Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans

World War II Remembrance Oral History Project
‘Reliving the Memories’

Frank McGovern

Interview Transcript

Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans
On 5 July 2019 at North Randwick, NSW
Disc No: WWI1:FH4 & 5 (2 discs)

Duration of Interview: 138 mins. 23 secs. Restrictions on use: None
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 2 of 34
Oral history interview with Mr Frank McGovern, conducted by Frank Heimans. Today is
5 July 2019 and this interview is conducted at North Randwick, New South Wales.
Frank, could you tell me where and when you were born?
0:21 I was born in Paddington on 1 October 1919.
That means you’re going to be 100 on 1st October.
0:35 That’s right.
That’s a milestone.
0:38 If I make it.
I think you will, probably. Tell me a bit about your family?
0:46 Mum was born in the Mudgee area. A small place called Lue. The father in
Darlinghurst at that time, in the 1880s I think it was.
How many kids were in your family?
1:13 In my family? Five: two girls, three boys.
What occupation did your father have?
1:22 My father, he was what they termed a ganger on the railways and tramways.
How would you consider your family? Were they fairly average people?
1:37 Oh, yes. Dad played cricket. He was quite a good cricketer. Mum didn’t have
much education. She was one of four girls, she being the eldest. She had to leave
school when she was probably 12 or 13 and, being in the country, had to look after
her younger sisters and do some work around the farm.
Did any of your family, like your father, have any wartime experience?
2:17 No. He went to join up, I believe, in the First World War, but he was rejected
on account of, at that time, flat feet, and also the job he was doing on the railways
and tramways.
What’s the origin of your family? Where did they come from originally before they even
got to Australia?
2:47 Dad was born here – Australia. His parents were born and emigrated from
Ireland. Mum, as far as I know, her parents were Scotch. I’m not too sure.
They must have come out in the 1800s then.

3:15 1800s, yes

Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 3 of 34
You grew up in the Eastern Suburbs. You were born in Paddington. Where did you live
at that time? Was it also Paddington?
3:20 In Paddington, yeah.
Which street? Do you remember?
3:24 Yeah, Taylor Street. It ran from Caledonia Street down to Sutherland StreetNot many houses in the street.
Was it a little terrace house? Or what kind of a house?
3:40 A rented terrace.
Where did you go to school?
3:45 A convent in Edgecliff. Monte Oliveto, by the Sisters of Charity. Some of
them weren’t very charitable at times. They used the cane a little bit. Then, from there,
to the Christian Brothers at St Joseph’s in Edgecliff.
Was that a high school, St Joseph’s?
4:15 No. It was primary and secondary school, yeah.
How far did you go with your education?e 6 of 34
4:21 From there, I went to the Marist Brothers at Darlinghurst and

got the
Intermediate Certificate.
Which was the average that people used to go to in those days, wasn’t it?
4:35 Oh, yes. That was it. Had to get out and earn some money. Things were
pretty tough. It was the Depression era.
What do you remember about that time?
4:50 As a kid? Pretty rough. For the first week, that’d be fortnightly pay. So for
the first week it was quite good. Food on the table. Baked dinner Sunday. But the next,
the following week, you’d scratch around a bit, and Sunday lunch or dinner would be
probably bread and dripping.
Were there plenty of fresh vegetables that you used to eat and that sort of thing?
5:32 As kids, lunchtime, after the bread and dripping, the shop would be open,
the [foodrun ?], and we’d go up to the fruit shop, see the Italian fruiter. Joe Masilo, his
name. During the week it would be Joe, but when we wanted speck, as we called the
bruised fruit, it’d be, “Mr Masilo, have you got any specks, Mr Masilo?” He knew us.
“Oh, here you are. Now, get going.” So we’d get a piece of fruit, maybe a pear or
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 4 of 34
apple, and eat that, or go to the greengrocer, as we called them. At that time, they’d
have broken biscuits in, say, an Arnott’s tin with the rosella on it, stacked up in the
racks. “Any broken biscuits, Mister?” He got to know us too, and he’d put them in a
paper bag and say, “Here. Get going.” That’s how it was.
Did you eat meat and that sort of thing?
6:57 Not at that time, but we did have a baked dinner and that on the first week.
Second week, very scarce.
Tough times.
7:10 They were tough.
A lot of people out of work in those days?
7:11 Oh, yes, yes.
Did you play any sport at school?
7:18 Yeah. No professional, but we’d have a game of cricket, throw the football
around over at Moore Park. That’d keep us going. What they called the Colour
Competition. Nothing spectacular.
After the Depression, of course, war broke out in 1939. What do you remember about
7:49 Well, I joined, with a mate of mine, the Navy Reservists in ’38, I think it was,
just to get a few dollars just to bolster your pocket money. Also, we’d go down of a
Saturday to Rushcutters Bay to the depot, get the whaler out on the harbour, or a skiff,
and also maybe gunnering and all that. It was quite interesting. It was good. A few
shillings if we went there regularly of a night-time and Saturday morning. Might get a
couple of bob, as we said, each month.
8:58 As you said, war broke out in ’39. I remember it very well.
How did you first hear about it? Was it the announcement by Mr Menzies on the radio?
9:13 I was on duty. We were mobilised, the Reserve, along with the permanent
navy, in which the brother was. He was in permanent navy as an engine room artificer.
He was two years older than I was. The duty I was on was on was a sentry on the
munitions depot at Newington. One Sunday night, I was on the eight-to-twelve watch, and the CO came around and told us about it. Nine-thirty, I think it was, at night.
Called me over, issued me with live ammunition, put one in the spout, the rest in the
magazine. He said, “Prime Minister Menzies on the nine o’clock news announced that

Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 5 of 34
Australia had joined with Britain in war against Germany.” He said, “Be on your toes.
This is fair dinkum this time.”
10:38 I rang my employer, the chief accountant, the following morning. I said, “I’ve
been called up by the navy.” At that time, they had the Abyssinian shemozzle going
on with Mussolini the previous year, and he said, “Oh, we’ll see you back in a couple
of weeks.” Those two weeks became six and a half years before I went back.
Was it the case of, because you happened to be in the reserves of the navy, you
automatically joined the navy then? You automatically became a sailor?
11:26 Oh, yes. See, with the reserves, naval reservists, same with the permanent,
when you joined the Naval Reserve, you also signed – not like the army or air force –
to serve overseas if something broke out, which it did. I was immediately on a war
Did you get any training for the navy when the war broke out? Did they send you to
some place for training?
12:05 No, we were immediately on duty, and then we did quite a bit of training at
the Reserve, but also, I was a [detailer]??? , along with a lot of the others, other chaps,
on the armed merchant cruiser, Westralia, as a seaman gunner.
The Westralia?
12:32 Westralia. That was taken over. Also, the Kanimbla and the Manoora. Three
interstate merchant ships, and they were converted to merchant cruisers.
Let’s look at life before you joined the navy, or before you went out on the ship. Whatwas life like in the eastern suburbs at that time?
13:05 Oh, it was just normal. Within hours of the war broke out, of course, I went
home that night from being called up and told Mum. Vince, my elder brother, was
already on board HMAS Perth. He was deployed. The ship was deployed, I think, over
to the West Indies at that time, so he was on duty immediately. So was I, for that
matter. As the war had broken out, I was on duty straightaway.
What was your duty, or what were your duties on the ship?
13:56 I was on board, as I say; seaman gunner on the Westralia.
Which means that you had to operate the canons, or what?
14:07 Yes. We had 6-inch guns on there, on the armed merchant cruiser. We had
seven 6-inch guns. Pretty antique, they were, from the First World War.
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 6 of 34

