Makan No. 216
OFFICIAL JOURNAL 2/30 Bn. A. I. F. ASSOCIATION
Subscription Rate: $1.50 per Year
Registered for Posting as Periodical: Category A
Tamworth Training Days
"Wakey! Wakey! Wakey!"
rose the Sergeant's gentle roar,
"'Out of bed!' He must be
joking," I heard a Signal say,
As for Signals, so for
Mortars, and for Band, and Pioneers,
Days were long and they
were tough when bone-weary men would tell;
There were mighty hearts
and bodies in that company of men,
So let's knock a tankard
over to those far-off training days,
Shortly after the Capitulation, when the food became somewhat scarce, Clarrie Miller, Lindsay Boys, Athol Charlesworth and myself decided on a means of improving our welfare and obtaining dry wood for the cookhouse.
Lindsay, Clarrie and myself obtained a big basket from the cooks, and trampled over the barbed-wire fence with same, with a pole slung in the middle of it. We trudged to a house some distance away, where a young native boy was dealing in practically everything we required. We made our purchases and put them in the middle of the basket, and then packed dry wood around same; and then walked back to the fence, where Athol was waiting on the other side, waiting to help us over with the basket.
We took the wood to the cookhouse (keeping a share for our own use) and then peddled the rest down at "Paddy's Market" that night; so as to build up our purse for the next outing. Cigarettes and curry powder sold like hot cakes.
The next morning we were out again, but unfortunately we could not foresee what was going to happen. We adopted the same procedure, made our purchases, packed the wood around same, and then made back to Camp.
A tin of condensed milk fell out of the bottom of the basket, which I put in my pocket; and then a packet of cigarettes slid out, with which Clarrie promptly did likewise.
We were nearly back to the barbed wire when a Japanese Officer and an Indian Sikh jumped out from behind a tree in front of us.
The Sikh, an enormous Indian about 6'7' tall, levelled the rifle at us, and the Jap, who could speak English, told us to put up our hands; and the Sikh then searched us; and found the milk on me, and the cigarettes in Clarrie's pocket. Then the Sikh walked around and around the basket, and started to kick it, and I thought our purchases would soon fly everywhere, but somehow they held together.
The Jap asked me what we were doing, and I told him that the bakehouse was short of dry wood, which was needed to cook for the sick men in hospital, so we came out to obtain some. He then asked about the condensed milk, and I said that a native came out of a gully, which I pointed to, and gave it to me; and Clarrie told him the same story. He asked me if we had got them from a house, and pointed in the direction we had come from, but we stuck to our original story.
Another Jap then came up with a motor car, and we were told to get in the back of the car, with the savage Sikh prodding us with his rifle; and Lindsay was left with the basket.
I had heard of many Chinese being taken down to Changi Beach and slaughtered, and when the car turned that way, I prayed very hard. However, luckily, we were taken into an Indian Compound, where the Japs turned us over to the Sikh Commander, who introduced himself to us as Colonel Dillon. The Japs then drove away.
Colonel Dillon then interrogated us, and we stuck to the same story we had told the Japs. He said that, for the time being, the Japanese had handed us over to him for punishment, for being caught outside the fence. We were marched to a big cage, and thrown inside, where we found six other Australians who had suffered the same fate.
That night, Clarrie and I were taken out and questioned by Colonel Dillon, who claimed that he was educated at Oxford University in England. The Sikh doctor, who could also speak perfect English, had a go at us. He asked us what we thought of the Indian people, and I told him that Australians were friendly disposed towards the Indians, as Hawkers always travelled the Country Districts of New South Wales, and my grandfather, who was a farmer, always made them welcome for the night. But he started on the "White Australia Policy" - he had us stumped. We were taken back to the cage to sleep the night. We had a piece of timber to lie on, but as we were only wearing boots and shorts, sleep was difficult.
Our main job during the day was grubbing out rubber trees which were to be used for firewood. The Colonel said that the Japanese wished us to be starved, but he was a humane man, and he would feed us. The Sikhs only ate two meals a day, but they were very good. However, the very hot curry gave us diarrhoea; but the little Sikh cook was very good to us; and often sneaked us some freshly made chapattis (like our pancakes) through the fence, after dark.
One night the Commander came to us and said that we were to follow the guard in front of us, in single file. It was one of those rare pitch-black Singapore nights, and we had to hold on to the chap in front of us to find our way. We eventually clambered up a flight of stairs, and could feel our feet walking on a floor. Suddenly, a curtain shot up, and we found that we were on a stage in a concert hall; and down below was a hall full of cheering Sikhs.
We were asked what song we could sing, and we decided that we all knew "Its a Long Way to Tipperary." We received a big ovation, and for an encore sang "Roll Out the Barrel".
We were then told to take our seats in the audience, and watch the concert which the Sikhs were putting on. There was a comedian who kept coming on the stage, and the Sikhs used to go into raptures over him. We couldn't see anything funny about him, but even so, managed to laugh.
There were many incidents during our time there, but it would take too long to relate; but all the time, we had that terrible uncertainty of what was going to happen to us. But Clarrie always maintained his good spirits. He was a rough diamond, the late Clarrie Miller, but was a fair dinkum bloke with any of his mates.
After ten days, we were told to wash and make ourselves presentable, and we were given a lecture by the Supreme Japanese Commander - interpreted by an Englishman named James. The main text of the speech was that he was sparing our lives, but if ever we were caught outside again, we would be shot immediately. We were than allowed to go back to our Units.
