War Letters – NW Australia: 21 July 1943, Darwin; Bush races at a military camp down the road

C/O DPR Unit
Army Post Office
Darwin
Wednesday night
[21 Jul 1943]

Dear Jesso,

I haven’t been staying at the palatial residence of press fraternity for 3 days. At present situated at a spot about as far as Camden.  The weather still holds its perfection although away from the coast the nights are considerably cooler.  Poor Willie having brought only 1 blanket inevitably wakes during early morning & spends the remainder of the night between a spit and a shiver.

First day out I stayed at a big shot camp & dined in the big shots’ mess.  The food was very good – much better cooked than at above – this is to be expected I guess.  Cook would have to be on his toes (i.e. as far as is possible when cooking under the conditions here).  There’s plenty of good grub but it is all hash house cooked except the potatoes which are invariably damned good.  Tomatoes too are available, as most of the camps irrigate the plants with the waste from showers.  Saw two cabbages grown here, one was 20 lbs & the other 23 lbs in weight. – some cabbage!  Telegraph correspondent Bill Moore is a keen tomatoeer – more power to his soul!  Moreover we had asparagus sandwiches for supper!  That may be nothing in your sweet mouth – it wasn’t much in mine either, I was too darn polite to hog ‘em.  Raisin puddin’ is another standing dish up here.  My bowels & appetite can’t cope with the supply of edibles as yet.

After spending two nights at the abovementioned camp (sh-h-h!) I was transported hither – Here all is livelier.  The restraint subconsciously imposed on everyone by the presence of a plus senior officer is gone – Another fundamental difference is that this is one of the few NSW crowds about locally.  They seem much more companionable.  All the officers in this mess are motor men the majority from Sydney.  The C.O.’s face is familiar.  I think we may have seen him at the Auto Club.  Another officer said he had seen one there.  Asked if I knew Ron Gill.  Said Ron had a very bad attack of malaria & has been in & out of hospital for some eight months.

No change given here
No change given here, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 15 Jan 1944, cover
No change given here
No change given here

Am making sketches of the local race track recently cut out of the bush by the army forces.  By Christ it’s a surprisingly good little course.  A creek covered with water lilies flows round the edge of the paddock & official stand.  A pleasant spot covered with pandana palms is set aside for the horses, jockeys & form gazers.  The nags are brought in form the neighbouring stations and auctioned to whoever wishes to buy. The proceeds from the sales are put into prize money.  At the last meeting stakes were £1,500!

The official box
The official box

There is a big tote – 3 stands for the hoi polloi – the flat contains a football field.  The course is half a mile.  A commentator’s stand is behind the winning post.  Judges’ box and result board just like Randwick.  It’s bloody staggering.  I believe the sight of the north, is the numbers of two up games being played on the flat.  About 50 schools at one time.  And the thousands of bottles of LOLLY WATER emptied down the parched army throats.  It is reputed to be impossible to step between them.

28

This afternoon I emerged as a both a public entertainer & benefactor.  I appeared as the only live artist left in the territory.  I sat & worked before the bewildered gaze of at least 40 taken in relays of about 5 at a time.  Strangely enough I have found that when these things become unavoidable I could settle down a bit.  Not much though. Obviously I will get accustomed to it.

There is a magnificent canteen run by the publican of that new pub set back from the footpath on Botany Rd at Mascot.  Pub on the right on the way out to Brighton.  Dozens of tins of asparagus – plenty cigs, tobacco, Minties, Chocolate and god knows what.

Saw another picture the other night.  Accepted troop behaviour is after standing to God Save the King (with picture of George VI) and Star Spangled Banner (pictures of McArthur & Roosevelt) the troops in a body scream out – “What about Joe?”  “Give us Joe” Whee – i.e!  “In which we Serve” is to be shown here next week – So you may as well see it at home.  A sketch for you, my darling see below – and attached thereto.

All the messes in the bush are built bush carpentry fashion – walls consisting of bark slabs – or more elegantly of the slender & decorative poles of the palms which grow in profusion around here.

This sort of

Trunks about 3” diam.

Or else bark thatched roofs with bamboo strip wall lining – looks very well.  The country is much the same as down south.  Tropics are suggested by the brilliant green & luscious leaves of some of the gums & these are all small & at times with the sun light streaming through take on the appearance a an apple orchard is climes more mellow.  Hawks in their hundreds look like black paper litter blown about in the wind.  Their incessant curling & dipping is reminiscent of what I should imagine a plane battle to be.  When far away they can be mistaken for the spits.  That is, to my poor old enfeebled vision.

The talk of women is incessant.  It’s quite easy to understand.  When I stop working I miss you in large bundles.  Fellows after 12 months of this become quite obsessed.  Lots of love my dear – am looking forward to seeing you – I haven’t settled down yet – am still restless – in too much of a hurry to get something done – I know that with a little more resignation & detachment I could do  quite well – hope to Christ it soon arrives.

How’s Pop?  Haven’t had a letter yet but expect to get one on my return to D.  I keep wanting to go back – hearing from you will be bloody good.  Good luck, honey.  Give me some nice thinks.

Love

Bill

[Holding yards, Darwin race course]
Holding yards, Darwin race course
Racecourse Grandstand
Racecourse Grandstand
Racecourse Grandstand
Racecourse Grandstand
Judge's box
Judge’s box
Bike Race
Bike Race
No change given here
No change given here

24 x 18 cm Watching 880 Yards Race

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