Soaked to the skin and cold as frogs : first issue of rum.

6 Oct 1940 p 1 2

6 Oct 1940 p 3 4

6 Oct 1940 p 5

6th Oct 1940


Priv M Hickman

72nd Battalion

25th Brigade








Dear Mother

After what seemed almost an age without mail the weekend brought forth seven letters – six and a cable – two ordinary mail posted on or about the fourteenth of August reached here exactly the same time 4th Oct as air mail written a week previously.  The ordinary mail always gets here the same time as air mail and it’s heart breaking to see 1/6 stamps on letters when half our time we haven’t the price of a box of matches.

Included in my mail were two from you, two from youngster, one from May and one from Jack – your cable sent on the 26th Sept reached here on the morning of the fifth of October and I replied the same day.  I did not ask you to send any money because unless I get leave – there’s talk of six days leave for those who haven’t had it – but I’ll believe it when it’s actually started – I can manage to exist and if I do get leave will be able to draw on the Commonwealth Bank in London.

It looks as though the Scottie rig for Anne that Ac Hallam was getting for me through friends in Scotland has definitely been lost in the post between Edinburgh and here – very disappointing and annoying because two pounds is nearly a month’s wages for me, but I’ll have to try and get something else for her and as time is flying will have to do something soon.

I’ve sent Christmas cards this morning.  It seems rather stupid sending cards now but as there’s no knowing when we may be moved to a different part of the country or even out of the country I thought it better to send the cards now especially as there is sure to be a tremendous amount of Christmas mail this year.

On Friday night we had our first issue of rum.  I don’t think it’s going to be regular but it was very welcome at the time.  We had been out on manoeuvres from four in the morning till between six and seven at night in cold driving sleet all day and as we were soaked to the skin and cold as frogs turned in soon after tea.  About half past nine the tent flaps were opened and a sargent came in with a big bucket – and a small glass.  As I was sleeping nearest the door I got first issue – when I had consumed it a voice said – ‘How is it Hick’ I said ‘It’s bloody good mate’ then I saw it was the skipper.  It had no sooner passed the palate than I felt it tingle right down to my toes and I slept like a ton of little bricks till reveille.

I’m very glad mother to know that your feeling the benefits of your trip and glad too that the pater is also well.  May’s letter was very cheerful and though she said Anne was a very well didn’t mention how she was herself.

The youngster seems to be up to her neck in work poor kid.  It’s a pity she has to work so hard – her boss’ sympathy is no good: he should find a way to distribute her work more equitably.

Well mother I’m afraid there’s little else of which I may write so with lots of love to you and the pater – wish him luck for 12th December – and regards to the boys – I’ll say cheerio.


PS As it’s impossible for me to send presents will you give May 2 pounds for Christmas and Anne a pound, and Grandmother a pound also – and get something for yourself and the pater too will you.

PPS Dick, Ken and Claude Geeves wish to be remembered to you and the pater – they suggest that the pater put down a special brew as they – Dick particularly – expect to be home by the end of next year.  Dick is one [of the] greatest masters of the old soldier stunts in the army and that’s saying something.



The mail service, and costs

Frustration with the irregular mail service was clearly felt ‘on all fronts’.  Dad’s mother obviously had the same experience as he had – waiting and wondering, then getting a number of letters all at once – but having to put up with seeing neighbours and friends receiving their mail while nothing came to her.   The parcel from Scotland did eventually arrive, but considering the short distance it had to travel, Dad’s frustration and declaration that it had clearly been ‘lost’ is understandable.

The prices quoted really are extraordinary.  Even if their full pay were 7/- per day, 1/6 for an airmail stamp would represent more than 20% of that amount: and who would spend 20% of a day’s pay on a stamp (or an hour’s internet connection) these days??


It’s clear the melancholy streak ran through the family….Ivy (the youngster) seems to be always having a ‘hard time’ one way or another, Grandmother is still alive despite a previous pronouncement from his mother that she was dying.  When he says that May doesn’t mention how she is, it seems he’s assuming she is not completely well.

The Geeves family had a strong connection with the Hickmans over several generations.  The families had migrated on the same ship the Appoline in 1842.  Hickman patriarch, Richard and his wife Phyllis had three sons of whom Dad’s great grandfather Henry (or Leonard) was the eldest and four daughters.  Geeves family patriarch William and his wife Mary had at least three sons with them on that voyage. Subsequently Stephen Geeves married Lois Hickman and Osborne Geeves married Eliza Hickman.  The Geeves family name continues to be well known as the area in which they settled, ten years after arrival in Tasmania, originally known as Lightwood Bottom, soon had a new name – Geeves Town (Geeveston).  Claude Geeves may or may not have been a relative – possibly ‘thirty third cousin, twice removed’!


Dad says there is ‘little else of which I may write’ which I take to mean ‘don’t mention the War’.  Clearly – as quoted previously from the Footsoldiers and dad’s later writing, the Battle of Britain continued, and the area where he was stationed was within sight and sound of those bombing raids.



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