Please support the Ukraine appeal in episode 80. 65 donations to date - Thank you!
March 27, 2021

65 Leslie Cook Part 2 - Greece WW2

65 Leslie Cook Part 2 - Greece WW2

Stop Press: Great Escape family tale by Canadian Alfred B Thompson, see pic above.

Part Two - Circa 1941 Greece adventures, plus an exclusive family story about the Great Escape!

Feedback/reviews - Thank you. 

Twitter page

Facebook page

YouTube channel - Loads of my own videos - Dunkirk Mole, Gold Beach, much more ...


Royal Indian Navy mutiny:  


New Links page for researchers etc:


Military History guide:


Alfred Thompson’s account of his Great Escape experience in the Toronto Sun:

Youtube video of an interview with a Canadian author, Ted Barris who has written a book on the subject of Canada and The Great Escape.


Joël Stoppels Battlefield Tours Facebook page

Or on Instagram for more pictures and stories


Alfred Burke Thompson WW2 Great Escapee No 53, Canadian





Interested in Bill Cheall's book? Link here for more information.

Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg, hardback, paperback and Kindle etc.


Jim Bracato - Community is Springside2 at Seneca Hill


"The Aussies got there in the nick of time to eliminate the threat [of the Japanese destroying the harbour].
Mostly swimming through the oil. Pic from the Aust War Memorial


More Aussie action


Alfred Burke Thompson - Great Escape POW - Canadian


Boxing in Stalag Luft III - Alfred Thompson on right.


Heyford plane


Training Accident


Joel Stoppel's Battlefield Tours - Blame the Germans!

Back in the trenches, back to the rain, back to the dry day of the week, back to the mud up to your ankles. Some days we lie in the mud and the warmth of our bodies keeps the mud soft, while the cold wind hardens the ground around us. During the day we cannot move because we are in full view of the Germans. We sit still and wait, report and look forward to the results of our mortar and cannon fire. We eat twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Food is brought in along a muddy path and the transport is guided by bursts of fire from the enemy, who knows our customs. We pass the food from slit trench to slit trench, so much of this, so much of that, extra for those who were on patrol last night. We try to keep rain from falling on our bread and keep the mud out of our food cans. We blame everything on the Germans, dirty food, cold and wet feet, dead fingers dirty with rifle grease, crawling through the trench with empty food cans. Strange men, those Germans...

Canadian lieutenant Donald Pearce, North Nova Scotia Highlanders, Nijmegen (Netherlands) 12 December 1944.

(See show summary for links)


Victor Weisser's display in dedication to his forbears.


Show transcript - second world war podcast

Fighting Through Podcast Episode 65 Leslie Cook Part 2 - Greece etc WW2

More great unpublished history! WWII


Intro Passage 1

We were on a long down-hill run approaching a small village when the slope of the road suddenly increased and the truck started to get away from me.  There was a sharp turn in the road just before it entered the village and it was apparent, even to my inexperienced eye that unless I could slow that truck we were not going to be able to take the turn.

Intro Passage 2

An unknown officer started ordering the men to get off, but when this failed he drew his revolver shouting, "I'll shoot the first man who doesn't get off the barge"


Intro Passage 3

We’d been away about two months when one young soldier, who had been married when he was on final leave, received a letter from his wife informing him that he had just become a father.


It had been more than eighteen months since we had left Australia, and it was obvious, even to the least experienced of the rest of us, that something was wrong. 

Intro Passage 4

Hitler demander that all the escapees from the Great Escape be murdered - a violation of the Geneva Convention as well as a war crime.  My Canadian granddad found himself before the Gestapo defending himself from accusations of being a saboteur.




Hello again and another warm WW2 welcome to the Fighting Through second world war podcast. 

I’m Paul Cheall, son of Bill Cheall whose WWII memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword – in Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg.

The aim of this podcast is to give you the stories behind the story. You’ll hear memoirs, and interviews of veterans in all the countries and all the forces. I dare you to listen!

And I just want to add – aren’t we having a brilliant time with this show.

Today I’ve got the next instalment of Australian Les Cook’s amazing memoirs. This Episode he’s in Greece and beyond.

