The First A.I.F.
Citations & Awards
Life in the Trenches
Bullecourt - Bert’s death
Stories from the Front
More Stories from the Front
Extracts from C.E.W. Bean
Extracts from H.R. Williams
"Red & White Diamond"
Capt. V.E. Smythe notes
Royal Australian Navy
Family who served our country
Letters, cards, papers
Conclusion - Post War
The Next Generations
These pages were written by Margaret Johnston with help from her family and friends.
in their honour
In Their Honour is a searchable database of Australian soldiers killed in action in WWI and WWII and the location of their graves.
Chapter 17: 1st ARMOURED REGIMENT - 2nd A.I.F
LEO CLIVE CLARKE NX 114564 the father of my two children, Carol and Stephen.
Leo joined the Militia when he was 17 years old in the Bondi area. It was in this group, that he made many life-long friends. He really wanted to join the A.I.F. with them but had a hard job to convince his mother to sign the necessary papers. In those days the slouch hat that was worn had feathers on the left hand side, as had the original Australian Light Horse Regiments in W.W.1. He did his training in the Greta/ Singleton area N.S.W. After his W.W.II service discharge in 1945, he went back to work at The Market Printery and finished his apprenticeship.
MOBILIZATION FORM A.A. MOB 1 - Some details-
He enlisted at Carrington road, Randwick on 1.8.40 and gave his date of birth as 25.8.22 instead of 13.5.23. Place of Residence 12 Council Street. Bondi Junction. He was living with his uncle and aunt. His mother (next of kin) was living at Foxlow Street, Captain’s Flat NSW. He was shown as a Printer’s Apprentice.
Form B Medical Examination. He had a Medical at Dungog on 1 April 1942 and Oath of Enlistment sworn on 10th April 1942 (also at Dungog).
ATTESTATION FORM - Some details.
This was written at Greta on 10.7.42. His No. 7003 and Unit 1st A.A.T. Batt. His mother’s address was Foxlow Street, Captains Flat, NSW. The date he finished his Secondary School was shown as December, 1935. The Oath was taken on 19.7.1942.
Application to Enlist for Service in Australia and Abroad
On this form dated 17.7.42 at Dungog his birth was shown correctly and this was the form that he had to use all his persuasive powers to get his mother to sign. His home address was 12 Council Street, Bondi Junction and his Employer was Mr. A. Harper, The Market Printery, 372a Pitt Street, Sydney.
Date of Enlistment 17.10.1940 at Randwick. No. N7003 His birth the was shown as 25.8.22 Not correct – and this was probably because he was not old enough to join up.
EDITED DETAILS TAKEN FROM SERVICE & CASUALTY FORM A.F. B. 103
These are not necessarily in consecutive order but as listed in records.
17.12 41 M/I for continuous Tng to 1 MG Reg – Rutherford
19.07.42 T/fd to A.I.F. & allotted Army No NX 114564 - 2 MD
16.06.43 DES, OF UNIT. 1 army TK. Bn.at NSW - L of C Area
05.04.43 Adm. Hosp. Frac Lower 1/3 Rt. Fibula? Tibea NSW - L of C Area
05.04.43 Adm. Hosp. Tfd to 7 Aust C.C.S. NSW L of C Area
06.04.43 To 197 Aust. C.C.S. (INJURED DURING TNG.) NSW - L of C Area
05.04.43 Report of an injury. Description simple fracture of lower 1/3 of fibula
Will not impair efficiency not cause permanent ill effects.
Probable Period incapacitated 3 months
25.01.43 Apptd Spec Grp 111 (Dvr Mech) - NSW L of C Area
20.05.43 Tfd to X List (not M/O to Q Lof C Area) - NSW L of C Area
13.04.43 Disch 107 CCS (Frac. Tibia & Fibula to 102 AGH - NSW L of C Area
27.06.43 Adm 112 Con Depot Fract. Dislocation Rt. ankle joint 1st Degree from 102 AGH
- NSW L of C Area
13.4.43 Adm 102 AGH (Fract Rt Ankle Joint) Ex 107 CCS - NSW L O C Area
27.06.43 Disch 102 AGH (Fract Rt Ankle Joint) to 112 Con Depot
Signed ..............Lieut. NSW. L of C Area Records Office.
