A very surprising discharge : He’ll be falling the cows in, in threes

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

20th Sept 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Received your welcome letter of the 18th this morning – can’t complain about that for service can you.  Am glad to hear that you’re both well and that May and the children are also well.  Your shearing trip was certainly an experience Dad and though you showed no profit on the venture was an interesting break – as you say, hotels and fares eat up money very quickly.  Did you have any trouble about priorities for travel?  The position seems to have eased a lot according to reports.

Things have been rather interesting here in a variety of ways but perhaps the most remarkable incident of the week was the CSM’s discharge to industry.  We’d been out at the range for the day, arriving back in camp about ten o’clock at night.  The orderly room corporal without any preliminaries informed Robbie that he was out of the army and the OC Company told me I’d be acting CSM till the new WO arrived.  As you can imagine it knocked Robbie right off his pins – he’d never even applied for release but his people are in a pretty big way in the stud farming business so Manpower must have included him off its own bat.  What a windfall eh – like striking the 12,000 in Tatts.  But he’s a great bloke Robbie – has had a pretty poor hand out from the army.  If he’d have got a break should have been a Captain by now so everyone wishes him well now.  There are very few sergeant majors as well thought of as Robbie – probably the most popular man in the company which is a rare tribute to a very efficient CSM.  Guess it’ll be a bit for him to settle down for a while – will be falling the cows in, in threes, calling the roll and detailing duties – have the girls milking by numbers – and calling a runner when he wants his dog.  Still I guess he’ll soon get used to it again.

Though we’re away from camp a fair bit there’s usually a show of some sort on every night that we are in.  Was in a debate on Tuesday night – quite a humorous show really, the subject being ‘Total prohibition is desirable’.  I was on the negative and we got a win – some of the arguments were good.  Have also seen good picture show and a concert during the last few days.   The picture was ‘Silver Fleet’ concerning the occupation of Holland.  The acting was extra good and the play of words perfect.  The Concert was put on by a Militia show and though nowhere near up to the standard of the last show was quite good.

I hear Jim has made a further move on the homeward stretch – is in a New South Wales hospital now so guess he won’t be long before he’s back in Tassie.  

Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad – give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to Laurie & the boys.



Censor – J Balfour-Ogilvy

The mail service

After the previous letter having been ‘around the ridges’ , two days to get from Hobart to north Queensland was quite extraordinary.

Out at the range for the day

Although not depicting the 2/33rd, these photos show Rifle Range practice and post-practice cleaning of guns in the same Tableland area:

AWM 066640
AWM 066652

The CSM’s discharge to Industry

The CSM was Rodney Robinson (TX 919) who Dad had described in his August 13 letter as ‘a big, lean spare red-headed fellow from Flinders Island’ (https://myfathersletters.me/1944/08/13/two-letters-before-and-after-the-divvy-march-and-a-surprise-from-home/)

Robbie had enlisted at Brighton (Tas) on 15 December 1939 but like Dad sailed on the HMTX1 (Queen Mary) in early May 1940 and like Dad became a ‘battalion original’ when the 2/33rd was formed in Tidworth in late June. His enlistment papers show he was tall (6’4″ ie 193cm)with “fair(reddish)” hair. His mother’s family, the Huitfeldts had lived on Flinders Island since the 1890’s and his father and mother’s farm Wingaroo was referred to locally as ‘the Five Mile’. Rod’s younger brother James (VX80432) enlisted in 1942 at Caulfield (Vic) so their parents must have been feeling very stretched, two years later.

Judy Walker, a volunteer at the Furneaux Museum provided this additional information : Cyril and Emilie Robinson owned Wingaroo where they farmed red poll cattle, Romney Marsh sheep and about 15 dairy cows. Rodney had two older sisters and one younger brother and they would milk the cows by hand before doing their school work. After the war Rodney married Nance Young and moved to Numurkah, Victoria in 1949 where they had a Soldier Settlement dairy farm. He died there in 2003.

There is no mention on Dad’s service record of him having been Acting CSM.

The debate

The article in the Griffin of 29th September reported the debate as follows:  


Continuing with the debates held under the auspices of the AES it was not surprising that there was a splendid attendance when the above topic was debated.  A pleasing feature of the debate was the humorous touches introduced by the speakers which assisted to maintain interest.  The teams were –

“Affirmative” Lt J Goldsmith (leader), W O II K Hopkins, L/Cpl A Brierly

“Negative” Sgt M Hickman (leader), Lt N Moore, Pte Griffiths

The decision awarded to the “Negative” team by the adjudicator Bde Education Officer Lt J Hair met with general approval.  The title selected for the next debate “The Soldier is Better Off Than the Civilian” provides plenty of “ammo” for both teams and perhaps it is just as well there is a time limit on the speakers.

(ref https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1368128  )

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