The writing rhythm continues, regardless….part 1(3 letters, February)

These letters and those written in March were waiting for Dad when he arrived back in Australia in April 1942.  The envelopes were addressed as usual, with the final line – AIF Abroad.

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From Mrs H Hickman

Pottery Rd Lenah Valley

Hobart Tasmania

9th February 42

Darling Boy.  Once again we write to you hoping to find you in the best of health and spirits as it leaves us at present.  there is not much to write about these days but we will try and make the best of it.  As I was going to town on Friday afternoon I met Alec Worbey coming home in his car.  He pulled up and told me the military had grabbed him at last.  He was vey much upset. I assure you I had heaps of sympathy for him – I don’t think.  He’s a great big fat bloated pig – a pampered pet, just like Tim used to be I guess.  It will do him good.  I inserted a line in the Mercury on Friday night.  It appeared in Saturday’s paper.  To Let – Modern Home.  Ring 1839. Well I got up a little after seven so as to get the work done around the house so as to be able to interview tenants prospective.  The phone started to ring about 8 o’clock and did we have a busy time answering it.  Safe to say the phone was never so busy before.  We both went out in the afternoon.  Your mother went over to see Mrs Mason.  Rings came as late as half past nine at night and there has been three more today (Sunday).  I selected a Scotchman – name’s Buchan.  He is manager of an engineering business for a Melbourne firm in Hobart.  This I consider a great joke: Mrs Ralph Propsting went to the house about 10 days ago & asked Mrs Cockburn if the place was to let.  She told Mrs Cockburn that her husband was a ‘professor’ at the University & a great friend of Max Hickman.  He was now on loan to the government in the munitions business for the duration of the war.  Mr Lowenstein told me he is (in fact) a foreman of some sort making ‘gun sights’.  His wife rang me and did I have to listen to a tirade of pleading and did she stress the great friendship of her husband for you.  She simply would not take no for an answer.  We had it let to a man in the Mercury offer but he was called up for the military.

Your mother found Mrs Mason remarkably well considering she has had a serious operation.  Mick has passed A1 for home defence as a carpenter.  They had an elderly woman, quite a good type, looking after the kids while she was in hospital.  Anne goes into hospital on Wednesday to have her adenoids out.  We hope it will do her a lot of good.  We heard from Ivy that you had got Mason’s parcel & Mae Menzie’s.  We were very pleased to hear it but hope you got ours & the club & others.  Tom Hickman gave me permission to cut a load of wood on Barossa Rd as he is giving up the place.  Jack Scott then cut me a beautiful lot, about 30cwt in short foot blocks.  I used to go over & watch them practice.  I went over last Monday afternoon and found two women with a flash Dodge sedan loaded up.  They must have taken two or three loads before I got there.  As they had just got the last load on as I got there – saw Henry Jones’ sister in law and her sister.  Did I blow them!  One started to shed tears & said she was a widow.  I have found out since Max Jones is well & living in a house worth 1500.  I was a fool.  I should have made them pay but on the spur of the moment I let them go.  The last letter we had was dated 22 December.  The dogs are fit and well.  Will now close.  God bless and keep you. From Mother & Dad.

Making ends meet

From this letter, it sounds as if my grandfather owned two rental properties – though the comments might possibly have all related to one.  He was also in receipt of a war service pension of some kind.  From the time it was granted in August 1916, the amount fluctuated every 6 months until the end of the World War I after which I have no details.  It’s easy to understand how upset he would have been, at being conned by those two women who could clearly have afforded to buy their own fire wood.   Tom Hickman’s wife Minnie had died the previous year, so he was alone on the property – I don’t know where he moved to when he ‘left the place’.

Home defence

2015-10-25 18.30.272015-10-25 18.30.10Men who were either too old or medically unfit for active service, and were not employed in specified occupations were encouraged to join the Volunteer Defence Corps.  These  photos of VDC training exercises come from CJ Dennison’s book Hobart at War 1939 to 1945 – Photographs from the archives of The Mercury.





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From H Hickman

Pottery Rd Lenah valley

Hobart, Tasmania

16 February 1942

Dear Max

Once again we write hoping to find you fit and well as it leaves us at present.  Still the last letter we received from you was dated 22nd December when you were on leave in Palestine.  We got two letters one day but they only contained a few snaps.*  Things are abnormally quiet around here just now.  Laurie is working at Jones’.  We hardly ever see him.  He works Saturday afternoons and Sundays but as you know it won’t do him any good: bookmakers and publicans will get all his money.  I told you last week about the possum in that schrub tree with the geranium clustered over it.  Well this morning I made a close inspection and discovered there is a pair in it.  Fancy them coming to the back door where the three dogs are.  Your mother’s thrilled about it.  You know what she is with anything like that.  She just adores them.  Well Max I think I ought to tell you though your mother gave me strict orders not to do so – she seems to have made up her mind suddenly that she should have her goitre out.  Mrs Mason has had hers out and is getting on splendidly for some time.  I took no notice of her as she has spoken about having it out so many times (but) one day last week she went to see Dr D….. and he advised her to have it out.  She then went to see Dr Muir, the new surgeon superintendent at the Royal Hobart Hospital and he advised her to have it out.  She has all the faith in the world in him.  Well Max I have not said one word for or against it.  She said it was choking her.  She ought to know herself how she feels.  She has gone into the hospital this afternoon (Sunday 16th Feb) and is to have the operation on Tuesday.  Mrs Phillips rang this morning and wished her everything of the best and I’ve just had a ring from the Post Office to say there was a telegram from Ivy wishing the same.  Your mother has had a wonderful spell for the last two years.  I have scrubbed out every morning, cleaned the yard, got the vegetables ready – in fact I’ve done all the rough work.  She has been able to go out when and where she wanted to, but every time she came home she seemed to be all out.  She has a marvellous appetite and I think in every other way she is healthy.  She has not got up of a morning before 8.30.  I have taken her in a cup of hot water and two cups of tea.  Every evening we have about seven games of crib.  We listen to the news at 10 o’clock and then go to bed.  Anne had an operation for tonsils and adenoids during the week at Calvary hospital.  Dr Cunningham did the job.  She seems to be getting along alright.  Ron Butterworth started work at the barracks on Friday.  He is attempting (?) to teach crippled returned men new professions.  Tom Cooper is having a house built by the agricultural bank in Carlton Street.  He’s very pleased with himself.  The dogs are fit and well.  I will now close Max.  Wishing you all the best.  With best love from Mother & Dad.