I know you’ve waited longer than usual for this episode, so first and to get right back into the swing of the Fighting Through World War 2 podcast, I’m going to share an absolutely cracking story about an escape attempt by a Canadian POW sent in by listener Jesse Beauchamp.

Straight in - Family stories 6 – Jesse Beauchamp

The great escape is one of the war’s escapades which is written in folklore, so to uncover a story for my podcast is just great. Here’s Jesse Beauchamp from Canada.


Hello Paul,


I want to share with you the story of my Grandfather, Alfred Thompson who was the first Canadian POW of WW2 and still has the dubious record of being Canada’s longest captive POW.


In 1936 my grandad, being bored with school, went to England looking for some adventure and joined the RAF.  He was a member of 102 Bomber Squadron and served as a pilot flying the Handly Page Heyford, a huge open-cockpit bi-plane bomber! (Listener, copious Pics on the web site for this episode 65) By the time the war broke out the squadron had transitioned to the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, a first generation monoplane bomber. 


On the night of Sept 8-9 1939 my grandad and his navigator set out on a mission to drop propaganda leaflets deep inside Germany and a demonstration of the RAF’s reach.  The Tiger radial engine which powered the Whitley was notorious for failure and indeed did fail on that night forcing the crew to bail out. 


They were promptly captured and brought to the authorities.  Being so early in the war the POW’s were a bit of a curiosity and my grandad being Canadian was even more so - particularly as Canada would not declare war on Germany for a few more days.  Being a curiosity, grandad was brought before Herman Goering who joked that the sound of the bombers engines had got him out of bed that night.  Goering also suggested that perhaps they could make a hockey rink in the POW camp where grandad was headed.


Eventually grandad found himself in Stalag Luft III where he took part in the construction of the tunnels as well as the escape itself (# 53 through the tunnel) which became known as “The Great Escape”, the biggest escape in modern military history.  He was recaptured after a few days of being on the run, as most were, but the search for the escaped POW’s drew thousands of soldiers away from the fight in order to search for the escapees and represented a not-insignificant contribution to the war effort.


As we know, Hitler demander that all the escapees be murdered - a violation of the Geneva Convention as well as a war crime.  His subordinates talked him down to executing 50 of the 73 to make an example.  To this effect my granddad found himself before the Gestapo defending himself from accusations of being a saboteur (of course Hitler’s orders were unknown to granddad or his comrades at this time). 


As a defence during interrogation, grandad relayed that he had met Goering and that Goering could identify him as a POW not a saboteur.  It was my grandad’s belief that it was this information that kept him from being murdered - the fate of his comrades was unknown to him at this time.  I believe my grandad felt strong survivors guilt over this for the rest of his life.


Upon his liberation he returned to Canada but returned to Europe in order to testify in the war crimes trial of the perpetrators of the Great Escape murders. 


He later went on to marry, become the Crown Attorney for Simco-Grey Ontario as well as the mayor of Penetanguishene (PENNER TANG WISHEEN), Ontario.


I’m immensely proud of what grandad accomplished, both during and after the war.  To emerge from such a horrible experience and still have the fortitude and ambition to dedicate your life to public service is an amazing example of perseverance.


Thanks for the great podcast!


Jesse Beauchamp


On the web site I’ve posted up a youtube video of an interview with a Canadian author, Ted Barris who has written a book on the subject of Canada and The Great Escape.

In the show notes, there’s also a link to a great Toronto Sun story of Alfred Thompson’s account of his experience.


Jesse - Thanks so much for getting in touch with this incredible story. What a tale!


And I loved the irony of Goering’s involvement. 


What tops the whole thing off for me, is the fact that the Canadian military were volunteers. What a fantastic testament to the quality of Canadian character.



Show News

As if right on cue for this news section, someone wrote in “I really enjoy your podcasts and i noticed you have not posted in a while.  Is everything ok? Will you be posting more in the future? Regards, Wes in the USA. Wes thanks for caring and all is OK.