29.07.43 Taken on Strength from 112 Aust Con Depot - Qld
21.07.43 Disch112 Con Depot to NSW L of C Area GDD - Qld
21.07.43 M/In to NSW GDD from 112 Con Depot - Qld
07.08.43 Embarked Townsville per Westralia Permanent in Ships Hosp returning to Mainland
18.08.43 Evac to 115 AGH (Post Basal Pneumonia) & tfd to X List - Vic
24.08.43 Evac 115 AGH to Stonnington Con Depot - Vic
07.09.43 Evac Stonnington Con Depot to 115 AGH - Vic
09.09.43 Disch 115 AGH to Vic L of C Area Gen Details Depot - Vic
09.09.43 M/In from 115 AGH to Vic L of C Area GDD - Vic
10.09.43 M/out to 1 Aust Pers Stg Camp from Vic GDD - Vic
16.09.43 M/In from 1 Aust Pers Stg Camp to 5 Aust Adv Reinfs Depot - Qld
04.11.43 M/out to 13 Aust Pers Stsg Camp from 5 Aust Reinfs Depot - Qld
04.11.43 M/in from 5 Aust. Adv Reinfs Depot to 13 Aust Pers Stg Camp - Qld
22.11.43 Embarked Townsville per Katoomba - Qld
26.11.43 Disembarked Pt Moresby - NG
18.12.43 Taken on Strength from 13 Aust Pers Stg. Camp - NG
31.12.43 Evac to 2/2 Aust CCS (P.V.O) & trans to X List - NG
02.01.44 Evac 2/2 Aust CCS to 2/1 AGH - NG
19.01.44 Disch 2/1/ AGH ( Malaria BT) to NG Details Depot - NG
22.01.44 Rej Unit form NG Details Depot - NG
27.05.44 Embarked at Finschhafen New Guinesa per "Sea Snipe" - NG
04.06.44 Disembarked at Brisbane - Qld
01.06.44 DESIGNATION NOW 1 AUST ARMD. REF. AIF
23.11.44 M/o to LHQ, AFV School Dvr, Mechs Course 19 from 28.11.44 to
30.12.44 & tfd to X List.- Qld
02.01.45 Rej Unit from LHQ AFV Sch Dvr Mech Course 19 - Qld
22.01.45 Qualified LHQ AFV Sch Dvr Mech Wing Course 19 from 23.11.44 to
30.12.44 - Qld
27.04.45 Relinquished Grp 3 Dvr Mech Course Graded Group 2 Dvr Mech AFV - Qld
31.05.45 Embarked Brisbane per Frank A Munsey - Qld
12.06.45 Disembarked Morotai - NEI
27.06.45 Embarked Morotai per LST 714 for service British Nth Borneo - Balikpapan
21.04.45 Marital condition Ref now Wife Cpl Margaret McIntosh Clarke No. 105705 Group 985
Townsville - Balikpapan
21.04.45 Next of Kin Change of as above - Balikpapan
29.10.45 Evac to 2/2 CCS and tfd to X List - Balikpapan
29.10.45 Evac 2/2 CCS to 2/12 Gen Hosp -Balikpapan
07.11.45 Evac 2/12 Gen Hosp to 2/2 CCS - Balikpapan
17.11.45 Disch 2/2 CCs to 7 Div Rec Camp - Balikpapan
22.11.45 Tfd to 2/9 Inf Bn - Balikpapan
22.11.45 Tfd in from 1 Armd Reg - Balikpapan
29.12.45 Transferred to Holding Strength LTD NSW - NEI
L of C Area (Demob)
18.01.46 DISCHARGED AMR & O 253 (a) (1) (N)........ - NSW
ON ACCOUNT OF DEMOBILIZATION
PROCEEDING FOR DISCHARGE FORM AAF. A.102
I have only keyed in information that is relevant to my research.
On this form his birth was shown as 13.5.22 instead of 1923.
Full time Duty Commenced 17.12.41.
Embarkation for overseas – New Guinea 7.8.43 –Disembarked 28.8.43
- Borneo 31.5.45 – 8.1.46 - Embarked 22.11.43 – Disembarked 4.6.44
Discharge Certificate No. 401856
Served Full time War Service CMF 17.12.41 to 18.7.42 - AIF 19.7.42 to 18.1.46
Total Effective Period 1,494 days which included Active Service in Australia 935 days
Active Service O/S Australia 441 Days.
A copy of Background Report on “The Royal NSW Lancers in New Guinea” by Major Norman Bent that was sent to me by a member of the Regiment was a great help. This showed ‘A’ Squadron had arrived in New Guinea and moved to Pola Plantation near Finschhafen on 7 December 1943 and relieved C Squadron on 11 December. Also given, were details of the difficulties of using the tanks in the jungle but they were able to provide great support to the ground troops, particularly in the much safer taking out of entrenched Japanese troops.
