Jock Marshall - One Armed Warrior A Bright Sparcs Exhibitions

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The Heroic Myth

There was an extraordinary undercurrent to all this: during 1941 - probably even since 1940 - Jock had been working at being accepted by the army. The army's reaction was predictable. NO. Jock discovered there had been a one-armed sergeant in the A.I.F. during the First World War, and kept nagging them. He knew his obvious usefulness would be in Intelligence but secretly thought to get himself into action. It appeared ludicrous for an ambitious academic with only one arm. He was certainly ambitious and fully aware that it would be taking several steps backwards in his academic career. There was another complexity: he had also applied for post graduate study at Harvard University - in the USA, not then at war - but with no money behind him he would not be able to take his wife. He consulted her, and found she was 'mad keen for me to get into the Army and not go to Harvard.' It was a dilemma. He was showing an uncharacteristic ambivalence. Their marriage was working no more smoothly than had their engagement - 'It's nearly a year now since Joy and I were married. I believed after the first three months that the marriage was a mistake & that belief has developed into a certainty. Joy doesn't interest me very much - and worse still !! I don't interest her.' However, they were still playing the game.

The Army agreed to use him in Education. Unacceptable though this option appeared, he had striven for it. The A.I.F. legend was a powerful symbol deeply embedded since his childhood. He was only seven when the Great War ended, and for four of those sensitive early years it had been central to the lives of almost every family in Australia. The proportion of men who went away to fight was enormous. The pervasive news and talk was of victories and defeats, guns, returning wounded, mourning for those not returning; there was breast-thumping patriotism, rumours of white feathers sent to men who chose not to go and stories of extraordinary heroism. The atmosphere of aggression was possibly more palpable at home than in the trenches; it was easier to see war as heroism when the guns were not on one's own doorstep. Jock's father was too old to go, but his elder brother joined the Navy and there was talk of the exploits of a cousin of his father who had gone to the Boer War as a child soldier. The emotional focus of childish years receded but the idea of fighting for one's country had been well absorbed. Everything about his personality suggested he would want to have a go; and the fact that he had been baulked, for the first time ever, by authorities who insisted there was something he could not do without that arm, confirmed him in the apparent madness.

So, on November 14th, 1941 his army career began; immediately after his final exams. There was still his research thesis on the bower bird work to write up, but he expected to do that 'on the run'. The Army noted his New Guinea experience. He was given a captaincy in Army Education.

Having arrived he found himself in a thoroughly frustrating position; a state to be repeated too many times in his army career. He did not believe trying to find troops to whom he could give edifying lectures a particularly useful occupation. He was in a western Sydney suburb and thought the place an organisational shambles. It had taken him more than two weeks to get a bottle of paste or an issue of paper and he was sleeping with a respirator as pillow. On December 29th he saw Paul Laurence, a solicitor and acquaintance from St Paul's, 'saluting me smartly - I nearly fell over. He was throwing mud on tents and scraping dishes. I put in an immediate report and today he starts in as a clerk with two stripes.' It is not the report which Paul remembers, but Jock's recommendations to the astonished officer in charge: 'Mr. Laurence is a famous rugby five eighths and' - mentioning a world-famous luminary playing in the same position - 'Spong is terrified of him.' 'Furthermore', said Jock with another imaginative flourish 'Mr Laurence is an expert on ancient Hebrew law.' Sometime afterwards Paul, who declares he knew nothing about Hebrew law, became a Warrant Officer, and later he was Jock's solicitor and very good friend. They lived on different continents for many years, but Paul said: 'I probably saw Jock on less occasions than very many - probably all - my other friends, but he had a more profound effect on my life and thinking than any one of them.' After twenty one days in the Army Jock had moved to right what he perceived to be a crazy misuse of talent. Of course this could be construed as throwing one's weight around, and was; but he could not be simply an observer of mess and trouble. It was obvious he saw no God-given rights in authority. The army would be no different.

In hospital at the end of January, recovering from cellulitis of the jaw, he was still frustrated. The morning papers reported Rabaul radio silent after repeated Japanese bombing as a prelude to invasion. 'I ought to be there. I bet the Germans would have used me had I been a German.' He made up his mind to try and transfer to Intelligence. He knew his knowledge of the northern Queensland country, which the Japanese might well invade, must be useful. Singapore fell with 13,000 Australian troops taken as prisoners. His book Australia Limited had just been released, and the Army was making enquiries concerning his authorship; his scarifying look at Australian attitudes and institutions worried the top Intelligence brass temporarily. But nothing came of it.

On February 18th, the day after his 31st birthday ('I don't feel my age') he saw Colonel Powell, Intelligence chief at Victoria Barracks, and learnt that he was being suggested for a possible Intelligence commission in the Commandos. He was transferred to an Intelligence School in the A.I.F. where he learnt a great deal, though, in practical bushwork, found he ran rings around even the instructors. He was then summoned to Northern Command and given a job to make a reconnaissance of the McPherson Ranges for a possible army crossing. He was now attached to headquarters, 1st Australian Army, Toowoomba, as an Intelligence officer. Arriving at Toowoomba, a town on the tablelands of southern Queensland, he sniffed at a problem of security - 'If I had been an enemy last night or this morning, I could have eliminated the whole of the "I" staff, including the Colonels, with little trouble.' All of this diary and many passages of other war diaries are written in a code of his own devising - no doubt necessary in view of some of his remarks and confessions. One of the Colonels, Paul Cullen, remembers Jock losing no time asking to be sent behind enemy lines in the Sepik area of northern Papua. Cullen told him he could not possibly arrange this.

