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Simon's granddad.

Posted October 9, 2014 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

This comment appeared in Mr Havock's guest post about Fury. It seemed a shame to let it languish there. I'll let Simon take up the story:

I wonder what my grandfather would say. He was in the 2/1 Australian tank artillery regiment. Fought the rear guard action in Greece and got captured for his efforts. Escaped and several months later working his way through Greece with the underground finally rejoined his unit. He wrote a fair bit and there are some pretty choice sections in all of it. Hard to pick what would be best for the topic! Let me know if you want a read of the whole thing and i can send it on (about 39 Word pages worth)

A section of his diary:

"Although well dug in, so much so that only a direct hit would shift them, they were very obvious to his recce plane, the Henchel Storch, which looked like our Lysander.This meant one thing, unless we moved our guns and changed our fire plan, our guns would be methodically shelled out and not a tank would appear within thin arcs of fire.


All that day an enemy artillery unit put concentrations on my guns and Hubs. They were accurate and had the Hun only known he could have pushed his tanks in and the fire put down would have flattened our gunners. It was neutralization at its best or worst whichever way you looked ar it.
We decided that night to move to alternate positions. By much hard work and a few casualties we got three guns back into alternate positions. One we had to leave to cover the minefield but of course moved it to another position.


The BC (Nim) decided we would need a roadblock and told me that evening that he would arrange it. I was after materials for a dummy gun. With Jim Aldridge my orderly & confidant we visited the Veve railway station to get such material as was needed. Imagine our surprise to find that the stationmaster was still in occupation and fiercely resisted our efforts to pinch his downpipe. We squared him off with a signal pad receipt (how often was that done?) and departed.


Jim and I were busily erecting the dummy gun positions in our two abandoned positions. As far as I could see the dummies were good, and to help, the snow started to come down again.
We had almost gained the main road when we heard a tank moving along the branch road towards Veve Town. We knew we had no armour handy so the first thing we thought was that the Hun tank had got in behind and where there was one there would probably be a number more. The place was quiet and we ran like steam to where we had dumped our gear, among which was our tank surprise. It comprised of about a dozen sticks of gelignite with a short fuse. We headed off to the noise and waited by the road in a ditch.

The area had gone deadly quiet but the rumbling and clanking of the tank continued. Closer it came and Jim was about to light the fuse when I stopped him. Now it was almost on top of us it somehow didn’t sound like a tank although it was pitch black and we couldn’t identify it. Almost on top of us it stopped!! We risked a look and then a door clanged, a light blazed out and there was the biggest steamroller I had ever seen. Driven by ‘Woy Woy’ Downing, it had been sent along to be wrecked on the road for our roadblock. It had scared six months growth out of the whole sector. We cursed old Woy Woy so he started off again and twenty yards further on hit a mine, which as far as we knew was not laid by any of our people and so was blamed on the Hun patrol. The roller survived but the yolk broke and the old roller sat down fair in the road the next best job to an immovable block you could see.


All next day the Hun arty concentrated on the pass and the dummy guns. Our own guns were giving him as good and our patrols of Hurricane fighters Beaufort bombers kept his aircraft away."

9 Responses to ‘Simon's granddad. ’

Dave W mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2014
There are some great tales out there and well written too. Thanks Simon and JB for putting this up for us.

Cheers, Dave.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted October 9, 2014
I took Therbs suggestion to heart and created a wordpress account. I split it up a bit to make it easier to read and get back to if needed (long read). To start you'll need to scoot to the bottom of course. Even has some pictures!



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Rob mutters...

Posted October 9, 2014

When I read things like that I always feel I have done very little of any note with my life. Moaning about video games on my blog, or my obsession with trying to be fulfilled at work doesn't compare with fighting nazis or changing the world as part of a larger machine. Always makes me want to quote Tyler Durden ' our great depression is our lives'

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted October 9, 2014
It seems like such a huge event (and it was) but i continually remind myself that it lasted for 6 years (if you were in it for the full length). Then you had the rest of your life to get on with - it is defining but if you think back on the first 6 years after turning 18 you think "hell, such a small part of my life"

My other grandfather on my dads side actually fought in both of the world wars (and survived) but injured in both. Joined the first one when just sixteen. I don't have much history from him because dad is a pom and my grandad died long before i was born. In fact my dad remembers the second world war - he was born 1936. He remembers having to get in the cage under the kitchen table when an air raid was sounded.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2014
Simon, checked out the blog. Great stuff. Makes me think both the Australian War Memorial and National Archives would love copies of the diary.

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JG has opinions thus...

Posted October 9, 2014
This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing it, Simon. Also very well written. Primary historical sources like this are so important. I hope the AWM and NAA gets to keep a copy of it (or the original). First-hand material like this is a national treasure: part of our nation's history.

Talk about resourceful men - ie using a downpipe. Much respect for all that our diggers and all forces have done - past and present.

JG

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pi mutters...

Posted October 9, 2014
Great stuff Simon. Thanks for sharing.

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Bernie puts forth...

Posted October 9, 2014
Thanks for posting the entire thing Simon, and I'm going to add my voice to the chorus asking you to send a copy to the AWM, this type of first hand account needs to be preserved and shared especially as there are so few who served in the world wars left, they truly were the greatest generation.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted October 9, 2014
I think my mum has forwarded this plus some other personal effects along to the AWM. Not sure what became of them though. They also handed in a german luger to the police! But like they said there was nothing they could do with it.

There were also some war trophies from the Japanese side. A wallet with what looked like ashes and a pay sheet as well as an officers japanese sword. They took them all in to the Japanese consulate a few years back asking if they wanted them and they only took the wallet with the personal effects. The sword went to the local RSL. The Japanese consulate got back to them saying they had found some relatives and asked if they could contact - Mum declined considering the nature of how they arrived in our hands.

One more story about my grandfather - this was back in the nineties. He lived in sydney in a suburb called Meadowbank. Backed onto a park like area and some old tennis courts and was right next to the big park on the parramatta river. They had chickens and they were going missing. So one night pop staked out the coop and sure enough a fox was nabbing them. He used his old .308 and took it out (he was a crack shot on top of everything). He collected the corpse for the trophy tail, stowed the gun away and went back out with the other neighbours who came outside to investigate the loud noise. When asked "did you hear that noise?" he replied with "yeah i thought i heard something just thought it was my ears" . . . . . . everyone knew he was hard of hearing from his time in the anti tank.

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