Missing news from home: maybe it’s at the bottom of the Harbour !


Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn. AIF

15th Oct. 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you both happy and well and enjoying life – and to give an account of what little news there is around these ridges.  Things have been very quiet really and there isn’t much to report.

Haven’t had a letter from home this week – wonder if it was on the plane that crashed in Sydney harbour.  Some of the boys got letters this morning in official envelopes – salvaged stuff, readdressed – believe some of it couldn’t be read though.

Life continues to be reasonable pleasant here.  Have had a very easy week except for routine and a bit of ceremonial stuff.  Have been able to go for a dip every evening – and a couple of good picture shows.  Old shows, but quite enjoyable.

The vaccinations we had last Monday played up a bit – had rather a depressing effect on everyone, got me in the throat.  The tonsils came up and the throat went a bit raw but a bit of treatment from the RAP soon put things right again.

Got a bit of a setback a few days back.  The pay sergeant told me he couldn’t reconcile my pay book – said it looked like I owed the army twenty odd pounds, so I toddled down to see him.   He produced page after page of figures where he’s worked out my pay at different rates from the time of enlistment and it looked as though he might be right till I asked if he had a record of my first pay book as the error had occurred there -but as he hasn’t got it is going to write to DFO.  As I paid in twenty pounds while we were in England so I guess they’ll be able to straighten things out alright.  Hope so anyway.

Must say cheerio now.  Give my love to May, Anne and Carline and regards to the boys.  Love – Max

Not much to report

 It’s clear many men had trouble working out what to say in their letters home: see the editorial from The Griffin of October 13. I don’t think Dad ever suffered in this way – I imagine that if asked, he could have written the editorial.

Plane crash in Sydney harbour

The plane in question was the flying boat Coolangatta, pictured in Rose bay shortly after its arrival in 1938. (image no. 3640701870 State Library of NSW). 

The Qantas Founders website (  qfom.com.au) ) provides these details of the disaster   At about 7am on the morning of October 11th, 1944, Short S.23 flying boat VH-ABB, ‘Coolangatta’ took off from Rose Bay for Townsville with 7 crew and 22 passengers. The electric flap motor failed and the flaps had to be wound up by hand. 20 minutes later, oil pressure dropped on the starboard inner engine and Captain Keith Caldwell decided to return to Sydney for repairs.

Qantas general manager Captain Lester Brain was on board as a passenger and he was asked to take over. During the flapless approach, Brain found he was too high and used a left sideslip to lose altitude.  When he straightened out at about 40 feet, he realised the aircraft was flattening its glide too high so he eased the pressure on the control wheel, expecting the machine to glide down. It stalled about 12 feet above the water and hit with so much force that the hull failed and part of the rear fuselage and tail unit separated allowing water to rush in. Both sections sank within 15 minutes. All on board left the aircraft but one passenger, John Mott drowned before he could be rescued. It took police 11 days to find his body.

 For a report quoting a number of the survivors, see this article from the Sydney Morning Herald of October 12   https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/17923930  .  Regarding the letters on board, the report notes  Over 13,500 letters and postal articles, included in the air mail on the wrecked plane, were salvaged from the harbour.  They were taken to an army salvage depot in the city where 14 members of the AWAS voluntarily undertook the task of sorting them by means of radiators.  As the letters and articles dry they are readdressed and over 3000 of them were ready to be despatched to their destination by the first available plane out of Sydney.

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Bigger the Bastard, Better the Luck

TX 1004 

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

4th Oct 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Hadn’t intended writing till tomorrow really – as it was to be rest day but a change of plans on the part of the hierarchy has upset things badly for me – as I’m on guard duty today and won’t even get a chance to do any washing – however the whole platoon are in the same boat.  We’re going out on a seven or eight days manoeuvres so may not get a chance to write in the meantime.

How’s life in Tassie these days Mother & Dad – hope everything is going alright for you and for May and the family.  How’s the foot dad – quite recovered – should be past the equinoxial time now so the weather should be on the mend.  Have you seen any more of Jim – if you do tell him Viv said ‘Bigger the bastard, better the luck’ – but the boys all wish to be remembered to him and hope he heads them.  You might tell him too that Bull Black and Jim Hocking have been put in for stripes and that Ned Turner is still battling to get out.  Cyril Cleary looks like coming to a rifle company.

Had a letter from Ivy yesterday.  She seems quite happy and well and says the baby is doing fine too.  It will be much better for her now Bill is home.She might be able to get about a bit more.

You know that Insurance policy I have with the National Mutual dad.  Think this is the last year I have to pay into it.  At present the E S & A bank have the policy and are collecting the bonuses…think perhaps as I haven’t an account with them now it would be better to have both policies handed over to the Commonwealth Bank.  Don’t know whether there’s any charge involved in holding them though suppose there would be – if you happen to be in town will you ask the accountant at the Commonwealth Bank what the position is and if it only involves transferring them over, get them to fix it up will you.

A chap I struck at that school came over to see me a few nights back.  Didn’t even know he was in these parts so got a bit of a surprise – took him over to the mess and we had a few drinks.  He’s one of the greatest tellers of tales you’d ever meet and it was quite a pleasant evening then to cap it up Bill Richardson – the new CSM – made a brew of tea and produced a cake his wife had sent him so it was a good night.

Well I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.



PS   Will you send me a result for that Tatts sweep.

Bull Black and Jim Hocking

Both John (“Bull”) Black QX2757 and Jim Hocking QX1300 were – like Dad – ‘battalion originals’ and also original members of the Carrier Platoon. They are mentioned many times in Dad’s letters.’ Their records show that both were corporals when discharged in 1945.

Ever the optimist…  waiting on the results of a sweep.

See previous post (https://myfathersletters.me/1944/09/16/a-well-travelled-letter-and-an-exceptionally-lucky-find/) about finding his watch that had led to the request for a ticket in Tatts (presumably on the basis that he was on a ‘lucky streak’).   

According to this article – https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/T/Tattersalls.htm   – ‘Tattersalls supplied the Tasmanian government with almost half of its total state revenue in the late 1930’s…’

However, it seems Dad wasn’t a ‘big enough bastard’ to be lucky in this draw.

As full of dope as some race horses


Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

8th Oct 44

Diagonally :  PS Haven’t got the handkerchiefs yet.  Parcels are usually slow.

       PPS Will you send me a result of Tatts when it’s drawn

Dear Mother & Dad

Your welcome letter of the 2nd arrived yesterday and made good reading except for the piece about the garden – a bad show that and very disappointing though I doubt that you’d [get] much satisfaction from the City Council Engineer – they’ve always got the excuse that they haven’t the men though that wouldn’t prevent them collecting taxes.

