John Abraham - Air attack at Milne Bay
They had no quarters for us. Here was a ... I suppose there would have been about 20 of us in the crew. I have photos of them upstairs. We got put ashore and where we lived was in an old hut, you know? And the only thing we had with us was our hammock. And like a lot of silly fools we tried to sling a hammock on, but the hut collapsed. We tried to sleep there but ... So, we got in more trouble over that. So, we finish up sleeping under the Naval officer's headquarters. That's all we had, we had nothing.
And when they knew I could signal, they were short a signal, so I went in, did wireless operating for them as well. That came in handy from learning from the cadets. So, I was used as a radio operator as well. I missed out on a lot of the battles that the army had, but we didn't miss out on the air raids. A 100-plane air raid was quite common. Yeah, one sits in me memory, it was rather funny actually if you got a sense of humour.
NOIC, that was the naval officer in charge. We had ... If you can imagine an oil tanker sitting there, and on the inside, port and starboard side, was Warramunga and Arunta fuelling. Then outside of them came two American destroyers, and they were fuelling over the top of the Arunta and the Warramunga and before we knew it, a red had come on. That said, "They're here." You usually get a yellow, which indicates they're coming, red and so on. The planes were there, that was the warning we had.
The Yanks went to panic station, they cut their lines, threw their oil went all over Warramunga and Arunta, I'm laying off, in other words, I'm standing clear of all that. And the two Yanks, Perkins class destroyers they were, were waddling up the bay. And I'm standing there listening to the orders coming down from the Warramunga and Arunta. "Finish fuelling", at the same time, I knew the signals "Stand by, stand by." Full steam, telegraph goes, they let go everything, and they went up straight doing around about 25 knots past the two American destroyers that never prepared.
Past them and up. Then all Hell breaks loose. Anyway, we all survived. We lost a few ships there, they sunk a couple of ships. But none of their naval ships was sunk. The Japanese were very cunning. This time we had no dive-bombers. They were all high-level and low-level. But there were no dive bombers in this line. Anyway, they sank a couple of ships. I forget the names of them now, but you always had to be on your toes.