War Letters – Borneo: 10-11 Aug 1945, Labuan; Peace rumours & concerns about getting home

W. E. Pidgeon
c/o Public Relations
1 Aust Corps
Labuan
Friday 9th August
[10 Aug 1945]

I have vowed to let my mo grow till I get home – damn it!

Image17

Darling,

Am back on this island & it looks as if I’ll be bloody well marooned here.  Transport in seems incredibly easier to get than transport out.  Everyone so far as I can see have been sitting on their behinds for days waiting the call for the trip back.  Cliff is on his way back i.e. theoretically but he is still here giving the old spine a bash.  I’ve only been here 2 days but I had requested an arrangement to get me to Balik Papan four or five days ago.

Saturday.  The ink ran out of my pen last night.  So I took the knock on letter writing.  Seems as you have done so too.  I’ve had only one letter since I left Sydney.  Last night the great peace rumours came through and there was a great simmering undercurrent of excitement and supposition amongst the army personnel.  The correspondents saw the probabilities of considerable hold up in transport home and were appropriately apprehensive.  I think the best thing I can do is to come back with what stuff I have rather than spend so much more time waiting for travel to Balik Papan and probably waiting for it from there home.  I should imagine that all the work I could collect down there will be pretty cold fish by the time it gets in the paper if peace is officially announced within the next few days.  I really don’t know what would be the best thing to do as I am not likely to hear from the office for days even if they had the nouce to send a message at all.

Later – have decided to definitely return home as soon as possible.  It is now just a matter of waiting and I suppose it will at least be somewhere near the 20th till I can get there but all this means that I will be at least present on the 24th so behave yo’self and save the grog.  Mail comes in here only three times a week so maybe I was somewhat hasty in my screamings out for letters.  Another mail is due in tomorrow.  You can tell Ivan I met Syd Newman – since this Visitor’s and Observers’ Camp has been moved to the opposite side.  Off the island we have become practically neighbours.  Newman was pleased to hear from Ivan and he obviously thinks a lot of him.

Everyone here expects the official peace announcement at any moment.  Nevertheless there is no excitement.  The everyday routine is still going on as if nothing is happening – which is reasonable enough as the finish will make little immediate change in the status of most of the troops here.  They will obviously have to stay for some time – to collect prisoners, police the country, and control the gradual disbandment of the army.

I am anxious to hear more about you and Graham.  How’s that alleged tooth coming along?  I suppose he is on pretty hard tack now.  I hope he is eating something that is easy to give him.  You’d better save some meat coupons for some juicy steak and eggs for poor lean Will.  I have had the bully beef and M & V & consequently eat rather lightly.  I seem to have lost a bit of the meat off my mug and to have got rid of my beer gut.  I’ll wire you from my first overnight port of call in Australia.  I’ll phone if I can.  Perhaps I will be home sometime towards the end of next week.  Who knows.  I have finished an article for “The Weekly” but it looks as if I’ll have to redraft it in view of the unexpected developments.  I may as well bring the thing back with me than mail it.  Hope Mum is well.  Lots of love to you and your little bub.

Bill

We spend our days on this St. Helena in slothful annoyance alternating with frolicks in the luke warm China sea and sun baking or reading beneath the coconut palms.  I lost all the skin off my chest and shins thanks to the exuberance of the Borneo sun.

Image18Love Willie

P.S. Don’t write after you get this letter.

War Letters – Borneo: 4-6 Aug 1945, Beaufort; An overnight visit to Papar

W. E. Pidgeon
c/o Public Relations
1 Aust Corps
Sat. 4 August [1945]
(Beaufort)

 

Darling,

I have just received your letter dated the first night you spent at Bright .  It was a great treat to hear all about the doings of yourself & Bub.  I mean, young Master Graham.  You tell that silly young galoot to stay putting on weight till dadda comes home – and for you,  my girl forget not the dangers of gross eating at your  mother’s place because I would like to see you wearing pyjamas and the top that the Chinese affect in these parts.  Many of the women are smooth and pleasant in the features and they do their hair into beautiful slick plaits and buns.  Their clothes are always immaculately laundered and are cut to a close fitting finish.  The whole ensemble of colour, sleekness and daintiness of figure gives to them an almost doll like quality and frugility.

