(To help him along, his grandson is typing for him and has written his introduction.)

Norm Knopp OAM was a Corporal in the 2nd/8th battalion of the 6th Division in the Australian Army in WW2 (VX120506). Norm fought in the Aitape and Wewak regions of Northern Papua New Guinea.

As with many soldiers in the region, he saw plenty of action, from being charged at by a bayonet wielding Japanese soldier, to leading a rescue mission under heavy fire to save a wounded mate and later catching enemy grenade shrapnel in his leg after managing to avoid 3 of the 4 grenades thrown at him.

While recovering from this injury, Norm worked as a craftsman (he was a carpenter and furniture maker before the war) and made the ink blotter that was used to sign the instrument of surrender between Japan and Australia. If you google "Surrender of Japan", a picture of this wooden ink blotter featuring a brass kangaroo on a boomerang can be seen prominently on the resultant Wikipedia page.

Since the war Norm has lived in peaceful Echuca in Northern Victoria where it seems half the town knows him, whether it be for his furniture shops, his charity work (particularly helping the blind), his involvement in Lawn Bowls (he was Victorian President, awarded an OAM for his services to bowls and captained an Australian team to victory), his famous Christmas lawn displays, or his ongoing woodwork for which he won first prize in his category at the Royal Melbourne Show this year.

A devoted husband to Anne until she passed away in 2007, at 97 (and a half!), Norm can be found in his shed most days making wheelbarrows for children or redgum burl clocks for friends and nurses at his home. He's still got all his marbles and is happy for questions about his interesting life and war service.

My Proof: A contemporary picture (Norm on the left with his mates Les Dick and Sam Eaton) from 1945

Norm today! He's in his traditional ANZAC slouch hat from the 1940's and you can just see the replica of his ink blotter - the original is in the Australian War Memorial.

We might do this over a few days if there's some interest to give him some time to answer!

Edit - Norm will keep working through all your questions and replies to the best of his ability and when he has someone who can help him access the net and type for him. He did however send this thank you on YouTube

Comments: 874 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

Photocyclone861 karma

Happy New Year! ~photocyclone

normknopp84 karma

Thank you very much! How did you do that? I really like the picture and you got the colouring just right. My grandson printed it off for me, here's a picture of me with your great work.

Photocyclone15 karma

Hey! Awesome! I used the magic known as photoshop. I'm really not that good, but there are a lot of great tutorials on youtube.

normknopp14 karma

Well I think you really are that good!

bettysready79 karma

You're a great person for doing this. I bet it brings him a lot of joy

normknopp7 karma

It did! I have written back with a picture of me below.

DJJazzyGriff9 karma

I hope we get to know he saw this.

normknopp14 karma

I did. It made me very happy and I couldn't believe a stranger would do this for me. It is very kind.

makswell489 karma

Hi Norm! you're not from Echuca are you? And have a grandson named Justin? If so, Merry Christmas! Working at your store was my first job!

normknopp390 karma

Merry Christmas! Yes, that's me. Who is that? (Could you PM who you are? He is inquisitive to know!)

jimmah661267 karma

What is your most vivid memory from WW2? Good or bad

normknopp1338 karma

Don was a mate of mine, he came around the night before and he said he was going out to Long Ridge the next day. I said be careful, Long Ridge was a strong post of the Japanese, they were all dug in. They had plenty of gun fire there and everything, and he went out there to clean them out he reckoned.

But he got hit. In the side of the face. He had all of his face taken out on his right side. But he had an Owen gun and he kept his senses and a Japanese soldier had come to kill him and he shot the Japanese soldier at point blank range and the Japanese soldier had fallen over his chest.

I had just come back from another patrol and Jake Farrow said to me that Colin Diffey was looking for me. He was our boss. I went down to see him and he said "you can say yes or no to this, I would hate to send you out there, but would you go out to Long Ridge and see if you can find Don?"

So I went out to where the other soldiers were from the platoon that Don was in and asked would anyone help me. They said "you're bloody mad, you'll get killed!"

I said I'll go on my own then.

