One step removed from a base job… two letters

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TX 1004

Max Hickman

33rd platoon

Composite Carrier Group

New Guinea Forces

New Guinea

11th Oct 1942

Dear Mother & Dad

Your welcome letter of the 27th arrived today along with one from Mae Menzie and one from Mrs Toomey.  All three very cheery and interesting but I was surprised to know you hadn’t had a letter from me since we came here as I had a letter from Youngster some days back in reply to one written about the nineteenth and I wrote home about the same time.  Although if I remember rightly I think I made a bit of a tilt at a certain godly fraternity that may have caused a bit of a hold up.

The weather report certainly sounds very Septemberish.  Youngster’s report of Melbourne weather was very similar.  That’s one thing about this place – the weather is very constant.  I am glad to know that May and the baby are both doing well.  I’ll bet Anne is looking forward to them coming home.  You certainly broke your fast in a big way with that  whisky, with cigars and full strength cigarettes I can imagine how you felt next day.  Jim Mc said it serves the old bastard right.  That was bad luck about John (?) Young – he was the pick of the crowd.

I knew Geoff Harrison had pips – Jack Verrell told me when we were home.  He’d cut a good figure in an officer’s uniform.  He seems to have hit the high road pretty well – married Les Crozier’s daughter too, so a place in the sun seems pretty well assured – good luck to him anyway, he’s got plenty of ambition.

Mrs Toomey told me in her letter that Claude Hill had  called there on his way south.  I wonder whether he struck the leave or is getting a discharge.  I think I told you in an earlier letter that Ted Fleming reckoned on getting a discharge – well, Viv Abel had a letter from him yesterday and he’s in the postal corps stationed at Sydney and expects to be home on leave at Christmas – nice going eh.

We’re still being buggered about up here.  I think the worst thing that ever happened to me since I’ve been in the army was being dragged back to this platoon from the sloggers halfway through the Syrian show.  I thought I was lucky getting the extra few days in Brisbane but if I hadn’t got them I’d have been with the mob now, instead of this show – I can’t tell you much about it except that it’s only one step removed from a base show and although generally speaking conditions are good – plenty to do and good tucker and not much regimental baloney and there’s no doubt they’re doing a necessary job – it doesn’t suit me at all.

I thought you might have mentioned in your letter what price they want for Catoes.  It should be a good proposition, although not comparable with Ashton Jones’ place but I want to have something ready to jump into when the show is over and at present we look to be holding a good betting hand – unless something very unexpected happens another year should finish it.

Well Mother & Dad I’m afraid there’s absolutely no writeable news so with love to May, Anne & the baby and best regards to the boys I’ll say cheerio.

Your loving son


PS  Can you send me some writing paper and stamps – stamps are particularly hard to get.


16 oct 42 p1_0001

16 oct 42 p2_0001

16 oct 42 p3_0001

TX 1004

Max Hickman

33rd Platoon

25th Inf Brigade

Carrier Group

AIF New Guinea


Dear Mother & Dad

I received your welcome letter of the fifth today – a much more interesting and newsy letter than I can hope to return but I’ll do what I can.  I’m glad to know that mother, May, Anne and the baby are well and sorry to hear that Dad has a cold but hope that’s soon better too.

Jim Mc was quite interested in the photo although he says it’s not very like her.  Incidentally Mc is not very happy in the service just now.  He’s got something wrong with one of his ears – a big lump like an abscess – it makes his ear ache all the time and he’s nearly deaf too.  Several of the chaps have had trouble with their ears – some germ affecting them – like Palestine there seems to be something here that affects and festers any break in the skin so the slightest scratch festers up and has to be painted with iodine.  Jim wanted to know if you’d broken out again since the whisky turnout and when I told him you were a definite victim he said to tell you, you ought to live the life he lives – total abstainer.

While on the subject of photos you might look out for a couple of packets of snaps.  Johnny’s sister is sending a set together with my coupons and Joe’s girlfriend is sending some too – there shouldn’t be any trouble with them because there’s nothing that won’t pass the censor.  I haven’t seen Joe’s but the others are mostly camp scenes back in Australia and Joe’s are life scenes on the old Pundit.

That Hobart Gaol turnout was a smart piece of work.  They caught some old campaigners too – well any of the three you mention could stand it.  There’s many an ill gotten quid passed through their tills, although pub business is probably pretty light on these days.  There can’t be too many working men about Hobart now if the reports we hear of comb-outs are right – what are they doing with all the chaps out of the building trade?  Mae Menzie told me in her letter last week that Ben was carting stuff for a hospital but she didn’t say where it was.

