This tells the story of an Aircraftsman in the battle for Australia. George Pierce Howells was an ordinary Australian. His heritage was German, his name Welsh. Like many of his generation, he left school at the end of sixth class and went to work on his fatherís farm near Ariah Park in central New South Wales. Fascinated by technology, he studied to become a motor mechanic, by 1939 he was a partner in a local garage.
He did not speak of his wartime experience. However, in his last few years as the cancer attributed to his Hiroshima visit when serving with BCOF (British Commonwealth Occupation Force) took hold, he wrote his story in longhand. This is his wartime story, including service with BCOF in Japan in his own words. An ordinary person called on to give extraordinary service so we might live and prosper.
War came in 1939. Everyone was joining-up. I wanted to be in the Air Force. My partner in the service station and I closed it in January 1940, and went to join up. My friend was a carpenter, so joined the Army in a unit making huts for soldiers. When I told the recruiting NCO that I wanted to join the Air Force, he told me that with no special qualifications, I would not stand a chance. I told him that as the only son of a farmer, I would be exempt from conscription, and that this was the only chance he had to get a recruit. His objections seemed to fade away.
I joined up and was posted to Parkes on 20 March 1940 to do my 'Rookies', a course of six weeks. This initial training taught us how to march, salute, and wear the uniform. When we marched in, the only uniforms available were overalls.
On the first two weekends we went into town on leave, we had to go in civilian clothes. On the second weekend a friend and I were stopped by the Police Sergeant. He wanted to know who we were. We told him, and he couldnít stop laughing. We had apparently spooked the SP Bookmakers in the town, no-one was prepared to make a bet. Some months previously, a couple of under cover coppers had come to town and arrested the Bookmakers, and their clients.
The fellow I was with when stopped by the policeman was a very good pianist. I can remember walking past the music shop in Parkes one day, when I heard beautiful piano playing from within. I meandered and listened, after a while I ventured into the shop to check out the source, only to find it was my fellow courseman.
Just before we finished our training one fellow said he had been robbed. He showed us how the top of his suitcase had been slit open. We all put in 2/- (20Ę) each on pay day to help him out (a lot of money, we were only on 5/- (50Ę) per day). I heard later that the same bloke later pulled the same scam at another base. This time the service police were too cunning for him, he hadnít been robbed at all, and was just after the money from a collection to 'help him out' on pay day.
I remember another fellow rookie as a real malingerer. He claimed he had a bad knee, and used to stand on the sideline and watch us march all day, a real con. On our pass out, the Warrant Officer sent him to clean the lavatories, he did not want him spoiling the drill.
I had joined the Air Force as a flight mechanic, so was with the technical rookies sent to Sydney Technical College at Ultimo to do a fitters course. We worked all day filing and scraping metal into spanners, cutting shapes into metal, then shaping metal to fit the holes. We had lectures on Wednesday nights.
Nearing the end of my course I caught the mumps. I graduated with the next course.
On Saturday nights, some of us would go to the Trocadero for a dance. One Saturday this red headed chap suggested we go ice skating instead. I met this young lady there, she was very good at skating; it took a lot of effort for me to stay upright. The young lady was Rosalie Augusta Hession; we were eventually to marry.
My next posting was to Point Cook (near Melbourne) The day I arrived a light plane had crashed on the airstrip, killing the pilot. My mustering had been changed, and I was about to do an armourerís course. On march in, we were each given a pile of books about a metre high with a rope tied around them. I took one look at the pile, and thought 'I will never pass this'; there were 41 on the course, 19 failed, I was not one of them.
Posted back to Sydney, I used to take Rosalie out every Saturday evening. We would go ice skating, or to the pictures. She had a young brother, Reg, he would dress himself up, and oil his hair in the hope that he could tag along. He was a beaut kid, so we always let him.
Sometimes I can remember taking Reg into town by himself, as we went through his fatherís shop, he would put his hand behind the counter and grab a handful of hard lollies for us to eat.
Years later, I remember playing golf with Reg and his friend Charlie Williams at Avoca on the Central Coast. Charlie was one of those people who always cracked jokes. Charlie was always a bit on the sick side, so Regís mother acted protectively towards him. She would say 'Reg, you had better carry that; it is too heavy for Charlie'. So whenever a long golf shot was required, Charlie would say 'Reg, you had better hit this one, you are stronger than me.'.
When Reg finished high school, he said he wanted to go to university and be a Dentist. I can remember being shocked, I thought 'Christ what a mustering, a fang puller'. If he had said he wanted to be a motor mechanic, I would have felt much happier. He became a Dentist, one of the best in Australia. Today he has so many letters after his name that he has to re-fill his ballpoint every time he signs his name. We were good friends for the rest of my life, in spite of the fact that I knew nothing about Dentistry; we did like the same music.
Rosalie and I were married on 8 November 1941. It was a double wedding, Jean Campbell and her husband Jack, an other Air Force member being married at the same time. We had a great wedding, Rosalie had gone to a lot of trouble; she looked stunning. My mum came down from the bush, and as Rosalieís father was a newsagent, our photo appeared in the paper. My mum was very proud of this.
We spent our honeymoon at a small weekender Rosalieís father owned at The Entrance. I can remember the train journey, there was no standing room in the carriages, so we had to stand on one of the balconies. The rail line passed through a tunnel near Woy Woy. This was nearly 2 km long, at the end of it, the soot from the engine had blackened everything, our clothes, our faces, and our luggage.
My wife Rosalie was a hard worker. Her main ambition was to own a 'nice' house. In her lifetime she owned three 'nice' homes. She was a keen gardener, and with her last house, she won the Herald Garden Competition for the district.
Rosalie was an accomplished milliner, and first class dress maker. She owned a hat shop when we were married, and later worked as a fashion sales woman at David Jones Elizabeth Street, Sydney store.
She wanted to see the world. After we retired, we used our savings to see most of the places she had read about as a young woman. Always concerned about money, I can remember her refusing to delay a trip in spite of the impending birth of our first grandchild; to delay would have meant incurring a cancellation fee.
In these retirement years, she became active in the community, holding every office bearing position on the local Penrith V.I.E.W. and Torchbearers for Legacy clubs several times over. She was a good wife for over 50 years.
When I took Rosalie home for the first time, it was in 1941. She had never been to the bush before. As we were driving from Wagga, she saw some hay stacks, and asked who lived in those houses; I had to laugh, I had never thought of a hay stack as a house before. Interesting most of those stacks were owned by a Mr Logan, who supplied most of the chaff in the district. Years later his son Ian married our niece Janice Hicks (Olive and Arthurís daughter); they live near Ganmain.
