it would be very wise. These are all supposed to be fairly senior sailors.
We said to the Lord Mayor at Bowen, or whatever he was, that could we have the use of the town hall for a party for some sailors. The horrified look, that bloke nearly left his loop, "Letting you sailors into the town hall? Not likely." So we didn't get very far with hiring the town
hall for our paying-off party. It was a lot of fun.
Q: How did you adjust to civilian life?
A: Not terribly well to start with, because when you've been used to working in that situation that we were, it's hard to come back to civilian life and catching the 9 o'clock
train from say Hurstville to Sydney, knocking off at 5 and going home. That sort of routine was hard to get used to. When I came back they put me into the broadcasting studios. Back in the old days the PMG used to own all the technical equipment; radio transmitters like 2FC, 2BL,
all owned by the engineer people in the post office. But the programming and the artists and that were ABC people. They were different things. They asked me would I take this job as a panel operator in the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]. That's where I went for a start. That wasn't too bad because
I could get out of doors a little bit. They used to do outside broadcasts of guys like Lucky Melbourne and characters. I could get out in the open a little bit. Have a bit of freedom and things like that. Then I went back into my old job in the radio bank after that. There I stayed for nearly 50 years.
Q: Looking back on your naval service, do you have any regrets?
A: I don't think so. I'm not sure whether I'd have done all the things that I did again, but in general I never regret my time
in the navy because I think it teaches you to grow up. OK, the discipline's a little bit hard. We don't always fully appreciate and understand some of the rules and regulations that we're subject to, but I have a feeling the navy makes a man of you. You've better able to cope with many things in general that perhaps other people who haven't served in the navy
may not have the good fortune to have that experience. So it's never done me any harm, put it that way. Actually, they asked me to come back after I'd been out of the navy for 12 months or so. They asked whether I'd consider taking a short-term commission as a telegraphist lieutenant with them. They were keeping old hands and giving them a bit of a commission for a
short term, 6 years I think it was. By that time I'd moved up the ladder a fair bit outside in qualifications. I got my first class ticket and been offered a job on the Alaskan pipeline, all these sorts of things were opening up. So I said, "No thanks."
Q: When did you first talk about your experience on the Krait with somebody outside the crew?
A: I don't know that I can think back that far. It would have been, I remember being with somebody when the Sunday Telegraph published a full-page spread on the front page on it. All sorts of bally-hoo and stuff like that. I think probably around about then I may have said something to different people about
Q: Was it a sense of relief to talk about it?
A: I don't think especially. I don't really feel that we thought it was anything remarkable at all really. Just seemed to be something that was done, had to be done and was paid for. I think that's
how I can best describe it. I didn't think it was all that remarkable, quite frankly.
Q: How did you feel about your mention in dispatches?
A: I don't know that I was awfully excited about it. If it had paid some dough I might have been more interested.
Q: It is interesting that your obsession with money means you hit it.
A: I've always been a bit keen to make a quid.
I used to make car radios; even though I was working as a public servant I used to do radio repairs and car radio installations. I'm always trying to get a few dollars because being a product of the Depression I know what hard times were. I do my best to make sure my kids don't have the same problems.
Q: What was it like saying goodbye to your mates from the Krait?
A: Very hard, because I've always said it's the best crew I ever sailed with. It's only three of us left now. We talk not too frequently but from time to time. It was very hard to hear of the loss of them. That's the way life goes I guess.
Q: It wasn't an easy way that they went either, was it?
A: It wasn't really. You've probably read the court transcripts of those at the trial. Been a fair bit of stuff written about it. I've heard that they were tortured. I couldn't imagine them treating them well.
The Japs tried to make out they gave them sheets and towels and all this. I wouldn't believe that. I've got a photograph out there, it's a bit on the gruesome side, but it's a photograph of the Rimau people being exhumed. I don't get the impression they were all that well treated.
Q: Looking back, what do you think of the Rimau plan?
A: I'm not an expert on strategy or that sort of thing. I've always felt that it was far too big. It is a theory that if you tell somebody something, security is dropped by a factor of 10. He tells somebody something and it's dropped by a factor of 10. So it
cascades, dominoes down. So a whole operation could be compromised by a careless word by just one person. I feel that what Ted said about smaller parties and more mature men, OK, he had more mature men perhaps, but a big party like that, 23 is a fairly big party to handle.
I don't know who fired the first shot that brought the operation undone. There's a fair bit of conjecture about the lieutenant-commander RN, Blake, who was supposed to pick them up. I've got a letter here somewhere in the file. He was Sir Rupert something or other. He became knighted or admiral of the fleet or something eventually. So the British Navy couldn't have thought too
badly of him. This letter I've got he talks about Rimau and how it troubled him over the years. He now believes that he's been exonerated and cleared of any wrongdoing there. It's an interesting letter. I feel like sending it to Miss Silver.