After making a preliminary examination of northern Queensland reports, Jock was appalled to find they lacked so much detail. He found no information on the east-west coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and the rest was sketchily dealt with. He noted a dangerous lack of information on the eastern coast of Cape York between Cairns and Cooktown. 'What if a Japanese pincer-movement clutched these areas? ... We'd know nothing about the country we'd have to defend.' Two days later he saw Colonel Wills, the commanding officer, and emphasised his concern about the lack of detailed information on the Gulf and Cape York. 'Wills listened impassively & said he realised our data is sketchy, but said he didn't propose to do anything about it until we find out what we don't know everywhere.' Jock was horrified at the thought of more inaction while he felt the need for information vital - 'Wills knows this too, but (a gem) pointed out that as we have no troops whatever to defend Cairns & higher, the result of a recce. would be a "matter of academic interest only." Jesus!!'

Unknown to Jock there was a highly secret and controversial agenda at that time not to defend the North beyond what was known as the Brisbane Line. No doubt Colonel Wills and other senior officers found Jock's incisive analysis of army information and his forthright way of putting it far too bold from a near-civilian in their eyes. But it was happening - or not happening - against a background of the bombing of Darwin, the naval battle of the Coral Sea raging off the Solomon Islands, Japanese reconnaissance flights over Townsville and enemy submarines sighted off Karumba in the Gulf.

It transpired there were many senior officers - including Colonel Wills - pushing for more information on the Gulf and Cape York. Not long afterwards Jock was called to Brisbane and then sent out in charge of a unit to reconnoitre the southern and eastern sections of the Gulf. There would be six drivers, four or five technicians, a U.S. command car and two 3-ton trucks. Jock admitted to being quite excited about it - 'a bit different from natives & boat!'


It was different but some of the local attitudes were akin to the pace of life in the jungle. While having an injured finger attended to Jock mentioned to the doctor that he'd found people strangely uninterested in army activities and the need to move fast. 'In Queensland, said the doctor 'only the emu hurries.' But the patrol needed to emulate the emu. They had to cover the huge area around the south eastern curve of the Gulf of Carpentaria. There were no roads worth mentioning and their surveyor, Sgt Eric Beach, discovered that an alarming number of points on their maps were not in accord with the landscape. Towards the end of the reconnaissance, after endless problems with maps and running over schedule, Jock remarked 'if we'd had no map we'd never have been bushed & we'd have been through by now.' It was a tough assignment, though not dangerous unless the Japanese had landed (which seemed not inconceivable after the bombing of Darwin) - but it was the sort of thing in which he revelled.

After some weeks there was a slight incident which demonstrated his style of leadership. It concerned his second in command ('I like Whitehouse more and more ... does exactly as he wants to. Rarely wears hat or boots - funny to see lieut's pips but little else') and Ogilvie ('grey haired, cheerful, talkative, typical bushman, with scientific training, Sydney B.E. behind it, a great knowledge of west & Gulf'). The green truck would take the two men out on a laterite reconnaissance which they had both been trying to dodge. Whitehouse looked like digging in his toes - 'but I made my ideas on the matter v. plain in about 3 sentences terse comment.' Both men went out to do the job with good grace. They had come up against that sense of authority which so many people felt - no nit-picking criticism but no ambivalence. He had a good rapport with the team of thirteen - 'I couldn't have hoped for a better bunch even if I'd picked them myself.' Years later Eric Beach, who was not given to much speech or exaggeration, agreed: 'We got on well. He was a born leader - knew when to slacken up and when to drive - looked after us all too.' Jock thought so highly of Sgt Eric Beach that he made a special request for him to join the next reconnaissance of Cape York.

They headed for the Flinders River whose network of tributaries finally comes together to run into the extreme south east corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria. They camped one night at Crocodile Creek 'where a ghost lives, according to old teamsters tales.' Nothing much else appeared to live except ants, flies, mosquitoes, a whistling eagle and some bustards - 'a stark desolate region of spinifex & anthills, top-rock & shining white-trunk river gums.' As they toiled through difficult trackless country, Jock noted the number of feral cats and dingos, but no foxes, which were used as the common excuse all through this country for killing a large endangered bird, the bustard - "we may as well get them as the foxes". This was not only dangerous but utterly false - 'Military exped. or not, I must get something out [i.e. published] pointing out that it is MAN, not fox, that is wiping out the Australian bustard.' Throughout his army career his ecological and zoological senses were alert and his diaries are peppered with notes on anything from the parasites on the tail region of a groper fish to the size and architectural comparisons of enormous termite mounds. He also sent specimens back to the Museum in Sydney whenever he was in a position to collect them - a rare creature or a specimen to prove an animal's range. They arrived pickled in a variety of containers and alcohols never normally seen on laboratory shelves. Once, in New Guinea, he traded a bottle of gin for the use of a jeep and bemoaned the fact that, for the first time since he joined up, he was without pickling fluid. His diaries are littered with pressed flowers (sometimes in rather bizarre attachment to descriptions of violence) and well-preserved squashed mosquitoes. He was interested in the malarial problem and thought it should be investigated in the future - 'anopheles are plentiful & we were all bitten: I dosed everybody with quinine.'

They spent some time checking the accuracy of maps. Then wishing to discover whether large numbers of men could cross the desolate salt pans and blue mud, he took most of the men on a trek to the coast. 'Left Sgt. Kelly in charge with Tommygun, primed grenades (I had to fuse 'em myself: nobody else had any experience - a ticklish job fooling with detonators with one's remaining five fingers, but I could hardly ask anybody else to do it) & a bottle of petrol to destroy the maps in the event of trouble.' There was no trouble - but nothing taken for granted. They then crawled, sweating and swearing, over 'a nightmare country of low yellowing quinine bushes', trying always to find a faint track, crossing small rivers and creeks, until they came to the Mitchell River Aboriginal Mission - 'an oasis of delight' - near the mouth of the big river. Here they were lent Aboriginal trackers to help them take a close look at conditions on the coast. After this they were invited to dine with the manager. Talk turned to the reliability of the Aborigines if there were an invasion and they found the attitude of the manager appalling - 'he says there are two he will shoot immediately an invasion begins (!) & the rest he will try & drive into the hills in front of him.' Like cattle - '& they wonder why they won't stick to them if the Japs come.'

