Culinary adventures, the Melbourne Cup and Lenah Valley in the news.



















TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

NGF Training Sch

New Guinea

14th Nov 43

Dear Mother & Dad

The mail service has caught up in a big way this week – your letters of the 31st and 8th both arrived during the last two days along with two from Ivy and several others so I look like having a very busy day today.  I was glad to hear things are going smoothly at home in spite of increasing civilian worries – your idea about turkeys should prove a real asset with meat rationing cut so fine – a few ducks would be handy if it’s not too late to set them.  I guess the rabbits about will cop some punishment now: like the depression period this seems another time when the man on the land has a lot to be thankful for.  It looks as though Australia has a big feeding job on hand and the government might do worse than withdraw farmers from the services – we’ve got quite a lot of them here – chaps between thirty five and forty – a bit old for modern campaigning, but at their best for rural production.  As a matter of fact there’s a lot of talk about discharging men over thirty five from front line units.  It may  be just talk but it sounds feasible.  I guess Tiny will get out on that count.  Maggie was right about him rejoining the unit – a chap from his mob told me the other day that he was on draft to go up.

I’m glad that school opening function was so successful.  May had put so much work into it and Anne was so built up about it that it would have been bad luck if it had been a failure.

It was a pity that wash away should have undone the good the rain was doing to your garden.  Vegetables are sure to be scarce while the war’s on.  We’ve been living extra well this last week.  There’s been a cooking school on here and the stuff has been turned out as I suppose it was intended to be.  Even dehydrated mutton and gold fish tasted good the way it was put out and anyone who can cook them and make them edible is definitely a cook on army standards.  In addition we’ve had two vegetables at one meal sometimes, and two or three times they even put on scones so gastronomically we’ve done pretty well.

I suppose new record high attendance records were put up at Flemington yesterday – everyone who could possibly make it would be there and I suppose all the yanks within a thousand miles would come along with their jeeps.  They got a wireless from somewhere and set it up in one of the lecture huts and training was stopped for ten minutes but they couldn’t tune in so we didn’t know the result till tea time.  Several sweeps were run.  I had Saul in one and Illyrian in another but I gather that they also ran.

There was a skipper here the other night to give us a talk  on post war reconstruction and what the government propose to do for the troops.  There’s been several sergeants from the AES have talked on it but it seemed so much eye wash, but this bloke seemed to have things at his fingertips and there might be something in it.  I’m going up to the camp where he’s staying this afternoon to have a bit of a yarn to him about it.  

I haven’t had any word from up top lately so don’t know how the mob are going.  We don’t get much of the Griffin here unless someone happens to get down to the base area on Sunday.  I hope to go down next weekend as we’re due for a day off then.  If I get time I’ll write to Viv or Jim this afternoon.

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



Meat rationing

See for example  Three articles in the Launceston Examiner of 5 October 1943 reported on a state government proposal to increase the number of fowls that could be kept without needing a licence; a compulsory reduction of 20 percent in supplies of meat outside Launceston and Hobart (where such limits already applied); and an inter-departmental conference in Melbourne about the difficulties inherent in the introduction of any form of meat rationing in Australia.  The last of these mentioned in particular, concern about ‘the large amount of meat now being consumed by domestic dogs and cats and also by greyhounds kept for coursing.  It was reported that there were more than 100,000 greyhounds in Australia and they consumed an average of 10lb of butchers’ meat every week….an exceedingly large amount…when increasing quantities of meat were needed for the fighting services and for export to the United Kingdom.’

On December 10 the Burnie Advocate reported that ‘when meat rationing was introduced it would be a Commonwealth-wide scheme…..The Master Butchers’ Association had urged that Tasmania be excluded from coupon rationing, and suggested the continuation of the present quota system which was working satisfactorily.’ 

Meat rationing was however introduced, Australia-wide in January 1944.  



