The Late Colin Richardson was an active member of the Kenmore-Moggill Sub-Branch for many years. Proud of his military service during WWII in the New Guinea Campaign, he never forgot that he owed his life to the efforts of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who carried him (when seriously wounded) out of the jungle of New Guinea to a medical clearing station where he received much-needed medical attention. It was his admiration for the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels that Colin (in his later years) lobbied to have a permanent plaque placed on the Kenmore Cenotaph in memory of all the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who helped in the pursuit of freedom and for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Colin gave official recognition to those who saved his life and all Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, when he unveiled a bronze plaque on the Kenmore Memorial – Anzac Day 1996.
This is his story:
I was born on the 7th August 1920 and was living in Canberra. Before the war I was still at school in Canberra. I joined the Saturday militia, the Werriwa Regiment. Shortly after I made Corporal just after war had been announced, it was a very quiet time. Nobody knew what to do or was coming. I was home the Sunday when the declaration of war was announced.
After a while six of us Corporals were sent down to Sydney (I’d only left school a few months earlier). We had to report to the Movements Officer at Central station in Sydney, to be transported to the Pig Pavilion at the Sydney Showgrounds. We had a Horse Sergeant in charge of us; a big bloke used to breaking in horses, but all in all, a pretty good bloke. It turned out that our job was to train the new volunteers, the boys who were to go to Africa to the desert. After about six weeks down there I was asked if I would like to do a Commission Course to become an officer. I said “yes I would”. By this time I was feeling pretty good. Actually I had asked if I could be a Lance Sergeant because after five days of drilling these blokes, my voice was almost gone. This Sergeant said “I know what will fix it, come with me down to the mess.” He said ‘get this into you.” It was double rum and a beer chaser. I had never had rum or even whiskey. I couldn’t talk for a day after that. He put me in for a Lance Sergeant so I could come back to the mess every day for more.
One of the World War 1 Officers shortly afterwards recommended me for a Commission Course. We had a few old first war blokes. We had Jack Hamilton VC, he was our Company Commander, and another one was Captain Sturt MC. Colonel Paul, back in Canberra, was all this time following our progress, getting daily reports from the Sergeants. He rang me one weekend when I had leave, and asked me if I would like t do a Commission Course. I ended up doing that over in Narellan, which was an Eastern Command OTC.
After I finished, I was to go up to Tamworth, to join the blokes I’d been training, but there was a decree that no more Officers would be sent overseas and the overseas Commissions would be field commissions. I contacted Colonel Paul and he said to come back there and take some leave and he would see what he could sort out there. So I went back to Canberra. The 3rd had got itself together by this time. Eighteen months later we would sail to New Guinea. In the meantime we had been posted to Greta and to the south coast of Sydney. Later we were posted to north of Sydney as there was a scare on. By this time I was Signals Officer and I had 17 miles of coastline to defend with a platoon of about 25 blokes.
While we were on this task, our ration trucks used to go out at night and some of my men reported to me that they’d seen some odd lights. A couple of the officers said there had been a big black Buick seen with dim lights. Anyway three of them got pissed and decided that they would sort out whoever it was that was following the ration truck. They called on him to halt and asked for an explanation. You can imagine the scene, as it was about 1:00am. The bloke was fully alert as to why they were asking him these questions and he started to speed away, so they pumped three bullets through the back of his car. They had knocked off a bottle of rum and were not taking any of this nonsense. He screamed that he would go to the police and eventually must have, as there were reports to be prepared for the CO. The blokes responsible had sort of disappeared off the scene and anyway a few days later we were on the wharf to go to Port Moresby. It was a nice parting gesture on our part.
We went in May of 1942 out of Sydney on a Dutch ship. It took 10 days to Moresby and then we were in Moresby for about a month, acclimatising and getting used to walking on the kunai grass. You’d slip everywhere. Getting a dose of malaria or dengue fever and then getting ready to go up the track. In June we were getting used to walking through the kunai grass six or eight feet tall sliding all over the place.
I was a Platoon Commander and for the platoon we had one Bren gun. I had four Tommy guns. I had three sections, so we had one to each section, as one was about all a section could handle with all the ammunition you had to carry. I was given the fourth, which I didn’t really want. The Bren gun ammunition had to be distributed amongst the 25 men. The Japs had the 2 inch mortar which they carried and used quite often. We didn’t like the Tommy gun as it was too damned heavy, inaccurate and prone to jamming in the conditions we had to contend with.