Glad to know you are both [well] and that dad’s foot is better.  Tassie’s certainly no place for anyone with rheumatic-y complaints.  It will be very hard to settle there when the argument’s over – think perhaps I may go to the mainland somewhere – rather fancy Adelaide – It’s a place that looks like going ahead.

Things in general have been particularly pleasant the last few days – we were to have been on a long exercise but for some reason it was either put back or cancelled.  I don’t know which – must have thought up something different I suppose.  Anyway we’ve had an easy time for a few days and the let up has been very welcome.  It’s hard work these days to get the chaps to take an interest in the work and though very few have been in as long as I have, long periods of training get very boring and you’ve got to keep at them all the time or they soon slip back – takes a lot of tact at times.

We went out yesterday morning on what was supposed to be a route march but turned out to be quite a pleasant stroll through one of the great scenic spots of these parts – skirting the edge of a freshwater river and crossing it a couple of times by jungle type bridges that develop a powerful sway about the centre – I very nearly fell in the drink once, much to the amusement of the mob – anything like that as you know pleases the onlookers, especially when the party concerned happens to be a sergeant.

Had a bit of excitement in the camp last night- livened things up for a while.  Had gone to bed about seven – for some unknown reason the four sergeants turned in early last night.  Anyway was sound asleep when wakened by the orderly officer shining a torch in my face and roaring to get the men out and the fire buckets working as the store was afire.  Thought straight away of the ammo dump and had the blokes out very smartly but it was an old store full of straw and it [was] well underway when we got there.  Buckets were useless but a couple of water trucks arrived and put it out though it was still smouldering this morning.

Well I guess that’s all the news from these parts at present Mother & Dad except that we’re copping another needle tomorrow – seem to be getting them every couple of months – must be as full of dope as some race horses.  Anyway will say cheerio now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.



The exercise that wasn’t

The Unit Diary does show that at 8.30 on October 4, Major Bennett held a conference of all company commanders to discuss the exercise scheduled for Friday. The IO was to recce the route to the exercise area. Then at 20.00 the diary notes ‘Exercise cancelled’.

Jungle type bridges  

The ‘jungle bridge’ may have been three ropes, or something slightly more sophisticated, as in this photo AWM image NEA0023.  Members of the RAAF crossing a “jungle bridge” made from rope and branches of trees, during a training course.

Copping another needle

I don’t know what specific vaccine the 2/33rd were receiving, but this image (AWM 080734) – from September 1944 – shows a member of the 6th Division preparing to head to the Aitape-Wewak area of northern New Guinea. The vaccine was ‘Anti-TAB: Typhoid and Paratyphoids A and B’ 

Would it be the Philippines?

According to The Footsoldiers (p377), it was still widely believed that the next deployment of both the 7th and 9th Divisions would be to the Philippines  With that in mind, the Battalion’s weekly newsletter, The Griffin published this piece on October 12 :

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A Wet/ Dry Exercise and a Show for the Top Brass

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

29th Sept 44

(Diagonally:  PS Am enclosing my coupons Mother – don’t think I’ll need them up here – used one to buy a couple of handkerchiefs a couple of months back)

Dear Mother & Dad

Received your welcome letter of the 25th today, together with ticket in Tatts.  Hope it got a prize.  Did you keep the number?  Sorry to hear the gout has been playing up again – thought that now the winter was over you’d have been pretty right.  Anyway hope it’s better now dad.

Guess you got a surprise to see the Hon James – am glad to hear he’s looking so well.  Think you can take his story about coming back with a grain of salt.  He’s got over the main hurdles by getting to Tassie – don’t think he’ll have any trouble to toss them at Campbell Town.  If you see him again tell him what ever he does to lay off the grog while he’s at Campbell Town.  They’re sudden death on anyone they catch under the weather.  Have sent back chaps who were a cinch to get out through them rapping on turns.  Incidentally had a letter from Marie and she says the hospital are claiming John Smith – believe he was already stationed in New South Wales for the duration.   Guess Pat and the Wilsons will be pleased, though I suppose it would suit Pat just as well to go over to Liverpool for a while – anyhow good luck to him.

I guess you’re pretty right about planting out vegetables : if Curtin & Blamey’s speeches are any criterion we’ve got a long way to go yet, even if Germany does collapse this year.  I suppose all food stuffs will be somewhat scarcer for a while though they say rationing has practically been cut out in some places.

Am glad to hear that Daph Wise is better.  She told me she expected to have to have an operation while I was home.  Perhaps it’s the same trouble now.  Give her my kind regards Mother if you see her, and May & Daisy too – can’t think of writing them just at present – busy as hell.

Was pleased to hear my telegram arrived in time for Carline’s birthday.  Even though she wouldn’t understand anything about it, it would be a novelty for her.  I suppose Anne enjoyed the birthday too.  Must try and write to May – am behind to blazes with my mail.

Have been kept very busy here since I last wrote – a four day exercise covering last weekend – a lousy show too, rained all the time.  Went dry from the time we left till we got back.  Then a ceremonial show yesterday as a diversion from field training.  If there had been any lookers on it would have been a good show but to us it wasn’t so good.  The weather took a turn and it was just as hot as it was cold over the weekend, and laired up in the old hessian suit with trimmings and marching to attention with the rifle & bayonet at the slope, she drove the grease out.

Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad – give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.  Love – Max.

The Hon James

James Joseph McDonnell (TX 1024) was another Battalion original.  His name appears regularly in Dad’s letters.  As children, we knew him as ‘Uncle Jim’ – he and his wife Molly lived just a few doors away from us.  He remained a ‘steady drinker’ all his life.   ‘The Hon James’ had injured his back (fractured 4th lumbar vertebra) in a fall, early in July  According to Dad’s letter of 24 August ’44 he was ‘able to get about again now but is still in plaster and I believe he will be in plaster for anything up to three months.’  McDonnell’s service record shows he was evacuated to Tasmania by plane on September 13, and to the Lady Clark convalescent hospital on September 28.  

Claremont House housed the Lady Clark Convalescent Hospital from 1941 – 47

Curtin and Blamey’s speeches

From Curtin’s diary ( http://john.curtin.edu.au/diary/primeminister/1944.html  )

19 Sept 44 – Makes statement indicating that a state of war will exist until Japan surrenders, regardless of a German surrender.

