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Jack Lockett
Transcript of interview by Ina Bertrand

13 December 2000 - tape 1 (1hr)

Jack Lockett interviewed at Bendigo 13 December 2000.

Ok, now we are in business. Can you tell me, just to make sure that the mike is working well, can you tell me where and when you were born?

Where I was born? I was born on 22nd January 1891 at a little place called Waanyarra, near Tarnagulla, that is between …

That is near Bendigo …

Yes, between Dunolly andTarnagulla, you never even … . Waanyarra, went to the school there, Waanyarra.

Right, and you were living on a farm and you went to school until you were 12 and then you went out to work?

Wait a minute now, what was it … give us it again? Living on a farm?

Well a milk round, it was a sort of a milk … I lived with my grandfather.

Then you went to school until you were 12 didn't you?

12 yes.

And then you went working on a farm?

Yes, I went out at 13, when I turned 13 I was working on a farm for 5 shillings a week.


That was up at Eastdrill.

Right, and you kept working on farms then and you had a bad accident, didn't you when you were 17?

Yes. I got a kick in the leg there, slashed me leg.

And you were …

I had to crawl up and … no-one would tell us, broke me leg … and I was 3 months to the day in bed with it.


In those days they … a leg was done with … unless you could understand like a box, like that, each side with a strap and … to keep me leg in, a big long box like that, you see.

So when you recovered from that, were you, you went back working in the Mallee, didn't you?

Well, I had no home to go to, you see and then Dick and Alf - which I thought was my brothers, I always called them brothers, they were me uncles - they were batching and they took me in, and in the meantime the Mallee came up … 1910 ..9, 10, I think it would be 10, the Mallee came up.

And that was clearing all the Mallee stumps?

Yeah. Clearing and rolling the Mallee down. There were blokes jacked off with me..

And then you, then you …

I went out with them to roll, they had never driven a team of horses in their life, much about … only the milk round. And I was the man that used to do all the horsework for em. And we went up and rolled … Oh God, it's a story, that I could talk for a week on it …

Yes, but not this time. Tell me, you then borrowed some money and bought some land, didn't you?

No, I never bought land. I was … work was thick on a block this side of eh …


No, not Linga, Nunga, that is down this side of Ouyen.

Oh right.

We had a block there and we were 6 weeks rolling 750 acres. I was the driver and Dick used to … only used to using a milk cart, you see they had me because I was used to horses.

And oh, quite a story what happened after that, but it would take too long to tell it.

But …

And then, we went up and burnt it off - this is a story that is interesting. In the middle of January … eh … beginning of February, that was when you could light a fire up there. And we had 750 acres of Mallee scrub rolled down, no break, no nothing. Me and Alf … the other brother or uncle … we went up and the last day I said to him, "It has got to go today". So we went out, and it happened to be a still day, we … no fire break, no nothin', we went right around that eh, it was a mile and a half long by 60K wide. We went right around that early … daybreak in the morning, with a bush, puttin' the fire out, as we lit the boundary round, you see.


We went right around there, nothing to eat or anything, nothing to drink and eh …

And beating it out?

We got around it at 4 o'clock and the wind got up, blew up, and it burnt it … went right … the wind, it was lucky … no whirlwinds, it is a great place for whirlwinds up there, that around … Mt. Noble … they had no whirlwinds to take it, it went right around, burnt it as clean as a whistle.

So that was it.

So …

Aw, we had to walk … about I think it was 12 miles … . after we had done that. All we had to eat was an onion, and a bit of soft butter and a bit of bread, that is all we had for our tea. That is all … that is what we had.

That is a pretty hard life isn't it? That is a hard life. That would have prepared you well for the army.

Yes, yes. We walked in to Ouyen, caught the train at Ouyen and come back to Dunolly again, to Waanyarra again, yeah.

Right, so you did buy some land at one stage didn't you?

No, never bought … I used to …

Well, where were you working in 1914 when the war broke out where were you then?

Wait a minute, wait a minute … in '14, '14, '14, let me get thinkin' now, the old brain is not as smart as it used to be. '14, what was I doing, it just won't come to me.

Right, well the books say that you had some land, that you bought some land in the … ?

Well, the land, I eh, selected land.


Never bought it, selected it. And the terms of settlement board, oh, this is after I got back from war, I had the block beforehand - I put in for it you know - got a third class block, a pretty poor block, and then I was helpin' Dick at Nunga, we had a good crop there, and we went in to enlist. There was a lot of us were … 5 of us went in to enlist, see, me other 2 brothers and a couple of others went in. I was the only one that passed. Out of the 5.

Now, why would that be?

Well, there was something wrong with them, you see, and yet they never saw my broken leg, you see, I never told them about that. And then I was the only one that passed, but oh, quite a story.

So …

… wait a minute.

You were a very independent, you would have been, you were 25 when you enlisted and you had been living independently since you were 12.


Now, how did you cope with being in the army where you were being told what to do all the time?

Oh I see, oh I followed … you see, the army was trained here. The battalion, 38, was trained here in Bendigo and we came in in '15 when Gallipoli fell. We enlisted at that … and eh …

So that was why you went to enlist, because you were upset about Gallipoli.

