A change of scenery, and the best bread ever

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TX 1004

Max Hickman

33rd Platoon

25th Brigade

24th Jan 43

Dear Mother & Dad

Although it was good to get your letters of the eleventh and eighteenth which along with one from Ivy written on the eleventh arrived yesterday, the resumption of the mail service at this stage is not regarded very favourably.  However signs are not always reliable and we’re hoping that this is only a flash in the pan.

I’m not surprised to hear the news you send of Tiny.  His offsiders didn’t expect him to come back to his show – anyway jolly good luck to him – he’s earned it and I’d like to see him cop something good.  I suppose he’ll be made a WO1 and get a hospital job near home.  Although I wouldn’t try to get out I’m very sick of the show.  The last six months have knocked the enthusiasm for soldiering on right out of me.  The way things go you’re not in the race to get on – “Jones’ College tactics” are a definite part of the drill here.  I wish I could get a transfer but the cards seem stacked against me however if we rejoin the old mob I’ll go to a rifle coy.

Your guess about the Hon J J is pretty right.  In fact he may even now be swilling suds – you’ll find him around his old haunts anytime now – the Met, the Sydney or Toby’s.  Though I expect he’ll be a cheap drunk for a while I wouldn’t get too ambitious if you happen to meet him – his complaint is entered in his paybook and I’ll bet he’ll work it to death.  He sprained his wrist once and didn’t do any rifle drill for nearly six months.  He’s an absolute wizard at working the oracle.  However if you do strike him you can tell him to have one for the absent members.

What’s Jack Propsting doing these days – he’s not working on the wharves is he?  I’d have thought he’d have been called up before now.  I suppose Ralph’s job is protected too and Brian Wilson would be too wouldn’t he.

The prospects of leave seem very much in the balance at present and although indications are our way there’s no knowing what’ll happen in this show.  You mention that the mater would like to some to Sydney when & if I get my leave – well nothing would suit me better Mother but I wouldn’t be able to let you know in time.  Perhaps if you had things ready and I rang up as soon as I knew anything it would be alright.  Is there still a boat service to Sydney or would you travel via Melbourne?  Anyway, have a valise packed and we’ll see how things work out.

The mail is just going so I’ll close now and get this censored.  Give my love to May, Anne & the baby and best wishes to the boys.



Not in the race to get on

There were at least three reasons Dad didn’t move upwards in the ranks – 1. a policy of promoting younger men (specifically NOT those over 30), 2. a preference for private (‘grammar’) school graduates and 3. he spoke his mind (Dick Lewis referred to him as a real table-thumper!).  Jones’ College is a reference to Henry Jones & Co, the fruit and vegetable processor on the Hobart waterfront.  My understanding is that Dad believed advancement there was on the basis of ‘not what you know but who you know’.

The Hon J J

This is a reference to Jim McDonnell, a close friend from eh Carrier platoon mentioned in many of Dad’s letters.

Travel from Tasmania to the mainland

The details of sailings of interstate vessels could not be advertised by government regulation (http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/25989727)  Passengers were advised to communicate with the various shipping agents whose names and contact details were published regularly.

According to  http://users.nex.net.au/~reidgck/bass-s.htm   a passenger service from Launceston to Melbourne continued throughout the war with the Nairana making up to 3 crossings per week- except that when she  needed repairs in early 1944, there was no passenger service at all between the mainland and Tasmania. The previous weekly service between Sydney and Hobart had ceased some time during 1942.  (ref Ferry to Tasmania: A Short History – Peter Plowman – p93)

nairanaNairana leaving Tasmania 1940’s (website as above)




Passenger flights from Hobart to Melbourne were operated by Australian National Airways.  Ansett Airways had suspended its normal flights in favour of providing services for the US Army in Australia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansett_Australia)


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TX 1004

Max Hickman

33rd Platoon

25th Brigade

3rd February 43

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well as I am at present.  Mail is still very light on in fact the letter I had from you just prior to writing you last week is the only letter I’ve had for some time so I guess there’s a bunch for me somewhere.

The powers that be staged a show for us recently involving a change of scenery but nothing more.  With dramatic suddenness we got word to move one night at two o’clock and by three o’clock were in transit.  As a test of efficiency it was good although we had to dice (ditch?) a lot of stuff that though not necessary to the war effort afforded us a measure of personal comfort.  However the change has its compensations – the outlook is much more pleasant – a really good panorama of country and sea.  The view from the seat of meditation in the early morning would excite the interests of the estate agency rackets.  The mozzies are not so tough either – a somewhat different species – bigger than those at the last domicile but of more pronounced colouring and not as agile and easy victims of the technique required in killing the almost invisible species to which we’d become accustomed.  From the gastronomic aspect too we come under a different bakery – as good if not the best I’ve ever tasted compared with the sodden congealed flour that went by the name of bread at the other camp.  It’s like drinking champagne after flat beer.  To those who boast their own teeth army creams or iced vovos as the slabs of concrete labelled biscuits are variously known were much more palatable.

The latest rumours concerning our movements – that is the skeleton crowd left : the rest have made the grade – are exciting the most adverse comments heard for a long time.  We’ve been sold some pups at times, but this time we seem to have bought a whole litter.  Nothing gets under the fellows skin as much as to suggest association with choco’s – they were never popular with the mob but since we came up here they’ve been most unpopular.  Some choco wrote a paean of praise entitled ‘the unwrapped chocolate soldier’.  It was published in Smith’s when the propaganda machine were trying to build up some self respect and esprit de corps among the conscientious objectors – and an AIF bloke wrote a reply.  Someone in the camp has a copy – I’ll try and get it and send it on.

If you happen to run into Jim Dad tell him we had to get rid of his struggle – nobody else could steer it.  The bloke who took over was in no end of strife doing over Yankee trucks and trees and things.  With Jim it was a case of come over or else but to an ordinary human being it was a different proposition.  I’m not sorry to see the bloody things passed in though they’ve kept me back a long time – I might get ahead a bit more.

I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad – give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best regards to the boys.



PS In view of the arrival of the two reinforcements what do you think about making a new will Dad?

A change of scenery…. a really good panorama…

The description suggests that the new camp may have been somewhere like this  – with views over Port Moresby and an airfield.

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Taken from Tua-Guba hill, looking towards General Headquarters and the US Navy headquarters near Hanuabada




Kila aerodrome from Tua Guba hill




The best bread ever… 

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AIF Bakers at work in New Guinea









 The Unwrapped Chocolate Soldier…

I’m surprised Dad is still expressing such a negative attitude toward the Militia (choco’s) : he appears to have them all labelled conscientious objectors.  I don’t have a copy of the response from the ‘AIF bloke’ but the  verse published in Smiths Weekly is reproduced here:

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 5.05.26 PM






Got rid of Jim’s struggle

The carriers (i.e. the vehicles themselves) were referred to as ‘Struggle Buggies’.  Dad’s comments seem to suggest that not only Jim’s but all the carriers were being disposed of.

The two reinforcements

This is a reference to the additions to the family – for Dad, a niece (Carlene Fisher) – May’s daughter – and nephew (Max/ Bill Drysdale) – Ivy’s son.

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