An exhausting exercise: ‘They’ve drank my bath water!’

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

22nd Nov 1944

Dear Mother & Dad

Am a bit late writing this week as we’ve been out on a nine day exercise – a bloody gruelling show too – only arrived back last night.  The mail service was one of the bright features.  Your welcome letter of the 13th arrived on Friday.  Glad to know things are going along alright at home although weather and nature seem very much against you.  Could have used a bit of that winter weather here – it’s been over a hundred every day last week – anyone selling water could have made a fortune.

Think you ought to give that Campbell Town idea away Dad and Jones’s too for that matter.  I know it’s a break and all that but it’s time you gave bullocking away.  You mention that you might see Ken Jenkins.  I believe he’s doing alright in that  business he’s got but bad luck is sticking to him in other ways.  His daughter Pat has had an illness of some sort and will be confined to bed for twelve months… hard luck that as when I saw them she was doing very well at school and looked very healthy.   It’s tough to battle against sickness like that.

Am not surprised that the Zinc Works dispute should have ended in the way it did.  The men hadn’t any alternative as things went and Foster would certainly have a laugh up his sleeve.  Expect to hear of Jim being back at the Works any time now, though I suppose he’d make Claremont last as long as possible – would be a mug if he didn’t under the circumstances.

Remember that young fellow who came up to see me while we were doing the yard – the smart cut of a bloke.  Well one of the chaps had a letter saying he was killed in an accident – a bad job that he was an extra nice bloke.  His mother and Mary will take it hard and his girl too – she’s a nice kid.

There’s not much news from this end I’m afraid Mother & Dad.  There wasn’t much in the show to make news of.  Perhaps the lightest feature occurred the first day out :  we were halted out a bit while the officers went forward to recky platoon areas in the bivouac area and my lieut – a new bloke – put on a star act.  There was a thunderstorm on and he pegged his shelter out in a well-like manner to collect the water with the idea of having a bath.  When I brought the platoon along and he was giving me the set-up the boys who hadn’t had water all day shoved their mugs in, and by the time we’d got back they’d drunk the lot.  Never saw such a look of disgust and disappointment on a man’s face when he saw there wasn’t any left and his expression “:They’ve drank my bath water” was perfect.  But I think before the exercise had finished he realised that bathing the body was nowhere as important as drinking.

See from the local paper that they’re going to release men for the building trade.  Wonder just what it involves – don’t suppose it’ll apply to AIF combat units – guess the CCC and AWC will supply all they men they need for that.  Is Mick Mason still at the shipyards, or has he moved out?  It’s about time they closed that joint down altogether.  Do you ever see anything of Dick Schultz these days?  Suppose he’s well settled down now.

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



No mention of the White Australia Policy debate

The Battalion Diary shows Sunday 12th as a normal Sunday – viz. Church parade and rest day for troops. So I assume Dad would have written home as usual. That letter would surely have included comment on the debate on the topic “Australia must adhere to the White Australia Policy” – see report below in the following Friday’s ‘Griffin’. Although his team didn’t win, the adjudicator made particular note of Dad’s ‘verbal gems’ in the course of his rebuttal.

The weather

This article in the Brisbane Courier Mail confirms that temperatures were indeed abnormally high, so undertaking battle simulations, fully kitted out, would be a challenge – despite previous experience in New Guinea.

The Exercise itself

The ‘General Instructions’ extracted from the Battalion Diary include interesting details re Weapons, Ammunition, Dress and Water… and the image of another unit undertaking a similar exercise n the same month clarifies the ‘dress’ rule.

Image above : Tank Rock, Queensland 27 November 1944 : Members of 2/9 Bn AIF fire a mortar during battle exercises. AWM 083602

A truck accident causes death and injuries

The diary shows that Companies A and B remained in the exercise area until November 21 – which is when Dad says he returned, so he must have been in one of those companies at this time. The diary also records on November 20 that Pte F G Murphy (NX 14642) was reported accidentally killed in a truck accident in which Ptes J L Stokes (NX 29820), A E Whittaker (NX 43621) and A F Mumford (NX 67764) were injured. Presumably the censorship rules were as strict in relation to this accident as they were in relation to the Liberator disaster, so no mention of it could be made in a letter. Speed was presumably a factor in the accident : para 115 of the Routine Orders issued the same day (see below) had a section headed Speed of Army Vehicles.

