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rylstone kandos history

Kandos and Rylstone History P.27

kandos rylstone veteran servicerylstoen kandos ww2

 

Transcript of Laurie's tape
 

laurie mcleaud

 

Laurie:
I enlisted in World War II in Sydney, and I left here on 12th January 1940. The first one went out to the Middle East.
 
I was a driver. We started off with horse transport. When we went to the Middle East, to Palestine, we had horses there and we belonged to the British Calvary. And then we were transferred. We started on driving. So my first driving was in Egypt, Palestine and Greece. So that's where I did my motor driving.  They weren't single mesh, you had to change the gears with double shuffles and crank gears. So that was the driving I started off on.
 
We went overseas with the first convoy. The City of Sydney Regiment. The second force battalion, sixth ......... On a P & O Boat, and that took us from here to Ceylon, which is now Sri Lanka, and from there we went through the Suez Canal into Egypt and Palestine. We were taken off the ships in the canal and taken up to Palestine. So that's where we began our training, in Palestine. That's where all the trouble is now. That's the strip where we were in, Gaza, and we were down in that area where they are fighting today. They took us on trains from the canal, into Palestine.
 
First of all we were on the Western Desert, where the oil comes from now. There was no oil when we were there. It's been discovered since, and there's the Arabs there now. We came from there, we come back via Palestine to Egypt and they took us to Greece. We fought in Greece, that was after the Western Desert. We went up as far as the Yugoslav border and the Germans had more power than we had. They had air power. We had to keep retreating. We finished up on Patras on Peloponne, where the Spartans fought the Persians. We took retreat under pressure, down to the bottom of Greece. We were picked up on a destroyer, and some fellows went to Egypt and we were taken to Crete. And on Crete, we had to fight the parachuters. We had a win, then the Germans landed at Souda Bay with troops, and we had to give it up, so that's how I finished up a POW.
 
Well, we fought the parachuters. We had a win there. We had them caged up, as prisoners. We fought them there. We were looking after an airstrip at Great Timo and first of all, before they dropped them, they blitzed us. They came along in the planes with anti-personnel bombs, machine gunner, to keep you down low. Next thing, the troop carriers came over and the parachuters dropped. We had a win there, and the Germans never used the parachuters again. They had used them in other places, but that was the last they used them. And then they brought troopers into Sitia Bay by ship and finished up at Koratova and destroyed our weapons. In those days all we had was the Bowmans and the rifles. The difference between the two wars. There was more hand combat at the First World War than there was with us. We had machine guns. We had weapons now that they didn't have in the First World War. So that's how I became a prisoner of war. They took us from Crete to Greece, to Salonica, and then at Salonica we were put on trains and taken through Yugoslavia to Germany to Stalag 13c. Did you see Hogan’s Heroes on TV, well, that's where I was.
 
The Germans didn't land on the airstrip. They landed around it. It was just a matter of combat and we captured them. And later on as they took the port of Sitia Bay, up the coast, and they had heavy armour and that and our colonel just told us to destroy our weapons.
 
We couldn't do anything. We just had to be carried a way.  I was flown from there.  I had hurt my ankle, I had jumped into a trench and twisted my ankle, when the blitz was on, and I finished up, me mate was saying 'get under shelter', I was in that much pain, and that got me out of going back with the mob when they were captured, so I was taken by plane, by a German troop carrier. One of the fellows on the troop carrier, he wanted to trade my buttons, the rising suns, and as he was doing it, this troop carrier was made of metal, it finished up, you could hear the radio working, and they called him straight away, and I thought to myself, you just get out of this and you get shot down by the RAF, but we flew to Athens and we were in Athens for a while and we were taken to Salonica. And they put us on trains and took us to Germany through Yugoslavia.
 
The German prisoners we had were taken back to Germany I suppose and put in other parts of the army. We kept them in a cage, with barbed wire, and they were staked in and kept in there. They weren't there that long. We still had a win. They wouldn't be there that long because the Germans were pushing their way down through Greece and they come down onto Crete, they had the armour, they had the air force and everything. So they weren't there very long. A bit over a week. They slept in the open. We were sleeping in the open ourselves.
 
I was a POW for 3 1/2 years. We were captured in May, about 1942. We were released earlier. I was in England on VE day. In Liverpool in England. So we were, the Americans came into where the stalag was, they had taken us, and we were flown back to England. So I was in Liverpool at the end of the European war, and I finished back in Australia at the end of the Japanese war.
 
When they took us, we went to the stalag, we were lousy. Because up in Salonica, they were full of body lice. And we had to finish up taking our clothes off and killing nits in our bloody clothes. They were lousy.
 
