21st Oct 42
Dear Mother & Dad
Strange as it may seem the address is the same as on my last letter and incidentally I too haven’t moved far from the same spot as I occupied when I last wrote – we’re more or less grounded just at present but having spent some time and quite a lot of energy making ourselves comfortable – rigging tarps and making bunks and establishing a kitchen of sorts – may expect a move at any time now. The old saint hasn’t been behaving the best lately but she’s done a lot of work and copped a power of abuse so we can’t expect too much of her.
The postal services continue to be very good up here and apparently the mail is getting home too. I’ve had quite a lot this week – the home budget and youngster’s regular epistle – always the most looked for – one from Jack – a very interesting and amusing letter – and a surprise packet in the shape of a letter from Evelyn Anderson – the girl who bought that scotch rig for Anne when we were in England.
After your reports of last week it’s good to know that the weather is getting better. Up here we’re just getting the beginning of the rains. Every evening there’s a thunderstorm and it certainly rains.
I’m glad one packet of snaps have made the grade and that you liked them. The other lot should be along any time now. A camera would be very handy up here – there’s quite a lot of places and things that would make good photos but of course they’re taboo now.
I’m afraid I can’t give you any information about Dick. He came up here and as far as I know is with his unit. I saw him the day before they sailed and he looked very fit. The padre was with him at the time and wanted to be sure of getting on the same boat as Tiny as he had great faith in Tiny’s luck. I said you’re pretty right he’s got enough arse to save the ship and all the RAP staff were of the same opinion. One fellow said I wouldn’t need to see the rats leave the ship – if Tiny missed it I’d go through.
Old Claude should be home now because it’s nearly a month since Mrs Toomey wrote that he’d called there on the way south.
Vegetables seem to be attracting a lot of attention on the home front – Youngster mentioned a few prices in her letter and said everybody with two feet of ground was growing something. We’re getting a fair bit of tinned stuff – cabbage, parsnip, peas, beans and potatoes. Not like fresh stuff of course but better than none. We never got any of those at all in the Middle East and the fellows up at the range are only getting hard tack.
Jack said in his letter that the wise guys at home figure that the war may end in about eighteen months and goes on to point out that reaching our objective (Tokio) via the many islands and things will necessitate travelling fourteen miles a day and in the backing and filling of campaigns that fourteen would probably become a hundred and forty miles a day. I only hope that is not the idea of those who work out our grand strategy – like you at home I’m living for the day when we can resume normal lives and often plan new homes though of course a lot may happen to change one’s plans between now and then. Speaking of houses I’m glad Tom’s place is finished at last – he’s certainly had a long wait, hasn’t he?
I had a pretty good idea who Mick was working for. The little piece was cut out of the letter he wrote me. I think the censoring powers must have been tabbed (?) because every letter I got from Tassy is censored.
There was a crowd of chaps attached to the platoon the other day for MG Instruction. They were all fellows who spent a fair bit of time in the army boob (?) when we were back in Aussie and had developed a sort of inferiority complex. There’s certainly a lot in the saying that the army either makes or breaks a man. Quite a lot of responsible men are ready to give a man a kick if he’s on the down grade and once they hit the down trail they seldom get the breaks. But this mob are the keenest crowd I’ve had to instruct yet.
Well Mother & Dad I have to go out on a job tonight and want to get a swim before I go so cheerio for the present. Give my love to May, Anne & the baby and regards to Laurie & the boys.
Your loving son
The old saint – has done a lot of work.
A carrier in thick bush during manoeuvres in New Guinea.
Postal services continue to be very good
Spotters from the New Guinea Air Warning Wireless company read their mail, sitting in a clearing.
Cameras…are taboo !
Many of the photographs in the AWM collection were taken by members of the forces, so clearly not everyone complied with the ‘taboo’.
25th Oct 1942
Dear Mother & Dad
Your welcome letter of the 19th arrived yesterday along with a very interesting letter from May. She doesn’t write often but she makes up for it when she does write. I guess five days from Hobart to here is just about a record especially as that time included censoring.
The new arrival continues to hold the interest on the home front. Both May and Anne seem obsessed with her – Anne in particular is most enthusiastic and May says she attends to the various chores with wonderful interest. There’s no doubt (about) Anne she’s an intelligent kid and knows a lot for her age.
