Chapter 30.


On examination it looked as though the grenade had done most of the damage, before we let loose, and all of them were well and truly dead.  This had been a well-armed party and we had been lucky, as you will see in a moment.  They certainly weren't like some of their mates as they were well supplied with rice and dried fish plus some vegetables that had obviously come from native gardens in the vicinity.  A couple of them appeared to have been sick and were lying in makeshift beds.  We made sure they had all gone to wherever good dead Jap soldiers go and just as we were ready to make a search of the bodies we heard Yaru calling that there were three Japs at the creek.  Sam took off after Yaru and what occurred then is worth repeating in the following paragraphs.

Before the attack we had been unaware of three Japs down at the creek some seventy-five yards away.  Obviously our attack plan hadn't been faultless and we had been more than a little careless in not scouting the area well enough before hand.  Apparently, the three had been washing or bathing while our attack was in progress and on hearing the firing had decided to save themselves rather than help their mates.  They took off along the creek bank, carrying their rifles, and but for Yaru, who with Anis and Sabokinya had been left to guard our rear, would have got away.  He saw them go and called to us and then, closely followed by Sam, took off after them. The rest of us, once alerted, followed more slowly.

About one hundred yards further down the hill we arrived on a scene that will forever stay in my memory.

Sam, in his haste to get at the fugitives, had apparently taken a tumble down the creek bank — I think it was named Broa Creek — and was just getting to his feet as we arrived on the scene.  His Owen was lying near a largish rock and had obviously been knocked from his grasp when he fell.  While we watched, he quickly retrieved it and ran firing a burst from the hip at the nearest Jap, some 15 yards away. The Jap didn't fall.  He had missed!  Still running he fired another quick burst.  Missed again!  He tried a third short burst, this time standing still, and still no luck!

Sam was an excellent shot and wouldn't normally miss at that range.

What was wrong?  Why had he missed three times, at close range?

He was almost on top of the Jap when he saw the problem.

The Owen's barrel was bent and even to this day I can still see the amazed look on his face!

But, our Sam had been a commando and a trifle like a bent barrel didn't faze him for long!  He quickly tossed the useless gun to one side and whipped his favourite knife from its scabbard — a well-sharpened army issue bayonet.  Sam loved that bayonet!

By this time the Jap had recovered from his initial shock, realised that he better defend himself, and swung his rifle up ready to fire, but had delayed too long and was just a fraction late.  Sam was on him in a flash, struck the rifle aside, and stabbed him in the chest.

It was all over in a twinkling and we hadn't moved. Just stood there with mouths agape!

But Yaru had moved!  He had quickly disposed of the other two Nips, who weren't showing any signs of defending themselves, but were continuing their dash for cover.  There was nothing amiss with his Owen!

Initially, Sam seemed to have the Japs mesmerised and for a fraction of time they seemed incapable of movement and made no attempt to protect themselves.  Perhaps their inaction was excusable when one took into account his appearance!  He looked and acted like a wild man, with his ragged clothes, big black beard and dirty rag round his head.  He was a sight to behold!

We left the Japs where they fell and ever careful and aware that the gunfire might have attracted more of their friends we went back to the hut, made a quick but thorough search for any documents — but found none — then gathered up their weapons, removed the bolts, tossed the rifles in the creek and took the grenades and rifle bolts with us to dispose of later.  We put about 500 yards between us and the hut and made camp for the night.  One of the policemen dug a hole and tossed the grenades and bolts in and covered them, certain they would do no more damage.

Sam had retrieved the Owen gun and we examined it.  He said that, while chasing the three Nips, he had fallen down the creek bank and the Owen had been knocked from his grasp. and the muzzle must have hit a rock when he fell.  Looking at it we could see it had hit some hard object and the rock, next to where the gun had been lying, looked the likely culprit.

The barrel was bent upwards and slightly to the right.  It was curved rather than sharply bent and that was probably the reason the rounds cleared the muzzle.  We estimated the bend to be about 20 degrees, or perhaps a little less, and were mystified why the whole thing hadn't blown up in Sam's face.  He was a very lucky man!  We hadn't seen anything like it before — at least not one that still worked!

The barrel would have become fairly hot during the attack on the hut and had not had time to cool down and was, no doubt, the reason it bent when it hit the rock.

We weren't about to try to fire it again, though Sam was prepared to try!  It looked far too dangerous and would be impossible to straighten properly.  It was finished.

Sam tossed it into the scrub where it probably still lies.  It was another casualty of the war!

From then on Sam used one of the spare American .30 calibre carbines.

This seems to be a good time to have a word about Sam and his great dislike for the Japanese.  As mentioned before, he was born in Sumatra and at about age 25 came to live in Australia and eventually was naturalised.  His parents remained in Sumatra and they were badly treated by the Japanese.  Sam somehow found out about this and was thereafter determined to do away with every Jap he saw!

(There is a follow up to this story.  After, and probably during the war years, there had been a monthly magazine called "Man" magazine — now out of print — which I think was printed in Melbourne.  Sometime in 1946 there appeared a double page drawing of this same incident showing Sam stabbing the Japanese soldier, and the Owen gun with the bent barrel lying nearby and Yaru shooting the other two Nips.  How it got to be there is not known as Sam swore he had not mentioned it to anyone.  Though, as you will read later on, we referred to it in an interview, and subsequent taping of the operation by Damien Parer, the well-known War Correspondent.  For years I had a copy of this drawing but somehow misplaced it and now only have a copy of the original done by a badly wounded young soldier from Victoria during his period of convalescence.)

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