Still in Limbo – but no cause for complaint – 3 letters
















TX 1004

Sgt M Hickman

2/33rd Battn


28th Sept 43

Dear Mother

Your welcome letter of the 23rd arrived yesterday – glad to know you and the boys are pegging along alright and that you’re getting a bit of good weather.  The winter down there has certainly been very severe so I hope you get a good summer to compensate for it.

Dad doesn’t seem to like the holy city too well.  I guess he finds it too much of a bustle and the trump must be a bit of a slave driver, as the Pater says he would sooner do pick and shovel than mind him – so I can imagine what strife youngster must have been in, doing everything on her own and being so sick herself.  She’s full of enthusiasm for the way the pater has helped her and says that the trump just loves him.  He’s certainly acquired a happy knack of winning the good graces of babies.  I expect the baby will miss him when he goes back home.  If the navy is anything like the army Bill would be very uphill getting home – compassionate leave in the army is like winning the fifty thousand Melbourne Cup sweep, and happens about as often.  But of course in Bill’s line he might be just as useful to the service in Melbourne as where he is – although I think it would be an absolute last resort with Ivy especially knowing how she feels about other people.

A chap was telling me last night that Tiny Schultz is in hospital around here somewhere with Malaria and pneumonia – must be pretty sick.  I think he was a fool to come up here again.  He should have played his cards a bit better than that.  Anyway I’ll make a few enquiries and see if I can see him.  The fellow who told me about him used to be in the same show as Artie Hickman and said that Artie had got a B class and was with a salvage crowd in Hobart – probably the same mob as Alec Worbey.

In my particular quarter things are very quiet and rather monotonous but apart from that we have no cause for complaint – we’re living quite well, have showers and a YMCA hut and the weather is really good for these parts.

You didn’t mention Nell Norris in this letter Mother – I hope she’s well again.  When do they expect Rob home, do you know?  I suppose the fourteen days he’s getting is six months’ leave – most of the units stationed on the mainland get fourteen days every six months.  The powers that be have worked out some leave formula recently and attached forms in our pay books with a credit leave statement.  According to mine I’m entitled to thirty seven days up till the 1st of this month and two days a month for every additional month but of course having the credit and getting the leave are quite different things. However it’s a pleasant thought.

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



PS Thanks for the stamps and envelope – I was lucky enough to get a whole packet the other day.



The YMCA and the Salvation Army, in conjunction with the Australian Comforts Fund (ACF) established refreshment posts in forward areas as well as near the various staging camps.  This article describes the enthusiasm of the troops for both entertaining and being entertained, and their willingness to travel considerable distances to participate in sports.

AWM 013399    An advanced YMCA post just behind the forward lines in the New Guinea jungle.  The value of these unpretentious outposts is inestimable and the work of the men who maintain them cannot be too highly praised.

















Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn


28th Sept 43

Dear Dad

Your cheerful letter arrived a few days back and was very interesting.  It was good to hear that the baby was so much better and that Ivy too was getting so much benefit from your being with them.  She was very enthusiastic and happy about how things were progressing.  The young fellow certainly must be a slave driver and from your letter I realise just how much Ivy had to cope with especially being so sick herself.  You seem well in favour with the young bloke too.   I guess he’ll miss you a lot when you go home.

Mother thinks Ivy should try and get Bill posted back to Melbourne but if the Navy is anything like the army Bill’s name would need to be Curtin or Forde to get back on compassionate grounds.  Compassionate leave in the army is like striking Tatts or the Melbourne Cup sweep and happens about as often – but of course the Navy might be different.  Talking of leave – they’ve worked out some scheme as to what leave we have due to us. I’ve got a slip pasted in my pay book with a credit of thirty seven days up till the first of this month with two days for every additional month.  It sounds alright but of course when we get it is another story and by that time they’ll have worked out a new scheme.  However it’s a pleasant thought.

I struck a chap yesterday who told me Tiny Schultz was in hospital around here somewhere – pretty sick too I believe – Malaria and pneumonia.  I’ll make some enquiries later in the day and might be able to see him.  He must have played his cards badly this trip.  I thought he’d have worked things better than that – still I suppose he had his own ideas.  The same fellow told me he was in the same show as Artie Hickman and said Artie has been boarded B Class and is in a salvage show at Hobart – probably the same one as Alec Worbey.  It’s about time they caught up with Worbey – he’s a bludger that fellow.