So I got them to tell me where they thought he was. I went out on my own and located him and I found Don and he had a dead Jap across him. Don had accidentally put another bullet through his own leg, I didn't know that yet though. I figured that if Don saw me he might think that I was another Japanese soldier and shoot me too, so I circled around him and came up behind his shoulder. I got right up to him and I said "Don, it's Norm".

He said "Thank Christ for that. I knew someone would come out to get me so I stopped here".

I said "Well you're going to stop where you are and you're going to leave the dead Jap on your chest and I'm going to get some help to go and get you."

When I got back, I said to the others, "I've found Don and I need some help to bring him back in."

I said "Who's coming?"

I wanted seven blokes. I had no trouble getting them.

So we turned around and we went straight out to get him. It took about 20 minutes to get there through the jungle. We found him again and he was conscious and speaking to us.

I said "we'll put you on a stretcher and carry you in."

Don said "I can walk!"

He reckoned he could, but he couldn't.

So bringing him back we ran into a Japanese patrol and they opened up on us with machine gun fire. A "woodpecker" gun. They killed 3 of our soldiers.

We found a bomb hole to get down into and surrounded Don and picked off the Japanese when we saw them. This went on 15 minutes, with exchanges of fire before the Japanese cleared out. I suppose there could have been around a dozen Japanese. We picked off about 5 or 6 of them. I was trying to look after Don as best as I could.

Once it was nightfall, we got back to the Danmap River and went up the river to our base. It was about chest high in the river.

Our Colonel Stacey Howdon was there and I said I am prepared to take him down to hospital there.

He said "No, you're finished, you've had enough for today. Is there anything you want?"

I said no.

"Do you want a whisky?"


"Do you want a beer?"


"Do you want a cigarette?"

"Yes." I smoked back then.

He gave me a tin of 50 Craven A's and I kept that tin with me the whole war and still have it.

After that I went back to where our blokes were camped. That was the end of that day. All in a day's work.

Don was put in hospital and operated on and had a plate put in his face, then they sent him back to Australia. He was operated on when he was back in Australia and he died during that operation. But he made it back to see his family. I met his son Wayne a couple of years ago at an ANZAC Day parade. He never saw his father as his mother was pregnant when Don died. Wayne wrote me a lovely letter.

That was the most vivid experience. I had nightmares about it for many years but more recently I am a lot better.

*Grandson's note: I asked about whether he was decorated for the rescue mission. Apparently one of his CO's, Snowy Coulson saw him years later and asked where his medals for that action were as he had sent in a citation. But apparently it got lost in the system somewhere. Pop said " I don't know what happened there, I just told him 'forget about it'."

Bellpepper42129 karma

Don is a fucking lunatic, I love him.

normknopp28 karma

Don was a good bloke and very brave. Here are some pictures of him.

Picture 1: Don on the ship with a monkey.

Picture 2: Don with the local kids.

sciencemax243 karma

you're awesome norm! does he have any advice he can give a 20 year old about life, given his vast experiences? also, it's 2 am here so here's some luck that you're ama takes off!

normknopp304 karma

Thank you sciencemax! That was nice to say I am awesome. Have respect for your elders, be honest, talk to people who have good manners and treat everyone as you would like to be treated yourself. Where are you from?

BlackbirdSinging199 karma

What goes through your mind when you realize you've lived for nearly a century? Do you have a favorite decade?

normknopp427 karma

"It's a pretty good life I've had!"

The 1970's were great. My business was going well, I got to see my children and grandchildren growing up, I went to England and Europe with my wife and we visited many places. I enjoyed when we went to Sweden, I visited the Ikea factory and met Ingvar Kamprad and he even offered me to start Ikea in Australia. I didn't think Australia was quite ready for that yet so I didn't take him up but enjoyed seeing what Ikea was doing. I also visited Husqvarna and at the Huskvarna factory I helped them select the colours of sewing machines that sold well in Australia.

Back home I opened a big shop in Echuca and bought a new home in our town which was very nice.

curiousthomas184 karma

he asked you to start ikea in australia and you said no?! holy crap this is mind-blowing.

what was your approach to running your business(es) and handling your people. how did you build your success?

normknopp18 karma

I was interested in furniture, good quality furniture at reasonable prices. I treated my customers as I would like to be treated myself, I think my business benefited from treating everyone fairly and honestly.

