John Steeles - Stealing cake

Running time
5 min 34 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs


So, we often invited different officers in to have a cup of tea or whatever. And because we were actually starving most of the time, I said to the skipper one time, I said "Listen. There's a ship has just come in". Not a ship, but a coastal steamer. I said, "I'm pretty sure they're bringing food in". I said, "What do you reckon we go down and have a look, see what's in the D.I.D.?" The Divisional Issuing Depot, where they store the food. "Good idea".

So, my job I could undo any lock, and I could go, break into anything, climb into windows and all these things. I was a pretty agile sort of a bloke. And so, we broke in this day, and all these boxes of foods there and he's drooling over it. And I said, "Hey listen, what's in those drums there? What are they?" And he said, "I wouldn't have a clue, what is it?" And he got it, rolled it around. And I said, "Hey, that's a cake making firm in Paramatta Road in Sydney." I said, "I bet they're full of cake". So, we prised the lid off one, it was one of those ones, and it's full of these cakes for the officers.

So, we, when we, I was driving the workshop truck, right. So when we broke camp and went somewhere new the workshop truck was positioned in a certain position, right, and then we'd drive it back and we'd dig this big hole underneath the engine, certain size, and we had a bit of a framework, and a canvas top, or a top on it, and we'd put the soil, the grass and that back on, and clods.

And so, when we were going out to borrow things, I'd bring it back and we'd open it up. So, we got these tins of these cakes, about four or five of them, you know, 4- gallon drums, or 5-gallon drums, and I know there was at least three or four. And so we put them in the hole, covered them up, and boy oh boy, the next day all the Provos are round everywhere. And they come into our place, and they said, "We know you blokes would be responsible for that". And we said, "What are you talking about?" Innocent as anything. So anyhow, we used to get, occasionally get a tin of cake sent up by our parents, right, or relatives. And I had one that I used to keep, and I'd get the cake out of the officer's tin and cut it up and put it in my tin.

And if you had an officer or passer-by, we'd shout him in for morning tea or whatever, you know, and lunch. And you'd yell out, "Hey Paddles", because my nickname was Paddles. I had big feet. And my feet were that wide when I went in the army. Never wore shoes or boots in my life. And I went through New Guinea in bare feet, they couldn't get boots to fit me.

He'd say, "Hey Paddles, have you got some of your mother's cake there?" This officer, he'd love to have a top up. And I'd say "Yeah, skipper, I'm pretty sure I've got some, I'll have a look". And of course, I'd make sure there was four pieces, one for the skipper, one for me, and two for the other bloke. And I'd take the tin over and pull it out of its packing, and say "Oh Skipper, look, there's only four pieces there, mate." "Oh never mind, you've had enough, give this bloke two". And I'd say, "What? You're joking". I said, "Do you want two? And he said, "Or more". So, I'd begrudgingly give him his own cake. And we used to go off, well like that, because I'd always have the tin full for us. We'd have a bit of a feed one day.

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