Comings and goings (2 letters): don’t quite know whether I’m detached, attached or ex-list

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TX 1004

Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion


8th Nov 1942

Dear Mother & Dad

It was with very real pleasure that I received and read your letter of the 26th this morning.  A pity it hadn’t arrived before or with the plan as it throws quite a lot of new light on that proposition.  The building of a school and the improvements effected at Roseway together with the information about Pearsalls place puts ‘Wayside’ in the category of highly desirable propositions.  In fact I think even if you have to go to 1600 or a little more it’s cheap in comparison to Pearsalls because although it’s a much bigger property, roads etc mean big money and will of course mean even bigger as wages and costs soar to the skies immediately after the show and the position in that gully does not lend itself to building the same type of home as Wayside does – so handy to the tram, shops and a park it certainly looks the goods and I do hope you’ll be able to come to a satisfactory arrangement about it.

By the way how did Henry Christie manage to evade the call-up?  Surely the estate agency business isn’t exempt.  He’s not back with Tregear is he?  He was in partnership with Croziers last I heard of him and I suppose you haven’t heard how John Sturt got on.  And Harry Hope – is he doing anything except tied (?) to his constituents?  I guess he’s getting some Defence plans – they’d be being money jobs these days.

You mention that Nell Norris has been bridesmaid at a wedding.  Has anything developed between she and Maurie O’Herne?  I suppose she’s in one of the womens’ services now.  She was pretty keen to join the WAAFs when I saw her and now that girls are being called up I suppose she’s in it.

I guess Bluey Brooks didn’t have much trouble to get back to the works.  They must need all the men they can get now and since the government woke up that the financiers’ patriotism is gauged by the monetary benefits it brings to them and changed their minds about limiting profits they’re probably flat out on production.  But that desert business is very rich.  There’s no doubt about it these ASC mobs can spin a good story.  If Bluey’s eyes were crook through being in the desert Christ help the blokes in the ninth divvy – I suppose you haven’t seen anything of old Claude Hill?  How did old Pug manage to get away from the works?  I thought you couldn’t leave a job these days.  I guess old Charlie must have done a power of scheming but I’m glad to hear the he’s doing well.  He certainly deserves it.  Few men have worked harder than Pug.  It’s a pity more men didn’t get on through their industry instead of by the exercise of the subtles(?)

I expect odd circumstances connected with my last two letters have set you thinking a bit and you’ve probably thought wrong.  That is if you reckoned without the weather.  When we thought the army had finished buggerizing us about the weather took a hand and the rains have upset our arrangements indefinitely.  However as Jim McDonnell would say ‘little things are sent to try us, to build us up for a better world’.  Anyway having reduced our wardrobe and personal effects to a mere handful even to the extent of leaving fountain pens and ink behind and lots of other things as well we’re now infinitely worse off than we were a week ago.  And I pretty definitely sacrificed a temporary third stripe in the arrangement – I hadn’t got the stripe but was odds on to do so – I think the weather gods have sold me a pup.

The news last night was very encouraging and I hope it means the tide has turned – we seem to make haste very slowly but one can’t well question the British genius for finishing on top in wars – they’ve never actually won one yet, they always seem to let the other side lose them, by wearing him out.  What I’d like to see now would be a big push from the Burma Road – although time has most certainly been on our side up till now it seems that the psychological time for a concerted effort is at hand and there may be a chance of missing our opportunity by waiting.  Anyway I hope it won’t be long now.

I’ll say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to Laurie and the boys



PS If you can sell that house (?) it would be a good idea to do so.  How are the tyres on the car?  I hope Jimmy is up on blocks again.


This was a property in Lenah Valley Road previously known as Malvern, which had been owned by William Cato (a distant relative). Cato died in 1936 and his wife in 1939.    Dad spoke about the property in other letters ( e.g.  Sept 19 – Catoes is certainly a good property but it would be out of my reach  Sept 25 – How much do they want for Catoes place?    Oct 11 – more comment on the property, in connection with wanting to have something ready to jump into when the show is over  ) The house still exists, in Lenah Valley Road, but the land around it has been subdivided into ‘quarter acre blocks’ – this may well have happened soon after the war, when the suburb developed rapidly.  Perhaps the land sale referred to here was the start of that process.

The Womens’ Services

These photos, from Hobart at War 1939 – 45 ( C J Dennison 2008), show members of the Women’s Air Training Corps learning to read an altimeter, doing maintenance on RAAF vehicles and learning to read morse code.

Hobart at War 47






Hobart at War 49






Hobart at War 52






You’ve probably thought wrong

Dad’s previous two letters certainly gave the impression that he was about to be deployed to the front line.  The Brigade Diary notes on November 4 that ‘Mortar and MMG dets from 16 and 25 Bdes will arrive by air at Kokoda’, and on 5 November – 25 Bde will assume responsibility for protection of Kokoda drone against hostile air and ground attack’.  Given that airfield defence was what he was engaged in at Moresby, but that the Japanese were now retreating, it’s possible Dad and his group were to move to Kokoda.   I can find no record of orders relating to his carrier group at this time, however carriers WERE deployed to the Buna area in early December. (That deployment was not a success : on December 5 the 5 carriers attempted an assault at Cape Endaiadere – all were destroyed, with the loss of 6 lives)

This photo shows the landing strip at Kokoda in November 1942. (AWM 151064)









The Burma Road

From The Burma Road- highway linking Lashio, in eastern Burma (now Myanmar), with Kunming, in Yunnan province, China, a distance of 1,154 km (717 miles). The Chinese began construction of the road after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and the occupation of the seacoast of China by the Japanese. Completed in 1939, it functioned for three years as a vital supply route to the interior of China from the outside world, carrying war goods transported by sea to Rangoon (Yangon) and then by train to the Lashio railhead. In April 1942, however, the Japanese overran Burma, seized Lashio, and thus closed the road at its source.