I used to see who got permits to build places in town and approach them before they got built - they would need furniture so it was good to go and see them at that time. My opposition thought I was a bit crazy to see them so early, but when they went to see those people in town they would say they had already bought their furniture from me!

I liked to be conscious of giving back to the community as well. With about 4 or 5 other blokes I helped put some money in to reconstruct the Echuca Wharf in town when it was going to be torn down. The other day I went to the Grand Opening of the new Histrorical Centre at Echuca Wharf and watched the paddle steamers sail by. I like watching the boats down by the river. I think helping out in the town has led to good relationships and that helps business.

rvonm152 karma

Thanks for your service Norm. How would you best describe the difference in the feelings you have towards the conflict between then and now?

normknopp323 karma

I couldn't understand the Japanese at the time. I was offered to go to Japan after the war but I said no. I couldn't understand the things that the Japanese had done in the war.

It was a job and I had to do it.

These days I think that I would be nice to the young Japanese, but to be honest I haven't had a lot to do with them. It's been hard to let go.

sweet_chick283135 karma

This is a really long shot... but my grandfather fought in the 8th battalion of the 6th Division of the Australian Army in WWII in PNG, but I don't know specifically where (he died a few years ago). I think he might have been a sergeant. My Grandmother was over there, too, as a nurse, but I have no idea which division she was with.

If I PM you their names, could you ask Norm if either name rings any bells?

normknopp117 karma

Please do.

caffeine_junkie_513104 karma

How do you think the treatment of soldiers for ptsd has changed since ww2?

-Iraq/Afghanistan veteran US Army

Thank you for your service.

normknopp191 karma

Thank you for your service and your question. We never got any treatment. No counselling or debriefing. We just got on with it and I was too busy with my businesses, I had 4 furniture shops. But I had nightmares for a long time afterward.

I think they have better services these days and my grandson is applying to work as a psychologist in the Australian Defence Force to help with this. We started talking about my experiences when he was about the same age as when I went to war and I think it has helped. I don't get the nightmares I used to but I still dream about my experiences sometimes.

caffeine_junkie_51395 karma

Thank you. I know nothing I was put thorough comes close to the extremes you faced, but re finding normal is hard and it is good to hear people make it. Especially with what little resources you were given.

normknopp111 karma

*Note from grandson - thanks for your words, it meant a lot to him. Thank you for what you have done and know that a lot of people are thankful for your efforts and I hope in time things will get progressively better compared to where you have been. Wishing you well from Australia.

Not_dM86 karma

Hi Norm! How did you interact with the local tribes and how did they react to having you there?

normknopp219 karma

Very good, I got on well with them. We used to treat them very well, we would give them some of our supplies, "kai kai" they would call it.

At first I didn't know whether I could trust my assigned Fuzzy Wuzzy, Simon, and he had said one day that he knew a shortcut for our patrol. I did not know him at first or whether he might be working with the Japanese so I let him go out in front where I could see him and if there were any Japs there he would be the first one shot at. We never struck any. They looked after us and seemed to react well to us.

Simon was a very nice bloke. He went on a walkabout once and disappeared. I was on a patrol once and he jumped out behind me. I said "where have you been?!" and he said I've been out to catch "Mary" - that means "a wife" in their language!

If I could say it to him, I would say thanks for being a great friend and thanks for all he did for me. He meant a lot to me and I often told my family about him. Thanks for your question.

glennyyyy67 karma

Whatever happened to Simon?

normknopp173 karma

I don't know unfortunately. When I went back to PNG in 1995 he had passed away, but we found his grandson. His grandson was a school teacher in Wewak I think it was.

bootheflames83 karma

What keeps you going so strong? Any secrets?

normknopp177 karma

Thank you for your question. I just want to be able to help people and see the smiles on their faces when the job is finished. Having something to do each day keeps me going.

Shaeos71 karma

What clock are you working on now? What's your favorite one you've made? What tools do you use and what do the guts look like? Do you buy them premade or do you make them?

normknopp137 karma

I am making a clock which is a Murray River redgum burl. First I cut it into shape and smooth it off by sanding it. I use a router to cut the inside to fit the works in. I make a base up and bevel the edges and sand it up too. Once I assemble it all, I spray lacquer and polish it further. I use pre-made clockwork and numbers but they come up nicely. I also brand them with my name on the back. I got a first prize in the Royal Melbourne show for one of my clocks and a third prize for one of my wheelbarrows. I sell them for less than it costs me to make them because I enjoy seeing other people's smiles when they receive them. Thanks for your question, do you make clocks as well?

