|Regimental Sergeant Major H 'Tommy' Atkins
Tell me about the Far East...tell us about one of the hardest [moments] you encountered.
From start to finish, quite honestly, it was a very big slog. We·were going into unknown territory, we were going to perform tactics and an exercise, for the want of a better word, that we had not experienced in any way, shape or form. This included 3 months training period where we lived in the field, we never saw a bed for the next, say, 6 months wouldn't be exaggerating it. Where you stopped for a night, that's where you laid down and you might have had the luxury of a blanket with you and you put that over you and covered your head and whatever and you get a night's sleep that way, but from the actual operation when we set off it's beyond anybody's imagination, I think, to take in, even by describing it. We carried everything on our back and it weighed something like 70lbs in weight and that didn't include your rifle or your ammunition and little bits and pieces. When you think that then you're facing, the very first days we were facing climbs of anything up to 3-5,000 feet which went on for the next 3 weeks at the least. Climb, climb, climb, you'd get to the top of a jungle crest and you'd think, "Thank God I've got to the top of that", almost on your knees, almost, and you'd get to the top and when you look up there's another bloody great mountain in front of you there. You're gate crashing through jungle all the time, there might be a little pathway been made or we had to cut our way through, or the leading troops were cutting through and making way for the mules to get through. In the initial days they cut steps, this is how steep it was, they cut steps in the mountain by the sappers and put bits of trees along the front, what do you call them, the lips of the steps, but the mules broke them down because it just piddled down with rain the whole time, and when I say piddled down, it really did come down as it can only do in that part of the world.