An exhausting exercise: ‘They’ve drank my bath water!’

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

22nd Nov 1944

Dear Mother & Dad

Am a bit late writing this week as we’ve been out on a nine day exercise – a bloody gruelling show too – only arrived back last night.  The mail service was one of the bright features.  Your welcome letter of the 13th arrived on Friday.  Glad to know things are going along alright at home although weather and nature seem very much against you.  Could have used a bit of that winter weather here – it’s been over a hundred every day last week – anyone selling water could have made a fortune.

Think you ought to give that Campbell Town idea away Dad and Jones’s too for that matter.  I know it’s a break and all that but it’s time you gave bullocking away.  You mention that you might see Ken Jenkins.  I believe he’s doing alright in that  business he’s got but bad luck is sticking to him in other ways.  His daughter Pat has had an illness of some sort and will be confined to bed for twelve months… hard luck that as when I saw them she was doing very well at school and looked very healthy.   It’s tough to battle against sickness like that.

Am not surprised that the Zinc Works dispute should have ended in the way it did.  The men hadn’t any alternative as things went and Foster would certainly have a laugh up his sleeve.  Expect to hear of Jim being back at the Works any time now, though I suppose he’d make Claremont last as long as possible – would be a mug if he didn’t under the circumstances.

Remember that young fellow who came up to see me while we were doing the yard – the smart cut of a bloke.  Well one of the chaps had a letter saying he was killed in an accident – a bad job that he was an extra nice bloke.  His mother and Mary will take it hard and his girl too – she’s a nice kid.

There’s not much news from this end I’m afraid Mother & Dad.  There wasn’t much in the show to make news of.  Perhaps the lightest feature occurred the first day out :  we were halted out a bit while the officers went forward to recky platoon areas in the bivouac area and my lieut – a new bloke – put on a star act.  There was a thunderstorm on and he pegged his shelter out in a well-like manner to collect the water with the idea of having a bath.  When I brought the platoon along and he was giving me the set-up the boys who hadn’t had water all day shoved their mugs in, and by the time we’d got back they’d drunk the lot.  Never saw such a look of disgust and disappointment on a man’s face when he saw there wasn’t any left and his expression “:They’ve drank my bath water” was perfect.  But I think before the exercise had finished he realised that bathing the body was nowhere as important as drinking.

See from the local paper that they’re going to release men for the building trade.  Wonder just what it involves – don’t suppose it’ll apply to AIF combat units – guess the CCC and AWC will supply all they men they need for that.  Is Mick Mason still at the shipyards, or has he moved out?  It’s about time they closed that joint down altogether.  Do you ever see anything of Dick Schultz these days?  Suppose he’s well settled down now.

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

Love

Max

No mention of the White Australia Policy debate

The Battalion Diary shows Sunday 12th as a normal Sunday – viz. Church parade and rest day for troops. So I assume Dad would have written home as usual. That letter would surely have included comment on the debate on the topic “Australia must adhere to the White Australia Policy” – see report below in the following Friday’s ‘Griffin’. Although his team didn’t win, the adjudicator made particular note of Dad’s ‘verbal gems’ in the course of his rebuttal.

The weather

This article in the Brisbane Courier Mail confirms that temperatures were indeed abnormally high, so undertaking battle simulations, fully kitted out, would be a challenge – despite previous experience in New Guinea.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48947187?browse=ndp%3Abrowse%2Ftitle%2FC%2Ftitle%2F12%2F1944%2F11%2F18%2Fpage%2F2008843%2Farticle%2F48947187

The Exercise itself

The ‘General Instructions’ extracted from the Battalion Diary include interesting details re Weapons, Ammunition, Dress and Water… and the image of another unit undertaking a similar exercise n the same month clarifies the ‘dress’ rule.

Image above : Tank Rock, Queensland 27 November 1944 : Members of 2/9 Bn AIF fire a mortar during battle exercises. AWM 083602

A truck accident causes death and injuries

The diary shows that Companies A and B remained in the exercise area until November 21 – which is when Dad says he returned, so he must have been in one of those companies at this time. The diary also records on November 20 that Pte F G Murphy (NX 14642) was reported accidentally killed in a truck accident in which Ptes J L Stokes (NX 29820), A E Whittaker (NX 43621) and A F Mumford (NX 67764) were injured. Presumably the censorship rules were as strict in relation to this accident as they were in relation to the Liberator disaster, so no mention of it could be made in a letter. Speed was presumably a factor in the accident : para 115 of the Routine Orders issued the same day (see below) had a section headed Speed of Army Vehicles.

The Zinc Works dispute

As per previous post (5 November) the dispute went to arbitration, ‘unpopular superintendent’ Forster withdrew his remarks and the men went back to work without penalty after their 3-week strike.  I don’t know why Dad would think Forster would be having ‘a laugh up his sleeve’.

Wooden boats for the war effort

CCC – the Civil Construction Corps – managed by the AWC’s (Allied Works Councils) in each state – see https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/underattack/mobilise/civil . At its peak strength in August 1943, almost 54,000 men were serving in the CCC. 

If Mick Mason was working ‘at the shipyards’ this would have been at Prince of Wales Bay, under the management of the Commonwealth Shipbuilding Board. This was one of two shipyards in Hobart where wooden boats were being built for the war effort. The booklet ‘Tasmania’s War Effort’ published in 1946 declared ‘These ships are almost all Tasmanian in their construction. Every man in the yard from the manager down is a Tasmanian. The hardwood, King Billy, Huon pine and celery pine are all from Tasmanian forests. …The engines were constructed in Melbourne, but propellers and shafts were made at the Launceston Railway Workshops. All the other fittings were constructed in Tasmania except the wireless, anchors and cables, which came from Melbourne. The yard employed more than 600 men at its peak and at the end of the war, 460.

The other Hobart shipbuilding yard – the oldest in the state – was Purdon and Featherstone, at Battery Point, where ships were both built and repaired. Six ships – three ‘ambulance carriers’ and three harbour defence launches. The ambulance carriers were designed to go into rivers and shallow waters to evacuate the wounded and take them as speedily as possible to a hospital ship or base hospital. They were equipped to carry 32 patients and also had an operating theatre on board. The image below shows one of each type of ship. The firm also carried out repairs and service to 80 Liberty ships.

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