Sgt Max Hickman
2/33rd Battn AIF
4th Sept 43
Dear Mother & Dad
I’m in a power of strife here. I’ve got a stack of letters – a bunch of them arrived during a battalion exercise and as there were a lot of grass fires about it was tough going and the perspiration soaked right through my pocket making some pages almost look as though they hadn’t been written on whilst in others the ink has run together – an awful bloody mess. However I can pick up bits here and there and remember other bits so I guess I’ll make out.
What the hell are all the Yanks doing in Hobart? Surely they’re not garrisoning Tassie too. Those blokes are heading them all the time. They can’t lose. They’re not a bad crowd of blokes but they certainly get the plums. I had a letter from Marie Rothwell with quite a lively account of their doings. I believe the girls are going for them in a big way. Well as the song says some day they’ll say I wish I had an Aussie!
I must have incurred the censor’s displeasure in a big way because Marie and Mrs Toomey’s letters were chopped as well as my letter home – a bad job that, still it won’t do any good going crook because they’ve got the whip hand and I suppose they know their work. Anyhow as they say in the army ‘bother the censor’ or words to that effect.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if that rumour about nationalising building is tried out but it will never work. Imagine the cost of building a house with CCC labour – you’d get a prefabricated dump that’d last about eight or ten years for what a brick place would cost under ordinary conditions. The best bit if that comes about will be a pub with plenty of ways got government money floating around. However I suppose it’ll be time enough to think of that when the argument’s over.
I was rather surprised to read that McKenna had been blackballed by the Timber Workers Union. I thought the firm were retained by all unions. He must have taken a case against them at some time or other but it’ll be interesting to see how things go.
Among my mail this week were two from new correspondents. Anne wrote me a very nice letter about the new school and Carline – I must try and write to her tomorrow and the other was from Yank Pearson to Jim and I with an account of his efforts to make soldiers out of the cell roomites(?). He writes an extra good letter. He said he knew razor blades were scarce so sent us one each and when I took the letter down to Jim and gave him the blade, he said the lousy B – two blades – still he’s going to write to Yank – at least he said he was.
One of the chaps had a newspaper here yesterday with an article by Sir Keith Murdoch. It read like Warner’s crack at Curtin but reeked of political propaganda. It was full of half truths and armchair criticisms of the AIF and would have a bad effect on the public mind. I hope some of the heads put him back in his box and the papers not under his control stick the boots in too. I’d like to see the bludger out on an exercise like we did this week, let alone in action. Blokes like him ought to have a go and see what it’s like.
Youngster’s letter this week was much more cheerful. They’ve had a bit of good weather in Melbourne and it seems to have brightened things up quite a lot and as she’s had the baby to town he must be getting along alright too.
Marie Rothwell said Rex is stepping out big – he was best man at a society wedding and has got himself a car so he must be doing alright. It’d be the works wouldn’t it, to have a car over there and be able to get his petrol through the air force – the old Wedd is certainly heading them.
I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad- give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.
This week’s exercise: tough going
The Footsoldiers describes the exercise thus:
On 31 August the unit set off on a four day brigade advance-exercise west beyond Moresby. The exercise covered nearly 65 miles there and back through undulating kunai and swamp. It was planned to simulate the Lae track from Nadzab, though not all the troops were aware of this. For the troops it was a hard, testing and gruelling four days. The exercise tested the supply services, communications, the deployment of both companies and support platoons, and of the battery of artillery we had with us. It was a fitting and successful culmination of all we had trained for prior to the exercise. Overall, Brigadier Eather was pleased, as was Lt-Col Cotton. However, on the return march – some 28 miles, of which 14 was carried out after dark, some 108 men fell out, over half of them within six miles of camp. The CO stood at the roadside to watch the unit file past to the tents and he was very displeased at the number of drop-outs. However John Follent the MO assured the CO that 90 percent of them were legitimate hear exhaustion cases. The weather at the time was the hottest experienced in Moresby for some years. Like most exercises, when compared to actual operations, this one was particularly gruelling….
