War Letters – New Guinea: 1-2 Feb 1944, Guy’s Post & Shaggy Ridge

Australian Red Cross Society letterhead
W.E. Pidgeon
c/o P.R. Unit
N. G. Force
Moresby
Tues 1 Feb [1945]

Sweetheart,

Am writing from an Advanced Dressing Station i.e. a base where surgeons work closest to the front line.  Fortunately for the troops there is only one wounded casualty here at the moment, and from all information on the state of the war up here there are not likely to be any more.  The Jap is definitely on the way out.

Evacuating Wounded-Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Evacuating Wounded-Ramu Valley, New Guinea

I’m somewhat limp after an afternoon stroll (?) up a mountain 200 ft higher than the spot where I now sit.  All in all that damned ridge is about 4000 ft above sea level.  God knows how the soldiers carried their packs (and the boongs the supplies for them) up these exhausting peaks.  They must have been superhuman – it was all I could do to cart myself up.

The scenery round here is really magnificent.  There’s nothing like it in Australia.  Clouds encircling the mountains half way and passing fogs crown the peaks up to 4000 ft.  The hills are treeless except for dark writhing tangles which follow the eroded creek beds slashing down the sides.  Imagine the hills of Picton much more precipitous, higher & sharp edged on top – so sharp are some that only one man could cross the saddle at one time – as green or greener than those I painted.

After struggling to the top of this bloody mountain I came across some of the lads coming down.  We sat & had a cigarette – they said they were Pioneers.  I asked about Lloyd Martin and blow me down if he didn’t come round the track.  I introduced myself.  He was camped right on the top and all around were the most magnificent views.  We had a cuppa which seemed to help me along.  Then down the hill in practically a straight line & at a 45º angle.  God! Did my legs wobble at the bottom.  Unbelievable that I should really come across anyone in such a casual fashion in such a hell of an area as N. Guinea.  However, it happened.  He said that he had had a letter but two days before from his sister saying that I was on my way.  The family resemblance is unmistakeable.

Tomorrow I am on my way up an even higher mount to a Ridge that has been well in the news.  Heaven help me, even though I shall have a boong to carry my paint box.

15

That’s a picture to delight your heart. “Squire Pidgeon and Boong ascend the Hairy Mount.”  The password for tomorrow is “Excelsior”.  I’m definitely & most positively NOT looking forward to it.  But the show must go on – albeit over my wracked & blistered body.

By the way, I am not the least less on the nose!  The ground is wet with my honest sweat.

I think this hurricane lamp I’m using is about to give up the ghost any tick of the clock!

Will soon retire to my stretcher.  I’m sleeping under native built grass roof in the malarial ward.  I am not a patient.  It is merely that I have been offered the hospitality of the base.  The food here is the best that I have had in N.G.  The cook was a chef at Scott’s of Melbourne so I guess he knows how to put even tinned meat & vegetables together.  And have I had beans?  Am not really eating well – don’t seem to be able to muster up any enthusiasm for the same damned stuff.  Had alleged fresh meat the other day.  Tasted (which word is an euphemism for it) like well worn saddle leather.  I just couldn’t make the grade.

Have been taking my prophylactic daily dose of anti-malaria pills.  In time they dye the old bod a fine shade of tangerine with the exception of the finger nails which appear to become whiter.  Generally, a very smart effect, especially on persons of sallow complexion which acquires a rare old mahogany hue.  I am approaching a very delicate pale primrose on the hands.  Perhaps I’ll give you some real colour on my return.  The boys say it has the same effects on the old doings as quinine.  But what do I care – I aint goin’ no place.

I do hope you are really looking after yourself – eating, drinking moderately & keeping the old clods up on a chair or something, or anything that does for something.

Hope the family are still pottering along alright.

Regards to the Hunter Hillbillys [friends from Hunters Hill – King Watson and other drinking partners].  Even a schooner of Tooheys would cause a riot up here.  N.G. is absolutely dry.  I haven’t had a drink since Townsville.  The boys at Moresby took a dim view of my alcoholless arrival.

Lots of love darling, Bill

P.S. The tea guzzling up here is staggering – every few minutes someone is making tea – if you’re not in the camp drinking the fairly lousy stuff you’re drinking it at a Salvation Army or YMCA inn along the road somewhere.

More love XXX

 

Wed.  Feb 2 6.30 pm.

