War Letters – NW Australia: 31 Jul 1943; Under dive bombing attack by a Mosquito squadron

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO DARWIN
Sat. night
[31 Jul 1943]

 

Darling,

You’re an awful nice kid to write me long letters.  I likes ‘em fine and appreciate in a big way your doing so well what with the quiet life you seem to be living.  Keep it up honey – it’s a great help to hear about the poor old civilians back home.  It’s great for the morale of our intrepid war correspondent.  That’s the kind of battling (with bores & loud speakers) which really shakes the soul.  To see you standing up to it gives me fresh heart and a sterner eye.  I think you are a darling.  Looks as though this short separation helps somehow.  Makes us think more about each other & how to be nicer in both large and tiny ways.  Wish you were here for me to give a big hug & kiss. (platonic like?)

The mosquito craft are zooming about in token formations, manoeuvring into position.  I’ve already received a few direct hits but retaliating have got 4 destroyed, 6 probable, and 32 near misses.  There is no thought of my evacuating – I shall carry on in glory, in honor, and in love.  It must in all fairness be reported that had the enemy be backed by squadrons of sand flies retreat would have been both rapid and inevitable.  I have never seen a sandfly.  They must have some sort of radio direction finding equipment especially tuned to my wave length.  They never miss.  The inverted craters scaring my beyootiful body bear ample witness to the efficiency of their aiming.  I am not in the hunt.

A constant drone of war reminiscences slithers round the corner of the mess but, thank God, no tap-tapping blasts the sub-tropic heaviness of the night.  In fact it appears highly probable that there will be no rude & hearty interruptions to my pleasant solitude.  It’s a hell of a problem to be alone in any sort of comfort.  And I could do with a spot of nice cold weather – Cripes – think of all that snow going to waste!

2 more of the enemy crashed screaming to their doom.  6 more near misses.  Am becoming quite an ace – what?

Have just applied methylated spirits to my sand fly bites.

Have also practically recovered from the correspondents’ occupational disease – motor car arse and/or crumpled coccyx.

George Finey wrote me too, the old villain, a very nice note telling me not to bust the poor old boiler.  Tomorrow I’ll settle down to a field day of letter writing.  Whilst you are shivering (and maybe drinking sherry) or even eating, ½ an hour’s mean time before me, I’ll be lolling near naked in the sunshine sopping up all sorts of light rays and vitamins.  Occasionally I shall put pen to paper.

Have been to a lousy picture tonight.  One could hope to escape the uncivilizing influence of Wallace Beery at this local show – but no.

Shall put up one more ack-ack barrage before I turn in.

24

Anopheles, where art thou?

 

Time Sunday morning

Scene In the backyard young old Wep is discovered lounging in lounge – He is bare to the waist & under bright sunshine is simmering nicely giving forth sweet fleshy odors more fragrant than myrrh and sandalwood.  Centre background is wire meshed kitchen. In right back is seen dimly as through a black blanc-mange a man and a bike.  This man is a solid straight forward type not the sort who would make lewd use of a bike.  In the foreground a grease trap & a pool covered with sludgy fat.  2 Dogs, Mim and D’ouevre sniff at pool and posteriors.  As the curtain rises wep is again discovered writing to his beloved wife – anon and anon he brushes fat green ants off his bronzed gladiatorial form.  A young lad, a press correspondents’ driver, enters scratching his poll.

WEP:                  G’day!

DRIVER:           G’day!

WEP:                  Have a good day yesterday?

DRIVER:           Upta f—ing putty!  The f—ing f—ers f—– round all f—ing day & f—-ing night.  And wadda the f—ing f—ers f—ing well get.  F— all!

(Driver exits back centre, scratching crutch & slavering at cook house).

(CURTAIN)

War Letters – NW Australia: 31 Jul 1943, Down the road; Formal mess at the field hospital

W.E.Pidgeon
C/O DPR
APO Darwin
Sat. morning
[31 Jul 1943]

 

Darling,

I wish you were here to smother me.  I’m not so damn hot this, for others, gay & cheerful morning.  Some wild men from the hospital fixed me up last night.  My dearest wish is that they suffer with me.

