War Letters – New Guinea: 20 Jan 1944, Port Moresby; Catching up with colleagues

Public Relations
Field Unit
HDQ
N.G. Force

20th Jan 44

Darling,

I am trying to write this in the correspondents dormitory.1Colloquially known as St Percy’s Seminary by the correspondents, it was situated at Headquarters, New Guinea Force in Four Mile Valley on the main road to Port Moresby – See FOUR MILE VALLEY, PAPUA, NEW GUINEA. 1944-01-02. A VIEW OF THE MAIN PORT MORESBY ROAD AT FOUR …. (2024, January 19). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C54321  Three or 4 of them lie about spine bashing – Others reminisce of their experiences in the area.  It is about 4.30 pm & it is still hot – albeit not so bad as Townsville where on Tuesday the water out of the taps (when one was allowed to use them) was 92º.

Left about 6 in the morning & we here for lunch.  It’s quite a treat to see land after flying over the sea for a couple of hours.  There were lots of clouds about & occasionally you could get glimpses of the barrier reef below – not that its much to see from the air.  Circled the town & landed amongst hills very little different from those down south.  The foliage & earth are much the same colour as that around Darwin.  However it is a picturesque spot as the mountains run fairly close to the sea & are an ominous blue under the clouds.  Long long off above the clouds can be see peaks jutting through – I guess they must be plenty high!

Tried to ring Tommy2Frederick Thomas O’Dea was the former General Manager of Guinea Airways and life-long close friend of Wep’s. At the beginning of the war he joined the RAAF and flew in an out of remote areas in New Guinea with supplies but following a severe crash he was unable to fly again and transfrred to the RAN where with the rank of Lieutenant became a Naval Coastwatcher in New Guinea.3WABAG, NEW GUINEA. NATIVES SURROUND THE FIRST AEROPLANE TO LAND AT WABAG WITH SUPPLIES FOR THE …. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C2557734Myola 2, Papua, 1942-10-22. A crowd of Australian soldiers gathers around a Ford tri-motor …. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C3190565LAE, NEW GUINEA. 1944-06-02. VX65671 MAJOR J.T. TAYLOR, OFFICER- IN- CHARGE, NORTHERN ECHELON, …. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C64803 but they said they hadn’t heard of him so I suppose he has not arrived yet.  I would have rung him in Brisbane but didn’t.

I don’t know that there is much I can tell you about this place without infringing security regulations.  Letters take some time to get down to you from here & God knows how long from other areas.  If you do not hear from me for a while don’t worry because it will be purely a matter of mail difficulties.  I ……[torn]…….. will not be writing much under …………………….. I shan’t be able to get many ………[torn]………………d… 10 days so don’t bother ………[torn]………… feel like it.

Am leaving here tomorrow for more important spots.  Have been issued with jungle green clothing – that beautiful aspidistra leaf trembling in the breeze over there will be me.  I don’t feel like doing anything here – even writing – it’s such a dead end.  When I move off I shall probably be too tired to send much.

There were 2 correspondents here who were at Darwin.  Caught up again with Trotter  yesterday but he moved out today.  Bill Dargie official war artist6Captain William Dargie. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P65046 called in on me yesterday & we passed the time of day.  Roy Hodgkinson7Captain Roy Cecil Hodgkinson. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P65080 called this morning & I lunched with him at his mess up the road a bit.  He and Alice are divorced.  She is about to marry the Yank corpl (?)  Roy seems quite happy about it all.

Saw a native sing song which was turned on for Stella Wilson8Austral Groves Wilson. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austral_Groves_Wilson9New Guinea. Private M. Daly of Bendigo, Vic, offers Miss Strella Wilson a mug of Army tea after …. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C238355 who is up here at the moment.  It was interesting enough but somewhat scrappy around the edges.  Not the real McCoy.  Hardly get the best effect when the music consists of a boong banging a bucket with sticks and another playing a drum like the one we have at home.

Am going tonight with the rest of the gang to hear the final concert from Stella Wilson and Edwin Styles.10Edwin Styles. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Styles

Reg Harris who used to work in the office11Reg Harris was also a fomer Smith’s Weekly journalist and later press secretary to several Federal Ministers. has just stuck his head around the door & sends his regards to you & Petrovs12Geoff and Molly Turton, etc.  You probably don’t remember him but what the hell!  He is not a reporter.  Has just returned from Shaggy Ridge after months of front line fighting.  He very decently gave me aluminium mess tins to save on weight.  Said you  can buy him a drink when he gets back.

