Monday, June 30, 2008

War Experiences Part Two by Bill Frost

I was feeling particularly brave and decided to go ice skating and at the same time telling myself that this was not what I wanted to do. Once I was out on the ice I realized that this was definitely not what I wanted to do. All of a sudden – whack – I was tripped up and flattened and as I looked up I saw this fresh faced girl with bouncy hair, mischievous eyes and big grin that boiled over into full blown laughter at my predicament. At that instant I said to myself, “Frost, you have struck the ‘mother lode’.” She helped me up but no apologies were offered, but then how does one apologise for something that was destined to happen. I then introduced myself to a Ruth Dowsett. For four or five weekends in a row I made the trip to Melbourne and on one of those occasions I asked her to marry me. She said yes but the official engagement was put on hold and it came later.
Once again I found myself on a troop train bound for Brisbane where I started from almost a year ago. Here we spent a period of time waiting for what, I don’t know. While there I had a week’s leave to go to Melbourne but travelling time was included so I had only three days to spend with Ruth. I had two weeks in Brisbane sorting mail at the army post office. Quite interesting and the best part was getting mail from Ruth quicker.
Our next encampment was near Rockhampton and it was there that things started to happen. The army decided to form a unit to serve as transport invasion specialists. This entailed loading trucks with supplies and driving off on the second wave of invasions. The ships to be used were LSTs (Landing ship Tanks) a large flat bottomed vessel with large doors in front and a ramp. The ships would slide up on shore, down with the ramp and trucks or whatever would drive off. The first battalion of the 147th of which I was a member was chosen for this operation. Thereafter we were known as the 260th Field Artillery (minus guns).
Also while in Rockhampton I had a temporary assignment as a guard in a military prison for U.S. personnel. The guard’s job was to take prisoners as work details to various locations. Standing there with a gun in my hand watching the GIs working was not my idea of army life, however I put on my no nonsense face and we got along fine.
We said farewell to Rockhampton and proceeded further north to Townsville to collect trucks for our new role in the war. To be honest, at this time in my life I didn’t know the difference between double clutching and bird watching. After reaching Townsville we were transported to a truck compound which contained many old trucks which had seen better days. I thought o myself I hope the brass doesn’t think that the drivers are as expendable as the vehicles appear to be. However I picked out a truck, got into it, started it, found a gear that I liked and drove back to camp in that mode. We had some excellent tutors in our midst and in no time we all mastered the art of truck driving.
Our first invasion, Woodlark Island, turned out to be unopposed. We landed there at night, drove off the LSTs like veterans, and deposited our supplies, found a field kitchen that had been set up, had some hot food and then fast tracked back to the ship. I don’ know what happened to the rest of the drivers because only about ten of us made it back to the vessel before it shoved off. A couple of days later we pulled into Milne Bay on the southern most tip of New Guinea minus the rest of the battalion. At any rate they arrived there about three weeks later. We parked our trucks close to another unit and arranged to have our meals in their mess hall. While there we found an LST that was bound for Kiriwina Island with supplies so we offered our services and our vehicles were loaded up with supplies and we were off. Kiriwina is a beautiful place in the Trobiand Island group, white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. We stayed there a week and then it was back to Milne Bay to wait for the rest our unit.
While there I was offered a weeks furlough in Melbourne. I was suppose to go by ship but at the last minute as I was preparing to go I was told that my name was omitted from the passenger list by some error. In other words somebody goofed. While I was off somewhere feeling very sorry for myself I was suddenly summoned and informed that a plane was taking off in about an hour. Be on it – and I was!

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