After being about the hospital grounds for three days I was invited to attend their formal mess.  On these occasions there is supposed to be a little ceremony attached to the business of eating.  In this case it was pretty free the only formality being the smart (but not from me) standing to attention & drinking the King’s health.  The port was passed – somehow or other – due either to the shortage of decanters or the shape of the table – the grog was passed the wrong way round.  Previous to going over the beer ration arrived & rather than pass it by I downed the bottle with great expediency (you wouldn’t know him).  Vic Bitter it were & booful cold.  Had a coupla gins before dinner, then the port & back to gin after the meal.  Managed to do myself up fairly nicely with 3 majors.  I repeat, I am not so hot.  Hangovers in hot weather are not recommended.

Am going back to the home town today.  It will be a hellova treat to get some clean clothes & a spot of spine-bashing.  (Why lying down on bed is called spine-bashing is beyond me.) Darling, I love you.  Our old friends from Admiralty House are due up here any tick of the clock.  I will not be calling on them.  May leave my card though.  I don’t seem to be getting through the work very rapidly.  Hope to start on the air force next week.  Miss you a lot.  Am working diligently when hangovers are not on deck.  It is bloody hot work standing at an easel during the day.  I should imagine I have lost quite a bit of weight what with the sweating & lousy sleeping.

Big wedding on at Darwin this afternoon.  One of the doctors going off with a sister.

Am looking forward to your letters.  Quite an event to return to Correspondents’ mess & receive my mail.  Forgive me, dear, not writing more at the moment.  I really am very faint.  The old blood pressure wouldn’t squash a fly. – Plenty of love to you darling from little Willie.

Love to Mum & Dad.  Hope they got my telegram on the right day.

War Letters – NW Australia: 29 Jul 1943; Down the road at a Field Hospital

C/O DPR Unit
A.P.O. Darwin
Thursday 7am
[29 Jul 1943]

 

Dear,

Too tired to write you last night as I’d had a strenuous day.  Started about 8.30am at the Field hospital – launched off 3 paintings.  The sun was blazing.  Sweat just rolled off me.  Knocked off about 5.  A heavy day.  Am getting quite used to over the shoulder lookers-on.  Shall be able to paint with even the Pearl, Carey, Lahm gang anywhere.

One of the Sisters came over & said “You’re not Wep are you?”  Said she thought she recognised my face.  Met me at Romanos.  Remember the night Arthur Mailey introduced us to a table full of Captains etc & nurses back from the Middle east.  He & I were drawing.

Sorry this letter is so short.  Breakfast is now ready & I’m off in a car at 8.15 back to the Hospital.

Lots & lots of love.

Bill.

Hospital Tent
Hospital Tent
Field Hospital. Northern Australia
Field Hospital. Northern Australia
AWW 1944 Jan-15 Army Hospital In North, The Australian Women's Weekly, 15 Jan 1944, p12
The Australian Women’s Weekly, 15 Jan 1944, p12
AWW 1944 Jan-15 Army Hospital in NT
The Australian Women’s Weekly, 15 Jan 1944, p12
Field Hospital
Field Hospital
Field Hospital
Field Hospital
24 x 18 cm
Field Hospital
Field Hospital
Field Hospital Tents
Hospital Tent, Field Hospital
Hospital Tent, Field Hospital
Field Hospital
Field Hospital

War Letters – NW Australia: 28 Jul 1943, down the road; pushing off to another camp

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin
Wednesday morning
[28 Jul 1943]

 

Sweetheart,

Another hurried note to catch the mail as I am pushing off again down the road.  I won’t be able to catch a mail further on.  Nothing whatever has happened since I wrote you midday yesterday.  Enjoyed “Sun Valley Serenade” once more – The skiing was extra good.  Got a real kick out of it.  Fancy that wonderful season down south going to waste.

I’ll be pleased to be home again soon – I don’t know – I like it up here but get sick of the lack of privacy & I miss you.  Be a bit of alright if we had a house up here together.  Have managed to get enough stuff together to keep me going for some time when I return so that even if I go to New Guinea we’ll be together for a few months.  After 10 years you certainly get settled down into a routine existence.  After the war we’ll have to get away more together.  Make our own pleasures without the help or otherwise of others.

Fighter pilots are putting on a do this week celebrating some anniversary.  Your art husband has been invited – I suppose he will feel a little poorly on the morning after.

