Sgt Max Hickman
5th January 44
Dear Mother & Dad
Your welcome letter of the 27th arrived yesterday. I’m glad to know the Christmas was pleasant even though it was quiet and that you were able to get a little nourishment.
I was surprised to read that Arndell Lewis had died. He looked a picture of health last time I saw him. There was a mention in the local rag that he’d died and next day it was denied so that the cutting from the Mercury came as a bit of a surprise.
As you’ll see from the address the school has finished and we’re waiting to be posted back to our units, though as things are there’s no guarantee that we’ll get to our own units. The way things are at present with some shows over-strength in NCO’s and some short there’s a likelihood of cross posting but I certainly hope we get back to the old mob. I saw Jim yesterday – he’s browned off and looked a picture. He asked to be remembered to you and suggested you keep a few on the ice. I saw old Doc Leo (??) the old RSM – he left us some time ago to do an officers school but was knocked back on account of his age. Anyone over thirty is uphill for commissions these days. Alan Carlysle must have got his on account of specialising in the hygiene racket.
I’m writing under rather adverse circumstances Mother & Dad so as there’s no news I’ll just say cheerio for the present. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.
Love – Max.
PS When you write Dad, address to the unit and if I don’t happen to be back there Frank will send it on.
Acronym means – New Guinea General Details Depot
Port Moresby, New Guinea 31/5/44 The New Guinea Details Depot located at the site of the old Murray Barracks area.
Death of Lieut-Col Arndell Lewis
Arndell Lewis was the cousin of Dad’s friend and former Carrier Platoon member, Dick Lewis. This article from the Launceston Examiner of December 28, 1943 describes him as ‘a fine man who … was outstanding in the fields of military law, geology, politics, law and prominent in many scientific and public bodies…. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/92630485/7627747 According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, he died of hypertensive heart failure.
The Battalion moves out of the Ramu Valley
From The Footsoldiers (pp 370-373):
Late in December came the surprise order that 21st and 25th Brigades would be relieved by the Militia (now AIF) 15th Brigade and our own 18th Brigade…Our advance party of Captains Peach, Archer and Cox left on 31 December. The unit was ordered to pack up that night and on 1 January 1944, at 0800 hours the battalion began the long march back to the two strips at Dumpu. Without fuss and bother, but excited and surprised for all that – the unit emplaned in 28 DC3’s which lifted out 28 officers and 532 men to Jackson’s strip Port Moresby by noon the same day. There they boarded trucks for the short drive along the Riga road to the LOB camp above Bootless Inlet. …More than 100 men that night went off to Moresby to watch the fights or pictures, or to visit the big canteen in the town…. the unit now again at Pom-Pom Park, though tired, was a well-organised one….The mood and atmosphere of the war in the Pacific had changed and everywhere the Japanese were on the defensive. Each day at Pom-Pom we read encouraging news in Guinea Gold, the popular Army newspaper…..Again we had a series of VIP visits and battalion parades had to be put on for each occasion. Some were looked forward to with interest, others received the usual ribald remarks…. the pattern until the unit left for home : drill, drill and more drill.
27/11/43 Pom Pom valley – guard of the 2/10th Battalion AIF, champion guard of the 18th Brigade, parading for a training film for the Australian Army.
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Sgt Max Hickman
9th January 44
Dear Mother & Dad
Just a few lines to keep the mail rolling and hoping to find you both happy and well. As I mentioned in a note I wrote the other day the school has finished and we’re at a dump awaiting further orders and although it seems we might be home some time we never know from hour to hour when we’ll be moving. It seems quite on the cards that we won’t get back to our old units at all but may get cross posted. I’ll be a bit crooked on them if I don’t get back but that won’t hurt them at all and I’ll have no option than to go where I’m sent. But still when you write, send my letters to the unit address and Frank will know where to forward them.
I went down and saw Bill yesterday. He looked fit and well and hopes to leave in a couple of days. One of the other officers had a drop of whisky and I had a couple of nips with them. Bill had quite a stack of cigarettes too and gave me four cartons so I’ll be well set for a while. Tobacco and cigarettes are still very scarce – we’re getting a ration of a tin a week but I don’t think that will apply while we’re here because they’d have no check on who’d collected & who hadn’t.
Ossie Eiszele told me Tiny has headed in for a bowler hat now – been manpowered out by the Zinc Works. Ossie says it’s all fixed but he didn’t know when Tiny would go home. I reckon he’s entitled to get out. He must be over forty and although he had a good job as far as the infantry goes he’s a bit old for the game – a chap who was RSM of our mob until recently and was sent back to an officer school was knocked back because he was over thirty – so if a man’s too old for a commission at thirty he’s too old for any infantry work at forty. Jim McDonnell was rather surprised to hear that Frank was home but had expected to hear that the younger brother was down.
Life is quite pleasant here just at present. We’re doing very little other than spine bashing which isn’t hard to take for a while as we haven’t had much spare time during the last three months. Saw a picture on Thursday night – a good show too – Deanna Durbin in “Hers to Hold’ – some extra good singing. There was a concert last night – a good variety turnout, it filled in a couple of pleasant hours.
Well I’m afraid I’ve about said my piece for the present Mother & Dad – news is scarce and as there’s been no mail in, there’s nothing at all to write about so will say cheerio for the present. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes tot he boys. All the best. Love – Max.
PS Am enclosing a calendar from the local rag.
Dad’s brother in law, Bill Drysdale was a lieutenant in the Cyphers section of the Navy, based in Port Moresby.
Tiny (Dick Schultz)
Tiny – real name Cecil Claude Schultz TX1028 – had enlisted on the same day as Dad. He was 6 years older – born in April 1905 – so aged 38 by the time of this letter. He was a member of the 2/ 31st battalion, but as indicated in the letter, his release had been requested by the ‘Zinc Works’ (Electrolytic Zinc Company) – and as this was a protected industry, approval was a foregone conclusion.
A ‘stripper’ at work at the Zinc Works, 1940 (TAHO AA193-1-501)
Below – bagging Superphosphate 1940 – another important product from the Zinc Works (TAHO AA 193-1-592)