Two letters – but only one intact










TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

8th Aug 43

Dear Mother & Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love – Max

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




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








TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Btn AIF

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

14/ 8/ 43

Dear Mother & Dad

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

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

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

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

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


Visit from the hard hats

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


Dick Baker is well in the news

Dick Baker’s family had been milk vendors in Lenah Valley for several generations.  Dad would have known him to talk to – they were much the same age.   Dick certainly became a very successful businessman  – by 1960 Bakers Milk had a virtual monopoly over Tasmanian milk sales (ref –


Dividing your home with strangers

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


Sturrock’s son

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

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


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


Concert parties

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

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


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




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













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

News from around the world thanks to Guinea Gold










TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

1st Aug 43

Dear Mother & Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The local paper

I assume this is a reference to Guinea Gold


017121 AWM 017121

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


Imperative to grow your own

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

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


The mess queue

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





The election

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






















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









AWM 015684

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



og0031AWM OG0031

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


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


An interesting day’s outing

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


The news from Italy

The Melbourne Argus reported on Friday July 30 1943  that General Eisenhower on behalf of the Allies had issued an offer of peace with Italy, if the government would agree to cease all support for the Germans and to an exchange of all prisoners of war.  (   The Italian Governments signed an armistice on September 3 but this was kept secret until a week later   (   The Italian dictator Mussolini had by this time been arrested and imprisoned in a hotel in the Abruzzi mountains but he was freed by German troops within days of the signing and set up a puppet government based in Salo.

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

Pretending to be somewhere else… practically no news









TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF

30th July 43


Dear Mother & Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Max

Townsville to Port Moresby

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

Images of the Katoomba:   AWM 074923 and AWM 087872















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


Where were they, exactly?

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

061504image – AWM 061504

The parade ground at the Pom-Pom camp





Censorship and Security

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

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

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


Wood’s the least of our worries.


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



Regarding the situation Ivy was experiencing – the AWM resource booklet available here  –   confirms that Melbourne and Sydney suffered a shortage of firewood, a serious problem for the many homes which relied on burning wood to heat, cook and wash.


Picture Shows

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

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







ss11– poster for the movie Seven Sweethearts (1942)

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A mighty humorous show…. awaiting deployment






Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn


22nd July 43

Dear Mother & Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

The federal election

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

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

On manoeuvres… and/ or in a staging camp?

071233AWM 071223 : Oonoonba staging camp

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


The Hon James saw the inside of another cell

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




Twenty provosts…all locked in their own trucks

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

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Money to be made by various means












TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn

AIF Aust

18th July 1943

Best wishes for a Happy Birthday Mother

Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines hoping to find you happy and well as I am at present.  I’m in the midst of what must  approximate very closely the Tower of Babel at the moment.  There’s a bit of a sports meeting on this afternoon and an officer and the RSM are trying to get entries for the various events and although the stakes are good – two bottles of beer for a win and one for second – the mob are rather apathetic to anything involving a big expenditure of energy.  They’ve had a tough week and spinal exercise or gambling for the highest possible stakes as a deterrent to the intense heat are more to their liking than running or jumping.  Mingling with the sales talk for competitors are the expressions peculiar to the two up ring.  There’s plenty of dough about and big bets are being laid.  Peter McCowan was in the money a few minutes back but Bull Haigh looks like taking it off him.  They got mine early in the piece.  There’s several poker and pontoon games on too.

Except for a battalion exercise that lasted all the week there’s not much to write about from this end.  The show lasted all the week and was remarkable for the variety in training and every other way.  Some of the finest scenery you’d wish to see and some of the barrenest – seemingly endless stretches of long white dusty roads and times of extreme cold at night whilst some days like today were like being back in the real tropics – hot and dry with scarcely even water to slake the thirst.

During the show we passed through the outskirts of a fairly big town and here too we met the extremes in types of people – from a little garden we bought a lettuce – the biggest I’ve ever seen – for threepence.  There was enough in it for the whole platoon.  In the shopping centre we found we had to deal with people who made the Jews of Tel Aviv look generous – a deener a time for sandwiches and everything else in proportion.  Of course I suppose the influence of other nationals was largely responsible.  They number their streets and spell steak – stake.  It’s practically impossible to get a drink at the pubs because of the big money made by the back door trade.  Last night we had a few jugs and saw a picture show – not a bad turnout either.  It was my first experience of real open air theatres – although any army shows we see are of necessity open air shows – open air theatres as a permanent institution are a new experience to me.  The screen mountings and platform are of concrete, the seating accommodation is quite open whilst the front of the theatre is the same as an ordinary theatre.