We were only a week here in Bendigo, and they shifted the battalion down to Broadmeadows. They knew they were going, but they never … we never knew … they give us a bit of a lead and we went and when we got down … we were sent as reinforcements and when we got down to Melbourne, I forget the name of the place, there was a major come and picked 15 … 17 of us out, out of the reinforcements, put us in the battalion a week before it sailed. See we didn't know, we didn't know it was going to sail and a week before we sailed … and then we got all the worst … being just reinforcements put in the battalion, we was only in a week, I didn't know right turn from left turn and they … this is what hurt me a bit, they put me on guard down in the officers, on ship, put me on guard minding the officers' kits and looking through a little window like that, that is all I could see, you see and there was quite a few there to see me off and I couldn't see. You know, that was pretty hard.

Well, then we got all the dirty work going over, all the guards and things like that, they were training us, and when we got to England they kept us back - oh 4 or 5 of us back with the staff to unload the ship, to help them to unload the troop ship you see. But oh there's a story in between that and we were in that and then we … when we got to the battalion, the battalion was … the battalion that … pretty hard, giving them hard work and an officer come along and picked 17 of us out in the 2 or 3 days that we were there. Picked 17 of us out for raiding parties and I was one of them.

And eh …

And you learnt about Mills bombs.


You learnt to throw Mills bombs?

Oh yes, yes, I was a bomb thrower you see in that.

What is a Mills bomb?

Oh, it is a little round thing like that, you see and you throw it like …

So, like a grenade?

Well a grenade, that is what it was, a grenade. Yeah, Oh, God, there's a story in that, now where did I … get, I?

Well, you landed in Plymouth on 10th August. And then you left from Southampton in November? For Belgium?

Eh, yes, well I couldn't tell you the dates of that. I know we went over there … what is … when I … but you ask me the questions.

Yes, all right, well you, when you, you were on a ship, you went over to Belgium first, didn't you?

Yes, in Belgium.

Right, did you go straight to the front when you arrived?

No … wait a minute, wait a minute … now, yes we went … Oh, wait a …

Did you go straight into trenches in Belgium?

Wait a minute till I see, till I get the old brain going, cuts off on me you see. It just goes blank and I can't get started again. It cuts off.

All right, well think about living in the trenches.

Well, we went to eh Armentieres, it was a great call … I think it was Belgium … I never knew whether we were in Belgium or France.

Well, it was Belgium the first place, you went to France later, you were in Belgium ..

Yeah, we were there for 12 months, in and out, in and out of the trenches, you know, for 12 months.

Right, talk to me about the trenches. What did they look like? Did you dig the trenches or were they already there when you arrived?

Oh, they were already there, dug before we got there., there was trenches dug. We dug some trenches because of night time you see, we had, you would go in, you would go in for 4 days in the frontline with your equipment on … all that … and of a night one would stand at the parapet and look over the fence and he would be watching all the time to see if there was anything on, and there would be two of you there, the other fella would be sitting down there with all of his equipment on, but he could have gone to sleep, you know, if you could, but this fella had to look and as you look at a thing - a stump or something for a while - you look at it, concentrate, it will walk, and then … you, you ..

Em ..

Yeah, if you watch it too long, it will walk or it will move, you would swear it moves, you see, yes.

So, tell me what the trenches looked like, how deep, how wide?

Well, wait a minute now, it is all zig zag you know, trenches zig zag, you know for a blast in it, it goes like there, there, there, there, in a straight line, but it zig zags, you under … that is to stop a blast from coming along.


Well, my first experience …

Right, were they deep enough for you to cover your head, to walk in them..?

Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, they would cover your head, they were deep enough for that … cover your … I suppose they would be 5 or 6 feet deep.

Right, open at the top?

No, no, nothing on the top, no. Only if had got a bit of tin or something like, when a post … it was all posts, you see. There would be half a dozen of you taking shifts, you see. Well the others would be sitting down, probably a sheet of tin over them or something like that, you see. For 4 days you would be there with your equipment on and no sleep … well, you could get a bit of sleep when you were not on duty, yeah.

So, when you left the trenches, you were in the trenches for 4 days at a time, and then you went back behind the lines.

Yes, back about oh … that would be … the other side of the house that … to the road, nearly to the road, that was behind the line.

That's about 200 yards.

But you could get your night's sleep there, you see.

So what was there? There wouldn't be buildings would there?

Well, we used to go, repairing trenches that was blown up and that sort of thing. We had to work all the time, you see. But you were ... it would be in the night time, you see. You worked till about 10 or 12 o'clock and then you would come home and have a little bit of a sleep, you see. But you wasn't far away from the front line, they used to shell us you know.

Where there beds in those posts? Did you actually have a bed to lie down in?

No, no, no, it was a … just a, what do they call it? Oh goodness me, there is a name for it, a rubber sheet' … oh, I know there is a certain name for it like … I can't think of it.

Never mind. Ok, and you just lay there?

Rubber sheet and you might have a blanket, rubber sheet and one blanket we had, yes.

And what about cooking?

Oh well, the cook would be about, that is one thing, they looked after, the cooks looked after, the strange thing, when its come towards the end of the war, the cook that was there, he was one of my best friends, yes and he was the cook, a bloke named Bill Hogan. Yes, he made sure that … yeah, and he had a couple helping him to cook for the battalion you see.

Right, and where did they cook in … further back still?

