A gruelling exercise and the wrath of the censor


TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

4th Sept 43

Dear Mother & Dad

I’m in a power of strife here.  I’ve got a stack of letters – a bunch of them arrived during a battalion exercise and as there were a lot of grass fires about it was tough going and the perspiration soaked right through my pocket making some pages almost look as though they hadn’t been written on whilst in others the ink has run together – an awful bloody mess.  However I can pick up bits here and there and remember other bits so I guess I’ll make out.

What the hell are all the Yanks doing in Hobart?  Surely they’re not garrisoning Tassie too.  Those blokes are heading them all the time.  They can’t lose.  They’re not a bad crowd of blokes but they certainly get the plums.  I had a letter from Marie Rothwell with quite a lively account of their doings.  I believe the girls are going for them in a big way.  Well as the song says some day they’ll say I wish I had an Aussie!

I must have incurred the censor’s displeasure in a big way because Marie and Mrs Toomey’s letters were chopped as well as my letter home – a bad job that, still it won’t do any good going crook because they’ve got the whip hand and I suppose they know their work.  Anyhow as they say in the army ‘bother the censor’ or words to that effect.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if that rumour about nationalising building is tried out but it will never work.  Imagine the cost of building a house with CCC labour – you’d get a prefabricated dump that’d last about eight or ten years for what a brick place would cost under ordinary conditions.  The best bit if that comes about will be a pub with plenty of ways got government money floating around.  However I suppose it’ll be time enough to think of that when the argument’s over.

I was rather surprised to read that McKenna had been blackballed by the Timber Workers Union.  I thought the firm were retained by all unions.  He must have taken a case against them at some time or other but it’ll be interesting to see how things go.

Among my mail this week were two from new correspondents.  Anne wrote me a very nice letter about the new school and Carline – I must try and write to her tomorrow and the other was from Yank Pearson to Jim and I with an account of his efforts to make soldiers out of the cell roomites(?). He writes an extra good letter.  He said he knew razor blades were scarce so sent us one each and when I took the letter down to Jim and gave him the blade, he said the lousy B – two blades – still he’s going to write to Yank – at least he said he was.

One of the chaps had a newspaper here yesterday with an article by Sir Keith Murdoch.  It read like Warner’s crack at Curtin but reeked of political propaganda.  It was full of half truths and armchair criticisms of the AIF and would have a bad effect on the public mind.  I hope some of the heads put him back in his box and the papers not under his control stick the boots in too.  I’d like to see the bludger out on an exercise like we did this week, let alone in action.  Blokes like him ought to have a go and see what it’s like.

Youngster’s letter this week was much more cheerful.  They’ve had a bit of good weather in Melbourne and it seems to have brightened things up quite a lot and as she’s had the baby to town he must be getting along alright too.

Marie Rothwell said Rex is stepping out big – he was best man at a society wedding and has got himself a car so he must be doing alright.  It’d be the works wouldn’t it, to have a car over there and be able to get his petrol through the air force – the old Wedd is certainly heading them.

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




This week’s exercise: tough going

The Footsoldiers describes the exercise thus:

On 31 August the unit set off on a four day brigade advance-exercise west beyond Moresby.  The exercise covered nearly 65 miles there and back through undulating kunai and swamp.  It was planned to simulate the Lae track from Nadzab, though not all the troops were aware of this.  For the troops it was a hard, testing and gruelling four days.  The exercise tested the supply services, communications, the deployment of both companies and support platoons, and of the battery of artillery we had with us.  It was a fitting and successful culmination of all we had trained for prior to the exercise.  Overall, Brigadier Eather was pleased, as was Lt-Col Cotton.  However, on the return march – some 28 miles, of which 14 was carried out after dark, some 108 men fell out, over half of them within six miles of camp.  The CO stood at the roadside to watch the unit file past to the tents and he was very displeased at the number of drop-outs.  However John Follent the MO assured the CO that 90 percent of them were legitimate hear exhaustion cases.  The weather at the time was the hottest experienced in Moresby for some years.  Like most exercises, when compared to actual operations, this one was particularly gruelling….

These images (of other units)  show the kind of country they were preparing for – i.e. kunai and swamp…

AWM 014181








AWM 057631






AWM 070239







Yanks in Hobart

I have been unable to find any newspaper articles or photos of American servicemen in Hobart at this time.  The closest seems to be this article from the Hobart Mercury, September 8 1943, which reports on the Young Victoria League, which ‘has recently opened a hospitality bureau at its club rooms, and the telephone is constantly in use arranging entertainment in private homes for visiting Allied servicemen’ : http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/25979059

However, in a document produced by Clarence Council regarding the experiences of that municipality’s residents during the war, Margaret Wertheimer spoke of Liberty ships arriving and disgorging hundreds of American servicemen (http://www.ccc.tas.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/FINALClarence_11_WW2.pdf)

Liberty ships were the workhorses of the American war effort.  Over 2,700 were built – quickly, and relatively cheaply.  About 200 were lost to torpedoes, mines, explosions, kamikazes etc.  They could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo in their 5 holds, as well as 550 troops, a crew of 44 and a Naval Armed Guard of 12 – 25.    (ref http://www.usmm.org/libertyships.html)

I wonder whether the absence of photos and articles about their visits to Hobart might be due to all information about their movements being ‘classified’ and thus not able to be reported on.  Japanese submarines had been sinking allied shipping as far south as Victoria, up until June 1943, and in December 1944 a German submarine U-862 sunk the Liberty ship Robert J Walker 100 miles north of Gabo Island, after reporting a position ‘outside the entrance to Hobart’ earlier that month.  (ref Clarence Council document above, and http://clik.dva.gov.au/history-library/part-1-military-history/ch-2-world-war-ii/s-7-australian-station/enemy-action-australian-station-1939-45)


Incurring the Censor’s displeasure

Song of the Censor : We Cut Them Up!! – from Khaki and Green (AWM Christmas Book, 1943)






Routine Orders August 30


The idea of nationalising the building industry

From http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-conflicts-periods/ww2/civil-cc.htm :

One of the most pressing demands on Australia during World War II was for the construction of infrastructure and communications works, such as port facilities, aerodromes, fuel depots, roads and bridges……..The methods and materials used were understandably directed towards speed of construction rather than permanence. Nevertheless, some 138 runways were of permanent value and formed the basis for the development of an airport network throughout Australia.

