The old hands are certainly browned off : a joyless journey north














Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn

AIF Aust 5/ 5/ 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you both happy and well and enjoying life.  As you’ll see from the address I’m back in the unit – arrived here yesterday afternoon just before tea.

We reached Brisbane early – well, ten o’clock – Wednesday morning and after a series of parades got leave from four o’clock in the afternoon till midnight.  The trip up was uneventful as an atmosphere of melancholy obtained throughout.  I’ve never seen a crowd of men so out of sorts as that draft – never in the toughest of times a spot of humour didn’t brighten things up but the best comedian in the world couldn’t have raised a laugh from the mob as they stood by their gear at Spencer St Station waiting to entrain.  A half bred dingo dog expressed the sentiments of all as he howled a mournful dirge whilst tied to a stack of cases nearby.  The old hands are certainly browned off.

Quite apart from all the other reasons for not wanting to go back, I didn’t like leaving Ivy and the baby.  I think it was doing her good to have someone to talk to and the young fellow is a bonzer kid.  I thought him a bit cross and niggly the first couple of days as he cried quite a bit but am sure he must have been sick or else excited by having a stranger in the house as he was absolutely perfect during the last week.  I played with him every day and took him walks and that sort of thing and he was very happy.  I certainly hope she’ll be able to get over but as I suppose she’s told you there’s very real obstacles in making the trip.  But if she does make it do all you can to make them happy because they’ve had a tough trot.  Youngster’s not at all well and is becoming a prey to herself.  I wouldn’t say anything about Bill dad because she’s easily upset and nothing upsets her more than anything said about him.  She’s a great girl and a wonderful mother and has had a terrible tough trot and although she has very set ideas as a result of being alone and being naturally independent, give in to her rather than argue with her.

The trip up was uneventful.  From the time we left Melbourne till we reached Brisbane.  We all hoped we might stop at Sydney but just after daylight on Tuesday our hopes were smashed as the train switched at North Strathfield and headed for Newcastle and from then all interest in the trip ended except for a little discussion on General Bennett’s crack at Blamey & Co.  He certainly opened out in a big way.  I don’t know whether the Mercury reported it as fully as the Sydney Telegraph but he certainly stuck the boots in and it’s not surprising in view of his revelations that men should say it’s a gig show.

I haven’t seen anything of Jim since I got back.  He’d got leave today but I believe he got a bit knocked about as a result of running into a tree after a heavy session at the local pub.  Ray Ross hasn’t gone to the officers’ school yet – is still acting CSM.   He looks very fit and is quite content as we’re camped an easy distance from his home and he’s able to get home each night, and back next morning.

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



The train trip north

AWM 058919

Troops enjoying a card game of poker during their long train trip taking them from Melbourne to Brisbane.




AWM 058929 

Clapham Junction Qld.  The ice cream vendor with his horse and cart doing a roaring trade serving the troops from the Melbourne to Brisbane troop train.

(Even here, they don’t look too happy!)




General Bennett’s crack at Blamey & Co

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph of Tuesday 2nd May 1944 :  Under the headline Gen. Bennett Defends Malaya Escape  this article quotes extensively from an interview with Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett who had been denied an operational command in New Guinea by Chief of Army, General Blamey and had decided to return to civil life.  He was forthright in his criticism of Blamey and said he did not want to belong to Australia’s ‘chair-borne troops’.

Bennett was a controversial figure, having escaped from Singapore at the time of the British surrender in February 1942.  The Australian Army hierarchy viewed his action as desertion, but my reading suggests that the men of the 8th Division generally did not, and accepted his assertion that his return to Australia to advise on Japanese tactics was appropriate.  The War Cabinet in Melbourne congratulated Bennett, and Prime Minister John Curtin wrote “His conduct was in complete conformity with his duty to his men and to his country”.  However, General Blamey maintained his antipathy towards Bennett – and as the Telegraph article shows, the feeling was reciprocated.  A recent publication explores Bennett’s decision in more detail – Gordon Bennett: Hero Or Deserter by Roger Maynard, Penguin Random House 2017

From the way he speaks in this letter, it seems to me that Dad – like the men of the 8th Division – supported Bennett.


Ray Ross – one of the ‘day boys’

From The Footsoldiers (pp 374-5):

Liberal leave was allowed and half of the unit was allowed to be away for a night’s leave every night.  Soon some rather odd names were given to various categories of leave groups.  All those – mainly Queenslanders – who had brought their wives to live in Brisbane were granted permission to live out at night.  These men could ‘knock off’ at 1600 hours when the training period finished and not return until first training parade – 0800 – the next day.  For months these were referred to as “day boys”, although this was the kinder of the two names that were current.  The already overtaxed suburban trains …..had problems coping with the extra passengers but the troops’ morale was kept high. By the time the unit left Strathpine, and later Petrie, roads had been worn through the bush from the tent lines to the Lawton and Strathpine Station platforms.

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Extended leave about to end… two letters from Melbourne
















23rd April 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you both happy & well as we are here.  Ivy seems fairly well although by no means fit.  The baby is very happy but a tremendous strain on her – his unbounded energy keeps her on the move all the time whilst the diet ordered for him takes a bit of time to prepare, and if he can’t get out on the grass gets a bit hostile.  He got a bit crotchety this afternoon although I’d tried to play with him for some time so we decided to take him for a walk and to this end covered his pram with a groundsheet whilst Ivy put another groundsheet over her shoulders and I wore Bill’s raincoat.  The weather was lousy – has been all day in fact, ever since yesterday afternoon – but we struck a pretty good patch for a bit over an hour and when we got back the young fellow was quite happy and has had his tea and gone to bed and whilst Ivy is drying his clothes by the fire I’ll catch up with some letter writing.

The news of Reg Wise’ death was about the most sudden I’ve heard – as I was talking to him at the Post Office only last Friday and he looked better than he had for some time.  His illness must have been of a more serious nature than was known.  It will be very hard for Daff with Darrell at the age when he needs his father.  I must write to her as soon as I finish your letter.

Marie came out and stayed at Ivy’s for a couple of days.  They had made the arrangements sometime earlier but fortunately the arrangement didn’t inconvenience Ivy at all as she has been sleeping in the same room as the baby for some time so we moved one of the other beds into the dining room.  Marie looked very well.  The change has certainly done her good, although she was very disappointed at not getting to Brisbane and as she says Angie was very disappointed too.  She expects to come back to Hobart next week.  We went to a show on Friday night – the three of us – Miss Tulloch and her sister came and stayed whilst we were away.  It was quite a good show – a musical comedy at the State Theatre.  Although as usual at indoor shows I went to sleep much to Marie’s disgust.  Marie offered to come out on Tuesday night and mind the baby whilst Ivy and I went to a show but as Ivy has an appointment with her dressmaker on Tuesday afternoon doesn’t think she’ll be up to making it so it doesn’t look like us getting out together again.

I had a few hours with Jim on Thursday afternoon – we had a few jugs at the Mitre – Jim was sparking well.  He said there’s no doubt about it a man could eat fish & chips with Bill Slater and go to a dinner at Government House the same night.  I fancy the mob moved on Friday although I wasn’t in town Friday or Saturday in the daytime. 

Will say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my regards to the boys.



Ivy sends her love and will write during the week.

The Mitre Tavern

A well known Melbourne establishment, still operating (2019).  According to the Tavern’s website  the Mitre Tavern is the oldest building in the city of Melbourne.









8 Hollsmoor Rd


30th April 1944

Dear Mother & Dad

Youngster is just getting tea ready so as we plan to play crib after tea will pen a few lines now.  Your welcome letter enclosed with Ivy’s arrived on Wednesday and made good reading though I’m sorry to hear Mother has had rheumatism again – apparently the Epsom Salts cure isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.  It may take some time to penetrate to the joints but I hope she is well again now.  It’s bad luck Carline being sick again.  There seems to be quite a lot of sickness about.  Must be the sudden change of weather.

The weather here has been lousy all the week too.  I had planned to do a lot of gardening but it rained  so much that I couldn’t get on the ground at all even to mow the lawn, though I did put some peas in.  The wood situation as far as buying is concerned, is rather tough.  I went round all the wood yards within a mile or more but they all had big waiting lists and couldn’t let us have any for some weeks.  Actually Youngster has quite a good stack – that is, for Melbourne – but I’d have liked to get her some more – so all I’ve been able to do, to help her was do the washing up and take the baby for a walk and he certainly enjoyed it too.  He’d wave to his mother from the pram till we were right out of sight.  When one hand got tired he waved with the other one.  He’s really no trouble though he gets a bit crabby at times but loves to frolic around.  We went to town on Friday afternoon and believe me he takes some looking after – climbed over everything in the tram and was interested in everything he saw in town especially when we stopped outside a shop whilst Ivy did her shopping.  He took stock of people, cars and all the passing show and came home quite pleased with himself.

I went out to Flemington on Saturday.  It was a beautiful afternoon.  The first good day of the week.  If Youngster could have made any arrangements for minding the baby she would have come too, but of course being Saturday afternoon everyone was busy.  I met Marie and her sister & sister’s husband – George Flint – a fine chap too – and we had quite an enjoyable though not profitable day.  Marie seemed to know quite a lot of people – Tasmanians – among them a cousin of Pat Wilson’s – I forget what Marie said her name was but Mother might know – she is in the WAAF’s.  A cousin of Marie’s apprenticed to one of the stables got a second in the apprentices’ race.

Well Mother & Dad it looks like the great run of luck with this leave has come to the end of its tether.  I reported back this morning but there was no draft out, got another day, but was told there’ll definitely be a draft tomorrow.  But I certainly can’t complain about this leave.  Viv arrived back this morning too so I’ll have company for the rest of the trip.  Must say cheerio now.  Give my love to May, Anne, Carline and regards to the troops.  Love


Youngster and the little bloke send their love.