Joe’s back at the institution is he – I thought the job he had would have suited him well.  His ideas about market gardening would be alright now but might not be so good when the argument’s over.  Still I suppose a couple of years would  put him on his feet.

Mrs Lyons has certainly loomed into the limelight and will probably make a name for herself.  I was reading in an old Australasian the other day that if there was a women’s parliament in Australia, Mrs Lyons would be the Prime Minister.  The article was written before it was even mentioned that she would be standing for Darwin so she must have a lot of supporters even outside of Tassie.

I had a letter from Mother yesterday.  She said she and the boys were getting along alright and that they were getting a few odd days good weather.  It’s to be hoped you get a good summer to compensate for the tough winter.

I must say cheerio now dad.  Give my love to Ivy and the baby.  All the best.


(censor – R Burrough?)

Mrs Lyons has loomed into the limelight

Dame Enid Lyons, widow of the former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons was the first woman elected to a seat in the House of Representatives when she was returned as the member for Darwin (now Braddon) in the 1943 election.  Her seat was the last in the country to be decided, on preferences.  Around the country – as for example in the Courier Mail in Brisbane – her election made headlines












TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn


7th Oct 43

Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well.  I haven’t been able to write earlier this week as we’ve had a move that’s cramped our style a bit for writing.  The move was only local but it involved quite a lot of changes affecting our spare time.  The entire daylight hours are taken up with a training job and at night we only have one lantern to a tent of ten so you can see the writing possibilities are very restricted.  However I hope to catch up with my mail in the weekend but then there are a lot of other things I hope to do too in the weekend.  Still it’s not possible to make plans even a few days ahead as nobody knows what the army will so next and the plans of men and mice are apt to go astray.

On the way to the new camp we passed a mule compound.  There must have been hundreds of them and their expressions as we passed were an interesting study.  They raised their heads from browsing, stretched their ears, grinned and swished their tails.  I guess they were glad they were mules with all their proverbial denseness.

I haven’t seen any more of Bill Drysdale and may not be able to do so for some time, but I’d like to get down to see Tiny again although he’s probably gone to a con camp.  I struck a chap the other day who used to be a great friend of Tiny – the last time I saw him was at the 31st’s RAP in Palestine before Syria.  He came over to celebrate Dick’s third stripe and we had an extra good night.  I wouldn’t have known him but he remembered me and we had quite a long talk.  He’s got a job in the canteen services now.

There’s been a couple of good shows around lately – two of a series entitled – Why We Fight. – an American propaganda show but very interesting for all that.  And I guess that about covers the newsreel Mother so I’ll just say cheerio – hoping to hear from you soon.  Give my love to May,Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.



The entire daylight hours are taken up with a training job

Searching for clues about what Dad was doing…  The NGF Training School war diary includes the following:  Each of the weekly Field Return of Other Ranks during September noted a need for 10 Sergeants – ‘Instructional Personnel’ – so I’m guessing Dad was one of those who fulfilled this requirement.  The Field Return of Other Ranks in October consistently shows one man from the 6 Div Carrier Gp – but no-one from the 2/33rd, so I’m assuming that somehow Dad had been attached first to this Carrier Group and then to the Training School. An entry dated 4 October indicates that 13 NCO instructors marched in from NGF.  This date fits with the timeline in the letter above.











A mule compound

An amusing account of the behaviour of mules confronted by difficult terrain :    and from this article  come the following extracts –

Several hundred horses and mules  have been and are still being used in
New Guinea by two Army pack transport units…..The medium-sized mule is said to
be better at picking his way than a horse, and is more sure-footed
Image : AWM 027022    Men leading pack horses and mules loaded with supplies up the precipitous curving track from the end of the road down to Uberi Valley over which troops and supplies were taken to our forward positions in the Owen Stanley Ranges


Posted in organisation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

You got the wrong impression… I wasn’t at Lae


TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

22nd Sept 43

Dear Mother

Your welcome letter of the 15th arrived today.  Sorry to hear you’ve been sick Mother and hope you’re alright again now.  The weather seems just as bad as ever in the south, but it should soon pick up.

