War Letters – New Guinea: 15 Jan 1944, Brisbane; sitting around waiting

Brisbane
Aust Army
Officers Club
Sat
[15 Jan 1944]

Sweetheart,

I’m still sitting around waiting to get out of the damned joint.  Twice a day I have to ring the transport people to discover what’s cookin’.  Have just been told that I’m to phone again tomorrow – I may get away by midday.  I hope so, as there is little to do in this h’year town.  I shall probably sport myself to a show tonight.  This morning I caught a bus out to Hughie Dash’s place & picked up the blankets and gas mask.  Took them round to the station and was told I couldn’t send them down without a permit.  Lord love us!  I’ll have to find somewhere or someone to pick them up from on my return.  Washed a shirt this afternoon – ironed same and indulged in a little excellent spine bashing.  The beer position in this town has not improved, although I am told the officers can get a drink at night in this club which occupies an hotel next to Lennon’s.  The City Hall bells have just tolled 5 P.M. the hour of le grand pub opening.  I shall totter down and water the wasted tissues.  It’s plenty hot up here and old Will loses an awful lot of his distinctive sweaty juices.  There’s an enormous number of troops in the city – all causing a great shortage of ale and theatre seats.  I’ve had beef for every meal so far so I think I chew up a little chop for a change tonight.  I shall stagger to the lift down barwards now and will write you a great length tomorrow of my doings Friday.

Had a pleasant enough trip on the Flying boat – unfortunately I had a centre seat so could not see much of the coast.  The ship itself is extraordinarily spacious you can roam around and stretch the legs to your heart’s content.  We had cold stewed prunes – cold ham & cold boiled egg for breakfast.  All quite nice.

Landed on the Brisbane River at 10.30 so the trip was not extra fast.

After seeing the D.P.R. I oozed (that’s the word for it  My God was I hot in that winter uniform.  What with that on & the bright green C I was somewhat conspicuous) up to the Officer’s Club & changed into trousers & shirt and rubbed copious quantities of cigarette ash into the brilliance of my cap.  It helped a lot – I can walk around without people giving me the goggle eyed stare.  Called into a pub near the “Mail” office & run into Jackie Finch.  I think the heat has sent him Troppo.  He gave me £2-10-0 owing from 1927.  Practically restored my faith in human nature.  After a few drinks he invited me round to his Hotel for Dinner which he paid for!  Left him after lunch and walked (or rather swam in my own sweat) for miles trying to find where Nan Mills worked.  Located it at last near the  Art Gallery.  She was very pleasant to meet me.  Said Brisbane was a hell of a hole but was saving money by living cheaply in the barracks nearby.  She looked very well – has lost weight & is a good brown colour – altogether a great improvement.

Came back tired out – wandered into a bookshop and in the desire for something in a soothing vein bought a cheap edition of New Testament!  Meet Jackie Finch again and fought sadly for 4 drinks after which I said bugger this It’s not worth it.  Went back to his room – drank two bottles (iced) & had dinner with him again (on him too).  Wouldn’t let me pay.  Tried to get seats for a show but failed miserably – consequently we sat under a fan & just sat without thinking – just sitting & sweating.  I was about to come back here for bed when two fellows staying at his hotel asked us to their room for a drink.  On hearing I was Wep nothing would please them but I draw them & so it went on.  They had rung Diana Parnham & she had said yes come out by all means.  However one of the lad’s car (a £1200 Alvis) wouldn’t go and as we had polished off nearly all the grog the trip was abandoned.  Sorry I was, for I’d have liked to have had a gink at the famous Di.  Got back here about 12 midnight & got into bed without waking my room mate.  At 6.30 am I am awakened by him sloshing about the room.  Of all people it was Yvonne Todd’s husband.  He will in all probability be travelling in the same plane as myself (i.e. at midday today Sunday – I hope).

After I went to the bar last night, I was having a few with a bloke next to me when a dainty paw strokes my balding top.  This was Tommie Thompson.  So had a few words with him for 3 or 4 minutes.  Saw one of those captains Arthur Mailey introduced to us at Romano’s in the bar but did not speak to him.  Had a few in the lounge here & went to bed.  And that my dear is the history of Pidgeon’s peregrinations in Brisbane.  Did not go looking for dear Madge.

I hope things are alright with you, sweet, and that you don’t feel too lonely.

If we get this plane today we shall probably stay overnight in Townsville or some place.  As I don’t think they can get up to Moresby after leaving at midday.

Lots and lots of love from weak limp Willie.

Lordie it’s sure hot.

Will drop a swift note from wherever we stay tonight – love Bill.