The wood situation

As mentioned in letters from the previous winter (July and August 1943) firewood was indeed hard to obtain in both Melbourne and Sydney.  Ivy was actually fortunate to have had the support of a friend, Alex Sturrock – which is probably why she had ‘quite a good stack’, by Melbourne standards.

Tram travel could be tricky

AWM 141296

A badly overcrowded East Preston tram moving along a street in a suburb of Melbourne




Racing at Flemington

Described as the ‘VRC Red Cross and ACF meeting’, a full report on the day’s racing can be found in the Melbourne Argus of Monday 1 May 1944:  (ACF is Australian Comforts Fund – the first race was the Comforts Fund Hurdle.)

The Battalion re-forms

From The Footsoldiers (pp 374-75) :

It was not until 12 April that sufficient officers and men – some 250 – were assembled at Strathpine to formally being the rebuilding of the battalion.  Although not as bad as the difficult period… that existed a year before at Ravenshoe, not a great deal of enthusiasm was shown in the early days at Strathpine.  However the choice of a camp site outside a city such as Brisbane considerably helped the unit spirit and morale….. With the return of the New South Welshmen the unit was 400 all ranks by Anzac Day and the training syllabus began again.  Previously no training had been done – there were insufficient people to either give instructions or carry them out with purpose  – so gravel was carted to make parade grounds.



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Last letter from Moresby and one from friends in Brisbane: different views on rationing













Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion

29th Jany 44

Dear Mother & Dad

It’s raining like fever(?) here so being restricted to the tent will endeavour to write some letters if the team will only snore off, as there’s every indication of them doing.  They love punishing the spine and I don’t exactly dislike it myself – it’s one of the first principles that we all observe rather well “above all a good soldier rests whenever he can”.

I received your welcome letter of the sixteenth yesterday – a bit different to when we were getting them in four days.  This is one of those times when for reasons known only to those who run the mail and the hierarchy, mail comes only in dribs and drabs.  This probably explains why my letters home are so slow too – actually it wouldn’t take any longer for the mail from here, than from the school.

You’re certainly having some bad luck with your sample pets but I suppose that lamb was getting a bit old – was that the one Anne had before I left, or the other one?  The meat rationing is causing a power of strife everywhere it seems.  If reports in the local paper are anything to go on there’ll be a lot of butchers have to close down.  The state news items figured [featured?] an advertisement in an Adelaide butchers shop reading “wanted – a thousand men urgently to build an asylum for mad butchers”.  I picked up Sydney Truth of October the 31st the other day and struck an account of Jack Lang’s attack on the New South Wales Meat Board.  It was old JL at his best.  He hit out to left and right and played the Board individually and collectively.  His griffin must have been right too, otherwise he’d be gone a million for libel.  He said the Meat Board whose principal heads were members of the big meat interests of Vesteys and Angliss were playing into the hands of their particular concerns and acquiring a stranglehold on the retail business by only supplying their own chain of shops.  He said the strikes at the abattoirs were engineered so that the country meat works controlled by Vesteys could make a haul at higher prices than normal.  According to Lang, Al Capone fades to insignificance beside the racketeers running Australia today and I think he’s pretty right.  Old Jack himself stands out as an honest man alongside the politicians today.

I meant to mention it earlier but I suppose by now Aub Wilson has rung you up as he was going home about three weeks ago and wanted to see you though that might be a bit awkward unless he came out now that dad’s at work.  However he’d work the oracle somehow.  I guess you’ll be seeing Tiny anytime now too.  Jack Pengilly his offsider said he left about ten days back so should be well on the way now.  He’s supposed to start work on the third of March though I don’t suppose the date of starting is important so long as they know he’s coming.

We had a good day’s outing yesterday at a river.  It was an extra good day and we had some good swimming and sun baking – didn’t have to cart any gear at all – the Q sent out meat pies for dinner and we boiled the billy on the job.

Apart from a big ceremonial show early in the week when a couple of the big shots came around to look us over nothing of real importance has happened to us lately so of course news is as scarce as ever so will say cheerio for now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.



PS I hope Ivy and the baby will be able to come over.  It would be great for them and I guess Anne & Carline would keep the young fellow amused, but between the three of them they’ll certainly lead you both a dance.

PS Jim Mc sends his best regards and said to keep a few bottles in the cupboard because he’s got a wonderful thirst.

Meat rationing

Meat rationing came into effect on Monday 17th January 1944.  The ration was a little over 2lbs a week for an adult, half that for children, but there were six categories – the ration for each varying depending on the cut and bone and fat content.  There were specific rations for different classes of workers – eg a seamen’s ration was as much as 13lbs a week.  (see  

Checking rationing scales   AWM 140249

Scanning a copy of Melbourne’s Meat Bulletin, a city butcher acquaints himself with details of the new meat rationing scales before opening for business. The ration allowance of meat was generous; however, supply was occasionally scarce, particularly of the better cuts. This four-page bulletin was issued to every butcher in Australia.

There were many newspaper articles regarding the attitudes and experiences of both butchers and customers, regarding rationing.  eg    this one from the Launceston Examiner, describing butchers being ‘beseiged’ in the days before rationing came into effect. 

Image – AWM ARTV08575

Fish, sausages, chicken, ham and rabbits were not rationed. Recipes designed to cater for the lack of eggs, butter and meat appeared in newspapers and magazines on a regular basis. Animal parts such as brains, tripe, livers and kidneys were more readily available than better cuts of meat during the war and formed a significant part of people’s diets. 

Citizens were also encouraged to add hens and a ‘fowl shed’ to their Victory Garden, with articles such as this one from the Grafton Daily Examiner providing details for the building of a shed to accommodate 12 laying hens.    


Jack Lang’s tirade

The article Dad mentions can be read in full here   The article opens thus: In a slashing criticism of the handling of Sydney’s meat supply  in the Legislative Assembly during the week, Mr J T Lang attacked the Government for not ending what he termed the dictatorship of the Commissioner (Mr Merrett) of Homebush Abattoirs, and alleged attempts by the meat combines to gain control of Sydney’s retail trade.


Big ceremonial  show

It had been announced that units would be marching in various cities when they arrived back in Australia and every unit would practice this ceremonial until embarkation.  Our unit went through it all – rifle drill, marching in threes, then sixes, then twelves.  On a brigade parade on the 26th Lieutenant-General Morshead – this time with Major-Generals Vasey and Bridgeford – addressed and inspected the parade, wishing us all a good leave and saying that the unit had done a good job.  Major-General Bridgeford later had assembled all those of the brigade he had commanded in England and spoke of their contribution to the big Army that had been built up.  This brigade parade of the originals* massed only 303 from the 2/31st and 2/33rd Battalions.

(The Footsoldiers p373)  * Dad was one of these.


Home at last

…the unit was warned it would move on the 27th.  At 0400 hours on the 27th the move was cancelled but not before 13 Platoon and the Pioneer Platoon had left with the 2/31st Battalion and in fact sailed with them that night.  It appeared strikes and industrial troubles in Australia, on the wharves and railways, precluded any more arrivals at that time.  It was not until 8 February that the battalion finally boarded the Kanimbla for the trip home, together with the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion.  On the 10th the unit disembarked at Townsville and moved to staging camps at Julargo.  (The Footsoldiers p373)


A letter from Bob and Bunty Tait










Beaufort Street



Tuesday 18th Jan

Dear Hickey

Bob and I were ever so pleased to hear from you and can guess you have plenty to do.  It is a very long day – I know we still don’t realise just how fortunate we are here in Brisbane.  It hurts me to hear the people grumbling about the rationed goods and things they can’t get.  But we manage quite all right and I know where I would rather be.  We do like to hear from you all now and again, understand you have very little time and have plenty of your own folk to keep in touch with, so don’t worry about us – just when you are free we would love to hear from you.  You won’t believe it but Bill has been marvellous.  He writes regular, we look forward to his mail just like we did from John.  I am sure the boys will be glad to have you back again with them.  Bill is out of hospital but had been left behind to look after some gear.  They have all had their share of bad luck lately, but I hope they are all well again now.  By the way did you see Snow?  He has his pips and he looks so well.  The last time he passed through he was hoping to see you soon.  Dick is well and I believe quite fat.  He too has his pips and is home on twenty four days’ leave.  Snow missed out – it was tough luck wasn’t it?  We are on holidays at Mooloolaba, we have been here just on four weeks.  The children are very brown and having a great time, but truthfully I will be very glad to get home again.  We hope to be home in time to see Dick as he passes through to the School at Canungra.  I had a letter from him just before we left.  …Snow wasn’t stationed there – it is just a School (Jungle).  Not very far away but no leave.  George is down there too but he will be off soon.  

Keep the old chin up – that leave will come along when you least expect it.  I hope you get it soon.  I must say cheerio now.  I will drop a line when we see Dick and may be able to give you some more news.  There are a few lads at a school up here – one I notice has a number TX 6720 I think it is.  Rather tall, slim, slightly stooped and very brown.  Signals, I think.  I was tempted to talk to him but didn’t like to.  You may know him.  

All the children send best wishes and all the best for a happier, brighter new year.

Yours sincerely

Bunty & Bob Tait.

We manage quite all right

Dick Lewis spoke very fondly of the hospitality they always received from the Taits when passing through Brisbane.  Busy could always make whatever was available seem like a feast!

Bill has been marvellous.

Bill was I believe Bob Tait’s brother – and I assume Dad had met him on one of his visits to the household.  John was Bunty’s younger brother: a close friend of Dad’s who was killed in the disastrous Liberator crash in Port Moresby, 7 September 1943.   (see

Both Dick and Snow have their pips.