25 Sept 44 – Makes national broadcast officially opening Second Victory Loan, with a target of £5 million.

Blamey to troops:

From the Melbourne Argus Sept 20 1944 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/11361922  Headline : C IN C SEES JOB AHEAD FOR TROOPS

The triumph of Allied armies in Europe did not mean that the triumph in other areas was as near as we would hope, General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander Allied Land Forces in SW Pacific and C in C AMF, told troops whom he inspected at Balcombe today……

A Four day exercise

Did it – as Dad claims – ‘rain all the time’?   The Battalion diary indicates the weather for these four days was ‘showery’.  Dad’s reference to being ‘dry’ presumably refers to a lack of alcohol.  Reveille on day 1 (Sept 22) was at 4.30am.  The exercise was conducted by Brigadier Eather and observed on one day by Major General Milford.  This image is from an exercise in the same general area (Danbulla)   AWM 085193

Flame throwers advance through a smoke screen to arrack a bunker area and flame the timber fringe in tests conducted at HQ 7 Division December 1944

When the exercise was over, the march back to camp took 2 hours.  

A Ceremonial Show

The men arrived back from the exercise at 17.00 on the 25th, and on the afternoon of the 26th had to fall in for a parade to practise their drill movements.   After another practice the following morning, it was time for the ‘real thing’ that afternoon (27th).

AWM 080868  :  Kairi Atherton Tableland  28/9/44  Major-General E J Milford GOC 7th Division accompanied by Lieut-Col T R W Cotton inspects personnel of the 2/33rd Bn at Headquarters 25th Infantry Brigade

Video AWM F07127   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F07127  A short video of troops arriving for the ‘show’ then marching in formation, Milford taking the salute and inspecting the troops with Cotton. Brigadier Eather stands behind the saluting platform.

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A very surprising discharge : He’ll be falling the cows in, in threes

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

20th Sept 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Received your welcome letter of the 18th this morning – can’t complain about that for service can you.  Am glad to hear that you’re both well and that May and the children are also well.  Your shearing trip was certainly an experience Dad and though you showed no profit on the venture was an interesting break – as you say, hotels and fares eat up money very quickly.  Did you have any trouble about priorities for travel?  The position seems to have eased a lot according to reports.

Things have been rather interesting here in a variety of ways but perhaps the most remarkable incident of the week was the CSM’s discharge to industry.  We’d been out at the range for the day, arriving back in camp about ten o’clock at night.  The orderly room corporal without any preliminaries informed Robbie that he was out of the army and the OC Company told me I’d be acting CSM till the new WO arrived.  As you can imagine it knocked Robbie right off his pins – he’d never even applied for release but his people are in a pretty big way in the stud farming business so Manpower must have included him off its own bat.  What a windfall eh – like striking the 12,000 in Tatts.  But he’s a great bloke Robbie – has had a pretty poor hand out from the army.  If he’d have got a break should have been a Captain by now so everyone wishes him well now.  There are very few sergeant majors as well thought of as Robbie – probably the most popular man in the company which is a rare tribute to a very efficient CSM.  Guess it’ll be a bit for him to settle down for a while – will be falling the cows in, in threes, calling the roll and detailing duties – have the girls milking by numbers – and calling a runner when he wants his dog.  Still I guess he’ll soon get used to it again.

Though we’re away from camp a fair bit there’s usually a show of some sort on every night that we are in.  Was in a debate on Tuesday night – quite a humorous show really, the subject being ‘Total prohibition is desirable’.  I was on the negative and we got a win – some of the arguments were good.  Have also seen good picture show and a concert during the last few days.   The picture was ‘Silver Fleet’ concerning the occupation of Holland.  The acting was extra good and the play of words perfect.  The Concert was put on by a Militia show and though nowhere near up to the standard of the last show was quite good.

I hear Jim has made a further move on the homeward stretch – is in a New South Wales hospital now so guess he won’t be long before he’s back in Tassie.  

Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad – give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to Laurie & the boys.



Censor – J Balfour-Ogilvy

The mail service

After the previous letter having been ‘around the ridges’ , two days to get from Hobart to north Queensland was quite extraordinary.

Out at the range for the day

Although not depicting the 2/33rd, these photos show Rifle Range practice and post-practice cleaning of guns in the same Tableland area:

AWM 066640
AWM 066652

The CSM’s discharge to Industry

The CSM was Rodney Robinson (TX 919) who Dad had described in his August 13 letter as ‘a big, lean spare red-headed fellow from Flinders Island’ (https://myfathersletters.me/1944/08/13/two-letters-before-and-after-the-divvy-march-and-a-surprise-from-home/)

Robbie had enlisted at Brighton (Tas) on 15 December 1939 but like Dad sailed on the HMTX1 (Queen Mary) in early May 1940 and like Dad became a ‘battalion original’ when the 2/33rd was formed in Tidworth in late June. His enlistment papers show he was tall (6’4″ ie 193cm)with “fair(reddish)” hair. His mother’s family, the Huitfeldts had lived on Flinders Island since the 1890’s and his father and mother’s farm Wingaroo was referred to locally as ‘the Five Mile’. Rod’s younger brother James (VX80432) enlisted in 1942 at Caulfield (Vic) so their parents must have been feeling very stretched, two years later.

Judy Walker, a volunteer at the Furneaux Museum provided this additional information : Cyril and Emilie Robinson owned Wingaroo where they farmed red poll cattle, Romney Marsh sheep and about 15 dairy cows. Rodney had two older sisters and one younger brother and they would milk the cows by hand before doing their school work. After the war Rodney married Nance Young and moved to Numurkah, Victoria in 1949 where they had a Soldier Settlement dairy farm. He died there in 2003.

There is no mention on Dad’s service record of him having been Acting CSM.

The debate

The article in the Griffin of 29th September reported the debate as follows:  


Continuing with the debates held under the auspices of the AES it was not surprising that there was a splendid attendance when the above topic was debated.  A pleasing feature of the debate was the humorous touches introduced by the speakers which assisted to maintain interest.  The teams were –

“Affirmative” Lt J Goldsmith (leader), W O II K Hopkins, L/Cpl A Brierly

“Negative” Sgt M Hickman (leader), Lt N Moore, Pte Griffiths

The decision awarded to the “Negative” team by the adjudicator Bde Education Officer Lt J Hair met with general approval.  The title selected for the next debate “The Soldier is Better Off Than the Civilian” provides plenty of “ammo” for both teams and perhaps it is just as well there is a time limit on the speakers.