I am so sorry it’s taken so long to release this episode, but the prime reason is that I’ve had to completely rebuild the web site on a new platform because the previous platform was beginning to fail, really badly, so I had to bite the bullet and move. The good news is that we now have a spanking new web site to host the podcast so if you take a look at you’ll find all the usual features with loads more photos, a book shop with all the books mentioned in the show, and a museum with links to background info and photos on all Dad’s comrades, plus pics of all Dad’s souvenirs, such as the shrapnel that wounded him, Arthur Oxley’s shell blasted cap badge, much more.


And on mobile, you can actually listen to the show while you browse the show notes or even check out your emails, what’s not to like?


And if you buy anything at all from amazon through one of the bookshop links, I will get a small commission which will help towards the costs of the show – but you won’t pay extra for the item.


Rebuilding that web site isn’t all I’ve been working on though – I’ve been reading a couple of memoirs that you the listener have sent in – one from Heidi about her father as a German child soldier and another from Sue whose father was a Green Howard. I’ve also conducted a couple of interviews which will wind their way into the feed at some point. So some more really great material in prospect, once we’ve enjoyed Les Cook’s awesome Australian adventures. In fact it’s going to be even better than great – cracking is the word I’ll use.


Steven Ginn has generously put a sponsorship of the show through on Patreon. If you want to follow in his footsteps, follow the Donate link on the new Fighting Through Podcast WW2 website.


And a new alternative way to support the show is a Buy me a Coffee banner you’ll see splashed around the web site – it takes paypal and other things. If every listener gave me just a dollar once a year, I’d be smiling from ear to helmet strap as those funds do help to cover the costs of running the show. Listener, this podcast needs you!




The following people kindly left show reviews in various places:

All of these are from UK




CharZhao CharJow

Dean Hayton

Craig Elsner –

Russell Corfield – a big Wilf Shaw fan



Then, Josh From Minnesota

Rdsd from US

Ashley Stargel from US

SueP from Australia

And Harry Bowler sent in an offer of some stories he’s compiling about his Royal marine grandfather. “I have a selection of photographs, of the desert and - - - some undeveloped negatives which I'm not sure what images are contained upon them.” Oof my word! Keep us updated Harry. I can’t think of anything that would be more exciting than finding some long lost negatives of my Dad’s and wondering what’s on them. But I certainly feel lucky to have so many photos of Dad and his pals to help bring meaning to the various stories we’re hearing. You’ll find all the photos in the museum on – oh – did I tell you I’d built a new web site!?




Dr Dorian Thorpe wrote in …

I adore your podcast mate. I’m an Aussie but my grandad was at Dunkirk and later with the British commandos. My great uncle Harry piloted over 50 missions in a Lancaster. The family was from Salford in Manchester. My grandad was not a 10-pound Pom but gained free passage to Oz after the war due to his war service.
Paul’s laidback gentle delivery makes you feel like you are there. This is quite a unique podcast and very detailed. Paul’s laconic delivery feels like someone chatting with you in a bar. But imagine that bar is in Dunkirk in 1940 or Normandy in 1944. This is a special podcast for fans of 20th century history.

Great work and more Aussie yarns please mate. Looking forward to part 2 of Les Cook’s diaries. Loved his yarn of him standing up to the platoon bully over the coat hanger.

Yes I loved that one too – that’s why it went in the PS. Big message for any youngsters who are listening,



I thought I’d mention that one now because I’ve got some of Dorian’s stories to come later on in this episode. But I had quite a fun email interchange with him about what a ten pound pom was. Of course it wasn’t a derogatory Aussie term for a weakling Englishman but was someone who emigrated to Australia for the price of £10 back in the day. But don’t you just love the friendly rivalry amongst the English speaking nations, despite our occasional differences, we love each other really!


Thank you guys, for your kind words, all of you




 Family stories 1 Joel

Joel Baker from Iowa wrote in “about my great grandpa who served in the pacific theater in ww2. Unfortunately, he has passed away, but he left behind this neat little story. 


He was part of a red cross convoy and manned a .50 cal machine gun on some convoys. On one particular trip, they had a load of donuts. And as they were driving along, they were stopped or ambushed by some japanese soldiers. But the soldiers were so interested in the donuts they completely ignored my great grandpa, and he was able to escape!


My grandpa also has service history, but that is in Vietnam which is not such a prevalent thing for you in the UK. However, my grandpa still struggles emotionally with some of the things he has gone through almost 50 years ago. However, he sincerely appreciates the honor and respect that he has gotten in recent years from family and others around the globe. 


