A Wet/ Dry Exercise and a Show for the Top Brass

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

29th Sept 44

(Diagonally:  PS Am enclosing my coupons Mother – don’t think I’ll need them up here – used one to buy a couple of handkerchiefs a couple of months back)

Dear Mother & Dad

Received your welcome letter of the 25th today, together with ticket in Tatts.  Hope it got a prize.  Did you keep the number?  Sorry to hear the gout has been playing up again – thought that now the winter was over you’d have been pretty right.  Anyway hope it’s better now dad.

Guess you got a surprise to see the Hon James – am glad to hear he’s looking so well.  Think you can take his story about coming back with a grain of salt.  He’s got over the main hurdles by getting to Tassie – don’t think he’ll have any trouble to toss them at Campbell Town.  If you see him again tell him what ever he does to lay off the grog while he’s at Campbell Town.  They’re sudden death on anyone they catch under the weather.  Have sent back chaps who were a cinch to get out through them rapping on turns.  Incidentally had a letter from Marie and she says the hospital are claiming John Smith – believe he was already stationed in New South Wales for the duration.   Guess Pat and the Wilsons will be pleased, though I suppose it would suit Pat just as well to go over to Liverpool for a while – anyhow good luck to him.

I guess you’re pretty right about planting out vegetables : if Curtin & Blamey’s speeches are any criterion we’ve got a long way to go yet, even if Germany does collapse this year.  I suppose all food stuffs will be somewhat scarcer for a while though they say rationing has practically been cut out in some places.

Am glad to hear that Daph Wise is better.  She told me she expected to have to have an operation while I was home.  Perhaps it’s the same trouble now.  Give her my kind regards Mother if you see her, and May & Daisy too – can’t think of writing them just at present – busy as hell.

Was pleased to hear my telegram arrived in time for Carline’s birthday.  Even though she wouldn’t understand anything about it, it would be a novelty for her.  I suppose Anne enjoyed the birthday too.  Must try and write to May – am behind to blazes with my mail.

Have been kept very busy here since I last wrote – a four day exercise covering last weekend – a lousy show too, rained all the time.  Went dry from the time we left till we got back.  Then a ceremonial show yesterday as a diversion from field training.  If there had been any lookers on it would have been a good show but to us it wasn’t so good.  The weather took a turn and it was just as hot as it was cold over the weekend, and laired up in the old hessian suit with trimmings and marching to attention with the rifle & bayonet at the slope, she drove the grease out.

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

The Hon James

James Joseph McDonnell (TX 1024) was another Battalion original.  His name appears regularly in Dad’s letters.  As children, we knew him as ‘Uncle Jim’ – he and his wife Molly lived just a few doors away from us.  He remained a ‘steady drinker’ all his life.   ‘The Hon James’ had injured his back (fractured 4th lumbar vertebra) in a fall, early in July  According to Dad’s letter of 24 August ’44 he was ‘able to get about again now but is still in plaster and I believe he will be in plaster for anything up to three months.’  McDonnell’s service record shows he was evacuated to Tasmania by plane on September 13, and to the Lady Clark convalescent hospital on September 28.  

Claremont House housed the Lady Clark Convalescent Hospital from 1941 – 47

Curtin and Blamey’s speeches

From Curtin’s diary ( http://john.curtin.edu.au/diary/primeminister/1944.html  )

19 Sept 44 – Makes statement indicating that a state of war will exist until Japan surrenders, regardless of a German surrender.

25 Sept 44 – Makes national broadcast officially opening Second Victory Loan, with a target of £5 million.

Blamey to troops:

From the Melbourne Argus Sept 20 1944 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/11361922  Headline : C IN C SEES JOB AHEAD FOR TROOPS

The triumph of Allied armies in Europe did not mean that the triumph in other areas was as near as we would hope, General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander Allied Land Forces in SW Pacific and C in C AMF, told troops whom he inspected at Balcombe today……

A Four day exercise

Did it – as Dad claims – ‘rain all the time’?   The Battalion diary indicates the weather for these four days was ‘showery’.  Dad’s reference to being ‘dry’ presumably refers to a lack of alcohol.  Reveille on day 1 (Sept 22) was at 4.30am.  The exercise was conducted by Brigadier Eather and observed on one day by Major General Milford.  This image is from an exercise in the same general area (Danbulla)   AWM 085193

Flame throwers advance through a smoke screen to arrack a bunker area and flame the timber fringe in tests conducted at HQ 7 Division December 1944

When the exercise was over, the march back to camp took 2 hours.  

A Ceremonial Show

The men arrived back from the exercise at 17.00 on the 25th, and on the afternoon of the 26th had to fall in for a parade to practise their drill movements.   After another practice the following morning, it was time for the ‘real thing’ that afternoon (27th).

AWM 080868  :  Kairi Atherton Tableland  28/9/44  Major-General E J Milford GOC 7th Division accompanied by Lieut-Col T R W Cotton inspects personnel of the 2/33rd Bn at Headquarters 25th Infantry Brigade

Video AWM F07127   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F07127  A short video of troops arriving for the ‘show’ then marching in formation, Milford taking the salute and inspecting the troops with Cotton. Brigadier Eather stands behind the saluting platform.

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