Category Archives: Military

Excerpt from “A Fortunate Life” by A. B. Facey ~~Gallipoli~~

We left the harbour – Mudros Harbour I had found it was called – on the afternoon of the twenty-fourth of April. We were nervous and excited, knowing that we were finally on our way into action. We sailed all afternoon through a calm sea. That night we turned in to sleep in hammocks. I was very tired and despite the excitement, went to sleep.
The next thing I knew, I was being shaken awake by a corporal. The ship was moving slowly, some lights were on, and everyone was busy packing up and getting into battle dress. I noticed that stripes and rank markings had been removed from uniforms. One of the sergeants said, ‘It’s not far now. All portholes are blacked out and no lights on deck.’
The officers and sergeants were called to report to the Company Commander. Now excitement ran high. A few minutes later they returned and told us that we were to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
When we were called to our sections our officer gave us a briefing on the proper instructions for landing. We were told that our ship would move as close as possible into shore but would keep out of range of the enemy’s shelling. He said, ‘They will throw everything they’ve got at us as soon as they wake up to what we’re doing. Now when the ship stops you will be called to the side and lined up. On the side of the ship is a rope net already in place. A destroyer will come alongside and you will climb over the side and down the rope onto the deck of the destroyer when ordered. When the destroyer has enough men it will pull away and go towards where you are to land. Close to shore you will be met by a small motor boat towing rowing-beats. You will climb into the rowing-boats and the motor boats will take you as close to shore as possible. There will be sailors in the rowing-boats and they will take you into the beach. Now you are to get ashore as best you can and then line up on the beach and await further instructions.
This was it. We were scared stiff – I know I was – but keyed up and eager to be on our way. We thought we would tear right through the Turks and keep going to Constantinople.
Troops were taken off both sides of the ship onto destroyers. My platoon and other “D” Company men were on the same destroyer. All went well until we were making the change into rowing-boats.
Suddenly all hell broke loose; heavy shelling and shrapnel fire commenced. The ships that were protecting our troops returned fire. Bullets were thumping into us in the rowing-boat. Men were being hit and killed all around me.
When we were cut loose to make our way to the shore was the worst period. I was terribly frightened. The boat touched bottom some thirty yards from shore so we had to jump out and wade into the beach. The water in some places was up to my shoulders. The Turks had machine-guns sweeping the strip of beach where we landed – there were many dead already when we got there. Bodies of men who had reached the beach ahead of us were lying all along the beach and wounded men were screaming for help. We couldn’t stop for them – the Turkish fire was terrible and mowing into us. The order to line up on the beach was forgotten. We all ran for our lives over the strip of beach and got into the scrub and bush. Men were falling all around me. We were stumbling over bodies – running blind.
The sight of the bodies on the beach was shocking. It worried me for days that I couldn’t stop to help the men calling out. (This was one of the hardest things of the war for me and I’m sure for many of the others. There were to be other times under fire when we couldn’t help those that were hit. I would think for days, ‘I should have helped that poor beggar.’)
We used our trenching tools to dig mounds of earth and sheltered from the firing until daylight – the Turks never let up. Their machine guns were sweeping the scrub. The slaughter was terrible.
I am sure that there wouldn’t have been one of us left if we had obeyed that damn fool order to line up on the beach.

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Excerpt from “Record of Service” by Bruce Robinson ~~R.A.P.~~

The following event occurred during the Sanananda campaign in Papua New Guinea around December 1942.

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

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Excerpt from “War Cameraman – The Story of Damien Parer” by Neil McDonald ~~Wau~~

picture-warcameraman-mcdonaldBy February 1942 it was clear Australia itself was in peril. The decision that they were to return to Australia must have been a relief to Parer. His parents and his eldest sister, Doreen Owen, were in New Guinea which was likely to come under direct attack from the Japanese.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

While the two correspondents rested in Wau, Parer located his parents’ hotel and his brother-in-law’s house. Both had been hurriedly abandoned at the first news of the Japanese invasion.

The three fine billiard tables were all that was left of Dad’s hotel . . . I walked into the home where Dor [Doreen Owen] and Jock were living and picked up some cloth animals – now sorely battered – they were some I had sent them from Palestine last year – also the big leather cushion affair I had sent mother from the Mussky bazaar in Cairo! Bending down and opening a camphor wood box I found an envelope addressed to me! Mother had written, made a mistake in the spelling and put it aside – then the family album – photos of all of us – some I took myself. What a strange war it seemed to me. From the far sands of Egypt – I had come home to see my own people’s homes struck by the enemy.

