Sgt Max Hickman
2/ NGF Tng Sch
21st Nov 43
Dear Mother & Dad
After a lapse of about a week the mail has come good again to everyone’s relief. It’s surprising how it affects the chaps not getting their mail. Your letter of the fifteenth, two from Ivy and one from May Roberts – you may remember her, she was one of Max Phillips’ girl friends – so I did pretty well out of the issue. Am glad to hear that things have taken a brighter turn, both at home and at Ivy’s.
I read a bit in today’s local rag about Dalton retaining his seat whilst holding the office of Commissioner to NZ. That’s about the toughest thing I’ve heard of, a man dragging the screw he will to come at that. If it hadn’t been for Albert Ogilvie he’d still be working for Mount Lyell. It’s a case of make hay while the sun shines, isn’t it.
Youngster’s letters were both very bright and cheerful. She seems very wrapped up with the proposed trip to Sydney and I hope everything turns out right. I went down to see Bill today and left that photo Ivy sent with him. He’s doing alright for himself and treated me to a long Gin and lime – nice and cool, it was really enjoyable. Bill expects to cop a few weeks leave whilst Ivy is in Sydney so if everything turns out as expected it should be a great holiday for both of them.
Your reciprocal visits with the Camerons sounded like a good break for both families. I’m glad to hear that Nell has recovered and is able to go back to work. I guess dad had his hands full minding those three kids. Should be an absolute master of the act now.
Cazaly has certainly taken on a proposition in that place of Alfords – a man would need to be something of a genius to make a go of that but I suppose he’ll make out with training and masseur work as there’s no doubt he’s a master of that game.
While I think of it, I told May I would try and send Anne a telegram of good wishes for that concert show she’s in so as telegrams are very unreliable as far as time goes I’ll send it next weekend if I can, and May can hold it and give it to Anne the day of the show.
Unless Tiny gets another attack of Malaria or something I can’t see him getting home for Christmas as latest indications are that his mob won’t get back till well into next year and things would have to move very smartly for him to make the grade in five weeks. I’m expecting to get a letter from Viv or Jim next week and will probably get the Griffin from them. I struck another of the old mob that were in Brighton when I was there today – he’s up here with a working party – a chap named Cole from Cygnet.
Sorry about that fountain pen dad. I knew things were tough but thought there might be just a chance. I hope I’ll be able to look after Laurie’s pen but with our mode of living things get broken very easily. Thank Laurie for the loan of it for me will you.
Must say cheerio now. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.
PS We filled in forms for a new army book the other day – on the same lines as Soldiering On. It’s called Khaki & Green. I hope it arrives OK.
I went down to see Bill today
Bill Drysdale was Dad’s brother in law, married to his sister Ivy. At this point, he was a lieutenant in the Cyphers section of the Navy Office – based at Port Moresby.
In a letter sent by Ivy to their parents, dated 27 November 1943 she says: I don’t know just exactly how far Max is from Moresby. According to Bill it’s a hell of a long way – further than their transports are allowed to go.
Tom D’Alton: holding his seat while High Commissioner in New Zealand
Tom D’Alton had worked for Mt Lyell Mines at Queenstown as a boilermaker before becoming a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly. He was a the president of the Queenstown branch of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and became the local candidate for the state seat of Darwin (which later became Braddon). He was elected in 1931 and in 1934 became minister for agriculture and railways in A G Ogilvie’s Labor government. In 1939 Ogilvie died, and Robert Cosgrove became premier. D’Alton was given the ministries of forestry, commerce and agriculture. This article and letter to the editor of the Launceston Examiner give a sense of the public disquiet at D’Alton’s decision to take up the appointment as Australia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand without resigning his seat in state parliament: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/92612065/7627509
However, the situation was not unique : Britain’s High Commissioner to Australia at this time was Sir Ronald Cross who continued to hold his seat in the House of Commons.
