21st May 44
Dear Mother & Dad
Your welcome letter arrived on Thursday along with one from E.A.Mc. – and read together made very interesting reading. There’s no doubt about the regulations covering release from the army being tough as far as AIF men are concerned. Mc had seen Vern Crisp who is needing men for timber milling and asked me what experience I had had in that direction. I think Mc had done all he could but from the tone of his letter I’d have to take anything I could get and be under a definite complement to get it so as that definitely won’t suit me. I’ll write and tell Mc not to do any more about it.
At the time when I wrote I wasn’t seeing things in a particularly good light. I couldn’t see a ray of sunshine anywhere. Bennett’s story along with the everyday evidence of the hand out the blokes are getting – (those) who have been discharged form a definite criterion of what we can expect if we stay in till the show’s over – even now with the war far from over the public in general regard any man in uniform with suspicion and when you get last war’s conshies like Caldwell referring to the originals as economic conscripts what’s going to be their attitude when the show’s over…. and then there was the aspect of finding myself practically the only old hand in this company as Ray Ross looked like going to an officer’s school and Bruce Lloyd had hopes of a transfer…. but now that I’ve settled in again it’s alright and I think I might as well carry on.
I was sorry to hear that Ivy is still having such a tough trot but as a matter of fact I’ve just got a letter from her – she’s certainly having a hard time. Both of them sick at the same time and worrying about Bill. There’s no doubt about the fact that the women are fighting a hard war. I think as far as the majority of civvies are concerned the women are carrying Australia. Ivy said she expected to come over on Thursday’s boat. I hope it goes to Launceston and she has a good trip because she’s certainly a very sick woman and a crook trip would upset her badly.
Had a letter from Marie during the week. She said she was sorry she’d been unable to get up to see you but had gone out to her mother’s while it was fine and had Juliet dressed in light clothes and as her mother had gone to town she couldn’t leave her (Juliet) alone. But hopes to get up to see you soon.
I was talking to Jim yesterday. He was interested to know the photos had got home as he’d sent one too. It’s certainly a good group. Jimmy Kemp had his sent to him here. Jim hasn’t heard any more about his release and thinks there might be a hitch in the scheme. He says he won’t go back to the chain but wants to get down on the wharf. There’s tons of beer in the camp canteens here and he and Viv are punishing it to some order.
Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.
All the best. Love. Max
See previous post (dated May 5, 1944) re General Bennett’s interview.
Those photos got home…. a good group
Although it’s not captioned, this photo from Dad’s collection is definitely from some time after August 1943 (when Dad received his Sergeant’s stripes) and it definitely includes Jim McDonnell (Seated to Dad’s right – ie left in the photo). Others identified by Dick Lewis are Bob Cole and Pete McCowan – reclining in the front row.
Rest and Recreation
It’s surprising that there’s no mention of the ‘rest camp’ at Redcliffe in this letter
According to The Footsoldiers: Early in May a scheme for recuperation and rest was instituted whereby 150 of all ranks were moved in a batch to Redcliffe on the coast for a 10 day health and body building recreational period… The whole period was spent in swimming, sun baking or exercising on the sands. Later, on 15 May, the whole battalion, less a 10-man guard, was moved to Burleigh Heads by truck for another acceptable swimming and PT exercise and recreational period. At this tented camp under Army PT instructors a regulated and enjoyable week’s programme which included swimming instruction and beach sports was concluded. (p375) This description is not in line with the unit diary, which suggests that each draft spent 4 – 5 days rather than 10 at Redcliffe, with the last group returning on May 21. The diary makes no mention of groups spending time at Burleigh Heads later in the month : this appears to have happened in the second half of June.
Jim… wants to get down on the wharf
Workers on the Zinc Works wharf earned good money – but the work was hard. Each man carried up to 40 tons of zinc in an 8 hour shift and by gee they’d be tired after that. Even so, men often worked double shifts when a ship was to be loaded….’People would break their arms up top to get down to them jobs…..you didn’t even have to be able to read or write to earn big money on the wharf’. (The Zinc Works – Alison Alexander 1992, pp 209 – 211)
28th May 44
Dear Mother & Dad
Your interesting letter of the 22nd arrived on Thursday and made good reading. Old Steve and Mrs Steve certainly look well – look like lasting another twenty years if that photo is recent.
