War Letters – NW Australia: 4 Aug 1943, Strauss Airfield; With the boys of a Spitfire squadron

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
Army Post Office
[4 Aug 1943]

Dear Jess,

Been quite an exhausting day.  Plenty hot and plenty weak.  However I pulled my gizzard up & got stuck into the work of drawing some fighter planes.  They’re sleek jobs and surprisingly small.  You don’t get much idea of their performance when seen on duty flights around this district.  Rarely are they flown flat out except in combat.  After seeing them on the ground dirty dented & camouflaged you’d think they weren’t worth a plateful of cold tapioca pudding.  But the boys like them.

The pilots are all hellishly young.  The average age being about 22.  The Squadron leader looks youngest of all like a bit of a school kid.  They have all had English experience & are a good bright lot.  I get along very well with them as they are friendly & informal.  The binge last night served well in breaking the ice.  Almost all were as full as bulls.  Incidently none of the crowd seem to like the journalists much.  Being an artist makes everything so much easier.  Tell Tommy there is a bit of a hoon up here – name of Pilot Officer Larry Alderson – says he knew him well in N.G.  Gloria’s husband Flight Loot Newton isn’t a bad sort of bloke – Looks after me well. [Believed to be John Sefton Newton and Gloria Olga Newton (nee Metchkoff Larsen, m 1943] I still haven’t managed to buy anyone a drink.  One is not allowed to – they insist on my being a guest.  A big crowd of bomber pilots were also down last night.  The film was fast & furious.

There’s some blasted thing I should tell you but for the life of me I can’t remember it.  Guess it’ll come later.

Yes! I’ve got it!  Do you recollect the air force medical officers at that party of Tilly’s at which Bill Brindle & his wife were present.  One of the crowd from up the road turned out to be one of them.  He is now a Wing Commander.  He was then a Fl. Lieutenant so he’s managed to step up very nicely.

Flash – last night two of the pilots after a sufficient steeping in the fiery juices set off on journey back to tent.  One – hopelessly lost curled up on the floor of a brother officers tent.  The other made the grade & work about an hour later with the tent in flames around him.  Much hilarity whilst domicile was razed to the ground.

May be off to see “In which we serve” tonight – that is – if I don’t get sucked into the alcoholic vortex which is apparently about tom swirl any tick of the clock.

I’m still not 100%.

It doesn’t look as if I’ll be down by the 24th.  You will probably forgive me but it would be best for me not to dash down without properly doing the place over.  I’d love to be there.  However have a good dinner.  Get that or the other casserole or what ever you like – go to £20.  With love from your devoted, Willie.

Thursday [5 Aug 1943]

Bad show I didn’t mail the above pages this morning.  I went up to the strip with a crowd of pilots at 6.30am and arrived by at 4pm.  Consequently missed the bus, I mean the mail.

This blarsted country is full of things wot bite.  Between the heat & the wogs I’m as knobbly as a mills bomb.

All day the fighter lads lounge about inside their dispersal hut (near the ‘drome) in attitudes crooked but horizontal.



There they remain, with but slight variation waiting for the call to arms.  One morning early at least 4 of them were asleep when an alert came over.  Like trains through a station they were off & in the air.  Fortunately the aircraft responsible for the alarm was identified as friendly.

The weather seems to be getting hotter.  Myself more enervated.  Sweat rolls off me – thirsty ants swim up my cascading body & quaff the salty juices.  Beaut-O!

There’s been quite a lot of feeling that it’s near time the yellow men come over.  They sunk a ship a few days ago & have been fairly active.  A couple of months have passed since they did anything and the fighter lads are anxious to have a crack at them to relieve the boredom.

Hope Harold Coy has been behaving. [Harold and Bassie Coy ran the Hotel Hunters Hill, a favoured drinking spot of Wep and Jess.] Also the damned old Ponty.  You poor darling I dare say Jane has been giving you the real works.  Is Tommy up north indefinitely?

Hope Dossie’s little girl doesn’t have 6 tits – it’ll be awful hard to find a beau with 6 hands.

Some bear bandit or other has got down on my bottle whilst Iwas away.  That’s the sort of thing that leads to lynching in this h’yar country.  You can as King from me – Where is the Ethics Committee of the A.J.A?  What are they doing about it all?  When are they going to send a missionary up here?

That there smudge is sweat.

Which reminds me you mentioned Turkish Baths. Haven’t you had any?  Why don’t you go away somewhere for a couple of weeks?  It’s getting right hot, mu chickadee.  I’m afraid this climate would suit you down to the ground.  I can’t see how one could stay very flat what with all this here perspiring going on.

Don’t get too morbid, honey.  It won’t be long before I’m home.  How’s the houses for sale?  Why don’t you go around and have a look at a few just to get an idea of value, etc.  I can’t think of anything for the flairs.

When its winter
Way down yonder
It’s a pint’er
Beer I ponder
And a bit er bread
An’ butter an’ a sponge

Which reminds me how’s frige behaving?

30Lots of love from yours meltingly,


[On top of 1st page is a note written by another person]

Hello Jess you beautiful thing I love you despite all absences(?).


Q?ies(?) x [indecipherable]

That goes for me too


Spitfire maintenance
Spitfire maintenance
Spitfire maintenance
Spitfire maintenance
Most likely Strauss airfield near Noonamah, Northern Territory
Most likely Strauss airfield near Noonamah, Northern Territory
24 x 18 cm
33 x 21 cm
33 x 21 cm
33 x 21 cm
24 x 18 cm
Spitfire, most likely at Strauss Airfield near Noonamah, Northern Territory
Clive (Killer) Caldwell's Spitfire, CR-C, A58-484; Aug 1943
Clive (Killer) Caldwell’s Spitfire, CR-C, A58-484; Aug 1943

1 NW Australia - 6 Fighter Base-80 1 NW Australia - 6 Fighter Base-81 1 NW Australia - 6 Fighter Base-82 21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cmDispersal Room

Dispersal Room
Dispersal Room
Dispersal Room
Dispersal Room
Dispersal Room
Dispersal Room
Snooze in the sun for a weary pilot
Snooze in the sun for a weary pilot, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 Nov 1943, p9

24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 33 x 21 cm 33 x 21 cm


Possibly Clive (Killer) Caldwell 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm






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