Ed Jones's veteran story

Ed Jones was a stockman before he joined the army in Townsville in May 1941. His first overseas posting was to the Middle East with the 2/9th Australian Infantry Battalion. He went on to serve at Milne Bay with the 2/9th,and was wounded in action on 3 September 1942, an event that he believed changed his outlook on life forever.

Milne Bay was the first place Ed experienced combat. He remembered a light mist hanging in the treetops, and slippery and muddy terrain. He recalled checking and re-checking his gear to calm his nerves as his unit walked past the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers and kept a lookout for snipers.

Ed remembered, also, sheltering on the bank of a waist-deep creek, just opposite Japanese positions, waiting for the order to attack.

When the attack came, Ed moved forward into Japanese fire, wondering when the bullets would find their targets. He emptied two magazines into the direction of the enemy, before being struck by a bullet in his arm, which he remembered felt like being hit with a metal bar.

After being wounded, Ed crawled to the creek and tried to control the bleeding. After calling for help, a soldier he didn't know applied a field dressing and returned to the jungle without a word. For Ed, this act exemplifies a profound sense of trust in his fellow service men that cannot be replicated in civilian friendships.

Ed said he and others who were wounded waited in the jungle to be evacuated. Concerned about a possible Japanese counter-attack, Ed held a hand grenade ready, planning to throw the grenade and then feign death if Japanese troops attacked. Fortunately, a counterattack did not eventuate, and the wounded soldiers were evacuated by medical orderlies.

Later in the war, Ed served with the 2/9th Battalion at Shaggy Ridge, in the Finisterre Ranges.

In 1944, he joined the recently established 1st New Guinea Infantry Battalion, where he trained and served with the local soldiers until he was discharged in December 1945.

World War II veteran

Transcript

Enlistment

I didn't think about the Army before I joined. When the war started, you know, I remember the day we declared war, on a cattle property, mostly cattle actually.

One of the chaps went down to the homestead and came back and said that we were at war, you know, with the Germans.

Then I went to join the Air Force, and they said, "Oh no, you're not going be a fighter pilot. You have a very poor education, so that you can be a guard or cook if you want to be in the Air Force.

Letters from a train

When we were going from Brisbane to Sydney to get on the ship, it was a cruise ship at that time. It was the fashion to write your name and unit on a piece of paper and throw it out along the railway line where people were, maybe in a town or on a property somewhere. You do that, and I threw my name out a few times.

I did get a reply from about half a dozen people. One lady sent me a block of chocolate. I don't know how that survived. One young girl, I would write to her. She was on a, we passed through this property. She was a girl who lived on a property. The train probably went through their property, and they were standing there.

Anyway, it was three daughters of this family, and they had a boy who was in the Air Force. I wrote to her all through the war years, yes. When I was in Tamworth, I was able to go and see them on their property. I spent about a week with them. All right, and I went to her wedding later on too.

Living conditions

Milne Bay was wet and muddy. Shaggy Ridge was wet and muddy.

When I joined this battalion, the native battalion, first you get infantry battalion. We did a lot of patrolling. Yes, we had very hard times patrolling five or six days, and we were wet all through all the time, couldn't light fires and couldn't take your boots off or take your hat off at night.

Japanese prisoner's painting

When the war ended, we were in New Britain, and the Japanese were there. There were, I don't know, 80 thousand, 100 thousand Japs there. It doesn't matter how many were there but there were stacks of Japanese there.

Of course, when they surrendered there wasn't much we could do with them. They were just left there until the time to go home. But some were sent in as working parties, and I used to go out with them every day cutting. They'd be cutting bamboo poles for buildings and so on. We'd have lunch together and what-not and come home. [They were] quite friendly, but they were just like me, they were waiting to go home too.

But, in addition to that, I don't know how many, but not a great number who were alleged to have committed war crimes like murder and rape and things that they did in those days, torture. That did happen. But they were put in a compound, just a simple compound, and they were to be tried in '46 and '47 when they set up the tribunals to try the war criminals. We had the job, we being native battalion, had the job of looking after them during the day just to see that they didn't get into any fights during the day. They weren't trying to escape or anything.

So I was down there one week with my platoon. We'd camped outside the compound, and we had a guard on the gate. I'll show you a photo of it afterwards.

I'd walk about in the compound. One day, I came across a fellow who was painting. I stood there watching him, and he was painting. Anyway, when he had finished the painting. I just walked away, nodded and walked away. He called me back, and he offered it to me. Luckily, he signed it before he gave it to me. I put it in my pocket. I carried it home, and eventually, you get on with your life after the war but, eventually, get around to these things, and I had it framed.

Then I was married and the kids were growing up, and they would say, "Oh, daddy, what happened to him?" When my wife was sick with dementia, a Japanese lady, a mature lady, she had two sons in their early 20s. She came here, and she was caring ... She was doing post-graduate studies at the university at Canberra, but she was earning a bit of money as a carer. She got some particulars from me, and she wrote to, because the chap had signed the painting, she knew which area of Japan he came from, which units he came from, and she found his record.

She wrote to the newspaper. They gave her letter to a feature writer, a Japanese journalist who'd come out to Cowra to write a book, a Japanese [account] on the Cowra outbreak. He was keen to follow it up.

It was a long time, and the people, as I found out, didn't like to talk about the Second World War, the generation. But anyway he put an article in the, he got some information from me, photographs, and photograph of the painting and put this in a Japanese newspaper.

In a few months, he was able to trace the family, and he contacted the family. Yes, it was their dad. He had died. The gentleman who did the painting died just a couple years before. He died at age 90. He was able to visit the family and find out the whole story of this chap when he was a boy, and why he was interested in painting. Being an artist, he tried to get into the art school at Tokyo University. But he missed out, but he was interested in painting all his life.


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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Ed Jones's veteran story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 24 July 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/oral-histories/ed-joness-story
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