I think we’ve got the edge on you for weather. Up to date except for one day’s rain it’s been perfect – lovely warm days and cool nights. The weather is the best thing about this joint: would be good to winter here and summer in Tassie. Though there’s a lot to be said for the long winter nights with a good log fire. Fred Booth’s unexpected turn up must have been quite a diversion for you though three for poker is rather a small party. How is Tom Cooper’s daughter Dad? You never mentioned her in this letter. Is she out of hospital yet?
The overtime sounds like a racket at the Zinc works or else they’re very short handed. Don’t suppose too many are doing the wine (?) cells these days – be mugs if they did. Old Jim still hasn’t heard anything about getting out. He says ‘and they wonder why a man drinks’. He and Viv are about the two greatest soaks in this company. There was a show on at a hall near here on Thursday night. A couple of the sergeants knew the pistol packing mumma (otherwise the Lieut of an AWAS show) and arranged for a social evening. All the arrangements were left to the Committee of the mess and of course their minds worked only in the direction of grog, so they hoarded the mess rations for a week and on the night of the show set up forty four dozen bottles of beer and a great stack of wines and spirits for about seventy people. When the girls arrived they were all youngsters around nineteen and twenty and very few of them drank at all having come with the idea of dancing. So then we had to find a pianist and the RMO played a few waltzes which were extra good, but as only about a dozen of the men wanted to dance it soon petered out. There were a few items and then the girls left and the mob settled down to drinking. I went back to camp about half past eleven and left them to it. I believe the party finished about three o’clock and were there some sick men next morning! About half an hour before I left Jim and Viv poked their nose in. They were pretty strung then – managed to get them a couple of drinks before the ‘Shark’ (RSM) saw them and sent them on their way.
I had an invitation to spend this weekend at Southport – one of the big tourist resorts – with Mr & Mrs Tait and normally would have been able to get leave but for a manoeuvre starting tonight. They tell me Southport is a particularly good spot for swimming and fishing so I may get a chance to go down sometime later. Went out to Ray Ross’s place to tea last night and spent quite an enjoyable evening. Like Ivy’s baby the little tank rules the homestead and has plenty of slaves in the persons of Ray, the grandparents and aunts. Peg & Ray both wished to be remembered to Ivy so if she has arrived you might (give) her their message. I haven’t written to Ivy this week as indications pointed to her coming over so will wait a day or two till I know where to write.
Had a card from Daph Wise during the week. Must try and write to her today though it’s a hard thing to start again. Guess I’d better not say too much about Reg.
Well I must say cheerio Mother & Dad. Look like being pretty busy for a couple of hours drawing supplies and various things for the stunt. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and to Ivy and the trump if they’re with you.
Old Steve and Mrs Steve
Stephen Hickman was Dad’s great uncle. He and his wife Rebecca lived in Brushy Creek Road where he had a mixed orchard and was well known for his wines which included paring and elderberry as well as several fruit varieties. According to a family history, he and his son were often seen together transporting loads of apples to the wharf with his horse and cart. It was customary for him to be dressed in a dark suit, stiff white shirt and bowler hat. His cart had a capacity of forty cases of apples which he transported to the Hobart wharf. He died aged 90 in 1954, and Rebecca followed him in 1957 (aged 92).
Overtime racket at the Zinc Works
It’s clear that shift workers at the Risdon plant laboured under conditions which would be completely unacceptable today. In 1940 they had been granted a 40 hour week by the Wages Board (against the wishes of the Company) in part because of these conditions. When the chair man of the Wages Board toured the plant, he saw enough of ‘something far above discomfort’ to award all shift workers a 40 hour week. In the Cell Room the fumes resulted in sore noses and throats. In Cadmium, fumes could cause coughing and nosebleeds and there were cases of men’t teeth turning black and green sores developing on their bodies. In the Superphosphate plant, the main complaint was dust, sometimes so thick a man four metres away could not be seen. This, and the sulphuric acid, led to indigestion, gastric upsets and nose bleeds.(ref. The Zinc Works – Alison Alexander 1992) …..
I can’t find reference to a dispute over Overtime until later in 1944…. no doubt this will be referred to in later letters.
Social evening with the AWAS
An evening at Kairi QLD 15 November 1944…. looks like most of those present on this occasion, came with the idea of dancing!
A manoeuvre starting tonight
The Battalion diary shows that following reveille at 0600 on 29 May the unit marched out at 0800 to the Div Field Firing range, reaching the bivouac area at 1030. They returned to camp 2 days later.