Attending a school…or not? – two letters

















TX 1004

Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

13th Sept 43

envelope – ‘Opened by Censor’

Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well.  I’ve had two letters from Hollsmoor Road in the week, telling of Dad’s arrival in the holy city so I guess you’re all on your lonesome with the boys but I hope May and Anne are keeping you company.

Things are very quiet as far as I’m concerned at present and although rather windy and dusty the weather is not unpleasant and as there’s been a few picture shows around lately time is not weighing heavily.

I went for a bus ride out to where Ray’s show are camped .  The powers that be run a sort of official unscheduled bus service.  There’s no specified stops.  You just tap on top of the cabin when you want to get off.  I put in a couple of good hours there – stayed to lunch – they have things well arranged – a sergeants’ mess complete with waiters, tablecloths and chinaware – very lairy for these parts.

Since I started this letter a bunch of mail has arrived.  Robby’s just handing it out and as I hear my name mentioned will see what it’s all about.  It’s right there’s three for me so in a minute or so I’ll tell you all about them.  Yours of the sixth Mother – glad to know you’re well and that the weather has taken up – it should be very nice down there now.  Sorry to hear the boys are not too happy in the service – they probably won’t appreciate the fact that there’s a war on especially when their patriotism means short rations.  I don’t suppose you can even get dog biscuits for them with he biscuit makers flat out keeping us supplied – looks like the boys will be on the bread line.

So May has another daughter – that’s the first girl I’ve heard of among new arrivals for some time.  Daph said in her letter that they expected two.  If you see May give her my best wishes will you and my compliments to Ben.  It’s not much good sending parcels Mother – you can only send tinned stuff and we’re living on that all the time as it is.  Daph said she’d sent a bundle of papers but they never made the grade or at least they could have done without my knowing as any papers that happen to be thrown in the tent are opened by anyone who happens to be around.

My other two letters are from Ivy and Rex Wedd.  Youngster is still having an awful tough trot and although it’s a great relief to her having Dad there the cards are still stacked against her – even the good weather seems to be against her.  I’ve never heard of a rash like that before.  Rex is very happy in the service as of course he should be.  He gets quite a bit of leave, had seen the Lairds several times, has his own car and generally speaking is heading them all along the lien.  There’s no doubt about it I joined the wrong service – the air service is the job alright.

We had quite an interesting discussion the other night on things to do when the argument’s over and we got on the subject of pubs, and before we turned in had discussed the merits and otherwise of every pub in Tasmania – We worked it out that Viv and I would keep the Pub and Jim & Frank McDonnell and big Kong Young would be out star boarders.  I wonder if it will ever eventuate.

Our influence on the natives in these parts is having quite a civilising effect.  The other night while watching a big … game I saw a couple of them edge their way to the side of the ring.  They had three or four bob each and striking a lucky roll built it into ten pounds – an undreamed-of fortune to any of them before the war.  They spoke good English and their remarks during the game were very amusing – a well balanced mixture of Australian and American-isms.

I must say cheerio now Mother.  Take care of yourself and give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.



PS Tell Anne I’ll write as soon as I can get some envelopes. They’re very scarce just now but there should be some in soon.  I’ll have to send this in a green envelope (the first I’ve ever sent)


The Holy City

Dad’s father was visiting ‘youngster’ – Ivy Drysdale (Max’s sister) – and her baby son in Melbourne.  His mother was at home in Hobart with ‘the boys’ – i.e. the dogs.


What in the world was he doing?

I don’t have a copy of Ray Ross’ service record, so don’t know who he was attached to at this point…. presumably not the 2/33rd.   Dad’s record as previously mentioned shows him attending NGF training school, but this is not evident in the address on his letters.  Then there’s the reference later in this letter to the discussion about Tassie pubs: he was clearly still with some of his 2/33 Bn ex-Carrier platoon mates.