I’m afraid you got a very wrong impression from my letter.  The only reason I wrote at that particular time was because I thought you might be worried.  I wasn’t very happy at the time – two of my best mates had been killed.  I wasn’t at Lae at all and am still in back areas Mother so you have nothing to worry about on my account.  I guess you’ve got quite enough worries about Ivy and the baby as well as at home without unnecessary worry about me.

I’ve seen Bill a couple of times.  He’s put on weight – must be a stone heavier and seems quite comfortable.  I was up at the ward room for tea last night and they do themselves quite well – good quarters and a good mess.  If it wasn’t for worrying about Youngster and the baby Bill wouldn’t have a care in the world.

Nell Norris must be very sick if she’s not even allowed visitors.  I shouldn’t have thought she’d have been subject to nerve strain working at a broadcasting station but of course you never know from the outside what the jobs entail and I suppose they work long hours too.  If you do see her Mother give her very best wishes for a speedy recovery will you.

I made a bad miscalculation about Carline’s birthday.  I thought it was the 16th October and planned to write May and send her a couple of pounds for the occasion.  My memory must be playing tricks on me.  Anyway Mother wish her many happy returns for me will you and give May two pounds to put in her book.  I guess it’d be just about impossible to buy anything for her these days.

Jack wrote me quite a nice letter the other day – told me all about his trip to the South and his visit home.  He mentioned meeting Jenks and John Limb a couple of times.  I haven’t heard much of Jenks since I came back from leave and last time I saw John Limb was in Palestine.  Jack says he’s getting a long alright which is good to hear because he was quite a wreck when I saw him.

It’s quite interesting to look around here just now at the varied expressions of the fellows trying to write letters.  They chew the ends of their pens, twist gum round their mouths or toy with cigarettes gazing abstractly into space for inspiration.  Letter writing is certainly a tough job in these parts.

Well I must say cheerio now Mother – give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.  Look after yourself Mother.

Lots of love



I wasn’t at Lae… thought you might be worried

Dad’s mother had presumably been reading articles such as these in the Hobart Mercury:

September 7 : front page article – Veterans of AIF land on New Guinea coast : Jap Bases Threatened   The article begins – Advances of 8 to 10 miles towards the Japanese stronghold of Lae have been made by Australian troops who landed in force not he shores of Huon Gulf east of Lae on Saturday.  The Australians, who were strongly supported by Allied air and naval forces, included elements of a famous AIF division with wide experience in the Middle East.  It was announced late tonight that the allied bridgehead is strongly protected and that reinforcements are moving in.

(The division mentioned was in fact the 9th, not the 7th – but his mother’s assumption is understandable, and of course the 7th was to follow shortly after the 9th)

September 9  Allies Converging on Lae  This article once again mentions ‘strong AIF reinforcements – elements of a division with wide experience in the Middle East – were flown into Nadzab aerodrome….’  which in this case were indeed from the 7th Division

This article from September 14 includes the sentence – Reinforcements are still being flown to Nadzab airfield in the Markham Valley, in preparation for the final and decisive push on Lae.


Two of my best mates had been killed

The two mates Dad refers to were Jack Reinke (QX 1585 ) and John McGrow (QX 7355 )

John died on September 9 of wounds sustained in the Liberator crash.   Jack’s record first shows he was ‘accidentally killed’ on September 7 but this was later amended to ‘died of injuries accidentally received’.

Jack Reinke (photo on enlistment)










John McGrow (photo on enlistment)





At the time of enlisting in May 1940, John’s next of kin was his father, but by the end of 1941 that had been amended to his sister, Mrs Tait.   Dad and others of the Carrier platoon enjoyed some memorable social occasions at Bob and ‘Bunty’ Tait’s home in Brisbane when moving through or on leave, both before and after John’s death.   I believe Dad kept in touch with the Taits until his death in 1990.

I feel for the clerk who had to complete the record of each of the men injured or killed as a result of the crash – that person had to transcribe the same text shown here, some 150 times.  Similarly, I would hate to have been the person responsible for sending all those awful telegrams.


Jack Reinke and John McGrow  – service record extracts , showing text re the Liberator crash Court of Inquiry findings










A receipt for the telegram delivered to John McGrow’s sister – from his Army records file at the National Archives.