Back behind the lines, they oh, might be say from here to the railway line, and back down with a few sheets of tin over them, and they burnt coke so it wouldn't smoke, so he couldn't see the … so the enemy couldn't see the

That is about a kilometre behind the lines.


So then the food had to be brought up from there … ?

Oh, yes, brought up in dixies, yeah. And the dixies, one was a big, big, like a big oblong thing, and the other was a thing you sat, the tea was the one you slapped on your back and carried, you carried that with a … and a lid.

And who brought those things up? Was that the cook's offsiders or did you go and get your own?

No, no, no, you would get volunteers to take it up to the front line, you see, you would be back in this fort … and usually you would carry it off like there - only 3 or 4 go in the section, you know …


… how many there would be and you would take it up and dump it, you see, come back, you see, yeah.

And that was both to the people and the posts and the people at the front?

The people in the front line, taking it to the front line. Those at the back, you know, you would give it then, you would get your dixies there, there was …

And you ate out of the kits, the tin kits?

Yes, tea in the top piece and the just … no the meal in the top piece and the tea in the bottom.

.. in the bottom, right. Well the tea would help keep it hot.

Oh well, it was just a dixie, you see … bit off.

How many times a day did you eat? Did you have 3 meals a day?

Oh yes, we had practically 3 meals, yes. But you wouldn't get much you see. "Lance Corporal bacon", is one stripe of a little bacon and that, you know, you learnt, they trained you to eat very little. Now this a fact, you would go out, you would go, when we'd go back out of the line a bit, the French … we'd go and ask for a meal, you know, and you couldn't eat half of it because you had been trained to, for your stomach wouldn't take it. You couldn't eat, you couldn't eat a big meal.

So, 3 small meals a day and how many of those would be hot meals? 3 hot meals or just one hot meal a day?

Eh, well generally a bit of bacon and a bit of bread. 6 to a small loaf of bread, a little square of bread you would get.


And eh.

Did the cook make the bread?

Oh, no, no, no.

They brought that in for ..?

There must have been a cook somewhere else. No, I don't know, there would be a big bakery somewhere, yes, that would supply the bread you see, I think personally, like, all the supplies had to be brought up, he only cooked it …

What about washing facilities? Were you able to wash?

Yeah, dry wash. It was full of … you know, you get full of lice over there, yeah, you would dry wash and they would get on your clothes, you know, on your flannel, get on there and you were sitting there cracking them off with your nails. These lice, yes. But we never got that many, because we … when we were in France we used to get an odd bath, you know. It was very odd too, only 2 or 3 times that I can remember ever going in and have a bath and get into a big tub of water, a great big tub of water and you would all get in there and have a … in the big tub of water, yeah.

So, what about your clothes? Did you ever get to wash your clothes?

No, no, never washed em.

Not even your smalls?

Oh, when we come out sometimes they'd get a wash, and they would get a wash, wear them and wash them, eh wash them and wear them type. Now, I don't ever remember washing them very much.

What about toilet facilities? What did you … ?

Well they always had toilets, even in the front line, they had men picked out for … they were … what would you call it?

Open latrines?

Yes latrines. There were 2 or 3 of them for each company or I think it was a company there would be … you would go there and you would … one or two times you would go there … you wouldn't have a latrine like you would have here you know.

No toilet paper?

I don't think there was any, I don't remember that you see … I suppose there was … or you would take a sheet of paper with you.

What about, did you shave while you were away?

Oh yes, that is one thing they were very particular, they were all very particular on the shaving. They would come along and feel if you'd had a … yeah, yeah.

Was that as a hygiene measure they were concerned about?

That was one of them, yes, you had to shave every day. Unless you were in the trenches you wouldn't have to, no.

What about the other … what other hygiene rules were there that you … were enforced, that the army was trying to keep you healthy?

It's a hard job for the old memory to get back into that.

Did you have regular inspections? Did the doctors come out and check you out?

Oh no, no, no you would get … you would have to go parade sick you see.


I could tell you a lot of stories about it … you get officers and things and I never woke up to it. You would get an officer and the men and that … be in the front line one day or someone would parade sick and get … someone would get medicine on duty ... on medicine you see, and others would go away, go away. A lot of them was worked on that … I never worked … I had 3 or 4 very narrow escapes, yeah.

What about contact with home? Did you get letters?

I got used to getting a letter occasionally from me mother.


But that was the only one. And I met a girlfriend, I know, now there's a story for you. I met this girlfriend before I went to … when I enlisted I knew, she had a brother and I were great cobbers. They had a farm, there was 2 boys and I used to go to the property, but this girl, this little girl I married, was a waitress. Her father had a - oh what do you call it, it won't come to me mind?

A hotel, a café?

Not a café, a boarding house.

Boarding house?

She had a boarding house, you see and when the train … she was … her and her sister used to be on it. She had some other sisters and they married, but this was the main one, she … they used to have up to 60 boarders. That's when the train was … when they were building the line out from Underbool to … out from Ouyen to Underbool and up to Murrayville.

Right, yes. So you had met her before you … ?

I met her, I met her and brought her home one night. It was just on the war time. It was just war time and I think I enlisted very soon after. I met her then, although it was good...

So she wrote to you?

Wait a minute now. She was writing to 2 or 3 blokes.


