George Lockett, my Mum’s father, my Pop, was born in 1919 in Edmonton, England being the result of a short lived WWI tryst between his mother Eva-Rose, who was working as a nurse at a British Forces military camp, and an Australian Soldier, John (Jack) Scott. That story in itself is an interesting read!
Eva-Rose’s father made her put George up for adoption and a then childless couple adopted him before eventually moving to Australia under the Government Group Settlement Scheme.
In late 1941 he headed to Darwin to protect Australia from the Japanese who were steadily heading south. George was listed as a Gunner with the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Battery, aka ‘The Ack-Ack‘ who had the job of shooting at the Japanese planes from giant guns positioned in the ground.
On 19th Feb 1942, Darwin had its first and most devastating air raid by the Japanese.
“They came in the morning, at one point I was trying to avoid being shot by a Jap plane who had targeted me with its machine gun. I criss-crossed the ground with the bullets at my heels until I eventually made it to safety. Later that day I remember a really red sunset due to all the smoke in the air. I was up on top of the oil tanks using Lewis Guns, down below there was a house with palms, shade and lattice around it. A guy called Ron Crake (18) from Kardinya, WA, asked to swap positions, so I did. The tank was later hit by bombs and exploded. All the boys split. Ron headed to the bottom with some others but the flames came up and over them and burnt all their clothes. They then tried to go over the cliffs where they eventually ended up in the sea and the Navy picked them up.”
– George Lockett
Later on in hospital, Ron asked for a guy named Blue Vinton (from Palmyra) and George to come see him. It was a really hot day and the place smelt like burning flesh. Five guys in total had been injured badly in the tank hit and they became known as The Burns Boys as their burn injuries were pretty horrific. The boys had to be given a series of human serum transfusions continuously over the previous few days.
George & Blue went to Ron’s bed to see him but George was soon overcome by the horrible smell and had to go outside for some fresh air. Ron said to the nurse “Put him in the bed next to me”.
The boys went through hell, they came in black, head to toe with burns. After a few days of not being washed they were lowered into a tin 16 gallon bath with water and left to soak till the bandages could come off, they then had their burns redressed and were put under mosquito nets as there were big fly problems in the ward. The boys were then forced to do exercises so their muscles didn’t contract but this put them in excrutiating pain.
Ron was later taken to Melbourne with two other boys, Wilbur ‘Darkie’ Hudson and Jack Ryder (21) both from NSW.
Years later George met up with Ron, he had gone through 28 skin grafts and was scarred for life.
Food was hard to come by up there, the boys got rations whenever the Army could get them. The dehydrated mutton was black and vile. The Aussie boys used to pinch the Americans food as they had everything. George’s commanding officer said “Take the truck and go down, but if you get caught, you’re on your own.” The Americans lived like Kings! Tins of lobster and plenty of food. They used to pinch a lot off them, but never got caught.
Sometimes the riflemen would go down to the lagoons and shoot ducks. They tasted hard. Later on, towards the end of 1943, they made fish traps in the Quarantine area and could soon feed 100 men with their catch. They ate a lot of fish from then on. While they were cleaning the fish on the shore the boys could hear songs floating across the water from the Salvation Army.
After leaving Darwin, George went back to Fremantle and was redeployed to New Guinea in 1944. He was put on a ship but taken off in Sydney and sent to Canungra for Warfare training in the jungle (near the Gold Coast). They had to hide in trenches with tanks going across the top of them, used live ammunition and did river crossing in full gear as bombs were set off around them in the river and they never stopped before midnight.
Fortunately the war ended before he could be sent to New Guinea. He was discharged on 22 Jan 1946.
“When the war was declared over I remember I celebrated by yelling and screaming. Everyone in Brisbane, where I was at the time, was happy. But I had to pay my own way back home to Perth by train.”
– George Lockett
Back in Perth he studied under a Government training initiative for returning soldiers, to be a Woolclasser.
A few years later he married Judy Morton, who had served in WW2 in the WRAAF as an engine mechanic.
They had 4 children.
George passed away, aged 94, in June 2013.