War Letters – New Guinea: 22 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Barge off Fortification Point

W.E. Pidgeon
(War Correspondent)
New Guinea Force
22nd Jan 44


I am writing this in a blooming outpost of the empire – an outpost consisting of a small tent with one table, blanketed, & draped with the cooling form of your dear husband.  He has steamed off & for the first time since arrival is sitting quietly & is tolerably happy.

He has bathed in the placid waters of the Finschhafen area, has aired his body in the cool tropical breeze and has sat on damned shape coral.  With bended neck has gaped at clustered coconuts fifty feet above him – he has carefully avoided standing under them as fractured skulls are collected that there way.

Landed at Lae on the way up.  You can tell Jane [Jess’ mother] that as far as I could see there wasn’t one house standing.  They have just plain disappeared.  It may have been a pleasant enough place in the good old days, but boy, the Air Forces have sure blasted all the charms & graces to high heaven.  The coconuts stick up stripped and shorn & about as long as a 3 weeks beard.

It has turned out not so quiet – the Loot in charge of the business here is sitting opposite writing a letter – or should be.  But then I suppose he likes to talk to someone strange so we have been chatting fop the last ¾ hour.  Consequently I have been dilatory & neglectful of the cultivation of that rather sweet just too too gentle mood into which I had been dissolving with the help of broadcast songs of Betty Grable from a YMCA hut across the way.  Of times I felt like bursting out into “Sing me a Song of the islands” what with the swarms of coconut palms (we are on the edge of a coconut grove plantation) and the lap-lap of the sea to egg me on.

This side of the island is TROPIC.  The hot sweet smell of rotting vegetation under the vine lying trees brings back to mind the typical orchid house.  But the orchids although they are not in flower, at least those I saw weren’t, Hibiscus are!  The whole schmozle looks like a corner of the Botanical Gardens gone to fruit.

Sketch study for 'Barge off Fortification Point'

Barge at Fortification Point
Barge off Fortification Point, reproduced The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 June 1944, p41; Art Gallery of NSW collection

It doesn’t seem to be hot – it must be hot!  My shirt is stuck on my back like a stamp.  Yet I think the climate is good.  You’d love it for a holiday.  The sea is blue and syrupy as the barge I’m in cuts slowly through to its landing place.  Planes zip most zippily above.

This blarsted (sic) hurricane lamp is making my eyes smart.  My mind wanders whilst I most conscious of the static ache in my bum, brought about by the constant pressure of the tuberosities of the ischium upon the unresponsive board of a box of dehydrated potatoes.

I am writing whilst waiting to take off (not in a plane) on another leg of my journey of which I shall write you at more length when I find some place to settle down for a few nights.

You deserve more than a rough resume committed to paper in circumstances most undesirable.

So lots and lotzer what it takes from dear Willie.

Be good & don’t work
and don’t _______________
“     “     _______________        fill
“     “     _______________        in
“     “     _______________        as
“     “     _______________        required
“     “     _______________

love to you darling


The light has got me down.  I finish – to spend the rest of the night under the stars staring and sleeping.  You’ll understand what this is about later.

??ou got the mosquitoes.

Goodnight & Sweet Dreams

[parts missing off copy]


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