I had two letters from Ivy and one from Jack during the week.  The youngster seems to be having a tough trot with the baby sick, herself anything but well and all the other troubles of that woman, although her second letter was much more cheerful.  Jack seems quite happy in the service but has been in a bit of strife with his car – had a collision with a cow and came off second best.

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



PS Am enclosing a snap Daph Wise sent – she only sent it for me to have a look and return.  I forgot to put it in her letter and it might get lost before I write again.

A tough week, a bit of a sports meeting…. or not??


054433It is possible that Dad’s platoon was involved in exercises with another unit – e.g. the 2/2 Pioneer Battalion seen in this photo (AWM 054433) – but the 2/33 Bn war diary makes no mention of such an exercise.



from-general-vaseys-war-by-david-hornerPhoto – from General Vasey’s War by David Horner.    There was a weekend of activities for the Seventh Division on July 17/18 , but there is no mention of it in the 2/33 Battalion diary (AWM RCDIG1027241) which focusses on the preparations for embarkation for New Guinea:


Battalion Diary – July 1943

July 11 – Church Parade.  1800hrs Bn receives 3 hour warning notice re Rodeo/ Exercise under Divisional command.

July 12 – Battalion standing by awaiting further orders.  1500hrs Bn leaves camp, proceeds to vicinity Archer’s Creek, bivouac this area night 12/13 July

July 13 – Leaves bivouac area with instructions to proceed to Mt Garnet light enemy opposition en route, outskirts of town secured 1700hrs, activities during night 13/14 consisting of patrol work only (exercise)

July 14 – 0730 Word received exercise over. warned to return to camp.  1400hrs convoy arrives, troops embus and return to Ravenshoe camp, striking of tents and packing gear, loading parties left during night to load at Ravenshoe.

July 15 – 0930 small party leave by train from Ravenshoe. 1230hrs A Coy leave by train for Cairns

July 16 – BHQ u/c Capt Gordon Bennett leave by MT for Innisfail, thence by train to Townsville arriving Oonoomba staging camp 2300hrs

July 17 – BHQ party join main body of Bn which had arrived 0500hrs at adjoining camp

July 19 – A Coy arrive during morning by rail from Cairns (?), reinforcements numbering 79 march in.  1330hrs A, C, D Coys leave for Townsville, embarking on SS Canberra, A Coy on SS Duntroon, arriving Port Moresby 0930hrs 22 July.

July 20 – 22  Remainder of Battalion at Oonoomba camp waiting to embark

July 23 – 0900 BHQ HQ Coy, B Coy, E Coy (reinforcements) leave for Oonoomba station.   1600hrs entrain for wharf embarkation commencing 1040hrs.  No of personnel embarked on TSS Katoomba 17 officers, 464 ORs.  Total Bn embarkation figures 32 officers 779 ORs

In The Footsoldiers, there is a description of the ‘great spectacle’ of the finals of the Divisional Rugby League competition, won by the 2/33rd team, but this was on the first weekend of July.


Spinal exercise or gambling…the preferred occupations

053422055175Although the men are from other units, the preoccupation with Two Up and card games is evident from these photos -‘ two up’ under palm trees (AWM 053422) , card games and ‘spinal exercise’ on board ship between Cairns and Port Moresby (AWM 055175).







A deener a time for sandwiches…the influence of other nationals

Reference to the American servicemen who always had plenty of cash and pushed up prices beyond what Australian men could afford.  However, a shilling for a sandwich may have actually been quite reasonable by comparison with Brisbane prices.  Here’s an extract from a story in the Brisbane Courier Mail from April 2015 which included recollections by Des McGee who was a boy during the war.  I’m sure Dad would have applauded the lad’s enterprise!:

“An American soldier gave Des 10 shillings to go down Racecourse Road to buy some sandwiches,’’ Howard said. “Des came back with the sandwiches which cost four shillings and the Yank told him to keep the change.   Des showed enterprise beyond his years and raced back to the shop¸ bought a loaf of bread and a Windsor sausage and made his own pile of sandwiches. He cleared three and a half quid that first day.’’ (

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Bloody beautiful whiskey and a tough stunt: two letters











TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn

AIF Aust

4th July 1943

Dear Mother & Dad

After a full week without any letters it was good to collect three today – yours, youngsters and one from Daph Wise – all very light and cheerful too, although things haven’t improved much for Ivy.  She seems to have let herself in for something and apparently it’s no easy job getting accommodation, so she may be tied up for some time.

