Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Also on the photographic theme, there is an interesting section on Jack Heyn, war photographer (including this memory of Melbourne) among the vast historical storehouse of Peter Dunn's Australia @ war.
boynton has been exploring this fascinating site slowly, reading about internment camps at Rowville, (Melways in hand), the secret Abbotsford bunker, and the Australian Special Wireless Group AIF, whose recruits were told:
"Not only do you not exist, you never will have existed. You will remain for always unknown and unacknowledged. There will be no awards, no glory. There will be no medals for this unit."

Comments: homefront

"Not only do you not exist, you never will have existed. You will remain for always unknown and unacknowledged. There will be no awards, no glory. There will be no medals for this unit."

My experience in the Ararat SAS Boy Scout Troop in a gumnutshell. A shadowy group, led by Akela Schickelgruber, we went from safe hall to safe hall, never at the same star-lit campfire and singalong for more than one night at a time.

Sadly it has to be said, some scouts are more prepared than others.

One night when we didn't fade into the night quickly enough we lost "Nappy" Westbrook. (He was tardy in rounding up the camp-followers from the Pink Elk Brownies troop.) He was captured by a band of Wild Irish Rovers. Stabbed to death with his own biddling stick, his toggle was placed in his mouth as a warning to others.

He put up a brave fight, shouting till the end the troop's sacred and defiant motto, the plaintive and ironic motto, "DYB, DYB, DYB. DOB, DOB, DOB." ("Deny you being, deny your being, deny your being. Death or banishment, death or banishment, death or banishment.")

Poor old "Nappy" didn't get so much as a posthumous King Bandicoot badge (with or without bar) for his project, the brown owl stealth garotte with optional step over toehold granny knot.

(Once you have read this message, tear it up into small pieces and swallow it ... the night has a thousand eyes.)
Posted by Sedgwick at December 10, 2003 11:31 AM

I've just checked both my diary notes (written in Boy Scout invisible ink ... lemon juice, which when held against a candle flame can reveal the darkest of secrets) and Brown Owl's post mortem report and it was actually Westbrook's "woggle" what was found in his mouth.

Posted by Sedgwick at December 10, 2003 11:54 AM

I went to cubs as a kid in Darwin in the ruins of the Naval Prison where they had held Japanese POWs. Now that was an eery experience, complete with air raid shelters.. Sad to say Akela's system for coping was to drive round the neighbourhood drawing marks in chalk on the road and then Pissing off to the Pub... while we panted about in the hot sun getting our woggles all sweaty. And played our favourite courage game: hot concrete, shoes off, how long can you stand there.. like contemporary politics really...
Posted by David at December 10, 2003 12:48 PM

ps - thedge, that was a wonderful sustained flight of fancy. You get the special Brainbenders badge, worth two points on your way to being a Sixer...

now there's a frightening thought. This man in a position of leadership...
Posted by David at December 10, 2003 12:50 PM

... and I like a nice freshly ironed brown shirt ... and trains that run on time.
Posted by Sedgwick at December 10, 2003 01:19 PM

Yes I agree David, such gumnutshells ought to be collected. A rich sedgwick "advent calender" of Ararat images and imaginings is forming, deserving a wider audience than this little backwater. Thedge, you should start gumnutshells@blogspot...

And David, cubs and army ruins manage to connect the threads nicely.
My Brownie years were spent in very ordinary surroundings it seems. I got to be a sixer - but then my sister was Brown Owl. Is that also like contemporary politics?

"Not only do you not exist, you never will have existed. You will remain for always unknown and unacknowledged. There will be no awards, no glory. There will be no medals for this unit."

I was thinking this was more your blogger's creed, actually. ;)
Posted by boynton at December 10, 2003 01:31 PM

A basic characteristic of the internet & blogs is that one thing leads to another. In this case, kind notice taken by Gianna of my novel Haverleigh led me to the Boynton blog and the Heyn/Dunn record of Australia in WW2.
That record is being detailed and elaborated by the publication of a Diary and an Album by Bob McDonald whose father gave his name to McDonald's corner at the beginning of the Kokoda Track (or Trail) in the days both before WW2 and afterwards.
Kokoda and Milne Bay were the crucial land campaigns in 1942 and early 1943 that effectively ended the threat of a Japanese invasion of mainland Australia.
We can feel something of the near-panic of those days when we read of Bob's departure from Port Moresby, at the age of two and a half, with his mother, in the last flight out for women and children. That was 1 January 1942.
The Japanese landed substantial forces at Buna/Gona in July 1942 and at Milne Bay in August 1942.
By the end of January 1943, Papua had been cleared of the invading Japanese forces and the remnants were driven up the northern coast, through Lae, Salamaua, Wewak and the rest.
It was a retreat that did not end until it reached Tokyo and the unconditional surrender of the Japanese Emperor in August 1945.
Haverleigh tells the story - and beyond - in fictional form. Bob McDonald's Diary and Album provide maps, photos and data that are a valuable factual record of those events and those times.