Dick Lewis TX599 and his brother Charles TX1158 (known as Snow) were originals in the 2/33rd but were transferred to other units after completing their officer training during 1943.

TX 6720 : You may know him

The soldier concerned was gunner Horace Millwood of the 6th Field Regiment, hailing from Patersonia near Launceston in the north of Tasmania.  His record shows that he was indeed attending a signals course in Queensland in December 1943.  It is unlikely  Dad would have known him.  





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Testing the Manpower Regs: work at the Zinc Works beckons (2 letters)








TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

16th Jany 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well and enjoying life.  I received your letter a few days back but haven’t had much opportunity to reply.  Sorry to hear the news about Rex Wedd.  We can only hope that the chance in a million of his being a prisoner comes good.  He was an extra good bloke and a good mate and as you say it will be a great shock to his people.  I rather fancy he was the apple of the old man’s eye and his sisters thought the world of him too.

I saw Dick Schultz the other day.  He looks extra well and expects to be going back to take over Alf Pedder’s job at the works.  Not a bad cop for him – £8/11/4 a week for a five day week.  Old Geeves-y has written to Charlesworth and applied for a discharge – he seems very confident of making the grade, though I guess he’ll find that chain a bit heavy as he’s been getting it very easy for some time and except for home comforts I don’t think he’d be as well off at work.  Jim Mc is thinking of giving it a fly too.  He’s had a lot of malaria and one thing and another and misses his pint badly.  I hope he makes the grade because I know how sick of it he is.

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.  What’s Nell Norris going to do in Queensland – has she got a job with the ABC or has she got something else in mind?  Has the romance with Maurie Aherne fizzled out?  I thought that was a cut and dried show.  If we should strike Brisbane again I might run into her – it’s much easier to meet people in Brisbane than in Melbourne or Sydney.

We had a great treat here early in the week – the best concert I’ve ever heard.  Strella Wilson was the star attraction and sang eight or ten songs from musical comedies in which she’s figured.  Apart from her singing which was absolutely marvellous she has a great personality.  She tried to get the mob to join in community singing but after a line or two they gave it up preferring to listen.  Another classy performer was Edwin Styles the English comedian.  The most natural humorist I’ve ever seen – a lot of the stuff he put over was quite original and even the old stories sounded different.  His cracks at politicians and Canberra went over well.  He considered the Federal election the greatest comedy of all time and expressed appreciation that his two star comedians – Eddie Ward and Dedman – made the grade as he thought the show would be awful dull without them.  The whole concert was varied and interesting – in fact I’d like to hear it again.

Well Mother & Dad I’m afraid there’s not much news from this end so will have to say cheerio for the present.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.  I hope the rationing is n’t affecting them too severely.  Jim Mc sends his best wishes.



PS Had quite a good parcel from Daph Wise the other day.


Dick Schultz, Jack Charlesworth and Alf Pedder

Dick Schultz (Cecil Claude Schultz TX1028) was usually known as Tiny.  He had worked as a ‘stripper’ in the Cell Room of the Zinc Works since 1923. (See photo of un-named  ‘stripper’ in previous post – January 9, 1943). There is a photo of Tiny in the Tasmanian Archives, but (as of November 2018) it has not been digitised.  The caption for this item – NS3659/1/15 –  declares: Tiny Schultz, No. 2 Shift Boss 1944 – 65 “Hard but Fair”, EZ Risdon.    Another item in the series names Jack Charlesworth as a Superintendent at Risdon.   The Zinc Works Book (  records that Charlesworth was a legendary footballer who was idolised by the men.  This extract from the same book (p232) explains the origin of Tiny’s nickname and also introduces his predecessor as No.2 Shift Boss ( seemingly also ‘hard but fair’), Alf Pedder :

I was stripping in between George Best and another bloke, and they were about 6’5″ and I’m 5’9″.  And big Jack Scott, the shift boss, with huge feet, came along and said ‘You’re a tiny bastard to be on that job’.  And that stuck to me from then on.  I used to have to stretch up because the racks were made for six foot men.

Tiny recollected that Alf Pedder, a shift boss from 1918 to 1944, was present when the directors from Victoria came to inspect the plant:  They were coming along there, and one had a big cigar.  In those days there was strictly no smoking, no one was allowed and no one would, but this director had this big cigar.  Old Alf walked up to this chap and told him not to smoke.  They took him to the General Superintendent over it and he said “My men are not allowed to smoke, and neither is he”. 


The game’s too tough for you….

Dad’s father, aged 62, was planning to spend the summer working as a shearer.  I can understand the concern expressed here.


Austral (Strella) Wilson: a great personality

Strella Wilson was born in Broken Hill in 1894.  Her father was an American mining engineer.  In 1915 she was chosen to study under Dame Nellie Melba at the Melbourne Conservatorium.  By the early 1940’s she had built a professional singing career, performing in opera, light opera and musical theatre in Australia, the USA and Britain. In the 1930’s and 40’s she was also a well known radio performer – both on the ABC, and on commercial radio with Jack Davey.  She made a number of troop-entertainment tours to the Northern Territory, New Guinea, Hong Kong and Japan.

AWM 016433  10 January 1943  Miss Strella Wilson is greeted by a Senior Medical Officer at an Australian General Hospital where her concert party will entertain troops during her visit to New Guinea.




Edwin Styles : a classy performer

Styles was a British actor who had served int he British army in World War I.  He responded positively to a request from Australia to entertain troops in New Guinea :

This photo shows him later in the year, with actress Letty Craydon, entertaining troops at the Heidelberg Military Hospital in Victoria.  (   image H99.201/3642)




Two star comedians – Eddie Ward and Dedman

Since Dad was also a Labor man, I was initially surprised at his comments here.  Having discovered a little more about these particular politicians, I can see why Dad would have had issues with Ward, and suspect his attitude to Denman would have been influenced by his sister’s experience of rationing – especially of firewood.

Eddie Ward

Cartoonists like to depict Ward as a ‘loose cannon’ – eg this one: 

Ward was a colourful left-wing politician who had been elected to the House of Representatives in early 1931.  He joined the faction known as ‘Lang Labor’, named after the NSW premier Jack Lang. and with other faction members he supported a vote of no confidence against the Scullin Labor government in late 1931.  He lost his seat at the subsequent election (due to a splitting of the Labor vote between Ward and the official Labor candidate) but was returned via a by-election almost immediately following the death of the successful candidate.  Ward re-joined the Labor party in 1936 and remained in Parliament until his death in 1963.  He sought the role of deputy leader of the Party on a number of occasions.

One issue that set Ward apart from his parliamentary colleagues was his opposition to defence spending.  During the 1936 budget debate, he argued that any funding earmarked for defence would be better spent on welfare and unemployment relief. In 1943 he was Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories.  He had a prickly relationship with Prime Minister Curtin, accusing him of “putting young men into the slaughterhouse though thirty years ago you would not go into it yourself”.  On his death, Arthur Calwell eulogised Ward as an irrepressible fighter.  The journalist Arthur Hoyle believed that many of Ward’s generation considered him the ‘most authentic voice that the working class in Australia has had’.    (ref

John Dedman

Dedman had served in the British Army during World War I and afterwards in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He moved to live in Victoria in 1922 and by the early 1930’s had emerged as one of Labor’s more radical voices on banking reform.  He became the Member for Corio via a by-election in March 1940 and soon established himself as an unrelenting debater on financial affairs.

Prime Minister Curtin appointed him minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Minister for War Organization of Industry and chairman of the production executive of cabinet. In December 1941 he was also appointed to the War Cabinet. His main responsibilities were to co-ordinate the Commonwealth’s production departments and to reorganize industry so that resources were diverted to military needs and essential services.

The general public saw Dedman as the minister for ‘austerity’, or even ‘morbidity’. (eg this article about Christmas advertising restrictions )   He not only ignored the controversies which his decisions created, but even enjoyed the lampooning that he received from cartoonists. In their zeal for imposing controls, Dedman and his department were identified—often mistakenly or unfairly—with limiting everything from bread to bungalows.   (ref









TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battalion AIF

23rd Jany 44

Dear Mother & Dad

I received your welcome letter of the ninth yesterday – been following me round a fair bit.  I’m glad to hear that you re both well and that May, Anne & Carline are sparking on all cylinders.  If they struck good weather on the trip it would be a nice holiday for them especially as they like the water so much.  It was bad luck losing the turkeys that way.  They’re very sensitive to fright or disturbances of any sort – I hope the others get along alright.  The small fruit growers will do well this season if they can get the stuff picked but I suppose they’ll have to depend mostly on school children to do the work.  We’ve been getting some blackcurrant pulp for drinks lately – it makes quite a good brew.  Bealey’s don’t miss many tricks, do they – 6d a lb for Kentish cherries – they’ll get rich alright.  Haven’t we got any cherries at all these days?

Had a letter from Ivy yesterday – quite a bright effort.  She seems very happy to be back in her own home although she said the lawn and gardens were in a hell of a mess.  I can well imagine her being glad to get away from Sydney.  It would have little glamour for her in wartime or for that matter any other time, unless she had plenty of friends but at the present time when everyone is chasing dough and pleasure it would be a cow of a joint for a woman with a baby.  It’s good to hear that the baby has apparently got over that excema trouble.  Youngster said his skin is quite clear now.

It was right about Tiny.  He was manpowered out.  In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s home now although there’d probably be a few holdups on the way.  But he’s due to start in March.  Will cop a good cheque for leave too.  I don’t suppose Tommy Fletcher and a few of them will take too kindly to his coming back but that won’t worry Tiny at all.  Jim’s very keen to get out and go back out there too.  I think he’s in touch with Jack Charlesworth now, but unless the works have got a big say with the manpower mob he’ll be a bit up hill as he’s still well on the sunny side of thirty.