And I picked up a couple of … being, you know, soldiers will be soldiers and I picked up a couple of girls up here in Bendigo, when I come . I never had a girlfriend down there.


Up there at Ouyen, but when I came down here, of course, soldiers will be soldiers and that and I picked up with 2 or 3 girls there that I knew and I was writing to them and she was writing to me, you see and it dwindled down that she stopped writing to all the others and wrote to me. And she wrote to me for 6 years. She had sent me parcels and everything and she had only met me for a little while. Yeah.

Where did the paper come from to write letters?

Oh, they had, Oh God, what was it, they had …

You were issued with it?

Yeah, the sheets of paper were different to the other, what I could remember now. And you had to be careful what you wrote, you see. It wasn't …

So it was censored?

All censored, but I …

Right. What did you use for a pen? Pen and ink? Or a pencil?

Oh yes, I had a fountain pen.

A fountain pen?

I bought a foun … . oh, I never told you the story.

That was very …

What started me and the girl first was this … the girl I married. When I got to South Africa I sent her home a couple of little things. One was a eh … now, I will have to start on this again. When we got to South Africa we had 2 or 3 days there in South Africa and a jeweller bloke there … we were standing in front of his shop and there was, I think there was 2 or 3 of us, soldiers, and this jeweller came out and he said, "Would you like to have a look around South Africa and see some of the things?" And he picked the 3 of us up and took us away out around the beach and he came home through a … well, what did he call it, the seventh wonders of the world it was. It was a … by God it was beautiful, you would have to see it. It was a forest of - they must have been all planted - of trees with white leaves, white leaves on it. It looked really beautiful. And I pinched 2 or 3 of them, and they are still there … Kevin has still got em … I sent them over to her and with a … also a few little things, as I am not much good at buying … she appreciated it and she had kept them all the time. When she passed away, of course, all went to Joyce, Joyce got most of the things I sent over. Oh I sent her several things over from France, I remember …

So, how did you post letters? Was there a post box to put them into?

Oh no, you just … the company, the company sergeant major, the company major, the company sergeant would take it. You would leave it in there and it would get passed on.

It would be passed up the line?

You never had to put a stamp on, but OAS, just put that on the letter "On Active Service" you see and it would go free.

Right, ok.

Yes, yes, there was no charge on it.

Did you get newspapers while you were at the front?

Oh no, no, no, no, no.

Did you ever get news of what was happening in other places of how the war was going?

No, you would get, what is it they call, furphies.

Oh yes.

You know, you would get any amount of furphies, you know. You would get any amount of furphies, you know. But there is something in that army as … they can … they can control your mind, I am sure of that because they tell you things. They told us different things and we would believe. You are like a little kiddie. I don't know what it is.

Perhaps it is because you needed to keep hope up, you needed to stay hopeful.

Yeah, you see they told us now, never, if you captured some prisoners and did something awful, if you was caught again they'd shoot ya. That's what they told us, we believed it you see. Now I had several things, I had a watch and Kev's got a watch now and different things, but I gave it to one of me cobbers, it was, it was away from the front line, you see, where it wouldn't … it was a … he used to look after the rifles, this one I had and he gave it to me when I come back.

Right, you were away at the front during the 2 conscription referendums? Do you remember that?

Yeah, yes, yes.

Did you vote?

Yes, I was against it. Nearly all the soldiers voted against it. That was brought … Billy Hughes was in … I was in … oh that was now … we were in London when Billy Hughes came over. He was a member of Parliament, you know Billy..

Yes, yes.

And I remember where they … they had us on top … we were sent down for Billy to talk to us. The battalion was and they had us a way up in the hall, up the stairs, and there was nobody down below. They're talking from over here, then somebody jumped on the thing and slid down the pole and then the whole damned lot come down afterwards. They all come down the pole you see. Wasn't supposed to go in that place, but they all come down it …

You weren't very impressed with what he said then?

Oh no, no, no, no, no, we were dead agin' it, oh yes.

Why didn't you want conscription?

Well, that was the way it was, you had to fight you know. You didn't like to bring blokes, I've had chaps there with me, see I was a sergeant in the army and I had chaps there with little defects and I said, "Why don't you try and get out of it you see yeah?"

So you only wanted people who wanted to be there because you thought you could trust them more?

Well, you enlisted you see and you couldn't get out of it. It wasn't compulsory, but the First World War wasn't compulsory … you were enlisted because they would send you … if you didn't go you would get a white feather or somethin' That was after Gallipoli fell. When Gallipoli fell, then we thought we had to go you see. Oh, we ended the war in no time.

But then, why didn't you want others to be forced to go? Was it because you didn't trust people to fight beside you if they were forced to go?

That is the hard question, I don't know. You know the way that was run, the blunders, the big blunders they made there just when were … got over there. Fancy sending men over. See, we knew nothing about war, old Birdwood and them knew nothing about war. All they knew was the parade ground soldiers, they were parade ground soldiers. And they used to send them over like a hive of bees and they'd shoot them down you see. What a thing to do.

All right, so that was your feeling against conscription then?

They had no idea, no idea of war. See at Gallipoli, we had soldiers come … when the Gallipoli fell, if you were … if I was over there and I had a younger chap at Gallipoli I would claim him and he would have to go over to another battalion. And we had them over there, they said it was only the landing of Gallipoli … if they had landed where they were supposed to, there wouldn't have been a person got off the boat. But they drifted about half a mile or a mile up and they had a bad enough time too … see I lost an uncle in that and they had a bad time there.

