1st June 44
Got quite a healthy bunch of letters when we arrived back in camp last night after a three day stunt – four in all. Yours, dad’s, & one each from Marie & Jack – a widely varied and interesting selection. Glad to hear you’ve reached the ancestral domicile safely and that the crossing was good even if the train trip wasn’t the best. I’ll bet the mater & pater were pleased to see you and the little bloke and May and the children too – can well imagine the little bloke and Carline making a hit. They’ll have fun between them. Even though conveniences are somewhat lacking you should be quite comfortable during your stay as I know Mother & Dad will do their utmost to make you so, and as dad’s got plenty of wood in you’ll at least have warmth.
The proposed trip to Wrest Point of which both you and Marie write should be a good day – it’s a pity there isn’t someone to drive the car – then you could get around a bit. Am sure Mae Menzie would like to see you and the little bloke whilst you’re over however it’s not much good of talking in riddles is it.
There’s not much doing here Ivy. They’re gradually pulling the strings in and very soon we’ll be back to the old routine of training though I don’t think we’ll be leaving Australia for some time – though whenever it is, it’ll be too soon.
Must say cheerio now. Give my love to the trump and Mother & dad.
The crossing was good.. train trip wasn’t the best
The crossing from Melbourne to Launceston would have been on the Nairana– the only commercial passenger vessel to operate between Tasmania and the mainland throughout the war years. As such, she crossed the strait 6 nights a week, with military personnel being preferenced over ‘ordinary passengers’. She accommodated 250 passengers in first class and 140 in second. Nairana had served as a seaplane carrier during World War I. The image below is of an earlier vessel the Loongana. She was much the same size as Nairana and served on the Bass Strait run from 1904 – 35, including conveying Victorian firefighters to support the rescue effort at the Mt Lyell mine in 1912. I include the image because as well as the ship, we see the city of Launceston.
The train station in Launceston was at Inveresk, a short walk from where the steamer berthed. The train trip to Hobart took around 5 hours.
Image – Loongana leaving the wharf, Launceston https://ssmaritime.com/SS-Loongana.htm
5/ 6/ 44
Dear Mother & Dad
Just a few lines hoping to find you Ivy and the baby happy and well and enjoying life in spite of the wintery weather that’s prevailing down there. Your letter of the 28th arrived on Saturday but I didn’t get it till Sunday as I was in town on Saturday. Practically all the company were on jobs that day and the boss said we might as well go through for the day so Aggie Lloyd and self caught the leave train and spent the day in Brisbane – a busy joint if ever there was one these days. I’d have gone to the races but Bruce won’t wear races so we went to the pictures, stayed the night at an army hostel and came back on Sunday morning.
Claude Little’s turnout with Dalton must have been quite a highlight in Hobart. There’s no doubt about Dalton he’s just an animal but he seems to be coming into his own a bit these days but still I suppose if he stood again next election wouldn’t have any trouble to put it over the mob. It’s really amazing how big some of these fellows get with a little power and a lot of palm grease – am enclosing a cutting from the Bulletin – you may not have seen it – from another big man.
I guess you’re right about the Zinc Works. The blokes who’re getting it easy these days want to make the most of it because once things straighten up there’ll be no easy cops. They’ll still want thirty shillings in the pound. Jim has just about given up hope of getting out for the time being at least. There’s another chap in the same platoon as him who’s been battling to get out. Some meat works put in a claim for him and Sheehan one of the NSW Labor members was battling for him – got a letter saying that on account of his age (he’s thirty five) and medical classification (A1) and the important future operation of his unit he could not be released. The letter was signed by Fraser, the acting minister for the army so unless the Zinc Works have more pull than the meat industry Jim’ll be soldiering on. There was a bombshell fell in the camp this morning when the canteen sergeant came back with word that there’s a strike at the Brewery. They’ve been getting such a wonderful go ever since they’ve been in this camp that they’ll miss it now especially this week when the Battalion have their big annual celebration on the 8th June. It won’t worry me much. I don’t suppose there’s any in the mess drinks less thank I do – by the time I pay my mess fees, buy tobacco and a few stamps and things I haven’t much left for grog.
We’re still having rather an easy time here but I expect they’ll start and get really serious after the 8th.
Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad – Give my love to May & Ivy & the children and regards to the boys.
PS Jim asked to be remembered to you.
Stayed the night in an army hostel
Although he doesn’t specify which hostel, it might have been the Lady Bowen Hostel which was only completed the previous year.
AWM 015580 19/08/43
Construction workers (troops) posing outside the Lady Bowen Hostel which would provide accommodation and recreation facilities for 200 men.
AWM 059892 4/ 11/ 43
Wet canteen at the Lady Bowen service hostel
Claude Little’s turnout with Dalton
Tom D’Alton was at this time both the Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand and the member for Darwin in the Tasmanian House of Assembly. Prior to the New Zealand appointment he had been the Minister for Forestry, Commerce and Agriculture in Robert Cosgrove’s government. ‘At first his career continued to flourish…. but by mid-1943 questions were being asked in parliament about bribery in the Forestry Department’ (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dalton-thomas-george-tom-9896) The ‘turnout’ referred to in this letter is a legal action taken by Harold Claude Little, the former manager of the Souther Tasmanian Co-operative Society Ltd, alleging that while he was the Minister, D’Alton had ‘wrongfully procured his dismissal as manager’. Little was seeking payment of £2000 for wrongful dismissal, claiming D’Alton had told the directors of the Society that ‘unless they got rid of their manager, he would ____ well kick them out’ (of their premises). https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/68851704 Dad’s comment on the likelihood of D’Alton returning to parliament was prescient – after completing his time in New Zealand, despite a Royal Commission finding he had twice accepted bribes, he once again entered parliament – this time as the member for Gordon, a Legislative Council (upper house) seat based on Queenstown. He was elected in November 1947, and returned in 1952, 1958 and 1964.
I’m intrigued that I never heard about D’Alton’s political career from Dad when I worked at the Special School named in recognition of his work with the Spastic Children’s Treatment Fund and the Miss Tasmania Quest.
Battling to get out
It’s easy to understand why Jim would have been despondent after hearing the story of the soldier who couldn’t be ‘manpowered out’, even with the support of a member of parliament.
Blokes at the Zinc Works – getting it easy?
As indicated in previous posts, work at the Zinc Works was anything but ‘easy’. Many of the men had tried to volunteer but were prevented by the Company – being a protected/ essential industry. Many had served in World War I. Men sent to the works by the Dept of Manpower were often incapable or unwilling to perform the work required. There was a lot of ‘making do’ – eg the backs of forms were used for letters and filter cloths were cut up to make gloves. Employees were represented on the Works Committee, and when asked to assist the war effort by arranging for men to pick fruit in their free time, they agreed. (The Zinc Works )