Q: When you were on HMAS
Yanderra, were there a lot of civilians on board?
A: Well, I say a lot, there was a sprinkling of them. We used to take out 5 or 6 of these scientists I suppose you'd call them. They were very, very brilliant radio engineers come scientists. They were involved in
perfecting the designs. The idea of the PPI was one of their great, Prime Position Indicator, a big radar screen that used to show? The earlier radars like the 206 and that type of thing, used to just show graphs of noise at the bottom of the tube. Then it would have spikes of the reflected signal. But the PPI showed clearly a big screen of the area
where the blip had come from. It was a vast improvement from the earlier radar technology.
Q: Tell us what you were doing with the PMG in New Guinea.
A: I was seconded to the Papua New Guinea administration
to take over the role of district radio inspector up there and be responsible to the Australian Government for all of those action regulations which the Australian Government has to administer like the Wireless Telegraphy Act, the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, the Navigation Act, Examination for Radio Communication Certificate, all that sort of thing for the Australian Post Office.
At the same time I had to set up the telegraph training school for the Papua New Guinea department and also the frequency measuring and monitoring station. I bought the best receivers in the world that was possible to buy. Receivers that I couldn't buy at the Australian Post Office, I was able to buy for the Papua New Guinea people. So we had magnificent monitoring receivers there. I reckon that
was one of my crowning achievements. They really were. Then I used to have to do frequency assignments: allocate radio frequencies to various privately operated radio communication services. Pretty much anything to do with radio communications that was the area that I was responsible for. We had 12 zone telegraph officers
who were another one of my babies.
Q: What did you think of the terrain the Australians had been fighting on in New Guinea?
A: It certainly was staggering; really unbelievable. At the top of, out of Moresby at the start of the Kokoda Track, it was very evident in my time there that
this was the track and this is the way you had to go. When you look down that track it's just unbelievable even from Sogeri and things like that. Then I spent a fair bit of time on the other side of the island going out recruiting students from various missionary schools. You'd be going through areas where there were crashed Zeros still there where they came down, planes, tanks,
guns. Rabaul still had the naval guns that they had for coastal fort type guns there. They were still there, anti-aircraft guns. Even the gallows that they hung all the war prisoners on were still there. Big deep furrow in the cross beam where the rope used to burn through when they hung these guys.
Q: You've been very active in ex-services organisations over the years.
A: Yeah. About 11.
Q: What were they?
A: I seemed to be pitchforked into the RSL [Returned and Services League] as soon as I came out of the navy. Some guy said to me, "I'm secretary of the Naval RSL
sub branch. We meet at Naval House and we want a treasurer and you're it." So I became treasurer of the naval sub-branch of the RSL. That was in the very early days. The chap who was the secretary was a real go-getter this guy. I went along as the treasurer. Needless to say, we got rhubarb from all the old World War 1 matelots, "These young
whipper-snappers coming in telling us about ex service". That was the first time that I was in the RSL about 60 years ago. I've been with it ever since, with different RSLs as I've moved around in various states. I'm the past president of the
Vets' Special Unit Association, life member. I've also been with the Naval Association for a lot of years, Commando Association, Queensland Commando Association, Victoria Commando Association, New South Wales Commando Association. Also an honorary member of the SAS [Special Air Service] group down in Melbourne, a commando group down there. So it goes on.
I'm also a life member of the Wireless Institute of Australia and a few others that are involved in the radio communication side of things. All in all, about 11 I think of World War 11 vets.
Q: Why do you get so involved?
A: Because I'm old and silly I suppose. Because nobody else will put their hand up when they say, "Who will volunteer to be secretary here?" There's loud
lumps of silence. Somebody will say, "What about you taking it on just for a while. Just start it off and then we can get somebody else." That's how it goes and you settle into it. I suppose in some ways I have a few resources here. You see the computers I've got there. I'm still also a crack typist so I can handle a secretarial, being a public servant there's a lot of secretarial work in that. So I suppose
it's not too much of a trouble to me to do that sort of work. I rather enjoy it I suppose. Tom Jones rings up and says, "I've gotta go into hospital for a prostrate operation, what am I going to do with Timothy, the cat?" "No worries. We'll whiz down and pick your cat up and find a temporary home for it." So all these sorts of things. Somebody wants an X-ray,
"I've got no transport, I've gotta go and have an X-ray." "No worries. I'll come and pick you up and take you." I worked for Legacy for a while too. I enjoy it, but I think the main thing is I've always been fairly active. To sit down and twiddle my fingers and do nothing would not come too easy to me, so I guess that's one of the reasons I stick my nose in perhaps too often where I shouldn't.
