The comfort of a Chev sedan on race day in Beirut

 

 

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TX 1004

Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion

AIF Abroad

27th August 1941

Dear Mother & Dad

I received your very welcome letter today – a day earlier than the usual delivery & you certainly tricked me with the handwriting and I read my other letters from May & Youngster first instead of the home letter first.  However it was an agreeable surprise.  Thanks a lot for the ticket – here’s hoping it’s a winner.

What you told me about Mrs Phillips is not at all surprising in fact I fully expected it.  Though I have written a short letter of sympathy I’ll try and write a cheerful epistle.

The note from Gran was also a pleasant surprise.  I hope she’s keeping well – my best regards to her.

We are still in the same possy and judging from the very limited news we get of world events are likely to be here for some time although I expect we’ll either move back into the mountains or barracks for the rainy season.  It never rains here for about eight months of the year – It’s only rained once since we came east and that was only for an hour or two when we were at Gaza in March.  However judging from the dry waddies (creek beds) that have been cut as with giant steel chisels through the mountains the water must pour down them during the wet season.

The last week has been reasonably interesting in fact for these parts very interesting both as regards work and pleasure.  We’ve had quite a number of interesting stunts – route marches and carrier patrols and manoeuvres and from the lighter side I personally had a very enjoyable weekend and last might we had  a concert given by the same people who used to go round the camps in England.  The entertainment branch of the NAAFI (Navy-Army-Air Force Institutes).  Things were rather quiet in camp on Sunday so after the church parade Nuggett and I got into the glad rags and hitch-hiked (no trouble at all in these parts) to an ASC unit some miles south of Beyrouth.  There are various branches of the ASC controlling various matters of supply.  At the first camp we met Major Mulcahy (son of old Frank at the Club).  He’s a short chubby chap and we had quite an interesting talk for about half an hour when a runner came to tell him that a padre was waiting to see him.  We walked back with him to his tent and saw that his guest was Padre Scarfe – the RC padre of our Battalion and as we had passed a canteen well stocked with Aussie beer on the ice could visualise an enjoyable afternoon for both the padre & the major.  We had found out from Mulcahy that the crowd we were looking for – 7th Div Ammo Supply – were some miles further down so he did the right thing by sending his own car down.  It was the first time I’d had a ride in a real car for a hell of a time and we were amazed at the comfort a Chev sedan can give after our struggle buggies and the backs of trucks in which O R’s invariably travel.

Getting back to the story we found the camp almost deserted – Sunday being race day in Beyrouth all those who had any fallouse were at the races.  There’s no doubt about it the non-com units have a wonderful budge – only essential duties, no parades and only necessary guards – the very opposite of infantry battalions where duties must be created and guards maintained even though their presence is farcical.  I’ve known guards to be placed over imaginary gun positions and on such things as the CO’s car even when the car is away for the day – the sentry still guards the position where it would park.  However we met Archie Blackwood and Don Kessick with whom we had tea – quite a homely Sunday night’s tea – Tomato & onion salad.  I also struck a couple of chaps from the Zinc Works – that fellow Dad called the Pom – McQuiltan – sparking on six – a chap named Austin – a brother of the one at the works and Roy Flanagan.  Most of the fellows in the unit are Tassies and as one might expect, a mixed crowd – Coverdale is in it – they tell me he and a few of the others – Joker Kings etc – often spend three or four days at a time in Beyrouth and get away with it.  Personally I don’t envy them.  I’ve no desire to see that place any more than I have to.

The concert last night was the best entertainment we’ve had for a long time.  The pioneers built a stage of sorts lighted by batteries and as the site was well chosen there was an excellent natural arena.  The items were good and varied, raining from comic turns to first class musical items and as I said before was thoroughly enjoyable.

And now Mother & Dad as I’m orderly dog tonight I shall have to get laired up.  Best regards to Laurie & the boys.

Your loving son

Max

 

The letter from home

There are very few letters from his parents among the collection – but there is a single page from the letter referred to above:

from home August 41

Mrs Phillips said she had a letter from the King & queen but it does not mean a thing to her as giving one life for King & Country leaves her cold.  Your other letter was just as interesting in a different way.  The idea of you two young devils going along to that village & letting this people think you were the officers –  it was a wonderful experience also.

Merv Glover has joined up with the Forces but there are quite a lot of shirkers here still & will stay here too.  Mrs Tom & Dorry Hickman on Sunday they brought up two lovely pairs of socks for you but I will not send them yet as you say you have enough to carry around with you as it is.

I do hope you have received some parcels & papers.  I have been sending you Pix every week & other papers as well.  You mention how you would like us to see some of the sights with you.  Max it would be wonderful if we could be together again.  If this war would only end.

Ann is very funny.  One day she put her feet into a small box & said look Nanny I will have to stay here now.  I said yes – all today & tonight & tomorrow without anything to eat – won’t that be a tragedy.  She said by Heavens that will be a tragedy.

Well dear boy that’s all for now.  God bless you & keep you with best love from Mother & Dad.

This is the ticket you wanted son.

 

A ticket in Tatts

George Adams moved to Tasmania in the 1890’s after being prevented from running public lotteries in NSW and Queensland.  With the support of the Tasmanian Government, he operated a thriving lottery business – Tattersalls – which has continued to thrive in the 110 years since his death.  A ticket in Tatts was always a source of delight in birthday cards etc in our family – feeding the well known Australian addiction to gambling!

The wadis : great gullies carved by the rain

destinationlebanon

eg – photo  from www.destinationlebanon.gov.lb

 

 

 

Got into the glad rags

The standing orders about being properly dressed – wearing felt hats, clean shaven, etc…were apparently strictly enforced.   So although Sundays were ‘free days’ the men still had to wear their ‘Sunday best’ (uniform).  There were also rules about which cafes, hotels and clubs the men were permitted to visit in Beirut.  Some units had by this time been banned from entering Damascus at all….presumably for misbehaviour such as ‘accosting civilians for money’ as this was specifically mentioned as an offence that would be severely dealt with in the same routine orders where the ‘out of bounds’ decree was made.

Chev sedan

1941Chevroletcopy_zpsc7838041

Possibly one like this…from the Braille Scale Discussion Group      http://www.network54.com

 

 

 

 

The Zinc Works

See previous post dated March 20 1941.

The races at Beirut

SLVH99.202:3049

Photo – state library of Victoria image H99.202/3049

 

 

 

 

Also see – silent movie https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F07004/  8 mins silent – titled Christmas 1941 – includes footage of horse racing in Beirut

A concert for the troops

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F01142/

Not the one Dad would have been speaking of, but this one was in the same general area – i.e., Syria 1941.  It’s a delightful 8 minute clip of footage filmed by Frank Hurley and includes some sound.

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This entry was posted in escapades, relaxation, fun and games, Geography and Culture, Letters to/ from others, Middle East, organisation, training and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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