Your brother, what was his name?
14:22 Vince. Vincent.
So what was he doing? Similar work?
14:28 No. He was an engine room artificer on board Perth. That was his first ship
and only ship. He was on it for the two years that it was in operation.
You joined the Perth in 1939?
14:48 No. I was on the Westralia for about 18 months. We were on patrol duties,
convoy, what have you, mainly over in the Indian Ocean: Bombay, Colombo, down at
Mauritius, taking ships around Africa, up to Asia, and then returned, after 12 months’
overseas operation, to Australia, and then I joined Perth when it returned from the
Mediterranean. So I was on the same ship as my brother.
Where did the Perth go after that?
15:36 We were deployed on convoy work in the Pacific. We took the first batch of
militia up to Port Moresby in December ’41, I think it was. Then went on patrol duties
in the Pacific. We were out on convoy duty with the Westralia and the New Zealand
cruiser, Leander, and we got orders to go down to Melbourne; leave the convoy and
go down there. I think that was a Sunday night. I’m not sure.
16:27 Anyway, from there, orders to go around to Fremantle and then up north
to take a convoy of three ships up to Java. We were then ordered back to Fremantle.
Things were a little bit chaotic at that time with the Japs coming down through Malaya,
and again we were ordered up north, and that was rescinded again, and we returned.
But the third time, we left the convoy there in Fremantle, the ships, and we went
independently up to Java. That would be February ’42. Early February.
Had the Japanese reached Java yet at that time?
17:22 No. Singapore had fallen. Java was the next one.
17:30 On 27 February there was an air raid on Batavia, which is now Jakarta. At
that time, I think our sister ship Hobart was in Tanjung Priok, the Port of Batavia. It was
to join us to go to Surabaya, and from there, out into the Java Sea to look for the
Japanese convoy. It was being refuelled at the time, Hobart. That delayed it going, so
it didn’t go to the Java Sea/Surabaya with us.
18:33 We joined a convoy – a taskforce, I should say – consisting of five cruisers
and nine destroyers. On paper, they were quite a force, but certain deficiencies. We
hadn’t trained as a fighting unit before, just hurriedly got together. A Dutch admiral in
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 7 of 34
charge of the taskforce. Naval strategy of the Dutch at that time was – well, they hadn’t
been in a war for 100 years or more. Communication difficulties between the four
navies: American, Dutch, British, and ourselves. So, quite a deficiency amongst it.
19:43 Our skipper, Hec Waller, [unclear 19:47] on the destroyer Stewart. He was a
good skipper. Terrific. Had a lot of confidence in him. He got the DSO and bar for his
service in the Mediterranean. Extremely good. Capable.
20:09 The American cruiser, Houston, was with us. The English cruiser, Exeter, of
Graf Spee fame – was in that when the Graf Spee was damaged down in the West
Indies. Two Dutch cruisers: the [unclear 20:41] on one of them, the De Ruyter and the
Java, and four-funnel US destroyers. World War 1 vintage, they were. Did a good job,
though. Three British destroyers and two Dutch.
21:13 We met the Japs on 27 February, and it didn’t go well with us. Two Dutch
cruisers sunk. Exeter damaged and had to return to port, so we were down to the two
cruisers, Perth and Houston. Dutch destroyer sunk – torpedoed. We did damage to
the Jap fleet, and two British destroyers sunk. That all lasted eight hours and we were
straddled by the Japanese heavy cruisers on at least six occasions, but due to the skill
of our skipper manoeuvring the ship, we more or less zig-zagged our way through
the shells falling around it.
22:26 It lasted until about two in the morning, that battle. The Java, as I say, that
was sunk that night, the Dutch cruiser, as also the De Ruyter. Heavy loss of life. We
then broke off the engagement. Headed towards Tanjong Priok with the Houston.
These two cruisers were the only two capable – or came through that battle unscathed,
more or less.
23:11 So we reached Tanjong Priok. That was in a mess. The Jap bombers had
done the place over. Shore installations destroyed, ships sunk in the Harbour, oil wells
had been on fire. It was in a mess. We were unable to get an ammunition to replace
or replenish what we had expended in the eight-hour battle. Same as Houston. The
oil well had been on fire. We had no, or very little, oil to replace what we’d expended.
So things were not good.
24:10 That afternoon, there was an air raid on. We came through that okay, and
then we were to sail that night through Sunda Strait, that separates Java and Sumatra,
to go around to the southern port of Tjilatjap in Java. We were to sail that night, which
we did, with the Houston, and the skipper spoke over the intercom to say that a report
had come through that a Jap convoy was heading in an opposite direction to what we
were taking and did not expect to have any trouble getting through the strait.
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 8 of 34
25:10 We arrived there, just to the entrance to the strait, about 11 o’clock that night
and sighted a ship on our starboard side. The skipper said, “Challenge,” which we did.
25:28 It had returned a strange light, greenish light and, as it swung around, we
could see it was a Jap destroyer; the silhouette of a Jap destroyer. So we opened fire,
and it started the Battle of Sunda Strait.
25:54 As we proceeded, the Japs were already there, landing. The Jap transports
were anchored within the strait. Near Merak, I think the place was. They were
disgorging their troops and we had run into the western invasion fleet of Java. At least
five cruisers, and twice that number of destroyers. Ships everywhere. We were firing
at that time independently, meaning not all guns at once. They were on different
targets. Each turret was on a different target. There were that many of them. Of course,
there was only one outcome of that.
26:58 The battle lasted about an hour, just over an hour. We’d run out of
ammunition by this time because we couldn’t get any in Tanjong Priok. The skipper
decided to make a run through the strait. We’d just hit top speed, and the first torpedo
struck on the starboard side, the for’ard engine room. Tremendous explosion.
Knocked me off my feet, and a few others that were around me. Killed everybody in
the for’ard engine room, including the engineer commander. Lifted the ship out of the
water and settled back again. Then a huge fireball broke out. The heat went down the
upper deck and it was like opening a furnace door, from the fire. Anyhow, it picked
up speed again and then a second torpedo hit, again on the starboard side, further
forward under the gun turrets – for’ard gun turret.
28:10 The skipper then came over and said, “Prepare to abandon ship,” when a
third torpedo hit on the port side. After that, it was out of ammunition. Abandon ship
was given then.
28:29 I went down aft onto the quarterdeck with some other fellow. Helped put
some of the rafts overboard, and the Carley float – large float. The fellow next to me
standing by the guardrail, he said, “Well, aren’t you going over?” I said, “Yeah, as soon
as I kick these shoes off.” I wish I had’ve kept them on, because the following day on
a hot steel deck of a Jap destroyer, it would’ve been handy to have them on.
29:06 But anyway, I went over the side and into the water. That was it. Floating
around, and saw our ship go down. The Houston also went down just shortly after. All
survivors were captured by the Japs over the next few days.
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 9 of 34
29:34 Where we ended up that night, in a lifeboat, almost sunk. Off one of the Jap
transporters I saw the name on there when we bailed it out. It was something Maru.
So we got into that. We thought, ‘Well, this is pretty good. We’ll start rowing for the
shore.’ But the current there was about a five-knot current and we were exhausted
after two days of action stations.
30:12 A Jap destroyer on the other side of the strait doing patrol work headed
towards us mid-morning. As it leered, the skipper, who spoke in English, ordered us
to stop. We said, “Er, what are we going to do? Oh, bugger it. We’ll keep going.” We
weren’t making that much headway towards Java. The Jap destroyer moved in closer.
Again, it ordered us to stop. This time, they trained the for’ard gun on us. Five-inch
gun. So, looking down the barrel of a five-inch gun from a few hundred yards away
didn’t have much promise or much future, so we stopped. Then, the next order was,
“Follow us out,” which we did.
31:15 Took us on board. Had to discard all our oil-soaked clothing from the fuel
oil. Stinking stuff, it was. We were issued with a piece of cloth about a yard long, foot
wide, with a string at the top. Tied that around our waist and put the cloth through
our legs and lapped it over. Your lap-lap – that’s what it was. That was our wardrobe
for the next six weeks or so.
31:56 We were kept on board that night. Treated all right on the destroyer by the
crew and the skipper. The following day, we were then transported to one of the Jap
transports, the Somdong Maru, anchored in the bay. We were on there for about a
week or so. Again, okay. Treated us okay. Then, from there, taken ashore to a place
called Merak in Western Java. We were then handed over to the Jap army, fronted by
two machine guns. The Jap officer said, “You are now prisoners of war. If you try to
escape, you will be shot.” Made to squat down. “No talking.”
33:11 Two machine guns were in the enfilade position. We just squatted there with
the lap-lap on in the hot sun for a couple of hours. There was a waiting shed there.
While I was sitting there, I just turned around. It was just like an ordinary waiting shed
you’d find anywhere; probably for a ferry going from Java to Sumatra. There was a
poster there and it said – would you believe it – in English, and Dutch, probably: ‘Come
to sunny New South Wales.’ On that poster was the depiction of the Three Sisters from
the Blue Mountains. Blue Mountains scenery. I said, “I can’t believe this.” So I nudged
the bloke next to me. I couldn’t talk. I just nudged him, indicated to have a look. He
turned around and had a look. I could see the look on his face. He didn’t believe it

Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 10 of 34
34:34 From there, we were taken to a filthy place called Serang and lodged in an
old cinema there- a disused cinema, no seating capacity, Just a concrete floor – along
with other fellows. The Houston survivors were in there already. We were kept in the
cinema just on about eight weeks. Bad news, that was. Dreadful. We were made to
squat down all day in rows on either side of the aisle on the concrete, and numbered
by the Jap guards, which took anything up to an hour or more for counting. One
behind the other, sitting down, legs drawn up. There would have been, I think, at that
time, about 400 or 500 in there that had been rounded up on Java and all that area.
35:59 We were given a small-sized tin, about the size of an ordinary plate of rice.
Very shallow. Cooked by the natives and stowed outside of the cinema in the hot sun
while this numbering took place – tenko, it was called, the roll call – and when it was
brought in, it was caked on the top by the hot sun. That was our first meal.
36:43 The next one was anything from 8 or 9 o’clock at night. It was a small bun
in the shape of a loaf of bread, but it would be the size of a dinner bun. That was our
meal for the day. We thought, ‘Oh. The Japs only eat two meals a day,’ we thought.
But that was it for the next three or four weeks.
37:18 So, consequently, when we stood up we got dizzy. We were half starved.
With the cooking of the rice by the natives and stowed outside the cinema, myriads
of flies no doubt were having a feed on that too, and they brought it in. Consequently,
most of us got dysentery. We had a pit dug outside. That was the latrine. A few
branches from the tree put across it where we squatted. It wasn’t very good. That was
38:04 Machine guns were placed on either side of the projection room, pointing
down at us. Each day, a Jap officer, an arrogant so-and-so, would come in. We knew
when he was coming in because the guard would yell out, “Kiotsuke!” Japanese for
jump to attention. He’d stand there looking at all of us. Not a word. Silence. You could
hear a pin drop. He’d drag out a Luger – click-click. You could hear it in the theatre.
He put it on his hip, and he’d have his full uniform on, stride down with his jackboots
to the stage, turn around and survey us as though he could shoot the lot of us, and
then went back again. Anybody that was not in line squatting down got a boot from
his jackboot.
39:32 One of our fellas was there – I saw this; I was in one row, he was in the other