Rosalie enjoyed the good meals in the bush, but when our nearest neighbour came to visit she was shocked. Ted Altus was only about 30, but wore a pointed felt hat (like that of a witch), and half the teeth in his mouth were missing; this made him look much older. Ted spoke with a gruff voice, which contrasted with his wife Bessie, whose voice was high pitched, Bessie called Ted 'Taydie'. Rosalie really thought Steel Ruddís stories were correct.
In the evening Dad played the piano. Rosalie and I were in another room, she thought it was a gramophone, the playing was of such quality.
We walked all over the farm, I showed her all my favourite places.
We went cray fishing. I set four lines, and we spent all our time pulling the crays in. Sometimes we would get three crays on one line. You pull in the line, and throw the crays up on the bank. With them thrashing around, you have to grab them on the body, avoiding the claws; they can give you quite a nasty nip. Rosalie was nipped quite a few times. While we were fishing, Rosalie slipped into the dam, she was covered in mud. Within minutes, a friend of mine Billy Payne, also recently married turned up with his new wife. Rosalie ran over the back of the dam, and hid. Later, she sneaked up to the house through the bush to have a shower, before she would speak to anyone.
My next posting was to Wagga, then the flying school. My job was to service the guns and keep the ammunition up to them. The aircraft were all Wirraways, fitted with Vickers 5 machine guns. They were a modified Vickers 1 ground mounted gun. The water cooling system had been removed and a steel tube with holes fitted. The lug spring and firing lock had also been altered. These guns were fired hydraulically; a spring loaded piston in a cylinder filled with kerosene and oil supplied both liquid and pressure. This cylinder was attached to the floor between the pilotís legs so that he could pull up the piston and make sure he had sufficient pressure in the system. The guns had a plunger system fitted to the top cover. When an impulse was sent to the plunger, it would fire the gun.
The firing was synchronised to shoot through the propeller. Synchronisation was achieved by removing the locks to make it possible to see through the barrel. The aircraft was then put into flying position and two round targets placed 200 metres to the front. Looking through the barrel of the gun, you adjusted the position until the top target was visible. The gun sight was then locked onto the bottom target. The targets were 30 cm apart, which compensated for the bullet drop at 200 m. Next the propeller was turned until half of the barrel hole visible was obscured by the trailing edge for a two bladed prop, the leading edge for a three bladed prop. With the propeller held in this position, a small hydraulic pump with its plunger fully extended was locked over a fully extended cam driven by the aircraft engine.
A fabric ring 30 cm wide was tied to the prop. The aircraft was then towed to the butts, and locked in flying position. A pilot would run the engine at 450 revs or a little above (not below); and fire the guns. At the conclusion, the fabric ring would be removed, and checked for penetration. This would tell us how close the bullets were going to the propeller blades. If the clearance was acceptable, the aircraft was taken down and put on the line armament ready.
Part of the pilotís training was to do front seat gunnery. These shoots lasted about 10 or 11 days. During these periods, we armourers had to keep the guns serviceable and provided with ammunition. One day my aircraft came back from the range with a shot prop, meaning that a bullet had gone clean through one of the blades.
I had to report this immediately to the armament officer. He with some senior personnel stripped the guns down and checked for any faults. I was only a new armourer and was worried they might find something that would trace the fault to me.
When the investigation concluded, I was called into the office. Contrary to my fears, I found myself being congratulated on the condition of my guns. The cause had been traced to a punctured primer in one of the bullets, slowing it down because of the loss of pressure.
Pilots also had to do bombing training. The bombs weighed 4 kg and were painted white, with a large safety pin fitted in the nose. The bombs were not designed to explode, but simply give off a cloud of white smoke on impact. As armourers, it was our jobs to prime the bombs. This involved screwing the casing in half, and filling the tail portion with stannic chloride. The bomb carriers on the aircraft were then tested. Just before fitting the bomb to the carrier, a twenty eight det burster was screwed into the tail. With the bombs fitted, it was the pilotís job to remove the safety pins just before take off. The bombs were then live and ready to be dropped.
When the bomb was dropped and hit the ground at speed, the det burster shattered the tail, bringing the stannic chloride in contact with the air, causing a cloud of white smoke.
It was 1942 by the time I was posted again, this time to Point Cook, near Melbourne where I was to do my fitters course. At the time the course was shifting to Hamilton also in Victoria. I did two weeks of my training at Point Cook, and the remainder at Hamilton, . At Hamilton, I was billeted out with a family called Lewis. They were very rich sheep farmers, owning a ram who took first prize at the Sydney show.
As a qualified fitter, I was posted to Uranquinty, close to Wagga, it was also a pilot training school. This posting was short lived, I soon found myself despatched to Evans Head, a coastal area in northern New South Wales.
There I was put in charge of a small section. The job was to keep the Vickers 'GO' guns serviceable and issue them to the air gunners. If any of the gunners had a stoppage, they had to point the gun at the butts. It was our job to clear the gun and bring it back to the section for repair.
I had only been at Evans Head for a few weeks when I received a message that my mum was very sick in a Wagga hospital. I was given a few days special leave and allowed to visit her. I arrived the day before she died, and was not able to stay for the funeral, as the leave was not long enough.
I was only back at Evans Head for another few weeks when I was posted to Townsville en route to New Guinea.
It was 1942, I was posted to Six Squadron flying Hudsons from Port Moresby. The trip was by ship, and took less than a week. On arrival we were advised to disembark quickly as the day before a ship had been sunk at the wharf after a Japanese bombing raid. The ship was still there, we could see part of it sticking out of the water. We did not waste any time getting off. Trucks were waiting and delivered us to our units.
During my second night the Japs came over and bombed us. We didnít have a siren to warn us, but one of the chaps in my tent could tell the sound of a Jap bomber. He hit the bottom of my bunk as he made for our trench; I followed. We were not in there long before I heard the soon to be familiar swishing sound of falling bombs. As the first bomb was about to hit, the old hand said 'move over and let the bastard in'; I thought 'What sort of a bloke is this? Does he mean the bomb is coming into the trench?'. I soon found out. He couldnít sleep, when it was moonlight, we would see him walking around with his 'tin hat' (steel helmet) in his hand. It was not long before he disappeared, we later heard he was sent home 'troppo' (tropical madness, the then colloquial expression for shell shock or battle fatigue).
One night the troops put on the pantomime Cinderella. It was a terrific show. Prince Charming was a sergeant from the orderly room, very handsome. The ugly sisters were played by two of the ugliest blokes I have ever seen, one was an accounting officer. They not only looked the part, they could play it.
