Saturday, 26 April 2008

2/4th and The Battle of Cairns


Yesterday was ANZAC Day so forgive me briefly for jumping to the 20th century. I'm posting this a day late as I had no time yesterday, lunch being spent down at the memorial, and I don't have a computer at home. I left a ciggie for Pop, and had one myself. I didn't leave a poppy because he wasn't much of a "joiner" (runs in the family), and not much of one for organised authority. I reckon he'd take a dim view of the lot of it, especially the lauding of the heroism and the concept of the innate "rightness" of the allied soldier during war (see for example this little slice of life on Timor provided by one of the men who served in his company) .

However for me it's a time to put aside a day and remember the bloke who taught me to tie my shoelaces (one of the most enduring and useful life skills I have).

Pop was a signaller with the 4th Australian Independent Company, later renamed 2/4th Commando Squadron, and fought in Timor, New Guinea and Borneo against the Japanese (and maybe in Australia too, against the Americans). Here are a few exerpts from a history of the Company's activities in the war. (Lambert, George Arthur. "Commando: From Tidal River to Tarakan 1941-1945". Australian Military History Publications. 1997).

I love this story about Pop. The stories where he is involved reveal his subversive sense of humour and the importance of looking out for your mates. This took place shortly before the battle of Tarakan.

Battle of Cairns

The Battles of Brisbane in Australia and of Manners Street in New Zealand are well-known. I don't know why, but they tickle me. This is probably because I'm such a useless brawler myself, and am invariably among the first to get knocked out of it on the few occasions I've been in a stoush. I wish I was more like my mate Dave Rees, who just never seems to go down until three or four guys have had a go at him. If I was, maybe he'd still have all his real teeth!

These "battles" are usually put down to GIs taking out all the local women with their better pay, the general overbearing attitudes of the MPs, and that the US staff giving all the credit to the GIs (not that they don't deserve it - but a spare a thought for the Aussies wouldn't go astray). Anyway, here is a description of the lesser-known "Battle of Cairns":

Of course it wasn't all fun and games, as can be seen in one account of the landing at Lae, in New Guinea. As you can see, when it came down to the real business, Yanks and Aussies could look out for each other:

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