Robert Inkster AGARS

AGARS, Robert Inkster

Service Number: SX9480
Enlisted: 22 July 1940, Adelaide, SA
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Elliston, South Australia, 5 March 1917
Home Town: Oaklands, Marion, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: 8 November 1993, aged 76 years, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Elliston War Memorial, South Australian Garden of Remembrance
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World War 2 Service

22 Jul 1940: Involvement Private, SX9480, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
22 Jul 1940: Enlisted Adelaide, SA
22 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX9480
7 Apr 1945: Discharged
7 Apr 1945: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX9480
Date unknown: Involvement

Rob's Wartime Memories 1940-1945

At the outbreak of war Dad wrote to me asking that I would refrain from enlisting because Mother was very ill and had not been told that we were at war with Germany again. This was while I was working at Ern Smith’s property at Stokes on Lower Eyre Peninsula. From there I went to Portana for some time, then to Tumby Bay to work for Jim Auld, who was Charlie Darling’s share farmer. When the crop was sown I went to see the doctor at Tumby Bay for my first medical and received my travel warrant to Adelaide. That night I gave notice that I would be leaving, Mrs. Auld guessed immediately what was in the wind and when I said I was going to enlist she broke down.

My final medical at Wayville was successful and instead of waiting the week allowed, several of us enlisted some days early. We were marched to be equipped with the usual calls of "You'll be sorry", a proud day when we first donned our uniforms. Then came some training in the Parklands, marching, drilling, bayonet practice etc. While there I came down with measles (as did Dad when he joined up in World War 1), I couple of weeks in hospital saw me right although 2 to 3 stone lighter and much weaker, but training soon rectified that.

While at Wayville we selected our future employment (if it can be called such) - cavalrymen, tanks, infantrymen, footsloggers and various other sections of the Army. Once we marched to West Beach, and on arrival it was, "You, you and you stand guard along the sandhills and the rest of you strip off and have a swim." From then on we swam off many beaches, and always in the raw.

So many memories crowd back, early times at Wayville with 1500 men sleeping in one large shed, all with Dogs Disease, Woodside throat, Puckapunyal Throat, U.R.T.I., call it what you like, it was not pleasant. Everything would be quiet at night when one person would cough, straight away practically everyone followed suit. Chaps complaining about hardships when we all had a palliasse with straw for a mattress and three meals a day. One lad said his mattress only had two straws so you put is head on one and his feet on the other. People who had never worn anything heavier than shoes found boots very tiring.

The march from Woodside to Oakbank was our first taste of moving in full kit and it was a trial for some, one chap in particular had nearly completed the journey when he collapsed on his back with feet in the air, and had to be helped to his feet. From Oakbank we entrained to Outer Harbour and on to the “Stratheden” to join a convoy across the Bight. There were huge waves and one of the convoy slowed right down, holding up the rest. I was not affected by seasickness but there were plenty of green splashes on the decks. We had a quick look at Fremantle and Perth where the friendly people had a lot to put up with from the soldiers. I next saw Perth 47 years later, the city was much changed but the people are still as friendly.

Out to the Indian Ocean then with not much to see except swarms of flying fish until we arrived at Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), near Colombo we saw many whales. The customary King Neptune ceremony was held when we crossed the Equator, most of the lads had their heads shaved, after having mine done I looked in a mirror and I I thought I was someone else, when I went into my cabin I was ordered out, my cabin mates didn't recognise me.

At Colombo we anchored in an area with booms around and had to be serviced by lighter, natives in small boats crowded round our ship selling carved elephants and other knick knacks. We spent a day in Colombo and there I saw my first frangipanis, statues of Buddha, great stalks of bananas and betel juice
spitting natives. The footpaths were coated with red as were fences and lamp posts etc.

Some of the wildest coastline I have ever seen was along the Red Sea, rough jagged cliffs of Ethiopia which was occupied by Italians so watches were doubled as they were the enemy. The next stop was Kantara (now Al Qantarah) in the Suez Canal we disembarked and had a meal of Spinney’s Snags (Spinney was an Australian from World War 1 who set up a small goods business in the Middle East and apparently did well).

Our landing at Kantara heralded on our first sight of the Arabs, the children with hand outstretched calling "Backsheesh". I reckon that is the first word they learn - Backsheesh - Something for nothing, especially money. At Kantara we entrained for our trip to Palestine, the carriages were like horse boxes and I'll swear the train had square wheels. We pulled up at Romani which was an important place in
World War 1, then on to Dimra near Gaza, arriving about midnight. The low hills around the camp held the remains of trenches from WW1 fighting, and we were interested to meet an elderly Turk who had fought against the Australians in Palestine.

