Winter and the boredom of barrack room soldiering

16 Dec 1940 pp 1 2

16 Dec 1940 pp 3 4TX 1004

Pte Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion

AIF

16th Dec 1940

Dear Mother

Though there is precious little to write about I’ll send a few lines trusting they find you well and happy as I am at present.  Apart from the two letters you wrote me in September Mother I have had no news at all from home – the last letter I had from Youngster was on the twenty fourth of October and its months and months since I had a letter from May, Jack or the Menzies.

Winter is reaching severe proportions now and I think it’s even colder than our Tasmanian Winter although our platoon officer who is a Tasmanian says the frosts make him quite homesick.  There’s eight hours daylight in the twenty four hours now and the circle of the sun has a radius of about three inches and though there’s been no actual fall of snow in this particular part yet there’s been snow in the rain.

The chaps are all sick of being here especially those from the northern states to whom the weather is worst ever – and they are envying the Aussies in the East and wishing they could be with them.  I’m sick of barrack room soldiering myself the spit and polish of the parade ground – the discipline and Kindergarten ideas may be alright to those used to an ordered life but to those accustomed to making their own decisions it’s taboo.  I suppose it will change sometime.

Everything in the army life is the absolute antithesis of the moral and ethical codes of civil life – the characteristics most desirable in citizenship in civil life have no place in the military ideal.  Shakespeare said ‘In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility but when the blast of war blows in our ears stiffen the sinews with hard favoured rage” but that’s only one phase of the transition necessary in the evolution from civilian to military life.  In the last war Kitchener said that the three essentials for a soldier were coolness, courage and cunning and now Wavell says a good infantryman should be a poacher, a cat burglar and a gunman.

In the army there are a thousand and one listed crimes but the only crime punished is for being found out – no matter what crime you commit providing you can concoct a story to fit the bill you get the benefit of the story and punishment is meted out in inverse ratio to the size of the lie you tell – a cunning liar will go farther in the army than the man who tries to be honest.  Every job in the army is judged on its merits as a bludge – a good bludger has an easy time but an amateur bludger isn’t in the race.  That’s why they always catch up with me.

I’m sending a snap of Shirley and me.  Shirley had her photo taken but they’re not ready yet.  I’ll send you one as soon as they are.

And now Mother I must go to duty – we’re on guard again – striking guard duty every second day now and it’s a monotonous job too.  Goodbye for the present Mother.  My love to you and the pater and regards to the troops

Max

The only crime punished…

Dad often speaks with envy and dismay about the fact that he wasn’t as good a storyteller as some others.  He took bad luck very personally!

Photograph of Shirley

As mentioned in a previous post, I have never seen a photo of Shirley.

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