You go with Lieutenant Astill, southeast."
'The Devils' Garden'
I am enclosing a copy of a sheet note that I've penned in your
book (The Devils' Garden), for posterity sake. With the passing
of time our memories fade and new generations read about our
exploits in WW2. I quite genuinely felt that I should write
this sheet note even if only to record my regard for your work
and companionship in Bougainville. I hope you don't mind.
SHEET NOTE TEXT:
During the Bougainville campaign 'Johnno' was normally
attached to Squadron H.Q. and 'leased' out to platoons
or sections in which his role as a scout during patrols was
highly regarded. We thought of him as an individualist and his
occasional brushes with authority were, to me anyway, just a
part of 'Johnno' and quite readily accepted. After
all no one ever questioned the quality of his involvement during
patrol, when the going was tough and the body weary.
The book portrays very accurately and vividly the role of the
Squadron during active service on Bougainville. In particular,
the record of the five day patrol in which we were together
(pages 58-73) and which took us well beyond our base is very
factual and Peter has related the events of this exercise and
the restraint which at times proved difficult to maintain.
I had the task of taking out a small patrol some time later
with my mate Wal Tapsfield, and we had been absent about 3 days
when we were informed by wireless that the war was over.
Wal and I returned home within hours and all records broken.
cannot vouch for the accuracy of events performed by 'Johnno' and 'Snowy' Larter just prior to their return
to Australia as I had left the Squadron some weeks before. However
I can quite believe all that has been written about their exploits.
great work Peter.
(Lieutenant) Don Astill.
The tag in the photo reads: Japanese Banzai flag captured on Bougainville 1945 by Capt Peter Pinney 2/3 Independent company after an ambush on the Jap Track. Pinney went on to write several books of the Pacific war during which he fought in New Guinea and Bougainville with the 2/3 & 2/8 commands.
Photo courtesy of Phillip Bradley.