Pte M Hickman
8th Dec 1940
Once again Sunday comes round and so again I write you a resume of the week’s events. Though I still haven’t had any mail from home – there was a packet of papers came in this morning but most of it was for the Queenslanders.
Though I’ve been on guard duty many times Thursday night was the first time I’d struck guard duty on a pay night and it was quite an experience.
On pay night everyone except those on duties get leave till midnight. The pubs close at 10 o’clock and on my shift at the main gate from half past nine till half past eleven I saw and heard some of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced: between that time the boys came rolling, rolling, rolling home and I could have had enough beer to make me drunk for a week however as I don’t like English beer I wasn’t interested.
As our stay in this barracks is only temporary the guard room provides a comical spectacle. The prisoners – only chaps who have committed trivial offences such as being AWL for a few hours – fraternize with the guards playing cards, yarning and joking – eating and drinking together – some of them are hard citizens too. On the Friday afternoon during my last shift – half past three till half past five – one chap staggered into camp who had been away since the previous evening. He was gloriously sozzled – his lip was cut – his nose twisted at a rakish angle and his cheek bones skun whilst the skun knuckles of both hands told the other side of the story – he was in the midst of telling me that he exemplified the vices of three great countries when I saw the adjutant approaching on a motor byke (sic) and unceremoniously hid him behind some sandbags. He got through the lines safely but was later picked up by one of his officers and just before the new guard took over was brought to the guard room under armed escort – quite happy. He was born in Canada of Scotch parents and at the age of ten came to Australia hence the vices of three great countries. Hold everything the orderly has just brought me a parcel. I’ll open it straight away. A beautiful tin of chocolates. Thanks a lot Mother – they’re a sight for sore eyes and certainly a delight to the palette – wonderful – Hell I hope there’s another layer because the top one’s nearly gone. The moment I opened that tin the blitzkrieg started – I’ll put them away before I lose the lot.
I had got so far Mother when the bearer of bad news the Company Sergeant Major came into the barrack room and detailed me and several others for a mobile picket duty and five minutes later we were on our way to a township about twenty miles from barracks – quite a good sized town too and as there was nothing to do we went to the local YMCA and played snooker – I am writing this during the midday break and the orderly corporal has just brought in a bunch of mail – three for me – two from you Mother written on the eleventh and 21st September. It’s wonderful to get letters from home again and to know that you are well. These are the first I’ve had for six weeks. I’m very sorry to hear of Aunt Emily’s death – she always looked so fit and well.
I often wondered how Mahoney got on in the election – we get very little Australian particularly Tasmanian news.
Your letter clears up a matter that caused me considerable worry for a while – the matter of the bank account. When the London branch wrote me that my balance was only one hundred and sixty pounds I thought though I couldn’t see how somebody had put one over me but now it’s all quite clear.
I’m glad you sent youngster a birthday present from me. I sent her a cable but I could do no more at the time. I’ve sent home a lot of parcels of souvenirs of different parts and presents and I do hope you get them alright.
So Nance is engaged too well it must be the spring air. I’m glad to hear that Jack and Lil are still getting married at Christmas. I didn’t know whether the war had caused any change of plans or not and of course didn’t know whether to send them a cable or not but now I will send one on payday.
I hope you got my last letter mother it was very important. I’ll send you a photo of Shirley next week if I can.
My best regards to the boys. I’m glad their standing up to it alright.
And now mother with love to you and dad I’ll say cheerio for present.
PS Dick and Ken send their best regards to you both.
That Important Letter
For reasons best known to his mother, neither the ‘important letter’ nor the photograph mentioned here are part of the collection of letters on which this blog is based.
As mentioned in a previous post, the Federal election in September 1940 resulted in Robert Menzies (leading a United Australia Party/ Country Party coalition) continuing as Prime Minister with the support of two independents. Prior to this election, the member for Denison in the House of Representatives was Gerald Mahoney – a Labor man. Despite a national swing away from the Government, Mahoney lost his seat. The following is from Wikipedia:
Gerald William Mahoney (24 May 1892 – 16 September 1955) was an Australianpolitician. Born in Tasmania, he was educated in that state at Latrobe, becoming a painter and an official of the Painters’ Union. In 1931 he was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly as a Labor member for Denison. In 1934, he transferred to federal politics, defeating United Australia Party MP Arthur Hutchin for the federal seat of Denison. He held the seat until his defeat by UAP candidate Arthur Beck in 1940.
Putting his money where his mouth was
Dad had in fact stood against Mahoney in the 1937 Federal election. He is described in the record as ‘Independent Labor’. The final results on that occasion were (party/ candidate/ number of votes/ percentage of the total)
Labor Gerald Mahoney 11,652 47.5% United Australia John McPhee 10,123 41.3% Independent Labor Maxwell Hickman 2,159 8.8% Social Credit Athol Smith 600 2.4% Total formal votes 24,534 Informal votes 1,067 Turnout 25,601