The leave lottery, missing Rossy’s wedding – and a crazy competition

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28th June 42

Dear Mother & Dad

I received your welcome letter of the 22nd June last night after we got back from range practice at the camp where Dad was before he went away.  We’ve had a couple of days down there.  It’s quite a good range isn’t it?  There’s an old lady keeps a store near there and she told us she and her husband had the store right through from before the last war.

The rationing system has certainly struck hard at a lot of people.  I guess the summer will see most of the girls stocking-less.  Still they’ll get used to it – by the time the show’s over they’ll be able to live on half the money it cost before.

Mother’s latest idea doesn’t find much favour I’m afraid.  In fact I take a very dim view (to use the army interpretation) of it.  You’d get a very rude awakening Mother – discipline wouldn’t be to your liking and you’d probably find yourself washing dishes and scrubbing floors for some would be’s – Definitely.…Mother rule it right out.

The news about Ivy was not altogether a surprise as she mentioned it in my letter last week.  I hope it will be for the better – It may be the best thing for her.

The morning after I wrote my weekly lament last week a little incident changed my outlook considerably.  I struck one of the coveted prizes in the leave lottery and at nine o’clock was a on my way to Brisbane for two days – a very enjoyable break.  Peter McCowan and Aggie Lloyd were the others and as Peter is a Queenslander knew his way round Brisbane and has quite a lot of friends and relations.  His girl friend’s mother keeps a boarding house almost in the heart of the city and we made that our headquarters – a jolly good crowd too – we lived like Princes.

We spent most of the first day on a shopping expedition and sightseeing.  Our shopping consisted of buying a wedding present for Ray Ross (I’ve often mentioned him in letters – he’s the bloke whose hair I cut at Mersa Matruh) – who’s facing the music next Wednesday.  The boys passed the hat around and we got nine pounds but things in that line (I suppose in other lines too) are very dear.  But eventually we decided on a silver tea and coffee set.  Very nice but terribly dear however I guess Novarro will appreciate them.  We went for several tram rides and in the evening saw the Corsican Brothers at St James.  The next day we called on two of Peter’s uncles who are fruit merchants – both returned men and quite interesting.  Their stand adjoins Hedley Geeves who claims to be a Tasmanian and to know the clan.  We were having a drink with them at the Grosvenor and a chap in civvies called Peter over to the other side of the bar and asked him if I was Max Hickman from Hobart.  He turned out to be Harold Hamilton – a chap May taught accountancy.  He had a commission but has been discharged.  He didn’t look too clever but I didn’t think to ask him what was wrong.

Youngster has mentioned some friends of hers named Wetherall in her letters and often suggested that I see them so I rand then up and they invited us out.  Peter was taking his girlfriend out so Aggie and I went.  They certainly are very nice people.  Ken – the husband is a Lieut in the Navy and as soon as I saw him I knew he was a brother of one of the Lieut’s we had in the Anti Tank when we first left Australia.  They made us very much at home and invited us to come again.

I had a letter from Shirley this week.  She seems quite happy and well and asked whether you had got her letter.   Her letter was sent air mail but took nearly five months to get here.  I must say cheerio now Mother and Dad.  I’ve got to get laired up for church service.  Love to May and Anne and best wishes to the boys.

Your loving son

Max

Quite a good range

Enoggera Range / camp/ barracks in Brisbane was established prior to World War I.

The Rationing System

For general information on Rationing and the Rationing Commission see https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/homefront/rationing/

In relation to clothing in particular – according to the Sydney Morning Herald of 7 June 1942, Stampede buying following recent ministerial announcements…had so depleted stocks held by Melbourne traders that blankets and other articles are now virtually unobtainable. (http://ergo.slv.vic.gov.au/explore-history/australia-wwii/home-wii/food-shortages-rationing).

Not only for civilians

Battalion Routine Orders of June 30 (AWM52 8/3/33/7) includes the following instruction:

CLOTHES RATIONING

(a) Personnel serving on 15 June 42 will receive for maintenance purposes coupons as follows:  Offrs  70 coupons per annum,   ORs  25 coupons per annum,  AANS,  VAD and FTD  35 coupons per annum

(b) It is anticipated that coupon books will be available on 30 June 42.  Until Army coupons are available cases of extreme necessity can be reported by COs Units through usual channels to appropriate HQ L of C Area for transmission to State Deputy Director of Rationing for consideration.  Any special issue of coupons in such cases will conform with normal entitlement of pers involved and will be recorded by COs Units so that the number of Army coupons can be withdrawn from Army Ration Book when issued.

(c) Purchase by offrs of offrs pattern greatcoats, uniforms and caps will NOT require render of ration tickets.

