War Letters – New Guinea: 24-25 Jan 1944, Kelanoa; Patrol, Sio and Barge off Fortification Point

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O Public Relations
N. G. Force

[24 Jan 1944]


I was going to write to you last night but learnt on returning to the tent that a black out is enforced  up here – the Japs planes occasionally fly over so it seems.  Some went over last night I was told – but I didn’t hear them being dead to the world.  I went to bed when it was dark and didn’t wake until dawn.  My God I was tired – I had been awake travelling half the previous night1Barge trip from Finschhafen to Kelanoa on Saturday 22nd.

The balmy surrounding of the beach on which I sit are poppingly disturbed by the exuberant troops who punctuate the silence with machine gun bursts and rifle fire.  Not that they are shooting at anything – they just like hearing them go off.

I’m tired and dirty.  I’ve lost the only towel I brought up here with me.  There is no fresh water to bathe in – I’m as sticky as a stamp with accumulations of salt, seawater & salt sweat.  I should taste good!  Especially as I dry myself after a dip with my underpants – adds just that Parfait de Nuit touch!

I have been as far as Sio on the northern coast.  Went on a barge with three other PR people who are in effect somewhat irresponsible.  They missed the barge back to where we are at present.  Although I must say it was only a fluke that I happened to catch it.  I am glad that I didn’t have to spend a night up there. A dismal spot.

Sketch study for ‘Patrol, Sio’, New Guinea
Patrol, Sio

Most of these jungles stink of decaying vegetation & have that dank warmth of a mulch heap to help one along.  Beautiful and lavish enough they may be, with a kind of monsteria deliciosa vine winding up the trees, and a dozen other types ….ed from the branches.  Not so many birds.  A few butterflies & a bloody lot of mosquitoes.  Not the healthiest spots to live in under normal circumstances but the necessities of obtaining cover makes it almost imperative for the troops.

Passed by Operational Censor SWPA Photo No. MNG 893 New Guinea – A bomb scarred area at Sio with troops encamped close to a bomb crater which was quickly filled with water following heavy rain.
25 pounder artillery guns, most likeey near Sio on the north east coast of New Guinea
Believed to be Sio Bogadjim area, Huon Peninsula, New Guinea. Depicts five unidentified Australian soldiers involved in jungle operations, members of the Royal Australian Artillery, 2/14th Australian Field Regiment with a 25 pounder gun.
Sio Bogadjim area, Huon Peninsula, New Guinea. Depicts a 25 pounder gun of the Royal Australian Artillery, 2/14th Australian Field Regiment.

3 pm Tuesday [25 Jan 1944]

Fortification Point near Scarlet Beach, Finschhafen area, New Guinea
Troops in a barge off Fortification Point in transit from Kelanoa to Scarlet Beach, Finschhafen area, New Guinea

Been travelling since 9 am have just landed at another point & am prostrate wit de heat.2Moved out by barge from Kelanoa back south to Scarlet Beach in the Finschhafen area.

Sketch study for ‘Barge off Fortification Point’
Barge off Fortification Point; reproduced The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 June 1944, p41 – Men of the 9th AIF Division relax on board a barge as it rounds Fortification Point, on its way to Finschafen, Huon Peninsular. They are returning from Kelanoa tired, but with every reason to feel satisfied with the job done. Kelanoa was then a forward area, and Wep’s brush portrays brilliantly the men’s infinite weariness and their unfailing cheerfulness. They are all looking forward to their return to the base. – Art Gallery of New South Wales collection

These dirty marks on this page are sweat decorations.  As there are a lot of lads writing letters in the YMCA hut I thought it best to get it best to get away pronto.

I’ll write you again tonight.  A few bombs were dropped down this way a few days ago.   Nothing happened however.  I guess I’m ½ stone lighter.  It’s no question that you (sic) ole man is melting down to a soup pot of unfunny stew.

Lots of love from Willie.

Don’t worry about sending letters they will never catch up with me.

Have just bumped into Roy H. again.  He is at the camp I am now in.  Calls himself the “Erl King” (translates into the oil paint king).

More love.



  • 1
    Barge trip from Finschhafen to Kelanoa on Saturday 22nd
  • 2
    Moved out by barge from Kelanoa back south to Scarlet Beach in the Finschhafen area.

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