Guest Post: Muddy – Riotous Brisbane.


Just short of twelve months into the Pacific War, Australia’s east coast capital cities had succumbed to an invasion of sorts, albeit from friendly forces. While the influx of American personnel and equipment buoyed public morale and allowed the process of forward defence – in Papua and New Guinea – to begin, the economic and social effects in the population centres where these tens of thousands of ‘friendly foreigners’ were based, inevitably had unintended consequences for both civilian locals and Australian servicemen. Possibly the two most well-known of these were the Leonski Murders in Melbourne, and the Brisbane Riots.

On the evening of the 26th of November, 1942, in the city of Brisbane, in which both Generals MacArthur and Blamey had their headquarters, simmering tension between Australian and U.S. servicemen boiled over, resulting in the destruction of the U.S. Postal Exchange – a canteen – and the death by shooting of an Australian soldier, and the wounding of numerous others. In the roughly twenty-four hours that followed, there occurred a series of altercations in the city – none of which have been documented in detail now publicly accessible – between Australian soldiers and U.S. servicemen and provosts (military police) of both countries. Understandably, there was a great deal of disquiet among the higher command levels because of these events, and the censorship applied was so strict that little but the most basic of information was released to the public. Much will always remain a mystery.

Dudley McCarthy, one of the Australian official war historians, published an appendix on the Battle of Brisbane in Series 1, Volume V “South-West Pacific Area – First Year: Kokoda to Wau),” in 1959. It contained few details, however.

In the year 2000, Peter A. Thompson and Robert Macklin (ABC Books) published “The Battle of Brisbane – Australians and the Yanks at War.” Heavy on background, they revealed the correct name of the American M.P. – Norbert Grant – who fired the fatal shots resulting in the death of an experienced Australian anti-artillery soldier named Edward Webster, who was in the process of being medically discharged from the A.I.F.

In the two decades since Thompson and Macklin’s book, the digitalisation process at the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial has revealed a few more fragments of the puzzle.

Roy Michael Cocciardi and Richard Ledson were both members of the same unit: the 2/3rd Australian Independent Company. While it is not known if they were personal friends, given they had joined the company as reinforcements within a few days of each other about one month prior, it is likely they had crossed paths, and they certainly would have recognised each other’s colour patch on their left shoulder sleeve: a pale blue double diamond within a grey border. While Cocciardi had enlisted in the A.I.F. from a militia infantry battalion, Ledson had seen service with the Western Australian 2/11th Infantry in the Middle East, including in Greece where he received a minor wound. Their new unit had endured hard training in the hinterland of the Gold Coast after returning from New Caledonia, and as a reward, their commanding officer, Major George Warfe, granted 24 hours of leave to one half of the approximately 330 men, to be followed by the other half when the first returned to camp. Ledson and Cocciardi were in the first leave group, and by the early evening of the 26th of November, both had spent several hours in the Australian canteen on Adelaide Street in the Brisbane CBD, drinking beer and socialising with ‘the boys.’ Cocciardi claimed to have left the canteen at about 7 p.m. and Ledson at 7:30 p.m. Cocciardi also later claimed to have witnessed the initiation of the crisis from an unspecified distance, given that it occurred very shortly after he had departed.       

According to Thompson and Macklin (ABC Books, 2000), a dispute arose between Edward Webster (pictured left) and four unnamed mates who were then leaving the canteen, and two American Provosts who had demanded to see the leave pass of an American signalman who was entering. The Australians were not impressed with the perceived arrogance of the M.Ps., and verbally stood up for the American, Private James Stein.

Earlier the same day, an Australian soldier elsewhere in the city had allegedly been struck on the head by an American M.P. freely using his baton, though it is not known if Webster and party were aware of this. It is possible they were aware that about five weeks previously, a U.S. serviceman had stabbed an Australian soldierWilliam John Irving Tatchell – to death in an argument, also in Brisbane.  