I have been trying to get one of those straw hats like

Image15but am meeting with no success as they seem to be made only for personal use and in any case I am stuck for means of transport to where I might pick one up.  There is actually nothing about – one has to realise that 3 weeks or so ago this area was still in Japanese hands and that the RAAF have blown all the shopping areas to bits in all the places I have been to.  Naturally all the saleable commodities went with the wind as well.

Thanks to your old man’s snooping habits and mechanical genius he has the pleasure to be able to write this letter in solitary silence.

This morning I found under the house a crate full of old and rusted Japanese lamps – with a great deal of fossicking I managed to find a couple of poor things, the wicks of which I could just get to move – mostly downward.  Only one is functioning at the moment and is giving out every bit of 2 candle power.  It is a queer doover shaped so

Image16you put the kerosene if you can get any in here.

The whole caboosal measures only 8″ x 6 ” and is extremely temperamental,  Two of them have already given up the ghost – the wicks disappearing in the depths of the oil.  Because of  the grievous shortage of kerosene I cannot call on any of the reserves I have planted by my side.  Any smudges or runnings of oils you may discern on this page are to be accounted for by the leakings in the roof.  It has been raining for 5 minutes and already one side of this table is sporting a pool of water which is poppily dripping from the broken shingles above.  One earnest blob has just fractured the hot lamp glass.

I’m afraid this is the finish of this letter tonight.  The tide is sweeping over the table at an alarming rate.  To bed, my dear, to bed – and safety.  Goodnight.  It’s coming down in bloody sheets.

Monday 6th August. 5pm.

Am at a place by the name of Papar which has the pleasure of a complete blackout at night.  Hence this hurried scrawl as I have to bathe and eat before I settle down for a dreary night.  I’m damned if I can sleep after 3.30 am I get to bed too early.  It is not light till 7.00 so I pass some pretty dull hours – their only enlivenment being thoughts of you and Graham.  It is raining again – everyday for that matter.  This place is on the perimeter and is about 30 miles by jeep train from Beaufort.  I came up this morning – took about 4 hours.  It is a much more pleasant place than Beaufort.  Coming into this area we travelled through some nice open country,  paddy fields on either side were dotted with thatched huts, natives using water buffalo to pull their ploughs, and in the distance the foothills & blue mountains cut across by low lying clouds.  The Japs are over there.  Flanking the railway line the swampy channels are covered with water hyacinths like we have at home and all carry a profusion of purple blooms.  The whole landscape is a harmony of white, blue, green & lilac.  Very good.  Climate is fairly cool but I’m sure it is more an illusion than anything else – as I sweat just as much.

Have just had tea and things are lightening up a bit – I find that the approaching darkness was due more to the storm than to the time of the day.  The thunder was a terrific accompanyment to the deluge which has just finished and has left the whole of the vivid greens in sight floating on pools of yellow muddy water.  Under this light the leaves and grass are an intense green, the green that car headlights sometimes show up.  This is a hell of a fertile country.

I will be returning to Beaufort tomorrow & Wednesday to Labuan from where I hope to get to Balik Papan within a few days.  I shall probably spend a week there & then think of returning home which will, with transport holdups, take a week or longer.  I am not particularly sanguine about my chances of getting back by the 24th.  But will make every effort to do so.  Whacko the anniversary!  We’ll let the young man have his second champagne – that is if you haven’t scoffed it all yet.  I will certainly be back for your birthday.

