War Letters – Borneo: 26 July 1945, Seria; Oil wells set on fire during Japanese evacuation

W. E. Pidgeon
c/o Public Relations
Thursday
26th July [1945]

 

Darling,

Am now on the North East coast of Borneo – still in Brunei protectorate and staying at a place called Seria where the Japs fired the oil wells before evacuation.  These fires are really a sight and  a half.  Hours before you arrive here you can see the smoke billowing into the sky, forming what looks like at  a causal glance a great distant range of hazy mountains.  Closer – the light of the sun is shut out by the smoke and an ominous pall of near darkness and portentous gloom hangs over the jungle.  The fires spout out with a roar like a thousand great blow lamps – the flames, or rather a huge swirling billow of fire twists its way into rolling volumes of thick and pungent smoke.  Am going down this morning to see the boys attempt to put one out.  This is a cert for a “Women’s Weekly” job if the whole business up here is not a cold duck before I finish.

 

Burning oil wells at Seria
Burning oil wells at Seria

I’m getting a bit worried about that as movement in this area is slow and at times difficult to obtain.  I have yet to go to the northern Brunei area and to Balik Papan.  I think I had best speed things up as much as possible.  The jungle here is much more opulent, sleeker, and fatter in the leaf, and in diversity and colour, than that of New Guinea.  Lasiandra grows like a weed all over the place.  It’s a pretty poor specimen – a meager squirt of the thing compared to the one that I used to grow.  How’s it doing since the great disaster?  Do you keep woman wet?

Haven’t had any letters from you yet, but as I have not expected any I guess no damage is done.  How are things going with you – I hope your mother is not pumping too much food into your petite frame.  Have not seen anything worthwhile bringing home.  I’m afraid the early troops have cleaned out everything of any style or value.

Went down to very well spoken chinese fellow’s home last night.  He was an expert employee of the oil company’s before the Japs came.  He has avoided working for the Nips since their arrival & in secret meetings with other chinese always spoke English & talked of the time they would return.  A little girl [Peggy Ho] about 6 or 7 years of age sang “I’ll always call you sweetheart” tunefully & in extremely good English.  I remember well the last time I heard that song in company.  Sofala days!  That little chinese kid couldn’t have been more than 4 when the Japs came!  One more drawing in this particular area & I think I’ll move off.

Lots of love to you & Graham & Mum.  I’m getting quite anxious to hear about him – his latest in wisecracks and his new found dietetic acquisitions.

Love,

Bill

Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing

 

Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet

 

[Study for Burning oil wells at Seria II][Study for Burning oil wells at Seria III]Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing

21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departingBurning oil wells at Seria Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing

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