Post war reconstruction

The Department of Post-War Reconstruction was established in December 1942 with JB Chifley as Minister.  In January 1943 HC (Nugget) Coombs was appointed as its first Director-General.  Three commissions were established within the Department in 1943 – the Rural Reconstruction Commission, the Commonwealth Housing Commission and the Secondary Industries Commission.  Staff included economists, architects, a journalist and a trade unionist.  They provided administrative and research assistance to the commissions and the Co-ordinator General of Works.  Coombs, in particular, was a member of numerous committees, as well as chairing Commonwealth–state meetings on town and regional planning, housing, employment, re-establishment and soldier settlement.  (

By late 1943 newspapers around the country were reporting on public meetings held to enable people to hear about and comment on the Government’s plans.  The following year, a referendum would be held on increasing Commonwealth powers for the 5 years after the war ended..Dad will surely have views on this!


Even dehydrated mutton and goldfish tasted good…

Presumably the ‘goldfish’ were in fact whitebait which I was surprised to learn had been among the varieties canned in Tasmania for the AMF.

On 10 January 1945, the Launceston Examiner reported that the cannery recently established by Fish Canneries of Tasmania Pty Ltd would be turning out 10,000 tins of canned fish a day: a larger output than any other cannery in Australia.   At present the whole output is under contract to the Government and in the near future it may have to be very greatly increased to meet the requirements of the services…   The bulk of the fish being canned at present comprises barracuda, Australian salmon and mackerel, but whitebait has also been canned on a big scale, 200,000 cans having been supplied to the Army Hospital Services.  It proved so successful that the company is looking forward to making it one of its special lines after the war.


That school opening function

On Monday 8th November the Hobart Mercury published this photo with a report on the official opening of the Lenah Valley School which had taken place the previous Saturday.    (   The school building was described as a modern brick building, containing two spacious classrooms.   VIP’s present included the Governor and Lady Clark, the Chief Secretary (Mr Brooker) representing the Minister for Education (Mr Cosgrove) and the Director of Education (Mr G V Brooks) who paid tribute to the work of the head teacher (Miss S Craike). 

On Tuesday 9th a small supplementary item was published, including the statement that ‘The secretarial arrangements of the function were handled by Mrs L Fisher.  ( Mrs Fisher was Dad’s sister May (wife of Laurie), and her daughter – my cousin Anne – was one of the founding group of students who had begun their schooling at Haig Street hall.


The Melbourne Cup

AWM 060497

Conducting a sweep on the Melbourne Cup at Headquarters, 9th Australian Division Finschafen 13/ 11/ 43




AWM 060488

Trooops of Headquarters, 7th Australian Division, study the betting board for the Melbourne Cup.   Dumpu, 13 / 11 / 43




Dad was right about the record crowd.  According to the Melbourne Argus ( more than 90,000 people attended – the largest of any of the 5 cups run during the war.  ‘Army khaki and Navy and Air Force blues dominated the colour scheme, but those who accepted those colours for tips in the Cup were disappointed.…Turnover on the tote was an Australian record £177,733.

There is a British Pathe film of the race…   . The crowd is indeed enormous!   The War Memorial also holds a newsreel of the event, produced specifically to share with troops overseas. as well as a silent film showing troops listening to the radio broadcast.   Although it’s not possible to view these online, the caption for the latter is interesting:  Time off was taken to hear the broadcast of the Melbourne Cup.  Although no money passed through any hands, it was quite common to see 4 pawpaws to 1, or 6 ounces of tobacco to 1.  Everyone showed a keen interest just the same although the race was barely audible owing to static.  The bookmaker had a worried look on his face after the race as he lost thirty ounces of tobacco and forty pawpaws. 

AWM 060486

Troops of the 7th Australian Division, headquarters company, listening to the running of the Melbourne Cup.

Dumpu   13/ 11/ 43  

This entry was posted in Americans, Australian, Food and Drink, Papua New Guinea and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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