A picture show, an extra good concert … and serious training begins (2 letters)

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

3rd Sept 44

Dear Mother

Being Sunday and having finished the washing and been to church shall settle down to write a few letters – owe quite a lot this week.  How are you Mother.  Happy and well I hope – and Gran too hope she’s better again.

Had a letter from Ivy during the week – suppose you had one too.  Youngster is quite thrilled having Bill home from leave and then a southern posting – the best news (family news) I’ve had for a long time.  It’s to be hoped the posting holds for the rest of the war – don’t suppose there’s many places they can send Naval men when they’re unfit for tropical service.

The amenities in these parts seem particularly good.  There was an extra good concert on Thursday night – one of the best I’ve seen – army concerts have reached a really high standard these days though of course being Divisional shows they don’t get around to unit areas much.  This show has quite a lot of high ranking artists.  The singing and musical items being particularly good – could have listened to them all night – and the variety programme left little to be desired.  The organisation of continuity was excellent – never a break and never a dull moment.

Then last night we went to a picture show – although both pictures were old – had seen one of them twice before and the other once – I enjoyed the show.  The first picture was San Francisco – don’t know if you’ve seen it but I think it’s one of the best Jeanette MacDonald made.  It’s really a powerful picture.  The other show was Desert Victory.

There was rather a funny incident during a stunt on Friday.  We stopped for a smoko and of course made the most of the shade at the side of the road.  One of my blokes no sooner sat down than he bounced ten feet in the air having sat on a snake.  He’s no sooner landed on his feet than two hornets went to town on him, one of them scoring a direct hit, much to the amusement of the mob.

Must do something about these fleas this morning Mother.  There’s so much dust and straw that it’s just a little playground for them and you can imagine how they go to town on a tasty morsel like me.  However I’ll scrape up the dust presently and see if I can get some phenyl.  Cooper’s sheep dip powder would be the drill but rather doubt that there’ll be any about.

Got dragged away to a meeting of the mess to determine the prices of spirits – not that I suppose we’ll get that much but still it’s just as well to know what we’re up for.  Had a bottle of Fosters last night – very nice too.  They tell me we’ll be getting two bottles a week.

I must say cheerio now Mother.  There’s been another menace here to disturb me – had my blankets airing on the telephone wires and apparently it upset things so had better do something about it.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline & regards to the boys




The image at the top of this post (AWM 066540) shows members of the 4th Division concert party erecting their portable stage for the night’s show. … On the concert stage truck (Fargo type) the steel framework is bolted together and canvas awnings are slung over it to complete the mobile stage.

The AWM collection contains many images of concert performances, such as the following :

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

9th Sept 44

Dear Mother

Received your welcome letter early in the week but haven’t had a chance to reply till now as we’ve been very busy – nothing really tough so far but one doesn’t get much time to attend to letter writing particularly the sergeants with so much time taken in administration.  However Mother am on guard today so hope to catch up a little.

Was glad to hear that life is moving along smoothly , that you, May the children and the troops are as happy as possible with things as they are.  Haven’t heard any more from Dad.  I didn’t answer his letter as he’d said it would be no use doing so as he had no fixed address and from the way he wrote it didn’t sound as though he intended to stay.  However Youngster has had a letter since and from the tone in which she wrote to me  I think he’ll try and see the season through now though he’s finding it very hard – Ten hours a day of that work is too much for him.  It’s a young man’s job.   I hope he’ll give it away and go back home.  Don’t suppose it’s any use writing him to the address he wrote from though I suppose it would catch up eventually.

I am pleased to hear that Daisy’s baby is better – those things can be very tough can’t they.  If you do manage to get down give her my kind regards Mother will you.  Really must try and write to Daph and May but once again time is the big factor in the appreciation.

Bill turned up alright and apparently things are going along very nicely.  Ivy sounded very happy and it seems that the baby is thrilled too.  They’ve had a few short trips in the car and done a show.  Think it will mean a lot to both of them to have him stationed near home.

Thank Laurie for me for looking after the car Mother will you – wouldn’t like to have it deteriorate for want of a run occasionally.

Will say cheerio now – give my love to May & Anne & Carline & regards to Laurie & the boys.



We’ve been busy

The battalion Diary and Training Schedule indicate the return to ‘training in earnest’…

The AWM collection holds images of training in the area at this time – though not of Dad’s Battalion.

Image 081082 : September 1944 – Troops of the 2/14th Infantry Battalion advance up a hill to take a position during a battalion exercise.

AWM 085195 : Danbulla, Atherton Tableland – December 1944 – Vickers machine gun used to provide fire power over the heads of advancing forces in an exercise being conducted at HQ 7 Division.

Surprising omission : September 7 Memorial Service

I wonder whether there was still an order in force, preventing mention of the Liberator disaster (see http://www.liberatorcrash.com ) in letters. It’s the only way I can rationalise the fact that Dad didn’t mention the memorial service held on the anniversary of that event – September 7. It’s mentioned in the Battalion War Diary (see image above) and in the following week’s Griffin, and I’m sure Dad would have been strongly affected by the service.

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Moving north for jungle training; father’s location unknown (2 letters)

Australian troops embarking for the Atherton Tableland at Cairns Railway station.

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF


Dear Mother

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well and enjoying life.  Hope it’s not quite so lonely now.  Had a letter from dad on Thursday – seemed very disappointed that he hadn’t heard from you – gathered he’s written you twice since he’s been away.  Thought you’d probably written but your letters hadn’t caught up as he’s moving from one station to another.  Had been split up from Fred and was finding the work pretty tough though he’d made friends with other fellows.  Thinks perhaps he might give it a go for another couple of weeks and then come home.

(Page torn off here….  no further text)

What was his father doing?

Although his departure seemed a shock, reference to the possibility of him ‘going to work for another season’ had been made in a letter dated 16th January: It was very surprising to hear that you’re going to work for another season.  The game’s too tough for you now dad and although it’s a change I think you’d be better to keep away from it, especially as the warm weather plays up with you so much. Maybe the fact that this job (going to New South Wales with Fred Booth – see letter of August 13) was in winter contributed to the decision. To go shearing (as I believe was the case – though can no longer find the reference) at the age of 62 seems surprising. He was described as a ‘labourer’ when he enlisted for WWI, and I assumed the labour would have been associated with the orcharding for which the family was best known. (He was described as an orchardist on his marriage certificate). But perhaps he was one of those people who would have a go at anything!

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Bn AIF

31st Aug 44

Dear Mother

Received your welcome letter this morning.  Am very sorry to hear that Grandma is ill and hope she’s soon better again.  Give her my love and best wishes.  Why doesn’t she want a doctor Mother – is it just a fad?  Must be a big strain on you at the present time being there alone – can quite imagine you being too tired to want to do anything but sit by the fire at night.  Hope the pater sticks to his intention to come home – don’t think it would be much good my trying to write him as he wouldn’t be at a station long enough from the time he wrote me till I wrote back.  If he knew in advance where he was going next I would write there.

The news about Bill coming south is particularly good.  Hope it means he’s posted nearer Melbourne – will mean a lot to Ivy to have him home or handy where he can come home occasionally if only for a day now and again.  Anyway guess Youngster will tell us the story in her next letter.