Tiny seems to be hanging on pretty well – he doesn’t miss many tricks.  One of our chaps has just struck a similar break – Sport Muller – he’s had repeated attacks of Malaria and the medical authorities have recommended three months’ treatment in his own state and two months convalescent leave.  I’m not sure but I think that’s how it is.

Things in general this end are still reasonably pleasant.  The weather continues to be good and the food – whilst of course on stunts the old faithful Bully beast fills all places in the menu – we’ve been getting a reasonable amount of beer but tobacco is very scarce.  I’m not smoking at present as it doesn’t worry me but some of the chaps get very mad when they can’t get a smoke.  I don’t know where they got it but there was a bottle of Mountain C…. Whisky in the pit the other night – distilled and bottled in Scotland it has that incomparable mellowness that only genuine Scotch has.  This particular brand is distilled especially for the tropics and from a label on it, it appears to have come from Singapore or to have been on its way there.  I was playing bridge and the RSM called me over to the bar and ordered a couple of whisky’s and he said if that’s not the best whisky you’ve ever tasted I’ll give up.  It was too – it was bloody beautiful.  Without any breaking down it had the most palatable velvetyness of any drink I’ve ever had.  One of the bridge players had to go on duty so Pete McCowan and the other player joined us at the bar and we were lucky enough to get another drink before the bottle was empty.  There’s been quite a bit of good grog floating around lately.  I was putting a mantle up in the officers mess the other day and the steward told me there’s been some good stuff – champagne and all – coming in.  I guess they must have jacked up on (Corio?) and other forms of Methylated spirits.

At a meeting of the mess the other night the RSM proposed making a levy and buying a (wine?) for the chaps who had helped build the cabin.  That was of course the privates who had helped with the chimney and roof.  The canteen sergeant worked the oracle for the grog and yesterday afternoon for the first time the mess was thrown open to them.  The party started off very quietly but after the first couple the tongues loosened up and I think they all enjoyed it.  Incidentally Jim Mc and those other fellows I mentioned haven’t gone yet.  I don’t think there’s been any developments in the matter at all.

I woke up this morning feeling very satisfied with myself.  I’d dreamed I was out of the army for three months and was quite convinced until the bugle brought me back to earth with a crash.  For the present, give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best withes to Laurie and the boys.



PS  I’m getting the stamps alright – thanks.  Max


Good grog flowing in the officers’ mess

AWM photo:  MEC0241

mec0241May 1943: The morning after sees a nice batch of “dead marines” (empty beer and spirits bottles) outside the Officers’ Mess of a RAAF squadron in Tunisia.

It would seem there was some ‘good grog’ flowing in officers’ messes in other theatres as well!














TX 1004

Sgt Max Hickman

2/33rd Battn AIF


10th July 1943

Dear Mother & Dad

I received your welcome letter of the fifth today just after we got back from a stunt – a tough show too – one of those mechanised infantry turnouts where you do everything automatically – one foot after the other – but of course in retrospect not a bad show.  On the way out we passed the crowd that Ray Ross and Geeves went to – they all beamed with satisfaction as we marched by – and the OC also one of our old mob sang out ‘How are you Hick – it’s nice to see you walking about again’.  Of course he wouldn’t be rubbing it in much would he – and all the others had a bit of a lick too.  Bob Cole got crook a couple of days before the show and at the last minute I had to take over the CSM’s job – just a snack but a new experience for me.  During one part of the exercise I passed on information to the platoons on a change of plans.  Everyone was all in, and Charlie Mene – that’s the black fellow I’ve often mentioned – a quiet easy going chap – revived the spirits of the mob when he said ‘for Gawd’s sake make up your bloody mind Hickey’ – as though I was running the whole show.  The mob laughed for ten minutes and did the job extra well.  It was a particularly dry argument all the way, and everyone was thinking in terms of beer on the way back but when we got home there was no beer available and of course immediately a crop of rumours with an accompanying volume of abuse swept the camp.  However we survived the ordeal.

