War Letters – NW Australia: 14 July 1943, Darwin; First impressions of life amongst the press corps

W.E. Pidgeon

DPR Unit

Army Post Office

Darwin

Wednesday night

Dear Jess,

Arrived here after a very long & rather exhausting trip which seemed to last for days.  Most of it was spent sprawled precariously over piles of sharp edged boxes and bloody hard crates of gear for some of the posts.  We left early Monday morning long before the roosters started their daily work.  I am somewhat vague as to the cans and cannots of communications.  All mail is censored.

Although I had no idea of what to expect in the way of habitation and country around here – none of it is even remotely like my nebulous preconceived notions.  Trees are laid on with lavish profusion & colour.  The climate is really balmy.  Typical summer days with mild & temperate nights which are really perfection at the moment.  Booful big moon plenty of stars & gentle Dotty Lamour breezes.  Everybody says it’s just perfect weather for the little yellow men to make a raid.  I’ve got my tin hat ready & the receptive trench eyed off.  Surprisingly enough there does not seem to have been much damage done – that is from what is visible now.  They do say as ‘ow they ‘ave cleaned it all up like.  Noticed a few big holes you could put half a house in but no one seems to have bothered to do so.  All so much useless spade work on the part of the nips.  Ninety-nine & then some percent of the houses (of which there are quite a lot) are made of fibro.  These are now nicely aired – cellstexed with irregular holes of varying shapes and sizes.

War Correspondents' Mess, Darwin; July 1943
War Correspondents’ Mess, Darwin; July 1943
War Correspondents' Mess, Darwin; July 1943
War Correspondents’ Mess, Darwin; July 1943

I was sure staggered to see my present living quarters.  A tin hut or hessian hut with rude bush carpentered beds and furniture was my dream.  Imagine my dismay in having to pig it in a two storied airy fibro cottage of very recent vintage and extremely pleasant design.  A large right angled room twice as big as our lounge occupies the centre of the building & from off lead a kitchenette, a tiled bathroom with shower recess & W.C. & 5 bedrooms.  It is all extremely airy – half of the walls are built on a pattern of venetian blinds – you may open or close them as is necessary.  About 11 of us sit down to meals – or to mess as is said.  The major of public relations sits at the head.  The good little boys are ranged down either side.  Food is pretty good – a new whole ham provided last night with tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber.  Sherry before dinner.  Australian whiskey on arrival & beer late last night.  It is hardly necessary to add that this grog was in moderate doses.  The ration is one bottle of beer a week.  I haven’t yet found out about the other alcohols.  Trotted off to an open air picture show last night – you take your own seat.    This is no trouble as 2 cars & 1 truck are at the disposal of the poor correspondents.  A team of American entertainers provided the first half of the show – they were really excellent.  Hard lines for the local lads that they were all men.  It is reported that down south 8 glamour girls were on the show too but higher ups decided such a show of limbs & breast might set in a rot among the troops, most of whom haven’t seen a dame for at least 6 months.  Comments when women appear on the screen are a trifle ribald.  I suppose real tarts would render them speechless.  It’s a rare sight to see the dags yelling out for Myrna Loy to hurry up & die (in the picture “The Rains Came”).  The distances between the various camps in this area are staggering.  I’ve been all day in a blasted car & seen about a dozen.  Christ only knows how I’m going to get around to the time needed to paint If I have to spend most of the day riding to & from the bloody joints.  I haven’t started yet.  It’ll take me a week to find the lay of the land.  It’s plenty hot.  Address your reply to W.E. Pidgeon – if you add a Mr. It will cost you 1 ½ d extra.  Airmail comes to me otherwise for 4d. Let me hear from you soon – am beginning to miss you – There’s no privacy & I don’t care much for a couple of these blokes.  Lots of love to you my sweetie-pie.

Heh-heh – love from

Bill.

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