Later

I’ve had a rest – a shower – a shave, etc. Tea – & the rest.

All are getting ready for the show so bye-bye for the present dear.  Hope you are well and are being careful with Junior.  Not too much work – grog – travel – and contemplation.

Lots of love, darling,
Bill

Notes:

  • 1
    Colloquially known as St Percy’s Seminary by the correspondents, it was situated at Headquarters, New Guinea Force in Four Mile Valley on the main road to Port Moresby – See FOUR MILE VALLEY, PAPUA, NEW GUINEA. 1944-01-02. A VIEW OF THE MAIN PORT MORESBY ROAD AT FOUR …. (2024, January 19). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C54321
  • 2
    Frederick Thomas O’Dea was the former General Manager of Guinea Airways and life-long close friend of Wep’s. At the beginning of the war he joined the RAAF and flew in an out of remote areas in New Guinea with supplies but following a severe crash he was unable to fly again and transfrred to the RAN where with the rank of Lieutenant became a Naval Coastwatcher in New Guinea.
  • 3
    WABAG, NEW GUINEA. NATIVES SURROUND THE FIRST AEROPLANE TO LAND AT WABAG WITH SUPPLIES FOR THE …. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C255773
  • 4
    Myola 2, Papua, 1942-10-22. A crowd of Australian soldiers gathers around a Ford tri-motor …. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C319056
  • 5
    LAE, NEW GUINEA. 1944-06-02. VX65671 MAJOR J.T. TAYLOR, OFFICER- IN- CHARGE, NORTHERN ECHELON, …. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C64803
  • 6
    Captain William Dargie. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P65046
  • 7
    Captain Roy Cecil Hodgkinson. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P65080
  • 8
    Austral Groves Wilson. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austral_Groves_Wilson
  • 9
    New Guinea. Private M. Daly of Bendigo, Vic, offers Miss Strella Wilson a mug of Army tea after …. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C238355
  • 10
    Edwin Styles. (2024, January 16). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Styles
  • 11
    Reg Harris was also a fomer Smith’s Weekly journalist and later press secretary to several Federal Ministers.
  • 12
    Geoff and Molly Turton

War Letters – New Guinea: 19 Jan 1944, Port Moresby; Arrived

URGENT TELEGRAM
Stamped Post Office Lane Cove 20 JAN

PIDGEON
85 NORTHWOOD RD
LANE COVE SYDNEY
[ 19 Jan 1944]

Arrived had good trip lots of heat and sweat love
Bill
10am B

Note: Bill (and Reg Edwards) arrived 19 January 1944 (Ref: DVA File No. X336636)

Movements:
19 Jan 1944 Public Relations HQ
22 Jan 1944 Left for 9th Aust. Division
24 Jan 1944 9th Aust. Division
31 Jan 1944 5th Aust. Division
5 Feb 1944 Public Relations HQ
9 Feb 1944 Left for Townsville

War Letters – New Guinea: 18 Jan 1944, Townsville; Lousy with troops

DPR Unit
Townsville
Tuesday, Midday
[18 Jan 1944]

Darling,

How’s my little lonely honey?  As hot as I am?  Boy that is plenty.  It’s much hotter here than in Darwin.  I’ve done nothing but sweat & replace it with a noggin of beer.  I didn’t get away from Brisbane on the midday plane as I had anticipated, consequently poor Willie had to be wakened at 3.45 am on Monday to get an American Navy plane to Townsville.  We arrived at the aerodrome at 4.45 but the plane was not due to leave until six so we just sat around on our bums in the darkness for about an hour.  Couldn’t get booked through to Moresby direct – hence the above address.

Douglas C47 transport plane with US serveice men

I was the only Australian aboard the big Douglas.  One of the fellow yanks was an artist from the Chicago Tribune.  An elderly kind of Carl Shreveish looking guy with a long upper lip & untidy dress.  We left just as the sun was coming up over the sea, the whole vision was a blend of purple & red gold slashed and scored by brilliant reflected light from the rivers & pools.  Couldn’t see much after that as the sun brought the mist up and obscured most of our vision.  Arrived here about 9.30am which is a pretty fast trip considering its nearly 700 miles.  We flew mostly about 10,000 ft – about 400 feet above the clouds which looked like wads a kapok methodically sprinkled over the earth below.

