Veteran Stories:
Russ Hellard

Army

  • Mr. Russ Hellard, November 2011.

  • Mr. Hellard's colleagues in Australia during the war.

    Russ Hellard
  • Mr. Hellard during his training with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.

    Russ Hellard
  • A friend of Mr. Hellard climbing a coconut palm tree during the war.

    Russ Hellard
  • Mr. Hellard operating signal equipment in the Pacific Theater during the Second World War.

    Russ Hellard
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"Now, we had taken over this camp and the Australians had moved up into the islands and they were doing the same thing, they were listening to broadcasts, local, small groups of Japanese communications."

Transcript

In Darwin [Australia], we took over an Australian camp. Now, the Australians had set up this monitoring station with the, I think it was like 20, 24 stations and each one had two radios, one for each end of the Japanese communication, and they had a schedule, like 5:00, certain. So everybody was monitoring something going on, whatever, in the islands up north of Australia where the fighting was going on.

Now, we had taken over this camp and the Australians had moved up into the islands and they were doing the same thing, they were listening to broadcasts, local, small groups of Japanese communications. And we were looking at the, I guess the major ones that were long distance. Now, we typed up what we heard and we rated the accuracy, like sometimes the reception was terrible. And so this was telexed down* to Melbourne or Sydney or one of those places where they had decoding. Because at that time, they had broken the Japanese code. So the information was available immediately and it was radioed or telexed back to the field up in the islands north of the Australia there. And it was very useful in fighting the Japanese.

So across the road from our camp was an airfield. Now, they had [Consolidated B-24] Liberator bombers and they had [Supermarine] Spitfire fighters. And so we could have a ride in the Liberator bombers when they went out on a practice. The practice bombing and gunnery was such that they got up to 10,000 feet maybe and they were dropping these practice bombs and they hit with a big white spot. And then they would machine gun out in the ocean a rock or something. So we were allowed to fire the machine guns and we had kind of an interesting time but there was no, the Australians, they didn’t seem to have much idea of protocol and that. I mean, nobody seemed to salute. They were kind of free and easy with their officers and it was all …

So anyway, we were, there was no regulations to prevent us from doing these things and we had a Spitfire fighter plane that used to buzz our camp every once in a while. And we would be lined up for the cookhouse and he’d come diving down and pretend he was going to machine gun us. But they were a fun bunch and we’d take a truck out to the ocean and go for a swim in the ocean. And we had a creek or a river, a small, with crocodiles and everything and we’d go out to this for freshwater bathing, because the saltwater was kind of not as nice as freshwater. So they would clear out the crocodiles so we could swim there and then there would be a rifleman at each end of the area to keep them away. And so we had big thick steaks and beer and everything on these outings.

So we worked shifts, we were around the clock, eight hour shifts around the clock. And we had a major who was called Major Pick. Now, he was in the construction business and somehow or other, he found a warehouse full of cement, bags of cement. So we concreting everything in the camp. We were doing pathways and platforms for this, that and the other thing and we were kept busy. So then, when we were ready to leave, the monsoons started and you talk about rain in Vancouver and that’s a really heavy, heavy, heavy rain. And overnight, the grass just jumped up, snakes come out and we were glad to get away from there. So we packed up and took off in our vehicles back, retraced our steps back to the desert country with the , what they call, not camels but dromedaries, yeah. And we bypassed the Australian camp so much, we were sort of on, we had camp cots, these folding camp cots, so anytime we stopped, we just set up in the great outdoors and watched the new starts up above and everything. I guess that’s pretty much a summary of what we did.

*From a teleprinter used to communicate typed messages

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