Kenneth Christopher Henkel, from Tatchell’s 2/7th Inf Bn, was also in the city that night, the 26th, and had arrived at the scene at roughly the time the fracas began. It is not known if he was among the initial ‘Webster group’ (a term used only for ease of reference; none of the witnesses later interviewed claimed to have known Webster) of Australians.

Ian Kerr Tieman, from an ordnance depot, had also been drinking at the Australian canteen and left at some point to eat at a nearby café.

When one of the two American Provosts – Sullivan and Michel – who had bailed up the U.S. signalman struck one of the Australians on the head with a baton (who struck whom has not been recorded) a melee began, resulting in Sullivan being knocked down, and then both being chased up Adelaide Street and around the corner to the Creek Street entrance to the U.S. P.X. (canteen), in which the two Americans sought protection.

The exact makeup of the initial group of Australians reacting to the baton strike on one of their own is not known. Neither is it known if that baton strike had been provoked. Within roughly half an hour, however, those mentioned above – Webster, Cocciardi, Ledson, Henkel, Tieman, and perhaps at least a handful of others, including James Anthony Owers, Edward Spencer Tewes, and Alfred James Osborne, Middle East veteran from the 2/1st Flash Spotting Battery, A.I.F. – were present in or very near the front rank on or in front of the steps leading to the Creek Street entry to the American canteen demanding the U.S. M.P. who had struck the Australian be ‘handed over.’ Initially, the crowd behind them numbered about 300, but grew to ‘over 1,000’ with some estimates up to 3,000. 

There were eventually about 100 Queensland civil police at the location, including an Inspector Price and Constable Neuendorf, the latter who was very much actively engaged with the most energetic Australians, a fact which arose in six courts martial early the following year. Behind the civil police and an unknown number of Australian Army Military Police, including Sgt. G.V. Canning of 6th Australian Division Provost Corps, were the U.S. M.P.s, of which we only now know two names – Scaubato and Carotto – in addition to the two initial M.P.s who were safely inside the P.X. Detective Constable John William McNeil of the Commonwealth Security Service (a precursor to ASIO) later wrote a report of the events, though it is unclear from the meagre accessible extract if he was also physically present. 

The situation remained tense but relatively static despite the swelling crowd for roughly 30 minutes, during which time objects had been thrown to break the canteen’s glass windows, and some injuries had been incurred by both M.Ps. and those in the front rank of the crowd facing them who had been struck with batons. 

At about 7:50 p.m., however, the dynamic changed, and a crisis point was about to be reached. An additional two U.S. military policemen – Norbert Grant and a man recorded only by his surname ‘Mercier’ – tried to force their way through the crowd from Creek Street to the American canteen entry doors to support their fellow provosts and Australian civilian police. The two American M.Ps. had drawn their weapons – a shotgun and a pistol – and were swinging the same from side to side while pushing through the crowd. 

For the front rank of the Australians facing the military and civilian police, this brandishing of firearms was a serious provocation. As Grant – who was brandishing the shotgun – reached the steps to the P.X., according to Thompson and Macklin, it was the Australian Webster who had words with him and grabbed the barrel of his gun.

The Australian Provost Sgt. Canning grabbed Webster by the shoulder, but at that moment, the American Grant fired from the waist and Webster took the full force of the blast. He was later declared dead at the Brisbane General Hospital. Henkel received two of the pellets from the first shot which had claimed Webster.

The crowd surged toward Grant, who was knocked to the ground from where he fired his second and third shots. Richard Ledson had also made a grab for Grant’s shotgun, but it is unclear if it was in conjunction with Webster, prior to the first shot (Grant later claimed that one man had grabbed his gun and another his neck), or after Webster had been hit in the chest with the majority of slugs from Grant’s first cartridge. When Grant fired his second and third shots from the ground, Ledson was very close to him and hit in the left ankle, hand, and hip. Tieman, who must have been beside Ledson, was hit in the right shoulder by pellets from Grant’s second shot and was later incorrectly declared dead by a Melbourne newspaper. Others were also wounded. What happened following Norbert Grant’s three shots, and the exact extent of damage to the interior of the American canteen is unclear from available records. The spark had been lit, however, and the following 24 hours energised both high and low ranks alike, but for differing reasons.


