Sgt Max Hickman
2/33rd Battn AIF
7 May 43
Dear Mother & Dad
Your welcome letter of the 2nd arrived this morning – quite good delivery, isn’t it? That break in the weather at home sounds as though we just got away in time. It was really amazing the wonderful run of weather we got while we were home. You must have had a similar break to Melbourne for it was absolutely bleak there – mother probably remembers the park opposite that big place in Dryburgh Street – that’s where we were camped or at least where we spent a few hours each day. The wind there would chop you right through – we had to wear great coats all the time. The youngster got a hell of a cold out of it. Those flaming ant rims (?) are still giving her a lot of trouble and I guess with Bill going away it won’t be possible for her to come over to Hobart. The young bloke seems a full time proposition and Ivy’s certainly a good mother.
You know that bloke I told you was a wizard well I think he’s worked the oracle again. There hasn’t been a word said to him yet and other blokes have gone for a row of sixes – nice going wasn’t it – to quote old Ernie McGoldrick – the bigger the bastard the better the luck – but I think nearly everyone will be pleased if he gets away with it.
As you say our stay in Melbourne was extra good – although I would sooner have spent the time at home – the break there softened the blow of having to come back when we did. Except for the days we didn’t get leave and the mucking about it was the best time I’ve ever had in Melbourne and our little sessions at the Mitre were among the most pleasant I’ve ever had.
Is Rob Cameron back home or did he take his own car away with him? If he’s back already it’s only been a good trip and a set of tyres these days is comparable to striking Tatts because from what I can hear of it they’re just about unprocurable to civilians – a much greater problem than petrol. If you had to use a car you could put a gas producer on but there’s no substitute for tyres.
You say you think Tiny will shiver himself out of the army dad. I don’t think that’s his idea at all. I think a WO’s job in base for the duration and being on the spot to pick something out afterwards would suit DIck better. There’s some great jobs of that sort if you can land them and Tiny would be better off than in a job, with rationing starting to have real effect on civilians. It’s surprising the number of old hands who are getting out or getting jobs in base shows. Old Ack looks like cracking the jackpot. His knee has been giving him a lot of trouble. He’s got a floating cartilage or something and he expects to get right out and be man powered for essential service in the Railways for the duration. Good luck to him – I hope he cracks it. Incidentally he’s just been made a WO II – CSM of Don Company. Bob Cole has got his WO II through too and old Doc is now WO I and RSM. They’re all out of the old platoon and it’s good to see them getting the breaks. Old Ernie McGoldrick has taken a trick too and got a transfer to a show permanently stationed near Brisbane. Old Mc is one of the old originals too, a good bloke – rough rider in civvy times and just as rough in the army.
They caught up with us in a big way – Viv Abel, Jim and myself all clicked for the guard on Wednesday night and Thursday. It was the first guard Jim and Viv had done since we were in Tripoli Barracks at the end of 1941. It wasn’t bad for Viv being corporal but two on and four off on a very regimental guard wasn’t to Jim’s liking at all. The posts are all crook. There’s no let-up at all – officers floating around all the time and armed parties going by. It’s just one long succession of compliments all day. Except for the ceremonial racket of mounting and dismounting the guards just a snack for the sergeant – you go round the sentries a couple of times, just as a matter of form and turn the guard out for the Trump and orderly officers.
Wednesday was the third anniversary of the day we sailed from Sydney – 5th May 1940. It seems more like twenty years. The Twelfth just put on a big show on Wednesday night. They sailed as a unit so the day is one of regimental importance to them. They barbecued two bullocks whole and according to reports acquired and accumulated tons of beer for the occasion – an all night session. A friend of Jim Glover’s whom I’ve met a few times came up and asked him, Jim McDonnell and myself to go down but of course being on guard eliminated us. But it was probably just as well because we’d have had to do to work next day. There’s a bit of a show on at the pit on Saturday night to commemorate the sailing. The majority of the sergeants sailed in that convoy in various units. I don’t know exactly what’s on except for the formal mess.
You remember the unit I sailed with well the platoon I’m with now are equipped with the weapons we would have used in that unit. They’re keeping us very busy and of course we’re quite interested at present but I suppose the novelty will soon work off.
Well Mother & Dad I’d better finish off. News is not over plentiful in these parts. Give my love to May (I hope to be able to write to her on Sunday), Anne and Carline and best regards to the boys.
Camp near Dryburgh St
This was Camp Royal Park later known as Camp Pell. (see http://www.ozatwar.com/ozatwar/camppell.htm)
Rationing…starting to have real effect on civilians
A short piece on the effects of rationing – http://ergo.slv.vic.gov.au/explore-history/australia-wwii/home-wii/food-shortages-rationing
And images highlighting several aspects of the restrictions:
The austerity man’s working boot, a standard design produced to conserve leather stocks.
A woman shop assistant stands behind a counter with a sign reading ‘No matches, no cigarettes, no tobacco’. This is the effect of rationing. Note the empty shelves behind her.
(This reinforces why he said in his letter of March 13 1942 that before leaving New Guinea, Everyone packed their swags hiding as much tobacco as they considered discretion justified. )
Children with they prams and billy carts lining up at the wood yard to buy their meagre ration of firewood. Note wood being weighed on scales.
…in January 1942 a Manpower Directorate was established and took over responsibility for the List of reserved occupations. In March 1942 the list was replaced by a Schedule of reserved occupations and industrial priorities. The Director-General of Manpower was able to exempt any person from service in the armed forces; to declare that industries were “protected” and require that a permit be obtained for any change of employment. From March all labour required by unprotected establishments needed to apply for labour through the National Service offices and all unemployed persons were to register within seven days of becoming unemployed. From the first of April 1942 all engagement of male labour was controlled and a national registration of both male and female labour was completed. The government had the power to say what every man should do whether in the armed services, war industry or civilian industry….. (for more on this see https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/homefront/reserved_occupations/
To be ‘manpowered out’ of the army, a soldier had to be able to show that he had ‘assured employment’ in a reserved occupation.
You could put a gas producer on
This blog entry provides a fascinating description of how the wartime coal – gas producers for cars actually worked. http://deborah-burrows.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/1940s-charcoal-burning-gas-producing.html
The Footsoldiers (p253) reports that after the Carrier Platoon’s return from leave, ‘most of them were to transfer to 7th Division Reconnaissance Regiment, there being no longer need for carriers in jungle operations. Each of the platoons was renamed the Machine Gun Platoon and was equipped with four Vickers machine guns, and four jeeps.’ I assume these are the weapons Dad refers to in this letter. Ack Hallam, Bob Cole and Doc (Trenow?) also clearly stayed with the 2/33rd rather than transferring to the Reconnaissance Regiment.
Sailing date – 5th May – of regimental importance for the Twelfth
The 2/12th Battalion AIF was raised in late 1939 and sailed with the same convoy as Dad and his mates of the 1st Anti Tank Regiment. The convoy was diverted from its planned destination of the Middle East to Britain, and all on board spent the latter half of 1940 in England – on Salisbury Plain and then in Colchester barracks. While camped on the plain, some reorganisation of units took place and Dad was reallocated to the 72nd battalion which became the 2/33rd. The sailing from Sydney, while obviously remembered by the ‘originals’ of the 2/33rd, was not as significant in the unit’s history as their first action – on June 8 1941 – the start of the Syria campaign. The 2/12 Bn was also involved in this campaign and in the subsequent campaigns in New Guinea and Borneo.