Sounds as though the boys are still happy in the service and get a bit of fun out of playing around.  They’re a great team – it’s a pity they’re getting old.  Must be about nine now.  Suppose they miss Dad a bit.  Bill still likes his slice of toast – remember when I used to take them to work with me.  We’d have our toast together and away we’d go.  Bill chasing stones all the way over. Wonder if they remember those days – rather fancy they would.

Rob’s certainly heading them, Mother – had a look around for a while and now out again.   How long was he in – twelve months or a bit more than that – nearly two years I suppose wouldn’t it be.  My compliments to him when you see him Mother and regards to Hilda and Nell too.  How’s she keeping these days?  Got over her bout of sicknesses?  Has Maurie Aherne been home again since I was there?  He was at Darwin I think so probably got over when Max Philips was home.  You might ask Rob, Mother, if there are any courses on building – not just trade courses but contracting and estimating and that sort of thing that I could do by correspondence as I’d like to spend my spare time during the next twelve months getting up to date so that I can get going as soon as the show’s over and it looks as though another eighteen months should see the finish.

I don’t want you to bother just now Mother but later on when you get time will you have a look and see if there’s one of my photos about.  Don’t get one if there isn’t but Buntie said she’d like one, so if there’s one about you might send it on sometime will you.  Could use a few handkerchiefs too if there’s any in the drawers.

There’s not much news Mother so will say cheerio for now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline.  Hope May’s  Nemitis (??) is better and regards to the boys



PS Carline’s birthday is on the 16th of September isn’t it so will you give her a pound for me – don’t suppose it’s possible to buy anything.

love – Max

Grandma is ill

Dad’s maternal grandmother Frances Jackson (nee Clark) was his only grandparent still alive in 1944. She died the following year at the age of 82.

Good news about Bill coming south

Dad’s sister Ivy was married to Bill Drysdale who was a Lieutenant in the Intelligence section of the RAN. He had been based in Port Moresby, attached to the main naval store HMAS Basilisk, for the previous year, but had secured a transfer to the Navy’s personnel training base HMAS Cerberus on Western Port Bay : very convenient for Ivy who was living in Melbourne with their baby son.

The main naval store of the RAN base store, HMAS Basilisk, Port Moresby 1944.

The boys are still happy in the service

This is a reference to the family dogs – who were clearly considered members of the family. Early family group photos generally include at least one dog.

Correspondence courses re building

Dad was described as a ‘contractor’ on his enlistment papers, and his army mates (and officers) certainly made use of his experience and expertise as a builder (see the page – Max the Builder) . I don’t know who Rob was, but I do know that on his return to civilian life, Dad was employed in the Dept of Post War Reconstruction. The note on this photo (with colleague Roy Barnes who was ‘an assessor’) indicates he was administratively responsible for training in building and allied trades in the southern region of Tasmania. He later worked in a similar though state-wide role in the Repatriation Dept. It was in the course of this work that he met my mother who was at the time a tutor sister at the Launceston General Hospital. Dad went there to arrange training for a young man as a surgical bootmaker.

A photo for Buntie

Buntie Tait was the older sister of Dad’s young friend John McGrow QX 7355 who died in the Liberator disaster (https://www.liberatorcrash.com) in September 1943. Buntie and her husband Bob always welcomed John’s friends into their home in Brisbane, fed them ‘wonderfull meals’, accommodated them overnight, took them out for drives, etc…

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Enjoying leave in Brisbane; the ‘powers Referendum’ result; questions about ‘the pater’ persist (2 letters)

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn


20th August 44

Dear Mother

Your very welcome letter arrived on Wednesday along with one from Ivy, and made good reading.  Am glad to know you re getting along alright though I guess you’re kept pretty busy.  There’s such a lot of things to be done around the place for one person – too much altogether.  Haven’t heard anything from the pater as yet – suppose he hasn’t got settled in or maybe is being kept too busy.  Has he written you as to his whereabouts mother?  Am glad Laurie got the battery fixed up – did he give the engine a run?

Have had quite a good week here.  The weather has been beautiful and the work more interesting than usual, though a bit tough on the feet.  Managed to get into town one afternoon – was quite enjoyable really – got my watch illuminated and bought some writing paper.  Treated myself well too – booked the night at the Canberra Temperance Hotel, a real swell joint with a shower in the bedroom – very reasonable too especially for Q’land.  Went to a show at one of the theatres – left it a bit late getting there as I waited for Bruce Lloyd who was going to try and get in after tea, but didn’t manage it.  The show I wanted to see was booked right out- and there must have been over a hundred still waiting about.  Had just about made up my mind to to to a Theatrette when an old chap with what I suppose were his wife and daughter came in & the old bloke walked over and asked if I wanted a seat as he’d booked four and only three came.  So I got an extra good seat.  He turned out to be related to the Gellibrand and Nicholas’s at the Ouse and knew Tassie well.  It was a good show ‘ “The Black Swan” and I was glad I’d got the seat.

Judging from the latest reports in the Sunday paper the referendum has been lost.  Was rather surprised at the New South Wales vote – thought they’d have been strongly for it.  There were quite a lot fo good points in the scheme but a few bad ones upset the show and as it meant taking the good with the bad I think most people took the view that it was too revolutionary.

Well news is scarce Mother so will say cheerio – give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the troops.  Love   Max.

PS  Heard yesterday that Jim had a fractured back and though they think he’ll be alright don’t expect him back in the army.

The Canberra Hotel

The Canberra Hotel was officially opened on 20 July 1929. The hotel was situated on the corner of Ann and Edwards Streets, opposite the Salvation Army’s People’s Palace. It was erected by the Queensland Prohibition League (formerly the Strength of Empire Movement, and later the Temperance League). The founders aim was to demonstrate  “that a first class hotel could be successfully conducted without the curse and nuisance of liquor“. They dedicated the building to “the highest type of residential life … a guarantee and an assurance that the fight for a sober land was not going to die out“. The image below is from a 1937 advertisement.

(https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/blog/sobriety-ruins-demolition-canberra-hotel )

The Referendum

Apparently the majority of voters agreed with Robert Menzies (a member of the conservative opposition to John Curtin’s Labor government) that some of the powers went ‘beyond what a non-socialist programme of post-war reconstruction would require’. (https://www.moadoph.gov.au/blog/referenda-and-plebiscites-whats-the-difference/# )

Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights

The question posed was – Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled ‘Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) 1944’?

Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) 1944, the ‘Fourteen Powers’ or ‘Fourteen Points’ Referendum, sought to give the Commonwealth Parliament power, for a period of five years, to legislate with respect to the fourteen specified matters, which included the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, national health, family allowances and ‘the people of Aboriginal race’ as well as, in some form, many of the matters on which powers to legislate had been sought in 1911 (that is, corporations, trusts, combines and monopolies). There were also to be inserted constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and religion and safeguards against the abuse of delegated legislative power. All of these proposed alterations were put to voters in the form of one question.

A majority of voters in WA and SA approved. Overall, there were 342,018 fewer formal votes in favour of the proposal than against. So the proposal did not succeed. Interestingly, of the 417 082 votes by members of the Forces, 218 452 were for, 195 148 against and 3482 informal: ie a majority of those in the forces supported the proposal.