Knee operation at a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guine
Knee operation at an Advanced Dressing Station at Guy’s Post in the upper Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Knee operation at a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guine
Knee operation at an Advanced Dressing Station at Guy’s Post in the upper Ramu Valley, New Guinea

Jaysus! Do I feel sick!  Have just done a very rough and very wobbly sketch of a fellow having his knee opened up by two field surgeons.  Do they cut ‘em up!  I’ve seen all the operations I want to for many a day.  It was touch and go whether I would make a ninny of myself by throwing up on the spot!  The day was saved by my extra rapid scrawl and an attempted wise look indicating the completion of my sketch.  Phew!  I bet I dream about it.

All that on top of tea which made me belch like hell & a slight sickness of exhaustion.  I’ve been up and own the blasted mountains today my love.  Started at 8.30 am & didn’t return to the camp till nearly 5 pm.  Felt completely buggered and far from home.  My knees are like jelly – my heels are sore from the thumping I gave them on the way down the mount.  Banged all the nails through into my anything but calloused heels (incidentally it’s dammed cold at the moment – and raining too –a perfect setting for a first class whinge).

Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea
Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea
Ascending the Pimple; reproduced The Australian Women's Weekly,
Ascending the Pimple; reproduced The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 June 1944, p40.

Well I have at least seen Shaggy Ridge and what a hell of a place it is. Heaven only knows how the boys took it over from the Jap.  On either side of a track only wide enough for one.  The earth face walls near sheer nearly 200 or 300 ft & the top of it was riddled with fox holes.  It is all beyond me I’ll have to get hold of one of the crowd that did  it to tell me all about it.

Don’t think I’ll write anything more tonight darling.  Am feeling too depressingly tired.  Keep a couple of gals for picking me up at Martin Place.  I aim to be home this month via Flying Boat.

Hope you are OK.

I might get a letter in a few days – hope so.
Lots of love –from
Plugga Pidge
the boy wit de wobbly knees.

13

I really think my mountaineering days are over.

Moderation is the keyword for today.

love XX

Bill

[Study for Evacuating wounded-Ramu Valley]
[Study for Evacuating wounded-Ramu Valley]
Study for Ascending the Pimple
Study for Ascending the Pimple
Squire Wep and faithful 'boongs' ascend Shaggy Ridge; reproduced
Squire Wep and faithful ‘boongs’ ascend Shaggy Ridge; reproduced The Australian Women’s Weekly, 18 March 1944, p9.
On Shaggy Ridge
On Shaggy Ridge, reproduced: The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 Jun 1944, p40
Advanced Dressing Station, Guy's Post, New Guinea
Advanced Dressing Station, Guy’s Post, New Guinea
The Pimple and Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea
PASSED BY OPERATIONAL CENSOR SWPA
PHOTO NO. MNG. 456.
The razorback of the Pimple with Australian troops digging in. In the background is Shaggy Ridge from which the attack was made. This mountain spur which rises to a level of 5,600 ft. dominates the Ramu Valley.
PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION.
Admissions, Field Hopsital, Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Admissions at an Advanced Dressing Station at Guy’s Post in the upper Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Knee operation at a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guine
Knee operation at an Advanced Dressing Station at Guy’s Post in the upper Ramu Valley, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
Jeep trailer
Jeep trailer
Possibly a Grant M3 tank
Possibly a Grant M3 tank
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea
On Patrol near Ramu, New Guinea

24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm Kankiryo and Mount Prothero 21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm 24 x 18 cm

War Letters – Morotai: 1 Feb 1945, Noemfoor; not a plane in sight

Noemfoor
Thursday
[1 Feb 1945]

Dear Jesso,

It looks as if I have been talking in a delirium.  It is understandable that I thought I was home – God knows I ought to have been.  Any bloody way I’m still waiting for a sanguinary plane and none is in sight. Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?

All my little fums are to be so much air and fantasy, my little desires to be monuments of futility, and any welcomes to be jeering nothings.

I’ve given up predicting my arrival – it rests in the lap of the Lodestars.

What’s the point of my writing about nothing but sitting down near the strip waiting for a kite?

I hope I’ll be seeing my family one of these days.  Teach little Graham to speak nicely and to think well of his old pa overseas.  Be faithful dear, we shall soon start life anew.

Your old old husband, Remember?