Half way through the show, we heard a Jap coming so we made for our trenches. When the bombing had ceased and the bombers departed we returned to our coconut logs to see the rest of the performance. One of the bombs dropped that night landed on the bomb dump. It did not detonate the ones in the dump, it dinted a few and scattered them.
Six Squadronís role was to do the 'milk run', resupply the troops on the Kokoda Trail. Dropping food, ammunition, and anything else the troops wanted. The aircraft always carried two 112 kg bombs in case the troops needed support. As armourers we kept the gun turrets serviceable, and the bombs on the carriers.
One day two of us were servicing an aircraft on the strip when we heard the sound of a Jap engine. We ran to the nearest trench. A couple of minutes later, an American truck came by, it was going very slowly, the driver, a Negro, was looking around as if he was looking for someone. We called out 'Hey mate, donít you know there is a red on?'. I have never seen a truck take off so fast, there was a great cloud of dusk as he sped in the direction of the trees. We had a great old laugh.
Another day, another raid, we had just dived into the nearest trench, filling it when a tall Negro ran by heading for another nearby empty trench, as he ran by he shouted 'I is buggered, but I is still going'.
During the same raid, we saw the fellow who had excused himself from marching during rookies because of a crook knee. He had always kept up the pretence, usually never managing to move at a rate greater than a slow walk. He was running as fast as any Olympian, a bomb hit the strip a short distance from him, it lifted him in the air. When he came down, it was almost as if he did not break his stride, he was still running. We burst our sides laughing. The bomb had only given him a few grazes; I think that if it had killed him, we would still have laughed. The bomb had come down steeply so as to penetrate the strip. This was why it had not killed our previously slow moving friend.
Soon after the squadron was deployed to Milne Bay. On arrival we had to erect our own tented accommodation, and dig trenches for shelter during air raids. A friend of mine, (Bill McConnell) and I were delayed, when we arrived at the lines, all of the good spots had been taken except one. This remaining place had a slight problem. There was a big round iron ball sitting in the middle of it. The ball had an iron loop welded to the top of it, and we thought that if we could get a stick through the loop, then we could lift it up and get rid of it. We knew it was probably unexploded ordinance of some kind, but a good tent site was very important to us. We put the stick through the loop, lifted it up and ran down the gully, as we ran it started to smoke, we quickly dropped it, and dived for cover. The device rolled on down the gully by itself. We saw smoke rising for a few minutes, but no explosion.
We soon had our tent up and had out trench half dug when Jap bombers came over. They bombed us with daisy cutters, the trench was deep enough for us to get our heads below ground level, so we survived unhurt, however, our tents were cut to shreds.
We stayed at Milne Bay for eleven months. During that time we were bombed regularly every moonlit night. We were positioned next to a Cobra squadron manned by Yanks. During the day, our air raid siren only operated on red alert, our CO considered that we would waste too much time in the trenches if given further warning. The Yanks, however, were given yellow warnings. When we saw the Yanks getting into their Jeeps (to drive to their shelters) we knew the Japs were coming.
One day we were told that two Japanese warships had been sighted heading for our location. The defence officer collected all his guards and started digging extra trenches, sighting 50 cal Browning Machine Guns, and 20 mm cannons. When we returned from the airstrip for our evening meal, we were briefed on our defensive duties, and had to check all of the weapons. We were told that the Japs would arrive about five in the morning. There were only about 400 men in our squadron, and the Jap ships were reported to be able to land a large force, our chances of survival were not rated highly. We went to bed that night with loaded rifles under our beds. I can remember thinking before I went to sleep 'if I can get three of the slit-eyed bastards before they can get me I will have done all right'.
When I woke up, it was after five. Mack was sitting on his stretcher looking glum, I asked him where the Japs were. 'They didnít come' he answered despondently. He seemed quite upset about it, I wasnít. We never found out where the ships went. We were told they slipped away under heavy cloud.
One day a Flight Lieutenant called Stick asked me if we had any flares, as he wanted to do a 'run' over Rabaul. I knew we had some small flare containers, these held 90 eight kilo incendiary bombs. I had been told they were good illuminators, but we had not tried them. I said I would do what I could for him.
I had to make a special rig to carry the containers, and modify the release so that the bombs and not the container would be dropped.
That night, FLTLT Stick led his flight over Rabaul. The next day, he came over to us armourers, cleared a bit of dirt. and drew what happened with a stick. The harbour was shaped like a horseshoe. They made a run down one side, when he dropped the incendiary, the place was lit up like as if it was day. One of the following aircraft was able to put a bomb on the nose of a Japanese ship. The Japanese chased them home, putting seven bullet holes in Stickís aircraft.
Another day, an air gunner called Marconis came back from a sortie very upset. He had shot a couple of holes in the tail plane of his aircraft, and reckoned that the CO didnít like him. Marconis was a friend of mine, and I happened to be the first on the aircraft when it landed. He told me what happened. As a result, I indicated that some brass chips from the ammo had got under the seer and caused a runaway gun so that they would not have anything on my mate. A few days later, a Squadron Leader remarked to me that 'it is good to see the ground staff and air crew working together', someone must have put 2 and 2 together.
We had an open air picture show at Milne Bay. We each took our tin hats, a ground sheet, and a box or drum to sit on. Sometimes it rained so heavily that you couldnít see the screen. We got the latest pictures, I can remember seeing 'Road to Morocco' before it was released in Sydney.
We didnít get many live shows, the best one was put on by an American trucking unit, all negroes, they were terrific.
The American entertainer (comedian) 'Joe Brown' came and put on a show for us once, I can remember we worked all day building a stage for him out of packing cases. He recited the 'pussycat' and had no sooner finished when he saw an aircraft flying high above us. He started to wave at it and make some smart remarks when he noticed his audience had decamped to the trenches. The aircraft was Japanese.
One day in 1943, I was driving a Ford truck to the bomb dump to pick up some bombs, when I saw an officer walking along the track. I pulled up and asked him if he wanted a ride. When he got into the truck, he said 'donít you remember me?'; I took a second look, and could see his regimental number was one after mine. I remembered that we joined up together, at the time, he had said something like 'I wish I was getting into something technical like you; Iím supposed to be a 'DI', whatever that is'. We both subsequently found out that a 'DI' was a drill instructor.
He explained that as a DI, his WOD (Warrant Officer Disciplinary) had given him 'hell'. So when the Air Force called for Physical Culture Instructors, he nominated. He did the course, and was commissioned. When he marched back to his station as a PO (Pilot Officer), the WOD had stood sharply to attention and saluted, exclaiming that this commissioning of his 'protege' had been the best thing he had seen happen.