Were given beds made with a cane framework which were very flimsy. Rifles had to be chained to the tent poles, but even then some were stolen by the locals. Nights at Dimra were quite noisy with jackals howling in the nearby sandhills, and donkeys braying. Dimra village was nearby which gave us an insight into the Arabs’ home life. Generally the Arabs were quite friendly, especially the children who at times, became rather a nuisance, demanding money, our pens and anything else they fancied. One of the lads had a good method of putting a stop to all this, he had a complete set of dentures, top and bottom, he would take them out and clap them at the kids who would immediately bolt, they had never seen anything like that.

I have my first overseas leave on Christmas Day 1940, we went to Tel Aviv, a modern Jewish city on the Mediterranean. A street divided Tel Aviv and Jaffa, an Arab city and here the Jews and Arabs lived in evident harmony. Days leave in Jerusalem passed all too quickly, there was so much to see, the temple of the Holy Sepulchre took up much time. One of the lads cause quite a stir when he went to the Wailing Wall and wailed, the populace didn't think that very funny.
The train trip to Mersa Matruh (where Cleopatra was said to bathe) was made through a howling dust storm. We were crowded in carriages that let in the dust so it was a pleasure to finally get out and look over the town. It had been shelled and many houses destroyed. In a church large and lovely chandelier had crashed to the floor, our first sight of the result of warfare. One of the lads managed to score six bottles of beer at Mersa Matruh, but he wouldn't tell us where he got them.

From Mersa we travelled my truck up past Bardia and Tobruk to an Italian aerodrome at Gazala, every now and then we passed burnt out and wrecked Italian vehicles, also scattered about were what looked like money boxes but were actually Italian hand grenades. At Gazala we spent some time looking over
crash Italian aircraft and lazing on the beach. An attraction on that beach was a large mine washer and room by bullets in an attempt to destroy it. I was especially interested to find many tiny cowrie shells, identical to those we found at Blackfellow’s Jetty, in Anxious Bay near Grandfather Inkster’s home.

Our next camp, between Barce and Benghazi was a very dry and thirsty one, for we only received about one pint of water a day (2 cups). We would visit the Italian settlers asking for aqua and they were friendly and happy to give us water. Not long after that we were chased out by Germans, then the
Italians turned dog and fired on us. Unfortunately for them our lads turned machine guns on them so they quickly lost their enthusiasm. The start of our retreat was rather hair raising. We had to climb (in 3 ton trucks) a zig zag road up a mountainside, and our driver George Hoar from Tibooburra, asked a couple of us to sit on the tailboard as he could not negotiate each bend in the road without backing off and then trying again, the bends were so sharp. When we could see the vehicles far below us we were to call out and George would move forward again. We were very pleased to arrive safely at the top of the mountain.

Then came the Benghazi Handicap, vehicles in a mad rush for Tobruk. We pulled up some miles before Tobruk and formed a defensive line. Before long the enemy came over a low hill, halted and began to shell nearby which was answered by our artillery. About dark most of the troops around us moved to Tobruk, leaving a token force to be collected later. For hours we lay low, listening to what we thought were enemy trucks and maybe tanks but nothing happened and we finally withdrew to inside the wire at Tobruk. That day we were shelled for some time, but no casualties, at night we moved to a section of the perimeter we were to hold. This was the Water Tower area as there was a tank on stilts with water
dripping from it. I made myself a bed in a sheltered area and slept. In the morning I woke to the sound of a plane and looked out and up to see about 20 feet above, (6m) a plane with black crosses on the wings. I pull my head in smartly. We were in that locality for three weeks learning to put up with sand,
flies, scorpions and lastly enemy activities, such as shells, bombs etc.

While in Tobruk a German plane flew over twice a day looking for new works and/or fortifications, wherever he went there was a roar of gunfire, it seems everyone had a go at him. I decided to get in the act and opened up with an Italian rifle, the pilot pulled his head in smartly so I went for the propellor
causing the plane to twist and turn. Next time I was preparing to repeat the performance when a mate suggested he have a go, he hardly got shot in before a shower of anti-personnel grenades were tossed over the post. Later that day we moved to another post and the chaps who moved in behind us never
knew why that post was bombed twice each day.

Early one morning a mate got quite a scare, we were sleeping in a bombproof shelter when a mate woke with a yell, a hedgehog had pricked him with its quills, the only one I saw in the desert. Air raids over Tobruk were spectacular, at night there were searchlights, lines of tracer bullets weaving their way skywards, they seemed to go slowly until they passed. One lad received a letter from his wife
saying how pleased she was that he was in the desert and not in Greece. She was not to know that he would read the letter by light of tracer bullets passing a foot or so above him.