This just makes me appreciate what you are doing to promote and honor service members. Those who fought so that we might be free. 


Joel thanks for that – and I will add that I am happy to receive memoirs from any theatre of war – obviously the Fighting Through Podcast will always revolve mainly around WW2 but my goodness if any one has any family history memoirs to share from Vietnam, Falklands or even Waterloo that would be a real treat and I would gladly share it. In saying that I do try to use all the material I’ve been sent and I always acknowledge receipt but do forgive me that sometimes I’m gradually collecting some stories so I can put them out together under a common theme.



Feedback 1

Bit of show follow-up to share with you now:

Victor Weisser from Oakland, California featured in episode 56 with various war stories about his uncles. And he’s written in with a follow up about a vintage radio his Uncle Lou was given after whilst recovering from wounds in hospital.

Long story cut short – and it’s a good one so worth the hearing the brief gist of it again.


Back in episode 56:


“Uncle Lou was serving on a ship sent in convoy to Murmansk, USSR.  

One night the convoy was attacked by U-boats and Lou’s freighter was hit by at least one torpedo which hit right in the bulkhead separating the engine room from another compartment and water started pouring into the engine room unimaginably fast.  All Lou could remember was that he and his best friend were trying to climb up the ladder leading from the engine room to the next higher deck, but the water was coming up faster than they could climb.  The ladder seemed to go on forever, but he and his buddy just made it out in time and jumped into the freezing water.


Luckily Lou was rescued but the next night, the new ship he was on was itself torpedoed and sunk.  He eventually got back to the USA and was in hospital with serious injuries for more than a year.  Upon his release he was given a Hallicrafters radio receiver as a memento from the hospital staff.


OK that’s us up to date.


I recently heard again from Vic:


Dear Paul-


Following episode 56 you encouraged me to try to find a WWII era radio receiver similar to the one, long lost, given to me by one of my uncles.  Well, that quest ultimately was completed, and I used the Hallicrafters SX-28 as the centerpiece of a memorial and added a few other artifacts I collected to honor my three ancestreal role models. I thought you might enjoy a look at the final product.  IMO it does a pretty decent job of reflecting the stories I sent to you for Episode 56.


My search for the radio receiver ended up reviving my interest in ham radio, so I studied and took the FCC exams for both a technician and then general license and now I’m K3VIC.  I’ve already had great conversations with fellow hams in over 50 countries including many in your fine land.  


Ham radio has become a great way for me to talk to people in far off lands now that I am no longer able to travel the world as I did before the Covid pandemic shut everything down.  Frankly, it’s helped keep me semi-sane.


So I want to express my deep sense of gratitude to you for catalyzing the start of this project which over the past months became increasingly meaningful for me.  


Keep safe and stay well,



Well, LMAO, Vic that beats everything. Great to hear your story.


That display you created features a WWII era radio receiver, an authentic WWII flyer's helmet and radio headset, plus two real and beautiful silk Army Air Force silk escape maps (expertly framed by daughter Deborah!) similar to those used by Nat which he gave you in 1956, and a real WWII civil defense helmet to symbolize your dad’s service during the war. 


I’m posting the pics Vic sent me in the shownotes, so if you’re listening on your mobile, you can browse the shownotes as you listen. We’re on episode 65.


I’m pleased the Fighting Through Podcast WW2 directly led you to resurrecting your radio skills. How poignant is that! TFS Vic – or K3VIC if you’re a radio ham.




Feedback 2



CJB122 USA posted a review in apple.

Amazingly Interesting he says.

I am only ten years old, but out of attending so many online college lectures, listening to so many podcasts and reading an astounding number of books on WWII I think that this is the most heart-warming out of all of my materials.  


Thanks CJB – I’m so pleased the podcast is working for you that way and I hope you’re always interested in military history.



Thanks to you and everyone who posted.



Family stories 4 - Dr Dorian Thorpe from Australia

Catching up with Dr Dorian Thorpe from Aussieland

My maternal grandfather fought the Japanese in Borneo. In the 80s, I recorded his story on cassette tapes but in my many moves over the years have lost them (groan). He was in the 2/13 field company engineers.

