5th September 42
Dear Mother & Dad
Just a few lines hoping to find you happy & well and enjoying life to the fullest as I am at present. Our Section has been detached from the unit for a few days and will probably not catch up for some time – a week or ten days. We’re representing the battalion on a bit of a stunt – not in any competitive manner but just that it was this section’s turn to do it so of course I’m not getting any mail at present. The job we’re on has been very varied covering field work in several phases and it has also taken us over a lot of new country.
The other night Monday to be correct there was a lull in proceedings and we got leave from five o’clock till midnight – midnight in this case being the administration parade next morning. Mick O’Brien and I got away a bit ahead of time – in fact we were in Brisbane twenty minutes before our leave officially started and thirty five miles from the place we had leave to, having got a lift with with an air force officer in a staff car – a hell of a nice chap he was too. He’s been to Canada, England, down through the Middle East and home. Nothing snobbish about him at all, although he told us that the relationship between officers and other ranks were much the same in the airforce as they are in the army. We had a couple of drinks with him and went on to the canteen for a feed and then to a picture show – “Smiling Through” – not a bad show but not what I’d expected. On the way to a suburban station (where we had to go to catch a goods train – there’s no passenger trains after nine o’clock to our joint) we met a couple of Yankee merchant seamen. They were going our way and we got into conversation with them. It was their first visit to Australia and the talk went round to the question of pay. They told me they get seven dollars a day plus a bonus of a hundred and twenty five dollars for every port they make – those that get through will certainly have a roll when it’s over.
Johnny McGrow’s sister is getting a set of snaps printed for me – they’re just camp snaps but some of them are very good. She’s going to send them on to you together with my coupon book. I don’t see that I’ll need coupons for anything. Although there’s only twenty five they might be some use if not to you I guess May will find use for them, but whoever uses them may have to get someone in the service to get what you want or else to go to the shop with you.
I saw Tiny on Monday for the first time in four months. By jove he’s got fat – fatter than he’s ever been since I’ve known him. Of course he should do, he’s on a good run but he never seemed to be the fattening type – but he must be close on thirteen stone now – he wished to be remembered to you and to Tom Cooper. He told me young Jack is going into the office at the Zinc Works at the end of the year – that should be alright. The other boy Les has been called up but Tiny is hoping he’ll get exemption because of the trade.
The train line runs right past our camp and the other morning when we went down to the creek for a wash, found a ten gallon barrel of beer. It must have fallen or been pushed off the train – a couple of the blokes seemed to know quite a lot about it – anyway we put a tap in it and did it over in the approved way. It was quite nice too.
Well Mother & Dad I’m afraid without discussing the war or politics there’s not much I can write you so with very best wishes to May & Anne and regards to Laurie and the boys I’ll say cheerio.
Your loving son
…Will probably not catch up for a week or ten days.
The battalion had in fact sailed with the others of the 25th Brigade, for Port Moresby (via Townsville) on September 1. There is no information in either the battalion or the brigade diary of the reason for a section of carriers being detached for other duties, and Dad’s service record gives no information about this separation. However the Movement Orders (awm.gov.au RCDIG1024949 ) do show that the initial plan was for all 21 carriers from the 2/33 to be loaded with the troops while later appendices specify (p90) ‘2/33 Bn less det’ and (p91) 2/31 – 21 carriers, 2/33 – 17 carriers, 2/25 – 15 carriers.
Smilin’ Through : 1932 movie
10th Sept 1942
Dear Mother & Dad
Just a few lines to let you know I’m still enjoying life though in much different circumstances than when I last wrote you.
A simple order last Sunday night brought to an end the best break this unit has had since its inception and I think the best break any of us have had since we signed the spotted line for the duration and twelve months after. A series of manoeuvres and stunts kept my section back after the rest of the unit had left and as a glorious finale to our stay in this state we were camped – or at least we dumped our gear – within twenty minutes’ tram ride of the GPO. Although we were under orders to be in camp over night we arranged with a chap living near the camp to contact the officer in charge each morning and give us the dope when we reconnoitred each day at eleven o’clock and in this way we had an open slather. Four glorious days – absolutely carefree. I stayed two nights with Johnny McGrow’s people and two with Peter McGowan’s and lived on the luxuries of the land. We saw several good picture shows and on Saturday went to the races.