In February 1942 the Allied Works Council was created to take responsibility for carrying out all works required for war purposes by the Allied forces in Australia…..The major difficulty faced by the Allied Works Council was the supply of labour. In March 1942 the War Cabinet accepted a recommendation from its Director General Edward Theodore for the creation of a Civil Constructional Corps (CCC), which would undertake war-related construction projects within Australia.  The Corps was formed as a civilian rather than military organisation and comprised volunteers and persons called up under military impressments…members’ pay was based on civilian award rates…By June 1943 some 66 000 men had sought enrolment in the Corps of whom 53 500 were selected as medically fit and suitable. Of these, 8 500 had volunteered, 28 000 had already been working on Allied Works Council jobs at the time of enrolment and about 17 000 had been called up for service. Most were over 35 years of age. The major occupational categories were labourers, carpenters and truck drivers.

Members of the Corps were sent to all parts of Australia to work on projects such as docks, aerodromes, roads, gun emplacements, hospitals, fuel storage depots, pipelines and factories.


N E McKenna

Nicholas McKenna was a barrister and solicitor who had been encouraged by the former Tasmanian premier Albert Ogilvie to stand for political office.  He was elected as a Labor senator in August 1943 and served from 1944 – 68. http://biography.senate.gov.au/mckenna-nicholas-edward/


Article by Sir Keith Murdoch

The enmity between Prime Minister Curtin and newspaper proprietor Sir Keith Murdoch is well documented  Sir Keith was outspoken in his opposition to many of Curtin’s policies and actively campaigned against Labor in the 1943 election. For example this article appeared in two of Murdoch’s papers – the Adelaide Advertiser on August 9 and the Brisbane Courier-Mail on August 10th   http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4202351720 .   Murdoch said that Curtin had ‘an isolationist mind which has expressed itself even in pacifism moves under stress of attack to defence-mindeness but cannot reach the full expansion of war-mindedness.  That is a psychological truth…A hundred instances of his limitations could be given.’

Posted in Papua New Guinea, training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meals, movies, mortars and motivational speeches… something’s afoot

















TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion AIF

29th Aug 43

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you both happy and well and enjoying life in the island state.  I hope by now the weather is warming up and you’re able to get about more in the car – if you could get a run once a week it would break the monotony of things.

The Tassie mail must have missed out today – none of the chaps who usually get letters on Sunday got any today but as we don’t know what bastardry the army has cooked up for us during the week must take advantage of the lull on Sunday.

Life continues to be reasonably pleasant in these parts.  We’re still getting three meals a day and undisturbed sleep so I suppose we can’t complain.  We’ve had some good entertainment too – within a couple of miles of camp there’s been two good picture shows – new films that hadn’t been released to the public.  Last night’s program was extra good – “Beg, Borrow or Steal” and “Once Upon a Honeymoon”.  If the theatres got the crowds they get here at the shows they’d make some coin.  It’s nothing to see five or six thousand at a show.  They come from all directions and by every imaginable means.  From a training aspect too we’ve had a little variety which was quite a relief from the regular line of training.  On Saturday morning there was a big turnout – a team of brass hats with a retinue of press men and provosts in attendance came out to look us over and tell us what good fellows we were and all that – not a bad line of sales talk but I suppose they get plenty of practice.

I had a letter from Youngster during the week.  She doesn’t seem at all well or happy.  It seems she went to some put over (?) mob about the baby’s rash and what they told her upset her badly.  I took the letter to the MO – he’s an extra good bloke and pretty clever too I think.  He said the complaint was infantile excema and although unpleasant was not serious so long as the baby wasn’t allowed to scratch himself.  I wrote and told Ivy and hope it will ease her mind somewhat.

I suppose by now the election hysteria has died down and a state of war once again exists.  Labor certainly got a great win.  I’m still keen to hear how Dame Enid fares: the last I heard Reece was four hundred votes in front.  With all the new talent available Labor should be able to pick a much more solid Cabinet than they had.  There’s three or four them ought to go out.  If there is a re-shuffle Dr Gaha and McKenna might get a portfolio – that is of course assuming that McKenna got in in the Senate.  Curtin didn’t waste any time putting in the loan, did he?

Well, Mother & Dad I’m afraid there’s nothing else to write about.  One can’t even write about the weather because it never changes so I must say cheerio for the present.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline (by the way Carline’s birthday is in October isn’t it?) and best regards to Laurie & the boys.




According the the War Diary, training this week involved two-and three-day exercises, whereas the previous week lists only ‘general training in camp area’.  However The Footsoldiers gives details of specific training in preparation for the airlift to the north coast which was being planned for early September:

Although few other than the CO and IO knew of the outline orders for the forthcoming operations, all knew it was to be an air-landing operation and all entered keenly into the busy training cycle instituted at Pom-Pom.  Every day would see platoons then the companies exercising ups nd down the foothills.  Every other day a company would move over to Jackson’s strip where, off the field, half a dozen DC3 fuselages were placed.  In these the troops would practise loading, disembarking and dispersing….Stores were to be distributed to each man so that every man would be carrying in addition to his own ammunition some of the reserve.  It was quite normal for a rifleman to be carrying his own 100 rounds as well as 100 more rounds (two additional bandoliers) and probably two extra grenades.  In the rifle platoons every man was also to carry two HE two-inch mortar bombs.  In addition every truck load of 20 men would have a case of 3-inch mortar bombs, either smoke or HE…. Three times in the weeks preceding the operation there were complete rehearsals of the assembly of the battalion, embussing, move to a marshalling area and then the move to the emplaning dromes. 

