20th Nov 1941
Dear Mother & Dad
Dad’s letter and youngster’s came in this morning and afforded a very agreeable surprise. Although Youngster had mentioned that dad might go over, his quick decision caught me on the hop. Anyway I hope the rest of the trip was as pleasant as the early part chronicled in his letter. It’s a great pity you couldn’t both go over together. Melbourne is a lonely place when you’re alone. Youngster has written volumes about her garden consequently I was not surprised to read your praises of their efforts. The home garden must be good too – there’s no doubt about it with time, energy and water you can make a wonderful showing.
So Ken’s back in Tassie again eh. I’m glad dad was able to see him in Melbourne. He was looking forward to seeing ‘Old Henry’ and I’ll bet they did some talking too – all the old brigade would be under the spotlight. I showed Jim McDonnell that bit about Tom Cooper and Max Hay coming up and he and old Nuggett had a good laugh – only the day before Nuggett gave an exhibition of dad’s hand and oh – somewhere further back I scrounged a beer mug for a tea mug. The old enamel mug that I brought from home is still going strong but as I use it for shaving and teeth cleaning decided to get something else for tea. I’ve been using that beer pot for about three months now. Anyway I left it on the floor near my bed and Ramon Novarro stepped back with his number tens and wrecked the mug. Realising the futility of words I said nothing but expressed myself by throwing my pack rather hard on the bed and broke a bottle with it. I didn’t discover the second phase of the tragedy till lunchtime and by then the ink had soaked right through the pack – what a mess. The discovery and explanation brought forth the universal expression ‘that’s what comes of doing the melon’ and started old Nuggett on his turn. If you happen to see Ken you might tell him that Clarrie was down this morning and looks as fit as a fiddle. He’s just had a refund of twenty three pounds – Ken’ll know what that’s for.
I thought I had told you earlier about McDonnell getting his stripes. He and Peter McCowan got theirs just after action when malaria and sandfly fever was laying everyone up but like mine they’re not confirmed.
There hasn’t been anything very exciting here lately except for the Brigade sports last Sunday. It was a beautiful day and a real good show – quite keen competition in some events. The star item on the programme was the presentation of the VC ribbon to Gordon by the Brigadier. He was terribly nervous and apparently more subject to stage fright than physical fear, but such a show is very rare and not to be missed.
Do you remember me telling you in one of my April letters about meeting some Jewish soldiers whilst at range practice and what that Bavarian fellow told me about the Yugoslavs? Well there was a very interesting article in the Palestine Illustrated News written by George Maranz – one of the best informed and most logical writers on war topics. According to his article the Yugoslav Invisible Army are still a force to be reckoned with and occupy a third of Yugoslav territory. They have perfected a system of guerrilla warfare with which the Germans and Italians are unable to compete. The ruggedness of the country makes it useless for tanks and places and complete units of Jerries have been captured. The movement Maranz asserts is gaining impetus every day and Hitler has sent envoys offering complete amnesty for all concerned but they apparently know the value of his word. The repeal of the Merchant Shipping Clauses of the American Neutrality Act brings the States a bit nearer and though I suppose we’ll get a lot of surprises yet I think we can reasonable hope for the war to end within another year.
Must say cheerio now. I’ve just been told by a runner that I’m orderly dog again. There’s no rest for the wicked – and I must be a bad lot. Best regards to Mr & Mrs Phillips and to the boys.
Your loving son
Brigade Sports, including presentation of a VC
The start of the 80 yards final at the 25th Brigade’s sports held on the Iraqi Petroleum Company’s oval on the Latakai-Tripoli road. It was won by Private W K Barton of the 2/25th Infantry Battalion.
The alarm race – one of the novelty events at the Brigade Sports.
Brigadier E C P Plant, commander of the 25th Brigade, pinning the Victoria Cross ribbon on Corporal J H Gordon of the 2/31st Infantry Battalion.
James Gordon was a Western Australian who continued in the regular army after the war.
The Yugoslav Invisible Army
The journalist mentioned in this letter (Geroge Maranz) was also responsible for an article which appeared in the Cairns Post on 25 February 1942 with the headline – Invisible Army Defies Hitler from Balkan Mountains (ref – http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/42333396). An extract reads –
A recent cable reported that the Secret Serbian Army which is fighting the Axis in the mountains of Yugoslaviais now believed to be 200,000 strong – twice what it was three months ago. The invisible army fights almost a secret war; generally, the only news that comes out of Europe about it is a fragment from Axis radio stations, claiming casualties or admitting that panzer troops and dive-bombers are being used against the Serbs. But through Yugoslav sources, George Maranz and Harry Zinder, reliable Journalists, obtainedthis story, which was published in the “Daily Mail,” London.
The American position
The USA had maintained a position of neutrality during the 1930’s when a number of Neutrality Acts were passed. When Britain declared that she was at war with Germany in September 1939, president Roosevelt argued that the existing Acts gave ‘passive aid’ to an aggressor. The subsequent Act provided for American arms sales to belligerent nations on a cash-and carry basis, thus effectively ending the arms embargo. The end of neutrality policy came with the Lend-Lease Act of March 1941, which allowed the U.S. to sell, lend or give war materials to nations the administration wanted to support.
After repeated attacks by on U.S. ships by German submarines, Roosevelt announced on September 11, 1941, that he had ordered the U.S. Navy to attack German and Italian war vessels in the “waters which we deem necessary for our defense”. Following the sinking of the U.S. destroyer Reuben James on October 31, many of the provisions of the Neutrality Acts were repealed on November 17, 1941. (Ref – Wikipedia)