Then they turned to survey the southern arc of the Gulf, and heard that Darwin had been in the firing line. Jock thought they might be going into 'tiger country', but the Japanese did not land and lack of petrol and time turned them around.


Back in Toowoomba he had five days to write up his report and fly to Cairns to join a long range reconnaissance patrol that was leaving to work on the other side of Cape York. This was a very different affair. Big, unwieldy; more than eighty men, seventeen 3-ton trucks and various other vehicles under the leadership of a young lieutenant who had regimental training - something Jock lacked. He was attached as adviser. Although he was senior to the Commanding Officer, knew the country and 'certainly no one but myself has the slightest conception, beyond what is written down, of what is required of such a recce' he thought he would benefit from some regimental soldiering.

They lumbered out of Cairns. As they crawled slowly north Jock mused on their extreme vulnerability to enemy attack, the vehicles taking a bashing and being clumsily unsuitable, slow and difficult river crossings, unhealthy food, a river hopelessly wrong on the map, trying to reconcile a jumble of observations and improve the inadequate and faulty map sheets at their disposal. Trucks were averaging three miles to the gallon in the tough stop-start, backing and filling country. He was constantly wondering what might happen if an enemy were waiting in ambush, and concerned at the fourteen days it had taken to cover four hundred miles. He decided to detail the reasons for this cumbersome performance in a report to Headquarters recommending 'a complete revision of all laid down principles for recce. patrols under Australian conditions.' Almost all such principles had been laid down in the light of Middle East desert work and were proving near disastrous in the equally trackless, but diametrically different, hilly, rocky, swampy, creek and river-ridden terrain of Cape York. He thought the heavy vehicles carrying heavy guns were useless because it would be difficult, if not impossible, to use such armament in these conditions. They would be 'sitting ducks' for a concealed enemy.

The whole organisation of the reconnaissance had been poor - 'faulty, almost negligible' - and this included the selection of C.O.. He appreciated this man's energy, equability of temperament and tact but felt that these qualities were not enough - a broader outlook and knowledge of the problems and requirements of the job were needed. 'By air tomorrow I propose to send a detailed criticism of the planning & size of the present show: toning down (have to really, dammit) on the poor judgement shown in selection of O.C. If he were a louse one could do one's duty & tell the truth: as it is he is a good bloke, & therefore one cannot thoroughly do one's duty. It is a queer world - an axiom to remember is that as long as people like you, you can do almost anything, or almost nothing, and get away with it unscathed.'

Several months later, in New Guinea, he had a feedback from his report to Headquarters: '[Smithy] told me an excellent story very much against myself. Laverack, Sir John O, after reading my recce-training plan (Peninsula) in which I had cracks at soldiers, M.E. people, etc., said: "No doubt many useful suggestions in this [report], but probably not as many as its author thinks there are." !! I should think he was right?'

Dissatisfied with the tedium and wastefulness of the main patrol travelling up the backbone of the Peninsula, Jock worked out a plan with the C.O. to get badly needed data to the East. With three key personnel, two vehicles and five crew he set out to try and discover what sort of landing facilities would be available for a flank attack on Cooktown. This turned out to be an excessively uncomfortable journey - the first of many. Much of it had to be done on foot, bleeding and exhausted. It was one of the most trying short trips he had ever done: 'but we now know what the country is like, what it will support, how far military landing craft can get up the Morgan, how a group of militiamen stand up to most exacting conditions (magnificently!) & other odd bits & pieces useful to army.' Surprisingly, nobody was injured 'except a log-sized fragment of twig in Lieut. Linklater's eye: easily extracted with burnt, feathered end of a wax match. (Link, by the way, tho' he was in Greece, Crete, desert & Java, is an H.Q. wallah, but tho' obviously weary, stood up to the job magnificently: must tell Col. Spry this when I get chance).' That would not have been an idle intention. Quick to criticise poor performance he was also quick to praise and take it to quarters where it would do good.

So they travelled north through terrain that was everything from fascinating to 'damned unpleasant country. And the idea of actually fighting for it is slightly absurd: much better to give it to the damn Japs & watch them slowly starve to death in it!'


At Coen Jock searched for and found a talented Aboriginal guide to take them through coastal land laced with unmarked rivers and creeks leading to the Lockhart River Mission and Iron Range, from where they would set out over the Divide. During a break in the difficult journey crossing tidal rivers Jock had a long talk with Joe Callope, the guide. It corroborated all he had heard on the Gulf side about the disgraceful treatment of the Aborigines. Callope said nothing was done to provide them with a scheme of education - although he and his wife had been lucky because they had been taught by a rare, gifted teacher: a half-cast woman at Mapoon Mission. He wanted his children to get an education too, a good one, to help them 'make something of themselves'; better than he had done - 'but, v. wistfully, he saw little chance for them. Isn't it tragic? And this is 20th Century Australia - we, who are so bloody proud of ourselves, must surely lag behind almost every other civilised country in providing opportunities for [these] people. Joe, carefully & quietly spoken, using better English than many of the Patrol, gentle of speech & demeanour, pleasant company, by no means unintelligent & with a general outlook (as far as I can see on a few hours acquaintanceship) little different from our own, is doomed from the start, & so are his family, because he is born an Australian Aboriginal. He can't vote, he can't get a drink (tho' he does, of course, when he wants it) he can't even touch the money he has rightfully earned by his honest work as a skilled tradesman (stockman). What a bloody travesty of fair play - & now the whites sneer & complain that they can't touch the natives, that they might readily cooperate with the Japs at any moment. Sure, why not?'