Townsville is a most picturesque place to approach by air.  The town itself nestles beneath a huge rocky mass called Castle Hill & fringes the big bay which is blocked towards the sea by the mountainous Magnetic island.  The airport here is an hellishly busy place – planes of all descriptions come & go every few minutes.

It is lousy with troops.  2 to every 1 civilian.  The beer position is acute in the town’s hotels – they charge 2/- deposit on the glass.  Fortunately for us pukka sahibs there is an Officer’s Club – much bigger than that in Brisbane.1Wep was most probably billeted at the Seaview Hotel on the Strand (cnr Gregory Street), Townsville, which was the wartime home of the Australian Officer’s Club. Personnel from the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) staffed the club. In a Report on civilian morale, the picture was painted that the Officer’s Club was the scene of regular “drunken debauches” and “depraved orgies”. The report details several supposed incidents which gave the Officer’s Club this reputation – Register of World War II historic places – World War II historic places in Queensland – Open Data Portal. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://www.data.qld.gov.au/dataset/world-war-ii-historic-places-in-queensland/resource/cbd1aa53-38f3-414d-9ed2-29623047ac232THE HOTEL SEAVIEW. (1930, July 26). Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 – 1954), p. 11. Retrieved January 13, 2024, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60783220 It is situated in a pleasant hotel on the beach front which is fringed with coconut palms.

Met Trotter up here. We went for a swim during the afternoon.  The water is quite warm and we diddled around for about an hour – did ½ half non-fishing & got somewhat burnt.  Drove back and bathed in 2 inches of water (the supply is cut off during the day because of the shortage).  Dressed & returned to Officer’s Club & drank nice cold beer in comfort.  Trotter left at 4 am this morning.

Edwards3Reginald James Edwards, photographer; Yvonne Todd’s husband caught the midday plane from Brisbane & arrived yesterday afternoon.  We both leave at 4 am tomorrow.  Moresby is only 4 hours flight away so I’ll be there for lunch.  This weather is enervating so forgive me if the letters are both short and dull.  I haven’t been dry since I arrived – the nights are just as warm.  We were going up the mountain in a friend of Edward’s jeep but someone pinched it from outside the Officer’s Club last night, a pretty kettle of fish!  The major in charge here is a most amiable fellow & is taking us up there this afternoon after which we proceed swimming-wards.  This house is well up on the hill and is surroundedby most pleasant shady trees.  The enclosed flower for you is from a poinsiana4Poinciana (it sounds like that) tree.  It’s a delightful thing with great long pods like 2 ft peas hanging off the limbs.  The general appearance is something like a jacaranda except for the profusion of brilliant red flowers.

Will write to you tomorrow darling.  Hope you are looking after yourself well and are eating up your ration of meat.

Lots of love to you darling from
Bill

Notes:

  • 1
    Wep was most probably billeted at the Seaview Hotel on the Strand (cnr Gregory Street), Townsville, which was the wartime home of the Australian Officer’s Club. Personnel from the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) staffed the club. In a Report on civilian morale, the picture was painted that the Officer’s Club was the scene of regular “drunken debauches” and “depraved orgies”. The report details several supposed incidents which gave the Officer’s Club this reputation – Register of World War II historic places – World War II historic places in Queensland – Open Data Portal. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://www.data.qld.gov.au/dataset/world-war-ii-historic-places-in-queensland/resource/cbd1aa53-38f3-414d-9ed2-29623047ac23
  • 2
    THE HOTEL SEAVIEW. (1930, July 26). Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 – 1954), p. 11. Retrieved January 13, 2024, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60783220
  • 3
    Reginald James Edwards, photographer; Yvonne Todd’s husband
  • 4
    Poinciana

War Letters – New Guinea: 15 Jan 1944, Brisbane; Sitting around waiting

“Among “Wep’s” admirers abroad is President Roosevelt” – Interesting People (1944, February 12). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 20. Retrieved January 13, 2024, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47219220

Brisbane
Aust Army
Officers Club

Sat [15 Jan 1944]