I had to force one bloke who was a good shot, to take the fourth Tommy gun, he didn’t want it but I had to insist. Unfortunately the first time he had to use it, it jammed on him and he got blasted. I felt dreadful about it, and felt sorry for years afterwards. The rest of us just carried rifles, the old .303 Enfield.
On the 5th September we left Port Moresby to go up the track. The 39th and 2/14th were already there up ahead. We reached Loribaiwa the next day, and patrolled around there together with the 2/14th and 2/16th Battalions and the 2/6th Independent Company. We managed to hold them off for a few days before falling back to Imita Ridge on the 17th of September. We didn’t have anything much in the way or artillery in the Kokoda campaign. They did manage to drag a 25 pounder up to the beginning of the track from the Moresby end to Owen’s Corner, and that helped stop the Japs when they go to Imita Ridge. The sound of those shells going over was the sweetest sound you can imagine.
During the time when we were being pushed back, we lost our CO, our 2IC and our Padre. We had got to the point of no return at Imita. MacArthur was saying we weren’t doing enough, as we didn’t have enough casualties. His idea was if you weren’t taking a lot of casualties you obviously weren’t doing enough.
After this we were involved in helping push the Japs back through Loribaiwa, Menari, Efogi, Myola and Templeton’s Crossing. It was a gut wrenching affair carrying your loads up and down that track. We just had to keep going until we dropped and then shoot it out until we could get of breath back. My old Sergeant is now down in Canberra. He got the Military Medal after I was shot and he eventually became a Captain. I was very pleased about that. He was a carpenter, later on after the war in Canberra he stopped to help a lady with a broken down car. He lifted the bonnet and had her start it up and the fan belt broke and whipped up and took his eye out. He was out of the Army then and got no compensation or anything and no one helped him. I go down to Canberra and see him regularly. His name is Bede Tongs. There are only about 5 of my boys still alive and we meet in Goulburn every May, being the anniversary of when we sailed to New Guinea.
On the day I got hit, we were at Templeton’s Crossing and I got hit about 9.00am in the morning when we were attacking. After I was hit I didn’t get any medical treatment apart from a field dressing. I was hit in the chest and obviously in a pretty bad way. Apparently the blokes got me back to the MO of the 2/33rd which was next to us.
Many years after our action, I was at a reunion at Goulburn during winter, and it was, as you can imagine, very cold. A chap came over to me and said “Hi Col”, introducing himself. He lived in Lismore and certainly didn’t appreciate the Goulburn weather. He said it was his first reunion and would be the last due to the cold. He told me he was talking to a fellow who said he patched me up with safety pins, and that it was Dr Geoff Mutton. I said that it was interesting, because I had often wondered who it was that saved my life. He didn’t know where he was, but a mate of mine was a doctor in Sydney and I asked him to find him as I would like to meet up with him. This was 25 or 30 years after the event. He was able to tell me that the chap had retired, and was living in Orange. I wrote to him and ended up going down there and spent three days with him reminiscing. I received the following letter from him. This probably tells the story better than I could in the immediate aftermath of being badly wounded.
Great to hear from you after all these years. I well remember the occasion when you should have pegged out. We were hanging about after a very solid and bitter attack, when quite a few of our chaps had been wounded. A couple of men came in to tell me that their officer had been wounded and that they couldn’t get him back, and they thought he might still be alive. I said “well you can’t just leave the poor bugger to die out there on his own.” I then proceeded to get a group of blokes together to go and look for you and bring you back. Meanwhile three of your men turned up with THE BODY. You had a bloody great hole in your chest which was sucking, and so impeding your respiration.
As I have already said, I had been pretty busy fixing up a few of my own wounded, and as usual, supplies were getting very, very low. However I found some catgut in the bottom of my haversack and without any attempt to observe good surgical principles of sterility, I closed the hole. I then rolled you over and to my horror found a bigger bloody hole coming out of your back. I had run out of gut! First of all I dug a few bits and pieces of uniform out of your chest to see what was going on. I found a few safety pins in my haversack and was successful in closing the wound.
The Padre Father James Lynch did the right thing and said the last rites over your fast declining body. I had another look at you and it was decided that you were dead. However I decided that we would not tell the troops and would move up the track before burying you. My Sergeant let out a yell and said “Sir, this bloke just opened one eye!”
Well we did what little we could to keep your attached to this world. Of course the priest took the credit for bringing you back to life. I later heard that you were a Mason. My retort to that was that you were having an each way bet. Eventually I was able to waylay about a dozen natives and arrange your carriage back to Myola.
I later heard that the boys at Concord were most critical about my lack of sterility, but as you were there, you would know that they were still pulling bits of uniform out of your chest a year or so later.