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Brislurker
Brislurker
November 25, 2023 2:56 pm

Thanks Muddy, some interesting details. As my siblings and I got older we used to listen to conversations between rellies on “The Battle of Brisbane” as my mother was a Brisbane girl. We were fascinated and one thing I can remember was that there was segregation with the American troops, which Australians were not used to, and the trouble that in itself caused.

Ed Case
Ed Case
November 25, 2023 2:57 pm

It is possible they were aware that about five weeks previously, a U.S. serviceman had stabbed an Australian soldier – William John Irving Tatchell – to death in an argument, also in Brisbane.
Your link doesn’t work, Mud.
Was that U.S. serviceman Black, by any chance?
If yes, which is highly likely, then the events weren’t linked, since Black Servicemen were not allowed on the north side of Brisbane.

Ed Case
Ed Case
November 25, 2023 3:02 pm

We were fascinated and one thing I can remember was that there was segregation with the American troops, which Australians were not used to, and the trouble that in itself caused.
That’s recent propaganda and lies.
Black Servicemen were known for carrying knives, many Australian civilians were stabbed.
The issue that caused the initial confrontation was the violent nature of American Provost Marshals, they were known for brutality.

Ed Case
Ed Case
November 25, 2023 3:25 pm

ABC journalist John Hinde [1913-2009] spoke about it on radio later in his life.
From memory, fighting raged in North Quay for 3 days, the rebels obtained weapons from an armoury outside Brisbane. There were still bullet marks on buildings lining George Street into the 1960s [ MacArthur lived at Lennons Hotel, which then occupied the block behind Gity Hall facing George Street, between Adelaide St and Anne St.
The Qld Supreme Court and Central Police Station, including the Watchhouse, were on the opposite side of George St.].
Hinde was still ouitraged by the behaviour of the Australians involved 50+ years later.

Pogria
Pogria
November 25, 2023 4:14 pm

Muddy,
that was a great read. I had never heard of the Brisbane riots. Still so much to learn about past goings on in this great country. YES, I still believe Oz is the best country in the world.
Staying away from metropolitan areas helps with the belief.

Pogria
Pogria
November 25, 2023 4:16 pm

Aaaaw, the dingleberry is here with xe/xer’s little red pen.

Rabz
November 25, 2023 5:25 pm

OK, Muds – here we go – my ol man’s top five (and only) anecdotes about the war:

– He sailed from Queensland to PNG in a convoy and slept through the sinking of one of the ships by a Jap submarine
– His first field hospital had no medicines or equipment, courtesy of union bastardry
– He was given a revolver that “was so heavy I could barely lift it”
– The Japs didn’t bomb field hospitals
– The yanks were uncivilised, obnoxious idiots

he served from early ’43 as a Cap’n in the Australian Army and frontline field surgeon.
Finished the war in a massive allied base hospital in Cape York.
Discharged in mid ’46, went home and married Nancy, my mum.
Worked extensively with Jewish survivors of the War.
And we all lived happily ever after, until we didn’t.

Rabz
November 25, 2023 5:31 pm

He also expected the war against the japs to go on for many years after the vanquishing of the krauts, given his ant’s eyed view of the war and complete ignorance of the A Bomb.

Diogenes
Diogenes
November 25, 2023 5:51 pm

There was also allegedly another big brawl between 2 train loads of US and Aus troops somewhere between Armidale and Wallangarra. A school friend’s grandfather was, as I was told, the fireman on one of the 2 trains. The Aussie troops were in the loop to allow the US train to pass on the main. While the train crews were doing the necessary safe working so that both could continue on their respective journeys words were exchanged and a big brawl broke out.

