Life

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This page has some things about my life and family. Only the things I want to share with everyone are here.

Posts related to my life are under this page.

Hello Again World!

Starting to get back online.

The headline is that after a failure at Servage, my blog was corrupted. Several things could be fixed but others could not.

On a new host now at Go Hosting and things are much better. I will reconstruct old posts as I am able to retrieve the content.


Research on WWII

Looking through a lot of online resources, I have been able to get a sense of what my father experienced during his time in the army. There is a book that I need to read called Green Shadows which is a history of the 1st and 2nd New Guinea Battalions where he served in the last months of the war. The ACT Library has it and I can borrow it on Monday. It is clear that he enlisted relatively late - 10 December 1932. This was because he was in an essential occupation, (brick and tile making?) I think. The War diary has extensive Intelligence reports in it and also a kind of "lessons learned" about jungle warfare. Many mentions are made that Australian soldiers are at least as good at jungle warfare as Japanese soldiers. Obviously the legendary ability of the Japanese to beat the British, Dutch and Americans in SE Asia was on their minds. I first thought that I recognised my father's words in the typing of the War Diaries but I think it is just that they all learned to talk/write the same way. I have many questions to ask of the War Memorial Staff when checking the 1st and 2nd NG Battalion records. It is interesting to see the type on the diaries gettign fainter until the ribbon is replaced after some months of usage. Much mention is made of air raids on Darwin and all of it is marked SECRET. It is unclear how he got to the 8th Battalion in Adelaide River and exactly when he joined the Battalion. He appears in the War Diary from 15 February 1943 where it shows him going to the Intelligence School in Brisbane. This would be after completing basic training. He was a Sergeant at that time. I recall him saying that he was promoted to Sergeant quickly during training and refused Officer training. A Sgt Fergusson seems to have been the Intelligence Sergeant until March when he disappears from the records until May and the Intelligence establishment shows 2 short. My father returned to 8th Battalion on 12 May after some leave. I wonder if this is the leave when he had a broken leg? From 21 May the Battalion strength shows that there was a surplus of sergeants and a deficiency in corporals in the Intelligence area. Intriguing to see the passwords used. They all have V or L sounds that are hard for Japanese people to speack correctly. It is also interesting to see how much their daily lives are regulated by orders from above. On 1 June Sgts Guy and Ferguson (plus others) did a recce (recconoitre). From about this Time Sgt Furgusson stops appearing and I. Sgt appears or Sgt Guy. From April to June it is clear that there is a lot of re-organisation of the Battalion going on and that the focus is on training them for jungle warfare and infantry manoeuvres with air, artillery and tank support. Presumably the reason for Intelligence Sergeants being mentioned so often is that they were the ones doing the ground work for getting the units where they were supposed to be. Both Sgts Fergusson and Guy were involved in giving feedback to companies on exercises. It seems that the Intelligence Officer arrived back on 12 July, relegating the Sergeants to the status of O.R.s - inter-unit cooperation seems to be the focus of July. I suppose this is what they mean when they say that the lessons learned include the need to equip and train new units well before sending them into battle. The troops seem to have got bored and there seemed to be a lot of disciplinary action. Sports carnivals seem to be the preferred solution to boredom. I hoped to see my father feature in some of them but it looks like he was too busy to enter them. On 5 July it seems that Sgt Fergusson was reverted to Corporal then promoted to lance sergeant. I presume this was so that the establishments balanced and they did not have to give up a Sergeant. This probably reinforced the idea that being a substantive rank was the safest thing. Cricket and football matches were scheduled in the "dry" for July and August. Ballarat seemed to do well. At this time nearly everyone was from Victoria and presumably from Ballarat area. The field return of other ranks showed that there was no surplus Sergeant in Intelligence as at 9 July. Many of the officers seem to have been training staff. That is they were there to train the Battalion and possibly move on to others later and do the same. My father turned 26 on 11 August and 7 officer cadets came into the Battalion. Most were from outside Victoria. Lots of planning