It looks as if I have been talking in a delirium. It is understandable that I thought I was home – God knows I ought to have been. Any bloody way I’m still waiting for a sanguinary plane and none is in sight. Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?
All my little fums are to be so much air and fantasy, my little desires to be monuments of futility, and any welcomes to be jeering nothings.
I’ve given up predicting my arrival – it rests in the lap of the Lodestars.
What’s the point of my writing about nothing but sitting down near the strip waiting for a kite?
I hope I’ll be seeing my family one of these days. Teach little Graham to speak nicely and to think well of his old pa overseas. Be faithful dear, we shall soon start life anew.
Your old old husband, Remember?
That was Bill’s last letter. It is estimated he made it home by Sunday, 4 February 1945
Am languishing for want of transport and you. (and Bub of course!) My! But doesn’t he look well – the cleber lill debil. Doesn’t look as if you have been fattening yourself up for me – anyway you’re still just as nice as you are. How nice will that be today – my little poppet?
This is a stinking hot island situated about 50 miles from the equator & although the breeze flowing in from the sea licks the body with a cool tongue it cannot altogether dispel the sweat. It rolls with steady calculation down the chest. I’ve got any amount of the stuff for the Weekly so I’m very conscious of the time wasted in getting home.
Anyhow now that I’m right here in the house how’s about it and a cuppa tea? Are you pleased to see me home? Lots of love darling give me bub for a while.
I should be home by the end of the week. I hope that pleases both you and young Graham. Unfortunately I will not receive any letters from you now as I’m leaving this island in the morning and shall be staying a few days on another closer to home. I would like to have known if the dear little chap has noticed my absence although it seems silly to think that he should – at his age at least. I dare say that even 3 weeks will have caused a marked change in his size & behaviour – to my keen fresh eye.
I don’t know where the boys have gone so I’ll use Eddie’s machine for a while. Went over one of the navy ships today and didn’t get back until after tea was over. It was an eye-opener of a trip but I can’t say much about it in this letter.
Yesterday went up the coast in a “duck” (one of those amphibious motor vehicles you may have seen in the streets at times). It is all so damn silly to be driving straight from a road in to the sea. The authorities gave us permission to visit Daoe [Daeo, Daejo or Doewo] village which is just outside the perimeter which is held by the yanks. There are about 2300 natives in the little area. Some are refugees from the Celebes and Borneo.
I’ve never seen so many blooming children in one spot before – must have been about 4 to every adult. The natives here are much more civilised than those of New Guinea. Under Dutch control they are well looked after. Schooling is compulsory and they are taught to speak and write Malay. The village also sports a hospital, which is under the guidance of a Javanese doctor who graduated in a medical school in Java. A pretty good job considering the wildness of the country. The people are rather good looking some of the little girls particularly so. The babies are cute but dirty and all of them are covered in yaws whatever they may be…they look pretty horrid anyway.
The boys seem to think me a bit nuts posting you a letter which will in all probability arrive home after me. However you like letters and I’m a very obliging gentleman.
I hope you are just as obliging my pet. Looks like me getting home on Saturday. So beware! Beware! Lotsa luv, luv.
Please make an appointment for me for Donkin in one month
Sat night 27 Jan 
Have just returned from a picture show down the road – it is a wonderful night full of moonlight (and) mild breezes, long slender trees screen the moon as searchlights: fingering the sky while invisible birds pipe a flute like obligato to movies on the screen.
That was the set up an hour ago – but since we returned at 9.30 and had a cuppa in the mess it has started raining. Weather is odd & unpredictable and Eddie Dunstan has started playing his mechanical letter writing machine. That cuppa I spoke of was the first we have had on the island. It is as scarce as a hot cocky’s -. All food supplies seem to be released by the US forces, consequently the choice has been between coffee, cocoa and water. Seems that a liberty ship brought some stores in today. Hence a great chuffing of choofers* as the gentlemen of the camp settle down to the reviving brew.
*Choofer – a device, cribbed from the Americans, consisting of a tank containing high grade petrol which is held into a pipe line which terminates in a coil. Like a vrooming primus – see!
I’d like to see you and bub, darling. Seems ages since that Tuesday less than a fortnight ago. I shall certainly be back before the month is out. I ask you – will that be good or bad? How is the little sprog? (generic name for children in these parts.) Have been looking forward to a letter from you these last couple of days although as you do, can work it out I should not get one until tomorrow even had you answered mine straightaway. I hope one turns up for it would be nice to make some contact with you. You’d like it up here for a couple of weeks. Climate would be right in your barrow although a bit sweaty for the little man.
The lights are due to go out in a second – so goodnight my love.
Sunday 8.30am [28 Jan 1945]. Have just had breakfast – was cooked by 2 terrific explosions – Eddie & I went down to the strip & saw the remains of a big bomber which went up whilst taking off. A pretty awesome site. Will write you again tonight – mail is being collected now – Love from Bill.