Official Photos

Not mentioned in the letter, but as well as being voting day, August 19 was devoted to the taking of official photos of all the companies and other groupings. Dad appears at the far right of the back row in this photo of ‘Senior Non Commissioned Officers’ (AWM 068556). Bruce Lloyd – also mentioned in this letter – is seated at the far left of the front row.

Senior Non Commissioned Officers of the 2/33rd Infantry Battalion. Identified personnel are: (left to right, front row) TX531 Sergeant (Sgt) B M Lloyd; NX58527 Sgt D B Maxwell; NX13185 Sgt J N Taylor; QX1146 Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) R Ross; VX17566 WO2 F Allshorn; TX1180 Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) K C Anderson; NX10597 WO2 K V Hopkins; SX636 WO2 J F Moreau; TX919 WO2 R H Robinson; NX44065 Sgt R Shimmin. Middle row, left to right: NX10010 Sgt T W Alchin; VX2045 Sgt J A Dwyer; NX10011 Lance Sergeant (LSgt) L W Alchin; NX32925 Staff Sergeant (SSgt) H J Costello; NX6483 Sgt S Black; QX2853 Sgt P McCowan; NX15157 Sgt J O Rossiter; NX28339 LSgt A H Morton; NX88379 Sgt R V Pearson; NX6517 SSgt F Mothersal; QX3234 Sgt J W Davies; QX4910 Sgt M J O’connor; QX35179 Sgt W A McCreath. Back row, left to right: SX2307 SSgt K A Henschke; NX69285 Sgt H J Norton; VX115841 Sgt J Finch; QX6550 Sgt F E Dredge; NX83984 Sgt A S Hincks; TX1197 Sgt F J Story MM; NX83996 Sgt G A Chittick; NX6403 Sgt C J Barlow; NX114121 Sgt M Cotteril; VX11743 Sgt I M Dwyer MM; NX44041 LSgt J B Chambers; NX92910 LSgt W J Elbourne; TX1004 Sgt M L Hickman.

TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn


24/ 8/ 44

Dear Mother

We look like being busy during the weekend so will try and get my mail up to date tonight and tomorrow night.  Am glad to know that you, May, Anne & Carline are keeping well though sorry life is so lonely.  Even though Peter and the troops are extra good fellows and probably understand all you say to them it’s not much satisfaction to keep talking without any answer.

Had a letter from Ivy this morning but so far haven’t heard anything from dad – might be taking him a fair while to get to wherever he’s going or perhaps he hasn’t settled in yet.  Anyway I guess one of us will hear form him soon.

Jim McDonnell is able to get about again now but is still in plaster and I believe he will be in plaster for anything up to three months.  Chaps who have come back from the hospital say the doctors think he will be alright again.  Went to town with Bruce Lloyd last night with the idea of treating ourselves to a big night – had a leave pass till the morning.  Started off extra well – got a lift to the station and got off a few stops before town and had a few drinks.  Had arranged to meet some of the boys there : they’d got a lift in a truck.  When we went into the pub you’d have thought there was a fire sale on – a tremendous crowd.  Anyhow, they had a couple ready for us and after we had them we went and had a meal, then went on to a show – a good show too – “His Butler’s Sister” starring Deanna Durbin.

From then on the rot set in and we couldn’t take a trick.  Had ideas of staying at a Hotel – sleeping between sheets, having a hot bath and eggs and bacon for breakfast – but the plans of men and mice definitely went astray and we gradually worked down the social scale of hotels to service hostels only to find that they too were booked out so eventually we finished up sleeping on the seats at the Central Station.  What a come down – but it had its compensations Mother as when the train came in we just had to step aboard.  Ag had bought some doughnuts whilst we were touring the city looking for a bed so we ate our breakfast on the way and even if it wasn’t eggs and bacon we were hungry and they were good.

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

Love Max.

Peter and the troops

These were the family dogs.

His Butler’s Sister : An American musical comedy

Moving to the Atherton Tableland (Kairi)

A route march for the whole Battalion on August 22 was followed by a full day of packing stores and cleaning camp. Then on Thursday 24th D company entrained for the move, and on Friday 25th the remainder of the Battalion followed. The journey lasted a full 3 days. (ref. Unit War Diary AWM RCDIG1027245)

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Two letters: Before and after the Divvy March and a surprise from home

6th Aug 44

Dear Mother & dad

Have your letter of the 31st – quite interesting too though sorry to hear Jim Butterworth has gone – a good fellow Jim and one of the real identities of the Club.  Never heard anyone say a bad word about him.  It’s good to hear that you’re getting good weather down there now – you’ve certainly had a tough winter – guess the first winter home will be tough for us as we haven’t really struck any cold weather since we left Syria and only a few weeks then.

Life continues to be reasonably pleasant here although at the moment they’re march happy, training for the divvy march for Tuesday.  The formations are very different to anything we’ve done before so of course it’s needed a lot of practice to get things right and a bit of juggling around to have the different weapons in the best positions.  A lot of the sergeants are a bit crooked on things because they’ve made us fall in with the mob – only the officers being detached.  The sergeants consider it a loss of dignity though it doesn’t mean a thing to me.  The Brigadiers and CO’s are particularly anxious that the show should be a success as it’s the first divisional march this war and General Vasey is to be at the Saluting Base.  Old George is the most popular General in the AIF.  There’s going to be a ton of bands for the show so it should be alright though five miles at the slope in service dress will drive the grease out – the sun’s got a bit of sting in it now and on macadamised roads she’ll be heavy.

I went to the opera on Friday night – a real upstage show.  Took Mrs Tait and her daughter.  It was quite a good show too.  The company are having a great run here – even extending their season.  After the show I took them home and stayed the night.

Jim is still in Hospital.  Wouldn’t be surprised if the next I hear from him is in your letters .  Must say cheerio now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and regards to the boys.



Preparing for the big day (Tuesday 8th August)

Apart from the participants in the march, the City of Brisbane was working hard on logistics in relation to traffic management and crowd control.  The Courier Mail advised on  Friday 4 August that school children would be given a half day holiday the following Tuesday to enable them to watch the march, and parliament also decided to take a break from 12.30 until 3.00 so MP’s  could attend. (see https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48948490/2008251)

On the day

According to The Footsoldiers (p 377) ‘There were ten days of newspaper publicity relating to the 7th Division’s activities in England, Syria, Papua and Lae-Ramu and many references to the ‘Silent Seventh’…  The enthusiastic crowds made it a never-to-be-forgotten moment.  Never before and an entire division with all its staff and support troops marched in a city in Australia…’

‘Five miles in heavy uniform’ :  Readers familiar with Brisbane streets may be interested in the route : Victoria Park – Gilchrist Ave – Countess St – Roma St – King George Sq – Adelaide St – George St – Queen St – Wickham St – Brunswick St – Victoria Park.  Saluting Base – City Hall.

This photo shows troops of the 25th Brigade (battalion not identified) relaxing in the assembly area at Victoria Park while waiting for the order to fall in.

AWM 068150

Photos of the march :

 AWM 068367  : Men of the 2/33rd passing the saluting base.

No. 4 in the photo is WO II Rodney Robinson (TX919) to whom Dad refers in the letter below.