‘Making a go of Alfords’….Cazaly comes to Lenah Valley
Roy Cazaly was an Australian Football legend – having achieved widespread admiration as a player and coach, both in Tasmania and Victoria. His high marking was the origin of the cry – Up There, Cazaly! He and his family had lived in Tasmania on two previous occasions, but in late 1943 they moved permanently to Lenah Valley – in fact, to part of the Normanville property originally owned by the Hickman family in Brushy Creek Road. A description of the area, including mention of the Alford property, appeared in this 1922 article, when the tram line was extended to the corner of Augusta and Pottery Rd. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/23619482#
Photo : Normanville, Brushy Creek Rd (Libraries Tasmania PH30-1-7404)
Roy continued to coach and play, and also established a therapeutic massage business in which his whole family was involved. He became very well known for his approach to treating polio. His public profile was further expanded when he became involved in greyhound racing and harness racing. His son, also named Roy, served in the RAN during the war. (Information from Cazaly the Legend – Robert Allen – the Slattery Media Group 2017 )
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Sgt Max Hickman
NGF Training Sch
28th Nov 1943
Dear Mother & Dad
It’s a real rest day today – spine bashing is first favourite with every body. The CI gave us yesterday for a sports programme and everything went off perfectly. The weather was perfect – the first day since the school started that it hasn’t rained. The morning was given over to team sports – basketball, softball and cricket. I had a go at the basketball. She was just about all in and when it was finished you could have wrung us out but it was a good game. The softball and cricket both finished very close too. The afternoon was taken up with an athletic carnival and competition throughout was keen- there’s some good timber amongst the mob. Prizes supplied from Regimental funds were of a type approved in these parts, ranging from a half a pound of tobacco to chocolates and PK’s. It was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had for a long time in the army, but we’re all powerful stiff today.
To cap the day a stack of mail came in last night in good time to go to work on it today. Your interesting letter of the 22nd was among my lot. I was glad to hear that you are both happy and well and that May, Anne and Carline are doing alright too. Mother must be particularly fit to be able to walk to Cornelian Bay and back – nice going.
I had no idea Jim was down with Malaria again, although it’s always on the cards when you’ve had it once. Big Kong Young called in a couple of days back on his way to a convalescent camp after a bad issue of typhus. He said Jim was alright when he left and he’d had a letter from Bull Black the previous day saying that everything was OK. They must have treated Jim at a forward CCS. Two out of three other chaps here from the unit are down with Malaria again. One had been away three weeks now so he must have a pretty bad attack.
Youngster’s letters this week don’t reflect a very confident note on the prospects of getting up to Sydney. Priorities seem to have the game sewn up – Members of Parliament and civil servants and their families and friends. There’s no doubt about it: those in a position to crack the whip abuse their privileges. John Citizen certainly has a load to carry.
My compliments to Claire Graydon on her commission – she must be soldiering on in a big way. If the powers that be are turning out commissions in the womens services at the same rate as the army, the social calendars will [embrace??] numerous more volumes after the argument than they did before the war. Still those pips on the shoulder mean a bit in the way of authority and privilege and are a passport to comforts that in civvy times were reserved for society and the power of the purse.
Young Reg must be pretty sweet with the heads – he’s not been out of Australia at all yet, has he – must have struck a job like Max Phillips’ cobber Royce – Pilot Officer Instructor in Sydney.’Well I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.
The Sports Programme
The published results (shared in this image) included all the sports mentioned in this letter – and also swimming and diving! This seemed incredible, until I found the photo of a diving board over the river, and a note in later Routine Orders, detailing a group to carry out maintenance on the swimming pool.
Sogeri Valley, New Guinea 26/6/43 Midday mess parade of the New Guinea Force School of Signals crossing bridge. Below the bridge can be seen diving boards and pontoons constructed by the troops.
