Category Archives: Military

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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Excerpt from “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand ~~The Beam~~

picture-Unbroken-HillenbrandOne morning, the Bird ordered Louie to come before him. He said that the goat had gotten loose, broken into a grain bin, and gorged himself. The animal was deathly ill, and it was Louie’s fault. Louie knew that his knot had been secure. If the goat had gotten loose, someone had untied him. The goat died.
Terrified of retribution, Louie tried to hide from the Bird, but his dysentery was becoming very serious. Risking being seen by the Bird, he went to the camp doctor to plead for medication. The Bird ran him down, demanding to know if he had received permission to approach the doctor. Louie said no.
The Bird marched Louie away from the doctor’s shack, passing Tinker and Wade, who’d been ordered to work outside. Out in the compound, the Bird halted. Lying on the ground before them was a thick, heavy wooden beam, some six feet long. Pick it up, the Bird said. With some effort, Louie hoisted it up, and the Bird ordered him to lift it high and hold it directly over his head. Louie heaved the beam up. The Bird called a guard over. If the prisoner lowers his arms, the Bird told him, hit him with your gun. The Bird walked to a nearby shack, climbed on the roof, and settled in to watch.
Louie stood in the sun, holding up the beam. The Bird stretched over the roof like a contented cat, calling to the Japanese who walked by, pointing to Louie and laughing. Louie locked his eyes on the Bird’s face, radiating hatred.
Several minutes passed. Louie stood, eyes on the Bird. The beam felt heavier and heavier, the pain more intense. The Bird watched Louie, amused by his suffering, mocking him. Wade and Tinker went on with their work, stealing anxious glances at the scene across the compound. Wade had looked at the camp clock when Louie had first lifted the beam. He became more and more conscious of how much time was passing.
Five more minutes passed, then ten. Louie’s arms began to waver and go numb. His body shook. The beam tipped. The guard jabbed Louie with his gun, and Louie straightened up. Less and less blood was reaching his head, and he began to feel confused, his thoughts gauzy, the camp swimming around him. He felt his consciousness slipping, his mind losing adhesion, until all he knew was a single thought: He cannot break me. Across the compound, the Bird had stopped laughing.
Time ticked on, and still Louie remained in the same position, conscious and yet not, the beam over his head, his eyes on the Bird’s face, enduring long past when his strength should have given out. “Something went on inside of me,” he said later. “I don’t know what it was.”
There was a flurry of motion ahead of him, the Bird leaping down from the roof and charging toward him, enraged. Watanabe’s fist rammed into Louie’s stomach, and Louie folded over in agony. The beam dropped, striking Louie’s head. He flopped to the ground.
When he woke, he didn’t know where he was or what had happened. He saw Wade and some other POWs, along with a few guards, crouched around him. The Bird was gone. Louie had no memory of the last several minutes, and had no idea how long he’d stood there. But Wade had looked at the clock when Louie had fallen.
Louie had held the beam aloft for thirty-seven minutes.

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Excerpt from “No Surrender” by W.E. Johns and R.A.Kelly ~~Exeter~~

picture-NoSurrrender-JohnsWe waited apprehensively at our silent action stations, powerless to retaliate against the shells that now fell more often around us. Then the order came at last, over the broadcast system that was still working, “Sink the ship.” Seacocks and valves were opened, charges exploded below decks to open holes in the ship’s bottom, and the Java Sea flowed in. A few minutes later, about 1135, Captain Gordon gave the equally terse command, “Abandon ship.”
………………………………………………
Black smoke was pouring out of Exeter amidships as she began to list. As I came aft I noticed many rafts still aboard and stopped a young seaman about to jump over the side. I undid the knife dangling at his belt and began to cut loose what rafts I could see. I had just negotiated the ladder to the quarterdeck when a shell hit the superstructure of the officers’ cabin flat, just behind me, and the blast threw me to the deck and almost over the side.
I sat up and put my hand back over my shoulder to feel the wet patch. Yes, it was blood, and it was also certainly time that I left. I placed my shoes neatly under the ladder, blew up my lifebelt, lowered myself over the side, and let go.
Exeter still forged ahead at about five knots, listing more now and spawning in her wake a line of rafts, men, and boxes, followed by oil and flotsam. Only one boat was lowered; that was no more than a gesture, for the bottom had already been blown out while it was in the davits.
We floundered uncomfortably in a choppy sea, feeling the shock-waves as the shells exploded in the water around us. Bert Diggle recalls being flung head over heels under the surface by a salvo falling about twenty yards away.
Exeter heeled farther to port, but still moved ahead, smoke and flames rising from her, the turret guns pointing skyward. Then, from starboard, a Japanese destroyer approached at speed to finish off with her torpedoes. The enemy destroyers fired four torpedoes, one of which hit and tore open Exeter’s hull; I remember noticing that it was just below our mess. For a moment she straightened herself defiantly and heeled over to starboard. A few minutes later there was a tremendous upsurge of frothing water and she had gone.

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