George Ford’s war memories
article from Boronia and the basin community news
World War Two
World War Two
I have only one uncle left and I’m extremely proud to say that it’s my ninety five year old uncle George Ford. George is my late mother’s older brother. I love him and I’m very proud of him, particularly his war time achievements. Uncle George fought in the same theatres of war as my late father William Doughty. George survived an incredible six years of active service fighting against the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese army. Uncle George kindly shared his war time experiences with me recently. At twenty one years old, George Ford signed up to serve his country a couple of weeks after war was declared in 1939. He was enlisted into the 2/2 field regiment which was part of the Sixth Division. George told me that there was a sense of adventure and most of the young men of that era wanted to see a bit of the world. His regiment was known as the 39ers, the name referred to the year they all joined up. After a few weeks of army training and looking after the horses George’s regiment was sent to England but was diverted en route to Libya to fight the Italians after Italy had sided with the Germans and declared war. His unit trained in Palestine for a short period of time before they fought the Italians in Libya. George said that fighting the Italians was a lot easier than their later encounters with the Germans. George was one of the first Australian soldiers to fight there. He was fighting alongside the British army when they went and attacked Bardia. George remembered how the British had laid out all the dead Italian soldiers that they had killed and he told me that they ‘were not a pretty sight’. After that they went through to Benghazi and they took Tobruk. That campaign lasted about nine months. Then the Germans invaded Greece so George’s regiment was taken by the British navy and they then were sent to Thermopylae in Greece where George told me that the three hundred Spartans fought and died many centuries earlier. Then the order was given for them to move again and they ended up in the Serbian mountains and George recalled how he could see the enemy planes flying in the valleys below them. George laughed when he said that he was tempted to throw rocks on to them as they flew past. “We weren’t there long,” he said. “We lost lots of men to bombers”. They fought a rear guard action but the Germans out ranged them and they had to evacuate. The British navy then took the Australians to the Island of Crete. It wasn’t very good there either as the Australians had very little ammunition to fight the Germans with at that stage. They had lost most of their arms and George said, “ I don’t know if we were expected to throw rocks”. The Germans sent in their paratroopers. George told me that the New Zealanders attacked the Germans and the Maoris drove them back for miles with their bayonets but it was called off by the British. George said the decision to call off the Maori attack that day was a huge mistake as he believed that the New Zealanders could have beaten the Germans then and won the battle. Due to the shortage of weapons and ammunition the soldiers were ordered to retreat. The order was given at that stage; every man for himself. The troops managed to get over the mountains and down to the beach front and they got picked up by British ships. There were a few ships in that operation and the next morning they all got attacked by German bombers. George’s regiment was locked in the bowls of the ship as it was being bombed and the ship was shaking violently. George and his regiment somehow made it back safely to Egypt and eventually they were shipped to Ceylon. With the threat of an invasion of Australia, Georges regiment was shipped back to Queensland and then later on to New Guinea. In Wewak, New Guinea, George was a sergeant in charge of two guns and when any dirty jobs came up George would be called to fix the problem. A bomb was found hanging from a tree so George had to sort it out. Any boo bee traps were disarmed by George’s crew. George told me, that of all the enemy soldiers that he fought, the Japanese was the worst as they were unpredictable and barbaric. He said that the German soldier was a more disciplined enemy. George admired the English as the best trained soldiers to be with. I asked him if any one incident still stuck in his mind after all these years. He told me that there were many awful moments that he’ll always remember like the New Zealanders he was chatting with one day and then when they didn't answer him he realised they were both already dead. He said incidents like that stay with him always. After the war George decided to stay in the army and go to Korea but that never happened as he suffered bouts of malaria. He spent the next ten years in the Citizens Military Force. He married the love of his life Marjory in 1949. They have now been happily married for sixty three years. They have a son and two daughters, nine grandchildren and nineteen great grandchildren. Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are very special days now for my Uncle George. He has a beer and remembers those great former mates who will never grow old.
Lest we forget.
Sadly George William Stanley Goodwin Ford - Died Wednesday the 16th of November, 2016, aged 98 years