These images (all from the series AWM 030140) featuring General Blamey are from a PR photo shoot (obvious from the fact that troops were not laden with ammunition etc as specified above).  Captions say they were taken on September 6 – the day before the eventual airlift.  War Memorial captions still indicate (incorrectly) that General Blamey “is farewelling men from Jackson’s Strip, as they are flown into the forward area.”  I wonder whether in fact they were staged on August 28 when Gen Blamey visited the 25th Brigade, and not on September 6 – when the weather was too poor for the airlift to be undertaken.



















Brass hats

From the War Diary for August 28 – Gen Blamey addressed troops, congratulated brigade on past performances and expressed the greatest confidence in their future operations.

Photo – AWM 015723

Gen Blamey takes the salute at a parade in New Guinea  (not 2/33 Bn)





Dad may not have seen them before, but both films mentioned had been released in previous years – Beg, Borrow or Steal – a 1937 comedy – and Once Upon a Honeymoon- 1942 – Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers





Election results

Although the Chifley Labor Government was returned with an increased majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Dame Enid Lyons did eventually win the seat of Darwin (now Braddon) for the United Australia Party (which later became the Liberal Party) ahead of Labor’s Eric Reece.  The seat was the last in the country to be declared, and Dame Enid made history as the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.  See this article from the Burnie Advertiser September 14 1943 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/68824276

Posted in Australian, escapades, relaxation, fun and games, Hierarchy, Tasmanian | Tagged | Leave a comment

Politics of the federal, RSL and gender varieties



TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion

AIF 22nd Aug

Dear Mother & Dad

I guess as I write your ears are tuned to the wireless as the counting has probably started and lots of people who have previously taken no interest in politics will be interested to see how things go this time.  That Warner chap certainly caused a stir didn’t he – to all intents and purposes he might top Charlie Frost.  But whether he wins the seat or not he’ll do well out of it because he’s a cinch to get a commission when he gets back to his unit and the publicity he’s got out of this show will give him an impetus to the sale of his book.

Your interesting letter of the 16th came in yesterday – that business of Tiny’s was interesting but after all when you look around at the bludgers who have done nothing at all, can you blame him.  When you take blokes like Bluey Brooks getting a rise in pension and the bludge McQuiltan made of it – well Tiny’s been in more than the two of them together and by the same token look at the thousands of so called key men and the useless choc’s.  Frank McDonnell was here to see Jim the other day and he shares the general opinion.  I see in the paper this week that the question of membership of the League is to be discussed at the Federal Congress.  If they accept Militia they’ll only get the base wallopers of the AIF.

I suppose you haven’t seen or heard anything of Ack Hallam.  It must be nearly three months since he left the unit for home but so far nobody’s heard anything of him being home.  Quite a lot of chaps have asked me if I’d heard whether he was home or not.

Sorry to hear that Nell is crook and hope it isn’t too serious.  Give her my best wishes for a speedy recovery will you.  Clare Graydon is apparently doing alright for herself – the orthodox monotony and orderliness of the game would appeal much more to a woman’s mind than a man’s.  They have a natural knack for routine work.

I’m still getting my share of letters.  Among this week’s lot was one from Evelyn Anderson – the girl who bought Anne’s Scotty rig for me.  A bright witty letter and just the thing to pep you up these times.  When I last wrote to her I sent Rex Wedd’s address.  She said she had written him and expected to be in Scotland soon and would try and see him – half his luck.

Youngster still seems to be having a bad trot although in yesterday’s letter she said she’d seen Mr Sturrock and he’d arranged to get her some wood so that should be some help to her.  The baby seems a great comfort to her and I hope the weather will soon take up and she’ll be able to do something about the antrim(?) trouble.  There’s no doubt about it she’s had an uphill fight.

Things in general are fairly pleasant just now.  The CO has arranged for an intra-platoon and inter-company cricket roster and there’s been some good games this week and we’re hoping for more next week as we get the afternoon off to see the games.  My platoon has just finished a game – they got beaten but it was a good game for all that.  A tragedy occurred while we were away at the match: I’d washed and boiled a towel and hung it on the line but it must have been blown off into the fire and was completely destroyed.  There’s not even enough evidence to show the bloke and he’s a hard man to toss at any time.  However I still have a towel and if he doesn’t come across now there’ll be plenty of towels and everything else later on.

The war news seems particularly good lately and I see by the local rag that the Pacific War Council are meeting so there’s sure to be something doing soon.  To use the accepted version – they’re hatching out some bastardry.

Well I must say cheerio now Mother and Dad.  Give my regards to Tom and the family and my love to May, Anne & Carline.  Tell the boys I can sympathise with them on the ration shortage and hope things get better soon.  It’s a pity you didn’t have someone working int he cookhouse at Brighton – they wouldn’t go short then.  All the best.

Love – Max

Jim Mc wishes to be remembered to you.  He didn’t quite like that crack you made but he said he’ll discuss it with you when he comes home.


I guess your ears are tuned to the wireless…

image via Trove- group of friends gathered around a radio in Brisbane   http://bishop.slq.qld.gov.au/

…that Warner chap caused a stir…

Denis Ashton Warner (1917 – 2012) – was a UAP (United Australia Party) candidate for Franklin and a journalist by profession.  In an advertisement in local newspapers on the Wednesday before the election, he challenged figures provided by Prime Minister Curtin in his policy speech regarding the amounts of foodstuffs provided by Australia to Great Britain during the war.  Warner and fellow UAP candidate Charles Tennant said that Curtin had vastly over-stated the country’s support to the ‘mother country’ and that “apparently the Curtin Government mismanages its statistics as badly as it has mishandled the food situation”  (http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/68821199)

See also this obituary http://www.smh.com.au/comment/obituaries/war-writer-shaped-political-opinion-20120727-22ze5.html

