Clarence Dietman - Troop train and railway workers

Running time
4 min 5 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs


We had straw palliasses in the cattle trucks. When we would stop at anywhere when it was scran time we call it in the Navy. If you're gonna have scran, it means you're gonna have a meal. When scran time was on, trying to stop our soiling ...

The cooks would get all this stuff out and cook on the side of the rail car, on the railway line. We were given things to eat and cutlery. When we started off the trip ... The train that had the cattle trucks that went from Parkes just out of Kalgoorlie to Adelaide. No, we had to change trains at Port Pirie Junction.

I went from Parkes 'cause it was standard gauge and when we go to Port Pirie Junction, it was broad gauge. So many railway workers died of heart trouble during the war because they were overworked. I know my World War I uncle, he was a yardmaster at Port Pirie Junction and I know they had to work pretty hard. So many railwaymen died during the war you don't hear of because they were overworked. There's nothing about it.

I went in summer and winter. In summer, it was intolerable. It was so hot. You've got, you know, straw's so fine, if somebody dusted out their carriage ... Their truck driver ... Their truck carriage in front, you get it all in your truck if you're behind them. It'd come in. That was a hell of a mess. So that was hard to put up with, but it was only two days.

You needed a good bath when you got there. The Yanks. I'll tell you one episode. They took it in turns. The Yanks took it one time to get in the cattle trucks and our Army and our Navy and our Air Force. Well, one time I was coming across, it was the second time I think ... No, the third time. The third time, it was the Yanks' turn to take the cattle trucks. We had the good carriage. They didn't like it. They didn't have any need from it.

They didn't have any utensils. The cooks used to give them empty cans at the stops so they could eat their food. I felt sorry for the Yanks then. But anyhow, it was below the Yanks to have to ride in cattle trucks, so when the train started, they uncoupled. Only half the train went off. The Yanks were left there in their cattle trucks. I think there were some other cattle trucks we were in too. But they had quite a few of them. They back the train back, coupled up. It happened again, they uncoupled and the train went off. So, the third time the Yankee military police came along and made sure they didn't uncouple and they hopped on the train as it was going slowly. That was the only way the train got going. With the MPs supervising and preventing the yanks from uncoupling the train.

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