(ref https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1368128  )

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A well travelled letter – and an exceptionally lucky find

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

16th Sept 44

PS Will you send me a ticket in Tatts.  Love,  Max

Dear Mother & Dad

Well how goes it – guess you’re both much happier to be together again.  Dad to be back home and Mother to have him home.  There’s no doubt about the old story ‘There’s no place like home’.  Had Dad’s letter early in the week.  The postal crowd had made a bit of a blue – not often they do, but this letter had been to the 33rd Militia.  That’s why it took so long getting here.  Your letter was very interesting Dad – your sheep shearing trip must have been interesting though it’s a tough proposition for a man of your years but you must have got the hang of it quickly for the old bloke to boom you up like that.

Had a letter from Ivy during the week.  Bill’s being home has made a great difference to the tone of her letters.  It will be a good thing for them all to be able to be together.  The strain was telling on Ivy – as Marie said when she went out there – she takes life too seriously.

We’ve been out on manoeuvres all the week – only got back last night.  Nothing actually tough but very tiring.  The area was lousy with pests of various types – fleas, moccahs (they’re little beetles – look like a bug, jump like a flea and bite like hell) and numerous others that made things very unpleasant while sleeping on the ground.  Was good to get back to camp where we can sleep up off the ground.  Passed over some pretty country, particularly in one lake area where we bivouac’d one night – as fine a sight as you’d wish to see – heavily timbered on all sides.  It was particularly pleasing to the eyes after two days and nights roaming the ridges.  Was a bit lucky during the show.  Just at dusk one night took my watch off for a wash – was called away suddenly and left my watch in the grass.  By the time I got back it was dark and as no lights could be shown wasn’t in the race of finding it and as we moved on shortly afterwards thought I’d said goodbye to it.  However in the course of milling around we got back to the same spot next day and you can imagine how pleased I was to find my watch in the grass where I’d left it, especially as a couple of hundred men had been backward and forward over that spot in the meantime.

Well guess I’d better cut this short now Mother & Dad.  Have to issue out the tobacco rations and the troops are starving for a smoke – the issue is getting worse instead of better.  Then I must do some washing as I fancy we go out again tomorrow.  So for now will say cheerio.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to Laurie & the boys.



Out on Manoeuvres 

Bn diary shows 3.30am reveille on Sept 11, with march out at 4.30am :  the Bn was to act as enemy in a Brigade exercise. Kairi where the Battalion was based is adjacent to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (designated in 1988). There is abundant tropical rainforest, along with magnificent gorges, rivers and lakes. This image depicts men of another Battalion on manoeuvres in the same area in September 1944 :

Troops of the 2/14th Infantry Battalion cross rocks during manoeuvres – Kairi Atherton Tableland Sept 1944.

Communication on manoeuvres

AWM 081093 Operating A108 Wireless telephony set (Walkie Talkie)

They look like a bug, jump like a flea and bite like hell….

These pests were presumably midges….  ref  NT Health Dept info – 09 August 2019 :  It is the time of year again, when biting midges come out in force.  (https://health.nt.gov.au/news/pre-2020/biting-midge-season-to-start

Losing and finding his watch

I wonder how long the grass was…. No wonder he asked for a ticket in Tatts !

Personnel of the 9th Infantry Battalion training near Mareeba Queensland June 1944

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A picture show, an extra good concert … and serious training begins (2 letters)

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

3rd Sept 44

Dear Mother

Being Sunday and having finished the washing and been to church shall settle down to write a few letters – owe quite a lot this week.  How are you Mother.  Happy and well I hope – and Gran too hope she’s better again.

Had a letter from Ivy during the week – suppose you had one too.  Youngster is quite thrilled having Bill home from leave and then a southern posting – the best news (family news) I’ve had for a long time.  It’s to be hoped the posting holds for the rest of the war – don’t suppose there’s many places they can send Naval men when they’re unfit for tropical service.

The amenities in these parts seem particularly good.  There was an extra good concert on Thursday night – one of the best I’ve seen – army concerts have reached a really high standard these days though of course being Divisional shows they don’t get around to unit areas much.  This show has quite a lot of high ranking artists.  The singing and musical items being particularly good – could have listened to them all night – and the variety programme left little to be desired.  The organisation of continuity was excellent – never a break and never a dull moment.

Then last night we went to a picture show – although both pictures were old – had seen one of them twice before and the other once – I enjoyed the show.  The first picture was San Francisco – don’t know if you’ve seen it but I think it’s one of the best Jeanette MacDonald made.  It’s really a powerful picture.  The other show was Desert Victory.

There was rather a funny incident during a stunt on Friday.  We stopped for a smoko and of course made the most of the shade at the side of the road.  One of my blokes no sooner sat down than he bounced ten feet in the air having sat on a snake.  He’s no sooner landed on his feet than two hornets went to town on him, one of them scoring a direct hit, much to the amusement of the mob.

Must do something about these fleas this morning Mother.  There’s so much dust and straw that it’s just a little playground for them and you can imagine how they go to town on a tasty morsel like me.  However I’ll scrape up the dust presently and see if I can get some phenyl.  Cooper’s sheep dip powder would be the drill but rather doubt that there’ll be any about.

Got dragged away to a meeting of the mess to determine the prices of spirits – not that I suppose we’ll get that much but still it’s just as well to know what we’re up for.  Had a bottle of Fosters last night – very nice too.  They tell me we’ll be getting two bottles a week.

I must say cheerio now Mother.  There’s been another menace here to disturb me – had my blankets airing on the telephone wires and apparently it upset things so had better do something about it.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline & regards to the boys




The image at the top of this post (AWM 066540) shows members of the 4th Division concert party erecting their portable stage for the night’s show. … On the concert stage truck (Fargo type) the steel framework is bolted together and canvas awnings are slung over it to complete the mobile stage.

The AWM collection contains many images of concert performances, such as the following :

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

9th Sept 44

Dear Mother

Received your welcome letter early in the week but haven’t had a chance to reply till now as we’ve been very busy – nothing really tough so far but one doesn’t get much time to attend to letter writing particularly the sergeants with so much time taken in administration.  However Mother am on guard today so hope to catch up a little.

Was glad to hear that life is moving along smoothly , that you, May the children and the troops are as happy as possible with things as they are.  Haven’t heard any more from Dad.  I didn’t answer his letter as he’d said it would be no use doing so as he had no fixed address and from the way he wrote it didn’t sound as though he intended to stay.  However Youngster has had a letter since and from the tone in which she wrote to me  I think he’ll try and see the season through now though he’s finding it very hard – Ten hours a day of that work is too much for him.  It’s a young man’s job.   I hope he’ll give it away and go back home.  Don’t suppose it’s any use writing him to the address he wrote from though I suppose it would catch up eventually.