The Labor member for Franklin was Charles William Frost (1882 – 1964).  His entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography includes the following :  When Labor came to office in October 1941, Frost was appointed minister for repatriation and minister in charge of war service homes. Although he introduced the Australian soldiers’ repatriation bill (1943) which, when enacted, increased benefits to returned service personnel, his administration was criticized by sections of the press: Smith’s Weekly called him ‘Hoar’ Frost. In 1946 he lost his seat by 73 votes to the Liberal Party’s candidate C. W. J. Falkinder.    http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/frost-charles-william-10254


RSL membership

Image   AWM REL35822

In June 1916, a conference of state-based returned soldiers associations recommended the formation of The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA).  The RSSILA was founded by returning soldiers from the First World War with the aim of continuing to provide the camaraderie, concern, and mateship shown among Australian troops while they were at war.   During the Second World War, the League changed its name to the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airman’s Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA).   Initially only the wording on the badge was changed, with a third figure representing an airman added later.   (https://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2016/06/16/100-years-rsl-history-badges/)

When it was formed in 1916, membership of the RSL was limited to ‘returned fighting men’ who had volunteered for war service.   By early 1943, 8 Militia battalions had gained battle experience in New Guinea – at Milne Bay, the Kokoda Track and Gona/ Sanananda.  The question of whether membership rules should be changed was debated by RSL branches around the country, in preparation for a meeting of the League’s Federal congress.  The West Australian newspaper reported (http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/46770777)  on a resolution was passed by the WA state congress after a ‘long and turbulent debate’:  Any person, volunteer or not, attested or accepted for active service, who has served in a theatre of war at any time and been employed and paid by any naval, military or air force of any part of the King’s Dominions, shall be accepted as a full member of this league.  This clause to be interpreted in its widest sense.

the “useless choc’s”

It was not possible to join the AIF until you were 20 years old but you could be conscripted at age 18. This led to much of the bitterness about the term “Chocko” for blokes that were labelled as ‘not willing to fight in the AIF’ but who could not legally join the AIF yet were in uniform, fighting, dying and getting wounded side by side with AIF blokes.  http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-conflicts-periods/ww2/pages-2aif-cmf/militia.htm


Ack Hallam’s whereabouts 

Ack (Alfred Ernest Hallam, TX1003) was a battalion original who enlisted with Dad (TX1004).  His Service record indicates that soon after being promoted to A/WO II on 6 May 1943 he was classified by the Medical Board as “medically fit to carry out certain duties which require only restricted medical fitness”.  For the following 5 months he appears to have moved between reception and staging camps, until October 14 when the annotation is – ‘taken on strength from 13APSC’ (Aust Pers Stag Camp).


Orthodox monotony…women’s work

I doubt that this is the kind of work Dad was referring to, but can’t be sure…  These images are taken from Hobart at War 1939 to 1945 (C J Dennison 2008) and depict women working on heavy machinery.  According to the captions, the women were ‘highly efficient at their jobs, which demanded proficient skill levels and precision’.












Cricket and other forms of Recreation

The Battalion War Diary notes on August 21 – 1330 First match of inter-platoon cricket comp played..

The Footsoldiers (p264) describes several other recreational activities : ….On some days the unit marched off down to a small beach near Bootless Inlet and just lazed int he sun.  In Moresby itself other forms of entertainment were provided.  Moresby boasted an officers’ club and a big soldiers’ club where from time to time concert parties performed..  A professional boxing stadium had also been built there and on nights off duty troops would hitchhike into Moresby to watch, b3t on or encourage the contenders, both Australian and American, in three round bouts.  Some of the unit repaired two native Lakatois (outrigged sail-type canoes) and either paddled or sailed them in and about Bootless Inlet…..


Problems with fires

I assume the fire in this case was lit for the purpose of boiling the water for washing… But the CO’s routine orders of 18 August (GRO 586/43)  indicate that there were many others being lit or started by accident –

Posted in Australian, escapades, relaxation, fun and games, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Two letters – but only one intact










TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

8th Aug 43

Dear Mother & Dad

Another Sunday has come round and of course that means that except for church parade the day is practically ours – that is what’s left of it when we finish washing and sewing and things certainly get dirty in these parts.  I don’t mind the washing but am still a poor hand with the needle.

Your very interesting letter of the 1st arrived today.  I was glad to know that letter about the do with the provosts made the grade.  I thought perhaps the base censors might have gone to work on it.  The officer who censored it said there was nothing in it that he couldn’t pass but expressed doubts as to how the base officials would treat it.  The little run to Bridgewater sounded alright.  I could go a jug myself now but the drought’s on properly – we haven’t had a drink for three weeks now and of course won’t have any for some time.  I’m glad to know the weather has taken up although the local paper yesterday mentioned there’s been a snow storm in Hobart.  However I hope it’s fine down there today and you’re able to make the trip to Melton.  A bit of good weather and Sunday trips could certainly help to break the monotony for you and Mother.  It sounds like good drill for each weekend to go somewhere different for the day but I suppose the petrol racket wouldn’t allow that.

Jim was pleased to know you’d seen his father and told him about his little lapse, and thought the old chap might have told you something just as interesting but as you didn’t mention it the story may not have got to him either yet.  Jim’s looking forward to hearing from Yank – Yank writes an extra good letter.  I remember Jim getting a letter from him before we sailed in ’40.

The mail situation is quite good.  I had three letters during the week – one from Ivy, one from that chap we met in Melbourne Alex Sturrock and one from Kath Hyndes together with a bundle of papers from Daph Wise.  Youngster still seems to be having a bad time but hopes the warm weather will help both her and the baby.  Mr Sturrock said he would try and get her some wood and I think he’s a pretty genuine chap so that may be some help to her.

