Hello! I was born on June 10 1924.
This year (2014) I turn 90. My father fought in France during WW1 and my mother lived to over 100.
I married Hilda Jessie Lowndes and we had 4 children, two girls and two boys. I now have lots of grandchildren and great-granchildren. I am pleased that they are interested in what happened to us during WW2. Hopefully these stories will help them, and others who read and hear them, to understand what happened.
I was sent to Rocklands Dam near Casterton to do Rookie training. We lived in ex workers huts. (The dam was completed after the war.)
On 25/7/42 we were on a bus to go on leave in Casterton and I was pulled off the bus with others, and we were put on trains to Sydney to do an electrical course at the Ultimo School for Trades near the city. We were housed in the Pacific Hotel Bondi and travelled in and out each day. It was a great experience for a ‘boy from the bush’ like me.
30/1/43 – I was posted to Bairnsdale 1 Operational Training unit that flew Hudson, Avro Ansons and Fairy Battles (early fighter from UK).
Around late June 1943 the unit was moved to the new aerodrome in East Sale and I was lucky to be able to be on lots of flights with trainee pilots doing solo flights. We had a few Beaufighters and at that stage they were considered risky due to crashes. They found a fault in the Beaufighter and fixed the problem. I was lucky enough to land a Hudson in a dual control aircraft. It was an enjoyable stay in Sale and I became friends with the Edwards family.
30/3/44 Posted to Melbourne Cricket Ground to head north somewhere.
1/4/44 Overland to Adelaide, train to Port Augusta then onto the famous Ghan to Alice Springs. We had an overnight stop at Terowie ( I think .) It was 46 degrees when we arrived at 4 P.M. We were given 3 blankets and sent to to tent. By 4 the temperature was down to minus 2 degrees (so we were told). I wished we had 6 blankets. By 9 A.M. when we boarded the train it was 37 degrees. It took 3 days and 2 nights to reach Alice Stayed one and a half days. One night we slept in the open on sand.
Audio: The Old Ghan Train (1.1 MB)
While on the Ghan we used to walk through the train to the engine and walk for 5 minutes. Then we would hop on the last carriage and start over again. Train crew often had to shovel sand off the line so we could continue our journey. We boarded semi-trailers under canvas cover. Every time one of the semi’s broke down we had to stop and wait for the mechanics to repair it. Heading for Darwin we had to sit on the floor of the semi.
Approx. 13/4/1944 we arrived at Coomalie Creek, about 50 miles south of Darwin to join 31 Squadron. I had several flights in Beaufighters while at Coomalie. They were training and search flights, some 6 hours over water.
Pet Wallaby in tent at Coomalie Creek
15/7/1944 Flew with several aircraft to Broom to cover Catalinas laying mines in Java Area for approx 10-12 days. Saw Uluru and Bungles from the air.
Tent at Coomalie
1/12/1944 Flew in a Beaufighter to Noemfor Island over New Guinea. It was an uneventful and boring trip.
7/12/2014 Flew to Morotai Island at Wama strip, which was the lower strip. The Americans had the next strip on higher ground. There were several strafing raids on us and a couple of bombs landed near our camp. Had Christmas there with American food supplied because we were under American command.
End of May or early June flew with several of our aircrafts to Sanga Sanga in the Philipines and to Tawitawi to do cover work. I had my 21st birthday on Sanga. We had house boys there and had to pay them to make beds, do washing, and tidy the tent. Their pay was not much. They could all speak English.
This is where I saw Gracie Fields perform.
20/6/1945 Flew to Tarakan with Tom Ellis (pilot) and Eric Coleman (Navigator) whom I met again at the 2000 Wagga reunion – that was a great thrill for me thanks to son Peter & my family, as it was sad time for our family. The Island was in Dutch command and we weren’t sure how many Japs were left on the island.
Had a few ‘interesting’ experinces with Lofty Terbutt from Narabri which I won’t go into – least said the best.
20/9/1945 I was posted south and told I would have to wait for about 8 weeks for a ship to come to take me home or I could make my own way (hitch-hike that is).
It took about two weeks wait to get one of our aircraft back to Morotai. There one of cooks and I went to the Control Tower. We were told of an American Dakota that was going south. The pilot was there and said that we could go with them and we took off shortly after. We called at Halmaheras Island to refuel and take on about 30 marines. About 6:30 that day we left for Manus Island – we were told to get up near the front because the tail wouldn’t come up. Eventually we staggered into the airand landed on Manus about 2 AM. Spent the rest of the night at the US naval base – all out on parade no matter who you were. After breakfast we spent one and a half hours washing dishes and cleaning up. Deciding this wasn’t for us we snuck into and out of lunch without being caught. I can still hear the P.A. system calling for the Australians to report to kitchen but the never did find us. We didn’t go back to the naval base after lunch and slept on an RAF Dakota. We met a pilot who was going to Townsville and left early that morning.
Got to Townsville before the pubs closed and were only allowed two beers because of shortages. Arranged a bed for the night and met an RAF pilot. They were being sent to Sydney so we hitched a ride with them.
In Sydney we were lucky enough to find a bus to the city. I had my kit bag with a change of undies and 2 cartons of Camel cigs and I was dressed in shorts, shirt socks and boots, and boy was it cold!!!
Slept at Airforce House and ate where I could for 2 days. Service police stopped me 4 times. I had was my paybook and movement orders. Finally I was able to get a troop train to Melbourne.
In Melbourne there were service police everywhere. I was transported to the MCG I.E.D. where I was given 40 days leave. I went out to my Aunty May’s home and borrowed some clothes. Went back into Melbourne to go home by train and was told tha tI had to book three days in advance. So I slept at Airforce House and the next day got out on the highway to Bendigo. I was read to give up when a Ute pulled up. It was Don Osborne (Plumber) from Bendigo. He was very friendly and took pity on me and drove me out to Mcivor Road.
After my leave I went back to the MCG and was posted to Laverton. There was little to do there so after Parade most mornings we would catch a train into Melbourne, sleep at Airforce House and be back by 8AM the next day for Parade.
I was discharged in January 1946.
Friends for Life…
Photo of Tom Stevens (Left) and myself (3rd from left) at Morotai. We worked together after the war.