* The letters concerned may well have been censored: there is a gap in Dad’s correspondence in December (nothing between the 8th and 22nd) and again in January (nothing between 5th and 17th)The letters concerned may well have been censored: there is a gap in Dad’s correspondence in December (nothing between the 8th and 22nd) and again in January (nothing between 5th and 17th)

18 February 42


Dear Max

Your mother had the operation on Monday morning and she is doing marvellous.  I wrote the letter on Sunday and decided not to send it till I saw how things were going.  The doctor reckons your mother is one of the bravest women he has ever met and I don’t think there’s any ….about him.  I will write more fully in my next letter.  She looks to be well on the road to recovery.  Dad

The language of the letters

Although they are always signed off from Mother & Dad, the script is always the same – so they were all written by his father.  It’s interesting that when his mother was in hospital, the letters began ‘Dear Max’, and finished ‘Wishing you all the best’, whereas when she was at home, they began ‘Darling Boy’ and finished ‘God bless and keep you’….very much as if she were the author.

Laurie is working at Jones’

IXL-jam-labelLaurie Fisher was one of dad’s brothers in law – the husband of May, father of Anne who is often mentioned.  Jones’ was H Jones & Co – makers of jams and canned preserves of all kinds (vegetables, fish etc) with the IXL brand.    The factory buildings still exist in Hunter Street on Hobart’s waterfront, having morphed into an ‘Art Hotel’ with associated cafes and craft shops etc, and the University of Tasmania’s Centre for the Arts.

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From H Hickman

Pottery Rd Lenah Valley

Hobart, Tasmania

Feb 23rd 1942

Dear Max

Just a few lines hoping to find you fit and well as it leaves me at present.  Well, up to date your mother is making a marvellous recovery.  When I saw her on Friday I could hardly believe my own eyes.  I am not going in today – Sunday – because I know she is going to have quite a number of visitors.  You know this operation might put another twenty years on your mother’s life.  In fact I don’t think she could have gone much longer the way she was, so I think she took the right course in having it done while she and the necessary strength.  Things are frightfully quiet here just now.  The war has reached our shores and the people are waking out of their complacency.  I noticed as I walked down Pottery Road yesterday about the fourth house up from the terminus there is a heap of sand for putting out incendiary combs.  All the people around are invited to take some in readiness.  I was up at the club on Friday afternoon.  There was a large gathering of old timers discussing the merits of old and new AIF.  Quite a lot of them wanting to have another shot but I don’t think they would stand up to another preparation.  Old Jack Hickman is in Calvary hospital.  He has had bronchial pneumonia and he had to be X-rayed so they took him there for a few days.  He was thinking of the cost when I saw him.  Fancy worrying about money these days.  There is no doubt about him and old Bob – they will die clinging to it.  Anne is just feeling the benefit of her operation.  I expect to see a great improvement in her condition from now on.  She has all the promise of being a clever kid.  I hired a lorry and got three tons of wood in last Tuesday.  It is predicted that wood will be very scarce this winter on account of the petrol position.  The weather is very dry here.  In fact it is a serious drought.  Everything in the line of vegetables is very dear.  We have nine turkeys and Anne’s sheep would weigh at least 60lbs dressed so if things get very bad we’ve got some stock.  I have to mind Anne tomorrow while May teaches so I will take her to the hospital to see nanny.  They kick visitors out at 3.15.  I will then go up and see Maggie & Auntie Dunn(?).  I have not been up for some time.  Jim McDonald’s father came to me the other day.  He was anxious to know if I had heard anything of Jim.  He said he had not had any letters for a long time.  Laurie Fisher is still at Jones’.  He is getting quite a lot of overtime.  He has also been laying the odds down.  There’s born gamblers – all the Jokers crowd – that’s all they think of.  There is a lot I would like to write Max but I’m afraid it might be sent back to me.   The dogs are all in good nick.  I hope they will be here when you come back.  Has Jim McDonald been transferred and has he still got his stripes?  There’s quite a lot wondering how long he would keep them.  I will now close Max.  Wishing you all the best.  With best love from Mother & Dad.

PS I went to see your mother last night.  She is progressing wonderfully well.  A marvellous job.

The war has reached our shores

See report from the Melbourne Argus, Saturday 21st February, headlined : 17 KILLED IN RAIDS ON DARWIN  6 ENEMY PLANES SHOT DOWN.   In the two air raids on Darwin yesterday it is believed that total casualties were 17 killed and 24 wounded.  Nine of the civilian fatalities were members of the Darwin post office staff, including the postmaster, his wife and daughter…

600px-Darwin_42Photo – from Wikipedia : The explosion of an oil storage tank and clouds of smoke from other oil tanks, hit during the first Japanese air raid on Australia’s mainland, at Darwin on 19 February 1942. In the foreground is  HMAS Deloraine which escaped damage.


A serious drought

….The second half of 1941 was again very dry along the eastern seaboard, with water restrictions imposed in Sydney from September. (




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