These images (of other units) show the kind of country they were preparing for – i.e. kunai and swamp…
Yanks in Hobart
I have been unable to find any newspaper articles or photos of American servicemen in Hobart at this time. The closest seems to be this article from the Hobart Mercury, September 8 1943, which reports on the Young Victoria League, which ‘has recently opened a hospitality bureau at its club rooms, and the telephone is constantly in use arranging entertainment in private homes for visiting Allied servicemen’ : http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/25979059
However, in a document produced by Clarence Council regarding the experiences of that municipality’s residents during the war, Margaret Wertheimer spoke of Liberty ships arriving and disgorging hundreds of American servicemen (http://www.ccc.tas.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/FINALClarence_11_WW2.pdf)
Liberty ships were the workhorses of the American war effort. Over 2,700 were built – quickly, and relatively cheaply. About 200 were lost to torpedoes, mines, explosions, kamikazes etc. They could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo in their 5 holds, as well as 550 troops, a crew of 44 and a Naval Armed Guard of 12 – 25. (ref http://www.usmm.org/libertyships.html)
I wonder whether the absence of photos and articles about their visits to Hobart might be due to all information about their movements being ‘classified’ and thus not able to be reported on. Japanese submarines had been sinking allied shipping as far south as Victoria, up until June 1943, and in December 1944 a German submarine U-862 sunk the Liberty ship Robert J Walker 100 miles north of Gabo Island, after reporting a position ‘outside the entrance to Hobart’ earlier that month. (ref Clarence Council document above, and http://clik.dva.gov.au/history-library/part-1-military-history/ch-2-world-war-ii/s-7-australian-station/enemy-action-australian-station-1939-45)
Incurring the Censor’s displeasure
The idea of nationalising the building industry
One of the most pressing demands on Australia during World War II was for the construction of infrastructure and communications works, such as port facilities, aerodromes, fuel depots, roads and bridges……..The methods and materials used were understandably directed towards speed of construction rather than permanence. Nevertheless, some 138 runways were of permanent value and formed the basis for the development of an airport network throughout Australia.
In February 1942 the Allied Works Council was created to take responsibility for carrying out all works required for war purposes by the Allied forces in Australia…..The major difficulty faced by the Allied Works Council was the supply of labour. In March 1942 the War Cabinet accepted a recommendation from its Director General Edward Theodore for the creation of a Civil Constructional Corps (CCC), which would undertake war-related construction projects within Australia. The Corps was formed as a civilian rather than military organisation and comprised volunteers and persons called up under military impressments…members’ pay was based on civilian award rates…By June 1943 some 66 000 men had sought enrolment in the Corps of whom 53 500 were selected as medically fit and suitable. Of these, 8 500 had volunteered, 28 000 had already been working on Allied Works Council jobs at the time of enrolment and about 17 000 had been called up for service. Most were over 35 years of age. The major occupational categories were labourers, carpenters and truck drivers.
Members of the Corps were sent to all parts of Australia to work on projects such as docks, aerodromes, roads, gun emplacements, hospitals, fuel storage depots, pipelines and factories.
N E McKenna
Nicholas McKenna was a barrister and solicitor who had been encouraged by the former Tasmanian premier Albert Ogilvie to stand for political office. He was elected as a Labor senator in August 1943 and served from 1944 – 68. http://biography.senate.gov.au/mckenna-nicholas-edward/
Article by Sir Keith Murdoch
The enmity between Prime Minister Curtin and newspaper proprietor Sir Keith Murdoch is well documented Sir Keith was outspoken in his opposition to many of Curtin’s policies and actively campaigned against Labor in the 1943 election. For example this article appeared in two of Murdoch’s papers – the Adelaide Advertiser on August 9 and the Brisbane Courier-Mail on August 10th http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4202351720 . Murdoch said that Curtin had ‘an isolationist mind which has expressed itself even in pacifism moves under stress of attack to defence-mindeness but cannot reach the full expansion of war-mindedness. That is a psychological truth…A hundred instances of his limitations could be given.’