As you say, that bloody woman that we hoped would help Ivy has turned out a proper menace and is adding to Youngster’s troubles considerably – and short of having her removed I can’t see her going at all.  She’s apparently the type who’ll take everything and give nothing in return.  There’s a lot of her type about – I hope the youngster can get rid of her without much trouble.

I’m a bit surprised to hear they’re on Tiny again.  They seem to be combing manpower pretty thoroughly these days.  Daph Wise mentioned in a letter that Dave Gourlay – Daisy’s husband – was on final leave and expected to be posted up here somewhere.  They seem to be catching up with a lot of the base wallopers.  It’s not before its time either, that they let some of the old hands go back for a spell.  Still I didn’t think they’d swing on Tiny again.  The old Colonel can’t have the influence he used to have.

Although there’s plenty doing here  – in fact I don’t remember the time when we were kept as consistently busy, out of action – there’s really nothing I can write about.  We’ve got a new CO.  He’s not new to the unit because he’s been with us ever since he was a Lieut but he’s a ball of energy and keeps us going.

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

PS Jim McDonnell wishes to be remembered to you.


The crowd Ray Ross and Geeves went to

Claude Geeves (TX 1134) and Ray Ross (QX1146) transferred to the 7th Division Carrier Group mentioned in my previous post.

20160930_121922Photo – ‘one foot after another’ – from The Footsoldiers : Exercises along the railway near Mt Garnet, Atherton Tablelands



A desperate need for both fighting men and domestic workers: no wonder they were ‘onto Tiny again’

Both the armed services and essential industries and services were experiencing a huge demand for labour.  Many of the men who had fought in New Guinea were convalescing after repeated bouts of malaria – Cecil (Tiny) Schultz among them.  In order to continue to prosecute the war, Australian servicemen were returned to active service repeatedly.  For information on the impact of Malaria on the Kokoda campaign, see   and for more on the Manpower regulations, see

His entry on the World War II nominal roll  (  shows that Tiny was attached to the 2/11 Field Ambulance at the time of his discharge in June 1944.  He had been attached to the RAP (Regimental Aid Post) as a member of the 2/31 Battalion in both the Middle East and PNG so perhaps his old CO did in fact help secure a similar post for him.





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Construction project – a ‘pit’ for the officers – takes precedence over training

























27th June 1943

(not on army-issue paper)

Dear Mother & Dad

Once again having got through with the devil-dodging business I’ll endeavour to catch up with my correspondence although I’m expecting to have to go out on a reccy presently.  Still I’ll make the best of the time I have.  I received your letter of the 21st yesterday along with one from Ivy and the big envelope with the stripes in: they certainly caused some strife, didn’t they?  I had no idea there was any restriction on them but of course it’s quite understandable.  Still I’d have done without rather than put the Mater to all that trouble.  I’m glad you didn’t send service stripes – I don’t need any of those – but we’re supposed to have stripes on all our shirts as well as the tunic and great coat.  Service dress is the recognised winter dress here although the working clothes are the same we have to dress for evening mess and whenever we leave the camp.  Ivy’s letter this week was much brighter but she’s certainly let herself in for something.

Jim McDonnell got a letter from his young brother about Thursday saying that Frank had been wounded.  It’s nothing much just a shrapnel wound in the foot but if the luck of the Irish sticks to Frank like it does to Jim he’ll probably do alright out of it.  I think I told you earlier that the officers were building a log cabin similar to ours.  I should have said of course that they were having it built because except for our Lieut none of the officers have done a tap.  Jim, Kong Young and Johnny Black have been doing the sides.  The job couldn’t have been going fast enough for them because on Tuesday night the boss told me I wouldn’t be going on the three day stunt that started on Wed because he wanted me to get the pit finished.  He left me the three that had been working on it and a couple of other chaps and by dinner time yesterday the job was finished except for malthoiding the roof and taking the boxing out of the chimney.  Of course when we built our cabin we had to scrimp and scrap for everything we wanted and we had hell’s own job to get a truck to get stuff but anything I wanted for this job I just collected the money from the RQ, got the duty truck and went and got the stuff – no trouble at all.  The place looks very well.  They’ve lined it out with blankets and furnished it in the manner of a big hotel lounge.  Over the blankets the walls are hung with skins with the three shields representing the three CO’s between the furs.  The shields are all done in the manner of that drawing that I sent you a snap of from England – Hamburger Bill’s Dill Battalion – except that the representations are different.  The second one covers the time when John Corby was CO and where the dill battalion was printed it’s the P & B’s Battalion.  The third one deals with the present CO’s time – Alfie’s Wayward Legion’.  They’re very well done and would be good to keep after the war.  I’d like to have a camera to get some snaps of these huts and their appointments but hardly anybody in the unit has a camera these days and films are hard to get too.

