What are we doing still here?

26 jan 42 p1_0001

26 jan 42 p2_0001








26 jan 42 p3_0001


Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion

AIF Abroad

26th Jan 42

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you fit and well as I am at present.  I didn’t write you last week because of a sore arm and a dopey feeling like flu consequent on a couple of injections in the right arm.  I suppose dad remembers the annual line up.  Anyway it’s good to have it over and not to be looking forward to it.

Mail has been very light on lately, been quite a postman’s holiday.  Ted told me nearly all the mail this last week or so has been English and South African so a we’re all in the same boat- I can’t complain.  Tomorrow is normally air mail day and we’re all hoping it comes good.

Since we came into this camp nothing of much importance has happened here except that quite a few of the old hands who had been away sick and on stunts have come back.  Ack Hallam and Nuggett Geeves are with us again, and old Claude Hill is back too – looking at least ten years older than when he went away.  He’s had a pretty bad trot.  I heard some months back that he’d been boarded and was going home, so got quite a surprise to see him on the parade ground this morning.

I’ve been over and seen Tiny a couple of times lately – he’s one of the most popular blokes in his unit and enjoys a greater measure of individual freedom and responsibility as well as confidence than anyone I know in the same rank.  Hospitality is on the same scale as it was at 304 Liverpool St.  You’re never there long before he gets one of the blokes to boil the billy and can always manage to produce some cake or biscuits.  Of course knowing Tiny one doesn’t ask questions as to where these things come from – you’d hardly need two guesses.  When I was over there yesterday afternoon he produced a couple of bottles of Carlton special and the Padre supplied a cake. (It’s a toss up which of those two is the biggest b…. artist)  then we had a couple of hamburgers and went to the pictures.

When we didn’t get any mail last week all the fellows thought they’d been wiped and conversation centred round the subject for days.  In the mess one day I remarked to a fellow that he didn’t look too pleased with himself.  He said no – I think the milkman’s got in on me.  Another chap said how do you know it’s not the butcher ?  Well he said I wouldn’t mind if it was the butcher but I can’t wear the milkman.  As we couldn’t see what difference it made, he said – well, blood’s thicker than water. It wasn’t a bad one was it?

We saw our first evidence of real American participation in the shape of a big bomber with the American markings.  We’ve seen plenty of their planes but this was the first without British markings.

The war in the Far East has assumed rather ugly proportions. The Salvation Army hut is crowded every night when the news comes on and the sales of the local rag have trebled.  The somewhat detached sentiment and feelings with which we’ve regarded the war have been succeeded by intense patriotism and an urge to get into it and the question on everybody’s lips is what are we doing here still?  I suppose no matter where we fight it’s for the same results but it’s damned disconcerting just the same.

I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Keep your chins up.  Best regards to all my friends, including the boys.

Your loving son


am enclosing three snaps.

Air mail restrictions

Routine orders of Jan 5 – use letter cards as far as possible, or letters with a maximum of 2 pages of airmail paper.

Tiny Schultz …304 Liverpool St

Tiny was Dick (actually, Cecil) Schultz.  There are many references in previous letters to Dick’s tact and diplomacy, which Dad identified as being responsible for him having privileges that other sergeants would not. Dick’s home address was 304 Liverpool St Hobart.  I’m intrigued that his wife and children are never mentioned by name or referred to other than e.g. – Have you been up to 304 Liverpool St?  This particular letter suggests that Dick was responsible for the hospitality visitors experienced there.

American planes

B-24 Liberatorphoto  B-24D Liberator

From Wikipedia: The US Air Force began planning for a buildup of American air power in the Middle East in January 1942 in response to a request from the British Chief of the Air Staff. The initial unit to arrive consisted of twenty-three B-24D Liberator heavy bombers with hand-picked crews. It had initially been assigned to the China/ Burma/ India theatre to attack Japan from airfields in China but after the fall of Rangoon the Burma Road was cut so the detachment could not be logistically supported in China.

What area we doing still here? : The war in the Far East has assumed rather ugly proportions

002234In a Salvation Army hut in Palestine  AWM 002234 – The broadcasts would have been censored, so most likely the sentiments expressed in the article below were not heard directly – the troops would have had to wait for (old) newspapers to be delivered, to learn of such views.

From The Melbourne Argus – Wednesday Jan 14 1942 – front page :

HEAVY ENEMY PRESSURE IN MALAYA : Singapore, Tuesday.  British forces that retired to Seremban, 30 miles south of Kuala Lumpur, yesterday are engaged in severe fighting with the Japanese, who are exerting heavy pressure.  Domei, the Japanese agency, says that Australian troops bore the brunt of the Japanese attack in the Kuala Lumpur region, but they were compelled to retreat.  Tarakan Island, off the east coast of Borneo, on which Japanese landed on Sunday, has capitulated, it is officially stated in Batavia, and the garrison has been evacuated to the mainland.  Dutch planes are bombing Japanese warships near the island. Reuter’s special correspondent states that as he drove through Kuala Lumpur on Sunday he heard sounds of heavy explosions behind him as bridges were blown up.  Clouds of smoke arose as he left the city and he believed the railway station had been set on fire.  Japanese planes are attempting heavier raids on Singapore.  So far they have met with little success….Three formations of enemy planes came over, numbering 125 in all.  Each time they were engaged by Allied fighter planes.  Fierce artillery battles are going on along the whole front in the Philippines, Washington communique states.  Ground activity is increasing as fresh enemy troops move into frontline positions.  Enemy air attacks have been renewed….UAF planes from Burma made heavy attacks on Japanese concentrations in Thailand…Heavy fighting is still in process in Minahassa province, Celebes, where Japanese troops also landed at three places on Sunday…..Daily Express says in a leader that the threat to Singapore, which is the key to the whole western and southern Pacific, becomes hourly graver, and British people who had been assured that all Malaya could be defended, have been humiliated but the tremendous sacrifices that our outnumbered forces are making in their delaying action while planes are rushed out to them…It daily becomes clearer that the Far East has produced a crop of incompetent wind-bags and that those who wanted to speak out about mis-management have been gagged, censored, and obstructed….If Sir Archibald Wavell sees fit to take drastic measures against slothful officialdom he will have the thanks of the whole alliance.

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