Many places were mentioned but I have no way of knowing at this stage exactly where Leo’s group was active. These are Lakona, Masagweng River, Fortification Hill, Hubika, Wandoki, Buna, Nuzen, Kwamkwam, Kelanoa, Buri River near Scharnhorst Point, Gneisenau Point, 10-11 January, (an insurmountable tank obstacle) and movement of A Squadron back to Gusika 7 February. This ended the Lancers’ New Guinea Campaign and the first of the Battalion left New Guinea on 4 May 1944. From Leo’s own records, it seems that he was ill for periods whilst in New Guinea and I believe he had malaria. He certainly had some attacks after his discharge from the Army.
He enjoyed talking about things that happened in the army and generally I was interested. I am writing these as I remember them and cannot vouch for their truth.
One lad in the unit was called ‘Annie Oakley’ because he was such a rotten shot. He also had the reputation for his ability to sleep anywhere and at any time. They joked that he would go to sleep on a barbed wire fence. Many others had nicknames but these would need explanations that I do not wish to put into print.
When they were in Buna in New Guinea, a sniper pinned down some of the men. One Trooper said something like “Let's go and get him.” Then someone answered by asking “Any more bloody VC winners here?”
Evidentially there were not any takers. I could not see any where on Leo’s documents that his Squadron was at Buna but it is mentioned in a report on the NSW Royal Lancers in New Guinea.
During this period, the area cleared out for the tanks was in the jungle and the ground underneath always very boggy. There was a dead Japanese soldier nearby and the body started to stink. Leo was ordered by an officer to bury it. At the edge of the area, he dug a hole and did the deed, very unpleasant as it was. This was where the tanks had to turn around and the body rose out of the hole because of the soggy, waterlogged ground and he was told to do it again. When it happened a third time, he was totally fed up with this horrible task and set the body alight with petrol and kept doing it until it was just ashes.
Towards the end of their first tour of duty up there, the men’s morale was low, food lousy, mail delivery bad and they were very homesick. This caused many to the men to quarrel and there were frequent fisticuffs or arguments before breakfast. The C.O. brought out a Daily Routine Order, that no one was to speak, until after they had finished eating. So, a lot of bad tempered men got up, washed, dressed, went to the toilet and had breakfast in a sulky silence. Talking began then with no problems, so the solution was found.
The men usually took their letters and magazines (many read over and over again), when they answered nature’s call. They would sit there and enjoy the news and other items in their mail and books.
On one occasion, when they were totally fed up of eating the bully beef, one of the men took a couple of grenades to 'catch' some fish in a nearby lagoon. He came back with only a few and one of the officers said “You would have to be a miracle worker to feed the multitude on those.”
An older member of the Unit, from the country in 'A' Squadron, on his day off, would go bush and look for a beehive (this was in Australia) and hopefully get some honey. He was respected and looked on as a father figure by the young Troopers.
Gracie Fields visited from England and gave them a concert in the open in Balikpapan. The troops gathered and sat around the stage up to 24 hours before she arrived, to make sure they had good seats. A great time was had by all! They really appreciated the artists who gave up their leisure to come and entertain the fighting men in the battle areas overseas.
Leo’s mates had a habit of saying ‘diesel do’ when playing cards meaning ‘these cards will do’. They spent a lot of their leisure time at this game.
If any of them was in a situation with a girl or whatever and they wanted to get away, the signal that they needed back up etc. was to say they were going to put on the red/green beret. I do not recall what colour the berets were, that the Commandos used during the war but that was the colour they mentioned. They were saying in effect that they wanted to ‘bail out’.
When the squadron got back to Brisbane from New Guinea the first time, the men screamed abuse at the wharf labourers. I think it was because over the Xmas period, they had gone on strike and mail and gifts were late in arriving. They were very angry and felt like doing bodily harm to these men, who had so little consideration for those fighting in the jungles to keep the Japanese at bay.
In Balikpapan, he was on guard duty with good friend one night and he told me they were both scared to death. Previously, some Japanese had infiltrated their lines and some men had been stabbed to death in their beds. They had a long length of perimeter to cover, so they decided to stand back to back in the middle. They could see both ends and if an officer came to inspect, they would see him and commence to walk up and down. They did not want to be surprised by the enemy or their officer and they gave each other courage.
He was very distressed when some of the members of the squadron were killed in action at Balikpapan. I believe one died just before his twin sons were born. On the way home, the ship called in at another port but I cannot remember the name.
