War Letters – Borneo: 19 July 1945, Labuan; Morotai to Labuan via transport plane

Write to
W.E. Pidgeon
War Correspondent
Public Relations
1st Aust Corps
Thursday 10.15 am
[19 Jul 1945]


Am bored to tears  – am uncomfortably curled up (one cannot stay reclined) on a pile of mail bags – and am hanging about 8000 ft above an awful lot of ocean about half way between Morotai and Borneo.  We left the island at 7 am this morning and will not land at Brunei until somewhere near (censored) – It’s a helluva long way to fly.  All around is a vast hazy world of blue – the horizon is indistinguishable but you guess it is out where the blues change tone.  Above us long fingers of cloud point their stationery directions while below white balls like anti aircraft shell explosions spot the sea.  It is cold too and I sit dismally wrapped round in a blanket.  There are nine of us sprawled about half of them are either asleep or near it.  I’ve been pushed off to Brunei first because accommodation at Balik Papan is limited – There will be no need for you to worry about me copping anything as I understand that we have gained all objectives and are now content just to hold them.  Could go a cuppa or a feed right now with certain relish. I don’t know why they always like to get you up at 4.30 am to catch planes that never leave (censored) or 7.  It means a lousy nights sleep and a stupid wakening – no tea and no grub till we land.  Is that good or bad?

The cigarette position is grim.  They are rationed and the issue is 2 ozs tobacco and 30 or 40 cigs per week.  I did manage to come by one carton of yank fags but these boys have woken up to their exploitation by the Australians – so they now charge 5 guilders a carton i.e. 16/8 Australian.

Morotai: mobile printing press for publishing the Army newspaper Table Tops
Morotai: mobile printing press for publishing the Army newspaper Table Tops

Mobile printing press at Morotai used for printing "Table Tops", Mobile printing press at Morotai used for printing "Table Tops",

Night before last I had been trying to do a bit of work about the mobile printing press the Army newspaper is produced on.  Unfortunately I decided on my return to the camp at 11 pm to call into the Public Relations tent & was inveighed into a game of poker – at 3.10 am I was only just awake & down 8 or 9  guilders when to my great good fortune an air raid alert was sounded & the lights had to go out.  The game was abandoned & I trotted off to a much needed bed.  The alert was a phony but it helped save poor Will from greater disasters.  Enough of this for the moment – I need to rest.

Arrived safely at Labuan.  Am with Cliff Eager, Alan Dawes, Jimmy Smyth & Noel Adams.  Mail is leaving now will write tonight.

Lots of love to you and bub.


Morotai, The Australian Women's Weekly, 3 Nov 1945, p11
Morotai, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 3 Nov 1945, p11

[Letter included caricatures of fellow correspondents Cliff Eager, Alan Dawes, Jimmy Smyth & Noel Adams.]

4 Borneo and Morotai Letters-214 Borneo and Morotai Letters-22 4 Borneo and Morotai Letters-23 4 Borneo and Morotai Letters-24

Early morning transport plane
Early morning transport plane
Interior of a Douglas C47 transport plane
Interior of a Douglas C47 transport plane
Wep sitting amongst the mail bags on a Douglas C47 transport pla
Wep sitting amongst the mail bags on a Douglas C47 transport plane

War Letters – Borneo: 17 July 1945, Morotai; The trip from Townsville and other socialite gossip

W.E. Pidgeon


Tuesday morning, 15th July 45 [17 Jul 1945]


Dear Jess,

You might be pleased to see that I have got this far without bother.  We landed here about 3 pm yesterday after flying since dawn.  Capt. Mark Miller & I had a few beers before lunch at the Townsville Officer’s Club on Saturday.  It was over these beers that I came to remark that I had met Rod through the instrumentality of Grace Bowers.  Talking along in a generalised way we came to mention Alsatians of which he has two.  I then remarked that during a period of requited love I had also bought a hound to help me & my bruised heart.  Said that I used to take said hound down to Bondi.  He said he remembered the green Chrysler the dog and the attractive girl.  Complement to you my treasure, for he didn’t know then that I later swept you off your feet.

