News

Former 'spy' relives his seceret war

SSSSHHH! For 30 years, Clive Rutledge, of Lismore, could not reveal the work he did for Special Forces in the army as a map-mak
SSSSHHH! For 30 years, Clive Rutledge, of Lismore, could not reveal the work he did for Special Forces in the army as a map-mak

By JANE GARDNER

WORLD War II ex-Special Forces agent Clive Rutledge doesn't look like a spy.

"I suppose that's what I was, yes, but I never liked that word and it certainly isn't on my Veteran's Affairs record," he says.

The Lismore man's story is extraordinary. For five years he worked covertly to create maps the allied forces used to conduct air raids to defeat the Germans. His work was top secret ? he was sworn to silence for 30 years.

Until now, at 87, he has never told the full story of what he did from 1941 to 1945 to anyone, not even his late wife Jean.

Clive knows his life story is unbelievable, but concealed among the clutter of his Lismore house are the yellowed photos and dog-eared documents to prove it.

Clive went to the Victoria Barracks in Sydney to apply to join the army in March 1941.

"When the woman doctor checked me over, she said 'you might be one of the ones we want'. I had no girlfriend, no broken bones, was high school educated, and spoke French. Another bloke saw me and said 'you're now in the Special Forces'," he said.

On his first day at a nondescript government building in Strathfield, his commanding officer ordered him never to marry and not to tell a single soul about his work with the Special Forces.

"They told me from the very beginning if anything I said was traced back to me as a source of the information, I would be court-martialled," he said.

Not even his colleagues were aware of the work he was doing. He would hide the real maps underneath decoy maps of rural Australia.

Two years after he began his career as a spy, Clive was sent to a rural Queensland farm at Childers, near Bundaberg, to make fake maps of the area while carrying out his real work at night.

It was there he fell in love with a pretty 19-year-old farmer's daughter, Jean.

The army knew of the romance and told him to put an immediate end to it.

"They said if I got married, I would be putting another person in danger and they did everything they could to try and stop me," he said.

When he was shipped to North Queensland, he took four days leave and journeyed back to Childers to defy the army and marry Jean.

According to Clive, his superiors even faked a train derailment to try and stop him getting there.

Jean didn't know Clive was in the Special Forces. She passed away in April 2004, still not knowing.

"I never told her. She never knew. Even with all of my medals, she wanted nothing to do with them," he said.

Like something out of a Robert Ludlum novel, the army used cloak-and-dagger tactics to keep Clive in the dark about what he was doing and where he was.

"They would drug me to take me somewhere because I used to get airsick. I would wake up not knowing where I was, but they would fly me there because I could decipher maps," he said.

On November 25, 1945, Clive's career as a spy ended. "It was so lonely, not being able to share my secrets. The other blokes got to dislike me because I didn't have much to do with them in case I might drop something and give them a clue," he said.

"After the war, we were just blokes that went to war. It has affected me in many ways. It was a pretty lonely life and even now I have to try and prove the things that I am telling you."



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