I like to get away from the correspondents’ mess – there’s too much blasted proximity all the time.  But miss your letters like hell.  I won’t get one now until Monday next when I plan to return.

Have nothing more to add at the moment darling – will write again tonight.  This is just so’s you’ll get something to remember me by you little beaut.

War Letters – NW Australia: 27 Jul 1943, down south; Visited a transit camp and a field hospital

C/O DPR Unit
Army Post Office
Darwin
Tuesday night
(I haven’t the foggiest idea of the date)
[27 Jul 1943]

 

Darling,

Didn’t have time to write you yesterday.  Arrived down south fairly late, about 3.30pm tired & dirty.  Showered & rested.  Fed – then off to pictures (what again!) where “Mrs Miniver” was showing.  It exhibited all the usual American glamorisation of sentiment & emotion.  Just a show.  By making this trip I have missed “In which we Serve” so if you haven’t seen it by this hold your horses until I return.

Probably I find myself as lonely as you do, although I can manage to submerge myself to a great extent in work.  The nights all seem somehow short and useless.  There is practically no ground of common contact with the people I meet.  This is no doubt to be expected _ Army people talk shop as much as others do.

You’d love to be here with me in the tent I am at present occupying. – A bloody bobby dazzler.  Usually its function is to accommodate high officials & big wigs.  Because the earth round about gets mighty soggy during the wet season the floor is built some 2 ft above the ground.  To have a real wooden floor (even though made of packing cases) is dinkum Point Piper up here.  Edging the floor & meeting the tent sides is a ducky wooden fence.  Alongside the entrance steps one may tread lightly down to the sun deck furnished with deck chair.  Tent flaps are open wide & sensuously warm breezes wiggle over the old bod.  There’s room for twin beds how’s about?  Just the cool summer night touch.  All just too too.

31

I had my best sleep since being up here.  The bed is good and I have been honoured with 2 SHEETS.  Christ, this is an grim & arduous front line.  Pay up for a couple of Hail Marys and pater nosters for me, my sweet.  I’m battling through on fresh eggs, Gorgonzola, Scotch Whiskey and Van der Hum (imported).  Keeping a stiff upper lip, that’s me.  The only ointment on the fly is the dust, that’s lovely, just like wading through a foot of talcum powder.

Have walked about 6 miles today.  In the morning down to a transit camp alongside a river in which one of the troops caught, while I was there, a swordfish of all things – about 2’6” long.  Spent the afternoon at a field hospital – i.e. one in which the patients are under canvas.

All very picturesque, the large and calming masses of white & salmon tinted tents slashed and emphasised by the waving greens of paw paws & bananas.  A good spot to paint – but time is too limited.  From the newspaper point of view I should restrict myself more to close-ups of patients & to merely suggest the pleasantries of the scene.  Will spend about two days over it.

Had to go down a slit trench tonight.  I took it arse up – nose first.  This is not the accepted technique, but I had no time for indulging the niceties of descent.  I fell in.  next time I walk around after dark the torch goes with me.  Gave myself a fearful thump – winded me for a few minutes – However am all right except for some cutie saucer shaped bruises on the hip.

About time I got to bed – I’m losing my grip – mosquito dive bombing is most demoralising.

Lots of love to you my darling.

Willie

 

Hope mum got my telegram on the right day.  You have to send them early here – they say it takes about 2 days.  Glad to hear dad is still up & doing.

More affection to you from me.

Nightie.

War Letters – NW Australia: 24 Jul 1943, Darwin; Material for Women’s Weekly, daily diet & journo’s gossip

C/O DPR Unit,
Army Post Office,
Darwin,
Saturday night
[24 Jul 1943]

Darling,

I was enormously pleased to get your letter, sweetheart – it did me a lot of good –  picked the old soul up no end.  Forgive me if my last letter sounded somewhat morbid.  “Troppo” madness sets in early and I was too tired & weak to attempt good cheer.  However you will overlook it – yes?

Letters do help – one has to be away to realize that.  Poor Ivan – he must eat his heart out waiting for them.

I’m sitting down to work – have been fairly busy although my painting is not of any class as yet, it being overwhelmingly amateurish.  Obviously I need much more practice.  It’s mostly rough notes that I am compiling for a more or less free use when I come home to my cuddly snugglepot.  Judging from the material I have gathered in less than two weeks it will take me at least 2 months back in Sydney working flat out to cover the space necessary for any sort of decent display.  That’s good news, heh?