The Zinc Works dispute

As per previous post (5 November) the dispute went to arbitration, ‘unpopular superintendent’ Forster withdrew his remarks and the men went back to work without penalty after their 3-week strike.  I don’t know why Dad would think Forster would be having ‘a laugh up his sleeve’.

Wooden boats for the war effort

CCC – the Civil Construction Corps – managed by the AWC’s (Allied Works Councils) in each state – see . At its peak strength in August 1943, almost 54,000 men were serving in the CCC. 

If Mick Mason was working ‘at the shipyards’ this would have been at Prince of Wales Bay, under the management of the Commonwealth Shipbuilding Board. This was one of two shipyards in Hobart where wooden boats were being built for the war effort. The booklet ‘Tasmania’s War Effort’ published in 1946 declared ‘These ships are almost all Tasmanian in their construction. Every man in the yard from the manager down is a Tasmanian. The hardwood, King Billy, Huon pine and celery pine are all from Tasmanian forests. …The engines were constructed in Melbourne, but propellers and shafts were made at the Launceston Railway Workshops. All the other fittings were constructed in Tasmania except the wireless, anchors and cables, which came from Melbourne. The yard employed more than 600 men at its peak and at the end of the war, 460.

The other Hobart shipbuilding yard – the oldest in the state – was Purdon and Featherstone, at Battery Point, where ships were both built and repaired. Six ships – three ‘ambulance carriers’ and three harbour defence launches. The ambulance carriers were designed to go into rivers and shallow waters to evacuate the wounded and take them as speedily as possible to a hospital ship or base hospital. They were equipped to carry 32 patients and also had an operating theatre on board. The image below shows one of each type of ship. The firm also carried out repairs and service to 80 Liberty ships.

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Mystery of the missing page… a strike at the Zinc Works

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

5th Nov 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Received your very interesting letter of the 30th on Friday – glad to know you’re all well and that Carline has recovered and is picking up.  As Ivy says it’s much better to be sick oneself than have a sick child.  Have arranged with the canteen sergeant to get me a couple of tins of Ovaltine and will post them on.  They may help her through though don’t know whether they contain the necessary vitamins.

The show must have been a big affair and what a windfall for the society – collect the Insurance and cop a gate like that.  Don’t suppose they’d have made that profit if they had held a show each year – guess the crowd were keen for a change and went out in spite of the weather.

That show at the Zinc Works is a ….(?)…NEXT PAGE MISSING

so we dug a square out, gravelled it, set bolts in so as to raise the tent poles and have now got plenty of room with four beds on one side, one in each of the other corners, a table and two forms in the centre.  The table is well adorned with women’s photos as four of the blokes are very newly weds while the other one is all but.

The weather back here is much more settled than it’s been where we were lately.  It’s a perfect day today – we’ve done all our washing – there was a power of it too after a fortnight.  Church service is over and we’ve got the rest of the day to ourselves, so when I finish this letter and one to Ivy will do a bit of spine bashing for an hour or two.

Will say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne, Carline and regards to Laurie & the boys.



PS Remember me to Mrs Phillips and my regards to Audrey when you see her

Censor J Balfour-Ogilvy

  Record Gate for Royal Hobart Show, Despite Rain

Although heavy rain fell almost continuously from 11am, gate receipts of £1290 at the 81st Royal Hobart Show yesterday were the highest in the history of the society.  The weather was the worst experienced for several years but it is estimated that the attendance was 18,000 only 2000 short of the record….  In addition to the record gate, the society collected rain insurance of £800.  It had insured against 10 points of rain to 1.30pm and 11 points had been recorded just before noon.  Undeterred by the rain, which produced flooded conditions on the ground, city and country folk thronged the stock pens. (Extract from the Launceston Examiner – Thursday October 26  1944 – p.3 )

In its centre pages spread (pp 10,11) of Show reports, the Hobart Mercury of October 26 supplied further weather details –  …Before the rain began the Showgrounds already was fairly crowded – ring events in full swing, sideshows busy and there was every indication of a successful day.   At 11.30 in the midst of the first heavy storm, both the ring and the ground appeared almost deserted.  The public retreated to every available shelter, and the official opening was deferred.  Later there was a thunderstorm and hail…..Because of the weather ring events had to be drastically curtailed…..