Others identified are :NX34870 Capt. G B Connor(1), NX13643 Lieut J T May (2), VX102132 Lieut R Fredericks (3)

Men of the 7th Division engineers (source unknown).  I’ve included this one because the rifles look so dramatic- demonstrating the meaning of ‘at the slope’ – and it gives a good idea of the crowd.

However, more than any photos, this video from the AWM (F07116) provides a wonderful insight into the day – before, during and after the march – including showing the crowds on rooftops and flooding into the streets to join the marchers.  It only runs for 4 mins 30 sec.

TX 1004

Sgt Hickman M L

2/33rd Btn


     PS    Will you get me a ticket in Tatts

Dear Mother

Haven’t heard from you this week though had a letter from youngster which somewhat explains why.  Dad’s decision to go to New South Wales with Fred Booth must have been very sudden as he’d never hinted at doing so in his letters and youngster’s reference to his passing through Melbourne was very vague.  What is it Mother – just a trip or a reunion or what?  Last time dad wrote he said he was going to Launceston.  Hope he’s not going to be away too long as it will be very tough for you being alone and having so much to do and so little convenience especially for getting stuff out from town.  Dad was never one to make sudden decisions like that before – never known him do anything on the spur of the moment before.  Fred Booth must have a big influence on him.

We’ve had quite a big week here what with the divvy march and one thing and another.  The march was a great success – the biggest there’s been in Australia this war and everything went very well – practically the whole population for miles around turned out to see it and gave the show a wonderful reception.  The organisation was extra good too.  Don’t think there was a hitch in any part of it – not as far as our show was concerned anyway.  The only thing lacking was bands – there was less bands for the ten thousand men in this show than there was for three thousand men in Melbourne.  The weather too was with us : it had been threatening for days and even rained the night before but the big fall held off till the day after the march.  I suppose some of the movie tone people made films of the march so if you can, try and see it.  Think you’ll like it.  There were some funny incidents though of course being in it we missed most of the amusing sidelights.  The sergeant major of my company came in for a lion’s share of appreciation by the girls and women – he’s a big lean spare red headed fellow from Flinders Island and being socially inclined has made many friends among the girls services – and at the various strong points they cheered frantically and called his name.  One middle aged woman ran right out and put her arms round his neck to kiss him.  Poor Robby was embarrassed from start to finish, changing colours a dozen times every hundred yards.  Just toward the finish of the march I saw Mrs Tait and young Jack came over to tell me his mother had two bottles of beer for me in her bag but unfortunately I couldn’t take them – was as dry as chips too, having marched five miles in heavy uniform and at the slope all the time.  Pity considering the trouble she must have had getting them – but people just don’t understand the army.

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



censor – J Kemp.

Brisbane Acclaims the Seventh

This report from the Courier Mail on the day after the march also provides some wonderful photos of the event. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/48953572/2008277

Spur of the moment decision

What a surprise!  Dad’s father was 62 and had never done anything like this before.

The letter from Ivy clearly didn’t give much detail – just that he was heading for New South Wales  – and his mother was presumably just as shocked as he was.  Although she had plenty of friends, and daughter May and family living next door, she didn’t drive and obviously relied on my grandfather to do the ‘heavy lifting’ around the home.  Some information about the expedition comes to light in later letters – though an explanation as such is never given.

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A fishing trip, a mention in the Griffin and a letter from Gen Vasey
















23rd July 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Am a bit late writing this week.  Had intended doing so Friday whilst on guard but the competition is so keen – each company mounts one competition guard a week and the platoon were rather anxious to win so of course I had to be on my toes all the time – and though I started to write several times never actually got to doing so.  How did the birthday go Mother?  Hope you had a happy day with an appropriate evening – which I suppose would be a game of cards.  Anyway, however you spent it I hope it was good.

Received your welcome letter of the 16th on Thursday: made good reading too.  As you say we’ve certainly got the edge on you for weather – we’ve had a week of perfect weather – very cold at night but extra good in the day time.  It’s certainly the best winter climate in Australia.

Have had quite a good round of entertainment round these ridges this week – a concert by a party from the Broadcasting Commission on Tuesday night supported by the unit band which incidentally is booked to broadcast from two Q’land stations soon, so that’ll give you an idea that they’re good.  I suppose one of the best bands in Australia at present.  Most of the items at the concert were either singing or musical numbers and though somewhat spoiled by a few animal acts by fellows who’d got into some grog, was an extra good show.  Then on Thursday night the officers and sergeants messes put on a dance with the WAAF’s and this too turned out a great success – good floor, good music and good dancing.  The WAAF’s brought along three of their friends from the WAC’s- the American women’s show – had a dance with one of them – very nice too – had been educated in Europe and spoke better English than most Australians.  She had a great impression of Australia but not Australian politics.

As I’ve mentioned earlier leave is now practically scrubbed and except for married men resident in the area it’s difficult to get away at all.  However after we’d won the guard competition for the week I saw the adjutant and arranged for Viv and I to get away Saturday evening till tonight as we’d promised to go fishing with the Taits.  We had tea in town and went out to Alderley – that’s near Enoggera round seven o’clock.  They were very pleased to see us as I’d written telling them how things stood.  Put in a pleasant evening with them, stayed the night and today went to Calloundra with them in the car.  The weather was perfect and although I didn’t catch any fish had a very enjoyable day.  They got a couple of dozen good sized bream.   Viv caught five or six but I couldn’t do any good.

Am enclosing a copy of a letter circulated amongst the divvy from General Vasey.  The most popular divisional commander in Australia – always had a friendly nod whenever he net any of the mob.  Would like you to put it away somewhere.  Am also enclosing a copy of the Griffin in which you’ll see that Jim has made the news.  Must say cheerio now Mother & dad.  Give my love to May & Anne & Carline and regards to the Troops.



Unit band

The Battalion diary notes on July 24 – Unit band gives recital at Greenslopes military hospital.  This hospital had only opened in 1943, and after the war became the Repatriation General Hospital.

Image – AWM068377

The band playing its part in the 7th Division March, Brisbane August 1944



A Dance with the WAAF’s


AWM 083183

A dance in Kairi north Queensland in November 1944 : 7th Division personnel, AWAS and others.



Leave is practically scrubbed

Orders re leave issued on 15th July  ref 25 Bde diary May – July 1944

AWM RCDIG 1025403






Enoggera barracks

To provide an orientation to where the Taits live, Dad mentions Enoggera – the location of an Army Barracks of the same name that his father was familiar with: it was where he waited with others of the 26th Battalion in June and July of 1915, before embarking for Egypt and Gallipoli.


Image – possibly the fishing spot (Military Jetty – Golden Beach Caloundra)





General Vasey

Major General George Vasey had taken over command of the 7th Division in October 1942.  According to his Wikipedia entry, Vasey’s concern for an rapport with his men was a key factor in his success as a general…. He was hospitalised in New Guinea in February 1944 and again in Melbourne in March, then in June he became seriously ill with malaria and acute peripheral neuropathy, and for a time was not expected to live.  7th Division soldiers in the hospital constantly asked the nursing staff about his progress.  The men called him ‘Bloody George’, not after his casualties but after his favourite adjective.  Vasey’s personable style of command attracted immense loyalty from his men.  “Vasey owns the 7th” wrote a Melbourne journalist “but every man in the Division believes he owns Vasey”.