I got quite a surprise the other night.  I was reading a paper when I heard old Pluto (Peter McCowan) laugh.  Pluto is in a different platoon to me now and I don’t see much of him.  He announced his presence in the tent with the remark that Rossy had headed them again and gone to a school near his home.  Ray’s luck had been so good that it’s almost proverbial but it seemed impossible to believe he’d headed this time.  I made some remark on his luck and looked around to see him standing behind me with a grin from ear to ear.  The last time I saw him was when he flashed past me in a struggle buggy during a stunt and I had no idea that his outfit were anywhere near us now.  We had a long yarn together and of course there were several references to the offspring whose name incidentally is Grant Stuart which the mob believe to be inspired by two well known American tanks.  Peter said it’s a pity you hadn’t got that school as you might have done something about a mate for the little bloke – a girl this time – with a further suggestion that he call her Valentine Matilda after two English tanks.  Ray rapped on a bit of a turn – he was acting CSM in his show for a while and now swears like a champion.  The next day after parade I returned the courtesy call and struck a bunch of the old mob – Aggie Lloyd, Joe Woodlock, the two Smiths and Punchy(?) Connors – a great crowd of fellows.  They all looked extra well and we swapped yarns for a couple of hours and then went to a concert put on by the Seventh Divvy concert party – not a bad show although they don’t seem as interesting as they used to.  The novelty of female impersonation has worn off and we see just as funny things happen every day as they put over this time.

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

Love – Max

PS I got those press studs alright. Thanks but the purpose for which I wanted them doesn’t matter now.




Heavily Censored!!:  a small part of page 2 exists and the lower part of page 3 – the whole of page 5 is missing.








TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

Aust  (this word appears to be written by a different hand in black rather than blue ink)

14/ 8/ 43

Dear Mother & Dad

Having got through a rather big ceremonial parade (half a dozen hard hats paid us a courtesy call and told us what good fellows we were and how we’d made history – quite a good line of sales talk really, and well put together ) – we have a bit of time to ourselves, ostensibly as a make and mend but as the water truck hasn’t been around we can’t do any washing so will make the best of the time and write a few letters.  I’ve had quite a few this week.  Your own letter was particularly interesting.  The Valley is well in the news.  There’s no doubt the milk people are catching the dough.  Dick Baker is well in the money.  I suppose even the new figures wouldn’t represent the actual income.  I don’t suppose the relationship of house lord [landlord] and tenant have ever been as complicated as they must be now.  It’s tough when a police magistrate has to tell you to divide your home with strangers.  By the way do you ever hear of Arty?  I think you said in one of your letters that he was back from Timor.  Has he gone away again or is he still at home?  [remainder of page 2 cut off by censor]

…….Youngster’s letter this week was much lighter although she still seems to be having a lot of strife with A…. trouble and the baby.  She sent me a cutting about Sturrock’s son – he’d had a bit of a smash in a plane somewhere up here and had quite a narrow escape.  The one bright spot in youngster’s position is the good neighbours she has – from all accounts they help her a lot.

There were three other letters in yesterday’s delivery that made good reading – one from Rex Wedd’s sister (Marie Rothwell), a very bright breezy letter.  There’s no doubt about the Wedds they can always raise a laugh.  She said she had just heard from Rex who has now completely recovered from his injury and mentioned that he’s had a letter from some of my friends in Glasgow but I mentioned several addresses in my letter to him – don’t know which of them, though I expect it was the Lairds.

Mick Mason and Billie Fitzpatrick(…’s niece) both wrote and told me all about the weather and things.  Mick’s still getting his corner (?) with the horses but to all intents and purposes will need it.

We’ve had some extra good entertainment here lately – the two best concerts I’ve ever seen and a good picture show.  Both concert parties had good bands and their other artists were all good.  The female impersonator in the first show was perfect and had the blokes in properly and a drummer chap in the second show was entertainment on his own….. [remainder of letter is missing]


Visit from the hard hats

From The Footsoldiers: From 13 August to 28 August all grades of senior officers visited either the unit or addressed the brigade on parade.  Lieutenant-General, GOC New Guinea Force, together with his DAQMG- and our firstCO – Brigadier R Bierworth, accompanied by Major-General Vasey, and our brigade commander, addressed the brigade.  No doubt had not these senior officers made such visits they would be criticised, but it is very hard to impress Australian troops, who in fact take these ‘pep’ or ‘sympathy’ talks as so much waste of time.  To the CO or the brigade or divisional commander they would listen with keen interest.  People beyond these appointments were considered outsiders and although unjustly, felt that those at HQ’s outside brigade or division were responsible for all their difficulties and discomforts. (pp263-264)


Dick Baker is well in the news

Dick Baker’s family had been milk vendors in Lenah Valley for several generations.  Dad would have known him to talk to – they were much the same age.   Dick certainly became a very successful businessman  – by 1960 Bakers Milk had a virtual monopoly over Tasmanian milk sales (ref – http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/B/Dick%20Baker.htm)


Dividing your home with strangers

This comment might have arisen as a result of his parents commenting on the case referred to in this article from the Hobart Mercury on August 6:  http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/25978862  The writer begins by saying   A shocking state of affairs in regard to shortage of houses was indicated by a Court case this week in which a tenant was told to “squeeze up” and allow the owner to move in…. and ends with: The instance quoted serves to emphasise the need for permission to be granted for the building of moderately priced homes, as part of the organised war effort, especially s the position has been aggravated to some extent by the number of men returned from active service who are seeking homes. 


Sturrock’s son

Father (‘in the timber business’) and son were both named Alex.  Dad mentions in the previous letter that Mr Sturrock had said he thought he could help Ivy to obtain some firewood.  The son was Captain Alexander (‘Jock’) Sturrock VX108128.   An article in the Telegraph (Brisbane) on August 4 1943 reported:  A well-known Victorian yachtsman Captain A (Jock) Sturrock narrowly escaped death in an aircraft crash in New Guinea on July 30.  He was a passenger in a small low powered plane…which crashed into a mountainside….After three and a half hours walking they (the pilot and passenger) reached a camp and finally returned to their headquarters….(https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-10450-59121757/the-telegraph-brisbane-qld)

Jock Sturrock later represented Australia in four Olympic games – 1948 London (Star class), 1952 Helsinki (Dragon class), 1956 Melbourne (Bronze Medal 5.5metre class), and 1960 Rome (5.5 Metre class). He was the Australian flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the Rome Olympic Games.   He achieved international public recognition when he skippered Australia’s first challenge for the America’s Cup in Gretel in 1962.  (https://topics.revolvy.com/topic/Jock+Sturrock)    Sturrock was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1975 for his services to yachting.