Our friends were amazed that we came back to Camp looking so well, after ten days in a cage, but it was thanks to the little Sikh cook, who really looked too small and kind to be an Indian Sikh.
After I got back to our Unit, I found that Lindsay Boys was still in a stage of shock - over what he thought would happen to us. After we were taken away in the car, another P.O.W. turned up, and helped Lindsay to carry the basket back to Camp, where he very quickly got rid of the goods.
I vowed that after I volunteered to join the Army, I would never volunteer for anything again, but when the Japs wanted a party to leave Singapore on May 15th, 1942, for an unknown destination, I volunteered again; and finished up with "A" Force, on the railway line in Burma. I had that queer feeling that if those Japs who landed me ever caught up with me again, they may change their minds and shoot me. I thought at the time that I went from the fat into the fire, but I soon learned, after we were free, that all the other Forces which left Singapore did not end up on a picnic either.
LEGACY NEEDS YOUR HELP - IN MANY FIELDS
In an endeavour to bring services closer to the widows and children in the Metropolitan area, Legacy has opened offices in the Suburbs.
Some of these offices are modest cottages, where assistance and advice is readily available on family welfare, education, pensions, employment and Legal matters.
A committee of Legatees has been specially formed to assist Legacy families living in each of these areas, which cover the whole of Sydney.
The voluntary service of Legatees, has always been, and still is, the keynote of Legacy's work. Legatees act as advisers to the families and help solve their problems large and small. Some Legatees have several families to whom they are readily available for advice and assistance.
The undertaking for the men of Legacy is considerable. They feel that there are other returned ex-servicemen living in the Metropolitan area who may be able to assist, and they are seeking volunteers to help with their task. Anyone who served overseas in a war area, regardless of rank, is eligible for membership of Legacy.
If you feel you can assist, have a yarn with any one of our members who is a Legatee, and he will advise you fully on all matters concerning membership and what is expected of you if you join.
Legacy cares for the families of those killed in action, but it is not so widely appreciated that Legacy has also undertaken the care of families of those ex-servicemen who have died since the wars from any cause. It is for this reason that there is no foreseeable end to Legacy's work.
Sydney Legacy's Annual Appeal Week will this year commence on Sunday, 1st September and culminates with Button Day on Friday, 6th September. The same dates and programme will be observed by all Clubs in the Provincial Cities and Country Towns.
Volunteers are urgently required to sell buttons, and as the day falls during the School holidays, you may know of some students who would be willing to help. For the City and Suburban area, please contact Miss B. Charleston, Director of Appeals, Sydney Legacy, 26.2001 who will give any additional information. For all other areas, contact the office of the local Legacy Club.
In order to settle an argument, wherein your Editor expressed the opinion that our Battalion had more members who were members of Legacy than did any other individual Unit, it is desired to compile a full list of active Legatee members of the Battalion.
It will be recalled that B.J. was a very active member for over 20 years, until his death in 1971; while your Editor possibly enjoyed the honour of being the first to become a member, in May, 1947 - having served for over 18 years in Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne until ill-health caused his retirement. Your Editor understands that the following are members of Legacy:
Sydney Metropolitan Area:
Steve Allardice, Bill Ennis, Andy Noble, Ron Chipps, Sammy Hall, Ron Ollis, Arch Dickinson, Noel Johnston, Ian Pryce.
Tom Davis, Joe Johnston, Ron Stoner, Harry Holden, Col O'Donnell, Jimmy Small, Neil Huntley, Terry O'Rourke, Ron Sweeney.
However, the list may be incorrect or incomplete, particularly in regard to other areas. Would members please advise the Editor of any amendments?
A SALUTE TO OUR PATRON
A very pleasant evening was spent at the Anzac Memorial Club, North Sydney on 1st June last when 63 members and wives gathered to pay tribute to our Patron and former C.O., Colonel G.E. Ramsay ED.
A plentiful supply of liquid refreshment and an excellent smorgasbord provided the right setting for a most enjoyable family gathering which continued well into the night.
President Arch Thorburn's introduction of the Guest of Honour was brief and very much to the point, when he advised us that since it was a family gathering we were all well aware of the sterling qualities of Gentleman George as our C.O. during action, on "A" Force during P.O.W. days, during Peace time, and as our Patron; and the presence of so many at this gathering in his honour probably expressed more eloquently than he (Arch) could, in any lengthy speech, the affection and regard we all had for him.
In his reply, our Patron stressed his appreciation of the honours we had bestowed upon him, firstly by making him our Patron, then with the gold badge of Life Membership and now, the gathering in his honour. Although he complained of his poor eyesight, which precluded any reference to notes, the assembly were treated to a typically excellent speech by our Patron.
NORTH COAST Ex-P.O.W. REUNION DINNER
A further reminder that
the Dinner will be held this year at: TAREE R.S.L. CLUB, TAREE on SATURDAY
10th AUGUST, 1974
If you have not already done so, even at this late stage, let Harry Griffis, 27 Dolphin St., TAREE, 2430, know that you are going. (Acceptance Form with last MAKAN)
FAR NORTH COAST Ex-P.O.W REUNION DINNER
A further reminder that
the Dinner will be held this year at BALLINA R.S.L. CLUB, BALLINA on
SATURDAY, 17th AUGUST, 1974
If you have not already done so, even at this late stage, let Snow Hampton, Lot 2, Hickey Place, BALLINA, 2478, know that you are going. (Acceptance Form with last MAKAN).