So did you have confidence in the officers who were leading you?

Well, the officers had confidence in me.

Yes, all right, did you have confidence in them? How did you feel about obeying orders?

Well, it was every man for himself more or less. You would think I was skiting, but I maintain … the sergeant was the main man and the only … I have had officers coming to me … junior officers coming to me you see, "You take charge sergeant, I know nothing about this". I had 3 different ones. One poor fella, you know, oh won't take too long and he stood up when he shouldn't have stood up and he was shot. He was a parson's son at that. He went down pretty quick.

Now you were promoted very quickly, you were promoted quite quickly, weren't you, you went from Private to Lance Corporal to Corporal to Sergeant quite quickly.

Yeah, very quick. Because they were losing a lot, you see.


There was a … from DA in the battalion there was a Sergeant in there, a Staff Sergeant or something there and he … I was in the D Company, A, B, C, D. And he came up to me one day and he said, "Would you like stripes?" And I said, "I have had no education, it would be no good to me." He never said nothing and … and it was read out when the battalion was up, Private J.H. Lockett was made a Lance Corporal. So, that is one stripe. And the boys, me mates used to pin a bit of grass on me. So I could get a stripe, I had one stripe, but then I rose pretty quick you see, I wasn't on there long, next thing I was a Corporal, which is the best job of the lot, you see, you get ten bob a day then. We would get six in the other. A corporal gets ten bob a day. Then I was only there a while, I was made a sergeant, got another half crown for that. And then I was there for a good while and then I was Acting Company Sergeant Major, but I had had no education, you see, I had no education then. And what they done, they gave me every chance in the world, I said to the Company Clerk, I said, "Look, I can't go on with this, I can't read, I have never read a book in me life." And I had never read a paper, I never educated meself, I only listened you see. And anyhow they sent a Captain out about a week after, or a few days after I had that company … there wasn't that many in it. Formed up, you know, I could do all the work, you know, but I couldn't and he … I get mixed up … and he came out with, I didn't know at the time and he said to me, they had a … I am talking a bit drifty ..

A piece of paper or something like that?

No he had, he came out on this … reckon he did … he came out … and the Company Clerk must have told him about me not having an education, so he came out with a … and said to me, "Sergeant, you read this to the parade there." And I said to him, I looked at it and it was written in carbon copy and long words in it and I said, "Sir, I can't read that." He never said a word, he read it and a week later they sent me to an NCO school.


And I was there - there was a few others there, I was still a Sergeant you see, NCO school, and while the first … nearly the first day I was there it was in the middle of winter you see, and I got frost bitten feet and that is worse than … that is not trench feet, that's what they call frost bitten … more painful and I used to … I could hobble around and I never learned anything at all. And I didn't know what … or I was in the exam - I was only there for a week - in the exam I had to draw a map of Australia, and I didn't know what Australia looked like. That is how much I knew, you see.

So you never became an NCO you stayed a Sergeant?

Wait a minute till I've finished me story. Eh … oh dear, you've just put me off it now …

I'm sorry.

It's gone clean out of me head.

You couldn't draw a map of Australia?

No, I drew up something … oh that was it … so, instead of going up, I come backwards. They made me Senior Sergeant and left me there.


Yeah, yeah.

All right, perhaps we … right, so you said the second time.

Just wait a minute till I get going again. If I get stopped, yeah, I'm like a parrot, I have got to …

The second time you were in

Yeah, the second time I was in the trench, and I was standing talking to a corporal … you was asking about that … the trenches were over your head, all the trenches were over your head you see and wouldn't be no good to you. I am standing there talking to him, and that was … I wasn't a yard away from him and he was like standing there , and there was a … as you can understand - a zig zag


a sharp zig zag and I was standing not a yard from him and a … a coal box, what we call a coal box, a mortar shell … it should … you see we were not much over a hundred yards apart at this particular time, he should have seen this coal box, we named them coal boxes, it is a round drum full of explosives and it landed at his feet and blew him to pieces. They picked him up in about half a little sand bag.

So that was your first experience was it?

That was my first experience , I got a bit of a shock of it, you know, but I never got hurt, yeah. And eh … from that one, see the trenches was up over your head when you was walking, they would have to be you see.

So did you go over the top of the trenches at any time?

No, no, oh yes, I have been on different raids you know.


And then, you see, towards the end of the war, you see I have got to go down, to the end of the war, which I don't want.

That's all right, go ahead, go to that. Go to that. Yes, towards the end of the war.

Yes, we was … we would advance and you see, there wouldn't be many men … . I would have a … my company would be of about a dozen men and then we would be all … that is when we had him on the run you see.


We had him on the run and we kept him "on the run." I never told you. There was a man that done all that - I can't think of a … double name - I didn't know him, but I knew of him. He put that Laanecoorie Bridge, he built that Laanecoorie Bridge - it is a steel bridge, iron bridge, he built that at that time and I used to sneak across it when it … it is a big long bridge the Laanicoorie Bridge. I was working on either side of it and I used to ride a bike sometimes and I would take the bike and walk it across, walk across a few planks, yeah. And he build that bridge and he built it out of … and he was the one that organised all those things. He organised …

So when you had them "on the run" as you say, could you see them moving? Could you see them coming out of the … all at night?