I assumed this was Arthur Smith TX90  (Who was always known to us, growing up, as ‘Arty von Smith’) – but there’s nothing on his record about being in Timor – on the contrary, he was in New Guinea for much of the time Dad was there, though in a different unit.


Concert parties

There must have been quite a few concert parties – the one mentioned on August 8 wasn’t well received, but in the subsequent week there were two good ones and a good picture show!

026040AWM 026040 – The caption does not identify these men, describing them as ‘Three very snappy chorus girls – Australian Army issue” but it does identify them as performers in a Port Moresby concert party


026043AWM 026043 – Grand finale of a concert in Port Moresby (including female impersonators and a band)




20170222_152909Image – Entertaining the Troops – from Khaki and Green – AWM Christmas Book 1943 p133













Posted in escapades, relaxation, fun and games, Hierarchy, Letters to/ from others | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News from around the world thanks to Guinea Gold










TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

1st Aug 43

Dear Mother & Dad

I received your welcome letter of the 25th this morning along with one from May and another from youngster – a much more cheerful letter than those I’ve had from her recently.  Your own letter and May’s gave quite a variety of interesting news.  The weather in Hobart had become news even in these parts.  The local paper giving prominence to the fact that it is the coldest winter for twenty years.  The weather up here is starting to warm up in fact some days are really hot.

I’m glad that telegram arrived for Mother’s birthday.  As you’ll have gathered from my letters we were on big manoeuvres at the time and I didn’t expect to be able to send a wire till late in the week, but a lady at a store said she’d send it for me so it worked out right.

Your gardening schemes sound quite interesting.  May mentioned in her letter that the Mercury have started a gardening competition and judging from the reported prices of vegetables it’s little short of imperative to grow your own.  A chap had a cutting from a newspaper quoting cauliflowers at 4/-.  I guess the city people need the big dough they’re handling to keep up with that.  We’re living rather well for army standards – quite a bit of fresh meat and vegetables.  There was quite a humorous little incident at the mess parade the other day.  Bob Cole (the CSM) and Ernie Francis – the CQ – were watching the seemingly endless queue lined up for their meal and must have been amused at something because they both laughed.  The cook walked over looking very officious and said – “Sar-Major don’t laugh at the customers – we’re trying to keep them”.  That wouldn’t sound funny to anyone who didn’t know the army but it was to us.

The election seems to be assuming big proportions now.  They’re issuing us with impartial extracts of the policy speeches but the mob are not very interested.  In fact I doubt that they’ll even bother about giving us a vote.

We had a very interesting day’s outing one day last week.  It was quite a change from routine stuff.  We went by trucks through country and over roads that seemed quite pleasant as passengers but at other times they’ve been anything but pleasant.  The job was very interesting too, combining features reminiscent of Trafalgar days with very modern stuff.

One of our blokes was a reporter in civvy times and a couple of his mates – war correspondents – blew in to see him the other day.  We had quite an interesting talk with them.  They’d been around a lot and were able o tell some good tales and tell them well.  That’s the racket I’d like to be in.  It would suit me right down to the ground, however we can’t pick our jobs these days.

The news from Italy sounds particularly good and should give a great impetus to the Allies in Europe – a solid landing with the accompanying efforts of the various underground movements looks the drill.  The weak spot in finishing the European show first will be the wrangling among the Allies at the peace conference where so many interests are sure to clash and take time to sort out.  Had we been able to do the Japs simultaneously the accomplished fact would have been a big factor in the settlement but I think Russia will probably get the lions share of the European spoils leaving England and America particularly America to deal with the Pacific show.  However I suppose the heads have considered all these possibilities and know all the answers now.

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



The local paper

I assume this is a reference to Guinea Gold

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-6-51-07-pm http://www.ozatwar.com/raaf/whisperer/september2003.pdf

017121 AWM 017121

The Guinea Gold newspaper is published for Australian and American troops. Two editions are published, the Australian edition carrying Australian home news, the American edition carrying one page of American home news. A four page sheet, each edition carries three pages of general news interest. This material is mainly rewritten from newspapers. At left is Staff Sergeant John Eyre of Canberra, ACT, taking papers from the press. Stacking papers is native boy Seri Eno. In the background oiling machine is Corporal M. Nicholas of Sydney, NSW. The serviceman oiling the machine has also been identified as Private J W Dormer and Corporal Nicholas is feeding the paper into the press


Imperative to grow your own

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-12-58-59-pmimage from Yates seed booklet- What and when to sow: a real war job  

Copyright: Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection, Historic Houses Trust



The mess queue

073524Although from some time later, this is a mess queue in the Port Moresby area.   AWM 073524





The election

The government did its best to ensure that all those on active service were able to vote.  Details of procedures to be followed were set out in the Commonwealth Electoral (War time) Act no.27 of 1943: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/num_act/cea1943271943342/ and distributed to all units – (these items from the unit war diary July – Sept 1943 AWM RCDIG1027241)






















Also from the unit War Diary – a return of votes for each state/ electorate :









AWM 015684

New Guinea.  Troops voting in Federal elections within half a mile of Japanese front lines….The unit’s electoral officer is Lt Larry Drake of Darling.



og0031AWM OG0031

Milne Bay, Papua.  RAAF airmen arrive in the back of a utility truck at the outdoor ‘polling booth’ to cast their votes int he Australian Federal election.


015670AWM 015670  Goodview Junction, New Guinea. c. 1943-09. Australian troops within half a mile of the Japanese front line, being watched by American colleagues, as they prepare to vote in a Federal election. Consulting an election supplement of the Army newspaper Guinea Gold is Private Alec Salter of Cohuna, Victoria, with Second Lieutenant Ray Nelson of Lacrosse, Wisconsin, seated holding the paper.