Unhappily, that talk would surprise no one today; even if they had never heard of the war and the Japanese as enemies. True, the Aborigines can now vote; they can drink but are often gaoled when they do; and many of the old attitudes prevail to deter them from sharing in the 'privileges' of white education, though the law says it is their right. The degredation an invasive colonizing society inflicts upon the original population will be a measure of the support they receive in times of war. After Jock's Gulf report on such degradation First Army had indicated their awareness of a possible danger should there be an invasion. In fact, when he returned to Townsville after the patrol, General Milford spoke to him at length and in particular about this problem which he considered important enough to warrant a special job to deal with it - perhaps Jock himself. 'It's a big job & I'd like to do it.' This came to nothing. New Guinea was considered more urgent.

In the meantime Joe Callope was a tower of strength in his knowledge of the country and its hidden difficulties. He warned that tidal river crossings would be bad, but Jock decided he would go forward up the coast, rather than follow the main group crossing further inland. 'I've not had a job in years with so much discomfort, but one which I was happier in - out on my own, in control of a contented, well-tried harmonious little Australian unit; & above all, doing the job as a Captain in the A.I.F., a thing which means more to me (possibly owing to the difficulties I had in being accepted) than I've admitted to anybody. In actual fact I find myself inordinately proud of the "Australia's" on my shoulder.'

They reached the Lockhart River Mission. Joe Callope went back to his job. Jock's team set off to cut a road over the range, which was meant to link the two sides of the peninsula; it would have been extremely useful in the case of large troop movements. As the war rolled away from the Cape rather than towards it the bush probably claimed back the single track that was won from it with a great deal of hard effort. They pushed it to the top ready for the link to the big Missions on the East side of the Gulf, but time ran out again. The convoy had to return to Headquarters. Jock decided the heavy patrol, with all its faults, had been far more effective than any others which, up till then, simply drove up and back on existing roads. He remarked candidly: 'And one of the reasons for this, if not the chief reason, will be the work of the small highly mobile, trained topo [topographic] & general intelligence patrol that is under my command. I'm really sure of this, with fullest allowance for my great natural conceit & belief in the surpassing excellence of anything in which I have a controlling interest.'

Back in Townsville he finished his report, indulged in some mild debauchery, celebrated Sgt Beach becoming Lieutenant Beach and took off by train for Brisbane. He then spent six days leave in Sydney before leaving for an Intelligence job in New Guinea.


New Guinea - it was six years since he had left. The man was different and the country, beneath a familiar cloak of jungle, was changed utterly by invasion. He arrived by flying boat from Townsville at the Australian Army Headquarters in Port Moresby on October 17th, 1942. 'Since I arrived I've been really busy in the most ineffectual way possible. I spend most of my time walking up and down the hill to Lt. Col. Vial's tent, & not a very interesting hill, either.' He was given on arrival what promised to be a fascinating job but rapidly found that he was hamstrung from the start. 'There are several piddling little shows, none producing anything yet, all cloaked in a hush hush atmosphere of tremendous importance.' He thought few would have had a chance anyway since there was no driving brain behind them. It was impossible to get his energy and teeth into anything; and it was all the more galling because he had turned down an Eastern Australian Naval liaison job working on the coast of Cape York in order 'to do this "urgent, important field job".'

So began three months of frustration and disillusion - although the disillusion was not complete. He had an ambivalent attitude to the army. He was a constant critic of the 'pigfriggery' and wastefulness that emanated often from sources more informed by jealousy and rank-climbing than by useful and accurate information but he had also an emotional admiration for the devil-may-care, give-it-a-go, rough and courageous image of the fighting soldier. At the end of the three months, as he was awaiting a transport south with the 6th Division, frustration was evident: 'just back from forward area after one of the few interesting experiences I've had up here. It is an odd thing that my pre-military life was packed with interest, often excitement & not infrequently danger. Then I joined the Army & except for two patrols for 1 Aust Army, I've led a dull, parasitic existence ever since.'

However, the plurality of authorities and other reasons that caused such comment gave him valuable time tied to base; useful for finishing the preliminary draft of his thesis which he thought had a lot of completely new and perhaps revolutionary work in it. But this was not enough. 'I've been biting Vial's ear for a job - L.O. [Liaison Officer] to get away from these shiny-arsed staff officers for a while ... I want to do a bit of scrapping in order to justify my pips and "Australia" if not to be able to look myself squarely in the face after the show's over.'

This theme - getting into a fighting unit and seeing some action runs through all his war diaries. It even over-rode the culmination of his other ambition - getting his degree in science. It was early December 1942. His thesis was almost finished and with two other previously published papers would go down before the final faculty meeting. '[I] should graduate BSc (Research) March next. It's the only thing I ever had to work for, that damn degree. Everything else has come pretty easily; but Sydney Univ. certainly got its pound of flesh in return for the miserable bloody thing, which, now that I've achieved it, seems hardly worth a damn in the larger scale of things.' He admitted it would be useful later if he survived, and the work had 'made the world & the universe a more real thing to me I suppose. Or the chemistry & the geology of it did anyway.' He was feeling depressed. Falling behind in the academic race began to surface as a worry whenever he was comparatively inactive.