Lotsa X’s

Bill

AWW 1945 Apr-21 P20 UPR CTR
The Australian Women’s Weekly, 21 Apr 1945, p20

That was Bill’s last letter. It is estimated he made it home by Sunday, 4 February 1945

War Letters – New Guinea: 31 Jan 1944, Moved out to the upper Ramu Valley

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O Public Relations
N. G. Forces
Moresby
Mon 31st [Jan 1944]

Darling,

Am settled down in a permanent base at last.  Although I shall probably be in the mountains north of here most of the time I can at least have any letters you have written forwarded to me this area.

Yesterday I hitch-hiked out of Finschhafen, managing a jeep ride through prodigious jungle to an airstrip.  After coming out of the really dense but only moderately high jungle around the areas in which  I was these enormous tree were singularly impressive.  Some seemed at least 200 ft high the trunks barely discernible beneath the profusion of  parasitic vines orchids lichens and stag horns. The trunks thrusting like spears towards the light above – not much foliage in the dank darkness beneath the high green canopy.  It’s a damn sight more satisfactory to see the country by road than it is either by air or sea.  The details, the small and the undergrowth noise of birds and insects provide an intimacy quite lacking in those other forms of transport.

Lae looked no better to me on a second visit.  Everything seems dry and blasted as well it might be after the pounding it received.  Flying up the Ramu valley is everything Tommy [O’Dea] said it was – a hell of a lot more into the bargain.  Now that was a trip to be seen from a plane.  The most beautiful placer I’ve ever seen.  The brilliant green kumai grass along the flats edging the Ramu River makes its way up the treeless & knife edged foot hills to the bases of two colossal mountain ranges which enclosed the valley.  The clouds wind the depressions between peaks & plume off the highest points in great dramatic forms.  The unbelievable blues & greens below edge off into the sombre silhouettes of mountains like Mt Helwig which is 10,000 ft.  The fading light throughs the clouds into the starkness of black & white.  Small grey thatched native villages appear at irregular intervals and I leapt from window to window of the plane with the alacrity of a flea.

There were only 3 passengers in the plane (a big Douglas transport job loaded to the plimsoll with tins of dehydrated potatoes, soup, ration tins & what have you).    It seemed a long time getting off the ground – the tail did not appear to lift any too well.  My stomach anxiously awaited the disappearance of the strip beneath.  Next thing I know is that my guts are trying to get on the other side of my backbone – we had gone into a steep climb.  Next we are over the grassy foothills so low that the bloody stuff seemed to be whizzing past the windows.  Cripes I’ll bet the pilot cleared the ridges by only 4 feet.  Then the grass on the plains would appear suspiciously close.  I would think we were losing height because of the weight of cargo – then up and back the guts would go again.  If it hadn’t been for the scenery the trip would have been an anxious misery.

Found on landing that we had been brought up by a Yank known as the Mad Major.  He tosses these Douglas’s round like fighters.  He has been seen doing loops and slow rolls with them.  Too much bloody exuberance.  Strangely enough he was no chicken although a big wildly laughing guy.  I am told he was grounded for recklessness whilst with a Lightning fighter squadron. Ah me!

If you see Mrs Farrow or Farrar, the dame down the road, you can tell her that I have nearly met her brother.  I found the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion but he wasn’t in the particular company I came across.  I may meet him tomorrow.  This beautiful country belies its looks – it’s lousy with all the worst tropical plagues, itches – and worse things.

This is by far the best camp I have stayed in.   Good food – fairly cool – plenty of birds decent tents & native built huts – and amicable company.  The press advance headquarters are here and 2 P.R. officers to look after us.  4 or 5 correspondents are here at the moment.  So its just like living in the Journalists’ Club except that there is no tasty ale.

While I think of it, will you ring Syd King, police roundsman at the office & ask him how much my betting debt is.  Then post him a check.  Thankyou, my pet.

Nothing else at the moment.  Have not been able to get a letter from you yet but hope to receive some from Moresby when I come out of them there hills.  I have two days march in front of me after leaving the jeep track head.  Boy will I be weak.  May have a boong carrier to help me along.

Hope you are looking after yourself. Lots of love darling.

Bill

18

Native huts near a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Native huts near a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Native huts near a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Native huts near a field hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea

War Letters – Morotai: 31 Jan 1945, Noemfoor; Am languishing for want of transport

AMERICAN RED CROSS letterhead

Noemfoor
Wednesday 31st Jan ’44
[31 Jan 1945]

[Note at top]

It’s worth it for a guilder

Dear Mrs Pidgeon,

Am languishing for want of transport and you. (and Bub of course!) My! But doesn’t he look well – the cleber lill debil.  Doesn’t look as if you have been fattening yourself up for me – anyway you’re still just as nice as you are. How nice will that be today – my little poppet?

