War Letters – New Guinea: 10 Feb 1944, Townsville; killing time waiting

W.E. Pidgeon
C/o P.R. Unit
7 Murray St.
Stanton Hill
Townsville
Thurs. 10th

Darling,

As you can see by the letter head I am back on the mainland, killing time while I wait for transport up to Cairns.  In all probability I shall be home in a week’s time.  Have a nice steak in the house – and a cold bottle of course.

Will you please send me a page, or about 20 clothing coupons.  Do not send the book as the Officer’s shop will accept loose coupons.  I want to buy a pair of shoes they are very good and only 25/-.  Post them as soon as you get this letter for I shall only be about 3 or 4 days up north.  Shall then try and get home on the flying boat which gets to Sydney about 5 o’clock which, I hope, will just give us time to dash off a quick one at Coy’s.  [Harold and Bassie Coy ran the Hotel Hunters Hill, a favoured drinking spot of Wep and Jess.]

How are all the parlour geese there?  Can Molly [Turton] get through the swing doors now?  Got any home brew?

Had a fine trip down from the island.  Left at four on a slightly cloudy but moonlight morning and arrived here at 7.30 am.  That’s good going.  The dawn was really magnificent coming on while we were flying above the great cumulus clouds.  The effect was brilliantly violent.  It was a Superman sunrise.

Have struck Bill Marien, who, by the way, is married to that girl and has a kid about 18 month’s old.  We had dinner at the Officer’s Club and a quantity to drink.  It affected me poorly and I am now happily feeling the retirement of the ragged hangover that accompanied my awakening.  The rest of my time has been spent dismally sitting on my bum and gloomily reading old Lifes, Reader’s Digests, Mans and other sundry publications.

Have just heard that I will be moving off tomorrow.

If you happen to be going to town will you pop into Moore’s Bookshop next the Criterion Hotel and ask if they have a copy of the cheap edition of Laurence’s (sic) Seven Pillars of Wisdom [T.E. Lawrence].  Also can you get me, at any bookstore a copy of Cleanliness and Godliness by Reginald Reynolds?

Have only had one letter from you so that if you have happened to send others I must presume their demise in the Jungle Hells of NG.

Nothing else of interest at the moment.  So accept my utmost adoration.  Your devoted willie.

 

[At some stage Bill visited the Atherton Tablelands where he then got a lift from Major C.H. Cheong, editor of the Army newspaper ‘Table Tops’ who drove him to Townsville presumably on his return trip home. It is estimated that he made it home by Thursday, 17 February 1944.]

Sgt. Marney, MM
Sgt. Marney, MM
Believed to be Sgt Ray McDonald Marney, NX1441, Military Medal, 2/2 Aust Inf Bn
Most likely sketched when Wep returned from New Guinea during a transit through the Atherton Tablelands.
See also http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/82053801
Pte. N. Blundell, MM
Pte. N. Blundell, MM
Believed to be Pvt Neville Blundell, NX4320, Miltary Medal, later L/Cpl, of 2/3 Bn
Most likely sketched when Wep returned from New Guinea during a transit through the Atherton Tablelands.
See also http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44893679
Sgt. Wyatt, MM
Sgt. Wyatt, MM
Believed to be Sgt Arthur James Wyatt, NX4211, 2/3rd Bn, awarded the Military Medal
Most likely sketched when Wep returned from New Guinea during a transit through the Atherton Tablelands.
See also http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44893679

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War Letters – New Guinea: 7 Feb 1944, Port Moresby; Picnic at Rouna Falls

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O PR Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
6th Feb Mon 10 am
[7 Feb 1944]

Darling,

Am back in Moresby and will soon (in a couple of days) be on my way back to the mainland where I am afraid I shall have to put in a week or so on the Tablelands.  In any case it is certain that I shall be home within three weeks – maybe two.

14

Tommy [O’Dea] called into this unit on Sunday afternoon after five minutes after I had arrived back from the local air strip.  Had only a few words with him but may go round to his living quarters tonight.  Previously I couldn’t locate him as he is stationed away from the Navy proper.  He drove off in a jeep.  Christ, he looked funny!  Quite a bleaming blade.  Just as well he didn’t have a nurse or Amwas or something with him because on such occasions travel is accompanied by screams, cat calls and yahoos by all and sundry.

