Alfred Eric HOLLAMBY

HOLLAMBY, Alfred Eric

Service Numbers: QX51979, Q144105
Enlisted: 21 April 1943
Last Rank: Lance Bombardier
Last Unit: 2nd/2nd Field Regiment
Born: Sellheim, Queensland, 21 August 1919
Home Town: Townsville, Townsville, Queensland
Schooling: West End State School Townsville
Occupation: Valuer
Died: Natural causes (heart attack), Townsville, Queensland, 3 June 2016, aged 96 years
Cemetery: Townsville (Belgian Gardens) Cemetery, Qld
Memorials: City of Townsville WW2 HR, Townsville Grammar School War Service Honour Roll
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World War 2 Service

21 Apr 1943: Enlisted Private, QX51979, Townsville, Queensland
21 Apr 1943: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Lance Bombardier, QX51979, 2 Field Regiment AMF
22 Apr 1943: Involvement Q144105, also QX51979
22 Apr 1943: Involvement Private, QX51979, also Q144105
21 Jan 1946: Discharged Lance Bombardier, QX51979, 2nd/2nd Field Regiment
21 Jan 1946: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Lance Bombardier, QX51979, 2 Field Regiment AMF

Eric's Story

I was born in Sellheim and at the age of 5 I spent 3-7 weeks at Charters Towers while our house was dismantled and transported to Townsville. The house was re-erected at Dillane Street Pimlico. I attended the West End State School for a period of 8.5 years when I left school at the age of 13.5 years. During my school years I joined the West End School Brass Band at 8 years of age and played both football and cricket in the school’s team.

At the age of 13.5 years I left school and my father tried to make me do an apprenticeship at Robinsons Bros butchers. I hated it and only lasted 6 weeks. I was still a bandsman and although it was in the height of the world depression (1932) a fellow bandsman told me of a vacancy at R.M. Gow & Co which I managed to secure. Hence I started work as a storeman, packers come office boy, as it was a small business with 3 employees. R.M. Gow & Co and Eade & May shared a building and we were employed by both businesses selling Arnotts biscuits and groceries for R. M. Gow & Co and butchers and bakers supplies for Eade & May – a very unusual set up.

At the age of 15 (1934) I was dissatisfied with my future prospects so I began attending night school to complete my Junior exam and learning book-keeping. I topped the book-keeping class and the two teachers urged me to enrol for an accountancy course. After completing the Intermediate Accountancy course and passing my Final including Bankruptcy, Company, Income Tax and Commercial Law exams I was called up to do my compulsory months military training. During my 3 years of study I was also keeping books for numerous small businesses around the town. This was providing me with more money than I was earning in my job. In addition to this I was pencilling for bookmakers at illegal betting shops and also on the coursing track which was run at the Sports Reserve each Saturday. The top salary I ever earned was $3/18/- (pounds) and the pencilling fee was $2/2/- (pounds) and if the bookie had a winning day $5/0/0 (pounds).

On completion of my military training my boss informed me that on returning to work I would be under a senior and I would no longer be in charge of the store. I told him to keep his job and I immediately walked out. At this point in time I would have been 19.5 years old.
I decided to start my own business as an Accountant and Tax Agent. Having passed my examination as a Tax Agent, I was immediately granted a Tax Agents licence.

I opened an office on the first floor of the Commercial Bank which was opposite Lowths Hotel (now the offices of Connolly Suthers Lawyers) at the rental of 15/- ($3.00) per week. After a bit of canvassing in Flinders Street, I obtained 5 more good clients and these plus the existing clients I already had, gave me an income of $15 (pounds) per week.

One of my clients was a very progressive builder who was building a small cottage for $290 (pounds), and apart from keeping his books I was acting as his salesman. He suggested that I obtain a Commission Agents Licence. I did this very smartly and added real estate to my business. It was about this time of life that Mr Jack Parry nominated me as a Justice of the Peace and I was duly sworn in by Magistrate Mr Con Bott. At current date (2009) I have been a JP for 69 years.