They’re still discussing this & that.  It’s U.S. and Jap strategy now & I cannot help but listen.  Destroys my thoughts.

25

A great call comes through for us to eat supper sandwiches.  And at present that’s nothing to look forward to.  We are on “tropical spread” a bloody margarine substitute – tastes like blasted coconut oil.  Should be butter any time now.  We have only had to bear the burden for a couple of days.

The poor old pate is sight to behold, huge shivers of burnt up skin float slowly off its tarnished dome.  My face is a dried apricot with pimples on it.  The bank roll is still well – I’ve only spent a tenner so far.  You must apologise to the boys for me and explain that to date it is next door to impossible to buy anything up here.  My only expenses are household – you can’t spend any on grog at other camps as each officer only gets so much ration & none is really left over for visitors to buy for them.  I’ve just bought 18 large packets of Capstans.  They seem to be all you can get.  Also I let the office buy me a real kangaroo skin tobacco pouch for 10/-.  Incidently (sic) I haven’t heard from them yet – touch wood.

You’d better go in and price that casserole doings as it’s a moral I won’t be home to consummate our tenth anniversary.  Get it if you like & give a dinner to the Watso’s & O’Deas out of it.  Do me in style and don’t forget to leave an empty setting at table for me – don’t neglect my drinks either.  Telepath me lots of lurv.

It’s no secret about McNulty.  I knew in Brisbane.  No doubt King & Cyril resented his queer behaviour.  Perhaps he didn’t like to let Cyril know that the estimable Brian was to be his superior.  The set-up has violent possibilities.  Cyril will object to Penton’s policies & the daily night work.  Pretty ‘orrid what!

We don’t do our own washing.  Every day we change and one of the poor unfortunates chores for us all.  Ironing is done as well.  We do nothing but eat.  None of these blokes are what you could call drinking men.  Although there is at least 5 bottles Corio – 3 gin & 5 port, 1 hock, 1 advocat & 2 beer no one wants a drink.  I’ll be glad to get out again.  Am going down the road tomorrow – shall be away about 4 days finishing up at the last camp I stayed at.  They’re having a do on Thursday 29th.  Ray Stehr & Tom Izzard, prominent Sydney footballers, also 4 other leading Sydney Rugby players are in the unit.  To my great despair I won’t see any of your letters until I come back, my pet.  I’ll forward you letters from where ever I am.

Mindil Beach, Darwin
Mindil Beach, Darwin

 

24 x 18 cmAll the gang have been on the beach this afternoon.  It seems incredible that the water should be so warm and the weather so glorious.  Dozens of soldiers turn out for a dip it’s all very gay and nude – the probeing & squealing is reminiscent of a schoolboys water carnival.  An amazing assortment of Freds strike the eye.  I retire with modesty – grander and stouter are encountered with every flick of the eye.

W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work

 

 

Air Force Pool, Darwin
Air Force Pool, Darwin

Yesterday I spent some time painting the delightful freshwater pool I wrote you of some time back.  To my great satisfaction I had the spot alone for close on 1½ hours when 20 or there about soldiers came roaring down like wolves on the fold.  I fled soon after.  On the way back saw dozens of wallabies.  The poor creatures suffer the fate of rabbits down south – dazzled by car lights they are struck & killed.

The blarsted typing has started again. So farewell for the nonce my love.  It’s going to be a great thrill when we meet.

Lot & lots

Bill

Inside, looking out
Inside, looking out

War Letters – NW Australia: 23 July 1943, Darwin; Back to base and noisy correspondents

W.E.Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
Army Post Office
Darwin
Friday
[23 Jul 1943]

 

Darling,

Am back again to the old home comforts.  There are only 4 correspondents here at the moment, thank heavens.  But those at present here are damned voluble – voceriferously arguing the toss on world social system.  I’m too weak to join in.  The mob down the road had a formal mess last night (as they go once a week) this seemed – or rather did – get away on us all.  After beer and sherry – we settled down to some steady gin drinking.  Unfortunately liquor has immediate and body shattering effect.  Hangovers are pretty shaking in this here territory.

Last two nights have been plenty cold.  To my sorry I had taken only 2 blankets with me.  One to sleep on & the other to cover me.  Not enough – your sweet hubby was always glad to see the dawn as most of the night I just lay and shivered.