I had a letter from Marie Rothwell during the week.  She said it had been a sad Christmas for them which is quite understandable but she said they all realised that Rex wouldn’t want them to go into mourning or anything so they were trying to make the best of it.  Wedd always told them if anything happened to him to go and get drunk – the right idea of course but not so easy for those that are left.

We’re living very quietly here now – getting a fair bit of entertainment in the way of pictures and the food is extra good.  Must say cheerio now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.



Blackcurrant pulp

Blackcurrant cordial (along with rosehip syrup) was a staple of my childhood.  This advertisement is from the Hobart Mercury, June 1949   ( ) Maybe the feedback from he troops was sufficiently positive to justify work on developing this ‘new cordial’!?





Manpower Regulations

This extract from the Routine Orders, NGF Training School 9th January 1944 gives an indication of the assumption one which Jim Mc and others were basing their optimism.


  1. The erroneous impression has apparently been conveyed that all members over 35 years of age with three or more years of service, members over 40 years of age who are serving on the mainland, and B class personnel have a right to be discharged under GRO A.736/43.
  2. The only personnel who will be discharged under GRO A736/43 are those recommended by Manpower, and for this purpose Manpower will not recommend discharge unless the soldier had assured employment available in an essential industry. 


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Spine bashing, concerts and movies…. waiting to be posted… 2 letters




TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman


5th January 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Your welcome letter of the 27th arrived yesterday.  I’m glad to know the Christmas was pleasant even though it was quiet and that you were able to get a little nourishment. 

I was surprised to read that Arndell Lewis had died.  He looked a picture of health last time I saw him.  There was a mention in the local rag that he’d died and next day it was denied so that the cutting from the Mercury came as a bit of a surprise.

As you’ll see from the address the school has finished and we’re waiting to be posted back to our units, though as things are there’s no guarantee that we’ll get to our own units.  The way things are at present with some shows over-strength in NCO’s and some short there’s a likelihood of cross posting but I certainly hope we get back to the old mob.  I saw Jim yesterday – he’s browned off and looked a picture.  He asked to be remembered to you and suggested you keep a few on the ice.  I saw old Doc Leo (??) the old RSM – he left us some time ago to do an officers school but was knocked back on account of his age.  Anyone over thirty is uphill for commissions these days.  Alan Carlysle must have got his on account of specialising in the hygiene racket.

I’m writing under rather adverse circumstances Mother & Dad so as there’s no news I’ll just say cheerio for the present.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys. 
Love – Max.

PS When you write Dad, address to the unit and if I don’t happen to be back there Frank will send it on.


Acronym means – New Guinea General Details Depot

AWM 073526

Port Moresby, New Guinea 31/5/44  The New Guinea Details Depot located at the site of the old Murray Barracks area.




Death of Lieut-Col Arndell Lewis

Arndell Lewis was the cousin of Dad’s friend and former Carrier Platoon member, Dick Lewis.  This article from the Launceston Examiner of December 28, 1943 describes him as ‘a fine man who … was outstanding in the fields of military law, geology, politics, law and prominent in many scientific and public bodies….   According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, he died of hypertensive heart failure.


The Battalion moves out of the Ramu Valley

From The Footsoldiers (pp 370-373):

Late in December came the surprise order that 21st and 25th Brigades would be relieved by the Militia (now AIF) 15th Brigade and our own 18th Brigade…Our advance party of Captains Peach, Archer and Cox left on 31 December.  The unit was ordered to pack up that night and on 1 January 1944, at 0800 hours the battalion began the long march back to the two strips at Dumpu.  Without fuss and bother, but excited and surprised for all that – the unit emplaned in 28 DC3’s which lifted out 28 officers and 532 men to Jackson’s strip Port Moresby by noon the same day.  There they boarded trucks for the short drive along the Riga road to the LOB camp above Bootless Inlet. …More than 100 men that night went off to Moresby to watch the fights or pictures, or to visit the big canteen in the town…. the unit now again at Pom-Pom Park, though tired, was a well-organised one….The mood and atmosphere of the war in the Pacific had changed and everywhere the Japanese were on the defensive.  Each day at Pom-Pom we read encouraging news in Guinea Gold, the popular Army newspaper…..Again we had a series of VIP visits and battalion parades had to be put on for each occasion.  Some were looked forward to with interest, others received the usual ribald remarks…. the pattern until the unit left for home : drill, drill and more drill.

AWM 060774

27/11/43   Pom Pom valley – guard of the 2/10th Battalion AIF, champion guard of the 18th Brigade, parading for a training film for the Australian Army.




  • * * * * * * * * * * * *







TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman


9th January 44

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines to keep the mail rolling and hoping to find you both happy and well.  As I mentioned in a note I wrote the other day the school has finished and we’re at a dump awaiting further orders and although it seems we might be home some time we never know from hour to hour when we’ll be moving.  It seems quite on the cards that we won’t get back to our old units at all but may get cross posted.  I’ll be a bit crooked on them if I don’t get back but that won’t hurt them at all and I’ll have no option than to go where I’m sent.  But still when you write, send my letters to the unit address and Frank will know where to forward them.

I went down and saw Bill yesterday.  He looked fit and well and hopes to leave in a couple of days.  One of the other officers had a drop of whisky and I had a couple of nips with them.  Bill had quite a stack of cigarettes too and gave me four cartons so I’ll be well set for a while.  Tobacco and cigarettes are still very scarce – we’re getting a ration of a tin a week but I don’t think that will apply while we’re here because they’d have no check on who’d collected & who hadn’t.

Ossie Eiszele told me Tiny has headed in for a bowler hat now – been manpowered out by the Zinc Works.  Ossie says it’s all fixed but he didn’t know when Tiny would go home.  I reckon he’s entitled to get out.  He must be over forty and although he had a good job as far as the infantry goes he’s a bit old for the game – a chap who was RSM of our mob until recently and was sent back to an officer school was knocked back because he was over thirty – so if a man’s too old for a commission at thirty he’s too old for any infantry work at forty.  Jim McDonnell was rather surprised to hear that Frank was home but had expected to hear that the younger brother was down.

Life is quite pleasant here just at present.  We’re doing very little other than spine bashing which isn’t hard to take for a while as we haven’t had much spare time during the last three months.  Saw a picture on Thursday night – a good show too – Deanna Durbin in “Hers to Hold’ – some extra good singing.  There was a concert last night – a good variety turnout, it filled in a couple of pleasant hours.

Well I’m afraid I’ve about said my piece for the present Mother & Dad – news is scarce and as there’s been no mail in, there’s nothing at all to write about so will say cheerio for the present.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes tot he boys.  All the best.  Love – Max.

PS Am enclosing a calendar from the local rag.

Bill Drysdale

Dad’s brother in law, Bill Drysdale was a lieutenant in the Cyphers section of the Navy, based in Port Moresby.

Tiny (Dick Schultz)

Tiny – real name Cecil Claude Schultz TX1028 – had enlisted on the same day as Dad.  He was 6 years older – born in April 1905 – so aged 38 by the time of this letter.  He was a member of the 2/ 31st battalion, but as indicated in the letter, his release had been requested by the ‘Zinc Works’ (Electrolytic Zinc Company) – and as this was a protected industry, approval was a foregone conclusion.

A ‘stripper’ at work at the Zinc Works, 1940  (TAHO AA193-1-501)





Below – bagging Superphosphate 1940 – another important product from the Zinc Works (TAHO AA 193-1-592)

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Excellent postal service, Christmas Eve chaos and extra good (but alcohol free) dinner














TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

NGF Training Sch

New Guinea

25th Dec 43

Dear Mother & Dad

The big day of the year is here again and I hope you’re enjoying it to the full though I suppose it will be a quiet day for you but you’ll probably get a measure of pleasure from Anne and Carline’s appreciation of the occasion.  I meant to ask you to give them each a pound for me, but forgot it so give it to them for the new year will you?  

The day has started very promisingly here and hope it continues that way.  It’s a glorious day and an atmosphere of pleasantness obtains.  The church parade has finished and whilst a little sing song is going on in the next hut, the chaps in this hut are reminiscing on other Christmases spent in various conditions all over the world.  Some quite interesting stories among them – what some chaps lack in experience they make up in imagination, but between them it’s a good story.

An incident or series of incidents last night put the mob in a happy mood – most of the story revolved around a rat.  Expecting the usual procedure of lights out at 10.30 we crawled under the nets a little before that and I was nicely asleep when awakened in a split second by an impact that felt like a ton of bricks and a concussion like a bomb dropping close by.  It was Ted Alexander – a six foot two Queenslander who had crashed with a rail through my net.  It seems that about half past eleven someone espied a rat or heard his hobnails on one of the rafters so Ted who is practically allergic to rats jumped out from under his net, grabbed his bayonet and prepared to go to town, and it was while climbing along a rafter that the accident happened.  The white ants had eaten through the rafter and when Ted got his weight on, the whole works came down – with the result I’ve already mentioned.  Of course, not being one of the onlookers I didn’t see the joke for some time and expressed my feelings in rather florid language – at least I’m led to believe that was so.  It was a good thing that the lasses who had been dancing at an officers’ turnout about a hundred years away had left, else they might have heard extracts of the Australian language not included in nice vocabularies.  Anyway to get back to the story – the tension soon eased and the rat hunt went on.  By this time everyone was awake and out from under their nets, armed with bayonets & brooms.  There’s been a bit of training here in monkey tricks and the mob put on the best exhibition I’ve ever seen.  They were along the beams over and under joists and round struts like the real thing – all in the raw of course too, but the rat was wily and lead them a dance.  However they eventually wore him down and did him over.  Bolivar Jones had nothing on the mob last night.  This morning the chaos of the hut bore testimony to the night’s proceedings:  every-body’s gear was everywhere it shouldn’t have been and fellows were scrambling for boots and various articles of clothing for half an hour.  It was a great show and just what was needed to liven things up as with quite a lot of the fellows it’s their first Christmas away and some of them were feeling a bit homesick.