He looks well enough & quite happy.  Said he flew up from Brisbane with only the slightest of brain flappings.

Bill Marien ex-Telegraph man (you will remember him up at the Castlereagh – big dark fattish chap with a girl wif lovely teef from Rockdale way) has gone back to mainland.  I shall have a few drinks with him at the Officers Club where I last wrote you from.

Don’t write me any more letters here – or anywhere for that matter as I probably won’t get them.  I received one from you while staying in the Ramu Valley.  Sorry to hear you are so lonely  – it won’t be so long now darling,

Hawkeye Hawkesley is the big noise around here.  The life & soul of the party so to speak.  Must get Tommy to take me down to the American Officer’s club as I would like to get myself some few things.  Everybody at St Percy’s (as this school for boys is fondly known) has managed to get something or other.

Sunday saw a great organised picnic in the hills at a joint called Rouna Falls.  Really very pleasant & falls quite impressive.  The celibates managed to collect 5 nurses to take along.  No Helens of Troy amongst them.  5 nurses to 12 men is a super abundance of feminity in these perfumeless parts.

Haven’t contracted as far as I know any scrofs, plagues or poxes.  Have lost my pot belly and most of the other superfluous fats.  Found it necessary to drag the belt in 4 holes.  Sweated quite a bit in my time up here.

W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port Morseby
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port Morseby
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port Morseby
2 New Guinea - 10 Port Moresby Area-5
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port Morseby

Had a few snaps taken of myself.  They are not of much consequence.

Nothing doing here, so there will be no more news from me until after I get away.

Saw “Stage door canteen” at the pictures Sat night. Just a show.

Hope you are feeling well & are not getting too bats for public circulation.  Be good until you see me again.  Shall probably arrive at Martin Place about 4.30 pm one bright day.  Bring the Ponty in & we’ll give Coys a slight break.  [Harold and Bassie Coy ran the Hotel Hunters Hill, a favoured drinking spot of Wep and Jess.]  Haven’t missed the grog up here.  If it’s not about you don’t need it.  Lots of love dear.

Bill.

Unidentified War Correspondent, possibly a photographer, at Roun
Unidentified War Correspondent, possibly a photographer, at Rouna Falls, near Port Moresby, New Guinea
A native Fuzzy Wuzzy at Rouna Falls, near Port Moresby, New Guin
A native Fuzzy Wuzzy at Rouna Falls, near Port Moresby, New Guinea

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War Letters – New Guinea: 1-2 Feb 1944, Guy’s Post & Shaggy Ridge

Australian Red Cross Society letterhead
W.E. Pidgeon
c/o P.R. Unit
N. G. Force
Moresby
Tues 1 Feb [1945]

Sweetheart,

Am writing from an Advanced Dressing Station i.e. a base where surgeons work closest to the front line.  Fortunately for the troops there is only one wounded casualty here at the moment, and from all information on the state of the war up here there are not likely to be any more.  The Jap is definitely on the way out.

Evacuating Wounded-Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Evacuating Wounded-Ramu Valley, New Guinea

I’m somewhat limp after an afternoon stroll (?) up a mountain 200 ft higher than the spot where I now sit.  All in all that damned ridge is about 4000 ft above sea level.  God knows how the soldiers carried their packs (and the boongs the supplies for them) up these exhausting peaks.  They must have been superhuman – it was all I could do to cart myself up.

The scenery round here is really magnificent.  There’s nothing like it in Australia.  Clouds encircling the mountains half way and passing fogs crown the peaks up to 4000 ft.  The hills are treeless except for dark writhing tangles which follow the eroded creek beds slashing down the sides.  Imagine the hills of Picton much more precipitous, higher & sharp edged on top – so sharp are some that only one man could cross the saddle at one time – as green or greener than those I painted.

After struggling to the top of this bloody mountain I came across some of the lads coming down.  We sat & had a cigarette – they said they were Pioneers.  I asked about Lloyd Martin and blow me down if he didn’t come round the track.  I introduced myself.  He was camped right on the top and all around were the most magnificent views.  We had a cuppa which seemed to help me along.  Then down the hill in practically a straight line & at a 45º angle.  God! Did my legs wobble at the bottom.  Unbelievable that I should really come across anyone in such a casual fashion in such a hell of an area as N. Guinea.  However, it happened.  He said that he had had a letter but two days before from his sister saying that I was on my way.  The family resemblance is unmistakeable.

