Two mates through thick and thin

My dad, Dick Smith, and his mate, Roy Brown, first met each other as teenagers when both were fortunate enough to acquire jobs at the end of the Depression with BHP at Iron Knob, in South Australia.

At the outbreak of the Second World War both Dick and Roy enlisted and were part of the forming of the 2/48th Battalion at the Wayville Showgrounds in July, 1940. 

Following rudimentary training in the surrounding parklands and at Woodside, they were shipped off to the Middle East on the troopship Statheden in November 1940 and upon disembarkation they were moved to Palestine for further training in desert warfare until March 1941.

The Battalion was then moved to Libya and following the retreat from Benghazi they arrived in the strategically important port town of Tobruk in early April 1941.

This town was held courageously against all efforts by Rommel's Afrika Corps to remove them for seven long months when, after suffering 160 casualties, they were relieved and sent to Syria to train and rest.

Rommel was finally successful in taking Tobruk and then mounted a push into Egypt, where the 2/48th were again moved to engage with his forces in the Battle of El Alamein.

At precisely 21.40 hrs on October 23, 1942 , on a calm clear evening under a bright sky of a full moon, the largest artillery barrage in the history of mankind erupted.

Over 1000 guns opened up along a 64-kilometre front at the same time.

Dad was to tell me many years later that this was truly the scariest night of his life.

At 22.00 hrs, the general bombardment switched to precision targets in support of the advancing infantry in which Dick and Roy were both involved in driving trucks, loaded with ammunition, across the featureless desert guided by a Bofors gun that was mounted back behind their start line and was firing one incendiary round every 30 seconds along the axis of their advance .

They had to complete their journey of approximately 10 kms, through enemy mine fields, that had been cleared by sappers, unload their truck and be back behind their lines by day break or else they would have been easy pickings for the Stuka dive bombers.

Shortly after The Battle of El Alamein their Battalion was brought back to Australiafor some leave and then sent to the Atherton Tablelands for some intensive jungle training in readiness to take on the Japanese in New Guinea.

On September 4, 1943 , following an amphibious landing close to Lae  they were then used in the Battle of Sattleberg and it was during this period that the incident that is described in the clipping from the Adelaide Advertiser occurred.

Dad and Roy had been left to guard a food dump and were of the impression that they were in an area held by Allied troops - little did they know that the Japs were so short of food that they had begun searching far and wide for anything to eat.

Luckily the one that Dad encountered was just as alarmed to see an Aussie soldier as Dad was to see a Japanese one, and the meeting took place without any casualties.

Dad and Roy both survived the rest of the war, returned to Whyalla and worked at the BHP chem lab until their retirement.