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Australians at War stories
Australians at War stories
"One thing more—Goodbye"
Flying Officer Athol Snook was a survivor. In 1942, he spent 47 days at sea in a lifeboat sailing from Java to Australia with 11 comrades to escape from the Japanese. Then, on a fateful night in New Guinea later that year, his plane was grounded while the rest of the squadron went to attack Japanese shipping. Three planes failed to make it.
'Bombs' welcomed by troops in jungle
It's not often that the troops want to thank the airmen who are dropping bombs on them but this certainly happened in New Guinea during World War II. It helped that the 'bombs' were actually parcels of newspapers and ice cream destined to cheer up the men fighting in the steaming jungles below.
A "nice easy shoot" in Korea
Having lied about his age to join the Army in 1942, Dick Turner was serving in New Guinea when the truth was discovered. He was only 16 and had told the recruiting officer he was two years older than that. Of course he was sent home.
A "rat" with a nice turn of phrase
Sapper George Vincent Sarto Rudge was one of the Rats of Tobruk. He was also a poet with an eye for detail who spent much of his spare time recording in his diaries the events in which he was involved.
A beer bottle barrage and stealing into Timor
During World War Two I spent much of my flying career in the Royal Australian Air Force as a wireless operator-gunner in Catalina flying boats, from mid-1941 to 1943, mostly covering the South Pacific theatre.
A day Harry Dale will never forget
The day the Japanese bombed Darwin is one that Harry Dale will never forget. He was on a ship in the harbour when the planes began their raid on Thursday, 19 February 1942, and was lucky to survive.
A doctor's view of Gallipoli landings
Major Vivien Benjafield of the Australian Army Medical Corps became something of a legend in his own lifetime. He served throughout World War I as a surgeon and administrator in Gallipoli, on hospital ships, in Alexandria and later in England before being invalided back to Australia.
A flight to remember
Tony Tubbenhauer proved to be a versatile pilot during World War II. He learned to fly on Tiger Moths in Australia, then moved on to Ansons and during the war flew 17 different types of aircraft.
A Lark on the wing
Fl Lt Charles Lark applied to join the RAAF in December 1939 but it was more than a year later when he was finally signed up. While waiting, he received lessons in trigonometry, arithmetic, algebra, mechanics, physics and the Morse code.
A letter of warning from Vietnam
This is to inform you that as of........................ 196 , a certain mudhound water-soaked and slightly crazy individual known as......................... is leaving our little City of...................... securely nestled among the jungles and rice paddies, located in the Southern part of a semi-tropic country in the Far East known as The Republic of Vietnam.
A mother grieves for death of VC winner
Corporal John Hurst Edmondson, who was born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the Siege of Tobruk. He was the first Australian to be awarded a VC in World War II.
A mother pleads with son to lead a good life
Religion played an important part in the lives of many families whose sons enlisted to serve in World War I. Many a young soldier went off with the pleas of mothers and fathers to lead pure lives ringing in their ears.
A night stroll in Korea
Corporal Frederick William (Bill) Williams, who served in the Korean War, was one of five men with that surname among a section of 10 men.
A prisoner of the Turks
When George Handsley signed up to join the Light Horse Regiment in Toowoomba in August 1915 he had visions of fighting the great fight against the enemy hordes. What he didn't realise was that he was destined to spend two and a half years as a prisoner of the Turks under the most appalling conditions.
A soldier and a poet
Frank Lundie was born in Port Adelaide on 21 August 1899, although he didn't think that the authorities needed to know that.
A visit to Hitler's study
Neal Carter was stationed in Germany with RAAF 451 Squadron, British Occupation Forces in November 1945.
A war correspondent in Indo-China
I was fortunate that I'd had more than 16 years experience as a journalist in Australia, Britain and Papua New Guinea before becoming an ABC News correspondent in south east Asia in December 1967. I was also fortunate in having had quite a bit of military experience as a school cadet, a National Serviceman, as an NCO in the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, and as a Reserve officer at PNG Command Headquarters. Many of my fellow correspondents, including a few Australians, were far less experienced in journalism - and some had no military training whatsoever.
ABC correspondent broadcasts stories of bravery
There were many tales of valour from the fighting in New Guinea during World War II. Typical was the story of 22-year-old Ken Sanderson.
Aborigine survives family massacre but dies in war
An Aborigine who was the sole survivor of a brutal attack in which his entire family was massacred in 1880, was brought up by a white family in country New South Wales and later fought for Australia in World War I.
Adaptable Jeep on the right lines
Jeeps were real work horses in World War II and they turned up in the most unusual places.
After all that—the beer was warm
Most servicemen like a drink and airmen are no exception so when a group of young RAAF personnel were waiting at the Sandgate Embarkation Depot in 1944 to board the USS Sea Ray due to sail for Morotai the next morning, they were keen to let their hair down.
Aircrew survived 11-day desert trek to safety
Mick Ey could regard himself as extremely lucky while flying in the Middle East as a wireless operator/air gunner with 454 Squadron. After all, it's not many people who can say they were involved in five crashes and still lived to tell the tale.
Airmen survived 47 days at sea during escape from Japanese
One of the most incredible escapes made during World War II involved 12 airmen who sailed in an open boat from Java [now Indonesia] to Australia to escape the Japanese, a journey that took 47 days.
Alan Garden gave up law to go to war
Alan Garden abandoned his law degree at Melbourne University to sign up for World War I. He joined with his mates, Bill Woodfull (who later captained the Australian cricket team), and Bill Leggatt (who became Sir William Leggatt, Agent-General for Victoria in London) and Norm (no other details are known).
