Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Grandpa V2 of 3

This is the second version of the story, written by a year 9 student on interviewing her Grandpa who faught with my Grandpa, for a school assigment.

As written by Katie B Yr 9 K High School
“A War Hero: Blue M”
2/3rd Commando Squadron

After talking with my grandfather over the years & attending a reunion with him, I came to the conclusion that he was the person I should talk to about a war hero. Although he said that anyone who was “forward scout”, “observation post” or “listening post” personnel in enemy territory were hero’s, this essay is based on a man named “Blue”. My grandfather was a member of one of those patrols but being a modest man did not choose to talk about himself.

“You lived alone amongst your mates & you became part of one another to such an extent that you knew exactly what each one would do when attacked. It was almost like reading another man’s mind & it gave great confidence in action.

Blue was one of those mates, big, helpful & always looking on the bright side. Seldom would you hear Blue going crook about things. The only thing that could stir him was dehydrated mutton & wharfie’s on strike, apart from the odd “nip” or two that got in his way now & then.

We had been doing this reconnaissance work for approximately 3 months & were getting browned off with sneaking about the scrub like escaped convicts. Even Normy & Robbo were getting fed up. Travelling along these tracks at night was quite an experience as quite often cassowary would use the track as well, following along behind a traveller, they would stop when you stopped, & when you moved on, you heard footseps beind you. Many a fast trip was made at night under those circumstances, as sometimes “nips” would attempt to follow you into forward positions the same way.

We were quite pleased one day when Major Wharfe arrived in camp & it was decided that it was time to ambush the tracks that we had been working on. Now instead of being a recce patrol, we were now a fighting patrol. Our job was to ambush all the known supply trains to Mubo where the 17th Brigade was holding out against the “nips”.

This was where a forward scout was most essential. He is the man that leads the patrol at least ten to twelve yards in front of the next man, who gives covering fire if he runs into trouble. The rest of the patrol immediately if contact is made, encircle the enemy position & eliminate resistance.

Sneaking out in front on your own is not a very enviable position to be put in, but it had to be done as the rest of the patrol was dependant on the forward scout to spot any enemy positions or ambushes before the patrol walked into them. Mostly the enemy let the forward scout through, enabling them to get the rest of the patrol. Not only did you have to look out for enemy positions, there were also trip wires, anti-personnel mines, tin cans with stones in them to warn of approaching enemies, as well as a plan of escape if you were opened up on by machine gun or rifle fire. All of this tends to keep you fairly tense, so it was usual after half an hour or so out in front for you to drop back & let another member of the patrol take up your position. It is amazing how fast you can fire off a magazine of tommy gun ammo, hit the scrub & reload, ready to move out after your mates have caught up with you.

On this particular day, Blue was forward scout & was moving very cautiously when suddenly a machine gun opened up. Blue let fly with his tommy gun & dived for the scrub. We attempted to move forward, but were pinned down by heavy machine gun & mortar fire. We held on as long as possible, waiting for Blue to join us, but were pushed off by weight of numbers & forced to retreat to a rendezvous position. We had three wounded, one serious & two not too bad & Blue missing. After getting the wounded evacuated, a patrol was sent back to try & make contact, but ran into heavy machine gun fire & had to retreat with the sad thought that Blue had “copped it”.

We returned to our forward position & reported the sad facts which only too often happened. After a nights rests & something to eat, things seemed a bit better, but it still seemed as though something was missing. The loss of four mates in one day leaves a big hole in a section, especially after being together for so long.

It was decided after a conference of “the brass” that we would have one more go at taking the position the next day. A patrol moved forward at first light to the position where we had been fired on the previous day. A section was on both sides of the track moving cautiously forward, when a voice out of the scrub said “You’re going the wrong way sport, there’s “nips” down there”. Low & behold it was Blue.

From what he told us, he had been hit in the knee when he dived off the track & was pinned down & couldn’t move because of his leg.

He lay doggo all day & that night started to crawl back to camp. After two days & nights of crawling on his side with a lawyer vine tied to his wounded leg, he would crawl forward a foot & then drag his wounded leg up, then go forward another foot or so. When we found him he had crawled & pulled his wounded leg about eight hundred yards from where he’d been hit. He was not a pretty sight, his arms & shoulders were red raw & his good leg was practically warn to the bone. The flies had blown his knee which was badly shattered, but he was still able to crack a joke with his mates & thank them for coming to get him.

We left him with the R.A.P. corporal whilst a stretcher party was organised & continued on down the track only to find the “nips” had blown through. Why? No-one would know.

The position was taken & consolidated; we were moved back to headquarters for a couple of days rest & good cooking. Blue in the meantime had been treated as best he could by the doctor & prepared for the trip of horrors, back over Double Mountain for evacuation back to Australia.

That was 1943. The next time that I was to see Blue & those of us who were left was forty three years later at a unit reunion. He hasn’t changed much, older & greyer, but still with that bright & happy outlook on life that he had when he was a young man”.

I was fortunate enough to go with “my pop” to this reunion & I met Blue, Sticky, Normy & other friends of my grandfathers that he has mentioned in his recollections of the war. The thing that they all said was that they were very happy to meet my sister, brother & I because it made all of their efforts in fighting in the war worthwhile. They were meeting a new generation that would not have had the freedom that we have if they had not fought so courageously for us.

Although Blue wasn’t awarded any medals, he was still a hero in the eyes of many men, especially those he fought with & those who were dependant on him. The point I am trying to make is that you don’t need public acclaim or medals to prove that you were a hero, you just need the thoughts of those that you fought with & who know what you did to be considered a hero. Although there were some recognised hero’s, many were not but they are no less heroes in the eyes of those whom they fought or those that come to learn their stories.

When I think back on all those times
Playing war games in the yard
Everybody wants to be a hero
Back then it wasn’t hard
The night would fall on the battlezone
And we could all go home
….Ish album produced by 1927

I request that please no one take offence by the term "Nip". I don't use it & as you can see by Version 1 of this story, neither did my Grandpa, this is someone else's story telling & they used the term. I don't condone it.

The basic's are fairly similar to the first version; it's the 3rd version that is very different from the first two accounts.

Every time I read this version I tear up in pride for my Grandpa. He never really spoke with us about the war, as with many returned soldiers, the horrors were traumatic & burried very very deeply.

Not long before his death, he was found crawling on his hands & knees about the house as though back in the war & thought that the enemy was after him. Hearing about that broke my heart.


Ute said...

Isn't it great that our youngsters are taking such an interest in our war heroes, and documenting it?

Well written story... I don't take offence, and I'm sure not too many would. It's part of the story, through someone elses eyes, and you need that to hear the 'real story'.

Your last sentence made me tear up mate... it brought back memories of my Nan with her dementia. :o(

AlleyCat said...

Thanks Ute. I teared up too. It's been a while since I thought about it. Sorry :0(