The photos include one of a large number of umbrellas in use, and one of a patron using a horse blanket to stay dry. ( )

What’s been censored??  – ‘That Show at the Zinc Works’?

Considering that it seems Dad was commenting on reports that had already appeared in the press, it’s hard to imagine why anything he said about what was happening at the Zinc Works could have been subject to censorship.  The only reference I can find to censorship of letters home from training camps was Standing Orders of 7 October which noted – 

I can imagine that Dad would have sympathised with the workers’ reaction to the ‘alleged remark’ but might also have taken the opportunity to comment more broadly on politics and some of the individuals involved… but with a whole page of the letter missing, I can only surmise!

Launceston Examiner Monday 30 October 1944 p4 – ‘Production of Zinc Ceases’

on Saturday morning employees in the electrolytic section refused to carry out certain work which was necessary if operations were to continue, and it became necessary to shut down this section, and as a result the leaching section of the plant as well.  Approximately 400 employees were affected…..Seventy employees in the smelters had been on strike since midnight on Wednesday.  The trouble began about a fortnight ago when employees in the smelters took exception to an alleged remark by a foreman about the employment at the works of men, who would be eligible for service in the forces if they were not employed in a protected industry.  They demanded an apology, and it had not been given by Wednesday night, when the men decided to cease work…..

According to Alison Alexander’s history -The Zinc Works (Artemis Publishing 1992), the dispute had been running for several months – since early July.

A quarrel over overtime in Casting ended with the unpopular superintendent, Jack Forster, saying 5% of the men were only there because Risdon was a protected industry.  The union saw this as an insult to the big number of men who wanted to enlist but were not allowed to, and on 7 July asked for Forster to withdraw his remark. On 28 July [General Superintendent] Snow replied that Forster’s personal opinion had nothing to do with the company.  This sequence of events was repeated three times and finally in October the union said the 70 men in Casting would strike if Forster’s comment was not withdrawn.  It was not, and the men went on strike for three weeks.  Finally the Arbitration Court settled the matter; Forster withdrew his remark and expressed his regrets, and the men went back to work without penalty on 9 November.

Casting Zinc 1938 – The Zinc Works – Alison Alexander – p 63

A bit of Spine-Bashing in order 

They had certainly done some hard training around Trinity Beach. Here’s what remains (17 minutes) of a silent film (AWM F07570) that covers some elements of the 10 days.

Contrary to the title “21 Brigade amphibious training in October-November 1944.”, the extended description indicates that the film “deals with the amphibious landing exercises held at Unity Point north of Trinity Beach North Queensland by units of the 7 Australian Division 21 October 1944 and in November 1944.”  Also the Battalion Diary (RCDIG1027246) indicates that on the day of their arrival at Trinity Beach (October 24) they ‘took over the 2/27 Bn area’ (the 2/27 Bn belonged to 21 Brigade) 

So it’s quite possible  that some of those immortalised here were men of the 2/33rd.  The film offers an insight into what the training involved, some delightful casual images of the men enjoying a bit of relaxation time – and even a visiting dog taking an interest in proceedings : I wonder if anyone has considered adding a commentary ?

The culmination of the training was an ‘assault landing’ exercise on 2 November, the date of the photos below (AWM 082476 and AWM 082493) which show members of the 25 Brigade (of which 2/33 Battalion was a part) engaged in different aspects of the exercise. According to the CO (see Diary entry below) the exercise proceeded ‘completely according to plan’ which must have been very satisfying.

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Life goes on… training and sunburn on Trinity Beach

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

28 Oct 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Received your letter of the 23rd this morning.  Am sorry to hear you’re all having such a tough time.  It’s bad enough having one person in the family sick at a time but when everyone is sick together it must be very hard.  Still it’s good to know that you’re all on the mend again and hope things continue to improve.

The weather seems even more astray than usual at this time of the year in the south and apparently Hobart and Melbourne are copping similar conditions as Ivy said there were storm warnings one day and fire warnings the next – so that’s as extreme as you could get, isn’t it?