During the 2.5 years prior to my enlisting in 1942 I entered into partnership with the building contractor I mentioned previously (Mr Pat Schuler) and we contracted to build 6 shelter proof structures at the Air Force base at Garbutt which entailed the use of 20 tip trucks and about 20 carpenters. Unfortunately for us the Japanese entered the war and the Americans arrived in Townsville and this escalated out costing. Our costing was based on say $6 (pounds) per week and likewise for the tip trucks but the Yanks also wanted men and trucks and were prepared to pay $12 (pounds) so we had to match their prices. Instead of making a profit we made a huge loss.

In the interim I signed up for air crew in the Air Force, but as my partner was an alcoholic the Federal Government held me responsible to finish the project and consequently I could not enlist when my call up came. The Air Force wrote to me and informed me they did not want unreliable people like me.

On the completion of the project I joined the A.I.F. About this period of my life the city was full of Australian and American soldiers. I was still in Townsville when the Japanese planes started bombing the city.

On arrival in Brisbane I was taken to the Brisbane Exhibition grounds and then to the old pig pens where I was given a hessian sack which I was told to fill with straw and use as my mattress on the cement floor. I was horrified at the time, but on looking back it was the only time in my 4 years in the army that I had a mattress to lay on, as from that night on it was on the ground or bare boards.

After 2 weeks we were sent to a training camp outside Beaudesert to be trained as anti-aircraft gunners. Training took 13 weeks and towards the end of the course the CO Major Douglas paraded Don Ridolfi and I and invited us to apply for admission to an Officers course. Now I had been studying for 4 years and Don had just completed his Senior at a Catholic college and we very stupidly said we had no ambition to be an officer but wanted to be drivers. This did not please the CO and the next day Don and I were put on draft.

Naturally we thought we were off to New Guinea but we finished up at Sellheim camp. We were eventually drafted to the 2nd Aust Field Regiment at Cooray where Don and I started as drivers. After a month or so we were approached again. This time it was not for an Officers school but to a higher classification and Don stayed as a driver and I was given one stripe and made a battery surveyor and OP ack.

Our unit eventually left from Townsville to Port Moresby where we stayed for 15 months. I was eventually sent to an Officers artillery training college in Sydney and while I was there my unit (which was now at Nabzab) was sent into action at Bouganville.

I was sent back to New Guinea and on the way I called at Townsville and married Effie. We were given 14 days leave and spent our honeymoon at Bundaberg.

I arrived at Torikina and went straight into action. Most units spend 3 months in action and were relieved. We had no relief so we had to do 12 months straight.

A couple of days before peace was declared I was forward with Capt Boyd and he casually said to me “You know that school you went to, well it has finally paid off. We are down an officer so you have been recommended for a field commission”. Unfortunately peace was declared. However I was promoted to sergeant and sent to teach book-keeping at the Torikina college.

Torikian College was Admiral Hallsey’s old head quarters and was set up as a first class college complete with all wings, chemistry, accountancy, engineering, carpentry etc. After the war it was a huge job to get the troops back to Australia. Each soldier was awarded points according to his time spent overseas. I served a total 1,218 days but only 735 days of this was outside Australia, so I was not returned to Australia until January 1946. Consequently I spent the last 4 months of my army career serving as a Sergeant teaching book-keeping at Bouganville.

On my return to Townsville I was faced the task of starting a new career that would earn me a decent living and believe me, competition was strong. I decided to buy a bus run or news-agency and journeyed to Brisbane twice to purchase a bus run or news-agency. However while I was contemplating to buy a bus run an offer was put to me to start the agency for the Brisbane Telegraph which I duly accepted. Within a week the chap who was trying to run the Courier Mail agency approached me to go into partnership with him.

The vendor was a fellow cornet player with me in the 31st Battalion Band and I agreed to join in partnership. This lasted about six months as he wouldn't help in the running of the business.