James Cumes
Posted by James Cumes at December 15, 2003 12:35 AM

Yes I agree, this serendipitous characteristic is one of the most alluring things about the medium. Gianna's post on 'Haverleigh' made me want to read it, and I'm honoured that you found your way to this odd blog, and to Jack Steyn and Peter Dunn.
Studied Kokoda briefly at Uni where Lloyd Robson impressed upon us that it was the Kokoda TRACK, never to be known as trail. ( A point of honour indeed.) I read an extract of James A Michener on Milne Bay recently which was a great first-hand account of one aspect of the campaign. It's always good to be reminded of the stakes involved, and the panic, and the heroic response.
I look forward to reading both your book and Bob McDonald's factual record of these events, those times.

(I mention Lloyd Robson there because that was another example of a chance find recently, an unexpected small connection, as I read about him in the chapter of "The Facing Island")
Posted by boynton at December 15, 2003 03:47 PM

I'm amazed that you studied Kokoda at Uni. I wonder when that was?
Pleased too but I hadn't imagined that those struggles in New Guinea in 1942 had reached such a lofty status as to be granted academic attention and analysis.
Was it a track or a trail doesn't matter a hoot to me; but I've always felt that Kokoda - and Milne Bay, which was a separate, unique and telling land victory - fully confirmed our right to look the Yanks in the eye as an equal partner in the Pacific victory, certainly in those crucial early stages of turning the Japanese back.
In both Kokoda and Milne Bay, it was a bunch of untrained, inexperienced boys, especially in the 39th and the 61st, who first met the Japanese highly trained and experienced troops and held or beat them.
One other thing is that, in the case of both campaigns, Macarthur showed himself to panic easily and to make the job more difficult for the Australian commanders in the field. He sacked Allen during the rapid advance back to Kokoda and he treated the victor of Milne Bay, Major-General Cyril Clowes, miserably and unjustly.
Macarthur was a great general - his Imchon Landing was one of the all-time classics of war - but he was too anxious for heroes to be American only - and to install himself at their head - and too unwilling to acknowledge Australian fighting capacity and personal gallantry.
Subsequently, the public consciousness, around the world, has too often been that the United States won the Pacific War almost or entirely alone. Far too little credit has been given to the Australian contribution, on land as well as at sea. Our air force, though small in relation to that of the Americans, also performed brilliantly and, for example, in the tragic fall of Rabaul in January 1942, showed the ultimate in martial gallantry when our pilots flew their Wirraways to certain death against the Japanese Zeros.
We don't want to glorify our forces - let alone glorify war - but we can justifiably be stirred by the feats of boys who never saw themselves as warriors but who, when the time came, behaved in the most precious traditions of martial selflessness and self-sacrifice.

James Cumes
Posted by James Cumes at December 26, 2003 04:42 AM

I studied Kokoda very briefly as part of a general Aust History year at The Univ of Melb - in the early '80's. Lloyd Robson also ran a full unit called "Australians at War" - which was very popular, but I was unable to take it, even within a double history degree.
This is all rather coincidental, but I happened to be discussing your comment with my parents over Christmas, confessing that I may have muddled up Michener and Milne Bay. My parents then informed me that my (maternal) grandfather had fought at MB. He was an older man who was in the Engineers. My ignorance has shamed me and I've been reading a few things on-line today.
My father (in air force training during war) was in strong agreement with your views re MacArthur and American glorification (at the expense of Aust. troops) I think this is why Lloyd Robson was so pedantic about the word "Track."
I read Michener's account in an anthology "Writers on World War 2" - and as I (dimly) recall he was a coastwatcher/radio operator, and it was a good account of the perilous, random, isolated existance on the islands.
I'll continue my reading - and hope to also read your novel soon.
Posted by boynton at December 30, 2003 03:56 PM

I concur whole heartedly with the comments about the treatment of the Australians by Macarthur in general. The sacking of Rowell,Clowes and Allen shows the depth that those at the top will go to to remove any threat to their job. This was Blamey at his worst and Australia's political leadership undoubtedly "kowtowed" to to MacArthur.

The Australian efforts in those early campaigns should be promoted and praised for the way they fought the best of the Japanese forces to a standstill and then their ultimate retreat in 1942/43.
Posted by J D Johnstone at July 10, 2004 11:32 PM

Thank you for your input - which again makes me feel the need to return to the history books.

(If I did I might better recall the difference between 'Milne' and 'Coral' - in Michener's case)

Posted by boynton at July 14, 2004 09:56 PM

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