Camp at Noemfoor
Camp at Noemfoor

This is a stinking hot island situated about 50 miles from the equator & although the breeze flowing in from the sea licks the body with a cool tongue it cannot altogether dispel the sweat.  It rolls with steady calculation down the chest.  I’ve got any amount of the stuff for the Weekly so I’m very conscious of the time wasted in getting home.

Anyhow now that I’m right here in the house how’s about it and a cuppa tea?  Are you pleased to see me home?  Lots of love darling give me bub for a while.

Willie

War Letters – Morotai: 29 Jan 1945, Morotai; to Daeo Village by Army Duck

AMERICAN RED CROSS letterhead

Morotai
Monday
[29 Jan 1945]

Darling,

I should be home by the end of the week.  I hope that pleases both you and young Graham.  Unfortunately I will not receive any letters from you now as I’m leaving this island in the morning and shall be staying a few days on another closer to home.  I would like to have known if the dear little chap has noticed my absence although it seems silly to think that he should – at his age at least.  I dare say that even 3 weeks will have caused a marked change in his size & behaviour – to my keen fresh eye.

I don’t know where the boys have gone so I’ll use Eddie’s machine for a while.  Went over one of the navy ships today and didn’t get back until after tea was over.  It was an eye-opener of a trip but I can’t say much about it in this letter.

Army Duck
Army Duck

Army Duck Army Duck Army Duck

Yesterday went up the coast in a “duck” (one of those amphibious motor vehicles you may have seen in the streets at times).  It is all so damn silly to be driving straight from a road in to the sea.  The authorities gave us permission to visit Daoe [Daeo, Daejo or Doewo]  village which is just outside the perimeter which is held by the yanks.  There are about 2300 natives in the little area.  Some are refugees from the Celebes and Borneo.

Native village, Morotai
Possibly Daeo Village, Morotai
21 x 11 cm
At Daeo Village
3 New Guinea and Morotai - 3 Morotai-91
Possibly Daeo Village, Morotai
3 New Guinea and Morotai - 3 Morotai-92
Possibly Daeo Village, Morotai
3 New Guinea and Morotai - 3 Morotai-94
Possibly Daeo Village, Morotai
Correspondents visit the local villagers at Morotai
Possibly Daeo Village, Morotai
3 New Guinea and Morotai - 3 Morotai-95
Possibly Daeo Village, Morotai
3 New Guinea and Morotai - 3 Morotai-96
Possibly Daeo Village, Morotai

I’ve never seen so many blooming children in one spot before – must have been about 4 to every adult.  The natives here are much more civilised than those of New Guinea.  Under Dutch control they are well looked after.  Schooling is compulsory and they are taught to speak and write Malay.  The village also sports a hospital, which is under the guidance of a Javanese doctor who graduated in a medical school in Java.  A pretty good job considering the wildness of the country.  The people are rather good looking some of the little girls particularly so.  The babies are cute but dirty and all of them are covered in yaws whatever they may be…they look pretty horrid anyway.

The boys seem to think me a bit nuts posting you a letter which will in all probability arrive home after me.  However you like letters and I’m a very obliging gentleman.

I hope you are just as obliging my pet.  Looks like me getting home on Saturday.  So beware! Beware!  Lotsa luv, luv.

Hope mum’s alright.

Bill.

 

Visiting correspondents
War Correspondents, Jack Hickson on left and Eddie Dunstan 2nd from right being shown around by two RAAF service personnel, Morotai
A RAAF aircrew member draws a crowd with his large box of Life S
A RAAF aircrew member draws a crowd with his large box of Life Savers
A RAAF aircrew member draws a crowd with his large box of Life S
A RAAF aircrew member draws a crowd with his large box of Life Savers
Visiting correspondents
War Correspondents, Jack Hickson 3rd from left and Eddie Dunstan on the far right being shown around by two RAAF service personnel, Morotai
Visiting correspondents
War Correspondents, Jack Hickson 3rd from right and Eddie Dunstan in front (hidden) being shown around by locals accompanied by Army PR staff, Morotai
Visiting correspondents
Warr Correspondent Jack Hickson in centre possibly checking his camera during a tour of facilities on Morotai
C of E Chapel of St Michael and All Angels
LAC Alan John Porter, 134350 of Group 382, RAAF Pacific standing in front of St Michael and All Angels Church of England
Chapel of St Michael and All Angels
Chapel of St Michael and All Angels
21 x 11 cm
Chapel of St Michael and All Angels

