On the morning of our first action I left most of my gear at our overnight camp, and set up a temporary R.A.P. at one of the near corners of the oblong, and was soon kept busy dealing with incoming casualties. Later on the scene of battle changed, and I moved with my staff to join forces with Captain Jim Fotheringham, who was the R.M.O. of the other battalion that was in action with us, and we occupied a joint R.A.P. just inside the jungle beside the road. We were soon very busy, as the casualties were numerous by now. In fact, “Dum” Norris, the senior medical officer of the division, who had come up and was lending a hand, said he had never seen a busier R.A.P. in this war, or the last.
In jungle warfare there is no real front line as in more orthodox wars, and the scene of battle fluctuated throughout the day. We would hear firing on our left, and this would die down. Then it would break out to the right, and next it would be close alongside us, wherever, in fact, an enemy machine-gun post or sniper was found by our lads. On one occasion during the mid-afternoon we heard firing close at hand, and we were disturbed to see some of our green-clad boys falling back through the trees towards us, and eventually through us and past us. “Look out, there are the Japs,” cried one of my boys, pointing to shadowy figures in the undergrowth across the clearing. We had no arms, so we jumped into nearby holes. There were four of us in mine as tightly packed as on a half-past-five city bus. Lead was flying over our heads from both directions. I thought, “This is a fine way to end my military career; some blasted Jap will throw a grenade into our hole, and then good-bye.”
However, our boys rallied and held their ground, and the firing died down in a few minutes, so I thought I would crawl out and try the air, if only to get some weapon and my tin hat which I had taken off when we were busy. Nothing happened when I emerged, so I called my boys and we hastily collected our gear and made an orderly, if rapid, withdrawal. Jim Fotheringham and his boys appeared later, having had a similar experience, and together we selected a new combined R.A.P. site a couple of hundred yards farther back – our fourth for the day. This one was to become my permanent home during the next few weeks, though Jim Fotheringham had several other moves. By this time we had passed the busiest part of the day, but a trickle of casualties kept arriving all through the evening and night.
*R.A.P. – Regimental Aid Post
*R.M.O. – Regimental Medical Officer