Roger
Roger
November 25, 2023 6:34 pm

I had never heard of the Brisbane riots.

Another riotous episode in Brisbane’s past involved a pitched battle between returned WWI troops and Bolsheviks in Russell St., South Brisbane in March 1919.

At the time, Brisbane was home to a significant community of Russian political exiles and escapees from Siberia. The ex-soldiers took exception to a Bolshie demonstration and the trouble ensued when they attempted to “take” the Russian hall. Shots were fired and several injuries were reported, including the police commissioner of the day.

In time, as the revolutionaries consolidated control in Russia, the Reds returned and were replaced by White Russian exiles who in the 1920s erected a cathedral and hall a stone’s throw from the Gabba cricket ground which has been continually in use since.

Pogria
Pogria
November 25, 2023 6:56 pm

Rabz,
was Dad pleasantly surprised when the war with Japan was ended much sooner than expected?

Roger,
thanks for that very interesting piece. Good to know.

JC
JC
November 25, 2023 6:59 pm

Eddersly, you’re bsck??? What happened and what promises were made?

Ed Case
Ed Case
November 25, 2023 7:03 pm

The reason John Hinde was disgusted by the Battle of Brisbane could be that it clashed with The Narrative of the day.
Which was:
John Curtin had publicly appealed to the United States for assistance and President Roosevelt answered the call.
In reality, Roosevelt and Churchill had already made an agreement that everything east of Singapore would be the United States responsibility in case of War with Japan, likely at a secret meeting in Newfoundland on August 8 1941.
Curtin had to have been told about that, so his Call To America speech was Disinfo.
The truth was that Australia was occupied by the United States whether we liked it or not.
That’s unpalatable, so it’s not talked about and the real story of the Battle Of Brisbane has fallen thru the cracks too.

Rabz
November 25, 2023 7:05 pm

Pogs – getting anything out of him about the war was like pulling teeth. He was a man of Italo-German extraction who I think was severely traumatised by his experiences in PNG.

But he was a proud Ozzie, born here, as was his mum. His father was born in Turin.

His work with Jewish refugees in Oz after the war was what I admired him most for. As a son, I could never live up to his expectations. He loved me unfailingly, nonetheless.

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 7:09 pm

Apologies for the dud link. This is the man who was stabbed in early Oct ’42: Tatchell, though his files doesn’t tell you much about that incident.
There are various news reports about it on Trove, including here.

No, the U.S. serviceman who stabbed him was not a negro as far as I’m aware.

John Hinde’s recollections may be somewhat coloured, I suspect. There was no wild gunfire and bullet-scarred buildings (all of the pellets from Grant’s three rounds were accounted for, such as the press of flesh around him).

Postscript:
I’m only aware of four (4) people being arrested at the scene of the shooting on the evening of the 26th; they were the window smashers. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to access their names yet.

On the 4th of December, Cocciardi and Osborne (mentioned above) got into another disagreement with U.S. M.Ps. over their treatment of another American soldier, and both were arrested, having been recognised from their front row positions on the 26th of November. Both were included in a line-up at the Grovely Detention Barracks on the 11th, and kept in detention until their courts martial on the 12 – 14th of January, the following year. I’m aware of the names of six (6) Australian soldiers including Cocciardi and Osborne, who were court-martialed during those three days.

Edward Webster, the man who was killed by the first shot, was quickly and quietly buried in the Brisbane General Cemetery, where he still lays (as far as I’m aware). His widow was initially denied a widow’s pension normally due when a serviceman died while on duty.

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 7:12 pm

The dodgy photo is Edward Webster.

Roger
Roger
November 25, 2023 7:12 pm

Roger, thanks for that very interesting piece. Good to know.

Yes, it’s interesting history, Pogria. Many of us skips who grew up on Brisbane’s southside had friends of “white” Russian descent.

