The story of Charlie Moorman

 

It’s my life, so here it is

Charlie’s Angels

 

Compiled from Interview with Charles Moorman which took place at 32 Fergusson Street, Wanganui on
9 January 2002 with Brenton Beach and also interview at Pam Gardiner’s house, Manurewa, in 1999

Herein lies a tale of celebration

Complete with trials and tribulations

Proving that gems found in the rough

Are polished to perfection on the journey of life

 

Contents

1. Home 1

 

2. Trentham 8

 

3. On the Move Overseas – Empress of Britain 16

  • Sydney\Freemantle\Perth

  • Capetown

  • Sierra Leone

  • Bay of Biscay

  • Irish Sea

 

4. England 24

  • Greenock - Scotland

  • Camberley – Mytchet Camp

  • Isle of Wight

  • Camberley

  • Liverpool – Board Duchess of Bedford

5. Egypt 33

  • Cairo

  • Alexandria

 

6. Greece 43

  • Piraeus

  • Katerini

  • Olympus Pass

  • Salonika

  • Larisa

  • Isle of Keo

 

7. Crete 53

  • Suda Bay

  • Malame

 

8. Evacuation from Malame to Sfakia 57

9. Prisoner of War – period 4 years 60

  • Back to Suda Bay

  • Salonika

  • Belgrade – near Hungary

 

10. Lamsdorf – our parent POW camp 66

11. Map of German POW Camps in Europe 68

12. POW Rations 69

13. Working Party Accommodation 69

14. Rings and Ornaments 71

15. Cardboard Factory 73

16. Music 74

17. THE MARCH 82

18. Dresdon 77

19. Rheims 89

20. England 93

  • York

  • Margate

  • Liverpool

 

21. Homeward Bound – The Rangatiki 96

  • Cologne

  • Panama Canal

  • Pitcain Island

 

22. New Zealand 97

  • Wellington

  • Wanganui

 

23. Rehabilitation 97

 

24. Moving On 98

 

25. My Chevy 99

 

26. Marriage 100

 

27. Retirement 100

 

28. Newspaper Company 100

 

29. Overseas Trip 1981 101

 

30. Reflections 104

 

31. Chas Moorman’s War Medals and Infantry Regiment Badge 105

 

32. Map of World 1930 106

 

33. Rangataua – Then and Now 107

 

34. Invitation by Prime Minister 108
 

35. Sequence of Travel 109

 

It’s my life, so here it is

My name is Charles Henry Hirton Moorman, just call me Charlie. My lucky number adds up to 7. It’s 30022. Old soldiers never forget. I was born on 9 February 1917 in a Mill House and lived at 28 Marino Street, Rangataua on 6 and a half acres of land, about 3 miles south of Ohakune. Where’s that I hear you say?

For crying down the sink, just along from the Military Museum at Waiouru!

 

I

Our Home

lived with my parents Minnie Ada (nee Hasse) and Charles Jacob Moorman and my sister Doris, who was older than me. I used to call her the boss. She did the job well.

 

Our House

Marino Street, Rangataua

 

 

Marino Street, Rangataua with Mount Ruapaheu in the background

 

 

 

 

Marino Street, Rangataua Taken about 1910 when six mills operated there

including Carters who went on to become Carter Holt

 

 

Our little old house, is still standing today and the present owner still owns the
6 and a half acres.

 

Our house as it stands today 28 Marino Street, Rangataua (Taken from Street)

 

 

Mum did what women did in those days, domestic, stumping, cutting fire wood, that sort of thing. Mum and her sister Edith used to win prizes in the crosscut saw competition at the Easter Monday Sports Day at Rangataua. The logs used for this competition were approximately 15 to 20 inches diameter and were barsted Totara.

 

Charlie and Doris Moorman

Ages:

Our fire wood came from big slabs of wood from one of the saw mills. It was loaded on to railway wagons at the mill and railed to the Rangataua Railway Station. A carrier would then deliver the slabs to the Moorman household. Mum and I would cut the slabs into pieces big enough to fit in our coal range. It was my job to stack the wood and bring it inside for Mum when required. I used to say to Mum, ‘why bring the wood inside because it only ends up in ash.’

Dad worked in a saw mill. There were about 7 sawmills around Ohakune at this time. Of course during the slump Dad got work where he could. I guess he got one and a half days a week work on the ‘B’ scheme (I think that was what it was called). There were 2 rates of pay, one for men with children up to the age of 15 and the other for children over 15. As me and my sister were 15 and 17 years old respectively, Dad only got a wage for a married couple (the lower rate). So we managed even though we still had 4 in our family. We had our own cow and pig and grew our own vegetables. This meant we could have cream, butter and vegetables. We were better off than people in the towns.

I guess they thought we were old enough to work. So at 15, I found myself working on a farm in Rangataua, quite local to home. That meant I could still live at home. The farmer bought his first horse when I came to work for him. All jobs were done by hand, cutting firewood, carrying posts, wheeling wheel barrows. It didn’t kill me but at times I thought it would. For all that I got one meal a day at lunch time and earned 5 shillings a week.

Soon I managed to get another farm job at Kariowi, just south of Rangataua. This farm was good. All work was completed by hand even the topdressing. You carried the manure bag in front of you. I became part of their family, eating and sleeping on the property (board and lodgings). I slept in a sleep out with the boss (the son as the father had died). This family had a maid Bonnie Galvan. They were all really nice people. Once a fortnight they took me to the pictures in their car to Ohakune. There were 2 picture theatres in Ohakune during the 1935s – 1936s and were both owned by the same person. Imagine that! All this and a good pay - 12 shillings and 6 pence per week. It was during that time, I had my top teeth out because I had Pyreea. Had a plate put in the top but still had my natural teeth in the bottom. I left this second job and returned home unemployed.

A brother of the man from my previous employer at Kariowi bought a farm at Pio Pio. It was a rough farm and needed breaking in. The brother called in to my home at Rangataua and asked if I was employed. He wanted me to work on this new farm at Pio Pio. So off I went. Firstly going back to the Kariowi farm as the Pio Pio farm was not ready. My old boss’s mother had already employed a boy in place of me, but the boss wanted the 2 of us doing the same work. Now we had 2 bosses (his mother and himself)!

When the farm at Pio Pio was ready, I went with him. I’m not sure of the date;
I probably was 17 at the time. I remember the trip to Te Kuiti to the lawyers’ office. We took his brother Sam with us in a model ‘T’ truck up those windy hilly roads. Sam and I sat in the truck all day outside the lawyers’ office because documents might come any minute. Eventually the documents came through and there was a problem so we had to return to Kariowi again. I worked at the old farm for about a month longer before finally going to Pio Pio with the boss. This time Sam did not come with us. The boss was married but left his wife back at Kariowi.

The cow shed had only 2 bales. The cow shed floor consisted of logs laid on the floor where the cows stood and also in the shed floor. There were no concrete floors in the cow shed just logs. Apart from that there was plenty of mud. Lots of mud, in places just almost up to the top of your gumboots in winter! You can imagine the cows’ udders in the mud. On the other side of the cow shed there was a big pool (be about 20 feet across) was sort of a cess pool where all the dirty water would collect. The dairy was located just off the cow shed. A hand operated separator was used to separate the milk. As you separated the milk you could see what we called legless rats crawling around the floor, that’s big maggots with tails.

The cream was put into cream cans and taken down to the cream stand at the road gate where they were collected by a truck and taken to the factory for processing. When the truck picked up the cream it left empty cans and a ticket telling us what grade we received for the previous days cream. We always received first grade except for a couple of times when we received second grade. The inspector was out smartly to investigate why we received such low grades. I was on this farm for 6 months.

My brother in law from Rangataua had told me of a vacancy with the company he worked for which was based in Marton by the name of Sash and Door. The vacancy was at Rangataua in the Slab Department for a head of that department. The Slab Department was the waste timber department where (after the logs were cut into slabs) the outside bark and rubbish wood was removed. I decided to apply for the job. Around midnight one night, my boss (on farm at Kariowi) drove me into Te Kuiti to catch the express train to get down to Ohakune. My brother in law drove from Rangataua to Ohakune to pick me up. He took me back home to Rangataua. We had breakfast, I changed and caught a jigger up to the saw mill. No sleep. By 3 o’clock I felt very sleepy. But when you are young you get over it quickly. After all that effort, I got the job.

I lived at home while employed at this job. I stayed for a year or 2 until all the Native timber was all cut out (not the sticks they have now – pine). I actually managed to save a bit of money and bought a truck. According to my brother in law we bought the truck, but only because my 50 pounds paid for it. I haven’t had the 25 pounds back, not even to this day.

My brother in law and I had a general carrying business in Rangataua for 2 or 3 years. However I did not make much out of it because, during the depression, my brother in law was married and had a young family and I just had myself to look after. So of course when you get a pound my brother in law took 15 shillings and I got 5 shillings. My brother in law and I bought a car from the money we made from sending firewood down to Palmerston North by rail. We actually bought the car from Palmerston North.

One day while out walking in Rangataua (there was only one road in and one road out, such a big town) Jack, a school friend, stopped to talk and wanted to know if I could drive him to Kariowi because he was going to start a job there. Okay, I had nothing to do so he hopped into the car and off we went to the Kariowi State Forest Head Office. He made himself known to the boss (an elderly chap) when it suddenly dawned on me this was my lucky day. Could he take another bloke on? As luck would have it he said yes. Good. We returned home to collect my bedding and clothing. Mum happened to be home so she fixed me up with blankets.

We travelled back to Kariowi State Forest almost to the boundary line in National Park where the camp was situated. I started earning real money then. My money, all mine!

I was pruning and planting trees. You’ve seen all those trees up there. Well I helped plant a lot of them and was there when the war broke out.

One of the chaps in the camp had a battery powered wireless. Normally he kept to himself. He called us over to listen to Churchill’s speak. I can still see us now, all standing around his hut listening to Churchill’s speech, ‘England is in a state of war with Germany’. I had not actually been following the news about Europe so knew nothing of what was happening in the world.

 

Enlisting For War

Of course all 5 of us young jokers were quite excited and I am not sure who said it first “I’ll have a go at this”. I think I was more excited, it wasn’t like it was bad, it was just an adventure. My father did not go to World War One (I don’t know why). He never said and I never asked.

Our boss was a First World War Veteran. He owned a large photo album which had many World War One pictures in it. Boss was quite tickled pink when we told him about going to enlist. The 5 of us young jokers jumped into the car and drove home to tell Mum what we were going to do. Mum had lost two brothers in the First World War. We then went to the Ohakune Post Office to register for the Army. We were still in our hob nailed boots, that didn’t matter. We were filling the enlistment forms in when the young chap behind the counter said, ‘yes they really need young jokers like you’. I turned around to him and said ‘hang about, you are about the same age as us, what are you doing here’ and I could see he was embarrassed, his face turned red. He shouldn’t have opened his mouth. I bet he didn’t do that again. We returned to our job and waited for notification from the army.

Soon the Army notified us to go and have our medical at Taihape. The evening we left for Taihape, our camp in the Forestry, the snow was very deep. I couldn’t take the car so borrowed a push bike. That was no good either. All bikes of those days had 28 inch wheels which meant the snow came up to the axle of the bike. Well’ the only thing left was shanksy’s pony. I started walking from the Forestry Camp at Waiouru that evening in order to catch the 7 o’clock train at Rangataua. We were 8 miles from the main road. As luck would have it a grader had just been through and as I walked along a car came by. It happened to be the youngest son from the farm I used to work at. He stopped, I told him what was happening, so he drove me home to Mum’s to get my good clothes. I then caught the train to Taihape.

The medical examinations were conducted in the Taihape Town Hall. Well you can just picture 20 or 30 jokers running around in their birthday suits. It was below zero outside. No heating inside. Talk about goose bumps! During my medical, my teeth were examined and it was found my bottom teeth were rotten but looked okay. I was told that the Army did not have dental facilities so I was classed as Grade 2. That’s how I missed the First Echelon. We were paid by the forestry when we went to Taihape to sign up for the army. I was 23 years old by now. Out of the 5 of us who filled out enrolments for enlisting, I was the only one that actually went into the Army.

I never thought much of those who didn’t join up or rush to join the core, I was too busy doing my own thing. It was purely an adventure. It was nothing to do with ‘King or Country’. You talk to anyone, it’s always the same and that wasn’t wrong because as far as the King was concerned he never knew I existed and he didn’t bother and our country did the same thing.

When enrolments for the Second Echelon started, I was notified. By then the Army had dental facilities so my teeth were fixed and I was classed as medically fit. We had word to come down to Trentham, got dressed in our pretties. I had a tailor made 3 piece suit made specially. It cost me 9 guineas. That was a lot of money then. A guinea was equal to one pound, one shilling or 21 shillings and our wages were around 3 pounds a week then but you could buy a pair of men’s working boots for 10 shillings, so you could get paid, buy clothing etc and still have money in your pocket. But now days you can’t do that.

We caught the 7 am train at Waiouru and eventually arrived at Trentham. (This was a goods train with a couple of carriages at the back). There were people from all walks of life there eg hay seeds (farmers).

 

TRENTHAM

We got into camp, paraded and our names were called. There was an incident, a young chap in uniform (I don’t know what he was doing around the camp) he walked right in front of the lines passed all these jokers with their bags and all their suits and things. He had a mouth to, (ah these are the one jumpers), one jump ahead of conscription. Of course I wasn’t. He said the wrong thing at the wrong time. One joker stepped out and dropped him and got back into line again. He just lay there on the ground. The young joker was on what they call a learning curve.

Life at Trentham Camp was basic. Food was great; but there was a great deal of wastage. Fresh food was trucked in every morning. Waste food was placed in big drums which were scrubbed spotlessly and the trucks would take it away to the prison camp not far away. Wastage consisted of food not eaten the previous day including sides of beef. It was called a ration plan. You see both the Army and Prison Camps were run be the Government.

We ate in the Mess Room; a table would seat 22 people. A Mess Orderly was assigned to each table. It was his job to get extra butter, bread etc for you. Butter came in half pound lots. This is where I started learning about TAB (typical army balls up) because they can do that well! There were both wet (buy alcohol) and dry (like small restaurant) canteens there.

The digs were Bell Tents, 6 blokes per tent, circa 1918 and they leaked like sieves.
I think we lived in those tents (possibly for 2 -3 months), right up until we took our final leave. I recall there were numerous carpenters working on building huts just before I went on final leave. When we returned to camp we lived in these huts/cabins.

 

Bell Tents

Source: NZ Electronic Text Centre www.nzetc.org.nz

 

Charles Henry Hirton Moorman May1940

[

Taken March 1940

My regiment number was 30022. I was put into the 22nd Battalion, ‘B’ Company Infantry. ‘B’ company was supposed to be here when they go and be here when they come back but it didn’t work out that way.

We did route marching, manoeuvres, not much room for that (went up the hill) and shot on the shooting ranges. There were 2 ranges, the 300 yards and the 25 yards. It used to be right along side the race course which is still there today. We were given free passes to attend the Easter Monday races. Well, I’ve had other jobs, one of them was watching grass grow and the others watching paint dry. The whole 3 of them are about the same. You watched a race and some of the people went crazy. I thought it was boring and walked out and caught the train to Wellington because there was nothing to do in the camp. The army allowed us to do this but of course it was sort of unofficial leave, a day free. The camp had its own Post Office. Ringing home was always a mission. If you put your call in at the Post Office at say 6 o’clock at night, it would be 9 o’clock before you got your call because everyone was ringing home. I found the waiting very hard (sitting down waiting).

Most of these blokes were Territorial’s who were now NCOs. In fact I showed the Sergeant how to use a rifle. Each NCO had his own little pet way of doing things. He was training this section of about 9 men. The rifle was put on a sort of tripod. He tacked a match box on to a building. The bolt was sitting in the rifle, not closed so you could block the barrel and hold the end of the butt like this. You aim it and step back so he can check it. The sergeant came along and took the bolt out and looked out the barrel. There was a hill in the distance. Okay, only a little short chap, the block up the road here and so I did it. He had a look at the barrel, hit the gun, put it out of line and said do it again. I said okay. So I did it again. Next, wait a bit; because they weren’t sergeants to us, they were just another joker.

I said “Are we supposed to be learning this?

Yeah” said the sergeant.

Well, why did you do it the first time? If you don’t tell me, how am I supposed to know?”

The Sergeant said “Well you didn’t close your left eye.”

I replied “Sergeant, how many times have you handled one of these?” Sergeant replied “I’ve had my time”.

I said to the Sergeant, “I’ve been pig hunting and deer stalking, so you are telling me
I have forgotten how to use a rifle? I would imagine you would want to be pretty quick and accurate. You will not have time to close your left eye Sergeant. Could you do that Sergeant?”

He replied, “Course I could.”

Go ahead do it then.”

The other blokes of course they had to learn because they hadn’t had the same experience as I had. I adapted to military life alright, but there were times where things were boring, a lot of repetition. Our Captain Sid Hanton, (Hanton and Anderson are a printing firm in Wanganui). He was a decent joker and very fair. Because we had continual rain for a long time we were put in marquees. Out tents leaked like sieves. Sidney Hanton came to our marquee and instructed both Jim Stains, me and another to report to Captain so-in-so in Transport at a certain time. I had put my occupation down as driver when I enrolled. We duly reported to the Captain only to be asked if we would like to repair the trucks and cars (just to keep them going – not ‘A’ Grade mechanic stuff). I told the Captain my background and when you work in the bush your tools were a ball hammer and a piece of number 8 fencing wire. That was your full kit and of course you had to know how to use them. We decided to take this job on so were transferred from “Foot Sloggers” into Ordinants. Ordinants were attached to Transport. I have never completed any ordinance courses.

From then on we were still living with ‘B’ company but went out with different platoons for training. We never knew from day to day what platoon we would be going with. The 3 of us were most unpopular. Nobody wanted to see us because each group became quite clicky.

Prior to transferring to Ordinants I was in the Infantry. We had Lewis Gun practice. Lewis Guns killed more operators than they did enemy. They think you could fire a dozen rounds without getting a blockage and of course you would be liable to be killed because of the big pan on the top.

I remember after we had been transferred to Ordinants we were out with a platoon practicing taking you gun apart and putting it together again blindfolded and also naming all parts of the gun. Of course we did not do this on a regular basis (we 3 Ordinants blokes) so were not as quick as the others. Lieutenant Snowy Leeks, he was an alright sort of a chap, instructed us (3) to repeat the exercise again. Of course we did. We were not popular with the platoon. We were given Lewis Guns and Ack Ack Guns to practise on. They were placed on the back of trucks on tripods.

Our first parade in uniform I wore a pair of white cook’s trousers. Some blokes had sleeves on their tunics down beyond the end of their arms. They looked a bit like scare crows. The reason being - the uniforms were all the old ones, with the brass buttons. (Giggle Suits). We had a different name for them especially when you had to polish those buttons every day. No one could giggle, good God, you had a button stick and brasso. Buttons on these uniforms were made from sheet brass which was rubbish, cheap and nasty material).

There was an Army Store just by the entrance of the Camp. Some of the blokes would buy buttons. They were Stokes Buttons, made of solid brass with a ring on the back of them. You cut a hole in there and put this ring through and threaded a boot lace right through the whole lot underneath. The idea was the speed of threading the boot lace polished the buttons.

February, Lieutenant-Colonel Les Andrew VC was a very just man. He was so named February because anyone on charge (breaking the rules) got 28 days detention. He was tall and had a black moustache and was determined that we would become a bonded welded unit – the best unit in the Camp. I never ended up on the room with February.

We were on parade and Andrew introduced himself. My name is Andrew,
A N D R E W without an ‘s’ and I’m the boss’. We were standing there and all of a sudden there was a clatter. Of course we had our rifles with us. Some joker keeled over (he was not used to standing for long periods). Andrew said ‘pick that man up’ (incidentally he did not say please either) His mate picked him up and laid him down out of our way. Of course once his circulation came back he would be right.

One night we went to the 300 yard range and there were people at the butts (end of range) and behind those people were flags and people up the front. It was their job to pick up these flags and bring them back without the others knowing. That’s like going behind enemy lines. That was boring and tiring. The other side did not play fairly because they used fairy lights (night flares). It’s like what goes up must come down. Everybody flattened and my mate and I said ‘Christ, it’s getting bright’. You could hear a noise SHHHHHHH from a fairy light and with that it went pop and landed just in front of me. If it had landed on us of course it would have gone through you straight away. I think the lights contained magnesium. They were very hot. I had seen that demonstrated on a sheet of corrugated iron and the sheet lasted as if it was a sheet of ice. That instant! We mentioned it to an Officer and all he said was ‘you take your chances’. He wasn’t put out at all.

Pardry Hirst was our Pardry at Trentham and travelled with us overseas. Today he is the Arch Deacon at St Paul’s Cathedral

Tents were in rows, 2 rows then a road and another 2 rows of tents and a road. The road was made of chip metal. Hanton and 2 others walked up the road. A Private was standing there saluting. I thought that was funny so I stood there watching, then he goes up and one chap salutes. Sid asked what was the trouble and the Officer said “this man passed me without saluting sir”.

Oh yes”, Sid said. So he asked the Private if he had learnt anything.

Yes sir” says the Private.

Sid took the Officer aside. “You know the King’s regulations Officer; they call him
Mr so-in-so”.

Yes” the Officer replied.

Well, when a Private salutes an Officer, that Officer has to answer.”

Well that’s all he said. This Officer had to go and stand in front of the Private and do 30 or 40 salutes and each time answer the salute.

Talking to the Private afterwards he said “God I felt a proper dork standing there watching this, to heck with this for capers”.