Tobruk had its moments, but there was a lot of boredom, we were on our side of the wire, Jerry on his. Now and then there would be a flurry of activity as Jerry tried to take over the port to shorten his lines of communication. We in our turn, tried to keep him out. Some of the areas were quite lively, one, the Fig Tree Area was in full view of German observation posts and any activity in the daytime stirred up a hornet’s nest. Dysentery was rife, and as the First Aid post was in a cave near the fig tree, sufferers were kept there until they could be sent out at night. The toilet unfortunately, was in the open and anyone wishing to use its services had 11 seconds to leave the cave, complete his mission and get back
underground before the first shell arrived, quite exciting and not without its funny angle.

Usually we spent three weeks in the front line and 4 or 5 days out to have a spell. We found the front line generally safer than the second line of defence. In the front we only had bullets, mortar bombs and small shells to put up with. Further back, larger shells and aircraft made life miserable generally. A trip
to the town was interesting but we were always glad to leave. Bardia Bill, a huge French siege gun shelled the place periodically, trying I think, to put the wharves out of commission. The shells from this gun were quite large. I stood a dud on end, and kneeling erect, the top just reached my chin. They sounded like a runaway train travelling overhead and exploded with a large bang.

Although we were near the sea all the time I only had 2 swims. We were always on call and bathing was not part of our schedule. I finally came away from the fortress with jaundice. On the way out I spent one night in the Tobruk
Hospital and that was not without incidents. The night before I was admitted a German bomber blew out one end of a ward. Every little while we could hear a bomber coming so everyone got under his bed. After the raid was over we all came out, shut the doors and windows which were blown open by the
blast, got back to bed and waited for the next raid. The reason for all these raids we were told, was the engineers’ dump along one side and a petrol dump underneath.

I came out by sea on the "Havoc", leaving about midnight, and by morning was far away from the main danger of enemy aircraft so the trip was uneventful.
While on the subject of the Royal Navy I must pay tribute to the sailors who night after night, made the run to and from Tobruk to keep us supplied with food and ammunition.

After a spell in hospital I went to a convalescent camp in Palestine - Kefar Vitkin, a good place near the sea. On the way there, we had a day’s leave at Kantara, so most of us hitched a ride to Port Said where I saw the statue to the Australian Light Horse which had been unveiled in 1932. From the convalescent camp I rejoined the unit at Julis where we spent some weeks refitting and then
moved in Tripoli in Syria or Lebanon where we spent quite some time doing intensive training toughening the unit up. Thirty, forty and fifty mile marches were common.

Word came to be ready to move, so away we went again, heading south. Conjecture was rife - home or the desert? We crossed the Suez Canal and headed for Cairo so we knew home was not yet. Tel El Eisa
and eventually Alamein was our destination and some of our hardest fighting yet.
The lead up to our Alamein (Tel El Eisa) was a great shock to the Italians, they believed all Australians had gone home. We took prisoners by the hundred and all were pleased to be out of danger. We waited while supplies were being cached at various places. During this time I had four days leave in Cairo and then back in time for the big show. That start-up time we were in a truck waiting for zero hour, suddenly the darkness was split by a great flash. A 25 pounder just beside us started to shell the enemy along with hundreds of other guns. At the signal we debarked from the trucks and moved forward, there was not much enemy fire. When we reached our destination we dug in ready to repulse any counter-attack but none came. In the morning there was a tank battle going on a short distance away. I was amazed to see trucks and utilities moving among the tanks delivering ammunition etc. while shells from enemy tanks were falling all around them.

By early afternoon my interest in Alamein came to a sudden end when a shell landed almost on top of us, knocking me out and killing my mate. So back to hospital again, and while there in the convalescent camp, rejoining what was left of the unit in the desert where the battle had taken place. The biggest menace here were the clouds of flies. They were breeding on the dead, particularly those in the tanks which seemed to be everywhere. I was told that after the battle three trucks were sent to bring our battalion out, and the whole 37 survivors got onto one vehicle.

After Alamein we came home for leave, and in my case, a new wife (Fay McLeod of Adelaide). Then a spell of jungle training in Queensland. The rain forest was so different from the desert - leeches, stinging trees, swims in the Barron River each morning; we had much to learn in our new area.

