During the years since the war I have been concerned by the lack of awareness of those war years in the minds of the majority of our population. Many people are completely ignorant of incidents and areas covered by our forces. As time has passed those with the knowledge have gradually died until I can see that the time is not so far distant when first-hand knowledge no longer exists.
Many books have been written around the war, many were fictional. The history books are very detailed and accurate giving dates, decisions of leaders and details of strategies. Fiction by its very name is usually improbable. What I have wanted to do was to provide a story of what it was like to the ordinary soldier who did not usually know just what was ahead, why decisions were made to do certain things or go to certain places but which often greatly effected him.
The fact that most war history is written by historians or officers, usually senior, robs that history of any element of individuality. They talked of Battalions and Divisions, I list mainly think of individuals and sections. I wanted to leave an account of what I saw, where I and my companions went as individuals, at the same time living and acting as part of a cohesive force. What the ordinary soldier felt, what he did and the result of those actions.
I don't know whether or not I am capable of doing so. The ordinary soldier! Who or what was he? Was he the tall bronzed Aussie beloved of fiction writers or what?
Ordinary was the right word. In my unit were farmers and farmers sons, school teachers and bank tellers, a sheep station manager and a member of the Stock exchange, married men and single, two men who had picked up their swags and walked all over outback New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria during the Depression. In fact there was every facet of civilian life represented by those volunteers and probably as many reasons for joining. Their many skills made them able to adapt to conditions in a way that few other groups could. No matter what problem arose there was always someone with the experience to know what to do for the best.
In some ways it is perhaps appropriate that I should write this story. I was just an ordinary chap without much education and very little money, a man who loved the bush and its freedoms, its beautiful fern gullies and magnificent trees, and its wonderful wild life. I knew where a lyrebird built its nest each year within a hundred yards of our house. I received lot of pleasure watching the nest as the lone egg hatched and the young bird grew to adulthood.
I was born in Tasmania, moved to Melbourne when I was eight and because of the Great Depression moved with my family to Allambee in the Strezlecki Ranges south of Yarragon in 1930. After leaving school I became the family horse driver. Most of the money I received was earned with the two horses helping neighbours in their times of need. Those were very difficult times and my parents also worked very hard especially my mother, but that is another story. The land there was never very productive and in recent years has become included in Mount Watch State Park. At last it is as it should always have been.
When the war came there really was nothing to hold me from joining. Allambee offered no future.
My original idea was to leave a few pages as a record for my own family and their families so that in the future if any wished to know what I saw and where I went, it would be there. I am afraid that my few pages have grown beyond my original intentions but so be it. I can swear that the incidents actually occurred as written. Any inaccuracies of time and place are from memory lapse and not from any desire to mislead. In most cases of incidents concerning others, I had first hand knowledge of their accuracy. Unfortunately I did not keep a diary and have been forced to rely on my memory for actual times and dates.
I would like these pages to give some tribute to the men with whom I served. When the going was rough they were great. When life was easy they enjoyed it to the limit. They could be relied on no matter what the circumstances.
Although I didn't keep a diary I did carry the little Australian Soldiers Pocket Book with which we were all issued before sailing. Inside that I made a habit of jotting down dates and towns visited and the names of ships. That helped me to get other dates fixed so that I could recall them.