In the course of our travels up here we’ve struck quite a lot of Yanks in many and varied types of work and they seem very true to type to our chaps.  The infantry blokes seem a very different type to the base fellows we struck back in Aussie.  The farther away you get from the front, the poorer the type as men and the bigger the blow hards and the more officious the heads.  We’ve had a yarn with some of their airmen- they seem a good bunch too.  There’s no doubt abut it they certainly can turn out blitz (?) methods.  It would amaze you to see the way they do things.  We happened to mention about them taking over hotels and garages and things at home, and one of the pilots told us that when they want a place in the states they assess the value of the place, give the owner twenty four hours notice and take over.  Imagine the amount of red tape and negotiations there’d be at home.  Another chap said that when he went to school early this year he stayed four months at a fully staffed hotel where the normal tariff was  fourteen dollars a day.  That’s doing it, isn’t it.  Their pilots get seventy five pounds (dollars?) a month. One particular crowd we struck told us about a job they did and a General came up and told their CO to put in the names of everyone who took part for decorations according to their role.  The mass decorations business rather amused us.  I fancy some RAF chaps would have to have a special tunic for decorations.  But there’s one thing about them I think any man who did a job would get recognition.

You’ve probably noticed the change of address and although it conveys little but confusion to you we’re hoping it means a lot to us – at least most of us are.  Of course it may be only a compromising gesture, a play of words, but it’s like a bright star in a clouded sky at present.

I received a very nice parcel from Ivy this evening – crystallised fruits – very tasty too, but I know it’s damn dear and Youngster can’t afford it.

It’s amazing how rumours get about.  There’s a wave of them at present, each vying with the others and I suppose if I wrote half of them they wouldn’t pass the censor.

Well Mother & Dad I must say cheerio.  there’s tons of news but you’ll have to read about it in the newspapers.  Give my love to May, Anne & the baby and best regards to the boys.

Your loving son


‘One step removed from a base job’

At some point during the second half of October, the carriers of the 2/33rd were transferred from NGF Composite Carrier Group to the 25 Brigade Carrier Group.  Dad was clearly hoping that being under Brigade command rather than NGF might make some difference to the sense of ‘being buggered about’!  The Brigade Carrier group was tasked with airfield defence – of the Bomana, Laloki and Waigani aerodromes.  Area Command Moresby 6 Base Sub Area   October 1942 – June 1943: Defence scheme, defence aerodromes, work and progress reports

The Army hierarchy were clearly concerned that there might be an attack on Port Moresby carried out by paratroopers, as the Germans had done on Crete.  This (Defence scheme…) diary details the anticipated phases of such an attack, and instructs commanders on preferred methods for ‘preventing enemy penetration into aerodrome area.’   Carrier platoons were specifically tasked with providing security patrols in specified areas, dealing with enemy troops landing in specified areas,  harassing fire as directed, and preventing the enemy approaching the dromes

Airfield defenceAerodrome sectors of defence – see diary above p.144

The Waigani drome was also known as 17 Mile and later Durand.    Bomana (12 Mile) was later known as Berry Drome, and Laloki (14 mile) later became Schwimmer Drome.


Bomana P03664.003AWM P03664.003   Aerial view of Berry Drome (previously named Bomana Aerodrome) with the Laloki River winding through the background. The airstrip, situated approximately 20 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby, was used mainly by fighter and medium bomber aircraft.

150517AWM 150517   Port Moresby New Guinea. August 1942. Ground troops and natives prepare to unload another Douglas C47 Dakota transport aircraft bringing urgent supplies from the Australian mainland. Note the low cloud over the airstrip.




Japanese air supremacy

Gunner Laurie Ward who later joined the 2/33rd made the following remarks in an interview (

There were quite a few air raids because the Japanese had complete control of the air.  We had no fighters and very very few bombers, our fighters having been shot down in the Darwin region in the early part of the New Guinea campaign, and up around Rabaul.  The Japanese having air supremacy just came and went at will.  Our job was to protect both the harbour of Port Moresby and the airfields, which were Ward’s and Jackson’s airstrips.

That Hobart Gaol turnout

I can’t be certain, but this might have been the ‘turnout’ referred to ….can’t help laughing!

We’ve struck quite a lot of Yanks

Many US Air Force units were based at the Port Moresby dromes. This is a link to a film – A Day in the life of a GI at 7 Mile Drome

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