Rex Lipman - Adelaide River to Darwin march

Running time
4 min 15 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


That was the first reports they had had in Melbourne, about what the 2/4th Company was doing. I said, "I should get back, somehow or other, and get back to my unit." Because you were very proud of your position. I was there, I was carted off, with osteomyelitis. Which, in those days, before the penicillin drugs, was quite serious. But for them to be over there, and me not to be with them, was almost a disgrace. There was a moral thing about it. My troops, who I'd trained, were over, behind the enemy lines. Their officer was lying in bed, enjoying life, and going to the Melbourne Cup, and to watch Colonus win in 1942. And, at any case, they said, "Well, that is very good.

They want some more signallers up there, and they want this. You'll take them back with you, and they're short of two more officers." There were 60 of them, and they were ratbags! They were not properly trained, and to put them, at that stage, behind the enemy lines, where you need first-class discipline ... I got up there.

I only met them on the railway station, in Adelaide, as they were going through, up by train, up to, towards Alice Springs, and then by road. Then they suddenly said they want me up there too, when we got them up to Adelaide River, I went forward and reported to General Stevens, who was the commander of that area, and said "I cannot take these troops overseas. That they are not ready for it." Actually, I wasn't very fit myself. I'd been in the hospital. I hadn't, sort of, I wasn't fighting fit yet. But that didn't worry me. I knew I'd get fit. He said, "Well, I don't know." He said, "My orders are ..." I said, "Well I would like it recorded ... " There was a fellow with him. I said that it is wrong, and he said, "Alright." He said, “We'll have a chat in the morning about it, in any case, Lipman. Bye, bye, goodbye."

So, next morning, I arrived, and he said, "Well, what do you think you're going to do with these troops?" I said, "Well, sir, I would like to march them, with all their gear, from Adelaide River to Darwin." And I said, "If they can get up there, and keep up, and I'm only just recently out of hospital ... if they've got there, at least we'll see what they're like."

Twenty-four of them arrived with me, and I think the others are still out walking. I don't know whatever happened to them afterwards. And those 24 were pretty, they were fit, and it really did pick the eyes out of them, and some of them were very good soldiers. So that is the story of, they call it, they now ... I get letters from these old men: "The death march you took us on, from Adelaide River to Darwin, and things like that." And Stevens: "That's very good. No, no, no, that was, when did you think of that?" I said, "Well, if you want to know, I didn't get much sleep worrying about it at all, very well, in advance, but in retrospect ..." I said, "What my CO would say if I arrived with those people." Well, and we had four days in Adelaide River and they worked them hard and tried there, but they were really good people. The ratbags, as I said, I don't know what happened to them.

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