An interesting day’s outing

I wonder whether ‘one day last week’ was prior to that – i.e. while still in Queensland – as according to the Battalion diary (RCDIG 1027241 ) the only activities from July 26 – 31 were –  Unloading and sorting of stores and equipment and general reorganisation.  Training only light, consisting of short route marches and general recapitulation.   However, the reference to ‘roads that seemed quite pleasant as passengers but at other times they’ve been anything but pleasant’ suggests it might have been into the foothills of the Owen Stanleys or even towards Milne Bay.


The news from Italy

The Melbourne Argus reported on Friday July 30 1943  that General Eisenhower on behalf of the Allies had issued an offer of peace with Italy, if the government would agree to cease all support for the Germans and to an exchange of all prisoners of war.  (http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/11799000/623504)   The Italian Governments signed an armistice on September 3 but this was kept secret until a week later   (http://history.howstuffworks.com/world-war-ii/allies-bomb-northern-nazi-germany8.htm).   The Italian dictator Mussolini had by this time been arrested and imprisoned in a hotel in the Abruzzi mountains but he was freed by German troops within days of the signing and set up a puppet government based in Salo.

Posted in Australian, Food and Drink, The course of the war, training | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Pretending to be somewhere else… practically no news









TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

30th July 43


Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well.  The mail came along so quickly last week that it seems quite a while since I head from you.  I had a letter from Ivy on Tuesday and things seem to be going very badly with her and the baby.  It’s certainly a tough proposition for her with Bill away.  The one bright feature of her letter was Fergie’s going.  That should be a weight off her mind.  Wood seems to be a big problem for her.  I wrote to Mr Sturrock yesterday and asked him if he could get her some wood.  He’s in the timber game and might be able to send her some face cut stuff without incurring the displeasure of the rationing people – except for doing a bit of washing wood’s the least of our worries.  In fact it’s pretty warm – even at night we sleep on a blanket with nothing over us at all.

The chap who took Tiny Schultz’s job in the RAP was round here yesterday.  He’d just had a letter from Tiny saying he’d had another bout of Malaria and done his WO’s job at Campbell Town – went to Evandale to a spread and the Malaria came on and he had to stay, so they caught up with him for being AWL.  He reckons he’s very sick of being down there and would like to get back to his unit but that’s a bit hard to swallow.  I think Dick’s had too much to want to go back.  This last attack might do the job and get him right out but it takes some working these days.

The first CO of the unit Hamburger Bill was round to see us on Wednesday – not us, but the CO.  It’s the first time we’ve seen him since he left us over two years ago and to the majority he’s only a name although his passing through the lines occasioned a torrent of reminiscences among the old hands.  Charlie Mene was quite bucked when he came over and spoke to him – Charlie was always Hamburger’s curly headed boy – the pride of the Regiment.

We went to a big open air picture show last night – an extra good show too – Desert Victory  and Seven Sweethearts.  The desert show was particularly good and the commentary perfect.  There was a  short glimpse of the glamorous ninth doing their stuff in the early stages of the film.  I suppose I’d better not tell you about it as you’ll probably get a chance to see it yourselves.

There’s practically no news from this end.  Nothing ever happens (much) and the old routine of camp life and training doesn’t vary much.  The mob are just as mad as ever if not more so.   When I asked an officer to tell me something to write about he said ‘if you can’t think of anything to write I’m bloody sure I can’t tell you” – he said you used to be able to write ten pages without any trouble and though I don’t remember doing so, must be slipping back these days as two pages are about my limit now – maybe the passing show has lost its interest but whatever the cause I can’t do the job now.

The honourable James is quite well and wishes to be remembered to you.  One of his tent mates got a letter from a WAAF and Jim, Kong and Viv went to work on drafting a reply.  The result you can well imagine was the greatest dissertation of Bull ever you saw in your life.

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

Love Max

Townsville to Port Moresby

Dad’s group left Townsville on the Katoomba July 23 and disembarked at Port Moresby on July 26.

Images of the Katoomba:   AWM 074923 and AWM 087872















qld-to-png-july-43  AWM 054678 Cairns, July 26 1943.  Troops of the 2/8th Australian Field Ambulance, 20th Australian Infantry Brigade, settle down aboard ship en route for the battle area.    (Another vessel – but presumably conditions were similar on board the Katoomba.)


Where were they, exactly?

The Footsoldiers (p258) describes the unit’s campsite : …it was a scattered and tented camp astride the Rigo Road.  But as this was active service preparation, no stretchers were built nor in fact were any settling-in procedures allowed.  The cookhouses were simply tent-fly’s and for meals companies simply lined up and after issue sat down and ate their meals wherever they could.  The Pom-Pom area was a dreadfully uninteresting piece of landscape.  It lay in a narrow valley bounded by low, steep, grass-covered hills that ran astride the narrow dirt road all the way down to Bootless Inlet….About the camp area heat and wear had cleared the dress down to bare ugly earth.  For the next month and more this not uninteresting area was our hard training ground.

061504image – AWM 061504

The parade ground at the Pom-Pom camp





Censorship and Security

I was initially surprised that the address on this letter did not include NG (New Guinea) as it had during the unit’s previous deployment.  However orders dated 29 July (ref Bn diary – RCDIG1027241) included the following :

Comd’s will ensure that the following info is promulgated to all ranks:

ADDRESS:  The ‘AUSTRALIA’ address will still be used as the address of this unit.  All info contained in letters will be given from the point of view of the unit still being in its last permanent camp.  No info as regards movement or change of location will be included until after the expiration of one month from the time of arrival in NG or until after the unit has moved into action.


Wood’s the least of our worries.


AWM 060776 : Pom Pom Valley New Guinea.  Private D Robinson of the 18th Australian Infantry Brigade hauling a load of food and drums on a home made cart.



