Still in Limbo – but no cause for complaint – 3 letters
















TX 1004

Sgt M Hickman

2/33rd Battn


28th Sept 43

Dear Mother

Your welcome letter of the 23rd arrived yesterday – glad to know you and the boys are pegging along alright and that you’re getting a bit of good weather.  The winter down there has certainly been very severe so I hope you get a good summer to compensate for it.

Dad doesn’t seem to like the holy city too well.  I guess he finds it too much of a bustle and the trump must be a bit of a slave driver, as the Pater says he would sooner do pick and shovel than mind him – so I can imagine what strife youngster must have been in, doing everything on her own and being so sick herself.  She’s full of enthusiasm for the way the pater has helped her and says that the trump just loves him.  He’s certainly acquired a happy knack of winning the good graces of babies.  I expect the baby will miss him when he goes back home.  If the navy is anything like the army Bill would be very uphill getting home – compassionate leave in the army is like winning the fifty thousand Melbourne Cup sweep, and happens about as often.  But of course in Bill’s line he might be just as useful to the service in Melbourne as where he is – although I think it would be an absolute last resort with Ivy especially knowing how she feels about other people.

A chap was telling me last night that Tiny Schultz is in hospital around here somewhere with Malaria and pneumonia – must be pretty sick.  I think he was a fool to come up here again.  He should have played his cards a bit better than that.  Anyway I’ll make a few enquiries and see if I can see him.  The fellow who told me about him used to be in the same show as Artie Hickman and said that Artie had got a B class and was with a salvage crowd in Hobart – probably the same mob as Alec Worbey.

In my particular quarter things are very quiet and rather monotonous but apart from that we have no cause for complaint – we’re living quite well, have showers and a YMCA hut and the weather is really good for these parts.

You didn’t mention Nell Norris in this letter Mother – I hope she’s well again.  When do they expect Rob home, do you know?  I suppose the fourteen days he’s getting is six months’ leave – most of the units stationed on the mainland get fourteen days every six months.  The powers that be have worked out some leave formula recently and attached forms in our pay books with a credit leave statement.  According to mine I’m entitled to thirty seven days up till the 1st of this month and two days a month for every additional month but of course having the credit and getting the leave are quite different things. However it’s a pleasant thought.

I must say cheerio now Mother – give my love to May, Anne and Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.



PS Thanks for the stamps and envelope – I was lucky enough to get a whole packet the other day.



The YMCA and the Salvation Army, in conjunction with the Australian Comforts Fund (ACF) established refreshment posts in forward areas as well as near the various staging camps.  This article describes the enthusiasm of the troops for both entertaining and being entertained, and their willingness to travel considerable distances to participate in sports.

AWM 013399    An advanced YMCA post just behind the forward lines in the New Guinea jungle.  The value of these unpretentious outposts is inestimable and the work of the men who maintain them cannot be too highly praised.

















Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn


28th Sept 43

Dear Dad

Your cheerful letter arrived a few days back and was very interesting.  It was good to hear that the baby was so much better and that Ivy too was getting so much benefit from your being with them.  She was very enthusiastic and happy about how things were progressing.  The young fellow certainly must be a slave driver and from your letter I realise just how much Ivy had to cope with especially being so sick herself.  You seem well in favour with the young bloke too.   I guess he’ll miss you a lot when you go home.

Mother thinks Ivy should try and get Bill posted back to Melbourne but if the Navy is anything like the army Bill’s name would need to be Curtin or Forde to get back on compassionate grounds.  Compassionate leave in the army is like striking Tatts or the Melbourne Cup sweep and happens about as often – but of course the Navy might be different.  Talking of leave – they’ve worked out some scheme as to what leave we have due to us. I’ve got a slip pasted in my pay book with a credit of thirty seven days up till the first of this month with two days for every additional month.  It sounds alright but of course when we get it is another story and by that time they’ll have worked out a new scheme.  However it’s a pleasant thought.