I am pleased to hear that Daisy’s baby is better – those things can be very tough can’t they.  If you do manage to get down give her my kind regards Mother will you.  Really must try and write to Daph and May but once again time is the big factor in the appreciation.

Bill turned up alright and apparently things are going along very nicely.  Ivy sounded very happy and it seems that the baby is thrilled too.  They’ve had a few short trips in the car and done a show.  Think it will mean a lot to both of them to have him stationed near home.

Thank Laurie for me for looking after the car Mother will you – wouldn’t like to have it deteriorate for want of a run occasionally.

Will say cheerio now – give my love to May & Anne & Carline & regards to Laurie & the boys.



We’ve been busy

The battalion Diary and Training Schedule indicate the return to ‘training in earnest’…

The AWM collection holds images of training in the area at this time – though not of Dad’s Battalion.

Image 081082 : September 1944 – Troops of the 2/14th Infantry Battalion advance up a hill to take a position during a battalion exercise.

AWM 085195 : Danbulla, Atherton Tableland – December 1944 – Vickers machine gun used to provide fire power over the heads of advancing forces in an exercise being conducted at HQ 7 Division.

Surprising omission : September 7 Memorial Service

I wonder whether there was still an order in force, preventing mention of the Liberator disaster (see http://www.liberatorcrash.com ) in letters. It’s the only way I can rationalise the fact that Dad didn’t mention the memorial service held on the anniversary of that event – September 7. It’s mentioned in the Battalion War Diary (see image above) and in the following week’s Griffin, and I’m sure Dad would have been strongly affected by the service.

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Moving north for jungle training; father’s location unknown (2 letters)

Australian troops embarking for the Atherton Tableland at Cairns Railway station.

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF


Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well and enjoying life.  Hope it’s not quite so lonely now.  Had a letter from dad on Thursday – seemed very disappointed that he hadn’t heard from you – gathered he’s written you twice since he’s been away.  Thought you’d probably written but your letters hadn’t caught up as he’s moving from one station to another.  Had been split up from Fred and was finding the work pretty tough though he’d made friends with other fellows.  Thinks perhaps he might give it a go for another couple of weeks and then come home.

(Page torn off here….  no further text)

What was his father doing?

Although his departure seemed a shock, reference to the possibility of him ‘going to work for another season’ had been made in a letter dated 16th January: It was very surprising to hear that you’re going to work for another season.  The game’s too tough for you now dad and although it’s a change I think you’d be better to keep away from it, especially as the warm weather plays up with you so much. Maybe the fact that this job (going to New South Wales with Fred Booth – see letter of August 13) was in winter contributed to the decision. To go shearing (as I believe was the case – though can no longer find the reference) at the age of 62 seems surprising. He was described as a ‘labourer’ when he enlisted for WWI, and I assumed the labour would have been associated with the orcharding for which the family was best known. (He was described as an orchardist on his marriage certificate). But perhaps he was one of those people who would have a go at anything!

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

31st Aug 44

Dear Mother

Received your welcome letter this morning.  Am very sorry to hear that Grandma is ill and hope she’s soon better again.  Give her my love and best wishes.  Why doesn’t she want a doctor Mother – is it just a fad?  Must be a big strain on you at the present time being there alone – can quite imagine you being too tired to want to do anything but sit by the fire at night.  Hope the pater sticks to his intention to come home – don’t think it would be much good my trying to write him as he wouldn’t be at a station long enough from the time he wrote me till I wrote back.  If he knew in advance where he was going next I would write there.

The news about Bill coming south is particularly good.  Hope it means he’s posted nearer Melbourne – will mean a lot to Ivy to have him home or handy where he can come home occasionally if only for a day now and again.  Anyway guess Youngster will tell us the story in her next letter.

Sounds as though the boys are still happy in the service and get a bit of fun out of playing around.  They’re a great team – it’s a pity they’re getting old.  Must be about nine now.  Suppose they miss Dad a bit.  Bill still likes his slice of toast – remember when I used to take them to work with me.  We’d have our toast together and away we’d go.  Bill chasing stones all the way over. Wonder if they remember those days – rather fancy they would.

Rob’s certainly heading them, Mother – had a look around for a while and now out again.   How long was he in – twelve months or a bit more than that – nearly two years I suppose wouldn’t it be.  My compliments to him when you see him Mother and regards to Hilda and Nell too.  How’s she keeping these days?  Got over her bout of sicknesses?  Has Maurie Aherne been home again since I was there?  He was at Darwin I think so probably got over when Max Philips was home.  You might ask Rob, Mother, if there are any courses on building – not just trade courses but contracting and estimating and that sort of thing that I could do by correspondence as I’d like to spend my spare time during the next twelve months getting up to date so that I can get going as soon as the show’s over and it looks as though another eighteen months should see the finish.

I don’t want you to bother just now Mother but later on when you get time will you have a look and see if there’s one of my photos about.  Don’t get one if there isn’t but Buntie said she’d like one, so if there’s one about you might send it on sometime will you.  Could use a few handkerchiefs too if there’s any in the drawers.

There’s not much news Mother so will say cheerio for now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline.  Hope May’s  Nemitis (??) is better and regards to the boys



PS Carline’s birthday is on the 16th of September isn’t it so will you give her a pound for me – don’t suppose it’s possible to buy anything.

love – Max

Grandma is ill

Dad’s maternal grandmother Frances Jackson (nee Clark) was his only grandparent still alive in 1944. She died the following year at the age of 82.

Good news about Bill coming south

Dad’s sister Ivy was married to Bill Drysdale who was a Lieutenant in the Intelligence section of the RAN. He had been based in Port Moresby, attached to the main naval store HMAS Basilisk, for the previous year, but had secured a transfer to the Navy’s personnel training base HMAS Cerberus on Western Port Bay : very convenient for Ivy who was living in Melbourne with their baby son.

The main naval store of the RAN base store, HMAS Basilisk, Port Moresby 1944.

The boys are still happy in the service

This is a reference to the family dogs – who were clearly considered members of the family. Early family group photos generally include at least one dog.

Correspondence courses re building

Dad was described as a ‘contractor’ on his enlistment papers, and his army mates (and officers) certainly made use of his experience and expertise as a builder (see the page – Max the Builder) . I don’t know who Rob was, but I do know that on his return to civilian life, Dad was employed in the Dept of Post War Reconstruction. The note on this photo (with colleague Roy Barnes who was ‘an assessor’) indicates he was administratively responsible for training in building and allied trades in the southern region of Tasmania. He later worked in a similar though state-wide role in the Repatriation Dept. It was in the course of this work that he met my mother who was at the time a tutor sister at the Launceston General Hospital. Dad went there to arrange training for a young man as a surgical bootmaker.