Mother’s latest idea

2015-12-08 16.30.46There were many roles women were encouraged to undertake.  Younger, fitter women could join the Land Army.  Others joined the services as cooks, mechanics, signallers, translators, clerks, etc…  But older women also served in voluntary capacities, helping the Red Cross or the Australian Comforts Fund among others.  Dad’s comments suggest his mother had thought of signing up for a services role – he mentions the likely discipline – but of course I can’t be sure.  (Photo – from CJ Dennison Hobart at War 1939 to 1945)

Novarro will appreciate them

Ray Ross was considered good looking: his nickname was Ramon Novarro – a Mexican movie star who assumed the mantle of ‘sex symbol’ after the death of Rudolph Valentino.

 

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Sunday 5th July

Dear Mother & Dad

I’m on guard today.  It’s a marvellous day.  The weather here is simply perfect and there’s a battalion cricket match on.  I volunteered to relieve young Dick Lewis so that he could have a game.

Your very welcome letter of the 29th arrived on the second so that’s moving it, isn’t it?  Some very interesting news too.  Jim McDonnell reckoned the Magistrate let him down badly.  He thinks those blokes ought to have bought a tenner (?)

Ack’s wife seems to have settled in pretty well up here.  She and Bob Cole’s wife have a flat at a seaside resort quite handy to the new camp and whenever we’re in camp they (Ack and Bob) manage to catch a bus out.  It must be a great holiday for them.  I believe there’s a tennis court quite handy and a good surf beach and as I mentioned earlier the weather is wonderful.  I’ve never known Ack to be so contented as he is now.  He was a bit annoyed the other day when they told him a chap out of the ASC had been made RTO at Hobart.  It seems that a screed had been sent out asking for nominations for the job but it must have missed this battalion.  Ack would have been a cinch for the job too.  Tasty eh – a commission and stop in the home town.

A bit of a surprise Bert Boyes getting roped in again.  What age group does he come under?  I guess Bert won’t fancy that too much.  I should have thought Mulcahy would have been a Lt Colonel before this – he’s had charge of a show for quite a long time.  There’s no doubt about it he’s in the right sort of show.

I think I mentioned in my last letter that one of the boys – Ray Ross – was going to do the trick.  Well, he went off last Wednesday.  We all wanted to get in to see it but at the last minute all the NCO’s in the platoon were put on a VDC instruction job.  We’ve been copping a fair few of them lately.  The blokes are vey keen and it’s quite interesting but we were a bit crooked about going last Wednesday.  We gave Rossy a bucks party on the Tuesday night.  Kev Power (one of our officers) got the beer and a local baker supplied the supper and as I think I’ve mentioned before we’ve got some good talent in the platoon so we had quite a good night.

A platoon of one (our?) battalion did a vey silly thing some time back.  They marched fifty two mile in fourteen hours and soon they’re all trying to beat it.  We had a go Friday but couldn’t comply with the terms and I must admit I was glad when we were disqualified.

I’m afraid there’s very little real news about so I guess I’d better stay cheerio for the present.  Give my love to May and Anne and regards to the boys.

Your loving son

Max

PS Thanks a lot for the PK’s.  They’re very hard to get these days.

 

A VDC Instruction Job

P04265.001The VDC – Volunteer Defence Corps – was originally made up of returned World War I servicemen, organised by the RSSAILA (RSL for short – the Returned Services’ League).   In February 1942 the VDC became part of the Australian Military Forces (AMF) and received training from regular soldiers.   By then, men outside the age limits for the regular services, men deemed unfit for active service and men in reserved occupations were being encouraged to join.

P04265.002 The VDC reached its maximum strength in June 1942 when enlistments in Queensland alone totalled over 17,000 men. The VDC covered coast-watching duties in the Torres Strait and along the eastern coast and Gulf; sentry duties at key installations; and the manning of beach defences, anti-aircraft guns and coastal batteries to free up regular troops for service in forward areas. (http://www.ww2places.qld.gov.au/theservices/theaustralianarmy/#volunteer_defence_corps)

Photos – members of the VDC practising their marksmanship, and being given instruction in the field for training purposes  (AWM P04365.001 and AWM P04365.002)

A very silly thing

There are references to this ‘competition’ in The Footsoldiers and in the unit diary.

Bill Crooks notes: An endurance feat which the CMF and AIF had been conducting at this period, was won by a composite platoon from D Company competing against other 7th Division units and CMF.  Led by Lieutenant Doug Copp and Sergeant Frank Mactaggart, the thirty nine men marched a remarkable 49.8 miles in battle order – with weapons, food and ammunition – in thirteen hours.  Although it was often attempted, it is not known whether this record was ever broken.  (The Footsoldiers p 140)

The unit diary records the attempt made by Dad’s group:  July 4 – Commencing at 0500hrs a composite Pl from HQ Coy attempted to march 50 miles in 14 hours in accordance with rules governing competition conducted by 7th Aust Div.  Attempt XXXXX abandoned after covering 38 miles in 12 hours.  (One can only imagine what word was deleted, as Dad’s report said they were ‘disqualified’)

 

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