Some Officers really looked for the salute (they really went out of their way) In particular one Officer was bad at this. The ordinary blokes thought they would fix him. So some Privates walked around in pairs and wherever this joker was they walked by him and saluted. Well they would salute once, the Officer had to salute but when he realised there were 2 more coming up he kept on saluting. Nobody said any thing so they just carried on. That idea died. King’s regulation said you had to salute the rank not the bloke. I got told to salute what I thought was an Officer, and it was a Padre. I believe today the Padre does get saluted. Yeah, well he said “not for me soldier, not to me”. Perhaps it was his personal preference.

We had a Sergeant Major, well he was shouting his pieces, this is just a platoon and
Sid was walking around, you know how they walk around watching different jokers doing their stuff. The Sergeant Major was screaming his head off; they called him the screaming skull. Sid asked the Sergeant Major what seemed to be the trouble. He said “the men will not obey an order, Sir”. He turned around; we had a corporal with us. The Sergeant Major walked up to the Corporal, ‘what’s the matter Corporal?”

Corporal said “we can’t understand a word he says, Sir”. The Sergeant Major was a Scotsman ex British Army. Mandleson was his name. Mandleson got in to trouble afterwards, he was not liked. He dismissed us and came and spoke with me. What he said I wouldn’t know but I have heard him, I understood what he said afterwards when he spoke very slowly.

Even at this point we had no specialist training. We had our patches (epplauettes, colour on arm) and the badge and colours on the lemon squeezer (hat). I never got one of those because they made them too small, 6 and 7/8ths was the average size, mine was 7 and a quarter. I did eventually get one, I think it had been living in Egypt for years because it was a funny looking khaki colour, sort of a washed out. I think I still had the khaki and red which belonged to the Infantry. From then on I had a blue and khaki patch co-ordinants with khaki and red colours on my hat. Nobody seemed to worry so why should I and I never did have one.

Final leave was struck at Easter time. I went back home to Rangataua. Easter Monday at Rangataua was always a big sports day with wood chopping, horse jumping, running, side shows, hooplas and all that sort of thing. We had 3 or 4 coppers outside to boil the billy for tea. It was a real country outfit. I think final leave was about 2 weeks. It was a time to socialise, put your affairs in order. The area around Rangataua was what you called a dry area, the nearest pub north was Taumarunui and the nearest one south was Taihape. King Country was a dry area. Well there were the sly groggers (you could have beer delivered from Taihape).

After final leave we headed back to camp. Some of the chaps did not qualify on the
300 yard range, so were sent to the 25 yard range. Number 2 Platoon was fatigued to this and I was with them. My job was to paste the targets up because there were no butts really. Just a big board but it had 2 targets on it. After they shoot I had to go and paste more targets over those. Everybody qualified after a while or near enough, but one chap couldn’t even hit the board. It’s from here to about there long and about that high (1.5 metres) and the Officer was Snowy Leeks. He was lying down along side him trying to find out what the hell was wrong. He was firing off his right shoulder and sighting along the rifle with his left eye. Snowy’s lying down looking at him and realised he was probably left handed. After they were all put through their paces I patched up their targets and went back to the men. Snowy Leeks and the others were talking about having another shoot. Each man put a shilling in and Snowy held the money but they never told me they were using the 300 yards target on the 25 pounder range. He said no one had told him, right fair enough you haven’t done a shoot at the small target. Well here’s me lying down there with all these eyes stuck on me and sort of feeling conscious about it, any how I fired and went up. Any how I fired and went up, and of course you know that wire gauge they use to stick over the target, the holes in the target they’ve got this gauge and they put over it (for the group) and I can’t remember exactly but I think the maximum was 25 and Snowy Leeks he got 24 and I got 25 beat him by 1 point. That’s something I didn’t like about him, he gave me the money and walked off without a word to say. If he had of been a good Officer he would have congratulated me but he never did.

Two or three days prior to leaving Trentham I was officially transferred to Headquarters Company and attached to Ordinance.

 

Train to Wellington

We were told not to tell anybody that we were going to leave the country on board the Empress of Britain, a troop transport ship anchored in Wellington. We boarded the train at the Trentham Camp and arrived alongside the Empress of Britain which we embarked (sometime in the beginning of May 1940). On the side of the gang plank there was a large quantity of wax matches which we were not allowed to take on board the ship. Reason being, if you step on a wax match it will light. Funnily enough on our way down to Wellington there were lots of people on the sides of the rail tracks saying goodbye to us. It was supposed to be top secret. Our uniform included heel and toe plate boots and our kit bags.

 

Empress of Britain

 

EMPRESS OF BRITAIN – On our way

When we boarded, we had a crew steering us in the right direction ‘A’ deck, ‘B’ deck, ‘C’ deck. Our kit bags were thrown in a big net and hauled up and piled on the deck. We later found our kit bags. The Empress of Britain had been a luxury liner. It had been painted white but was Khaki now. She was about 32 thousand ton. Carpets had been lifted and the cinema screen had been removed. Apparently someone had thrown furniture through the cinema screen prior to being a troop ship. We even had cabins on the ship. We were anchored in mid stream for I think 2 or 3 days. We left Wellington around mid afternoon. The band was playing and there was a big crowd on the wharf to farewell us. In fact I suppose as the boat left instead of the boat been level, everyone was on one side it would have been lopsided.

The 3 of us Arthur Miles, Jim Staines and myself, (Ordinance blokes) got together and were in a 4 berth cabin which still had a hand basin in place. It had a short corridor and that was outside there and just around the corner down the passage was the dining room which I think consisted of 3 rooms. Our cabin contained 4 bunks and was really close to the Mess. It was ideal.

The food was excellent. Each meal had to have three sittings because the dining rooms could not cope with us all in one go. Meal time was great the first time, there was lots of food. When it came to having sweets there was hardly anybody in the dining room. Everyone was hanging over the side of the ship. Most of the men had been on the booze prior to boarding.

This was my very first time ever on a big ship like this. We had just left port and were travelling through the heads. It was interesting. We went down to our bunks, fixed up our kit bags and things, Arthur chose a bottom bunk, I chose the other bottom bunk and Jim Staines was above me. When the ship went up through the waves the spring mattress on the bunk above me went down and when the ship went down the mattress straightened.

We had not yet got our sea legs, we found when the boat went up while walking on the deck, you thumped along the deck but when the boat went down you were walking on feathers. I found that surprising because you were still the same weight. Arthur over there was a bit of an old woman, his occupation at home was window shopping and talking to old ladies. Jim was a bit of a booze artist and had a bit of a hard night the night before. There was the 2 of them, their heads down the basin. I am lying there. I got tired of this so got up and walked out. Sea sickness never affected me at all. That was one blessing.

Incidentally, in our convoy we had the Andes on her maiden voyage, the Aquitania which was reckoned to be the fastest boat in the convoy but it was a heck of an old boat. I think the Aquitania was used in the First World War and the Empress of Japan. Harold Langley, Dick Hawkins and the Maori Battalion were on the Aquitania. On 2 May 1940 they slipped quietly away. The HMS Leander and HMAS Canberra also went with the boats.

 

Wellington to Freemantle

From Wellington we linked up with the Andes and the HMAS Australia and headed across the ditch to Sydney. Here we were joined by the Queen Mary and the Empress of Canada. We then sailed south to Melbourne and arrived in Fremantle 10 May.

 

Freemantle - Leave

Permission for leave was got in the normal way although I don’t think we had to get passes. Arthur and I got down the gang plank and into a little train. It was a little narrow gauge railway (I think it was 02 gangways) which travelled from Freemantle to Perth. As we chugged along the line down here there was a road and on the side of the road was a row of houses. We were sitting in the train and noticed jokers coming out of these houses. Well being a little country bumpkin joker I asked what are those jokers doing in those houses so dammed soon. Well there was laughter all around. Yes they were houses of ill repute. Well I was learning.

We arrived at Perth. As we walked along a street there was a happy shopkeeper standing outside his shop rubbing his hands together. He was a big fruit merchant. As Arthur and I walked by he says “Ah boys hello how’s things, come and have a drink’. He took us into the back of his warehouse and I said to him ‘you seem to be happy with yourself today’. ‘Ah! I should be. I filled up one of those boats with fruit and stuff’. He had made a lot of money by doing this. The stuff he referred to was beer and possibly whisky. We had a nip, wished him all the best and walked up the street.

A mum and dad asked us if we would like a ride out in the country a bit with them. They seemed to be a decent couple (well another learning curve). They took us up the west coast to a big dam which was under construction. We had a picnic with them and listened to stories of the area. That is where I saw Australian soil. It was reddy coloured stuff. We continued our drive with the wife giving us a commentary of places of interest. The dad laughed and proceeded to tell us about a mate of his who several months prior was driving along here at night and he frightened a big old buck kangaroo. The kangaroo jumped over him and landed in the back seat. By the time the chap stopped the car and climbed out the big hind legs of the kangaroo had torn the hell out of the car seats. We drove back, had an early tea and were dropped off at the iron gates of the wharf, civvies were not allowed any further. I thought this was a bit of alright and could stand a lot more of this.

We left Australia the next morning around 9 o’clock. The Captain of the boat and the OC of the Troops inspected all bunks. It always appealed to Jim and me because we were not actually attached to one platoon, no one bothered about us. We stood around at inspection time. I told Jim after inspection we’ll just go back down to our cabins and stay there, see what happens. We did and nothing happened. So the only time we joined any Platoon was once a week on pay day. We received 10 shillings a week. From then on we didn’t do any PTs (Arthur, Jim and me). We lived like lords. The higher the rank of the Officer the less PT they did.

 

Freemantle to Colombo

From Freemantle we headed to Colombo (India). We were in the Indian Ocean when we discovered Italy had come into the war so the ships were turned around and we ended up in Cape Town for four or five days.

 

Cape Town – Leave

Large amounts of English food rations were taken aboard at Cape Town because our breakfasts were mashed spuds and kippers, kippers and more kippers. The English were great on kippers.

There was so much trouble created by the Australian troops while on leave in
Cape Town, it cost New Zealand quite a few thousand pounds in reparations. One such incident involved the transportation of beer.

Beer was stored and moved in kegs on a big flat wagon pulled by 2 horses and a Negro driver. The boys grabbed the wagon, put the Negro in the back of the wagon and did a Ben Herr act. Galloping around and a soldier standing on the road side tried to jump on board the wagon, slipped and the wheels went over both his legs. So that was the end of his war.

I met with Jack (a forestry friend), he was a Batman (Officer’s servant). We walked along Long Street passing one or two pubs and ended up in a pub right at the top of the street where a South African Officer and his partner lived on the premises. He invited us for tea the next night. Well when tomorrow night came we couldn’t remember the name of the pub. We went to the top of Long Street looking for the pub. I remembered what it looked like on the outside. We eventually found the pub and were only a little late for our appointment. We went in and asked the barman for directions to the Dining Room. He pointed us in the right direction. The South African Officer and his girlfriend (she was also an Army person) were sitting at a table set for 4 people. We made ourselves known and sat down. It was a really posh hotel. I was absolutely lost with etiquette. There were about a dozen tools either side of me. I came from the bush where you were lucky to have a knife and fork. We asked the South African bloke to put us on the straight and narrow regarding the different types of meals. The waitress was dressed in everything white but was as black as a new boot and of course we hadn’t seen a person like that before because the Maoris were the darkest we had ever seen. She was a real darkie but very pleasant and spoke good English. We were soon eating working our way in with our tools - okay a 3 or 4 course meal. At the most I was used to having 2 courses.

We had liqueurs after that. I had never seen a liqueur before. Okay, I rather liked it. It wasn’t bad but I can’t stand whisky or brandy and it does settle your stomach. We moved on into a lounge. There were 2 or 3 other chaps the Officer knew and there were drinks all around. All top shelf stuff. We were getting near the end and I said to Jack ‘these people are buying all that drink perhaps we should be shouting them. How much money have you got Jack?’ He had less than I did and that was a few pence but we managed to rack up enough to buy a beer all around. When you earned 10 shillings a week you didn’t have a lot.

One of the Officers asked me where my mate was. Jack Sheehan was gone. I know he went out to see a man about a dog. I went looking for him. Originally I was with him because I knew him from school days but he wasn’t a nice sort of a person, he was a jockey, only a little bugger. He got kicked out of the Jockey Club because he wasn’t a nice chap. he does all sorts of side long things in back yards. I made my way to the toilets and there he was having an argument with a couple of jokers. I knew his reputation so I just grabbed him. I told Jack that these people wanted to knock off. They bought us drinks and we needed to return the compliment. Well that just about skunked the pair of us. Jack was alright, he was with the other chaps. It was good night all around about 10.30 or 11 pm.

We are on the street on our way back when we bumped into a civvie who was carrying
2 bottles of beer sticking out of his clothes. He says he is just looking for some jokers to help him finish the beer. So we helped him finish his bottles. When I get like that I get a bit happy and then if I have more to drink it goes. All I get is hungry. Consequently I was hungry and just killed for fish and chips. There was a shop just down the road but unfortunately we were financially broke. Jack had two pence and the bloke said well you have got enough for the 2 of you. I emptied everything out of my pockets and find I had enough to buy 2 not 3. The civvie is happy and says he will buy his own. We bought fish and chips, it looked lovely. I get stuck into this and the civvie said ‘look at your mate!’ Jack, arms folded (akimbo) in the fish and chips. He was out to it. You know what worried me? All the fish and chips had gone to waste. I apologised to the shop keeper but he wasn’t worried.

It was time to move on back to the boat. I’ve got Jack’s arms (he was a little bloke) around me taking him down the street. I thought I wouldn’t make it back to the ship. I saw a bus coming. I hung Jack on a pole, went out and stopped the bus and asked if they would take us right down to the bottom to the ship. He looked at Jack and said drag him on but I am turning right and you jokers have to turn left. He took us right down for gratis`. I managed to get Jack off the bus, thanked the driver very much and he drove off. Jack and I made our way to the picket gates and handed my pass over to the guard. I hung Jack on the fence and looked for his pass. We passed on. Now Jack was a Batman so I managed to get him up the gang plank (on the blunt end) stern and took him to his cabin. His bunk was the top one. I heaved him up and threw him on the top of his bunk. I left him and made my way to my bunk which was situated the other end of the ship (bow).

Next morning at breakfast they were talking about this joker who was a Batman and his mates went into his cabin (Jack was snoring on the top bunk). Well they got to work on him and you know when you go on leave, they give you these little square packets (gun boots), they had these and blew them up, then tied them around Jack. Next they got to work with red and blue ink in the appropriate places and left him exposed. Well his Officer came into the cabin. The Officer went and got his camera.

 

 

We left Cape Town and travelled due west and up the coast of South America to
Sierra Leone. What a big bay.

 

Sierra Leone

At Sierra Leone the OC troop had been visiting. The ladder was lowered from our ship (it has a platform at the bottom and shoots sticking out of the port holes to catch any wind and blow it inside the ship. The OC troops came aboard and into the dining room. Well you had never seen such a lovely sight he was covered in mash spuds and kippers. Everyone roared with laughter. He was an English Officer, not a jolly old school tie. Of course the nastier he got the louder the laughter got. You just couldn’t help it. He was a silly bugger for coming in. What had happened (I never saw this bit) - a soldier sat down for his meal and said ‘not again!’ (mashed spuds and kippers) so he picked his plate up and threw it out the porthole and the Officer was on the platform below. The plate skidded off the Matelos (man in charge of the small boat) head like that and the contents spilt over the Officer who was not very pleased. It went on report, but who did it. No one saw it. If he was a right sort of an Army Officer he should have let it slide because it didn’t do any harm and it wouldn’t do any good either.

The HMS HOOD joined us at Sierra Leone. She was an English battle cruiser. It travelled ahead of us as we continued more or less west towards Scotland.

There was this one time I remember it was stinking hot and was laying down on my bunk with the air vent down cooling me off. All of a sudden there was a big thump. I don’t think I touched the bunk. I was out the door and right across our corridor in the next door. One of the Stewards came out of his room and said ‘what the hell was that?’ We rushed up top. Nobody was interested. Some were horizontal and others were talking as if nothing had happened. What we had thought had happened - a single funnel cargo boat had been hit by a torpedo. There were bits of the boat floating in the water but right in front of us was the HMS Hood with all her short shooters (14 or 18 inch guns) pointing towards the ship that had just been hit. The Hood dropped a depth charge. We were in submarine territory and were a bit concerned. I had never seen a submarine, not even in dry dock. I had only seen pictures.

 

We carried on up to the Bay of Biscay. That was when we saw the Wave (ship).

 

Greenock, Scotland

When we travelled between Ireland and Britain, in the Irish Sea I think the Empress of Britain was fired on.

This photo was taken with a box camera, as we left Greenock, Scotland. I wasn’t supposed to but I did. The port at Greenock did not have a deep water wharf. I think we had to go from the ship to land by barge. I was at the back of the barge so I turned back to take the photo.

 

Empress of Britain

e arrived at Greenock in Scotland around 16 June, disembarked from the ship to land by barge as there was no deep water port. I took one photo of the Queen Mary from the porthole. We must have only been in Greenock for about one hour. We marched to the Railway Station and travelled by train to Seven Oaks in the South of London. The windows were covered with heads sticking out trying to get pot luck photos.

Camberley and Mytchet Wood (South East England)

(To Army Camp)

We first camped in tents amongst the forest. Mytchet was a village (and the Manor House) with a canal running through it on one side. This happened to be the side we stayed. There were 2 bridges, one either side of our camp. We experienced our first real taste of English rations here. The cook house was situated outside with coppers set out in a semi circle, then we had (to put it nicely) the tucker muckers. The army said something stronger than that. Anyone to muck up good tucker, they were the ones. Boiled eggs for breakfast (well were they?) No. How disappointing. Some eggs ended up being thrown at the poor cooks. Eggs were scarce in Civvie Street during war time and you could pay 6 pence an egg. Here the Army had plenty and not cooked properly. At tea time that night we had custard tart (I remember this one). Officers came around asking if there were any complaints. “Sir, any complaint, what am I supposed to do with this (his spoon was bent like this with the wedge of the pie on the spoon)?” Not sure what the spoons were made of but they were quite easily bent. The mate said ‘oh dear, I am glad to see that’. The boys (not the Army) then put a picket on the Naffi hut (they thought the food was not up to scratch).

We were given leave every second night. Some of the boys went to town to buy their meals after the picket was put on the Naffi hut. The boys had to pass the guards on each bridge and as they passed he said “hurry up you jokers we will be with you shortly”. An agitated Officer got excited and told February about this. February asked ‘couldn’t you stop the boys?’ The Officer’s reply was ‘well there was only one guard and we couldn’t stop them, we had to let them go’. Yes that’s right because the Guard was going as well!

After a few weeks the picket was lifted from the Naffi Hut, changes were made and our meals improved. The cooks could now cook an egg properly.

 

Camberley - Winter Quarters at

We were shifted to Head Quarters Company (the biggest company) and were put in an ex Manor Houses (74 rooms I think). The village takes the name of the people who owned the Manor House. Through the main doors there was a large hall which had a fire place the other end. Above the fire place were marks on the wall where possibly a Coat of Arms once hung. From here two rooms branched off either side, one was the Orderly Room.

The transport lines were in front of the Orderly Room. Most of the trucks we had were commandeered civilian trucks. My job was to keep the vehicles mobile. It was also my job, along with the Postie to take deliveries around to different units and houses. I discovered why the civvies gave this particular truck up after I made my first delivery to a house and returned to base.

Sergeant Bob Smith (Isabel) - He was a hell of a decent bloke. He never sort of gave an order, it was always ‘would you do this, would you do that’; so the boys would do things for Bob. This was except when he messed my job up. I forgot he was a Sergeant then and sort of had to smooth things over after.

The old trucks did not have much free wheel -well I had half a wheel! I said to Bob “I can’t drive that bloody thing, it will kill some bugger and it might be me”. Bob was pretty good about this. Bob drove to London in this truck and I believe he finished up getting a cotton wheel badge on his jacket. So he knew something about driving. ‘Oh heck’ he said, ‘you can’t go anywhere in this’. I told him I was glad to get back. So we had a scout around for another truck which turned out to be alright.

I was acting as a driver and mechanic. It depended who was available at the time to do the job. One particular job Bob sent us on was to pick up rations from this big house which was being used as a depot and bring it back to the unit. There was also had a big garage near the house. Jack drove one truck and I drove the other. I had the back truck. We decided which way to go, hopped into our trucks and I was waited for Jack to get going when I noticed smoke coming out the exhaust of his vehicle. So I got out of my truck, smelt petrol and said “what’s wrong, why don’t you get cracking?” ‘It won’t start’ he says. “You’ve flooded the dam thing!” I hopped into his truck, put my foot hard down on the accelerator and cranked the motor over. The truck chugged away. I returned to my truck and waited for Jack’s truck to move. All of a sudden it went forward. ‘What the heck?’ He managed to get out the gateway, down the hill and out on to the street. The truck Kangaroo jumped for a while.

We were meant to turn right to get to this house but Jack didn’t. He went over an intersection and straight ahead. He knew where this place was. As I turned right
I blew the horn, carried on up the hill and came to the house where Tommy Thompson (a Maori boy) was waiting for us. He was also in our Battalion but I didn’t know what unit he was in. He was in charge of the depot. I was told to back down to the garage. We loaded up and Tommy said there were supposed to be two trucks coming. ‘Yes’ I said ‘but the other truck is still coming’. We drove back on to the road and waited.

