Jack Colvin Olsson's story

Jack Olsson enlisted for service on 17 July 1942 at Kogarah, New South Wales. Jack and his brother had joined the militia before the war - inspired, he said, by his father's World War I service.

Jack was posted to the 2/8th Field Regiment and participated in the OBOE 6 landings at Borneo. He recalled the invisibility of the enemy and proudly remembered the competency of the artillery teams with which he was involved.

With the conclusion of the war, Jack found himself confronting rioting Australian soldiers at Morotai, part of the Malaku Islands in the Netherlands East Indies. He was able to calm down the men, who had been upset by news that they would not be home by Christmas owing to a shortage of transports. Fortuitously, Jack was assigned an early flight home.

On return to Australia, Jack was depressed by the lack of recognition received as he made his way home. It seemed the war was of little interest to the public he observed on the train to his mother's home. He was still suffering from malaria when he returned to Australia.

Jack served for another 6 years in the Army Reserve in Sydney and then Canberra, where he settled in 1951 with his wife Phyl. He ended his army career as a Captain and worked as an accountant in his civilian life.

After retiring in 1984, Jack worked with Rotary and was instrumental in raising funds for Ukraine to help treat hundreds of children suffering diseases and genetic disorders caused by radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. For his work with Rotary, he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Jack passed away in October 2017.

Second World War veteran (Army)

Transcript

The Spirit of Anzac

I can remember going off to Anzac Day to see my father marching with his battalion for many, many years.

I think that's what caused my brother and myself to join the army after we got out of school. We were only sixteen when we got the leaving certificate. We couldn't get into the army quick enough.

In those days the infantry was the only unit that was available to us in the St. George area and we both became infanteers learning how to do all the tricks that the engineers got up to, bayonet fighting. It was great fun. It's awful isn't it?

And that was what young people, they get the spirit of Anzac and I can remember that's just what we wanted to do, we wanted to get into the army.

Invisibility of the enemy

The Japanese there disappeared into trees and it wasn't as if they, it wasn't a real sight, you know, you couldn't see people standing up and saying "Oh. I'm here".

It reminded me of an ants nest, disappearing and the only time you knew they were there you'd hear [sound of bullets] shots going into a tree or something.

So you just kept your head down but clearly you knew there was a bunch that needed to be destroyed and the platoon commander and myself would talk together and decide "Yeah. Give it a burl." Give probably three rounds of gun fire or something like that.

I'd send the message by phone, that's where my signals got killed by the way, bringing back a line to the guns which would be two miles behind me on a telephone. The telephone worked sometimes, a big old-fashioned telephone.

It worked sometimes, it depends on where you were. If you were in amongst a lot of trees it wouldn't work so you had to rely on the telephone and as soon as you know where you've got to fire you look at your map, work it out on the map, what line, range, angle and sight and send that order down to the gun position officer, call the first round to come over.

If the first round comes over, if it needs correcting you correct it. You go for gun fire. You'd either concentrate all your guns or do it on a parallel.

It's a very quick action. Of course you were very well trained, very well trained. The gunners were good. The gun position officer was excellent. I knew him very well, of course.

Riot over lack of transport

So I'm coming home. The first thing I had to go to Morotai. So I was flown to Morotai.

So I was in my tent on my own and I was sitting, and this is as true as I sit here, why I was there was, of course, all the troops that were going home you had at Morotai to transport home and apparently the Minister for the Army in those days, I forget his name now but he didn't last long, he said the troops wouldn't be home for Christmas and of course that started a riot and the sergeant comes in to my tent and says "Come quickly, there's a bloody riot and they're going to tear down the headquarters."

I hardly believed it and anyway I went out there and sure enough there was a mob marching toward headquarters.

So without thinking I went out there and put my hand up and said "Stop. Stop. Stop."

They said "You can't pull rank on us now. You can't pull rank on us."

So I pulled my bloody stripes off. I said "Right you, you and you, come here and we'll talk about it."

And to my surprise, and I said with plenty of expletives. There were four words, I'd never sworn in my life before and they came up like lambs, big guys, and I said "Look, there's no use carrying on like this. We'll go over and see what the situation is."

And they came like lambs. Anyway we settled it and they agreed they couldn't get to go home because we didn't have the ships.

Anyway they decided that they'd accept it. I came back to my tent and the next thing I know "Olsson you're on your way home."

I wonder to this day whether they thought I'd started that riot. I was flying home and the other poor buggers were still there.


Last updated:

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Jack Colvin Olsson's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 21 June 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/oral-histories/jack-colvin-olssons-story
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