Damien was deeply moved by this experience. For the first time, he was meeting people who had known his family in New Guinea and seeing places he only read about previously. He incorporated what he felt in a re-enacted sequence showing Bob Nesbitt of the NGVR returning to his bomb-shattered home in Wau. ‘CU [close up] He bends down and picks up a cloth animal – a symbol of the happy life of peace time and he looks over to photos on the wall of wife and children’. The cloth animals and the pictures were the same ones Parer had found in his sister’s abandoned house. He described this sequence as ‘Australians are here fighting right in their own homes.’

 

Bob Nesbitt surveying the damage “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt surveying the damage
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt handling a cloth animal “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt handling a cloth animal
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

 

Camera pans to photographs on the wall “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Camera pans to photographs on the wall
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

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Excerpt from “The Hundred Days of Lt. Machorton” by Ian Machorton ~~Lal Bahadur~~

picture-hundreddaysltmachorton-machortonFrom that ominously silent jungle across the railway track whence most of the firing had come, would there burst forth another charge? Or, even as we lay low waiting, were the Japs in the jungle behind us massing silently to complete the encirclement? An ammunition clip rang like a bell on the night air in the midst of the silence as someone to me left re-loaded his rifle. Someone to my left! Kulbahadur, I knew was by my right-hand, but who was at my left? My next duty as an officer was suddenly urgent. We must close up and keep contact. Whoever was on either side of me must be formed under my command into an integrated fighting force.
“Kulbahadur!” I whispered: “Eh! Kulbahadur!”
“Huzoor!” he answered softly.
“Is there anyone on your right, Kulbahadur?” I asked.
There was a pause of some seconds and then, having peered into the darkness: “I can’t see anyone, Sahib. Shall I go and look?”
“Yes. But very quietly” I said.
There came the clink of his empty cartridge cases, dislodged by his movements, striking the flints as they rolled down the embankment. Then silence again. A few minutes later, with a stealthy scuffling, he crawled up beside me to whisper in my ear. “I have found no-one, Sahib. Except four or five dead men.”
So I turned left to the Gurkha soldier lying immediately to my left to find out from him who I had with me on that side. “Pass the word down,” I told him. “Make contact with the man on your left!”
As if lost in thought the Gurkha soldier continued to stare fixedly at the impenetrable shadows of the jungle ahead of him across the embankment. His honey-coloured hands held his rifle in readiness, the taut readiness of a trained soldier ready for the next Jap attack. His obvious vigilance gave me an added sense of security. What better fighting soldiers could a young British officer wish for on each side of him than Gurkhas? For all his eagerness to be ready should another Jap charge come, this Gurkha must do what he was told. Impatiently I repeated my order, and when he still took no notice I exclaimed: “Eh – timi!” and stretched out my hand and pushed his shoulder roughly. He rolled over languidly and, amid an avalanche of small stones, slithered to the bottom of the embankment. He lay there in a crumpled heap, his upturned young face glistened in the moonlight. I lay paralysed.
The hasty hot words of reprimand were never said! I could only stare in horror at the smiling Gurkha boy who was younger even than I. I knew men were killed in war but it had never occurred to me that those I knew and liked would be killed. And killed beside me at that! Rifleman Lal Bahadur Thapa would never answer to my orders again.
Lal Bahadur had been close to me from the day I joined the Chindits back at Jhansi. Somehow or other he had always seemed to be there. All through those days of marching since we had crossed the Chindwin I had been somehow aware of his smiling young face, his virile young presence, marching onwards close to me. He was I knew little more than sixteen years old, and it was almost impossible to reconcile the grinning, tireless, Lal Bahadur with that body, which I could now see had a ragged hole the size of half a saucer in the back of the head, lying grotesquely at the embankment’s foot.