The Footsoldiers records that it was the officers who took on the task of writing to the parents or next-of-kin.  News of the crash was never to be released to the press, however the awful details were spreading to other units: …messages began arriving at the battalion at the rate of ten a day telling of the injured and the dying.  Many messages of sympathy were reaching the unit….It was now known 13 of our unit had been killed outright and 133 injured.  By the night of the 11th….the CO had been advised that 47 of the 133 had died, some within hours….


The rest of the unit

Summary from the AWM publication Jungle Warfare (1944) –

Lae was captured by a simultaneous air-borne and sea-borne operation.  On the 4th of September the Ninth Australian Division embarked from Milne Bay and landed on a narrow beach fifteen miles east of Lae.  The division immediately began to advance westward along the coast.  Next day a regiment of American artillery were dropped in the Markham Valley at Nadzab, twenty-five miles north-west of Lae.  A landing strip was cleared quickly and with the arrival by air of the leading troops of the Seventh Australian Division, an advance on Lae was begun.  Both forces met with opposition from the Japanese, but the converging thrusts were pushed with vigour and Lae was occupied on the 16th of September……(p70 in the section The Battle for New Guinea)

The airborne phase…

AWM 100546 Markham Valley, New Guinea. 1943-09-05. Screened by dense smoke, paratroopers of 503 US Paratroop Infantry Regiment and Gunners of 2/4th Australian Field Regiment with their 25 pounders land unopposed at Nadzab, during the advance of 7th Australian Division on Lae.

The Footsoldiers provides a great deal of detail about the advance on Lae, through the many coffee and copra (coconut) plantations along the Markham Road (see map).- ‘The country here although flat was covered with a tangled mass of ten-foot high bushes, trees and vines interspersed with patches of kunai and pit-pit grass.  As the men of the patrol proceeded south-east they struck the black ooze swamp and slime that abounded in the low areas of the sub-tropical flatlands.  In this type of country the heat and humidity were intensely uncomfortable (p 283)  Heath’s plantation had been occupied by the Japanese and was described as ‘a fortified position of some considerable extent’ (p279) but had been deserted before the Battalion arrived on the scene.  At the same time, the 2/25th Battalion (also part of the 25th Brigade) had experienced some hard and bitter fighting in and around Jenyn’s and Whittaker’s plantations.  The Japanese had established many positions around the road to Lae, and the 2/33rd  battled the enemy at close quarters on a number of occasions before arriving at the port which by then (September 16) was little more than a pile of ruins.

map – The Road to Lae  from The Footsoldiers (p282)




Footsoldiers p309 – on the road to Lae







AWM 015788  Image dated September 22, but may have been taken the previous week.  (ref Footsoldiers p 312 – they were back at Nadzab by Sept 19 and waited there for 8 days)  Official caption : 1943-09-22.   Wounded being taken to an Advanced Dressing Station outside Lae.  Identified personnel – far right – VX68745 Private Ian Douglas Clutterbuck  2/33rd Bn

AWM057040  Nadzab, New Guinea  1943-09-19  Master Sergeant Ushiro, Japanese American interrogator of the US Army, attached to HQ 7th Australian Division, translates Japanese markings on a captured officer’s sword for NX20430 Private O Nagel 2/33rd Australian Infantry Battalion


Bill Drysdale

Dad’s brother in law Bill Drysdale (married to Ivy, known as ‘the youngster’) was an officer in the RANVR – in the Cyphers section.  There was quite a different relationship between the Navy’s Volunteer Reserve and the RAN, than between the Army Militia and the AIF :    all new entry personnel were entered through the RANR and they signed an agreement for the duration of hostilities instead of the customary 12 years engagement. Officers and potential officers, meanwhile, were entered as members of the RANR (S) or the RANVR.  (


Fellows trying to write letters

I have read in other places, how difficult some men found it to find something to say in their letters, and about the chewing of pens, staring into space etc.  This image conveys something of that sense…  AWM054268

Posted in The course of the war | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Attending a school…or not? – two letters

















TX 1004

Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

13th Sept 43

envelope – ‘Opened by Censor’

Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well.  I’ve had two letters from Hollsmoor Road in the week, telling of Dad’s arrival in the holy city so I guess you’re all on your lonesome with the boys but I hope May and Anne are keeping you company.

Things are very quiet as far as I’m concerned at present and although rather windy and dusty the weather is not unpleasant and as there’s been a few picture shows around lately time is not weighing heavily.