Tommy asked ‘what’s this coming up the road?’ Well it was Jack zigzagging in his truck. I told Tommy that Jack’s truck looked rather queer when he took off to come and then he went the wrong way. ‘‘Never mind’ says Tommy Thompson ‘we will fix it”. So I left and headed back to camp with my load. On my way I pass this truck again. Tommy Thompson was driving. What the heck’s he doing there? I arrived back to our lines and Bob asked if everything went well. I said ‘yeah but I’m not too sure about Jack’. I explained that he couldn’t start the truck, flooded it, went out on Kangaroo petrol, and then took the wrong road. That’s Head Quarters Company out that way. Eventually Jack returned to base.

Bob asked to Jim Staines, the other mechanic, to take Jack down in that paddock and give him a good run through, see what his driving is like. On their return Jim said that bugger has never sat behind a wheel in his life. His driving is wicked. Look I’ve gone grey! Jack sort of disappeared after that, he was taken off driving. Now why would you put your occupation down as a driver when you had never driven before? You can’t fool people.

I remember in winter time this place had a beautiful frost. The way the house was facing meant the building cast a heck of a shadow right over the trucks and one of the boys had parked his truck against the wall over there and couldn’t start his truck. It was my job to get it started. The starter wouldn’t work. Yes it was the armature, there were 3 brushes. Normally you hold the body in this hand and the armature in this hand and hold the 3 brushes round by the other 1, then push it in. My bench was the tray of the truck. It was so cold the rule wouldn’t slide along the spline and it got stuck. Bob came along to see how I was doing and tipped the guts out of the armature. I told Bob he was the stupid one adding about 5 or 6 adjectives. I said here I’m working in the frost, my fingers were so cold. I told him to bloody well come along and empty the whole thing, now look what I have to do. Bob then realised what he had done and apologised to me. I had no specialist training in my role.

 

Camberley High Jinks

A night on the town - we went to the pictures and then the pub. Got to the pub around 11 o’clock I think. Not sure what time they closed perhaps 11.30pm or
12 midnight. I had a pocket full of money because I had been receiving duty pay (probably 12 shillings instead of 10 shillings). We were drinking double whiskeys. We were walking along the street on a beautiful frosty night when my mate saw something shiny on the road. ‘Ah!’ he says’ there’s half a crown lying there’. He bends down to pick it up but continued bending and landed horizontal on the road. We both had too much to drink. We managed to make our way back to camp, go into the Orderly Room, hand our passes in and go on our way to find our rooms.

Normally there were small lights along the hall way but not this time. It was as black as the inside of a cow. My mate was feeling his way along the wall. Now there was a cupboard that had a curtain across the front of it and contained mops, a tin of sand and a tin of water. I struck a match to look for him, and there he was, the sand was okay, it was upright. But the water was tipped over and yes he was sitting in it. So I dragged him and put him in his bed. I was just getting in to the sack and he comes back and says ‘hey, we forgot to hand our passes in’. So with that I get dressed again, went down with him to the Orderly Room. The blokes in the Orderly Room were rude to us. I get back to bed. There’s my only pallyasses (mattress) on the floor and the door just there by the first bed.

Well when I laid down the bed began to move (in my mind). Oh heck, oh dear, golly gosh, never mind happy returns. The bogs miles away! It could have been over in France for all the good it was and I couldn’t see anything because it was dark. Every room had its own little fire place, and I thought if I let go something here, I’m going to get abused again. Blokes don’t take kindly to that sort of thing. So there are all the rows of feet along here facing the fireplace. I’m on my hands and knees going to the fire place.

At the same time old Adolf (German plane) was coming over. Owwwing, owwwing, owwwing. One of the blokes was awake, saw me by the fire place and said ‘you won’t see the plane up the chimney’. Of course I wasn’t looking for the plane.

Next morning I went down for breakfast in the Mess Room (a marquee). I looked at breakfast fried, mashed spuds and sausages. Well that was enough for me. I had to rush outside and be sick. Breakfast was history, I wasn’t interested. We got dressed and had a shave. Inspection was at 9 o’clock. My mate used his brains, I didn’t. He went for a medical inspection you know and was excused from duty for 3 days. The rest of us - we’ll go for a bit of route march, 20 of us and as we were marching along I said ‘Ah Bob, this is killing me’. Every time I put my foot down, my head spun around. He said ‘you don’t look too good either’. So we found a nice sunny spot and lay down for half an hour or so and by this time the inspections were over, so we went back to camp. I went and lay down and by dinner time I was feeling a bit better. I could have kicked myself for not going for a medical like my mate. Consequently I have never drunk whisky again.

 

Bishop Wood (Mytchet Wood)

We left this place and went to another camp at Bishop Wood (Mytchet Wood). We were surrounded by pine trees, slit trenches which, incidentally, were full of pine needles and bare ground. We were still in tents. One time after returning from leave, a Strafing plane (machine gun shooting from aeroplane in England) came down over the camp.

The Adjutant was having a shower, came out dressed in soap, went straight in to a slit trench, got covered in pine needles and another joker jumped straight on top of him with his army specials. He lost a bit of bark in 2 or 3 places. Then climbed out and returned to the bathroom to get his clothes. Well all the jokers thought this was a great joke. He was covered in pine needles.

We were moved from camp to camp frequently. It was always half way between London and the south Coast, mainly Kent. When the bombers come over, you have the ack ack zone and the fighter zone. We were more or less under the bombers (fighter zone). Those bombers left a vapour trail. They were around 25 to 30 thousand feet high. I carried a box camera and managed to take some good photos but lost my camera in Greece.

Percy (my Sergeant) damaged his nose. It may have been broken because during ack ack fire, a splinter from a shell hit the rim of his tin hat, flattened it then hit his nose. Ack ack shell goes up there and every little bit comes back. It spreads into lots of pieces.

 

ATTITUDE OF ENGLISH

As Kiwi soldiers we found the British public very standoffish to start with. It may have been because they were on rations and we (Army) weren’t. They could see we were eating their food. However everyone made friends at different places.

The attitude of the British Army towards us was really noticeable every tea time when the corporal or the Sergeant took you to Mess. They felt the Kiwi boys were rude. They thought we were insubordinate and you name all that line we were the lot. We were always at loggerheads. At Headquarters Major Ted Laws (he was a hard case) was on routine orders “it had been noticed that an Officer of the New Zealand contingent has been seen in a public house drinking with the ordinary ranks”. The British didn’t like that and the next morning there was an answer from Ted Laws. We said to some Pommy Officer - ‘we came over to help you jokers do a very nasty job and okay we are quite willing to do what we can. But we didn’t come over to be just Pontus and jolly old school tie and all that jazz. We’ve got no time for that and we will not suffer it’. That was the end of that.

 

 

ISLE OF WIGHT on leave

I

Henry Hallam, Henry Hallam’s Mother, Richard Hawkins and Harold Langley

Taken after the War in England

went on leave for approximately one week and visited my relatives on the Isle of Wight (only 22 miles to France). That was the closest place to where the nasty stuff (the Jerries were). It was only a matter of an hour’s train and ferry ride from our Camp to the Isle of Wight.

My cousin Ivy’s husband worked on cranes in South Hampton. He often bought home a wide range of goods which had been damaged by bombs. They included tins of milk, fruit and tea. On one occasion he bought a mirror home.

They lived in a house that had 2 up and 2 down. The toilet was upstairs. In 1940 it had spider cracks all around it and there was a broken mirror on the wall. The hot water system in Ivy’s house was by a gas Cali font (it was quite big) there was a pilot light burning. When you turned the water on, it turned the gas up and hot water came out of the spout.

 

Map of Isle of Wight (from internet)

 

My cousin and I were coming back up the coast from Cowes, Newport (in the centre of the Island) when there happened to be a big air raid on Portsmouth, Southampton, Yarmouth, and the Solent (the stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and the mainland). There were lots of Navy boats about. Ack ack smoke was sometimes white and other times a dark colour. Navy had one colour and the land crew had the other. They were all busy. There was a MT (motor torpedo) boat patrolling the Solent. You could see the shrapnel landing on the water. It was like hail, splash, splash, splash. In other words the iron work went up as one complete unit and come down again in many pieces. The biggest formation of plane I saw was 400 on their way to London. Ack ack was being thrown at the planes but not one plane came down. On another occasion I saw a HURRICANE (type of plane) come down, had a Polish Pilot on board. He happened to be in the wrong place/zone. A wing was blown off his plane. It was like a big plate sinking into deep water. Of course the rest of the plane came down mighty fast. The Pilot managed to parachute down.

I had a meal at my uncles (Reg’s father-in-law) place and Reg said ‘you watch this’. There was a tin of milk on the table and uncle would not touch the milk. He said it had been stolen. Well I thought if Reg hadn’t taken it someone else would have.

Reg’s father-in-law was a gardener in an old folks home. The garden included flowers and vegetables and was rather large. If father-in-law needed cabbage plants for his own garden at home he would call at the seed merchants and buy a bundle of cabbage plants. He wouldn’t take any from his employer because that was stealing. As it turned out later it was paper thin. That’s how they saw it. If they wanted to live that way, that was their affair.

When I heard about the fall of France, I was concerned, because it meant the Germans were right on the back door of England.

 

BACK AT CAMP - VACCINATIONS

Before we left Britain all soldiers who had not been vaccinated before they left
New Zealand for antitat was required to call in at the MO (Medical Office). I had mine done in New Zealand and also on the boat going to Britain but the Antitat injection did not take so off I went again to have this injection. The Medical Officer was instructed by the doctor on the proceedings. He got a scalpel out and put a cut just there, then broke the vial and sort of blew it over the cut and rubbed it in with the scalpel. Well that took, it didn’t have any option but to. One or two days later it was sore, I had a headache and felt lousy.

 

BRITAIN TO EGYPT - On the Move Again

After spending 8 months in England and experiencing the Battle of Britain we were on the move.

We marched to a railway station sometime between 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to catch a train to go to Liverpool. It was a heavy frosty wintery morning. We were stood in the frost for an hour waiting for orders to get on board the train. It was cold. The TAB (typical army balls up) comes into light again. There was only the Officer-In-Charge and one or two railway blokes with us.

 

Duchess of Athol

It was known as the Dancing Duchess as it had a reputation for discomfort in heavy weather. Also known as Drunken Duchess

 

 

 

 

Heaven knows why we had to wait but hey you’re not here to ask the reason why, you are here to do or die. We eventually got to Liverpool where we were put in warehouses and given tea and coffee. I can’t remember what I had but I was all of a quiver.

We got up the gang plank on board the Dancing Duchess

 

Dancing Duchess (Our ship)

There was a building on deck, what it was in Navy terms I don’t know. The sill is about that deep on the deck, I stepped over and found a place not occupied. I sat down with my kit bag and that was the last I knew until morning. On waking I went looking for our jokers. Eventually I found them and a bunk, put my kit bag on the bunk and then it was MO inspection (medical inspection). I was sitting waiting with 5 or 6 jokers for inspection and next minute I was kicked in the backside. I’m sat down by myself, went out again and the Doctor was quite rude to me. So straight away I told him to shut his face. I told him not to talk to me like that. I couldn’t care less. The orderly took my temperature and it was 103 and was sent straight to the ships hospital.

The bunks were on a centre swivel so when the boat moved one way the bunk stayed stable. I was put on the top bunk. That afternoon there was a heck of a commotion on the bottom bunk. The Medical Officer and a couple of Officers were there with a joker. The joker had just died. Well his war’s finished. I had the flu and felt this all happened when I got cold and had to stand in the frost waiting for the train. I was in the hospital for about 2 or 3 days. I must have been sick. Nobody cared.

We came to the place I spoke about earlier, the Destroyer. We were in convoy, going down the English Channel and were at the stern (blunt end) looking down this row of ships and in the centre line there was a big white patch. We were watching this and as it got closer it was the Destroyer. He had his foot to the floor boards. The bow wave was higher than the super structure. He was in a hurry. Then it turned and went behind us and in front of the other ships so we were looking down on it. The mat low is 2, 4, they appeared to be at stations. They seemed to know what they were doing but disappeared and went behind the other ships. We didn’t see what happened to it. There may have been a sub scare but we didn’t hear any explosions or any depth charges.

On the Duchess, I worked in the galley. This is where I saw my first automatic dish washer. It was only a big tin box about that square with scalding hot water blowing around inside it. At each end there were flaps. At one end all the plates were scrapped into a big container underneath and the dishes were put into a tray. The tray is then put in the first box. Then you do another tray and push it in etc and push the third tray in and it pushes the first tray out threw the gap on the receiving end. I was at the receiving end. The galley was below sea level so there were no portholes and the vents were above. Well the vents was not working properly so I put a towel on top of the dish washing machine and did this twice in a sitting. I was dressed in a pair of sneakers and PT shorts. It was extremely hot, you sweated profusely. It was very salty to start with and after a while there was no more salt.

The cook collapsed and had to be carried out. He needed salt. Normally what the food is cooked in, was enough salt for me. I never put salt on food afterwards. Working in this heat meant our intake of salt must be increased. Salt tasted nice.

We had our meal when everyone was finished. My job in the galley lasted nearly all the way to Egypt.

We did not have PT after e.g. running around the deck, running on the spot, cold Manson, all that sort of carry on. But this one time, I’m not sure which side of Africa it was. There was no land in sight. I’d finished my job in the galley around
10 o’clock, went to the stern (on deck) and was having a fag. Of course you watch the wake. You know its sort of fascinating to watch, but in hindsight I discovered I was on my own. There was no one else to be seen. Just me and we were the last ship in the convoy. I’m fagging away and dreaming away and all of a sudden there was one hell of an explosion. I don’t remember going there, but I was there and I’m looking around like a stuffed chook.

Looking behind me, I spot these blokes pointing at me laughing. I could see they were laughing but I couldn’t hear a thing. What had happened on the deck there was a ringer box, that’s what holds something on the deck had been hit by a 4 inch gun (I think). Because we were the last boat in the convoy they were giving the gunners a bit of practice. I had been working in the galley and didn’t know the gunners were having target practice. All the other buggers did and I was sitting directly below the barrel of the gun. The noise could have burst my ear drums. I had been lucky.

We berthed at Cape Town and had some free time again, walked along the street, got picked up and went for a Tiki Tour right around Table Mountain. Saw Cecil Rhodes House (white place at the back of the mountain). We didn’t go up the mountain both times we visited Cape Town, could only get to the bottom station. It was closed. So I had two chances of going up on the cable but it was closed both times. We continued our journey up the Indian Ocean and through the Suez.

 

EGYPT

 

We berthed at Port Tewfik, Egypt. The first thing I saw in Egypt was sparrows, thousands of them - apart from the Woggs. We left the ship, straight on to a train, across the desert to our camp at Helwan. Helwan Camp was 18 miles up the river from Cairo.

 

When we got near our camp the sun was rising and the first moving thing we saw on the desert was Abdul (he’s on a mat he’s Ah, Ah, Ah, to the sunrise - praying). Of course this was all brand new to us. Our camp was an all tent outfit. Except the WYM (Like YMCA) was a building (2 buildings there). The camp was alright. Every so often around the parade grounds and tents there were these big stone jars full of water and it was beautiful cold water to drink. The jars had tapes on them. Its 120 in the shade during the day time and the water is cool. Well you noticed the wet evaporation on the outside of the jar causing the water inside to cool. So that was very good. I can’t remember much about the food value. We were quite well received by the First and Third Echelon.

 

CAIRO

We hadn’t been there more than a day or 2 when we were on the move again, this time to Cairo. It was a filthy place but there were some nice clean places. We got out of Avalook, Baverlook Station. We were sort of standing out on the road looking nonplussed when there was a commotion down the road. We looked towards the commotion and saw 1 or 2 of our blokes had got into a GARRY 1 and there was a boy arguing with the driver. The driver flicked him with his whip. The driver wanted the boy to pay. He was to travel in the wagon, so to hell with the boy. A soldier boy from the First Echelon came up to us and said ‘ah you are a couple of new blokes just landed’. “Yeah”, I said. I understand First Echelon had been in Cairo for a year.

The soldier said ‘well I’ll tag along and show you around Cairo. I’m not trying to push myself in’ he said. He even knew Rowe Street. Ah no Burker Street. Rowe Street is in South Africa. He took us through them all, just to look, you could have stayed if you wanted to but each nationality had their own street. I remember going through the French one, gosh it was posh. You would be up to your knees in carpet. Everything smelt clean.

Then he took us to a pub for drinks. We drank this aniseed – OOZO. Zobit I think it was. It was nice. When you put water with it, it turns milky. The soldier boy told us to be careful with it. He said you can get rotten on this, a couple of drinks and then you come right. Okay and then tomorrow you have a drink of water and you go back feeling rotten again. I didn’t try that.

I took his word and moved on to a Turkish place where perfume was sold. It was bought in vials and was highly concentrated. They wanted me to buy some and send it back home. I understand it had to be mixed with alcohol or chemist alcohol (not the boozy alcohol) and rubbed the glass stopper on the cuff on my jacket. We had the tropical jackets on and ‘Christ’ I couldn’t get rid of that smell. I smelt ponsy!

We moved on to another place where they sold jewellery (another Turkish place
I think). My eye took a fancy to a silver butterfly. Beautifully made, you had to look at the minute windings. The wire was sort of wrapped around probably a frame and I mentioned this to the shop keeper. He said have a look and he turned it over, no that’s counterfeit. I told him how I could tell. All this stuff has to have a Government stamp on it and this didn’t. This material is what the motor trade call white metal. It looked like silver. I looked around and found another piece, turned it over, this one was stamped. He said the only difference is the stamp.

These counterfeit things are like a diam a dozen. I didn’t buy it anyway ‘because I was worried about the postage part of it.

I did pick up a lovely silk handkerchief (real silk) and sent it home to my Mum. In fact I still have it.

 

PORT SAID, EGYPT

 

Three battalions went to Port Said to pick up goods that had been dropped from ships and as I said my job was to keep trucks going.

Well the first truck that broke down was a Maori truck. Fuel problems it was. Another truck to fix was from the 23rd Battalion. I got into the 23rd Battalion truck, managed to get it going and noticed a yellow cloud in front of us. Couldn’t work out what it was. We kept on driving. We were on our way back to Helwan Camp. The road was marked with 44 gallon drums full of sand. It wasn’t long before I found out. Do you know why? All of a sudden the truck in front of us (about the distance between our house and the shed) disappeared. The driver said that there must be a bloody sand storm because the truck’s gone, we can’t see it. We drove on. Suddenly the sand was through the truck. Of course we didn’t have windup windows in our trucks, they were (you know) just put a curtain up – it’s on rods and is stuck in either door. We stopped. The driver puts his lemon squeezer (hat) on and puts a strap under his chin. Gets out of the truck with the curtain rods and straight away his hat’s gone. The force of the wind took it away (strap must have broken). I’m inside holding the curtain and the driver is outside putting the 2 rods in the hole. He gets back into the truck. We both had hankies over our face. The sand swirled around inside and the wind howled.

All of a sudden we saw a drum rolling on the ground. It had been bowled over by the wind. That’s how strong the wind was. The drum was full of sand. We managed to carry on and finally arrived at the wharf at Port Said. There was no sand storm at the Port.

The Woggs loaded the trucks for us, 2 per truck. Suppose it took around half an hour to load each truck. The Woggs argued about the way the goods should be put on the truck. This didn’t help the drivers. All they wanted to do is get the goods and go. Well, I decided to walk around while waiting for my truck to be loaded. They loaded bully beef and emergency rations. Camouflage nets were placed over the top of our load.

The 5 tonner truck I drove in the desert belonged to the 23rd Battalion. When I came back from my walk our truck had a hell of a load on. Bully Beef on its own was heavy and it had been loaded almost up to the top of the canopy. There was only enough room for 2 people to crawl up on top of the load.

We get out in to the desert and the motor starts to boil. We pulled up (I was in the passenger seat and the Officer said “Sergeant what do you suggest”? I said ‘the only thing you can do now is get your head down, you can’t do a bloody thing’. We were in a sand storm. We carry on a bit further, pull over, climb over the tail board into the back of the truck and go to sleep for the night. The problem was, there was no air being circulated through the truck due to the going back straight here and the wind coming on our left going across there causing a vacuum in front of the radiator.

Next day the sand storm had passed. It was a beautiful day, looked like the wind had never blown before.

I asked the Officer if he had any water for this truck. He took the cap off the radiator, looked in and said “well I can see the top of the core”. I said ‘you are supposed to carry water when you go out from camp, you are supposed to have cans of water’. His reply was “oh! We forgot about that”! Well going out in the desert with no water, I ask you. As luck would have it, down the road (30 metres) there happened to be a concrete block building - Only a one room building about 6m x 3m. The Officer investigated. There had been a couple of Woggs sleeping there the night before and most importantly there was a water hole. We filled our cans with water. Now I ask you in the whole bloody desert that is where we stopped.

We cruise back to the camp, no effort. When we arrived, camp had broken. The night before our holiday part, we had a parcel and I got a tin of coffee and milk which
I shared with 7 blokes in our little tent. It did taste real good – hot coffee.

The tents were gone and there was my gear up wrapped up in my ground sheet with my rifle lying against it. A mate had done this for me. My gear was in one place and the truck somewhere else. Got that! I think the trucks had numbers painted on them (not the number plate number) – it was the last 2 or 3 numbers you had to remember. My truck was left at the camp and a new truck was given to me. Those new trucks needed fixing so we got there a few days beforehand from SABASEE (I think it was).

 

GOING TO ALEXANDRIA

The trucks travelled in convoy and my truck was the last in line. When a truck breaks down no one stops, they carry on. That’s what happens in the Army.