AWM 140796 

Melbourne, March 1944 :  This image of Vasey with 2 privates and a WO conveys the ease with which he related to the men



Commander’s Letter to the troops

ref: 25 Bde diary May – July 1944

AWM – RCDIG 1025403






News from The Griffin

The Griffin of 19 July mentions both Dad and Jim.  Dad is ‘Hick’ who commented on someone (poor old Irish) who tells only two kinds of people – those who ask and those who don’t – and Jim is the member of HQ company who was reportedly trying to emulate the deeds of Tarzan when he fell.  

ref – Unit diary July – Sept 1944  – AWM  RCDIG 1027245


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No need for a milkman when the other three men are away!?


PS – Did you get the anniversary edition of the Griffin I sent about a month ago














16/ 7/ 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Received a letter from you during the week – very interesting too – but haven’t had time to write – we’re so damn busy these days – ever since the company commander came back from hospital and the heads decided the good times had definitely finished we’ve been flat out.  Nothing really tough but kept going all the time with very little time to yourself – especially the sergeants as there’s so much to do each night for the next day.

The milk strife in Hobart must have been some show.  You can never satisfy some people.  It was featured in the newspapers here and aroused a lot of wise cracks about even needing a milkman in a place like Hobart while the three other men were away.  There’s three Tassies in the Mess.

That turnout at the Commercial read well.  A lot of people would take Tex for a mug but he can use his hands pretty well – a smart fellow in most ways Tex.

Had quite a good weekend last week.  Had a little advance information on the suspension of weekend leave so got in early.  Went out to the races on the Saturday to see the Doomben Newmarket – the richest sprint race in Australia – but it was a lousy day – rained all the time and there was a hell of a crowd.  Struck Viv just after the big race and we gave it away and came to town, had a meal – the best I’ve ever had in Brisbane – then we had a couple of jugs at the Lady Bowen Club and went up to Mrs Tait’s.  Spent quite a pleasant evening and stayed the night.  Were to go fishing with them next day but the weather didn’t look too good early so we put the fishing trip off and went for a run in the car.  Saw more of Brisbane than I’d seen all the time we’ve been camped near there.  Had a talk to Bob’s brother who is a motor mechanic about keeping the car on blocks.  Our transport sergeant had told me it didn’t do them any good and Bob’s brother said it’s the worst thing you can do to leave the engine standing a long time without giving it a run.  So will you get some one to connect the battery up Dad – don’t take the car down – and start the engine every other day.  Start it with the handle if you can and just let the engine run for about five minutes.  There’s a couple of gallons of petrol in the tank and that should last quite a while at that rate.  They say it ruins an engine if the oil doesn’t get through it regularly – don’t want that to happen – would be better to have the car registered and get someone to run it a bit than spoil the engine.

Jim McDonnell had a nasty fall about a week back.  Fell about twenty five feet I believe and hurt his back pretty badly.  Has been having treatment ever since and says he’s in a lot of pain – is to be X rayed this morning – so may know what’s wrong soon.

Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline & best wishes to the boys.



The Training Syllabus

Outline of training schedule 10 – 23 July.

Source – Unit diary July – Sept 1944 AWM RCDIG 1027245






The Milk dispute

The Hobart Mercury Monday 10 July – page 1!!  (continued p 6) advised that ‘Many Hobart households will be without milk this morning’ as the Southern Dairymen’s Association executive had decided there should be ‘no departure’ from a decision taken the previous Friday that distribution should cease ‘until the claim for a price basis equivalent to 1/8 per gallon all year round was granted.   https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/26026372  

The following day, the paper reported that milk had not been difficult to obtain on the Monday, as some vendors ignored the Association’s decision and many women had ‘stocked up’ on the Sunday.   https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/26049901   On that day (Tuesday 11th July) both the Examiner in Launceston and the Advocate in Burnie reported that the ‘Strike’ had been called off, but there was no such report in the Hobart paper which is curious.  According to the Examiner report  (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/91420114 ) Premier Cosgrove had said that if the strike were called off, his government would support the Association’s representations to the Prices Commission, to have an average of 1/8 per gallon for milk paid over twelve months.  (The Prices Commission had previously ruled this would only be paid over the 4 months of winter)

Searching for associated images, I found this one of a milk delivery cart operated by Norman J Kellett who had a dairy in Creek Road Lenah Valley.  Coincidentally he was married to Elsie (nee Hickman) a cousin of Dad’s father Henry.  

Source : A History of Kangaroo Valley – Lenah Valley 1847 – 1995  by Trevor Wilks (self published)

Noting the sign ‘TB tested herd’, I found that although pasteurisation became common in the butter factories during the First World War, by 1940 most cows were still hand-milked. (https://www.utas.edu.au/tasmanian-companion/biogs/E000279b.htm)     However, concern regarding the transmission of certain types of tuberculosis from animals to humans via milk products was widespread.  This article from the Hobart Mercury of October 13, 1943 explains why the testing of herds for Bovine Tuberculosis was considered essential while also indicating that some people still considered the process unnecessary – and simply a public relations exercise to allay consumer fears.



Worthy of mention…

Viv : Viv Abel  TX 797

Jim : Jim McDonnell  TX 1024  In the previous letter Dad mentioned he was at a ‘swimming camp’- ie physical training at a beach – so it is possible he fell from a structure used in that exercise.

Mrs Tait was the sister of John McGrow (QX7355) a young friend of Dad’s, who died in September 1943 as a result of injuries sustained in the Liberator disaster (see www.liberatorcrash.com).  Dad and several others made a point of visiting the Tait’s whenever they could.

Lady Bowen Club  A new facility for service personnel – see post dated June 5 1944.

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Except for a couple that nearly drowned they’re all pretty right.

















Dear Mother & Dad

Had a letter from you today – made good reading too – quite a few interesting tit bits.  Glad to hear that you are both well and that life is reasonably pleasant.  Am not surprised that you should miss Ivy’s baby – he certainly keeps things going, doesn’t he – full of energy and interest and I suppose now that he can talk a little, would keep you guessing what he was trying to say.

There’s no doubt about old Pug.  He’s a world beater – must have built up a good round to have forty two cows, or does he sell wholesale – as you say he doesn’t get much time to sleep though I suppose six hours regular would keep him going because he looks after himself pretty well.  Must be getting on a bit now though.  What would he be Dad – forty five?  Haven’t seen anything of Jim for a few days – he’s away at some swimming camp – struck a lucky break – won’t wear this training stuff – and it certainly is monotonous when you’ve done it so often.

We had a bit of a show here the other night that might have serious results, though everything seems alright now.  There was a bit of a get together show for sergeants of the Brigade and attached units had a few drinks at the brigade mess.  Met a lot of chaps from machine gun shows and arty that I hadn’t seen since we were in England.  They’d engaged a hall and invited the girls from one of the women’s services so after we’d had a few jugs we went along and had a great night.  The floor was extra good and the music supplied by some of the battalion band was perfect.  They were a happy crowd and we danced till one o’clock.  Then the show broke up and we went back to camp and the girls went in Tenders to Brisbane – at least they left to go.  We’d just got in to the camp area when a big sedan drew up level with us honking the horn like hell and pulled in to the side of the road.  We pulled in too.  They wanted our MO.  One of the tenders had gone over an embankment where there’d been a washaway.