Q: As president of Z Force Association, you were involved in what happened to the Krait.
A: Yes. When the vessel was located in Sandakan, it was being used by a British timber company up there and one of our Z members saw it up there and
recognised it and brought it back. It was decided to launch a public fund to see if we could raise enough money to bring it back as a floating war memorial to the war dead of the special forces. That's how it all started. Harry Jenson was Lord Mayor of Sydney. We contacted him and Lou Delfuso is another fairly well known figure in the boating industry and
journalism. There were a few others. So we got the Sun newspapers ran this fund and public donations. We got quite a reasonable sum. The British people wanted 6,000 Australian pounds for the vessel. We were a little bit short of it and we wanted to have it back by Anzac Day 1964.
The people that had that Britains Brewery and the chap that had all those coalmines, his name has escaped from me for a moment, I should know. A very prominent Australian citizen, he got wind of it and when he heard we were a couple of thousand short he weighed in with the money and we were able to buy the
vessel and bring it back. Australian Steamship Company brought it back as deck cargo without any cost and dropped it in the Brisbane River. We people then went up to crew it and bring it back. She was not in terribly good shape, so the army engineers in Brisbane went to work on it. They did a fair bit of repairs on it and got it reasonably seaworthy.
Ted Carse was on board, I was on board, Joe Jones and Berryman and we brought her down to Sydney from there and handed her over to the New South Wales Governor, Woodward I think was his name, on Anzac Day 1964. It was quite a fairly large gathering too, ships that welcomed us in. We dropped
Paddy McDowell's ashes in the water on the way down. He'd died and he specifically asked that his ashes be buried off Krait. So we buried his ashes off Sydney Heads on the way through. The vessel landed here. Then comes the problem of what to do with it. They formed a committee of management. Macarthur Onslow was the original chairman of
this thing. They called it the Krait War Memorial Committee or something like that. We set about trying to raise funds. We used to travel round to all the little clubs giving different lectures and hoping they'd throw a few dollars in the hat. That's how we maintained her for quite a long period. It went all right and nobody
wanted her, the army didn't want her, the navy was always very aloof. They weren't interested. So we asked the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol people would they be involved in looking after her for us. They said yeah and we reached an arrangement with them that they'd use her as a training vessel for the VCP [Volunteer Coastal Patrol] people and look after the vessel. It worked out very well. I just feel that perhaps
the original people from the VCP were very, very good and very decent people and they did a good job. Things didn't always go according to plan and we saw a few things that worried us slightly. It had been dedicated as a war memorial. I don't sit on the war memorial in Canberra drinking grog or
anything like that, and I expect people that come on Krait to pay proper respects to the concept of what it's all about and to be. On one occasion I remember seeing a photograph in the Sydney Morning Herald of a number of rather scantily clad ladies in swimming costumes leaning over the bows of the vessel advertising some sort of swimming costumes or something.
It didn't look terribly good on a war memorial vessel, I didn't think anyway. That's a long story. Eventually it got to the stage, we were funding a fair bit of this out of our own pocket quietly, funds were a bit light, bills had to be paid, we all had to reach for the hip pocket. The vessel was starting to show signs of age and we asked
a fellow, Dick Mason, he'd been an ex-British submarine commander; a very fine fellow. He was actually chief general manager of Ampol Petroleum; very wonderful citizen, this chap. We asked whether he'd give us a hand in raising money because unless you have experts raising dough it's a very difficult path to tread.
Dick became quite fascinated and interested and said, "I'll give you a hand." He had connections all over the place. He'd ring up so-and-so, "Oh, Dick, can I put you down for 5 for Krait?" We're not talking about 5 dollars; we're talking about 5,000 dollars, that sort of thing. He could open doors for funds that we could only dream about, so he finished up raising 200,000 dollars for us.
So we decided to let Ballina Slipway do the restoration work on her and I was chairman of the Krait, Onslow became ill and I took over as chairman of the Krait Appeal Fund. I wrote to Fleming [Air Vice Marshal Fleming, then Director of the Australian War Memorial] and said that we were restoring the vessel and would the Canberra War Memorial be interested in her. He wrote back and said, "Yes, definitely."
That's where our association became a war museum. We got the vessel restored back to what it was. A lot of people weren't too happy that we decided to put those holds back in again and muck up the dining facilities and alterations that had been made to her. We wanted her to go back to what it originally was. That was done. That's the way it is now.
