3rd October 1941
Dear Mother & Dad
Just a line or two hoping to find you happy and well as I am at present. Our letter mail is a bit late this week. It’s amazing how a late mail upsets our calendar. Everyone’s been asking what day it is ever since Wednesday. It looks as though the Tassie plane must have missed the Melbourne to Sydney service because quite a number of QX’s got late mail (15th Sept) but none of the Tassies got any. However I got quite a pleasant surprise on Thursday in the shape of a parcel from Youngster.
We’ve been particularly busy with the barrack room racket for about a fortnight now. The rifle companies are out on manoeuvres so we have to do all the ruddy duties – guards, picquet’s and orderly duties. They’re not hard but damnably monotonous and boring. Still, we’ll get our turn soon – possibly next week.
Just how true it is I don’t know but one of the chaps just came into the guard room with the news that Fadden has resigned and Curtin is forming a Ministry. It’s a pity they didn’t have a stronger man still they can do no worse than the others because Menzie or any other Nationalist for that matter would never stop the strikes. The Unions will accept a lot less from a Labor government than they would from a Nationalist administration. That’s one of the farces of the Australian outlook. They will accept and even rejoice in the conditions offered under Labor when they would condemn better conditions offered by the others. It’ll be interesting to see what attitude they adopt towards the war – the possibilities were debated at length in the guard room last night and many and varied opinions expressed. Whilest everyone would like to get home the majority would not support any proposal to leave the job half done – in fact they nearly all want more determined and better organised war effort. The attitude and feelings uppermost in our minds are probably reflected in every unit of the AIF. They’re fed up with the boredom and the farcical disparagement in the treatment of the men as compared with the treatment of officers but they’re prepared to waive their personal interests to get on with the job. The pay question however concerns them very vitally because of the colossal prices of everything we buy even from our own canteens and at least half the money is spent supplementing the army rations of ‘the world’s best fed army’. Christ help the worst. So boiled down our two concerns are supplies (equipment) and pay.
There hasn’t been much of interest in our particular quarter during the last week beyond the fact that the wogs are picking their olive crop. The men knock the olives off with sticks and then sit under the shade whilst the women and bints (girls) pick them up in baskets. They must be a good line because some of the Queensland chaps reckon they’re worth 29/6 a case.
I must close now Mother & Dad as news is very scarce so cheerio for the present. Best wishes to the boys.
Your loving son
Map – Tripoli area
Rifle Companies on Manoeuvres
This extract from The Footsoldiers makes it clear that the whole brigade was involved in the work in the mountains –
On 28 September, the battalion rifle companies were moved by vehicle…ten miles away in the mountains to the north-east. We debussed, marched and climbed from the road-head to a long plateau. Mules carried our tents and heavy stores up the two-mile climb. This was to be our part of the line that would defend the Port of Tripoli. Some 2000 feet above sea level, the escarpment looked down onto the flat lands that led away north to Latakia…..The battalion was the centre unit, with 2/25th on our left and 2/31st on our right….The battalion remained up in the hills until 21 October, and B company was to remain until 15 November. The life was pleasant and invigorating. Each of us would spend five days, each of ten hours, digging the trenches, section posts and HQ’s that were drawn out on the plan issued by Brigade. The sixth day was one of training, Sunday for ‘make, mend and rest’. At night the camp fires were going, and singing and story telling were popular pastimes……
I can find no photos of the 2/33rd at this time, but the AWM collection contains a number, including those below, depicting men of the 2/31 Bn – who as mentioned above were close by .
Jebel Tourbel Syria (Lebanon): Because of the nature of the country, mule teams were largely used for transporting goods in many areas. This team is taking supplies to the 2/31st battalion in the Lebanon mountains defence area.
Battle headquarters being constructed by men of the 2/31st Battalion. The Headquarters was cut out of the side of a hill and was in an almost impregnable position.
Members of the 2/31st Battalion constructing pits which formed part of the defence line in the Jebel Tourbel mountains of Lebanon
Men of the 2/31st Battalion at work on the field signal exchange excavations. The work was part of the second line of defence which ran from the coast at a point three miles south of the aerodrome almost due east to the Jebel Tourbel mountains.
The cartoon ‘taken over’ appeared in The Bulletin on October 8, 1941. On this website, there is some information that helps in interpreting the cartoon: http://www.john.curtin.edu.au/aspirations/activities/2cartoonpm.html