Your welcome letter of the 20th arrived last night along with one from Ivy and one from Mick.  One certainly can’t complain about the mail service.  Three days from Hobart at peak times is fair enough.  Sorry to hear that bull ant had gone to town on you Mother and hope the bite has healed up.  It was rather a coincidence that some wog should have bitten Youngster’s ankle about the same time.  There’s such a multitude of wogs up here – I believe it’s estimated at two million species – that like everything else on the island, we treat them all as hostile till proved otherwise.

Alan Carlysle is stepping along well and what a job too – he’s on about a par with a Colonel at the Barracks.  I suppose he’s even got an AWA to drive him around.  He wouldn’t lairize much either, would he.  I didn’t know Max Hay had been away at all.  What’s he in – the same racket as Alan or did he stay in the AMC?  There’s no doubt there’s some bludging jobs in the Army and like the Davey Street Guerrillas they’ll be the heroes of the war when it’s over.  I was glad to hear Frank McDonnell had got home for leave – he’s been away a long time.  I don’t suppose you’ve heard how long he got.  I guess he’d have a credit of fifty or sixty days up.

We’ve had quite a pleasant time this week – out on a stunt – a good break from the monotony of the parade ground – we didn’t have much jungle stuff and bivouacked in open country with plenty of fresh water.  The Fuzzies put on a bit of a turn for us at one camp and numerous other incidents like chaps falling in the rivers and having to be dragged out with vines added interest and variety to the show and I think everyone was sorry when we had to come home although our clothes had got a bit on the bugle and badly needed washing.

I left finishing my letter till after dinner so that I could tell you of it.  It was everything they promised – ham and turkey in liberal proportions followed by plum duff – an extra good meal and I only hope you had as good at home.  The only thing missing was bottled vitamins but as that’s unprocurable we can’t complain.

Must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys & here’s wishing you a bright and happy New Year.




‘The Hut’

AWM 059213

Sergeants’ quarters, NGF Training School





Bolivar Jones

This may be a reference to ‘cowboy and stuntman’ Buck Jones who had appeared in many American movies.

The Davey Street Guerrillas

This would be a reference to Army personnel based at Anglesea Barracks in Hobart.

Out on a stunt … a break from the monotony of the parade ground

AWM 053524

Daily physical training parade, NGF School of Signals

Dad wasn’t part of this school, but no doubt ‘PT parades’ were a feature of his schedule as well.



AWM 059213

A member of the NGF training School (Jungle Wing) moving through kunai grass




AWM 059192

A patrol from NGF Training School (Jungle Wing) on patrol near Rouna Falls






The Fuzzies put on a bit of a turn

Perhaps something like this?

AWM 062420

Natives of the Mekeo tribe performing one of their traditional dances during the Christmas celebrations at the ANGAU transit camp.  25 . 12 . 43



The Battalion ‘around Shaggy Ridge’

Extracts from The Footsoldiers (p369):

…work parties were the order of the day and continued up until Christmas Day 1943.  This was a total rest day and half the unit was permitted to attend the gymkhana back near Dumpu.  The Christmas fare was the traditional turkeys and baked potatoes with fresh vegetables and fruit….. 4th Squadron dropped us cigarettes, tobacco and newspapers, and that night a mobile cinema came to the unit lines.  The show was not interrupted when Jap bombers flew over and passed down the valley.  On the 26th the work routine began again with 100 men marching up to the diggings…. On the 27th the historic 2/16th Battalion assault on Shaggy Ridge took place…

Their mail also got through

AWM 062276   19 . 12 . 43

Some of the 500 bags of mail for the Australian troops in the area being unloaded from aircraft at the Dumpu airstrip


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A tongue in cheek verse and a couple of airgraphs in the mail bundle

















TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

NGF Training Sch

New Guinea

20th Dec 43

Dear Mother & Dad

I’m a bit behind with my letters this week on account of having to go down to the unit area yesterday to see the RQ and as I didn’t get back till later my programme was thrown out of gear.  However between parades I’ll catch up as soon as I can.  Your welcome letter and Christmas telegram arrived yesterday along with a bunch of letters, cards and air graphs – an extra bright lot – one of the best collections I’ve ever had in one bunch.  I am glad you were able to get a drink for your birthday and its good to know you’ll have a drop for Christmas too.  Have one for me, will you.

It was a bad job Laurie’s car breaking down at this time of the year and with a job like that I suppose he’ll have a bit of a job getting it fixed.  The turkey raising business sounds like a good proposition.  The old gobbler must be a bit proud of himself, eh.  I was glad to hear Anne’s show was a success and hope everything went well for her.  I had no idea it was a big show she was in – she’s certainly stepping along, isn’t she?

I wrote to Jim last week and will try and drop him a line in the Christmas weekend and send your message on to him as I know he’ll be pleased to hear from you.  Old Pluto (Peter McCowan) and Bull Black are back with the bug and they told me Jim had got back to the mob just before they left – as fat as a seal.  The high living he mentioned at the transit camp must have agreed with him.  Peter and Bull had both got very thin but didn’t look too bad.  They knew all the latest Griffin.  Jonesy – our old Lieut – has caught up again and got the mob together.  He was a great fellow Jonesy and could handle the mob better than anyone we’d had.

Among my letters yesterday were two air graphs – a special Christmas greeting variety – one from Wedd and one from Mrs Laird.  I think I’ll enclose them in this letter.  Youngster’s letters this week have been very cheery and she seems to be enjoying her stay in Sydney and is still very hopeful of Bill getting down early in the New Year.

One of the chaps in the hut got a cutting out of a newspaper the other day that caused a lot of amusement among the blokes and I think it’s worth quoting.  It’s styled ‘A civilian’s message of exhortation to a soldier at the front’:

Oh soldier in that khaki splendour

Civil self denial has brought

Should foes request that you surrender

Scorn to entertain the thought.

We folk at home endure the bungles

Of the blind that lead the blind

So while cavorting in your jungles

Bear our misery in mind.

They say you’ll sit at Christmas dinner

Girt by gifts of geese and ham

While we ungrudging, grim but thinner

Portion out our mite of lamb.

Oh soldier how we mourn and miss you 

In the moments when we crave

A sharing in that sumptuous issue

Of the gifts they say we gave.

Civilians now are nought but cattle

(Sacrificed we bravely smile)

Oh soldier in your next big battle

Strive to make it worth our while.

Not a bad effort, is it?  I guess the bloke who wrote it has been reading Pix and the Woman’s Weekly.

Things are going along quite pleasantly here.  We’re being kept very busy but get our share of fun out of it and as we’re living extra well – fresh meat three or four times a week – we haven’t much to complain about, all things considered.

Must say cheerio now Mother and Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the troops for Christmas and the New Year.  

All the best


PS  I see in the local rag that the unions are having a bit of a lick at Tom D’Alton.


Airgraph letters

‘Airgraphs’ were la means of distributing mail by air, via the intermediary of microfilm.   The history of the process and its introduction for UK servicemen is described here     ….    and an announcement detailing the start of the service in Australia in July 1943 is reported here

Essentially, letters were written on a specific form available from Post Offices.   After arriving at the originating country’s central processing place (Melbourne, for Australia) the letters were sorted for destination, photographed and then dispatched in the form of microfilm (one roll holding 45,000 letters) and flown to the recipient country where they were printed on paper rolls and cut into individual pages, a quarter the size of the original.  Each letter was then folded and sealed into a special envelope, with the addressee’s name and address visible through the space provided.

Images at left : Envelope containing the letter from the Laird family addressed to Dad – with the address changed (presumably at Field HQ) to indicate his whereabouts.  This is the only written confirmation of the specific ‘school’ he was attending.


AWM 139275 – a clerk at the General Post Office in Melbourne preparing air graph letters for photographing





Airgraph 1 : from Mrs Laird


Post mark : Newlands Glasgow S3 8 Nov 43

Sender: J Laird.  39 Beaufort Ave.  Glasgow.

Dear Max

Thank you so much for your letter.  It was good to hear from you again.  I hear from your friend Wedd.  All here well and trust you are the same.  Will be having a very quiet Hew Year.  Wish you were here to help make the party merry.  Wishing you all the best Max.  Love from us all at 39.  J. Laird.

The Laird family

The Lairds were the family with whom Dad and his friend Graeme Watts had spent New Year’s Eve/ New Year’s Day 1940/41.  (See post dated 11 January 1941)  This is one of several letters from Mrs Laird and their daughter Billie that Dad kept with his wartime correspondence.

Airgraph 2: from Rex Wedd


Address includes hand drawn and labelled Gremlin

No postmark – hand dated 14th (or 19th) November 43

Sender: P/O Wedd RH RAAF Kingsway, London WC2 England

Dear Hickey & Gang

Greetings for Xmas & New Year to you lads who are fighting such a great battle.  All the lads are with me with these greetings & we’ll truly enjoy a ‘conference’ with you boys when we have finished our war in this part of the world.+++  I’ve written you air mail in reply to yours of 22nd Sept & will be posting it this coming week. +++ Winter is coming upon us, & flying is not as good as a while ago.  I can tell you now that I’ve been with the Path Finder Force since March.  Greetings till be meet, Hickey.  RH Wedd.

