This tells the story of Trooper Colin Goodyear. Colin was a Matilda Tank driver with the Royal New South Wales Lancers (initially called 1 Army Tank Battalion then 1 Armoured Regiment) in New Guinea and then Borneo. The steep jungle terrain in New Guinea gave the heavy infantry Matilda tank drivers particular challenges. Colin had such a challenge, then we have a recollection by Bert Castellari who when preparing Colin's Obituary notice, recalled his steep drop experience.
Trooper Colin Goodyear died on 21 January 2015. In an interview, his wife, Pamela, said "Colin never pushed himself but he was likable and had a way with people." This probably explains to some degree why his surviving comrades from A Squadron of the 1st Armoured Regiment remembered him as "a quiet bloke" and they couldn't really recall much about him. He was the lead driver in FHQ troop of the squadron and a highly skilled mechanic which was a distinct advantage in tropical conditions.
One of those who was close to him, Geoff James, also of FHQ troop, wrote in "Memories of A Squadron" about an incident in New Guinea in 1943 when they were "chasing up the coast past Finschhafen … FHQ tanks came to a stop beyond Blucher Point confronted by a steep drop which appeared vertical from the driver's seat.
"The lead tank hitched to the second tank and it slithered down safely. The next also OK with the aid of the third which was then left like a shag on a rock to do its best. Colin Goodyear drew the short straw and drove his tank over the top with three Hail Marys, the tank came down like a rocket, dug its nose in and righted itself with only one damaged idler. Two Hail Marys would have been sufficient."
Colin joined the unit when it was still the 1st Machine Gun Regiment and transferred with it to the AIF in 1942 when it became the 1st Australian Tank Battalion. He did the driving and maintenance course at Puckapunyal which he passed with distinction.
His skills as a mechanic were often called on especially when workshop crews were fully engaged.
He was left in the rearguard at Balikpapan when the war ended and finally escaped this stranding when he scored the only seat remaining in a visiting aircraft and came home.
Back in Australia at the LTD (Leave and Transit Depot) expecting discharge he was told he was being transferred to a transport company in South Australia. The quiet bloke hit the roof and said he was just back from Borneo and had done his time and was going out. LTD's discharge officer backed down and Colin was free.
Colin was born in Waverly in 1923. He went to St Mary's Cathedral college for his high school education but left in 1938 before reaching Leaving Certificate level, as many adolescents did in the depression years, to get a job. His father had served in the 3rd Division in France and Belgium in the first world war. He had lost his job as a shoe store manager as times turned bad but managed to join the NSW Transport Department as a tram conductor. Colin got a job as a junior roster clerk in the department. He went back to the department after the war and eventually became senior roster clerk.
Colin and Pamela married in 1955 and it was long and happy. Pamela said that when they were first married Colin bought "an elderly car". He took the engine out and rebuilt it and they had good service from it.
Colin was a dedicated sportsman. "He went sailing, played golf and basket ball", Pamela said. "His great love was bowls." He was always a man of quiet demeanour and won many friends. (Bert Castellari)
When putting together the above obituary for Colin, I recalled my own experience. New Guinea was a constant obstacle course for tanks especially negotiating steep hills. The RHQ tank troop of the 1st Australian Tank Battalion had only two instead of its four establishment Matildas. Crews had to be shuffled and I was moved from wireless operator to driver. Then we had to move up to Bonga. I was driving "Crusader" and four or five of the troop were riding on the back, a couple leaning on the turret, because it was more comfortable. We reached the top of a very steep hill (name forgotten).
I hesitated for a moment and looked down. It was a jeep track. No bends just a straight drop but it looked all right. The tank was in extra low gear and that should hold it. As we went over the edge the tank took control - 25 tons of armour plate, armament and machinery took off. The passengers all jumped off and left me with it. "Crusader" seemed to be racing away. The engines were roaring and heavy pressure was on them because they were now acting as brakes. The tracks were clattering loudly possibly in protest. I'm still not sure whether it was bouncing every now and then but it seemed so. Were the engines and gear box about to be ripped apart? Would the tracks break followed by a sudden stop which would throw me forward and crack my skull open against the edge of the hatch?
I had to do something. I released the steering levers disconnecting the Rackham clutches and the final drives to the tracks. "Crusader" was madly free wheeling down the rest of the hill. Where was it going? As it turned out, nowhere.
We reached the bottom and it slowed to a stop. I cut the engines and got out to check for damage. Nothing. The others arrived having made a fast run down the hill. Nobody said a word. I got in, started the engines. Everyone climbed back on and we drove off. A few minutes later we reported in at Bonga. This is the first time I've ever said anything about this.
[Editor's note (Lancers' Despatch February 2016)] Bert has not lost his interest in Tanks, even after all these years. On 29 October 2015, he wrote:
"My son thinks you'll be interested in this picture taken at the AWM yesterday. It's the 1930s Italian two man tank on loan to the museum.
I thought it might have been designed by Ferrari but Chris says it was actually Fiat. They must have had some very short men in Italian tank crews. Or midgets. The old chap on the left is known to you and would prefer to be airbrushed out."
We would never airbrush you out Bert, you are our history.