Sgt Max Hickman
2/33rd Btn AIF
8th Aug 43
Dear Mother & Dad
Another Sunday has come round and of course that means that except for church parade the day is practically ours – that is what’s left of it when we finish washing and sewing and things certainly get dirty in these parts. I don’t mind the washing but am still a poor hand with the needle.
Your very interesting letter of the 1st arrived today. I was glad to know that letter about the do with the provosts made the grade. I thought perhaps the base censors might have gone to work on it. The officer who censored it said there was nothing in it that he couldn’t pass but expressed doubts as to how the base officials would treat it. The little run to Bridgewater sounded alright. I could go a jug myself now but the drought’s on properly – we haven’t had a drink for three weeks now and of course won’t have any for some time. I’m glad to know the weather has taken up although the local paper yesterday mentioned there’s been a snow storm in Hobart. However I hope it’s fine down there today and you’re able to make the trip to Melton. A bit of good weather and Sunday trips could certainly help to break the monotony for you and Mother. It sounds like good drill for each weekend to go somewhere different for the day but I suppose the petrol racket wouldn’t allow that.
Jim was pleased to know you’d seen his father and told him about his little lapse, and thought the old chap might have told you something just as interesting but as you didn’t mention it the story may not have got to him either yet. Jim’s looking forward to hearing from Yank – Yank writes an extra good letter. I remember Jim getting a letter from him before we sailed in ’40.
The mail situation is quite good. I had three letters during the week – one from Ivy, one from that chap we met in Melbourne Alex Sturrock and one from Kath Hyndes together with a bundle of papers from Daph Wise. Youngster still seems to be having a bad time but hopes the warm weather will help both her and the baby. Mr Sturrock said he would try and get her some wood and I think he’s a pretty genuine chap so that may be some help to her.
I got quite a surprise the other night. I was reading a paper when I heard old Pluto (Peter McCowan) laugh. Pluto is in a different platoon to me now and I don’t see much of him. He announced his presence in the tent with the remark that Rossy had headed them again and gone to a school near his home. Ray’s luck had been so good that it’s almost proverbial but it seemed impossible to believe he’d headed this time. I made some remark on his luck and looked around to see him standing behind me with a grin from ear to ear. The last time I saw him was when he flashed past me in a struggle buggy during a stunt and I had no idea that his outfit were anywhere near us now. We had a long yarn together and of course there were several references to the offspring whose name incidentally is Grant Stuart which the mob believe to be inspired by two well known American tanks. Peter said it’s a pity you hadn’t got that school as you might have done something about a mate for the little bloke – a girl this time – with a further suggestion that he call her Valentine Matilda after two English tanks. Ray rapped on a bit of a turn – he was acting CSM in his show for a while and now swears like a champion. The next day after parade I returned the courtesy call and struck a bunch of the old mob – Aggie Lloyd, Joe Woodlock, the two Smiths and Punchy(?) Connors – a great crowd of fellows. They all looked extra well and we swapped yarns for a couple of hours and then went to a concert put on by the Seventh Divvy concert party – not a bad show although they don’t seem as interesting as they used to. The novelty of female impersonation has worn off and we see just as funny things happen every day as they put over this time.
I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad. Give my move to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.
Love – Max
PS I got those press studs alright. Thanks but the purpose for which I wanted them doesn’t matter now.
Heavily Censored!!: a small part of page 2 exists and the lower part of page 3 – the whole of page 5 is missing.
Sgt Max Hickman
2/33rd Btn AIF
Aust (this word appears to be written by a different hand in black rather than blue ink)
14/ 8/ 43
Dear Mother & Dad
Having got through a rather big ceremonial parade (half a dozen hard hats paid us a courtesy call and told us what good fellows we were and how we’d made history – quite a good line of sales talk really, and well put together ) – we have a bit of time to ourselves, ostensibly as a make and mend but as the water truck hasn’t been around we can’t do any washing so will make the best of the time and write a few letters. I’ve had quite a few this week. Your own letter was particularly interesting. The Valley is well in the news. There’s no doubt the milk people are catching the dough. Dick Baker is well in the money. I suppose even the new figures wouldn’t represent the actual income. I don’t suppose the relationship of house lord [landlord] and tenant have ever been as complicated as they must be now. It’s tough when a police magistrate has to tell you to divide your home with strangers. By the way do you ever hear of Arty? I think you said in one of your letters that he was back from Timor. Has he gone away again or is he still at home? [remainder of page 2 cut off by censor]
…….Youngster’s letter this week was much lighter although she still seems to be having a lot of strife with A…. trouble and the baby. She sent me a cutting about Sturrock’s son – he’d had a bit of a smash in a plane somewhere up here and had quite a narrow escape. The one bright spot in youngster’s position is the good neighbours she has – from all accounts they help her a lot.