Sweetheart,

I’m still sitting around waiting to get out of the damned joint.  Twice a day I have to ring the transport people to discover what’s cookin’.  Have just been told that I’m to phone again tomorrow – I may get away by midday.  I hope so, as there is little to do in this h’year town.  I shall probably sport myself to a show tonight.  This morning I caught a bus out to Hughie Dash’s1Hugh Dash was a friend and colleague of Wep’s at the Daily Telegraph. After the war he was appointed Press Secretary to Prime Minister Robert Menzies. HUSH DASH DIES SUDDENLY (1960, June 28). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), p. 1. Retrieved January 13, 2024, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137117090 place & picked up the blankets and gas mask.  Took them round to the station and was told I couldn’t send them down without a permit.  Lord love us!  I’ll have to find somewhere or someone to pick them up from on my return.  Washed a shirt this afternoon – ironed same and indulged in a little excellent spine bashing.  The beer position in this town has not improved, although I am told the officers can get a drink at night in this club which occupies an hotel next to Lennon’s.2Wep was most probably billeted at the Lennon’s Hote. The new Lennon’s Hotel (also known as ‘Bataan’) on the corner of Queen and George Streets Brisbane was opened in July 1941. A hotel of the same name had operated on the site since at least the 1880s. The most modern hotel in wartime Brisbane it offered the best service and visiting celebrities frequently stayed there. From July 1942 it became the residence of the Macarthur family and many of the senior officers working at the SWPA headquarters. – Register of World War II historic places – World War II historic places in Queensland – Open Data Portal. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://www.data.qld.gov.au/dataset/world-war-ii-historic-places-in-queensland/resource/cbd1aa53-38f3-414d-9ed2-29623047ac233Lennon’s Hotel, George Street, Brisbane, Queensland used by the military during WW2. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://www.ozatwar.com/locations/lennonshotel.htm

The City Hall bells have just tolled 5 P.M. the hour of le grand pub opening.  I shall totter down and water the wasted tissues.  It’s plenty hot up here and old Will loses an awful lot of his distinctive sweaty juices.

There’s an enormous number of troops in the city – all causing a great shortage of ale and theatre seats.  I’ve had beef for every meal so far so I think I chew up a little chop for a change tonight.  I shall stagger to the lift down barwards now and will write you a great length tomorrow of my doings Friday.

Had a pleasant enough trip on the Flying boat – unfortunately I had a centre seat so could not see much of the coast.  The ship itself is extraordinarily spacious you can roam around and stretch the legs to your heart’s content.  We had cold stewed prunes – cold ham & cold boiled egg for breakfast.  All quite nice.

Landed on the Brisbane River at 10.30 so the trip was not extra fast.

After seeing the D.P.R.4Department of Public Relations I oozed (that’s the word for it, my God was I hot in that winter uniform.  What with that on & the bright green C5Wep’s War Correspondent uniform cap had a large ‘C’ emblem in the centre above the peak I was somewhat conspicuous) up to the Officer’s Club & changed into trousers & shirt and rubbed copious quantities of cigarette ash into the brilliance of my cap.  It helped a lot – I can walk around without people giving me the goggle eyed stare.  Called into a pub near the “Mail” office & run into Jackie Finch.6Jack Finch was a well known Sydney journalist  I think the heat has sent him Troppo.  He gave me £2-10-0 owing from 1927.  Practically restored my faith in human nature.  After a few drinks he invited me round to his Hotel for Dinner which he paid for!  Left him after lunch and walked (or rather swam in my own sweat) for miles trying to find where Nan Mills worked.  Located it at last near the  Art Gallery.  She was very pleasant to meet me.  Said Brisbane was a hell of a hole but was saving money by living cheaply in the barracks nearby.  She looked very well – has lost weight & is a good brown colour – altogether a great improvement.