On arriving in Tarakan, the Japanese had flooded the harbour with oil in order to burn the Australians alive as they landed in the oil rich country – rubber and oil was one of the prime reasons Japan went to war, as you know. (I didn’t actually)

But oil on water isn’t as easy to burn as you might think, Pop said. So the Aussies got there in the nick of time to eliminate the threat. Mostly swimming through the oil, I believe. Can you imagine?

As aforementioned, my paternal great uncle and grandfather were from Manchester. Great Uncle Harry piloted the Lancs and my grandfather was at Dunkirk – where he saw his best mate’s head blown off by a Stuka.

Grandad later joined the commandos to keep the fight going. He wasn’t creeping up on Germans with piano wire or anything as dramatic as that but simply drove trucks and torpedo boats across the channel. Stressful nonetheless. Not like driving the Manly Ferry, I’d imagine.

A couple of times his torpedo boat was blown out of the water and he had to be picked up in the Channel with his fellow commandos. In a spooky coincidence, Nan said she knew this because in a séance (quite popular in the war, I believe – thousands of sudden deaths might do that) the Ouija board told then “dad was in the water”. Who’d have thunk it?

Unlike your dad’s post-war life, my grandfather was quite mentally scarred from Dunkirk. What you’d call PTS these days, I guess – though we didn’t have that term back then. He became an alcoholic post war in the UK. So Nan, in her infinite wisdom, brought him out with their young family to Australia to get away from his heavy drinking.

Well, if you’ve ever met my fellow countrymen you’d know that’s like sending Dracula to the Blood Bank. He fell into heavy drink as soon as he landed and deserted the family on the migrant hostel – where they lived in poverty for nigh on 10 years. Should have stayed in Manchester.

So like many Aussies, a little part of me is British. So is my wife. We are addicted to UK TV and BBC history podcasts. And both with British fathers (her dad was a British Sargent in the Malaya War in the late 40s), my wife and I have British passports. When I visited London for the first time in the 90s in my flipflops and wide hat, the customs officer said, “welcome home”. To which I replied, “it feels like I never left.”


Feedback 3 Jim Brancato

Jim Brancato Upstate New York

I work as a part time handyman at a local retirement community where the residents are aged 80 and up.

I still have the privilege to be able to converse with a few WW2 veterans that are in their 90s where one fought at Guadal canal and the other was a torpedo man.

Love what you're doing here and thank you for keeping WW2 alive. I’m going to try and set up my WW2 vets to tune into your podcast. Thanks again, Jim

The Community is Springside2 at Seneca Hill.

Jim thanks for that - So if the folks at Springside Community home are listening – bless you all and thanks so much for your service.

And Jim thanks for your service to the community home. There’s a photo of the community folk on the web site.


Family stories 2 Albert Goldstein

Family Tree

Hello Paul I love your pod cast I was wondering if you know a way for me to find out more info on my great grandpa he fought for the 3rd division under Patterson his name is Albert Goldstein from Chicago Illinois - He fought in battle of the bulge.

Brandon Jordan. USA

Brandon. If your Great Grandpa fought in the Battle of the Bulge then all credit to the memories I

It was Brandon’s enquiry and indeed others, that prompted me to make a page on the FTP website dedicated to research support so if you go to my home page and click on the Links item on the menu you’ll find lots of convenient links to help, particularly some which will point you in the right direction for applying for service records in both UK and USA. And if anyone has any other useful links which could be added, do send them in.


Family stories 3 Mark Redmond

What an amazing podcast Paul, had me hooked from the first episode. My grandfather served in New Guinea and luckily returned home safely. I own a boxing club in Brisbane, Australia and often put the headphones on and listen to your podcast while I'm training.


While my grandfather was fighting in New Guinea my wife’s grandfather was fighting in the Italian army in North Africa. Two former enemies whose bloodline would eventually mix 40 years later. They would never meet but I bet they would have loved each other’s company. I love stories like this. It’s a crazy world but good things do come from darker times.

Mark Redmond 

Bravehearts Boxing

Hey Mark thanks so much for this story. And here’s a pro tip for you – listen to the Fighting Through Podcast, while you’re hauling horses, driving, reading meters, or pumping petrol, but hey do not have yer ear phones on when you’re boxing or you might end up with a couple of cauliflowers either side of yer head!


Family stories 5 – Manish Mehta

Manish Mehta from India wrote in to say how much he enjoyed the show.

I don’t really have a war story as such to tell, but a story I would still like to share.

My father was doing his last year of studies in Bombay (finishing as a doctor), when the Indian Naval mutiny took place, just after the second world war had ended.

And Manish gave me a link to Wikipedia which tells us:

The Royal Indian Navy mutiny or revolt, also called the 1946 Naval Uprising, was an insurrection of Indian naval ratings, soldiers, police personnel and civilians against the British government in India. From the initial flashpoint in Bombay, the revolt spread and found support throughout British India, and ultimately came to involve over 20,000 sailors in 78 ships and shore establishments.

The mutiny was suppressed by British troops and Royal Navy warships.

I think that was the beginnings of the Indian continent striving for independence from British rule.  

My father told me how he and other students participated in taking care of the wounded sailors. So he in his own way did participate in us throwing off the british chains. Nothing personal, but still it meant a lot to his generation.

Well, welcome, Manish, that’s a first for feedback from India! Wow, get you, Fighting Through Podcast - Torquay today, Taj Mahal tomorrow!


War stuff 1

Survey Stuff

Thanks to those of you who’ve clicked on the menu link for the Survey, such as David Hatfield recently. David you said you enjoyed the German stuff in particular – so hang on because we’ve got some more great German material in preparation with passages from an unpublished boy soldier memoir.

One anonymous respondent asked if I could make things clearer about SHOW NOTES – and can I make a section called that so people can find all the items in one place, whether on podcast or web. Well, fair comment but it’s always a challenge with show notes because the various podcast players treat things differently and they don’t always display photographs and links.

Anyway with the new web site I hope things are a little clearer, all you have to do is keep scrolling down and you’ll come to everything I’ve posted. So photo collections and the transcription of what I’ve said will be there. Not forgetting the helpful research links, the bookstore and … roll of drums … the new Museum with a rapidly building collection of war souvenirs and news.

Another youngster wrote in via my listener survey – found on the top menu on the website by the way.


I’m a 14 year old boy in Oregon, USA. I’ve had a love for learning historical things from WW1, WW2, to present day wars. I love your podcast because it helps me not get bored while building WW2 models. (I have a Tiger 1 tank model right in front of me that I’m working on) I also love it because it helps expand my knowledge of what I enjoy learning!

Bye bye for now, Ethan


Thanks Ethan



War stuff 2 Sky

Richard Rippon answered the survey. And He included a rather poignant comment.

He said: “PS – haha -  During the war my mother lived in a wooden bungalow near Ramsey in Cambridgeshire England and has an American army cheese grater given to her by soldiers who were based in the local woods during the lead up to D-Day - it still works.

Don’t you just love a good Segway …it takes me nicely to this:

World War II treasure hunters is a new TV program on sky history for those who can get it!

WW2 Treasure Hunters pairs Britain’s foremost amateur WW2 detectorist with pop group Madness frontman Suggs (Baggy Trousers etc), as they uncover historical finds from across the UK. The series will see Suggs and expert, Stephen Taylor, bring forgotten stories of World War Two back to life by unearthing artefacts from former military sites across the UK.

It is what it says on the can, and I’ve just watched the recovery of a crashed Junkers 88 bomber off the English coast. It crash landed near Liverpool during the war and took 20 years to locate – guess what they found – oof my word! And in the time it’s taking me to get this Episode out I’ve just seen another Episode where they go digging around a wartime rubbish dump at Duxford air museum in England – and amongst the old bullets and bin litter they find a spoon – not any old spoon either – what a great bit of history is connected to it. And Suggsy only gets to fly in a Spifire. And in Episode 3, you’ll see a very rare tanks being dug up and find out that the British Home Guard were actually quite a tough bunch of desperados ready to take on the Nazis on home territory and do whatever it took to defend our island from invasion. And the brave Canadians got a mention for their role in this.

That’s UK Sky TV where you can get it. World War II treasure hunters.