They wheeled the truck around and at seventy miles an hour we were soon on the spot.  Things didn’t look too good but the wizzer (the doc) soon got things organised without any panic.  A few of the girls were hysterical but they calmed down when we got them out of the trucks.  Some of them were pretty badly cut and bruised, a couple of broken bones (?) among them and of course they were all suffering from shock.  The doc soon sorted them out and sent them to a CCS and from there to a Service Women’s hospital.  Latest reports say that except for a couple that were nearly drowned they’re all pretty right.  Just as well the truck was going slow – otherwise things might have been a lot worse.

I couldn’t make out that cutting you sent for quite a while till I remembered that Dorothy Lipscombe was Brian Phillips’ girlfriend.

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



Jim… away at some swimming camp

The 25th Brigade Diary indicates that on June 30, ‘Bde party consisting of 2/25 Bn and 50, 2/33 Bn pers and 2 Offrs  and 11 Ors from Bed HQ left for PT camp.   There is a wonderful series of photos of the beach training (though none of actual swimming) in the AWM collection – items AWM 067678 – AWM 067417.   The Brigade diary contains the following description of the ‘PT Camp’ at Burleigh Heads, so it seems likely Jim would have been doing some swimming. (AWM document number 8/2/25: 25 Infantry Battalion diary May – July 1944)  The group returned to Petrie on July 8.







AWM 067393  7th Division Physical Training Camp, Burleigh Heads July 1944




The accident after the dance

The brigade diary mentions several times during the first week of July, how wet the weather was…. ‘much rain during the last few days’, ‘weather still inclement’, ‘rain again all day’.  Unfortunately I can find no mention of this incident in either the Battalion or Brigade diary – nor (via Trove) in the local press.  I assume military censorship was applied.  However I imagine the truck in question might have been similar to this one….  

AWM  P00784.089  c.1944  Members of the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) who are Drivers – Motor Transport stand to attention in front of a covered truck.



This site provides some insights into the experience of women during the war, with a particular force on Queensland : https://www.ww2places.qld.gov.au/homefront/women-in-the-war   

  AWM 062556  Hendra Qld AWAS personnel, members of the 389th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Troop, operating a rangefinder during a training exercise.



 recruiting poster  AWM ARTV00332






The Womens Hospital 

  AWM 086787

This establishment at Yeronga was known as 2 Women’s Hospital (2WH). As a distinct medical unit 2WH had been situated at Redbank, in association with the 2/4 Australian General Hospital (AGH), but it moved completely to the purpose built complex at Yeronga by 1943. Only three specialist women’s hospitals were established in Australia during the Second World War, the others being 1 Women’s Hospital at Claremont in Western Australia and 3 Women’s Hospital located in the grounds of the base hospital at Concord 113 General Hospital, Sydney.[1] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhyndarra)

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Fishing with grenades… and a powerful brew of vaccines













Dear Mother & Dad

Received your welcome letter of the 13th today – am glad to hear that the colds are on the mend and you’re all happy.  Ivy seems to have settled in fairly well and is apparently enjoying renewing old acquaintanceships.  As you say the actual news of the invasion came as a great surprise to most people.  It’s really surprising after it being talked of so much that there should have been any element of surprise at all but the success so far is particularly good although those pilotless planes are causing some headaches though doubtless the allies will find a way of countering them.  The successes in other spheres are also very encouraging and give some grounds for hoping that it might end next year some time.  Anyway here’s hoping that it does. As you say Jim is very disappointed that nothing has happened about his release.  He was so very confident when we first came back that he’d be home by June.  I see Forde has given an indication of the method to be adopted for demobilisation but I guess those with influence will be out first whether they qualify under the scheme or not.

Am still with the Air Force mob – an extra good crowd too in almost every way.  The chaps here are all round and keen and the influences at work are much better than the essentially different influences effecting young fellows in the army.

Had expected to have Sunday afternoon off but the crowd were so keen that Tex (he’s the other sergeant with me) and I decided to take tham out for some grenade throwing.  As there’s a river about a mile away we went there and after telling them the story and practising them with dummies put them through the real drill – throwing the grenades into the river, in so doing bringing the fish to the surface.  It was a novel experience for them to dive into the river after each throw and get the fish – got quite a good haul too – and the cooks made an excellent job of them – we had snapper soup and fish for dinner last night.

Yesterday afternoon we went by truck to the seaside to instruct them in Mortars.  We fired a few along the sand into some scrub and had one dud and as an hour’s search failed to locate it Tex and I left the crowd to get the gear ready and went to inform the people in the houses around and to tell them to keep out of the area.  At one place we called, the owner asked us in and suggested we have a drink.  He had the best stocks I’ve ever seen, Dad – ranging from beer to champagne, with all types of spirits thrown in – a retired publican.  Anyhow we put in a good half hour with him before coming back.

Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May & Ivy and children – and tell Anne I hope she’s soon well again.

Love – Max.


Pilotless planes…  more like Flying Bombs!

Reference in a local (Queensland) newspaper – the Northern Miner – headlined ‘Hitler’s “Flying Bomb” pilotless Planes’ – gives an indication of the power of these weapons.   https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/81516011 

 John Simkin (spartacus-educational) describes the V-1 as a pilotless monoplane with a one ton warhead.  Others describe it as an early Cruise Missile.  This post provides a helpful summary of the weapon and the British response – Operation Crossbow.  https://spartacus-educational.com/2WWv1.htm


Forde on demobilisation

Frank Forde was the Minister for Defence.  The War Cabinet approved the Dept of Post-War Reconstruction’s proposed principles to govern demobilisation on !2 June 1944.  The key element of these principles was that the order in which personnel would be demobilised was to be based on a points system, with service men and women allocated points on the basis of their period of service, age, marital status and employment or training prospects.  (ref https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demobilisation_of_the_Australian_military_after_World_War_II )


Enjoying a break from the unit… grenade and mortar adventures 

Although he says he’s ‘still’ with the Air Force mob’, this is the first mention I’ve seen – maybe there was a letter that went astray.    It seems Dad and Tex were training airforce personnel while the rest of the Battalion were doing Physical Training at Burleigh.  The Battalion Diary makes no reference (so far as I can see) to their deployment away from the unit.  This photo gives an idea of the training being undertaken at Burleigh.  AWM  067386






















30/ 6/ 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Letters seem to be piling up pretty fast these days so had better do something about it.

Received yours of the 26th on Wednesday – not bad service that, two days from the time it’s written to be delivered.  A letter from Ivy yesterday covered the story of her return to Melbourne – quite a good crossing.

I’m glad to hear that Max Phillips came up to see you and to know that his family are all so well.  You’d expect a couple like them to have good children & Audrey has all the qualifications of a good mother – plenty of confidence and common sense.  I’m a bit his way as regards the powers referendum and will be very surprised if they pull it off.  NSW & Vic might support it but I think the other states will knock it back.  They’ve abused the powers they’ve had too much for my liking now – though the programme is cleverly put together offering something to every section of the community and making each particular point appear vital so that the people interested in that section will vote blindly for the whole issue.  If we get a vote as I suppose we will, I’ll certainly vote no – apparently even a majority vote is not sufficient for them to win, as it has to be a majority in four states.

