Bigger the Bastard, Better the Luck

TX 1004 

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

4th Oct 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Hadn’t intended writing till tomorrow really – as it was to be rest day but a change of plans on the part of the hierarchy has upset things badly for me – as I’m on guard duty today and won’t even get a chance to do any washing – however the whole platoon are in the same boat.  We’re going out on a seven or eight days manoeuvres so may not get a chance to write in the meantime.

How’s life in Tassie these days Mother & Dad – hope everything is going alright for you and for May and the family.  How’s the foot dad – quite recovered – should be past the equinoxial time now so the weather should be on the mend.  Have you seen any more of Jim – if you do tell him Viv said ‘Bigger the bastard, better the luck’ – but the boys all wish to be remembered to him and hope he heads them.  You might tell him too that Bull Black and Jim Hocking have been put in for stripes and that Ned Turner is still battling to get out.  Cyril Cleary looks like coming to a rifle company.

Had a letter from Ivy yesterday.  She seems quite happy and well and says the baby is doing fine too.  It will be much better for her now Bill is home.She might be able to get about a bit more.

You know that Insurance policy I have with the National Mutual dad.  Think this is the last year I have to pay into it.  At present the E S & A bank have the policy and are collecting the bonuses…think perhaps as I haven’t an account with them now it would be better to have both policies handed over to the Commonwealth Bank.  Don’t know whether there’s any charge involved in holding them though suppose there would be – if you happen to be in town will you ask the accountant at the Commonwealth Bank what the position is and if it only involves transferring them over, get them to fix it up will you.

A chap I struck at that school came over to see me a few nights back.  Didn’t even know he was in these parts so got a bit of a surprise – took him over to the mess and we had a few drinks.  He’s one of the greatest tellers of tales you’d ever meet and it was quite a pleasant evening then to cap it up Bill Richardson – the new CSM – made a brew of tea and produced a cake his wife had sent him so it was a good night.

Well I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.



PS   Will you send me a result for that Tatts sweep.

Bull Black and Jim Hocking

Both John (“Bull”) Black QX2757 and Jim Hocking QX1300 were – like Dad – ‘battalion originals’ and also original members of the Carrier Platoon. They are mentioned many times in Dad’s letters.’ Their records show that both were corporals when discharged in 1945.

Ever the optimist…  waiting on the results of a sweep.

See previous post ( about finding his watch that had led to the request for a ticket in Tatts (presumably on the basis that he was on a ‘lucky streak’).   

According to this article –   – ‘Tattersalls supplied the Tasmanian government with almost half of its total state revenue in the late 1930’s…’

However, it seems Dad wasn’t a ‘big enough bastard’ to be lucky in this draw.

As full of dope as some race horses


Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

8th Oct 44

Diagonally :  PS Haven’t got the handkerchiefs yet.  Parcels are usually slow.

       PPS Will you send me a result of Tatts when it’s drawn

Dear Mother & Dad

Your welcome letter of the 2nd arrived yesterday and made good reading except for the piece about the garden – a bad show that and very disappointing though I doubt that you’d [get] much satisfaction from the City Council Engineer – they’ve always got the excuse that they haven’t the men though that wouldn’t prevent them collecting taxes.

Glad to know you are both [well] and that dad’s foot is better.  Tassie’s certainly no place for anyone with rheumatic-y complaints.  It will be very hard to settle there when the argument’s over – think perhaps I may go to the mainland somewhere – rather fancy Adelaide – It’s a place that looks like going ahead.

Things in general have been particularly pleasant the last few days – we were to have been on a long exercise but for some reason it was either put back or cancelled.  I don’t know which – must have thought up something different I suppose.  Anyway we’ve had an easy time for a few days and the let up has been very welcome.  It’s hard work these days to get the chaps to take an interest in the work and though very few have been in as long as I have, long periods of training get very boring and you’ve got to keep at them all the time or they soon slip back – takes a lot of tact at times.

We went out yesterday morning on what was supposed to be a route march but turned out to be quite a pleasant stroll through one of the great scenic spots of these parts – skirting the edge of a freshwater river and crossing it a couple of times by jungle type bridges that develop a powerful sway about the centre – I very nearly fell in the drink once, much to the amusement of the mob – anything like that as you know pleases the onlookers, especially when the party concerned happens to be a sergeant.

Had a bit of excitement in the camp last night- livened things up for a while.  Had gone to bed about seven – for some unknown reason the four sergeants turned in early last night.  Anyway was sound asleep when wakened by the orderly officer shining a torch in my face and roaring to get the men out and the fire buckets working as the store was afire.  Thought straight away of the ammo dump and had the blokes out very smartly but it was an old store full of straw and it [was] well underway when we got there.  Buckets were useless but a couple of water trucks arrived and put it out though it was still smouldering this morning.

Well I guess that’s all the news from these parts at present Mother & Dad except that we’re copping another needle tomorrow – seem to be getting them every couple of months – must be as full of dope as some race horses.  Anyway will say cheerio now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.



The exercise that wasn’t

The Unit Diary does show that at 8.30 on October 4, Major Bennett held a conference of all company commanders to discuss the exercise scheduled for Friday. The IO was to recce the route to the exercise area. Then at 20.00 the diary notes ‘Exercise cancelled’.

Jungle type bridges  

The ‘jungle bridge’ may have been three ropes, or something slightly more sophisticated, as in this photo AWM image NEA0023.  Members of the RAAF crossing a “jungle bridge” made from rope and branches of trees, during a training course.

Copping another needle

I don’t know what specific vaccine the 2/33rd were receiving, but this image (AWM 080734) – from September 1944 – shows a member of the 6th Division preparing to head to the Aitape-Wewak area of northern New Guinea. The vaccine was ‘Anti-TAB: Typhoid and Paratyphoids A and B’ 

Would it be the Philippines?

According to The Footsoldiers (p377), it was still widely believed that the next deployment of both the 7th and 9th Divisions would be to the Philippines  With that in mind, the Battalion’s weekly newsletter, The Griffin published this piece on October 12 :

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2 Responses to Bigger the Bastard, Better the Luck

  1. Gary Traynor says:

    What a wonderful contribution to the history of the 2/33rd Battalion. I can only hope that the families of Bull Black and Jim Hocking someday, get to read all of this! No such history exists in my family (for my father’s war service) so I salute you Max HICKMAN for constantly taking the time to write to your family during those terrible days of war. I bet Max had no idea just how important his letters would become as a source of record keeping. THANK YOU SO MUCH Felicity for sharing!!!!!


    • felicityh54 says:

      Thanks Gary. It took me a while to read back over the last few posts, to pick up the threads again, but as you say, Dad was really diligent in his writing. Dick Lewis was really impressed when I connected with him, 8 or so years ago, that Dad found so much to write about. There’s a lovely little piece about letters home that appeared in The Griffin – I’ll share that sometime soon. Best wishes


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