He had then been posted to 9 Ordnance Group Milne Bay (referred to affectionately by us as the nine old girls). This group determined the type of ordnance (general purpose, anti-submarine, armour piercing) to be used for particular raids, depending on the mix of targets to be engaged. On joining his new unit, the CO had asked him his mustering; when told that he was a PTI, the 'old man' had said 'What a bloody mustering!'. My comrade had replied, that the Air Force was giving him officers pay and quarters, so he didnít mind.
As a bit of a young smart operator, I can remember developing a swift unloading technique for bombs. I would drive the truck backwards very fast, then slam my foot on the brake. The bombs would slide off the metal tray, and clatter to the ground. One day I found that three of the bombs had live detonators in them. I thought better of this action in the future.
At afternoon tea every day, each of would usually have a coconut. The coconuts were gathered from a stand of trees on the other side of the bay, beyond the creek. Each day soon after lunch one of us would go on a coconut run. We would take a long pole (three long sticks bound together) with a loop at the end of it, and travel to the stand on a tractor, fording the creek as we went. The coconuts were dropped by putting the loop over a nut, giving it a sharp tug, then standing aside in case you were hit on the head.
One day 'Tex' Burgham came back from the run wet, walking, and without any coconuts. He said that 'a terrible thing had happened'. He took us down to the creek, where all that could be seen of the tractor was the exhaust poking out of the water. Apparently the Japs had dropped a bomb in the creek; this had made a large hole, and because the water was muddy, could not be seen. Tex had tried to drive the tractor across at the usual ford, only for it to disappear into a hole. One of the transport chaps pulled it out and left it on the road to drain.
One morning, I was asked by the Warrant Officer in charge of our section if I would mind shooting a 'Zebu' bull that had broken its leg and was lying in one of the aircraft revetments. I said 'ok', picked up my rifle, the butcher and a truck. I shot the bull, and helped the butcher lift it into the truck and carry it back to the cook-house. As we were driving away, an Army lorry turned up; they were rather peeved that we had beaten them to the 'prize'. That evening we had Zebu steaks on the menu, they smelled a little strange, but tasted super; it was certainly a lot better than tinned bully beef. Later, I found that the WO had asked every member of the section if they would shoot the animal, each one had come up with an excuse; I was the only mug.
One day, I decided to 'turn out' our dunny. The toilet was about 50 metres behind our section, so I thought it would be safe to burn out the hole with petrol, as we did on the farm at home. I poured about 14 litres of petrol into the hole and threw in a match. Nothing happened. Undaunted, I got a flare cartridge, and fitted a fuse. I lit the fuse and threw it at the hole. No sooner had it disappeared down the orifice, when it went off like a bomb. It blew the dunny to bits, parts were falling out of the sky five minutes later.
'A' Flight, just around the back from the section thought the section had blown-up; some of them were known to have said that it was only a matter of time till those 'mad' armourers blew themselves up.
I had blown it up, so I had to rebuild it. While I was picking up the pieces, I discovered a recently dropped Japanese bomb. It had burst open, but had not gone off.
The bomb had a peculiar pistol (firing mechanism). There were two heavy pieces of brass shaped like spoons fitted into a tube of heavy brass at one end. When the bomb left the aircraft, the two spoons should have moved forward pushing the firing pin against the creep spring, with impact releasing the firing pin and detonating the bomb. For some reason this had not happened.
I told the 'brass' about my find, and they placed a few red flags around it. Next morning the CO held a special parade, where he said that if the one who had removed the spoons from the bomb came forward he wouldnít be charged. No one did, but next day, the spoons reappeared back on the bomb. Later a 'shivering' officer removed the pistol, and found that a dint in the brass tube had prevented the firing pin from moving.
On 17 January 1943, twenty four Japanese bombers came over Milne Bay. Our intelligence estimated they dropped forty eight daisy cutter bombs. We were just about to have lunch when we looked up and could see the bombers, and the zero fighters above them. We each picked up our lunch, and dived for the trenches. Looking out from the trench, I saw Sid Little throw his lunch away so he could run faster. When he got to the trench I said 'whereís your lunch Siddie'. He said he 'tripped and fell'; my mate in the trench then remarked 'You lying little bugger, you threw it away because you had the shits up.'. Within seconds the Jap bombs started to fall on the aircraft revetments and our camp.
We could hear the bombs getting closer, then one landed past our trench; we thought the bombers had passed, and were about to put our heads up, when one landed about a metre from the trench. It was a long while before we decided it was safe to emerge.
We were very lucky to have survived. They destroyed all but one of our aircraft, and some of the Cobras belonging to the Yankee squadron next door. One thousand drums of fuel, two tractors, our tents, clothing store, and hospital were all lost. At the time we rose from the trench, we thought we were the only three in the squadron left alive, however, not one man had been killed with the only injuries being shattered ear drums, this happened to six of the squadron compliment.
With only one aircraft, the ground crew would swam over it, within a couple of minutes of landing, it would be refuelled, serviced, bombs fitted and ammo bins filled, ready to go again.
One of the inoperative aircraft had a dangerous bomb on it. An armament officer was sent over to destroy it. He did his job well, however, the explosion picked up a big stone and put it through the lone serviceable aircraft.
Twenty years later at the RAAF Kingswood Sergeantsí Mess, I was telling the story. The CO recognised the story. He had been the armament officer who had destroyed the bomb and our only operational aircraft.
Later in 1943, the Squadron moved to Goodenough Island. I was one of the emergency drivers. We had to drive GMC six wheel drive trucks to the wharf and take all our gear to the squadron lines. On the track leading to the wharf, there was a sign pointing south saying '3,000 M to Young and Jacksonís' 4,800 km to a particular pub in Melbourne, where there was a painting of a naked woman named 'Chloe'.
Soon after we arrived, I came down with malaria for the second time and was taken to hospital. There were Air Force nurses at the hospital, the first we saw in the Islands.
In the bed next to mine, there was a recently arrived Flight Sergeant pilot from our squadron and across from our beds there was a 'troppo' fellow. ('Troppo' was the term used at this time in the New Guinea theatre to describe stress related battle fatigue.) This chap had a big jug next to his bed, we expected it to be thrown at us at any minute.
One night at about eight oíclock, I was laying in bed counting the aircraft coming back from a strike when I heard a Japanese aircraft following ours. I shouted this to the Flight Sergeant, pulled on my boots and grabbed my tin hat; he laughed at me, with his limited experience, he did not know what to listen for, and was amused at my reaction. Within seconds, the Jap had dropped a bomb, and started to strafe the airstrip. The Flight Sergeant went clean through his mosquito net, and beat me to the door. Outside there was a nurse with medicines on a tray. Her hands were shaking, and the medicines were bouncing on the tray. I told her to put the tray on the ground and follow me; she did so. Soon after the all-clear went.