It’s certainly surprising to read that there are unemployed in Hobart at the present time – hard to understand isn’t it – makes one understand the clause of the referendum giving the government power to direct men in employment – though they have that power vested in them now.  They’re more complacent in Tasmania than anywhere too.

Had a letter from Robbie yesterday – quite a long interesting epistle – he was still at Brighton at the time of writing and although he said from a soldiering point of view it’s the greatest home in the world – tons of liquor if you want it, plenty of Scotch, something you rarely even hear about anywhere else – he’s anxious to get away, though doesn’t know anyone in Hobart and doesn’t fancy staying at camp for all its conveniences with all the bludgers there are there – said there’s a hell of a lot awaiting discharge though most of them are choc’s – very few AIF are getting out – dairying seems to be the one industry that has a real claim – but think I’d prefer to stay in than go tit pulling.

The Pacific war is certainly headline news now isn’t it.  Looks like the Yanks are not going to muck about.  That Philippines show must have been a bigger turnout than Normandy.  They must have some material now.

Life goes on quite pleasantly here though just at present it’s powerful hot and dusty.  Had a dip yesterday during a pause in a show – very nice too, though I got very burned – never seem to get used to the sun.  Saw a picture show on Tuesday night – A Yank in the RAF – not a bad show though the Yanks certainly lay the farmyard confetti on thickly.

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



PS  Am glad to hear Laurie has had the car going again.  How are the tyres – do they look like perishing at all?  

(Censor unknown) 

Robbie’s ‘epistle’

It’s hard to read Dad’s continuing dismissive attitude to members of the Militia (‘choc’s)…  He seems to have decided very early in the New Guinea campaign that they were all ‘bludgers’ and wasn’t willing to change that view.  Maybe he did, later in life – but he died in 1990, before I had started to be really interested in his wartime experiences and views.   I’ve had the opportunity to read pieces like this, which offer a much more positive view of the young Militia soldiers…  

Robbie was Rodney Robinson (TX919) who had been ‘manpowered out’ at the request of his father, to help with the family farm on Flinders Island (see post dated Sept 20 1944)

Philippines :  a bigger turnout than Normandy?

No doubt Dad had seen two front page Courier-Mail stories during the previous week : the first on October 21   The headline declared “Philippine Grip Won : MacArthur ashore with men & tanks… 4 Main Bridgeheads”  and reported that American forces had launched a major invasion of Leyte Island.  ‘Thousands of troops are expanding  their grip on the east coast from four beach heads.  Supplies, including tanks, are pouring ashore in great volume.  The Royal Australian Navy and the RAAF helped in a devastating naval and air bombardment which paved the way for the landings…. Naval air forces blasted targets in the Philippines for man y days before and during  the landings….’

The second article, on October 26 reported on the ‘biggest naval battle of the Pacific War’ taking place east of the Philippines 

Life goes on

From The Footsoldiers (p278)   On the 24th (October) the Battalion was moved to Cairns and remained there until 3 November, camping at Trinity Beach…. Under American command the unit trained hard, practising embarking and landing on both LCI  (Landing Craft Infantry) and LSI (Landing Ships Infantry)….. We did a week of practice-loading by climbing the fifty-foot-high ‘pig’ or scrambling net, getting in and out of the assault boats, and being dumped in five feet of water and learning to swim ashore in gear and all….

AWM 082496 Unity Point, north of Trinity Beach, QLD 2 November 1944

 Troops landing from the American Landing Ship Infantry 435 during 7 Division amphibious training exercises controlled by HQ 25 Infantry Brigade. [Unity Point was the code name for Buchan Point]

Picture Show…  A Yank in the RAF

Farmyard confetti  Mark Peters, and American lexicographer,  describes this euphemism as a particularly Australian version of BS  …His reference is Jonathon Green’s Dictionary of Slang ( ) which gives this phrase’s first appearance in print as 1973…. but in Dad’s letter we see it was certainly in use some 30 years earlier.

On American audiences and war movies :  see this extract from The Griffin 20 Oct 44 :

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Good luck and bad: keeping tabs on friends, family … and the war.



TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

23rd Oct 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Have had two letters from you during the weekend – the 16th of October and the 9th, the latter having been salvaged from the sea – evidently it was one that plane that crashed in Sydney Harbour – am sending it back so you’ll see it’s had a ducking.  Two others – one from Marie and the other from Jack had a similar fate.

Sorry to hear Carline has been so sick and hope she’s better again now – as you say it’s hard to imagine either of May’s children suffering from lack of vitamins – suppose wartime shortages responsible – will try and get a tin of Ovaltine and send down.  Don’t know whether it’s on the market these days but occasionally they get it in the canteen so will see Jonesy(?) & see if he can get it.

You all seem to have been having a pretty bad time down there with both of you suffering from rheumatism, Carline sick and Lawrie in bed too – can well imagine how things are for May – she’s had it tough right through and I don’t think she’s very strong.  The continuous strain must be telling on her.

The mention of Robbie ringing was the first news we’ve had of him – didn’t know how far south he’d got but apparently he’s got right through – thought he might have been held up a bit, as chaps for discharge are last priority at LTD’s.  Suppose Jim won’t be far behind him – he’ll head ‘em alright – can quite imagine him top noting himself at Claremont – believe it’s a great place – everything you could wish for  – he’ll make it last too – won’t mind being in the army while he can stay there.  Well good luck to him anyway.  His young brother must cop a power of leave to be home again – he was there while we were there.  There’s no doubt about those McDonnells, they take the tricks.  The luck of the Irish I suppose.

That Morgan bloke you spoke of striking Tatts …??. Lambert – Connie’s (?)  eldest son – got a hell of a good job too – should be on easy street now – bad luck my tickets not doing any good – thought when I got a complimentary ticket I was in the money – still we may get a win yet.

John Smith must have fallen on his feet to be in a place where Pat could be with him – I bet she’s making the most of it – heard he’d got the Royal to put in a claim for him though I doubt they’d be able to do much – guess the army would have priority on dental mechanics.

We’re going away for exercises tomorrow.  May be away a week – maybe three – we don’t know yet.  So if you don’t get a letter for a while you’ll know it’s because there’s no facilities for writing though I’ll probably be able to scratch a few lines in pencil if nothing else.  I am having a big burn up at present of old letters and things that are a bit awkward to carry around and doing the washing at the same time.  Though it’s raining fairly heavily, have managed to keep the fire going alright – only got a couple of shirts and a pair of slacks to boil now.

Had a couple of days out on different shows last week – quite interesting too – seeing demonstrations of war gear that have till now been novelties to us – there’s no doubt there’s always a lot of new stuff to learn.

Things are moving fast these days.  The Formosa and Philippines shows have advanced their strategy a hell of a long way – looks as though they’re not going to wait till the European show finishes – must have woken up to the fact that Russia will have too much say if England & America have their hands tied. 

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



(censor – J Balfour-Ogilvy)

The plane that crashed in Sydney Harbour

See previous post    

Ovaltinehopefully available through the canteen 

Image :  advert from Australian Women’s Weekly 29 M ay 1948  

Mercury 10 Oct 44 :  Two Hobart Men ShareTattersalls Prize


Two Hobart residents held the winning ticket in the Tattersalls consultation drawn yesterday.  The win (worth £10,000) was shared by Messrs G.Hargreaves and G. G. Morgan.  Mr Hargreaves, who has a family of nine children, is chairman of wages boards for Tasmania, and also chairman of the Apprenticeship Commission  He was a prominent union official before his appointment to the Dept. of Labour and Industry.  Mr Morgan ls on the staff of the Agricultural-Bank.

Note – £10,000 in 1944 = approx $375,000 in 2022 (

Manpower Regulations

Robbie – ie former CSM Rodney Robinson (TX 919)   had been ‘manpowered out’ to work on the family dairy farm on Flinders Island. ( see ) Clearly a case of having ‘assured employment in an essential industry’ as required by Manpower regulations.

But John Smith, a dental mechanic – despite being asked for (ie guaranteed employment) by the Royal Hobart Hospital – was turned down:  as Dad says, the Army also had to agree to let the person concerned go, and in this case they didn’t 

Jim McDonnell – still enjoying himself at Claremont

See previous post  for a photo of the lady Clark Convalescent hospital at Claremont, to which Jim McDonnell was transferred at the end of September 1944.