There were three other letters in yesterday’s delivery that made good reading – one from Rex Wedd’s sister (Marie Rothwell), a very bright breezy letter. There’s no doubt about the Wedds they can always raise a laugh. She said she had just heard from Rex who has now completely recovered from his injury and mentioned that he’s had a letter from some of my friends in Glasgow but I mentioned several addresses in my letter to him – don’t know which of them, though I expect it was the Lairds.
Mick Mason and Billie Fitzpatrick(…’s niece) both wrote and told me all about the weather and things. Mick’s still getting his corner (?) with the horses but to all intents and purposes will need it.
We’ve had some extra good entertainment here lately – the two best concerts I’ve ever seen and a good picture show. Both concert parties had good bands and their other artists were all good. The female impersonator in the first show was perfect and had the blokes in properly and a drummer chap in the second show was entertainment on his own….. [remainder of letter is missing]
Visit from the hard hats
From The Footsoldiers: From 13 August to 28 August all grades of senior officers visited either the unit or addressed the brigade on parade. Lieutenant-General, GOC New Guinea Force, together with his DAQMG- and our firstCO – Brigadier R Bierworth, accompanied by Major-General Vasey, and our brigade commander, addressed the brigade. No doubt had not these senior officers made such visits they would be criticised, but it is very hard to impress Australian troops, who in fact take these ‘pep’ or ‘sympathy’ talks as so much waste of time. To the CO or the brigade or divisional commander they would listen with keen interest. People beyond these appointments were considered outsiders and although unjustly, felt that those at HQ’s outside brigade or division were responsible for all their difficulties and discomforts. (pp263-264)
Dick Baker is well in the news
Dick Baker’s family had been milk vendors in Lenah Valley for several generations. Dad would have known him to talk to – they were much the same age. Dick certainly became a very successful businessman – by 1960 Bakers Milk had a virtual monopoly over Tasmanian milk sales (ref – http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/B/Dick%20Baker.htm)
Dividing your home with strangers
This comment might have arisen as a result of his parents commenting on the case referred to in this article from the Hobart Mercury on August 6: http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/25978862 The writer begins by saying A shocking state of affairs in regard to shortage of houses was indicated by a Court case this week in which a tenant was told to “squeeze up” and allow the owner to move in…. and ends with: The instance quoted serves to emphasise the need for permission to be granted for the building of moderately priced homes, as part of the organised war effort, especially s the position has been aggravated to some extent by the number of men returned from active service who are seeking homes.
Father (‘in the timber business’) and son were both named Alex. Dad mentions in the previous letter that Mr Sturrock had said he thought he could help Ivy to obtain some firewood. The son was Captain Alexander (‘Jock’) Sturrock VX108128. An article in the Telegraph (Brisbane) on August 4 1943 reported: A well-known Victorian yachtsman Captain A (Jock) Sturrock narrowly escaped death in an aircraft crash in New Guinea on July 30. He was a passenger in a small low powered plane…which crashed into a mountainside….After three and a half hours walking they (the pilot and passenger) reached a camp and finally returned to their headquarters….(https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-10450-59121757/the-telegraph-brisbane-qld)
Jock Sturrock later represented Australia in four Olympic games – 1948 London (Star class), 1952 Helsinki (Dragon class), 1956 Melbourne (Bronze Medal 5.5metre class), and 1960 Rome (5.5 Metre class). He was the Australian flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the Rome Olympic Games. He achieved international public recognition when he skippered Australia’s first challenge for the America’s Cup in Gretel in 1962. (https://topics.revolvy.com/topic/Jock+Sturrock) Sturrock was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1975 for his services to yachting.
I assumed this was Arthur Smith TX90 (Who was always known to us, growing up, as ‘Arty von Smith’) – but there’s nothing on his record about being in Timor – on the contrary, he was in New Guinea for much of the time Dad was there, though in a different unit.
There must have been quite a few concert parties – the one mentioned on August 8 wasn’t well received, but in the subsequent week there were two good ones and a good picture show!
AWM 026040 – The caption does not identify these men, describing them as ‘Three very snappy chorus girls – Australian Army issue” but it does identify them as performers in a Port Moresby concert party
AWM 026043 – Grand finale of a concert in Port Moresby (including female impersonators and a band)
Image – Entertaining the Troops – from Khaki and Green – AWM Christmas Book 1943 p133