This extract from The Footsoldiers suggests Ray was with the 7th Div Carrier Company, but offers no clarity re Dad’s situation:

On September 10 orders were issued ….that another D Company was to be raised as soon as possible.  The men were to be trained as a company and were to be ready to move forward by the 25th.  All men… who could be spared from essential duties at LOB….plus those with minor injuries who could leave hospital, and any volunteers of the 2/33rd men of the old carrier platoon who had been detailed to the 7th Division Carrier Company when at Ravenshoe, would constitute the new company….HQ’s NGF would build the group up to a rifle company strength…..From the original LOB of 45 – constituting five percent of the unit – all were detailed for the company.  In fact all demanded they be included.  When Captain Power visited the Carrier Company all of the old 2/33rd men – 14 of them –  volunteered, as did 32 others of that company.  The volunteers included Captain George Connor and Sergeant Ray Ross who were delighted at the opportunity of getting back to a unit again….. (pp318-19)


May and Ben Menzie

The Menzie’s were a farming family who lived in Franklin south of Hobart.   After the war they mainly grew apples, but at this time they may also have had a dairy herd, and dairy farming was a reserved occupation.  Ben was the same age as Dad – it’s possible they were at High School together.


Green envelope: ‘Privilege Envelopes’

Information from

Privilege Envelopes were introduced to Australian troops while serving in the Middle East during World War II. Australian troops in the field were issued with the Privilege Envelopes for transmission of their correspondence. When the AIF reached the Middle East it did not carry a stock of envelopes for the troops and therefore drew its requirements from the British Army stationery depot in Palestine. The troops were first supplied with Privilege Envelopes, known as stationery item A.F. W3078, ‘On Active Service’ (O.A.S.) envelopes or Green envelopes, which had been printed for the British military.

Similar in style to envelopes used during World War I, up to three addressed and open letters could be enclosed. The envelopes were normally distributed to the troops once each month. However, supplies were frequently unavailable so when they did arrive, were sometimes distributed two or three per individual to make up for the delay.

That particular type of Privilege Envelope used an ‘honour’ system because it was not subject to Unit censorship (but was not immune to Base censorship). Users were required to sign the envelope as abiding by censorship guidelines….By late 1940 an Australian-printed form for Privilege Envelopes became available. Those are immediately identifiable by the different form reference: “A.F. W 3078” with “(Adapted)” immediately below. 

So – as per these images, Dad certified on his honour that the contents referred to nothing but private and family matters…. but it was still opened by the censor.













A civilising effect on the natives!?

I’m at a loss to understand what element of this incident demonstrates increased ‘civilising’ of the local population.

The only image I could find of a dice game in Port Moresby –   Soldiers play a crap game at an air base near Port Moresby  January 1944 – Photographer – Robert Doyle – a civilian war correspondent for the Milwaukee Journal during World War II, covering the experiences of Wisconsin troops in the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division, an infantry division of the United States Army National Guard


TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

19th Sept 43

Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well and enjoying life.  The weather should be coming right down there now and help to make things pleasant.

I’ve had two letters from Melbourne this week.  One from Dad and one from Youngster and another letter card from Wedd – that’s two in quick time.  Rex must be soldiering on or whatever they call it in the airforce.  He expected his commission through in a few days – has got himself a decoration – a Yankee ribbon it must be – the Golden Eagle – has his own car and is copping a fair share of leave.  He said he’d spent a couple of weekends with the Lairds at Glasgow and expected to be with them that weekend – lucky cow.  He asked to be remembered to you and dad.

We saw an extra good picture show here the other night – an airforce show depicting the story of the Spitfire.  The supporting picture was”Our Leading Citizen” – a really good programme.  If it comes to Hobart try and see it.

Ray Ross is back in the unit and will probably get a commission soon.  Quite a lot of the other old chaps are back too and expect to be going up to the mob soon.  As you’ll gather I haven’t gone yet.

Dick Schultz asked to be remembered to you and dad – he’s quite well but has lost this voice – not lost just weakened – it would be tough for Tiny if he couldn’t talk.  There’s not too many can keep time with him.

I must say cheerio now Mother.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.



Who’s doing what…

Ray Ross (also mentioned in the previous letter) was a WO II on discharge in 1945, and at that time was attached to the 7 Carrier Company (according to

Dick Schultz was with the 2/31st Bn.  According to the AWM publication Jungle Warriors, the 2/31st was ‘held back at Moresby by impossible flying weather’ (p76) but had joined the rest of the Brigade in the forward area moving towards Lae by September 15.  But maybe he and Dad were together…wherever that was!

As you’ll gather I haven’t gone yet

He’s clearly assuming he WILL be going.  Service record however shows him attending NGF Training School from 4 Sept 43 till 14 Jan 44.  These letters seem to indicate otherwise.

A page from Max’s service record….




Our Leading Citizen

A tale of a principled lawyer, and unscrupulous political aspirant and workers battling for their right to strike… I can see why it appealed to Dad.

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