The Australians at War Film Archive

18th. April 2003

Our Veteran's Affairs Department have indicated they are commissioning the Australians at War Film Archive.

A film and production company Mullion Creek Productions Pty Ltd  will gather material over two years speak to a large number of Veterans and film about 20,000 hours of interviews.

A newspaper notice called for volunteers, I rang, they indicated they were interested, several days later they called and did an hour and a quarter phone interview. As a result of that, yesterday they phoned, and lined up a visit over two days, 4 hours on the morning of Monday the 28th. April, and a second four hours in the afternoon of the 29th. of April.

Visual material such as old photos etc can also be filmed, the total interview will be processed, logged and deposited in the Archive under the copyright of the Commonwealth of Australia. No editing will be made, it will just be stored as filmed.

Then, each interview will be fully transcribed into text, and made available on a specially designed website, free of charge to all Australians. It is a mammoth undertaking, and it seems I am to be one of the first to become involved.

All interesting and exciting, I am looking forward to the experience and will report more in due course.

It is Mullion Creek Productions Pty Ltd who are commissioned to do these interviews.

They would be interested to be contacted by Veterans who might like to take part in this project their Address in Australia is:

86 Byng Street Orange New South Wales. 2800


The phone number I have is 1800 636 111

My contact was Brett who did the phone interview, and Jo who lined up the two 4 hour appointments.

28th April 2003

The first interview went on this morning, a male and a lady arrived at 8.30AM, set up a digital camera, put a mike on me, a green back drop, I sat in one of our lounge chairs, and off we went. a new tape had to be put every 35 minutes.

In about 8 weeks time I believe the text will be placed on the net, and it is planned to see 200
veterans. I am lucky to be selected!

It is a big project, 5 interviewing teams, and I was the first to be interviewed in my state of Victoria. 25 people are going to be converting the tapes to text for he net.

Annie and Martin ( the interviewers ) told me our Prime Minister is really interested in this project sponsored by the Australian Government via the Department of Veteran's Affairs, and John Howard had already met the production people 7 times to discuss the context and its importance. Annie and Martin seemed pleased the way it all went, back tomorrow at 1PM to go until about 5 PM.

Tonight I am to talk to the Naval Historical Society here in Melbourne, about Southern Armed Merchant Raiders of the Civil War.

In the morning I am off to Caulfield Grammar School, to set up 35 mounted photographs of the war for Australia in 1942, they will act as a backdrop to the assembly the following day.

I return on Wednesday to talk about Anzac Day to the 1,000 students, in two separate sessions, one for the junior school, and the latter for the senior students.

They have been on first term holidays, and return tomorrow, that is why their Anzac Day service will be held on the 30th. of April, rather than on the 25th. which is the actual anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli 88 years ago, and that day is a national holiday anyway.

Thank you for the piece about the Submarine Memorial in South Carolina, we should link that report to our Submarine page.

29th April 2003

Over the past two days, the 28th. and 29th. of April 2003, I have spent 8 hours being both filmed by a digital camera and interviewed by Annie and Martin as part of the Australian Government's Department of Veteran Affair's initiative, whereby 20,000 hours of filmed interviews with Veterans from WW2 will be recorded for The Australians at War Film Archives.

It was all done here at our apartment in Melbourne, and I happened to be the first to be interviewed in my state of Victoria. Through the questions put to me I was forced ( not in any threatening way ) to concentrate my mind and memory back to the war years of 1939-1945.

I realised that I had looked death in the face at least twice during that time, and when we moved to the post war period, the same applied once, and maybe even a second time in September of 2001 in Washington DC as a result of the terrorist attack upon the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight Number 77 had crashed into that building.

I remember reading a passage from PERSEUS IN THE WIND, which said:

"The vision of death gives life and beauty to the world....
those are fortunate who see it early so that they may enjoy a sense of proportion for the remainder of their days."

After my experience of the past two days, I have realised the absolute wisdom of those words.

At 20 years of age I was involved in the Battle of Savo Island in the early hours of the 9th. of August 1942, the Japanese Navy fell upon my ship HMAS Canberra, tearing it to shreds, on her bridge with the Gunnery Officer dead, my Captain mortally wounded, and other officers badly wounded I had not only survived but had not received a scratch. I was certainly conscious that I had a very lucky escape, and to be alive was just wonderful.

On to January 1945 in the Lingayen Gulf landings, I was now 22, due for my next birthday in about a month, the Kamikaze attack upon the ship when I was her Officer of the Watch on the bridge was a very close run thing, but for the accuracy and efficiency of the Captain of the Port Pom Pom mounting, Leading Seaman Roy Cazaly, I would have died. Again I cheated death, once more to be thankful, and to appreciate each day as it came, it being wonderful to contemplate life and the many pathways yet to explore.

In the many intervening years, I was married, we had 3 daughters and a son, that now in hindsight would have seemed a totally improbable outcome in both 1942, and 1945. I enjoyed work, home, travel on business to many parts of the world brought new experiences, and new delights, indeed our world was out there to be grabbed in both hands, given a good shake and made to produce what ever one was capable of extracting.

Come January 1991, I had discovered that I urgently needed open heart surgery for a triple by-pass, on the evening of the 24th. of that month I was in the Intensive Care Unit of the Austin Hospital, my heart Surgeon came to visit, and explain the procedure on the following morning, he made this rather shattering remark:

"Right now you have about a 1% chance of survival,  just hang on until the morning when we
will do a bit of sophisticated plumbing and you will be fine. Sleep well, I will see you in Theatre about 7.30 AM. Good Night!"

"Sleep well!" I ask you, I was lucky to close my eyes, and knew I was in for another bumpy ride. My heart surgery took about 6 hours, I recovered fully, was home in 6 days, and really have not looked back in the ensuing 12 years, but I again had led a charmed life.

In early September 2001, Denise and I were invited to Washington D.C. by the Australian Embassy as guests for a ceremony at the Navy Yard on Monday the 10th, when the United States President George W. Bush presented the ship's bell from USS Canberra to our Prime Minister, John Howard, commemorating the 50th. Anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty between the two countries. The full story may be read on my Web Site

Suffice to note here that we were both invited to join the PM and Mrs Howard the next day on a visit to Arlington Cemetery where one Australian serviceman is, I believe, buried. Of course 9/11 intervened, and this visit was cancelled, it was only at a lunch in our honour, tended by Rear Admiral Simon Harrington RAN, on Wednesday the 12th. of September that Denise and I learned we were booked on that fateful American Airlines Flight Number 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, we were saved by the invitation to go to Arlington with our Prime Minister.

Once more survival, and as I have had my 81st birthday last February, I intend to continue living as full a life daily as is possible, and these past two days of recording my war experiences and later life, have brought home with a thud, what a wonderful time I have enjoyed over a long long time, and there is much more to come.

My friend Terry Kearns in Atlanta, Georgia has, by nursing my Mac's Web Log, and encouraging me to seek out new horizons, added a new dimension to each day, I am continually amazed at the interest from around the world our joint efforts seem to generate. Thank you Terry, much would not have happened without you!

I love waking to each new day, wondering just what might unfold, and am certain that Perseus was on the right track, my life has been lived more fully by early and subsequent "visions of death."


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