8th Dec 1941
Dear Mother & Dad
Very agreeably surprised to receive my mail this morning. Two days earlier than usual – unfortunately news of fighting in the far east arrived simultaneously and cast rather a heavy damper on things. The air has been electrified ever since. Although we had discussed the possibility of war in the Pacific, the real significance of it was never appreciated until it actually happened. Even now of course we can form only haphazard ideas of the world wide repercussions it will have – effects that in our abstract consideration were quite overlooked – anyway it’s an all in go now so here’s hoping the Yanks come up scratch and we can make a quick finish.
Glad you had a good trip Dad – May mentioned in her letter that you looked better for the change so the trip must have done you good – she said Anne was thrilled with the coat you bought and I guess Mother was pleased with her present too so the whole turnout seems rather satisfactory and of course the welcome from the boys was only to be expected. I don’t suppose they’d know me now. Incidentally I dreamt I was home last night . It was all so clear that when reveille sounded this morning I couldn’t believe I was still in the army but a few minutes later the roar of the CSM calling for markers for the administration parade dispelled all doubts on the matter. I can remember being in Melbourne quite clearly and was very surprised to find Frank Gaha managing a big business there – anyway it was only a dream.
We’ve had quite an eventful week here in a small way. Jim McDonnell got his transfer and will probably go any day now and two sections of carriers and personnel went away on some sort of stunt and then the sergeant who was left in charge was made CSM of another company so we’re a very small family now. I put in for a transfer to the twelfth last week but can’t get it till we get more settled.
So Ken’s going in to hospital again – not for another operation I hope – just to get fitted for a leg I guess. How’s he going these days? Has he got over his self consciousness? There’s a photo in this week’s AIF News of Ron Butterworth and some other twelfth blokes presenting a captured Nazi Flag to Col Elliott. It’s quite a good photo of Ron. There’s another photo of Cutler the New South Wales VC bloke. Although I didn’t know his name at the time I was with him or he was with us at Khibi doing some O.piping(?) for his crowd and when water was as scarce as gold dust I helped him out with a flask of tea – seemed a good sort of bloke.
I had a letter from Rob Cameron the other day and a photo of the chips. It’s a bonzer photo isn’t it? He told me that he’d tried to join up but hadn’t been successful – you can understand them keeping him back – but for the majority the war in the east means conscription. The government should have brought it in long ago. I wonder will the emergency shelve the state election – surely they won’t go on with that now. The Governor should have the power to dissolve parliament and appoint a cabinet of responsible men regardless of party – men like Snow from the Zinc Works and Frank Gaha. Get rid of all the dim wits that are running the show now.
Well Mother and Dad I must say cheerio now. All the best to you both and to the boys
Your loving son
PS Thank Mrs Smith for her good wishes and return my very best regards to her and Harold
PPS You might remind Mick Mason that he owes me a letter
War in the Pacific
The Japanese bombed the US Navy base at Pearl Harbour and began landing troops in Malaya on December 7. On December 8, British Prime Minister Churchill declared his country to be at war with Japan, and many other nations followed suit. See this report in the Canberra Times http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/2595257
Lieut-Col Whitfield, Director General of Recruiting for the AIF is reported in the Melbourne Argus of December 9 as saying – “Eligible men in Australia have been waiting for the war to come closer before enlisting in the AIF…Now they have got it. The war in Libya and Syria has always seemed a long way off. Now it is at our gates. Our men of the AIF have been an early target in the Japanese offensive in the Far East and will be the spearhead of counter attacks. They want their mates at their backs. They want them badly and at once. I have sufficient confidence in the manhood of Australia to believe there will be an unprecedented rush to get in the AIF… ” http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8221486
Presenting a captured Nazi Flag
The men are not named in the caption but the man on the right wearing an RSL badge could have been Colonel C H Elliott who had been part of the Allied campaign at Gallipoli and the Western Front during World War I. The caption reads – When wounded soldiers began returning to Tasmania, they brought war souvenirs with them. The two German flags were among the first to go on display.
Some sort of stunt
The Brigade Diary for December reports that on the 5th, organisation of 7 Div Carrier Coy commenced with HQ at Bechmezzine. Order no. AA2/6/12 was issued the following day, instructing the 6 carriers detailed from each battalion (2/31, 2/33 and 2/25) together with the carrier platoon truck carrying accommodation and other stores to report to the 7 Div Carrier Coy HQ at 1500 hours that day (December 6). See AWM52 8/2/25
Cutler the New South Wales VC bloke
Roden Cutler would later become the Governor of New South Wales. the report on the awarding of the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the Syrian campaign was published in the Melbourne Argus on December 1: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8219813
AWM 134905 Lieutenant Arthur Roden Cutler
John Francis Gaha, known as Frank, was a doctor who became a politician. At the time of this letter he was a member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council and the Health Minister in Robert Cosgrove’s Labor government.