I was now the driver of a truck which was loaded with mortar shells. We were supposed to be heading for Alexandria. I picked my gear up, shook all the loose sand out and put it on the back of the truck and away we went. We were about 180 miles from Alexandria travelling on straight tarseal roads through the desert. I think we were supposed to travel at 30 miles an hour, just toddled along nicely in the convoy. Tommy Thompson was driving the truck directly in front of me. Tommy’s truck was one of those soft top Fordsons. The top could be folded back if you want. It had a short tray. Every so often along the road side there was a steel sign telling us to keep to the right. It was sometimes hard to follow the road because of the loose sand.

We were driving along nicely and all of a sudden old Tommy’s off the road. The road was about that much higher than the sand at that spot and he tipped. The corner of his cab hit one of the iron posts. There were say about 6 iron posts in about 180 miles of the journey and he hit one. All of a sudden another truck was not running right and stopped. Yes mine. Just behind the outside of the truck cabs was a long box which carried tools, chains and all that sort of stuff and on the corners of the tray underneath were 2 more boxes. All 3 boxes were padlocked. But being a TAB they don’t issue the keys. I was out in the desert with padlocked tool boxes with no keys.

The other trucks passed me. They didn’t wait. Then our transport officer stopped in
a small pickup. He was a sarcastic bugger, he was a ‘clink’ (smirk on his face) and no one liked him. He said “you are in the right job”. ‘Yes’, I say, ‘but how about issuing me with keys. All those boxes are padlocked and I haven’t been issued with any keys’. “Ah well” he says “you will have to find something and drives off”. ‘Yes’ I say and opened the tool box with the curtain rod from the truck, then threw the padlocks away in the desert.

The Ford trucks were built especially for the Army. It was a hell of a job changing
a spark plug because the bonnets on these trucks were very short and it had a sort of
a trap door on top. You undo the wing nuts and take that off. Directly underneath was an air cleaner. Then you’ve got to get your hand underneath right around, you twist it about 5 or 6 times and undo the wing nut underneath and lift that off. The engine’s way to bloody hell, almost an arms length. The petrol pump was gummed up so I gave it a clean and by the time I put everything back together again the whole convoy had passed me.

Generally the LAD would come along after a big convoy but there was nothing. So
I get back into the truck and get cracking. By this time it is getting dark. It’s still me and the world, not even a sparrow around the place. Nothing! Soon it was pitch black. You travel without any lights on so had my nose on the windscreen, travelling more or less on
creep gear (walking pace). I saw something in front of me. It’s some of our blokes marching along the side of the road. I had spotted their helmets. I went past the blokes walking and came to a picket (traffic bloke) who directed me to a place off the road. We were not going anywhere until the morning. This is where we stayed the night.

 

ALEXANDRIA TO GREECE by ship

 

Salonica

Katarini

Mt Olympus

Larissa

Athens

Piraeus

Port Rafti

We drove the trucks to the ships. I can’t remember the name of the ship. It was an ordinary, single funnelled one with a well in the front and the back. This ship had 3 derricks. The centre one could lift quite a heavy load, the 2 – 4½ derricks lifted a lighter load and I happened to pull on to a stern one. I drove my truck onto the net and that was the end of my job. I went up the gang plank and looked over the side. Remember I was carrying mortar bombs on my truck. The truck was unloaded by Woggs, lifted onto the ship and the mortar bombs placed back on the truck.

I was standing their watching the Woggs unload it. They threw my bundle in my ground sheet on the top of the load. Ah what’s that? Something had fallen out of my bundle. One of the Woggs saw it, picked it up, sniffed it and down the hatch it went. It was my tin of coffee I had punched 2 holes in. This tin had been through the sand storm and he downed the lot. Well he wanted roughage I suppose. He got it.

I was in the advance party basically. We passed Cyprus. The Itai’s came out mostly in their biplanes. We had our life jackets on with a cork. The planes came from Rhodes (an Italian position). We had a chap collapse and found out that he was knocked out, winded by a bullet that hit his pack from the other ship. Yes he did live.

Ten of us watched from the back well of the ship. This rooster (biplane) was coming up our wake and we could see this egg hanging underneath it and he dropped it. We all ducked. It must have given the propeller a bit of a twist. We all got soaked. The plane then went. That was close enough for us.

We berthed at Piraeus. Across on another wharf was a hospital ship. The first one
I had ever seen. Incidentally it was bombed. We put all our non essential stuff in our kit bags and left it in a warehouse. The trucks were unloaded and we drove to our Camp just outside Athens. We were there for about a week.

 

Athens is where I got the shock of my life. I was driving up a road, there was a bit of bush over that way, turned the corner and climbed to go over the railway line when I went to change down a gear used the gear lever again and the reverse lever. (You know you lift up a toggle underneath the knob for your reverse) put it in there but the little bolt came out and the rod dropped down when it was in neutral. That’s where it bloody well stayed. I couldn’t do anything about it. The back wheel was on one side of the railway line and the front wheel on the other side of the line. I managed to lift this automatic and put it into low gear with two hands and crawled off the line. I then fixed it with a piece of wire. That was a very awkward few minutes.

From there we drove over the other side of Olympus Pass to Salonika. We were near Katerini, which was just south of the line. I had my photo taken there by a chap. He had a camera that developed the photo straight away. He gave me my photo but I lost it. We retreated from there and dug in at Olympus Pass. The Infantry was right forward, north of the Pass. I know I spent 3 or 4 days fording a river. The weather was very bad, it was snowing. There was a bridge, but trucks were not to go on the bridges. We came across an ammunition dump right out in the open. How it got there I don’t know. Most of the ammunition was mark 8 machine guns. It would have taken 2 or 3 days to cart the stuff there. My truck still had mortar bombs on board but I didn’t see any mortar. We dropped this load at Limpus.

On a humorous note, because our trucks got called “B” Echelon, they were on the southern slope of the Mt Olympus. One of chaps, Frank (Ted) Weir was a deer stalker so he was given the job as sniper up in the front part. He was in radio contact with the Artillery. Olympus is like two mountains with a valley in the middle and the Artillery was in the valley but we didn’t know that at the time. One day early in the morning he noticed Jerries on the flat putting in a big gun, they were digging this thing in a hole, sandbagging and all that kind of carry on. He watched them the best part of the day. He had given the co-ordinates to the gunners, ‘”just wait till he gave the word”. They reckon it was about 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon when the word to fire was given. Two shots and the gun was history. I asked Frank why he left it so long. His answer was he wanted to see the buggers work.

B” Echelon, were given the word to go back to the front and pick up the troops. We were on our way (by this time it was dark) in a convoy when we were stopped. None of us knew where we were because you weren’t allowed to use truck lights. All of a sudden there’s one hell of a flash over there. There was another. That’s where we were - in the Artillery lines. They were in the gully and we were on the road here. We did not realise they were there. The chap in the front truck had his door partly open, he fell out and I believe one truck loaded with bombs went over a cliff. So that was him. When you travel on unknown roads you are bound to get some accidents. To my knowledge there were very few accidents.

When “B” Echelon left I had a load of biscuits or half a load. The rest of the load was taken up with men. I was the driver at this stage. We carried on for quite awhile when the truck in front of me pulled aside. The chap hopped out and held his hand up for me to stop. There was something wrong with his truck and he didn’t know what it was. His truck had men on board, just like mine. The trucks carry tow ropes in both the front and the back. I told him “my little bus wouldn’t pull it because it’s got a huge load with 2 trucks load of men”. Anyway I tried towing for a while, travelling about 10 or 15 miles an hour with my foot to the floor. That’s as fast as I could go. We got further and further behind in the convoy.

I didn’t want to bugger off and leave him and had no time to fix the truck. We go around this corner and there is about half a dozen jokers standing on the side of the road with an English Officer screaming out at me. Pull over! He was screaming at me for being so far behind in the convoy. He screamed his head off and was blaspheming. ‘New Zealand idiots’. I heard some bolts work (guns) at the back and he looks up at the blokes and said ‘you shut up or you’ve got it’. He was a nasty piece of work. I don’t think he would ever make a good blank file and you know what part that is. We carried on. The further we went the further we got in the cactus but that’s okay. The weather improved as we moved down Greece.

I met up again with the other driver in Crete. I’m hooping along and of course there were parts that were snowing. Quite cold. We come to a village and start to climb a hill. Got most of the way up and found trucks coming down. It’s only a one way road so it was wide enough for 2 trucks with no lights with a mountain one side and a gorge the other side. It seemed to work alright. We reached the top before we discovered we were on the wrong road. I understand Donald and his Platoon were the only ones who actually got to the correct place at the correct time the rest of the Battalions got lost.

Well in this case they couldn’t turn where they were; they had to go to the top of the hill. There was an Officer standing there with a torch saying ‘back, back, back that’s enough’ and that was just to turn. We got back to the bottom where there was a village and discovered we were on the right road after all. Another TAB had come to light.

We carried on, this was the second day and the second night I was driving, no stopping, cause there was only one man per truck then. Feeling bloody tired, my eyes were sticking out of my head, and the concentration is sort of getting wobbly. We stopped (as convoys do) and I noticed the truck in front of me had his canopy over it but the canopy moved. I said “what to heck, there is somebody in there”. So I went to investigate, lifted up the canopy and there was one of our blokes “Div C” (signal man) (the driver had picked up this joker). I asked the joker “what the bloody hell are you doing there man, you are freezing”. He replied “tell me about it”. I said “you had better come in my truck” because I was on my own. He hopped into the cab.

My party had gone. I can’t remember what happened to them. We stopped a while at Larissa. I never experienced any bombing here but I believe there had been. That is where the RECS were the night we saw Jerries coming down here. But the sea came in like a big outlet and the road went right around and we were on this side. That’s where a German Bomber plan was bought down. We were on one side of the water coming down the hill without lights on and the Germans were on the other side of the water coming down the hill with their lights on.

I don’t know whether they were Greek planes but there were 3 or 4 of them that got stuck in there. They came down and went straight into the drink. That’s where I saw Keith Elliott. I finished up and can’t remember how I got a load of barbed wire (in the balls), took it up in the hills to ‘B’ company. The hills were steep, and travelling in the dark with no lights on made it difficult. I go through a gate off the road. There was a camping party of Artillery blokes. I stopped and asked if any blokes had gone up through the hill, the bloke with the gun said ‘yes, there had been quite a few on foot gone up that way’. I carry on driving up this hill with the load of barbed wire and find my front wheels came off the ground. I thought I had gone far enough. So I backed, back until my front wheels were on the ground again, stopped the truck, switched the motor off and got out. I heard talking. There was a lot of holly scrub. I walked through the scrub and found 2 blokes talking together and not only that but I recognised one voice, it was Keith’s. I said “is that you Sergeant Elliott?” ‘Yeah, yeah, who the hell are you?’. I said “for Arthur’s sake fancy seeing you?’.

Frank what a noddy. I told them I had a load of barbed wire for ‘B’ company. Okay he said, ‘sit down and we’ll unload it’. They threw the balls of barbed wire off the truck and it went boom, boom, boom down into the gully. So, as far as I know, it is still down in the gully today.

We talked for a while before driving back. On the way back we stopped on the side of the road, (you know how you park your trucks, one here, one there, scattered sort of). I got out and went for a walk in the long grass and all of a sudden (I didn’t like that joke about a standing jump), but I broke all records. I trod on a snake. Well that part of my foot was on the snake, but my foot didn’t touch the ground, so he was kind of a big boy. Both ends of the snake came up and wrapped around my leg. I did the standing jump record straight up. He slid off and when I landed the snake was gone. The snake never bit me.

Later the same day a fighter plane came over. He was firing up the road and all of
a sudden we heard a crackling and burning noise. Apparently out of our sight there was an Ammunition Truck parked on the road. The truck was on fire. For 2 or 3 hours there was quite a R20 business going on. They seemed to be just flying around, not aiming in any particular area. Even the shells were coming around. It gets a bit awkward so we lay low.

Later on we were told we had boxes of stuff, goods, uniforms and things. A Sergeant gave orders to take what you can, open all those cases, just leave empty cases if you can because its all handy stuff. So we did, the whole lot of us, striped right off, emptied our pockets, we had a complete change from A to B and I picked up a big bundle of socks. I put them in my tool boxes.

We used to have these ration bags (about that big, with a pull string) sugar and tea. Well, you take a tea chest. We emptied them and everything it held or wouldn’t hold. Anything - it was all gone in our trucks. We then moved forward and picked up the troops. The idea was when the Jerries came they would see empty cases and dirty clothing. If they wanted the clothing they would have had to wash them. I suppose the Grecors probably got them.

As I drove back in the truck we came across a truck which had been burnt and had
no tyres. It was in a real sad state. We picked up the boys and continued on our way and came across a MP (Red Cap) standing on the road. The road was blocked ahead. He directed us up a side road. I was the second in line. Remember it was dark. The road finished up in a paddock, nothing. Where the hell are we now? Some of the chaps were looking to see where we could turn when they heard a motor bike coming up the road. It was a DONEAR (Dispatch Rider). He said “what are you buggers doing out here, going for a Sunday school picnic. You’ve been put on the wrong road, follow me” and he turned his bike around and shone his light (for some reason he had his light on) and we followed him. They reckon he was from the fifth COLLINIST (German dressed in British Uniform – military police). He spoke like an English man, but a lot of Germans were brought up in England, they went to school in England. He had a uniform underneath his other English uniform. He sent us in the wrong direction probably to hold us up so the Germans could catch us up. Yes he was a German soldier!

Yeah, it turned out alright. I still had the load of men on board, driving along this mountainous area when all of a sudden I went partly off the road. My right hand wheel was in a paddock and the left hand wheel was on the road. Wallop! I turned and got out of the truck only to find jokers in the back they were rude to me. I must have fallen asleep and with the wallop had woken the jokers up. Remember, it was still dark. There was a gully on one side of the curved clay road. Well that was another one ‘him up there’. We could have quite easily gone over the edge and down the gully. I assessed the situation, it was now daylight drove back on the road and the Div C bloke asked if I would like a spell from driving. ‘Yes and I said, ‘why the bloody hell didn’t you say so yesterday?’. His reply was ‘because we were not allowed to have another driver in our truck’. There was only meant to be one driver per truck.

He got behind the wheel. I cuddled down to sleep and he says hey, ‘wake up’.
I looked up, it was sort of twilight. I said ‘what the hells wrong with you’. He said ‘you had better take over now ‘because we are pulling into some paddock up here’. It actually was sunset. I felt I had just fallen to sleep but in fact I had been asleep from sunrise to sunset (all day).

After a couple of nights driving (remember I had previously picked up a Div C block) we get up in the gorge, the sun was just rising and we were quite high up in the hills, looked down over the gully to see a panoramic view, the different coloured paddocks, and a beautiful number one highway. To get to the highway the road was very windy. There was a picture in one of the army books where you could step off this road and jump straight down on the other one (on these passes). I remember doing that. We get on this road proper but every so often there was a ditch cut across the road to let any excess rain water flow off the road. The road was actually higher than the paddocks

I felt a little better and took over driving again. We had a short break in a paddock and continued driving through Athens and up into a lot of Olive Groves. Then the orders came, all men on the trucks, to stay with their truck. The Corporal in charge asked me if I was going to get my head down. I said ‘hang about’, here, come and have a look. We walked to the back of my truck, lifted up the boot, there’s your tucker. I’m going to get my head down’. ‘Bloody hell’, they said. I had 3 tool boxes full of tucker. EM (tins of meat and vegetables) and plenty of tea and sugar. I fell to sleep and awoke 3 or 4 hours later to hear everybody scoffing at this food.

When it became dark we got cracking again. As we drove through the gateway back on to the road, there were a couple of jokers on either side of the gateway who smashed the headlights of our trucks with hammers (only the 22nd Blokes had this done). Now, what use was that, you either will do it or nobody TAB (typical Army Balls up) came to light again, see! We had orders that if a truck breaks down, dump it and everyone gets on to other trucks, wherever they can. The Sergeant was hooting along this road and I asked him if he could see where he was going. ‘Not a bloody thing’, he said. Good, I thought because I could see where we were going either. I thought I was going blind. We were now on tarseal road but the ground was a bit drier than the outside. I looked left and right and could see a glimmer of a lighter colour as we drove. It was the reflection of our truck. We travelled up the coast and drove under rows of big trees. This is where we were told to get rid of (destroy) our truck. This was hard for me because this truck had taken me everywhere except for the one little stop in the desert. I climbed under the truck, let the oil out and put a pick axe through the battery. I tried the axe on the tyres as well but no way, it would take a 4 pounder to put a hole in the tyres. So I let the truck run until it started to scream and scream and finally stopped dead. I said ‘that’s good enough for me’. But I believe it was a waste of time because I heard through the grapevine afterwards, the Jerries came along and saw a line of trucks under the trees so they dropped a few bombs on them. So that was a dead loss. From here we walked down to the beach at Porto Rafti (‘D’ Beach) to get on barges. You know they drop the front down on the barges. I think they take about 600 at a time. You couldn’t see the barges but could hear them

We were in a queue of about 40 wide waiting to be picked up. We were too late, all the boats were full! However there was enough time to take another barge load of men off the mainland. We were dropped off at the Isle of Keo (I think it was). You know, on that coast there are islands everywhere. Well there were no roads just a small fishing village. My mate and I were sort of sitting in a gully. It was a lovely day but we weren’t feeling so lovely and this old Greco came along, he’s yapping away, we didn’t understand him and he neither us. He was eating olives, gave us three each and rubbed his hands on his baggy trousers and off he went. We never saw him again.

The very first day we were dropped off on the island, a big plane came flying low, right over the mouth of the bay. It was dropping mines across the mouth of the bay, so that put pay to that lot. There was no alternative but to walk on the goat track over low mountains, very rocky patches, rocks and more rocks to the other side. We followed the track around and down the other side where there were barges waiting against the rocks. We boarded the barges by way of two planks of wood and off we went. By this time it was getting dark. Where were we going, ‘surely not back to the mainland?’

We pulled up along side a coastal boat. You know the old fashion stern where it comes like that and the rudder is underneath. They dropped a big wide rope net. The boat was rocking with the swell and the different sizes of the boats made this a difficult manoeuvrer. We were to jump with our kit and rifle and there was no changing your mind. Well it took then about 20 minutes to get 6 jokers aboard. It was decided to abort this idea so the coastal boat moved away.

The barge pulled up along side a Navy boat. Visibility was very poor but they managed to pull along side. My estimation of the Navy sort of gets higher and higher. As the barge and the Navy boat were of similar heights it meant the transfer to the Navy boat went a lot smoother. We all jumped on board and there was a line of Matelos on the side organising. The last time I had seen that was when I joined the army and with 10 minutes to quarter of an hour all the men had transferred to the Navy boat. Talk about system.

I was put in the Marines Quarters which held about 8 or 9 blokes and they had their personal stuff in the shelves. There were no beds just 2 bench tables. Not long after this the Matelo Boys came along with big carry on billies full of cocoa and big tins of biscuits. You could have eaten the cocoa with a knife and fork. That didn’t last long. That was good. I couldn’t stand much of this organisation and eventually went to sleep sitting down. That was alright because we were warm and cosy. Daylight came; we were okay and had a drink for breakfast, nothing else. I think the Navy boat store was probably low so we couldn’t be fed.

The siren went and all the Marine blokes disappeared upstairs except one old joker, he must have been 102 in the shade. He stood at the door and gave us a running commentary what was happening. We were told to stay below. You could hear the big gun and see the big bolts on the deck and the big ack ack was firing. He told us no to worry about that. “When that big gun is firing they are high up. You wait until the little ones start, then you say they are getting too close now”. There was a hell of a thump on the side of the boat, like a dirty big sledge hammer. ‘Uhm’, he said ‘that was a bit closer than it should have been. Probably a bomb!’ It went quiet after that.

 

I remember when I was going to school; the New Zealand Navy had two boats, the Dunedin and the Diamead. They were sent back to England for scrap, I believe. This boat I was on (I think I’m correct), I think the Matelo said it was either the Dunedin or the Diamead. They hadn’t been scrapped at all. The question was asked how fast the boats could go if she was in a hurry. Well if they pull all the stops out and it held together, it would do about 20 and that’s it. It was just an ack ack boat. It didn’t have any heavy stuff. There was another incident before we got to Sudar Bay. Well no we got in the bay but couldn’t get to shore. We had to go from boat to boat to get to shore because there were more boats than there was water.

 

Half way to Crete the Italians tried bombing us.

 

GREECE

Greece was very, very stony mountainous country. Roads weren’t the best. I saw a gang of women working on the road, so it was a bloody good road after I saw that. They shape the road, where we in New Zealand would use a roller to harden things they use a dirty big log about that big and that high with 2 handles through it. There’s a women on either side stamping it down. You see all the men were away fighting the Italians so the women worked on the roads.

 

People of Greece

The people of Greece were very friendly. In fact when we drove from Pyrus we went through Athens, people lined the roads and threw flowers and that sort of thing to us. I’ve had some things thrown at me but never had a wreath of flowers, friendly fashion. On our way back in the truck it was exactly the same, people were very friendly and lined the roads.

The convoy was on its way to Port Said, Egypt. There was the 22nd Battalion, the 23rd and the Maoris. Neither the 23rd nor the Maoris had anybody. The 22nd was the only one that had one, so one had to look after 3 battalions, which is really an Army idea, impossible, that’s impossible, yes, well you can do it then. Not sure what happened to the 21st Battalion because they were part of the fire brigade as well. (21, 22 and 23rd Battalions). All the Battalions carried on. I know my Battalion arrived in Greece/Crete with only 100 odd men after being in Egypt.