When I commenced running the Courier Mail agency, I also started up again as a real estate agent from offices in Willmetts Chambers. It is interesting to note that my annual profit from the agency was &6,000 which was terrific in 1946. Between the real estate office and newspaper business I was working 7 days a week until I sold the newspapers in 1971 to Keith Foley who had the “Truth” agency.

I was appointed a valuer for Probate & Succession Duties before the war so that appointment carried on when I re-commenced in 1946, and this also gave me a leg into the Real Estate Institute Valuer’s Licence and likewise the Real Estate Valuer and Probate & Succession Licence also helped me in obtaining admission to the Commonwealth Institute of Valuers.

Going from an army life to commercial life was exhausting and I couldn't have stood the pace without the help of my wife Effie. She gave me a lot of help but I could not make her a partner in the business unless she passed the Real Estate examination and she would not agree to study. It would have helped us reduce our income tax if we had been able to split the income through a partnership.

However in 1952 I commenced building houses with the help of a licensed building Contractor (Mr Frank Way) and under Effie’s name we built 2 houses a month from 1952 to 1954. We were forced to cease as the timber we were using from El Arish was infected with borers.

I incorporated building into my business again in the 1970s. I formed a company Baxter Homes Pty Ltd with Ron Baxter (builder), myself and Charlie Arnold (one of my salesman). This ran successfully for a few years but was eventually disbanded owing to Ron’s poor health.

My greatest mistake was purchasing the Reid River Lime Co which I was led to believe had a quantity of gypsum. I purchased the mine some time in the early 1950s with a Partner, Les Neilsen, who was supposed to manage it and I was to provide the finance.

Les eventually gave up as it was not profitable as he thought and there was no gypsum. I persevered with it for 3 years and eventually sold it to my foreman. I lost quite a few thousand pound at the time of purchasing the lime works I was contemplating buying a set of 6 flats in Warburton Street and that would have been more lucrative.

I eventually brought my son, Geoffrey, into the business to manage my rent collection. When Estelle (Geoff’s wife) started working in the business she took over the management of the rent collection and Geoffrey took over the sales management. My time was then devoted mainly to the Valuation Department and investing in property. The income from the rent collections and valuation fees was the backbone of the business. I was assisted in the Valuation Department by three different qualified valuers.

After 45 years from re-commencement of the business, I decided to hand the business to my son, Geoffrey, and retire. I was holidaying in the Northern Territory when I was advised of my son’s admission to the intensive care ward of the Townsville General Hospital. I returned to Townsville immediately and saw him in hospital before his life support was turned off. I then took over the running of the business in order that the business could be sold. It was sold eventually to Knobel & Co for the benefit of Geoff’s beneficiaries.


I can still recollect my infant days at Sellheim. Sellheim had a meat works and a crushing and sluicing works (to extract gold from the crushings from Charters Towers). It had a hotel, bakery and grocery business, and of course for recreation we had the Burdekin River where we swam and fished.
In approximately 1925 we arrived in Townsville, as my father had a job on the construction of Lowths Stanley St bridge.

Taxis were few as horse cabs were everywhere and very few business houses had delivery vehicles. Flat top trucks for hire used to park in Stanley & Stokes Streets awaiting a customer.

There were four bus depots:
1. North Ward – owned by the Beale Family
2. South Townsville, Railway Estate – owned by the Green Family
3. West End – owned by the Jones Family
4. Hermit Park – owned by the Morris Family

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island was serviced by the Island Ferry owned by the Hayles Family. There were two services per day, 9.30am and 2.30pm and they went to Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay and Arcadia. In the pineapple season they also went around to Horseshoe Bay.

At that time the only vehicles on the island were a few horse and carts. None of the Bays were connected by roads and there was no telephone service.