Rangoon Memorial within the Taukkyan War Cemetery ... Rifleman Lal Bahadur Thapa

Rangoon Memorial within the Taukkyan War Cemetery …
Rifleman Lal Bahadur Thapa

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Excerpt from “Sequel to Boldness” by Richard Pape ~~Germans~~

picture-sequeltoboldness-papeThe screech of cart wheels broke my reverie and a middle-aged German farming type trundled forward with a load of mangels.
“Good day,” he called heartily.
I studied him sullenly, my mind moved automatically – “Ignorant, bloody savage,” I murmured. I observed him, sceptically, unsmilingly. He returned my look, staring with hard, grey eyes. He stopped the cart and, notwithstanding my unfriendly attitude, climbed to the ground.
“Nice day, ja?” He pointed to my rakish, shiny aluminium car. “Italian ?” he said.
“British,” I snapped.
Ach, so, schön, ja? You Englander?” he queried.
Ja.”
He asked me if I knew the district.
“Yes,” and my voice was tinged with sarcasm. “I was over there when it was one of your Gestapo, Nazi, Hitler, Luftwaffe bloody prisons.”
His face stiffened, he did not reply immediately; when he did he spoke gravely.
“It was Dulag Luft, I remember it all well.” He shook his head sadly. “You hate us Germans, don’t you?”
“I’ve come back to find out,” I acknowledged rudely.
I stood up; I didn’t want to be harassed. The man proffered his cigarette packet.
Nein!” I snapped.
He seemed nervous, but made no move to depart and, fumbling in his knapsack, withdrew a bottle of beer.
“Will you drink with me as a comrade now?” he said hesitantly.
Nein.”
The man was embarrassed and blew his nose. He stretched out his hand and withdrew it hastily. As I moved to my car he spoke huskily, quickly.
“I’m glad we lost the war.”
I turned and looked him full in the face. His bewilderment seemed honest.
“What makes you say that?” thinking to myself: “Ah, ah, usual unblemished line of innocency.”
He said slowly: “When Britain and America came into Germany, we also got our freedom as well as the men who went through the camp over there.”
“Don’t you hate the British and Americans?” I asked tersely.
“No, not now,” he said quietly. “My mother and aunt were killed in an air-raid. . . .”
“Bad luck,” I replied.
“Their worries are over,” he continued, then, he shook his head. “But my son was blinded on the Russian front; he’s also lost an arm.”
I eyed him doubtfully; was he trying to gain my confidence and sympathy?
“Where is he now?”
“At home from the Blind School. Come back with me and have some food with us?”
“All right.” I acquiesced, suddenly and involuntarily.
We chatted a little longer, and the weather-beaten German, with an intelligent, puckered face, remarked: “If you can forgive, but not forget, you’ve never forgiven.”
Turning to the German, I said with painful enthusiasm: “Let’s drink that beer.”
I met the unfortunate former enemy soldier, totally blind. It was an encounter I had not bargained for. He was very intelligent and from the questions I asked, seemed happy.
“The futility and stupidity of the last war, the régime of Hitler’s ruthlessness must be forgotten,” he said. “In the Blind School they tell us that if we do not look forward, we must look behind and fail.”

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Excerpt from “ANZACS” by Godfrey McLeod ~~Dick Baker~~

