Bananas, Bedbugs, Bullets and Boredom: Daily life in a sub-section

Lieutenant (Lt) Rex Lipman of the 2/4th and his criado Letmo with a Timor pony

Lieutenant (Lt) Rex Lipman of the 2/4th and his criado Letmo with a Timor pony loaded with bags of two shilling pieces. This currency, brought on the Dutch destroyer Tjerk Hiddes, was used to pay local people for food. Rex is carrying a Thompson submachine gun and wearing a woven Timorese hat often worn by the criados.
Courtesy Rex Lipman 

Life for a soldier and his criado was hard work with long stretches of boredom peppered with periods of high adrenaline and fear. A daily task was finding enough food to sustain the hard slog of patrolling, maintaining contact with the enemy and reporting movements to headquarters.

A meagre diet of rice, crushed maize or sweet potatoes shared from village gardens was often all that was available. The plentiful supply of coffee staved off hunger and sustained the effort required. Protein from chicken, goat, pork, buffalo or eggs was a rare treat. Bananas, coconuts and pawpaws were eaten when available.

Bed was a groundsheet, half a blanket and a mat carried by the criado. At 3,000 metres, nights were cold so soldiers and criados slept together for warmth. Accommodation in village huts included lice, fleas and bedbugs.

Manning fixed position observation posts was tedious and dangerous so these were abandoned at night. Constant vigilance against Japanese attack was stressful. Ambushes required hours of tense waiting then running for your life under a hail of bullets and mortars.

In this environment, strong bonds developed between soldiers and criados. They often equated to that of a father and son.

A sub-section patrol in typical country.

A sub-section patrol in typical country.
Damien Parer, courtesy Australian War Memorial AWM 013825