An extraordinary war for HMS Kanimbla
The Australian passenger ship MV Kanimbla had an extraordinary war. She was converted into an armed merchant carrier in September 1939 and seconded to the Royal Navy. Apart from capturing 22 enemy ships she also steamed more than 470,000 miles during the war, a record for any ship flying the White Ensign.
April 25th was a day to remember
Laurie Whitham had reason to remember 25 April 1915. He was there at Gallipoli and was 'lucky' enough to get a wound that was serious enough to take him out of the firing line without being life threatening.
Arafat visit a highlight of peacekeeping role in Sinai
When Yasser Arafat made his first visit to the Sinai since his expulsion from the area in the 1960s, Sgt David Hartshorn was on duty with the Australian contingent of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) known as Operation Mazurka.
Articles outlined life in occupied Japan
Eric Saxon was a happy and relieved man when he sailed into Kure Harbour in Japan on 9 April 1946 with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF).
Text of a propaganda leaflet dropped by German aircraft aimed at Allied troops in Tobruk.
Australian engineer served in Gulf War
In 1989-90, Lieutenant Anthony McWatters of the Australian Army was on a training post with the British Army in Germany when he went on active service on operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 1991 Gulf War.
Australian horsemen at home in the Kelly Gang
The Kelly Gang was one of the most unusual Allied fighting units during World War II. Made up from an assortment of 70 or so men mainly from C Squadron, 6th Division Cavalry, they rode on captured horses in the Syrian campaign.
Australian the victim of "friendly fire"
When Private Guy Watkins was wounded in Vietnam, the local paper in Tasmania reported he had been shot by a Viet Cong. But in a letter to his father written some days after the incident, it turns out Guy Watkins was hit by "friendly fire".
Australian troops return to Gallipoli
A great deal has been written about the fighting at Gallipoli but little is known about the second time Australian troops were sent to the Peninsula.
AWAS operated secret wireless station at Lesmurdie
Following the Japanese bombings of Northern Australia in 1942, an extensive communication network was urgently needed in Western Australia.
Bandsman defied execution to keep diary
Alan Murnane, who joined the Army as a bandsman in 1940, kept a diary throughout the war. After travelling in Australia with the band, he was posted towards the end of 1941 to Ambon in the Dutch East Indies, where he discovered a new talent - as a stretcher bearer.
Banjo Paterson's Tobruk Test poem
This is the second of two poems written by H.B. Paterson, son of Banjo Paterson, for his friend Victor Wright, during service in Tobruk.
Barrow boy who made it to the top
Not many privates in the Australian Imperial Force would have a Colonel hold up the taking of an official group photograph while he climbed to the top position, but that's exactly what happened to Private David John Simcock in Egypt in 1915.
Being "a fair trier" earned Percy Nuttall an MC
Like many other young Australians, Percy Nuttall signed up with the AIF in October 1914 without telling his parents. He finally got around to writing to his father from camp in Adelaide, to try and explain, hoping that his father would understand.
Being "manpowered" meant Jean could do a man's job
Jean Mascord was working at the Commonwealth Bank when World War II broke out. She was obviously a good worker because despite the fact that she was only 18, the Bank had her 'manpowered'.
Being a sniper is a dangerous job
Being a sniper is a lonely job. For a start you are hated by the enemy while your own troops also have a distaste for snipers.
Berry family did their share in World War II
The Berry family of West Tamar in Tasmania certainly did their fair share in World War II with five brothers and a sister all serving in the forces. They all survived, although not without a few narrow escapes, according to a newspaper article probably printed in 1944.
Brother follows brother into battle at Gallipoli
Stewart Boyden knew his brother Rex had gone in to battle ahead of him during an attack on Hill 60 in Gallipoli.
Buried thousands of miles from home—But not forgotten
When a young Australian soldier was killed during fighting in France just two months before the end of World War I, he wasn't buried alongside his mates.
Cecil got to fight in the Boer War thanks to his hat
When the Boer War started in 1899, many young Australians made an instant decision to offer their services as soldiers, but actually getting into the various army units that were to head for South Africa wasn't as easy as you might expect.
Ceylon an eye-opender for Australian soldiers
Lt Thomas Henry Martin of Harrietville, Victoria, sailed for Europe on the RMS Orontis with the 21st Battalion AIF at the end of March 1916, passing through Ceylon and on to Egypt, heading for France. Five months later he was dead.
Chance meeting during war led to romance and marriage
When a young Australian Private, Peter Horan of the 15th Field Ambulance, met a young English WAAC while strolling by the sea at Boulogne, France, in 1917, he had no idea that they would be together for the rest of their lives.
Chance meeting led to change of career
A chance meeting on a train journey changed the course of Joyce Neal's career. She had been in the WAAAF for a year and was returning to her base in South Australia after some home leave in Perth when she got chatting to other girls on the train.
Through magazine was the official journal of Signals 8th Australian Division. The first edition was produced in Singapore in December 1941, shortly before Singapore fell.
Civilian Construction Corps paved the way for the forces
While many young men left Australia to fight overseas during World War II, one large group of men made a significant contribution to the war effort back home.
Coastwatchers played a vital role in the Pacific war
Coastwatchers in the Pacific played an important role in the Allied victory in World War II. They defied the odds and constant danger of being caught by the Japanese, to feed vital information to the Allies.
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