Moving north for jungle training; father’s location unknown (2 letters)

Australian troops embarking for the Atherton Tableland at Cairns Railway station.

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF


Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well and enjoying life.  Hope it’s not quite so lonely now.  Had a letter from dad on Thursday – seemed very disappointed that he hadn’t heard from you – gathered he’s written you twice since he’s been away.  Thought you’d probably written but your letters hadn’t caught up as he’s moving from one station to another.  Had been split up from Fred and was finding the work pretty tough though he’d made friends with other fellows.  Thinks perhaps he might give it a go for another couple of weeks and then come home.

(Page torn off here….  no further text)

What was his father doing?

Although his departure seemed a shock, reference to the possibility of him ‘going to work for another season’ had been made in a letter dated 16th January: It was very surprising to hear that you’re going to work for another season.  The game’s too tough for you now dad and although it’s a change I think you’d be better to keep away from it, especially as the warm weather plays up with you so much. Maybe the fact that this job (going to New South Wales with Fred Booth – see letter of August 13) was in winter contributed to the decision. To go shearing (as I believe was the case – though can no longer find the reference) at the age of 62 seems surprising. He was described as a ‘labourer’ when he enlisted for WWI, and I assumed the labour would have been associated with the orcharding for which the family was best known. (He was described as an orchardist on his marriage certificate). But perhaps he was one of those people who would have a go at anything!

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

31st Aug 44

Dear Mother

Received your welcome letter this morning.  Am very sorry to hear that Grandma is ill and hope she’s soon better again.  Give her my love and best wishes.  Why doesn’t she want a doctor Mother – is it just a fad?  Must be a big strain on you at the present time being there alone – can quite imagine you being too tired to want to do anything but sit by the fire at night.  Hope the pater sticks to his intention to come home – don’t think it would be much good my trying to write him as he wouldn’t be at a station long enough from the time he wrote me till I wrote back.  If he knew in advance where he was going next I would write there.

The news about Bill coming south is particularly good.  Hope it means he’s posted nearer Melbourne – will mean a lot to Ivy to have him home or handy where he can come home occasionally if only for a day now and again.  Anyway guess Youngster will tell us the story in her next letter.

Sounds as though the boys are still happy in the service and get a bit of fun out of playing around.  They’re a great team – it’s a pity they’re getting old.  Must be about nine now.  Suppose they miss Dad a bit.  Bill still likes his slice of toast – remember when I used to take them to work with me.  We’d have our toast together and away we’d go.  Bill chasing stones all the way over. Wonder if they remember those days – rather fancy they would.

Rob’s certainly heading them, Mother – had a look around for a while and now out again.   How long was he in – twelve months or a bit more than that – nearly two years I suppose wouldn’t it be.  My compliments to him when you see him Mother and regards to Hilda and Nell too.  How’s she keeping these days?  Got over her bout of sicknesses?  Has Maurie Aherne been home again since I was there?  He was at Darwin I think so probably got over when Max Philips was home.  You might ask Rob, Mother, if there are any courses on building – not just trade courses but contracting and estimating and that sort of thing that I could do by correspondence as I’d like to spend my spare time during the next twelve months getting up to date so that I can get going as soon as the show’s over and it looks as though another eighteen months should see the finish.

I don’t want you to bother just now Mother but later on when you get time will you have a look and see if there’s one of my photos about.  Don’t get one if there isn’t but Buntie said she’d like one, so if there’s one about you might send it on sometime will you.  Could use a few handkerchiefs too if there’s any in the drawers.

There’s not much news Mother so will say cheerio for now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline.  Hope May’s  Nemitis (??) is better and regards to the boys



PS Carline’s birthday is on the 16th of September isn’t it so will you give her a pound for me – don’t suppose it’s possible to buy anything.

love – Max

Grandma is ill

Dad’s maternal grandmother Frances Jackson (nee Clark) was his only grandparent still alive in 1944. She died the following year at the age of 82.

Good news about Bill coming south

Dad’s sister Ivy was married to Bill Drysdale who was a Lieutenant in the Intelligence section of the RAN. He had been based in Port Moresby, attached to the main naval store HMAS Basilisk, for the previous year, but had secured a transfer to the Navy’s personnel training base HMAS Cerberus on Western Port Bay : very convenient for Ivy who was living in Melbourne with their baby son.

The main naval store of the RAN base store, HMAS Basilisk, Port Moresby 1944.

The boys are still happy in the service

This is a reference to the family dogs – who were clearly considered members of the family. Early family group photos generally include at least one dog.

Correspondence courses re building

Dad was described as a ‘contractor’ on his enlistment papers, and his army mates (and officers) certainly made use of his experience and expertise as a builder (see the page – Max the Builder) . I don’t know who Rob was, but I do know that on his return to civilian life, Dad was employed in the Dept of Post War Reconstruction. The note on this photo (with colleague Roy Barnes who was ‘an assessor’) indicates he was administratively responsible for training in building and allied trades in the southern region of Tasmania. He later worked in a similar though state-wide role in the Repatriation Dept. It was in the course of this work that he met my mother who was at the time a tutor sister at the Launceston General Hospital. Dad went there to arrange training for a young man as a surgical bootmaker.

A photo for Buntie

Buntie Tait was the older sister of Dad’s young friend John McGrow QX 7355 who died in the Liberator disaster ( in September 1943. Buntie and her husband Bob always welcomed John’s friends into their home in Brisbane, fed them ‘wonderfull meals’, accommodated them overnight, took them out for drives, etc…

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