This is a bugger of a place to write letters.  One cannot continue a line of thought.  Willy nilly the conversation about obtrudes.

Haven’t had any letters from you yet.  What gibes?  Too much social life?  Am anticipating one tomorrow.  I’ll break down & cry or go plumb “Troppo”.

Sorry to say that I’m too tired to write much tonight.  I’d like to be home at the moment lying in my beauto bed reading a thriller-diller.  Or just lying, yes?  Are you being my good little sweet model wifie?  Has Tommy gone north yet?

Lots of love and special juicy kisses.  Save ‘em all up for me.  No giving any away –

Goodnight sweet heart –

Bill

 

5 minutes later

I cannot leave you so.  How’s Ellie? Hours?  My new nephew?  Has Sally conceived?  Noticed in our local daily paper (printed by the army) that another Telegraph correspondent Osmar White has stopped it.

33

Farewell again.  Relapse has hold of me – Pray for my liver my sweet.  Tell King I got his little note.  Is Cyril happy?  Are you minding Tony & Pussy yet?

32

Spose I’d better write to the boys.

Am back in D.

no letters!!!!!
in a week!!!!

naughty Jessie

 

Later edition.

Things have quietened down.  One still smashes the noise box, another silently struggles with a game of patience.

43

(This is all very rough I’m saving myself up for the grand effort I on at present here.)

After next week I start on the air force – then may be something on the navy.

Blarsted sandflies are like pneumatic suckers & the mosquitos like blarsted bombers.

More love

Bill

 

(am feeling plenty sunburnt right now!)

Bill.

 

Have lost cig. lighter twice.
Have found cig. lighter twice after lapse of two days.
No grilled steak here.
Tea like stewed treacle.
Out of the mouths of babes & sucklings we had large helpings of prunes today.
No more

44

Love again

Bill.

 

War Letters – NW Australia: 21 July 1943, Darwin; Bush races at a military camp down the road

C/O DPR Unit
Army Post Office
Darwin
Wednesday night
[21 Jul 1943]

Dear Jesso,

I haven’t been staying at the palatial residence of press fraternity for 3 days. At present situated at a spot about as far as Camden.  The weather still holds its perfection although away from the coast the nights are considerably cooler.  Poor Willie having brought only 1 blanket inevitably wakes during early morning & spends the remainder of the night between a spit and a shiver.

First day out I stayed at a big shot camp & dined in the big shots’ mess.  The food was very good – much better cooked than at above – this is to be expected I guess.  Cook would have to be on his toes (i.e. as far as is possible when cooking under the conditions here).  There’s plenty of good grub but it is all hash house cooked except the potatoes which are invariably damned good.  Tomatoes too are available, as most of the camps irrigate the plants with the waste from showers.  Saw two cabbages grown here, one was 20 lbs & the other 23 lbs in weight. – some cabbage!  Telegraph correspondent Bill Moore is a keen tomatoeer – more power to his soul!  Moreover we had asparagus sandwiches for supper!  That may be nothing in your sweet mouth – it wasn’t much in mine either, I was too darn polite to hog ‘em.  Raisin puddin’ is another standing dish up here.  My bowels & appetite can’t cope with the supply of edibles as yet.

After spending two nights at the abovementioned camp (sh-h-h!) I was transported hither – Here all is livelier.  The restraint subconsciously imposed on everyone by the presence of a plus senior officer is gone – Another fundamental difference is that this is one of the few NSW crowds about locally.  They seem much more companionable.  All the officers in this mess are motor men the majority from Sydney.  The C.O.’s face is familiar.  I think we may have seen him at the Auto Club.  Another officer said he had seen one there.  Asked if I knew Ron Gill.  Said Ron had a very bad attack of malaria & has been in & out of hospital for some eight months.

No change given here
No change given here, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 15 Jan 1944, cover
No change given here
No change given here

Am making sketches of the local race track recently cut out of the bush by the army forces.  By Christ it’s a surprisingly good little course.  A creek covered with water lilies flows round the edge of the paddock & official stand.  A pleasant spot covered with pandana palms is set aside for the horses, jockeys & form gazers.  The nags are brought in form the neighbouring stations and auctioned to whoever wishes to buy. The proceeds from the sales are put into prize money.  At the last meeting stakes were £1,500!

