War makes you ?an old man

By UTE SCHULENBERG

ALF Martin was having good surf at a beach in Bougainville when the news of the peace came through.

"I was having some R&R after 15 months in the jungle," Mr Martin said.

"One thing I really remember is coming out of the water and seeing a shark swim past. I fired a shot and that got everyone out of the water," he said.

"We got the message the war was over by radio and the whole mood changed completely.

"To think the war had ended after all that ? I celebrated by taking one of my Number 9 dysentery pills!"

But word hostilities had finished did not travel fast to other parts of New Guinea.

"A few days later when we were on our way back to the unit, a truck was blown up by a hand grenade and a number of fellows were killed. We lost another three men out on patrols."

"A lot of Japanese didn't know the war was over and these blokes had let their guard down."

Mr Martin was a 'jeep jockey', responsible for keeping supplies up to the troops.

He had signed up as soon as the war began in 1939, when he was 19-years-old.

"My father said 'Son, I've bred you as gun fodder' but you don't think about that ? I just went out there and did my job."

His job entailed moving troops around the Australian mainland, getting food and medical supplies to all arms of the military.

When he got to New Guinea, part of the job became transporting the wounded back to first aid stations.

"We took the ones who could ride in the jeep.

"The 'Fuzzy Wuzzies' carried the others ? eight of them would carry one bloke, with four more to relieve them when they got tired and one shotgun guard."

Although now in his mid80s and sprightly, Mr Martin says 'war makes you an old man'.

He is president of the Bellinger River RSL sub-branch and when he spoke at the Cenotaph on Wednesday, he said his thoughts were with all those who died in active service.

"The main thought in my mind was of those men and women who died for this country, the ones who didn't make it back to these shores."

In tomorrow's COFFS COAST ADVOCATE ? more stories about our World War II Diggers.



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