AWW 1945-04-21 P9 Official Dedication IMG_5160 - Copy
The Australian Women’s Weekly, 21 Apr 1945, p8-9

War Letters – New Guinea: 29 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Field hospital

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O PR Unit
N. G. Force
Moresby
Sat 29th [Jan 1944]

Dear Jesso,

Have just returned to our Canvas Palace after an arty evening under the stars, vines, clouds and fire flies listening to highbrow music as dispensed by some amiable sergeant for the benefit of the boys.  It was very pleasant – cool too, for a change.  We’re not asleep I bent my wandering brain to appreciation of the note.

12

We returned with the help of fireflies to where Hodgkinson promptly lies down “dreaming my love of thee,” The bastard’s bats!

Am moving out tomorrow on my way to the upper end of Ramu Valley.  Should be able to get the best of possible stuff up there.  Seems a year since I left home – all recollections of the lawn mowing week are vague and almost remote. I’ve packed so much into my popping eyes in the last fortnight.  Roy will be staying on down here completing his magnus opus.  I shall probably meet [William (Bill)] Dargie up there.  Which reminds me I saw a par. in “Guinea Gold” (the soldiers’ paper) that there has been a wonderful stink about the Archibald Prize award.  Nothing like a lively bout between artists. [The 1944 prize was awarded to William Dobell with a portrait of Joshua Smith which was being challenged in court as not a portrait but a caricature. The award to Dobell was eventually upheld.]

Dental examination at a filed hospital in the Ramu Valley, New G
Dental examination at a Field Hospital near Scarlett Beach in the Finschhafen area, New Guinea

Went over to a field hospital today but didn’t get much out of it – most of those places are all the same.  Managed to make a note of the dental corner.  A picture of a soldier getting his teeth drilled may strike a sympathetic chord in the Weekly’s readers.  Undoubtedly the most momentous occasion of the day was the decent shower I had up there.  It was the first time I have had a proper wash since arriving in this area – Boy!  Was it good. – For ½ hour anyway.  After that I was as sweaty as ever.

I may be able to settle down to a better letter when I have this Tower of Babble.  In the other areas I shall probably be alone.

Will write you in a couple of days – all my love darling.

Not too much hops, mark you and feet up.  Regards to all More love from Willie

(written on side)

Enclosed petals look like hibiscus but are off a tree nothing like.  It was apricot colour when I picked it.  There’s a brilliant blue butterfly floating round dis ‘ere camp.

War Letters – New Guinea: 28 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Scarlett Beach, on the nose

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O P.R. Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
28th Frid
[28 Jan 1944]

Darling,

We have another lamp – scrounged from the same poor simple soul from whom we borrowed the remains of last night’s signal lamp.

Roy sits opposite writing his new sweetie (brunette & beautiful and with husband in internment camp) and punctuating the oppressing stillness of the night with requests regarding the correctitude of his spelling.  The old garrulity with less physical actions.  He writes like he talks – it pours out of him, pages flash past on the blink of an eye.

I haven’t had a clean shirt on since I hit Finschafen.  The one I wear at present has the odour & appearance of a tarpaulin from one of Gearin O’Riordan’s trucks.  The other is still wet from its rinsing in a creek down by the beach.  Although I am as pleasant a little nosegay as one would find in many a week.  A European Gorgonzola would walk away from me with a peg on its snout.

19

Now that the lamp is here I find myself regretting not having brought that New Testament with me as with its kindly simplicity I could have killed a few hours before sealing myself up in the meat safe up yonder bank.

You have guessed, I hope my uninspiring letters are due to the overwhelming enervation of the tropics plus the lack of comfort in the tent.  I’m sitting on an oil drum with grinds of flesh off my behind, my eyes are full of coral dust – I’m due to start turning yellow from surfeit of Atabrin tablets (to suppress malarial infection) from neglect of taking salt tablets which they say are necessary to counteract the excessive loss of bodily salt in sweat, and God knows what else. The half if me that is alive is tolerably happy.

I don’t know particularly what to draw as under the present conditions camp life is practically synonymous with that in the N.T. Make it all green & the jobs done.