for exercises must have consumed a lot of time and effort, judging from the detailed orders given for the exercises. Averaging 3 exercises a month would have been solid work. Plenty of air raids mentioned as they came closer to Darwin. On 26th it shows that my father conducted a cypher school. He showed me the techniques of cypering when I was about nine and I loved it. He also showed me how to do Morse code. Mrs Miniver showed on 10 August. Now I know why it meant something to my father! It was at his birthday and he was far away from his beloved sisters and mother. There was a big exercise that simulated a crossing of the Adelaide River under fire that must have been quite awkward to stage. Sept 22 moved to Alice Springs and on to Adelaide from 2 Oct everyone went on leave and the Battalion regrouped at Watsonia Base in Victoria. New people joined the Battalion at the end of the month and in November, many from NSW. The mention of Watsonia Station reminded me of the fact that it is only 300m. from the camp gate to the station and that this base has a very large area of bushland - presumably for training. I lived almost next door to this base for two years in the 1970s. My father appears again in the diary preparing the way to MAREEBA from 22-25 Nov. All this activity must have meant they would all know that active service was approaching. New Brigade reporting arrangements focused on New Guinea would confirm this. Intensive training recommenced at the end of the month. In early December the Battalion was designated an AIF unit. This meant that it could be deployed outside of Australia. Prior to that it was supposed to only stay in Australia to defend against an attack on home territory. Lots of training and movement in January and February 1944. Along the way PYTHON HILL is mentioned, reminding me of the stories of 30+ foor pythons that could swallow a pig whole... overage or unsuitable people were identified. In early March "refits" were added to get the Battalion near proper strength. Intelligence gets a mention more days than not. It shows how important it was. The description of the role makes it clear that Intelligence is the eyes and ears of the Bn and intelligence must know all the lines of communication so that information is swiftly transferred. Through to May, the war diary notes mainly weather and general deployments. Then on 17-18 May they embark on the SS Both and Van Der Lijn to LAE where they camped from 25th. LAE was a place of more tarinign and limited contact with the Japanese. Moved to Emirau Island end of Sept. Island defence preparation ... The overwhelming sense I get reading the standing orders for September and October through to December is that of a group of young men preparing themselves for unknown danger. Orders are trying to keep the men safe but trying to do that by controlling details. Making sure that the men do not take unnecessary risks. Making sure that they look after their health. Making sure that they are properly supplied and keep fit. The talking about tax, life assurance policies and other details of life. Informing the men that they can share ration coupons with their family. Issues of vitamin C and B tablets along with anti-malarial medicine. Patrols to remove mosquito breeding places within half a mile of camps. Above all, weapons training and tactics are the most important things in their lives while acting as a garrison for the island. Strategically unimportant but still close enough to danger for it to matter. Still, beer and cigarette rations get a mention. My father traded his beer and cigarette s for condensed milk and chocolate, according to him - he did not drink or smoke. In December came an invitation to join in the UN sponsored rehabilitation schemes for destroyed communities... already thinking was about the end of the war and what to do better than the end of WW I. Around this time it was obvious that the Japanese were going to lose th ewar and that there was no real reason to clear the islands around New Guinea in order to force Japan to surrender. Bypassing it all was the best strategy. However, political considerations menat that Australia felt compelled to clear the islands completely. In early January there are suddenly a lot of officers moving out to the NG battalions . On 13 Feb My father and several others went to a tactical school on Green Island returnign on 20 March. Reports of some advance units serving with 23 Brigade near Torokina suffering deaths in action. My father then marched off to 2 Battalion of the NG Infantry 27 March. By the end of June the 8th Battalion was fighting Japanese troops at Chabai - the war diary becomes more interesting from this point and I read it with mixed feelings of admiration and horror. Anything more about my father will be found by reading at the War Memorial because the NG Battalions are not on the internet


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