Lots of love to you, Graham & Mum from the travel bound

Willie

[Jeep train study, Borneo]
Jeep train at Beaufort, Borneo
Jeep Train. Jeeps were modified to haul train wagons and flatbed
Jeep Train – The retreating Japanese had blown up all the steam locomotives so the Army modified Jeeps to haul the wagons and flatbeds
24 x 18 cm
Jeep train study
Train station at Papar
Train station at Beaufort
Train station at Papar
Train station at Beaufort
Train station at Beaufort
Train station at Beaufort
Train station at Papar
Train station at Papar
Church of the Holy Rosary, Papar
Church of the Holy Rosary, Papar
Possibly at Jesselton on the Jesselton to Papar line
Possibly at Jesselton on the Jesselton to Papar line
The Jeep train runs through rubber tree plantations which at times form an arch overhead
The Jeep train runs through rubber tree plantations which at times form an arch overhead

21 x 11 cm

[Note: Wep’s return to Beaufort coincided with the Childrens’ Carnival held on August 8, 1945; organised by members of the 2/43rd Australian Infantry Battalion.  Wep described the carnival in a story he wrote for the Women’s Weekly, (1945 ‘Soldiers in North talk and dream of home.’, The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), 8 September, p. 17, viewed 16 May, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47246573)

“At Beaufort the army put on a carnival day for the children of the district. The natives swarmed in by train, in boxcars and flat-tops. They squatted and huddled together tight as a bunch of grapes and quietly soaked in the drenching rain. In the boxcars native orchestras “gave out” and were “in the groove” in several different tunes. The penetrating boom of the gongs and the light melodic harmony of the gamelins (a xylophonic saucepan affair) burrowed through the dusk and rain. It was a great day for Beaufort. The children laughed at the soldiers and the soldiers laughed at the natives. Pillow fights and obstacle races, lolly-water and fireworks, Malay dances and Chinese singing, jeep rides, speeches and fraternisation, Miss Beaufort competition and ceremonial tea drinking – it was all there. British administrators considered with gloomy foreboding the Australian “spoiling of the native”. At 11.30 p.m. they straggled home – grandpas, grandmas, dads, and mums with sleeping kids swung in “cuddle seats” made of gaily coloured scarves.”]

Scenes around Beaufort at the Childrens' Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children’s Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children's Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children’s Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children's Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children’s Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children's Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children’s Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children's Carnival held on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children’s Carnival held on August 8, 1945
A gamelin being played
A gamelin being played
Scenes around Beaufort at the Childrens' Carnival on August 8, 1
A gamelin being played at the Beaufort Children’s Carnival
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children's Carnival on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children’s Carnival on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children's Carnival on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children’s Carnival on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children's Carnival on August 8, 1945
Scenes around Beaufort at the Children’s Carnival on August 8, 1945

War Letters – Borneo: 28 Jul – 2 Aug 1945, Limbang & Labuan; Visit to a Dyak village

W. E. Pidgeon
C/o Public Relations
1 Aust Corps
July 28 Sat. [1945]

 

Dear Jess,

Will probably be moving off tomorrow for the Jesseltown area which I should manage to cover in a week.  I have 7 or 8 possible subjects up my sleeve now, so what with that trip & a week or ten days at Balik Papan (Bally P ‘parn’ to you, mug).  I should have enough stuff to satisfy “The Weekly”.  I see no good purpose served by just hanging around sight seeing.  What really takes up the time here is transport which is slow & varied.  I intend to visit a Dyak (the indigenous native) village on the way back to Labuan.  I should be home in 4 or 5 weeks.  Am having a loaf this afternoon and shall perhaps take in a swim later.  Spent an extremely hot morning trying to paint a blown up workshop which now houses the field bakery.  Had the usual horde of sightseers clustered around me.  They did not worry me as much as the difficulties encountered in the attempt to paint under the tropical sun.  Sweated like a pig all the morning and am now in a semi coma.  This climate is enervating enough – turns me into a sort of lean Tommy Moon.

Image13

I’d do a shot of spine bashing only that I would be awake half the night!