Path Finder Force 

The Pathfinders were target-marking squadrons in RAF Bomber Command during World War II. They located and marked targets with flares, which a main bomber force could aim at, increasing the accuracy of their bombing….The early Pathfinder Force (PFF) squadrons was expanded to become a group, No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group in January 1943…The proportion of Pathfinder aircraft to Main Force bombers could vary according to the difficulty and location of the target; 1 to 15 was common, though it could be as low as 1 to 3. …  Over the course of its history the Pathfinder Force flew a total of 50,490 sorties against some 3,440 targets. At least 3,727 members were killed on operations.  (

Rex Wedd’s death over Germany

By a sad coincidence, on the day Dad was writing this letter, Rex Wedd’s plane was shot down over Germany.


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On Sundays, thoughts go to family, friends, beer and tobacco.

















TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

NGF Training Sch.

New Guinea

5th December 43

Dear Mother & Dad 

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy & well, and enjoying life.  Your very cheering letter arrived last night along with several others and a couple of parcels – a cake from youngster which I hope to hold till Christmas and a pipe from Jack.  I was very glad to hear that you are both quite well and that May, Anne and Carline are all happy and well.  I sent Anne a telegram last week.  I hope it made the grade or I should say makes the grade in time for the concert.  

Ivy seems to have got a bit of a break at last.  I had a telegram  from her early in the week and a letter on Friday, written from Sydney but as I guess you too have heard to this effect there’s not much point in my mentioning it.  Still I hope everything turns out right for her.  She’s looked forward to it so long and was so built up with it that it would be had luck if anything marred a perfect holiday.

There’s not much prospect of my getting home leave for some time I’m afraid although of course one never knows these times and when things do move they usually happen very suddenly.  However I think I’ll be lucky if I get leave before next June.  There’s not even a rumour at present.  Those chaps that came home are mostly from specialist shows such as workshops and ordinance people who are stationed here more or less permanently and some of them haven’t had leave for eighteen months.  Personally I can’t see them sending us home till the island’s cleaned out.  Just after I posted your letter last Sunday and was doing a little spine bashing a familiar voice rang through the hut – it was Viv Abel and you can imagine the surprise I got .  He’d come back to do an instructors school so of course even my sleep had to go – we got our heads together for a couple of hours.  Viv looks well although he’s got thin.  He said Jim had been pretty sick – the malaria had been playing up with him.  He’d been in and out of hospital quite a lot lately.  I guess the Zinc Works’ll be no good to him when he gets back.  He asked Viv to tell me to remember him to you both and wish you all the best for Christmas.  My namesake from Tiny’s show, Pat Hickman, came down with Viv but copped a dose fo malaria on the way and went to hospital as soon as he got here so I guess he’ll miss this school.

Sorry to hear Nell is sick again.  She’s certainly having a bad trot.  I hope she gets better again soon – give her my best wishes will you, both for a speedy recovery and a Happy Christmas.  My compliments to Hilda and the children too.

Jack’s letter this week was very cheerful too.  He seems to be going along nicely and expects to be in the south early in the New Year and expressed the hope that I might be home.

And now Mother & Dad I’m afraid there’s not much more to write about.  Things are going along quite smoothly here  The main item of news being a drought that hit the place for three days during the week.  However it broke last night and is flat out to catch up now, so I’ll say cheerio for now.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie & the boys.  Love – Max.

PS (diagonally at the top of the letter):

Best wishes for the twelfth dad.  I hope you’re able to get a noggin or two.

Friends and a namesake

Viv Abel (TX797) and Jim McDonnell (TX 1024) had been together in the carrier platoon since the formation of the Battalion in England in 1940.  They travelled to England on the Queen Mary (HMT X1) as part of the 1st Anti-Tank Regiment, and when re-organisation occurred in June 1940, they became members of the 72nd Battalion, the forerunner of the 2/33rd.

Jack was Jack Chandler, a teacher (later superintendent) at Ashley Boys Home in Deloraine, where juvenile offenders aged 8 – 18 were housed and educated.  He had not been permitted to enlist.

Pat Hickman…. from Tiny’s show.  Tiny was Dick (Cecil Claude) Schultz (TX 1028) a friend who had enlisted with Dad and allocated to the 2/31st Battalion.  Charles Patrick Hickman (QX 14932) – Pat – was no relation to Dad.























TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

NGF Tng. School

12th Dec 1943

Dear Mother & Dad

I’d like to think as I write that you’re sitting around the dining room with congenial company knocking the tops off a few and celebrating the pater’s birthday in the approved manner.  I’d very much like to be there to knock one with you anyway, all the best dad.

Your welcome letter of the 6th arrived last night and was very interesting.  I am glad to know that you are both well and that May and the family are also well.  I had a letter from Ivy during the week and she seems quite happy with the Drysdales.  I believe the baby made a big hit with them and is being spoiled by the old man and Drew.  She said she was going to ring Mrs Toomey so between them they make a good holiday of it – hope so anyway.

Things are certainly looking up on Pottery Road.  I thought the day was a long way off before people would build houses as far up as Tommy Smith’s place.  Still I suppose all the vacant spaces will be filled up in the housing schemes when the argument’s over.  By the way dad,  what’s the position about paint these days?  If it’s hard to get it might be as well to get some in just in case I do get south any time.  We’ll soon slap a bit on the houses needing it as I think if any lease eventuates it’ll be a pretty good break this time.  You haven’t mentioned Mick at all lately.  I don’t suppose you see much of him.  Is he still at the Bay?

The powers that be are certainly cutting things fine on the tobacco ration – one oz a week wouldn’t give you much more than one smoke a day.  I thought we were bad enough on two oz a week.  There’s no butts wasted even then – they go back into the tins and are re-rolled till they’re used right up.  They’ve got the game sewn up here pretty well – the only chance of getting any extra is through the Yanks.

It’ll be nice if Mother can get away to the Huon for a few days as any change breaks the monotony and there’s not much scope these days but the weather should be at its best down there now and I don’t think there are any nicer people to spend a holiday with than the Menzie’s.

I had a letter from Jim during the week – quite a long one for Jim and as I think you’d like to hear how he’s going I’ll enclose his letter after I reply to it today.

Things are going along quite smoothly here.  We’re living extra well, have had fresh meat several times during the week and although we get very little spare time except on Sunday, make our fun and get a laugh out of everything.  The CI tricked the field this morning with the church parade – normally there are three services in the area, C.E., R.C., & the others – up till now the service for the others has been at this camp whilst the RC & C of E services involved a splash through the mud for half a mile or so, but by secret negotiation between the boss and the sin-busting fraternity the C of E services and the other Protestant service were switched.  So as there were only half a dozen who didn’t fall in with the others, nearly the whole show went for a walk – although I think most of the blokes would have gone in any case as the sky pilot who runs the show is an extra good bloke and puts on a good show.

There was a bit of an impromptu concert in the hut this morning after we got back from the church service and it was alright.  There’s a couple of good songsters among the mob and some of the others put on some good comic shows so it went off very well. 

I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and Best Wishes to Laurie and the boys.  As I expect this will be the nearest letter to Christmas that will be delivered – All the Best for a Happy Christmas.



Family and friends, events at home

At the end of November Dad’s sister Ivy had finally managed to secure a seat on a flight to Sydney- her husband Bill Drysdale’s home town – and was staying with her mother in law, and planning to catch up with her friend Mrs Toomey.  Her baby son – at that time also called Max, but later changed to his father’s name (Bill) – was clearly going to be the centre of his grandmother’s attention.  Bill (snr)’s brother Drew was apparently an attentive uncle.

Pottery Road is where Dad’s parents lived.  It was one of the main roads in Lenah Valley, with most of the land on either side devoted to orchards.  it was possible to walk from the top of the road via McRobie’s Gully, to the Cascade Brewery in South Hobart.

Getting hold of some paint….  It seems Dad’s father had investment properties which Dad helped maintain.  ‘Mick’ was Mick Mason, also mentioned in other letters as being involved in the building trade.

Ben Menzie and his family – apple orchardists in the Huon – were also mentioned in other letters.  I know that as an adult Ben’s daughter Susan still referred to dad as ‘Uncle Max’.


Tobacco rationing

Tobacco was rationed during World War 2 by limiting production. Retailers were supplied on the basis of quotas. From mid-1942 quotas were reduced by 25% with a further 5% reduction in late 1943. A heavy smoker would try to get himself placed on a ‘list’ with a publican, shopkeeper, newsagent, hairdresser or the like. At the beginning of each month the smoker would have a busy few days picking up a packet of cigarettes from the hairdresser, another from the newsagent and so on. (    This article from the Melbourne Argus, 15 June 43 seeks to reassure readers that tobacco/ cigarettes are not ‘freely available’ to members of the Forces.

Operational Rations

This paper describes the development of the AMF ‘Operational Rations’ packs. It seems that the Australian Army was well ahead of others, on either side of ‘the argument’ in its thorough research and practical work in this field.   

AWM 060266

Guy’s Post 8/11/43

Troops of the 2/33 Bn examining the new field operational ration.  This ration contains three meals, each wrapped separately.  Shown are NX41189 Cpl C J Smith, NX12806 Lance Cpl W D Fletcher, NX51052 Pte H L Pilkington.


Church Parades

Although at a different location, I can imagine that Dad’s church parades might have looked like this:

AWM 058075

Ramu Valley, New Guinea   20/10/43  Church of England parade at Headquarters, 21st Australian Infantry Brigade, conducted by SX 11061 Padre H Norman of the 2/27th  Australian Infantry Battalion.



Christmas greetings

Clearly regular mail deliveries were still getting through in good time, but the powers that be anticipated a different story with telegrams – as per this entry in the Routine Orders dated December 1st :

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The lads say “It’s a pity old Hick’s not here”… a letter from Jim the Joker











TX 1024

First Class Pte McDonnell J Div Mech Group

2/33 Battn.