A few minutes later an ambulance arrived with an air gunner from the last aircraft to land. The bomb the Jap dropped hit the last aircraft. It blew the wing off cutting one to the pilotís fingers and nearly blew the leg off the air gunner. The doctor decided to amputate the gunnerís leg. The operating theatre was a building like a big cage. While the doctor was operating, the 'troppo' fellow had left his bed and was walking around the cage watching. The sight appeared to make him rave and froth at the mouth. We had to grab him and strap him to a bed. It took six of us, and we were flat out holding him. Later the nurses took him away, we didnít see him again.
My first tour of duty ended soon after. I flew to Townsville, and caught a train to Sydney. It was a troop train, full of soldiers and airmen. I slept on the floor in overalls, with my head on my kit bag. At every town where we stopped, the townspeople came out to greet us. At one stop a girl gave me a fish cooked in batter. I thought it was the best fish I had ever tasted; compared to tinned bully beef and concrete biscuits, I suppose it was.
When we arrived at Sydney Central, Dick Keads and I were standing under the clock checking the indicator to see when the next train to Gosford was due to depart when two service police came up. They wanted to know what we were doing. We must have looked scruffy. I had kept the best clothes I had to come home in, but even these were not too good. The Japs had destroyed our clothing store, and there had been no question of getting new ones. Anyhow, when we showed the SPs our passes with 70 days leave on them, they said 'good on you lads, just donít hang around here too long or we will lose our jobs'.
The only train going north was not stopping at Gosford, but the train driver said he would slow down so that I could jump off. On the train, I met a Warrant Officer who had been my corporal instructor when I was a rookie. He had just returned from England, and was pleased to see me. When the train reached Gosford, he threw my kit bag off, to make it easier for me to jump. I never saw him again.
I met Rosalie at her parents house at The Entrance (near Gosford) a few days before Christmas 1943. The first thing she did was fill a tub with hot water, so that I could have a beaut bath. The next day we hired a rowing boat and went out on the lake. Even though my exposed skin had gone black in New Guinea, we both got sunburnt; we couldnít touch each other. I rubbed the peeling skin off with a towel.
I vomited up my Christmas Dinner that year, it was much richer than what I was used to.
The leave was great, and when it finished, I was posted to 3AD (Aircraft Depot), Amberley, Queensland. I was promoted Corporal.
Soon after I arrived, I was given twelve men and told to fit the armament to some new aircraft. They were Spitfires and Kittyhawks. They moved through ten positions before they were fully armed. First the guns were cleaned and made serviceable, fitted, timed, a reflector sight attached, and the guns harmonised to a pattern. Next the aircraft was taken to the butts and the guns test fired. The guns were then cleaned and the history sheet signed.
I used to have my notebook divided into ten squares, alongside each aircraft number. As the aircraft moved, I would mark this in my notebook. If any 'smart' officer came along asking questions, I could tell him exactly what position my aircraft was in.
The 'girls' who had assembled the guns, often left notes in the packages with their names and addresses on them. I would note them in my notebook and pass the details to the 'boys' at the end of a shift. I was told years later, that two marriages had resulted from the friendships started by these lonely airmen corresponding with the young women who had worked at the gun factory.
We had quite a few aircraftswomen working at Amberley in technical musterings. This was the first time I had struck this, and had to watch my language. Some of the men objected to working for the female NCOs, some of whom seemed to throw their weight around for no apparent reason.
When we ran out of Spitfires and Kittyhawks, we had to work on Bofort Bombers and Bedfords. These were new to us. I remember demonstrating how to fit a 20mm Cannon, and putting my back out. It never was right after that.
The aircraft were rebuilds, and when they were completed, they had to be test flown. I used to go up on the test flights. One day I had just fired all the ammo into the sea, and was getting out of the turret, when I noticed the floor dropping away; I thought we were going in (crashing). I soon found out, however, it was merely the test pilotís idea of fun. He had seen me getting out of the turret and put the aircraft into a dive to give me a fright.
Another trick of his was to wait until you were taking 60 round drums from the racks to fit them to the cannons, then jerk the controls. The drums were heavy and difficult to handle, particularly when the plane was flying erratically. He was a bit of a wild bugger, he killed himself just before I was posted from Amberley. He dived a Kittyhawk too fast, and it lost its wings. He crashed just behind our maintenance hangar.
One day my section was asked to service all the guns at turrets in 'G for George', a Lancaster bomber (this aircraft is now on permanent exhibition in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra). We removed all the guns, replaced parts that were required, blued the body of any of the guns that needed; and I checked out the turrets and made sure they were working perfectly. I installed the guns and was very impressed with the mounting system. The guns were very easy to harmonise.
Soon after, I was posted to Townsville in transit to New Guinea. While there I met up with a chap I had known before, and found he worked in the orderly room. I kept in touch with him in order to find out where I was to be posted to. One day at lunch, he said 'George, your posting has been changed. You were going to 77 Squadron, but you are now going to a bomber squadron. It appears they are having a lot of turret trouble, and according to your maintenance card, you have a lot of turret experience. You are going to 7 Squadron.'
I left a couple of days in a Yankee 'Mariner' aircraft. These had been grounded by the Yanks two years earlier. We flew to Madang, Finschaffen for a week, then on to the 7 Squadron base at Aitape.
When I arrived only one aircraft had serviceable turrets, I found I had a lot of turret work. It was also my job to line up the bomb and drift sights. We were working with the Armyís Sixth Division. The aircraft were taking off all day on short trips. This meant the armourers were fitting bombs and ammunition all day.
The squadron had an establishment for an armament warrant officer, but all we had was a skinny old sergeant. He became sick, and they sent him south. That left me in charge.
We ran out of bombs, and had to use captured Japanese ordinance. Fusing these was risky. We had to screw out a plastic plug and fit a plastic fuse in its place. One day an officer was watching me. I explained that if the Japs were likely to put a booby trap anywhere, it would be under one of these caps. He said 'You havenít found any yet have you?'. I screwed the cap off as fast as I could, I reckoned that if there was a booby trap there, it would get the officer too.
Malaria took its toll, at times half of my men were in bed with it. What with this and the rate of aircraft turnaround, there simply were not enough hands to do the work, so the CO sent the off duty pilots to help. Then we ran out of Japanese bombs too. All that was left were depth charges. The problem with depth charges was that the pistol was designed to fire under water; we had to work out a way to make it fire above the ground. We finally worked out a way, but I was concerned that they might be unsafe. I visited the armament officer at No 8 Squadron. He told me to use the charges and anything else I could find. We used the charges, and tanks filled with a mixture of petrol and glycerol.
