Even though it seems ages since I heard from you – about a month I think – I could write you quite a good letter but for the fact that the sergeant who has been in charge of our platoon has got his commission now and may happen to censor this letter.
An old letter of May’s written on the 29th of May turned up last week. I suppose it had been on a world tour still it was good to get it. The only letter written at all recently was from Mae Menzie. A very bright cheerful note – it’s the first I’ve had from May although she told me she had written several times. I’ve written several letters to Max Phillips but so far have had none from him and will not write again unless I do. In several of youngster’s letters she’s told me that parcels had been sent but with the exception of the parcel I had in August nothing else has come along. I must have been marked off Mrs Toomey’s writing list too.
We’ve been moved to another barracks. The barracks we were in for the last month were new and very comfortable with all modern conveniences but these are old barracks with all the disadvantages of the architecture and engineering of fifty years ago but even at that they’re better than the tents and wide open spaces of the Plains.
Except for the times when we are on barrack duties we are free from tea parade till eleven o’clock and allowed leave to the local township till that time but very few go out preferring to read or play cards – we play quite a lot of crib and five hundred.
By the time this letter reaches home the parcels I sent from here and from Scotland should have reached you at least I hope they have and of course the letters about my leave would be there too because I sent one to you by American Airmail and to May by ordinary mail so one of them should make the grade. Although according to the last letter I had from youngster very few are getting home – she said the last letter from me that she had read was sent over by May and was then five weeks old.
The Navy and Airforce are still doing a great job but it looks as though our job is watching and waiting and according to some biblical authority writing in this morning’s paper the war will go on for 1290 days – what a cheer up society he is – nearly another nine hundred days. Europe will be a very sorry sight by then. It’s questionable whether they’ll ever rebuild the cities that are being razed to the ground When the was is over Australia will have its great opportunity for expansion – millions of people will want to get away from Europe with its recurring wars and depressions – we can build a great nation with real democracy.
Well Mother as you’ll gather from reading this there isn’t much real news of which I can write you so with love to you and dad and regards to the boys I’ll sign off for the present. Love and good luck
Mail and Melancholia
Dad doesn’t say that this letter will be posted ‘outside’ – and to the contrary, he comments on the likelihood of censorship – and yet is does not carry the approved identification at the top. Nor is there a date – but according to the Footsoldiers, the move to a different barracks – Sabroan Barracks in Colchester – occurred in ‘early November’. I have attributed a date around November 17 to this letter.
Despite Mae Menzie and ‘the youngster’ (Ivy) telling him they had sent letters and parcels that he hadn’t received, he was willing to assume that others – like Max Phillips and Mrs Toomey – had ‘crossed him off their list’ because he hadn’t received any letters from them. Most of the parcels did arrive eventually. The Menzie family were great friends of Dad’s who lived in the Huon Valley.
‘Nearly Nine Hundred Days’ : In fact, there would be many more days before the war ended and Dad could go home…around 1700 days, by my estimate. There were many times during the course of the War when Dad expressed frustration that the job of his Battalion or his Platoon seemed to be ‘watching and waiting’. Ultimately, the Battalion saw plenty of action – though it was true that in some cases Dad was elsewhere.
We can build a great nation with real democracy
Dad had a keen interest in Politics. Dick Lewis described him as ‘Labor firebrand’. He had stood as an ‘independent Labor’ candidate for the Federal seat of Denison in the 1937 elections. I don’t know why this was his designation – but I assume there had been a falling out with the ALP. He only polled about 10% of the primary vote.
On Guard Duty: Sabroan barracks, Colchester
Photo : Dick Lewis