A camel caravan in the snow

5 jan 42_0001

5 jan 42 p2_0001









Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion

AIF Abroad

5th January 1942

Dear Mother & Dad

We’re into another year.  I wonder what it holds.  The passing of the old and the beginning of the new was a avery quiet event in these parts especially in comparison with the wonderful experiences of the last New Year as reminders of which I had two very nice letters from Scotland – one from Shirley on New Years Eve and one from Billie Laird on New Years Day.  Shirley’s letter although airmailed was written on the 1st of November – she said she had just received your letter and intended writing you that night so if it makes the grade it should be home soon.  She’s been transferred to a Glasgow hospital and thinks the new job better than the last.  Incidentally whilst on the subject of letters, in addition to your two letters of the first & 16th December I’ve had one from Mrs Phillips and one from Mrs Jenkins this week as well as your very palatable parcel.  Everything in it perfect and a surprise packet in the shape of a parcel from Jimmy Benbow – you remember him Dad at the Zinc Works.  He sent me a cake and some cigarettes and chocolates – jolly decent of him, don’t you think?  I suppose my Christmas parcels haven’t got through.  That’s one of the things I guess will suffer this year – mail, both air and sea.

The only thing comparable to last new year has been the weather – it’s the coldest I ever remember.  It’s been raining, hailing, snowing and blowing for nearly three weeks.  Yesterday morning there was five inches of snow on the ground and this morning a stiff frost made the snow crackle like machine gun fire, and as we’ve been at range practice all the week you can imagine what it’s been like and as this is probably very mild compared with conditions in Russia it’s ways to understand why the Jerries have had to retreat from Moscow.  The weather has been our biggest trump.  I saw a sight yesterday morning that would have made a wonderful snap – a camel train crossing the snow-covered foothills.  As one almost always associates camels with the desert the photo would have been a most unusual and interesting record.  I am anxiously awaiting your next letter to hear the election results at home- your postscript is very interesting to me.  It will be a big blow to his pride if the great HH misses out – he thought he could get any seat in Tassie anytime he wanted it but he’d probably get a lot of Nationalist seconds.

This is a terribly short letter but I’m afraid there’s nothing else I can write about except the war and as you’re probably getting little else in the news these days I want to avoid the subject.  So Mother and Dad with best wishes to Mr & Mrs Phillips, Rob & Hilda and family, and of course the boys, I’ll say cheerio.

Your loving son.


Training schedule

According to The Footsoldiers, preparation for desert fighting had begun in December:  We began to camouflage our vehicles with the desert sand paint, the nets with sand-coloured binding, and our tin hats were painted buff.  The new infantry organisation of Vickers machine guns to the Carriers instead of a Bren LMG, two two-pounder anti-tank guns, and the formation of an anti-tank platoon in HQ company, adders further fire power to the Battalion…..All were looking forward to some action, not with any sense of bravado but to break the now growing monotony….. The snows kept up throughout late December and on into early January 1942.  Very little work or training was done, and most of it was now spent in trying to keep warm. (PP 130-131)

However, 25th Brigade Diary November-December 1941 (AWM52 8/2/25) – Training Instruction no. 9 (31 December) – instructs that ‘All units will devote alternate weeks to tng and defence works.  The first tng week will commence on 12 Jan 42.’  Battalions were also instructed to ‘concentrate on close order and smartening drill, weapon tng, tactical tng as desired by CO and Night tng – patrols, attack, withdrawal’…with the extra note: ‘Subject to a fd firing range being avail units will include at least one fd firing exercise in their weapon tng’.

So – perhaps with the changes that had occurred in the composition of the Carrier Platoon and the weapons attached to it, there might have been some specific training for this group, ahead of the general Battalion training.

Camels crossing snow-covered foothills

This would indeed have made a wonderful photo – perhaps something like this – a postcard from another blog     camels-in-the-snow-of-persia-300x183http://waltzingaroundtheworld.com/iran/zerky-in-persia/

This entry was posted in Food and Drink, Middle East, The course of the war, training, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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