A big burn-up of letters and boil-up of clothes

What a shame – though of course understandable – that this was routine procedure.  These letters from home would have been invaluable in understanding some of the references in Dad’s letters.

I wonder whether, after the boil-up, he would have applied the chemical treatment for mites that spread scrub typhus.  According to Stephen Frances ( ), troops feared scrub typhus more than malaria, as there were drugs available for the treatment of malaria.  By late 1943 a chemical called dibutylphthalate was being issued, to be applied to clothing as an anti-mite treatment – ie, against the chiggers which transmit scrub typhus.  There was an alternative chemical which was more toxic to mites, but it was also more resistant to washing, so the AIF continued with dibutylphthalate.  “The introduction of dibutylphthalate as an anti-mite fluid was responsible for a 90% reduction in scrub typhus infections among Australian soldiers.  This is one of the few examples where the use of personal protection measures resulted in a significant recorded reduction in vector borne disease.”

Above – extract from Battalion Diary for October 1944 re typhoid prevention: para 4 details the requirement to rub in by hand the anti-mite chemical provided to all troops on a fortnightly basis.

Below – a US Army poster : In US Army units, clothing was dipped in large drums of chemical then hung out to dry.

Demonstrations of war gear

From The Footsoldiers – During October, tanks of the 4th Armoured Brigade were stationed with the infantry – one troop with each battalion – and for three weeks all platoons trained with them in attack. The new PITA [or PIAT] rocket-gun was issued , one per platoon. This simple but deadly weapon fired a finned two-pound amanol-filled tank-attack projectile. (pp 3– -378)

Progress of the War 

“Russia will have too much say if England & America have their hands tied.”

In the end, it seems it wan’t so much that they had their hands tied, as that Stalin had no intention of keeping the agreements made at the Yalta conference (Feb 1945).    James Byrnes, a member of the American delegation at the conference (and later Secretary of State)m said later… “It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.”  ( )

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What’s the matter – can’t you speak English? No – I’m an Australian.


Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn. AIF

19th Oct. 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Think I must have missed out on a letter last week although the mail has been anyhow lately and they might turn up anytime.  Received that parcel of handkerchiefs today – thanks a lot.  I’ll be well set up for them now as Youngster sent me half a dozen – never had so many since I’ve been in the army – never at one time anyway.

Life continues to be quite liveable here although we get on each other’s nerves a bit but of course that’s natural at times like the present with no social relaxation of any sort.  Still a change of camp or change of scenery could put that right.

Had a ceremonial show here early this week – only a battalion turnout but very good for all that.  It was the occasion of presenting one of our officers – incidentally a former platoon and company commander of mine – with a high Russian decoration – one of three awarded to Australians for service in the Middle East.  The Russian Order of Patriotic War – equivalent to the British C.B. – a very impressive medal on a ribbon very like that of the VC.  In addition to the unique honour it carries an annuity of ten pounds a year and free travel on Russian ships and Russian railways so I guess Punchie [Capt G B Connor  NX34870] will be taking a trip there after the war.   He’s out of the unit now being discharged on medical grounds.  One of the toughest men you’d ever meet and combining with tremendous physical power a great brain and an understanding of men that made him outstanding in any group.  The show was very good in spite of the heat and the fact that we were wearing the hessian suits.  The presentation was made by the GOC.  Though it may not have been so it seemed as though some of the senior officers were jealous about it.  It’s amazing the personalities that enter into army life.

We had a bit of a chivoo in the mess the other night.  They got onto an eighteen gallon – the first we’ve had and as they had a good credit balance decided to put on a free night.  We all toddled over and had half a dozen and then left except Bruce  – he stayed for the session.  Was very glad I didn’t stay – our tent is quite near the snake pit and as they night wore on and the grog took control they kicked up a hell of a row and put on some real acts especially after they’d finished the beer and got stuck into the gin.  Talk about a mess next morning – there was skin and blood everywhere – no fights but jumping around on tables and doing jungle acts on rafters.