Biting Lt. Col. Vial's ear apparently had some effect. Vial, 'a helluv a fine chap: young D.S.O.', took him for an interview with Major General Allen who commanded the 7th Division - veterans of Syria, North Africa and then the pushing of the Japanese back over the greater part of the Owen Stanley Ranges in New Guinea. Vial went in first and explained his mission. The General replied he thought him nuts to want to give a forward job to a person with only one arm. However, Col. Vial persisted citing Jock's experience with guns, exploration, the Arctic and especially the jungle. Allen still said no but decided to see this phenomenon - 'How did you wangle your way into the army?' Jock told him, and gave him an outline of his prewar and war activities. Allen appeared impressed and asked what his previous job was - 'Cutting up birds' balls!' said Jock, which brought the house down. The General decided to give him a job when his Brigades came out in a few days time. If he did the work well and the men liked him he would get a place with an A.I.F. fighting division. He was pleased, but his feelings after the interview were mixed. 'Allen has bright palish blue eyes - a hard look dumpy body (Tubby, they call him), a jovial disposition, but obviously would see through bullshit or pretence. I kept my eye on the ball during conversation, & apparently made the grade. After it was over I felt slightly degraded: that one should have to go to so much trouble in order to impress a general in order to get into a job which, tho' less congenial than those I've had, one could probably do one's best for one's bloody country.' Nevertheless Jock sensed a character near to his own spirit, and many months later there was an interesting postscript. He was commenting on the decorations which various senior officers had just received - 'Tubby Allen missed out again, of course. Apart from my loyalty to Tubby (McSmith says how when I'd got to 6 Div & New Guinea Force wanted me back Tubby said: "Fuck 'em - it's so rare that a staff bloke wants a fight: he's coming with us!") - it's just another injustice - he missed the U.S. decoration, & now this.'

A few days after talking with Allen, in late December, Jock was told that the Commander in Chief, General Blamey, was reading Men and Birds of Paradise, the book he had written on his New Guinea experiences. Later, after his posting to 6th Division, on January 11th, 1943, he got a message that Blamey wished to see him. What about he wondered? He thought perhaps some of the recommendations he'd made on the malarial problem had been passed to the General. But no - it was the book. The General was extremely pleasant about it, and Jock remarked 'so was I! & we talked about the country for half an hour.' Jock was impressed and surprised at Blamey's interest in and grasp of biological subjects and his aesthetic appreciation of such things as orchids which were a minor passion. He promised to collect some for him and to write him a few articles for Guinea Gold - 'wrote him 4 today when duty officer. Actually I liked him v. much; & he's certainly a damn shrewd old citizen.'

In view of the number of published and private references to Jock having persuaded Blamey to get him into the A.I.F., it is interesting to note the date of this talk. Jock himself was to some degree responsible - he made no attempt to correct most of the erroneous statements, partly because the truth was complicated but also because they had a good ring about them. He had, however, been in A.I.F. Intelligence for almost a year and had already been accepted for a fighting unit by Allen when he met the General for the first time. He did, on this occasion, put in some propaganda about getting forward just in case it should come before the General as the ultimate authority.

Afterwards he talked often with Blamey, both in New Guinea and Northern Queensland. Mostly he was called up to discuss some aspect of the great hinterland and particularly a small national park that the General had asked Jock to find close to Port Moresby. 'Marshall found a charming little lake, complete with water-lillies, lotus birds, dab-chicks, a sago swamp, a lonely crocodile, and even a reputed ghost' reported John Heatherington. The General liked the site despite sinking up to his waist in the sago swamp when Jock took him there. But Hetherington noted 'In April 1946, the park was taken over by the Papua Administration, which abandoned it to the jungle about two years later.'

Even after he became Second-in Command of A company in the 6th Division, Jock took the opportunity when talking to Blamey to press for the permanence of his position in a fighting unit. He was concerned that lesser ranked men with the power to remove him would do so out of their deep-rooted prejudice that no one with one arm (no matter what his record) could go into action effectively - Generals Allen and Stevens were exceptions. He mused on the effect of talking to Blamey, but had no concern for his own motives because he was not after higher rank or more money; he simply wanted to get into action. His ambition would certainly not, either financially or physically, assure his future.

So three months had passed with no exciting or significant work except for a mission dropping leaflets which he had written for the native population: messages exhorting loyalty and support. He went on a wild flight with an American pilot over Japanese held territory to drop these. They had to go in low over the jungle of the valleys and were rocked by ack-ack fire, though not hit. Seeing some Japanese heads he wondered about meeting them in less than congenial circumstances - 'apart from weary looking P.O.W.s the only Japs I have ever met have been consular officials whom I have shaken warmly by the hand!'

The Sixth Division was being withdrawn for a spell in Queensland. He was going with them. 'I will go south with mixed feelings. I don't think I really want to go - but if I got another job here it would be a seat warming one.' The thought of possible leave was a plus; his mother had been having a very hard time with his father's illness and his wife was three months pregnant.


The 6th Division went to the Atherton Tableland behind Cairns. Six months later the brigade got leave and Jock was able to go to Sydney to see his ailing father, his wife and his baby daughter, Nerida, born on July 9th, 1943. Her presence, which might have brought harmony to a seesawing marriage ('even on brief leaves, on the qui vive to avoid bickering'), failed to do so. Jock was chafing at inaction with the 6th Division and kept anger deeply coiled within; he was withdrawn, unhappy and behaved badly. Not long after Nerida's birth there was talk of divorce. Though this row subsided, it was acknowledgment of a misalliance foreshadowed years before. He wrote: 'despite Neri I doubt if we will ever live together after the war.'

The domestic upheaval went along as a sour note behind what promised to be a sour six weeks at the First Army Junior Staff School in Brisbane: 'it has all the characteristics of a medieval monastery except that there is less freedom.' He then proceeded to display the most abrasive aspects of his personality - 'forceful and strong, destructively critical mind, intolerant, unco-operative and tactless, during the course this officer was most offensive and overbearing' announced his report at the end of it, and added 'has no sense of discipline - not recommended for any staff appointment.'

He was outwardly amused - had all his friends sign the report. His inner assessment of the course was that it wasn't all loss, especially the bit that said he would not be recommended for a staff appointment. He thought he had learnt a great deal in his own way, but accurately predicted failure. He thought the instructors had been malicious in their assessment. But he had lashed out, criticised them, was bored with the course (spent as much time as he could wangle with two American Army medical friends in Brisbane) and was afraid he might be left behind if his unit went north. He heard it had begun to embark for New Guinea to go into the battle for Finschafen but had been called back by Blamey at the last minute. It was an irony that Jock was sent north briefly 'for the good of my soul' and became embroiled in the mopping up at Finschafen while the unit was left on the Atherton tableland. He did not leave, however, before the G.O.C. "Jackie" Stevens tore 'several strips' off him as a result of the report on his course. He listened to Jock's criticisms of the school but was adamant that the report was the worst he had ever seen, although he terminated the interview by wishing him 'Good luck!'

