Sgt Max Hickman
4th July 1943
Dear Mother & Dad
After a full week without any letters it was good to collect three today – yours, youngsters and one from Daph Wise – all very light and cheerful too, although things haven’t improved much for Ivy. She seems to have let herself in for something and apparently it’s no easy job getting accommodation, so she may be tied up for some time.
Tiny seems to be hanging on pretty well – he doesn’t miss many tricks. One of our chaps has just struck a similar break – Sport Muller – he’s had repeated attacks of Malaria and the medical authorities have recommended three months’ treatment in his own state and two months convalescent leave. I’m not sure but I think that’s how it is.
Things in general this end are still reasonably pleasant. The weather continues to be good and the food – whilst of course on stunts the old faithful Bully beast fills all places in the menu – we’ve been getting a reasonable amount of beer but tobacco is very scarce. I’m not smoking at present as it doesn’t worry me but some of the chaps get very mad when they can’t get a smoke. I don’t know where they got it but there was a bottle of Mountain C…. Whisky in the pit the other night – distilled and bottled in Scotland it has that incomparable mellowness that only genuine Scotch has. This particular brand is distilled especially for the tropics and from a label on it, it appears to have come from Singapore or to have been on its way there. I was playing bridge and the RSM called me over to the bar and ordered a couple of whisky’s and he said if that’s not the best whisky you’ve ever tasted I’ll give up. It was too – it was bloody beautiful. Without any breaking down it had the most palatable velvetyness of any drink I’ve ever had. One of the bridge players had to go on duty so Pete McCowan and the other player joined us at the bar and we were lucky enough to get another drink before the bottle was empty. There’s been quite a bit of good grog floating around lately. I was putting a mantle up in the officers mess the other day and the steward told me there’s been some good stuff – champagne and all – coming in. I guess they must have jacked up on (Corio?) and other forms of Methylated spirits.
At a meeting of the mess the other night the RSM proposed making a levy and buying a (wine?) for the chaps who had helped build the cabin. That was of course the privates who had helped with the chimney and roof. The canteen sergeant worked the oracle for the grog and yesterday afternoon for the first time the mess was thrown open to them. The party started off very quietly but after the first couple the tongues loosened up and I think they all enjoyed it. Incidentally Jim Mc and those other fellows I mentioned haven’t gone yet. I don’t think there’s been any developments in the matter at all.
I woke up this morning feeling very satisfied with myself. I’d dreamed I was out of the army for three months and was quite convinced until the bugle brought me back to earth with a crash. For the present, give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best withes to Laurie and the boys.
PS I’m getting the stamps alright – thanks. Max
Good grog flowing in the officers’ mess
AWM photo: MEC0241
It would seem there was some ‘good grog’ flowing in officers’ messes in other theatres as well!
Sgt Max Hickman
2/33rd Battn AIF
10th July 1943
Dear Mother & Dad
I received your welcome letter of the fifth today just after we got back from a stunt – a tough show too – one of those mechanised infantry turnouts where you do everything automatically – one foot after the other – but of course in retrospect not a bad show. On the way out we passed the crowd that Ray Ross and Geeves went to – they all beamed with satisfaction as we marched by – and the OC also one of our old mob sang out ‘How are you Hick – it’s nice to see you walking about again’. Of course he wouldn’t be rubbing it in much would he – and all the others had a bit of a lick too. Bob Cole got crook a couple of days before the show and at the last minute I had to take over the CSM’s job – just a snack but a new experience for me. During one part of the exercise I passed on information to the platoons on a change of plans. Everyone was all in, and Charlie Mene – that’s the black fellow I’ve often mentioned – a quiet easy going chap – revived the spirits of the mob when he said ‘for Gawd’s sake make up your bloody mind Hickey’ – as though I was running the whole show. The mob laughed for ten minutes and did the job extra well. It was a particularly dry argument all the way, and everyone was thinking in terms of beer on the way back but when we got home there was no beer available and of course immediately a crop of rumours with an accompanying volume of abuse swept the camp. However we survived the ordeal.
As you say, that bloody woman that we hoped would help Ivy has turned out a proper menace and is adding to Youngster’s troubles considerably – and short of having her removed I can’t see her going at all. She’s apparently the type who’ll take everything and give nothing in return. There’s a lot of her type about – I hope the youngster can get rid of her without much trouble.
I’m a bit surprised to hear they’re on Tiny again. They seem to be combing manpower pretty thoroughly these days. Daph Wise mentioned in a letter that Dave Gourlay – Daisy’s husband – was on final leave and expected to be posted up here somewhere. They seem to be catching up with a lot of the base wallopers. It’s not before its time either, that they let some of the old hands go back for a spell. Still I didn’t think they’d swing on Tiny again. The old Colonel can’t have the influence he used to have.
Although there’s plenty doing here – in fact I don’t remember the time when we were kept as consistently busy, out of action – there’s really nothing I can write about. We’ve got a new CO. He’s not new to the unit because he’s been with us ever since he was a Lieut but he’s a ball of energy and keeps us going.
I must say cheerio now. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys. Love – Max
PS Jim McDonnell wishes to be remembered to you.
The crowd Ray Ross and Geeves went to
Claude Geeves (TX 1134) and Ray Ross (QX1146) transferred to the 7th Division Carrier Group mentioned in my previous post.
A desperate need for both fighting men and domestic workers: no wonder they were ‘onto Tiny again’
Both the armed services and essential industries and services were experiencing a huge demand for labour. Many of the men who had fought in New Guinea were convalescing after repeated bouts of malaria – Cecil (Tiny) Schultz among them. In order to continue to prosecute the war, Australian servicemen were returned to active service repeatedly. For information on the impact of Malaria on the Kokoda campaign, see http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/jungle-warfare/malaria-and-dysentery.php and for more on the Manpower regulations, see http://moreeinfo.com/lesson/historys/Wartime%20government%20controls%20194%20to%20199.pdf
His entry on the World War II nominal roll (http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/Veteran.aspx?serviceId=A&veteranId=777982) shows that Tiny was attached to the 2/11 Field Ambulance at the time of his discharge in June 1944. He had been attached to the RAP (Regimental Aid Post) as a member of the 2/31 Battalion in both the Middle East and PNG so perhaps his old CO did in fact help secure a similar post for him.