A dearth of political leadership, farcical propaganda…and a scarcity of Nugget

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Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion

AIF Abroad

4th Dec 1941

Dear Mother & Dad

I received your welcome letters yesterday and they both made good reading – glad to know that parcel got home alright Mother.  When I got Youngster’s letter last week announcing the arrival of hers, it gave me cause to hope that yours had also made the grade.  Parcels are rolling in here very well too now and thanks to you and Youngster I’ve had a very liberal share. The good things you send are a definite treat to the palate but whilst we’re in barracks we’ve nowhere to keep them so if you should send any more (for a while at least) just send toilet stuff such as toothpaste, shaving cream and nugget – nugget is always scarce here.

The weather at home seems to have reverted to winter again.  It’s getting very cold here now but of course we must expect it because it’s winter (correct to season).  The snow on the high mountain ranges is a glorious sight but the winds that blow down from it are plurry keen.  The Barracks rooms being all concrete are naturally very cold too.  It’s be great to see one of our big log fires that we used to have in the dining room.

Dad’s comments on General Blamey’s and Jorgan(?) Smith’s speeches are quite interesting but it looks as though the volunteer system’s dead.  The Bulletin had a very apt cartoon on it in their October 8th issue.  There’s no doubt death robbed Australia of the counterpart of Roosevelt and Churchill when Ogilvie died.  He’d have certainly made a place in the sun (but) now – we seem terribly devoid of political leadership.  Imagine the Trades Hall or the Victoria Club telling him how to run a show.  The trouble with the others is that they can’t distinguish between peacetime and wartime democracy. The crude waste of public moneys on farcical propaganda glamourising the show is worn out.  The old hands know there’s no glamour about it and every man who gets home wounded or disabled (except of course those whose imaginary complaints are in reality cold feet) gives the lie to their efforts so let them get down to business.  To start real organisation both at home and overseas would set a new precedent in Australian history and give them a basis for the much boosted new order when the show is over.

I got quite a pleasant surprise yesterday when the platoon sergeant told me I could have leave from half past three till ten o’clock – the first I’ve had for a long time.  The only times I’ve been out of barracks except for the brigade sports have been on duty and it was a break to get away for a few hours.  Bill Collis – the ‘Albury Basher’ also got leave so we went together, had a few pots of Aussie beer at the canteen a good feed of steak & eggs and went to the pictures (half past six till eight o’clock) then we went back to the canteen had a few more beers and a chicken supper.  It may not sound very exciting but it was a pleasant evening.  There are few pubs in Tassie that I’d rather own than that little canteen – it’s an absolute goldmine – all bottled stuff but as they only sell by the glass they catch the coin.  It’s one place you’re sure of meeting someone you know and I struck Saxe Coverdale and a couple of chaps from the twelfth – had quite a good yarn to them.  They were from Launceston and although I didn’t know them there’s always a bond of friendship with chaps from the same state.  They told me that young Pat Rafferty is their OC of Headquarters Company – he must be doing pretty well.

Dick Schultz and ‘the pom’ (McQuiltan) came in the other day on their way back to their respective units from tours.  You’d hardly expect to see them together but there you are – the pom said he’d had a letter from his wife saying she’d seen Ken up the dogs with the drone (?) and Bill Munro – he wasn’t long getting around was he.

Well mother and dad there isn’t much news so I must say cheerio – All the best to May, Anne, Laurie and the boys.

Your loving son


PS Jim Mc & Dick send their best regards

PPS I’m sending my watch home next week.  I don’t know what’s wrong with it but it doesn’t seem safe to take it to local watchmakers.  They don’t seem to know much about them and are damn dear.  They charged Ray Ross the equivalent of 22/6 for a new post for the second hand.  I don’t want you to send it back but if I can’t get another one I’ll get you to send me a luminous one later.

Blamey’s speech 

General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander of the Australian forces in the Middle East, was recalled to Australia in early November for consultations with the new Minister for the Army (Mr Forde) and the War Cabinet. According to a report in the Burnie Advocate of November 11 (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8217212) ‘He expressed astonishment at the complacency with which Australians were viewing the war.  ‘It does not seem to be understood that we are up against one of the greatest personalities the world has seen.  He has given ten years to pre sparing himself for the conquest of the world and he is well on the way to achievement’….’I have a message for the people of Australia.  It comes from your menfolk – from the snows of Syria and from the hear and dust of Tobruk. We feel it is up to the eligible young men of Australia to reduce our task by helping us. You are leading a carnival life, and you are enjoying it, but if you do not take part you will find your homes overwhelmed, as were the homes of the people of France and Belgium’

These comments clearly caused a stir.  The Melbourne Argus a week later reported subsequent remarks by Blamey, clarifying and certainly not retracting his comments. (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8217212)

 “I am not aiming at killing enjoyment within moderation” he said….He defined carnival spirit as ‘a general spirit of gaiety and pleasure which seems to exist so generally in Australia, coupled with a feeling of apartness from the war itself’…There had to be some relaxation but he thought race meetings several times a week a bit too much.  “It is deplorable that large crowds should go to see young men play football” he said.  “There is a far more stirring game in which they can get all the thrills they want.  A reduction in the amount of sport in this country is advisable”….Addressing the Victoria Club, he said “We must realise we are in the middle of a life and death struggle, and that unless we win it the galloping hooves, the green turf, the flying colours and all that goes with them will of from us.  We must put out whole back and our whole spirit into the winning of the war first”

In a related article, the Central Queensland Herald (Nov 27) commented on the success of the War Loan (see previous posts) and on the Government’s optimism that volunteers would continue to come forward to fulfil the needs of the armed forces –

The final success of the hundred million loan must give rise to hopes that the faith of the Government in voluntarism will likewise be vindicated in the matter of enlistment.  In a national broadcast on Sunday Mr Forde said : “ The voluntary principle is a cardinal principle of the Labour Government.  We believe that under Labour leadership the voluntary system will draw from Australia the last ounce of strength”.  If the 100 recruits per month over normal requirements come forward voluntarily a lot of people will have to eat their words; and doubtless they will be jolly pleased to do so.  But perhaps before that can happen more emphasis will need to be laid on the point raised by Thomas Blamey that too many young men are being assured they are heroes for making munitions rather than for using them.

The need for conscription had already been confirmed in Britain:  The Central Queensland Herald the following week (December 4 edition) published a report from London, dated November 27 which was headlined – Conscription of Whole Nation: “Every man and woman in Britain is liable for conscription under a Bill which Parliament is likely to pass within a fortnight….” (ref http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/76231296)  but Australian Prime Minister Curtin had led a strong anti conscription campaign during World War I and wanted to avoid such a policy if at all possible.

Albert Ogilvie

Albert Ogilvie was the Premier of Tasmania from June 1934 – June 1939 when he died.

Farcical Propaganda

The only ‘propaganda’ I can find (apart from carefully managed newspaper reports of the various campaigns) are the posters encouraging people to grow their own food, contribute to the War Loans, support those working in munitions factories, join the Women’s Land Army or enlist in the AIF – such as this one:









Nugget is always scarce

It’s hard to credit that shoe polish had to be sent from home or provided to the troops via ‘comfort fund’ parcels, rather than being provided by the Army.

ACF parcelPhoto: comfort fund parcel being packed (tin of nugget in the foreground).  ref – Hobart at War 1939-45 CJ Dennison




A few pots of Aussie beer at the canteen

022607Photo : an army canteen near Beirut  AWM 022607

This entry was posted in Australian, Food and Drink, leave, parcels and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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