… he didn't, I get tangled up a bit, we had him on … see we would … once we got him goin', they would rush up in the dark, change everything would come up, munitions and all would come up and as soon as it broke daylight they would start firing the shells over at him you see, but we had him on the run, you see. Oh, … . From here to the railway line … they shelled ahead of us and we would advance there till about 8 o'clock and … get what shelter you could and stop there.


And then he come up in the night time again, everything moved up from away back. Artillery, and munitions and whatever it was, all come up, he organised that.

Right, so as you were advancing you would have hit the barbed wire.

Yes, we kept him "on the run" you see.

You would hit the barbed wire though?

We wouldn't have had many men, you see - my company was only about a dozen men. Sometimes it would go down to six. See they would come in and you would go on sick parade and some of them would go away you see. And I used to have officers come up to me and say, "Sergeant you take charge", and officers come in and I would take charge of them. As sure as I sit here. I had 2. I think I was telling you one was a pastor's son.

That's right, yes.

And he stood when he shouldn't have stood up and that was the end of him.

Yes, you caught trench fever at one stage?

Yes, I …

What is trench fever?

Well, they didn't know what it was. It is something that eh … it affects your limbs and all that. They didn't seem to know … all they gave me was Aspros and that sort of thing, they didn't seem to know what it was … trench fever.

Right, and so you were sent back to the hospital for 2 weeks when you had trench fever?

Yes, I was there. Yes, I was sent … I was there, yes, that's right, oh this is … . that's a joke, I'll get off it. I will tell you a little story, I was in a Canadian Hospital when I had this trench fever and they didn't know what it was and all they were giving me was Aspros and that and there was a Canadian nurse there about … she would be in her … a Sister she was … oh she would be in her forties, fairly … in those days fairly old you know and she said to me, "Sergeant how are you this morning, how do you feel this morning?" And I said, not had much scholarship, and I said, "I feel real knocked up" you know, that was a saying … and you know what that means?

I know what it means to Canadians, yes.

In the family way.


I didn't know. I said "I'm knocked up", you see and she … red … and walked off. And the Canadian that was in bed alongside of me nearly laughed his head off. And I wondered what are you laughing at?

Knocked up.

Go on.

I asked her, see I was telling you I got a grandson that married this Canadian girl and I was asking her and she said, "That is right, it means that you are in the family way."

But when it was time to go back after you had been treated for trench fever with Aspros and it was time to go back, how did you feel?

What do they call … what do they call it .. eh … they got a name for it. Recovery … not a recovery.


Well, that is not the word they use. I can't think of it. It means if you go there … freedom to go where you like … as long as you stay there and … a holiday this … what do they call it, I can't think of it.


Convalescent, well it was a sort of a convalescent … that is not the name, I just can't really … it doesn't matter about that, yes. And then when you got fit they sent you back to the line again.

How did you feel about going back to the line? Did you want to get back with your mates or were you afraid of it.

No, it was too good back in recovery, you see. You go out, you go where you like nearly. You would have to get a pass, you know. We used to go all over the place you see, yeah, you can get a pass and you can go out. And then they send you up the line when they pick you to go up the line.

How did you find out that the war had ended?

Well, I forget where it was now. I think I was …

You were in France by now.

Oh yes, oh yes.

On the second front, you were advancing on the second front.

Oh yeah, I wasn't in the front line. I was at … I think I was in a convalescent camp just in it, just in it you know.

And the news came through that the war ended.

I was in the hospital, what they call a convalescent camp, that's it, a convalescent camp, yes. You can go where you like there. I was in that when the …

When the news came in.

That's right and peace was declared.

How did you feel then?

Oh, well, you would guess, free you know.

Great excitement?

Oh yes, yes. Free … yes, a different feeling altogether you see.

How did you celebrate?


How did you celebrate?

Oh that's a pretty hard question. I suppose a few beers and you know how soldiers will be soldiers.

You went on leave to England at one stage didn't you?

Oh I had several … we used to get 14 days' leave every year. You were entitled to 14 days' leave every year and I … it was, I had been up to Scotland, I had one 14 days up to Scotland, but then we could get … if you were away in convalescent camp or wherever, you could apply for 4 days' leave. I went up to Scotland another time. Twice I was up there.

How did you travel? Did you have money in your pocket or …

They only give you a certain amount of money, yeah, couldn't have too much you know; they would give you sixteen pound or somethin' they would allow you that, they wouldn't allow you too much money, no.

They would run out of money, but then you could go and draw … two or three pounds - it is twice I run out of money and I had to go up to the pay office and they would give you about … oh, I don't know, two or three dollars or something like that. Enough to see you home … back to your camp.


And pay for your meals or somethin'. Yeah. I was all right then, yeah, yeah.

What was the worst thing that you … that happened while you were away, the thing that worried you most?

The worst thing that was that there … but the real worst thing was I was in a silent raid where there were 17 of us in the … silent raid, black faces and everything and we got to his line and he had his line with barbed wire, just coils of barbed wire, not … just rolled out. All this … I don't know why … and there were 17 of us went over to … I think I told you that … 17 of us went over and we got cutting his wire, he was snipping his wire and he put a light on and he turned the machine gun on to us. And I went … he sung out for bombers up, but this was in the middle of winter. In Christmas, was it Christmas or New Years. God I've forgotten now. I think it Was New Years, yes. New Years Eve it was we went over, and that was seventeen went over and four of us got back.