A friend of Syd Black’s invited us to the fourteenth battalion mess last night.  It was one of their big shows and we had an extra good time.  The fourteenth used to be known as the Ghost Battalion and the chaps were very sore about it but they did such a good job on the range that the name has got a different meaning to them now and their favourite toast is the Ghost Battalion.  Jimmy Gordon and a couple of other thirty first blokes were there too.

Well Mother and Dad I’m afraid there’s no other news from this end so I’ll say cheerio.  Incidentally they’re waiting for me to go on this reeky.  Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to Laurie and the boys.



Sergeant’s stripes

20160822_144358I struggle to understand why confirmation of rank wouldn’t be accompanied by the provision of all the necessary additions to a man’s uniform – ie enough sets of stripes for all the issued shirts, coats etc.





All kinds of log cabins in the area

053750AWM 053750   This image dated July 2 1943 shows a ‘log cabin garage, a motor bike stable’, built on the Atherton Tableland by troops of Headquarters 7th Australian Division.



Malthoiding the roof

The following is an extract from Wikipedia (      regarding this waterproof roofing material :

From 1905 to 1988 The Paraffine Paint Co. of San Francisco had Malthoid as a trademark for waterproof and weatherproof building and roofing materials made of paper and felt in whole or in part.[10] However, it had become well known before that.[11] ….

Malthoid was once common enough to be used as a generic description of flat roofing material in New Zealand and South Africa (item 26). A description of a New Zealand house built about 1914 says it was, “built of timber framework. covered by sheets of asbestos. The roof was closely timbered, then covered by strips of Malthoid paper. This was then painted with tar and topped off with a sprinkling of sand.[14] Railway vehicles in Australia were roofed with Malthoid.[15] Malthoid is still available for flat roofs and damp courses.[16]

Lieut-Col Buttrose and his shield 

027039AWM 027039 : Lieutenant Colonel A W Buttrose (with stick) and Major G F Larkin at Menai Papua October 1942.

See post of May 30, 1943 for a picture of the CO’s shield.  A photo of the sergeants’ log cabin with the three shields referred to here, outside that cabin, is in the post dated May 23, 1943

It’s strange that Dad refers to Buttrose as the current CO – Major Tom Cotton is shown as Adm Comd of the Battalion in the War Diary for May, and by the end of June he (Cotton) was the CO with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.  During their time in Queensland there had certainly been a number of changes in the Battalion and Brigade hierarchy, so perhaps it made sense that NCO’s and ‘other ranks’ only stayed in touch with their immediate superiors and didn’t try to keep tabs on those higher up.  This does seem out of character for my father though!


The Ghost Battalion

The AIF’s 21st Brigade (including the 2/14th, the 2/16th and the 2/27th Battalions) was the first to arrive in Papua to reinforce the 39th and 53rd Militia Battalions who were fighting the Japanese along the Kokoda Track.  This extract regarding their involvement in the Kokoda  campaign is taken from from the Australian War Memorial website (

On 13 August 1942, the 2/14th arrived at Port Moresby in Papua, and by 16 August was advancing along the Kokoda Track to confront the rapidly advancing Japanese. The battalion’s first clash with its new enemy took place at Isurava on 26 August. After holding there for three days it was forced to withdraw. For his actions at Isurava, Private Bruce Kingsbury was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The fighting withdrawal back along the Track was characterised by bitter, desperate fighting, none more so than that which occurred at Mission Ridge between 6 and 8 September. The 2/14th’s ordeal on the Track ended with its relief at Imita Ridge (by 25th Brigade – including 2/33 Bn) on 16 September. By this time the battalion was so weak that it had been amalgamated with the 2/16th to form a composite battalion. After a period of rest and retraining, the 2/14th, once again functioning as a separate battalion, joined the operations at Gona on 26 November. Consisting of only three half-strength companies when it entered the fighting, the 2/14th left Gona, on 8 January 1943, only 21 strong. 

imagesFor more detailed and personal accounts of the experiences of the men of this battalion, see Andrew James’ book Kokoda Wallaby and Peter Dornan’s The Silent Men.



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