Sadly, poor old Fleming got the heave-ho and well, Krait didn't go to Canberra. Well, it did and it didn't. We handed it over to the Governor-General at the time and it was decreed that it would be loaned to the Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour for maintenance and support and things like that. So that's where she now lies.
What her future is from there is anybody's guess I suppose. I don't really know. I hope the government will look after her. I think she's worthwhile looking after. If you can look after captured illegal immigrants' vessels and things like that and put them in the museum, you can look after poor old Krait too, surely.
That's where she reposes at the moment, right alongside the Empire.
Q: When you were deciding what to do with Krait, how did you feel about the number of people that had a finger in the pie?
A: That depends I suppose on
the degree of publicity that the vessel's receiving. When it's on the downward curve nobody seems to show much interest. But if all of a sudden somebody lit a fire under it publicity-wise, then it's amazing the number of people that come out of the woodwork to do something, or to have a presence shall I say. I don't mind that
so much I suppose. It's part of human nature. People will hop on bandwagons and things like that. It doesn't' trouble me greatly. The only thing I do hope is that they respect what it stands for and that is that it's a dedicated floating war memorial to the war dead of these special services. If they can only keep that before their eyes when
they're making these decisions, I guess we'd all be pretty happy, instead of disposing of her as a bit of old garbage to get rid of. It's about the best I can think of it I think.
Q: What do you think about the film efforts that have been made about the voyage?
A: One of these days I imagine somebody will produce a film that depicts the story as it
really happened, one of these days. I appreciate that the media must present it in the best possible light from the point of financial success. Sometimes you've gotta add a few embellishments I suppose to achieve these ends. I think the story of Operation Jaywick has sufficient meat in it to stand on its own without any embellishments whatsoever. I don't believe I see any
need to introduce any side effects that didn't really happen for the sake of giving it a bit of a kick in the ribs. I believe it has sufficient interest to justify a proper film as it exactly was. Whether that will happen I don't know, probably not in my time.
Q: What's your major
bone of contention about the way it's been depicted in movies?
A: How should I say it? It's not always easy to put these sorts of things into words, but when I see things being said and claims being made about things that I don't have any recollection of, I suppose these sorts of things trouble me a little bit. I think,
"I don't recall saying that. I don't recall that." And I confer with my other two surviving members and they say, "No, don't know anything about that." Then there's room for doubt as to how authentic the material is. I get a little bit concerned when I see people tampering with history. I like to see history as it really was. Like they talk about King
Harold, he got an arrow in the eye and they still talk about that. But it did happen.
Q: How do you feel about the way you were depicted in the TV series Heroes?
A: I'm only a very minor part in the role. I thought David Wenham did a good job. I had to try and teach him how to send Morse and the message that was sent was the exact message that I sent on the day.
That was authentic. Anybody that could read Morse would realise that was perfect copy of the message that was sent.
Q: So you were consulted for that series?
A: Oh yes, very much so. Somewhere along the track I've been asked to say the odd word or two for a few of them. I never like to get overly tangled up
in these sorts of things, but I don't mind helping anybody out. I always feel that I'm a great admirer of Ronald McKie. I believe that Ronald McKie captured the story of Krait perhaps more accurately than some of the books that I've read in post-war years. I think McKie had the benefit of
a lot of the guys were helping him, they were still alive in those days. They weren't all dead. 1960 the war hadn't been over all that long. We weren't in our dotage years as some people have portrayed us as being silly old ancients that can't take much notice of anything. What they fail to realise is that when
that research was done we were very, very much younger and our memories were still fairly well in tune with what, you don't forget the war years in 5 minutes, but you probably don't forget them in a lifetime, but I've heard it said from different, "Ah yeah, but they're old blokes. You can't take much notice of them." What they fail to realise is that we
weren't old blokes when that book was written and when we were briefing Ronald McKie. I never talk about Rimau cos as I say I'm very reluctant to speak about anything to which I was not a party. I don't like supposition and I don't care to comment greatly on the rights and wrongs of the thing. I certainly have my own
thoughts about it, which I suppose everybody's entitled to have, but I don't classify myself as having any great knowledge of Rimau. I think you'd have to be pretty close to the bone to be able to make those sorts of comments.
Q: In military history circles, you could be considered a pop star insofar as you were part of
one of the most famous commando missions ever mounted. How do you deal with that?
A: I don't for the simple reason that I don't see too many people, so I don't have a problem there. No, I don't consider myself anything different to an ordinary Jack-me-hearty tar. No different.
Q: You must get a lot of interview requests.