The official box
The official box

There is a big tote – 3 stands for the hoi polloi – the flat contains a football field.  The course is half a mile.  A commentator’s stand is behind the winning post.  Judges’ box and result board just like Randwick.  It’s bloody staggering.  I believe the sight of the north, is the numbers of two up games being played on the flat.  About 50 schools at one time.  And the thousands of bottles of LOLLY WATER emptied down the parched army throats.  It is reputed to be impossible to step between them.

28

This afternoon I emerged as a both a public entertainer & benefactor.  I appeared as the only live artist left in the territory.  I sat & worked before the bewildered gaze of at least 40 taken in relays of about 5 at a time.  Strangely enough I have found that when these things become unavoidable I could settle down a bit.  Not much though. Obviously I will get accustomed to it.

There is a magnificent canteen run by the publican of that new pub set back from the footpath on Botany Rd at Mascot.  Pub on the right on the way out to Brighton.  Dozens of tins of asparagus – plenty cigs, tobacco, Minties, Chocolate and god knows what.

Saw another picture the other night.  Accepted troop behaviour is after standing to God Save the King (with picture of George VI) and Star Spangled Banner (pictures of McArthur & Roosevelt) the troops in a body scream out – “What about Joe?”  “Give us Joe” Whee – i.e!  “In which we Serve” is to be shown here next week – So you may as well see it at home.  A sketch for you, my darling see below – and attached thereto.

All the messes in the bush are built bush carpentry fashion – walls consisting of bark slabs – or more elegantly of the slender & decorative poles of the palms which grow in profusion around here.

This sort of

Trunks about 3” diam.

Or else bark thatched roofs with bamboo strip wall lining – looks very well.  The country is much the same as down south.  Tropics are suggested by the brilliant green & luscious leaves of some of the gums & these are all small & at times with the sun light streaming through take on the appearance a an apple orchard is climes more mellow.  Hawks in their hundreds look like black paper litter blown about in the wind.  Their incessant curling & dipping is reminiscent of what I should imagine a plane battle to be.  When far away they can be mistaken for the spits.  That is, to my poor old enfeebled vision.

The talk of women is incessant.  It’s quite easy to understand.  When I stop working I miss you in large bundles.  Fellows after 12 months of this become quite obsessed.  Lots of love my dear – am looking forward to seeing you – I haven’t settled down yet – am still restless – in too much of a hurry to get something done – I know that with a little more resignation & detachment I could do  quite well – hope to Christ it soon arrives.

How’s Pop?  Haven’t had a letter yet but expect to get one on my return to D.  I keep wanting to go back – hearing from you will be bloody good.  Good luck, honey.  Give me some nice thinks.

Love

Bill

[Holding yards, Darwin race course]
Holding yards, Darwin race course
Racecourse Grandstand
Racecourse Grandstand
Racecourse Grandstand
Racecourse Grandstand
Judge's box
Judge’s box
Bike Race
Bike Race
No change given here
No change given here

24 x 18 cm Watching 880 Yards Race

War Letters – NW Australia: 18 July 1943, Darwin; Swimming, painting and a Japanese plane shot down

Sunday
[18 Jul 1943]

Dear Jess,

A short note cos little Willie is a weeny bit tired – the boys & all their soldier helps had a picnic today out on one of the beaches about 12 miles from here.  Altogether about 13 of us went & bathed in the Timor Sea (which was regularly calm) without any clothes on!  This is neither here nor there as from the main streets here you can see soldiers having showers in unenclosed shower stands.  They just put up a spray on the end of a water pipe, place a piece of Hessian on one side & go ahead.  All the fellows in this town – or in the whole territory – for that matter are a marvellous colour.  A rich brick red.  Few are that yellow brown colour as most wear nothing but shorts & boots & socks during the day.  As the sun is very hot they are continually being burnt.  I am at present a nice shade of lolly pink.  While I mention that, I may as well tell you that apart from a bottle of beer a week the troops can buy an un-carbonated cordial. They call it lolly-water & that’s just what it damned well is.  The abos are still cycling around. They look like a cavalry spider corps.

