Mystery of the missing page… a strike at the Zinc Works

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

5th Nov 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Received your very interesting letter of the 30th on Friday – glad to know you’re all well and that Carline has recovered and is picking up.  As Ivy says it’s much better to be sick oneself than have a sick child.  Have arranged with the canteen sergeant to get me a couple of tins of Ovaltine and will post them on.  They may help her through though don’t know whether they contain the necessary vitamins.

The show must have been a big affair and what a windfall for the society – collect the Insurance and cop a gate like that.  Don’t suppose they’d have made that profit if they had held a show each year – guess the crowd were keen for a change and went out in spite of the weather.

That show at the Zinc Works is a ….(?)…NEXT PAGE MISSING

so we dug a square out, gravelled it, set bolts in so as to raise the tent poles and have now got plenty of room with four beds on one side, one in each of the other corners, a table and two forms in the centre.  The table is well adorned with women’s photos as four of the blokes are very newly weds while the other one is all but.

The weather back here is much more settled than it’s been where we were lately.  It’s a perfect day today – we’ve done all our washing – there was a power of it too after a fortnight.  Church service is over and we’ve got the rest of the day to ourselves, so when I finish this letter and one to Ivy will do a bit of spine bashing for an hour or two.

Will say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne, Carline and regards to Laurie & the boys.



PS Remember me to Mrs Phillips and my regards to Audrey when you see her

Censor J Balfour-Ogilvy

  Record Gate for Royal Hobart Show, Despite Rain

Although heavy rain fell almost continuously from 11am, gate receipts of £1290 at the 81st Royal Hobart Show yesterday were the highest in the history of the society.  The weather was the worst experienced for several years but it is estimated that the attendance was 18,000 only 2000 short of the record….  In addition to the record gate, the society collected rain insurance of £800.  It had insured against 10 points of rain to 1.30pm and 11 points had been recorded just before noon.  Undeterred by the rain, which produced flooded conditions on the ground, city and country folk thronged the stock pens. (Extract from the Launceston Examiner – Thursday October 26  1944 – p.3 )

In its centre pages spread (pp 10,11) of Show reports, the Hobart Mercury of October 26 supplied further weather details –  …Before the rain began the Showgrounds already was fairly crowded – ring events in full swing, sideshows busy and there was every indication of a successful day.   At 11.30 in the midst of the first heavy storm, both the ring and the ground appeared almost deserted.  The public retreated to every available shelter, and the official opening was deferred.  Later there was a thunderstorm and hail…..Because of the weather ring events had to be drastically curtailed…..

The photos include one of a large number of umbrellas in use, and one of a patron using a horse blanket to stay dry. ( )

What’s been censored??  – ‘That Show at the Zinc Works’?

Considering that it seems Dad was commenting on reports that had already appeared in the press, it’s hard to imagine why anything he said about what was happening at the Zinc Works could have been subject to censorship.  The only reference I can find to censorship of letters home from training camps was Standing Orders of 7 October which noted – 

I can imagine that Dad would have sympathised with the workers’ reaction to the ‘alleged remark’ but might also have taken the opportunity to comment more broadly on politics and some of the individuals involved… but with a whole page of the letter missing, I can only surmise!

Launceston Examiner Monday 30 October 1944 p4 – ‘Production of Zinc Ceases’

on Saturday morning employees in the electrolytic section refused to carry out certain work which was necessary if operations were to continue, and it became necessary to shut down this section, and as a result the leaching section of the plant as well.  Approximately 400 employees were affected…..Seventy employees in the smelters had been on strike since midnight on Wednesday.  The trouble began about a fortnight ago when employees in the smelters took exception to an alleged remark by a foreman about the employment at the works of men, who would be eligible for service in the forces if they were not employed in a protected industry.  They demanded an apology, and it had not been given by Wednesday night, when the men decided to cease work…..

According to Alison Alexander’s history -The Zinc Works (Artemis Publishing 1992), the dispute had been running for several months – since early July.

A quarrel over overtime in Casting ended with the unpopular superintendent, Jack Forster, saying 5% of the men were only there because Risdon was a protected industry.  The union saw this as an insult to the big number of men who wanted to enlist but were not allowed to, and on 7 July asked for Forster to withdraw his remark. On 28 July [General Superintendent] Snow replied that Forster’s personal opinion had nothing to do with the company.  This sequence of events was repeated three times and finally in October the union said the 70 men in Casting would strike if Forster’s comment was not withdrawn.  It was not, and the men went on strike for three weeks.  Finally the Arbitration Court settled the matter; Forster withdrew his remark and expressed his regrets, and the men went back to work without penalty on 9 November.

Casting Zinc 1938 – The Zinc Works – Alison Alexander – p 63

A bit of Spine-Bashing in order 

They had certainly done some hard training around Trinity Beach. Here’s what remains (17 minutes) of a silent film (AWM F07570) that covers some elements of the 10 days.

Contrary to the title “21 Brigade amphibious training in October-November 1944.”, the extended description indicates that the film “deals with the amphibious landing exercises held at Unity Point north of Trinity Beach North Queensland by units of the 7 Australian Division 21 October 1944 and in November 1944.”  Also the Battalion Diary (RCDIG1027246) indicates that on the day of their arrival at Trinity Beach (October 24) they ‘took over the 2/27 Bn area’ (the 2/27 Bn belonged to 21 Brigade) 

So it’s quite possible  that some of those immortalised here were men of the 2/33rd.  The film offers an insight into what the training involved, some delightful casual images of the men enjoying a bit of relaxation time – and even a visiting dog taking an interest in proceedings : I wonder if anyone has considered adding a commentary ?

The culmination of the training was an ‘assault landing’ exercise on 2 November, the date of the photos below (AWM 082476 and AWM 082493) which show members of the 25 Brigade (of which 2/33 Battalion was a part) engaged in different aspects of the exercise. According to the CO (see Diary entry below) the exercise proceeded ‘completely according to plan’ which must have been very satisfying.

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