As for the Bolshies, I’ve sometimes wondered how many ended up back in Siberia – or worse – after their return to Russia.

Rabz
November 25, 2023 7:13 pm

pleasantly surprised when the war with Japan was ended much sooner than expected?

Pogs, he was a devout Catholic and I never posed him that question, or whether the indiscriminate bombing of civilians during WW2 was acceptable.

His views on the use of the A bombs would have been “interesting”.

Rabz
November 25, 2023 7:17 pm

“white” Russian descent

Rog, the suburb in Sydney I was born and grew up in was laden with them. Including a mighty Temple.

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 7:17 pm

Sorry, the Leonski link must be a dud also. Let’s try this.

Leonski was the U.S. Army soldier who strangled three young women in Melbourne. Due to the forces agreement between the U.S. and Australia, U.S. personnel were not subject to Australian law, so Leonski was court-martialed by his own country (but still in Melbourne). Found guilty, he was quickly hanged at Pentridge, despite the Australian Government informing Gen. MacArthur they wanted Leonski to be taken to the U.S. for the execution of his sentence. MacArthur’s response [paraphrased] was ‘Meh’ and Curtin bowed a little lower.

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 7:19 pm

where he still lies, not lays.
*Sigh*

Roger
Roger
November 25, 2023 7:23 pm

Rog, the suburb in Sydney I was born and grew up in was laden with them. Including a mighty Temple.

The Russians in Sydney are mainly descended from people who fled Harbin, a Russian majority city in China, after the post-WWII Communist take-over, Rabz. Many came to Brisbane too and some from quite cultivated families. I was regaled with many tales of Russian exile life in Harbin. The actor Yul Brynner grew up there.

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 7:26 pm

VX59801 Edward Harry French – “French admitted that at the time of the riot he was very drunk, and could not clearly remember what happened. However, in one statement he claimed to have been only a spectator and that when he heard the shots he rused [sic; rushed] towards the sound to see what was happening. Shortly after, he was hit on the head and remembered nothing until awakening in hospital. In one statement he told police that he was hit when he joined in a rush on the PX.” (French received a laceration to his scalp). French continued to serve until 1945.

NX72949 Osborne, Alfred James – Court Martial file NOT ACCESSIBLE. Standard file accessible [See p.7]. 2/1st Flash Spotting Battery, A.I.F., with which he had served for about 9 months in the Middle East. Osborne was charged with almost the same offences as Cocciardi, namely conduct to the prejudice, civil offence – striking, and (similar to Tewes) striking a superior officer. He was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour. He had been in detention awaiting trial for 39 days. On the 26th of March, 1943, after his release from Boggo Road Gaol, he was discharged SNLR: Services No Longer Required. Osborne’s striking an officer and second conduct to the prejudice charges appear to relate to an event on the 4th of Dec, 1942. Perhaps this was when he was arrested? “Constable Neuendorf gave evidence that Osborne was urging others to push through the [American] PX door. He used obscene and offensive language on a number of occasions and struck Neuendorf on the forehead. He particularly singled out [American] Scaubato for abuse. He was identified on 14 Dec 42 at a lineup at Kelvin Grove, by Neuendorf who stated that Osborne was one of the principle rioters.” Osborne’s disciplinary record resulted in the forfeiture of his service medals [likely to have been the same for Cocciardi].