A photo for Buntie

Buntie Tait was the older sister of Dad’s young friend John McGrow QX 7355 who died in the Liberator disaster (https://www.liberatorcrash.com) in September 1943. Buntie and her husband Bob always welcomed John’s friends into their home in Brisbane, fed them ‘wonderfull meals’, accommodated them overnight, took them out for drives, etc…

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Enjoying leave in Brisbane; the ‘powers Referendum’ result; questions about ‘the pater’ persist (2 letters)

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn


20th August 44

Dear Mother

Your very welcome letter arrived on Wednesday along with one from Ivy, and made good reading.  Am glad to know you re getting along alright though I guess you’re kept pretty busy.  There’s such a lot of things to be done around the place for one person – too much altogether.  Haven’t heard anything from the pater as yet – suppose he hasn’t got settled in or maybe is being kept too busy.  Has he written you as to his whereabouts mother?  Am glad Laurie got the battery fixed up – did he give the engine a run?

Have had quite a good week here.  The weather has been beautiful and the work more interesting than usual, though a bit tough on the feet.  Managed to get into town one afternoon – was quite enjoyable really – got my watch illuminated and bought some writing paper.  Treated myself well too – booked the night at the Canberra Temperance Hotel, a real swell joint with a shower in the bedroom – very reasonable too especially for Q’land.  Went to a show at one of the theatres – left it a bit late getting there as I waited for Bruce Lloyd who was going to try and get in after tea, but didn’t manage it.  The show I wanted to see was booked right out- and there must have been over a hundred still waiting about.  Had just about made up my mind to to to a Theatrette when an old chap with what I suppose were his wife and daughter came in & the old bloke walked over and asked if I wanted a seat as he’d booked four and only three came.  So I got an extra good seat.  He turned out to be related to the Gellibrand and Nicholas’s at the Ouse and knew Tassie well.  It was a good show ‘ “The Black Swan” and I was glad I’d got the seat.

Judging from the latest reports in the Sunday paper the referendum has been lost.  Was rather surprised at the New South Wales vote – thought they’d have been strongly for it.  There were quite a lot fo good points in the scheme but a few bad ones upset the show and as it meant taking the good with the bad I think most people took the view that it was too revolutionary.

Well news is scarce Mother so will say cheerio – give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the troops.  Love   Max.

PS  Heard yesterday that Jim had a fractured back and though they think he’ll be alright don’t expect him back in the army.

The Canberra Hotel

The Canberra Hotel was officially opened on 20 July 1929. The hotel was situated on the corner of Ann and Edwards Streets, opposite the Salvation Army’s People’s Palace. It was erected by the Queensland Prohibition League (formerly the Strength of Empire Movement, and later the Temperance League). The founders aim was to demonstrate  “that a first class hotel could be successfully conducted without the curse and nuisance of liquor“. They dedicated the building to “the highest type of residential life … a guarantee and an assurance that the fight for a sober land was not going to die out“. The image below is from a 1937 advertisement.

(https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/blog/sobriety-ruins-demolition-canberra-hotel )

The Referendum

Apparently the majority of voters agreed with Robert Menzies (a member of the conservative opposition to John Curtin’s Labor government) that some of the powers went ‘beyond what a non-socialist programme of post-war reconstruction would require’. (https://www.moadoph.gov.au/blog/referenda-and-plebiscites-whats-the-difference/# )

Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights

The question posed was – Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled ‘Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) 1944’?

Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) 1944, the ‘Fourteen Powers’ or ‘Fourteen Points’ Referendum, sought to give the Commonwealth Parliament power, for a period of five years, to legislate with respect to the fourteen specified matters, which included the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, national health, family allowances and ‘the people of Aboriginal race’ as well as, in some form, many of the matters on which powers to legislate had been sought in 1911 (that is, corporations, trusts, combines and monopolies). There were also to be inserted constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and religion and safeguards against the abuse of delegated legislative power. All of these proposed alterations were put to voters in the form of one question.

A majority of voters in WA and SA approved. Overall, there were 342,018 fewer formal votes in favour of the proposal than against. So the proposal did not succeed. Interestingly, of the 417 082 votes by members of the Forces, 218 452 were for, 195 148 against and 3482 informal: ie a majority of those in the forces supported the proposal.


Official Photos

Not mentioned in the letter, but as well as being voting day, August 19 was devoted to the taking of official photos of all the companies and other groupings. Dad appears at the far right of the back row in this photo of ‘Senior Non Commissioned Officers’ (AWM 068556). Bruce Lloyd – also mentioned in this letter – is seated at the far left of the front row.

Senior Non Commissioned Officers of the 2/33rd Infantry Battalion. Identified personnel are: (left to right, front row) TX531 Sergeant (Sgt) B M Lloyd; NX58527 Sgt D B Maxwell; NX13185 Sgt J N Taylor; QX1146 Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) R Ross; VX17566 WO2 F Allshorn; TX1180 Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) K C Anderson; NX10597 WO2 K V Hopkins; SX636 WO2 J F Moreau; TX919 WO2 R H Robinson; NX44065 Sgt R Shimmin. Middle row, left to right: NX10010 Sgt T W Alchin; VX2045 Sgt J A Dwyer; NX10011 Lance Sergeant (LSgt) L W Alchin; NX32925 Staff Sergeant (SSgt) H J Costello; NX6483 Sgt S Black; QX2853 Sgt P McCowan; NX15157 Sgt J O Rossiter; NX28339 LSgt A H Morton; NX88379 Sgt R V Pearson; NX6517 SSgt F Mothersal; QX3234 Sgt J W Davies; QX4910 Sgt M J O’connor; QX35179 Sgt W A McCreath. Back row, left to right: SX2307 SSgt K A Henschke; NX69285 Sgt H J Norton; VX115841 Sgt J Finch; QX6550 Sgt F E Dredge; NX83984 Sgt A S Hincks; TX1197 Sgt F J Story MM; NX83996 Sgt G A Chittick; NX6403 Sgt C J Barlow; NX114121 Sgt M Cotteril; VX11743 Sgt I M Dwyer MM; NX44041 LSgt J B Chambers; NX92910 LSgt W J Elbourne; TX1004 Sgt M L Hickman.

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn


24/ 8/ 44

Dear Mother

We look like being busy during the weekend so will try and get my mail up to date tonight and tomorrow night.  Am glad to know that you, May, Anne & Carline are keeping well though sorry life is so lonely.  Even though Peter and the troops are extra good fellows and probably understand all you say to them it’s not much satisfaction to keep talking without any answer.