  • and he had two pieces of schrap in his leg from the paddling. He couldn’t bend it
    up, so he had it sticking out. One day, this fellow, the officer, strutted down, saw the
    leg out and put a boot into it.
    Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 11 of 34
    40:03 Another fellow had been to the latrines. Came back. Wasn’t in line with
    standing. The officer smashed him across the jaw and broke his jaw. Collapsed. Things
    like that happened. We thought, ‘Oh well, we’d better just behave ourselves.’ It’s the
    way things were.
    40:37 We had to salute all Japs, whether they were officer or private. Had to salute
    them either by bowing if you didn’t have a hat on, or if you had a cap or something
    on, salute.
    40:56 That lasted two months. Then they gave us a uniform. Clothing. Green
    uniform with a Dutch hat. From there, we were transported by truck up to Bicycle
    Camp, as it was called, in Batavia, or Jakarta as it is now called. Some of our army fellas
    had been captured in Java. They’d been up there. 2/2nd Pioneers. Good bunch of
    fellas. Came from Victoria. They had been over to the Middle East, fighting in Syria
    against the Vichy French in the French Foreign Legion. They thought, ‘Who are these
    blokes?’ when we got off the trucks. Ema
  • ciated, unshaven, filthy. Still had oil fuel on
  • them. They couldn’t do enough for us when they found out we were off the Perth.
  • We’d escorted them, I think. So, there you are. They were terrific.
  • 42:15 We were kept there, working on the wharves, oil wells, for about eight
  • months. Then we were told we were going to a better place, by the Japs. Took us
  • down to the Port of Batavia, Tanjong Priok, put on board a transport, down in the
  • hold. Not much room down in there. We thought, ‘Where the hell are we going?’ That
  • was our first leg to Singapore, on our way to Burma.
  • 43:05 We landed in Singapore in what was called Changi, but it was a barracks
  • that the British had. Selarang Barracks. Plenty of room in there, lawns, the whole works,
  • overlooking the water. ‘Pretty good,’ we thought. But we weren’t treated that well by
  • our own crowd there, because they said, “You’re in transition camp only, and then
  • you’re on your way.” We were still barefooted, some of us. Didn’t have shoes or
  • anything like that. Those that were in charge of the place, said, “You’re only here on
  • transition.” So we didn’t get any supplies that way, but we did get a small amount of
  • food from our own crowd.
  • 44:10 We were there about a week or two, and then loaded on board another
  • transport and headed to Burma, Moulmein, in Burma. We got there one night. We’d
  • been stuck down in the hold, of course. Stinking humid hold. When we got out it might
  • have been around about midnight. I don’t know. Landed on a pontoon and then on
  • the shoreline at Moulmein. Cold. It was freezing. Cold, with wind coming down the
  • Salween River. We only had shorts on. Things like that.
  • Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 12 of 34
  • 44:58 Jap guards there, soldiers, and an officer-in-charge who spoke English. Said,
  • “Right. We march to the local jail.” The local jail was the Moulmein Jail, built by the
  • Brits when they were there. It was a bright moonlit night. Cold. Deserted streets. We
  • thought it was about midnight. Taken to the local jail.
  • 45:33 The Japs then handed us over to the local Burmese, or Indians, who were
  • there in the jail looking after the inmates. The Japs then went to the front of the jail,
  • away from us. We were in this compound with the young Indian jailer who was just
  • looking after us, in a different compound. He spoke English well, being an Indian. He
  • said, “We’ve got to go through here,” from the Japanese. “We’ve got to go through
  • that door.” “Okay.”
  • 46:18 We were walking with him to get into some place where we’d get warm. He
  • had a bunch of keys. Opened this iron door. I was near him, and he turned to me and
  • he said – no Japs, they were out the front – he said, “How long, master? How long?”
  • That’s all. I just looked at him. I said, “How long before we get out?” They’d have the
  • Japs by that time. Eight months, been in there. I said, “Oh, Christmas.” I didn’t say
  • which Christmas.
  • 47:06 They took us into another compound. There was a two-storey timber
  • building, barrack-type. That’s where I went with a lot of blokes. Others went into a
  • small place, isolated, or a roundhouse. Some went in there to get out of the wind.
  • 47:30 The following morning, the Japs came in. Tenko number again. Took a while.
  • Went out. Left us to the Indian gentleman. He came in amongst us after the Japs had
  • gone. He said, “We will get some rice shortly. Some food. How did you sleep last
  • night?” “Oh, good. Okay, yeah. In up there.” A few blokes said, “Oh, we slept in that
  • round building over there.” The Indian jailer, his eyes widened a little further and he
  • said, “Oh, master. You slept there?” I said, “Yeah. Yeah, it was good. Out of the wind.”
  • He said, “That is where the lepers are!” I said, “Oh, we slept all right. The other fella: “I
  • slept down there in that isolated place, that little building down there.” Well, the Indian
  • jailer nearly fell over. His eyes widened still, further. “Oh, master. You slept down
  • there?” He said, “Yeah. Yeah. I slept in there.” He said, “That is where the dead men
  • are!” It was the morgue, probably. He said, “I had a good sleep there,” he said, “I wasn’t
  • disturbed.”
  • 48:57 Anyway, we got our Dixie of rice. Melon water on it. It went all right, you
  • know. Melon water. We had a three-kilometre march to Thanbyuzayat, it was called,
  • which was the railhead of the rail going through the jungle. We marched through
  • Moulmein on that bowl of rice, or Dixie of rice. The local people came out. We had
  • Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 13 of 34
  • guards all around us – Jap guards. When they saw us, mainly women, they went down
  • back to their camp and out of their own meagre rations, they brought up food. The
  • Jap guards didn’t like that. With their rifle butts, pushing them away. That didn’t matter.
  • They went down and got more. More people came up. Mainly women. Women
  • coming up, giving us food that they’d probably prepared for their own breakfast, and
  • this carried on right through Moulmein.
  • 50:28 In the end, the Japs just gave up. The women then prepared meals and gave
  • it to their kids, and they were running up giving us food. I’ve never forgotten that.
  • They were terrific. Their courage. Their courage and compassion was terrific.
  • It’s amazing, isn’t it? That’s 70 years ago and you’re still very emotional from what
  • happened.
  • 51:35 [Unclear 51:35].
  • What was the next thing that happened? Did you stay there very long? Then what?
  • 51:54 From Thanbyuzayat, we were put on trucks. Taken out along to a camp. 35
  • Kilo Camp. That was our first camp on the line. Along the line for 150 kilometres, it
  • would have been.
  • You walked all the way?
  • 52:25 450 kilometres along the line. I think it was 450 kilometres. Every five
  • kilometres there was a camp where our fellas were.
  • Did you work on the railway, building it?
  • 52:51 We got to the 35 Kilo Camp. That’s right. From there, the work that we did,
  • with the Japs in charge, it was the dry season and it was quite okay. We were
  • reasonably fed at that time, after eight months with the Japs. We were given a
  • workload to dig 1.2 metres of earth a day, each man, to build the embankment of the
  • railway. We thought, ‘Oh. This is all right. We’ll do this,’ which we did. Got our rice for
  • lunch. Dixie rice.
  • 53:44 Went back to the camp that night. There was a small stream there and a
  • well. We could get water and do our bathing, so we were okay for a couple of months
  • in that camp doing that type of work. We used to cheat a bit. After a while, we got a
  • little bit used to it. The Jap engineer would come along with his metre stick and
  • measure the 1.2 each day. Where the earth had been dug the previous day, you’d go
  • on from there. So when he’d gone to give another few fellas their work quota, we’d
  • dig the old earth, or that that was open, we’d dig along there and make it look as
  • Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 14 of 34
  • though it’s just been dug and trim about half a metre, or something like that, with the
  • next lot. We got away with that for quite a while.
  • 55:04 Then, the bridge building. That was another thing. It was a bamboo structure
  • on either side. Because of the dry season, the dry riverbed, and the scaffolding built,
  • with a Jap engineer who would climb up on it, and then there was a rope running up
  • thick rope with strands coming out that we manned on each side. These ropes went
    up over the scaffolding and down. On the end of it was this weight, huge weight, so
    big and cylindrical. A heavy weight to do the punching of these logs in to build the
    bridge. This Jap engineer, he’d be up on top: “Ichi, ni, san. One, two three.” It was a
    singsong way: “Ichi, ni, san…” We’d: “Ichi, ni, san…” all bloody day. Pull the weight up
    and then it would drop down on this log and push it into the sand. This kept going on
    for weeks.
    56:31 The fella up top, the Jap, after a couple of weeks of this, he’d say, “Oh, one
    more. One more. Kampo.” We’d go back to camp after we did one more. So we did
    that for a little while, after a couple of weeks.
    56:56 We said, “We’ll give it to him one day.” We had a couple of little characters.
    Sato, this fella’s name is. He said, “We’ll start singing Sato. Instead of ichi, ni, san, we’llsay, Sato is a bastard.” As we were doing it, “Sato is a bastard,” Sato: ‘Oh,’ he heard his name, Sato. He thought that was good. He didn’t know the rest of it. We did that, until one day this bloke said, “We’ll give Sato something.” So, instead of singing ‘Sato’ when he wanted one more, we said, “One, two, three,” and we pulled on – the weight went up, hit the scaffolding, Sato did a somersault, straight down in between and bounced off a few – in the dry riverbed. We said, “Oh, well. There’s a good Jap. He’s dead.” A bloody week later, who should we see with his major stick there, stumbling up the road? Sato. All he got out of it was a few bruises and a dislocated ankle or
    something. That’s all. He was still there, Sato.
    58:40 We got through that. Then, the wet season. Oh, it was a horror, the wet
    season. The wet season – we didn’t think they’d do it. They didn’t think we’d work
    through it. See, we’re on the Burma side, then they had another lot on the Siam side
    and we were to join up at near Three Pagoda Pass, it was called, or Nikki; it was a
    trading joint. Anyway, we kept going through the wet season. We didn’t think they’d
    do it, but they did.
    59:26 We were then called the Mobile Force. After the embankment was built, we
    had to lay the rails – sleepers, rails, and the spiking – so they gave us spiking hammers
    to do this, and the fellow with the auger, just boring a hole about so big while the Jap
    Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 15 of 34
    engineers were there, we got him to take it down further when the Jap engineer was
    there. Make it easier to get it in. So, it wasn’t very secure, while we were doing this.
    While we were able to auger down a couple of inches, there wasn’t much holding the
    rail, but we did that right along.
    60:22 We were getting weaker because of malaria. We were getting malaria every
    few weeks. Our doctors called it recurring malignant malaria. Fellas were just
    collapsing. They were starting to die. They had malaria, dysentery, beriberi, which was
    a tropical disease from deficiency of vitamins. Your face would swell up, your eyes
    would almost close, your hands would swell up with the fluid inside your body. You
    could put your finger in – it was like dough – push your finger into your flesh and it
    would stay there for a couple of minutes before it finally came out. That was beriberi.
    Hardly see out of your eye. Belly would be up. Legs straight. There was no shape in
    your legs; they were all swollen. But the Jap engineer said, “Out to work.” The doctors
    said, “Try not to.” Well, they’d bash the doctors up and give them a beating because,
    “No, he can’t go out. He’s sick.” Give him a bashing. Then, the Jap engineers and
    guards: “Out you go.”
    62:08 With these fellas with the beriberi, the Japs – the engineer – would give you
    your workload for the day, and the bloke that was sick with beriberi couldn’t lift a
    shovel up. He’d be given what his work quota was, but the other fellas would do that.
    He’d be with his legs propped up against the embankment, just to try and drain the
    fluid back out of his legs. I believe some of the chaps had it that bad that their lungs
    filled with fluid and more or less drowned them.
    62:52 The topical ulcers; oh, they were a shocker. You’d be in bare feet going
    along the track, and you’d be ballasting, putting a ballast in, knocking that in with the
    flat picks, and they’d fly off sometimes and might give you a scratch on your ankle or
    somewhere there. That scratch, in a couple of weeks, would be festered, diseased,
    festered, and spread. It’d spread from the ankle up to the knee, and the ulcer – without
    any basic food or basic medicine which would’ve cleared it up – went straight into the
    bone, or almost into the bone. Rotten flesh. The smell was nauseating. They had a
    separate hut that they called the ulcer hut. The fellas in there, they only had to have
    that, and a dose of malaria or dysentery, and that was it.
    64:14 In the wet season, I was on light duties with malaria, working in the camp. I
    was in the funeral party, taking the fellas out to be buried. The stretcher – two bamboo
    poles and a couple of empty rice bags stretched between them. You’d put the fella
    on there and then put an empty rice bag over the top of him. Soaking wet. Pouring
    Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 16 of 34
    rain. Monsoonal rain pouring down. You carried the bloke out to be buried. He was
    only just skin and bones. The place where he was to be buried, the grave, was already
    filling with water. You’d empty him into there and, with your shovel, pour the mud
    over the top of him and put a wooden cross on the top of it. We buried 15 blokes one
    day, doing that.
    65:38 They sounded the bugle at this time. The Japs let us sound the Last Post.
    One of the Perth blokes was a bugler, or two of them, and he was doing that; sounded
    the bugle over this fella. As we walked back past the ulcer ward, our doctor came out
    and he said, “Please don’t sound the Last Post again.” He said, “These fellas are in a
    state. It’s demoralising them. They’re thinking that might be for them next.” So we
    stopped blowing the bugle. I forget what that camp was. 105, I think it was. Past the
    camp, or the Three Pagoda Pass. Past the border. A place called Songkurai, I think it
    was, or Konkoita. The Burma side, although we called them kilos: 5, 15, 25, 30, 105,
    they also had names. 55 Kilo was [Unclear], I think. Some name like that. Another one,
    Tha Muang, and so on, but we called them kilos. On the Siam side, it was their name;
    the name they called it. Nong Pladuc was one, that’s right, on the Thai side.
    67:33 That’s how it went through. We kept going. Blokes dying right, left and
    centre. Still had to go out to work. They were bad.
    67:49 The Korean guards, they were just as bad as the Nips. They were treated by
    the Japs as second-class citizens. Of course, they took it out on us.
    Were they worse than the Japanese for you?
    68:07 Some of them were, because they were bigger than the Japs. We had one
    bloke there, six-foot. We called him Boof Head. That was one name he got. He’d strut
    around in jackboots. We had one bloke called Konsito. The different names we gave
    them. There were a couple of young-looking ones, like boys. We called him the Boy
    Bastard. He was a nasty one – and his mate. We called him the Boy Bastard’s Cobber.
    That’s how it was. But if you forgot to salute – well, you didn’t forget to salute – if you
    just went past them, you’d get bashed up.
    So how did you get out of there? How did that end, that period of your life?
    69:13 There was one thing I was just going to say. Sorry.
    69:19 The Stormtrooper. Boof Head. The Stormtrooper. We had an Englishman
    there who was captured in Hong Kong, spoke Japanese fluently, and he was the camp
    interpreter. Real decent bloke. We were having a bit of a singsong one night, about a
    dozen of us. We’d had an easy day out on the line because we were waiting on rails
    Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 17 of 34
    to come up. We were singing When Irish Eyes are Smiling. I think that was it. Something
    like that.
    70:12 Planes at that time, bombers, were coming over, doing Bangkok over – our
    planes coming over the camp – Boofhead – something must have upset him. He called
    on Drouer, the interpreter. Captain Drouer. “Who’s been singing?” Fallout. So, half a
    dozen of us, we were all there. Captain Drouer said, “He wants to know what you are
    singing.” We said, “Oh, When Irish Eyes are Smiling and Gundagai,” or something. He
    said, “What are the words?” Boofhead wanted to know. We said, “Now, you won’t
    believe this. ‘When Irish eyes are smiling, you can hear the angels sing.’” That was the
    next line. Boofhead, as soon as he heard ‘angels’, “You are signalling the bombing
    planes!” He had a bamboo stick about that long; about two inches wide, and each
    one of us – whack! Said to Drouer, “No more singing.” And that was it. No more
    singing. How stupid. “You’re signalling the planes.” So that was it.
    72:00 Drouer, I might add, he survived. I met him down in Melbourne at one of
    our reunions. His hand was pretty useless. One hand. He fell out with one of the Jap
    officers in the camp, one camp, and the Jap officer – nasty – made him dig a foxhole.
    He was about six foot tall, Drouer the interpreter. Made him stand down in a hole after
    he got beaten up very badly. They filled that hole with water. Kept filling it with water
    up to his neck. He had to stand in it. That was one of the tortures that he got. They
    kept that up for days. He survived, though. Got back. But they did something with his
    hand. He couldn’t use it.
    73:17 But anyway, we’re getting towards the end, where we join up with the fellas
    from the Siam side.
    73:27 Think back what I said about the spikes, not very secure. We were being
    taken across the border to a large camp near the River Kwai and the bridge. Tamerkan,
    it was called. Large camp. We were transported on two bogies, say there and there,
    and the length of rails placed on them and tied on each bogie, and that was our
    transport to Siam. To the other side – Thai. When we got to the Siam side, we were
    going around, looking down at the river about 100 feet below. We thought, ‘Oh, I
    hope these blokes did a better job than we did,’ on the rails, you know, spiking the
    rails, because we didn’t do a very good job. But we did it.
    74:39 We got to this place, Tamerkan, and we got better food. The barges coming
    up the river were able to bring food, whereas, on the Burma side during rainy season,
    a lot of it was impassable. The food couldn’t go under.
    Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 18 of 34
    75:00 Anyway, we were there, Tamerkan, with the better food. The Japs then went
    through our ranks and picked out the fittest blokes. I was one of them. In the Jap’s
    eyes, if you could walk, you were fit for the Japan Party. We were to be transported
    through Japan to augment the workforce in Japan. Because that was in ’44 – they were
    getting a bit knocked back down; feeling the pinch. We were placed on board a
    transport, the Rakuyo Maru. Over a thousand of us. 1300, to be exact.
    76:06 After Tamerkan, the Japan Party, we were taken down the Mekong River,
    landed at Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia and, what surprised us, we looked at
    it – French influence, see? They didn’t fight the Japs. They more or less came to the
    party. Beautiful tree-lined streets. We thought, ‘Oh, this is heaven.’ It was, after Burma,
    you know, in the jungle. But then, from there, we had to march through the jungle;
    hundreds of monkeys everywhere and through the old temples in Cambodia, onto
    Vietnam. We didn’t know it as Vietnam, it was just part of Indo-China, into Saigon.
    They kept us there for three months. We could’ve done the rest of the war there. It
    was the best camp. It was the best camp. Food plentiful. We’d just arrived there a
    couple of days and I told them what was going on. They didn’t believe us about Burma.
    77:35 Well, we marched through Saigon and the French people came out, saw us,
    surreptitiously give us the ‘V for Victory’ sign. We started singing. Some of the fellas
    that had been in Syria fighting the Vichy French, they knew the French national
    anthem. A couple of them who didn’t have a bad voice, they started singing it. Well,
    the French people came out. The Jap guards, they didn’t know what to do. ‘What’s
    going on?’ They’ve seen that. I said, “Hey listen, fellas. They’d like to know who we are.
    What about singing Waltzing Matilda?” So some of us knew some of the words. So
    that was it, going through Saigon. Quite good.
    78:45 We’re still singing as we go into this camp where there were a lot of Brits.
    They were jaw-dropping. ‘Who are these blokes?’ as we were singing. One, in a
    cockney voice, he said, “They’re Aussies, don’t you know?” They heard some of our
    blokes talking.
    79:18 So, Saigon, we were there three months, I think. That was an eye opener to
    us. As I was saying, one of the little carts had driven in with loads of greens in baskets
    and that, and eggs, just after we got there. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get some of these
    eggs.’ So I rang alongside it, taking these eggs. One of the Brits saw me. He said,
    “What are you doing, Aussie?” I said, “What do you think I’m bloody well doing?” I
    said, “I’m getting some eggs.” He said, “They’re going to our kitchen.” I couldn’t believe
    it. I said, “Going to the kitchen?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Oh.” I said, “Over in Burma,
    Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 19 of 34
    we didn’t see an egg for a long time.” So that’s how it was. It was quite good there.
    The work was easy at that time that we were there.
    80:33 I’ll tell you an incident. It was after noon. I went to the tongs to have a bathe,
    and I took a shortcut. The Jap commandant, or the officer there, had his cottage within
    the area, and a tennis court there. So I thought instead of going right around I’d cut
    across the tennis court. Here I am, you know, little towel and what have you. Jap officer,
    he’s coming down, smoking a cigarette. I thought, ‘Oh, crikey. I’m gone.’ I got half way
    across. I gave him a decent bow. I thought I’d better give him a good one. He said,
    “Oh,” in English, “where are you from?” I thought, ‘I don’t believe this.’ I said, “Burma,
    sir.” “No, no, no. What country are you from?” I said, “Oh, Australia.” “Hmm. You Japan
    Party?” “Yes, sir.” “Oh. I hope you have safe journey.” He’s the commandant. I said,
    “Oh. Thank you, sir.” Bow.
    82:26 I went back and told my mate. I said, “I’ve just been speaking to the
    commandant.” He just looked at me. He said, “What?” I said, “The Jap officer-incharge,” and I told him. He said, “Crikey. What’s going on?” That was the difference
    there that I saw and experienced, than Burma. Or anywhere else for that matter.
    Anywhere else.
    83:08 Then, when we got to Japan, that was bad news too.
    Why did they send you to Japan?
    83:17 To augment the workforce. They were feeling the pinch at the time. Not that
    we did much in the way of the war effort. No.
    83:28 We were sunk going up there by the Yank subs. The Rakuyo Maru. Five days
    out from Singapore, 1300 of us jammed down in the for’ard. That was bad news too.
    Stuck down in there, 40-degree heat, blokes with tropical ulcers, dysentery, malaria,
    collapsing in the heat, putting blocks over and put them on the shelves to put them
    up on the upper deck to recover, and only a narrow stairway down or out of that
    place. Only one man at a time could go up or down. Some of our officers who were
    with us spoke to the Jap officer-in-charge, told him of the conditions down below, and
    it took a lot of convincing to allow a couple of hundred at a time up on deck on a
    roster basis. They’d be up there for an hour or so, down, another couple of hundred.
    Was it a submarine or was it a ship, the ship you’re describing?
    84:53 No, no, it was a transport. A merchant ship, sorry. The Rakuyo Maru. Oh
    yeah, 1300 of us down below in a hole. Oh, yeah.
    Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 20 of 34
    85:12 Five days out from Singapore in those conditions. We were on the for’ard
    part of the ship. That night, five days out, on that night, the lead destroyer was
    torpedoed, and it was the Shikinami. Now, as fate would have it, the Shikinami, the
    destroyer, took part in the Battle of Sunda Strait and then it was sunk there, the lead
    destroyer, by American subs, who were four subs sweating on the convoy. The Yanks
    had broken the Jap naval code and they knew the convoy was coming through. They
    sunk half that convoy that night. Two tankers, destroyer, put two torpedoes into us;
    one amidships – tremendous explosion – and another one a minute or so later right
    up in the bow. In the bulkhead, where our fellas were in that hole, all of us – and some
    of us on the upper deck – that bulkhead held, so it didn’t do any damage to the ship
    itself, other than a great hole in the bow and right up.
    86:54 All the Japs, they heard them clattering across the deck. Lowered some of
    the boats, most of the lifeboats. Left two jammed, in their panic. Jammed two lifeboats
    down aft in the davits. One on either side. A few of us stayed on board the Rakuyo
    Maru. It didn’t sink straightaway.
    87:27 I meant to tell you this. When we embarked on the ship, each POW had to
    take on a square of rubber, so big, with handle fashions in it. The Japs were taking it
    up to Japan, all the rubber. There would’ve been over a thousand pieces of this rubber.
    Individually, they were heavy. Put them in the water, they’d sink. But we think that they
    more or less stopped the water coming in too much. Just a trickle of water coming
    into the ship when it was hit with the torpedo, because it floated most of the next day,
    that ship. Strange!
    88:23 Some of us stayed on board when we [unclear] just on an even keel. I said
    to my mate, “It’s not going down yet.” He said, “No. We’ll have a look around.” A few
    other blokes did too. So we went down to the galley to see if there was any food. First
    thing, food. It was underwater. Came up on deck. Saw a couple of dead Japs. Went
    up on the bridge. Of course, all the other Japs had gone. They were in their lifeboats.
    I said, “Oh, here’s some charts here. I’ll take this chart. It might be handy for
    something.” So I took that and put it in my pocket. I had a dirty pair of shorts on. Met
    some other blokes, our blokes, down aft trying to get the lifeboat off. So we went past
    a couple of dead Nips there and went down. Finally, we got it off and there was a Jap
    girl there – one of their comfort women, as they call them – crying her eyes out. We
    ignored her. We just said, “Let’s get this boat off.”
    89:50 Eventually, we did, and made out to the girl, “Do you want to come?”
    “Ikimasu?” “You want to go?” So we tied a rope around her middle and lowered her
    Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 21 of 34
    into the boat. She was just taking room in the boat, the way we looked at it, my mate
    and I, who helped lower the boat. It was packed, because a lot of blokes in the water,
    treading water, jumped in – or scrambled in. We thought, ‘Oh, there’s no room for
    us,” but we clambered down the ropes and had to hang on to the side of the boat.
    There was no room in it and there was only about that much freeboard; two inches of
    freeboard. Over 100 in there, I reckon.
    90:48 The Japs were about a few hundred yards away, and we called out to them.
    “Ah! Girl. Matte,
  • Jap officer came out and, through the interpreter, assembled us outside
  • and he said, “The camp commandant is going to talk to you.” So, there we are. The
  • camp commandant came out. Through the interpreter he said peace talks were going
  • on between Nippon and America.” He got his fist like that, smashed it into the palm
  • of his hand, and he himself spoke: “Nippon is still strong.” Afterwards, I thought, ‘I
  • don’t think they are. We’re getting too many air raids.’
  • 124:30 Sure enough, my mate said, “I think the bloody war is over.” I said, “See if
  • there’s any air raid tonight, mate.” There was no air raid. I said, “Oh, you might be
  • right.” Midday – sirens went. No. Only a recce plane came over. It only lasted half an
  • hour.
  • 124:57 Then, the following day, food parcels were going to be dropped. We were
  • given paint brushes, white paint on the roof of the hut, 30-foot letters: PW. I said, “It’s
  • over, mate. I agree with you now.” Sure enough, the B-29s came over. Only a few
  • hundred feet up. Bomb bays opened. I thought, ‘I hope it’s not going to drop bombs.’
  • They dropped these food parcels. They were huge. Coming down by different

Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 29 of 34
coloured parachutes. Broke one bloke’s arm. I said, “I’m not going to be killed by a
bloody food parcel.” I went up to the air raid shelter. So, there it was.
125:43 Then we were taken down and put on board a hospital ship. They treated
us like royalty, the Yanks. They were a generous lot. Incredible. Hot showers, fluffy
white towels, soap. I said, “It can’t be. Soap!” And that’s how it was.
126:07 Then, from there, we got put on board HMS Speaker, a small aircraft carrier.
Took us an hour to go out of Tokyo Bay. They lined up all these ships. The Missouri.
We went past the Missouri. HMAS Hobart was there. They wanted to bring us back.
They said, “No, they’ve got to go through medical.” Took us an hour. We went down
on one ship, got a lot of cheers: “Yeah! You beaut!” and all this business. It was
126:49 Then, from there, to Manila. From Manila, I met a bloke who I used to work
with. He was there in the army. He was looking after the fellas coming back, the POWs.
He came to the tent one day. We were all there, only about a week. “Frank McGovern
there?” I said, “Yeah, mate.” Phil Phillips, a fellow from the Water Board where I worked.
I said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “Looking after you blokes.” I said, “When
are we going?” “Straightaway.” I said, “Go straightway?” I said, “Yeah. Now. Right now.”
He said there’s a flight going out tomorrow morning. Liberator. I’ve got a photo of it,
by the way. Liberator. He said, “There’s a spare seat on it.” He said, “I’ve never seen a
bloke get dressed so quickly as you did that day.”
127:57 So, eleven hours from Manila to Darwin. Engine trouble on the way. RAAF
crew said, “It’s all right. There’s one engine out. We’ve got three others.” I said, “Good.”
128:18 We were in Darwin for about 24 hours until they flew a part there, and 11
hours then down to Sydney. Beautiful. 17 September 1945. A sunny spring day in
Sydney Harbour, glistening in the sunlight. Flew in low over the bridge, and around,
and did another circle. I thought many times, ‘I didn’t think I’d see that.’
128:52 Then the navy took over. Took us to Balmoral, the pair of us. That was it.
Well, you must have some lucky angel looking after you, what you survived. Incredible.
129:06 Five times. Five times, and I do believe. I do.
Your guardian angel.
129:20 Yes, I do.
I’ve got a few more questions.
129:23 Yes, mate?
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 30 of 34
What was the worst thing, do you think, about being in that war?
129:32 Oh, being away from my loved ones from home. That was the worst thing.
I always had faith that we wouldn’t get beaten, but we had to survive. We lived from
day to day. That’s what I mean.
Your brother didn’t make it, did he? Tell me about him.
129:57 Vince, as I say, was in the navy. Permanent navy. Engineer room artificer.
Two years older than I was. the last time I saw Vince on board was that afternoon
before we sailed that night. There was an air raid on, and I didn’t see him that much
on board because, you know, there was nearly 700 in the crew and different parts of
the ship. Some people couldn’t understand that. When I came back they said, “You
must’ve known what happened to him.” Midnight. Shells going on everywhere.
Torpedoes hitting the ship. Different parts of the ship. Doing our own job. Vince was
down below. I was on the upper deck. That’s how it was.
131:05 The last time I saw him was that afternoon when the air raid was on. I was
going to the guns, closing up, and he was in a passageway going down below to his
station. He said, “Oh well, it’s on again.” I said, “Yeah, mate. It is.” I said, “Oh well.” He
said, “[Unclear 131:29] a few.” I said, “We’ll do that. See you later.”
So sad. Now, you’ve been awarded recently with a Medal of the Order of Australia.
131:41 Yes.
That’s an honour.
131:44 It is, really. Yes. I’ve got it in there. Do you want to see it?
Okay. Sure.
That’s very significant.
131:54 Oh, yes. It’s really something.
Wow. You should be proud of that.
132:06 I am. I am.
You’ve certainly deserved it. That’s for sure.
132:13 Thank you.
Just a few more questions. You had a long association with the Perth survivors. The
Perth Association, is it?
132:24 Oh, yes.
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 31 of 34
Tell me a little bit about that, in a few words.
132:30 Oh, well, we got together shortly after the war and formed an association
with the survivors in each state and called it the RAN Ex-Prisoners of War Association.
A few years later we were talking about it and I said, “What about naming it the HMAS
Perth Ex-POW and Naval Ex-POW Association, which we did. But over the years – a
few years – only Perth survivors came along to each of our reunions. No other naval
ex-POW. There were a few on the DEMS, as they called them: Defence Merchant Ship
Gunners, whose ships had been sunk and they had been captured also. I met a couple
of them on the way back. But they never came along.
133:50 So then we made it HMAS Perth Ex-Prisoner of War Association. I’m the only one left.
You’re the last one…
134:03 Yes.
…of the HMAS Perth Association?
134:05 Ex-POW. Yes.
How do you feel about the Japanese today? About Japan and – because you suffered
at their hands. Do you still have any ill feelings?
134:22 No. You can’t keep hating. It will rebound on you, I think, if you did. So, I
don’t. I’ve been back to Japan with a mate of mine. He’s dead now – passed on. We
went up there and visited the Allied War Service in Yokohama where our fellas as
What about your personal life? Did you get married after the war?
135:09 I did.
Tell me a bit about your wife and…
135:13 I met up again with my wife. Before I went away, we used to go dancing
quite a bit. Met her at a dance one night. That’s how we met people then. Formed an
association. But then, away I went, and that was it until I came back. Met up again with
her. Got married in ’47.
How many years were you married?
135:55 My wife died 13 years ago this month.
So it was a long marriage, yes.
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 32 of 34
136:03 It was. yes.
Do you often think about your mates and those people who didn’t make it back?
136:09 Oh, yes. Often. Often think about them.
How come, do you think, that you were lucky and they were not?
136:23 Just one of those things. I don’t know. I often think about it. I say, “Why me?”
But I don’t know. I don’t know.
What’s important to you now at this stage of your life? You’re 99 and three quarters.
That’s not bad.
136:49 Thank you. Oh, the family, and they’re good. I am very fortunate to have
them around. Very fortunate.
How many children and grandchildren do you have?
137:05 Children? Four: Two girls, two boys. Grandchildren: 10. Two great
That’s fantastic. So how would you most like to be remembered?
137:19 As not a bad bloke.
I think that’s definitely right. Is there anything else you want to talk about before we end
this session?
137:32 No. Thank you.
Thank you. We’ve really been very impressed by your story. It will go into the libraries
and Woollahra Council will put it on the internet. We’ll let you know when that’s going
to be. It won’t be long. There’ll be a transcript done, which is every word that you’ve
spoken will be written down, so you can have that, with the compliments of the
Woollahra Library, for your children and grandchildren when we do it. We’ll give it to
138:07 Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you very much. An honour to have been able to interview you. We
both are very honoured.
138:14 Thank you very much.
Thank you so much. Thank you.
So that’s the end of the interview with Frank McGovern. Thank you.
Interview of Frank McGovern by Frank Heimans, recorded on 5 July 2019 Page 33 of 34