Tomorrow I am on my way up an even higher mount to a Ridge that has been well in the news.  Heaven help me, even though I shall have a boong to carry my paint box.

15

That’s a picture to delight your heart. “Squire Pidgeon and Boong ascend the Hairy Mount.”  The password for tomorrow is “Excelsior”.  I’m definitely & most positively NOT looking forward to it.  But the show must go on – albeit over my wracked & blistered body.

By the way, I am not the least less on the nose!  The ground is wet with my honest sweat.

I think this hurricane lamp I’m using is about to give up the ghost any tick of the clock!

Will soon retire to my stretcher.  I’m sleeping under native built grass roof in the malarial ward.  I am not a patient.  It is merely that I have been offered the hospitality of the base.  The food here is the best that I have had in N.G.  The cook was a chef at Scott’s of Melbourne so I guess he knows how to put even tinned meat & vegetables together.  And have I had beans?  Am not really eating well – don’t seem to be able to muster up any enthusiasm for the same damned stuff.  Had alleged fresh meat the other day.  Tasted (which word is an euphemism for it) like well worn saddle leather.  I just couldn’t make the grade.

Have been taking my prophylactic daily dose of anti-malaria pills.  In time they dye the old bod a fine shade of tangerine with the exception of the finger nails which appear to become whiter.  Generally, a very smart effect, especially on persons of sallow complexion which acquires a rare old mahogany hue.  I am approaching a very delicate pale primrose on the hands.  Perhaps I’ll give you some real colour on my return.  The boys say it has the same effects on the old doings as quinine.  But what do I care – I aint goin’ no place.

I do hope you are really looking after yourself – eating, drinking moderately & keeping the old clods up on a chair or something, or anything that does for something.

Hope the family are still pottering along alright.

Regards to the Hunter Hillbillys [friends from Hunters Hill – King Watson and other drinking partners].  Even a schooner of Tooheys would cause a riot up here.  N.G. is absolutely dry.  I haven’t had a drink since Townsville.  The boys at Moresby took a dim view of my alcoholless arrival.

Lots of love darling, Bill

P.S. The tea guzzling up here is staggering – every few minutes someone is making tea – if you’re not in the camp drinking the fairly lousy stuff you’re drinking it at a Salvation Army or YMCA inn along the road somewhere.

More love XXX

 

Wed.  Feb 2 6.30 pm.

Knee operation at a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guine
Knee operation at an Advanced Dressing Station at Guy’s Post in the upper Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Knee operation at a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guine
Knee operation at an Advanced Dressing Station at Guy’s Post in the upper Ramu Valley, New Guinea

Jaysus! Do I feel sick!  Have just done a very rough and very wobbly sketch of a fellow having his knee opened up by two field surgeons.  Do they cut ‘em up!  I’ve seen all the operations I want to for many a day.  It was touch and go whether I would make a ninny of myself by throwing up on the spot!  The day was saved by my extra rapid scrawl and an attempted wise look indicating the completion of my sketch.  Phew!  I bet I dream about it.

All that on top of tea which made me belch like hell & a slight sickness of exhaustion.  I’ve been up and own the blasted mountains today my love.  Started at 8.30 am & didn’t return to the camp till nearly 5 pm.  Felt completely buggered and far from home.  My knees are like jelly – my heels are sore from the thumping I gave them on the way down the mount.  Banged all the nails through into my anything but calloused heels (incidentally it’s dammed cold at the moment – and raining too –a perfect setting for a first class whinge).

Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea
Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea
Ascending the Pimple; reproduced The Australian Women's Weekly,
Ascending the Pimple; reproduced The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 June 1944, p40.

Well I have at least seen Shaggy Ridge and what a hell of a place it is. Heaven only knows how the boys took it over from the Jap.  On either side of a track only wide enough for one.  The earth face walls near sheer nearly 200 or 300 ft & the top of it was riddled with fox holes.  It is all beyond me I’ll have to get hold of one of the crowd that did  it to tell me all about it.

Don’t think I’ll write anything more tonight darling.  Am feeling too depressingly tired.  Keep a couple of gals for picking me up at Martin Place.  I aim to be home this month via Flying Boat.

Hope you are OK.

I might get a letter in a few days – hope so.
Lots of love –from
Plugga Pidge
the boy wit de wobbly knees.

