Fragments from Auburn Street 60-70 years ago — 2


1955: Uncle Neil and Aunt Fay on the left, a friend of theirs, me.

Easter, as I recall, so I would have been 11 then.


Nine years before I see Uncle Neil was after a new car. He must have still been living with us in Auburn Street then. That and the car-related ads I posted yesterday serve to remind us of one immediate post-war phenomenon – demand for and apparently shortage of cars. Hence, no doubt, the Holden


1928 Chrysler Roadster

Wonder if he got it? I do recall a car with a “dicky seat” at some stage…

Neil was then just shy of his 22nd birthday and not long back from a very nasty war.

During 1944 I was a member of an Airforce Signals Unit. In April of that year my signals unit did a landing in  Altape, New Guinea. We were the communication unit for the  airfield construction squadron who repaired airstrips and built new ones. The same operation occurred on Morotai Islands. On Morotai Islands I shared a tent with a Fellow NCO. His name was CPL Jim Christensen from Queensland and I was CPL Neil Christison NSW and this was somewhat of a novelty because of our surnames…



Pics from Aitape 1944-5

Now that one, it seems to me, is 1944-45, but very likely 1945 in the back yard of 61 Auburn Street. In the left panel my Aunt Ruth Christison, mother of Ray who now and again comments here. I am in front of her, no older than 2 years which was 1945. The centre panel has my mother Jean, my Uncle Neil Christison, on leave no doubt from the RAAF at the time, and my sister Jeanette (1940-1952).  I am named after Uncle Neil, who is still with us. On the right my Aunt Beth Christison, later Beth Heard, and my brother Ian.

That’s my brother Ian going to school. The photo is in Auburn Street Sutherland – yes, a dirt road then. The house is the McNamara place, opposite ours. Roy Mac had a slit trench air-raid shelter. If the point of this pic is my brother’s first day in “big school” then it would be around 1941, but it is certainly no later than 1944. See the fence to the right? That was the Elliott place.


More to come…

Note on Uncle Neil’s war service

HIST08Uncle Neil rarely talked about it, so I was chuffed a while back to see that piece he had written recently – quoted above. My mother told me a bit about it, especially that as a signaller, as Neil says above, he was “always first” of the “always first.”  The book of that title by David Wilson (1998) is available free as a PDF file.

Wilson describes the landing at Aitape.

It was pitch dark as the convoy made its approach to the beachhead. As dawn broke, the  palm  trees  were  an idyllic picture  against the  backdrop  of the  Torricelli
Ranges, five to twelve miles inland. Along the beachfront the invaders could see the Japanese cooking fires. It was a tranquil tropical scene soon to be turned to bedlam.  Alan Robson recalls that he ‘couldn’t imagine that [the naval bombardment and the air strikes] could [create] that much noise. It was deafening … you could see the coconut  trees  being flattened  … The fighters  came in and  strafed … you could  see the tracer  bullets  …  and  then  the  big  bombers  came  over  and  you  could  see  the  bombs dropping’. The 163rd Regimental Combat Team landed at the village of Lemieng at 0645, killing several Japanese soldiers and taking 50 Javanese labourers prisoner. The fourth  wave  included  Wing  Commander  Dale,  Squadron  Leader  Jamieson  and  18 members  of  13  Survey  and  Design  Unit  who  landed  at  7  am  to  undertake  a reconnaissance of the area. In all 50 RAAF Works personnel landed."  The troops had landed at the village of Wapil, about three quarters of a mile from the planned site of Koroko, causing minor confusion. RAAF  equipment had to be  parked  on the beach until the opportunity offered to move it to  Koroko and unloading was hampered by heavy rain. It was not until midday that the northern ai~strip was captured and the surveyors could peg out the runway so that the construction of the fighter strip could commence.

The  intelligence  report  that  the  airfield  had  been  paved  with  coral  was erroneous. It was found to be roughly graded natural  surface strip, overgrown with kunai grass and too short for operations. Even though the infantry were still patrolling the area, 7 Mobile Works Squadron commenced grading and extending the airfield.  Although  the  southern  airstrip  was  captured  late  in  the  afternoon of  the  landing, survey work did not commence until the morning of the 23rd. Like the northern strip, it was a natural surface with grass cover and pitted with bomb craters.  5MWS landed at Aitape on 23 April to face the realities of the invasion, as Lindsay Hodges recorded in his diary:

..  there were ships and hundreds of barges everywhere. We eventually landed and the sight which met our eyes was beyond description, desolation and dead everywhere, floating in the water, lying on the beach. Horrible sight … nearby was a Jap hospital, between 20 and 30 dead, some had been dead a few days and just left where they died. The others of course were shot up properly, dead lying everywhere. The smell is horrific  …

This unit joined 7MWS personnel who had, despite the possibility of Japanese attack, worked under floodlight. The  airstrip  was declared serviceable on the 24th and two Lightning fighters landed at 9.45am…

This very much resonates with things my mother told me.