Our term of instruction with the RAAF station ended on Tuesday and Wednesday we came back to the unit.  It had been a good break – It’s good to get away from he racket for a while.  The situation has changed very much since we left the unit – and fairly solid training is now the order of the day.  But it’s a different proposition trying to instruct this crowd to instructing the RAAF.  These blokes have all used the weapons and know their capabilities and haven’t any interest beyond that.  Hadn’t been back in the unit an hour and was told I had to report to the RAP and have a couple of injections.  The needles have never worried much before except for making the arm a bit stiff but this lot went to town properly.  It was a powerful brew alright.  Brought on a fever and then went to work on the whole system.  The other blokes had all had theirs and told me what to expect but I didn’t expect it to be as crook as it was – aches and pains all over – head, kidneys, arms, legs, stomach and all – am just about right again now.

Charlie Farlow is certainly stepping along – must have an extra good round or does he deal wholesale?  One thing about it, he can see something for his work at that game.  I saw Jim last night – he hadn’t heard any more about the business and isn’t too happy in the service now that all day training has started again.

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



The Powers referendum :  cleverly put together – something for everyone

Dad correctly noted that a referendum to change the Australian constitution only passes if approved by a majority of voters in a majority of states, and by a majority of voters across the nation. On this occasion, the Government decided to ask for an expansion of Federal powers in respect of 14 powers.  These were very wide-ranging – from the rehabilitation of service men and women to uniformity of railway gauges and the ability to legislate for Aboriginal people. 

see https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/206780230    

Some of the powers were already exercised by the Commonwealth, but on the basis that they were ‘wartime powers’.  The Government argued that chaos would ensue, post-war, if it were not permitted to continue to exercise these powers for up to 5 years after the end of hostilities.

The question to which voters had to respond on August 19 was simply – Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled ‘Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) 1944’?

Prime Minister John Curtin and Arthur Fadden made radio addresses for the ‘Yes’ and “no’ cases, respectively, late in July.  Curtin argued that to abandon wartime controls on the declaration of peace would cause disorganization to the social system and destroy the capacity of the system to meet the need of the first few disturbed years after the war and in response, Fadden claimed that in peacetime, you will work under government compulsion, you will eat and wear what the bureaucrats ration out to you: you will live in mass-produced government dwellings: and your children will work wherever the bureaucrats tell them to work! If granted nothing can be made, produced, built or grown without permission. Everything that is grown or made, carried or carted, sold or exchanged will be under government control. A yes vote would enable the Government to implement Labour’s policy of socialization. 



Injections… a powerful brew

These images are of another unit, but they were in Queensland, and I imagine the 2/33 RAP looked quite similar.  The vaccination being administered here is the TAB   

AWM 080735  & 080736    Wondecla, Queensland   23/9/1944    Headquarters 6th Division troops at the Regimental Aid Post receiving vaccination and anti-typhoid injections before their movement overseas.  








Charlie Farlow…. stepping along

Charles Farlow was a ‘dairyman’- sufficiently well regarded to be called to give evidence about the welfare of milking cows.   (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/25997626 )  It would seem from Dad’s comment that he also delivered milk to customers – possibly both domestic and commercial.

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

Serious drinking indulged in by all, despite a brewery strike




















9/ 6/ 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Your welcome letter of Sunday arrived yesterday along with one from Ivy and another from Marie – and between the three I got a fairly detailed account of affairs in the home town.  Am particularly pleased to hear that you’re all so well – especially so with the bad weather you’re having down there.  Glad the baby is putting on weight and enjoying himself with May’s children.  It’s the best thing that could be for him to have other babies to play with.  Ivy says he just adores Anne and has a lot of fun with Carline – guess he’ll miss them when he goes back to Melbourne.

Both Ivy & Marie mentioned the visit to Wrest Point.  Apparently they had an enjoyable day or at least night there.  It’s a pity really that Algie came home this week – as Marie is such light company that she could get Youngster out of the rut she seems to be in – however these things just happen that way.

It would certainly be a good thing if you could get rid of that place in Park Street now but suppose it’s just about impossible at present – with the hide bound regulation controlling real estate.  The only chance would be to sell it to someone as an investment.

Yesterday was the Battalion anniversary of the first action and the biggest celebration of its kind we’ve had.  Everything went off very well.  There was a battalion muster parade in the morning, a ceremonial inspection and short talk by the CO, a two minute silence then the bugler sounded the last post and reveille after which there was a march past.  The afternoon was given up to sport – a wide and varied programme of well contested events made up a very interesting afternoon.  There were three or four Rugby matches – the star show being the match between the officers and sergeants, an all in go – the snakes winning two-nil.

In spite of the strike at the brewery the occasion must have justified a priority as the battalion put on five hundred – no three hundred gallons of beer for the men whilst there was almost unlimited stocks of bottled beer at our mess and I believe even more so at the officers.  We (the sergeants) had a ten gallon before the formal dinner – and afterwards we went by trucks to a hall some few miles from the camp – quite a good dance band had been engaged and a crowd of VA’s supplied the partners for dancing till eleven o’clock when the girls went home and the mob settled down to steady drinking – and as there was no means of getting back till the show finished they certainly drank some beer returning to camp around four o’clock this morning and along with everyone else in the battalion from the CO down, bed is first favourite today.  But the whole show went off extra well.

The anniversary number of the Griffin is also particularly good this year.  I’m posting mine on but as it will come by surface mail will probably take some time to get home.

The capture of Rome and the apparently successful landing in France are big news and give cause for hope that the European show may end this year – though there’ll be a power of men killed before it does end.  If they can finish the show over there this year it shouldn’t take long to finish the Japs afterwards especially if Russia gives the allies bases for bombing.  The Yanks seem to be getting pretty sweet with Russia so I guess that’s their idea.

Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May & Ivy and the children and regards to the boys.



Wrest Point

The hotel at Wrest Point was built in 1939.  As children in the 1950’s and 60’s we swam in the sea water pool.  

image – NAA






Hide bound regulation controlling real estate

I assume Dad is referring to the regulations concerning rents and tenants’ rights, embodied in the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) regulations of 1941.  I understand they protected tenants from eviction and limited the rents that could be charged.    https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/researchpapers/Documents/protected-tenancies–history-and-proposals-for-r/Protected%20Tenants.pdf   


June 8 : the Battalion Anniversary

The regular ‘Griffin’ was very low key – typed and ‘Gestetnered’ each Friday,  but on special occasions a big effort was made : a properly printed quarto-size journal, with heavy paper covers was issued to all Battalion members. 

The usual format of the Griffin.







Below are the cover and first two pages of the special edition.  Note the comments made by the CO regarding the Liberator disaster on page 1, as well as the explanation for the use of the Griffin as Battalion totem.  The willingness of senior officers to sanction tongue-in-cheek reflections on their behaviour is evident in the ‘one act play’ on page 2.















