6th Aug 44
Dear Mother & dad
Have your letter of the 31st – quite interesting too though sorry to hear Jim Butterworth has gone – a good fellow Jim and one of the real identities of the Club. Never heard anyone say a bad word about him. It’s good to hear that you’re getting good weather down there now – you’ve certainly had a tough winter – guess the first winter home will be tough for us as we haven’t really struck any cold weather since we left Syria and only a few weeks then.
Life continues to be reasonably pleasant here although at the moment they’re march happy, training for the divvy march for Tuesday. The formations are very different to anything we’ve done before so of course it’s needed a lot of practice to get things right and a bit of juggling around to have the different weapons in the best positions. A lot of the sergeants are a bit crooked on things because they’ve made us fall in with the mob – only the officers being detached. The sergeants consider it a loss of dignity though it doesn’t mean a thing to me. The Brigadiers and CO’s are particularly anxious that the show should be a success as it’s the first divisional march this war and General Vasey is to be at the Saluting Base. Old George is the most popular General in the AIF. There’s going to be a ton of bands for the show so it should be alright though five miles at the slope in service dress will drive the grease out – the sun’s got a bit of sting in it now and on macadamised roads she’ll be heavy.
I went to the opera on Friday night – a real upstage show. Took Mrs Tait and her daughter. It was quite a good show too. The company are having a great run here – even extending their season. After the show I took them home and stayed the night.
Jim is still in Hospital. Wouldn’t be surprised if the next I hear from him is in your letters . Must say cheerio now. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.
Preparing for the big day (Tuesday 8th August)
Apart from the participants in the march, the City of Brisbane was working hard on logistics in relation to traffic management and crowd control. The Courier Mail advised on Friday 4 August that school children would be given a half day holiday the following Tuesday to enable them to watch the march, and parliament also decided to take a break from 12.30 until 3.00 so MP’s could attend. (see https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48948490/2008251)
On the day
According to The Footsoldiers (p 377) ‘There were ten days of newspaper publicity relating to the 7th Division’s activities in England, Syria, Papua and Lae-Ramu and many references to the ‘Silent Seventh’… The enthusiastic crowds made it a never-to-be-forgotten moment. Never before and an entire division with all its staff and support troops marched in a city in Australia…’
‘Five miles in heavy uniform’ : Readers familiar with Brisbane streets may be interested in the route : Victoria Park – Gilchrist Ave – Countess St – Roma St – King George Sq – Adelaide St – George St – Queen St – Wickham St – Brunswick St – Victoria Park. Saluting Base – City Hall.
This photo shows troops of the 25th Brigade (battalion not identified) relaxing in the assembly area at Victoria Park while waiting for the order to fall in.
Photos of the march :
No. 4 in the photo is WO II Rodney Robinson (TX919) to whom Dad refers in the letter below.
Others identified are :NX34870 Capt. G B Connor(1), NX13643 Lieut J T May (2), VX102132 Lieut R Fredericks (3)
However, more than any photos, this video from the AWM (F07116) provides a wonderful insight into the day – before, during and after the march – including showing the crowds on rooftops and flooding into the streets to join the marchers. It only runs for 4 mins 30 sec.
Sgt Hickman M L
PS Will you get me a ticket in Tatts
Haven’t heard from you this week though had a letter from youngster which somewhat explains why. Dad’s decision to go to New South Wales with Fred Booth must have been very sudden as he’d never hinted at doing so in his letters and youngster’s reference to his passing through Melbourne was very vague. What is it Mother – just a trip or a reunion or what? Last time dad wrote he said he was going to Launceston. Hope he’s not going to be away too long as it will be very tough for you being alone and having so much to do and so little convenience especially for getting stuff out from town. Dad was never one to make sudden decisions like that before – never known him do anything on the spur of the moment before. Fred Booth must have a big influence on him.
We’ve had quite a big week here what with the divvy march and one thing and another. The march was a great success – the biggest there’s been in Australia this war and everything went very well – practically the whole population for miles around turned out to see it and gave the show a wonderful reception. The organisation was extra good too. Don’t think there was a hitch in any part of it – not as far as our show was concerned anyway. The only thing lacking was bands – there was less bands for the ten thousand men in this show than there was for three thousand men in Melbourne. The weather too was with us : it had been threatening for days and even rained the night before but the big fall held off till the day after the march. I suppose some of the movie tone people made films of the march so if you can, try and see it. Think you’ll like it. There were some funny incidents though of course being in it we missed most of the amusing sidelights. The sergeant major of my company came in for a lion’s share of appreciation by the girls and women – he’s a big lean spare red headed fellow from Flinders Island and being socially inclined has made many friends among the girls services – and at the various strong points they cheered frantically and called his name. One middle aged woman ran right out and put her arms round his neck to kiss him. Poor Robby was embarrassed from start to finish, changing colours a dozen times every hundred yards. Just toward the finish of the march I saw Mrs Tait and young Jack came over to tell me his mother had two bottles of beer for me in her bag but unfortunately I couldn’t take them – was as dry as chips too, having marched five miles in heavy uniform and at the slope all the time. Pity considering the trouble she must have had getting them – but people just don’t understand the army.
Must say cheerio now Mother. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline & regards to the boys.
censor – J Kemp.
Brisbane Acclaims the Seventh
This report from the Courier Mail on the day after the march also provides some wonderful photos of the event. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48953572/2008277
Spur of the moment decision
What a surprise! Dad’s father was 62 and had never done anything like this before.
The letter from Ivy clearly didn’t give much detail – just that he was heading for New South Wales – and his mother was presumably just as shocked as he was. Although she had plenty of friends, and daughter May and family living next door, she didn’t drive and obviously relied on my grandfather to do the ‘heavy lifting’ around the home. Some information about the expedition comes to light in later letters – though an explanation as such is never given.