Sgt Max Hickman
22nd July 43
Dear Mother & Dad
I’ve had two very interesting letters from you this week. One yesterday and one this morning. The one I got this morning was written on the 19th, so that’s extra good service isn’t it? The election sounds like offering some good contests in Tasmania. You can’t take much notice of what they put over in elections – the catch-cries are always designed to meet the public mind of the moment. The Denison and Bass contests sound like being good fights. It’s surprising the following Gerry Mahoney’s got but I don’t give him a chance against Frank Gaha – I think he’s a ten to one bet – the endorsed man with a big business vote thrown in. Who holds Bass now? – I’m right out of touch these days. I think Mrs Lyons will probably win that seat. That Warner chap – is he a son of the Warner who contested Franklin a few back? Win or lose it’s a great break for him, three months out of the army with all the facilities of peacetime travel. I had no idea that chaps in the services could nominate until I saw Bruce Hamilton was standing and I doubt that I could have nominated as Labor select their nominees six to twelve months before the election.
It was good to note from your second letter that the weather is on the mend. The winter must have been very tough down there. From a weather point of view it’s the best winter I’ve ever spent, although it gets pretty cold at night especially at times like the present when we only carry one blanket – but it’s pleasantly warm by day.
Youngster seems to be having a particularly tough time. I haven’t heard from her for some time now and hope she’s still well. I think the sooner one of you can go over the better. It looks to me as though Fergie won’t leave till you actually get there. If Bill is living on the army rations we had when in those parts he’ll find it’s mighty different to home food or even ship’s food. Still he’ll soon get used to it.
We’ve been on manoeuvres the last few days. The show was based on a town and will be long remembered in bar-room memories for incidents apart from the orthodox training. In keeping with the traditions of the unit, the town was put out of bounds and of course everyone had to go in and find out why, as no official reason had been given. As a result of the unrehearsed invasion quite a number of the chaps spent the night as the guests of the Provosts. The Hon James saw the inside of yet another cell – Syd and I went in but must have been lucky as we never encountered any strife at all. However when the work of the next day had finished the boys decided to give it another flutter and went in teams. They’re not a hard mob to handle normally but if they think anything’s being put over them the sky’s the limit. About nine o’clock that night an officer with a reputation for handling tough shows broke up our game of bridge and roped us in for a picquet job just in case something started. When we arrived at the police station the situation was quiet and we were told off to picquet certain areas. It so happened that two picquet parties converged on one spot at the same time just as the provosts were herding some of our chaps (whose only offence was being there) into their trucks. The chaps started to argue and the provost sergeant had a bit of a lick at us as picquets and the chap he was putting in the pen smacked him. It wagon then in a big way. There were about twenty provosts and in about a quarter of an hour they were all locked in their own trucks and sent back to the police station to the amusement of the townspeople and divvy coppers. It was a mighty humorous show right through though some of the MP’s did get a bit knocked about. During a lull in the show a provost threw a tear gas bomb that spread more among the civvies than us and they beat a retreat with tears streaming down their faces. However the mob came home well pleased with themselves and the battle of ………. will be told and magnified many times when bloodless victories are recounted in the pubs. The old man hasn’t said anything yet about the show but he’ll have to take a dim view of it officially although like Old Hamburger it’ll probably warm the cockles of his heart.
I’m sorry to hear that Mrs Mason is sick again and hope it’s nothing serious. Mick certainly has his share of bad luck as far as sickness is concerned. If you happen to see them, remember me to them will you?
I must close now Mother and Dad, as I want to catch today’s outward mail. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.
PS Jim Mc send his best wishes with a rider – ‘How’s he doing?’
The federal election
It seems Dad’s father might have suggested in correspondence, that Dad should have sought nomination for the Labor Party – and that he might have done so, if he had been aware of the opportunity earlier.
Other posts have noted some of the players mentioned here – in particular Gerald Mahoney and Frank Gaha. Mrs Lyons is Dame Enid Lyons, the widow of former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons who died in office in 1939. In the 1943 election (ie the one referred to in this letter) Mrs Lyons won the seat of Darwin (which has since become Braddon) for the United Australia Party, becoming the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. She held the seat until 1951.
On manoeuvres… and/ or in a staging camp?
The Battalion Diary indicates that the remainder of the battalion (apart from those who had already sailed for New Guinea) were at Oonoonba Staging Camp from July 20 – 22. Oonoonba is now a suburb of Townsville, but at that time was considered to be ‘isolated from the city’ (Wikipedia). The ‘town’ mentioned in this letter seems to be of a bigger size, so possibly Townsville itself (6km from Oonoonba)
The Hon James saw the inside of another cell
Twenty provosts…all locked in their own trucks
It seems incredible that a fracas such as the one described here should have received no coverage in the local press. However the Censors were as concerned about maintaining public confidence in the armed forces as they were about ensuring that no defence-sensitive material was shared. A report of an incident like the one described in this letter would therefore have been subject to serious editing at the very least.