Rubber production and Jeeps ‘that can just about climb a brick wall’

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TX 1004

Max Hickman

33rd Platoon

25th Brigade

Carrier Group

AIF New Guinea

11th Dec 1942

Dear Mother & Dad

I received your two very interesting letters of the 16th & 23rd of November today – after so long without news from home it was like striking a prize in Tatts.  As you say we’re certainly well off out of Catoe’s.  It shows just how easy it is to slip – it looked an excellent proposition.  There’s no doubt about the Council: they’re a hungry crowd: it must be about the worst managed show in the world – what the hell do they do with the tremendous amount of money they handle – no wonder a job in their service is so sought after.

I’m glad you gave the car a run and that it is alright.  Cars will certainly be at a premium when the war’s over, especially small cars.  These jeeps the yanks have got are a great little job – they can just about climb a brick wall.  They’d certainly be handy for running round jobs – they’ll go anywhere and can carry a good load.  Jack was saying in a letter I had from him last week that his Austin has been giving him a bit of trouble and expects to have to lay it up soon – tyres seem to have become the biggest problem now, although I was reading in a digest the other day that America has made a good substitute but it’s a bit too costly as yet to put on the open market.  There’s some big rubber plantations here and quite a lot of young stuff coming on.  There’s one chap up here (a friend of the Sergeant Major) who employs quite an army of coons on his properties – it seems a very intricate business.

Bad luck the wind getting loose in your garden after getting it so good.  Jack says there’s quite a drought on too – that’s a bit tough after everything looking like a good season.  Still it may come good yet.  You’re not having much luck with your turkeys either – there’s not much chance of keeping anything like that unless they’re locked up & the rats can’t get near them.  Do they still have greyhound racing down there?

The Phillips family are keeping  very quiet.  Old Algy must be sick if he’s left the taxation department – they’re getting their share of trouble these days.  I’ve often wondered what Max is doing – I thought he might have been up here somewhere – although wishful thinking and a flood of rumours give the impression that the unit he was training for have gone back to the mainland.  Rumours about our mob (with the exception of the composition to which we seem to have become permanently attached) going back are very persistent although a sister at the hospital threw a spanner in then works the other day.  I went to see a chap who’d come back from up top and she said he’d been evacuated to the mainland. When I remarked that that was good, she said yes – it’ll be a good trip for them but they won’t like coming back.  I said – will they have to and she [was] quite definite that they would.  It looks as though another furphy has been thrown to the winds although the mob won’t wear anything except that the unit is going back and any suggestions that it isn’t are howled down as fifth column.

I can understand your not seeing Tom Cooper these days as there’s always plenty to keep a man busy around a new house, and judging from the way Tom looked after the place he rented I’ll be he’ll make his own place look well.  I believe old Claude Hill has a job at Brighton- armourer’s assistant or storeman’s assistant -he used to potter about a bit in both those jobs.  He had the game by the throat right from the start – with no particular job he was practically a free lance and always managed to wangle duty passes that entitled him to come & go as he pleased – easily the best position of any man in the show, even the CO.

Christmas is getting very close now – a fortnight today – but I suppose it will be little more than just another anniversary this year at home and just another day here.  Still I can’t complain because I spent the last two in the two places where the occasion is most celebrated – England and Jerusalem.

There’s some talk that we might get a bottle of beer each but of course that’s just another rumour.  The soaks are offering to buy up the issue of those who don’t fancy just a smell – at ten shillings a bottle – and I suppose if it happened to be Cascade or Carlton Special they’d give a pound a bottle.

There isn’t any writeable news from this end – things are very much as they were when I last wrote and after listening to all the blowhards about what was going to happen on the anniversary of Pearl Harbour it was all a bit disappointing when nothing happened at all.

I must say cheerio now Mother and Dad.  All the very best for a Happy Christmas and a bright new year – give my regards to the boys.



PS  The ink the canteen racket is putting out is like water – it’s impossible to read it – so I’ll just get a loan of the boss’s to address the envelope.




Ink is like water

This letter appears to have been written in pencil – but maybe it’s the watery ink!

The Yanks’ jeeps…can just about climb a brick wall…

635705908776619167-1942fort-benning  Caption: West Point cadets and a US army soldier drive a Jeep at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1942.  The rugged Jeep brand dates back to 1940 when the Army solicited bids for a 1/4 ton ‘light reconnaissance’ vehicle.

500px-U.S._Army_Bantam_Jeep_crossing_a_river_on_the_Kapa_Kapa_Trail_1942Photo from Wikipedia:  Members of the 2nd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 32nd Division, in an Army Bantam Jeep crossing a river on the southern portion of the Kapa Kapa Trail in Papua New Guinea during October 1942.




Loss of a vital resource: over 90% of the world’s crude rubber in Japanese hands  The Advocate (Burnie, Tasmania) January 14 1942)   All told, the countries mentioned [British Malaya, French Indo China, the Philippines, North Borneo and Sarawak]  supplied 97 percent of the world’s crude rubber shipped to overseas markets in 1940……Stocks of crude rubber held by America and the British Empire probably amount to less than a year’s normal consumption.  As the world must have crude rubber to carry on civilisation’s multitudinous activities, there is reason for grave concern in respect of the future control and welfare of this vital industry.

Another article in the same edition of the Advocate is headlined – US to manufacture synthetic rubber. ….President Roosevelt had authorised the immediate execution of a 400 million dollar programme to make 400,000 tons of synthetic rubber yearly.  Mr Jones estimated that the plants would be ready by the middle of 1943 and, together with available rubber, would fill all military needs and part of civilian requirements……  Courier Mail (Brisbane) 8 July 1942 Rubber is one more reason why New Guinea must be held.  With more than 90 percent of the world’s rubber in Japanese hands, New Guinea’s once infinitesimal contribution to the world’s rubber stocks has assumed a new and vital significance, particularly to Australia.   The Mercury (Hobart) 16 July 1942.  The state’s Agriculture minister is quoted as saying Tasmania would be an ideal place to make synthetic rubber:  The Minister said that plans should be put in hand immediately.  All the elements necessary were in Tasmania.  A synthetic rubber plant close to carbide works would mean economy in manufacture and deliveries.  The manufacture of synthetic rubber was one of the most important contributions Tasmania could make….

I can find no record of synthetic rubber ever being produced in Tasmania.

rubber-snapshot2For more on the development of synthetic rubber in the USA and Germany, and wartime measures in the USA, see  


Anniversary of Pearl Harbour

see   rebuilding the naval base, repairing ships; Japanese broadcast …etc

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