War Letters – NW Australia: 1 Sep 1943, Brisbane; Arriving home Friday 3rd at dawn

1 NW Australia Letters-109

TELEGRAM

Stamped Telegraph Office Sydney -1 SP 43
Stamped Telephoned 8.55P

URGT   J   35   BRISBANE 21  8-  P

PIDGEON
85 NORTHWOOD RD LANE COVE
SYDNEY

UN PLANE ARRIVE FRIDAY DAWNISH CENTRAL DON’T CALL WILL SEE YOU HOME LOVE … BILL

(  85  UN  )

 

This is the last of Bill’s letters home during his assignment to North-west Australia. Much of the material Bill gleamed from his assignment appeared in works reproduced in The Australian Women’s Weekly throughout the rest of 1943 and well into 1944.

He next travelled to New Guinea in January-February 1944 and then to Morotai in January-February 1945. These letters will also be posted online in January and February 2014 on the same day as they were written.

– Peter Pidgeon

War Letters – NW Australia: 18 Aug 1943, Darwin; Still mooning about the house

W.E. Pidgeon
DPR Unit
APO Darwin
Wednesday
[18 Aug 1943]

Darling,

Am just sneaking the use of one of the lad’s typewriter while he’s out on a job.  Came to after a spot of spine-bashing to find the place empty.  Have done nothing at all today except sit around on my acre [arse] and be bored – time I had a bit of a rest of sorts.  The boys are on their way back so off with the machine and up with the pen.

Sitting around is soul destroying – I can’t settle down to working in this mess as there are absolutely blink-all in the way of facilities for such a comfort loving craftsman (?) such as myself.  The moment of 5.20pm finds me sunning in the same spot as I occupied yesterday and pursuing the delightful occupation of considering your dear charms & graces.  Sweet, what?

This is by far the most pleasant time of day – the sun seems stationary & shines with mellow warmth – the breeze, soft and sensuous, slides round every limb.  I wish it were a little fiercer – this colour I’m after is anything but permanent – damn me if it doesn’t appear to wash off under the shower.  Maybe it’s only red dust impregnated in the skin.  In any case it is a highly impermanent pigment.

At dawn this week am off on the plane trip I spoke of.  I’m supposed to be one of the crew – heh! heh!  You won’t get any mail from me until I return from the island.  I will be 2 or 4 days there – other than the planes there is no mail contact.  So don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a while.

I’m getting a bit sick of the unsatisfying contact letters afford.  I don’t feel like writing to any length.  The novelty of things has gone – and I’m just anxious to get home – all very similar to the counting of days before vacation, only I’m in reverse.

Hours later.

I’m still mooning about the house – gawd help me there’s nothing to damned well read in blasted place.  I’ve been through all the magazines more times than the covers can stand up to.  I can’t be bothered with newspapers a week old.  The books (what there are of them) are dull – I’d ever write one if I wasn’t so languid – It’s a wonderfully lazy joint.  Haven’t seen anyone sitting down to a good solid think since I left the zero regions.  If & when I go away again something long & heavy in the way of literature will accompany me.

Cheerful, breezy, letter, yes?  Voted today – i.e. 3 days before election day.  An enormous amount of work is involved in army polling.  Every vote has to be sealed up in an envelope with the soldiers name, address & army no. on it – posted down, unsealed, counted, etc.  Probably take longer in this election to get final figures than is usually the case.  I hope you didn’t give Old Billy* your approval.

Later again – have been out for a walk round the town & called into the YMCA – quite a decent place 3 full sized billiard tables – piano – books & all the what have yous. Borrowed 2 books – may keep me quiet for a while.  Still restless – have suggested some supper.  Approval has been expressed. We shall sit down to a frugal snack of cold boiled eggs, tomatoes, sliced tongues and hock.

That operation was efficiently taken care of – we are all now in advanced stage of pre-spine bashing somnolence – the brains of many have already gone to sleep.  Mine included.  Will retire to my cot in which I sleep with only a sheet & the old man Fred.

Lots of love darling – hope to get a letter tomorrow – seems a bloody long time since one arrived.

And so to bed

Bill.

Enclosed find some local blooms of Bougainvilleas – press them to your heart.

[Then all crossed out.]

Would you please write out a cheque for 28/- payable to Hugh Dash & put this accompanying letter with it & mail it to Hugh Dash, c/o “Courier Mail”, Queen St, Brisbane.  I tried to send it direct from here but there are no postage notes available until Sunday on which date I will be away.

Skip it!

Love to my

Darling.

