C/O DPR Unit,
Army Post Office,
[24 Jul 1943]
I was enormously pleased to get your letter, sweetheart – it did me a lot of good – picked the old soul up no end. Forgive me if my last letter sounded somewhat morbid. “Troppo” madness sets in early and I was too tired & weak to attempt good cheer. However you will overlook it – yes?
Letters do help – one has to be away to realize that. Poor Ivan – he must eat his heart out waiting for them.
I’m sitting down to work – have been fairly busy although my painting is not of any class as yet, it being overwhelmingly amateurish. Obviously I need much more practice. It’s mostly rough notes that I am compiling for a more or less free use when I come home to my cuddly snugglepot. Judging from the material I have gathered in less than two weeks it will take me at least 2 months back in Sydney working flat out to cover the space necessary for any sort of decent display. That’s good news, heh?
They’re still discussing this & that. It’s U.S. and Jap strategy now & I cannot help but listen. Destroys my thoughts.
A great call comes through for us to eat supper sandwiches. And at present that’s nothing to look forward to. We are on “tropical spread” a bloody margarine substitute – tastes like blasted coconut oil. Should be butter any time now. We have only had to bear the burden for a couple of days.
The poor old pate is sight to behold, huge shivers of burnt up skin float slowly off its tarnished dome. My face is a dried apricot with pimples on it. The bank roll is still well – I’ve only spent a tenner so far. You must apologise to the boys for me and explain that to date it is next door to impossible to buy anything up here. My only expenses are household – you can’t spend any on grog at other camps as each officer only gets so much ration & none is really left over for visitors to buy for them. I’ve just bought 18 large packets of Capstans. They seem to be all you can get. Also I let the office buy me a real kangaroo skin tobacco pouch for 10/-. Incidently (sic) I haven’t heard from them yet – touch wood.
You’d better go in and price that casserole doings as it’s a moral I won’t be home to consummate our tenth anniversary. Get it if you like & give a dinner to the Watso’s1King and Eleanor Watson & O’Deas2Tommy O’Dea out of it. Do me in style and don’t forget to leave an empty setting at table for me – don’t neglect my drinks either. Telepath me lots of lurv.
It’s no secret about McNulty3Clarence Sydney McNulty was Editor in Chief at the Telegraph. He was arrested in early 1943 in an embarrassing situation and gave Police a false name. I knew in Brisbane. No doubt King4King Watson & Cyril5Cyril Pearl resented his queer behaviour. Perhaps he didn’t like to let Cyril know that the estimable Brian6Brian Penton was to be his superior. The set-up has violent possibilities. Cyril will object to Penton’s policies & the daily night work. Pretty ‘orrid what!
We don’t do our own washing. Every day we change and one of the poor unfortunates chores for us all. Ironing is done as well. We do nothing but eat. None of these blokes are what you could call drinking men. Although there is at least 5 bottles Corio – 3 gin & 5 port, 1 hock, 1 advocat & 2 beer no one wants a drink. I’ll be glad to get out again. Am going down the road tomorrow – shall be away about 4 days finishing up at the last camp I stayed at. They’re having a do on Thursday 29th. Ray Stehr & Tom Izzard, prominent Sydney footballers, also 4 other leading Sydney Rugby players are in the unit. To my great despair I won’t see any of your letters until I come back, my pet. I’ll forward you letters from where ever I am.
All the gang have been on the beach this afternoon. It seems incredible that the water should be so warm and the weather so glorious. Dozens of soldiers turn out for a dip it’s all very gay and nude – the probeing & squealing is reminiscent of a schoolboys water carnival. An amazing assortment of Freds strike the eye. I retire with modesty – grander and stouter are encountered with every flick of the eye.7The scene at Mindil Beach provided an influence for several paintings by Pidgeon throughout the 1950s including The Sun Bathers, which was a finalist in the Sir John Sulman Prize in 1956 and again with The Bathers in 1957. Other versions in the later 1950s introducing the female form based on new wife, Dorothy following Jess’s death in 1953 of a brain tumour), adorned the walls of Wep’s home
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work
Yesterday I spent some time painting the delightful freshwater pool I wrote you of some time back. To my great satisfaction I had the spot alone for close on 1½ hours when 20 or there about soldiers came roaring down like wolves on the fold. I fled soon after. On the way back saw dozens of wallabies. The poor creatures suffer the fate of rabbits down south – dazzled by car lights they are struck & killed.
The blarsted typing has started again. So farewell for the nonce my love. It’s going to be a great thrill when we meet.
Lot & lots
- 1King and Eleanor Watson
- 2Tommy O’Dea
- 3Clarence Sydney McNulty was Editor in Chief at the Telegraph. He was arrested in early 1943 in an embarrassing situation and gave Police a false name
- 7The scene at Mindil Beach provided an influence for several paintings by Pidgeon throughout the 1950s including The Sun Bathers, which was a finalist in the Sir John Sulman Prize in 1956 and again with The Bathers in 1957. Other versions in the later 1950s introducing the female form based on new wife, Dorothy following Jess’s death in 1953 of a brain tumour), adorned the walls of Wep’s home