Then when they get about fifty yards from your trenches they get up because they've been crawling through the grass and the undergrowth and they start screaming their bleeding heads off. You can imagine the terror it strikes in people, and usually at the same time because your own blokes have realised the attack's coming in, everything starts firing. The machine gunners start firing, the rifle men and fellas start throwing grenades and so it's all hell let loose. It's a very, very scary uncomfortable feeling I'll tell you.
After that when everything dies down, assuming that the enemy have not taken your position, or that you have not had to retreat. (I was never in a position where they took the position I was in, but I have been in a position where we've had to retreat, when it was hopeless and the officer in charge has ordered you to withdraw.) But as I say if you're in that position where you've beaten the enemy off and they've retreated, then there'll be a lot of dead and lots of wounded men around. A lot of the dead men will be the enemy just in front of your trenches, not very far in front of your trenches, sometimes on top of your trenches if they've got that far. Sometimes it comes down to hand to hand fighting. I never got involved in hand to hand fighting, but I got bleeding close to it. I saw the fella's in front of me fighting hand to hand. The Japanese came up on top of the trenches, you know, they got to them before the men in the trenches realised it, and of course fella's jumped out of their trenches. There were Japanese officers swinging their swords, I could see them on the skyline just in front of me down the slope.
What happens then when they withdraw as I say, you get the cry for stretcher-bearer. It's a sickening cry. You get fella's shouting for stretcher bearer's; badly wounded blokes who are worried because they're probably bleeding very badly and they can't stop the bleeding. They're shouting and it's a wail really, "Stretcher bearer, stretcher bearer," it's sickening, and don't get me wrong, don't start thinking stretcher barer's have a cushy number because they're not armed. It's not a cushy number at all. It's a very, very risky job, because quite often especially in the war against the Japanese, they didn't recognise the stretcher-bearer's. They would fire at anybody. They didn't acknowledge them at all, and we lost a heck of a lot.
Stretcher-bearers in peacetime are the bandsmen. So if you join the army in peacetime and you play a bugle or beat a drum or play a clarinet it's a cushy number, because when the other fella's go out on training, (it's ten to one you will do a lot of training,) the bands men are at band practice. They will be comfortably drinking their cups of tea. They will be in the bands practice room or out on a hill, but when it comes to fighting, of course they leave the band behind and you'll only have a couple of buglers with you. Apart from band practice as I say, when you're in barracks and the other blokes are out training and firing on the ranges and all that, the bandsmen will also be learning first aid. So when they go into battle they are the stretcher-bearers.
PAGE 5 OF 15 NEXT PAGE