picture-anzacs-mcleodIt was obvious the commotion would bring more Turks – they were, after all, in their territory. Enemy soldiers were, in fact, crawling across open ground to a position on the other side of the Australians. Two dropped down behind the men and the fast-shooting Dick, whirling around, pulled his trigger faster than they could pull theirs. The other Turks slid back out of sight. The Australians realised they were surrounded.
‘We’ll have to clear ourselves a passage,’ said Dick. ‘I’ll have a squiz on the other side of the barrier – see how our bombardiers are doin’.’
‘Now take it easy, Dick!’ said Martin, trying to restrain his impetuous friend. ‘We’ll hold out better back to back!’
Dick grinned at him and clambered over the sandbags. Confronted by the cautiously advancing Turks, he ran full tilt into them, sticking his bayonet into two. Before they could react, he was back around the corner, panting, his back against the trench wall.
‘Okay?’ asked Martin over his shoulder while he watched the other side of the trench.
‘Sweet as a bun.’
From Dick’s position, the Turks around the corner could only approach in ones and twos. Men dropped each time they attempted to scramble over the barrier. Martin, meanwhile, was throwing bombs, keeping the other wave of attackers at bay. And then, above it all, they heard the cries of Australian voices – ‘Hang on Aussie; we’re nearly there!’
‘Keep it going, Marty!’ called Dick. ‘Only seconds to the final bell!’
Martin smiled, his face still turned to the other side of the trench. Then a shot rang out, loud and clear. And it echoed and bounced and ricocheted through his mind. He’d heard more than a half a million rifle shots at Gallipoli, despite his weeks away. But this single crack reverberated right through him. Before he turned, he knew what he would see. He tried to whip his head around, but it seemed to move in slow motion. His eyes rested on the Turk kneeling in the trench parapet, his rifle still trained on its target. Dick lay face down, already bleeding from the mouth. Martin was still moving in slow motion. He saw the Turk lift his rifle, point it at him – and heard the click.
Again it boomed through his brain. The sound of the rifle misfiring jerked Martin into action, now high-speed action, and he whipped his rifle up to hip level and shot, catching his mate’s killer in the head.
He didn’t hear the battle outside. He didn’t hear anything. For the first time the world was silent. He walked over to his friend, his dear mate, and slumped into a sitting position beside him. Now the blood was spreading, high up on his back.
‘Oh Dick . . . Dick’, he said, quietly. He raised his hands to his face. ‘Dick . . . Dick.’
Puttees, boots, men, Aussies, dropped into the trench. The Sergeant in charge surveyed the carnage. He saw only the dead Turks.
‘Crikey! We heard your little shindig. But it doesn’t look like you need us.’
Martin nodded toward Dick’s lifeless body. ‘It was mostly his work.’
The Sergeant was still looking around at the enemy. ‘He must’ve been a bloody goer.’
Martin tried to force out words. ‘He was protecting my back, I was supposed to protect his.’ Now the tears rolled unchecked down his face. They were going to go to Queensland.
‘A mate of yours, was he?’
No more words. Martin simply nodded. The Sergeant, a builder by trade, reached down and with as much gentleness as his roughened hands would allow, touched Martin’s cheek.
‘Come on, pal. Go back to your own mob. You’ve done your share.’
He helped Martin to his feet. The young Barrington stumbled off along the trench. ‘By the way,’ called the Sergeant, ‘the boys have taken Lone Pine.’
Martin didn’t hear him; didn’t want to hear him.

They buried Dick at night on a hill overlooking Anzac Cove. The makeshift cemetery was dotted with crude crosses and tablets in memory of the men whose bodies had been recovered. Many were still inaccessible, left where they had fallen. Some were to remain for years.
The platoon stood in silence as Armstrong pushed a rough cross, made out of a biscuit tin, into the mound of earth that covered the body of the young stockman whose first steps into the war were along the wattle-edged roads of western Victoria. The cross wobbled slightly in the warm wind that blew in from the Aegean. Its inscription said simply: ‘Pte Dick Baker. 8th Btn. A good mate. 6 Aug., 1915’.

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Excerpt from “Boldness Be My Friend” by Richard Pape ~~Crash~~

picture-boldnessbemyfriend-papeAs the bomber began to fall, the skipper yelled over the whining, faltering intercom, ‘Jump, bale out!’ It was a ‘Now’ situation: individual action, no hesitation. No doubt the tail gunner swung his turret and was the first away. In the general flurry, I glimpsed the second-pilot, the wireless operator, the front-gunner rush past and descend to the bombing well to vanish into the night. Terry was struggling desperately to get the machine into some gliding angle. I was shocked then to see the kid, the mid-upper gunner, lurching beside my navigational table. He seemed concussed; clearly he could not look after himself. And Jock Moir was still there. He had been frantically working, shutting off all petrol flow, a vital task with crash-landing inevitable. It was too late now to jump. I rapped Terry on the shoulder. He turned, gazing almost unbelievably at three of us. It was then, as I flashed my torch, that I observed blood trickling from below his flying helmet; his face was ashen.
Adding my strength to Terry’s, heaving desperately on the control column, we brought the machine to a more horizontal position for a few minutes before the nose fell with a vicious lurch to a more acute angle. I recall a patch of water and hoping we might pancake . . . it went by. Then horrifyingly a church steeple. God! We’re going to die in church with our boots on! Uncannily, an updraught lifted us lazily over the roof and we carried on, the earth terrifyingly close. Dark blotches on the ground raced up to meet us. I braced myself for the big ‘dig-in’. Strangely I was no longer frightened. Thirty tons of bomber hit the ground at over 150mph, bounced back into the air, then down, up and down again, ploughed deeply across a small field: a blinding white flash, vicious lurch, hideous grinding of metal . . . then silence.
I long believed we ended up facing towards home. Not so. We had done three complete turns; first about a small village, then around a farmhouse, just missing it as we began our bucking crashes; at the last, a wing struck an oak tree standing splendidly alone in a small open field – a stout anchor, it spun us about and settled us alongside its splintered trunk with a final grinding thud. That blessed oak may have been our salvation. We were down.

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