Don Anderson - Exchanging rags

Running time
3 min 9 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


The longer a ship served at sea, the food ran out. Now, until we got some refrigeration in the Castlemaine, we had tinned butter. That was okay until you opened it. It was liquid. Could you try that? Always …short of something. If you had enough tea there'd be no sugar to go with it. If you had plenty of sugar it was because you'd run out of tea.

Clothing was the same situation. People, it might have changed, the army and the air force were supplied with clothing and when a shirt or shorts wore out and developed a hole they were passed in for a new pair. Not the navy. In the navy the sailors had to supply their own. They could buy them from stores ashore where they had them and from big ships, which carried stores but you could never, small ships could never get supplies and your clothing wore out, particularly Darwin.

I can remember on one occasion the engine room and boiler room people needed cleaning rags and they would get ex-army and ex-air force torn clothing, would come ashore in a wool bale, right, and they would have plentiful supply. I can remember one bale coming on board and dumped on the after deck of the Castlemaine and the sailors descended on it like crows around a carcass.

To the dismay of the engine room and boiler room staff, the sailors got in pulling this stuff. A pair of shorts that needed stitching, a shirt with half a sleeve. That was okay for a sailor who badly needed a pair of shorts….

As it was, I got a bit of stuff out of it but I wasn't too badly off but I watched some of the sailors and they'd get something and say "Oh, this might do?" and they'd retire out behind the crowd, drop off the shorts, drop off the ragged ones, put on these replacement ones, throw their dirty old ones back in the wool bag.

So you reckon the engine room staff got back what they were supposed to, so a good exchange. That gives you some idea of the supply conditions and the food wasn't much different. It was ordinary all the way along.

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