Bill Egerton - Port overboard

Running time
3 min 36 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I met this Viennese, this bloke from Vienna and his brother had been interned here when the war broke out and he was a member of the Mozart Boys' Choir and they used to bring them out and they were school leavers and younger and they were all interned in Australia. This chap was in charge of all the Germans next to where my ship was in dock…

I made friends with this Austrian and he said, he said "Excuse me Bill, you have a funny accent. I've never heard your accent' he said. He said "You're not British, are you? I said "Yeah, I'm British". He said "Yeah, but what part of Britain?" I said "No, I'm from Australia" and then, he was the one who told me about his brother.

He was a big fellow. He was a captain and he was so overwrought. He said, "What would happen?" I said, "Nothing would happen in Australia". I said, "He's probably living a life of luxury." And he said, "They wouldn't kill him or anything?" I said "No". I said, "You'll find out". He said, "If I write a letter and you make it home will you give it to him?" I said "Yeah" and he wrote a letter for me and I put it in my special bag that I squirreled stuff in that I used to like and take home…

When we got back to Australia they took us off the Suffolk just in Watson's Bay at the head of the heads and we had to go down in the bosun's chair and they sent a lighter out to take us back to the depot and the fellow he said, he read our names out to make sure they got us all off the ship and it was just underway and I gave him my port that I had all the stuff in.

A lot of good stuff it was too. Stuff I'd bought in Edinburgh and London, Tahiti, Panama and he put the half hitch through the handle of it and then you had two clips, one on each end that used to close those wooden ports and so I didn't know and he just said "Egerton" and you've got to have your name on it and he lowered it over the side and the next thing I heard is "That port. All that stuff is in the water".

I raced over to the guard rail and as he lowered it down the weight of the port with just the two clips holding it, he had through the handle, the lid just flew open and my best uniform was in it and all the stuff, the letter from the German…All that stuff was lost and my best uniform so you can imagine how I felt.

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