I went for a bus ride out to where Ray’s show are camped .  The powers that be run a sort of official unscheduled bus service.  There’s no specified stops.  You just tap on top of the cabin when you want to get off.  I put in a couple of good hours there – stayed to lunch – they have things well arranged – a sergeants’ mess complete with waiters, tablecloths and chinaware – very lairy for these parts.

Since I started this letter a bunch of mail has arrived.  Robby’s just handing it out and as I hear my name mentioned will see what it’s all about.  It’s right there’s three for me so in a minute or so I’ll tell you all about them.  Yours of the sixth Mother – glad to know you’re well and that the weather has taken up – it should be very nice down there now.  Sorry to hear the boys are not too happy in the service – they probably won’t appreciate the fact that there’s a war on especially when their patriotism means short rations.  I don’t suppose you can even get dog biscuits for them with he biscuit makers flat out keeping us supplied – looks like the boys will be on the bread line.

So May has another daughter – that’s the first girl I’ve heard of among new arrivals for some time.  Daph said in her letter that they expected two.  If you see May give her my best wishes will you and my compliments to Ben.  It’s not much good sending parcels Mother – you can only send tinned stuff and we’re living on that all the time as it is.  Daph said she’d sent a bundle of papers but they never made the grade or at least they could have done without my knowing as any papers that happen to be thrown in the tent are opened by anyone who happens to be around.

My other two letters are from Ivy and Rex Wedd.  Youngster is still having an awful tough trot and although it’s a great relief to her having Dad there the cards are still stacked against her – even the good weather seems to be against her.  I’ve never heard of a rash like that before.  Rex is very happy in the service as of course he should be.  He gets quite a bit of leave, had seen the Lairds several times, has his own car and generally speaking is heading them all along the lien.  There’s no doubt about it I joined the wrong service – the air service is the job alright.

We had quite an interesting discussion the other night on things to do when the argument’s over and we got on the subject of pubs, and before we turned in had discussed the merits and otherwise of every pub in Tasmania – We worked it out that Viv and I would keep the Pub and Jim & Frank McDonnell and big Kong Young would be out star boarders.  I wonder if it will ever eventuate.

Our influence on the natives in these parts is having quite a civilising effect.  The other night while watching a big … game I saw a couple of them edge their way to the side of the ring.  They had three or four bob each and striking a lucky roll built it into ten pounds – an undreamed-of fortune to any of them before the war.  They spoke good English and their remarks during the game were very amusing – a well balanced mixture of Australian and American-isms.

I must say cheerio now Mother.  Take care of yourself and give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.



PS Tell Anne I’ll write as soon as I can get some envelopes. They’re very scarce just now but there should be some in soon.  I’ll have to send this in a green envelope (the first I’ve ever sent)


The Holy City

Dad’s father was visiting ‘youngster’ – Ivy Drysdale (Max’s sister) – and her baby son in Melbourne.  His mother was at home in Hobart with ‘the boys’ – i.e. the dogs.


What in the world was he doing?

I don’t have a copy of Ray Ross’ service record, so don’t know who he was attached to at this point…. presumably not the 2/33rd.   Dad’s record as previously mentioned shows him attending NGF training school, but this is not evident in the address on his letters.  Then there’s the reference later in this letter to the discussion about Tassie pubs: he was clearly still with some of his 2/33 Bn ex-Carrier platoon mates.

This extract from The Footsoldiers suggests Ray was with the 7th Div Carrier Company, but offers no clarity re Dad’s situation:

On September 10 orders were issued ….that another D Company was to be raised as soon as possible.  The men were to be trained as a company and were to be ready to move forward by the 25th.  All men… who could be spared from essential duties at LOB….plus those with minor injuries who could leave hospital, and any volunteers of the 2/33rd men of the old carrier platoon who had been detailed to the 7th Division Carrier Company when at Ravenshoe, would constitute the new company….HQ’s NGF would build the group up to a rifle company strength…..From the original LOB of 45 – constituting five percent of the unit – all were detailed for the company.  In fact all demanded they be included.  When Captain Power visited the Carrier Company all of the old 2/33rd men – 14 of them –  volunteered, as did 32 others of that company.  The volunteers included Captain George Connor and Sergeant Ray Ross who were delighted at the opportunity of getting back to a unit again….. (pp318-19)


May and Ben Menzie

The Menzie’s were a farming family who lived in Franklin south of Hobart.   After the war they mainly grew apples, but at this time they may also have had a dairy herd, and dairy farming was a reserved occupation.  Ben was the same age as Dad – it’s possible they were at High School together.