The crossing to Milne Bay in New Guinea was calm and I spent much of the daytime up the mast on submarine watch, no subs but plenty of sea snakes. The landing at Lae was a new experience. Luckily there was not a lot of enemy action to greet us although some Jap aircraft did strafe the beach. The Jap was back-pedalling by the time we met him and was nowhere near the fighter the German was. The Jap was a great digger and had holes everywhere, but didn't like being crowded. In many places all we had to do was find the Jap, have a bit of a blue, dig in almost under his nose and by morning he was gone so the procedure had to be taken all over again. At Lae we arrived well ahead of our supplies so food was scarce, all we could scrounge work pumpkins and egg fruit so we ate them.
After way Lae we went to Buna to wait for the attack on Finschhafen, while there we had various adventures, one time holding a position well out from our lines. Each night the enemy came around and cut our signal wires. We were camped on a rise, in front of my position the slope was very steep and one night I heard someone climbing up the slope. When he made the top I could hear him breathing 4 to 5 feet ahead of me, but the night was too dark to see anything. After a bit he went back and small stones started rattling through the trees, luckily everyone held their fire. This was a ploy used by the Japs, one
came in and if I shot were fired they saw the gun flash and attacked the position. That was one time my hair stood on end. From here we went out and sat across one of their supply roads and shot up everyone using it. One day after shooting a few we decided to leave in a hurry. We were only a couple hundred yards away when the Japs attacked the position in force but they were too late.
Our unit came in after the Finschhafen Battle had commenced, and we seem to be sent here, there and everywhere, cumulating in the attack on Sattelburg which was mainly hard work. The day before we went along the road, a few yards to the side and watched Japs moving up and down and listening to their talk. We were within 5 yards of them but they had no idea we were there. The actual attack started by our climbing an almost sheer creek bank and cleaning out some foxholes so we could settle in for the night just under the brow of the hill. It must have been quite a large force up there judging by the hail of bullets passing just over our heads. Later things quietened down so we spent a reasonable if anxious
night. In the morning a patrol went to the top test the defences. I was pleased not to be leading scout but followed 3 to 4 yards behind. We moved slowly and carefully, expecting a real hornet’s nest but all was quiet, only one Jap there and he was dead, the rest had moved out during the night.

We stayed there for a while enjoying the cooler conditions. Sattelburg is 2000 feet above sea level, and where nearer the coast on the lowlands, I slept stripped off and sweating all night, at Sattelburg two blankets when needed.

From Sattelburg we moved up the coast following the retreating enemy, only catching up with them now and again. It was while on this chase I contracted dengue fever, and returned to Finschhafen by barge to a hospital under a couple of mango trees. From there it was home and a couple of spells in hospital, one to clear up dermatitis, and another to try to find the reason all my losing the sight in one eye. Nothing can be done, so my discharge came through.

On reflection, I am sure what is revealed in wartime is the mateship which men feel each other. People took great risks at times to help their mates.A case in point is when a lad went out under terrific fire to rescue a wounded man, and on his return he was congratulated them and admonished for taking such a risk. His reply was, “He is m he is my mate”, and that explained it all.

Taken from "The Oaklands Story" - these memories were written by Rob


Aussie Humour

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), Thursday 15 January 1948, page 39 Out Among The People By VOX Wailing Wall TROUBLE at the Wailing Wall at Jerusalem will recall memories for some of the 2/48th Battalion, A.I.F., who delight in recalling how one of their number, realistically garbed, took his place among the beggars on that famous wall pleading for alms. Mrs. Marjorie Agars (Upper Sturt) tells me that her son Bob declares that the fun was greatest when the real beggars discovered an imposter among them. 'I have forgotten the practical joker's name,' she says, 'but surely he holds an unusual position among dare-devil Australian spirits whose motto must be — Try anything once!'
Added by Kaye Lee daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133 2/48th Battalion


A Team Player

West Coast Sentinel (Streaky Bay, SA: 1912 - 1954), Friday 15 November 1940, page 7 Private Bob. Agars has been spending a few days with his parents at Oaklands Station. A few friends and relatives gathered at the home of Mr. and Mrs. R. Agars, of Oaklands Station, to wish Pte. Agars au revoir at the termination of his leave.
News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), Friday 3 December 1943, page 3 Protested Over Losing Gun AFTER HIS CAPTURED Japanese machine-gun, which he used in the assault on Sattelberg, New Guinea, was taken away from him by an intelligence officer, Private Bob Agars (above), of Elliston, South Australia, protested because, he said, it lowered the fighting strength of his battalion. He is the son of Mr. Bob Agars, who was in the first 27th Battalion. In the last war Mr. Agars carried to safety from the front line a wounded comrade, Tom Playford-now Premier of South Australia.
News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), Monday 29 November 1943, page 1 N. Guinea Peak S.A. Sergeant From Noel Ottaway FINSCHHAFEN. - Sergeant Thomas Derrick, of North Adelaide, who paled the way for the capture of Sattelberg last week, has already had one of the localities of the summit named after him. Derrick, a stocky, dark, cheerful soldier who won the D.C.M. in the Egyptian Desert, led a platoon which was halted on a slope by Jap machine-gun fire. He was ordered to withdraw, but five minutes later he and his men had cleaned out two of the Japanese weapon pits. Derrick pleaded for another 20 minutes, and in that time the platoon wiped out another six Japanese positions, Derrick himself killing one Jap machine-gunner, who bobbed up a few yards in front of him. Derrick makes light of his own part, and gives the credit to his men, who - included Privates Wally Everett, of Adelaide, Bob Agars, of Elliston, and Bill Delbridge, of Cheltenham. Researched by Kaye Lee daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133 of the 2/48th Battalion

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