Had a letter from Ivy this morning but so far haven’t heard anything from dad – might be taking him a fair while to get to wherever he’s going or perhaps he hasn’t settled in yet.  Anyway I guess one of us will hear form him soon.

Jim McDonnell is able to get about again now but is still in plaster and I believe he will be in plaster for anything up to three months.  Chaps who have come back from the hospital say the doctors think he will be alright again.  Went to town with Bruce Lloyd last night with the idea of treating ourselves to a big night – had a leave pass till the morning.  Started off extra well – got a lift to the station and got off a few stops before town and had a few drinks.  Had arranged to meet some of the boys there : they’d got a lift in a truck.  When we went into the pub you’d have thought there was a fire sale on – a tremendous crowd.  Anyhow, they had a couple ready for us and after we had them we went and had a meal, then went on to a show – a good show too – “His Butler’s Sister” starring Deanna Durbin.

From then on the rot set in and we couldn’t take a trick.  Had ideas of staying at a Hotel – sleeping between sheets, having a hot bath and eggs and bacon for breakfast – but the plans of men and mice definitely went astray and we gradually worked down the social scale of hotels to service hostels only to find that they too were booked out so eventually we finished up sleeping on the seats at the Central Station.  What a come down – but it had its compensations Mother as when the train came in we just had to step aboard.  Ag had bought some doughnuts whilst we were touring the city looking for a bed so we ate our breakfast on the way and even if it wasn’t eggs and bacon we were hungry and they were good.

Must say cheerio now Mother.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.

Love Max.

Peter and the troops

These were the family dogs.

His Butler’s Sister : An American musical comedy

Moving to the Atherton Tableland (Kairi)

A route march for the whole Battalion on August 22 was followed by a full day of packing stores and cleaning camp. Then on Thursday 24th D company entrained for the move, and on Friday 25th the remainder of the Battalion followed. The journey lasted a full 3 days. (ref. Unit War Diary AWM RCDIG1027245)

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Two letters: Before and after the Divvy March and a surprise from home

6th Aug 44

Dear Mother & dad

Have your letter of the 31st – quite interesting too though sorry to hear Jim Butterworth has gone – a good fellow Jim and one of the real identities of the Club.  Never heard anyone say a bad word about him.  It’s good to hear that you’re getting good weather down there now – you’ve certainly had a tough winter – guess the first winter home will be tough for us as we haven’t really struck any cold weather since we left Syria and only a few weeks then.

Life continues to be reasonably pleasant here although at the moment they’re march happy, training for the divvy march for Tuesday.  The formations are very different to anything we’ve done before so of course it’s needed a lot of practice to get things right and a bit of juggling around to have the different weapons in the best positions.  A lot of the sergeants are a bit crooked on things because they’ve made us fall in with the mob – only the officers being detached.  The sergeants consider it a loss of dignity though it doesn’t mean a thing to me.  The Brigadiers and CO’s are particularly anxious that the show should be a success as it’s the first divisional march this war and General Vasey is to be at the Saluting Base.  Old George is the most popular General in the AIF.  There’s going to be a ton of bands for the show so it should be alright though five miles at the slope in service dress will drive the grease out – the sun’s got a bit of sting in it now and on macadamised roads she’ll be heavy.

I went to the opera on Friday night – a real upstage show.  Took Mrs Tait and her daughter.  It was quite a good show too.  The company are having a great run here – even extending their season.  After the show I took them home and stayed the night.

Jim is still in Hospital.  Wouldn’t be surprised if the next I hear from him is in your letters .  Must say cheerio now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.



Preparing for the big day (Tuesday 8th August)

Apart from the participants in the march, the City of Brisbane was working hard on logistics in relation to traffic management and crowd control.  The Courier Mail advised on  Friday 4 August that school children would be given a half day holiday the following Tuesday to enable them to watch the march, and parliament also decided to take a break from 12.30 until 3.00 so MP’s  could attend. (see https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48948490/2008251)

On the day

According to The Footsoldiers (p 377) ‘There were ten days of newspaper publicity relating to the 7th Division’s activities in England, Syria, Papua and Lae-Ramu and many references to the ‘Silent Seventh’…  The enthusiastic crowds made it a never-to-be-forgotten moment.  Never before and an entire division with all its staff and support troops marched in a city in Australia…’

‘Five miles in heavy uniform’ :  Readers familiar with Brisbane streets may be interested in the route : Victoria Park – Gilchrist Ave – Countess St – Roma St – King George Sq – Adelaide St – George St – Queen St – Wickham St – Brunswick St – Victoria Park.  Saluting Base – City Hall.

This photo shows troops of the 25th Brigade (battalion not identified) relaxing in the assembly area at Victoria Park while waiting for the order to fall in.

AWM 068150

Photos of the march :

 AWM 068367  : Men of the 2/33rd passing the saluting base.

No. 4 in the photo is WO II Rodney Robinson (TX919) to whom Dad refers in the letter below.

Others identified are :NX34870 Capt. G B Connor(1), NX13643 Lieut J T May (2), VX102132 Lieut R Fredericks (3)

Men of the 7th Division engineers (source unknown).  I’ve included this one because the rifles look so dramatic- demonstrating the meaning of ‘at the slope’ – and it gives a good idea of the crowd.

However, more than any photos, this video from the AWM (F07116) provides a wonderful insight into the day – before, during and after the march – including showing the crowds on rooftops and flooding into the streets to join the marchers.  It only runs for 4 mins 30 sec.

TX 1004

Sgt Hickman M L

2/33rd Btn


     PS    Will you get me a ticket in Tatts

Dear Mother

Haven’t heard from you this week though had a letter from youngster which somewhat explains why.  Dad’s decision to go to New South Wales with Fred Booth must have been very sudden as he’d never hinted at doing so in his letters and youngster’s reference to his passing through Melbourne was very vague.  What is it Mother – just a trip or a reunion or what?  Last time dad wrote he said he was going to Launceston.  Hope he’s not going to be away too long as it will be very tough for you being alone and having so much to do and so little convenience especially for getting stuff out from town.  Dad was never one to make sudden decisions like that before – never known him do anything on the spur of the moment before.  Fred Booth must have a big influence on him.