Green envelope: ‘Privilege Envelopes’

Information from

Privilege Envelopes were introduced to Australian troops while serving in the Middle East during World War II. Australian troops in the field were issued with the Privilege Envelopes for transmission of their correspondence. When the AIF reached the Middle East it did not carry a stock of envelopes for the troops and therefore drew its requirements from the British Army stationery depot in Palestine. The troops were first supplied with Privilege Envelopes, known as stationery item A.F. W3078, ‘On Active Service’ (O.A.S.) envelopes or Green envelopes, which had been printed for the British military.

Similar in style to envelopes used during World War I, up to three addressed and open letters could be enclosed. The envelopes were normally distributed to the troops once each month. However, supplies were frequently unavailable so when they did arrive, were sometimes distributed two or three per individual to make up for the delay.

That particular type of Privilege Envelope used an ‘honour’ system because it was not subject to Unit censorship (but was not immune to Base censorship). Users were required to sign the envelope as abiding by censorship guidelines….By late 1940 an Australian-printed form for Privilege Envelopes became available. Those are immediately identifiable by the different form reference: “A.F. W 3078” with “(Adapted)” immediately below. 

So – as per these images, Dad certified on his honour that the contents referred to nothing but private and family matters…. but it was still opened by the censor.













A civilising effect on the natives!?

I’m at a loss to understand what element of this incident demonstrates increased ‘civilising’ of the local population.

The only image I could find of a dice game in Port Moresby –   Soldiers play a crap game at an air base near Port Moresby  January 1944 – Photographer – Robert Doyle – a civilian war correspondent for the Milwaukee Journal during World War II, covering the experiences of Wisconsin troops in the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division, an infantry division of the United States Army National Guard


TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

19th Sept 43

Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well and enjoying life.  The weather should be coming right down there now and help to make things pleasant.

I’ve had two letters from Melbourne this week.  One from Dad and one from Youngster and another letter card from Wedd – that’s two in quick time.  Rex must be soldiering on or whatever they call it in the airforce.  He expected his commission through in a few days – has got himself a decoration – a Yankee ribbon it must be – the Golden Eagle – has his own car and is copping a fair share of leave.  He said he’d spent a couple of weekends with the Lairds at Glasgow and expected to be with them that weekend – lucky cow.  He asked to be remembered to you and dad.

We saw an extra good picture show here the other night – an airforce show depicting the story of the Spitfire.  The supporting picture was”Our Leading Citizen” – a really good programme.  If it comes to Hobart try and see it.

Ray Ross is back in the unit and will probably get a commission soon.  Quite a lot of the other old chaps are back too and expect to be going up to the mob soon.  As you’ll gather I haven’t gone yet.

Dick Schultz asked to be remembered to you and dad – he’s quite well but has lost this voice – not lost just weakened – it would be tough for Tiny if he couldn’t talk.  There’s not too many can keep time with him.

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



Who’s doing what…

Ray Ross (also mentioned in the previous letter) was a WO II on discharge in 1945, and at that time was attached to the 7 Carrier Company (according to

Dick Schultz was with the 2/31st Bn.  According to the AWM publication Jungle Warriors, the 2/31st was ‘held back at Moresby by impossible flying weather’ (p76) but had joined the rest of the Brigade in the forward area moving towards Lae by September 15.  But maybe he and Dad were together…wherever that was!

As you’ll gather I haven’t gone yet

He’s clearly assuming he WILL be going.  Service record however shows him attending NGF Training School from 4 Sept 43 till 14 Jan 44.  These letters seem to indicate otherwise.

A page from Max’s service record….




Our Leading Citizen

A tale of a principled lawyer, and unscrupulous political aspirant and workers battling for their right to strike… I can see why it appealed to Dad.

Posted in organisation, Papua New Guinea | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Following disaster, an attempt at reassurance

Following the worst aviation disaster in Australia’s history on September 7 1943, Dad wrote a very short letter to his parents – the shortest ever, in fact – presumably simply to reassure them that he was alive and well.