13

I really think my mountaineering days are over.

Moderation is the keyword for today.

love XX

Bill

[Study for Evacuating wounded-Ramu Valley]
[Study for Evacuating wounded-Ramu Valley]
Study for Ascending the Pimple
Study for Ascending the Pimple
Squire Wep and faithful 'boongs' ascend Shaggy Ridge; reproduced
Squire Wep and faithful ‘boongs’ ascend Shaggy Ridge; reproduced The Australian Women’s Weekly, 18 March 1944, p9.
On Shaggy Ridge
On Shaggy Ridge, reproduced: The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 Jun 1944, p40
Advanced Dressing Station, Guy's Post, New Guinea
Advanced Dressing Station, Guy’s Post, New Guinea
The Pimple and Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea
PASSED BY OPERATIONAL CENSOR SWPA
PHOTO NO. MNG. 456.
The razorback of the Pimple with Australian troops digging in. In the background is Shaggy Ridge from which the attack was made. This mountain spur which rises to a level of 5,600 ft. dominates the Ramu Valley.
PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION.
Admissions, Field Hopsital, Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Admissions at an Advanced Dressing Station at Guy’s Post in the upper Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Knee operation at a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guine
Knee operation at an Advanced Dressing Station at Guy’s Post in the upper Ramu Valley, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
Jeep trailer
Jeep trailer
Possibly a Grant M3 tank
Possibly a Grant M3 tank
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea

24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm Kankiryo and Mount Prothero 21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm 24 x 18 cm

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War Letters – New Guinea: 31 Jan 1944, Moved out to the upper Ramu Valley

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O Public Relations
N. G. Forces
Moresby
Mon 31st [Jan 1944]

Darling,

Am settled down in a permanent base at last.  Although I shall probably be in the mountains north of here most of the time I can at least have any letters you have written forwarded to me this area.

Yesterday I hitch-hiked out of Finschhafen, managing a jeep ride through prodigious jungle to an airstrip.  After coming out of the really dense but only moderately high jungle around the areas in which  I was these enormous tree were singularly impressive.  Some seemed at least 200 ft high the trunks barely discernible beneath the profusion of  parasitic vines orchids lichens and stag horns. The trunks thrusting like spears towards the light above – not much foliage in the dank darkness beneath the high green canopy.  It’s a damn sight more satisfactory to see the country by road than it is either by air or sea.  The details, the small and the undergrowth noise of birds and insects provide an intimacy quite lacking in those other forms of transport.

Lae looked no better to me on a second visit.  Everything seems dry and blasted as well it might be after the pounding it received.  Flying up the Ramu valley is everything Tommy [O’Dea] said it was – a hell of a lot more into the bargain.  Now that was a trip to be seen from a plane.  The most beautiful placer I’ve ever seen.  The brilliant green kumai grass along the flats edging the Ramu River makes its way up the treeless & knife edged foot hills to the bases of two colossal mountain ranges which enclosed the valley.  The clouds wind the depressions between peaks & plume off the highest points in great dramatic forms.  The unbelievable blues & greens below edge off into the sombre silhouettes of mountains like Mt Helwig which is 10,000 ft.  The fading light throughs the clouds into the starkness of black & white.  Small grey thatched native villages appear at irregular intervals and I leapt from window to window of the plane with the alacrity of a flea.

There were only 3 passengers in the plane (a big Douglas transport job loaded to the plimsoll with tins of dehydrated potatoes, soup, ration tins & what have you).    It seemed a long time getting off the ground – the tail did not appear to lift any too well.  My stomach anxiously awaited the disappearance of the strip beneath.  Next thing I know is that my guts are trying to get on the other side of my backbone – we had gone into a steep climb.  Next we are over the grassy foothills so low that the bloody stuff seemed to be whizzing past the windows.  Cripes I’ll bet the pilot cleared the ridges by only 4 feet.  Then the grass on the plains would appear suspiciously close.  I would think we were losing height because of the weight of cargo – then up and back the guts would go again.  If it hadn’t been for the scenery the trip would have been an anxious misery.

Found on landing that we had been brought up by a Yank known as the Mad Major.  He tosses these Douglas’s round like fighters.  He has been seen doing loops and slow rolls with them.  Too much bloody exuberance.  Strangely enough he was no chicken although a big wildly laughing guy.  I am told he was grounded for recklessness whilst with a Lightning fighter squadron. Ah me!