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Home - National Library of Australia logo

Oral history and folklore

The Library’s Oral History and Folklore Collection dates back to the 1950’s and includes a rich and diverse collection of interviews and recordings with Australians from all walks of life.

Portrait of Smoky and Dot Dawson

Smoky Dawson interviewed by Rob Willis for the Rob Willis folklore collection.

View in the catalogue

Lola Wright playing piano

Portrait of Lola Wright

Lola Wright interviewed by Rob Willis in the Rob Willis folklore collection(2008)

View in the catalogue

Rob Linn interviewing Peter Cundall

Portrait of interviewer Rob Linn

Peter Cundall interview with Rob Linn.

View in the catalogueNext PAUSEPAUSE SLIDER

Our Oral History and Folklore collection records the voices that describe our cultural, intellectual and social life.  The collection consists of over 55,000 hours of recordings, the earlier ones dating back to the 1950s when the tape recorder became available.  More than 1000 hours of interviews, music and accents are added to the collection each year. Increasingly the collection is available online or may be requested from the catalogue. You can listen to:

  • Folklore recordings – popular culture, traditional songs, dances, music, stories and more
  • Interviews with distinguished Australians – scientists, writers, artists, politicians and sports people
  • Interviews with people who have lived through significant social trends and conditions – unemployment, the impact of child removals from families,  the Depression, and migration to Australia
  • Environmental sound – the historical sound of the built and natural environment.

Some interviews have transcripts or summaries and our online audio delivery system helps you search the content of our collection, which can be searched through Trove.


  • Interviews by Hazel de Berg – 1,290 recordings of interviews and readings dating from the 1950s of prominent Australian poets, artists, writers, composers, actors, academics, publishers, librarians, scientists, anthropologists, public servants and politicians.   
  • Folk music by John Meredith – over 500 recordings between 1953 and 1994 of traditional Australian folk music, songs, recitations, bush dance music, yarns and reminiscences.  John Meredith was a foundation member of the Bushwhackers and helped form the Bush Music Club and the Australian Folklore Society. 
  • Bringing Them Home oral history project – These include over 300 interviews collected between1998 and 2002 of Indigenous people and others, such as missionaries, police and administrators, involved in or affected by the process of child removals. Listen online to a selection of interviews.
  • Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants project – interviews with people who were in institutional and out of home care as children. Listen online to a selection of interviews.
  • Australian Paralympic stories– interviews with key people responsible for the growth and success of Paralympic sport in Australia. Listen online to Australian Paralympic stories.

Interviews for Oral History

The back of our home where we had morning tea with Frances
The back of our home where we had morning tea with Frances

Our daughter Monika said the other day: ‘I knew, Mum, that you’d like Frances.’ She wasn’t surprised at all that I very much loved having her around. Peter and I were always very much looking forward seeing her here at our home. This was some weeks ago. Very soon now we should get the result of these recording sessions with Frances.

I think Frances saw our daughter Gaby just a few days before Gaby died. Sadly the planned interview with Gaby could not take place at the time. There was some difficulty with incoming calls Gaby was expecting that day. Apparently Gaby was reluctant to switch off her mobile phone!

Gaby’s passing must have been a shock to Frances as it was to all of us. Frances had already been looking with Gaby at some of her documents. She was aware how Gaby caught polio at age four, and that she had lived as a quadriplegic with breathing difficulties for over fifty years. After Gaby’s passing she was keen to interview someone of Gaby’s family.

Frances found out from daughter Monika that we, Gaby’s parents, had gone overseas soon after Gaby’s death and wouldn’t be back for quite some time. In the meantime Frances started interviewing Monika. This is how Monika did get to know Frances. Monika agreed to be interviewed about her life in connection with Gaby. So Frances recorded twice one hour with Monika. Some time later, after our return from our long overseas trip, Peter’s and my tale was recorded too. Peter’s took eight times one hour, mine seven times one hour.

Noam Chomsky: on the Pandemic – Ukraine crisis & Climate Change

Feb 11, 2022

This interview with Noam Chomsky was recorded

on the 10th of January 2022.

This interview is part of the Europe Matters podcast. A bold, fresh and curious podcast series that delves deep into thought-provoking questions pertinent to where Europe is at and where it is heading. You can listen to other episodes here: ————————————————— Subscribe: Website:

Here are some of the replies to this interview:

william candler

1 day agodamn good interview; Chomsky is really wise. And his interviewer was excellent too.


Europe Matters


Chris Vy.

Chris Vy.

4 days agoWhat a very meaningful interview with a great politics Guru.


Scott Morley

Scott Morley

5 days agoIt’s painful to know everything he says is true. Its more painful having confirmed especially in the past 5 years there are even more people around me who support these evils than I knew


Kathy Endo

Kathy Endo

2 days agoI do love his wide lens view and years of experience. I have read him over the years and honor his opinion. Shame about Assange. I will watch this show again, not listened before. Comments here are rough, I wish I had an ounce of his knowledge even if I don’t always agree, He deserves respect. As he comes to his last years He must be sad to see this world as is. I have Hope in our youth to carry on and find the missing links to save people and planet in a non violent way and work toward equanimity.Show less




11 days agoThank you so much for these very marvellous clear words !


Europe Matters


Joe JoeLesh

Joe JoeLesh

3 days agoYou (the interviewer) showed some incredible intelligence in just letting Mr Chomsky talk. Too many interviewers try and make themselves appear intelligent by shoehorning their ideas into a Chomsky interview. And doing so they normally prove themselves quite the opposite.Read more


Europe Matters




15 hours agoHow brilliant. I cannot thank Mr Chomsky enough. It is still the clearest voice I have heard on world issues. I try to follow all the non mainstream media I can from different regions in the world and I’m still massively ill informed. Until I hear Mr Chomsky link all the strands of the past that shape events today. How one person can have this depth of knowledge, perspective and integrity I do not know. But I do know that we all need to do better.Read more


Rafael Milani Medeiros

Rafael Milani Medeiros

7 days agoThanks to the channel for this interview and the questions made by the presenter.


Jeff Hambleton

Jeff Hambleton

1 day agoFunny how Noam Chomsky can sum everything in just a few words. I was just remembering the Russian tank that came back to our scrap yard in Saudi to be melted down. Whilst these tanks were stuck on the road trying to get back to Baghdad, the American planes were flying up and down firing depleted Uranium shells killing everybody they could. Just like in Vietnam. Kill as many as possible. Even in WWII, red cross vehicles weren’t targeted because they work for both side. Not in Iran however. I saw for myself. The US have long ceased giving quarter due to their arrogance. Please don’t complain when the tables are finally turnedRead more


jaye see

jaye see

13 days agoSomeone’s finally figured out how to place a microphone on Chomsky.


Europe Matters

REPLYView 6 replies from Europe Matters and others

rebecca rosten

rebecca rosten

9 days ago (edited)we love you Naom we greatly depend on your leadership!!!


Europe Matters

REPLYView reply



5 days agoWhenever I need truth and clarity I turn to Noam Chomsky..absolute legend and I love the Gandalf look 💪

50REPLYView 3 replies

Antoine de Biran

Antoine de Biran

22 hours agoThe interviewer sequence of questions is perfectly woven.


Europe Matters


Alexander Frings

Alexander Frings

5 days agoGreat interview, many thanks for conducting and posting it!


Anthony Pape

Anthony Pape

3 hours agoWhat will we do without Noam Chomsky? He is like a walking, living version of cliff notes with keen insights. He’s literally read every book, every government memo, so you don’t have to. Not advocating not reading or certainly not being a critical thinker but he is such a wealth of information. He can recall the Minsk agreement and how it could help. The what? Well you remember whe Gorbochev conceded West Germany to join Nato but not a step east agreement. Oh, ya . . But he does make it easy to jump in and get up to speed on a number of issues and proposed solutions along with examples of the same issue happening 75 years ago and how it was handled. Great interview!Read more

3REPLYView reply

Scott Morley

Scott Morley

5 days agoCongratulations booking Mr. Chomsky. What an honor.