Dear “Hick”

Received letter dated 14th yesterday with a batch of ten others, not bad for me.  Been down with the old malaria again so have been away from the unit for some time.  As you know the mail position in such cases, it has been all around the island even back to Pt Moresby – three different hospitals, including LOB, finally reaching me at the transit camp where I am now dug in.  Got a job in the kitchen, living like a lord, but working extra hard.  The strain is starting to tell, but I manage to overcome that by building myself up on the pick of the rations.  Luckily we have an extra good cook, a pastry cook in civvy street, so every day he is baking scones or tarts, & sausage rolls for supper to go with our coffee or cocoa.  So you see I am starting to pick a few winners, but apart from that Hick, I’m doing a mighty fine job here, feeding the lads up well, so they can climb the hills to do their duty.  When I left, the mob were just so so, bombs, Bury (?) the Trump, Clarey was CSM of new Don for a day, but got ars….. out.  Next I saw of him was passing through the MDS with some complaint, but apparently went right through to Moresby.  The great Black turned up here at the transit yesterday, must be on his way back to Battn. so I don’t know how long his stay will be.  Skiffy, Ruby Smith, Hocking, Evans & a few more of the lads have all been down in hospital.  I also heard that old ‘Dig’ was going  back to a school, next I hear       he is down with malaria, but never ran into him, so I will forward your letter at the first opportunity.

Well Hick you may not believe it, but all the lads wish you could have made the trip.  When they start dishing out the bastardry & bombs with a few others starting panicking the lads say its a pity old Hick’s not here.  Have you run into ‘Kong’ in your travels?   He contracted typhus so was sent right back but I hear he is quite well now.  What’s this pack drill you mentioned?  Are you giving it or taking it?  I hope it is the latter, as it would be a new experience to you or would it.  Remember the pack drill I did in the east…[section cut out by censor]….a bad blue that, but you understand the way I am always being victimised, can’t take a trick anywhere.  That was such a nice photo of the bridge you enclosed.  I showed it to a few of the chaps here but they couldn’t make out what it was.  They couldn’t understand, so there was a fair amount of shit flying around.  It will sure be a gala day in the old town when she is officially opened.  I would sure like to be home for the occasion, as I could get a front seat view from the old ‘Met’ or ‘Exchange’.  Where do you get this nonsense about being home drinking beer shortly?  You must be doing a bit of romanticising.  Anyway Hick it is due time we cracked it for a Christmas home, but I suppose there are good times ahead if you can look that fat.  Well old cock you know the scarcity of news in these places.  It was good to get a line from you so I will say “Cheerio” for the time being so keep your end up.  Give my regards to Henry & the Mater, tell the old man I am doing an excellent job getting the the troops in fine fettle for their duty.



First class pte…working extra hard, getting the troops in fine fettle

Jim McDonnell (James Jospeh McDonnell  TX 1024) was always a joker, and always in trouble – but having the Irish ‘gift of the gab’, at least in Dad’s eyes Jim generally got off lightly (so his comment about being victimised, being unable to take a trick would have prompted a great chuckle from Dad).  His sense of humour is evident in the designation of himself as ‘first class private’ and it’s impossible to tell how much of his description of life int eh transit camp is accurate.  Jim’s service record does list several AWL’s, and the fact that at different times he was promoted to acting corporal or acting sergeant.  There were also many instances of hospitalisation for both injury and illness, in the Middle East, New Guinea and while in Australia.

Image : “COME NGETIT ” from the AWM’s 1944 ‘Christmas Book’, Jungle Warfare p145

Changing personnel in the Unit

Bill Crooks (The Footsoldiers p 363) reports that during November many new officers had joined the unit – mainly from other ‘broken-up’ units – but none of those mentioned coincide with the names Jim mentions which were probably all connected with the Tank-Attack platoon.

Names and nicknames

Of the men named, I can identify four:

Bull Black : Regularly mentioned in Dad’s letters.  I assume he was also a member of the Carrier Platoon, in which case he was John Black  QX 2757.  His record has not yet been digitised.

Ruby Smith : I assume this was Rupert Smith SX2394 who has been mentioned in Dad’s letters as one of the ‘hard men’ of the carrier platoon (eg in the letter of 1 March 1943 : …if it wasn’t for the hard citizens it’d be a drab show.  There’s Viv, Len Woodlock, Mick Williams and Rup Smith.  They’re more worry than a battalion of other blokes but they keep the show alive…)

Kong Young : Kenneth William Young  WX185  His service record shows he was an even bigger ‘scallywag’ than Jim – or maybe not so lucky!  Many AWL’s, failing to appear for Parade, etc…  also many hospital visits.  He was evacuated on 14/10/43 with malaria, to 2/11 AGH, then on 1/11/43 to 2/1 AGH with scrub typhus




Skiffy – AWM 060273

Corporal Les Skiffington (NX 13159) of the Tank-Attack Platoon about to begin his climb up to Shaggy Ridge  November 1943




Down with malaria

Photo :  CCS Kamkambun AWM079512

Bill Crooks reports in The Footsoldiers (p353) that there were still worrying numbers of men contracting malaria, which was ‘rampant’ – by mid-December evacuations numbered 9 officers and 178 OR’s – with scrub typhus a further cause of sickness and even death.  However, no malaria cases went beyond the CCSs at Nadzab (just outside Lae) until late December, when they were flown to Moresby. (Footsoldiers p363)

According to his service record, Jim was evacuated to 2/6 Field Ambulance and transferred to X list on October 20, then ‘discharged to unit’ on November 15 – but wasn’t actually TOS (transferred on strength) until December 8 – ie a week after this letter was written.


Photo – the bridge

Hobart’s floating bridge was to be opened officially on New Year’s Day 1944.  This photo could be the one Dad had sent on to Jim – held in the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office collection, it was re-printed in this article when the bridge was added to the national engineering heritage list.  I can see how it would have been hard for some of the men to relate to it as a bridge.

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Late November: Cazaly moves to Lenah Valley and a sports day includes diving
















TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/ NGF Tng Sch

New Guinea

21st Nov 43

Dear Mother & Dad

After a lapse of about a week the mail has come good again to everyone’s relief.  It’s surprising how it affects the chaps not getting their mail.  Your letter of the fifteenth, two from Ivy and one from May Roberts – you may remember her, she was one of Max Phillips’ girl friends – so I did pretty well out of the issue.  Am glad to hear that things have taken a brighter turn, both at home and at Ivy’s.

I read a bit in today’s local rag about Dalton retaining his seat whilst holding the office of Commissioner to NZ.  That’s about the toughest thing I’ve heard of, a man dragging the screw he will to come at that.  If it hadn’t been for Albert Ogilvie he’d still be working for Mount Lyell.  It’s a case of make hay while the sun shines, isn’t it.

Youngster’s letters were both very bright and cheerful.  She seems very wrapped up with the proposed trip to Sydney and I hope everything turns out right.  I went down to see Bill today and left that photo Ivy sent with him.  He’s doing alright for himself and treated me to a long Gin and lime – nice and cool, it was really enjoyable.  Bill expects to cop a few weeks leave whilst Ivy is in Sydney so if everything turns out as expected it should be a great holiday for both of them.

Your reciprocal visits with the Camerons sounded like a good break for both families.  I’m glad to hear that Nell has recovered and is able to go back to work.  I guess dad had his hands full minding those three kids.  Should be an absolute master of the act now.

Cazaly has certainly taken on a proposition in that place of Alfords – a man would need to be something of a genius to make a go of that but I suppose he’ll make out with training and masseur work as there’s no doubt he’s a master of that game.

While I think of it, I told May I would try and send Anne a telegram of good wishes for that concert show she’s in so as telegrams are very unreliable as far as time goes I’ll send it next weekend if I can, and May can hold it and give it to Anne the day of the show.

Unless Tiny gets another attack of Malaria or something I can’t see him getting home for Christmas as latest indications are that his mob won’t get back till well into next year and things would have to move very smartly for him to make the grade in five weeks.  I’m expecting to get a letter from Viv or Jim next week and will probably get the Griffin from them.  I struck another of the old mob that were in Brighton when I was there today – he’s up here with a working party – a chap named Cole from Cygnet.

Sorry about that fountain pen dad.  I knew things were tough but thought there might be just a chance.  I hope I’ll be able to look after Laurie’s pen but with our mode of living things get broken very easily.  Thank Laurie for the loan of it for me will you.

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



PS  We filled in forms for a new army book the other day – on the same lines as Soldiering On.  It’s called Khaki & Green.  I hope it arrives OK.


I went down to see Bill today

Bill Drysdale was Dad’s brother in law, married to his sister Ivy.  At this point, he was a lieutenant in the Cyphers section of the Navy Office – based at Port Moresby.

In a letter sent by Ivy to their parents, dated 27 November 1943 she says:  I don’t know just exactly how far Max is from Moresby.  According to Bill it’s a hell of a long way – further than their transports are allowed to go.  


Tom D’Alton:  holding his seat while High Commissioner in New Zealand

Tom D’Alton had worked for Mt Lyell Mines at Queenstown as a boilermaker before becoming a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly.  He was a the president of the Queenstown branch of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and became the local candidate for the state seat of Darwin (which later became Braddon).  He was elected in 1931 and in 1934 became minister for agriculture and railways in A G Ogilvie’s Labor government.  In 1939 Ogilvie died, and Robert Cosgrove became premier.  D’Alton was given the ministries of forestry, commerce and agriculture.  This article and letter to the editor of the Launceston Examiner give a sense of the public disquiet at D’Alton’s decision to take up the appointment as Australia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand without resigning his seat in state parliament:

However, the situation was not unique : Britain’s High Commissioner to Australia at this time was Sir Ronald Cross who continued to hold his seat in the House of Commons.