Other Matters

1. The racecourse known as the “Cleveland Race Track” was at Garbutt near the Town Common. There was no airport and not many planes and Ross River Plains was the landing strip. In approx 1928 Kingsford-Smith landed at Ross River Plains and I had my first aerial flight as he was giving joy rides in his Southern Cross for 10 shillings and 1 pound. My father shouted me a 10 shilling ride.

2. I was approximately 8 years sold when a neighbour, Mr Ashley Alloway, took me to the Cleveland Race Track.

3. One of the highlights for the city was the Rodeo at Mt St John on May Day. Mr St John Robinson staged the first bull fight ever held in Australia. We also had the first women to parachute out of a plane.

4. Talking of firsts, when I was 5 years old at Sellheim I heard the first commercial radio broadcast from Brisbane – Chandlers 4BC. The station master had a powerful 12 valve radio and all of Sellheim was at this house to hear the broadcast.
Houses in those days had a detached kitchen and while we were busy listening to the broadcast a train pulled into the station full of swaggies (who were jumping the Rattler) and as they could smell the food in the kitchen, they stole all the food but nobody minded as they were starving.

5. I also participated in the opening of the first radio station in Townsville. The old overseas telegraph station was located in South Townsville and consisted of a room, say 6m x 6m. On opening night into this room piled our 32 band members, conductor and station manager, Mr Hec Cox (Uncle Hector he was known as). If we spoke or tootled on our instruments we received a whack with has baton.

6. I mentioned earlier that I never had any ambitions to better myself until I was 15 or 16 years old and probably would not have bothered if it wasn’t for my teenage sweetheart, Effie. I could see young bucks in good jobs chasing her and was determined to get a better class of job so I could compete. When I did finally set up my first office in the Commercial Bank chambers my only furniture was an office table, 2 chairs and a press which Effie had given me in my study years.
Disasters in Townsville
I recall the extensive flooding we had in 1927. There used to be a high blocked house in the area where Castletown Shopping Centre now stands. The flood waters were lapping the window sills 8ft above the ground. I also remember the disastrous floods of 1939 and in particular 1946, Cyclone Agnes in 1956 and Cyclone Althea in 1971.

We had no large Ross River dam in those days and our only protection from a flooded Ross River was a measly little wall along Queens Road.
Of course the big disaster was the World War II. In 1939 when Germany attacked Poland, Australia started to come of age, but when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour reality sunk in. The arrival of American troops, our boys enlisting and people fleeing Townsville caused real hardships.

We had just got over the hardships of the Depression years 1925-1939. During that period some people had been subjected to near starvation. Soup kitchens were scattered around the town. A member of the family would roll up to the soup kitchen with a billy can to be filled with soup and handed a ½ loaf of bread.
Now the war was in earnest, food, clothing, petrol etc was scarce and had to be controlled by government coupons i.e. rationing. The influx of foreign troops and evacuees from the Philippines and Malaya caused havoc with water, sewerage, ice and food.

During my life time in Townsville the changes have been enormous –
(a) Pimlico finished at Latchford Street
(a) Aitkenvale finished at Ann Street
(b) Rising Sun finished at meatworks bridge.

During the period prior to the war, we would build a small house, verandah, bedroom, lounge, dining room with downstairs bathroom and laundry for 295 pounds (i.e. $590).

Community Service
1. Blue Nurses – I was a fund raiser and gave them cover for their vehicles in the Shaws Arcade carpark. I raised over $30,000 which saved them from closing.
2. Garden Settlement - original Committee member
3. Hermit Park Infants School P&C – President
4. Townsville Rotary Club – President and Paul Harris Fellow
5. Townsville Legacy – member for 50 years
6. Justice of the Peace – 69 years
Major Events in Townsville in my lifetime
1. Erection of James Cook University
2. Erection of Lavarack Barracks
3. Copper Refinery
4. Greenvale Nickel
5. Zinc refinery
6. Reclamation of land for Jupiters Casino
7. Building of Ross River dam
8. George Roberts Bridge
9. New hospitals – Townsville General and Park Haven
10. Hospice
11. Yarrawonga Development
12. Construction of supermarkets
13. Degradation of inner city heart (Mall)
14. Influx of population to northern beaches
15. Upgrade of services and population to Magnetic Island
16. Visit my Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip in early 1950s.

Visit by Queen Elizabeth

In the early 1950’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip visited Townsville in the “Britania” and as Courier Mail agent I was selected to deliver a batch of newspapers from all the capital city newspapers throughout Australia. I was scrutinized by all departments of the government and eventually I was given passes for myself together with a large 30cm x 30cm sign for the windscreen of my car, which was a new cream Chevrolet.

A large bundle of capital city papers arrived on my morning plane to be delivered to the “Britania”. Now the young cop at the South Townsville Police station hated my guts and as Palmer Street was blocked to all traffic he jumped out and stopped me and ridiculed my audacity for driving on that particular road in spite of all my credentials. Luckily his sergeat intervened and let me through. On arriving at the wharf I was amazed to see a mass of foreign journalists and photographers. They probably took my photo and wondered who the “big shot” was. I was led down to the Queen’s secretary’s cabin where I was given a cup of tea and he commenced to read all the headlines.

I kept the “pass” on my windscreen and personal pass and when the “Britania” was due to sail I took Effie, Gladys, John and Geoffrey right down to the wharf to wave them good-bye. The young cop just glared at me as I drove past him as he did now know if I was on official business or not.

My Life in the Army

I previously mentioned my initiation into the Brisbane Exhibition grounds. My first stint in the Army was in 1939 when all men over 18 years old did 6 months compulsory service. Our camp was at Miowera, which was between Bowen and Proserpine and I was a cornet player in the 31st Battalion Band.
In the A.I.F. after doing my Rockie course at Beaudesert I was drafted to the 2nd Aust Field Regiment who were camped at Cooroy. From Cooroy we had free access to all the beaches and were reasonably close to Brisbane.
We then went to Port Moresby where we trained hard and as we could not be used successfully in the jungle we were used as labourers in the quarry and assisted with making roads.

Eventually we were sent to Nabzab via Lae. From this camp I was sent to an Officers artillery school at Holdsworthy NSW and on my way back to Bougainville I married Effie, who was my teenage sweetheart. The second time that I left Townsville on an American Ship “Shawnee” I had a bad cold and was terribly love sick. After leaving port we ran into a cyclone in the Coral Sea and also we were being shadowed by a Japanese submarine. The seas were terrific and I was very sea sick and just laid on the deck helpless. A young officer came along and told me to move as there was going to be a ship’s inspection. I told him I couldn’t move. He then gave me kick in the back. I retaliated by grabbing his legs and he fell heavily on the iron deck. He called for the ship’s “provos” to arrest me. I still refused to get up and demanded a stretcher, which was provided. The soldier who was arresting me whispered to me to call for a Doctor and I was taken down to the ship’s hospital.

The Yankee Doctor asked me what my troubles were and I told him about my recent marriage and he immediately told the fuzz that I had pneumonia and was to be confined in sick bay. The Doctor and I both knew that the provos would nab me as soon as I walked off the boat so the Doctor took me below to the door where goods are loaded and I exited from there while the Provos were watching the gang plank. The next day a jeep load of Provos drove into our camp site with papers to arrest me. The Captain, to whom I was assistant, read the papers and promptly tore them up and told the Provos to “piss off” as he needed me more than they did.

I forgot to mention a little episode when my regiment first left from Townsville. We were camped at Oonoonba Staging Camp awaiting a shop to take us to Moresby. No my officer (sho was a bigger villain than me) warned me I had no change of going AWOL to see my little “hen” as he put it. However I was determined and nothing was going to stop me.

I arrange for my mates to answer for me at Roll Call and gave them the phone number of a taxi driver who lived near Effie’s house. The road to Oonoonba was over the bridge near the meatworks (Bowen Road) and the Railway Bridge at Oonoonba. However being an old Townsville boy I knew of the Rocks Crossing at the bottom of White Street, so I went through the Animal Health Station land and took off my clothes and swam across the Rocks (as the tide was in full) and proceeded to Effie’s place for 2 days. When my mates telephoned me I drove back to camp in a taxi. You could get into the camp over the Bridge as they only checked the outgoing soldiers.

Whilst I was camped at Cooroy, my best mate Anzac McKee was stationed at Maryborough with his wife Phyllis, who was Effie’s best friend, so they invited Effie down to stay. My C.O. would not give me leave so I went A.W.L. for a week. Now if you return to camp on your own free will the punishment is light, but if you get caught by the Military Police it is a different story.

The rail station for Maryborough is Badow Junction where there is a large Refreshment Room with 3 door entrance. At this point of time the 2nd AIF had been recalled from the Middle East to help to defend Australia and as the invasion by Japan was evident the authorities denied them leave of absence. Consequently they all went A.W.L.

I was drinking a cup of tea and a soldier from the Sixth Division approached me and asked if I had a Leave Pass. When I told him I didn’t have one he said have a look at the doors, and to my surprise every door was heavily blocked by Provos. He then informed me that his mates had drawn straws and 3 groups were going to attack the Provos on Doors 1 and 2 and the Provos on Door 3 would go to their assistance. When that happened, which it did, we were free to run.
There were 2 trains on the platform – one going north and mine going south to Cooroy. I jumped on my train but the Provos were only interested in the train heading north, so I went safely back to camp and copped 2 weeks “chasing the bugle”. Every time they blew the bugle you had to report to the orderly office within one minute.

Now back to Bougainville, our Regiment supported all the Brigades and was attached to a total of about nine different Battalions. The first time I fired on a Jap I earned the reputation of being the “Naked Jap Killer”. When the artillery is supporting a fighting patrol we march in the centre. The patrol winds its way through the jungle like a snake. The forward scout opened up on a party of Japs, who I later learned were swimming naked in a stream.

Of course, we in the centre have no idea what is going on. The next thing we heard was a noise on our left side and the bushes being swept aside, which to us sounded like we were being attacked. I swung around and fired a burst from my Owen gun. My officer told me I was trigger happy and ridiculed me. My mate backed me up and after we went over to investigate we found a naked Jap lying dead. I copped a lot of flack over that incident.

During my time in Bougainville I had a lot of harrowing experiences, as I was always at the front with the Infantry and my worst by far was the Battle of Slaters Knoll. We were supporting a company of soldiers (about 100) and there were 6 of us. My regiment moved into a position for the night and immediately laid down barbed wire around our perimeter and I laid down about 6 defensive artillery targets. Our scouts informed us that we were surrounded by a battalion of Japs (1,000 men).

At 4am we heard the Jap officer shouting commands and then 2 Jap soldiers approached our barbed wire with wire cutters, which we promptly disposed of. This procedure was done about 3 times and each time we shot them. Then all hell broke loose as they order a Banzi charge. We kept them at bay for 3 days and on the 4th day two tanks came to our aid. The tanks could not cross the flooded Puriata River and eventually they enclosed the tanks in waterproof tarps and the two that made it came to our assistance. At the end of the battle we lost 13 soldiers, they lost 600.

On another occasion the forward scout led us into a Jap position as he thought it was abandoned. They left a few sick and wounded on tiered bunks as a decoy and we dropped our guard. Then all hell broke as the little blighters were secure in their weapon pits. Now as the forward “Ack” I carried a map case which I hung around my neck. This map case contained a map with our positions marked on it. In our panic to exit the position the Bren Gunner got tangled in the vines of the only exit. I was behind him, and in my efforts to untangle him the map case must have been torn off me.