It is good to hear from you after all these years and know that you still remember me. I am an old man now and into my eighties. I have had to have a total knee replacement and am about to have a cataract removed from my left eye. Old age is a bloody nuisance. I attend the reunions whenever I can but my wife has had a stroke and I cannot leave her very often. She gets upset if I am not around all the time. I live a few miles out of town on a 400 acre property which my son and I own. He is a very successful orthopaedic surgeon in Orange. Thank you for your kind invitation. I doubt that I’ll be able to take advantage of it, but if you are ever in Orange don’t fail to see me.
Very Sincerely Geoff Mutton
The days with him were truly memorable. My God he could drink beer. He bought in a few cases. In the morning we were having an interview by the Western Daily centred in Bathurst and we appeared arm in arm on the front page. As I was leaving he told me about the priest, Jim Lynch, apparently they didn’t get on well at all. After I got home I rang the Catholic hierarchy here and they had no idea about him or how to contact him. I went through the Sydney catholic people at North Head and they came back in about a fortnight and they said that he was buried in the Priest’s cemetery in Nudgee. I went over there, taking a friend of my late wife. I took a camera because I said I would take a photo of his grave wherever I found him and give a report back to Bathurst. I had a very strange feeling. I said to Jim Lynch, “thank you.” “I’ll send a couple of photographs down to Geoff Mutton.” “Maybe we’ll meet up again somewhere.” Well there was a little cloud – the one small black cloud in an otherwise cloudless sky. As a keen photographer I had taken a series of photos and said my parting words to Jim Lynch and the next thing it was just as if someone had poured a bucket of water on us. It rained on a very small area just where we were. The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up. The lady with me was near the car about 50 feet away, and the only water that came down was the bit that covered us. I looked at her and she was as equally unnerved as I was. She said, “Yours went up! Well look at me!” I sent a photo down to Geoff Mutton and the thought of that day still sends a shiver up my spine.
I was three days being carried back to Myola from where I was hit at Templeton’s Crossing. When I arrived at the Myola forward dressing station, I met up with a chap from Western Australia, Geoff. He had been hit four times and was dreadfully damaged. There were about 20 of us there in makeshift cots. The MO told Geoff that he could go as at least he could walk. He said “Go where?” the MO said “Well you can’t go forward so you’d better walk back.”
Geoff said “I’ll fall over if I do that.” The MO replied “Someone will pick you up, don’t worry, but get out of here I haven’t got a bed for you.” I later met him in Greenslopes where we were in Ward 3 together. Funnily enough the Sister in charge of the ward, Sister Casey really looked after us well.
She later asked us for a photo of the two of us that was taken in Perth. She lived in Kenmore and died a couple of years ago. She had requested her family to put that photo in her coffin.
From Myola, they were able to get small light aircraft in and could take out one patient at a time. Five of them crashed and I was on the last one that didn’t crash. They had run out of small aircraft so they brought in a there engine Fokker which could take 10 patients. Unfortunately the engineers had thoughtfully put a drain at the end of the strip and the aircraft hit it and crashed.
Fortunately I had got out and was in Moresby when the Manunda was sailing. They wouldn’t take me so I was in Moresby for 10 days. We eventually went on the Manunda and went around to Samarai to pick up more wounded, and a Jap submarine surfaced and had its searchlight on us. The Captain of the Manunda told us that under the Geneva Convention he was obliged to keep the ship well lit but that those who could walk should get up on deck. The submarine kept its searchlight on us for an hour and a half. Given that the Centaur had been blown out of the water earlier you can imagine our anxiety. Fortunately the sub went away and we all went back to sleep. Ten days later we were back in Brisbane. I was in Greenslopes from November to early January, when I was flown to Sydney to Concord in an old DH86 Dragon Rapide. I was in Concord for the rest of 1943. I was let out then because I was a bit of a nut case by then, going stir crazy in there. I started in March back at University and after some setbacks with my health, ended up doing psychology and law subjects. I married in 1948 and got my first job ever managing a small manufacturing business. I later had health issues and was advised to move north so I came to Brisbane and settled in Coorparoo. I later moved to Kenmore where I lived for 30 years. I was later Vice President of Kenmore Moggill RSL sub-branch.
I have long been concerned at the younger generation’s lack of knowledge of the New Guinea campaign, and have sought to rectify this. I issued a challenge to my old Sydney University College, St Paul’s, to get a team to trek the Kokoda track to commemorate their sesquicentenary. A team of 30 from the college were to do this in 2006 under the expert guidance of Bill James, a noted Kokoda historian. I presented the college with a bronze plaque that I had made up specially for the occasion.