They took us from Salonica, to Germany, when we got to Germany, they took us in the trucks and when we were in the trucks we were real lousy, and when they got us to Germany, they put us in the part, separate from everybody else, and they put us through the de-licer. You go in there and they put your clothes in like a big oven and they go through from one end to the other, and it killed the lice. And we were shaved by the Russian prisoner there, and they took everything off the body, cleaned us right off, cleaned us down, and then they showered us. We were showered. And that's how they deloused us. The lice were in the hair on your body so they had to get rid of the hair, so they cleaned us right down to bedrock. So that's how they got rid of the body lice. After that you were put into the stalag, and then we went out with work parties, on farms.
 
Stalag 13 was not like the television show, Hogan’s Heroes. For a start, the guards and the commandant in that stalag were in air force uniforms. And the stalag was for troops, not for the air force. So in that film, Hogan’s Heroes, they were dressed in the uniform of the air force, they weren't soldiers, they were air force, so they made a mistake in that.
 
I liked the television program, Hogan’s Heroes, but it was so far fetched. It wasn't like that in the stalag. And it wasn't so easy to escape the way they were doing it. They go for a run and come back again.  I'll tell you how it was there.
 
When you were out on a work farm, you had 5kms probably out to where the farm was from the stalag. When we were out, you were allowed certain times. You had a guard with you, and he could take you to see the doctor in the stalag. And they'd take you into 13c. And the commandant in stalag 13 was a bit different to Hogan’s Heroes. He went cranky on the soldiers for having them there and there was 4 there to see the doctor and he got stuck into them, and when they talk to a soldier, they've got to stand rigid to attention, no movement, and he dressed them down. And anyway, he finished up. He came back to the stalag, the commandant himself, he got our blokes, in an English car, he got our blokes and he made our blokes run all the way from stalag 13c to the village where they were stationed. He didn't mess about. He hunted them back. Just bloody, He made them run back. No messing about. A bit different to Hogan’s Heroes.
 
They had dormitories. And if you did anything wrong, there was a lockup there too. They put you at the end, like a cell. They were in big buildings. And you didn't stop there; they put you out on work parties in different parts around the district. On work parties, we finished up on top of a pub, where they sell the beer, and on top must have been a dance hall or something. The windows were barred and barbed and we worked in the daytime on the farm. You had your meals with the farmer and his family and then at night time you were locked up. There was one guard and he had a room down the end of the hall and you were locked in for the night. And during the day you were the responsibility of the farmer you worked for.
 
It was a pub underneath. We could hear them down there. And before we were locked up, we were allowed to go down the stairway to the pub and buy some beer. We were earning our money. It was our prisoner of war money. We got paid. Prisoner of war money. So we could buy beer, and then we were locked in for the night. We could hear them down there, drinking and singing.
 
France Arnold was the name of one farmer I worked for. They were good people. It was hard work because it was old-fashioned work. The same farming as was done 100 years ago. Before machines and that. So there was reaping hooks and stacking; it was old time farming. It would be much different at that place now.
 
They had two soldiers, two children, on leave. One fellow was a young fellow, and when I first went there he was on the farm. And I think he must have been about 17 and he was called up for the army.  But before that, he used to say to me, there was a song out at the time, I'll hang my washing on the Siegfried Line if the Siegfried Line's still there. That was the Siegfried Line that was in France, the battle line between the Germans and France. And he'd say, sing the Siegfried Line for me, and that poor bugger, he got taken up, finished up a mountain hunter, Martin Troops, on skis and slides—that's a mountain climber in the army. He got killed. He became an aeroplane trooper and was killed.
 
And the other son was in the army when I first went there and he came home on leave and worked with me in the field.  He did all the heavy lifting instead of me, so I got on all right with him. So I found them all right. But he got killed too.
 
So they lost both their sons. They were just people. Just ordinary people like anybody else. They were very devout Catholics. They had 3 daughters. One was a nun, another was an army nurse and the other one, the younger one, worked in the fields.
 
My German family sent me snapshots after the war. The nun in that photo, she wrote to me, in German. And some of the photos are written on the back. And she wrote, in the convent, so the convent had the mother superior, and all the nuns, and she worked in the fields too, the nuns over there. One of the nuns went to South Africa. That's where they used to go. She wrote from Germany. They wore a white habit, a creamy habit. Most nuns wear black, but they wear a cream habit.
 
 I have a scarf there that I brought home from Germany, and it has the Olympic Games at Berlin. I brought it home as a souvenir. All the flags are there of the time, there's a swastika in the centre, and the New Zealand flag is there but there's no Australian flag there. So I don't know. Australia must have been at the Olympic Games.
Laurie brought the students some German money to look at
Laurie:
That was the depression. We had a depression here, that's when I went on the track.
That was a German 10 million marks. That was during the depression in Germany.

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