 

CRETE

Map of Crete

 

Maleme

Canea

Suda Bay

Galatas

White Mountains

Sfakia

Map of the German Assault on Crete, May 1941

From The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (OUP, Auckland, 2000) p125

 

 

2 Division dispositions, Maleme Canea sector, 20 May 1941

From The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (OUP, Auckland, 2000) p125

 

When we landed on Suda Bay, Crete all we were interested in doing was finding something to eat and having a sleep. We did both. The weather was beautiful. We had ice cream and oranges and a sleep. The ice cream came from the ice cream man, was made from goat’s milk and was very creamy.

That night we slept on a pile of rocks. I remember those rocks they were big round and smooth, like river rocks. I put my great coat down and went to sleep.

Next thing on the agenda was to find our mob. As we were walking along the road an air force truck pulled up with 2 air boys in the cab. ‘Hello chaps, would you like a ride or would you rather not’. I thought that was a funny request. I said ‘what do you mean if we would rather not?’. They were taking jokers for rides and had done the day before. They were abusing the Air Force because they were not in Greece any more. In fact there were quite a number of complaints about the absence of the Air Force in Greece. But what could the joker who cleans the aeroplane tyres do about it. In fact the air boys themselves got blamed for it. Planes were very short in Greece.

We did go with the Air boys. In actual fact these boys had been in Malame with our blokes and they knew whereabouts they were in Crete, so we found our jokers almost straight away. The air force boys dropped us off at a village before Malame – Pireacuss. That was as far as the boys were going so we walked the rest of the way which wasn’t a hell of a long way. We went into a coffee place (it wasn’t the one I took Lil to).

We never realised it but we were really at the aerodrome. It was late. I finished up on my own and bedded down on this pile of rocks and went to sleep. The next morning by gee I woke up, just over the hedge there was a dirty big Wellington Bomber. They were cranking it up, like winding up the separator. What a noise. I got up, wandered around and found our boys and that’s where I took Lil on our trip. I spent quite a bit of time at that coffee shop when we were on point duty.

Crete buses came through with quite a few people on them. The road was more or less through the aerodrome. There was a big bridge over a dry-water (a water course) that’s where the gliders landed. It was quite a big bridge (about as big as our bridge here in Wanganui). The bridge is still there today with a new one alongside it. It still has the bullet marks and everything else to go with it. It was the same but it was different. There was a lot of bamboo growing around the south side of Bridge. On the side of the road there were hedges of bamboo. When we were there, there was no bamboo there at all.

There was a big winery also. Grapes were picked, put into carts and tipped down these shoots where they went into big vats for juicing. I don’t remember if there were 2, 4 or 6 vats. We put benzene tins underneath the vats, turned the tap on and bingo the benzene tin filled with juice. I think it was mainly just plain grape juice. Anyway we drank it by the tin full not a glass full. We did alright on that one. It made a good air raid shelter because it was up high and you could get underneath it. It was all concrete.

Before the fall there was practically no activity, nothing, you just filled your time in and of course we didn’t have any vehicles, we had nothing like that. We lived just opposite Crete in a little village in the Isle of Trees. The little church there was the size of this room approx 6 x 3 with a bell in the attic. The church overlooked us in the olive trees. After the Jerries landed there was a Jerry sniper up at the big square window, he was firing traces all the time. We were standing watching the traces going passed us. The Jerries had these tommy gun things not rifles.

Our front line was made up of 4 men and I was one of them. We were made up of drivers and that. We ran out of water.

When the Germans started dropping, we were in this trench and our rifles were leaning against an olive tree. Our trench was sort of half covered in with a roof. We had just finished our breakfast really and all of a sudden a chap with tan boots came and jumped in our trench and then he was up again and gone. There was another trench over there with nobody in it so that’s where these men went. They jumped out and grab bed the rifle and went over. The chap with the tan boots took my rifle with him. That meant I was unarmed. You would have thought he must have realised he left one man unarmed. When he took the rifle he had that 6 shooter as well, it was hanging on its cord. It was not a very nice feeling. That meant I had to stay put.

One of the chaps on the lot got clipped a bit. I don’t know what happened, but he couldn’t use his rifle, so they yelled out to me there was a spare one over here now. I clambered out and jumped over into the other trench. We were told when we first went to camp your rifle was your friend, you look after it. The rifle I had just picked up had not looked after his rifle. I fired, then went to load, went to lift the bolt up. It was just rusted, so I pushed it and kicked it with my foot to open it to bring the bolt up. I opened the flap on the butt. Empty, the oil bottle and that were all gone. So I did the next best thing, I took the bolt out and spat on it to lubricate it, so I could use the rifle. I had to use it but that wasn’t very nice. There are some times when it doesn’t matter what the situation is, there is something funny that sort of happens.

I didn’t laugh at the time, I was at the end of the trench (you know the “L”. I saw something move over amongst the grape vines and all of a sudden there was a bloody explosion just there, and one of our jokers, I thought I saw something moving over there. I thought to myself - there will be something moving out of this trench shortly. Here’s his rifle here and he fired and I’m here. He was an ARC, looking for promotion from a private to an ARC Jack. I spotted 2 tins underneath the tree. We threw lumps of dirt at the tins to see if they were full or not, if it goes bang its empty, if it goes clonk there is something in it. One did go clonk so there was something in it.

Remember the driver I told you about? I had to tow his truck in Greece. He wasn’t a very happy chappie even before, in England. There seemed to be something wrong with him. He didn’t appear well and didn’t give a damn. Now there are Jerries in the church and water over there. This fellow says ‘oh don’t be so bloody silly’; he climbs out and walks over there as if he was going to Sunday School. The bloke picks up the water and calls out ‘it’s half full’. All of a sudden there was a tat, tat, tat, tat, tat and you could see these lit lines. He just walked casually, ignoring the bullets, picked up the water and came back to us. The 3 of us expected his legs to be chopped up any time and he completely ignored them. He was lucky. He didn’t get touched. That was good, but then we ran out of ammunition.

When the Jerries landed they were dispersed in many directions with special points to congregate. We were in the olives. There was the canal and over the other side of the canal there were more olives. You could see them running through these trees, tree to tree, that sort of style. We were 30 metres from them. That’s what we were firing at. We did get some. You do the job at the time but it was not a satisfactory thing. I would sooner forget it. Thinking about it later it was horrible.

I was kneeling putting a pack (I think there was 100 rounds to a packet) in my pockets and there down in the trench right in the corner squatting was one of our Officers. I’m not mentioning any names but he wasn’t doing any good down there. He was a Headquarters bloke. All our leaders except this bloke were standing up in one trench. I went back and sorted the ammunition out. I found a little field gun (a barrel about that long) on wheels, lovely bit of work it was, somebody (I don’t know who) captured it when it came down by parachute. There was only one thing wrong - no ammunition. None of us knew how to work the damned thing. We had had nothing to do with Artillery. One joker volunteered because up on the Hill 107, that’s where the Artillery were, the 25 pounders. There was an Itai gun up there.

It was used on the Drome because I know they hit one of those junkers. Brenton talked to a guy who was standing aside this gun which knocked down 7 transporter planes out at sea by aiming with a match stick. It literally bounced the shell off the water, as these things were coming in, so it bounced up under the belly of the aircraft. The transport aircraft were flying low over the sea so they would fire, hit the water and skim and bounce up into the aircraft. Now that’s cunning. A bloke went up to there and a bloke came down to show him how to use it. So they lined it up on to this church.

 

Evacuation - Crete

We were given orders to pull out that night. It was horrible. Whether we were winning or losing didn’t come into it, we were doing a job but were not chased out. I thought we were holding our own at this stage. I went back to the concrete pad (where the cook house was) and was filling up my water bottle, there was a hell of a flash and a bang. I flattened out. The first thing that came to my mind was the Jerries must have dropped a spud masher over there and then someone said “my f’ in leg”. I still couldn’t see anything but nobody seemed to be perturbed and of course they were just over there in the mob. This chap had been standing in front of this gun but the jokers who were webbing the stuff and taking it off and piled round the gun. In the dark must have pulled the lanyard and away she went. The other chap just happened to be standing in front of this gun. Of course it took him off right up through here, right through, so he didn’t last long. These chaps didn’t have brains in their heads. A sniper was hit by this gun. That was the only good I saw it do. Not sure what happened to the gun after that.

We walked along side some canals. It was follow the leader. If one bloke went wrong the whole lot did. We finished up half way up Hill 107. Two of us were told to stand on the track where it forked. This track was supposed to be for the RAP track for any walking wounded, whatever. Keep it open. There was a peninsular out one way. That’s where the Maoris were. My mate and I were lying down looking, watching. The path was sort of built up with concrete blocks or rocks this side and earth built up here. We were lying on the earth looking through the crutch of the big Olive tree. We saw nothing, heard nothing, things were rather quiet. Then all of a sudden there was a great explosion just there. It was a mortar shell. It had landed just the other side of the wall. The Olive tree had been hit. There was only a fork left. My mates left shoulder was against my right shoulder when it went and I felt both back legs stinging. It took me about 4 or 5 minutes before I was game to look behind me. I was lucky the dirt from the explosion went through my trousers and stung my legs. That’s all that happened to me. My mate was holding his shoulder. I asked if he got a bit, what happened. There was a big hunk of the tree, about that long, blown off and hit him in the shoulder. Now if his shoulder was touching mine and he got hit in the shoulder, how close was it to me? No, not a scratch! I tell you it starts to get uncanny.

After that it was just walk, walk and walk. We weren’t being chased. Just after this had happened one of the Maoris said “charge the bastards”. I told my mate watch it. He told me he was and then this war cry went off and down the hill the Maoris went. They got as far as the aerodrome on their own and no one supported them. At that time there was some confusion, jokers were saying we don’t know what happened but suddenly the Jerries were loading those Junkers, they were loading them flat out with motor bikes and all sorts of stuff and they were gabbling like hell. They were in a hell of a hurry. After the Maoris came down it went quiet again. The Jerries started unloading again. We were told to go back, not a shot was fired. That’s how Crete went so nobody won, nobody lost. It was just tie a ribbon around, happy birthday. That’s all it was. After the evacuation we marched on and on until we got to Sfakia.

We did not stop at 42nd Street. A road went through an Olive Grove or just on the side. I was on my own, sitting on the side of the road, not very happy when along came a couple of our blokes - our Sergeant Bob and one of the head mechanics Fred Webber. They had helped to unload the Naffy boat at Sudar Bay before the thing started. They came and sat down and talked with me. Fred had a side sachet full of tobacco. I had an empty tin so filled it up with tobacco. Bob said “I don’t like this place”. I told him I was not far behind him either. Across the road we spotted a small range of rocky mountains, but half way up there was a concrete building like a shepherds hut. It was only the size of this room (6 x 3). The three of us decided to go there. We walked up to the hut and there was a sort of a dug out in the hill and the concrete house was built there and a concrete wall here (really just a concrete trench I suppose). That was ideal for us but when we got there, there was a Captain in the trench, he had the “ta tas”, he was gone. Don’t know who he was. Yes his nerves had gone, we call it bomb happy. He was sitting in the far corner. An hour or so later, half a dozen stukas came over and what they didn’t do to that Olive Grove wasn’t worth mentioning. We were okay. Lucky we moved. That Bob again he’s done it two or three times the bugger. As dusk fell the planes left. That’s when we got back on the road. What a mess. There were bits and pieces lying everywhere. What sticks in my mind mainly was the chap, he’s squatting behind an Olive Tree but he was as black as the television set. A bomb had landed not far from him and concussion got him. I thought how lucky we were because we had moved from the Olive Grove up the hill just previous, it could have been us.

We kept on walking and walking, we were on our way to Sfakia. That night we were in single file down the road (like a whole lot of ants). The road went over a gully, around a bend and the joker behind me said ‘wake up, the joker in front of me was way over there’. I had gone to sleep, just like a horse; you know they can go to sleep standing up! It was only a matter of time we made our way down amongst the rocks to the beach.

 

Olive Trees

We were in a grove of Olives near the aerodrome when I saw a plane coming straight at me. Well I had a tin of M and V and there were 3 or us around this tree. I got my bayonet out and opened the tin and over the next tree there were about 3 or 4 Officers (they always seem to stick together) – I look up and there’s the propeller of this Stuka coming straight at me. They actually fire at you when they come down, they drop a bomb on you when they level off and fire at you again when they are going back up again. Not fair. Anyway here’s this tree here, it comes down here, this joker here, we were all flat out (3 of us), he climbs over to get to this side of the tree, then he climbed over to me the other side of the tree until we both jump on him and hold in one position. We were just lying there face down. The machine guns were firing at us, the bullets landing not far from us. You could see smoke come from each little hole, diiid, diiid, diiid diiid. I was looking at it and not caring a damn. I was passed the frightened stage. My mate said ‘oh Christ look at that’, he felt the same as me.

Then the stukas went but Ray said ‘wasn’t that an Officer sitting over there at that next tree?’ There’s the ground and like a shading brush sticking up there where the tree was. Those Officers were sitting over there, so I don’t know what happened to him but my mate and I hopped up and went over to see. Where have these buggers gone. We were looking for solid bits, and then all of a sudden these jokers climb out of a ditch a bit further over. They must have dived over and we hadn’t seen them so they were lucky. ‘Bloody hell’ he said, I think we are lucky. We were not staying, but apart from that we got the surrender and back we went.

 

ITS ALL OVER – Marched Back To Canea By Germans

The boats had been working 3 or 4 nights before we got there, taking Allies aboard. There were no more boats for us so had to stay put. It was the next afternoon when an Officer and a Sergeant Major came around (there was quite a mob of us in this patch). The Officer was trying to tell us that it’s all over, the surrender flag has gone up. He couldn’t and he broke down. I sympathised with the poor bugger so the Sergeant Major had to tell us. He told us to take our rifles, take the bolts out and throw them all different directions and just leave everything and walk back up the hill. I didn’t know the names of the Officer and Sergeant. We left Sfakia and marched back over the White Mountains to a prison Camp near Canea (Galatas).

We felt numb, well there was nothing, no feeling, and you were tired and hungry. It was hot and there was a lack of food and water.

There were two types of Germans. We were marched in threes back on the road, because the road sort of finished. We were more or less dead and alive with tiredness, couldn’t give a damn about anything. Behind us there were 2 or 3 German Officers were jabbering in German, but there was a bit of a do further up the line in the short. One of these Officers broke off and went up to investigate. A lot of our jokers had dysentery; we had to keep on walking. One fellow collapsed on the side of the road. One of the German Guards put his boot into this man to try and get him to get up, but of course he was too sick and tied to move, so the guard shoots him. That fixed him. One of the young Privates goes to the guard, there is a scuffle, ‘because nobody understood what he said, he brings out his luger and plonk. That fixed him, he shot the guard. You do not shoot an unarmed man. Those were the types of Germans. We’ve got them as well. You see a lot of goods and bads and the rots. There was one chap (I feel now that I didn’t do him justice because everybody was walking). They didn’t have a chip on their shoulder it was a great bloody log.

 

GALATAS - Transit Prison Camp

There was a hospital there. Camp Galatas was drafty and there were bullet holes in the tents. We were only at Galatas for 4 or 5 days before being transported off. On the second day we walked (not sure where) but that was when I lost my ring. My Aunt (who has passed on) gave me it before leaving New Zealand. My fingers got so thin that the ring just fell off my finger. I didn’t realise it was gone until we got back to camp.

Galatas is where I saw a bit of discipline being carried out by the Jerries. This took place across the road, up a bit of a rise by the Olive Grove. A German Private
(I imagine) had a full kit up, he had to run up this hill and run back down a number of times. He collapsed so his Sergeant went to put the boot in to get him up again and that’s one of his own people. So how would he treat us?

We were going for a supposed meal (can’t remember what it was) and a young German chap could have been a Sergeant or a full corp, lit a cigarette, he looked up and he took the cigarette and he threw it at my feet. I said ‘you bloody commo bastard, you are not going to do that to me, yeah, yeah’. After thinking about it (and felt sure I was right) I realised he couldn’t be seen giving me a cigarette so he threw it on the ground for me to pick it up. He gave me a cigarette that way and I trod on it. They have good blokes and bad blokes and rotten blokes like everybody else.

 

SUDA BAY

 

Troops awaiting evacuation at Suda Bay in Crete 1941

 

GALATAS - Transit Prison Camp TO SUDA BAY

We had to walk all the way back to Suda Bay. What a mess Suda Bay was in. There was an array of boats that had been torpedoed, funnels and bits sticking up everywhere in the bay. The English boat, the YORK had been bombed or torpedoed there and this happened while we were on the drome. The York was driven on to the beach and it started shelling the aerodrome from where it was. We (as prisoners) were in the middle of it. We heard this boom and saw a flash. Then it was like an express train going overhead, then a boom over this end. So they were still working. That was a hell of a mess.

One of Crete’s exports was sultanas. We arrived at the wharf to find quite a large stack of boxed sultanas, some of which had their ends opened. I was wearing my great coat and was standing close to the boxes so managed to stuff my pockets with sultanas. Excellent food under those circumstances!

 

SUDA BAY BOUND FOR SALONIKA (As Prisoner)

We were loaded on this rough Italian boat and put down in the hold which was full of a sort of half slag coal. You sat on the coal then the hatches went over. The air was not good down there with all the stinking bodies because non of us had had a shower or wash for weeks. You learned to live with the nits in your hair. The toilets on this boat were something worthwhile. 4 x 2 frame was built on the outside (out in the climate). If you wanted to use the toilets there was no short or long about it, you had to go, then you battened down the hatches again. It was awful being battened down; if anything happened you stayed there. There was nowhere to go. It must have been 4 or 5 days we were on the water. I didn’t have anything to do with the Italian guards, in fact didn’t see any. We were escorted by an Italian Destroyer. These boats did not fly the flag signaling they were carrying prisoners. We could have been blown to bits. I found out later that one of our Subs torpedoed a prisoner of war ship because it was being escorted by the Navy. Perhaps the English neighbours had gone to sleep by this time. I think it was the Neno Bisco that was torpedoed.

 

SALONIKA (ex Greek Army Camp)

We left the coastal boat and marched in threes to a train for 2 or 3ks through the city ending up in Salonika.

The Hitler Youth took over now. They were the prize men in the world (or so they thought). They bellowed and shouted. There was an Officer spouting off his mouth. I was wearing my great coat and carried a sandbag over my shoulder with a few personals in it walking along unhappy. I noticed this little kid on the side of the road who was holding something in his hand. He looked up and down and he threw it like that, 2 packets of cigarettes. One packet landed there and the other landed there and I am in the middle and I caught both. Being what I always do, the chap along side me (wouldn’t have a clue who he was) said ‘ah, give us one mate’. See I was his mate then see. So I got 2 and I gave him 1 and put the other one in my pocket. That’s not the end of it. I heard this screaming scull (German) back there, he come up and this kid ran. The German shot him in the legs. The kid lay there saying mumma, mumma, mumma and we had to walk past. We couldn’t do anything to help. We were prisoners ourselves. But anyway those things happen. The Germans here were a different type from the combat soldiers on Crete.

Eventually we came to some empty Greek Barracks. We had our first introduction to a chap you will have on your records somewhere along the line. We all lined up and an English Sergeant Major started spouting, telling us what we could do and what we couldn’t do. “You must behave yourselves and they will treat you right”. We had been there for about a week and nearly everyone without exception was sick in one way or another but the hospital was not equipped with medical supplies and the doctors themselves were prisoners just like us.

The high sided four wheeled carts the Greeks had were pulled by 2 horses. One of them went out every day with stiffs. One doctor told us if he only had a few hundred pounds of marmite (vitamin B1) he would have saved hundreds of lives. Chitties were issued to men that were sick and unable to work. They were too bloody sick. Every morning there was a parade. So many blokes take it in different ways for working and this British Sergeant Major Stora would pick the chits up and tear them up so you would have to go to work. The Sergeant Major didn’t live with the prisoners. He was on the other side of the wire. He was a traitor. There were half a dozen of us taken to another place to level some ground because the Jerries had prize horses (all pinched of course) that needed to be exercises.

I was sick also and got worse very quickly. I had what they call Sandfly Fever. I had a ragging temperature and lost my sight for a short time. Around mid morning (this particular day) I was out working. I sat down on the wheel barrow and the guard stood and looked at me, then looked away and didn’t bother. The fence was there and then it wasn’t and it went around this way, then it didn’t. I was hallucinating. I thought, oh bugger I’ve had it now. Some how I managed to walk back to the camp hospital. I asked for my temperature to be read, it was the best part of just over 103. God knows what I was like before because we had a break at 10 o’clock and I was on a bit of ground along side a house. Two Jerries came out with this big container of hot coffee which had been thickened with sugar. The four of us took turns drinking this. We gulped it down like nobody’s business. I started to feel better after that. All it was was a lack of sugar. The sugar had brought me up. I probably wouldn’t have made it back to the camp if it wasn’t for that. (From the Hospital to Camp)

We called the “food” rainbow cake. Well it was brown bread with yellow and green stripes through it and it looked like it hadn’t had a shave. Very mouldy. That’s what we ate. It was that or nothing and it was a question if that would do you more harm than having nothing to eat.

 

FROM SALONIKA TO BELGRADE (by rail as prisioner)

After about one week we were marched off to the railway station. There was a long row of box cars (cattle wagons). They were all closed in. Each box car had
2 windows about two foot by eight inches with barbed wire nailed across the top of it. One window in each corner. Each wagon had its own goon box you know. That was our accommodation for 10 to 14 days. They comfortably would hold about 30 blokes. The criteria was by rank, Sergeants and above had 30 blokes per carriage and below Sergeants had 80 blokes per carriage. I was in a carriage with 80 blokes. Just enough room to lie down. Of course some jokers had dysentery and no one could help anything. Sanitary arrangements in the carriage was just luck, not even a bucket. Just tough luck! One guard to each wagon. The floor had been bolted down and of course the main doors were locked from the outside.

