Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 19 1942

My grandad (mum's dad) Keble Stephens spent his war laying telegraph lines and setting up signals stations from Fremantle to Darwin. Most of the time being spent in the middle of nowhere in Western Australia. During this time he - most illegally - kept a diary. While he was away his new bride, Connie, moved back in with her parents, spending only the weekends at her new home. She regularly sent him long letters and parcels of food. He and his crew were given 12 months rations then set off in trucks into central WA and headed north, sleeping in cinemas and shearing sheds on the way. They passed plains of 6 foot termite hills, deserts of spinifex before the river gum plains and billabongs of the Kimberley. They got about in shorts and not much else (41 degrees!) Spent their time shooting bush turkeys or roos for dinner or prawning in the billabong. They used their grenades to catch fish. Made cakes with crocodile eggs. Learnt how to throw a boomerang from the 'boongs' and 'nigs'. (In later years he annotates his diary to apologize for the terms, but that was how they spoke then.) They caught a Joey and kept him as their mascot. Came down with 'dingy' - dengue fever. Got up early and had siestas after lunch. Endured the wet season - no mail, no rations got through by donkey - but waterlillies cover the billabongs. Planted a veggie garden. Played bridge with the station owners. Were wakened by Japanese planes flying 'reckies' ( 'Tojo's hear! Wacko. No damage. 13 bombs') Battled the flies ('the flies are beyond belief. There are literally millions of them. They crawl into your nostrils, on your lips and into your ears. The moment a morsel of food is exposed it turns black with flies. What a joint.') Played basketball with American medic units. Drank beer in Darwin (pub sign: ' no beer served after 4 bombs'.) Eventually they moved on to Melbourne, spending time at the Dugout Allied Services Club - which I believe was downstairs at the Capitol Theatre in Swanston Street. War's end and he marched rough the streets of Melbourne in the Victory parade before finally, after weeks of waiting, caught a train home to Perth. - Toodle Pip!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow, I've only just caught up with this posy- what marvellous anecdotes; I'm so glad he (illegally) kept a diary for without men like him doing so we have no records in the vernacular like this!
more if you have it please,
Amanda