In fact, Dad was not with the unit on that fateful day, having been transferred to the X list on September 4 to attend the New Guinea Forces Training School.

It seems that censorship relating to reporting of the accident meant that no-one heard about the extent of this disaster, either at the time or in the later years of the war.  Telegrams to families told families the men had been ‘accidentally killed’.    The official note in the AWM publication Jungle Warfare (published Christmas 1944) simply mentions that there were ‘many casualties’ but gives no hint of the full horror of the event.  Sixty infantrymen and two drivers of the 158 General Transport Company lost their lives as a result of the crash – along with the 11 crew of the US bomber involved.


TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion


10th Sept 43

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a short note hoping to find you happy & well.  Your letter of the 31st Aug arrived on Wednesday together with one from Ivy, one from May and another from Daph Wise.  The censors had gone to work rather badly on your letter but I was able to piece most of it together.  Sorry to hear dad has had a bad cold and hope he’s been able to throw it off.  Youngster seems too be having a very bad trot.  I hope things lighten up for her soon.  The only bright spot of news in all the world seems to be the Italian show.

There’s not much I can write about from here Mother & Dad so I’ll just say cheerio for the present.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carlene and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.




The Liberator crash – the worst aviation related disaster in Australia’s history – September 7 1943


– from The Footsoldiers

(On September 4) the unit was told that the great offensive, which was to be the largest single operation yet staged in the southern hemisphere, had commenced with the successful landing of the 9th Division on the Huon Gulf some 15 miles northeast of Lae.  On the following day the 503rd Parachute Regiment had successfully captured Nadzab and we were warned that night we were to emplane for Tsili Tsili at dawn on the 6th…..The first lift of the unit waited until 1130 hours when the message came that the flight was cancelled and troops were to return to camp.  The weather had closed in over the mountains and delayed the move….  By late afternoon the unit learned that operation was going fine and that 9th Division had not yet struck any Japanese and the 503rd had landed unopposed…. The 2/25th Battalion had got away, having been the first to move, and had arrived at Tsili Tsili together with 7th Division Tactical Headquarters…..(pp267-8)

There is a great deal of detail about the crash and its aftermath in The Footsoldiers, but as copies of this – the official Battalion history – are now extremely rare, the following site is recommended:


The disaster unfolds


This website provides eye witness accounts, battalion diary entries, reports of US and Australian Army inquiries, many photographs of both the preparations and the aftermath, and commentary on various myths surrounding the Liberator disaster. There are also photographs of the recent re-discovery of the crash site, and of the 70th anniversary commemoration service at the Australian War Memorial in September 2013.

The following are excerpts from the website’s home page:

….For the drivers of the 158 General Transport Company it was just another routine day in the heat and dust of Port Moresby.  Their passengers had already been delayed by 24 hours as a result of bad weather over the Owen Stanley Range.   However today’s conditions looked promising.  Fully loaded up with rifle or machine carbine ammunition and grenades,  the diggers could expect to be in action within a day or so of landing on the other side of the mountains.  Some carried 2” mortars, others stowed spare magazines in their webbing for the Bren guns.    As such, they were fully prepared for what lay ahead.  Or so they thought…..

Beyond the end of the runway, the ground was relatively flat and clear for a distance of approximately 1000 yards.  A low ridge, peppered with trees ran perpendicular to the runway.  On the reverse side of this tree line, the ground dropped steadily away to form a small valley through which a creek ambled lazily.   The undulating ground then rose gently to form a second ridge, much lower than the first..…  Capable of housing a large number of vehicles, this rise was designated the marshalling area for troop transport vehicles bound for Durand Airstrip …..

At the opposite end of  7 Mile Drome – known to most as Jackson’s airfield, the Pratt & Whitney engines of  an American bomber turned over in the pre-dawn darkness.  Flight Officer Howard J. Wood busily worked through his pre- take off checks.   Hailing from Nebraska U.S.A, Wood’s mount was christened “Pride of the Cornhuskers” in honour of his home state…This ‘D’ model Liberator, Serial Number 42-40682 could carry a bomb load of 12 x 500 lb bombs when not fitted with supplementary bomb bay fuel tanks.  However on this day, the aircraft would be loaded up with just 4 x 500 pounders – perhaps this decision unwittingly saved many lives. …

For reasons unknown, when the Liberator took off at 4.30am it failed to gain sufficient height and hurtled towards the men on the ground.  Witnesses yelled of the impending danger but there was no time to take evasive action.  The port wing was sheared off when it struck a tree on the downward slope, across the other side of the creek.  Like a wounded bird, the huge bomber came crashing down onto the hillside near the Durand marshalling area – spewing forward a wave of burning aviation fuel.  Five lorries were hit by flying wreckage and engulfed in the resulting fire which turned night into day….

