Good luck and bad: keeping tabs on friends, family … and the war.



TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

23rd Oct 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Have had two letters from you during the weekend – the 16th of October and the 9th, the latter having been salvaged from the sea – evidently it was one that plane that crashed in Sydney Harbour – am sending it back so you’ll see it’s had a ducking.  Two others – one from Marie and the other from Jack had a similar fate.

Sorry to hear Carline has been so sick and hope she’s better again now – as you say it’s hard to imagine either of May’s children suffering from lack of vitamins – suppose wartime shortages responsible – will try and get a tin of Ovaltine and send down.  Don’t know whether it’s on the market these days but occasionally they get it in the canteen so will see Jonesy(?) & see if he can get it.

You all seem to have been having a pretty bad time down there with both of you suffering from rheumatism, Carline sick and Lawrie in bed too – can well imagine how things are for May – she’s had it tough right through and I don’t think she’s very strong.  The continuous strain must be telling on her.

The mention of Robbie ringing was the first news we’ve had of him – didn’t know how far south he’d got but apparently he’s got right through – thought he might have been held up a bit, as chaps for discharge are last priority at LTD’s.  Suppose Jim won’t be far behind him – he’ll head ‘em alright – can quite imagine him top noting himself at Claremont – believe it’s a great place – everything you could wish for  – he’ll make it last too – won’t mind being in the army while he can stay there.  Well good luck to him anyway.  His young brother must cop a power of leave to be home again – he was there while we were there.  There’s no doubt about those McDonnells, they take the tricks.  The luck of the Irish I suppose.

That Morgan bloke you spoke of striking Tatts …??. Lambert – Connie’s (?)  eldest son – got a hell of a good job too – should be on easy street now – bad luck my tickets not doing any good – thought when I got a complimentary ticket I was in the money – still we may get a win yet.

John Smith must have fallen on his feet to be in a place where Pat could be with him – I bet she’s making the most of it – heard he’d got the Royal to put in a claim for him though I doubt they’d be able to do much – guess the army would have priority on dental mechanics.

We’re going away for exercises tomorrow.  May be away a week – maybe three – we don’t know yet.  So if you don’t get a letter for a while you’ll know it’s because there’s no facilities for writing though I’ll probably be able to scratch a few lines in pencil if nothing else.  I am having a big burn up at present of old letters and things that are a bit awkward to carry around and doing the washing at the same time.  Though it’s raining fairly heavily, have managed to keep the fire going alright – only got a couple of shirts and a pair of slacks to boil now.

Had a couple of days out on different shows last week – quite interesting too – seeing demonstrations of war gear that have till now been novelties to us – there’s no doubt there’s always a lot of new stuff to learn.

Things are moving fast these days.  The Formosa and Philippines shows have advanced their strategy a hell of a long way – looks as though they’re not going to wait till the European show finishes – must have woken up to the fact that Russia will have too much say if England & America have their hands tied. 

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



(censor – J Balfour-Ogilvy)

The plane that crashed in Sydney Harbour

See previous post    

Ovaltinehopefully available through the canteen 

Image :  advert from Australian Women’s Weekly 29 M ay 1948  

Mercury 10 Oct 44 :  Two Hobart Men ShareTattersalls Prize


Two Hobart residents held the winning ticket in the Tattersalls consultation drawn yesterday.  The win (worth £10,000) was shared by Messrs G.Hargreaves and G. G. Morgan.  Mr Hargreaves, who has a family of nine children, is chairman of wages boards for Tasmania, and also chairman of the Apprenticeship Commission  He was a prominent union official before his appointment to the Dept. of Labour and Industry.  Mr Morgan ls on the staff of the Agricultural-Bank.

Note – £10,000 in 1944 = approx $375,000 in 2022 (

Manpower Regulations

Robbie – ie former CSM Rodney Robinson (TX 919)   had been ‘manpowered out’ to work on the family dairy farm on Flinders Island. ( see ) Clearly a case of having ‘assured employment in an essential industry’ as required by Manpower regulations.

But John Smith, a dental mechanic – despite being asked for (ie guaranteed employment) by the Royal Hobart Hospital – was turned down:  as Dad says, the Army also had to agree to let the person concerned go, and in this case they didn’t 

Jim McDonnell – still enjoying himself at Claremont

See previous post  for a photo of the lady Clark Convalescent hospital at Claremont, to which Jim McDonnell was transferred at the end of September 1944.

A big burn-up of letters and boil-up of clothes

What a shame – though of course understandable – that this was routine procedure.  These letters from home would have been invaluable in understanding some of the references in Dad’s letters.

I wonder whether, after the boil-up, he would have applied the chemical treatment for mites that spread scrub typhus.  According to Stephen Frances ( ), troops feared scrub typhus more than malaria, as there were drugs available for the treatment of malaria.  By late 1943 a chemical called dibutylphthalate was being issued, to be applied to clothing as an anti-mite treatment – ie, against the chiggers which transmit scrub typhus.  There was an alternative chemical which was more toxic to mites, but it was also more resistant to washing, so the AIF continued with dibutylphthalate.  “The introduction of dibutylphthalate as an anti-mite fluid was responsible for a 90% reduction in scrub typhus infections among Australian soldiers.  This is one of the few examples where the use of personal protection measures resulted in a significant recorded reduction in vector borne disease.”

Above – extract from Battalion Diary for October 1944 re typhoid prevention: para 4 details the requirement to rub in by hand the anti-mite chemical provided to all troops on a fortnightly basis.

Below – a US Army poster : In US Army units, clothing was dipped in large drums of chemical then hung out to dry.

Demonstrations of war gear

From The Footsoldiers – During October, tanks of the 4th Armoured Brigade were stationed with the infantry – one troop with each battalion – and for three weeks all platoons trained with them in attack. The new PITA [or PIAT] rocket-gun was issued , one per platoon. This simple but deadly weapon fired a finned two-pound amanol-filled tank-attack projectile. (pp 3– -378)

Progress of the War 

“Russia will have too much say if England & America have their hands tied.”

In the end, it seems it wan’t so much that they had their hands tied, as that Stalin had no intention of keeping the agreements made at the Yalta conference (Feb 1945).    James Byrnes, a member of the American delegation at the conference (and later Secretary of State)m said later… “It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.”  ( )

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