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TURN UP THE VOLUME AND BE THERE AGAIN !
DON'T KNOW WHY THEY CALL IT "HORRIBLE".
OBVIOUSLY THEY HAVE NOT 'BEEN THERE' AND FELT THE EXCITEMENT AND EXHILERATION........HAPPY DAYS
The following was kindly provided by Wendy Roslyn Anderson who wishes to tell the story of her father and his war time memoirs.
Thomas Henry Anderson. I will try to keep it brief and related stories related to the three ships he sailed on.
They were the Strathmore, the Sterling Castle and Neptunia. ....TITLE- WARTIME ADVENTURES OF THOMAS HENRY ANDERSON. A.I.F.
Pte. V.X. 34767. P.O.W. 125514. Rat of Tobruk. Born 1914. Died 2005. Page 1:- England declared war on Germany on 3rd
September 1939. I remember being on a tram going into Geelong when I heard the news. It was a Sunday night. At the time,
I was employed at the Geelong Ford plant, not far from our home in Geelong West. I recall there was no great rush to ;join
up when war started, my brother Arthur, my step-brother Freddie and I went to enlist in the AIF. Following that, our family
doctor gave us a preliminary checkup. I had just turned 16; among the Ford workers. Arthur was 28 and we looked very much
alike. When we went in to the doc he mistook me for Arthur and said ;You'll never get in the army. I did, but Arthur didn't,
because of a minor medical problem. Next step in the procedure was another medical check at Royal Park in Melbourne the following
week. We were there all day. They had a doctor for everything. Eyes, ears,chest x-ray, feet, etc. Having passed their tests,
we were sworn in, signed on the dotted line and we were in the army now. The big army camp at Royal Park was all under tents.
A few days later we were on a train to Wangaratta. It was July 1940. The people of Wang had prepared their showgrounds
for our arrival. Accommodation this time was in the sheep pens. Later we moved to the cattle pens. We slept on straw
palliases on the floor. There were great gaps between the floorboards. Stalls were half open and draughty, and we had only
two blankets each. We were at Wang maybe 8-10 weeks and did a lot of our basic training there. When we first arrived we were
just a training battalion, getting fit, lots of exercise etc. After 6 weeks another group arrived from Dolby, near Bacchus
Marsh. That brought us up to battalion strength and they called us the 2nd/24th of the 7th Division. The 6th Division had
already gone overseas. There was PT every morning before breakfast. During the day we would go on route marches or go
off for a couple of days, taking along our travelling cookhouse. We'd do 2 or 3 route marches a week. From Wang we marched
two days up to Bonegilla, which was one of the biggest training camps. It was a few miles out of Albury, in the vicinity
of the Hume weir. We were there until Nov doing further basic training. We did a two day bivouac around the weir and up
the Kiewa Valley. Accommodation was in big tin huts, about 50 men to a hut, and once again sleeping on the floor. From time
to time they'd give us leave and I would go home to Geelong. Sometimes I'd get a pass to go into Wang for the evening and
we'd be back by midnight. If there was a bus we'd go to Albury. We had our final leave from Bonegilla, after which we were
restricted to camp under embarkation orders. I went to Geelong, arriving back at camp on Nov 2nd. My brother Arthur was
to be married on Saturday the 9th so I'd no sooner got back from leave than I put in an application to go to the wedding.
Major Fell gave me leave on condition I be back by Sunday night. I traveled to Geelong by train, called at the house, then
to the church, and back to the house for the reception. I departed midday Sunday and was back at camp that night. During
parade on the following Friday it was announced that we sail on the morrow. They gave us all necessary instructions and
told us this is a big secret. You must not tell anyone! At the camp post office there was a row of telephones and as soon
as parade was over we all rushed to them. I rang my sister Anne. On Saturday 16th Nov 1940 we marched up to the trains,
bound for Port Melbourne. The train traveled slowly past Port Melbourne station where thousands of people had gathered to
see us off. Anne was there and I saw her for a brief moment, and as it turned out, the last time I ever saw her. She died
in 1943 in a big accident involving a train and a busload of army personnel from Bonegilla, Anne being one of them.
The train went right onto the wharf.
Libya was an Italian colony. Consequently, the desert war started as an Italian campaign, separate from Germany. But as
time went on the Itis lost Libya to our 6th Division. At that stage, Germany saw what was happening didn’t fit
in with Germany’s ambition to control the whole area surrounding Suez. So Germany crossed the Mediterranean, landed
at Tripoli and chased us back to Tobruk. In April 1941 I was involved in an all – night battle which ended with
our surrender, about 200 men. We were kept in various camps in the desert for awhile. Germany was helping Italy to win Libya,
but then the P.O.W.s became Italy’s problem. Eventually they shipped us to Italy. We boarded the NEPTUNIA at Tripoli
and from then on we became the Italians’ responsibility. As we crossed the Mediterranean, our biggest worry was
the British submarines in the area. We were below decks below waterline, and the whole time we could ‘see’
torpedoes coming through the side of our ship. The toilets were above decks so there was a constant stream of men going to
and fro, just to be above the waterline. There was a guard at the exit, from whom every one of us had to ask permission to
go. The thing we feared, did happen to another ship in September ‘42 and 250 P.O.W.s lost their lives. We arrived
at the port of Taranto, in the heel of Italy, where much of the Italian navy was moored. A train took us to a camp at Capua
near Naples and from then on we had many more adventures in Italy. By the end of the war we were in prison camps in Germany,
until the Americans rescued us. After being flown to London I spent a month in England before we could sail home.”