A: I used to be on the merry-go-round
in the RSL. They have different guest speakers. Over the years, I've done quite a lot of that work. I try not to get involved in it anymore because I think that I've done my share. In the past years it was always a worthwhile topic to talk about at RSL functions or
something like that. I don't do it now.
Q: You don't think you're deserving of the attention?
A: Well, I'm not too sure, I've always regarded Jaywick as just another wartime escapade. There were dozens of similar. I look at the Special Unit Association and some of the most remarkable wartime exploits
were done by these fellows in the Aegis party and the Simus party. Guys that were parachuted into Borneo and lived with the natives as natives, dressed like them and fought with the natives and did fantastic work. They're the people that I believe are worthy of a lot more attention than they get. Without their assistance, things could have been a heck of a lot harder for
our permanent soldiers. These guys went in there and really roughed the Japanese up in no uncertain manner. Some of the various publications that I have that talk about the submarine parties of two or three men, crocodiles and all these things, they're just unbelievable
what these guys did. Guys that would go up to a chap in a railway ticket office, a Chinese chap behind the ticket office, and this is an Australian born Chinese fellow, he asked them, "When's the next train?" or something, and this Chinese railway person,
"I'm not going to give you that information", this particular gentleman who's still alive by the way, said there were Japanese sentries on the station, "I'd only have to call these guards and you'd be gone." This certain fellow said, "See those hills over there? If I don't walk over that hill within the next 5 to 10 minutes, you have a wife and three or four children, don't you?"
The guy said, "Yes." He said, "I'd better be able to walk over that hill in the next 4 minutes." He got the mail and he said, "Well, trains come through at certain intervals." That guy is still alive.
Q: Why do you think Krait attracts so much attention then?
A: I sometimes ask myself the question, because I think of
the British guys that were on the Wirlmans and things like that, particularly the guys that used those submersibles that sank that German battleship in Norway. They did a remarkable job. I never get terribly carried away. Krait I think was terribly lucky. As I said before, I still regard that operation as the operation that had no right to succeed when you think about it.
A greasy old fish boat, top speed of 6 1/2 knots, 14 guys not highly trained British marine commandos or things like that, these were very young men who should have still been in school. They hadn't had the training and experience that these really, our SAS people have for instance. Yet, they took that leaking old fish boat up there and we were lucky enough to get away with it.
I don't know, it's just the luck of the game I suppose.
Q: Why have you made an effort to gather all the records?
A: I've been disappointed I guess by some of the post-war journalism I've read. I've tried to prepare a little bit of information. I wrote that synopsis and
handed it out to a number of people. I hope that it may find some place where it could be considered as a reasonably accurate portrayal of Operation Jaywick from the point of view of a person who's participated in it. Nothing like an eyewitness statement. Fact.
Q: Some of your colleagues got up
to funny incidents in your training and playing around. Do you have any that you witnessed?
A: Yes. I suppose I could, some of them are a little bit odd. I think there was one instance where the adjutant's chair on Fraser Island was hoisted up the flag post. The adjutant didn't particularly like the
sailors on Fraser Island cos they didn't get up and go on the parades that the army does. Somewhere along the adjutant's chair appeared when they went to hoist the flag up they saw it on the top of this mast. He straightaway said, "I know it's you navy blokes that are responsible. You've got till noon today to get the thing down."
There were certainly some funny shows.
Q: It sounds a bit anarchic in that people with exuberance were given their head in these places.
A: Yes, there's a friend of mine who passed away recently. He was on a particular operation well up inside near China.
The fellow that he was with apparently was a Scotsman. Both of them, when the submarine dropped them and they pulled their foldboat into the beach and hid it and they had to race, this friend of mine said, "I went like the blazes to a protected spot as quickly as I could in case I was sighted.
My mate, when I looked around, he was wearing a kilt. He'd slipped the kilt on over his ops gear or whatever he was wearing and was parading around there all out in the open with this wretched kilt on." Then Davo with his monocle in his eye when they were doing the limpet mines on the ships in Singapore Harbour, which surely must be a most incongruous situation.
Q: What would you say to people watching this in 50 or 100 years about serving your country?
A: I have the peculiar feeling that everybody owes their country something. The country gives them certain things, education,
medical facilities and things like that, so surely it should be entitled to some sort of return. If you can serve your country in whatever way, why not do it? A bit of payback.
Q: Is there anything else you want to say?
A: I don't think so. I've probably gassed on long enough.
No, I'm lucky to be alive. I've had a good life, an interesting life. It's been packed full of all sorts of interesting things. I've got no complaints whatsoever.