I struck a chap yesterday who told me Tiny Schultz was in hospital around here somewhere – pretty sick too I believe – Malaria and pneumonia.  I’ll make some enquiries later in the day and might be able to see him.  He must have played his cards badly this trip.  I thought he’d have worked things better than that – still I suppose he had his own ideas.  The same fellow told me he was in the same show as Artie Hickman and said Artie has been boarded B Class and is in a salvage show at Hobart – probably the same one as Alec Worbey.  It’s about time they caught up with Worbey – he’s a bludger that fellow.

Joe’s back at the institution is he – I thought the job he had would have suited him well.  His ideas about market gardening would be alright now but might not be so good when the argument’s over.  Still I suppose a couple of years would  put him on his feet.

Mrs Lyons has certainly loomed into the limelight and will probably make a name for herself.  I was reading in an old Australasian the other day that if there was a women’s parliament in Australia, Mrs Lyons would be the Prime Minister.  The article was written before it was even mentioned that she would be standing for Darwin so she must have a lot of supporters even outside of Tassie.

I had a letter from Mother yesterday.  She said she and the boys were getting along alright and that they were getting a few odd days good weather.  It’s to be hoped you get a good summer to compensate for the tough winter.

I must say cheerio now dad.  Give my love to Ivy and the baby.  All the best.


(censor – R Burrough?)

Mrs Lyons has loomed into the limelight

Dame Enid Lyons, widow of the former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons was the first woman elected to a seat in the House of Representatives when she was returned as the member for Darwin (now Braddon) in the 1943 election.  Her seat was the last in the country to be decided, on preferences.  Around the country – as for example in the Courier Mail in Brisbane – her election made headlines












TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn


7th Oct 43

Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well.  I haven’t been able to write earlier this week as we’ve had a move that’s cramped our style a bit for writing.  The move was only local but it involved quite a lot of changes affecting our spare time.  The entire daylight hours are taken up with a training job and at night we only have one lantern to a tent of ten so you can see the writing possibilities are very restricted.  However I hope to catch up with my mail in the weekend but then there are a lot of other things I hope to do too in the weekend.  Still it’s not possible to make plans even a few days ahead as nobody knows what the army will so next and the plans of men and mice are apt to go astray.

On the way to the new camp we passed a mule compound.  There must have been hundreds of them and their expressions as we passed were an interesting study.  They raised their heads from browsing, stretched their ears, grinned and swished their tails.  I guess they were glad they were mules with all their proverbial denseness.

I haven’t seen any more of Bill Drysdale and may not be able to do so for some time, but I’d like to get down to see Tiny again although he’s probably gone to a con camp.  I struck a chap the other day who used to be a great friend of Tiny – the last time I saw him was at the 31st’s RAP in Palestine before Syria.  He came over to celebrate Dick’s third stripe and we had an extra good night.  I wouldn’t have known him but he remembered me and we had quite a long talk.  He’s got a job in the canteen services now.

There’s been a couple of good shows around lately – two of a series entitled – Why We Fight. – an American propaganda show but very interesting for all that.  And I guess that about covers the newsreel Mother so I’ll just say cheerio – hoping to hear from you soon.  Give my love to May,Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.



The entire daylight hours are taken up with a training job

Searching for clues about what Dad was doing…  The NGF Training School war diary includes the following:  Each of the weekly Field Return of Other Ranks during September noted a need for 10 Sergeants – ‘Instructional Personnel’ – so I’m guessing Dad was one of those who fulfilled this requirement.  The Field Return of Other Ranks in October consistently shows one man from the 6 Div Carrier Gp – but no-one from the 2/33rd, so I’m assuming that somehow Dad had been attached first to this Carrier Group and then to the Training School. An entry dated 4 October indicates that 13 NCO instructors marched in from NGF.  This date fits with the timeline in the letter above.











A mule compound

An amusing account of the behaviour of mules confronted by difficult terrain :    and from this article  come the following extracts –

Several hundred horses and mules  have been and are still being used in
New Guinea by two Army pack transport units…..The medium-sized mule is said to
be better at picking his way than a horse, and is more sure-footed
Image : AWM 027022    Men leading pack horses and mules loaded with supplies up the precipitous curving track from the end of the road down to Uberi Valley over which troops and supplies were taken to our forward positions in the Owen Stanley Ranges


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