 

BELGRADE (Red Cross stop) near Hungary

We pulled up in Belgrade during the day. We were allowed out and I remember across from the station there was a big bare paddock. Everyone made it over to the paddock and got into the same position. Back on the platform there were 4 or 5 BELGRADE persons which were YUGOSLAVS Red Cross. They wore their battle dress with just the belts done up. They had coffee and biscuits for us. The biscuits reminded me of our cabin bread. Coffee was given to us in tins to drink. The Red Cross people stuffed handfuls of biscuits down in our battle dresses. They kept looking at the German guards. I suppose they were only meant to give us only half a dozen biscuits. Every bloke came out with lots. That was good. I thought it was lovely.

We got back into our box cars. I went to take a bite of a biscuit (it may have been alright with chaps with natural choppers) but me with false teeth; no I couldn’t make an impression on the biscuit. I took off my boots, because I still had heel plates, and bashed the biscuit, made marks on the ration bag but never hurt the bloody biscuit. Well what the hell am I supposed to do with this? It never occurred to me to throw them away. So I put one in my coffee tin to soak it until the next morning. The coffee did not make any impression at all, so I tried using the heel of my boot to bash it up and just swallowed the lumps. I wonder what the biscuits were made of. I remember one night travelling in the wagon I got the giggles. Well, my mate along side me wanted to know if I had fallen out of my bloody tree. ‘What’s so bloody funny,’ he said. Well we got that thin but your skin didn’t. As the wagons moved I’m rolling around inside myself and it struck me as funny. It really wasn’t funny but that was how it was.

There were no escapes on this train journey to my knowledge. I think it depended when the trains were travelling whether night or day. I know there were several ideas happening in our carriage but there was nothing you could do. First they tried the floor boards, but that had already been done over. So it might have happened before we went there, they might have done the trucks. According to the official Prisoner of War History almost every train that went up from Greece to Germany had escapes and escape attempts but I can’t imagine how because there was one guard per truck and he was in a shelter. During civilian time I think the shelters were for shunting trucks. The floors in the wagons had been bolted down and you could see where bolts had been replaced with new ones and of course the windows were impossible, even as thin as we were. You couldn’t get through them and of course the doors were bolted from the outside. There was no way you could get out unless you did it like when we got out at Belgrade. One or two blokes could have evaporated when they were in the paddock there. But don’t think they would have gained much by doing that because by that time everyone was too weak, even to look after themselves.

 

LAMSDORF (September 1941 – Summertime)

Stalag VIIIb Lamsdorf was a large, German prisoner of war camp, later renumbered Stalag 344. It is located in Poland near the small town of Lamsdorf. It was well established and was the parent POW camp for smaller working camps known as arbeits kommandos. The “E” prefix stands for English. Examples of these working camps were Klein Seidel (situated 3 kms from Lamsdorf) and Grosse Seidel. Today the site is a museum dedicated to the memory of the prisoners who were held there.

I can’t remember much about going into Lamsdorf except we were very hungry and lousy. There was a hospital there. The first thing I remember was going into the hut to look for an empty sack (bunk). Most had double bunks (one above the other). I grabbed one and a chap said to me ‘gidday, how are you doing’. It was one of our 22nd Battalion jokers. I was sort of with him for the whole time although thought I would sooner not be but that was how it was. He was our bum driver I told you about earlier. We were also issued with one Red Cross parcel between two men. Because we were from the same Battalion we naturally became muckers. I remember there was a small tin of golden syrup in the parcel. The mucker did not want any. I opened it and used my aluminium spoon but very soon there was golden syrup left.
I felt a lot better after that. See that’s what I really needed, the sugar! Lack of sugar and you are no good. That I remember very plain. Looking back there was always another joker in the same position but worse off and that was all around you.
I seemed to be not bad.

 

Work Parties

 

Taken at Klein Seidel

 

Building in Background is back of Guest House we lived in

 

This group made up of 2 working parties

 

 

Prisoner of War Camps

Europe World War Two



 

Larisa

 

Salonika

 

Belgrade

 

Lamsdorf

 

Prague

 

Rheims

 

We were split into working parties. In my case I think there were 20 in our party consisted of 2 or 3 Aussies, a South African, English, Scotsmen and Kiwis. We packed up and were stuck on a train with a guard traveling for about an hour eventually arriving at Klein Seidel. The train was full of civilians. The guards went along the carriages saying ‘up, up, up’, telling the civilians to get up off their seats and give them to the military. Although we were POWs we were still superior and I was reluctant because you saw some of these old women having to stand because the guard says I can sit down. I didn’t like that, but you soon learnt not to be so nice.

 

POW Rations for One Day

  • Bread 06 oz

  • Cheese 27 grams

  • Jam 25 grams

  • Margarine 11 grams

  • Meat 01 oz

  • Potatoes 09 grams

  • Sugar 05 grams

 

Source: Charles Moorman’s Diary

 

KLEIN SEIDEL Guesthouse (my first camp)

We arrived at our first camp which was equivalent to a pub in New Zealand except there were not many residents. There was a dancing hall at the back of one of the buildings and that had been made up as a larga (camp) which was divided in half with just a doorway. The pub was here, our rooms spread throughout with the stables and cook house at the back of the pub. The cook house was a big room and had a copper in it and stored hay. Around the back and along here there were more sheds and also the toilet. The toilet was one of those big brick pits and then they had a board fence with a small door in it and that was our yard. This camp housed 3 working parties one of which was already here. This working party was made up of mostly English. They worked in a Chemical Factory and spent their entire POW time at this Camp. We stayed here for about one year.

 

Working Parties (3)

 

 

 

Forestry Chemical Factory Cardboard\Coal Factory (ours)

 

Camps at Klein Seidel Klein Seidel Klein Seidel then Gross Seidel

(2 sites)

 

Klein Seidel - Security arrangements in work parties

The security arrangements were very slack. We had 3 or 4 escapes. I suppose more went but not many of them got too far. To me there were only two but German was more or less their national language although they had English uniforms on. Perhaps they were Polish?

Escape

Two foreign blokes were going to do a meat loaf, they were going to go. When we walked from camp to the place of work one morning, to where we change (in a hut about this size and the civvies used to use it for their coffee breaks). The guard discovered he had left the key to our shelter at the camp. The factory was self contained. It supplied the village with coal and power and had its own machine shop and maintenance area. The guard went into the machine shop, bought the chief out and I stood by the door and took note of how the door was unlocked. I thought well that’s a good idea so made a key out of a piece of heavy wire by bending it over like an ‘L’ shape. It was all arranged everyone would be kicking the football around by the gate so I tried the key I had made on the gate of the camp and it worked. The 2 jokers came out of the toilet in navy blue suits and suitcases, walked over to the gate opened the door and walked out and I shut the gate and relocked it. I then went to the toilet and threw my key down the long drop.

Next morning, of course there was a count and there were two blokes missing. The guards were not happy about that because they could be sent to Siberia or to somewhere on the Russian front. Course they never did find those jokers and never found out how they got out. The guards were changed on a regular basis so you never did know if the guards on duty at that particular time were sent to Siberia.

The back door of the pub had a big padlock. Henry made a key to fit the padlock, but a couple of jokers would go walkabouts, then come back at 2 or 3am, relock the padlock and go to bed. This particular night the key broke and part of the key was inside the lock. We woke Dick up. He stirred the fire, heated the soldering iron then soldered a piece onto the lock in order to get the broken piece out of the lock. It worked. Got the broken part out and resoldered the broken key and relocked the padlock. Dick wasn’t pleased about being woken up. That was the end of the men going walkies. Henry wouldn’t make another key for them.

 

Making of Rings and Ornaments

Dick Hawkins would melt Jerry coins which were made from some sort of aluminum or muck metal. A chip heater was used to melt the coins. This heater has a round chimney that went up to the ceiling and along the room and outside. That was our heating. Of course we had plenty of coal for burning because the Cardboard Factory we worked in supplied coal to the village.

Dick made the moulds with fine sandy soil. He made quite a lot of things. The Sailor Boy made ornaments out of celluloid toothbrush handles. The toothbrushes came in different colours.

One of the blokes worked at the Chemical Factory so was able to bring us acetone. This was used to weld the celluloid together. The Sailor Boy used to shape them by scrapping and softening the toothbrush on the chip heater until it was made into a ring. Some jokers wanted signet rings with their girl friends photo (head only) placed on the top flat side of the ring. Then clear celluloid would be put on top of the photo, filled and made nice and smooth. It was like having a glass picture inside. One joker (not in the camp) made a chess board out of the different coloured toothbrushes. The handles could be split thinly. The ring that Dick made for me had a picture of a Glengarry on it (an emblem), its got 2 buttons on it with a star. I lost this ring when we changed our clothes in Rheims in France. I was very thin.

 

Geneva Convention

The Geneva Convention stated that prisoners must be paid for their work. The factory was responsible for our welfare.

Our party

Our party worked in a cardboard factory situated right in the middle of a big forest. We marched to work travelling a distance of 3 kilometres (from Klein Seidel). While travelling to and from work Dick would suck his dummy (‘S’ pipe) and often it would fall out of his mouth but he always caught it, it never fell on the ground. Things weren’t so bad when we got the Red Cross parcels. It turned out that our welfare was better than the civilians. The civilians were ordinary people. You could sit and talk to them. You got to understand their lingo.

Our party was in 3 camps. First camp was at Klein Seidel, second Grosse Seidel and a third camp (which the cardboard factory built) again in Grosse Seidel. This took us closer to the factory so we did not have as far to travel to work. I worked in the cardboard factory until the end of the war. The cardboard factory not only supplied coal to Grosse Seidel but also power.

One party worked at a chemical factory and stayed at Klein Seidel (first camp) until the end of the war. The second party worked in the forestry in the forest which was about 10 to 12 kilometres from us.

 

CARDBOARD FACTORY

 

 

They had only 2 guards. We were treated us pretty well because every so often guards changed; you would get a rotten one, then a good one. One chap spoke perfect English. He was German but lived in America and had travelled home to Germany for a holiday and got nabbed. He was a bloody good guard. If you were wrong, you were wrong. Your rations would most likely be cut. There were no bashings, none of that. If a civvie was wrong, he was wrong. You knew just where you stood with him. That was good. On the whole, rations were fairly good considering where it was. We had potatoes, we had enough (not plenty) spuds because that is their staple diet there.

We were working along civvies. In fact there was a Pole working there. He fell from a ladder and got hurt. One of the boys saw it so he went and told the guard. The guard came in, so he went into the factory and got some of the civvies to take the injured man away. The civvies didn’t want to help the man so the guard put the bayonet on the end of his rifle and pushed them out that way and they did it. The guard knew he was a sick man and the civvies could help him. He sent one of the boys to the second camp we were at (which was just over the fence), to get our medical bloke to patch him up.

 

Music

Waste paper was also recycled at this factory. I would look through it looking for sheet music, put it aside and later on Dick Hawkins would teach me how to read the music.

In the kitchen at night I would play the mandolin (my first instrument) for the rest of the blokes. I often think about this and hope I had bought them a little happiness at the time. Even the German guards would come and listen. I progressed to playing a guitar, trumpet and finally a Polish accordion. The accordion was a 120 base with 3 rows of white keys. I could play up to middle C on the Trumpet but one of the German guards could play past middle C.

 

Factory equipment

The factory was equipped with an electric hoist and cranes. Cardboard was rolled, measuring 10 feet wide by 1 metre. The engine room had four boilers of which one was a spare and one man looked after the boilers. All the factories had DC power.

 

Coal

The factory also supplied coal to the village and once a month a big lump of coal was dumped in this bare patch and the civvies used to come with their carts. There were special boxes made that you filled with coal. It was then weighted and tipped into their carts. They were only allowed so much coal per month. When the civvies ran out of their coal supply they had to wait until the next month. When we ran out we didn’t have to wait for the next month. We were well looked after.

Once a month a friend and myself would take the plats mister’s ration of coal to his house and store it in his shed. On one occasion he invited us in for a drink of Schnapps. It was nice, we drank slowly. When we returned to the camp we had to cope with the flak from the jokers at the camp. We were almost legless, incoherent. Other times when we delivered his ration of coal he would thank us and his wife would pull 2 cigarettes out of his pocket and give us one each.

 

Duties in Factory

Some people changed their jobs. Henry Hallam always was in the Work Shop. I drove the truck and worked on the guillotine. The 10 Tonner truck ran on wood gas and had a trailer. The cooker was 6ft round and situated on the cab. It burnt silver birch which was cut into 2 inch squares. The wood was tipped into the cooker and lid placed on. Underneath cooker there was a stopper with a little hole where wood wool was stuck in. Tyres were synthetic.

 

 

Back Row (left to right)

 

Hec Grant, Chas Moorman, Harold Langley and Jack Norish

 

Seated: Dick (Richard) Hawkins, Jack Flowers, Sergeant James, Roy Bray and …………..

 

Not in Photo: Henry Hallam

Our Group

Sabotage

I think we had sabotage only once in the factory. One department caught fire but they used a lot of waste paper in that department. There was a big depot there. Sabotage took place on the railway stock. Trucks used to come in to with waste paper, coal and wood. Well if you open up the boxes on the wheels you fill them up with sand, and they take it out and nobody is the wiser. Eventually they just run dry; yes it runs dry and cuts the bearings.

 

Survival

You didn’t think about working for the German War effort. Looking back, it’s something I had to stop and think about. You had to think about yourself. Never mind about that King and country. Completely forget that because that is a lot of crap. So if you were on ammunitions or something like that, you were just doing that. What’s the alternative?

 

GROSSE SEIDEL (Guest House 2)

There were 3 bedrooms at this camp with double bunks in the bedrooms, a smaller bedroom for our POW NCO (one of our own blokes whoever was in charge of us) and the whole end of that building was the kitchen. The cooking part must have cost a bit. The copper was round and bigger than the ordinary copper but it had a jacket. You cooked in the container. It sat in hot water and had a counter balance light on it. It was brand new. In each cubicle there was what you called a chippy, and the 3 bedrooms they stood about that high and about that round and they burnt coal.

In all of my 4 years at this factory I think I might have seen half a dozen planes. The group that worked in the forestry marched 3 or 4 kilometres to an ammunition factory most Saturdays. On their return trip they would carry a log of wood home for heating. Compared to us we had unlimited amounts of coal, a show every day, no problem. That’s him looking after me again.

Just once we got hold of alcohol. We called it jungle juice. Self manufactured. We traded with the civvies a lot of the time. For a stick of chocolate you got a loaf of bread and eggs. There were 2 or 3 small bottles of Schnapps which had been traded in with cigarettes and chocolate and soap. One of the chaps had contact with a bloke working at the chemical factory and he got hold of a bottle of alcohol. That’s straight out 100% alcohol - Medical Alcohol. That went into our brew. Prunes and sultanas were also put in the Jungle Juice. These had come from Red Cross parcels. That was supposed to be for Christmas.

It was about ’42 or ‘43 because we were in the second camp when we had that. That was another guest house only a village near to the same factory. We never changed factories just camps.

 

Personal Hygiene

Delousing this is something I did myself. I would heat an iron cage thing up in the stove and iron my shirt and the live stock went pop pop pop. I washed my clothes in carbolic to disinfect them.

 

Long Drops

Two jokers were detailed to empty it at one time. Fair enough these things have got to be done. But where we have wheel barrows in New Zealand, they had little carts, 4 wheels, you know with a swivel wheel and one shaft and then they gave us quite a big box but it was lined with tin on this cart. Then we had small buckets that had big long handles fitted on the end of it, like a dirty great big ladle. We had to pour water down this thing and they gave us this tool which was short of a big hoe. It wasn’t solid. It had a frame like that, and you hand was up here. You stirred it and it all went to liquid, OOOOOHHHH pong, then you had to ladle it out. Yuck. We were quiet for the first hour but after that you didn’t notice the smell. About smoko time we put the cart on the side and walked towards the barrocks. As we got closer to the barrocks all the windows were being shut. There were 2 or 3 jokers cleaning up and they saw us coming, so they shut everything and locked the door. They said hang about. They put a cup of tea on the window sill and then we grabbed it. That was fair enough. We didn’t push it because we must have smelt terrible. We had this same thing at lunch time, the gate was 8ft tall with barbed wire and an armed guard on the other side of the gate. The jokers working would be coming back for lunch so my mate and
I hatched a plan. We would wait until the working group got closer then we would push the cart to the gate and left it in the middle. This meant they had to separate and get around the cart to get through the gate. Eyes left and there’s the cart full. They said some nasty things as they were going passed the cart. I happened to see the guard walk on the road a bit back and he stood there grinning his head off. That wasn’t a very nice smell. Dick Hawkins said some nasty words too because he in the working group that marched passed. I said I don’t know what you are grizzling about, you helped fill it.

 

GROSSE SEIDEL at Christmas

That Christmas the Aussie joker cooked some little cakes. Blokes were flogging things for flour and other ingredients and then we got that jungle juice. I had about a half a teaspoon of jungle juice in a glass. I tasted it, argh that is fiery. A few minutes later my fingers started to tingle, then the tops of my ears were tingling. I thought I must back off that one, that’s too fierce for me. One of the Pommy jokers went completely crazy with it and his mates had to sit on him. He was sick for 2 or 3 days. One of my mates Dick Hawkins who ended up in Auckland after the war, I saw him in the far corner of the room hanging on to a corner of the bunks laughing himself silly. He laughed that much that my sides ached. I hadn’t a clue what he was laughing about but I was laughing at him. Well he’s not going to tell me now.

At one stage the guard came in to see what all the noise was about. He stood at the doorway. We called him gold tooth because he had a quite a lot of gold in his teeth and he was a hell of a decent bloke. He looked from one to the other and just grinned and turned around and went back out again. It was Christmas time.

 

Internal problems with the group

Internal problems seldom happened. We lived together so tight, I think we did very well. There was one joker, he was a black watch chap but he was bad. He told us that when he gets back to England he would be up for 4 or 5 court marshals. I think he was a number 2 gunner in Crete. He was with the Maoris when they made that charge down to the aerodrome. He said when they made that war cry the Maoris went one way and he went the other. 42nd street. His mate was killed.

My mate Harold and I were lining up for tucker one night, (my mate who died about a year ago), when the black watch chap (Goodall) started pushing his way in and Harold told him off for jumping the queue. “Come outside” the black watch chap says, so off they go. They were getting out the door when the black watch chap put his foot out and kicked Harold’s foot from underneath him and Harold dropped. The black watch chap then proceeded to put the boot in. That’s the sort he was. There happened to be a Pommy chap from the other party outside and saw what was going on. He was a bit of a pug (a very quiet sort of a chap). He held the black watch chap off Harold and gave him a bloody good hiding and told him that sort of thing doesn’t happen around here. He said we all know you are dirty but you watch it. Poor Harold didn’t know because he thought he was going to have a sort of fisty go but it didn’t work out. The back watch chap got caught drunk at camp and disappeared soon after that. I think he was from Glasgow.

I can’t remember any stealing because there was no where to hid anything. The only thing you had were your Red Cross boxes. You just had to trust people.

If you really stuffed up while out in your working party you went straight back to the main camp and they dealt with you.

 

CIVVIES

As the war went on, we noticed that civilians got less and less. The majority of men folk gradually disappeared. Don’t know where. I had seen German guards when I marched, in their 70s. They were a miserable pack, nothing to be proud of. You could see things getting worse and worse.

The civvies wouldn’t talk. They probably had an inkling what was happening. The factory (as the crow flies) was about 50 kilometres away from Krakow and that’s not very far away from Auschwitz. In fact I have seen the maps in the library where these were and I said we were in about the middle of that lot and didn’t know it. Even the civvies didn’t know it. We stayed in our one little area. The only time you went from this area was when you got crook; you hopped on the train with a guard and were taken to the doctor at the main camp Lamsdorf.

 

CARDBOARD FACTORY TRUCK - Wood Gas

Four of us used to be out in a truck a lot picking up wood in the forest. It was a great truck because it used to pull a trailer, 4 dual wheels on the trailer. I suppose, would be a good 10 ton and ran on wood gas. By Christ, that is efficient stuff. Silver Birch was used in it. One of our jobs was to chop the wood into little blocks with a Tommy Axe. That was a lovely job. We used to get down underneath the boilers in the shelter during winter time and just sit on a block and chop wood. You never got hurt doing this.

Ah yes, Harold did. It was his job outside the summer months and he was throwing the tommy axe up in the air and catching it but this time he caught it round the blade. He cut his fingers and went to the guards. He was then told to go to the medical bloke at camp where he was patched up. What amused Harold mostly was, if you were right handed, how could you cut your right hand?

 

NEWS FROM OUTSIDE – CRYSTAL SETS

We heard quite a lot, especially in our last camp when there was only the one party of 20 men instead of 40. I believe the English radio station (BBC) put out a special wave link around 11 o’clock at night which could be picked up with a crystal set. One of our jokers built a set. We had 2 or 3 little sets in our camp. The aerials were wired across the rooms. We had clothes hanging on them to disguise them. The hardest part to get was the earphones. We found the crystals in the coal. Out of a handful of coal you may be lucky to get one good one. It was just trial and error.

Well the Poms ruined it in the end. Towards the end of the war the Poms would go to work after listening to the news on the crystal sets, listen to the civvies talking about what the Germans were up to in the war. Then tell the civvies the real news they had listened to on the crystal sets. Bloody Poms have big mouths. Well we got back from work one day and there’s a truck outside the camp with GESTAPO in it. They had been through the camp and what they didn’t do with that camp wasn’t worth mentioning.