If you see Mrs Farrow or Farrar, the dame down the road, you can tell her that I have nearly met her brother.  I found the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion but he wasn’t in the particular company I came across.  I may meet him tomorrow.  This beautiful country belies its looks – it’s lousy with all the worst tropical plagues, itches – and worse things.

This is by far the best camp I have stayed in.   Good food – fairly cool – plenty of birds decent tents & native built huts – and amicable company.  The press advance headquarters are here and 2 P.R. officers to look after us.  4 or 5 correspondents are here at the moment.  So its just like living in the Journalists’ Club except that there is no tasty ale.

While I think of it, will you ring Syd King, police roundsman at the office & ask him how much my betting debt is.  Then post him a check.  Thankyou, my pet.

Nothing else at the moment.  Have not been able to get a letter from you yet but hope to receive some from Moresby when I come out of them there hills.  I have two days march in front of me after leaving the jeep track head.  Boy will I be weak.  May have a boong carrier to help me along.

Hope you are looking after yourself. Lots of love darling.

Bill

18

Native huts near a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Native huts near a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Native huts near a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Native huts near a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea

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War Letters – New Guinea: 29 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Field hospital

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O PR Unit
N. G. Force
Moresby
Sat 29th [Jan 1944]

Dear Jesso,

Have just returned to our Canvas Palace after an arty evening under the stars, vines, clouds and fire flies listening to highbrow music as dispensed by some amiable sergeant for the benefit of the boys.  It was very pleasant – cool too, for a change.  We’re not asleep I bent my wandering brain to appreciation of the note.

12

We returned with the help of fireflies to where Hodgkinson promptly lies down “dreaming my love of thee,” The bastard’s bats!

Am moving out tomorrow on my way to the upper end of Ramu Valley.  Should be able to get the best of possible stuff up there.  Seems a year since I left home – all recollections of the lawn mowing week are vague and almost remote. I’ve packed so much into my popping eyes in the last fortnight.  Roy will be staying on down here completing his magnus opus.  I shall probably meet [William (Bill)] Dargie up there.  Which reminds me I saw a par. in “Guinea Gold” (the soldiers’ paper) that there has been a wonderful stink about the Archibald Prize award.  Nothing like a lively bout between artists. [The 1944 prize was awarded to William Dobell with a portrait of Joshua Smith which was being challenged in court as not a portrait but a caricature. The award to Dobell was eventually upheld.]

Dental examination at a filed hospital in the Ramu Valley, New G
Dental examination at a Field Hospital near Scarlett Beach in the Finschhafen area, New Guinea

Went over to a field hospital today but didn’t get much out of it – most of those places are all the same.  Managed to make a note of the dental corner.  A picture of a soldier getting his teeth drilled may strike a sympathetic chord in the Weekly’s readers.  Undoubtedly the most momentous occasion of the day was the decent shower I had up there.  It was the first time I have had a proper wash since arriving in this area – Boy!  Was it good. – For ½ hour anyway.  After that I was as sweaty as ever.

I may be able to settle down to a better letter when I have this Tower of Babble.  In the other areas I shall probably be alone.

Will write you in a couple of days – all my love darling.

Not too much hops, mark you and feet up.  Regards to all More love from Willie

(written on side)

Enclosed petals look like hibiscus but are off a tree nothing like.  It was apricot colour when I picked it.  There’s a brilliant blue butterfly floating round dis ‘ere camp.

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War Letters – New Guinea: 28 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Scarlett Beach, on the nose

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O P.R. Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
28th Frid
[28 Jan 1944]

Darling,

We have another lamp – scrounged from the same poor simple soul from whom we borrowed the remains of last night’s signal lamp.

Roy sits opposite writing his new sweetie (brunette & beautiful and with husband in internment camp) and punctuating the oppressing stillness of the night with requests regarding the correctitude of his spelling.  The old garrulity with less physical actions.  He writes like he talks – it pours out of him, pages flash past on the blink of an eye.

I haven’t had a clean shirt on since I hit Finschafen.  The one I wear at present has the odour & appearance of a tarpaulin from one of Gearin O’Riordan’s trucks.  The other is still wet from its rinsing in a creek down by the beach.  Although I am as pleasant a little nosegay as one would find in many a week.  A European Gorgonzola would walk away from me with a peg on its snout.