Came back tired out – wandered into a bookshop and in the desire for something in a soothing vein bought a cheap edition of New Testament!  Meet Jackie Finch again and fought sadly for 4 drinks after which I said bugger this It’s not worth it.  Went back to his room – drank two bottles (iced) & had dinner with him again (on him too).  Wouldn’t let me pay.  Tried to get seats for a show but failed miserably – consequently we sat under a fan & just sat without thinking – just sitting & sweating.  I was about to come back here for bed when two fellows staying at his hotel asked us to their room for a drink.  On hearing I was Wep nothing would please them but I draw them & so it went on.  They had rung Diana Parnham7Diana Parnham: Actress. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au/articles/6038Diana Parnham Married To U.S. Pressman In Brisbane (1943, May 22). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved January 13, 2024, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42019408 & she had said yes come out by all means.  However one of the lad’s car (a £1200 Alvis) wouldn’t go and as we had polished off nearly all the grog the trip was abandoned.  Sorry I was, for I’d have liked to have had a gink at the famous Di.  Got back here about 12 midnight & got into bed without waking my room mate.  At 6.30 am I am awakened by him sloshing about the room.  Of all people it was Yvonne Todd’s husband.9Yvonne Irene Todd (1916-2010) married Reginald James Johnston Edwards (1900-1981) in Sydney, 1941 (Ancestry Family Tree). Reginald Edwards was a photographer.  He will in all probability be travelling in the same plane as myself (i.e. at midday today Sunday – I hope).

After I went to the bar last night, I was having a few with a bloke next to me when a dainty paw strokes my balding top.  This was Tommie Thompson.  So had a few words with him for 3 or 4 minutes.  Saw one of those captains Arthur Mailey10Biography – Alfred Arthur Mailey. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mailey-alfred-arthur-7464 introduced to us at Romano’s in the bar but did not speak to him.  Had a few in the lounge here & went to bed.  And that my dear is the history of Pidgeon’s peregrinations in Brisbane.  Did not go looking for dear Madge.

I hope things are alright with you, sweet, and that you don’t feel too lonely.

If we get this plane today we shall probably stay overnight in Townsville or some place as I don’t think they can get up to Moresby after leaving at midday.

Lots and lots of love from weak limp Willie.

Lordie it’s sure I’m hot.

Will drop a swift note from wherever we stay tonight – love Bill.

Notes:

  • 1
    Hugh Dash was a friend and colleague of Wep’s at the Daily Telegraph. After the war he was appointed Press Secretary to Prime Minister Robert Menzies. HUSH DASH DIES SUDDENLY (1960, June 28). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), p. 1. Retrieved January 13, 2024, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137117090
  • 2
    Wep was most probably billeted at the Lennon’s Hote. The new Lennon’s Hotel (also known as ‘Bataan’) on the corner of Queen and George Streets Brisbane was opened in July 1941. A hotel of the same name had operated on the site since at least the 1880s. The most modern hotel in wartime Brisbane it offered the best service and visiting celebrities frequently stayed there. From July 1942 it became the residence of the Macarthur family and many of the senior officers working at the SWPA headquarters. – Register of World War II historic places – World War II historic places in Queensland – Open Data Portal. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://www.data.qld.gov.au/dataset/world-war-ii-historic-places-in-queensland/resource/cbd1aa53-38f3-414d-9ed2-29623047ac23
  • 3
    Lennon’s Hotel, George Street, Brisbane, Queensland used by the military during WW2. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://www.ozatwar.com/locations/lennonshotel.htm
  • 4
    Department of Public Relations
  • 5
    Wep’s War Correspondent uniform cap had a large ‘C’ emblem in the centre above the peak
  • 6
    Jack Finch was a well known Sydney journalist
  • 7
    Diana Parnham: Actress. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au/articles/603
  • 8
    Diana Parnham Married To U.S. Pressman In Brisbane (1943, May 22). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved January 13, 2024, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42019408
  • 9
    Yvonne Irene Todd (1916-2010) married Reginald James Johnston Edwards (1900-1981) in Sydney, 1941 (Ancestry Family Tree). Reginald Edwards was a photographer.
  • 10
    Biography – Alfred Arthur Mailey. (2024, January 13). Retrieved from https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mailey-alfred-arthur-7464

War Letters – New Guinea: 9 Jan 1944, Sydney; If anything should happen to me…

Wep and Jess setting off for Kosciuszko on their honeymoon; 24 Aug-7 Sep 1933

Jan 1944

Darling,

If anything should happen to me I’d like you to do a few things that while I was here I didn’t seem to be able (or for that matter, had no point in saying) to tell. Or ask, of you.

Above all, I don’t want you to blow the old top! I expect you to be upset – that is human enough.

But these are the things I want you to do. I couldn’t tell you them – it would sound all so silly and melodramatic.