Captain L.M. Barnes, Assistant Australian Provost Marshal, Queensland L of C area, extracts from report: “At approx. 1910 hours on 26 November, 1942, a disturbance commenced outside the Allied [?] Canteen. This started through a U.S. M.P. taking a leave pass from a U.S. soldier, and half drunken Australian soldiers from the Allied Canteen resenting the action. Australian soldiers were immediately advised by Aust. M.Ps. that the affair had nothing to do with them and to keep out of it. Within a minute a large number of Aust. Soldiers chased all U.S. M.Ps. down towards U.S. Canteen and by this time about 300 soldiers would be involved; the number quickly grew until there were over 1,000 soldiers trying to get at the U.S. M.Ps. [MY NOTE: It strikes me that something has been left out of this account: Had anyone been struck yet? Has the U.S. M.Ps. struck anyone with a baton? Why were the Australians so aggressive?]. The Aust. M.Ps. had quickly formed a semi-circle round the door of the U.S. P.X. to hold the crowd back and behind this semi-circle on steps of U.S. Canteen was a double line of U.S. M.Ps. with batons drawn. The Aust. M.Ps. held out against the pressure put on them. Civil Police were quickly on the scene (approx. 100) and did a splendid job in holding the crowd back from the windows, and assisting Aust. M.Ps. During this time sticks were thrown at the P.X. windows breaking several and one man responsible was arrested later by Aust. M.P. In all four arrests were made.

At approx. 1950 hours 3 shots were fired by a U.S. M.P. who tried, with another, to get through the crowd to reinforce the U.S. in the P.X. One of these was carrying a riot gun (scatter gun) and on seeing this Aust. Soldiers spread out but surrounded these 2 M.Ps. The one with the gun was pointing it and swinging round. In a few minutes [interesting] 3 shots were fired causing casualties as per attached list, showing G.S.W. There is a very serious antagonism against U.S. M.Ps. carrying and using batons, and carrying forearms, and the limited number of Aust. M.P. are quite inadequate to keep Aust. soldiers from attacking them. The feeling is so intense that it will not abate until troops at present in Brisbane area are moved to another area well away from the city. This feeling appears to be on both sides. The U.S. Provost attitude ‘We’ll give them fight if they want it’, and the Aust. soldiers are the same.

U.S. M.P. do not understand Aust. soldiers or they would refrain from using batons and drawing firearms and whilst this practice lasts serious trouble will continue …”

Extract from a report by Sgt. G.V. Canning, 6th Division Provost Corps: “On or about 8:30 p.m. November 26th 1942, I was on duty in the American Post Exchange on Adelaide and Creek Streets, Brisbane, when I saw two American soldiers enter the crowd. One of these men had a revolver and the other a riot gun and I heard one of the Australian soldiers say ‘take the gun off him’. The American Military Policeman said ‘Stand back or I’ll shoot you’. He repeated this two or three times and then walked to the wall and stood with his back to it. An Aust. soldier brushed past me and approached the American Military Policeman and I said to this Aust. soldier ‘Get out of the way’. I now know this soldier to be Pte. E.S. Webster, QX5862, 2nd Anti-Tank Btn [sic? Regt?]. (deceased). The American Military Policeman also said ‘Stand back or I’ll shoot you’.
I grabbed Webster by the shoulder and at the same time he grabbed at the American Military Policeman’s gun and had a hold on the gun when one shot was fired and Webster fell to the ground. After this I heard two other shots as Australian soldiers came in towards the Canteen.”

Roger
Roger
November 25, 2023 7:30 pm

Found guilty, he was quickly hanged at Pentridge, despite the Australian Government informing Gen. MacArthur they wanted Leonski to be taken to the U.S. for the execution of his sentence. MacArthur’s response [paraphrased] was ‘Meh’ and Curtin bowed a little lower.

They later reached a compromise.

An American soldier who murdered a prostitute in Brisbane’s CBD was taken to PNG to be hanged.

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 7:35 pm

I hadn’t read of that previously, Roger.

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 7:38 pm
Roger
Roger
November 25, 2023 7:41 pm

I hadn’t read of that previously, Roger.

I dug the story up somewhere when I was researching the American presence in Brisbane in WWII a few years ago, Muddy.

Some info here along with reports of other incidents, although that’s not my source as I recall it.

Roger
Roger
November 25, 2023 7:41 pm

Yep, that’s the one.

Ed Case
Ed Case
November 25, 2023 7:42 pm

John Hinde’s recollections may be somewhat coloured, I suspect.