Hilary Porter

Hilary Porter

5 days agoIt’s a joy to listen to someone with such a grasp on the actuality. Chomsky is the guru of the 21st century. We have to listen to him. Those who have the means to make a difference must take on the Chomsky mantle of wisdom and carry it forward asking his guidance whilst he is still around to give it.

18REPLYView 5 replies

KL Cheong

KL Cheong

10 days agoFrom Singapore. It would be nice if you can interview someone who can explain why US has so much control over Europe and what Europe can to do to be more independent from US.


Europe Matters

REPLYView 9 replies



5 days ago“Brains are not concentrated in rich countries.” Noam Chomsky you are and Always be my Hero. I love and respect you. I wish I could have Seen you in person. You make me feel so peaceful… Wish you all the best. Thank you for this great interview.


Europe Matters

REPLYView 6 replies

Nafisa OBrien

Nafisa OBrien

9 days agoPure wisdom and formidable courage that is noam chomsky. Funny on all reports on msm regarding Ukraine crisis never heard Minsk 2 agreement referred to by a reporter. Why could that be?

8REPLYView reply

Theo de Rouw

Theo de Rouw

4 days agoThis is what we need. Thanks to Mr Chomsky for these clear views


Maya Rada

Maya Rada

3 days agoAgain had no idea about Politics in Europe but as I am listening to this video then I began to understand bet by bet , again thank you .


Europe Matters


jan edvinsson

jan edvinsson

7 hours agoVery good! Good sound and good texting! A bright moment! I will keep this to share now and then. Thank you!REPLY



7 days agoChomsky still going strong❤❤❤

17REPLYView reply

kurt materne

kurt materne

7 days agoRemember when Chomsky’s views were radical?

14REPLYView reply

Roman Dobczansky

Roman Dobczansky

2 days agoHad the honor of hearing him at the university of Maryland after reading his Debate with Foucault

4REPLYView reply



1 day agoMy question to you is with all the dramas leading up to and during this so call pandemic you believe people should be trusting these vaccines.


Fabio Oliveira

Fabio Oliveira

2 days agoWhat a pleasure!! Thanks again and again Mr. Chomsky


Jessica Falstein

Jessica Falstein

7 days agoFinally i can hear Professor Chomsky! Great audio.


H.E. Hazelhorst

H.E. Hazelhorst

1 day agoWith all respect, I believe mr Chomsky is very naive regarding the intentions and way of thinking of Vladimir Putin, in relation to the internal situation in Russia. At the end of the day, Russia has developed into a corrupt, autocratic state.


Ronald Dumsfeld

Ronald Dumsfeld

1 day agoWow! Noam Chomsky solved the Ukrainian crisis! Thank you Noam!REPLY

Gam Gam's Hot Banana Water

Gam Gam’s Hot Banana Water

7 days agoThank you for this!


Micael S. Lopes

Micael S. Lopes

8 days agoCongrats, nice podcast. Someone who could explain the tech gap between EU and the US/China. The other day read the Villani’s strategy for the AI…would be cool…


Europe Matters


Okibo Lianato

Okibo Lianato

1 day agoThe Misk agreement is officially dead after Russia has proclaimed independence of the so called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics and started moving more of their troops (not hiding this time) on the Ukrainian land.


Mr Anderson

Mr Anderson

3 days agoMr Chomsky always giving great informationREPLY



21 hours agoChomsky refers to the Taiping rebellion when he discusses the most devastating war outside of China – it’s really very obscure in England, I never learnt about it until I started researching precursor’s to the Boxer rebellion (also looking up Gordon’s actions in Sudan), yet claimed a comparable number of lives to the devastating world wars and was instigated by a millenarian cenobitic Christian, incredibly unusual.Read more


William Frazier

William Frazier

1 day agoTrade agreements just a means for continuing imperialism.




2 days agoI love you so much, Mr. Chomsky!!!


Robert Jung

Robert Jung

4 days agoThank you for taking the time to talk with Noam, he’s my favorite person on world issues. I subscribed to your channel. Many thanks!


Alan Arnold

Alan Arnold

1 day agoWe simply need to invite Russia to join NATO.


Edith Rambure-Lambert

Edith Rambure-Lambert

1 day agoSo clear and powerful, no blablabla, as Greta Thunberg would say..


jeff watson

jeff watson

1 day agoThe US devotes more money and resources to their military and have sadly used it and their media to utilize it as their solution to disagreements and conflicts worldwide. Hardly difficult to see others being wary or even hostile to US actions. The EU does not speak as one. China and Russia do ( like it or not within their internal boundaries) and they see Ukraine entering into NATO and the EU economy as a threat. US dominance in the decision making weakens the EU’s integrity and influence in world affairs.Read more


Sua Ega

Sua Ega

4 days ago (edited)Thanks for your invitation Mr Chomsky, he is a person well knowledgeable for his field of history( in society) and politics 👏👍


Muon Ray

Muon Ray

8 hours agoGreat Interview. Prof Chomsky is always on point and great at reading the pulse of the global situation. I think you guys should definitely interview Diem25s Yanis Varoufakis, hes great at local European politics.

1REPLYView reply

lalas lalakis

lalas lalakis

7 days agocongrats mate for your show!!




7 hours agoChomsky’s cluelessness about these Vaccines (talking as though they prevent transmission and aren’t driving variants) breaks my heartREPLY

Surajit Mukhopadhyay

Surajit Mukhopadhyay

2 days agoThis is such a wonderful interview. Privilged to have listened to it.


Robert Calamusso

Robert Calamusso

4 days agoNoam is great. We have much to learn. To share. To help each other. Europe, US, Russia.


Europe Matters

REPLYView 2 replies

inela beqaj

inela beqaj

15 hours agoWhat a great talk ! Thank you Mr. Chomsky!


Europe Matters


Kich Miner

Kich Miner

5 days agoWow what an achievement you have 136 subs now 137 and you have the attention of one of the worlds greatest minds well done.!!!!!


Europe Matters

REPLYView 2 replies from Europe Matters and others



8 hours agoI love Noam Chomsky. He proves that even highly intelligent people can be ignorant as a post.REPLY

Teri Wells

Teri Wells

3 days agoThe Russian people have suffered and sacrificed for centuries, in fact for its entire history, in ways Americans will never be able to comprehend. Meanwhile we Americans continue to revel in our material greed and point our weapons of mass destruction at anyone we deem will get even a tiny share of the world’s resources. Our collective karma is coming for us.Read more


Europe Matters

Europe Matters4 days ago (edited)We have added Italian, German, Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese subtitles. Most of these translations have been made automatically with Google Translate, so if you find any mistakes please reply to this comment with the time stamp and text to be improved. Don’t forget to subscribe for our upcoming video with Social Innovator of 2022 professor Alberto Alemanno.Read more

14REPLYView 3 replies from Europe Matters and others

Joseph Rigan

Joseph Rigan

1 day agoThank you Noam for talking about the USA as a backwater, that Bernie could run run as a Christian democrat in Germany, but in America he’s a radical big bad wolf…universal healthcare, free university education, these are too radical when profit is the last word….


Thomas Bryant

Thomas Bryant

1 day agoLuckily my medicare (government insurance) covered my emergency room when I was stung by a swarm of ground bees in my yard (I’m allergic to their venom as it turns out) and I got prompt care upon showing my medicare card. Prior to turning 65, I had no insurance at all. The bill they sent to medicare was over 5 thousand dollars for my 45 minutes in the ER.Read more




3 days agoFantastic interview! In spite of being purely speculative, I think that counter-factual regarding Assange was actually quite an interesting thought-experiment to consider the degree of domination the US has over Europe.Read more


Matthew Kesner

Matthew Kesner

4 days agoSeems like a bit of an over-exaggeration the country has had 11 years where we’ve not been at War I believe… out of the 244 years😏😟


Jo-anne Richardson

Jo-anne Richardson

2 days agoSo glad to hear Noam again. Great interview and cudos to the interviewer. Very intelligent thoughtful style and questions.


David Hull

David Hull

12 hours agoA magnificent man.REPLY

Nicklejack P

Nicklejack P

4 days agoI love Chomsky! It is always a privilege to be able to take away a piece of his wisdom. I have to ask, though, why has no one responsible had to answer to the world for this pandemic? So many deaths with roots to the decisions of certain people. Is it simply politics? If it is, do the deaths of these innocent people truly mean less than some form of face value? Side note here; it is absolutely gut wrenching to know how the poor of the world take the biggest hit in regards to lack of care.Read more


Lee Seaman

Lee Seaman

1 day agoA remarkable interview with such an articulate polymath who makes his insights accessible to all. Thank you for sharing.




4 days agoI think we are already past the tipping point with regards to climate change.

4REPLYView 3 replies

charlie brandt

charlie brandt

2 days agoGlad Noam talked about Assange…


Peter Soderberg

Peter Soderberg

3 days agoThis man that always has been interesting and dynamic, he’s way past his expiration date 😂REPLYView reply

Jj Hassonhjkl567*

Jj Hassonhjkl567*

4 days agoSgt. Rah “Taylor, I remember when you first came in here. Talking about how much you admired the bast$rd. Pfc Taylor “I was wrong” Sgt. Rah “Wrong? You ain’t never been right. Bout nothing.”


Zippy Thekid

Zippy Thekid

1 day agoA compromise is beneficial to all. Consensus equals community.REPLY

Y Brueckner

Y Brueckner

1 day agoBig score for you! Subscribing!! I love NC!!


Gergely Zoltan

Gergely Zoltan

1 day agoI am deeply ashamed to be European. At least US is saying what it does and does what it says. In contrast the EU is spineless, coward and unprincipled. They sanction but benefit as well all the while they communicate a third thing.REPLY

Daily Dao

1 day ago08:10 The vaccine developed by the Texas vaccine initiative is free of the temperature, transport and storage limitations of others.REPLY

Ze Tristan

19 hours agoThe solution was to invite Russia to join NATO too 😉



Wainda Youngthain

6 days ago🙏🏻my gratitude for your mercy. If’s the European Union 🇪🇺 going’s out of the USA and the British government, I found that the European Union 🇪🇺 is more strong than the past of the USA propaganda stirring awareness against them for the Russia wrongs but it’s the democratic alliance threatening with no respect for the government’s policy of the European Union 🙏🏻. The USA has no cultures but violate laws and selfishness against their beliefs with Nato as the human in control of the military justifying.Read more



1 day agosorry but I need to point that some notions here are very naive – implementation of Minsk agreement would not make Ukraine neutral but rather dependent on Russia and unable to freely integrate with EU against the will of Ukrainian people…REPLYAllNoam ChomskyListenableRelatedRecently uploadedWatched1:09:13NOW PLAYING

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A Conversation with

Ai Weiwei’s new film goes behind the scenes of the Wuhan lockdown

The Chinese artist’s latest documentary, “Coronation,” was filmed remotely by a team of amateur Wuhan filmmakers. Ai Weiwei spoke to DW about how an authoritarian state stopped the COVID-19 outbreak in its tracks.

After three years in Berlin, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei now lives in Cambridge in the UK, but his latest film, Coronation, is set in the Chinese city of Wuhan as it undergoes a draconian lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Using footage filmed by citizens after the Chinese state locked down the city on January 23, Coronation observes the militarized and often brutal nature of the government-enforced quarantine until it was lifted in early April. It also reveals its efficiency in stopping the spread of the virus. 

In an exclusive written interview with DW, Ai Weiwei shared his thoughts about the making of the film, and whether he believes the pandemic will fundamentally change society.

DW: What was your motivation for making Coronation?

Ai Weiwei: As with most of my activities, the motivation for making Coronation was to try and gain a deeper knowledge of a new and unfamiliar incident, such as with the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the refugee crisis in 2015. I wanted to provide a first-hand experience in understanding China and the Chinese people and how they responded to the coronavirus. Under these dramatic conditions, we can better understand the politics and humanity of any society. 

Ai Weiwei: New film a window into understanding Chinese society

What was the biggest challenge directing a film from a remote location?