Go for a trip or something. Don’t hang around the house we lived in. Wipe all the half-wits you and I know are half-wits. Get rid of Molly1Molly (nee Evans) was married to Bill’s Best Man, Geoff Turton (aka Petrov) a fellow artist at The Australian Women’s Weekly. Molly and Geoff were extremely close friends with Bill and Jess but she had a problem with drink which ultimately led to her marriage failing. Clearly Wep could forseee that Molly, sadly, presented a poor influence on Jess. And for Christ’s sake don’t finish up the widow Vi2Violet May Cadd (nee Allmark) (1905-1984) was probably Jess’s best friend. Vi married Robert A. Cadd in 1928. He committed suicide in 1931 and Vi never remarried. She lived with her father a few houses up the road from Bill and Jess in Bellevue Hill at the time of their marriage. Vi was Godmother to both of Bill Pidgeon’s sons, Graham and Peter. She was known as Aunty Vi and was a regular visitor especially at Christmas time.. Get married.

Don’t panic. You’ll be getting more money than even you know what to do with. What with office compensation, my insurance, remains of my mother’s property3Bill’s mother Thirza Jessie (nee White) died of cancer in 1941, and your own people’s estate, you will be worth about £5,000. You don’t have to let a cheap hick get hold of you. I would hate the guts of that. Don’t sell your mother’s house.4Jess was an only child. She was born in 1908, 17 years after her parents George Alexander Graham and Mary Jane Wray married in 1891. George died 14 Jan 1945 when Wep was setting off on another trip and her mother Mary Jane died at Wep’s home a year after Jess in December 1953. Don’t sell my property. Lend £1,000 to Jack5Bill’s older brother John Frederick Pidgeon (1904-1972) at 5% – he could use it. All in all you should be able to get about £5 to £6  per week without doing a tap.

Please always be a little bit in love with me. Within my pretty lousy way I have loved you. Unspectacularly maybe – but there has been no other.

Please don’t lose that little baby.6Graham Richard Pidgeon was born July 1, 1944 Perhaps I’m sloppy – but I’d like to leave something behind to justify the old existence.

I love you – at times, wildly, deliriously, and without reason. I have loved you.

Too bad I think that there is nothing after all this. I’d have liked to have seen you.

Snugglepot Bill

[This letter was probably never revealed to Jess till later. It may have been in a sealed envelope, or it may have been given to an associate to give to her in case Bill was killed whilst overseas.]

Note: Bill left for Townsville on 9 January 1944 (Ref: DVA File No. X336636)

Jess Pidgeon with Geoff and Molly Turton as Wep and Jess prepare to set off on their honeymoon to Kosciuszko; 24 Aug-7 Sep 1933
Vi Cadd, Bill Pidgeon and Jess Pidgeon and unidentified at what is probably the 1939 Artists’ Ball held at the Trocadero, 14 Apr 1939. Note – Wep is wearing one of Jess’s dresses.
1931; L-R: Wep’s brother Jack and his fiancee Verona Chadwick, Thirza Pidgeon (Wep’s mother) and Wep (Bill Pidgeon) in Wep’s 1928 Chrysler 75 Roadster
Graham Richard Pidgeon, three days old; July 4, 1944
Jessie Ann Pidgeon (nee Graham) circa Aug. 1944, sitting on the front steps of home at 85 Northwood Road;
Little Wep by Wep; The Australian Women’s Weekly, July 21, 1945

Notes:

  • 1
    Molly (nee Evans) was married to Bill’s Best Man, Geoff Turton (aka Petrov) a fellow artist at The Australian Women’s Weekly. Molly and Geoff were extremely close friends with Bill and Jess but she had a problem with drink which ultimately led to her marriage failing. Clearly Wep could forseee that Molly, sadly, presented a poor influence on Jess
  • 2
    Violet May Cadd (nee Allmark) (1905-1984) was probably Jess’s best friend. Vi married Robert A. Cadd in 1928. He committed suicide in 1931 and Vi never remarried. She lived with her father a few houses up the road from Bill and Jess in Bellevue Hill at the time of their marriage. Vi was Godmother to both of Bill Pidgeon’s sons, Graham and Peter. She was known as Aunty Vi and was a regular visitor especially at Christmas time.
  • 3
    Bill’s mother Thirza Jessie (nee White) died of cancer in 1941
  • 4
    Jess was an only child. She was born in 1908, 17 years after her parents George Alexander Graham and Mary Jane Wray married in 1891. George died 14 Jan 1945 when Wep was setting off on another trip and her mother Mary Jane died at Wep’s home a year after Jess in December 1953.
  • 5
    Bill’s older brother John Frederick Pidgeon (1904-1972)
  • 6
    Graham Richard Pidgeon was born July 1, 1944