Went about 8 miles down the Road this afternoon – hitch hiked in half a dozen different trucks.  May just have well flown as I was in the air at least half the time.

4

I forgot to give you a rough idea of what I look like in jungle green & American garters.  Of course the Japs just flee squealing for the son of Heaven at such an apparition.

5

Scarlet Beach

In front of me is a picture reconstruction of a beach landing for official War Artist Cpt R C Hodgkinson Military History Section.

6

The light is going out for want of kerosene.  Bugger me – this is the sort of thing that slays one!  I can just see you now.  Everything is going black – it’s quite black now.

Later – we have managed to get some more kerosene, whacko the diddle-o!  I’m not smelling any better – even the skunks are moving out.  I don’t’ mind that so much but I seem to be bringing in the flies.  Soon I shall thwart them in my little meat safe.

7

Am putting off going to the blarsted hammock.  12 hours of posing in various uncomfortable postures is much too much of a good thing even for a body like mine – “booful hunk of a man! These are the basic positions.

8

War Letters – Morotai: 27-28 Jan 1945, Morotai; enjoying a cuppa

Please make an appointment for me for Donkin in one month

Morotai
Sat night 27 Jan [1945]
10 p.m.

Darling –

Have just returned from a picture show down the road – it is a wonderful night full of moonlight  (and) mild breezes, long slender trees screen the moon as searchlights: fingering the sky while invisible birds pipe a flute like obligato to movies on the screen.

That was the set up an hour ago – but since we returned at 9.30 and had a cuppa in the mess it has started raining.  Weather is odd & unpredictable and Eddie Dunstan has started playing his mechanical letter writing machine.  That cuppa I spoke of was the first we have had on the island.  It is as scarce as a hot cocky’s -.  All food supplies seem to be released by the US forces, consequently the choice has been between coffee, cocoa and water.  Seems that a liberty ship brought some stores in today.  Hence a great chuffing of choofers* as the gentlemen of the camp settle down to the reviving brew.

*Choofer – a device, cribbed from the Americans, consisting of a tank containing high grade petrol which is held into a pipe line which terminates in a coil.  Like a vrooming primus – see!

AWW 1945 Apr-21 P20 CTR
The Australian Women’s Weekly, 21 Apr 1945, p20

Wep self caricature

I’d like to see you and bub, darling.  Seems ages since that Tuesday less than a fortnight ago.  I shall certainly be back before the month is out.  I ask you – will that be good or bad?  How is the little sprog? (generic name for children in these parts.)  Have been looking forward to a letter from you these last couple of days although as you do, can work it out I should not get one until tomorrow even had you answered mine straightaway.  I hope one turns up for it would be nice to make some contact with you.  You’d like it up here for a couple of weeks.  Climate would be right in your barrow although a bit sweaty for the little man.

The lights are due to go out in a second – so goodnight my love.

Sunday 8.30am [28 Jan 1945].  Have just had breakfast – was cooked by 2 terrific explosions – Eddie & I went down to the strip & saw the remains of a big bomber which went up whilst taking off.  A pretty awesome site.  Will write you again tonight – mail is being collected now – Love from Bill.

20
Wep (Bill Pidgeon) wheeling fellow correspondents Eddie Dunstan on left and Jack Hickson on right
21
Fellow War Correspondents, Eddie Dunstan and Jack Hickson in a constant state of hunger follow Wep (Bill Pidgeon)

 

Ground crew at Morotai airfield take a refreshment break courtes
Ground crew at Morotai airfield take a refreshment break courtesy of the American Red Cross
21 x 11 cm
Morotai airfield
Ground staff, Morotai airfield with a Bristol Beaufighter
Ground staff, Morotai airfield with a Bristol Beaufighter
Ground staff, Morotai airfield
Ground staff, Morotai airfield
Ground Staff, Morotai
Ground Staff, Morotai; The Australian Women’s Weekly, 21 Apr 1945, p9
24 x 18 cm
Truck, Morotai Airfield
24 x 18 cm
Morotai airfield
Beaughfighter LY-C, A19-191, of RAAF 30 Squadron at Morotai airf
Beaughfighter LY-C, A19-191, of RAAF 30 Squadron at Morotai airfield

24 x 18 cm

War Letters – New Guinea: 27 Jan 1944, Scarlett Beach; – Casualty Clearing Station

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O P.R. Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
Thurs 27th Jan [1945]

Darling,

Am writing by a 1 candle power lamp which as the mood suits the letter may be changed to cast either red, green or white light.  Green is the color called for but unfortunately its illuminative qualities are quite on the blink.

