Growing up, I was always interested in music. Having learned to play the violin and being in the school band, it was a natural progression for me to want to play in an army band. In 1949, I joined the army as an electrical apprentice. I wanted to learn a trade, but I knew that everywhere, every regiment in the Australian Army had a band, that was a must. But Balcombe didn’t have one that year down there, but the year after I went down there they started a band up, which was great. They got the band master from Mornington District Band, and he came and taught us how to play the various instruments. I played the drums and I wanted to do something else, because drummers didn’t have much to do when band practise was on. So I took on the brass instrument, B-flat bass, and I learned to play that. And that got me going more in music.
I just like music – it doesn’t matter what it is. I can play the mouth organ and everything. When I graduated from Balcombe, I was sent to Duntroon Royal Military College, and I was there for four years. In 1954 the Queen came out and visited. Sir William Slim was Governor General in Canberra at the time and he said, ‘haven’t you got your own band here?’ Within 6 months they set up the School of Music and I joined them. It was fantastic. It was just like clockwork, or a jigsaw puzzle fitting together, music followed me. After I graduated Duntroon I went to the Royal Australian Engineers at Casuala in Sydney and they already had a band there. I’d heard of it, and within a few ANZAC Day parades, the bandmaster from Duntroon was also posted to Casuala. He recognised me, walking around, ‘Roy come and play with us in the band, we’re short of a drummer.’ So I joined the band and got the red suit and white hat and it was fantastic. We played in a few ANZAC Day parades and I was very, very happy to do that.
In 1960 the Commanding Officer said, ‘Roy, get yourself a transport, you’re going to Japan,’- which was great news, because that was the place to go after the war when everything had settled down. I said, ‘what for?’ He said, ‘you are going to learn to sail a landing ship.’
They put us on a Qantas flight and we flew to Tokyo and then down to Yakoshka. That’s where the LSMs (Landing Ship Mediums) were. There was a workshop there and they were doing up these four LSMs. Two they had already done and they were back in Australia. We had to learn how to drive the other two in a couple of weeks and sail them back. It was the happiest time of my life. Good mates, which is the main thing, the weather was great. The food was fantastic. We were staying at the American Naval Base. The Yanks really turned it on for their servicemen. It was terrific. We were getting double pay because once we got on board the ship, you get double pay. A lot of people don’t know that.
We had to learn how to drive the LSM and sail it back. They sailed across the Pacific Ocean, go up on the beach, drop a kedge anchor a couple of hundred yards behind. Go up on the beach, open the bow doors, let the tanks go, and pull themselves off the beach with this kedge anchor. There were 30 of us to each ship.
On the way back we left Yakoshka and sailed through the inland sea in Japan. Down to the South China Sea. First of all, we called into Sasebo, one of the small islands southeast of Japan, down to Subic Bay in the Philippines near Manila, and then to the capital of New Britain, Rabaul. Then down to Brisbane and then into Sydney, one of the best times of my life.
Every morning when I get out of bed at three o’clock, I jump on the revitive machine. I go to sleep about 6/7 o’clock. It’s just a habit. And I jump on the machine for half an hour and turn on the classical music. The revitive machine opens up the veins in the body, opens up and gets the heart going. The classical music opens up the brain, gets the brain thinking. So that’s a good start to the day. I like it, I do it every morning