When we eventually settled down as a group I noticed the missing map case. I said to my officer we will have to go back and retrieve that map case. The Infantry Lieutenant said “Like Hell”. When we got back to the Battalion Headquarters and informed the Colonel (C.O.) he blew his top and said he would have my officer and me court martialled. He then ordered me to go back and find the map. He gave me a sergeant and a platoon of 30 men. We spent two nights but we could not even find the site. The sergeant and his men abused me all the time for putting them at risk.

On return to our camp, the officer and I were in disgrace. However the officer, who was younger than me conned me into going back along the track where a battle had taken place the day before to get some swords etc. This old Jap camp was built into a type of cave site and rooms were dug in the side of the hill and enclosed with wooden doors. We were searching around and I thought I heard movement in one of the rooms. I kicked the door in and peered into the darkness and I could see the outline of a pair of spectacles. Out popped a big Jap wearing glasses. He couldn’t speak much English, but he could say “Don’t shoot”.
I said to my officer “What the hell are we going to do with him?”. He said to shoot him. I said I am not going to shoot him in cold blood. He said we were in the “poo” now and if we take him prisoner we were in the poo further, as we were ordered not to leave camp so shoot him. I said I can’t shoot him in cold blood so you shoot him as you are senior to me. He said I can’t shoot him either. I then indicated to the Jap to run for his life. The poor blighter thought I was going to shoot him in the back and started crying and got down on his knees to beg me. Eventually he ran like a jack rabbit to safety.

Our artillery had a range of 13,000 yards and Jap guns had a range of 20,000 yards. I was sent forward behind Jap lines with 2 sigs and a Catholic Priest and a native guide to a company of Commandos who were entrenched in the mountains behind the Jap positions. We travelled along mountain tracks parallel to the road and eventually we reached the Commando Camp. To our amazement they lived in tents above ground level and they did not had to do guard duty as they were surrounded by a group of Black Tribesmen who were loyal to the Allies and were armed with their own primitive weapons. I watched them ambush a company of Japs with the aid of the Commandos who provided them with Jumping Jack mines etc. The Tribesmen hacked those poor Japs to pieces.

Unforgettable Memories

Ken Mountford and I were Acks (Battery Surveyors) and whilst we were stationed at NABZAC we palled up with some Yankee pilots as we were always on the air strip practising sun shots and star shots and they used to take us for a joy ride to Madang and Finchhafen areas to drop barbed wire to the forward troop areas.
On this particular day we were in a Liberator bomber loaded with barbed wire and on take off they banked and headed south-east. The pilot told us we were about to have a bird’s eye view of the invasion of Rabaul. We looked down and saw battle ships of all sizes aircraft carriers and transports with landing craft. The Island was being blasted with gun fire and bombed to high heaven. Our job was to fly around until the bombing ceased and then to in and drop barbed wire on the beach for the troops when they landed.

On return to our camp we were so excited that we blabbed (big mouth) and in no time we were paraded before the CO and told to explain how we knew all about the landing. He charged us with being absent without leave and endangering ourselves. This charge was later dropped as he realized we were his only O.P. Acks.

My other big brush with the C.O. was the night peace was declared. I was doing the midnight to dawn shift in the Command Post with my signaller mate Lin Andrews. We had two powerful radio sets and Lin was tuned illegally into the BBC London and we heard the broadcast on the Jap surrender. Now from the command post we had a Tanoy set with loud speakers around the gun position to broadcast firing orders. I immediately grabbed the microphone and blurted out “Stand to, Stand to, now hear this you so and sos. Your dreams have come true, the Bloody War is over. Now you can go back to bed and try to sleep. “ It was 3am. In a matter of 5 minutes my C.O. came thumping into the command post to have my guts for garters. He really lined me up for spoiling his thunder. He got square with me as I was the only N.C.O. who had a knowledge of patrolling and I was constantly forward with the Infantry.