Really, the sort of behaviour Jock displayed at the school was repeated many times in a more light-hearted way whenever he was confined to an inactive role - when in hospital for instance. Twice he had been hospitalised. On the first occasion he amused himself by stealing the distinctive black shoulder "pips" of the padre in the ward, going Absent Without Leave with various young officers of the same mind and buying wine, which was restricted, ('for the Communion you know') and then settling down with wine and food behind the railway station to harangue the troops as they passed through on the trains. This probably did nothing to improve his health but it allayed frustration. He was A.W.L. the second time for more personal reasons but was constantly shocking the nursing sisters and disconcerting his ward companions. 'Living beside you is like being in the wakewash of the Queen Mary' said the young man in the next bed (the Queen Mary was a large passenger ship which had been converted to troop-carrying).

After talking with Stevens he was sent to New Guinea. The Japanese-held Lae had fallen to the Allies and Finschafen was going the same way. Jock's liaison duties took him into thick action - his dairy is almost unreadable. He returned to Australia on November 19th and was appointed to become Second-in Command of A Company in the 2/2 Battalion, 6th Division. They were tough. Their nickname was "Crime marches on". This was precisely what he had been angling for all along. But it was not the 'into action against the enemy' excitement he had hoped for. He learnt plenty about the practical side of living with and commanding a fighting unit - although it was in a resting and training mode. The 6th Division had been devastated by casualties and was now augmented by militiamen who needed the training. The only fighting Jock saw then was entirely internecine. Twice, while they waited on the Atherton Tableland behind Cairns to be called back to New Guinea or further afield, he commanded the company. The first time was through the sickness of the Commander; the second came about purely as a result of his ability to control difficult men.

A Company was certainly difficult, but Jock knew their sort. He had grown up with them. He was tough but he had a humanity underlying discipline which gave those he commanded absolute faith in his fairness. While he understood and respected the need for discipline - and loved tradition - he could disregard both when he felt the need. And he was still in tune with those anti-authoritarian instincts which were a strong element in the character of the A.I.F. - 'touchy, individualistic modern crusaders who also have all the Australian insularity & hatred of anybody who is different', as he described them himself.

"Crime marches on" brought some lighter incidents before Jock. One of them concerned a young man brought up on a charge for painting on tent flaps. Frustrated in his artistic talent, he had found so much canvas irresistible and decided to make use of it. Jock took a look, decided the crime showed some talent and let him off. This was Clifton Pugh. Cliff was delighted to be let off, but 'I was frightened then - he was my commanding officer and he was very tough. I was surprised when he rang me up in Melbourne seventeen years later.'

Jock engaged himself in enjoyment of army life and the solace of a love affair with an army nurse. His frustrations and domestic difficulties were pushed aside by the exhilarating idea of going into action with his unit. But there were ominous straws blowing from higher up the ranks. Despite having said that Jock was 'a born leader' the Brigadier was uneasy and declared 'it's a pity he ever came into the show.' No matter how they might appreciate Jock's talents, the majority of senior officers, and some junior ones, understandably could not encompass the image of a one-armed man roaring into battle doing things with guns and grenades. He was super-fit. He would have been able to out-shoot most of them; he had used guns constantly in extremely difficult circumstances over fifteen years, and could and did pull grenade pins out with his teeth. A pistol, the weapon of officers, would have been no problem to him. It is true, at reloading, which he did with the gun poked between his knees or against any other possible surface, he may have been a little slower than others, but he would have been quick with judgement and swift decision. Professor Brian Lofts, a lecturer in Jock's Department at London University in the '50's, declared his larger than life recollections of Jock included the image 'of a one-armed man rushing onto the lawn at Bart's waving a shotgun and shooting an escaped experimental bird out of a high tree, with a shot that would have been difficult to match by someone not thus handicapped.' It is probable that Jock's behaviour, whenever he was not involved in any serious action, reinforced the officers' prejudices: his maverick activities, the keeping of strange pets ( he had a baby wallaby called Gremlin and a glider possum) and social pranks verging on showmanship, masked the real sense of responsibility he showed towards the men under his control and his involvement with the serious work of training.

There was another thorn in some egos - his comparatively easy access to the ear of the Commander in Chief, General Blamey - so easy that he had dined with him and Lady Blamey in Melbourne while on leave. Though not discussed, it was obviously well-known among senior officers, as well as the fact that he was involved in giving advice on the Reserve in which the General had a great interest. 'I feel no compunction about using Tom tho' - I am not trying to get promotion. That will come - but first I want to get some soldiering.' It may have worked against him. He was quietly, and deviously, extracted from the Company as the Division prepared to embark. He was to leave for New Guinea, but was furiously stuck with Headquarters. There is no evidence that Blamey did anything to keep Jock in the fighting unit - when it came to the crunch he certainly did not save him from being plucked out of it. It was General Stevens who used him in an active role behind enemy lines.

Some time before this Jock had shown a fairly objective attitude to the C. in C., much as he liked him. The air of scandal that encompassed General Gordon Bennett and the virtual extinction of his army career after his escape from Malaya had interested Jock: 'Why was he, one of our most capable commanders, & at one stage the only one who had fought, & beaten the Jap, buried away in an arm-chair command?' He knew Blamey was responsible and thought that Bennett 'can make it extremely embarrassing for TAB [Blamey] & Curtin [the Prime Minister] if he so chooses. It all adds up to the conclusion that TAB would be guilty of gross maladministration & dangerous manipulation of competent senior officers ... except that, unlike most C. in C's he had an ample stock of tough, capable men [senior officers].'


