2nd August 42
Dear Mother & Dad
I was beginning to think I might not get time to write this weekend. A flood of duties and various other things made it look as though time would be against writing but a change in arrangements put things under control and unless there’s another change I’ll have this afternoon and evening off.
Your welcome letter of the 26th arrived on Thursday. The news about 109 Augusta Road was somewhat of a surprise. There’s no doubt about the security but I don’t like mortgages at the present time. Don’t you think money is too unstable for mortgages now? The war expenditure is so high that the relative value of money will have to be much lower after the war. The basic wage will have to be about ten pounds a week and everything else in proportion to ensure high enough taxes to meet the national commitments. Personally I think good land the best bet on the market today. You remember the boom that swept the country in building after the last argument – it will probably be the same after this and all the people who have put off building homes because of manpower regulations will be wanting land. It may not give any immediate return and will of course call up a bit in rates and taxes but values in and around Hobart must improve and alterations in home values will be reflected in land values. As you say – the war is getting closer with petty (?) bombings but they won’t beat us that way – the navy and airforce seem to have the weight of them in straight out fighting but it’s their coming that we’ve got to contend with.
We’ve had a couple of welcome changes in organisation lately – we’ve got platoon cooking arrangements now – have established our own kitchen and of course muggins had to make another wog oven. We used an old badly busted tank for a frame and a six inch pipe for a chimney. She looks like an old railway engine and when we lit up everybody stood clear in case she took off. When the clay started to dry out she set up about a dozen little hot water springs. The other one is quite a success – the sergeant cook swears by it and we’re hoping this one will be even better. We’ve got a champion cook too. He was a shearers’ cook in civvy days and what he can’t cook is nobody’s business. We were never fed like it before in our army lives. If they keep the tucker up the way they have this last week I’ll be as fat as a seal in no time.
Friday was the OC’s birthday and as he expects to be leaving us soon the mob decided to put on a party. We gathered some big logs and made a big camp fire. The clerk collected a few bob from each of us and through the good offices of the unit we got an eighteen and a niner of beer and a quantity of savs and bread and butter. One of the chaps has a piano accordion (twenty eight quids worth) and another chap a large mandolin and between them they supplied the music and when the beer circulated the sing song went with a burst. It was one of the best nights of its kind I remember Jim McDonnell had been off the beer for a week but broke out in a big way and has only been semi conscious ever since. He and Viv Abel – another soak from the north west coast – got very full last night and brought a dozen bottles home with them. They drank the lot between them this morning and at twelve o’clock had to mount guard but they’ll get through.
Well I’m afraid there isn’t much writeable news so with love to May and Anne and best wishes to Laurie and the boys I’ll say cheerio.
Your loving son
PS I’m glad the shoes arrived alright.
Some members of the battalion were fortunate enough to be able to negotiate access to a laundry service provided by local resident Edith Williams. This article by her great-niece Glenda Bone-Gault provides some fascinating insights. http://simplyaustralia.net/article-gbg-autographbook.html
‘Petty’ bombings !?
The main threat to shipping in Australian waters came in 1942 when the Japanese launched a submarine campaign off Australia’s east coast. In the two months after the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour at the end of May 1942, 14 Allied merchant ships were attacked and six of those were sunk. Some 60 merchant seamen died in these attacks, with 29,000 tons of shipping lost….The enemy submarines also took some action against shore positions. On 8 June 1942, the Japanese submarine I-24 fired ten rounds at Sydney Harbour in a five-minute period. Only one of the shells exploded, in Bellevue Hill.
Coinciding with the shelling of Sydney’s eastern suburbs on 8 June 1942 was a short bombardment off Newcastle, 160 kilometres north of Sydney. At approximately 2.00 am, the Japanese submarine I-21, commanded by Captain Kanji Matsumura, approached Newcastle. Matsumura’s orders were to attack the Newcastle shipyards. From about 2.15 am, he fired 34 shells from a position about nine kilometres north-east of Fort Scratchley, at the mouth of the Hunter River. Most of the shells landed in the vicinity of Customs House and the power station. All but one failed to explode but there was still some damage to buildings and houses near Parnell Place, behind Fort Scratchley. The attack lasted about 20 minutes, until just after fortress gunners fired in reply.
Two days after the attacks on Sydney and Newcastle, a Japanese submarine fired on the Age, an Australian coastal steamer travelling from Melbourne to Newcastle. An hour and a half later the merchant ship Iron Chieftain signalled that she had been torpedoed about 43 kilometres north-east of Sydney, in the same area. The Age reached Newcastle safely but the Iron Chieftain, loaded with coke for ship building in Whyalla, sank in about five minutes. Twelve of the crew, including the captain, went down with the ship while another 25 crewmen abandoned ship and landed in lifeboats on the beach at The Entrance.
It’s their coming that we’ve got to contend with….
Propaganda poster referring to the threat of Japanese invasion. A Japanese soldier is striding across the globe towards Australia with the Imperial Japanese flag behind him. He is armed with a submachine gun and is about to stomp on Australia. This work highlights the psychological impact the Japanese advance had upon the Australian population, and the poster was considered so alarmist that it was not released in Queensland or Melbourne. During the Second Wold War it was assumed that the Japanese would continue their southward advance and invade and conquer Australia. It is now understood that although the Japanese authorities did briefly consider invading the northern part of Australia they ultimately decided to pursue a plan of isolating Australia, as they realised their military resourses would not be strong enough to hold all their conquered territory.
What are you doing for Australia in her darkest hour?
The Government was still hoping that there would be enough support for the war, particularly now that Australian cities were being attacked, to avoid the need for conscription. See this advertisement from The West Australian 18 March 1942 (also appeared in newspapers in other states) http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/47185132