Kandos and Rylstone History P.33
WWI was supposed to be the war to end all wars and everyone took it as that, except the Germans and Japanese. It was hard if you lived in a country that was bombed out. Australia didn’t really suffer, except for Darwin people. We stopped them at Darwin. We had a few boomerang fighters there, but we were so far behind in what we had. All our armour production dropped down to billyo and we didn’t worry about it, so they had a good start on us. When the Japanese got into Sydney Harbour, a lot of people left the city there because they got a bit scared.
Food was rationed in England and in Australia too. They issued coupons to try and let everyone have a go. There was such a shortage of manpower. Every company had to do with less labour. The women helped a lot, land girls, etc., but some of the firms couldn't use women for labourers with their set-up.
Food was very scarce in England. You mostly had potatoes and basics that kept them going. And every bit of land, corners on railway lines etc were used to produce food. It was very scarce. They used to say the Germans were starving, but we were starving ourselves.
I was on the Isle of Man for a while and food was quite plentiful there because it wasn’t rationed. They seemed to have their own production. It was only a small island, and they weren’t involved in the war in any way, except they had a few German prisoners there. Their little farms produced food, eggs, honey and other basics. Isle of Man wasn’t neutral, they had the prisoners locked in a cage. They used to spit at us when we walked past. It was steel mesh eye netting, a big yard covered with the steel netting. They looked after the prisoners pretty well. They weren’t starving.
We were so far behind with everything when the Germans struck they just took Poland.
They formed the Australian Spitfire Squadron on the Isle of Man. We were there for about 3 months. When they formed we went back to Red Hill and operated there for about 4 months and they posted us to the Middle East then. We didn’t get to the Middle East, we were diverted to South Africa. All our gear went to the Middle East.
When we got to Cape Town they sent out planes up to Alexandria and when we got there Curtin sent a message to say, send our blokes home. They were talking about trying to get us back to Australia, but word must have got there when we got to Cape Town. We came home without any aeroplanes. We had to wait until they arrived. As soon as they arrived, we went to Darwin.
We were brought home to protect Darwin in January 1943, after it was bombed. It was bombed in 1942. they started, every Sunday, they used to come and they called it ‘church parade’. At mission stations around, whenever the supply ship came in they would bomb the supply ships coming into the harbour so we had to go and bomb them back. Someone must have been feeding them information telling them what was going on. They seemed to take us by surprise on a lot of occasions. We’d arrive on an island late on the afternoon and not get the aeroplanes fuelled and the buggers would get us before we could get into the air. There were no facilities there, no tankers or anything like that. We had to pump fuel out of drums and taxi the plane to where the drums were and hand pump it in. A Spitty holds 86 gallons of fuel. That’s more than 2 drums. As soon as we landed, we’d start filling them, but you can’t take a hurricane lamp near fuel, it’s a bit dangerous. So we had to do it in daylight.
Millingimbi Island, north east of Darwin, Bathurst Island, Melbourne Island. all mission stations, only a few people there, and aboriginals. Sandflies would give you hell. They used to get into bed with us. We were there about 15 months. The Japanese came from Pearl Harbour and then Darwin with about 300 aeroplanes. They came in waves, one after the other, a matter of days after Pearl Harbour.
Spitfire plane, 457 squadron. There were two Australian squads: 452 and 457 and English squad 54. Killer Caldwell was their wing commander. Our squad leader was Ken James.
At one stage on Millingimbi Island...we were watching the aeroplanes come over, Japanese Betsys and we heard the sound of bombs. They came over the hut headquarters, which were two tents, and they bombed us, but luckily we had a few slit trenches there and they didn’t get anyone, but they did a lot of damage. It was quite frightening. But you don’t have time to be frightened. You had to protect yourself.
They were only small planes. They had a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, 2,000 horse power. They drive on this full blade airscrew, only driving on half engine speed. You can imagine the power they had. The air crew only turned at half engine speed, 6, but the yanks used to call us pea shooters. We flew up to about 35,000 feet.
We always used an air mask after 10000 feet. It only held one person. They had cannons and two machine guns. 303. we fought plane to plane in the air—a bit risky.
In the small countries we couldn’t stop them at all, they even got to France, and the next thing, they would have gone to Britain. If they hadn’t attacked Russia at the same time they would have taken England without any trouble. Hitler had an estate in England picked out for himself during the war. It took a few years. They got Lancaster bombers, 1000 bombers at a time coming on night after night.
Back at Darwin they had to go into the island. The Japanese were in New Guinea and places like that and they had to hunt them out of the islands too. I had served my time in the north and I was sent back to Melbourne, Ascotvale, instructing. Didn’t like it, too many parades and things. I was there until the end of the war, about 6 months. It wasn’t rationed there. They seemed to have their own production there. It was only a small island.
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