Despite the uncertainty of what caused the accident, what can be proven is the moral fibre of the men who performed their duties during the aftermath of this tragic crash.  The courage of the U.S. fire fighters on a rescue mission, clad in asbestos suits that walked directly into the flames is without question.  And the bravery of diggers who thought of their mates, before themselves is reflected by a quote from the official 7th Division Inquiry:-  “At the time of the crash there was not the slightest degree of panic and everyone who was able to do so, did what they could to assist the injured.  Considerable presence of mind and initiative on the part of members present, no doubt contributed largely to minimising injuries and saving lives.” The men received no honours or awards, because despite the fact they were waiting to emplane to fly into battle, they were not already in battle. The strict censorship at the time of the crash also prevented any honours or awards for the heroic actions of these men.…


AWM 057403

Port Moresby area.  The scene after a crash of a Liberator bomber on the marshalling park at Jackson’s airfield on September 7 1943.  The aircraft hit the tree shown in the left foreground and crashed into trucks carrying members of the 2/33rd Infantry Battalion and the 158th General Transport Company…59 were killed or died of injuries and 92 were injured but survived.  Photograph taken looking SE along line of flight.



AWM 057405

Same information as for previous photo (with the exception of final sentence).




AWM 072911

Two of five trucks carrying members of the 2/33rd Infantry Battalion and the 158th General Transport Company which were destroyed when a Liberator bomber crashed into the marshalling park near Jackson’s airfield on 7-9-1943, causing the death of 59 men and injuries to 92.  The members of the Liberator’s crew also died in the accident.


The medical response 

from A Special Kind of Service – the story of the 2/9 Australian General Hospital 1940 – 46  by Colonel Joan Crouch  (APCOL 1986)    pp95-97

Ninety-six AAWMS  (Australian Army Womens Medical Service)…arrived in Port Moresby on 6 September 1943.  These were the first AAWMS posted to the 2/9 AGH…..(they) were given the first day to settle into their tents and adjust to the tropical heat.  .Their appearance in the wards was eagerly awaited by the patients: …..On… 7 September, a tragic accident occurred at 4.30am at Ward’s Airfield in Moresby.  The 25th Brigade of the 7th Division was ready for the advance from Nadzab, and was waiting to emplane in full battledress, when a Liberator bomber …. crashed on take-off into a Company of the 2/ 33rd Battalion.  The scene was devastating.

All staff of the 2/9 AGH were called on duty, dressed quickly and ran to the operating theatres and a surgical ward which had been hastily cleared of all patients.  One officer and 23 other ranks with serious burns were admitted to the 2/9 AGH.  The remaining survivors went to the 2/5 AGH…

On arrival at the 2/9 AGH, the burn victims were quickly assessed.  Those with 17% burns were sent to the operating theatres for resuscitation and surgery.  There were six with 90% burns and death was rapid.  Some others lived for up to thirteen days, but eventually there were only seven survivors….The AAWMS volunteered to come on duty and the sisters who were ‘specialising’ the surviving burns found the AAWMS most helpful in assisting then with their exacting task…..

Everyone wanted to help.  Ships in port offered fresh food, the Salvation Army and YMCA representatives called at the wards regularly, offering practical help.  The whole area was shocked by this accident.  In spite of this, the movement for the capture of Lae went on as scheduled….


Official comment

– from Jungle Warfare – the AWM Christmas Book of 1944 –

Chapter – The Battle for New Guinea – subsection ‘Seventh in action’ –

The first brigade to be committed was the 25th.  While the troops were waiting to emplane at Ward’s Drome, a Liberator had crashed into a company of the 2/33rd Battalion causing many casualties, but the movement went on as scheduled.  By the 9th of September two battalions of the brigade were moving along the road to Lae….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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’ :

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 (

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

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


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 :

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.


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 .   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

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

…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”  (

See also this obituary

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.


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.   (

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 (  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.


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