Red is not helpful.

Roy H is under his mosquito net growling about things in general and about the job he is on in particular.  He has to reconstruct a beach landing made here a couple of months ago.  Not the best of jobs in the world with the extremely limited facilities available.  He has just yelled out his regards to you.  Alice comes in for a lit of cracks – appears she had all sorts of affairs.  Roy laughs a lot about it all.  Says she is stinking to the girl he now takes out.

Today is about the first time I have felt human since I arrived.  Possibly because I have done a bit of modest work and am settled down for a few days.  Am going round to the Casualty Clearing Station to see if there is anything of interest for the Weekly.  Should be because the nurses there are closer to the front lines than any others.  Did I tell you I travelled from Moresby in the plane with them?  Fifteen there were, and no beauties amongst them.  After that off to the Ramu Valley.

Filed Hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Possibly a Casualty Clearing Station near Scarlett Beach in the Finshhafen area, New Guinea
21 x 11 cm
Possibly a Casualty Clearing Station near Scarlett Beach in the Finshhafen area, New Guinea

We had a swim this afternoon – it was delightful.  Crystal water – cool, refreshing.  Bombers going Japwards overhead.  Lots of lads in the water & on the beach. We’re getting pretty sick of the sight of bare bums & privates.

Friday morning [28 Jan 1944]

Disaster overtook this letter last night.  Roy had borrowed this lamp I spoke of above from the Signallers – they implored him to look after it.  At the above stage of my letter the bloody thing caught fire & I couldn’t for the life of me blow it out.  All my puffing & blowing served to feed the flames turning the whole gazaboo into the finest of blow lamps.  The solder melted reflector and handle fell off – flaming kerosene spilled on Roy’s drawing board – he was in a panic for his work – I was busy shovelling sand (rather mud) over the blaze.

The lamps was a sorry sight.  We laughed ourselves sick.  Must have done me good for I slept till 6am.

Lots of love darling – Taking it easy?

Bill.

War Letters – New Guinea: 26 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Scarlett Beach, snug as a bug

W.E. Pidgeon
C/o P R Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
Wed 25th 26th or 27th
[26 Jan 1944]

Darling,

How would you be feeling this morning?  Taking it easy on the verandah?  Keeping the mosquitoes off?  I am managing that quite well now that I have commandeered a decent American hammock from the P. Relations.

Hammock with built in mosquito net and rain roof
Hammock with built in mosquito net and rain roof

A legitimate transaction I hasten to add it’s a very flash doover – a hammock with waterproof roof and walls of mosquito net joined together with zippers.  In I hops & does myself up like a ruddy meat safe while the anoppeles wave frustrated stingers without.

24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm

Am in another camp again.  Have pitched tent with Roy Hodgkinson & another fellow.  I’m praising the place when I say it’s a pretty dreary joint.  I’m told it is typical of a forward site.  No lights, so these letters are written hastily after tea.  I haven’t done a drawing in your letters yet because I’ve been too b- sour.  Last night I slept or rather attempted to, on a bed of coral covered with a ground sheet and a blanket.

US Post Office APO322, Finschhafen, New Guinea
US Post Office APO322, Finschhafen, New Guinea
A Matilda tank near Finschhafen, New Guinea
A Matilda tank near Finschhafen, New Guinea

Trucks coming & going all night & 3 air raid alerts.  I suppose I managed a couple of hours shuteye before my hip bone wore through the skin like a hole in the heel of a sock. That’s 2 nights out of 4 I have been awake since I arrived on the northern coast of N. Guinea.  Haven’t done much work so far for the simple reason I have not been able to settle down. On two occasions the camps have shifted their sites the day after I arrived.  The humidity is terrific.  I wish they’d have this show on down near the pole or someplace like.  My brain’s like a soggy lump of porridge.

After about 4 or 5 days here I’ll move off to the Ramu Valley, spend maybe a week or more & start back for the Mainland where I shall have to go on to the tablelands for a week.  Then back – I hope.  The rush has got me something rattled.  However I have about 5 pictures lined up already – should have any amount by the time I get through.

Thurs Morning [27 Jan 1944] – Not much sleep again last night – seem to be taking your complaint over.  First rain last night.  Came down in sheets.  My sweet little hammock kept it off.

Hope you are eating well.

How did that brew turn out?

My regards to junior.

Lots of love

Bill