Yes, that was killed or taken prisoner … I only saw one bloke that was a prisoner and one come back the next night. We got another one back the next night. And the bloke that come back, he got a DCM for going out and getting him. Yeah.

All right, there must have been other really good things as well as awful things. What were some of the good things that happened, like the fellow going out to rescue that man? What were some of the good things?

Oh well, let's … comradeship was a wonderful thing you know. You meet a soldier, there is some tie there, even with the second war, like George and all them, there is some tie there. It is hard to explain. Friendship. I don't know what it is. Something there with returned soldiers.

Did you join the RSL?

Oh yes, I have been in it for years. I joined it, when I come back, I joined it then. That was in 1919 I joined up, but they gave me eh, I just got off the boat and I had to go back to St Kilda next day for something and a bloke pulled me up and that is when they were starting then. But it wasn't the Returned Soldiers League then, it was something else. I got a medal for … got the medal for that. Then they made it the Returned Soldiers, you see. Yes, but that is a long time back.

And did you march on ANZAC Day? When they started ANZAC marches.

Up at Underbool we used to go down there and march, but here, I never marched here because I … when I come down here it was the 60's you see … the Second World War, was all Second … well I would have a couple of times and there was nobody that I knew there at this returned soldiers and and I … and then I had a feeling that … that ANZAC Day should have been set aside for the fallen. There should have been a day for the fallen, that was in my mind all … and I walked up … I knew nobody, I got out of the Returned Soldiers, but I knew nobody there and mostly had their friends there and cobbers and nobody sort of knew me and I just was away from it, I never went … I never used to go, although I have always joined … I have joined it ever since, I always joined every year, up there. Then they had clubs up there, they had little reunions up there, oh quite a big reunion there, a soldiers reunion. I used to go to all them.

Did you keep in touch with the friends you made in the army?

No, no, you never bothered to …

Did you learn to write?


Did you learn to read and write?

Well, in a certain way, you know, I could, I could … I learnt enough … I used to write to the wife and she knew my thing … but you know, there would be a lot of words, I wouldn't know what they meant, you know, in this … land, but she could understand my … write to me, yeah.

So you didn't write then to the mates that you made in the war?

Oh, never wrote to them no, no, never wrote to them, no. No, I was never a good writer. See, when I come back I went straight in to work.


Me brother-in-law as I call him, Dick, he was me uncle, but Dick had a block at [Dungara?] and he had a good crop that year I come back and it would … it would have had 5 bags, it was a good crop that year and he never, I don't know how it went when I was away. He used to … I got on a new McKay Harvester then, that was the first McKay Harvester that came out, or one of them, and I was driving that and we had 2 strippers goin' and that was … strippers … goes into a box, you know, and you tip it out.

Were you able to, did you have some deferred pay that you could put into things like that when you?

Yes, we never got discharged for a good while after we … be called up for a couple of years after, I don't know how long, it might have been long, it might have been 5 years because I can remember how I rejoiced when I said, you know, now I am free now, I don't have to enlist again you see. But we were … we were there, to be called up any time. We never got any discharge, not straight away.

Right, well, I have got your discharge down as 20th September 1919.

September was it?

September 1919.

It could have been that … that must be right. I know that we had to eh …

You had to still be prepared?

I thought it was longer than that, see, about … oh no, it must have been longer than that, because we come back in August, 9th August, I think it was 9th August we landed back to … see we landed back to … Dick and Alf was there, my girlfriend and her brothers was there and as we come out we landed I think it was about 11 o'clock at night. This is the welcome we got. We landed at 11 o'clock at night and they got buses to bring us down and then they run us through a hall and we went downstairs, a couple of stairs downstairs and they had a alleyway and they called your name out and you'd eh … you would go down like sheep, going down a race you see, you were going down, I remember Dick had a long cane and he would tap me on the head you see, so I knew he was there. You'd go right down and out into the crowd you see, yeah.

So a big welcome when you got home?

Oh well, I .. I don't think it …

How long before you got married?

I was about, I think I was about … well '23, I got married in '23 and I come back in 1919. You see I couldn't hit it. I used to come back with no … the bit of money I had, I spent it, you know, going backwards and forwards. I think I didn't have much money. Then I got a couple of horses from Dick and a few little things he gave me you know and I worked … the closer settlement see. I had me block before I went to the war, but I had done nothing on it. It was a third class block, pretty poor block and the Closer Settlement come to my aid. They lent me … whatever I asked for they'd give me, because I didn't go exaggerating … but a lot of them wasn't honest with it you know. They'd buy an old horse - you were allowed about ₤16 to buy a horse and eh … it goes out of me head …

They'd buy a cheap one?

They'd buy an old cheap horse and let it die and then … I knew one bloke and that is what he was living on. He was getting an old cheap horse, then let the thing die and then he applied for another one.

Were you well when you got back? Had the war left any kind of physical ..?

No that I know.. There was something wrong. I was fairly well. I must have been because I used to work long hours. There was some thing that … some effect I had, I forget what it was now. Something I had … something skin disease or something it was, I think. I forget.