Edit There's some pictures in this post here. Thanks for taking an interest.

Shaeos45 karma

I do not. However, I constantly work with my hands and dabble in different handmade things. I've never had the opportunity to talk to someone who makes clocks before. I thought it was a fantastic opportunity and if nothing else, I wanted to know how. I actually have a mild clock phobia, my brain makes the tick do weird things. I do, however, make alcohol? Is that sufficiently cool? I make boozy deliciousness and I am the Brewmaster for my guild. =D

normknopp81 karma

I only drink shandies these days but your drinks sound good. Stay with your passion!

DarthColleague62 karma

This one comes from a little bro: When you fought, did you sympathise for your enemy at any point? How did you feel?

normknopp163 karma

It was a matter of "if you didn't get them, they'd get you". So I didn't really sympathize with them, we tried to keep it out of our mind. The chap when I did jungle training school at Canungra in Queensland said "Now remember young fella, it's either you or him so make sure you get in first."

So we got good at not thinking about those things. It's like a survival instinct.

figure_d_it_out57 karma

Two questions, along with the thanks for doing this.

  1. Favorite moment in life, so far?
  2. Share one brief aboriginal story?

normknopp135 karma

  1. Both my wedding day to my darling wife Anne and also the day when I was awarded an OAM at Government House. Both were great days. Also the days my children were born.

  2. I don't have an aboriginal story, but I have one about Simon, who was my "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel" in Papua New Guinea. Simon wanted to pinch a photo of my daughter that my wife had sent over to me and I had a job getting it back off him! "Picanninny!" he would say.

kr133354 karma

Hello Norm. Thanks for your invaluable posts about your ANZAC experiences. My Dad was in New Guinea during the war as an airplane mechanic with the US Army Air Force. He would talk only occasionally about his experiences, and they were all positive stories about his friends or life in the jungle and the strange snakes and insects they came across. Every few years he would travel to see his buddies from his unit who had returned to the U.S. with him. None of us six kids bothered to ask him about his experiences, because he would usually retreat into silence.

The only other thing we knew was that he had caught malaria, and returned from the war weighing less than 100 lbs, and had lost all his hair and his teeth. Our Mom said she barely recognized him when he got off the train on his return. At least once a year he would have a terrible few days of sickness when malarial fever returned. He'd be locked up in the bedroom and come out a few days later when he was well enough to go back to work.

About a year before he died he confided to my wife that he had been a prisoner of war of the Japanese for over a year. This was a great shock to the rest of us, but he clammed up again and we understood not to ask any further questions. It did explain a lot, though. It explained the little things, like the fact we were never allowed to eat fish or rice in our house, which apparently had been his sole diet in the camp. It explained the weight loss and loss of teeth and hair. It explained why he never talked about the Japanese. This was a bit hard on me, as by the 1970's I was involved in international business and took many trips to Japan. I would come home and visit my parents, and talk about Tokyo, Kyoto and so forth. My Mom took me aside once and told me to lay off on discussing Japan, and that was very good advice. I served on a welcoming committee that prepared for Emperor Hirohito's state visit to the U.S. in the 1970's, and I got to shake his hand. I am grateful to this day for her alerting me not to bring up this fact with my Dad. He wouldn't have said anything but he still had deep animosity toward the Japanese.

Looking back, I think like a lot of veterans, my Dad didn't want to talk about the war or his nightmares (we could every so often hear the screaming down the hall when he had a bad dream), or his malaria. He just wanted to get on with things, but I believe he also wanted to spare six kids from growing up knowing about certain horrors. It was a gift to us; we thought of the war as a remote adventure for him, and something that shouldn't affect how we thought about things - or even about the Japanese - growing up in the 50's and 60's.