We’ve had quite a big week here what with the divvy march and one thing and another.  The march was a great success – the biggest there’s been in Australia this war and everything went very well – practically the whole population for miles around turned out to see it and gave the show a wonderful reception.  The organisation was extra good too.  Don’t think there was a hitch in any part of it – not as far as our show was concerned anyway.  The only thing lacking was bands – there was less bands for the ten thousand men in this show than there was for three thousand men in Melbourne.  The weather too was with us : it had been threatening for days and even rained the night before but the big fall held off till the day after the march.  I suppose some of the movie tone people made films of the march so if you can, try and see it.  Think you’ll like it.  There were some funny incidents though of course being in it we missed most of the amusing sidelights.  The sergeant major of my company came in for a lion’s share of appreciation by the girls and women – he’s a big lean spare red headed fellow from Flinders Island and being socially inclined has made many friends among the girls services – and at the various strong points they cheered frantically and called his name.  One middle aged woman ran right out and put her arms round his neck to kiss him.  Poor Robby was embarrassed from start to finish, changing colours a dozen times every hundred yards.  Just toward the finish of the march I saw Mrs Tait and young Jack came over to tell me his mother had two bottles of beer for me in her bag but unfortunately I couldn’t take them – was as dry as chips too, having marched five miles in heavy uniform and at the slope all the time.  Pity considering the trouble she must have had getting them – but people just don’t understand the army.

Must say cheerio now Mother.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline & regards to the boys.



censor – J Kemp.

Brisbane Acclaims the Seventh

This report from the Courier Mail on the day after the march also provides some wonderful photos of the event. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48953572/2008277

Spur of the moment decision

What a surprise!  Dad’s father was 62 and had never done anything like this before.

The letter from Ivy clearly didn’t give much detail – just that he was heading for New South Wales  – and his mother was presumably just as shocked as he was.  Although she had plenty of friends, and daughter May and family living next door, she didn’t drive and obviously relied on my grandfather to do the ‘heavy lifting’ around the home.  Some information about the expedition comes to light in later letters – though an explanation as such is never given.

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A fishing trip, a mention in the Griffin and a letter from Gen Vasey
















23rd July 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Am a bit late writing this week.  Had intended doing so Friday whilst on guard but the competition is so keen – each company mounts one competition guard a week and the platoon were rather anxious to win so of course I had to be on my toes all the time – and though I started to write several times never actually got to doing so.  How did the birthday go Mother?  Hope you had a happy day with an appropriate evening – which I suppose would be a game of cards.  Anyway, however you spent it I hope it was good.

Received your welcome letter of the 16th on Thursday: made good reading too.  As you say we’ve certainly got the edge on you for weather – we’ve had a week of perfect weather – very cold at night but extra good in the day time.  It’s certainly the best winter climate in Australia.

Have had quite a good round of entertainment round these ridges this week – a concert by a party from the Broadcasting Commission on Tuesday night supported by the unit band which incidentally is booked to broadcast from two Q’land stations soon, so that’ll give you an idea that they’re good.  I suppose one of the best bands in Australia at present.  Most of the items at the concert were either singing or musical numbers and though somewhat spoiled by a few animal acts by fellows who’d got into some grog, was an extra good show.  Then on Thursday night the officers and sergeants messes put on a dance with the WAAF’s and this too turned out a great success – good floor, good music and good dancing.  The WAAF’s brought along three of their friends from the WAC’s- the American women’s show – had a dance with one of them – very nice too – had been educated in Europe and spoke better English than most Australians.  She had a great impression of Australia but not Australian politics.

As I’ve mentioned earlier leave is now practically scrubbed and except for married men resident in the area it’s difficult to get away at all.  However after we’d won the guard competition for the week I saw the adjutant and arranged for Viv and I to get away Saturday evening till tonight as we’d promised to go fishing with the Taits.  We had tea in town and went out to Alderley – that’s near Enoggera round seven o’clock.  They were very pleased to see us as I’d written telling them how things stood.  Put in a pleasant evening with them, stayed the night and today went to Calloundra with them in the car.  The weather was perfect and although I didn’t catch any fish had a very enjoyable day.  They got a couple of dozen good sized bream.   Viv caught five or six but I couldn’t do any good.

Am enclosing a copy of a letter circulated amongst the divvy from General Vasey.  The most popular divisional commander in Australia – always had a friendly nod whenever he net any of the mob.  Would like you to put it away somewhere.  Am also enclosing a copy of the Griffin in which you’ll see that Jim has made the news.  Must say cheerio now Mother & dad.  Give my love to May & Anne & Carline and regards to the Troops.



Unit band

The Battalion diary notes on July 24 – Unit band gives recital at Greenslopes military hospital.  This hospital had only opened in 1943, and after the war became the Repatriation General Hospital.

Image – AWM068377

The band playing its part in the 7th Division March, Brisbane August 1944



A Dance with the WAAF’s


AWM 083183

A dance in Kairi north Queensland in November 1944 : 7th Division personnel, AWAS and others.



Leave is practically scrubbed

Orders re leave issued on 15th July  ref 25 Bde diary May – July 1944

AWM RCDIG 1025403






Enoggera barracks

To provide an orientation to where the Taits live, Dad mentions Enoggera – the location of an Army Barracks of the same name that his father was familiar with: it was where he waited with others of the 26th Battalion in June and July of 1915, before embarking for Egypt and Gallipoli.


Image – possibly the fishing spot (Military Jetty – Golden Beach Caloundra)





General Vasey

Major General George Vasey had taken over command of the 7th Division in October 1942.  According to his Wikipedia entry, Vasey’s concern for an rapport with his men was a key factor in his success as a general…. He was hospitalised in New Guinea in February 1944 and again in Melbourne in March, then in June he became seriously ill with malaria and acute peripheral neuropathy, and for a time was not expected to live.  7th Division soldiers in the hospital constantly asked the nursing staff about his progress.  The men called him ‘Bloody George’, not after his casualties but after his favourite adjective.  Vasey’s personable style of command attracted immense loyalty from his men.  “Vasey owns the 7th” wrote a Melbourne journalist “but every man in the Division believes he owns Vasey”.

AWM 140796 

Melbourne, March 1944 :  This image of Vasey with 2 privates and a WO conveys the ease with which he related to the men



Commander’s Letter to the troops

ref: 25 Bde diary May – July 1944

AWM – RCDIG 1025403






News from The Griffin

The Griffin of 19 July mentions both Dad and Jim.  Dad is ‘Hick’ who commented on someone (poor old Irish) who tells only two kinds of people – those who ask and those who don’t – and Jim is the member of HQ company who was reportedly trying to emulate the deeds of Tarzan when he fell.  

ref – Unit diary July – Sept 1944  – AWM  RCDIG 1027245


Posted in escapades, relaxation, fun and games, training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment