Caption: Cyril Allender greets a friend at a recent ANZAC Day March Photo: Tony McDonough
IF anyone understood the power of mateship, it was Cyril Boyd Allender.
He was “lucky” survivor of the Kokoda Campaign: the most significant WWII battle involving our Diggers – a battle that saved Australia from invasion by the Japanese and turned the fortunes of the war. For Cyril, the memories of WWII remained vivid until the end.
Cyril enlisted in the Australian Army in 1941 because his mates were joining and he thought he’d better go with them. While initially deployed to the Middle East with the 2/14th Battalion, he was sent to Malaya when Singapore fell to the Japanese, before being diverted for Queensland jungle training in preparation for the Kokoda Track in Guinea.
And Cyril never forgot hiding from the Japanese in 1942 as he and his mates fought their way through the jungle to get back to their platoon.
“We were given two biscuits each that was to last us whatever,” he said in an interview with the Australians at War Film Archive. “And so my mate, Johnny Adams, we were very good friends, he said to me, ‘Well, you can have the biscuits because if I take them I will eat them today.’ So that was OK, so I used to break a piece off and say, ‘Johnny, there’s your breakfast. There’s your dinner.’
“So after 14 days, when we got back, I said, ‘Guess what, John?’ He said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘I have still got a biscuit left.’ And he said, ‘You miserable bastard, I could have died of starvation.’ So we had four biscuits last us 13 or 14 days …’’
By the time the pair made it back to their battalion, Cyril weighed just 46kg. The campaign claimed 625 Aussie soldiers, left 1055 wounded and 4000 sick. Cyril was one of the lucky ones.
Cyril remembered a very close call when he was shot in the big toe by the Japanese, but said it could have been a lot worse. Again, it was his mateship with Johnny Adams that saw the pair survive another chilling encounter with near death.
“We were pinned off and we were getting shot at. We had to go around (the Japanese), so we got in there, and we were not very far apart, about three or four yards away … we were pinned down there and my mate Johnny Adams … was laying down and I didn’t realise what was happening to me. The bullets were all hitting under [the trees near him] and they were … just going past the top of my head …
“All these bullets were hitting (just near his chin) and putting all the dirt all over his face and I said to him, ‘Move from there you silly B, you are going to catch one of them in a minute.’ And while I was saying that, this bullet came from the other way, and it got me in the toe. I was jumping around, and he was saying, ‘Get your bum down, you silly bugger.’ So that’s how lucky I was, or how close I came … so I was lucky again.”
Cyril, a regular in our annual ANZAC Day March through the CBD, died peacefully at his Hamilton Hill aged-care facility on December 13, aged 100. He leaves behind two daughters, with many grand and great-grandchildren. May Cyril rest in peace! Lest we forget!