He died about 20 years ago, but I know he had a great fondness for you Aussies. Someone gave a wallaby to his unit and it became their mascot. That was one of his good memories and something he was happy to talk about. He even looked at getting one as a pet for us in the U.S., but that wasn't possible. Later in his life he expressed an interest in visiting Australia, because he had heard many interesting things from mates like you. Sadly, he died before he could make the trip.

crypretty14 karma

I don't normally feel compelled to write things on Reddit, but thank you for sharing this. My Papaw was in the USAF in PNG too, as an arterial gunner for this plane. Not long before it was deployed on a bombing mission, he was shot in the leg by a crew member who was cleaning his gun while loaded, and had to be hospitalized, therefore not being able to take part in the upcoming flight. His leg was mangled, and he dealt with issues his entire life because of it, but if it hadn't happened, he wouldn't be here and neither would I. The war in general, coupled with his injury, and his time on the boat taking him back to the US (which lacked supplies, the men on board practically starved coming home; according to my great aunt, there were doctors waiting for them when they came into port, and when one saw my Papaw he said, "Dear God, what have they done to you?") caused him to rarely speak about the war as well. My great aunt also told me that upon his arrival home, he took all the letters he and his brothers wrote to his mom during their time overseas and burned them, so we don't really know too many details about what he experienced.

I really appreciate you sharing this, my Papaw also wanted to go on with life; he also had six kids, then 11 grandkids, and a life after the war, but the issues with his leg would have always been a reminder of what he went through. His experiences made him who he was, which also impacted my mother, which also impacted me, and it's nice to have a little bit of history of someone else who was in the same place during the same time; I feel like it gives me more insight to one of the many wonderful men in my life. So, thank you very much :)

normknopp4 karma

I had a grenade go off in my leg, I wasn't happy coming off the line, I was out of the war and it felt like I was leaving my mates behind. They gave me things to do at least in the workshop unit, but I would have preferred to be back out there. Once the war was over though, I was happy to be making things like the ink blotter for the surrender.

I still have the grenade fragments in my leg and they get very sore, but I deal with it. It does remind you of what happened though.

*Grandson: He just said to me "I shouldn't have been kicking grenades away"

I asked "what should you have done instead"

His dry reply: "I don't know".

Classic Pop.

My Nan didn't like the Japanese during her life for what they had caused her husband to go through. The whole experience and the pain, memories and nightmares that continued long after the war finished. When I went to Japan myself, she was a bit skeptical and wasn't too keen to hear about it. It was very hard for them, often not just personally, but because they each knew people who fared worse than themselves because of the Japanese aggression.

Pee_Earl_Grey_Hot54 karma

Hello from the States. I'd be interested in seeing some pictures of your clocks, can you post any?

normknopp5 karma

There's some pictures in this post here. Thanks for taking an interest and hi back.

I-Have-Big-Ballz50 karma

How do you see the world in 30 years

normknopp222 karma

I don't know! I hope that all wars are finished. I hope they realise that no one gains from war.

sneeps44 karma

What is, would you say, the biggest difference from 1940's to present time of the policies and services put in place to help reintegrate disabled veterans into productive society?

Is there one in particular that you have witness develop in the almost 70 years since?

What improvements to would you have made back then in regards to what you know now?


normknopp133 karma

I think they are doing it a bit better now. The counselling and help from Veterans Affairs now would have been helpful back then.

When I got home, my employer was supposed to keep my job open for me, but didn't so I went into business myself in opposition to them and they went broke! So it was a mixed blessing, but it's good they help people now with things like that.

Our ANZAC Day marches are well supported so the recognition and support from the public helps too.

foxygoose36 karma

Thank you for serving! What's been the greatest moment of your life?

normknopp65 karma

I answered another one a bit like this - my wedding day and being awarded an OAM are up there along with the births of my children.

tankydhg32 karma

My grandfather is 94. Was a pilot in WW2. He is not very well at the moment but is still very able and sound of mind. He is also very hard working. He is a GP by profession but got his degree in mechanical engineering in his spare time. For the past 30 years he has been building ride-able sized model trains and tracks that go around his property in Southern NSW . He gets sad sometimes because he feels like there is nobody his age left in the world but him. He uses email so I think it would be nice if you guys could exchange a few emails. Just a thought.

normknopp5 karma

*Grandson: Could you PM his email address. Norm is on the NSW border so maybe we can arrange a catch up for them?

normknopp28 karma

A lot of people have asked about my woodwork and red gum burl clocks. Here's a little about them.

They start out as a piece of native red gum (eucalyptus) hard wood. The burl grows on the side of the tree and when cut off, it looks like this dusty example in the shed.

Next I use a band saw to cut it into a straight section like this.

At the end, after much work it looks like this, when it comes out well.

My wheelbarrows take about a fortnight for me to make up from beginning to end. When they are finished, they look like this one.

Here is the replica of the ink blotter I made in 1945 that was used to blot the signature of General Adachi and "Red Robby", Major General Horace Robertson at Wom Airstrip at Wewak. The original is in the Australian War Memorial and I made the replica at the same time. I made the veneer from old packing cases, they were Queensland Maple. Inside that was New Guinea cedar. The brass kangaroo and boomerang were made from expended shell casings - the thickness of it is the same as the artillery shells as I cut the metal and straightened it out. It is inscribed "6th Aust Div Wewak 13th September 1945.

In the background is my slouch hat with the colours of the 2nd/8th Battalion (blood and bandages) showing.

And my grandson told me someone here would probably ask for this.

2136124 karma

My other half has walked Kokoda twice.

Thank-you from both of us. Thank-you for your service. I don't actually have a question to think of.

normknopp46 karma

That's very kind of you. I wasn't on the Kokoda track itself, we were to go on it, but we didn't because another batallion from down on the coast went in instead.

gogam18 karma

First off, as someone born in PNG, I'd like to give you my heartfelt thanks for everything you did for not only my birth country, but also for Australia.

The one question I have is how involved the local tribesmen were? I've heard of the stories of the Fuzzy Wuzzy angels, but I would love to here of any stories you have.

normknopp5 karma

They were very helpful, they were very good as stretcher bearers getting chaps out of the jungle. We gave them our rifles and they would fight along side us as well. They were really part of the defence of Papua New Guinea. Some of them had been to school and learnt English and they helped out the others that didn't. They were always friendly, real genuine fellas and whatever they said was right. It would have been much harder without them. If I could say anything to them these days it would be "thanks very much for all the past help you gave us."

jagu13 karma

Did you ever serve with or know a Jack Trembath who was in PNG at the same time? With the 7th I believe.

normknopp27 karma

No I'm afraid I didn't. I think they might have been at Lay somewhere?

nopantsdancing7 karma


normknopp11 karma

Thank you for your words. I had a laugh at your username. I quite enjoy a Chiko Roll, though they are a bit hard on my teeth these days as my teeth aren't too good.

normknopp5 karma

Thank for your words. I had a laugh at your username. I quite enjoy the Chiko Roll, though they are a bit hard on my teeth these days. My teeth aren't too good.

Shegonnalearntoday6 karma

My grandad was also in Papua in the war. He helped drain swamps to prevent malaria. I wish I could have done an AMA with him. He's no longer with us, but his stories were amazing. Thanks for your service.

normknopp10 karma

Your grandad did some important work. We had atobrin tablets to prevent malaria but I still got malaria about every month and had to go into hospital when I got back home because of it. It was no good, you had no energy, you had sweats and fever, no good. Anything to prevent that would have helped a lot as it would slow a soldier down for a week to ten days.

We could have used him around our camp. Here are some pictures after a shower of rain:

Picture 1: Our camp with an ambulance parked near tents.

Picture 2: A row of tents. We didn't have sleeping bags or anything and we just kept our packs buttoned up and they did ok at keeping some water out.

Picture 3: When water was up like this, you would sleep with your canvas placed up over logs rigged up like an X at either end to keep you above the water.

singloud5 karma

Who has been Australia's worst Prime Minister?

normknopp77 karma

Thanks for the question, but I think I should leave this one.

equestrianism5 karma

Norm what do you have for brekky?

normknopp8 karma

This morning I had porridge, fruit, toast and marmalade and a cup of tea. And lots of pills they give me. 10 of them for breakfast, I think they keep me alive!

normknopp4 karma

Norm will keep working through all your questions and replies to the best of his ability when he has someone there with him who can help him access reddit and type for him (his grandson lives some distance from him). He does however send this thank you on YouTube