One of our jokers had a crystal set in a soap box (celluloid in those days) and a bloody GESTAPO (when he found this) said “what’s that?” and the bloke said ‘a radio’. “Ahh shisson (bloody radio) see, bloody radio that size, talk sense”. It really was a radio. We didn’t worry because we would make another one. But of course they didn’t find anything else because Dick took the earphones to work with him all the time.

We didn’t have body searches. You could almost bring in anything you wished but of course if you were caught, the whole camp was punished, not just one joker.
Dick reminded me of one night I was called out into the snow. I was really furious, had my hands in my pockets and was thumping the ground. It was cold. Can’t remember why I was called out.

 

IRISH helping the British

The only disturbance I recall was with a chap Paddy Haggetty he was taken away and put in a prison. It was something to do with the trouble the Germans had with the Irish when they reckoned the Irish were helping the British, so they rounded up all Irish people in the prisoner of war camp and put them in prison. Paddy was not happy about this because he was in prison with Russians and all sorts. Some of the Russian prisoners they reckon turned to cannibalism because they were not given much to eat. Apparently this practice was done on a regular basis. Everyone who came into the prison was given a number, number 10 and it’s you. Your turn they would jump on you and strip you and tear you to pieces. There wouldn’t have been much of the poor man anyway.

 

Close to June 1945

This particular day we were out in the truck, one paddock quite a way from the factory we saw a German crew digging in a big gun. We knew what that was; it was part of our game. By gee old Joe must be getting pretty close to that, it had to be there. It was about 5 o’clock when we got back to the factory; most of the civvies were gone. The factory ran 24 hours a day. They backed the truck up to the base of the big chimney, one of those tall chimneys. On top of the base part of the chimney was a huge platform and the wood used to sit on there to dry and they were shovelling all of this on to the truck. We said to the driver, ‘what are you going to do about us’. He just looked at us and carried on. Him and his, he was the plats mister; he was in charge of the outside. They were going to do something, so we thought to hell with you so we walked back to camp. It was about midnight – 2 o’clock. There was snow on the ground. Pack up and get. So most of us were already packed because we knew it was coming. We lined up outside and marched back to our first camp, picked up their party and away we went.

 

THE MARCH

The march was bloody terrible. There was snow, snow and more snow, yes it was the middle of winter. You slept in barns or anywhere you could find and no food was given out. You scavenged, found food yourself. If you couldn’t find food you went without and that’s how it was. I guess you can say it was an experience.

We stopped in a village and went into a hall, organised ourselves and everybody branched out to find food, eggs, chooks, and pet rabbits whatever. I was coming down a pathway and one of our blokes came up to me and said he had seen some civvies, they had killed a pig. Oh yeah, but they didn’t have the facilities for scalding the pig so they skinned it and what did they do with the skin. Hang it on the fence. The skin still had the trotters attached. I was with this bloke who had been bought up in London. I told him to take the trotters off. I showed him how to boil it and take the hair and toe nails off. We had little enamel bowls in our possession. Each bowl fitted inside the other. There was a loop so you could put a strap through the lot. It could carry about 100. Great design!

We cooked the trotters, took the skin off and pulled them to pieces, and I said what we really need now is salt. So off he goes and returns with a handful of salt. We left it until the next day. Well the liquid had turned to jelly. He tried it with his fork and said that’s good. He said he had never seen that in the Butchers shop in London because his wife did most of the buying. I told him it was a great delicacy at home. The others wanted to know where we got the trotters from. I told them I wasn’t telling them because you would want it.

We came upon another barn. It was still snowing. The civvies had just killed a pig and dressed it. They cooked it up in the copper. The only thing that wasn’t used was the pigs squeal. Everything else was used. We scooped the liquid up into our tins. It was quite wholesome and lasted us for next 2 days.

As we moved north we could hear fighting near Breslau. As we got near Opel
(close to the border of Poland) we could hear machine guns. Then the big ones but they were a little further away. But still was too close for us.

 

Civilians - Elb and Ober Rivers

There were lots of civilians on the roads pushing and pulling their 4 wheeled carts with all their possessions. We were walking along this wide road and couldn’t understand why they were pushing the carts when we were just walking with our hands in our pockets. So we helped push the carts. But in the morning there was much less in the carts than there had been the night before. As you pushed the cart you felt around inside the cart to see what you could pinch. It didn’t take the civvies long to realise what we were up to so they didn’t want us to help anymore. We also had a trailer from a truck carting all the gear. This was pulled by two horses. This was a scary part.

We went to cross the River Elb but the thaw was starting to set in. There were big ice flows about the size of this floor and heaven knows how thick they were. They wouldn’t let us across the bridge. I think the reason was because of the military traffic because the roads were left open for the military. Down stream a little there was a bit of a barge which had a deck attached to the side with a wire rope connected from one bank to the other. The idea was you pulled yourself across. It was a bit tricky because of the ice flows crashing and bashing against the barge. Getting off the other side was the problem because of the different heights of the barge and ground. The horses were not equipped for the weather. They did not have their ice shoes on. We all got behind this trailer, including the horses and managed to get it back on track.

One of our chaps was a South African, an Afrikaans blacksmith. He was a very quiet chap. So he roamed around and found a blacksmiths shop, asked the blacksmith to shoes our two horses with ice shoes but the blacksmith refused. The blacksmith was about 7 foot and weighted about a ton. The South African picked him up and threw him out the shop and he put the ice shoes on the horses himself. (You know put the studs in the shoes). From then on things were a lot easier for the horses they could actually stand up properly. However it wasn’t long before one horse died and of course, one horse on its own was no good so we let him go. We left the trailer behind (it was mostly guard stuff on board).

Our few belongings were in suitcases made of cardboard. Lovely suitcases. I think in the end I wore my suitcase out. Harold had an idea, you opened your suitcase and put one of your ties in the closest suitcase and you tie the next suitcase and towed them over the ice. That’s easier than carrying it but being cardboard it sort of wore away and was not waterproof.

 

Russian

In one village on a grey cold morning, I saw a Russian Prisoner of War sitting on the steps of the Town Hall. The temperature (I think) was between 15 and 20 degrees below. I said we had better wake that bugger up, if he sits down he will freeze solid. So I go up to him, shake him and it’s like holding on to a statue, he was already solid. All the Russians wore were those wooden clogs, bare legs and feet, a pair of cotton trousers with a strip and a cotton jacket. That would be fairly cool in the summer time let alone the temperature we were in. Of course he was very lean; he had no meat on him. The Russians dressed much the same in the concentration camps. The Germans treated them almost virtually the same -terrible. It was estimated that 20 million Russians died, of which only 7 million were soldiers, the rest were civilians. The Russians didn’t treat their own very good either.

 

Summertime

Things were better. We slept in farm houses and barns for about 2 or 3 weeks. At this stage there were 6 French men with us and they stuck together naturally.

Word got out that Dresden (I think it was) had been bombed to hell but in the warehouse there were Red Cross parcels. So Gold Tooth (our guard) scratched around and found a truck, took our Sergeant Major and a couple of other boys to the warehouse in Dresden arriving around midnight. They returned as the sun was rising with a load of Red Cross parcels. So next morning they were dished out, one parcel per man.

Everything settled down and Gold Tooth came out, he wasn’t very happy this day. The 6 French men had complained because we wouldn’t give them any parcels. So Gold Tooth was collecting all the parcels up and was going to give the lot to the French when our Sergeant Major said to him, ‘before you do that we are all out here, we will go to the French Quarters and have a look’. Four parcels were found in the French Quarters hidden under the straw. They didn’t want 4 parcels, they wanted the lot. So those 4 parcels were taken out and put aside and the French had none. Since that little episode I never had much time for the Froggies. During the war there were thousands of Frenchmen on the German side. Free French no vinchy French.

 

Russians Getting Closer

The Russians were getting pretty close and the weather was pretty good. We walked most of the night because the Russian planes were close. We were in this bit of a forest and one joker managed to find a chook. We started to boil it up but apparently the Russians were too close for comfort for the guards, so they said ‘come on, come on, we’ve had enough’. We were tired and the chook wasn’t cooked but the guards were getting a little agitated so we told them to bugger off. So they did. We had the chook and went to sleep. There was a hill like that, the road was down there and all these trees. We went to investigate, walked up the hill to see what was on the other side and found big tanks going up the street with the Star thing on the side and out the window were red and white flags. The Russians had passed us.

 

Farmhouse – Stayed one week

We went down towards the village and scouted around. There were mostly dairy farms in this area. We found a farm house where there were 2 or 3 women. We ask them if they had a cellar. It was a nice dry place. They were very pleased to have us stay because the day before Russian prisoners of war had been roaming around everywhere and they had no respect for anything. The people who owned this farm house also had a shop in town. Two of our blokes (big Aussie jokers) used to sleep in the shop, nothing much in it and we slept in the cellar in the farm house.

They were Czechoslovakians not Germans. And this is Czechoslovakia see. One or two of our blokes slept in different houses. The Russian POWs treated the women badly so a lot of houses with only women welcomed us to stay with them

Down the street there were Russian soldiers and officers walking around. There was a commotion and 2 Russian POWs had a Czech girl between them. She was screaming her head off and trying to fight and they dragged her up the street. The Russian Officer goes to her aid, he grabs something and they drop the girl. The Russian POWs took to their scrappers.

There were 3 boys (11 and 6 or 7) and one afternoon. We had a big Aussie joker with us and we had just finished our lunch sitting around, one of these boys came in and had sighted 2 Russian prisoners in the shop. Aussie and his mate went to the shop to find the front door was lying on its back in the street and these 2 jokers were coming out with the goods (eggs, sugar etc). Well they lost the milk and some of the eggs were broken but the sugar was alright. But the 2 Russian POWs weren’t. They were only weak, poor little buggers, they didn’t have the strength for anything but had the strength to bust the door down. Aussie being who he was and how he was he shoots first and asks questions afterwards. So he sorted them both out. They were walkable but wouldn’t go back there.

This Aussie and his mate go up to the shop there was a bag of sugar, cause when you come behind the German Army when they have buggered off they leave a lot of stuff behind. One place there was stacks of eggs, a bag of sugar and milk. In return for staying at the farm we milked the cows. They had 40 or 50 cows to milk.

The Jordie joker, was one of our original chaps, him and I walked around looking for some transport and whatever we could find. We came across 2 or 3 young students (young chaps) dressed in suits, and they were trying to get a car started. I have no idea what nationality they were but it didn’t matter (they were not Jerries). I could smell it, they had flooded the car. I walked up to it and just along the street saw a chap walking along in civvies. I asked him if he knew anything about these cars because they were a little different to what we were used to. He got really nasty for the simple reason it was his car. Apparently the Russians had taken it off him earlier on. He walked on.

I got Jordie in the seat and I’m working on the throttle here because Jordie knew nothing about cars. We got it running and let it run until it got real dry before we told the young chaps to take off. We then found a 4 cylinder Opel. Wires were hanging out from under the dash board. I got rocking it and got it going. For a couple of days Jordie and I did a tiki tour around the village. That was lovely. I started to feel quite queer because I hadn’t driven a small vehicle for 4 years, then the penny dropped I’m changing gear with the right hand. The steering wheel’s on the left hand side.

We lived in a house for about a week to a fortnight. There was a lake not far from the house where we used to go fishing. It was like a real holiday, plenty tucker and sunshine.

We went back to the farm house and parked the car outside. Inside we went doing whatever and one of the blokes says I think someone is out at the car. So we go out to investigate and there were a couple of bloody bears with 2 machine guns - Russian soldiers. They were covered in hair and weighed about a ton and both had machine guns. Jordie asked me what I was going to do. ‘Just wish them a happy birthday’ I said. Discretion was better and I’m not having those buggers on. They started the car and drove off.

I think the Russians were more or less on our side because they had been taken earlier. Any civvies that were in cars would be stopped by the Russians and the cars then given to us

Across the road from the farm house was a Manor House. I can’t remember if it was 2 or 3 stories high. It was shaped in a ‘U’ and in the middle was a big court yard. There were bomb holes around it. We walked to have a look and found nearly all the windows had been broken by the bomb blasts. I remember there was a post there with a piece of wood sticking up like that and on top of it was a pair of spectacles without the glass, was sticking up like that. On the floor of the Manor House were the remains of chandeliers, all the prisms were lying there. I found a fork, knife and spoon with a crest of the Baron. I had these for some time but lent my fork to an American and never got it back. I still have the knife, spoon and a little sheath knife and a silver money box engraved with the name Marie. The box is embossed in silver roses in circles. Out in the court yard (the Russians had been there before us) was about 6 to 8 bodies. Perhaps they were staff. There was also a chapel here.

One chap found a depot of eggs. He was coming out of this room with about 3 or 4 crates of eggs and misjudged the bottom step so he took a ‘swan dive’ and had an egg omelette all over himself. That was funny.

When we left the farm house the woman cooked each man a cake. It had many eggs in it. You could actually see the eggs in the cake. We each carried a satchel on the side full of food, including hard boiled eggs.

 

TRAIN

Word got out that there was a train being made up for us, so we went to the station to investigate. There were all open trucks. To cut a long story short, I thought there were only half a dozen of us in that place but there was a train load. There were a number of strangers on the train also. Buggered if I know where they all came from. All POWs were in khaki. We also had 2 Americans (don’t know where they came from). An engine hooked on and away we went. We travelled all that day, that night and the next day and about midday we pulled up into a siding. We sat there for some time.

All of a sudden we see an engine (up the way we are going) going backwards. It came down the line and passed us. It was our engine with a Czech crew. They were not going any further. They left the train. One of the Yankee chaps said ‘there’s something funny here because we now have no engine’. With that he hops off the truck (carriage) and goes looking for another engine. About an hour later we see a different engine coming down the track ahead of us. Yes it was the armed Yank sitting on the tender. They hooked on and away we went again.

 

DRESDEN

We got into DRESDEN (I think, it was a big place like that).The bombers had been there. The big railway yards miles and miles of railway lines, all destroyed. We went as far as we could in the train, got out and walked across the lines over a distance of 100 metres to a sort of embankment where there was a row of trucks which just happened to be all Yank trucks. We were pushed into these. Well talk about a mad place. The sides were made of sort of slates and were about that high and you stood in there and your feet were together, that was all the room you had (where your 2 feet stood). There were no braces, nothing. We went down to a place like the PARAPARAs used to be. It’s a gorge with mountains on one side and a big drops the other. The trucks travelled quite fast. The sides would swing like this because everything was a weight and you couldn’t brace yourself. We came to PRAGUE as the sun was starting to set.

 

Aerodrome

* ‘K” rations – American rations

From the town we went through a bit of a forest to the aerodrome which was occupied by Yanks. The aerodrome consisted of about half a dozen planes with one broken in half and a few buildings. The trucks stopped in convoy fashion in the forest. Over a loud speaker came “all personnel stay with their truck”. 2 men per truck came to take us into the camp. You were led in. These blokes came back with cases of ‘K’ rations. From then on the world changed. When everyone got their ‘K’ rations you should have seen the fires lit in the forest, there were hundreds.

Back home I worked in forestry and you were not allowed to smoke in that forestry for obvious reasons. If you wanted a smoke okay, but you knocked off smoking and you had a few puffs and you spit on the butt and put it in your pocket and carry on working

With all these fires nothing happened, nothing caught fire. The lowest branches of the trees would have been 12 feet high. We were then marched into camp and put into barracks. From then on all the cooking and cleaning up of rubbish was done by the Germans.

 

DRESDEN TO RHEIMS BY DAKOTA

The airfield was near Landschutt. We were unsure when the planes were coming. The weather turned rotten. We were rostered (27 men each roster, I think) to go out to the runway to wait for the arrival of planes and did this 5 or 6 times. This happened over a period of nearly a week. Eventually the planes arrived. There were about 52 planes. You know the American sort of troop carriers. When each plane landed a jeep went out and guided it in. Only lost 2 planes, one its brakes must have been sick. Of course he lost his front end and the other one lost his back end. A jeep pulled these planes out of the way.

 

On the Move Again to Rheims

When you sat in a Dakota you face each other. A jeep ferried people out to the planes. They did a good job. That was the first time I had ever been in a plane. I had a mouth full of ulcers and my tongue was ulcerated, I felt rotten. We climbed aboard (no seat belts) and sat down. The planes took off one at a time and we travelled through rough weather. I think the pilots must have had the wheels down cause they were going over the land and the weather was foggy, raining, hailing and snowing, we had the lot. Turbulence was quite bad also. No ventilation either. In the middle of the plane there were rows of buckets. Normally things like that don’t affect me but this time it did, so we were all doing our “Technicolor yawns” all over the place.

 

RHEIMS

We landed at Rheims in France and were handed over to the RAF. Climbed out of the plane and were taken to a camp which consisted completely of Yanks. They even had stores making donuts. It was well established and good. All the mod cons (home comforts).

 

Black Tea

We were only there for about 2 days or so. A Sergeant told us to go and get some ‘chow’. It was black tea. We were outside sipping the tea in an enamel mug and the Sergeant came along and asked us why we were drinking black tea. We told him we thought it was a good idea because there was no milk. We went into a tent which caused a big ruckus; there at the back of the tent was a stash of books, magazines and boxes of highlander milk. There were also a couple of Poms lying in the tent.

 

Meal Time

We were fed and waited on by Germans. An American Dixie is like in divisions and there is a hot meal in those. All MESS were Germans. The joker along side me at meal time started yelling abuse at the German waiting on us. I said ‘what did you do that for?’ “Ah because I was bloody cross. Why didn’t you do that when you were on the other side?” I said “no, if you were so bloody brave you should have done it then”. You were paid to argue with those blokes. I said they are the same as you were as helpless and now you are doing the same as they are. ‘They were wrong when they did it to you, now you are right for doing it to them’. I said ‘you are not worth bloody knowing’.

He shut up after that because I was right. I knew him in camp. He always did what he was told (to a point) like every one else did and soon as he is on the big side he starts to wave the stick.

Tucker was served with slices of white bread. To us that was a Christmas cake. Yes, whoever buttered the bread must have been a bricklayer and then jam on top of that. We walked around the yard with this great big slab of cake (bread). Nobody wanted it because we were all full but it was so beautiful to look at -Bloody marvellous!

 

Showers

Later in the afternoon we had to get cleaned up. We stripped right off and put everything into a heap in one place. The clothes stood up by themselves and were probably burnt later. We hadn’t had a bath or a wash for 6 months so there was plenty of live stock in the clothes. I forgot to take my mementos out of my battle dress pocket because I was thinking of getting better. From there we went to the showers.

I met up with Dick again in the showers. I hadn’t seen him since we left the POW camp in Grosse Seidel. The showers were lovely. Then it was all spoilt we had bleached sugar bags to dry ourselves with. The bags didn’t exactly soak up the wetness. From here we went through a garage, out into the open to the stores dressed in our birthday suits. Nobody gave a damn, nothing worth worrying about. The first item you were given was your kit bag. I still have mine, that big Yankee bag. They are bloody good ones made very strongly. We walked along the row and were given our clothing. Well my trousers, I couldn’t pull them right up (too small). From here we went into a big yard which was lit up with lights.

 

Swapping Of Clothes - Rheims

* Lofty Blomfield – Large man who was a boxer and lived in Whangarei

I swapped my trousers with my mate Dick (who I spoke of earlier) he had been given a pair of trousers that were big enough to fit *Lofty Blomfield and Dick was only a small bugger. We were all dressed in Yank army stuff. It felt good having had a shower and dressed in clean clothes. It wasn’t until later lying on my bunk when I realised I had left my mementos in my battle dress. I had left my ring in the pocket.

 

Lancasters

The following day we went out to the runway. It wasn’t a very big airport. There were a dozen or so Lancasters.

The Lancaster planes had 4 engines. I had noticed before boarding the plane the crew were looking at one wheel. The tyres on the Lancasters were about that wide and as high as the roof. The crew member said by gee we were lucky it didn’t blow when we landed the other side.

There were no windows in the body of the plane and they were not built to carry passengers so consequently when we boarded the plane we ensured it was balanced correctly e.g. 2 blokes here and 2 blokes there ,staggering them around the plane. I got a seat on the floor which was steel or aluminium. My legs were wrapped around an ammunition rack which fed the tail gunner and the top gunner. The rack must have been all centralised. We put on ‘Mae Wests” and were shown how to use them. Two sweets were given to each bloke supposedly for air sickness.

 

RHEIMS to England

PLANES WENT and we were left behind

They all took off except for the one I was in. Eventually a tractor came along with a little crane on the front with a wheel. In due course the wheel was changed and the plane was pushed out on the tarmac again. We were all settled down in the plane again. Yoew, yoew, yoew, yoew tuhff away she goes (one motor going), then the 2nd, the 3rd all start fine and then the 4th started in a cloud of smoke. We still have to get over the drink yet (ocean between Rheims and England). Then we were off. That was okay. Eventually we landed in York. I knew we were in England because it was raining.

 

England - York

When I arrived in England June 1945 I was just over 9 stone. Normally I would be about 14 stone. The knobs were my joints and the sticks were the other parts and you could play home sweet home on my rib cage. I was malnourished. My mind had slowed down to hell. I couldn’t think and people talked too fast. It was so very frustrating.

The aeroplane door opened and we all stood up. Were there any steps for us from the plane, no, the first step was the ground. Everybody jumped. My legs were not working very well in the beginning because they had gone to sleep due to the cramped condition on the plane. Well I did a 3 point landing. Did anyone care, no? They just walked around me. That’s what happens when you look after yourself all the time.