We retired to the bedroom after lunch & he produced a bottle of Scotch & we proceeded to give it a gentle nudge.  Just sufficient for him to be opened up on the divorce case.  Apparently his wife did her block completely over Alexander & had no compunction about leaving her two young boys for his sake.  Miller says that Alexander was considerably cooler in his approach to her.  What I mean is that he had no intentions of anything but a good time.  Miller reckons that the costs were about £9,800 of which he seems to think that he will be let in for his wife’s share – about £4,000.  Miller seems an amiable enough fellow to me.  A big man – & rather like Frank Packer to look at.  Not intellectual but with plenty of intelligence towards the practical side of life.  He began as a private & is now a Capt. Has done 5 years in the army is extremely proud of his kids & was so of his wife.  His importance to us lies in the fact that he controls the British Brewery end of Miller’s interests.  We got along very well.

We left Townsville as you know on Sunday morning & spent the night at Merauke on the southern side of Dutch New Guinea.  As we arrived at dusk & left at dawn I can’t tell you what the place looked like.  Coming over the ranges in New Guinea the pilot had to take the plane to 20000 ft.  Boy was it cold!  Ice was flying off the propellers & in places you could scratch frost off the inside of the plane.  The oxygen apparatus wasn’t working for the interior of the plane.  It is amazing how short of breath you become.  You gasp like a blinking fish out of water.  Your knees sag if you stand.  I thought a 1/4 lb. block of chocolate would provide me with some energy but it only made me sick.  I felt lousy.  Picked up a bit on the way down to Biak where we refueled & took off on the 4 hours flight to this island.  The weather was stinking & we flew at 600 ft through squalls & rain nearly all the way.  There’ll be another hop like that to Tarakan in a day or so.  It is raining here and is pretty cool.  The cold weather has followed me all the way.  This camp is one of the best – or I should say the best I have been in.  Being a headquarters sought of do one might expect this to be so.  Banana palms all in between the tents, good food & 2 bottles of beer a week.  Not many cigarettes which are also rationed.  I wish I had brought my old boots these are taking time breaking in.  My feet feel rather like those of gouty diver.  My elegant apparel is, I am a sure a joy to behold.  As everybody here seems to have clothes of their own there is no occasion to into sharing my pants and my shirt.  Damn the rain too.  It makes much mud to stick to the corny foot!


I’m sick of sitting around so I’ll take a walk – corns, snuffles, out of focus eye, rain and all!  Come what may!  It shall scatter the cobwebs which spread a dusty net across my thoughts.

In the course of my work the very obliging Captain who runs this here part of the doings took me over to the O.M. store where I trade my wretched Vic. Barracks sack cloths for a shirt which fits & a pair of beautiful eau-de-ville pants with herringbone pattern.  They are the same size but look considerably daintier & command much approval from my aesthetic eye.  The general effect is now rather sweet than otherwise.

Soon it will be time for me totter over for the morning cuppa.  Before breakfast the Batman arrives with hot coffee & hot water for the shave.  What’s this for roughing it.

I have taken up the profuse sweating where I left it off in January last.


Well, lots of love to you & that young man.  Will write in all probability again from here before I leave for Balik Papan.




This is supplementary news, or lack of it

Afternoon about 3 pm

Have had lunch out – with Major Cheong who runs the army newspaper and who is the chappie that drove me down from Atherton to Townsville.  The weather at the moment is really wonderful & it finds your old man seated before his tent, basking semi nude in the sun – & sweating merrily whilst a nice cool breeze from the sea just a hundred yards off makes gentle passes at his back.  Bananas to the left, bananas to the right, vines, ferns, paw paws & trees just behind the canvass – this is the real tropic life.  A bird squeaks intermittently and some sort of droning insect keeps forever on a high pitched drone.  What a life!  Have been down on the strip but none of the crowd I met in January remain on the island.  I dare say I shall contact them at Tarakan.  Heard all the latest on “Tige’s ” bag snatching husband.  Appears he was the menace of the north.  Brace and bitted his eyes into every bedroom within sight.  Acquired no end of valuable commodities and generally behaved like a very queer duck.  It seems that it is just as well that we never invited him home.  We may not have had much left by now.  Am waiting on afternoon tea.  I find it is on – farewell me while I eat.  The tea arrives.  This is a blessing as I am getting really too hot out in the sun.  Must have lost a pound at least today.  Am feeling better now than I have done for weeks so cheer up when considering my health.  Lots of love again & will write again soon, very soon.