War stuff 3

Back in the trenches, back to the rain, back to the dry day of the week, back to the mud up to your ankles. Some days we lie in the mud and the warmth of our bodies keeps the mud soft, while the cold wind hardens the ground around us. During the day we cannot move because we are in full view of the Germans. We sit still and wait, report and look forward to the results of our mortar and cannon fire. We eat twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Food is brought in along a muddy path and the transport is guided by bursts of fire from the enemy, who knows our customs. We pass the food from slit trench to slit trench, so much of this, so much of that, extra for those who were on patrol last night. We try to keep rain from falling on our bread and keep the mud out of our food cans. We blame everything on the Germans, dirty food, cold and wet feet, dead fingers dirty with rifle grease, crawling through the trench with empty food cans. Strange men, those Germans...

Canadian lieutenant Donald Pearce, North Nova Scotia Highlanders, Nijmegen (Netherlands) 12 December 1944.

Found on Joël Stoppels Battlefield Tours Facebook page

Thanks Joel (pronounced with a soft J) Stoppelle as in Stop.


Main event

Last Episode we had an introduction to Les Cooke’s war. Australian Leslie Eric Cook was in the second 14th. And he served in Greece, Crete, Kokoda (the New Guinea Owen Stanley campaign), Borneo and in the occupation forces in Japan.

He has written many stories of his war experiences, mostly on the lighter side.


Last Episode we heard about the harrowing experiences of Cpl John Metson stranded in the jungle, rounded off by Les’s memoirs with a story about bullying:

I’m not going to read the whole thing again but to get your brain into gear I’m just going to repeat the end:

“I had been sitting in the barrack room with my rifle across my knees cleaning the last remaining grease from it with a cloth. I had only recently turned seventeen and was slightly built so I was not going to get involved in a fist-fight with this man over a coat-hanger.  I grabbed the rifle and, holding it like a club, I stepped out of the tent ready to swing.  The rifle weighed about 4 kg.


His face lost some of its colour, and, with doubt in his voice, he said "You wouldn't hit me with that would you?"  I replied "My oath I will - you're twice as big as me.  I'm not going to tackle you with my bare hands."


He made an attempt to laugh the whole thing off saying "I was only joking - can't you take a joke?" and that was the end of it.  He continued to bully others after that, but he left me alone.



We’re now going to move on to circa 1941. I’ve done my best to put all these stories in order but please forgive me if I get out of synch occasionally.


Before I crack on I need to give you just a bit of background to what the Aussies were doing in the location of choice for this Episode.






In October 1940, the Italian Army invaded from Albania.


The Greek Army was able to halt the invasion temporarily and was able to push the Italians back into Albania.


Anticipating further attacks, Australian troops arrived in Greece during March 1941, and took up defensive positions alongside British, New Zealand and Greek units.


But the outnumbered Allied force, weren’t able to halt the Germans when they invaded a month later, so they had to retreat. They conducted a fighting withdrawal and naval ships evacuated them at the end of April.


The 6th Division suffered heavy casualties in this campaign, with 320 men killed and 2,030 captured


The exiled Greek government formed armed forces of its own, which fought alongside the British in the Middle East, North Africa, and Italy.


Greece was liberated in October 1944.


The country was devastated by war and occupation, and its economy and infrastructure lay in ruins. Greece suffered more than 400,000 casualties during the occupation, and the country's Jewish community was almost completely exterminated in the Holocaust.



So what did Les get up to?

This first story is early 1941 and entitled Boots.


Round up

Well, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun! That’s it for now,

There’s a PS coming up to round things off – quite a scary story about someone nearly buried alive – literally …

But I’m going to crack on now and continue recording for the next episode and I expect it to be out pretty soon. If you can familiarise yourself with the new web site menu I’d be grateful – there’s lots to see which will increase your enjoyment of the show.

Thank you so very much for your support and for making the time to listen to me.

And please - write, like, rate, review or share the show - howsoever it pleases you. Above all – enjoy. Please do hear me next time.

The Next episode is going to be more of the same and it’ll be out hot on the heels of this one.


Whoever you are, wherever and whenever you’ve served, thank you for your service.

I’m Paul Cheall