 

Food

We went into an aeroplane hangar and one side of the hangar was all benches and stalls and each table was like that (more of less) with tucker. I thought they were short of tucker. Probably the Yanks had provided it. It had been loaded up with food, cakes, sandwiches and that sort of thing. No rubbish food and of course our plane being last to arrive most of the food had been eaten. We were eating our food and my mate said hey look around you. I looked around and there was only him and I there, the others had gone. The food was beautiful. Okay we finished, hopped up and walked to the far door. There was a WAAF standing there with a tray of broken chocolate and just around there, there were 4 or 5 old chairs. She said “hello boys and how are things?” “Ah, they are getting better by the minute”. But that wasn’t it. We both stopped in our tracks. I was dumbfounded. She apologised and said ‘have I said something wrong? What’s wrong boys?’ She was really concerned. What was the problem? We had some chocolate and she chatted with us and it was quite lovely. I could have downed the chocolate, but she just talked to us. It was nice to hear an English speaking woman.

My mate couldn’t talk, he buggered off. He got all sloppy like I did but never mind. Afterwards I saw him and I said you bloody chicken. When we came back down to earth again, it suddenly struck both of us that this was the first woman we heard speak English we had seen in 4 years. * WAAF – women’s auxiliary air force

A truck pulled up and picked us up. We were taken to the barracks. Across the road was a sort of parade ground and way over (say from here to the shop) there were other buildings with lots of doors. So it was obvious what they were. That was out-of-bounds for obvious reasons. It was the WAAFs quarters. One of the air boys asked if we wanted to see that scenery there, well some boys sneaked over one night and put several loud speakers under the seat. In the morning, you know where the girls go first; okay they went in and shut the doors. “Watch it sister, watch my eyes” well every door burst open the same time and all the girls came out in different phases of dress screaming their heads off. There was a bit of trouble over that.

 

YORK TO MARGATE

The next day we travelled by train to Margate. Margate was a sea side resort in the south of England. During the war it was evacuated. We were put into the rows of empty hotels and were there for 2 or 3 weeks. It was a lovely place for a holiday. There was no strife, no regulations, no parades and all that sort of carry on. Suppose I should have gone to Medics first but no. I was not given a physical. They did test your ticker (my heart rate) and blood pressure and blew sand in your hair and everywhere else. You know the wooden pumps, they did that. I met Dick again here. He and I had been drinking. Dick threw a deck chair into the sea and stood under a lamp post. A piece of slate came off the top of the light and hit Dick’s foot, so he shook the lamp post. We both stood there and laughed.

The Pay master was there so we got our money and could do what we wanted. I made straight for the Isle of Wight

 

ON LEAVE - Isle of Wight

I returned to the Isle of Wight in 1945 to find a “VI” Doodle Bug (motorised Jerry Flying Bomb) had landed there. When I walked through Ivy’s kitchen and into the bathroom I realised the Califont and the toilet had been replaced. There was a full length plate mirror on the wall. I asked Ivy is she had made any renovations to her house she said no we didn’t the Government did. If your house had suffered any bomb damage, the Government replaced it.

I went to my cousin’s place. The 3 of us sat down for tea (the 2 of them and me) as in 1940. Reg was very interested to know what had happened during the 4 years and of course me, ‘the usual, ah ‘F’ed if I know. Instead of carrying on talking everything went deadly quiet. I thought I had better not talk to any one. I’ll just shut up and carry on otherwise you have to talk guarded all the time and I had a job to talk. I was malnourished. I had to form every word, and if you spoke to me normally, I would only get half of it out. Because you spoke too fast. My mind wasn’t catching up. I had a bath at Reg’s place, hadn’t had one for 4 or 5 years. It was great because you just lie there and soak. My ankles were about that size, I pressed it and the hole stayed there. Beri Beri came along. I didn’t like that. That’s dangerous. It turned out alright and I gradually got better and went and saw the whole family. One or two were not there.

 

 

Rangitiki

Photo Charlie took

 

BACK TO CAMP AND ON OUR WAY HOME

 

We went to Liverpool in August 1945 and caught the Rangitiki and away we went “home here I come”. We had a slow passage with engines breaking down all the time. No sooner had they fixed one engine then another one would be sick. Poor buggers must have been working flat out the whole trip. We went via the Panama Canal. That was an experience. We had leave in Cologne (Panama is one end and Cologne the other). There is also one in Germany. If somebody held you on the rails of the boat you could reach out and grab a leaf off the trees. That’s how close you were and then we went through the lake. It was announced over a speaker if we wanted to take showers now was the time as the water was fresh. What a marvel of work the Panama Canal is. Pulling up gates and things, different levels and to think it was built by hand, no bulldozers. Eventually we were out into the Pacific Ocean calling in at Pitcairn Island. The boat had radioed ahead that we were coming in because small boats full of oranges were there to meet us. Oranges ripened on the trees and were very juicy. They were lovely. Soon we were off again.

Gambling was illegal in the army, or was it just carried out because the crown and anchor was out. One joker had homemade skittles, another had a table model grammar phone with the guts out of it. He put pointers on the turntable and numbers on it. That was a very popular game but the crown and anchor was my favourite. You went from game to game. “A limit on this game”. Yeap. Okay then you would go on to the next game until you found a game with no limit on it. I suppose every man on the ship would have had a couple of hundred pounds in his pocket. I saw ten pounds on a crown, it missed so you put one pound on the crown, it missed so you put one pound 30 on the crown, it missed. You kept doubling up all the time. But you had to have a bit of a stack behind you because when it pays it does pay a hat full and that is what I did. I landed in New Zealand with more money than I got on the boat with. There were 2 blokes who bought fur coats in London. They paid about 600 pounds for them. They raffled the coats off on our trip home, then the night before we hit Wellington, it as taken up to the Officers Mess and drawn but I didn’t win it. They made well over 600 pounds from it. That’s enterprise.

I think we had 6 Aussies on board and the night before I was playing crown and anchor this Aussie came along and whopped 400 pounds on the board anyway, sink or swim. I never saw 400 pounds go so fast. Two minutes ago he had 400 pounds, 2 minutes later he was broke. Never mind it happens.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand

We arrived at Wellington on 23 September 1945 to a fairly good reception. There was quite a crowd. As we disembarked there was this joker at the bottom of the gang way who took your name and announced your arrival over a loud speaker. But nobody was there for me. There were Road Services buses lined up waiting to take you. I travelled by bus to Wanganui. My folks lived on Holman Road, just out of Wanganui. Along the various bus stops people were waiting with big placards displaying your name.

My effort was waiting out there. They were the only ones. I was the only one off at that stop. The bus driver had noticed my name on a placard so stopped. So there were all those hellos and the rest of it. We then had to go into town to get my gear because it was still on the bus. Got my gear, put it on the truck and went back to the house. This was the first time I had been in this house as my parents had moved while I was overseas. But it wasn’t my old home. My mum had passed on while I was overseas in 1942. So it was all different.

I felt I was back in New Zealand but I still wasn’t home and I’ve never been home. That’s how it is and you can’t do anything about it. If you can’t get over it you have to get under it.

I was discharged from the army and have the papers to show - book of words, present and correct. 5 years and 125 days overseas.

 

REHAB

When I settled down I bought a little old place which was condemned. We worked on it ourselves and the Council would come and inspect our work and finally we got the okay. Then the house became too small for us. We needed something bigger so
I went to the
Rehab for a loan. I was refused because I had rehabilited myself. The only thing I got from the New Zealand Government was a concession ticket to buy
a pair of blankets. It was a bit of a sore point.

 

MOVING ON

I got a job in a foundry and that was a dirty, stinking job. I worked there for about a year in the dust and the heat. I had enough of that on the coal. Never went back to the forestry although before I left to go overseas they said I could come back. There’s nothing up there now. A chap from Marton was selling his service car run which travelled from Wanganui to Marton in early morning. He had to catch the 3 o’clock express. So I took over the service car run. I used to drop the papers at Marton Railway Station, pick up my passengers from the train and come out through PUKEPAPA and go out to OKUIA with passengers and papers. The papers didn’t work out properly for the newspapers. I dropped them off at the Marton Station and a lot of the time they forgot to put them on the appropriate train that travelled north. So the company decided to try and deliver the papers themselves. Well that was quite good because I didn’t like carrying passengers. I dropped my service licence and bought a brand new 1948 Hillman and from then on bought a new car every year. That worked out fairly well. I would have had between 20 and 30 new cars in my life. The VWs came out but in the beginning I was against them because they were German. I said to myself that is childish, that’s history, gone. So I got myself a Combie. They were quite roomy. I had about 5 thousand papers to deliver for starters. The Combie blew up and I never got another one because it cost too much to fix. Then I got a 1963 Valiant. It was too light; the weight of the vehicle was 300 pounds heavier than the Hillman. The weight was in the motor. The rest of the body was nearly as half as big again and was the same weight. You could push your hand on the side of the door and it would move. Too light. When you travelled between 85 and 90 miles and hour the steering got light and it starts to lift. The trade in price for a vehicle and the cost of a new one used to cost 500 pounds but the gap became bigger and bigger. It was becoming too pricey.

 

Ratihi Butter/Cheese Factory

It closed down so that left all the milk cockies up in the air. They had no facilities for milk pick up now. They formed a company WAIMARINO DAIRY COMPANY. They bought a Leyland Truck and a Leyland Van. I picked up the cream from their gates and took it back to my place in Wanganui. A truck from OKURIA would then pick up the cream, leave the empty cans and delivery the cream to Bulls. I still delivered the papers. That worked for a while but the diesel truck was slow, I could only get 50 miles an hour out of it flat out. I used to get to Raetahi around about 7 o’clock in the morning however with the collection of cream it was around 8.30 and still had deliveries down the PARAPARA as well and people were starting to grizzle because their papers were too late. I worked on the Leyland for a while and managed to get about 60 miles per hour out of it being dammed diesel. But the van, it was a thing and a half, what you call forward control. The cab was sitting on top of the front wheels. Well with the cans on the back it was like driving a bloody tractor. No power steering. It was very tiring. I was on wages so didn’t have to pay for the running of the van. Eventually milk tankers came on the scene and my cream pick up service was not required any more. I told my paper boss we would be loosing the vehicle soon. It did happen, firstly the truck went and then the van. The paper boss still hadn’t done anything about getting another vehicle. Well they gave me an Escort van as a temporary measure. The van did not have a heater in it and I was tied of having my feet frozen to hell. Well this went on for months so I warned my boss that if he did not get me decent transport he would have to deliver the papers himself. A Ford Transit was delivered to me. Well my arms ached, it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding. It was (I think) about a 15 to 1600 cc). I put up with this for a year. I discussed with Johnny the Engineer to pros and cons of a vehicle they traded it in and got a 2,000 cc motor. Much better.

 

My Chevy

That Chevy 1936 model I had for the service run, was a beautiful vehicle. I’ve got a picture of it somewhere. It was on blocks all through the war. The only fault with that model was it came with the knee action front wheels and they were shot, so it was a bit that way. That was in the days when vehicles were painted with 2 coats of paint and then paint baked on. It had 2 spare wheels set in the mudguard and a body cover over the spare wheels. Behind the front seat was 2 chairs set in the floor. If you wanted an extra you just sit them out like that and you could carry 6 people 2 at a time. The boot wouldn’t hold anything. It’s a “B’ small thing. It looked like a Hurst really but the motor was something else. In fact I put a red ignition light on the dash board because many a time I would stop somewhere, get out and turn the key and the motor’s running and you know what it’s like when the motor’s running. It’s horrible, but with the Chevy you couldn’t hear it. Put your hand on the gear lever, you could feel it going like that. Otherwise it was a beautiful vehicle. I got rid of it in 1948 because I needed some of that folding stuff to do something else.

 

Married

Lil and I got married in 1951. We have 3 children, Ruth, Carol and Margaret, 5 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.

 

Retirement

I retired on my birthday 9 February in the 70s on my 60th birthday. I must admit I worked hard around our place for about 3 months.

 

More Work - Paper Company

After about 3 months of retirement the paper people rang me up. There’s a young chap who works in the publishing area he is on holiday, how would you like a day job for 3 weeks. My paper delivery job was 6 days a week and from 2am in the morning to 9am in the morning around about 200 miles a day.

I took the job and it lasted for 3 years. The young chap was put in the office to work.
Lil was working in London Town, I was getting the supper and working and didn’t draw any pay. A chap by the name of Archie took over from me and messed the system up right proper. Mine was the biggest load because some went to New Plymouth and Wellington so my vehicle was loaded first.

I would get up, get dressed, have a cup of tea, hop into the truck and go down there and wake up. It had to be in that order. If you wake up first it was fatal. If you thought you would have another 5 minutes sleep in they would ring to make sure you were up.

If I had a good run through I would be back home at 8.30am to 9am. Have breakfast, have a kip until the afternoon and do what I wanted for the rest of the day.

The problem was Archie did not have a phone, the papers piled up and when one of the boys had time they would hop in his van and go down to Glasgow Street to get Archie out of bed. They weren’t very please about that. Other contractors took the papers out to New Plymouth. While I was in publishing 3 things happened to Archie, he broke his leg, fell over a dog (nothing wrong with the dog) he was drunk so they asked me to take over cause I was the only one that knew the run. Well that lasted about 3 or 4 weeks. I was getting sick of this and he returned to work only to break a leg and the last thing he ran into a parked car at Glasgow Street. See the parked car backed into him, so he lost his licence. Well it turned to be nearly 6 months before he was back. I came home one day after delivering papers and said to Lil that’s it I’m not doing it anymore. That’s my last trip. I nearly did 2 million miles in 30 years. Worn out a few vehicles and nearly warn myself out.

 

OVERSEAS TRIP

Lil and I ventured overseas for 3 months in 1981. We spent the money I had banked for those 3 extra years I worked. We went to England, Crete, Germany. We visited family and POW friends.

When in Crete we went to both the British and German Cemeteries. The British Cemetery graves had headstones standing with one name per stone and in the centre there was a sort of Cenotaph thing and the feeling came back to me, it was horrible. However a very well kept Cemetery. We caught the bus and visited the German Cemetery. Graves were laid flat and had a sort of succulent growing over them, there was more than one person buried in each grave, sometimes 4 others 7 or 8. We spoke to the Greek bloke at the cemetery gate and bought his book “Creton Runner”. While there a group of people walked towards us. I watched and straight away my hair stood up on end, you know, I could feel it prickly. Yes one was German. That’s how I felt. There were lots of stone walls in Crete. We went out for a meal and met a Greek Cypriote who had 5 passports and had owned a café in Wellington for 20 years.

When we went back to Crete on holiday in 1981, I took Lil to a coffee place. Lil and I had a drink of coffee. Lil didn’t like it because they had a little ladle, it holds a small cup and that goes on a sort of charcoal burner. I don’t know how old the coffee is but it was like pea soup (thick). We were also given a glass of water. The idea was you sip the coffee and drink the water. The coffee was a bit strong. Why don’t they put the water itself in the drink?

It was good to find peace amongst the bad memories which helped me to move forward. It bought a form of comfort and I renewed many friendships. It was the best 3 months we ever had.

 

ENGLAND

 

 

Nice to see you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nr


TWO former prisoners of War were reunited in Cleethorpes.

 

There was a knock on the door at the home of Mr Joseph Hallam (62 of 24 Glebe Road – and standing on the doorstep was Mr Charlie Moorman (64) from New Zealand.

 

The two men had not seen each other since they were prisoners of war in Germany over 35 years ago. But they recognised each other immediately.

 

After that the years rolled away as the two Army veterans talked about their four years as POWs in Germany.

 

Dad moved and lived with his Sister

When my Mum passed on, Dad came down this way to live with his sister. He kept the place and rented it just in case I wanted to buy it. Unfortunately he asked me too soon as I was still trying to get over my experiences during the war. He did ask me to think about it but I told him that was too hard to do. I could have bought the house and 6 acres for 250 pounds. Well the place is still there today

 

REFLECTIONS

If you liked to be honest with yourself there were good points about the Army. Your Mates, comradeship but being a Prisoner of War teaches you a lot more than you would ever imagine. You rely on yourself for everything.

The POMS had a thing about escaping, it was your duty to get away, fight for your King and country. To hell with the King and country I say. Neither of them was going to do anything for me, you would be risking your health and everything for what.

Things had changed since 1939, people had moved on, places had changed and I was a different person. You have to move on with time otherwise it doesn’t work.

My mate Jack Flowers (Blossom) in Hamilton well he was a nervous flaming wreck when he returned home, everybody had something inside. But him, his wife did not understand and didn’t want to hear about what had happened. He had nobody to talk to. He was sick for years and in fact he spent several times in Tokaanui. Now me mate who we talked about, old Dick he did and old Percy (my Sargeant) did. Harry’s gone, Henry’s gone, Dick’s gone but we are still here. It was talked out. Not that they understood what you were talking about but they listened. It’s like a sore, you take the rot out and it will heal. That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to talk. Well I had someone to talk to and that was the whole thing. At times it was frustrating.

Frustration was really like a cancer. It eats and there is no way out, you feel trapped in yourself and you want to talk and you want to get rid of the muck out of your mind. You do get it out in the finish. We did not have any formal counselling like today.

People are still people, they use time as a big cover up, but people are still the same people. They have their likes and dislikes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nei Street, Rangataua early this century when it was a bustling community full

of mill and railway workers. The shops pictured were devastated by fire in 1926

(Photo courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library – local paper)

 

Rangataua – Charlie’s Home town

 

Nei Street, Rangataua - Harrods as it stands today 2008

 

 

Rangataua Railway Station in 1920 – 1930s

This invitation was bought about as a result of interview held with Brenton

A Unique Sort of Battle has comments from Charlie Moorman published

 

 

 

Helen Clark

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage

invites

 

C H H Moorman

 

to a reception in the Beehive Foyer, Parliament

at 3 p.m.

on Wednesday, 9 May 2001

to launch

 

A Unique Sort of Battle: New Zealanders Remember Crete 1941

edited by Megan Hutching and published by Harpcr Collins Ltd

RSVP (acceptances only)

Paulinc Hay (04) 4959459 or paulinc.hoy@mch.govl.I1Z by 7 May

 

 

 

Charlie and Lil Moorman did attend the book launch in Wellington

 

 

TRAVEL SEQUENCE

1. LEAVING NEW ZEALAND

a. Trentham Camp - February 1940

  • Training

  • On leaving New Zealand caught train to

 

b. Wellington

  • Boarded Empress of Britain – May 1940

 

c. Sydney

  • Pick up other ships

 

d. Freemantle\Perth

  • Free time – had look around

 

e. Cape Town

  • Free time

 

f. Columbo

  • Never got to Columbo as ship turned around as Italy now in war

 

g. Cape Town

  • Free Time

 

h. Sierra Leone

 

 

i. Disembarked England - June 1940

  • Greenock, Scotland

 

2. IN ENGLAND

 

a. Scotland

  • Train to South England

 

b. Seven Oaks

 

c. Camberley and Mytchet

  • Army Camp

 

d. Isle of Wight

  • On leave to see family

 

e. Mytchet Wood

  • Back to Camp

 

 

  1. LEAVING ENGLAND FOR WAR

 

a. Mytchet Wood. Camberly

  • March to train station

b. Liverpool – March 1941

  • Board Duchess of Bedford

 

4. EGYPT

  • Port Said

  • To Helwan Camp, Cairo by train – there 2 to 3 weeks

  • Boat to Port Piracuss, Greece

 

 

5. GREECE (Arrived approx 1 week ahead of other army personal as in Transport)

  • Port Piracuss

  • Athens

  • Olympus Pass

  • Katerini

  • Salonika

    • Retreated to Olympus Pass

    • Ordered to go back to front line

  • Larissa

  • Athens (we destroyed our trucks here)

  • Porto Rafti – walked here

  • Barge to Isle of Keo

  • Transferred to Navy Boat bound for Crete

 

 

6. CRETE – May 1941

  • Landed Suda Bay

  • Moved to Maleme

 

 

7. EVACUATION MARCH

  • Maleme

  • Galatos

  • Over the White Mountains

  • Sfakia

 

8. AS PRISONER – July 1941 to 1945

 

a. Stakia

  • Marched back

 

b. Over White Mountains

 

c. Canea (POW Camp)

  • There for 4 or 5 days

  • March to Suda Bay

 

d. Suda Bay

  • Put on Italian coal boat

 

e. Salonika

  • Left coastal boat

  • Marched to train station and caught train to Salonika

  • Empty Greek Barracks

 

f. Belgrade in Hungary

  • Had Red Cross Stop

 

g. Lamsdorf

  • POW parent Camp

 

  • Klein Seidel – Stayed 1 year this accommodation) - working party

    • Worked in Cardboard Factory

 

  • Grosse Seidel

    • Worked in Cardboard Factory

 

  • Grosse Seidel – Built by Cardboard Factory people for us

    • Moved closer to Cardboard Factory

 

 

THE MARCH

 

  1. Grosse Seidel

 

2. Elb and Ober Rivers

 

3. Dresden

  • Boarded Dakota

 

4. Rheims

 

 

 

RHEIMS TO ENGLAND

 

  1. Rheims

  • Met Dick again in shower

 

2. England

  • York

 

3. Margate

  • Army Camp

 

4. Isle of Wight

  • On leave to see family

 

5. Margate

  • Army Camp

 

6. Liverpool

  • By train

  • Board ship Rangatiki – bound for New Zealand

 

7. Cologne

 

8. Panama Canal

 

9. Pitcain Island

  • One day there

  • Beautiful oranges

 

10. Wellington, New Zealand

  • Caught bus

 

11. Wanganui