Am sitting down somewhere on this bloody island supposedly watching a game of Australian Rules football which is being played between some lads from the squadron I’m with & some naval ratings off a ship which came in a couple of days ago. I’m sitting on the back seat of a jeep and it’s raining. I am bored to the point of not being able to breathe. I can’t go back to the camp as I don’t know where it is. I must wait till the dreary finish for I’m damned if I know what the blooming game is all about – just seems to be an aimless scramble to me.
Have had lots of rain since we arrived on the island – it comes & finishes as a snap of the fingers. We all sat through the movies & the deluge last night – huddled in ground sheets and gas capes while planes & search lights sliced the sky. I was conscious of the fact that the war is indeed not far away. The pilots we are stationed with are off on a bash to a Jap area in the morning – quite a do so far as I can gather.
Am almost off to sleep – so will snooze the game out. Will manage a little more letter tonight if I have the strength.
Am alone for a while.
Friday 7:30 am [26 Jan 1945]
I wasn’t for long. Interrupted so went off to tea. After the meal was invited down to have a pot of beer with a bunch of pilots on the other side of the Alley. It was beer issue day – the boys here get 2 doz. bottles of American beer a month. The bottles hold only 2 glasses and the beer is very light – about 3% alcohol I should say. Very pleasant never the less. Stayed wagging till about 12pm. Eddie [Dunstan] went on the do at 6am the next morning and was back at 10am. Apparently the raid was very successful and with no damage to the Beaufighters. Eddie got a story out of it, but Jack [Hickson] and I saw no sense in sticking our neck out for the sake of mere curiosity as it is almost impossible to get any sort of vision from the Beaufighter. You can only crane your neck over the pilot’s head if you want to see anything at all. Spent another day down on the strip – and have just about had this island now. There is very little stuff which one could call exclusive to this place. I intend to leave the boys & come home early – within a fortnight I should say. Conditions for doing a completed job are very nigh impossible.
Have been thinking quite a lot of you and the beautiful Bub. Hope he is well & has a full set of tats by the time I get home. How are you keeping yourself? Eat hearty & don’t leave our little man out on the street corner too often. Lot of love dear. I do hope Mum [Mary Jane Graham nee Wray] is alright.
Love from your ratty husband.
[Jess’s father, George Alexander Graham passed away on 14 January 1945. He was buried 16 January, the day Wep left Sydney.]
Arrived safely at the address I gave you – am now on the other side of the blinking equator & a long way from home – 4000 miles someone informs me. I’m sure pleased that the plane travel is all over for a few weeks (perhaps 2) at least – did another 3 hours over water again this morning – you can get a bit too much of that sort of thing.
This is a very busy spot – hundreds of planes of all varieties line the strips. Just the right kind of bait for Jap bombers. Fortunately they have left the place alone for the last ten days – whether that means they’ll be over again when the moon waxes bright remains to be seen. I hope the Spitfires have frightened them away for a while.
This is a real tropical island – hot steamy and green. Ferns & lilies grow in wonderful profusion – it makes my heart bleed to see what the plants can do for themselves up here without effort – compare them to those loafing ferns sicking their miserable existence away around our pool. How are the fitties? Just fitting about as usual?
These ferns look much the same in shape as those to be found round the markets, the main difference being that the Sydney specimens seem to have been dehydrated.
It is raining with perpendicular steadiness of a bath shower – and just as wetting. All it needs is a Sadie Thompson & the urge for me to relive Somerset Maugham’s play “Rain” – Perhaps it is because of the rain that the air is so mild. No suggestion of the intense heat we have been led to expect. A pretty stiff breeze has blown up now driving dobbing spots of rain into the tent in which I am writing.
The tent incidently belongs to one John Goffage – alias “Chips” Rafferty who is leaving tomorrow to take over his role in the movie “Overlanders”. I was standing outside his tent when I heard a yell “Christ! Billie Pidgeon!” Had quite a yarn with him – he told us to find ourselves a hole to dive into if occasion arose. – It still rains.
The natives up here are definitely Malayan – their features I refer to – their satorial (?) get up is more of an American GI nature – seems to have been plenty of battering going on with the Yanks who are in preponderance on the island. The natives generally seem to affect long & grizzled mustachios – awkward for soup but then I don’t suppose the ignorant cows have soup. That’s not good – but I’ll see some more of them later.
The Japs are sitting in the hills about 2 miles off getting their yellow bums wet & their prayer belts soggy. Our brave American allies are keeping them at this respectable distance – I hope.
Eddie has started banging away at a type writer – Shades of Darwin! Both he & Jack took the knock on the vaccination racket. Their arms are a sight to behold. Mine has had almost disappeared whilst they are sporting great red circles topped by horrid looking blisters. I suppose I have previous vaccination to thank for my immunity. They both have been at swooning point with hunger almost every day since we left home. Air Transport has been so arranged as to inevitably deprive us of a meal. Don’t care much myself, for I never did take to army cooking.
Planes keep taking off about every ½ hour – Bloody noisy joint what!
