KING'S BEACH MEMORIAL - THE STORY
LISTEN TO RAY AND FAYE'S STORY OR READ BELOW
Thanks for waking me up guard duty is so boring.
History first - within the Australian Army, the Parade Ground holds a symbolic representation of a sanctuary of a unit’s fallen soldiers and in line with this symbolism it is deemed “hallowed ground” and is respected as such. A term used in line with the Parade Ground is “holding ground” and by definition is “troops keeping the ground”.
G’day my name is Ray; I have been wandering around Kings Beach Parade ground for over 70 years with my mates. They voted to have me explain to you what it was like in New Guinea as an 18- year-old fighting for you.
I want you to understand the sacrifice that we made, in fact there are many soldiers who paraded at Kings Beach who died in the war and are waiting for their mates to join them, I can see them now, typical soldiers complaining about the “hurry up and wait”.
We trained here at Kings Beach, and then we were shipped to New Guinea. There we suffered from hunger, disease, from terror and prayed, that we could survive. The terror and the fear of dying are so strong, but you will not let your mates down, they need you to help save their lives.
The smell of blood the horror of the wound and the agonising screams, the smell of gunpowder and the horrific noise of battle, create what they now call post-traumatic stress disorder. We were all suffering from that.
How did I come to be here? I was wounded at a place called Isurava in New Guinea on the Kokoda track. The Japanese had a force of 3000 men trying to annihilate us. My shoulder was virtually ripped off by a machine gun bullet and a piece of shrapnel whacked into my thigh muscle leaving a gaping hole, blood everywhere and agonising pain.
The Papuan Natives, we called them “fuzzy wuzzy angels”, placed me on a stretcher after the battalion medic dressed the wounds to stop the bleeding. They started to carry me down the mountain range to Port Moresby. I can’t believe how strong they were and how brave, bullets and grenades were exploding all around us. Can you understand the pain I had with a shoulder blown to bits and the hole in my leg, more pain caused by the buffeting of the stretcher, as they carried me through the jungle over streams and jungle foliage blown down and to bits by artillery?
I remember I was crying in pain; I just wanted to see my Mum and tell her I love her.
The bloody Japs must have encircled our position at Isurava and on the way down the mountain, we walked into an ambush. The 6 of us were killed and that’s how I ended up at this parade ground waiting for my mates.
My cobber Paul walked down with us as a guard, but he too was killed in the ambush, he and I did not die alone as we held each other's hands and looked into each other's eyes, anguished with pain, the last words spoken, “see ya on the sand at Kings Beach”. He is still walking around here ….. there he is over there - good on ya cobber.
I have heard how in peacetime many have walked the KOKODA Track and stated they understand what we went through. Forgive me but that is crap! No one who hasn’t been there under the conditions we endured can understand.
The terror of dying, the extreme noise, the smell of death, the colours of tracer rounds, the explosions, and the almighty screams of your mates in agonising pain praying to their god to let them live. If you experienced something like that you understand.
On ANZAC Day here in Caloundra when you come, have a look at the crowd on the Dawn Service and be in awe of the bravery of the young men that paraded here and of the souls that are now wandering on the sands of Kings Beach because you are walking on the shoulders of HEROES.
Look after the parade ground and be in reverence for the soldiers who paraded here and returned to be on guard waiting for their mates to return.
Lest we forget.
Hello, thank you for listening to my story. My name is Faye, I was born in Tassie.
When the war broke out my brothers joined the Australian Army, I wanted to join too and be a nurse. My Father, who was very strict and protective, would not let me. I persisted and he finally gave in.
I did basic training in a hospital in Victoria, it was called Heidelberg Military Hospital.
After graduation, we were deployed with the 7th division to Egypt. We were sailing along one night aboard the Queen Mary.
According to Lord Haw-Haw, a nickname applied to William Joyce, who broadcast Nazi propaganda to the United Kingdom from Germany during the Second World War, we had been sunk by German submarines.
The broadcasts opened with "Germany calling, Germany calling", spoken in an affected upper-class English accent.
We had a laugh, all the boys stopped playing cards and yelled, “we will give you Krauts a bloody nose”.
When we landed, we were introduced to bombing raids by the German Stuka, their bombs and planes would screech and frighten me, and then the loud explosion of the bombs, thanking God that I was still alive.
Standing here now I can still hear the bombs and machine guns.
When we docked, we were plagued with filth and flies everywhere. We lived in tents, beside the hospital wards.
The wounded, whose bloodied bandages, attracted the flies, we had to be so careful that their wounds did not get fly blown.
After our shift we were so tired and emotional that we would cry ourselves to sleep dreaming of the suffering that we saw.
The conditions were dreadful. If I told you how bad they were, you would not believe me. The smells of rotten flesh, faeces, blood, and the cries of the wounded burned into my mind.
We wrote letters for the wounded, we held their hands when they were dying, we cried with them, those poor boys were in a lot of pain.
I was then shipped back to Australia and served in Military Hospitals on the Darling Downs caring for the wounded soldiers coming back from New Guinea. Not long after arriving, I was shipped to Borneo.
There it was unbelievable; malaria, dengue fever and goodness knows what other sicknesses, black stools, tapeworm, and wounded soldiers, legless, armless and blind. The surgeons did the best they could.
So did we. Bandages were in short supply we would boil them to get the blood out and if we didn’t, we would cut the blood out of them and use them again.
Sterilising the doctor's instruments would be done in a kerosene tin of boiling water. The operations were done in very poor sterile conditions, however, we coped.
It is really hard to explain what we saw and felt but let me express it this way, war is hell, and we do intolerable things to each other.
It is made up of every emotion, every sound, every scream, bravery, and incredible skill by nurses, whose role is both physical and mental. We patched the wounds and patched the mind.
Never forget that the nurses saw nearly every casualty and a lot of death. Two things that stay with me to this day, are when I was in Borneo, looking after Australian prisoners and nursing them, I was told that I had to bathe them, well they could not walk.
I picked them up and carried them to the showers, men whose weight was less than a child’s, suffering from sickness hunger and bastardised treatment from the Japanese. Their dignity was taken from them. You can't imagine it, impossible to understand their pain.
Once when I was on leave in Melbourne, before being discharged, riding a tram the conductor came up to me and yelled out, that I saved his life as a nurse.
I then remembered him, one of the hundreds that I nursed, his name was Jim from Arnhem Land. The tram patrons clapped, I was embarrassed and was not allowed to pay.
There is so much more to tell but thank you for listening to this.
The following is an extract from the Woman's Weekly which, after reading, was shocked and I sobbed my heart out. I trained with these girls, but I was sent to Egypt in the Middle East……. At the end of September 1945, an editorial in the Australian Woman’s Weekly didn’t pull any punches.
Amongst all the ‘stories of cruelty and suffering told by returning prisoners of war’, one stood out as a ‘climax of horror’. In the afternoon of 16 February 1942, a group of 22 nurses from the Australian Army Nursing Service had been told to line up and walk into the ocean at Bangka Island in what is now Indonesia.
Then they were machine-gunned to death by the Japanese soldiers. Only one survived. Vivian Bullwinkle was shot in the side, but the bullet went straight through, and she pretended to be dead, long enough for the soldiers to leave. (She has a road named after her at the SCU hospital precinct in Birtinya).
Please honour the veterans who have died and returned to the parade ground at Kings Beach. Military folk law says the soul returns to the last paraded ground. Where you wait for your brothers who have died.
Remember at Kings Beach YOU are walking on the shoulders of heroes.