Feature

In the Army at 16, man fought in the jungles of New Guinea

Ernie Cobb. WW11 veteran. Photo: John Gass / Daily News
Ernie Cobb. WW11 veteran. Photo: John Gass / Daily News John Gass

WHENEVER Murwillumbah's Ernie Cobb thinks back to his time in New Guinea during World War 2, one image comes flooding back.

Mr Cobb said "it was the fireflies we encountered during patrols in the jungle."

"You saw these lights appear in the jungle and couldn't tell what it was.

"We usually stood real still and watched and waited.

"It could have been the enemy," Mr Cobb said.

In 1939, at the ripe old age of 16, Murwillumbah's Ernie Cobb and 11 of his friends joined the local militia and was soon sent to Watego's Beach in Byron Bay to start his training.

Following the training camp at Byron Bay, Mr Cobb and his mates spent several months at various locations on the eastern seaboard to prepare for the big fight that was about to take place all over the globe.

Once training was completed which included a stint at Ingleburn to prepare for fighting in the jungle, Mr Cobb became part of the 41st Army Battalion and was sent to Papua New Guinea to reinforce the troops already on the ground.

After spending about 14 months in the jungles of New Guinea, Mr Cobb returned to Australia for some welcome R&R, after which he prepared himself for another stint overseas.

Mr Cobb said "before we took off I was called into the colonel's office who told me I couldn't join my mates who were about to return to PNG".

"I was man-powered out and went cane cutting at Crabbes Creek for about five months."

Following his time at Crabbes Creek, Mr Cobb was sent to Sydney for another round of training to prepare to rejoin his unit.

"I wanted to join the boys," Mr Cobb said.

Unfortunately, Mr Cobb never had the opportunity to reunite with his old friends and in 1945 was presented with two options by his commanding officer.

"He said you have two choices, the commanding officer said.

"You can either join the occupational forces in Japan or you can accept your discharge.

"I choose to be discharged," Mr Cobb said.

After the war, Mr Cobb did different jobs until, about two years later, he leased five acres of land, prepared the ground by himself and planted bananas.

"Tilling five acres all alone certainly kept me busy," Mr Cobb said.

His endeavours were rudely interrupted by the 1957 floods, which destroyed Mr Cobb's livelihood and forced him to look elsewhere to make a living.

Mr Cobb decided to leave the land and became a supervising officer at Boyds Bay Bridge and settled in Bray Park, where he lives in retirement.

Topics:  army remembrance day


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