‘Making a go of Alfords’….Cazaly comes to Lenah Valley

Roy Cazaly was an Australian Football legend – having achieved widespread admiration as a player and coach, both in Tasmania and Victoria.  His high marking was the origin of the cry – Up There, Cazaly!   He and his family had lived in Tasmania on two previous occasions, but in late 1943 they moved permanently to Lenah Valley – in fact, to part of the Normanville property originally owned by the Hickman family in Brushy Creek Road.   A description of the area, including mention of the Alford property, appeared in this 1922 article, when the tram line was extended to the corner of Augusta and Pottery Rd.



Photo : Normanville, Brushy Creek Rd  (Libraries Tasmania PH30-1-7404)

Roy continued to coach and play, and also established a therapeutic massage business in which his whole family was involved. He became very well known for his approach to treating polio.  His public profile was further expanded when he became involved in greyhound racing and harness racing.  His son, also named Roy, served in the RAN during the war.  (Information from Cazaly the Legend – Robert Allen – the Slattery Media Group 2017 )


  • * * * * * * * * * * * *















TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

NGF Training Sch

28th Nov 1943

Dear Mother & Dad

It’s a real rest day today – spine bashing is first favourite with every body.  The CI gave us yesterday for a sports programme and everything went off perfectly.  The weather was perfect – the first day since the school started that it hasn’t rained.  The morning was given over to team sports – basketball, softball and cricket.  I had a go at the basketball.  She was just about all in and when it was finished you could have wrung us out but it was a good game.  The softball and cricket both finished very close too.  The afternoon was taken up with an athletic carnival and competition throughout was keen- there’s some good timber amongst the mob.  Prizes supplied from Regimental funds were of a type approved in these parts, ranging from a half a pound of tobacco to chocolates and PK’s.  It was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had for a long time in the army, but we’re all powerful stiff today.

To cap the day a stack of mail came in last night in good time to go to work on it today.  Your interesting letter of the 22nd was among my lot.  I was glad to hear that you are both happy and well and that May, Anne and Carline are doing alright too.  Mother must be particularly fit to be able to walk to Cornelian Bay and back – nice going.

I had no idea Jim was down with Malaria again, although it’s always on the cards when you’ve had it once.  Big Kong Young called in a couple of days back on his way to a convalescent camp after a bad issue of typhus.   He said Jim was alright when he left and he’d had a letter from Bull Black the previous day saying that everything was OK.  They must have treated Jim at a forward CCS.  Two out of three other chaps here from the unit are down with Malaria again.  One had been away three weeks now so he must have a pretty bad attack.

Youngster’s letters this week don’t reflect a very confident note on the prospects of getting up to Sydney.  Priorities seem to have the game sewn up – Members of Parliament and civil servants and their families and friends.  There’s no doubt about it: those in a position to crack the whip abuse their privileges.  John Citizen certainly has a load to carry.

My compliments to Claire Graydon on her commission – she must be soldiering on in a big way.  If the powers that be are turning out commissions in the womens services at the same rate as the army, the social calendars will  [embrace??]  numerous more volumes after the argument than they did before the war.   Still those pips on the shoulder mean a bit in the way of authority and privilege and are a passport to comforts that in civvy times were reserved for society and the power of the purse.

Young Reg must be pretty sweet with the heads – he’s not been out of Australia at all yet, has he – must have struck a job like Max Phillips’ cobber Royce – Pilot Officer Instructor in Sydney.’Well I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.



The Sports Programme

The published results (shared in this image)  included all the sports mentioned in this letter – and also swimming and diving!  This seemed incredible, until I found the photo of a diving board over the river, and a note in later Routine Orders, detailing a group to carry out maintenance on the swimming pool.


AWM 053320

Sogeri Valley, New Guinea 26/6/43  Midday mess parade of the New Guinea Force School of Signals crossing bridge.  Below the bridge can be seen diving boards and pontoons constructed by the troops.





Because Port Moresby is in a relatively dry coastal area, the potential impact of malaria on the war in the Pacific was initially underestimated.  In the first 6 months of 1942, 1184 cases of malaria were recorded among the 6500 Australians serving in Port Moresby. … By November 1942, an epidemic of malaria had broken out, with rates of incidence increasing from 33 men per 1000 per week to 82 men per 1000 per week by December that year.  ….Thanks largely to the efforts of the Army’s Director of Medicine, Colonel Neil Fairley, the Land Headquarters Medical Research Unit was established at the 5 Australian Camp Hospital in Cairns, in June 1943. Testing of the new antimalarial drug atebrin was conducted under diverse conditions and it was reported in June 1944 that administration of 0.1 g (equivalent to one atebrin tablet daily) cured P. falciparum malaria and suppressed the onset of P. vivax malaria.   

(Image – painting by Nora Heysen – same source)






Malaria: Personal Protection Measures

As well as these research efforts, unit commanders were required to enforce personal protection measures including the taking of suppressive drugs (chiefly quinine at this point), use of nets and restrictions on hours for bathing.  At the time of this letter, soldiers were still permitted to wear shorts when not on parade, between the hours of 0630 and 1800.  However, soon afterwards it became an offence to wear shorts, and shirts had to be worn with long sleeves fastened at the wrist. ( Routine Orders December 16:  AWM 52/34/13/4  p 53) – 3 pairs of slacks were issued to each soldier.  CO’s were however permitted to allow men engaged in hard physical work to roll up their sleeves or even work bare-chested, between the hours of sunrise and sunset.

Scrub Typhus

The first sign of this mite-borne disease was an ulcer-like sore.  If found, the soldier immediately reported to the medical officer and was ideally transported to hospital on a stretcher as he rapidly became very ill with fever and often lapsed into unconsciousness.  The fever rose to 40 degrees in a few days – even 40.4 was recorded – and a high swinging temperature was recorded for twelve to eight days.   There was no known drug for treatment, and the administration of adequate fluid and complete rest were essential.   Patient behaviour was also challenging.  Men often exhibited confusion, delirium and restless irritability, and could be demanding and petulant or depressed and drowsy.   The severity of the illness varied considerably.  For men with a severe infection, some were recovered and fit for duty in twelve weeks, but others lapsed into a coma after twelve to sixteen days, and died.  The men were exhausted after campaigning over the mountains and were often debilitated with malaria and dysentery.  Their lower resistance appeared to be a factor in the high mortality rate – of the 626 cases studied over one twelve month period, the death rate was almost 10 percent.   (ref – A Special Kind of Service: the story of the 2/9 Australian General Hospital 1940 – 46  pp 80 – 81)


Priorities seem to have the game sewn up

Note re Ivy’s hopes of spending time in Sydney with her mother in law, and hopefully also her husband : In her letter to their parents dated Nov 27 she said she had managed to book a flight from Melbourne for the next day (Sunday) however “ Airways warned me that I am likely to be taken off at the last minute to make room for a Government Priority – wouldn’t it be awful”


A letter from Bull Black…. everything is OK

The battalion was based ‘around Shaggy Ridge’ where the Japanese were well dug in. “On many nights Japanese aircraft flew over, combing the bases around Gusap and Dumpu but doing little damage.  Only A and C companies really suffered any operational hardship.  Each spent 11 days on the 5000-foot high four-foot wide slope that led up to Green Sniper’s Pimple.  Each platoon spent about five days as forward platoon and each section would spend two days and one night on forward section – the actual front being a one-man affair.  The most forward post was the section Bren pit manned always by two men, and connected by telephone back to CHQ.nnWith only 40 yards to the foremost single Jap pit it was with the usual nervous apprehension that sentry-go was done when in the forward post.”  (The Footsoldiers, pp 361-362)


A clear indication of the terrain referred to in the extract above.    

AWM 064260    Finisterre Ranges, New Guinea 23/1/44  Members of the 2/9 Infantry Battalion digging in at ‘Green Snipers Pimple’ after the Japanese forces had been driven back during battle



Claire Graydon’s commission

I haven’t been able to find anything about Claire Graydon but found this piece about the women’s army service (AWAS) interesting:

The first Officer’s Training School was held in Victoria in November-December 1941. During this time Japan entered the war and the need for womanpower in the Army was accentuated, recruiting and training commenced as soon as AWAS Officers returned to their areas. The types of recruits were quite splendid, alert, responsible and invariably inspired to volunteer by strong personal motives.  Initially the Army only envisaged that women would be employed as clerks, typists, cooks and motor transport drivers, and in small numbers, however, the demand grew very quickly and by the end of 1942 12,000 recruits had been enlisted and trained.   While at first AWAS were posted only to Headquarters, and Base Installations, they later took up duty, after specialist training in almost all Army Services. It is of interest to note that 3,618 served with the Royal Australian Artillery and they manned the Fixed Defences of Australia from Hobart in the South and Cairns in the North, and Perth in the West. And again 3,600 served in the Australian Corps of Signals, where they proved themselves well adapted for the type of work required of them.

AWM 051140

East Risdon TAS 20/4/43  The sound locator of the 115th section, 59th anti-aircraft searchlight company ready for action.  This section is manned [sic] entirely of members of the AWAS…



Young Reg….must have struck an instructor job in Sydney

Reginald Hickman was a relative:  his father John was the brother of Dad’s grandfather- ie John was Dad’s great uncle.  I’m not sure what that makes Reg – I guess they would have called each other cousins.  Reg enlisted in the airforce in 1941 and rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.  At dischargee in 1945 he was posted to the Aircraft Repair Depot.


Posted in escapades, relaxation, fun and games, Papua New Guinea, Tasmanian, training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment