TSgt. Allan #3
Letter #3 "The Bloody Bondi"
Note: Pictures added for clarity. Pictures are not necessarily originals from TSgt. Allan.
There were few people in the "Far Interior" (the Bush, the 0utback, the Great Deserts). They were hardy and strong. To live in such an environment as this they had to be! They had no friends, no neighbors nor even towns. These cattle ranches, called "stations," were measured, not in acres, or square acres, but in miles and square miles! A station could be one, two, or three hundred miles on a side! Hundreds of square miles! If another family lived on the far side of their neighboring ranch, your next door neighbor could be six hundred miles away! Naturally, there was a bunch of kids at all these places, and the hired hand's families. They couldn't send the kids to school several hundred miles away, so the next best thing was classes held in the homes via radio! The teacher would call on the kids to recite, or answer a question. The kid would respond by way of the mike. The next student to answer might be a thousand miles away! This method was common in 1940. I hear that it is still common.
The medical situation was almost the same! The doctor flew in when called by radio. In the 1940s, he arrived by lowly Piper Cub or Aeronca, (an Aeronca is shown on the right) treat the people, then fly on to his next patient, several hundred miles away! Today, or within the last several years, the doctor flies in a light twin, along with an assistant, and a nurse. I have heard in the last few years, a veterinarian is doing the same---dropping in to treat the cattle, sheep, horses, dogs, or whatever needs attention. He also flies onto his next station.
I almost flew a P-40 one day! I was an aircraft mechanic stationed at Canberra RAAF airfield in combat training. My bird had some work done in the hangar. I climbed into the cockpit to take it back to the insert, wheeled around in the right direction, stood up on the pedals with my back against the headrest, and poured the coal to the engine! Away we went, following the outline of the perimeter. They said the tail was off the ground! I was singing at the top of my voice, when I happened to glance in the rear view mirror. In that cloud of dust, several vehicles were making their own huge cloud of dust, pursuing me. I surmised that there was a crisis so I stopped singing, hauled back on the throttle, and finally came to a stop. In the first jeep was my First Sgt. and the line chief! The rest of the assorted vehicles contained a bunch of wide-eyed pilots. I'll always think they thought I was one of their own, as they formed a circle around me. They looked at me, then at each other, then back to me again. I don't know what their assumptions were, except perhaps it was a pilot who had a little too much "jungle juice!" After about five minutes of ass chewing, I calmly announced I had everything under control, and I knew very well what I was doing! . They left and I left, only a little slower. I don't know what the connection, if any, was, but at the next passing out of stripes, I had my first one!
The seasons are reversed from the way they are in the U. S. In the dry season, forest fires blazed everywhere and often! There were no foresters or firefighters even to watch the fires. They just burned and burned until there was nothing else to burn. On a high hill at night you could look in any direction and see an orange glow, (or two, or three) on the horizon. You never knew which one was the moon just coming up. The fire that especially remains in my memory is one that shown from the horizon on the left to the horizon on the right. There was one strong orange glow. All else in between the left and right was burning. I was immensely awed by this! I cannot forget it!
As mentioned before, our training was cut short, as the Japs were thought to be on the verge of invading the Northern Territory, especially in the Darwin area! Were we the only Yanks available? By this time, there were several thousand U.S. ground troops in some of the islands. They were rather busy in battle, and couldn't be disturbed! Imagine, if you can, we were one thousand or so aircraft mechanics (the 49th group) expected to defend against 100,000 well trained and experienced fighting men. So we all piled into trucks, with all the squadron equipment, and proceeded to a rail yard somewhere -- where we boarded a train. In darkness now our beds were boards laid across two seats -- two men slept there. I took the inside space alongside a hot two-inch steam pipe. I gagged and burned all night. We passed through Sydney at night. I'll always regret never seeing the great harbor bridge, or "Bloody Bondi."
June 6, 2000