One day an army chap from the sixth division paid us a visit. He said the depth charges were doing a marvellous job. Later when I flew out of Aitape, I could see the big white patches on the mountainsides made by the depth charges.
Soon after my visit, the 8 Squadron armament officer blew himself up with a Jap fuse. He lost his eyesight and one arm. He was sent back to Australia, and worked for many years as a telephone switch operator.
One day we were loading delay bombs on four aircraft. The delays were set for two hours, and that meant the aircraft had to take off within an hour. There was a delay, so I decided to remove the tails and check if any of the ampoules had been broken. This could be done by peering through a small hole at a piece of blotting paper. If it was white, the bombs were safe. If it was discoloured, the ampoule had been broken and the delay had started. While I was at work, a flight sergeant came along and asked what I was doing, when I told him, I noticed there wasnít a sole in the area within a minute. The bombs were safe, but plain speaking from armourers often frightened others.
It was now 1945. A warrant officer fitter-armourer was sent up to take charge of the section. He was a nice chap called Johnson but had been an armament instructor almost all of his time in the service, and wasnít much help. The first day he arrived, he heard a couple of shots being fired from one of the aircraft into the scrub. He looked very worried until I explained we were just clearing a gun that had been giving us a lot of trouble. He had been taught that a gun could only be tested at the butts; I had to explain that here in the field we had no butts.
He couldnít drive, so I used to teach him in my spare time. Late one night we had been belting up ammo to give the lads a spell. Johnno was driving the jeep back from the strip when a Black American guard yelled out 'Halt!' and fired a burst from his sub-machine gun. I was concerned that as an inexperienced driver, Johnno would not stop; he did. I remember the Yankís big white eyes, as he confirmed our identity, and let us pass.
A few days later, Johnson found a bomb that had been hit on the nose with a heavy instrument. He showed it to me and said 'isnít that one of those sensitive Jap bombs', I answered 'yes'. He then wanted to know why it had the marks. I told him the story. Some of the section members did not believe that it was sensitive, so they gave it a few bashes on the nose with a sledge hammer. When nothing happened, one of the chaps said 'give her a couple on the side, that might get her going', it was at this point I came along. I ordered them to put the hammer away, and go and bomb up an aircraft.
Not long before the end of the war, a squadron leader bomber pilot said to me 'why donít you come and have a look at how your bombs are working, we donít go very far'; I agreed. I got up in the front of the old Bofort and sat in the bomb aimerís seat. He said 'you are going to drop the bombs to-day'. I said 'I am not a bombardier'. He said 'you are now. You line up the bomb and drift sights, you know more about them than I do, so youíre it!'. The sights were called 'C' type. When we got over the target area, I made sure I had the right height scale for the type of bomb. When the Jap trenches came into sight, they were only a few hundred metres from ours. I lined up the sight and let the bombs go. As they dropped, they came along with us, I was certain that they would drop on our trenches. They didnít, passing over ours, and dropping right on top of theirs.
In July 1945. Gracie Fields and her husband Monty Banks came to put on a show. It was a great event, people came from everywhere as a Yank ship had just arrived. Gracie sang all of her old songs, and Monty managed to fall off the makeshift stage. After the show, Bill McContie, a mate of mine had a talk with one of the Yank sailors, the American said there was something 'Big' going on, but he didnít know what it was. The subject of the rumour was the atomic bomb.
A few days after Gracie left, I received a telegram from Rosalie saying I had a 3 kg baby son. Unbeknown to me, my fellow squadron members were also aware of the contents of the message. They had been aware that Rosalie was pregnant, and had been saving beer rations (one 750 ml bottle per person per month) and food parcels (mostly cakes) from home for some time. When I returned from the shower, two big burly blokes picked me up and marched me to a tent. Inside I found two tents had been rigged together, and tables were laid with beer and cake. We drank beer and ate cakes till we were full.
I had been very touched by what my mates had done in saving rations and parcels from home for a party in honour of the birth of my son. Even the Warrant Officer Disciplinary had partaken in the celebrations, announcing the weight of the baby (albeit incorrectly, stating 8 pounds, 5 ounces (4.5 kg)). So I wrote home to Rosalie telling her of the occasion. This was a mistake; she was most upset that while she had been experiencing the pain of childbirth, I had been having a party.
A few days later, we were told the war was over. The CO called a big parade, and said he didnít know when we would be going home, and that as there were other priorities, we might have to fend for ourselves.
The ships that used to bring our bully beef and concrete biscuits stopped coming. Being armourers, we had some small bombs, grenades and explosives, all of the large bombs had been used. However, three days after the war finished, a ship arrived loaded with thousands of bombs. These bombs were used to supply us with food.
We did a fish run every morning. We would walk out onto the pier , and drop a 9 kg bomb in the water with a small fuse. One day it must have landed in a school of fish. We brought back 307 fish in the Jeep. By the time we got back to camp, the CO had organised every spare man, table and knife to deal with the bounty.
A couple of chaps also modified .303 rifles to shoot pigs. The pigs were a brown colour like a Tamworth but were built like a Berkshire. The dead pigs were carried back to camp on long poles, where they were inspected by the camp doctor, who would check them out for worms and diseases. If certified OK, they were cooked on a spit over a low fire; they tasted beaut, but were few and far between, being hard to find in the jungle. One day some Service Police were going to charge the shooters with damage to government property for modifying the .303s. When the charge was brought before the CO, he dismissed it, telling the useless buggers (the SPs) not to waste their time pursuing irrelevant nominal illegalities, and go and catch something to eat.
There was also time for recreation. I fitted a chev engine from an unserviceable truck into a boat. We used this to shoot along the edge of the beach. One day in the monsoon season, a wave picked up the boat and rolled it clean over. I was thrown out, and remember feeling that the surf nearly broke me in half.
I used to shoot a few ducks with my service rifle. These we would pluck, cut in half, baste with a bit of 'tropical spread' supplied from the cook-house, then fry in a home made pan made from a bomb tail box. The ducks were usually an individual treat; unlike the pigs or fish, there were never enough to feed the whole camp.
The ducks used to settle on a lagoon not far from the camp. I would sneak up through the kunai grass, and pot them. Usually I only got one, either on the water, or if I missed with my first shot, on the wing. I would then need to swim out into the lagoon, or wade through the two metre high grass for my bird. The birds would be damaged by the heavy service bullet, I wished I had a shotgun. Later when I returned to Australia, I was telling a chap about how I used to shoot the ducks. He had also been there, and told me how he had been near where I used to shoot, and had seen crocodile tracks. My blood ran cold when I thought of pushing my way through the grass with a big croc on my tail.