19

Now that the lamp is here I find myself regretting not having brought that New Testament with me as with its kindly simplicity I could have killed a few hours before sealing myself up in the meat safe up yonder bank.

You have guessed, I hope my uninspiring letters are due to the overwhelming enervation of the tropics plus the lack of comfort in the tent.  I’m sitting on an oil drum with grinds of flesh off my behind, my eyes are full of coral dust – I’m due to start turning yellow from surfeit of Atabrin tablets (to suppress malarial infection) from neglect of taking salt tablets which they say are necessary to counteract the excessive loss of bodily salt in sweat, and God knows what else. The half if me that is alive is tolerably happy.

I don’t know particularly what to draw as under the present conditions camp life is practically synonymous with that in the N.T. Make it all green & the jobs done.

Went about 8 miles down the Road this afternoon – hitch hiked in half a dozen different trucks.  May just have well flown as I was in the air at least half the time.

4

I forgot to give you a rough idea of what I look like in jungle green & American garters.  Of course the Japs just flee squealing for the son of Heaven at such an apparition.

5

Scarlet Beach

In front of me is a picture reconstruction of a beach landing for official War Artist Cpt R C Hodgkinson Military History Section.

6

The light is going out for want of kerosene.  Bugger me – this is the sort of thing that slays one!  I can just see you now.  Everything is going black – it’s quite black now.

Later – we have managed to get some more kerosene, whacko the diddle-o!  I’m not smelling any better – even the skunks are moving out.  I don’t’ mind that so much but I seem to be bringing in the flies.  Soon I shall thwart them in my little meat safe.

7

Am putting off going to the blarsted hammock.  12 hours of posing in various uncomfortable postures is much too much of a good thing even for a body like mine – “booful hunk of a man! These are the basic positions.

8

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War Letters – New Guinea: 27 Jan 1944, Scarlett Beach; – Casualty Clearing Station

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O P.R. Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
Thurs 27th Jan [1945]

Darling,

Am writing by a 1 candle power lamp which as the mood suits the letter may be changed to cast either red, green or white light.  Green is the color called for but unfortunately its illuminative qualities are quite on the blink.

Red is not helpful.

Roy H is under his mosquito net growling about things in general and about the job he is on in particular.  He has to reconstruct a beach landing made here a couple of months ago.  Not the best of jobs in the world with the extremely limited facilities available.  He has just yelled out his regards to you.  Alice comes in for a lit of cracks – appears she had all sorts of affairs.  Roy laughs a lot about it all.  Says she is stinking to the girl he now takes out.

Today is about the first time I have felt human since I arrived.  Possibly because I have done a bit of modest work and am settled down for a few days.  Am going round to the Casualty Clearing Station to see if there is anything of interest for the Weekly.  Should be because the nurses there are closer to the front lines than any others.  Did I tell you I travelled from Moresby in the plane with them?  Fifteen there were, and no beauties amongst them.  After that off to the Ramu Valley.

Filed Hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Possibly a Casualty Clearing Station near Scarlett Beach in the Finshhafen area, New Guinea
21 x 11 cm
Possibly a Casualty Clearing Station near Scarlett Beach in the Finshhafen area, New Guinea

We had a swim this afternoon – it was delightful.  Crystal water – cool, refreshing.  Bombers going Japwards overhead.  Lots of lads in the water & on the beach. We’re getting pretty sick of the sight of bare bums & privates.

Friday morning [28 Jan 1944]

Disaster overtook this letter last night.  Roy had borrowed this lamp I spoke of above from the Signallers – they implored him to look after it.  At the above stage of my letter the bloody thing caught fire & I couldn’t for the life of me blow it out.  All my puffing & blowing served to feed the flames turning the whole gazaboo into the finest of blow lamps.  The solder melted reflector and handle fell off – flaming kerosene spilled on Roy’s drawing board – he was in a panic for his work – I was busy shovelling sand (rather mud) over the blaze.

The lamps was a sorry sight.  We laughed ourselves sick.  Must have done me good for I slept till 6am.

Lots of love darling – Taking it easy?

Bill.

