"But Sir" The Autobiography of a Twentieth Century Australian
Most of the photographs that were in the original paperback have been lost.
Others have survived and a few are shown below, along with excerpts from the book.
A family of 14 children -
Mum would have been a sweet girl, always one to get her "stubborn" up. Dad promised her she "would never have to soil her hands." She told Dad she wasn’t going to have any children; she had a sense of humour, and so did mother nature; it was she that landed Mum with fourteen healthy kids, and not one of them planned. I don’t think she ever regretted having any one of us after we were born. She used to say "babies bring their own love."
Dad used to have a theory that it was worthwhile to take his vast family on a holiday once a year, because it would save on doctor’s bills.
Leaving home for a farm of his own.
With Dad’s help we planned our assault on the Mallee. He gave us six draught horses, a hack, and a wagon load of chaff, as well as sundries such as beds and bedding. We had already bought a plough while we had been in Manangatang. The girls saw that we were stocked up with food.
Volunteering for the army.
I had always felt there would be a war when I reached the right age. The bigger nations had used Spain to try out their new equipment, and I believed Spain was just the training ground for the big stoush. We all remember how Hitler would hold forth about protecting German minority groups, then over-run the country in question. He even let the world know his intentions in his book, "Mein Kampf." One of his theories was that people are gullible, and if a point is hammered hard enough, and for long enough, people will eventually believe it. I have seen that tactic used successfully by political groups time and time again ever since.
At Albury, while in training
Curly Kirk was my mate from Ballarat. We were roughly the same build, and I wrestled him to a standstill at Olympic Park, Melbourne, raced with him on the ship and deadheated, and now in the pool we would see who could swim underwater and push an object furthest along the bottom. I suppose that was the beginning of something we all found to be our most valuable asset; mateship. It was just that support from a mate who was one hundred per cent trustworthy and loyal which got a lot of us through what was to come. I think everyone was able to get a mate, no matter how many times he was put in with strangers. It was a must to have a mate when the going got hard, as on the Burmese railway or other places. I have never had that sort of mate before the army, nor since, and after leaving the army the lack of such a mate left a big gap which took me some time to come to grips with.
One day after I returned to Albury the order was given for everyone who held a driver’s license to fall out. Nearly all the men who fell out were from the country, including Dunc and I, and some of our special mates who would be together with us until the finish. We were then transferred to Sturt St., Melbourne, where we formed a unit called the 2/2nd Motor Ambulance Convoy.
Not long later, the unit left on the Queen Mary, which was serving as a troopship, and wound up in Kajang, Malaya.
A Prisoner of War
The Allied forces were ordered to surrender, and Singapore was defeated. The Japanese were now in charge. Their culture was very different from that of those who were now their prisoners.
‘I will never forget the utter despair of the young men of F Force, nor the way they died quietly and without fuss. Neither will I ever forget the cruelty of the Japs, nor will I ever forgive them for their total disregard for the lives of the P.O.W.s and the dark races who also worked on the railway.’
One of the few letter-cards that made it home. Any mention of what was really happening, of course, would have ensured that the card would never have been sent on.
The war is ending
We wondered how the actual change-over from the Japs to the Allies would take place, as it soon must. Finally, on 27th August 1945 British planes flew over Changi and dropped leaflets. I still have one of these, dropped that day from a plane flying low over the jail. The pamphlet contained (1) a warning to the guards to respect the prisoners and look after them, (2) part of a re-script issued by the Emperor on unconditional surrender of the Japanese, (3) a statement that soon an Allied staff officer would be dropped with a radio transmitter, that he would be in contact with, and under the guidance of the Occupation Forces, and was not to be interfered with, (4) supplies dropped (medical etc.) would be gathered and handed to the P.O.W.s and the guards were then to return to their quarters, after warning civilians not to loot these supplies. On 30th August four officers and two other ranks were dropped by parachute, with medical equipment and a transmitter. Other planes brought more medical gear.
Back to civilian life
I met the girl I was to marry, one day at tennis. She showed courage to take on a returned soldier eleven years older than herself. And so I became engaged to Alison Davies, whom I married six months later, and she has been my backstop ever since.
I was born in rural Victoria at a time when conditions had not really altered since the late nineteenth century, and now seventy years on we are almost in the final decade of the twentieth. In my lifetime I have fought in a major war, started two farms virtually from scratch, and travelled over much of my own country and the world. Alison and I have raised four children and given them all a good start, so I think I can say with all modesty I have lived a full and varied life. Now, although hopefully I have not reached the end of that life, I have reached the end of this book, a book in which I have tried to catalogue my life and times as I saw them.
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