So     –> 

Clr neg 5 - Air Force Pool, Darwin
Air Force pool, Darwin

On the way back from the beach we bathed in a fresh water pool constructed on the head reaches of a creek.  It is a very lovely spot surrounded by pandana palms through which the sun filters & makes splendid patterns.  The pool is deep & about 20 yds long – The water much colder than that of the sea which is almost tepid.  The weather is really marvellous  – you would love it darling it’s right up your alley.  A couple of Jap planes arrived over today about 40 miles away.  One was shot down – I didn’t see or hear anything of them.

[Crashed Japanese bomber, NW Australia]
[Crashed Japanese bomber, NW Australia]
Tomorrow I’m going down the road to stay at some of the camps for a while.  Next letter you receive from me will be written in a different setting and may be just a little late.

Locally the train to Adelaide is facetiously known as the “Spirit of Protest”.  Have been drawing some of the lads tonight – they were well received.

On our return from the picnic we sat down to dinner prepared by one of the drivers (2 cars & 1 truck are attached to the unit here).  Cookie had gone with us for a day off.  Taking advantage of his solitude in the kitchen driver set to & sent up a voluminous 4 course meal.  Soup – macaroni & cheese & tomato – roast beef, etc peaches & cream & some sort of cocoa jelly.  Topped off with welsh rarebit.  I had thought him a bit simple.  He must have been to sweat it like that.  Maybe he has my occasional enthusiasm. It’s easy to get that way when does have to do it often.

I find it hard to settle down to a letter – too many typewriters banging – too much talk.  Perhaps I shall do better down the road.  I think I shall also ask the major who works in the house next door for the use of one of his empty rooms – Christ I need it in order to get away from this noise if & when I work.

All my love petty & please look after yourself. I miss you

Bill.

[Crashed Japanese bomber, NW Australia] [Crashed Japanese bomber, NW Australia] [Site of crashed Japanese bomber, NW Australia] [Site of crashed Japanese bomber, NW Australia] [Site of crashed Japanese bomber, NW Australia]

 

War Letters – NW Australia: 17 July 1943, Darwin; Visiting camps down the road

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR
Army Post Office
Darwin
Saturday

Dear Jess,

How’s things with my little wifie?  I hope things are still alright with the old man and that mum is keeping well.  Went down the road again yesterday & met all the blokes that matter.  At one camp where we were eating with the majors & colonels I was more than surprised to see Major Bill Stanner walk in.  He had just a half hour before turned his car over & was still in a bit of a daze.  His knowledge of the area is apparently being put to good use by the army.  At another place we had the rare pleasure of drinking a very fine Scotch whiskey called “Mountain Cream” watered down with genuine French Vichy water such as I haven’t seen for years.  Our major in this mess & I imbibed somewhat heartily I’m afraid.  The colonel who treated us was a hell of a nice chap & most interested in art.  He was a wealthy business man and spends quite a lot of cash collecting pictures.  All the better known English artists’ work is represented in his collection.  After leaving that camp we went on further & had tea with another unit.  The Major there got us stuck into the port.  Our Major & I were goodo by the time we left.  It’s a rare blessing to have a driver.  We went to sleep and left him to it.  Took about 2 ½ hours to get back.  I’m not too hot today my love.

On Monday I will be off to live in a camp for a few days.  It is practically impossible to do any painting from here as a base.  All the boys are diligently writing their wives.  No work today.  I’m finding it hard to think.  Typewriters are clacking all over the bloody house.  Haven’t seen any ‘orrid crocodiles yet although they say there are some about.  Boy!  Little Willie is sure going to see he comes home with the same gruff voice!  No choir boy tones for me.  Not that it would matter much up here – life is extremely celibate.  Everything is still quiet on the front – thank God.  The boys reckon this is the toughest front line in the world.  We intrepid correspondents are pigging it with ice boxes and wireless sets, grog & plenty tobacco.  Next door is a Presbyterian mission house.  An adult aborigine & child are staying there at the moment.  The man rides round on a kid’s tricycle all day long & at night lights a fire (of all things!).  The two of them sit round it & give off.  Raucous native chants shatter the air.  I think the nig. is initiating the nipper into the tribal rites.  Terrible primitive up on this front.

Am looking forward to hearing from you darling.  Don’t suppose I’ll get anything for some time yet as even air mail takes a damned long time to come through.

Lots of love, honey

From poor Fred.