WARRNAMBOOL’S Max Hammond will never forget the camaraderie his fellow countrymen showed while fighting in World War II.
“There wasn’t one bloke who wouldn’t lay down his life for you,” Mr Hammond said.
The 93-year-old was a member of the 9th Division Cavalry Regiment which fought in Syria, El Alamein, Labuan and Tarakan.
Mr Hammond lost countless mates in battle and he will take time to remember them on Anzac Day. “Anzac Day is something to feel proud about — it’s a chance to remember these fellows. They were only young guys and they lost their lives to defend this country,” Mr Hammond said.
As a driver of a Bren gun carrier in Syria — a light armoured vehicle — Mr Hammond came perilously close to death many times.
One of his closest calls was the first day he went into battle in Syria.
“The leading tank had been hit in a gorge and we were in a truck,” he said. “We got shelled, heavily shelled and that was pretty scary.
“…we went off the road and jumped out of the truck and went into the paddocks.”
Mr Hammond said there was nowhere to hide from the Vichy French soldiers who were well positioned in nearby mountains. When the onslaught eased, Mr Hammond and his fellow soldier returned to their truck. “We went down a bit further and we got shelled again and we got into a cutting.
“This was the scariest part of all, in this cutting. They kept trying to shell us but they couldn’t get us and we couldn’t proceed because our leading tank had been hit and the guys in it had been taken prisoner.”
Shortly after that, another carrier in the regiment’s convoy returned and the wireless operator in the back of the vehicle was hit by enemy fire and killed.
Mr Hammond said he experienced more close encounters when he was stationed at El Alamein.
Bombs would drop among troops on a regular basis and many lives were lost. “They’d drop right near you all the time and they killed quite a few. I was just lucky.”
Mr Hammond lives in Warrnambool with his wife, Berta.