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War Letters – New Guinea: 26 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Scarlett Beach, snug as a bug

W.E. Pidgeon
C/o P R Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
Wed 25th 26th or 27th
[26 Jan 1944]

Darling,

How would you be feeling this morning?  Taking it easy on the verandah?  Keeping the mosquitoes off?  I am managing that quite well now that I have commandeered a decent American hammock from the P. Relations.

Hammock with built in mosquito net and rain roof
Hammock with built in mosquito net and rain roof

A legitimate transaction I hasten to add it’s a very flash doover – a hammock with waterproof roof and walls of mosquito net joined together with zippers.  In I hops & does myself up like a ruddy meat safe while the anoppeles wave frustrated stingers without.

24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm

Am in another camp again.  Have pitched tent with Roy Hodgkinson & another fellow.  I’m praising the place when I say it’s a pretty dreary joint.  I’m told it is typical of a forward site.  No lights, so these letters are written hastily after tea.  I haven’t done a drawing in your letters yet because I’ve been too b- sour.  Last night I slept or rather attempted to, on a bed of coral covered with a ground sheet and a blanket.

US Post Office APO322, Finschhafen, New Guinea
US Post Office APO322, Finschhafen, New Guinea
A Matilda tank near Finschhafen, New Guinea
A Matilda tank near Finschhafen, New Guinea

Trucks coming & going all night & 3 air raid alerts.  I suppose I managed a couple of hours shuteye before my hip bone wore through the skin like a hole in the heel of a sock. That’s 2 nights out of 4 I have been awake since I arrived on the northern coast of N. Guinea.  Haven’t done much work so far for the simple reason I have not been able to settle down. On two occasions the camps have shifted their sites the day after I arrived.  The humidity is terrific.  I wish they’d have this show on down near the pole or someplace like.  My brain’s like a soggy lump of porridge.

After about 4 or 5 days here I’ll move off to the Ramu Valley, spend maybe a week or more & start back for the Mainland where I shall have to go on to the tablelands for a week.  Then back – I hope.  The rush has got me something rattled.  However I have about 5 pictures lined up already – should have any amount by the time I get through.

Thurs Morning [27 Jan 1944] – Not much sleep again last night – seem to be taking your complaint over.  First rain last night.  Came down in sheets.  My sweet little hammock kept it off.

Hope you are eating well.

How did that brew turn out?

My regards to junior.

Lots of love

Bill

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War Letters – New Guinea: 24-25 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Barge to Sio

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O Public Relations
N. G. Force
Moresby
Monday
[24 Jan 1944]

Darling,

I was going to write to you last night but learnt on returning to the tent that a black out is enforced  up here – the Japs planes occasionally fly over so it seems.  Some went over last night I was told – but I didn’t hear them being dead to the world.  I went to bed when it was dark and didn’t wake until dawn.  My God I was tired – I had been awake travelling half the previous night.

The balmy surrounding of the beach on which I sit are poppingly disturbed by the exuberant troops who punctuate the silence with machine gun bursts and rifle fire.  Not that they are shooting at anything – they just like hearing them go off.

I’m tired and dirty.  I’ve lost the only towel I brought up here with me.  There is no fresh water to bathe in – I’m as sticky as a stamp with accumulations of salt, seawater & salt sweat.  I should taste good!  Especially as I dry myself after a dip with my underpants – adds just that Parfait de Nuit touch!

1944 Patrol S10 Clr neg 1 - Copy
Patrol, Sio

I have been as far as Sio on the northern coast.  Went on a barge with three other PR people who are in effect somewhat irresponsible.  They missed the barge back to where we are at present.  Although I must say it was only a fluke that I happened to catch it.  I am glad that I didn’t have to spend a night up there.  A dismal spot.  Most of these jungles stink of decaying vegetation & have that dank warmth of a mulch heap to help one along.  Beautiful and lavish enough they may be, with a kind of monsteria deliciosa vine winding up the trees, and a dozen other types ….ed from the branches.  Not so many birds.  A few butterflies & a bloody lot of mosquitoes.  Not the healthiest spots to live in under normal circumstances but the necessities of obtaining cover makes it almost imperative for the troops.