We lived off the land for five months before word came we were going home.
I was made responsible for packing the aircraft armament as the WO armourer had to supervise the loading of a ship. I approached the task meticulously. We made all the guns serviceable, heavily greased them, signed the gun history sheets, and packed them in clearly marked wooden boxes with reinforced brown paper. All the turrets were serviced.
Years later when I was back in Australia checking armament at Regents Park (RAAF stores area near Sydney), I found most of the armament that came back from New Guinea was not as well packed. It had been thrown into boxes, few history sheets, no matching serial numbers. One boxes that had 'light service carriers' stencilled on it contained .38 revolvers. Half the material was rusty.
We flew from Aitape to Moresby in squadron aircraft, then the ground crew caught a flying boat to Cairns. As we walked up the Cairns pier, there was a bloke standing off to the side leaning against a post. He said 'have you got a smoke mate'; I thought he was a bludger cadging a smoke. I thought bugger you, why didnít you go and fight, so I said 'Sorry mate, I donít smoke'. Later when I arrived at the barracks, I met a friend who was a Service Policeman and had been with us at Aitape, he saw the cigarettes and tobacco I had in a deep sea bag, and said 'it must have cost you a few bob to get all that tobacco in George'. I said 'no, it didnít cost me a thing'. He said 'what did the Customs Officer say'. I said 'I didnít see one'. He said 'What about the fellow leaning against the post when you came up the pier?'. When I told him what happened, he couldnít stop laughing; it had cost him thirty shillings ($3) to get a carton of cigarettes in.
We stayed a few days in Cairns then flew to Brisbane and caught a troop train to Sydney. On arrival I caught a Clovelly tram to Rosalieís Mum and Dadís place at Coogee. There were a lot of soldiers on the tram. When the conductress came by to collect fares, the soldier sitting alongside me said 'weíre not paying you anything', it was a cheap ride.
I arrived home and saw my son for the first time. I thought he looked a funny little bloke. I wasnít game to pick him up, he looked so fragile, this made Rosalie cranky. I was to be discharged in a few days.
When I went to be discharged, it seemed to be an interminable process, long queues, and table after table. When I finally got to the table where they were handing out the discharges, who should be sitting to one side, but the chap I joined up with. The one I had run into at Milne Bay, as a physical culture officer. He was wearing a brown suit, and it was his task to help dischargees into a job in civvy life. We had a great talk, he told me about his job playing a trumpet in a band, and we discussed my options.
I decided I would like a job in radio manufacture. The RAAF gave me 70 days paid demobilisation leave, and I looked around for a job. I soon found one on the manufacturing line at Phillips. I had been there a few months, and was just settling in when Phillips announced it was moving its factory to Adelaide. I was offered a job in Adelaide, and the Manager said he would fix my family up with accommodation, but Rosalie said she would not go to Adelaide. So that fixed that, all my two and a half years studying radio went down the drain.
Just before Phillips closed, I met a chap called Cooper in the street. He had been a rep in the Ariah Park area before the war, and was now head of servicing for International Tractors. He asked me what I was doing, and when I told him, he said he could fix me up servicing tractors. He said it would be in the country, and asked me for a preferred area. I said Temora, but he said prospects were better in Cootamundra. I took the job.
We rented a flat above a shop, and I went to work for the Cootamundra International dealership. I worked very hard, but was not liked by the management. Home life was good, my son was always pleased to see me. It was cold, I bought Rosalie a one bar radiator for her first mothersí day present. This appliance stayed with us for many years, and was always affectionately known as 'mothersí day'.
I was really unhappy at work, however, and Rosalie knew this. One evening we were listening to the radio when a recruiting commercial came on for the RAAF. The peace time Air Force was being reformed, and a force was needed to occupy Japan. The add said 'do you miss your old mates'; my answer was yes! Rosalie said, 'you have to make the dough, so please yourself'.
I applied for the RAAF, resigned from International, and we went back to Coogee. Two days back in Sydney, and I was called to do a medical for the RAAF. On the day, I had a bad cold, Rose, Rosalieís mother made a concoction of cooking wine and just about everything else in the kitchen, and made me drink it. It made me feel better for a while. I did the medical, was signed up, and was waiting for my kit when I started to collapse; a fellow called Alf Thomas was joining up too, he took me to the canteen and bought me a cup of tea; again I felt better.
When I got home, I told them I had failed the medical. They all believed me, and were commiserating when Rosalie opened my carrying case and saw my uniform. She let out a yell with delight, she knew how much getting back in meant to me.
Two days later I reported for duty at Richmond. I was placed in the electrical section as an electrical fitter. I had a radio ticket, and they were short in that mustering. They were not short of armourers. I worked in the electrical section for a long time. As time went by, I was making out the examinations and sitting on the trade test board.
I was posted to Japan while I was in the electrical section. It was late 1946. When this happened, the Squadron Leader electrician passed me all of the latest pamphlets, and encouraged me to re-muster as an electrician. The Sergeant said that this was not possible, as I had written the examination questions, the resulting argument was never resolved, and I remained an armourer.
Families could go with you on a posting to the BCOF (British Commonwealth Occupation Forces) Japan, but Rosalie did not wish to. I went alone. When I arrived in Japan, I was posted to 82 Fighter Squadron, Bofu as an armourer.
The section commander was Warrant Officer Dick Clark, he was a bit on the useless side. I used to make out the monthly report which was about the only thing he was supposed to do. Within a few months, I was made back up to corporal again, and the section was sent to Miho for a month course on rocketry and gunnery. I took charge, as Dickís wife had just arrived from Australia by ship.
It was cold, one morning I woke up with snow covering the window at the end of my bed. We did not have much to do, with the cold, flying had all but stopped. So we spent most of our time making foreigners from things we picked up at the rubbish tip. One day, a WO pilot brought me two outboard motors he had picked up and asked me if I could make one out of the two. They were corroded, and some parts had been eaten away completely. But by making bits out of spent brass, and removing the pistons with a coal chisel, eventually we made one motor out of the two. We tested it in a 200 litre drum filled with water; it took two seconds to empty the drum. We made a boat out of the float from a flying boat, and attached the motor, we clocked it at 50 km/h.
Years later that WO became a squadron leader, and was CO 22 squadron Richmond with me as his armament officer.
While at Bofu, I took up photography, I bought a second hand Cannon camera, and found out how to use the darkroom equipment. When cleaning out the darkroom, we found a negative of the farewell dinner given to Japanese Kamakaze pilots. We each took a print.