Why do you say that?
He was an ABC Correspondent in Brisbane at the time.
There was no wild gunfire and bullet-scarred buildings (all of the pellets from Grant’s three rounds were accounted for, such as the press of flesh around him).
Gaslighting your readers much, Mud?
The scene of the initial riot was the corner of Edward St and Adelaide St, 2 city blocks down Adelaide St from George St.
Shooting up and down George St went on for 3 days until it was brought under control, according to John Hinde.

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 7:44 pm

Peter Dunn’s website is excellent. He has put a heck of a lot of effort into it over a long period.

Roger
Roger
November 25, 2023 7:52 pm

Peter Dunn’s website is excellent. He has put a heck of a lot of effort into it over a long period.

Yes, indeed; I’ve bookmarked it.

Wish I’d come across it when doing my research, one of the reasons for which was we were taught nothing about this history at school and relatives who’d lived through it has consigned it to the forgettery, perhaps understandably.

Pat Mac
Pat Mac
November 25, 2023 7:53 pm

Thank you Muddy and Roger, really nice to read true history of our country.
Pat

Muddy
Muddy
November 25, 2023 8:23 pm

2/3rd Australian Independent Company war diary extract, 27th of November, 1942:

Second half of Company returns from leave. Personnel very annoyed as a result of shooting in city by American MPs. One dead, six wounded, not all 2/3 Indep Coy. Troops unwilling to return to camp, but on arrival of officers and NCOs order is restored and all personnel return by nightfall.

[I made a mistake in my main post: The coy was granted 48 NOT 24 hrs leave, beginning with the first half on the 23rd].

Pogria
Pogria
November 25, 2023 9:00 pm

Rabz,
your Dad was a product of his time and background. My parents were fifteen when the war began. The years that are meant to be the most enjoyable of your life, were interrupted by war. Although, Slovenija at that time was too poor to be conducive to a good time in your teenage years.
They didn’t meet until the war was over. My father never mentioned one word about the war. My mother only told us that she had been sent to the country to work in the Uniform factory. She mentioned some girls that she had worked with at the time and that was all.
Ten years after the war ended, with four children in tow, they escaped Tito’s Dictatorship, made their way to Italy, asked for asylum, were sent to Germany which was taking in a lot of reffos and dispossessed at the time. They lived in Germany for four years while waiting their turn to be sent to Australia or Canada. I am forever grateful that Dad chose Oz. He said he had had enough of cold and snow and had read that Australia was warm.
I am not surprised he didn’t speak much of his time then.

Roger,
as a fellow skip, g’day. I had a discussion with someone recently about the term “skip”. It was only ever used on kids from a Wog/European background. Pommies kids were never called skips. I was asked once what the name meant. I told the person it was short for “skippy”, after the television series. It meant that kids born here were little skippy kangaroos. heh.

I worked with a fellow from Cuba in the mid nineties. He was a full blood Negro who was from one of the mass releases from Cuba that were organised regularly by Amnesty. Castro used Amnesty to clear out the Prisons to make room for newer detainees. Antonio said he wanted to come to Australia because he had watched Skippy when he was young and had dreamed of coming here. He was a nice enough bloke but alcohol could only numb his demons, not kill them. He had an Aussie wife who asked him to lift his shirt one day to show me the machete scars on his back.
Movies never get that sort of detail correct. The reality is always far worse.

Boambee John
Boambee John
November 30, 2023 9:25 am

Rabz

– The Japs didn’t bomb field hospitals

Were he alive my father would have a different opinion, the nit he was attached to near Sanananda, the 2/4th Field Ambulance, was bombed by a Japanese aircraft. This added insult to injury, as a Stuka had bombed his previous unit, the 2/2nd Casualty Clearing Station, in Tobruk.

Muddy
Muddy
November 30, 2023 11:28 am

Boambee John: The Webb Report.

The Japanese also strafed a field hospital at Wau in June, 1943.

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