Townsville 1944

It was October - his career had caught up with our meeting, and he was enthralling me with the telling of all this experience and adventure: the bravura of the wild streak was powerfully attractive. Indeed he was altogether powerfully attractive; touchingly tender in moments of intimacy and in his response to the beauty of scenes around us, an aspect of his personality that then and ever after was crucial to our partnership. We were both slipping into uncontrollably deep feeling and yet for quite different reasons also clutching at a strand of caution. We had no notion when we might meet again.

At this moment New Guinea was the only future. He was overwhelmingly involved with his part in that future - and the lure of action. Only two months before he had fumed into his diary: 'Jesus, what a waste of one's life! ... How long will this silly negative existence continue?' But the promise of action had swung his feeling to positive and the depth of it can be gauged from his remark: 'I would sooner command A Company of the 2/2 Australian Infantry Battalion than do almost anything I know.' It was an emotional involvement with the fighting units of the A.I.F. which I did not really comprehend at the time. I had been listening to his description of the Kokoda Trail, the cruel track over the Owen Stanley Mountain Range where the Australians had forced the Japanese back over the top. Before the trail was cold he climbed alone every foot of the way to see for himself the appalling conditions through which they fought. I listened - and wondered at such apparent masochism. Only later did the implication of his involvement become clear: it caused him to refuse twice to go to higher rank in Intelligence, and to refuse to go into a Commando Unit with his old friend Tom Harrisson, who turned up in Australia and was forming a force to drop into the jungles of Borneo. Afterwards he said, 'had I known I was to be pulled out of A Company, nothing would have stopped me from going with that madman, Harrisson.' The other important implication was that so far he had lost three years of concentrated academic work. Not being a scientist, I was only dimly aware of the consequences but discovered later how few people who made a name for themselves in the scientific field spent time away from it during the war. But any regrets he may have had were whisked away with the promise of action.

Of course there was also that other element - his one arm must prove stronger than two. Ignoring this because it was easy to ignore, and thinking uneasily about fighting and dying, I asked if he were afraid. 'No - I can honestly say no. But there's something I am afraid of if I think about it - losing my right arm.'


Aitape 1945: he was back again after nine years. It was an almost exact anniversary - January. 'The rear elements of U.S. 43 Div. are just moving out along with other US installations. The whole place looks like a brothel.' There was not much left of charming little Aitape. And Wally Hook was dead - killed by treachery. But there was no time for Jock to mourn the past. On January 4th, a few days after he arrived, a directive was sent out from Major General Stevens, Commander of Sixth Division: 'I would like Capt. MARSHALL, 2/2 Aust Inf Bn, to undertake a deep patrol to the South to gain information concerning the enemy in that area...'.

Significant action at last! - his experience with men, both white and black, and his knowledge of the country would be put to real use. Apart from one lieutenant named in the directive, Jock was able to select eight men from A Company volunteers. Each was a marksman. Within the constraints put upon him by an order to avoid trouble, except in defence of the patrol, he had wide powers of initiative in gathering information.

The patrol was named "Jockforce". On January 8th they left to cross the Torricelli Mountains into the huge Sepik Valley to feel for the Japanese flanks, get as much information about the enemy as possible and search for possible airstrip sites. Jock picked a good team of men he knew, and they were well-equipped - as much as any Australian soldiers were in that Wewak war. As they toiled behind the Papuan carriers over the range he found it was a journey into past sensations: the smells, the sprawling D'Alberti's creeper over the streams and the squelching mud of the slopes. He was determined to keep a line of reliable carriers because 'a pack takes about 90% off a man's efficiency & alertness - he is prone to put his head down on the track & not care a damn on the hills.' His own previous experience, and that of the invaluable Warrant Officer Edwards, was extremely useful in the tricky business of selecting men from villages. The danger of a Japanese nurtured Fifth Column could not be ignored.

Six days out Jock became extremely ill with dysentery. He had instituted rigid rules about not drinking from creeks and certainly had not done so himself. But there were flies and native fruits. And the Japanese, he learnt later, were riddled with both baciliary and amoebic dysentery. They had spread it everywhere they went. He was in a nightmare of fever and bloody exudation for two days.

The plane with supplies came in en route to a bombing mission. They brought it in with radio and an aldis lamp, got the vital information away and asked for supplies at Masalanga. Then, although Jock was very sick, they bolted - 'it was obvious that every Jap this side of the black stump would realise something odd was happening at Tau. The 4-5000 yds to this hide-out was one of the most harrowing experiences I've ever had, but it was necessary. Every footstep was a struggle.' He sent a spy to Apos and got a lot of information. Although still weak and dysenteric, he knew they must move the next day - and keep moving, never retracing their steps. The nearest Japanese concentrations were much less than a day away, hard going, but - 'we know how swiftly the bastards travel. The lads are fit and in great heart.' Three of the lads became unfit shortly afterwards - dysentery again. They kept going uncomplainingly as Jock had done himself. The plane drop was due - food and mail.

They turned south. The next village was polite but not effusive and Jock knew there had been trouble there before - 'only a few moons ago.' He was wary but absorbed the atmosphere: 'dusk, with all the insect noises crowding in, the snatches of boy talk, the low hum of our lads' voices & the curved yellow moon caught between oveca, pawpaw & coconut palm. And bright stars gleaming in a blueblack sky ... All night the Wogia drums have been going - "Calling up reserves?" someone suggested humorously. I gave the lads a yang-talk last night ... on today's technique. It will be conciliatory to the nth degree unless they get tough, yell and throw spears.' Conciliation worked. The villagers refused to trade but let them pass. It was a complex situation. They also came across some Indian soldiers, prisoners of the Japanese since Malaya, now fleeing their captors who had been driving them relentlessly on a starvation diet until they were ill with Beri Beri. Jock dosed them with his meagre supply of Vitamin B1 and sought what help he could. Later - 'The Beaufort boys came at 1200 hrs & dropped 4 [carrier] pigeons (& food) & medical supplies for Indians.'