War Letters – Borneo: 15 July 1945, Townsville; Departing for New Guinea


Sunday, 9.30 am,

[15 Jul 1945]


Very hurried line to let you know that I am off to New Guinea in about 1/4 hour.

Lots of love to you and bub.

Arrived here about 11 am yesterday morning & have been staying at the Officer’s Club – am sharing the room & the trip up with Capt. Mark Miller of divorce fame.  Will write you all the gossip later.


Am running out of both time and ink.




Divorce Suit in 4th Week .

SYDNEY, Monday.-When the divorce suit of a Sydney couple well-known in social circles entered its fourth week before a judge and jury in the Divorce Court to-day, it was estimated that costs had already passed the £2500 mark. Parties to the action are Captain Marcus Matthew Miller,A.I.F., son of a leading coal mine and brewery owner, and his wife, Jean Josephine Miller (nee O’Halloran),daughter of a well-known Sydney solicitor.

Miller is suing for divorce on the grounds of his wife’s adultery with Clifford Alexander, knitting mills proprietor, of Surry Hills, while his wife is cross-petitioning on the grounds of her husband’s adultery with a woman unknown and also his cruelty. Alexander is denying the allegation against him.  

Source: 1945 ‘Divorce Suit in 4th Week.’, Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 5 June, p. 5, viewed 11 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68927076

War Letters – Borneo: 13 July 1945, Brisbane; Killing time waiting for air transport

Friday 7pm


[13 Jul 1945]


I have been put on the plane for Morotai tomorrow at the delightful hour of 4.15 am.  No more sleep than usual I guess – am to be woken at 3.30 am.  So will think I will have an early night.

As I have nowhere to leave my suit – the time at my disposal being so short I have made arrangements with the A.N.A. to take it down to Sydney.  It will, in all probably go on one of tomorrows plane.  Will you pick it up from their office in Martin Place and hang it up at your leisure.  I have paid the freight charges.

Spent a very quiet day – dashed around the barracks this morning and saw the air movements officer who informed me at 5 pm that I was to go tomorrow’s machine.  Staggered up to the Art Gallery this afternoon & gave it the once over.  Came back to the club & had a shut eye for boredom’s sake.  Bought a book on Gardening which you will find in the kit bag where you will find my suit.  I have just discovered I forgot to include my shoes.  So they’ll have to go to the tropics and back.  Had tea alone at a chow café.  Will go to bed shortly. Had a fast trip up from Sydney – took only 2 1/2  hours which is extra good.  Strangely enough it is quite cold in Brisbane at the moment so I’m hanging on to my overcoat.

Lots of love, darling and give my little man a good hug for me.


Will write you from my next overnight port of call.

War Letters – Borneo: 25 June 1945, Sydney; Request for permission to travel

Brigadier J. Rassmussen,

Director General Public Relations,




June 25, 1945

Dear Brigadier Rassmussen,

We are anxious to send our artist, W.E. Pidgeon – (Wep), to Borneo to do a series of paintings and black and white pictures for us.

Wep went to New Guinea for us and produced a number of pictures which we published in our issue of June 10, 1944. In January of this year he went to Morotai under the auspices of the R.A.A.F. and the results of his work appeared in our special R.A.A.F. issue on April 21, 1945.

I should be glad if you would let me know as soon as possible whether we have your permission to send him. I understand he has had all the necessary inoculations.

Yours faithfully,

Kenneth Wilkinson.

Acting Editor.

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