I mentioned in my last letter that we were more or less grounded and as we’re still in the same spot must consider ourselves completely so. The place is fast becoming monotonous. We’ve become so used to moving from place to place in the last three years that any more than a week in one spot and we look for a change. I suppose it will be very hard to settle down when it’s all over. Incidentally there’s a rumour floating around that it we get the Japs out of here by Christmas we’ll be going back to Australia but that’s hard to swallow and probably has less credence than the all powerful furphy – probably the most believed of all the wild stories we’ve heard – of fourteen days’ leave before we left Australia. Toward the end there wasn’t one in a hundred didn’t believe it and this story has so much the same ring in it that I think it probably started in pretty high quarters. It’s surprising how many rumours emanate from the top – with deliberate design. If it were possible to do so I would sooner keep going to the end now. Going home only makes you discontented, but when you’re away it’s surprising how easily satisfied you get.
There’s been nothing of much interest happen here. Jim Mc’s ear is nearly better but it’s left him a bit deaf although I don’t suppose that will affect his swallow. I guess if anything happened in that way it would just about kill the Hon James J as he styles himself. Peter McCowan has caught up with the show – full of beans of course – but Ray Ross is till back in Aussie. I think Rossy must have clicked an ITB job – he’s a good instructor and since getting married has been keen in that direction. I wouldn’t fancy that game at all although I’ve had to do a fair bit of it.
Apart from routine work and a few patrols things have been very quiet. A couple of funny incidents though – we were working on a carrier the other day and had some trouble getting a small (bolt) out, eventually using the persuasion of a hammer. Then of course we had to look for it and twenty minutes search and a certain amount of abuse failed to locate it. Then when we had practically given up hope Smudge Smith happened to run his hand over his chest and found the bolt among the thick hair. Smudge’s hair is as thick as a mat on his chest – but it was one of the funniest things I’ve seen, to look for so long and then find it in the hair of a man’s chest and he to be one of those looking for it.
The other night I got a bit of a shock too. I’d done my picket and was just dozing off. I sat up suddenly – something was scurrying around and while I’m looking for the cause a squirrel jumped onto my head. It frightened five years’ growth out of me. It had got in under the net and couldn’t get out, but I lost no time getting it out. I remember one night in Ikingi Matru, Wattsie was just getting into his blankets when an asp slid out and everyone except Wattsie thought it was a hell of a joke.
There was a comfort fund issue here a few days back – the second in three months – things are looking up – but unfortunately in each case they didn’t quite stretch the distance and after the privates had got theirs the NCO’s drew for what was left and of course yours truly missed out. Not that I needed anything but writing paper. I’ve got plenty of toothpaste and shaving cream but paper is as scarce as scarce, as tobacco is at home. As a matter of fact I had (to) borrow this from one of the drivers – however the OC is trying to get us some paper.
I forgot to mention earlier that I had a parcel from Mother on Thursday – some toothpaste and shaving cream, a packet of blades and some PK’s. Thanks a lot Mother but really there’s no need to send things because we’re well catered for in those lines and I’ve built up quite a good reserve of most necessities and I know how hard they are to get at home and a cake or parcel of eats goes nowhere among the mob and with Austerity the ruling force on the home front it doesn’t justify the trouble and expense.
There’s no doubt about the future of this country. There’ll be some money made here after the war. There’s plenty of gold back there and the way the Yanks are opening the place up it’ll be much more accessible than before the war and there’s quite a lot of rubber too although neither industry has been developed.
Well I must say cheerio now. My love to May, Anne & the baby and best withes to Laurie & the boys.
Your loving son
PS Jim sends his best wishes and says to send up a barrel of the brew.
PPS Will you send me some stamps.
Peter McCowan has caught up with the show
McCowan had been in hospital in Brisbane but the fact that he has just ‘caught up’ confirms that the person in the foreground of the photo at Ioribaiwa (blog post dated 5 October 1942) was certainly not McCowan.
A squirrel in the tent!?
Certainly not an actual squirrel, but there are several possibilities for what this intruder might have been, including the sugar glider, although the glider only rarely descends to the ground.
Austerity at home
Prime Minister John Curtin’s “maximum effort” required that most of the resources and means of production be directed towards winning the war: “Austerity calls for a pledge by the Australian people to strip every selfish comfortable habit, every luxurious impulse, every act, word and deed that retards the victory march.” Australians had to adjust to life in which even the most common commodities in peacetime became rationed or simply unavailable. Most Australians embraced recycling and made do with what they could buy, find or scrounge. The austerity campaigns encouraged Australians to work longer hours and consume less, reuse rather than discard, and invest any spare cash in war savings certificates. (source https://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/underattack/mobilise/austerity.asp )
Two of the posters that were part of this campaign:
AWM ARTV02452 AWM ARTV07860