The War in Europe

June 5 – Allied troops entered Rome, following the early morning withdrawal of German units.

June 6 – The D Day landings in Normandy, and the other elements of Operation Overlord certainly provided troops elsewhere with reason for optimism.

Posted in Food and Drink, organisation, The course of the war | Leave a comment

Next deployment… whenever it is, it’ll be too soon (2 letters)



1st June 44

Dear Youngster

Got quite a healthy bunch of letters when we arrived back in camp last night after a three day stunt – four in all.  Yours, dad’s, & one each from Marie & Jack – a widely varied and interesting selection.  Glad to hear you’ve reached the ancestral domicile safely and that the crossing was good even if the train trip wasn’t the best.  I’ll bet the mater & pater were pleased to see you and the little bloke and May and the children too – can well imagine the little bloke and Carline making a hit.  They’ll have fun between them.  Even though conveniences are somewhat lacking you should be quite comfortable during your stay as I know Mother & Dad will do their utmost to make you so, and as dad’s got plenty of wood in you’ll at least have warmth.

The proposed trip to Wrest Point of which both you and Marie write should be a good day – it’s a pity there isn’t someone to drive the car – then you could get around a bit.  Am sure Mae Menzie would like to see you and the little bloke whilst you’re over however it’s not much good of talking in riddles is it.

There’s not much doing here Ivy.  They’re gradually pulling the strings in and very soon we’ll be back to the old routine of training though I don’t think we’ll be leaving Australia for some time – though whenever it is, it’ll be too soon.

Must say cheerio now.  Give my love to the trump and Mother & dad.



The crossing was good..  train trip wasn’t the best

The crossing from Melbourne to Launceston would have been on the Nairana– the only commercial passenger vessel to operate between Tasmania and the mainland throughout the war years.  As such, she crossed the strait 6 nights a week, with military personnel being preferenced over ‘ordinary passengers’.  She accommodated 250 passengers in first class and 140 in second.   Nairana had served as a seaplane carrier during World War I.  The image below is of an earlier vessel the Loongana.  She was much the same size as Nairana and served on the Bass Strait run from 1904 – 35, including conveying Victorian firefighters to support the rescue effort at the Mt Lyell mine in 1912.  I include the image because as well as the ship, we see the city of Launceston.

The train station in Launceston was at Inveresk, a short walk from where the steamer berthed.  The train trip to Hobart took around 5 hours.

Image – Loongana  leaving the wharf, Launceston https://ssmaritime.com/SS-Loongana.htm  




5/ 6/ 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you Ivy and the baby happy and well and enjoying life in spite of the wintery weather that’s prevailing down there.  Your letter of the 28th arrived on Saturday but I didn’t get it till Sunday as I was in town on Saturday.  Practically all the company were on jobs that day and the boss said we might as well go through for the day so Aggie Lloyd and self caught the leave train and spent the day in Brisbane – a busy joint if ever there was one these days.  I’d have gone to the races but Bruce won’t wear races so we went to the pictures, stayed the night at an army hostel and came back on Sunday morning.

Claude Little’s turnout with Dalton must have been quite a highlight in Hobart.  There’s no doubt about Dalton he’s just an animal but he seems to be coming into his own a bit these days but still I suppose if he stood again next election wouldn’t have any trouble to put it over the mob.  It’s really amazing how big some of these fellows get with a little power and a lot of palm grease – am enclosing a cutting from the Bulletin – you may not have seen it – from another big man.

I guess you’re right about the Zinc Works.  The blokes who’re getting it easy these days want to make the most of it because once things straighten up there’ll be no easy cops.  They’ll still want thirty shillings in the pound.  Jim has just about given up hope of getting out for the time being at least.  There’s another chap in the same platoon as him who’s been battling to get out.   Some meat works put in a claim for him and Sheehan one of the NSW Labor members was battling for him – got a letter saying that on account of his age (he’s thirty five) and medical classification (A1) and the important future operation of his unit he could not be released.  The letter was signed by Fraser, the acting minister for the army so unless the Zinc Works have more pull than the meat industry Jim’ll be soldiering on.  There was a bombshell fell in the camp this morning when the canteen sergeant came back with word that there’s a strike at the Brewery.  They’ve been getting such a wonderful go ever since they’ve been in this camp that they’ll miss it now especially this week when the Battalion have their big annual celebration on the 8th June.  It won’t worry me much.  I don’t suppose there’s any in the mess drinks less thank I do – by the time I pay my mess fees, buy tobacco and a few stamps and things I haven’t much left for grog.

We’re still having rather an easy time here but I expect they’ll start and get really serious after the 8th.

Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad – Give my love to May & Ivy & the children and regards to the boys.



PS Jim asked to be remembered to you.

Stayed the night in an army hostel

Although he doesn’t specify which hostel, it might have been the Lady Bowen Hostel which was only completed the previous year.

AWM 015580   19/08/43

Construction workers (troops) posing outside the Lady Bowen Hostel which would provide accommodation and recreation facilities for 200 men.



AWM 059892  4/ 11/ 43

Wet canteen at the Lady Bowen service hostel




Claude Little’s turnout with Dalton

Tom D’Alton was at this time both the Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand and the member for Darwin in the Tasmanian House of Assembly.  Prior to the New Zealand appointment he had been the Minister for Forestry, Commerce and Agriculture in Robert Cosgrove’s government.  ‘At first his career continued to flourish…. but by mid-1943 questions were being asked in parliament about bribery in the Forestry Department’ (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dalton-thomas-george-tom-9896)    The ‘turnout’ referred to in this letter is a legal action taken by Harold Claude Little, the former manager of the Souther Tasmanian Co-operative Society Ltd, alleging that while he was the Minister, D’Alton had ‘wrongfully procured his dismissal as manager’.  Little was seeking payment of £2000 for wrongful dismissal, claiming D’Alton had told the directors of the Society that ‘unless they got rid of their manager, he would ____ well kick them out’ (of their premises).  https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/68851704     Dad’s comment on the likelihood of D’Alton returning to parliament was prescient – after completing his time in New Zealand, despite a Royal Commission finding he had twice accepted bribes, he once again entered parliament – this time as the member for Gordon, a Legislative Council (upper house) seat based on Queenstown. He was elected in November 1947, and returned in 1952, 1958 and 1964.   

I’m intrigued that I never heard about D’Alton’s political career from Dad when I worked at the Special School named in recognition of his work with the Spastic Children’s Treatment Fund and the Miss Tasmania Quest.


Battling to get out

It’s easy to understand why Jim would have been despondent after hearing the story of the soldier who couldn’t be ‘manpowered out’, even with the support of a member of parliament.

Blokes at the Zinc Works – getting it easy?

As indicated in previous posts, work at the Zinc Works was anything but ‘easy’.  Many of the men had tried to volunteer but were prevented by the Company – being a protected/ essential industry.  Many had served in World War I.   Men sent to the works by the Dept of Manpower were often incapable or unwilling to perform the work required.  There was a lot of ‘making do’ – eg the backs of forms were used for letters and filter cloths were cut up to make gloves.  Employees were represented on the Works Committee, and when asked to assist the war effort by arranging for men to pick fruit in their free time, they agreed.  (The Zinc Works )

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