Tuesday 6 pm.
[31 Jul 1945]

Have just finished a tea of sorts (we have it at 5.30, which is really about 4 o’clock) and am sitting in solitary state in my own tent watching a sudden tropical downpour, complete with thunders & lightenings.  I sit and contemplate the muddy foreground.  The uncountable puddles making it nearly as wet as the Limbang River which flows past just a hundred yards away.  I am not back at Labuan yet although I intent to return there tomorrow.  On the advice of those who know I sidetracked myself to the village of Limbang – a 1 1/2 hours barge run from Brunei.  It was worth the visit alright.  Here one sees the natives of Borneo, the head hunting Dyak, in their real state.

AWW 1945 Oct-20
The Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 Oct 1945

[Study, Dyak warrior, Limbang area, Sarawak I]
[Study, Dyak warrior, Limbang area, Sarawak I]
By God, they’re magnificent people.  It is hard to associate their grace & beauty with their bloodthirstiness.  The extraordinarily feminine features of the young men must be seen to be believed.  They are small but wonderfully proportioned – with their long hair, reaching down to the bottom of their shoulder blades, or done up in a pointed bun at the back.  They wear too a jet black fringe across the forehead and beaded throat bands.  Great big earrings, or rather decorative plugs in their ears.  Silver bangles run riot on their forearms, & above the calf of the leg (a wonderful leg too, me girl!).  Blue green tatooing’s on the throat & shoulders – and a colorful loin cloth sits comfortably alongside the sharpest of swords.  Two of the kids, one about 14, the other about 17 were bloody beautiful.  I shan’t try to draw them for you as I couldn’t do them justice.  I took some photos of them late in the evening – I hope they come out alright.  Chinese & Malays wander up and down the only street all day long.  Some good lookers too, by gum.  The army crimes anyone found indulging in hanky panky with the native population.  The women marry early & have a child every year.  For every couple there must be an average 4 or 5 kids, and this by the time the woman is 22.

Wed. 5 pm

[1 Aug 1945]
Taking a barge to Limbang
Taking a barge to Limbang
Taking a barge to Limbang
Barge at Limbang

Have been sitting reading in the bottom of this barge for Labuan.  Three dreary hours have just passed – the first 2 in a hazy somnolent stupour against my packs and dripping from every pore beneath the sweltering sun.  There is absolutely nothing to look at from the bulwarks above – just the same sea, lazily waving in the same patterns as it did twenty miles back.  In the distance the same casual pale blue line of hills.  We are due to land at Labuan in an hour and a half.  I look forward to the landing at it means getting out of this dreary hot box – and most important – there should be some mail from you darling, awaiting.

Labuan
Thursday
[2 Aug 1945]

Things ain’t just what they should be.  No mail and no transport out of here tomorrow – which means a day wasted in sitting on my rear and grinding my teeth with sheer impotency.

We are in a new camp, a pleasant enough spot under the palms & facing the beach, but miles from any blasted where I could do some work.  Alan Dawes, Smyth, and Adams, are on the way home.  Only Cliff remains.

The only thing to do is to try and get some of the clammy sweat out of my clothes.  I have been getting around too much to be able to get them washed.  Looks like a cold water lick for them this morning.

Mail goes out shortly so bulletin will be cut to short issue.  The boys tell me that the mail has been delayed so I will not go into hysterics yet.  Today 3 weeks since I left Sydney and no news from the home front.

All rather grim not knowing how you & Bub are getting along.

Lots of love

Bill

 

I wrote a poem of sorts while spine bashing at Kuala Belait.