Because Port Moresby is in a relatively dry coastal area, the potential impact of malaria on the war in the Pacific was initially underestimated. In the first 6 months of 1942, 1184 cases of malaria were recorded among the 6500 Australians serving in Port Moresby. … By November 1942, an epidemic of malaria had broken out, with rates of incidence increasing from 33 men per 1000 per week to 82 men per 1000 per week by December that year. ….Thanks largely to the efforts of the Army’s Director of Medicine, Colonel Neil Fairley, the Land Headquarters Medical Research Unit was established at the 5 Australian Camp Hospital in Cairns, in June 1943. Testing of the new antimalarial drug atebrin was conducted under diverse conditions and it was reported in June 1944 that administration of 0.1 g (equivalent to one atebrin tablet daily) cured P. falciparum malaria and suppressed the onset of P. vivax malaria. https://www.mja.com.au/system/files/issues/194_08_180411/pro10266_fm.pdf
(Image – painting by Nora Heysen – same source)
Malaria: Personal Protection Measures
As well as these research efforts, unit commanders were required to enforce personal protection measures including the taking of suppressive drugs (chiefly quinine at this point), use of nets and restrictions on hours for bathing. At the time of this letter, soldiers were still permitted to wear shorts when not on parade, between the hours of 0630 and 1800. However, soon afterwards it became an offence to wear shorts, and shirts had to be worn with long sleeves fastened at the wrist. ( Routine Orders December 16: AWM 52/34/13/4 p 53) – 3 pairs of slacks were issued to each soldier. CO’s were however permitted to allow men engaged in hard physical work to roll up their sleeves or even work bare-chested, between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
The first sign of this mite-borne disease was an ulcer-like sore. If found, the soldier immediately reported to the medical officer and was ideally transported to hospital on a stretcher as he rapidly became very ill with fever and often lapsed into unconsciousness. The fever rose to 40 degrees in a few days – even 40.4 was recorded – and a high swinging temperature was recorded for twelve to eight days. There was no known drug for treatment, and the administration of adequate fluid and complete rest were essential. Patient behaviour was also challenging. Men often exhibited confusion, delirium and restless irritability, and could be demanding and petulant or depressed and drowsy. The severity of the illness varied considerably. For men with a severe infection, some were recovered and fit for duty in twelve weeks, but others lapsed into a coma after twelve to sixteen days, and died. The men were exhausted after campaigning over the mountains and were often debilitated with malaria and dysentery. Their lower resistance appeared to be a factor in the high mortality rate – of the 626 cases studied over one twelve month period, the death rate was almost 10 percent. (ref – A Special Kind of Service: the story of the 2/9 Australian General Hospital 1940 – 46 pp 80 – 81)
Priorities seem to have the game sewn up
Note re Ivy’s hopes of spending time in Sydney with her mother in law, and hopefully also her husband : In her letter to their parents dated Nov 27 she said she had managed to book a flight from Melbourne for the next day (Sunday) however “ Airways warned me that I am likely to be taken off at the last minute to make room for a Government Priority – wouldn’t it be awful”
A letter from Bull Black…. everything is OK
The battalion was based ‘around Shaggy Ridge’ where the Japanese were well dug in. “On many nights Japanese aircraft flew over, combing the bases around Gusap and Dumpu but doing little damage. Only A and C companies really suffered any operational hardship. Each spent 11 days on the 5000-foot high four-foot wide slope that led up to Green Sniper’s Pimple. Each platoon spent about five days as forward platoon and each section would spend two days and one night on forward section – the actual front being a one-man affair. The most forward post was the section Bren pit manned always by two men, and connected by telephone back to CHQ.nnWith only 40 yards to the foremost single Jap pit it was with the usual nervous apprehension that sentry-go was done when in the forward post.” (The Footsoldiers, pp 361-362)
A clear indication of the terrain referred to in the extract above.
AWM 064260 Finisterre Ranges, New Guinea 23/1/44 Members of the 2/9 Infantry Battalion digging in at ‘Green Snipers Pimple’ after the Japanese forces had been driven back during battle
Claire Graydon’s commission
I haven’t been able to find anything about Claire Graydon but found this piece about the women’s army service (AWAS) interesting: https://trove.nla.gov.au/people/620601?c=people
The first Officer’s Training School was held in Victoria in November-December 1941. During this time Japan entered the war and the need for womanpower in the Army was accentuated, recruiting and training commenced as soon as AWAS Officers returned to their areas. The types of recruits were quite splendid, alert, responsible and invariably inspired to volunteer by strong personal motives. Initially the Army only envisaged that women would be employed as clerks, typists, cooks and motor transport drivers, and in small numbers, however, the demand grew very quickly and by the end of 1942 12,000 recruits had been enlisted and trained. While at first AWAS were posted only to Headquarters, and Base Installations, they later took up duty, after specialist training in almost all Army Services. It is of interest to note that 3,618 served with the Royal Australian Artillery and they manned the Fixed Defences of Australia from Hobart in the South and Cairns in the North, and Perth in the West. And again 3,600 served in the Australian Corps of Signals, where they proved themselves well adapted for the type of work required of them.
East Risdon TAS 20/4/43 The sound locator of the 115th section, 59th anti-aircraft searchlight company ready for action. This section is manned [sic] entirely of members of the AWAS…
Young Reg….must have struck an instructor job in Sydney
Reginald Hickman was a relative: his father John was the brother of Dad’s grandfather- ie John was Dad’s great uncle. I’m not sure what that makes Reg – I guess they would have called each other cousins. Reg enlisted in the airforce in 1941 and rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. At dischargee in 1945 he was posted to the Aircraft Repair Depot.