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Dear Mother & Dad
I’ve got three quarters of an hour before Church Parade so will make a start on my correspondence. There’s a fair bit of it this week too – yours and Youngster’s and one each from Jack, Kath Hyndes and quite an amusing epistle from Daph Wise. The big news of your letter was the manpower call up. From what I saw when I was home it’s not at all surprising that they’re making a comb out. Tasmania is the least war minded of all the states but I can’t see them taking anyone from the cell room especially strippers.
The puncture in Jimmy breaks a long record of good going. Twelve thousand miles without a puncture is extra good – still everything has to have a beginning. I hope you’re able to use the car a bit after registering it. Jack mentioned he’d had a good trip to Mathinna in the beetle – as he calls his egg-beater.
We came back from our week’s concentrated training yesterday afternoon. It had been a particularly good week except that it was mighty cold. Still we did more work and learned more than in a month in unit lines. There’s no doubt when you get away from the boredom and baloney of the parade ground you get better results from the mob. They worked harder both in the day training and night stunts than they ever work on the parade ground and in their spare time a weekend picnic atmosphere obtained. Quite a lot of the old carrier crowd are in this platoon and humour and frivolity were the order of the day. Between Jim McDonnell, Kong Young, Viv Abel, Mick Williams and Ghostly Wright we never stopped laughing. We made use of an old empty house as headquarters. The first two blokes to get in found stretchers and as might be expected Jim Mc was one of the two. The rest of us made beds or slept on the floor according to our energies. I made quite a comfortable cot out of a palliasse and two poles but it had only a short existence as Bull Black and Kong Young – the two biggest men in the platoon – crashed on it in the course of an impromptu wrestling match. I came into camp on Wednesday to collect the tobacco quota for the mob. Tobacco is the most vexed problem we have to contend with. There’s been a famine on ever since we came back from leave and the heavy smokers are feeling it pretty bad. While I was in camp I met Ray Ross – just returned from school. He was beaming with satisfaction and I knew my question was superfluous before I asked how’s things in Brisbane – to which he replied they’re both well and proceeded to tell me the story. The baby – a boy – arrived the day after he got to Brisbane on the way up – arrived a fortnight before time. There’s no doubt about it that’s perfect organisation and co-operation, isn’t it.
We went to work again yesterday afternoon on the log cabin and have got it well on the way to being finished now. My fireplace is coming up extra well but am held up for sand at present. I’m going to pitch the roof as soon as Church Parade’s over and by the end of the week she should be finished. There was rather a caustic comment on the log cabin in this week’s Griffin to the effect that the log construction in rear of the snake pit is not the new corral. The old corral being the historic log boob at Casino – built of rough timber it resembled a big stock yard and at one time twenty percent of the battalion were confined there when the blitz on AWL’s after six days’ leave last year was on. The concerts staged by the inmates were famous for miles around and a couple of their numbers – “Alfie’s Wayward Legion” and “Come and Join Us” are still included in the repertoire at sing songs.
Well I guess I’d better say cheerio now Mother & Dad – they’re calling the markers out so it must be on. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to Laurie & boys.
PS Jim wished to be remembered. He said he hopes they get the big bloke in.
See post of May 7 and this link – https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/homefront/reserved_occupations/
‘The least war minded of all the states’??
Like most of the population, Dad would have been unaware of the extent of ‘war work’ being undertaken in Tasmania. The booklet Tasmania’s War Effort 1939-1945 published by the state government in 1946 provides a fascinating insight: apart from a huge quantity of food, Tasmanian businesses manufactured optical lenses and prisms and ‘a wide variety of essential requirements from extremely delicate precision equipment to bridging, landing barges, and machine tools’. In his introduction to the booklet, the Premier Robert Cosgrove notes –
Tasmania’s share in the war effort on the home front was a really great achievement. It is likely to be overlooked because much of it had to be done secretly and even out own people do not know the extent to which they helped Australia and the Empire and even the Empire’s allies int he darkest days of the war.
The Zinc Works was a protected industry during the war
The Electrolytic Zinc Company was the sole manufacturer of zinc in Australasia. Zinc concentrates produced at Rosebery in Tasmania and at Broken Hill were treated at EZ’s Risdon plant. Apart from zinc itself (an essential constituent of brass used in shell and cartridge cases), the plant produced zinc dust (used in smoke screens for anti-aircraft protection), cadmium and cobalt and the fertiliser superphosphate.
Who were the ‘strippers’? – Zinc concentrate arrived at the wharf, was roasted to remove sulphur, then dissolved in sulphuric acid. An electric current passed through the solution and zinc was deposited on cathodes. ‘Strippers’ stripped off the zinc, which was cast into slabs
A week’s concentrated training – with plenty of time for fun and games
The nominal roll helps with identification of some of those mentioned : close friends Viv Abel (TX797) and Jim McDonnell (TX1024), Kong Young ((WX185) and Bull Black ((QX2757). Guessing that ‘Mick’ might derive from the initials RC, Mick Williams might be R C Williams (NX25147) but there are no clues to help work out which of the 7 Wrights in the nominal roll might have been known as ‘Ghostly’.
Heavy smokers are feeling it pretty bad
Not only on account of a shortage of tobacco, it would seem: a quote from the Griffin of May 19 – Red sees Red – So acute is the shortage of cigarette papers that a certain Hygiene man is rather concerned over the misappropriation of his toilet paper!
The log cabin
The ‘caustic comment’ fromThe Griffin was :
The very substantial log building under construction in the vicinity of the Sergeants’ Mess is not the new “Corral” as many seem to think but is to be the new “Snake Pit”. Whether it is to keep the snakes in or out we can’t say at present. (ref AWM RCDIG1027240)
The historic log boob at Casino
The description of Lt-Col Buttrose’s shield (The Footsoldiers p 444) includes the following:
Remember the Boob at Casino? … we will always remember the famous choir practices when the one and only Johnny Welsh and his companions made the day interesting and the night hideous with their Clink Concerts. Featured in this quartering is the theme song ‘Come and Join Us, Come and Join Us’. … The barometer …is self explanatory being the all-time high in AWL’s in the battalion’s history. ‘Alfie’s Wayward Legion’, the lower caption, was derived from he fact that Lt-Col Buttrose was known – among other things – as ‘Alfie’ and the ‘Wayward Legion’ is rather obvious when we consider that 243 record.