War Letters – NW Australia: 14 Aug 1943, near Hughes Airfield; Jap air raid interrupts the party

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
Army Post Office
[14 Aug 1943]


I’m still here.  I suppose you gave me a little thought when you read that N.T. area had been raided by 18 Jap planes on Friday night.*  Well, your little Willie was right out of it.  It occurred during the middle of the party I spoke of in my last letter.  We were all gathered around some tables in the middle of the bush not far from one of the air strips (as they call the aerodromes here) when the warning came over.  Some of the pilots had to dash off to their Spitties.  The lights went off and we continued our drinking in the bright moonlight assisted by the light of a parachute flare which one of the Jap planes dropped over the area.  Old deafie didn’t hear the planes – there was so much alcoholic conversation being broadcast.  A moment later ack-ack fire started – booms & flashes split the night.  Shrapnel from the bursts fell in the camp where I stayed last week.  Fortunately for us the Japs weren’t after the fighter planes – they flew past & dropped their eggs near 2 bomber fields.  One of these I described to you as being situated in the hills. I stayed there on Wednesday night.  The yellow boys might just as well have saved their time, petrol and bombs as neither damage nor casualties (so far as I have heard) were inflicted.  So – a miserable flare is all I’ve seen of the war up in this front line.  There appears to be an expectation of another bash tonight – it being a magnificently full moon.  Perhaps it is just as well I’m not in Darwin or staying in a bomber camp, although they tell me that even a poor bloody Allied Works Council camp stopped a stick of bombs last night.  The only physical stress I have collected is plenty of bites – and then some.  I scratch like a lousy old dog.

The party was pretty willing while it lasted.  Met a Spitty pilot from one of the squadrons who asked how both you and I were keeping.  We met him outside St James theatre with Paul Brennan and some others just before they left for Canada two years ago.

Have just been asked if I’d like to go down to an American bomber field tomorrow.  Think I’ll go down & see what sort of holes the bombs made.  I don’t know that it would be terrible healthy to stay down there – I’ll see about that later.

Cripes I’m missing you honey.  Am really looking forward to getting home.  This life of celibacy is not what it’s cracked up to be.  You’re in for a torrid time my chicabiddy when the bronzed old boy gets back.  I don’t know that you’ll go much on my colour/pattern – I’m getting browned as far as the waist only, from there down snow white takes over.  Have been letting my mo grow a pace – perhaps you should buy me a moustache cup.

How are the Watson family coming along?  How’s the concrete idiot child?  And Bib & Bub?

Very quiet night – we are all sitting round like little goody boys – all writing to our dearests and sweetests.  All of which refers me back to wimmimck(?)  How’s Tommy’s Art for arts(?) sake?  Has he had the animated Selina out again?  Did you see her stripped – is she still much the same?

Sunday morning [15 JAug 1943] before breakfast

I get up early – as a rule before the sun.  The night passed off without incident which is all very well.

Called at a Sergeants’ tent before going to bed.  They were all on the jungle juice – a potent and horrible brew of their own manufacture made out of anything they can lay their hands on – prunes, dried fruits – potato peelings, jam – sugar & old boots, topped off with a liberal dose of yeast.  It looks like milk bar washing up water and tastes and smells like old yeast.  It is alleged to turn the mildest of men into maniacal dervishes.  I didn’t have any.  The conversation was still on the dames and what they would do to them on return to the flesh pots of our fair city in the south.

That’s all for the moment, dear Willie is signing off.  Get your squeezing muscles ready my sweet for the old boy won’t be long now. (I hope!)  Love in bundles for Jessie.



No 1.   I live in tents – i.e. at different places – not in tents at one time.

No 2.   A pilot wrote that on your letter – he was in his cups – I’ll decipher it for you later.

[*Note: Four raids occurred on the night of Friday 13th August and the early hours of Saturday morning. They were aimed at Hughes Airfield, Fenton airfield (9:45pm), Fenton & Coomalie Creek airfields (11:12pm) and Long airfield in the early hours of Saturday 14th August (Dunn, P 2013, Japanese Air Raids in Australia During WW2, Australia@War, viewed 14 August 2013, <http://www.ozatwar.com/bomboz.htm>). The raid which Wep refers to was most likely the attack at 11:12pm on Fenton and Coomalie Creek where he had been staying two nights earlier.]

afield2 from ozatwar
Fighter guide map of airfields near Darwin (from Peter Dunn’s Australia@War). Wep was probably camped just north of Manton Dam near Hughes airfield which had Spitfires along with Strauss and Livingstone airfields.

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