Regarding the situation Ivy was experiencing – the AWM resource booklet available here https://www.awm.gov.au/sites/default/files/education/box/05_res_book.pdf  –   confirms that Melbourne and Sydney suffered a shortage of firewood, a serious problem for the many homes which relied on burning wood to heat, cook and wash.


Picture Shows

From The Footsoldiers (p259) – …Thousands upon thousands of Americans were seen about Moresby.  Indeed, many of the American units were along this same road.  One in particular, 8 Service Group US Air Force, was a regular nightly stopping place for 25th Brigade as it boasted a large cinema screen with a changed nightly programme…..

movie night port moresbyImage – Moresby picture Night- from AWM book – Khaki and Green (1943)







ss11– poster for the movie Seven Sweethearts (1942)

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A mighty humorous show…. awaiting deployment






Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn


22nd July 43

Dear Mother & Dad

I’ve had two very interesting letters from you this week.  One yesterday and one this morning.  The one I got this morning was written on the 19th, so that’s extra good service isn’t it?  The election sounds like offering some good contests in Tasmania.  You can’t take much notice of what they put over in elections – the catch-cries are always designed to meet the public mind of the moment.  The Denison and Bass contests sound like being good fights.  It’s surprising the following Gerry Mahoney’s got but I don’t give him a chance against Frank Gaha – I think he’s a ten to one bet – the endorsed man with a big business vote thrown in.  Who holds Bass now? – I’m right out of touch these days.  I think Mrs Lyons will probably win that seat.  That Warner chap – is he a son of the Warner who contested Franklin a few back?  Win or lose it’s a great break for him, three months out of the army with all the facilities of peacetime travel.  I had no idea that chaps in the services could nominate until I saw Bruce Hamilton was standing and I doubt that I could have nominated as Labor select their nominees six to twelve months before the election.

It was good to note from your second letter that the weather is on the mend.  The winter must have been very tough down there.  From a weather point of view it’s the best winter I’ve ever spent, although it gets pretty cold at night especially at times like the present when we only carry one blanket – but it’s pleasantly warm by day.

Youngster seems to be having a particularly tough time.  I haven’t heard from her for some time now and hope she’s still well.  I think the sooner one of you can go over the better.  It looks to me as though Fergie won’t leave till you actually get there.  If Bill is living on the army rations we had when in those parts he’ll find it’s mighty different to home food or even ship’s food.  Still he’ll soon get used to it.

We’ve been on manoeuvres the last few days.  The show was based on a town and will be long remembered in bar-room memories for incidents apart from the orthodox training.  In keeping with the traditions of the unit, the town was put out of bounds and of course everyone had to go in and find out why, as no official reason had been given.  As a result of the unrehearsed invasion quite a number of the chaps spent the night as the guests of the Provosts.  The Hon James saw the inside of yet another cell – Syd and I went in but must have been lucky as we never encountered any strife at all.  However when the work of the next day had finished the boys decided to give it another flutter and went in teams.   They’re not a hard mob to handle normally but if they think anything’s being put over them the sky’s the limit.  About nine o’clock that night an officer with a reputation for handling tough shows broke up our game of bridge and roped us in for a picquet job just in case something started.  When we arrived at the police station the situation was quiet and we were told off to picquet certain areas.  It so happened that two picquet parties converged on one spot at the same time just as the provosts were herding some of our chaps (whose only offence was being there) into their trucks.  The chaps started to argue and the provost sergeant had a bit of a lick at us as picquets and the chap he was putting in the pen smacked him.  It wagon then in a big way.  There were about twenty provosts and in about a quarter of an hour they were all locked in their own trucks and sent back to the police station to the amusement of the townspeople and divvy coppers.  It was a mighty humorous show right through though some of the MP’s did get a bit knocked about.  During a lull in the show a provost threw a tear gas bomb that spread more among the civvies than us and they beat a retreat with tears streaming down their faces.  However the mob came home well pleased with themselves and the battle of ………. will be told and magnified many times when bloodless victories are recounted in the pubs.  The old man hasn’t said anything yet about the show but he’ll have to take a dim view of it officially although like Old Hamburger it’ll probably warm the cockles of his heart.

I’m sorry to hear that Mrs Mason is sick again and hope it’s nothing serious.  Mick certainly has his share of bad luck as far as sickness is concerned.  If you happen to see them, remember me to them will you?

I must close now Mother and Dad, as I want to catch today’s outward mail.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.



PS Jim Mc send his best wishes with a rider – ‘How’s he doing?’

The federal election

It seems Dad’s father might have suggested in correspondence, that Dad should have sought nomination for the Labor Party – and that he might have done so, if he had been aware of the opportunity earlier.

Other posts have noted some of the players mentioned here – in particular Gerald Mahoney and Frank Gaha.  Mrs Lyons is Dame Enid Lyons, the widow of former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons who died in office in 1939.  In the 1943 election (ie the one referred to in this letter) Mrs Lyons won the seat of Darwin (which has since become Braddon) for the United Australia Party, becoming the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.  She held the seat until 1951.

On manoeuvres… and/ or in a staging camp?

071233AWM 071223 : Oonoonba staging camp

The Battalion Diary indicates that the remainder of the battalion (apart from those who had already sailed for New Guinea) were at Oonoonba Staging Camp from July 20 – 22.  Oonoonba is now a suburb of Townsville, but at that time was considered to be ‘isolated from the city’ (Wikipedia).  The ‘town’ mentioned in this letter seems to be of a bigger size, so possibly Townsville itself (6km from Oonoonba)


The Hon James saw the inside of another cell

undated-photo-233Jim McDonnell (TX1024) was always ‘getting into strife’!  He’s seen here in an undated photo, seated front left (next to Dad)




Twenty provosts…all locked in their own trucks

It seems incredible that a fracas such as the one described here should have received no coverage in the local press.  However the Censors were as concerned about maintaining public confidence in the armed forces as they were about ensuring that no defence-sensitive material was shared.  A report of an incident like the one described in this letter would therefore have been subject to serious editing at the very least.

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