That’s all for tonight darling girl. Does my little Irish mick miss me? Is he sitting up or anything during the last week? Tell him I shall call him to account if he doesn’t do what his old ma tells him. Hope Mum is getting over all the trouble & is managing to adjust herself to what things are. It must be pretty awful for the old dear. All her point in life swept away like that. Try to get her to stay with us a while.
Just a short note asking you to do something for me. I forgot about it when writing yesterday. You will have found an illustration in the hall – will you ring Jack Santry and ask him if he would be good enough to take it in to Miss Mellion in the office? I couldn’t manage it on my last trip in.
Also on the verandah is a painting of wounded in a plane interior – you know, the very green thing. I think it is leaning against the cupboard out on the verandah. Will you send me up the size in inches of the original – and also ask Jack Santry to take it into Ron Bennett whom I shall write respecting it? How are you getting along without me to worry you? I do hope you and the little man are doing well & eating all you should. We are leaving early this morning for an island further along the coast. Should get there about 3 hours after we leave. This American camp is a huge place. Thousands of Yanks swarm the hills. They’ve even got between 100 & 200 service women with them. I dare say that dame Staunton who came home is somewhere about. French letters & prophylastic (sic) stations abound.
It is very quiet at the moment – no one up in the PR camp – no sound of birds in the jungle just beside the hill. The silence is broken only by the roaring farting of the jeeps grinding up the hill on the right. We eat at an officers mess about a mile & a half up the mountain which overlooks a magnificent lake curving round the foothills for miles upon miles. It really is a beautiful spot. That is more than you can say for the food. Christ the Americans are sweet toothed eaters! Expensive too – and little enough of it. Jack Hickson gets around in a start of chronic hunger pain. 1/- for a breakfast of a sweet kind of egg bread soaked in syrup. Coffee of course. 3/6 for lunch consisting of an indifferent vegetable ball covered with a thin sauce, slice of beetroot & frizzled dehydrated potatoes. No coffee but water with lemon, and flat cakes. Dinner was a salad of pears & peaches with a near horse radish sauce – then tomatoe soup – roast beef & a slawish sort of cabbage & a substance which none could identify & none could eat – all topped off with a slopingly sweet chocolate pie. Humm-mm!
It has just started to rain but I don’t think it will amount to much – the mountain this foothill is part of runs to 5800 ft & has been shrouded by clouds ever since our arrival so I guess one can expect a certain dampness to be our lot..
The boys are alright but I’d still prefer to be alone I think. However we shall see what we shall see. Haven’t done any work yet as we haven’t contacted RAAF stations. Will be staying with one today. Somewhere in the Schoeten Islands just off NG.
After being very short on cigarettes all yesterday & being unable to buy any off the yanks we managed to get a dozen cartons off an Australian canteen. Whacko! 12 Guilders for the dozen! 1 Guilder is 3/4 to you mug – of course we intrepid newsmen are in Dutch Territory & now shiny guilders about where pounds fluttered before.
Lots of love sweetheart. A big squiggle & tickle for little wep & regards to mum.
Am writing this whilst sitting safely & placidly on a comfortable bed in a comfortable camp. As you observe I have at last got this pen into some semblance of working order. I hope it stays like this. Jack Hickson is still asleep – he’s been asleep ever since we left Sydney.
We got here about 6.30 pm yesterday after a strenuous 11 hour trip from Townsville. And what a trip! 5 hours over the bleeding ocean, through rain squalls & bumps and vague (at least to us) turnings. Sometimes only a 100 ft or so over the sea & at others 8000. A dirty trip which caused your old man a certain amount of mental distress. Landed at Moresby drome where there was only one other plane on the field – that place is plenty dead these days. Took ½ hour to climb high enough to cross the Owen Stanleys which were covered with enormous clouds. We then turned up the Ramu Valley but were forced back by cloud before we got near Shaggy Ridge. Climbed to about 15000 ft & passed over the bottom edge of the Bismarck Range & so to the Finschhafen coast to the accompaniment of more mental agitation. Took us about 4 more hours flying time to get here which is just over the Dutch border. Was I glad to land? Was it good or bad? No one wanted us as no one had heard of us. After 1 ½ hours bum warming we managed a frugal meal at an air force camp & finally made our way up to the American Public Relations section of this huge US camp. We slept here in some luxury. Was introduced to the major in charge [Richard (Dick) Brewer] who asked me my Christian name. His reaction to my weighty information was “I am married to Ilma” [Ilma Brewer nee Pidgeon, Wep’s first cousin]. So you see I am living with relatives namely my cousin-in-law. He asked me how our chee-ild was. And how is the little pet? Does he miss dear old da? Drop me a letter (one only) c/o RAAF Public Relations Morotai – but do it straightaway. I’ll probably miss it anyway. Breakfast is due in a few moments. I’ll try to write to greater length when we settle down some place.
Lots of love dear. Look after yourself, Graham, and Mum. Giver her my love.
[Richard and Ilma Brewer went back to the US after the war but returned to Australia a few years later to settle permanently. Dick became the General manager for Parker Pens Australia and Ilma earned a PhD and became a Lecturer in Botany at the University of Sydney]