War Letters – NW Australia: 1 Sep 1943, Brisbane; Arriving home Friday 3rd at dawn

1 NW Australia Letters-109

TELEGRAM

Stamped Telegraph Office Sydney -1 SP 43
Stamped Telephoned 8.55P

URGT   J   35   BRISBANE 21  8-  P

PIDGEON
85 NORTHWOOD RD LANE COVE
SYDNEY

UN PLANE ARRIVE FRIDAY DAWNISH CENTRAL DON’T CALL WILL SEE YOU HOME LOVE … BILL

(  85  UN  )

 

This is the last of Bill’s letters home during his assignment to North-west Australia. Much of the material Bill gleaned from his assignment appeared in works reproduced in The Australian Women’s Weekly throughout the rest of 1943 and well into 1944.

He would next travel to New Guinea in January-February 1944 and then to Morotai in January-February 1945 and Borneo in July-August 1945. These letters were all originally published online in 2013, 2014 and 2015 on the occasion of their 70th anniversaries. It is similarly planned to update and repuplish them in recognition of their 80th in 2024 and 2025.

– Peter Pidgeon, September 1, 2023

War Letters – NW Australia: 29 Aug 1943, Darwin; Back (home) again

W.E.Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin

Sunday 29th Aug [1943]

Darling,

Am making another attempt to have you receive a letter while I am home.

Too bad I missed out on the previous effort.  I guess the suggestion I made in the last will still be met.  Yes?

Goody! That makes me one you owe me.

How it is having me back?

Nice and noisy after the years of foodless solitude?

The waiting around for transport home near drove me dippy – now I’m here all is well.

& now How’s about it, sweet?

 

Note: Bill departed for Sydney via air on 31 August 1943
(Ref: DVA File No. X336636)

War Letters – NW Australia: 27 Aug 1943, Darwin; Back (home) from Humpty Doo

W.E.Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin

27th Aug [1943]

Darling,

Didn’t expect a letter, now did you?  Wasn’t it just too-too sweet of me to write you despite the knowledge that I’d be home before you got it?  It has an ULTERIOR MOTIVE behind it all – you have to very very nice to me right away.

I felt awful on Saturday after Friday night’s party.  At least that is what I anticipate at the moment.  I’m afraid it will be too confusing for me to write in the past tense as what is yet to happen has already done so.  I’ll get back to my state of mind on Friday Aug 27th

7.30 am

Had an interesting trip to the cattle Station “Humpty-doo”1The town of Humpty Doo was named after the cattle station which though comparatively small for this, is silly writing you a letter about something I’ve already told you.  Consider  this purely as a happy good day note and a reminder to you of my sterling qualities.

Just consider how happy I am to be home. And how I like to see your sweet little mug again.

Well what are you waiting for, I’m here aren’t I?

Or would you rather have a cuppa?

A big kiss

from

Willie

Notes:

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    The town of Humpty Doo was named after the cattle station

War Letters – NW Australia: 25 Aug 1943, Darwin; Heading off to a cattle station, ‘Humpty Doo’

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin

Wed 25th August 1943

Darling,

This I hope will be the last letter you get before you get me personal like.

Unless someone, or something causes a priority travel hitch I should be back home Monday evening.  So get yourself polished up today my girl – I’ll be seeing you tonight down by the Bay.

Didn’t have a party on our anniversary.  The lads here are saving up for a do on Friday night – farewell to some Flight – Loot who is going down on leave.  Looks as if I may be included in the festivities – we, I hope, (not because of his company but because of the plane) shall travel down together.  Had three glasses of beer on the great occasion.  They drank our health and I drank yours.

Am going out to a cattle station1The cattle station called Humpty Doo was adjacent to Livingstone Airfield where No. 457 (Spitfire) Squadron was based for two days leaving after breakfast this morning.  So won’t be writing you again.