The following letter (and permission to publish it) was given to me some years ago by Leo's friend John Blackberry.
It has been said that an army marches on its stomach. My experience is that it marches longer and better if that stomach is full.
Supply in the field is no doubt a major task but surely water must be a priority.
Every soldier carries a water bottle on his hip would wish that it contained sweet, clear, cold water – it seldom does.
I recall an incident in 1943 whilst occupying a position at a place called Bonga, north of Finschaven, on the east cost of New Guinea. It was hot and humid, of course, and water was the only beverage available – highly chlorinated water which put fur on one’s teeth and smelt like a public toilet.
A small stream ran through the jungle nearby, and a mate and I decided to investigate this to see whether it was suitable for a bath – which was long overdue. About 200 yards upstream we found a small pool of clear water, trickling over rocks, which we promptly used for a bath and to wash our stinking clothes.
We also filled our water bottles adding the minimum allowable number of chlorine tablets.
Highly delighted, and clean, we returned to our bivvy area and told a few friends. Then next day, on returning for more of the same, we discovered that word had got around and our little pool was fully occupied by others frolicking like nude schoolboys, filling water bottles, cleaning teeth and having a good time.
Not to be outdone, my mate and I withdrew and proceeded upstream for a couple of hundred yards where we found a much larger pool – this one quite wide and deep.
Our joy was short lived. There were four dead Japanese soldiers lying half-in and half-out of the water, the wet halves white and bloated, the dry halves heavily infested with swarms of flies and their offspring.
We looked at each other, emptied our water bottles and went down stream to warn the others, some didn’t believe us and had to see for themselves.
On return to our area we filled up with the public toilet smelling water which actually didn’t taste as bad as before.
Now, 56 years later, I still don’t like water.
Written by John Blackberry -- A Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment 2nd A.I.F.
* * *
Leo was a printer by trade (finishing his apprenticeship after he returned home). Because he was so good at his work, he was usually given the most difficult of the jobs (particularly colour printing) at his factory.
His early life was not very happy, as his father died suddenly when he was about 4½ years old and his mother married again about 6 months later. His stepfather was a heavy drinker and his two eldest siblings left home, as soon as they were able to get away from him and the constant argument and fights. At some time, he went to stay with a family down the south coast for a period and they became so attached, they wanted to adopt him. The sister, who was a few years older than he was, left home, as soon as she started work.
Later, when he finished school, he went to live with his brother and family and started his apprenticeship as a printer. Sometime before the war, he went to stay with his uncle and aunt at Bondi. He really liked living there in the Eastern Suburbs, where he could go swimming at the Beach and he followed the Roosters Football Team. His youngest sister told me that he was very accident prone as a little fellow but apart from his one accident on a tank when he broke his ankle, I was not aware or any other problems during the years that we were together.
Leo was a really social person (his friends called him a rascal) and enjoyed being with his mates at the football and other sports. He was the life of any parties he attended and when he had a few drinks, was likely to burst into song. During the years that he was with me, the music/artists that he liked were most tenors, especially Jussi Bjoerling and Joseph Schmidt, as well as Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor’s song ‘Making Whooppee’, the Luton Girls Choir, some of Gracie Field’s songs and Vaughn Munroe singing ' Sound Off '. There were many others that I can’t remember. He liked reading war and adventure stories.
He was loved by his children, siblings and very popular with most people, however for some reason, he seemed to be a 'magnet' to the ladies who flocked around him at functions and he loved every minute of it. Listening to music and reading were great relaxations for him and in later years he played bowls and really enjoyed this game. He was diagnosed with cancer in his 50’s and that caused his early death in 1975. Anzac Day was very important to him and he always marched, when he was able to do so.
Stephen was thrilled when sometime before his death, Leo gave him his Service Medals. After he died, his step-mother gave him Leo’s digger’s hat, dress uniform, webbing belt and puttees. These are now Stephen’s most treasured possessions.
My cousin Betty has given me her father’s medals, including his Military Cross and Gallipoli Medallion and I will pass them on to him. My brother David gave his R.A.A.F. Service Medals to Steve a couple of years ago. My cousin Clyde sent me small copy of his father’s ribbons to add to this collection, so he is lucky to have so many. My father’s medals are held by a nephew.
I gave him my W.A.A.A.F. ones sometime ago but as I did not serve outside Australia, I do not see them as being important and as far as I know, I was never in any danger.
I prepared these pages for my two children – Carol and Stephen. Mardi