Sketch study for 'Patrol, Sio', New Guinea
Sketch study for ‘Patrol, Sio’, New Guinea
Patrol, Sio, New Guinea
Passed by Operational Censor SWPA
Photo No. MNG 893
New Guinea – A bomb scarred area at Sio with troops encamped close to a bomb crater which was quickly filled with water following heavy rain.
25 pounder artillery guns, most likley near Sio on the north eas
25 pounder artillery guns, most likley near Sio on the north east coast of New Guinea

[Camouflaged Gun II]
[Camouflaged Gun II]
[Camouflaged Gun I]
[Camouflaged Gun I]

3 pm Tuesday [25 Jan 1944]

Been travelling since 9 am have just landed at another point [Scarlett Beach] & am prostrate wit de heat.

These dirty marks on this page are sweat decorations.  As there are a lot of lads writing letters in the YMCA hut I thought it best to get it best to get away pronto.

I’ll write you again tonight.  A few bombs were dropped down this way a few days ago.   Nothing happened however.  I guess I’m ½ stone lighter.  It’s no question that you (sic) ole man is melting down to a soup pot of unfunny stew.

Lots of love from Willie.

Don’t worry about sending letters they will never catch up with me.

Have just bumped into Roy H. again.  He is at the camp I am now in.  Calls himself the “Erl King” (translates into the oil paint king).

More love.

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War Letters – New Guinea: 22 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Barge off Fortification Point

W.E. Pidgeon
(War Correspondent)
C/O DPR
New Guinea Force
Moresby
22nd Jan 44

Darling,

I am writing this in a blooming outpost of the empire – an outpost consisting of a small tent with one table, blanketed, & draped with the cooling form of your dear husband.  He has steamed off & for the first time since arrival is sitting quietly & is tolerably happy.

He has bathed in the placid waters of the Finschhafen area, has aired his body in the cool tropical breeze and has sat on damned shape coral.  With bended neck has gaped at clustered coconuts fifty feet above him – he has carefully avoided standing under them as fractured skulls are collected that there way.

Landed at Lae on the way up.  You can tell Jane [Jess’ mother] that as far as I could see there wasn’t one house standing.  They have just plain disappeared.  It may have been a pleasant enough place in the good old days, but boy, the Air Forces have sure blasted all the charms & graces to high heaven.  The coconuts stick up stripped and shorn & about as long as a 3 weeks beard.

It has turned out not so quiet – the Loot in charge of the business here is sitting opposite writing a letter – or should be.  But then I suppose he likes to talk to someone strange so we have been chatting fop the last ¾ hour.  Consequently I have been dilatory & neglectful of the cultivation of that rather sweet just too too gentle mood into which I had been dissolving with the help of broadcast songs of Betty Grable from a YMCA hut across the way.  Of times I felt like bursting out into “Sing me a Song of the islands” what with the swarms of coconut palms (we are on the edge of a coconut grove plantation) and the lap-lap of the sea to egg me on.

This side of the island is TROPIC.  The hot sweet smell of rotting vegetation under the vine lying trees brings back to mind the typical orchid house.  But the orchids although they are not in flower, at least those I saw weren’t, Hibiscus are!  The whole schmozle looks like a corner of the Botanical Gardens gone to fruit.

Sketch study for 'Barge off Fortification Point'

Barge at Fortification Point
Barge off Fortification Point, reproduced The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 June 1944, p41; Art Gallery of NSW collection

It doesn’t seem to be hot – it must be hot!  My shirt is stuck on my back like a stamp.  Yet I think the climate is good.  You’d love it for a holiday.  The sea is blue and syrupy as the barge I’m in cuts slowly through to its landing place.  Planes zip most zippily above.

This blarsted (sic) hurricane lamp is making my eyes smart.  My mind wanders whilst I most conscious of the static ache in my bum, brought about by the constant pressure of the tuberosities of the ischium upon the unresponsive board of a box of dehydrated potatoes.

I am writing whilst waiting to take off (not in a plane) on another leg of my journey of which I shall write you at more length when I find some place to settle down for a few nights.

You deserve more than a rough resume committed to paper in circumstances most undesirable.

So lots and lotzer what it takes from dear Willie.

Be good & don’t work
and don’t _______________
“     “     _______________        fill
“     “     _______________        in
“     “     _______________        as
“     “     _______________        required
“     “     _______________

love to you darling

Bill

The light has got me down.  I finish – to spend the rest of the night under the stars staring and sleeping.  You’ll understand what this is about later.

??ou got the mosquitoes.

Goodnight & Sweet Dreams

[parts missing off copy]

 

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