Curly captured end of World War
IN the lead-up to Anzac Day, one local man can tell a first-hand story like few others.
Leading Aircraftsman Neville Alcott (left) was part of the Australian Air Force ground defence unit guarding a contingent of Japanese officials when news of the Japanese surrender came through to end World War II.
In response, one of the enemy swallowed sand, committing harakiri.
‘Curly’, as Mr Alcott is known, knew he was witnessing history being made from his post in Borneo and he photographed the ‘end’ of the war.
“At the time I was thinking two years of being in the jungle without any leave at all; I thought it would be good to get home. This thing might be over,” Mr Alcott said.
Curly was part of a very fit unit charged with defending airfields so the engineers could create landing strips.
“There were 5000 of us in the ground defence unit and we had to be tougher than the army,” he said.
“We were actually the forerunners of what is known as the SAS today.”
Curly enlisted in the Air Force at Coffs Harbour in 1943.
At the time, he ignored the fact his day job as a butter maker’s apprentice was a ‘safe’ profession and decided his night job of watch maker would make him useful as an instrument maker.
Following his father and two older brothers, at 17 Curly pushed his age up to join the army.
“At the time I enlisted, the waterside workers all went on strike and wouldn’t supply the goods to the army so they conscripted them all,” he said.
“And I was in amongst them so they put the whole lot of us in airport ground defence. They were a bad lot. Nearly as bad as the Japs they were.”
Two years later and still quite ill from dengue fever, Curly returned home. After a stop in Sydney, he had six weeks’ leave to his family home in Lower Bucca.
“No one would know what it was like unless they were really there,” he said.
Some of Curly’s diary extracts:
1/6/45 Friday (I think?) – We pulled out today and went to an army embarkation camp, they call it a camp, it’s open air, no tents.
6/6/45 Wednesday – Not seasick. Rained a lot last night as it has done every night. We all wet till the sun came up (if it is fine). 1300hrs our LST tried all of their guns, 23 on board, quite a noise.
25/7/1945 – Off sick again. Bad headaches, legs and arms are aching. No duty for 2 days.