With today’s technology, remote directing a film is possible. The biggest challenge for a director when approaching a subject is the concept. 

Read moreAi Weiwei’s presents his ‘Manifesto without Borders’

You can see in the film that young people, nurses and doctors and other health professionals came to Wuhan within days on buses. China is probably the only nation that could achieve that with such speed and spirit. You can see how the state built the infrastructure, including the emergency field hospitals, and equipped those on the frontlines with the necessary rescue equipment. Those details surprised me and are a profound revelation of human behavior under authoritarian control. 

We also managed to show how they recruited those young people into the Communist party and the celebration after the lockdown was lifted. Those positive, objective parts about a very highly controlled authoritarian state are difficult to film. 

You can see another person, a construction worker who came to Wuhan to assist the emergency effort, prevented from leaving the city. He attempts to navigate this typical Kafka-esque bureaucracy to get out. Unfortunately, we later learned Meng Liang managed to return home to be with his family, but he had financial issues and decided to hang himself. A tragic and banal story about life in these times. 

How did you make sure your Chinese crews were safe?

I cannot make sure anyone is safe. I gave them daily instruction and they have the absolute choice to film the way they think is safe. They are all equipped with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and instructed on necessary medical protocols. Still, [it] could have been very damaging for the people filming. So we asked them to send out the material every day through the internet to protect those materials. We did not know what we had until we started to review and to edit. Most of the cameramen are amateurs, and this is their first time working on a film.

A still from ‘Coronation’: Wuhan’s deserted train station

You have often critiqued China for its strict policies. What would be your critique at present?

China, as an authoritarian state, has been the most efficient in taking on a situation as challenging as a pandemic. In doing so, China’s suppression of human rights, individual rights, privacy, and personal will has been heavy. Basically, China has consumed everyone’s liberty into its own power. That is the basic character of this nation’s fast development and how it has closed the gap between itself and the West. It has worked very well over the last 30 years. 

At the same time, China has created a society which has no trust, the controlling party has never gained legitimacy through the people’s recognition but rather through police force, heavy propaganda, and by limiting balanced information. The Chinese state and its population do not trust each other but the state must be obeyed because maintains control through law and violence. 90% Watch video06:21

Ai Weiwei says China is subjected to ‘extreme’ censorship

Instead of strictly cordoning off Wuhan, could there have been a more appropriate response to the initial coronavirus outbreak?

They made a good decision to seal off Wuhan. China has another 100 cities of similar size to Wuhan. If they [had not limited] the travel to and from the root city in this pandemic, we would [have seen] a true humanitarian disaster. At the same time, the method of sealing the city should not have been through literally sealing off people’s doors, placing people in detention, or hiding the truth about the situation. This has caused a great panic. 

Read more‘Wuhan Diary’: 60 days in a locked-down city

Before the authorities sealed off Wuhan on January 23, there was a month or two when they knew the coronavirus was human-to-human transmissible. They covered up the number of infected and the death toll. 

Do you think that societies will be forever changed due to the pandemic?

I am very pessimistic about what we will learn from this. I think that things will return to normal, people will simply take off their masks and throw them away into the rubbish bin. I don’t think people will learn that much in general. Even if they have learned something, it will be superficial, like what has happened in China. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview with Martin Jacques about China and Harinder Veriah’s Story who was Martin Jacques’ wife!

When will China replace the US as global leader? How do we assess the impact of China’s rise compared with that of previous hegemons? Why is the West so ignorant about China? What is the meaning of China as a civilization-state? How to understand the question of ethnicity in China? These are some of the issues discussed by Martin Jacques in this fascinating interview with Aaron Bastani from Novara. For the first time on video, Jacques discusses recent events in Xinjiang. And he argues that, contrary to the Western belief that China is incapable of change, history suggests the opposite, that more than any other culture, China has been extraordinarily adept at reinventing itself multiple times over the course of two millennia.

Harinder Veriah’s Story

Harinder’s husband, the author Martin Jacques, remembers a most extraordinary person

Harinder Kaur Veriah was born in Assunta Hospital, close by Assunta Primary School, on December 31st, 1966. She came from a Punjabi family. From the beginning she faced great adversity. Her father, Karam Singh, a leading lawyer, who was also Malaysia’s youngest MP, was held for four years in solitary confinement under the Internal Security Act for leading a march of rubber plantation workers, who were demanding better conditions. Her mother, Harbens Kaur, a primary school teacher, died when Hari, as she was later known, was just six. Karam was a mercurial and inspirational figure but a largely absentee father. Hari, her older brother Kesh and sister Jessie were frequently left to fend for themselves. Money was of little consequence to Karam, he was motivated by a desire for political change: as a result the former was always very scarce. The children came from a materially poor but culturally rich background.

At the age of six, Hari went to Assunta Primary School and then at 12 to Assunta Secondary School, both all-girls schools. When Hari was in her mid-teens, she and her siblings went to live with two of her aunts and uncles after Karam remarried. Her last two years of her schooling were spent in Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan state, in the far north east of Malaysia, whose population was overwhelmingly Malay. Hari was often the only non-Malay girl in her class, an experience she came to greatly value. Hari was a proud Malaysian who counted Malays and Chinese as well as Indians as close friends.

Although several of her friends at Assunta Secondary School later went to the UK for their higher education, this was not an option for Hari. There was no one to provide for her: whatever money she had she had to earn. When it came to a career, given that her father was a lawyer and likewise two of her uncles, law was the obvious choice. She scrapped a living together by doing bits of teaching while in her spare time studying for a London University external degree in law. Once qualified, she began to practise in Kuala Lumpur as a commercial lawyer.

I met Hari a couple of years later, on August 21 1993. I was spending a few days holidaying on Tioman island, off the east coast of Malaysia. I went for an early morning run and as I was returning I noticed, at some distance, this figure walking between a couple of chalets. She stuck in my mind: I can’t tell you why. An hour or so later, I joined a group congregating for a jungle trek. Suddenly a voice behind me said: ‘Didn’t I see you earlier? Weren’t you running through the village?’ I turned round and before I could muster a word, she said with an impish grin, ‘Only a white man would do something as stupid as that.’ Then, reeling in the face of her audacity and wit, ‘she added, ‘Why did you come to Tioman?’ ‘A friend recommended it’, I replied weakly. ‘There are much more beautiful islands than this,’ she replied.

In a few short sentences Hari turned my life upside down. The jungle trek started to move off. I fell into animated conversation with her. Who was this woman I had just met and yet with whom I instantly felt enormous intimacy? She was from the other side of the world, from a former colony, now a developing country, from equatorial parts, her skin a beautiful dark brown: I was a pinky white colour, from a cold and wet island 6500 miles away to the north west. She was 26, I was 47. What did we have in common? Everything. In that moment, I knew I had met my soulmate. I fell in love with her in just a few short minutes.

Read A season in paradise by Martin Jacques
(Guardian, Saturday 30 November 2002)

Hari was a life force. She was possessed of great energy and vitality, a magnetism that drew people towards her, a humanity that made people instantly at home with her, a face that danced with emotion and warmth, a beautiful smile that lit up the world, an infectious humour that was irresistible, a kindness that was etched into her being, a wisdom that I had never known before. She already knew so much about life even though she was only in her mid-twenties. In that instant, I entered Hari’s gravitational field, never to leave it, even now, as I write, fifteen years after her death. The jungle trek was our beginning. The best thing I have ever done was to trust my emotions and feelings in that moment – and to move heaven and earth to make our relationship work. We both did.


A year later Hari moved to London. She did a masters in law. And then, after much angst and difficulty, she got a job as a lawyer in what is now Hogan Lovells, one of the City’s top law firms. It had not been easy. She was dark brown, from a developing country, not a product of privilege, and she had a 2:2 from her London University external degree (which, given her circumstances, was a formidable achievement). She was up against an army of privately educated candidates with firsts and upper seconds from Oxbridge, all with white faces. But once Hari finally managed to get an interview – which had begun to seem impossible – she got the job. As I always thought she would. She was irresistible, possessed of magic.

After two years working in the London office, the firm suggested that, in order to advance her career, she should consider a three-year secondment to the Hong Kong office. She thought it was probably a good idea. And it suited me: I was about to start work on my book, ‘When China Rules the World’. By now, Hari was pregnant. In November 1998, when we left for Hong Kong, Ravi, our son, was nine weeks old.


We enjoyed our time in Hong Kong but it was marred by the endemic racism that Hari was to suffer. Before we left, Hong Kong seemed like going to Hari’s part of the world: she spoke fluent Cantonese and some Mandarin, it was her time-zone, just over three hours flying time from Kuala Lumpur. Moreover, she had the kind of job that Hong Kong respected. In contrast, I was a self-employed writer, which enjoyed a rather lowly ranking in the Hong Kong pecking order. But soon we found that colour trumped all: Hari was bottom of the pile, I was at the top. She suffered racism in the street, from taxi drivers, in restaurants and, not least, in her workplace. Hari was not one to complain. She was never in denial, the opposite of naïve, she was, on the contrary, worldly wise about such matters. But she always sought to rise above such behaviour, to try and help those of such a mindset to overcome their prejudice.

But what if you are in hospital…

On the night of the millennium, we were out celebrating with friends when Hari had an epileptic fit, only the second of her life. She was taken to the Ruttonjee Hospital and kept in overnight and the following day. That evening I complained to her about the attitude of the doctor that was responsible for her care. Her reply was deeply disturbing. ‘I am bottom of the pile here.’ What do you mean, Hari, I asked, expecting her to tell me what had been going on. With resignation in a manner most untypical of Hari she said: ‘I am Indian and everyone else here is Chinese’. Hari could feel the prejudice. And she could hear it. She understood Cantonese. The staff assumed she couldn’t. I needed to get her out of that hospital. But it was late in the evening. I told the nurse on duty that I would be discharging Hari the following morning.

When I was getting ready to leave in the morning, I got a call from the hospital. Hari had had another epileptic fit. I should come to the hospital immediately. I arrived at her bedside just eleven minutes later to be confronted with an appalling scene. Hari was unconscious, the nurses clearly out of their depth, no doctor in sight. Hari died shortly afterwards, a victim of abject negligence resulting from racism.

She was just 33.

Her death became a major issue in Hong Kong. It led to a campaign for anti-racist legislation which was finally rewarded with success in July 2008. I fought a long court case against the Hospital Authority. For ten years they denied any responsibility. At the end of March 2010, just as the case was about to go to trial in the High Court, they raised the white flag and rushed to settle.

Read It seemed impossible, but at last Martin Jacques got justice for the wife he loved by Martin Jacques
(Observer, Sunday 4 April 2010)

Hari was the most extraordinary person I have ever met. She was highly intelligent, destined to go far and, if she had so wished, reach the top of her chosen field. But it was not this that marked her out as so special and so different. It was her humanity, her compassion, her kindness, her empathy for others, her wisdom, and her outlook on life.

She would have been delighted with our Assunta programme. Hari came from great hardship. Some people cannot relate to poverty because they have never known it. Others have known poverty but react to that experience by wanting to distance themselves as much as possible from the poor. In contrast, Hari’s experience of poverty ennobled her. She related with ease to those less fortunate than herself, felt an affinity with them, a need to befriend them, a desire to help them.

On Hong Kong Island there was a pedestrian underpass along which people with severe disabilities and without any means would congregate and solicit financial support from passing strangers. One Friday evening I met up with her after work. She asked if I had any change and I gave her what I had. As we walked along the underpass, she would give Ravi, who was then a little over a year old, some money, and he would walk up to one of the people and give it to them. She didn’t miss a single person. The look of surprise and delight on their faces was something to behold. It was one of the most heart-warming sights I have ever seen. It was so Hari, forever seeking to reach out to others. What a wonderful attitude to pass on to a toddler.

Sacred Space

Series 34 Sacred Space – James Ricketson

Geraldine Doogue seeks powerful connection with prominent Australians through an investigation of their sacred space. Filmmaker James Ricketson talks about his connection to his home in the northern beaches of Sydney.Share

This episode was published 9 months ago.PLAYduration: 27 minutes27m

I, Uta, think this is a beautiful documentary!

James Ricketson

Australian film director

James Staniforth Ricketson is an Australian film director who, in June 2017, was arrested while flying a drone at a Cambodia National Rescue Party rally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and charged with espionage, a charge he denies. WikipediaBorn: 1949 (age 71 years), SydneyRelativesStaniforth Ricketson (grandfather)Criminal chargeEspionageEducationAustralian Film Television and Radio SchoolAwardsAACTA Award for Best FilmAACTA Award for Best Adapted ScreenplayAlan Stout Award for Best Short Film

Karla’s wish is Granted

THREE years ago, Stan Grant whisked his two sons off to live with him and his partner Tracey Holmes in China _ leaving his ex-wife Karla nearly 9000km away from her kids.

Finally, Karla will get them back for good.

The SBS Living Black host, at the centre of a messy marriage breakdown with former Today Tonight host Grant after he was caught with sports reporter Holmes at the 2000 Athens Olympics, will have boys John, 12, and Dylan, 9, back under her roof later before the end of the year.

“They’ve been away for a couple of years now. It has been tough,” Karla said yesterday.

“It’s been a great experience for them in terms of going to school, learning a whole new different culture and meeting kids from all different countries so I think it will help them in the fture.”

Karla, who presented an award at last night’s Deadly Awards, said it had been a mutual agreement with her ex-husband for the boys to join him in Beijing, where he works as a presenter for CNN.

“I’ve got custody of the kids but he asked me if he could take them over there and I thought it would be a great experience for them,” she said.

Karla also added weight to rumours Grant himself may return to Sydney with now wife Holmes and their own son, Jesse, to be closer to his family.

“He’s looking at coming back. I’m not sure whether he’ll be back for good,” she said.

Karla was joined by 19-year-old daughter Lowanna at the Deadlys, where, ironically, Grant’s father Stan Grant Snr picked up the award for Outstanding Achievement in Education for his contribution to preserving the Wiradjuri language.

Other major winners of Indigenous Australia’s highest honour included Troy Cassar-Daley for artist of the year, Anthony Mundine (male sportsperson of the year) and Jamie Gulpilil (actor of the year)

Originally published asKarla’s wish is Granted

‘Our prosperity must be compromised because it is killing us’

I copied the following interview from the above link!

“Coronavirus has forced the global economy to shrink. Is this what a more sustainable world without growth could look like? DW spoke to environmental economist Niko Paech about his ideas for a post-growth society.”


“As countries around the world slowly emerge from lockdown, many are crawling into a reality characterized by economic crisis and soaring levels of unemployment. According to the World Bank, the global economy is set to shrink by 5.2% this year, rendering this the deepest recession since World War II.

But even this historic contraction doesn’t go far enough for environmental economist and degrowth proponent Niko Paech. He argues that we need to transition permanently to a post-growth economy if we want to ensure our survival on this planet.”

DW spoke to Paech for the new series of the environmental podcast On the Green Fence.

DW: You would like us to switch to a post-growth economy because you say it’s the only way for us to survive on this planet. How do we reduce production and consumption without jeopardizing our prosperity?

Professor Niko Paech: Our prosperity must be compromised because it is killing us. It must be reduced, especially since there is no right to this prosperity. The same applies to other consumer democracies whose prosperity is the result of decades of blatant plundering. This means that by reducing prosperity we are not relinquishing something, but rather giving back the booty that we in our insolence have presumed to claim as ours.

On the Green Fence: Degrowth – is less really more?

DW: What would people have to relinquish if your concept of a post-growth economy were to be implemented?

Paech: Your question is all wrong from the outset. It’s not about relinquishing. How can you relinquish something that you’ve never been entitled to in the first place?

DW: But isnt that a question of perception? Many would argue they are entitled to this…

Paech: Hang on! I can’t just rob a bank and say I am entitled to this booty and the two dead people lying on the floor are simply collateral damage. It’s the same with the ecologic side effects of my air travel or consumption. Or let’s say you go to the doctor tomorrow and the doctor says: “You have a huge malignant tumor on your back. I’ll have to cut it away for you to survive.” Of course I’m not going to make a fuss and say: “Oh God, how can I do without this tumor?” No! It’s a relief to get rid of it. I wouldn’t mix up relief and renunciation. That is way I don’t talk about renunciation, but prefer the more neutral terms of reduction or self-limitation.

Read more: Can a minimalist mindset help save the planet?

DW: So what would this self-limitation entail for us in concrete terms? What would change?

Paech: First off, the vast majority of holiday travel by plane, cruise ship or car is simply no longer tenable in the twenty-first century. Next it’s crucial to dismantle digitalization. We will not survive in a digital world. Then of course there is consumption. We must learn to use durable goods in a way that their useful life is at least doubled, if not tripled. And we will need a major change in the agricultural sector. Meat consumption must be cut by at least two thirds. Creating more living space is also off the cards. But above all, we will need to share more at a local or regional level, for instance with neighbors sharing a lawnmower or car.

This will not only save a lot of ecological resources, but will also reduce our dependence on money and consumption. And that in turn will create greater resilience, including socio-political resilience. This means that people are no longer so dependent on their current jobs or transfer payments from the state. Instead, they become more adept at providing for themselves in networks in a more collaborative manner. But having a big clear out also means we need to dismantle things without replacing them. This is crucial.

Three sit-on lawnmowersHow much is too much?

condensation trails cross in the skyCan frequent fliers be moved to stay on the ground?

DW: Dont you think you are overburdening people here? Do you really believe this can be achieved by consensus?

Paech: No. Of course this won’t be achieved by consensus. This can only be achieved if people rise and act together by forming alliances within social niches and by creating counter-cultures with a post-growth lifestyle that challenges society as a whole. It’s never an attack on democracy to simply say no. No to air travel, no to meat, no to smartphones, no to home ownership or to some absurd new acquisition. No one can take that right away from you in a democracy.

DW: But to actually stop people from flying or driving cars, youd need very strict measures and lots of bans, or not?

Paech: There are all sorts of bans in a democracy. In Germany you can’t drive through red lights for instance. Nobody would consider this dictatorial. People often pretend that bans are not democratic. We currently don’t have a majority for this anyway. But there will come a point when people will revolt and then they will confront those are still behaving like ecological vandals at the expense of others.

Read more: ‘The time has come for humanity to go through its next evolution’

DW: Aren‘t you worried that a sustained shrinking of the economy would wreak havoc with our social systems?

Paech: Our social systems will have to be restructured, of course. We would even, in the sense of socio-political autonomy, make people more resilient. So instead of feeding the factors that people are fighting over all the time anyway, wouldn’t it make more sense to make people more independent and reduce the rivalry? The resilience I’m talking about simply means being less dependent on consumption.

DW: A lot of the change you‘d like to see would probably be hard to accept for most people right now. If you tried to give it a positive spin, what could people look forward to in a post-growth society? 

Paech: We’ve never been so free. We’ve never been so educated. We’ve never been so rich. We’ve never been so eager to assert our moral superiority at every opportunity. And at the same time, we’ve never lived in such an ecologically ruinous way. And this contradiction is eating away at us. Mental illness is on the rise. We are in the midst of a rampant identity crisis. It’s clear that the quality of life needs to be improved. We also need to reduce our fears about the future. No one can have a good life if they are constantly afraid of what the future might hold.

Read more: Welcome back greed and stress, we’ve missed you!

We also need to become more independent of markets, of technology, of money, of the state, of companies. Achieving that is perhaps the highest degree of freedom. We are not free today. In fact, ultimately, we are all puppets of a consumer dictatorship. If all supermarkets in Germany were to close for four weeks, we would become extinct, because as we grew richer we also lost our ability to satisfy our most basic needs.

Computers for sale in an electronics store
Clothing on display in a shopAre we addicted to our consumer lifestyle?

DW: Youre not just critical of consumerism and economic growth but also of green growth in particular. Why?

Paech: We have established a new religion. It’s what I would call the Church of Progress. Our faith in technology is helping us create completely new alibis and excuses. We argue that it is not really our lifestyle that is the problem but rather the fact that we still haven’t achieved the necessary technological progress. Take Germany’s energy revolution for example – it’s the perfect alibi. I can fly to the Caribbean as long as I buy green electricity. It’s all a bit reminiscent of the Catholic trade in indulgences. One could say that the air traveler’s guilty conscience is drowned in organic lemonade.

And this technological compensation logic is fueling a green economy which is setting new records everywhere, not only in Germany. But the ecologically harmful things are also setting new records everywhere at the same time. And that is no coincidence, but rather the systemic connection between eco-vandalism on the one hand and a new ecological indulgence trade.

DW: Do you have an explanation why its so hard for us to slow down, consume less, and produce less?

Paech: As long as people haven’t practiced how to reduce things they won’t be able to do it even if they have long understood that it is necessary. And we are not practiced in reducing things, on the contrary we have been collectively trained in the logic of growth. But if a society really wants to practice reduction, somebody must set an example. We need pioneers. But we simply don’t have any role models for a sustainable life.

Read more: Life after coronavirus: ‘We can shape a totally different world’

DW: Were running out of time over the climate crisis and we need a global solution. If we look to the developing or emerging countries, how realistic is your post-growth model there? Surely we cant just tell them: Dont make the same mistakes as we made! Dont grow! You mustnt reach our standard of living or the world will have a problem.

Paech: Until a country of the global North actually implements a post-growth society, there is absolutely no chance to inspire so-called emerging and emerging countries to follow suit. I believe that there is a moral duty on the part of the North, which has caused so much damage through colonialism and the subsequent industrial plundering of this planet, to take the lead. Especially since the very people who are suffering most have not contributed to the damage at all. We need to implement this as a blueprint for others. And the rest is fate. The rest depends on how crises impact on us, like corona for instance.

Environmental economist Niko Paech is one of Germany’s leading sustainability researchers and growth critics. He’s a professor at Siegen University. Paech believes that transitioning to a post-growth economy is the only way for mankind to avoid global environmental catastrophe.

Paech was interviewed by Neil King and Gabriel Borrud for the DW podcast, On the Green Fence. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.







Referring to some Observations in the recent Uta Diaries

I started yesterday morning with looking at some of my drafts and I decided it was about time that I should get rid of all the drafts that I did not need anymore. The first draft I looked at I wanted to publish rather than seeing it ending in ‘trash’. I love Di Morrissey’s books and am very impressed that she is able to write a comprehensive well researched novel every year. She wrote already 27 novels. I believe most of these are bestsellers. Here is what I found in Wikipedia:

“Di Morrissey AM is one of the most successful novelists of Australia with 27 best-selling novels and five children’s books published. Wikipedia

Here you can find out more:



And I referred to this video in yesterday’s diary:

“Jennifer Byrne presents an interview with Bryce Courtenay, Lee Child, Di Morrissey, and Matthew Riley.”


I always liked to watch and listen to the Jennifer Byrne interviews. Bryce Courtnenay’s books I used to be very familiar with over many years. I still own some of his books. Wouldn’t I like to read again and again these books: Maybe, maybe one of these days when due to the Coronavirus I am going to have lots of spare time, I am going to read, read, read!

Further on yesterday I published this item about how migrant workers had to clean up university students’ mess. So what I had observed about the life of cleaners during my long life, this is what I really had wanted to write about.

In my following diary posts I mentioned about the help that my family used to be able to afford. Some people were actually honorary helpers, like Tante Mietze who for many years lived with Peter’s family and tirelessly did all sorts of work for the family right into very old age. She was a real jewel and all the family still hold her in high esteem many years after her death.

I guess that most people cannot afford hired help any more these days, is partly because cleaners and all sorts of workers can these days demand higher wages. If for instance people employ migrant workers and try to underpay them, it is said they are being used as ‘slave’ labour.

I always had this opinion when in a family with several children both father and mother have outside well paying jobs, the wife’s salary should in the first place be used to employ some home help. Why else would a woman want to have an outside job if it did not pay enough for some home help? Now, I would very much like my readers’ thoughts on this. Please, do not hesitate to make a comment, when you do not agree with my opinion on this.

Another topic would be how do families cope these days with separation or divorce of parents, and how do wives fare then if they do not have a well paying job.