War Letters – Brisbane, Sunday (11 July 1943), socialising

Oxford House

Brisbane

Sunday 8.30 am

I haven’t had malaria! – now aint  that a surprise to us all!

I’m leasing a monk like existence – Friday night after finding my kitbag I went to the pictures & saw “The Moon & Sixpence”.  It wasn’t much chop.  Saturday morning after returning from the hospital which was out along the road to that trailer camp we parked at five years ago I went with the boys to a pub and amazingly managed to get about six beers down before the drought set in.

Met another correspondent who had my phone number and a note from me in my own writing in his note book.  Neither he nor I have the faintest idea what it was about.  We had met him at the Royal Standard last year.  A civilian turned up who knew him – we were introduced & he said ‘not Bill Pidgeon?”.  “But yes” I say.  “Married a girl from the P.D.S.”  “U-huh” = me.  “Well” sez he “I’m Roy West, you and Jess had a drink with Jean Smith & I at the Great Southern just before we got married.”  What a teeny-weeny little world!  He and Jean have amicably parted.

Left him and went round to the Gresham hotel for dinner, in the midst of which a croaking voice hails me from behind & none other than dear old debtor Francis Clancy beams upon my shaken face.  “Christ, can’t I ever get away from you” I ask.  However he was sober and didn’t worry me.  Said he would ring this morning – but I won’t be here.  Am going down to have a look at what the boys call the press circus, i.e. G.H.Q. conference & handout.

I rang Eager but couldn’t contact him – he is away at his stud farm doesn’t return until tonight.

The food in this joint is very good.  The Yanks see to it that their bellies are well looked after.  According to the local correspondents they look after their John Thomases too with loving care & affection – see to it that they are never starved.

Went to bed at 8.30 pm last night.  Am getting sick of walking round the blocks!

Tell King I have met a lot of the boys.

Hugh Dash       –           Brammal

Lloyd Clarke   –           Hutton

Jack Brairs (?) –          Peterson

Mishael             –           Fitzhenry

Brisbane full of correspondents.  English Australian American.  I haven’t met Williams yet.

War Letters – Brisbane, Saturday (10 July 1943), Awaiting malaria test whilst waiting to fly to Darwin

“Everybody gapes at my green armbands”

Brisbane

Sat.

Dear Jesso,

Poor little Willie

Is sitting alone

I’m out at a military hospital waiting for results of a malaria test.  Everyone going north has to have a Malaria free certificate.

Arrived here at 1.15 after a pleasant trip.  When we got to ANA office in Brisbane I left my gear & reported to the Public Relations people where I had to get a further pass & have arrangements made for transport further on.  So far as I know I’m leaving Monday.

Contacted Hughie Dash, Telegraph representative here.  He took me round, got me accommodation at a PRIVATE hotel.  When I returned to pick up the luggage – the blasted kit bag was missing.  One of the girls seemed to think it a great joke that she had seen a soldier take it out.  Christ! Was I mortified!  Panic swept over me like a steamroller.  Your heart would have bled for me.  The manager was a little more civilized & suggested it may have been picked up by mistake.  So he started ringing all the military folk who were on the plane.  None of them had it.  At 6.30 pm I staggered down to the Police & reported.  Tottered back to the ANA & at 7 pm the bloody thing turned up!  A RAAF driver had taken it in mistake.  I’d have got drunk if there was anything to drink in this God-damned dry joint.  The beer here just ‘aint!  It’s only for ½ hour midday and again from 4.45 pm to 5.15 pm.  A seething screaming mob of soldiers and civilians battle grimly for a smell of what’s going.  Most of them only get a look at it.  Hugh Dash, Ian Gall, cartoonist and Roy Connolly, (of Colin Wills wife fame) & I managed to get 4 beers & 3 rums between 2 pubs.  Grog was then over.

Brisbane is a hell of a lot busier than Sydney.  Streets are jammed with cars and people.  Vast vistas of squealing yanks open before the eyes.  The place is lousy with them.  At night the city is scarcely less infested than in day.  S’Awful!  Everybody gapes at my green armbands – most embarrassing – one hears – “Big Shots!”, “General Staff” etc.  Mortifying!  All the others have learnt from experience to wear inconspicuous metal badges.  The correspondents life is not a happy one!

STOP PRESS

Am leaving for Darwin at tremendously early hour as appointed.  Lots of love, be good and give me some kind thoughts – love

Willie

War Letters Back Home – from Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Morotai and Borneo

During WW2, William Edwin Pidgeon (Wep) was a War Correspondent for The Australian Women’s Weekly. Between 1943 and 1945, Bill was attached to the Australian troops in Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Borneo and Morotai where he was situated when hostilities ceased in August 1945. In his work he recorded the daily lives of the men, women and natives around the camps, field hospitals, race meetings, church parades and some famous battle scenes. As a participant in their lives he drew and painted his subjects with a marked sense of involvement and an unmistakably Australian feeling of casualness. There is no straining after effect in his compositions, which are almost always of groups of figures in their appropriate settings. Their style is quite opposite to the style of the official war artist’s portrayal of troops in heroic action. The paintings are usually small in size, with a limited colour palette and restricted by what material was available on the run.

The following is a collection of letters to his wife, Jess, during these trips; letters composed in similar vein to his painting, yet full of visual verbal description describing life amongst the troops complete with illustrations scattered throughout.