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 ( https://nyrstarhobart.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Zinc_Works_Book_Part2.pdf) 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 : https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/17889339/1089276
This photo shows him later in the year, with actress Letty Craydon, entertaining troops at the Heidelberg Military Hospital in Victoria. (digital.slv.vic.gov.au 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.
Cartoonists like to depict Ward as a ‘loose cannon’ – eg this one: https://www.nla.gov.au/sites/default/files/backroombriefings.pdf
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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Ward)
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 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/50120534/2005341 ) 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 http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dedman-john-johnstone-303)
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 cordial (along with rosehip syrup) was a staple of my childhood. This advertisement is from the Hobart Mercury, June 1949 (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/26649593 ) Maybe the feedback from he troops was sufficiently positive to justify work on developing this ‘new cordial’!?
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.
4. DISCHARGE OF PERSONNEL TO INDUSTRY
- 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.
- 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.