VOICE FROM THE PAST: Don Macqueen's father Angus kept a diary of his time in WW2 and brought home a 100Lira note signed by his mates in 2/2 battalion.
VOICE FROM THE PAST: Don Macqueen's father Angus kept a diary of his time in WW2 and brought home a 100Lira note signed by his mates in 2/2 battalion. Alison Paterson

Money to burn during the capture of Bardia

BOILING a billy cost one digger an estimated $60,000 during WW2.

In 1941, Angus Abram Macqueen was in the 2/2 Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force and involved with the capture of the Libyan city of Bardia from the Italian army.

His son Don who still lives on the family property, Woolner's Arm, around 30km north-west of Casino, said the windfall wasn't recognised for it's true value.

"As they were working through the city the platoon came across a great stack of Italian currency as paper notes,” Mr Macqueen said.

"While they were congratulating themselves on their new-found riches, a lieutenant came along and burst their bubble, telling them that since it was Italian money it was worthless and the next best thing then was to boil the billy for a cup of tea, using the cash for fuel.”

Taking the officer's advice, Mr Macqueen's father and his comrades enjoyed a refreshing hot drink.

But they should have listened to the officer, Mr Macqueen said.

"My Dad eventually discovered that the Lira they found was still coin of the realm and worth its value and so estimated that their cuppa in Bardia cost them £30,000 ($60,000) which was a fortune in 1941, houses back then cost 500 pounds,” he said.

"But he saved one note, so we have at least one survivor of the battle for Bardia.”

The banknote is signed by some of his comrades-in-arms, many of whom came from the Northern Rivers, along with the area they lived in, Mr Macqueen said.

Signed in ink, as well as Angus Abram Macqueen, the names include AG Wilson Empirevale, HJ Nugent Lismore, Lindsay Merryweather Mullumbimby, Jack Ulrich Ulmara, Pat McGrath, Grant Palmer Griffith, C Grieg Corndale, Jack Young Grafton, Ray Lovett Lismore, MJ Murphy (town name illegible), AH Bairf Lismore, FW Topper, Vic Blaydon, RW Dwyer, JW Heathrington, A Lacey and C Robinson.

However, that sole Italian bank note is not the only reminder Mr Macqueen has of his father's time in khaki.

"Dad kept a diary and it's fascinating reading,” he said.

"He writes of the times they endured a barrage of enemy fire and in one entry, said this might be it so send his love to those back home.”

Mr Macqueen said while his father left school at 13, he was a keen reader all his life and the diary entries effortlessly evoke another time and place. 

"Dad was a lance-corporal at one stage but had a blue with an officer and was made a private again,” he said.

"The places he served at included Tabrook, the Middle East, East Africa, Greece and Libya.”



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