Pte Max Hickman
5th June 1941
Further to the letters I wrote you and May yesterday, you will be pleased to know that the Colonel did not take as serious a view of the situation as was anticipated and accepted openly even if not wholly the defence advanced, but as he pointed out he couldn’t overlook the fact that we had left the camp area without permission and to the tune of the perfectly obvious remark that we were foolish fellows fined us a pound and stopped a day’s pay, making the aggregate penalty 25/6 which amount in the language of the east is considered a cheap night out. The new Colonel is a biggish fellow who gives one the impression that he’s been about and seen and done things – he has a healthy ruddy complexion that is not a product of palm olive soap hence his appreciation of our story.
I had written so far Mother when the mail was distributed and once again I received four delightful letters – a boat mail letter written in March and your 19th May Airmail and by coincidence May and Youngster had also both written that day. I don’t [know] whether my letters when (as seems rather rare) they get home give you the same pleasure as yours give me but they’re like a breath of home and by the time I’d read and re-read them it was dark so I had to leave my letter writing till today. It’s just five am and am getting in a few lines before we’re called on parade at 5.30. Later today I hope to complete this epistle and to write to May & Youngster but of course that depends on the army.
Dick Schultz came down the other night with a story that his wife had seen you and that you weren’t getting any letters. Well Mother I can assure you that only under unavoidable circumstances do I miss writing at least once a week and I have the assurance of the officer that my letters comply with his censorship and although there’s no love lost between us, he’s have nothing to gain by stopping letters and if he did stop them would return them. Do you think it possible that they’re being left round the valley somewhere? What about seeing someone at the Post Office and check up. All the letters I write seem to get to their destination except those I write to you. I wrote to Dad about ten weeks ago and asked him to see the barracks people and see if the will I made is in order. As you haven’t mentioned it in any letters I gather that it didn’t make the grade.
Youngster mentioned in her letter Mother that you have been suffering from lumbago again. I hope you’re better again now – it’s damnably unpleasant and I don’t suppose the weather down there will improve it. Do make that trip to Melbourne won’t you? Every letter I have from Youngster she says how much she’d like you and dad to go over for a holiday. She’s very wrapped up in her home and garden.
The people of New South Wales must have been very fed up to change horses during a war. Youngster like all true Tories deplores the result and thinks things will be serious if Menzies doesn’t get home soon but Menzies isn’t capable of leading a mixed government any more than Curtin is. The War seems to have brought out the best political leadership in all democratic countries except Australia. It’s a great pity Albert Ogilvie died – our effort would have been a lot further advanced with him as Prime Minister but at present neither party seem to be able to produce the man I’d like to be cracking the whip.
Ken Jenkins met Alan Carlysle the other day. He was passing this way on four days’ leave following his two engagements in Greece and Crete – according to Ken he’s fit and well and tells some interesting stories.
Building business must be booming at home and the local areas seem to be benefitting a lot. I’ve seen some wonderful ideas here (when I went AWL) and hope to use some of them when I get back. The Boyer works must be in full production as they say all Australian papers are being printed on Derwent Valley newsprint.
I’ve just been watching a fight between a centipede and a scorpion – this place is lousy with both of them. It was a good fight too – lasted about an hour and a half.
I’ll say cheerio now Mother – we’ve got a spot of work to do. Best regards to all I know and to the boys.
Your loving son
PS Sorry to hear of Jim Clennetts bad luck. Give my best wishes to Pat & Molly, Rex Wedd told me in his letter that he’d seen quite a lot of them when in Hobart.
Shoe Shine…no caption
This photo and the activity depicted don’t rate a mention in any letters. Dick Lewis thinks it was more likely in Egypt than in Palestine, but Dad had no leave – or even AWL – in Egypt so it’s possible this could even have been in Haifa…hence the inclusion here.
The new CO
It seems that through his misdemeanour, Dad was one of the few ‘other ranks’ who actually met the new CO, Lieut-Col.(later Brigadier) R F Monaghan. According to William Crooks in The Footsoldiers:
In the hurried preparations for battle, little time was allowed to get to know our new CO. Deployed as we were, and because of the nature of the operations in which we were shortly to take part, very few of us other than the company commanders ever saw him, or knew what he looked like – either then or in operations later. In the middle of these operations he, too, was to leave us, and take over the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion.
Letters going astray
There were a number of Mrs Hickman’s in Lenah Valley in the 1940’s but only one, as far as I can discover, in Pottery Road. So it does seem strange that the letters addressed to Mrs H Hickman, Pottery Rd, Lenah Valley should go astray – and the collection I am now transcribing is a good indication that in fact the vast majority of letters were certainly delivered eventually. My memory of my maternal grandmother is that she was by temperament, melancholic.
The state election was held on May 10th, and resulted in a landslide victory for the Labor party…hence Dad’s comments about ‘changing horses’. His sister Ivy (Youngster) was a dyed in the wool conservative, so deplored the result whereas Dad was a Labor man – with some reservations. Not everyone was surprised at the result: the United Australia Party (UAP) had been in considerable disarray, both at State and Federal level for several years – the premier and leader of the UAP in NSW had been replaced mid-way through the previous term (in 1939), and later in 1941 the Prime Minister Robert Menzies (also of the UAP) was forced to resign.
Extracts relating to A.G.Ogilvie’s time as Premier of Tasmania (June 1934 until his death in June 1939) from the entry by Michael Rowe in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ogilvie-albert-george-7889):
….Hitherto Ogilvie’s career had little distinction, but as premier he proved a considerable and even remarkable success. His vigour contrasted with the ultra-conformism of other contemporary Australian governments: in his scale, Ogilvie became an F. D. Roosevelt…..
Abolition of state secondary school fees was an early and visible move for state-led recovery from the Depression. Public service salaries were restored, in stages. Government much increased unemployment relief; men so paid were often used in public works, most famously in building the road to Mount Wellington’s pinnacle….Hydro-electric development meant much to Ogilvie’s government. A highlight was the opening of Tarraleah station in February 1938… The major industrial development of the decade was in pulp and paper, Ogilvie himself orchestrating establishment of the Australian Newsprint Mills plant at Boyer, southern Tasmania.