It was a great leave and one that will find a place in every man’s “days to remember” and presently when we get back to Bully & Biscuits and a blanket and ground sheet will think back on those baked chickens, steak & eggs and pork chops, and the luxury of soft beds. One bloke drank three cups of coffee to keep him awake so that he could appreciate the soft bed.
I met Roy Jilley one day. Dad may remember him . He was a member of the club for some time but I think he was barred later. He was flashing a couple of pips so I asked him what season’s jam they came out of. He said they were quite new. Last time I saw him he was a gunner in the artillery – the equivalent rank of a private in the infantry. That was in Palestine early last year. He made no bones about the method employed. He said he was getting nowhere in the old outfit so transferred over where he had some influence working for him. If the truth were told that’s the story behind most commissions. On Friday night we had a few drinks and supper with Heatley Roy. He’s certainly a great spender and quite amusing in some ways.
We met Peter McCowan on the Friday. He’s been in hospital and thought we’d all gone. He was due to leave for a convalescent camp but decided to take the risk and try and go with us. However they caught up with him on Sunday and he was taken back to hospital and is on a charge of being AWL from that institution.
Rossy – I think you’ll remember him – I’ve often mentioned him – was particularly lucky. At the psychological moment his carrier wouldn’t start so Ramon got orders to take it to a depot that is only a hundred yards from his home so he may be home for a week or ten days or even more (Ray has been in the Army three years)
Meantime we’re with Bill’s cobbers once again and so far are living pretty well. The weather’s glorious and the food quite good considering and as on all such occasions the pack of cards is our greatest standby although we had quite a good concert last night.
There’s no doubt about it that “on your feet” order that I mentioned early in this letter has had a wealth of meaning in the army. I suppose it was the same in Dad’s day. It was the cautionary before everything we did and has a chain of memories for every one. Those Battalion moves when after a two or three o’clock reveille we’ve sat for hours with our packs and gear ready to move sometimes twelve or fourteen hours – then again at the end of a ten minute halt during a route march or a bit of a break during manoeuvres in the sand or the zero hour to move again after the artillery have put down their barrage in the real show. I really think it would be a good title for a book and if things work out right I may use it as a contemporary to “Bastards I have known”.
Well Mother & Dad I must say cheerio now. Give my love to May & Anne and best regards to Laurie & the boys.
Your loving son
censor – A E Hayne
It was a great leave
Clearly it wasn’t actually leave, but they knew how to work the system! There were Australian Army staging camps at Tennyson and Kalinga Park, both of which might have been within twenty minutes’ tram ride of the Brisbane GPO but I haven’t been able to find any information about them. There are aerial photos of the Tennyson site at http://www.ozatwar.com/locations/1australianstagingcamp.htm. American camps are documented in more detail eg Ascot Camp http://www.ozatwar.com/ozatwar/campascot.htm
On Your Feet
Image – State Library of Queensland 108396 – Troops with their kitbags at Brisbane Railway station
We’re with Bill’s cobbers again
In the context of not being able to speak about the war or his specific movements, this was Dad’s way of telling his parents that he was once again at sea. His brother in law Bill Drysdale was an officer in the Navy. There would have been in no doubt as to where the men were heading. Dad’s service record shows that he left Brisbane on the Jason Lee on September 6 and arrived in Port Moresby on September 17. Presumably there was a stop in Townsville en route. His record also shows that while on board (11/9/42) he was ‘detached for duty to NGF Comp Carrier Gp’. A month later, he ceased to be attached to this group and was detached to 25 Aust Inf Bde Carrier Gp 14 Aust Inf Bde. I take this to mean the carrier group from the 25th Brigade came under the command of the 14th Brigade. The diaries of the 14th Brigade have not been digitised at the time of writing (January 2016) however I have discovered that Dad’s section was primarily employed in airfield defence around Port Moresby.