Chinese, American and British Commonwealth troops fought as allies in Burma.  After the Japanese closed the road, Chinese units were re-supplied by air, from northeastern India.  In late 1942 there were many reports such as this one, about allied bombing raids on Japanese targets.


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TX 1004

Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion

AIF  14th Nov


Dear Mother & Dad

I really don’t know what address to put on my letters.  Although it’s probably OK with the powers that be, events during the last three weeks have been a little confusing and I don’t quite know whether I’m detached, attached or ex-list.  However McGuiness will sort it out so I think it will be OK to address it that way.

Your welcome letter of the 1st November arrived Thursday.  Another old identity of the district has gone on.  Mrs Charlie must have been pretty old though – there’s no doubt about the old clan they make a wake of a funeral.  It’s always an occasion for a celebration with them.  One of the funniest things I remember was the gathering at old Charlie’s funeral – while the Salvo bloke was saying his piece inside, the crowd were discussing his crop and the amount of black spot he had.

As I haven’t had a letter from Ivy for a fortnight or more I didn’t know of the likelihood of Bill’s move.  It would certainly be a bad job at present although if he was to be on the same work as in Melbourne the only chance he’d have of getting hurt would be in a road accident but it would be very hard for Ivy.

I had a letter from Jack yesterday and he mentioned that Max Phillips has a son.  I guess there’s great rejoicing among the clan.

Whilst waiting for a plane the other day a chap came over and made himself known.  Max Mann – a chap I knew in Hobart (you may remember his brother being drowned with three others from the YMCA one Good Friday) he’s been in these parts for several years – had an administrative job at Bougainville in the Solomons and when the Japs took it he got away with some other fellows in a small boat and had fifteen days at sea.  Quite an experience.  His plane was going the opposite way to us and he’s probably in Brisbane now or perhaps ever farther south.  It was rather neat the way he let his wife know he was coming south – he told her that (whatever her second Christian and maiden surnames were)’s husband was coming south and if she’d like a trip to Brisbane with her it would do her good.  Quite a good strategy don’t you think?

The prospects of a good season seems to be in keeping with the prospects of better times for our side.  Mrs Toomey has great confidence in the season.  Incidentally the told me in her letter that Claude Hill has been back in Sydney for twenty one days’ leave.  He’s a cunning old bugger that.  The army has certainly been a good thing to him.  Still good luck to him.  There’s a persistent rumour that we’ll be pulled out and reformed and of course a lot of fellows think they’ll get home again before the next move.  If that should happen I don’t think I’ll be too keen on going away again although of course I’ll probably think differently when the time comes.

There’s no doubt about the Yanks when they go into production they can turn out the stuff.  That Kaiser bloke has revolutionised ship building – fancy building a ship in a week.  I guess those big industrialists are coining the dough over there the same as they are in Australia.  I saw in one paper where some firms were making two hundred and fifty percent profit.  Pre-war fortunes will look like small change after this war.  One of the chaps asked a Yank if there weren’t a lot of people who would like to shoot Roosevelt and the Yank put the situation in a nutshell when he said – Who wants to shoot Father Christmas?

I was pleased to hear that my account has been returned from London.  You didn’t mention the amount though but I suppose it’s OK.

As usual there’s no news from this end so with love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys I’ll say Cheerio.



Mrs Charlie, and Charlie’s wake

‘Mrs Charlie’ rather than ‘Aunt Margaret’ – no idea why!  Charlie Hickman had died in 1938.  Margaret died at the ripe old age of 82.  Black spot is a disease of apple and pear trees, caused by a fungal infection.

Waiting for a plane

Dad doesn’t know if he’s attached, detached or ex-list, but he was ‘waiting for a plane’.  He says Max Mann was ‘going the opposite way to us’…and as Mann was heading to Brisbane, Dad was clearly heading north – maybe he was helping on supply drops?  There is no indication on his service record of what he might have been doing at this time.

Beating the censors

Max Mann’s ‘coded’ communication was a good trick – another was shared recently (6 May 2016) via the 2/33 Bn Facebook page: Fiona Patterson, granddaughter of 2/33 veteran William Erskine Bailey NX 97019 says My grandmother and him had a map each and some tracing paper and he would put pin pricks in the tracing paper for her to check and see where he was without giving anything away in his letters. 

Ship building records

In fact, the Liberty ship SS Robert E Peary was assembled in less than five days as part of a special competition among shipyards and was lunched on November 12, 1942 at the Richmond shipyards (California) owned by Henry J Kaiser. Another of Kaiser’s shipyards in Oregon had built a similar ship in ten days in September 1942.   The four Kaiser shipyards at Richmond produced 747 ships over the course of the war and the Oregon yards 455 ships.

Photo from


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