They are my clothes hanging there
Limp in the Borneo sun
And threaded on a sagging rope.
I can accept the flat green leaves
Gently swaying as the hawk
Who sails above the swish of surf
I can accept the bare chested soldier
His stained fag hanging from his lips
While he ties his singlet on the line
With string
I can accept the drifting mountain cloud
Of rolling oil fire smoke
Which canopies the sea
I can accept the clanking of the pans
The cook without enthusiasm
Washes in the hot and chlorinated water
I can accept the butterfly
Who flutters wavy and but once
Past the tents vee shaped pane of light

 

Dyak warriors with unidentified War Correspondents at Limbang, B
Dyak warriors with unidentified War Correspondents at Limbang, Borneo (possibly Cliff Eager on left)
Dyak warriors with an unidentified War Correspondent at Limbang,
Dyak warriors with an unidentified War Correspondent at Limbang, Borneo
Dyak warriors, Limbang, Borneo
Dyak warriors, Limbang, Borneo
Dyak natives, Limbang
Dyak natives, Limbang
Dyak warriors, Limbang, Borneo
Dyak warriors, Limbang, Borneo
Dyak warriors, Limbang, Borneo
Headhunters, Dyak warriors, Limbang, Borneo
Dyak warrior. The Dyaks are small in stature with almost feminin
Dyak warrior. The Dyaks are small in stature with almost feminine like features but reknowned for being deadly head-hunters
[Study, Dyak warrior, Limbang area, Sarawak II]
[Study, Dyak warrior, Limbang area, Sarawak II]

21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm 24 x 18 cm 21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm

War Letters – Borneo: 26 July 1945, Seria; Oil wells set on fire during Japanese evacuation

W. E. Pidgeon
c/o Public Relations
Thursday
26th July [1945]

 

Darling,

Am now on the North East coast of Borneo – still in Brunei protectorate and staying at a place called Seria where the Japs fired the oil wells before evacuation.  These fires are really a sight and  a half.  Hours before you arrive here you can see the smoke billowing into the sky, forming what looks like at  a causal glance a great distant range of hazy mountains.  Closer – the light of the sun is shut out by the smoke and an ominous pall of near darkness and portentous gloom hangs over the jungle.  The fires spout out with a roar like a thousand great blow lamps – the flames, or rather a huge swirling billow of fire twists its way into rolling volumes of thick and pungent smoke.  Am going down this morning to see the boys attempt to put one out.  This is a cert for a “Women’s Weekly” job if the whole business up here is not a cold duck before I finish.

 

Burning oil wells at Seria
Burning oil wells at Seria

I’m getting a bit worried about that as movement in this area is slow and at times difficult to obtain.  I have yet to go to the northern Brunei area and to Balik Papan.  I think I had best speed things up as much as possible.  The jungle here is much more opulent, sleeker, and fatter in the leaf, and in diversity and colour, than that of New Guinea.  Lasiandra grows like a weed all over the place.  It’s a pretty poor specimen – a meager squirt of the thing compared to the one that I used to grow.  How’s it doing since the great disaster?  Do you keep woman wet?

Haven’t had any letters from you yet, but as I have not expected any I guess no damage is done.  How are things going with you – I hope your mother is not pumping too much food into your petite frame.  Have not seen anything worthwhile bringing home.  I’m afraid the early troops have cleaned out everything of any style or value.

Went down to very well spoken chinese fellow’s home last night.  He was an expert employee of the oil company’s before the Japs came.  He has avoided working for the Nips since their arrival & in secret meetings with other chinese always spoke English & talked of the time they would return.  A little girl [Peggy Ho] about 6 or 7 years of age sang “I’ll always call you sweetheart” tunefully & in extremely good English.  I remember well the last time I heard that song in company.  Sofala days!  That little chinese kid couldn’t have been more than 4 when the Japs came!  One more drawing in this particular area & I think I’ll move off.

Lots of love to you & Graham & Mum.  I’m getting quite anxious to hear about him – his latest in wisecracks and his new found dietetic acquisitions.

Love,

Bill

Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing
Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing

 

Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at
Australian engineers rig up a system to put out the oil fires at Seria using a bulldozer rigged up with steam jet

 

[Study for Burning oil wells at Seria II][Study for Burning oil wells at Seria III]Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing

21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departingBurning oil wells at Seria Oil wells at Seria set alight by the Japanese before departing

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.

Bill

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

Morotai

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!

 Image9

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.

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

Love,

Bill

 

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.