Private M Hickman
Being the Sabbath and having a little time to myself I cannot better employ it than in writing you and the youngster. I wrote to May a few days ago.
There is however little of which I can write you for by(?) and camp routine our activities are decidedly limited. As I told you in an earlier letter the six days leave didn’t get as far as me and although we’re told it’s only been suspended one would certainly be an optimist to put any faith in army promises beside which the promises of politicians are most modest.
The people Ac Hallam writes to in Scotland wrote back for detailed information regarding the Scottie Rig for Anne – but it should be here next week probably about the 24th. Anyway as soon as it comes I’ll get the censors to look it over and forward it straight on. I hope you’ll all like it. I guess Anne will preen herself to some order and will probably assume a Scotch title in keeping.
I had a letter from Mrs Toomey on Saturday. It was written on the 8th of July – nearly ten weeks ago however the mails should be in regular order soon as it will be addressed to the right units and not through the old units. She gave me the address of a Mr Lauder (Lander?) in Gloucestershire but as I don’t anticipate ever being in Gloucestershire it won’t be of much use to me.
Although I’m pretty sure there’s a move on foot it’ll probably only be to barracks – no such luck as a show. They’ve started work putting in hot showers and sewerage and when anything like that starts you can safely assume that we’ll be moving.
We’ve had a slight shift around in camp. I’m now in a tent full of banana benders. Five Queenslanders and believe me they keep me busy. There’s one fellow from Brisbane – the most cynical self conceited fellow in the world – a man with no vices and damn few virtues. Two others both about 21 are very love sick, one was a clerk on Thursday Island the other comes from a cane growing district. Then there’s a half caste chap and lastly but by no means least a chap named McGoldrick, a drover and horse breaker from the old back [presumably outback] – a fine fellow in every way.
The Duke of Gloucester paid a visit to camp a few days ago not that we were very interested in him or he in us but both parties probably thought the other was interested.
I received a Womans Weekly in the mail today but as I didn’t recognise the writing I don’t know where it came from but there’s some good stories in it and Lower(?) is well on form.
Well Mother I’m really at a loss for anything else to write you so with love to you, May and Anne and regards to the pater, Laurie and the troops I’ll say cheerio.
My regards to Mr & Mrs Phillips and Mrs Wilson’s family
PPS I’m sending youngster a birthday cable on Tuesday. I hope it gets there OK.
Numbering of letters
Dad had suggested that he would number his letters so his mother could tell when one was missing – and he could potentially fill in the gaps later, using his diary, but after numbering the letter of 15th August as 2, and the one of 5th September , as 4…there was no further numbering of letters.
Although we would no longer use the term, there was no malice as far as Dad was concerned in using the term ‘a half caste chap’ . I assume this was Charlie Mene – who was certainly a member of the Carrier Platoon, and who appreciated Dad’s support on at least one occasion in the following year. There is an interesting chapter on Charlie who had been a ‘house boy’ for a doctor before the war and continued his professional Army career after it – in the book Fighters From the Fringe by Robert Hall (Aboriginal Studies Press 1995 Canberra).
The Battle of Britain
From the time of their arrival on Salisbury Plain, the Australian troops were aware of the Luftwaffes’s constant attacks on English cities and ports, factories and aerodromes.
The increasing tempo of the air war, and warnings that Germany might attempt beach landings…created as sense of urgency in the every day training of the battalion…Each day, a rifle company acted as defence company on third minutes’ notice and of the company, one platoon was to be in battle order, with ammunition issued, at immediate notice….Tidworth Park was only fourteen miles front he series of airfields and airstrips in and around Andover from which the RAF fighters operated. These fields were now becoming the target for enemy aircraft in the area…. (The Footsoldiers p 11)
On 8 September a general alert warning was issued to the battalion to be on three hours’ notice. It was known if the Germans were to attack at all they must act by September, or e too late, before the weather set in. During 5/6 September, the Luftwaffe transferred its attacks from the widespread targets to London and the docks and railway yards of the capital…..Not until 23 September was the battalion ordered to stand down from alert. (The Footsoldiers pp16-17)
Coincidentally, given the date of this letter, Battle of Britain Day is commemorated on 15 September each year. According to the site – http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/events/battle_of_britain_day the most decisive confrontation of the Battle of Britain took place in the skies above London on 15 September.
In a typed piece (possibly a ‘letter to the editor’ commemorating Battle of Britain Day) dated 23rd September 1949, Dad writes – By day, we saw the progress of air battles, the roar of machines, the crackle of machine gun fire, the whine of crashing planes, and by night the air-raid warnings, the sickening drone of bombers, and the crumbling of buildings….