After three weeks he had gathered much of the vital information requested by Division, but they were still searching for a suitable site for an emergency landing strip. He heard rumours of Japanese movement to the east of them and decided to investigate. With the next pigeon post he sent back that information. 'It's inspiring the way Div. are leaving me alone. I feel so happy I could stamp on the bloody drum - & all the lads likewise.' So in a mood of excited expectation they set off to cross the flood-swollen Bongo River. There was some hilarity in a hamlet perched above the rushing brown waters. One of the men who had false teeth took them out - 'We nearly lost half our carrier line!' said Jock. 'Wild & typical people - they started apprehensively & then cackled delightedly.'

After crossing the river with a lot of effort and some drama - two soldiers and several Papuans could not swim - they had news of Japanese nearby. There were ten of them in a twin hamlet in the area and strong rumours of "plenty-plenty 'e stop" to the south. The rumours were probably correct - 'these 10 blokes wouldn't be out so far on a limb by themselves.' He mused on the potential for disaster if the Japanese were moving a larger force across the lines of the Australian Intelligence Bureau who were trying to operate in the area. 'The whole set-up gives me excellent reasons for observing the Japs at close quarters (& if it appears necessary) to vary, as commander in the field, my op instruction re no fighting unless in self defence.' He also heard that there were three large flat patches of kunai grass between them and the hamlets, which might well be what were needed for an air strip. The elastic native term 'long-way lik lik', meaning close, kept stretching, though Jock discovered that the kunai patches existed, and were precisely what Division was looking for. This was a valuable discovery.

Finally they crept up, in the half light of moon and dawn, to the back of the village which straddled a small ridge. They found themselves in a sago swamp. This country was on the fringe of the vast Sepik River swamps. All their boots were off now - just socks. During the muddy approach Jock discovered that socked feet made less noise because mud didn't squelch between toes. He went forward with a guide and found that most of the houses were forlorn and empty but one long one was new and obviously used. The guide crept forward and signalled that he saw Japanese soldiers moving around.

And so it began - a short sharp action of 'grenades & rifle & DSMG fire into the long hut.' One Japanese was killed, others obviously wounded judging from the state of the hut, but there was no attempt by the Japanese to do other than escape and Jock was unable to follow up this action - 'a single casualty would obviously make the attack, in view of JES's instructions, inexcusable.' However, the element of surprise and the fact that the Japanese would have no idea of the numbers involved had almost certainly removed an immediate threat. Back at their previous base Jock sent off two pigeons bearing a duplicated brief report of the fight and its result. 'Our sole casualty was a chip from one of my front teeth - an obstinate grenade pin.'

The most important thing after this was tea. Then considerations of returning. With the exception of the Lieutenant 'nobody wants to go back.' But Jock knew they would be ordered to return; there was action elsewhere. And so it was. The plane was very late and the drop of supplies inadequate, but they were ordered to come out. It was many days march and they were seriously short of food. Food was scarce in the villages too. Jock worried about their faithful and reliable carriers. But there were more important things to worry about.

They had been ordered to Musendai and as they approached he received a note from a platoon commander which presaged trouble: he was withdrawing because his spies informed him there were at least 70 Japanese very close indeed. Jock sent his cargo line ahead with the platoon, but "Jockforce" went to investigate the rumours. They found them accurate - there were at least 100 of the enemy judging by signs at their last camp, only just evacuated. Now satisfied by personal investigation he sent off the information by pigeon. A little later they heard the sound of fighting, and later still as they moved on, got messages that the Japanese were in strength in the area. They then came upon and became embroiled in a fight which had begun by the River Nanu when a company of Piper troops had been ambushed there. Jock put his small force at the disposal of the Company Commander. Four men had been hit badly, one seriously wounded. "Jockforce" had a fierce and busy time but suffered no casualties themselves. Jock then had to move on. He organised to get the wounded out.

One Japanese prisoner was sent along as well. 'An interesting note on the A.I.F. infanteer - which I've commented on previously. Both Piper troops & ours would have murdered the Jap prisoner out of hand had they got the chance - even though they've been TOLD, & TOLD again, how vital they are for ops - that this bloke would be able to say, e.g., whether his party were just wandering & starved - or moving up for an attack on SAMUSAI - here ... For their mad unreasoning & quite bestial attitude they gave the excuse (1) Cobbers killed (2) They'd do the same to us! Primitive "Kanaka" reasoning of course, of the worst kind. They strongly disapproved when I gave the wretched skinny creature a cigarette! And the toughest & best of the wounded blokes deliberately spat on the stumbling Jap as his stretcher passed [him] - our blokes were all vastly amused & approving.' Jock's admiration for the troops stopped a long way short of glorification.

Back in Aitape Major General Stevens congratulated Jock and all the men - 'Everybody has been most cordial & complimentary.' But soon Jock was evacuated to hospital with positive tests for amoebic dysentery. Hardly surprised, he suffered the long treatment philosophically. He wrote a lot: acerbic, amused or sad comments on the fighting in which his previous company were involved, the deaths of men he knew, the general conduct of the action, the loss of planes and crew, the Americans' fear of jungle, his thoughts on power politics in and out of the army, inefficiency and gossip. Still in hospital, on May 8th, he recorded the lack of excitement at the end of the war in Europe. Out of hospital he was in action of another sort - putting down a riot in the Detention Barracks. Then, on July 15th, he was sent away at forty eight hours notice to report to Z Special in Brisbane. But the war with Japan came to an abrupt end with the bombing of Hiroshima. He immediately applied for discharge.

Jock Marshall: One Armed Warrior by Jane Marshall
Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 25 February 1998
Comments or corrections to: Bright Sparcs (
Prepared by: Elissa Tenkate

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