Jenny Beale

  • Interviewer: Fabri Blacklock
  • Date: 31/03/2014

Jenny Beale is from Gunnedah and is a descendant of the Gomeroi and Wanaruah peoples. This interview is part of the ‘Honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men and Women Who Served Their Country’ project. Aunty Jenny talks about her father and uncle’s service in World War II, their imprisonment in Changi and Japan, and her uncle’s death whilst incarcerated. In the excerpt below she recalls racial issues around enlistment, and Indigenous skills put to use in the war effort.

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My dad was called Frederick Beale but he was known as Fred and he joined up with his brother, Uncle George. They enlisted at Gunnedah and went into the 2/20th 8 Division which then went on to go overseas. They went over to fight for the country, which is really interesting because they weren’t even citizens in their own country at the time, and I don’t know whether it was also that they had an income coming in as well. At first they weren’t sort of too pleased to let Aboriginal soldiers join up. And as they needed more soldiers, because they were getting killed over there, then they had to sort of say “Well, look, O.K”. My grandfather was a tracker and so they had really great tracking abilities, and they were actually used a lot [in the war]. My dad would tell me stories about when they used to go out into the jungle and him and Uncle George’d go out and they’d be in the trees and then they’d come back and tell, so they were still being used as trackers. They were taken at the fall of Singapore and the fact is they [Australian forces] had no ammunition and that’s what happened at the fall of Singapore that they had no ammunition, and they were virtually sent over there with no bullets. They were first taken to Changi prison camp and they were in Changi, and then they were transported by boat to Japan.