Have you seen anything of Jim, Dad?  They’ve got a job in front of them to get him away from Tassie this time.  Though I don’t give it any credence there’s rumour running the rounds that there’ll be a spot of leave.

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



Captain  GB Connor – aka ‘Punchie’

AWM 081504 Portrait of NX34870 Captain GB Connor, commander D Company 2/33rd Infantry Battalion.  This officer was captured in Syria and taken to France.  He was released after two months, when General Dentz (Vichy France) was captured.   Captain Connor was decorated by the Russians with the Patriotic Order, 1st Class.

The accounts of his exploits in Syria, as described in The Footsoldiers suggest ‘Punchy’ was a capable, thoughtful and daring soldier. I have not been able to find the citation for the award, but there seem to be several possibilities in the actions where he took a leading role.

Despite not having slept for some 48 hours, ‘Punchy’s’ sense of humour is evident in this account of his capture (The Footsoldiers p94), when he was being driven by an English RASC driver to join his platoon at Khiam : … a machine gun opened fire at point blank range. Both scrambled into the gutter, then, trying to work their way to the right, had gone only ten yards when the Tommy said “Have a look, sir” and Lieutenant Connor, on looking, saw six Senegalese soldiers advancing on them with fixed bayonets. Lieutenant Connor told the driver : “This is it, but remember, number, rank and name only” and the driver replied : “Will my wife get my pay, sir?”…Lieutenant Connor, tired and sleepy, was trying to recall his French, when a French officer appeared and asked in English : “What’s the matter – can’t you speak English?” whereupon Connor replied :”No, I’m an Australian”, and with that the Frenchman walked away apparently satisfied.”

The Presentation Ceremony : Order of the Patriotic War (1st Class)

AWM 081500 Kairi area Queensland 15 October 1944 Major General EJ Milford GOC 7th Division takes the salute from members of the 2/33rd Infantry Battalion during the presentation of the Order of Patriotic War (1st Class) (USSR) to NX34870 Captain GB Connor for action in Syria against the Vichy French

Action in Syria

AWM 008366 Fort Khiam Syria Men of A Company, 9th platoon, 2/33 Bn with a machine gun left by the French.  The men are (L to R) NX9258 Corporal RC Campbell, WX96 Sergeant AM Sweetapple,  NX34870 Lieutenant GB Connor and NX41301 Private JJ Wayte

POW’s return to the Battalion

From The Footsoldiers (p123) Late in July [armistice was signed on 13 July 1941] all the men captured returned to us from the camps in the north of Syria, all looking thin and in ill health, because of the lack of food and privations they had suffered prisoners.  Among them was Lieutenant Connor who with three other officers had after capture been flown to Athens then by ship to Salonica, by train via Yugoslavia to France and on to Germany.  At the armistice Lieutenant Connor was moved to Toulon, put on a ship arriving at Beirut on 15 August .  He rejoined us at Fidar on the 17th.  Lieutenant Connor’s journeys were some slight recompense for his capture.

A bit of a chivoo (AIF slang for celebration)

Thanks to feedback from a friend I have discovered this wonderful source – a Glossary of Slang and Peculiar Terms in use in the AIF – – where I have learned the meaning of ‘chivoo’ – viz, a celebration: Generally spelt ‘shivoo’, this spelling is attested only here and in Digger Dialects. The word might have come from the British dialect ‘shiveau’ and the French ‘chez vous’ meaning ‘at your place’ and used to refer to ‘a party or celebration’

The 18 gallon : Sports Day Trophy for C Coy

It’s surprising that Dad fails to mention that the 18 gallon was the prize for the Company gaining the highest overall score for the Sports Day held the day prior to his writing this letter. See the extract below from the unit records :

I’m also intrigued that Swimming was one of the sports. Perhaps they had set up lanes in one of the local lakes, as this Battalion did

AWM 085300 Ravenshoe, Qld. December 1944 Start of the 220 yards swimming race during the 9 Division swimming carnival organised by the Royal Australian Engineers HQ ( Division , held at the 2/2 Machine Gun battalion swimming pool.

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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 ( ) 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  .  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 ( 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 –   – ‘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 (  )

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  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  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’ (

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  )

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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.  (

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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