NORTHERN RIVERS BRANCH Ex-P.O.W. ASSOCIATION REUNION DINNER
A preliminary. reminder that the Dinner will be held this year at:
THE DISTRICT SERVICES CLUB, GRAFTON on SATURDAY, 16th NOVEMBER, 1974
Complete details in next issue, but reserve the date now.
It has taken a long time, and quite a lot of negotiation, but we are now in the final stages of completion of the various memorials.
It will be recalled that the two bronze plaques, one specifically in memory of B.J., were placed in the Changi Gaol Memorial Chapel; an event which received mention in the Journal of the United Service Institute of N.S.W., of which B.J. was a former President.
Due to the unsuitableness of the National War Memorial in Canberra and the Mitchell Library in Sydney and, as B.J. was a famous son of the City of Newcastle, a visit to that City, and a conference with the Lord Mayor and other City dignitaries, has produced advice from the Lord Mayor that the City would be delighted to receive the portrait, which would be hung permanently in the local History Collection of the City Library. This is part of a fine building in the Civic Centre complex, known as the War Memorial Cultural Centre, which also contains a Theatre and an Art Gallery. It flanks a small park, with a fountain, and faces the imposing Town Hall.
It is felt that this is a suitable location, and meets all our requirements; and arrangements will be completed for the official presentation and hanging.
The B.J. Memorial Bowls Shield has been obtained, and will be officially presented to the Bankstown R.S.L. Bowling Club at the bowls afternoon to be held on Sunday, 20th October next. This will be the occasion of the first annual competition between teams from that Club and the Association; when non-playing members and wives will be invited to attend. Full details of the arrangements will be advised in next issue of MAKAN.
As a matter of interest, the cost of this Shield was defrayed by bowling members of the Association.
These memorials have been instituted by our Association, and are quite separate from "The Brigadier Sir Frederick Galleghan Memorial Shield" presented to 2 Cadet Brigade. 56 members of our Association made donations to a total of $900 to assist with this.
For the first time for fourteen months, we have not required to record the death of any of our mates, but we were saddened to learn of the death, on 9th May last, at Wollongong of James Joseph Hannan, at the age of 78 years, brother of Frank Hannan (HQ Coy).
To Frank and his family we extend our deepest sympathy.
We were also saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected death, on 31st May last, at Rathmines, of Benjamin Bell, at the age of 68 years, step-father of Arch Dickinson (C Coy).
To Arch and Pat and their family we extend our deepest sympathy.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
Kevin Ward reports the State, as at 22/7/74:
In R.G.H., Concord:
In Rosedale Nursing Home,
In other Institutions:
Discharged from R.G.H.
since last MAKAN:
Discharged from Lady
Davidson since last MAKAN:
Kevin asks that when members are being admitted to R.G.H. they specify "2/30 Bn." in addition to "Army" as their Service Branch.
NEWS, VIEWS AND WHOS WHOS
Don McKenzie (C. Coy) was full of complaints when he wrote in from Lismore. Daphne refuses to do his secretarial jobs; and that explains why it took a few reminders, and he was late with his Subs. So he sent in enough to keep him out of trouble for a couple of years.
The McKenzie's have left the Country and moved into Lismore, where Don finds that a vegetable garden plus a flower garden and numerous odd jobs more than occupy his leisure time. Apart from a bit of bronchial trouble, Don is keeping very well; and he hopes that any visitors to Lismore will pop in on him and Daphne at 60 Cathcart Street.
Kingie Martin (D Coy) also took a few reminders to get him moving, so he sent in enough from Dorrigo to keep him out of trouble for a few years. Apart from advising having left the farm and having moved into Dorrigo to live, we merely received greetings, so we can only assume that he is O.K., as he didn't say otherwise.
Keith McFarlane (A Coy) did add a few lines to his remittance from Murwillumbah, but they were mostly concerned with the excessive rain they have had, which they now measure in feet, and which has washed away quite a lot around the joint; and prevented the Murwillumbah contingent from attending Fred Arnett's funeral at Coraki.
Arthur Isaac (D Coy) was late with his Subs, which arrived just before Anzac Day. Apparently determined not to let that position arise again, he bunged in a further contribution on Anzac Day, which will keep him out of trouble for a few years to come. Incidentally, he looked fit enough, and had no complaints, so he must be O.K.
We cornered that. elusive Snowy Martin (D Coy) on Anzac Day and managed to get his address - and some extra dough, to put him in an advance position. He and Jean now live at Elizabeth Bay, where Snowy manages a block of flats. He and Jean are well.
Jock McKenzie (B Coy) wrote in hurriedly from Leeton to enclose donations to the B.J. Memorial Committee and to our funds, and had some particularly nice things to say about the way his Skipper, Des Duffy, had looked after him up on the Railway, and on Jock's return to Changi, when Des was joined by B.J. at a time when, as Jock put it, he was "very poorly". Their ministrations obviously did the trick - according to our records, .Jock turned 73 on 7th Jan last.
Des Gee (HQ Coy) sent in enough from Melbourne to put him in an advance position, so that he wouldn't be late with his Subs next year. At the time of writing (late April) Des complained of the heat in Melbourne, but he managed to get by with visits to the beach and the golf course in between being pretty busy at work. Des also indulged in a little nostalgia concerning his pre-war membership of the 17th Bn.
Having tracked down Bob Bridges (D Coy) at Goulburn, we were pleased to welcome Sheila to the secretary/wives club. Sheila did the right thing, and put her man in a Subs-in-advance position.
We were sorry to hear, in her accompanying letter, that Bob has not been the best for the. past three years, and particularly since he suffered a bad stroke in Oct. last, which has confined him to the house and hospital for treatment since that date. To complicate matters, he fell and broke his hip last Easter, necessitating having it pinned.
Sheila and Bob have three children - Robert, B.Sc., married and lives at Eden, where he is doing research for the Forestry Commission. Helen, married and living in Goulburn, has produced the Bridges' qualifying entries in the Grandpa Stakes with Matthew and Sallyanne. Marion is married and lives in Canberra. (Here's hoping 1974 proves a brighter year for Bob - Ed.)
Quite naturally, Elsie had to answer the Circular for Ray Reeves (HQ Coy)., and since she was a bit late doing so, she sent in enough from Armidale to keep her from worrying for a few years to come.
The reason for her lateness was genuine enough, as Elsie has had a bit of a worrying time of late. Apart from the death of Ray's father (mentioned in last MAKAN) the apple of their eye, young Kerrie Anne (now a school girl, aged 6) had a spell in hospital, for an operation, and as soon as Elsie got her back on her feet again, Ray was shot into hospital for another hernia repair job. There is also a possibility that Ray may be sent down to the R.G.H. Concord in connection with his hearing, which has deteriorated considerably of late.
A bright spot was a further entry in the Grandpa Stakes, making the Reeves' tally two granddaughters and one grandson, when Raymond Jnr and his wife presented them with a granddaughter,
Just to prove that he can do the right thing upon occasions, Bill Sorenson (D Coy) put pen to paper, sent in enough Subs from Kyogle to put him in an advance position, and added a donation.
When recording the Sorenson score in the Grandpa Stakes, Bill advised that one daughter in Canberra has two girls and a boy, and another daughter in Kyogle has two boys. While admitting that a tally of 5 is not so large, Bill claims a record for the last grandson, who was 12 lbs. 6 oz. at birth. The remaining members of the family consist of two boys and a girl, still at School, whose ages range from 10 to 17 years.
Flo and Bill enjoy good health, though Bill admits that his eyes are getting very dim - so bad that he had difficulty recognising Don Schumacher (D Coy) at the Lismore Reunion. But it was 29 years since he had seen Don, whom Bill reckons has developed into a dignified gentleman in his old age.
George Lister (B Coy) also put pen to paper and sent in enough from Mummulgum to put him in an advance position.
While bemoaning the fact that he and Ness don't seem to see much of the gang up that way, George advised that they, and the family, are keeping reasonably well. Eldest son, Bill, is still in the Air Force, at Williamstown, while Marie is in First Year at New England University (with her cousin, Jeff Larkin).
Roy (3rd Year) and Don (2nd Year) are both at Casino High; so George reckons he is reasonably tied up, education-wise, for the next few years.
Stewart Blow and Dick Tompson (both HQ Coy) were both a bit late in sending in their Subs, so both sent in enough to put them each in an advance position.
Stewart had a brief spell in Concord recently, for a minor job, but reckons that he is not keeping too badly; while Dick reckoned that although he could have continued on, after 44 years in the Bank, he decided to retire on 31st May; and he and Anne have gone to live in Hobart. This was an easy decision to make as, apart from liking the joint, both their sons are engineers, married, and living in Hobart.
Vince Leonard (HQ Coy) is surely old enough to have better sense, but he was silly enough to collapse under water, while swimming at the Fairfield Baths last Summer. Fortunately, his young son got him out in time, and Vince recovered O.K.; but he was fearful that one, and a further four bouts of high blood pressure, may have affected his hands and his piano playing. However, the report on last Bowls Afternoon at Rydalmere Central (May/Jun 1974 MAKAN) noted his attendance, and his usual performance on the piano.
A very hurried note from Arthur Purdon (BHQ) from Tenambit placed him in an advance position, and merely mentioned that he was keeping reasonably well, though his wife had not been the best over the last 12 months.
Bruce Greer (HQ Coy) managed to find a bit more time, when writing from Ballina, and he advised that Joe Johnston (D Coy) had been made a Life Member of the R.S.L. for his work in the R.S.L. and Legacy, while Snow Hampton (B Coy) had been made a Life Member of the Ballina R.S.L. Club for his work within the Club, and in the community. (We join with their many friends in congratulations to them both - Ed.)
Bruce and Billie made a quick trip to Sydney over the Anzac weekend to attend the graduation ceremony at Hawkesbury Agricultural College of their newest daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, they were unable to arrive in time for Bruce to attend the March on Anzac Day.
Alan Charlton (HQ Coy) roped in Wally Baker (HQ Coy), so sent in his Subs from Port Kembla and advised that Wally has not long returned from a two year spell, working on a dredge in Indonesian waters, during which time he had several trips to Singapore and speaks highly of the changes made there since the war. Wally now works on a dredge in Port Kembla Harbour, and is apparently keeping very fit.
Alan continued with the news that the Ron Cody (A Coy) and the Harry Brown (A Coy, who died in February, 1966) families have merged. One of Ron's step-sons is married to a Brown daughter - those A Companyites stick together, don't they?
Paddles Clune (A Coy) also did a bit of roping in, in Taree. So he sent down the Subs for Harold Hogan (HQ Coy) and advised details of the Ex-P.O.W. Reunion to be held at Taree on 10th August (details in last issue of MAKAN and a reminder in this issue).
Paddles also mentioned that, provided his blood pressure could be pulled down, Bill Newton (D Coy) expected to go into hospital early in June for an operation. Otherwise, the Taree contingent were reported as fit and well.
We are reliably informed that our sailing enthusiast, Des Kearney (B Coy) has had a spot of bad luck with his yacht of late.
Like most boat owners, Des decided to upgrade, and purchased a larger craft, equipped with an auxiliary engine, which he and Nugent Geikie (B Coy) decided to bring round to Des' Harbour mooring, from Port Hacking; leaving late in the afternoon. They had been travelling for some time, but not making particularly good headway, and were nearing Sydney Heads when an inspection below led to the discovery that the boat was dangerously full of water. Frantic bailing had them almost to the point of exhaustion when, most providentially - almost miraculously - a yacht appeared out of the night, provided relief bailers, and towed them to safety in the Harbour.
A tremendous amount of weekend work over a considerable period, renewed the glands on the propeller shaft (the cause of the water intake) and effected alterations and repairs, all of which were just about completed when we had that disastrous blow on 25/26 May; and you have guessed the worst. Des' mooring was at Balmoral, which possibly suffered the worst of all the Harbour areas, and his yacht, plus all the hard work of re-fitting, was wrecked and sunk. (Bad luck, Des - our commiserations - Ed.)
Ray Godbolt (D Coy) wasn't quite sure how he stood with his Subs; so he bunged some currency in a letter from Newcastle - which puts him in an advance position.
In his covering letter, Ray advised some details of the recent trip he and Mavis had made, to visit Rays brother in Port Augusta, S.A., when they endeavoured to call in on a few of the boys en route.
Their first port of call was Tottenham, in the hope of seeing Allan Hudson (D Coy), but Allan was down in Sydney, marrying off his daughter. So they went on to Cobar, where they caught up with Tom and Marj Davis (D Coy), where they had an excellent night, including dinner at the R.S.L. Club. Ray reckons Tommy is still the same old personality, but he has put on a lot of weight, and is almost as big as one of his ambulances.
On to Port Augusta, where they had 10 enjoyable days with Ray's brother, and on the way home they did a grand tour of the vineyards and wineries in the Barossa; and purchased some of their wares. They made their way back through Victoria, and up to Narrandera for Anzac Day; where they thoroughly enjoyed the events of the Day.
They had three days in Narrandera, and caught up with all the boys; but the rain had set in by that time, and they weren't game to venture off the Highways to visit any of the lads around that way. Ray reported all the boys as well, though Keith Mulholland (D Coy) has periods of more downs than ups.
And so to home, with Ray and Mavis certain starters for the Taree Reunion on 10th Aug.
That lazy wretch, Bob McLaren (D Coy), who led us a lengthy dance tracking down his new address, actually got on the blower one night. Unfortunately, it was just too late to catch last issue of MAKAN (then in the hands of our mighty Postal Service for delivery at their pleasure in between go-slows and strikes) as Bob had some good information concerning some coursing events.
Bob has been breeding greyhounds at Bondi for quite a long time and has bred some champions. Apart from a fascinating pursuit, it can apparently be quite a lucrative one; and it has the added attraction of not requiring a large area of land to set up kennels; while running costs don't remotely compare with other types of breeding, such as horses. Anyone interested would be well advised to get in touch with Bob, who is willing and able to furnish all the information about the art.
Having scraped the "News Items Barrel" dry, your Editor sought the aid of the Office Boy, Les Hall, who was good enough to produce a letter he had received some time back from Port Macquarie, from Jack Conn (HQ Coy). Jack suffers, as he put it, from a little bit of ticker trouble and an inability to increase his weight beyond 8st. 6lbs., which is a bit lousy for a six footer. However, when one considers that Jack works 5 days a week for the local plumber and drainer, and then spends the weekend flat out on his farm on the upper Macleay River, it is little wonder that he is just as skinny as he was in P.O.W. days.
Jack mentioned a nasty accident suffered by their only son (and youngest in the family) Christopher (17½). In March last year, when he swerved on his bike to avoid a dog, Christopher got tangled up with a car and broke both legs. Unfortunately the breaks were complicated, necessitating a plate in the left leg and a pin in the right; and he spent four months in Taree Hospital. This of course had to happen during the lad's final year at High School, and Jack and Agnes were quite concerned about the possible effect on the results of the examination for the H.S.C. at the end of the year. But they need not have worried: Christopher did so well that he received acceptances from all Universities in N.S.W. and Canberra. He finally decided on a scholarship apprenticeship in Electrical Engineering with the B.H.P. at Newcastle, where he will do practical work as well as the degree course at Newcastle University.
Younger daughter, Dianne (22) is a teller at the local branch of the Rural Bank and elder daughter, Jillian (25) is a schoolteacher, married and the mother of Mathew Steven, the qualifying entry of the Conn's in the Grandpa Stakes.
Jack recently saw Ack Ack Johnston (HQ Coy) who said he was keeping well, now lives in Harrington; where he has retired and spends his time fishing. Jack also saw Scotty Wallace (HQ Coy) in Kempsey a while back. Scotty is not enjoying the best of health, and is a T.P.I. On the other hand, Lyle Powys (HQ Coy) when last seen by Jack at a P.O.W. Reunion, appeared to be keeping reasonably well. (Thanks, Jack, for a good newsy letter - Ed.)
A bit of prodding, and the Office Boy produced another letter - one he had received from, Les Perry (D Coy) early in February last - which was full of news. Apart from some nice things to say about MAKAN, and an exhortation for others to put pen to paper and help with the news, Les advised:
Before Christmas, the Squire of Berrigan, (Smilin') Max Pyle and Joan (D Coy) celebrated their Silver Wedding; and. Max was pleasantly surprised when their best man at their original wedding arrived unexpectedly for the function. He was none other than Norm King (D Coy). Max and Joan later announced the engagement of daughter, Sue.
Athol and Thelma Charlesworth (D Coy) have entered the Grandpa Stakes, through their daughter Marilyn presenting them with a grandchild. I believe they are walking on air.
Terry and Muriel O'Rourke (C Coy) have returned from North Haven after five weeks holiday. They report having spent an enjoyable time, despite being washed out near the end of their holiday. They are still working hard for the R.S.L. and Ladies' Auxiliary respectively.
Vic and Moyra Hamlin (C Coy) are still settled in Sydney. I didn't think Vic would last long in Sydney, after being a true Bush Boy all his life. They started a garden service in Dee Why, and so have been kept busy. Moyra has always been a terrific correspondent, and once she starts she will keep MAKAN informed of Vic's activities. They saw quite a lot of our old friends up North during their honeymoon. (The Hamlin's have since moved back to Narrandera, though Vic had to precede Moyra, who at that time was suffering a bout of hepatitis and was confined to hospital. - Ed.)
Keith Mulholland saw Bill (Jock) McKenzie (B Coy) recently, and said he was still share-farming 30 odd miles from here. Jock has worked very hard since he came home, and has had his share of bad luck; but he is always the same bright and raw-boned Scotsman.
Keith Mulholland brought home my 1941 Diary, which the Japs dumped at Changi after I had left for Burma with "A" Force; and I was unpacking some old boxes last year, on a clean-up job for the tip, when I found the Diary, which I had not read since Mul. brought it home; and I had an interesting time reading same. One instance that I had nearly forgotten was one of our Bathurst days.
Thursday, May 15th, 1941: We leave for a three day hike, Platoon trucks transport our packs consisting of two blankets, greatcoat and groundsheet. We leave at 12.30 p.m. under War conditions, Bren-Gun Carriers leading the way. Freezing cold at night, by far the coldest I have ever experienced. It couldn't be any colder at the North Pole. My bones were rattling.
Friday, May 16th: We go to bed at 1.00 a.m., rise at 3.00 a.m., and walk up a hill by a road that rose 1,000ft in two miles. We finally reached our objective at 6.30 a.m., and commenced to dig in. On the way, many had fallen out of the march and were lying along the side of the road. I felt like doing the same, but managed to struggle on.
Saturday, May 17th: To bed at 1.30 a.m., rise at 4.00 a.m. After doing 30 mins. sentry duty, we leave for Camp and arrive at 3.30 p.m.
I could go on like this for hours, but guess you have had quite enough.
I kept a Diary during the first two years of P.O.W. life, but I got the wind up at Tamarkan, when the Japs started their intensive search after radios etc, and the late Alfie Weeber (A Coy) and myself split all the paper with a razor blade, and sold same around the Camp for cigarette paper; and so made a few Japanese dollars.
(Thanks, Les. How much easier would your Editor's task be if a few more would heed your plea and follow your example. - Ed.)
A couple of late arrivals, in the form of hurried notes from Edgar Dengate (C Coy) and Bill Robinson (BHQ) advised change of address, but didn't add very much news.
Edgar gave no reason for his removal from Tamworth to Sawtell, but Bill did mention that he owned a house at Burleigh Heads which had become vacant, and which he had decided to sell, so he thought it better to move into it, from Lismore, until he had sold it, than just leave it vacant. What with the credit squeeze and the difficulties associated with property sales these days, Bill could be enjoying the company of the bikini belles of Burleigh Heads for some time.
Ege and Dorothy Wightman (HQ Coy) were kind enough to call on the Editor towards the end of June, on their way from Bega to the U.S.A. The excuse for the trip was for Ege to attend a Lions Convention - and that's as good as any other. They both looked very fit.
After returning from the War, Ege migrated from The Rock to Victoria, where he worked for various Wool and Stock Firms for some years while continually engaging in ballots for a Soldiers' block.
Eventually, his P.O.W. days caught up with him, and about seven years ago, Ege decided to cash in on his hard work, and return to New South Wales. So he sold the farm and moved to Bega, where he built a house near the Golf Links so that, as he put it, he could live in a reasonable Country Town and not be too far from his favourite holiday spot, Narooma.
Complete retirement proved out of the question, so Ege went to work with the local Shire Council, where he now occupies the position of Paymaster. In between the local Jockey Club, the Golf Club and the Lions Club and this and that, on all of which he has and is still serving in an executive capacity, plus a spot of work with the Shire, Ege is kept nicely busy, thank you; and Dorothy gets roped in for her fair share, too.
Like most of us, Ege has his ups and downs (and he has had some nasty downs) but he is currently enjoying a reasonable spell; and sends his regards to all of his old mates.
The very next day after the Wightman visit, Stuart Robertson (A Coy) blew in. Stuart was down from Tooraweenah to see one of his sons off on an Overseas trip. The lucky youngster is meeting up with his sister, already Overseas, in Sweden, where he is buying a Volvo; and the pair of them are then doing the Grand Tour. (There is no doubt about it - our kids seem to fare much better than we did at their age. - Ed.)
As the Editor had not seen Stuart for so many years that it was hard to recall the number, and Vi, who was not feeling 100%, had retired to bed, there was nothing to interrupt our reminiscences. But in between them, and the lowering of the plimsoll on a bottle of the doings, your Scribe omitted to get the vital statistics of the Robertson family - bad mark! However, it would appear that a mixture of cattle, sheep, wheat and seed crops keep the family with their heads well above water; and Stuart looked fit enough to toss one of his bulls around with comparative ease.
It is said that the willing helper cops all the jobs and, in any case, he hadn't put pen to paper for a few months, so the Editor wrote to Les Perry (D Coy) requesting an article from him for publication. Typical of the man, Les obliged pronto and, for a wonder, our diligent (?) postmen managed to rouse themselves sufficiently to get the contribution here in time for publication in this issue (see "An Affair to Remember.").
In his covering note, Les mentioned that the events depicted were true in all respects, and, when he recently recounted the incident to some friends they reckoned it would make interesting reading. Les also advised that Kathy O'Rourke (15) daughter of Terry and Muriel (C Coy) won first prize in the R.S.L. competition for an Essay on Anzac Day. (It will be recalled that she gained second place last year. - Ed.)
"Foolstogger" also heeded the plea, and was not only good enough to produce a poem - he had a cobber printer run off sufficient copies so that it could be included as an insert with the current issue; under the title "Tamworth Training Days." (Thanks, Andy, for your co-operation and thoughtfulness. - Ed.) Undoubtedly, your Editor and the Office Boy have reached the stage where they should be quietly tapped on the head and laid to rest.
The Office Boy recently drove the Editor over to Crows Nest to pick up a fresh supply of plates for the Addressing Machine, and since the office they required to visit was advised as being situated on the Highway, near the Junction, they deemed it prudent to park the. car in a side street, and complete the journey on foot. That was when the fun and games started.
Admittedly, the office was eventually found to be on the first floor of a partly completed new building, with no sign at street level, but the doddering old pair staggered up and down the Highway, seeking directions, unsuccessfully, from all and sundry (most of whom appeared to be New Australians) until they eventually found the joint, just as they had reached the point of utter exhaustion. To complicate matters, the stairs were a mottled colour, difficult for anyone who could see to distinguish where each one began and finished, so the Editor fell up them, and certainly down them on the return trip.
Elated with their success at having obtained the plates, they then set off on the return trip to the car and, you have probably guessed it, they couldn't find it. So the hiking started again, with the Editor having more anginas and growing weaker and weaker, and the Office Boy trying to teach a decision on whether to continue to lead him on, with a piece of string tied round his neck, or tether him to the nearest telegraph pole to prevent him from wandering off in his delirious state; while he (the Office Boy) continued the search. Fortunately, the car loomed in view, around the next corner; and it must have been a harrowing sight to see a couple of doddering old idiots shambling towards their sanctuary. In parenthesis it is advised that they did reach home safely, where it took a few stiff whiskies to restore their equilibrium.
From an entertainment point of view, a visit to the Printing/ Publishing Department of MAKAN would probably pay good dividends.
It all started when the Editor's eyesight worsened, and although he considered the more-than-half-deaf Office Boy then to be employed on tasks to the limit of his capacity, the Editor had to have someone who could tell the difference between grey and black, so he raised the Boy in status and appointed him Assistant Printer. Whereupon the Boy got uppity and went on strike, demanding an increase in pay. So his previous rate of payment was doubled; and though, since double nothing meant that he still got nothing, his ego was satisfied, as he considered himself to be on the salaried staff, and able to talkback at the Editor. It is this talking-back and the inflated ego which are the cause of all the trouble.
The trouble commences with the addressing of the envelopes and overprinting the covers with the current number and date. Because he can see, the Boy requires to feed the envelopes and covers into the machine, and the Editor is reduced to the humble task of turning the handle. Whereupon he gets abused for not turning it to the Boy's satisfaction, and the latter gets careless and feeds something into the machine other than correctly; and promptly gets the sack. But he reckons that salaried staff can't be sacked on the spot, so the arguments go on; and the printing goes on.
The fighting and squabbling continues, with increased tempo, when it comes to the printing of MAKAN; during the course of which the Boy is likely to be reduced in salary, or sacked, then restored in salary or re-instated, at least a dozen times - on the occasion when he went into a trance and mucked up about 50 pages of printing he was even threatened with the additional penalty of discontinuation of the supply of whisky and lunch. Since one side of the sheet has to be printed, then allowed to dry overnight before the other side is done, this sort of thing goes on over two days.
So he takes a fiendish delight in proving himself to be top dog when it comes to making up the paper. The Boy extracts, in correct order, the pages from the sorting box, folds them, and transports them to the Editor in 25's for the operation of putting the covers on and stapling. He has practised his task to a point where he really isn't too bad at it, and he tears into it as though he was on piece-work with a bonus incentive, even running between the sorting table and the stapling bench, so that, with a sadistic gleam in his eye, he can deposit the next 25 before the enfeebled old Editor can finish the previous bundle. The Editor has toyed with the idea of changing the duties around, but has given it away, in the certain belief that, if he did, the Boy would end up stapling himself to a MAKAN and the cost of sending such a bundle through the post would be prohibitive - and who would want to receive him as a Supplement anyway?
All of the foregoing operations are carried out downstairs, in the workshop/garage, but when it comes to the final task - inserting any enclosures (receipts, notices and supplements), folding, placing in envelopes, tucking in flap; then sorting and bundling, as per Post Office requirements - the work is performed upstairs, on the dining room table. During this operation, Vi removes herself to an out-of-hearing distance.
Possibly because he can see the end of his labours in sight, or maybe he smells the soda (with which he is going to mix some whisky later on) - whatever the cause, the Boy is almost uncontrollable at this stage, and the compliments (?) and bandinage, from both sides of the table, flow uninterrupted for a few hours. Although he does and says some terrible things during this final operation, the Boy has never received the sack during it - for several reasons, chief amongst which is the fact that the Editor is a kindly, most forgiving man, who realises that he will shortly rid himself of the pestilence, for a time at least. There is also the possibility that the Boy will be required for a transport job, or to read aloud some letters to the Editor while the latter writes the copy for MAKAN; and if he were then on the suspended or salary-cut-in-half list the Boy might get uppity and refuse to return for duty.
On a more serious note: Omitting the many hours involved in gathering the material, writing the copy, then typing it into exact page sizes, which have to be edited, marked as to length of each line and sorted in such a fashion that when the stencils are cut, the printing will appear with an even margin on each side, and the pages correctly placed on each sheet so that the sheets (each of four pages), can be placed together and folded, and the pages will then appear in book-form, in their correct order. Omitting all that, it will be observed from the foregoing fairy tale of the exploits of the Office Boy, that there is a tremendous amount of work, and many hours are involved in the printing, making up and despatch of MAKAN.
In the pre-Addressing Machine days, Les Hall volunteered to assist by addressing the envelopes by hand, since when he has been shanghaied into the other numerous jobs, which involve him in turning up for duty for different periods on at least each of four days. Without his help, your Editor could not possibly continue to produce MAKAN.
Apart from suffering from deafness (and his receiving set often seems to go on the blink), Les is a far from well man, and he must find it difficult at times to carry on. But he still retains his sense of humour and, for some unaccountable reason, seems to be able to take all the abuse and suffer the eccentric behaviour of your Editor - and still come back for more. So, if any of you have a spare corner in your prayers, whip in a little one that Les may long be spared to carry on with his good works.
DO YOU REMEMBER?
Darby Young does, and asks: Do you remember -
The Old Man bellowing like a wounded bull at Tamworth Showground, when one of the tent dwellers knocked his sun helmet off with a well-aimed potato. Who did it, anyway?
The occasion when the entire Battalion flatly refused to lay out kits for a snap inspection at 7.30 p.m. on the evening of a big ball at Bathurst?
And how the Old Man was overheard later in the evening at the Royal Hotel, proudly telling Senior Officers of other Units how his men had stubbornly stuck together, despite every device used to try and divide them?
During the mass finings following the 1940 Christmas Leave:
B.J. to Bill Bailey:
"Fined five pounds, one day's pay." Bailey: "That's too much, Sir."
The story about the young Malay boy who handed in a well known (single) soldier's Pay Book at the Battalion Orderly Room at Batu Pahat. When questioned as to how the Book had come into his possession, the boy proudly explained that the soldier had left it in his sister's bedroom?
The enchanting Gipsy music provided at the small open-air concerts in the early days at Changi by "Gil Mitchell's Gipsy Serenaders", which was comprised mainly of 8 violins and 4 piano accordions, including one "Dutchy" Holland, who was reputed at that time to be one of England's best accordionists?
When George Taylor and Darby Young were sitting together at a Changi Concert. Jap guard with rifle standing alongside.
Taylor to Young: "Have a
Alan Penfold also remembers, per medium of his Diary, from which we quote:
Saturday evening of October 28th, 1944, was one to remember: With 900 odd other prisoners of war, we sat in a prison yard and witnessed a splendid performance of "Autumn Crocus".
The "Playhouse" in Changi Gaol was entirely built by the prisoners, and stood as an example of what can be done with co-operation and some assistance or cognisance by our hosts, the Nipponese. They, by the way, initially showed great interest in the show, and had already been given a command performance for themselves.
We sat in numbered rows of seats, set into the ground in sloped tiers. We had been ushered to our seats. The curtain shows three wicked looking chorus girls, performing a high kick. The stage is approximately 20' square, and the whole building 50' wide by about 50' deep. About 40' high, it allows for a drop curtain and flying scenery.
Backstage are dressing rooms, wardrobe room, property room, and all the necessary space for electrical and mechanical needs. The lighting is a feature, as is the dressing; where Bert Galbraith does a useful job.
Below, in the Orchestra well, the band is preparing to open up the proceedings. Bill Middleton's work has been great, and his band is as good as many a first class combination at home, in any City.
But the spectacle of the show itself - a transport back to home had to be seen to be appreciated.