I was assigned to guard duty at Amberly Field since I was listed as an expert aerial gunner (big joke! ). Shifts started at 8 hours on, 16 hours off Then they were 6 hours on , 18 hours off However, some shifts were 10 or 12 hours long. Once I was on for 36 of39 hours. For the first three weeks I was guarding the entire ammunition dump for Amberly Field. It was located in a lonely corner of the base, from which I could see no one. Day shifts were not so bad, but night shifts were spooky. The ammunition dump consisted of boxes piled about six feet high in an area about 50 feet by 20 feet.
One night when I got off guard duty I went into the mess hall as usual. While I was eating, a fellow came in that was just going on guard duty. He decided he needed to clear his .45 automatic pistol before eating. He removed the clip and instead of pointing the gun toward the ceiling to check that the gun was empty, the darned fool pointed it at the floor. When he pulled the trigger a terrible roar echoed through the mess hall as the bullet hit the cement floor and ricocheted through the roof Fortunately, no one was in the path of the bullet. However, he got the undivided attention of all of us in the mess hall.
Sometimes I was sent to guard assembled planes that were stored in a eucalyptus forest. This station at night was nearly as spooky as the ammunition dump. One night on the midnight to 6:00 AM. (0600) shift I became very sleepy as dawn was approaching. I was leaning against a tree just as light was showing in the east. Suddenly a kookaburra (laughing jackass bird) let out its raucous call from the tree immediately above my head. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I was not a bit sleepy for the remainder of that shift.
One night while I was on the graveyard shift of guard duty in the eucalyptus forest, I heard Niles Fenton, who was on a guard post nearby, yell "Halt! Who goes there?" He told us later that he heard something moving, so he called out. The movement stopped for a few moments, then began again. Again he shouted a command to halt, and the movement stopped. The third time the movement started, he fired his pistol in the direction of the noise. This time the movement stopped for good. The next morning we discovered he had shot and killed a horse that was wandering in the forest.
On 18 January 1942 I was assigned to one of the eight machine gun emplacements that protected the field. The entire base was protected only by these .30 caliber machine guns. On 25 January 1942 five of these guns were removed and sent elsewhere.
We were having P-40 and A-24 crackups fairly regularly. Most of the pilots that had arrived with us were fresh from flying school. Four hours in a P-40 was the most any of them had flown. In addition, they had not flown any airplanes for at least two months before we landed in Australia. Consequently, it was no wonder that we had so many crackups.