Lots and lots of love dear

Hope everything in the garden is lovely – Freddie.

 

Notes:

War Letters – NW Australia: 24 Aug 1943, Darwin; 10th Wedding anniversary

From Friday, August 20, through to Monday, August 23,  1943, Wep was on assignment at a Mission Station on Milingimbi Island. Whilst absent, Wep penned a letter to Jess, of which the first 13 pages have been lost or misplaced.

At an Aboriginal mission station, Milingimbi Island, 20-23 August, 1943
WEP with two Aboriginal women at Milingimbi Mission, 20-23 August, 1943

Continuation of letter written 23 August

Page 14

…. but plain damn silly.  I wish you hadn’t told me.  Anyway I’ll be home within a week of you getting this letter.  So expect a lot of things to look up.

Study for Interior – Cockpit, Transport Plane. The plane is a Lockheed Hudson.

Had a fair trip back.  Couldn’t see much as we were flying blind in bush fire smoke for a hundred miles.  Am glad to be back and have already made application for my return trip.  Hurry up that new dress and look your damndest.  Only the two of us together the night I come back.

Am getting tired as I have had to put off writing tonight until the typists gave up the ghost – which they unwillingly did about 10.30pm.  Didn’t sleep to well over on the island.  The nights turned out too cold for only two blanket over me and the sand fly itches gave me de woiks.  Used to wake at 2 or 3am, or even earlier I imagine, & toss for the remainder of the night.  No good.

And so to bed. – Goodnight my darling.  I hope you managed the anniversary pleasantly & tolerably happily.  I haven’t got to mine yet although I’m only about ¾ hour off the 24th August.  Lots of love sweet, save yours all up for my return.

24th August
Page 15

Good morning my bride.  Tis the wedding morn.  Ten years removed.  Got your telegram – Thanks a lot dear.  I hope you got mine on the right day.  I had to get the man mountain1Fellow corresopndent Jimmy Smyth from the Truth and Daily Mirror newspapers who stood 6′ 5″ tall here to send it for me on Monday as I was still away.  They say that it would get there on the auspicious occasion.  I hope so.  Everyone has wished me happy anniversaries.  To give the real domestic flavour to the day I have lit up the copper and am about to do the washing.

Am trying to get air transport to Sydney, but there seems to be some bother, a lot of the air services have been cut down.  So, at the moment I’m still in the air (i.e metaphorically speaking) again.  Give me the works when you dress up for the happy day.

XXX  Bill

Little flowers for anniversary day.  They were a frangipani & a pretty red wild bloom.

Postcript

Years later in a letter (2 September 1972) written to John Olsen congratulating him on being awarded a commission to paint his mural Salute to Five Bells at the Sydney Opera House, Wep recalled his trip to Millingimbi Mission.

“Was intrigued to see your bright shininess cavorting over the Arnhem Land – Fascinating! A lucky well deserved jaunt. What a place. During the war I made a trip (by plane) to Milingimbi – Never forget the swamps and Christ knows what we flew over to get there. The bloody beautiful birds in their millions! Nice, the indications of what you were doing about them. I can still remember the roar of the wings over the lagoons of Humpty Doo.”

Interior – Cockpit, Transport Plane, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 Nov 1943, cover
Sketch study for Interior, Cockpit Hudson Transport Plane
Sketch study for Interior, Cockpit Hudson Transport Plane
At an Aboriginal mission station, Milingimbi Island, 20-23 August, 1943
At an Aboriginal mission station, Milingimbi Island, 20-23 August, 1943
At an Aboriginal mission station, Milingimbi Island, 20-23 August, 1943
Further References

The camp for Army and RAAF personnel stationed on the island.

Story about the Planes that crashed in Milingimbi in WWII – Ganygulpa Dhurrkay and Jimmy Burpur and SImon Gaykamangu telling stories about the bombing of Milingimbi and cleanup of the crashed World War II planes by Milingimbi ALPA CDP workers. Produced by ALPA CDP media student Hazel Wanambi

Calls for northern Australia’s World War II legacy to be better recognised on the national stage

Notes:

  • 1
    Fellow corresopndent Jimmy Smyth from the Truth and Daily Mirror newspapers who stood 6′ 5″ tall
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