Did any of your friends suffer from what was then called shell shock?

Not many, I didn't know of many that was shell shocked. I had already got … eh I remember - that is getting away from the subject - I remember when … they were shelling hell out of us one day, this was when we were … before it starts to go back, they were shelling hell and dropping shells all round on the sunken road around and we had a dug out, not a dug out, it was a hole, a groove like that, about that big and there was half a dozen standing in it, just like a … not a … no connection. We were down there as we were shelled and a bloke … one of our blokes came rushing over and fell in the … fell in the hole. He was … he had shell shock, he was shaking like anything you see. He fell in on top of us, I jumped up and cleared off. He's frightened the life out of me … you'd reckon a shell landed in there.

Yes, so you have seen it, but you didn't suffer from it …

Oh, yes.

Well now we've got you right home and married by now, so is there anything that I should have asked you and I didn't? Things that you think should be on the tape. It doesn't matter now what time … what period it was that it happened.

Wait on till I get the old thoughts. Eh … you have got to be … it is like, I am wanting to say something, but my head won't tell me, you understand?

I know.

Just won't … can't … not registering … think what I like and it just won't work. There is things, but.

All right, one I would like to ask again. You saw a lot of the world didn't you?

Oh yes, I went to Ireland.

You never would have done this, would you, if it hadn't been for the war?

Oh no, no, no. Went to Paris, went to Ireland, several times to England, up to Scotland, round.

What do you remember of Paris?

The big Eiffel Tower and eh … what was the other thing? It was something over there that eh … represented the war. It was in … I don't know what they call it. The Arc de Triomphe?


The Arc de Triomphe?

It might have been that or somethin' There was somethin'

A great big archway over the road?

I sort of forget … we said, we weren't on leave, we got a pass, that was after the war was over, we got a pass to another station, but we forgot to get out at the station and went to Paris.

Right, ok.

Like I get a pass to go to Bendigo, but we went on to Paris you see. And when we got there, you wouldn't believe the people was in the know. Soon as this train pulled up in Paris, you could see the soldiers that was on the same … there would be a dozen of them jump off the wrong side of the … run for your life.

Right. This is not.

All very difficult.

This is not deserting though, this is just, just making the best of it?

Yeah, yeah, or do anything soldiers, you know, oh God yes. You get some characters.

Did you wear your best uniforms when you went off on leave?

No, the same uniform, same uniform. No, only had one, yeah.

But you must have had …

Oh well, you get a change you know, yeah. Yeah, you get a change and they do your washing mainly, especially if you was in a camp you see, you would go to the … what do you call them … I can't think of the name.


Eh, something like that, you go there and get a shirt … and put the dirty one in, you see. That's what …

Did you see any women at all at the front? Did you ever see women at the front?

No, no.

Only the … the nearest would be the nurses in the hospital?

Yes, eh, nurses there.

Did you see civilians while you were at the front or had they all been moved out?

Oh, they had all gone, yes. There was no civilians in the front around there then. Eh, I remember, Armentieres, look when I say that, we would be in the trenches for 4 days and out of trenches and that would go on for a fair while and then they would take us back, say, oh from here to Bendigo. Or a bit further, somewhere there and we would sleep in old sheds and things. Well then they would be working there.


And they used to drive a horse, you know, with one rein, yep, just one rein … they had a pair of horses … one rein, 'Yip, yip, yeee, you go", I don't know … or somethin'.

So that there were still farming people there were they?

Oh yes, but oh, you never saw any. I never saw any crop, I don't know what they done, horses was all fat, they only used to have a couple of horses and a few cows. Some of the cockies would go back for a spell you know. You might go back 5 or 10 miles, you see, behind the line, for a fortnight you see, yeah

But, by the time you moved forward in the last push, the terrain must have been devastated.


The ground must have been just devastated.

Oh yes, but it was not that bad, a few old trenches in it and that, no it was mainly when it was settled that they used to shell over, shell over … you see the shells that we were firing over wasn't very big shells. They were only … what did they … they had a name for them … they were only a shell about that long.


Shelling over our heads, you see. Creeping shells. So they were, and when it got about a certain time of the day you would stop there and then it would be all silent. But you would be watching all over and then when night come, everything come up from the back, they would draw the … come in and put the guns up just behind you … soon as it is daylight away they would go again. They would bomb themselves …

Searchlights at night?

… . creeping barrage.

Searchlights at night too in the sky?

No, no, we had no searchlights. What we had … the Germans … well we had them on the run and they couldn't use them you see. We kept them on the run, yeah. Kept them going all the time.

A great experience, my God yes, and I was saying to the lass now you know, when you have been through it, but oh, what was it all for? All them lives lost, slaughtered, murdered, pretty terrible and most of it was … and what did they do to old Kaiser Bill? You see Kaiser Bill and our king were cousins. I think I've already told you, you see there was a … there was a Krupp manufacturin' … eh they manufactured artillery … shells and then we would manufacture to feed … they never … England wouldn't shell it because it was English, it was an English … and it was supplying Germans with the shells and they wouldn't shell it. Yes, that is … yeah.

There were a lot of people who felt unhappy about the reasons for that war.

Oh yes, yes, yes. Oh yes.

(Interview has been edited at the request of the Lockett family)

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Victorians at War - Oral History Project

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