Even though the war was over the Japs did not know and were still trying to break our wire and blow up our guns. Therefore it was necessary to patrol the area every day to make sure they were not hiding in the adjoining scrub. It was my duty every day to nominate who would be on my patrol. For about 3 weeks I was the most hated N.C.O. in the camp as nobody wanted to go with the chance of being killed after peace was declared. I still remember Gunner Alf Kruger who claimed I was the most stupid Banana Bender ever born. The reason being I could not get a volunteer to go forward scout so I had to be the Bunny and Alf used to ridicule me for making a noise as I hacked through with my machete.
My final months in Bougainville were a breeze as I was supplied with a “Recie” car and lived in a fly screened Yankie tent and had refrigeration to keep my beer and water cool. I went surfing every afternoon at 4pm. The beach was always crowded with approx 10,000 soldiers and nurses and this was heaven compared to the hardships I endured during the previous 12 months. Jimmy Harvey, Audrey’s brother was also in my tent.

Business in Townsville Pre War

Grocery Business

Townsville was serviced by 6 major stores - Hulberts O.K. Stores, Hollimans, Rees Thomas, Richardson & Timmins, Bright Ways and Manahans. These stores were in the city centre. Each day an order man went into the suburbs to obtain orders from the residents and the goods were delivered that afternoon by horse drawn carts. In addition to the major grocers there were fair sized suburban grocers such as Ohnesnorgens in North Ward, Byers and Nethercotts in Railway Estate, Stan Lowe in West End, Jim Fanning in Hermit Park and Thomas Gray in South Townsville.

Each suburb had large baker shops e.g. Forno in West End, Gordon in Hermit Park, Tip Top in South Townsville and numerous others Soft Drinks
This was also a big trade and we had Barrons, Phillips, Innot Spa Water and Grays etc and they all did household deliveries.

Mixed Business
Chinese shops were all around the town.

Townsville had a large Chinese population and they ran a gambling game called “Pack –a –Poo” which today is called Keno. This is the same game but was marked in Chinese numerals. The head office was in building opposite the old Railway Station and a runner used to take the results of the draw out to all the Chinese Pack-a-Poo shops along Charters Towers Road, West End and South Townsville on a push bike. They used to have 3-4 draws per day. The top prize was for 9 marks on your ticket. Some of the old Chinese businesses were Billy Lee Mat, Fong Fay, Joe Yet, Mar Fan, Mar Kong, Hook Whar Jang, King Sun, Archie Soong etc.

Bottle Shops
These were unheard of as the sale of liquor to the public was confined to hotels and you could buy direct from a merchant if you bought 2 gallon lots. I sold a 2 gallon licence to Mr Little who lived in Ayr to Ponti & Gidotti and had it transferred to Townsville. This was the first 2 gallon licence in Townsville of a private nature (not controlled by merchangs) and was used mainly to sell wine.
Table wine was not extensively used in Townsville as beer, rum and whiskey were the most consumed. Mostly the average diner had a sherry before his meal and port wine after.

The first liquor barn was set up at the Crown Hotel in South Townsville. The publican, Mr Spina, had a licence fees of $5,000 per annum and after 12 months trading the liquor licence jumped to $55,000.

General Trade
There were virtually no roads capable of servicing any vehicular traffic in or out of Townsville and consequently all our goods came by rail or boat. The main source cam by boats and we were serviced weekly by the following ships which carried goods and passengers from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane namely: The Canberra, Kanimbla, Ormiston Orungal etc. These ships carried approximately 200-300 tourists and general cargo which included all our vegetables, beer which came in hogsheds, Kirkins and Kilderkims from Carlton & United Breweries. The ships docked every Sunday night, unloaded Monday and sailed Monday night for Cairns, returned Wednesday to load all returnables such as empty kegs etc.
Inter city roads in and out of Townsville were virtually non-existent. The road to Ayr (which was only gravel) went through Woodstock to Giru township, thence to Ayr. The road to Brisbane went through Charters Towers thence to Clermont and through to Rockhampton. The coastal road between Mackay and Rockhampton was non-existent.

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