It was 1947, three of us were given leave to go skiing at Mount Dai-San. We had a catholic padre in charge of the party, and he was a pretty good bloke. I had never had skis on before, so I had a lot to learn. How to polish the skis, walk herringbone up the mountain, to slide brake and turn. In the first few days, I spent more time on my bum than on the skis, but in a few more days, I could ski a bit.
At night we slept in a bed shaped like a cartwheel, with an asahi in the middle. The Asahi was a coal fire which stayed alight all night. We slept with our feet toward the fire, and our heads on pillows made from blocks covered with black velvet, they were very hard. When we were settled in, the Padre would give us a drop of rum or whisky to help us sleep. Jerry Johnstone used to say that the Padre would not be able to convert him and was wasting his grog. We always slept well.
When I emerged from the hotel in the morning, a couple of Japanese kids would show up. For the price of a few lollies, they would show me where the best skiing was; they were both very good skiers. One day, I was zipping along when one of the fellows called out to say that I was about to go over a cliff. I applied the brakes, and slipped into a snow drift. I went right under the snow. All that my friends could see was a ripple under the snow. The trouble was that one of my skis was hooked behind my neck, and I could not move. I was lucky that my friends knew where I was and dug me out.
One day I met an old Japanese hunter. He was wearing snow shoes, and carrying a single barrel 12 gauge shotgun. He said he was fox shooting, and that foxes in the area had white fur. I did not get to see one.
One of the radio sergeants at Bofu thought he was pretty good at tennis, so he started a ladder competition. He was challenging everyone, and had beaten half of the squadron. One day he asked me if I played tennis, I answered 'yes'. The game was organised for a Saturday, he came around and picked me up to take him to the courts. I beat him 6:2, the ladder died a natural death.
We were posted to Iwikuni, an ex-naval base with big baths, and nice gardens. We started playing tennis after work; my game improved. There was some good competition, Bill Butler had been an Australian junior champion, and one of the Japanese employed at the base was called Yamaguchi, he had represented Japan at Wimbledon in 1936.
One Saturday I played Yamaguchi, with all the camp watching. We got to five all, but then he beat me. I remember Joe Mizza coming up to me after the match, he said 'you let him beat you, all he trains on are snails and a bit of grass'.
Jerry Johnson and I decided we would go to the Kawana Hotel for a weekís leave. This hotel was considered the best in Japan. The price was normally £30 ($60) per night, but would cost us nothing. It had a nice golf course and a tennis centre. We played golf with Japanese girls as our caddies.
They had souvenirs for sale. I was buying one, when a photo of my son fell out of my wallet. He had a pair of overalls on, and a mass of blond curly hair. Japanese are never blond, and do not have naturally curly hair. The sales woman went wild over the photo, she wanted me to give it to her; within minutes there were about 20 Japanese women gathered around the photo, sucking their teeth in approval. Eventually I was able to explain that it was a photo of my son and meant a great deal to me, the picture was returned.
Years later, Rosalie visited Japan, she asked about the Kawana, but her guide had never heard of it. I suppose it has been demolished to make way for some super palace. At the time, however, it was the best, and I had a great holiday.
On 4 July 1948, I was selected to go to Tokyo and take part in the parade. I was picked because I was tall and had a few ribbons to wear. It was a great day, there were hundreds of Yankee spectators. The AIF men were all over 1.8 m tall, carried chrome bayonets and even had the eyelets in their boots polished. The Ghurkhas also made a great show with their flat hats, a number were wearing VCs. The Air Force contingent consisted of 82, 77, and 14 Squadrons RAAF, Indian, English and New Zealand Squadrons. General Macarthur took the salute. When it was over, we sat around tables and drank Japanese beer. This cost 7d (8Ę) a bottle. The Ghurkhas would not let Australians buy drink, and would show you their kuris (knife or sword). Whenever a sword was shown, the Ghurkha would draw blood before re-sheathing it, usually by knicking his finger. One young Yank kept asking a particular Ghurkha for a look, after drawing his own blood a number of times, he grabbed the Yankís finger and gave it a knick.
The Yank pulled his hand back in horror, the razor sharp knife slitting open his finger to the bone. We had to get the first aid kit to bandage up his finger.
Later a Ghurkha gave me an officerís knife to bring home. I gave it to my son John as an heirloom. He told me that part of their training to become a soldier involved cutting the head off a goat with one stroke of the knife.
After the parade, I was put in charge of the Canadian Legation guard in Tokyo. I had about a dozen guards and an Indian orderly officer. He used to do a tour of the area at about midnight. I had been advised that Indian officers were particularly sensitive about being saluted. So I told my guards to make certain they saluted the officer. One night the orderly officer complained to me that the guard on duty had not saluted him. I made out that I could not understand him, that did not cool his rancour. After he left, I went out and gave the guard a dressing down. His name was Hession (Rosalieís maiden name) and he said he wasnít going to salute one of those black bastards.
On my way back to camp at night, I used to walk past the Union Jack Club, and drop in for a cup of coffee. Two English women ran the club. One told me that her family was living in their third home back in England. Their last house had been blown up with a land mine on a parachute. She said they had normally stayed in the house during the raids; her mother did not like the shelter, and she and her sister, used to stay home to keep her company. This night her brother who was a pilot in the RAF had come home on leave, and encouraged his mother and sisters to go to the shelter. They were lucky.
A little further on my way to camp, there was a Japanese girl who always asked me how to pronounce certain English words. I would help her as best I could. The last night I saw her, she tried to give me a fancy knife for my help. I explained that the gift was too much and not necessary; she seemed upset, but accepted the situation.
I was given the opportunity to attend the Japanese war trials for a day. We were each given headphones, where translators' voices let us know what was going on. I felt sorry for Tojo, it wasnít hard to see that he was a superior Jap and only did what the Emperor told him. In my opinion, it was the Emperor that should have had his neck stretched. During the proceedings, a woman from Singapore spat in the face of a Jap officer, and would have torn him to pieces if a guard had not intervened. Apparently he had raped her, and she was not going to let him get away with it. We were each given a card to say that we had attended, and where we were seated. I thought it quite an experience, not something you see every day.
One morning I woke up at 2 oíclock to find the CO sitting on the bottom of my bed saying 'are you awake George?'. He had the orderly officer with him. I thought I was dreaming. He said 'could you have six aircraft fully armed by 6 oíclock?'. I answered 'yes'. He said that a couple of Yanks were coming over for gunnery practice. I woke my armourers, and we proceeded to our hangar in the dark. The fully armed aircraft were to sit on the tarmac for two weeks, no Yanks turned up for gunnery practice.
Three weeks after this incident, I was posted home. In transit, we heard that the Korean war had broken out. The armed planes must have been part of a contingency.