YMCA facilities, Darwin; 18 Aug 1943
YMCA facilities, Darwin; 18 Aug 1943
YMCA facilities, Darwin; 18 Aug 1943
YMCA facilities, Darwin; 18 Aug 1943
YMCA facilities, Darwin; 18 Aug 1943
YMCA facilities, Darwin; 18 Aug 1943
At the YMCA, Darwin, 18 Aug 1943
At the YMCA, Darwin, 18 Aug 1943

[* Note: The 1943 election was won by the Australian Labor party lead by John Curtin with 49 seats, a gain of 17 seats. They defeated the coalition United Australia Party/Country Party who won 19 seats, losing 18. Interestingly, the coalition was lead by Arthur Fadden who was the leader of the Country Party, the minor partner to the United Australia Party, lead by Billy Hughes (a former Labor Prime Minister) who had taken over in 1941 after Robert Menzies resigned. Following the Coalitions crushing defeat, Fadden handed the leader of the Opposition back to Menzies who had resumed leadership of the UAP.

References:  

Australian federal election, 1943 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013.Australian federal election, 1943 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_federal_election,_1943. [Accessed 18 August 2013]. 

Billy Hughes – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Billy Hughes – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Hughes. [Accessed 18 August 2013]

Arthur Fadden – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Arthur Fadden – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Fadden. [Accessed 18 August 2013].]   

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

Friday 7pm

July

[13 Jul 1945]

Darling,

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

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

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

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

Bill.

Will write you from my next overnight port of call.

Caravanning with Wep – Sunday, 17th July 1937, Skyring Creek, Qld., description of trip from Jindabyne, NSW to Queensland

17th July Sat.

Skyring Creek, Qld.

A marvellous night, mild and limpid under the moon. Undergrowth tangled & dark, mysterious, protects our quiet privacy.

Dawnie, our infallible thermometer, lies uncurled, a vast improvement (to her dog-mind) on Jindabyne where days and nights were spent in periwinkle curled sloth.

Which reverts us to our farewell to that transitory home. Thursday, I guess it was the 23rd June, so finally sickened and us sunk deep in despair by locals cheerful intimation that it’d be sloppy for a month or so to come.

Packed, sadly, & drove car round Weston’s back gate to Wooden Woman paddock and with spade and axe severed forever her connection with the earth that spawned her life. Slim she was but thunderous weighty. Not all my effects could carry her, so needs must ignominiously drag her, like a leaden drunk to the car onto which after ½ hours strenuous grunting & cursing managed to attach her. Whereupon the springs gracefully inverted themselves. Returned to trailer and in midst of manoeuvres almost followed it into the Snowy.

Boiled our way steadily into Cooma, dined with George & retired to lounge until 1:30pm. Had ham & eggs down the street and pulled off the road 12 miles out of Cooma. Seeing as how, the b—- caravan was full of logs & canvasses we decided to sleep together, which after taking off boots and nether garments did. Woke to the clanging of picks and shovels outside the window and perceived a gang of road men blithely at work. I hope we didn’t look too damn silly on that 2 foot bed.

Got to Brighton about 9 o’clock PM after an unpleasantly wet run from Marulan and a spot of high powered bother with some of Howard Couch’s bright(?) brainwaves attached to darned head light.

Frittered a week away in Sydney. The longest and dullest week I’ve had since leaving work. Sheer boredom. Had a few sad drinks with boys & visited all who should be.

Left again on Monday. Jess must go and lose the filling out of her tooth again. Hence John Brooks, dr. to W.E.Pidgeon. Discovered two broken leaves in trailer spring and had same fixed.

Arrived at Wyong & stayed night with brother John. Slipped the car off bloody bridge over gutter next morning but after 1 hour’s rupturing effort with railway sleeper got out right. Attended meeting of shareholders of my gold company. Didn’t say a word.

Stayed outside Singleton overnight. After pleasant run up the best part of the New England Highway paid visit to the Browns at Currabubula and remained 2 days leaving Sat. morning.

Apart from coming down the mountain on my bum nothing of any consequence happened, except maybe getting 3 or 4 broken down rums out of Alex. Christ, Nance is a tiny squirt! She made us quite at home & farewelled us with loads of home made biscuits and local oranges. For which many thanks offered. Alex now almost as fat as a prize Berkshire & getting more like Uncle Jim in manners, voice, face, etc, than ever. Out does any movie detective in the matter of hats on in the house! Still he’s much bitter company than he used to be. Quite human. The old folks away in Singapore. Jess very upset because deprived of joy of Uncle Jim’s company. Finally got past Guyra for the day. Damn cold too up there. Bad as Jindabyne. 5000 ft up in the heavens. Went to sleep with the angels’ chilly bloodless feet on our faces.

Least said about the trip on Sunday the better! What roads! Seemed as if a major earthquake had overtaken them. Crossed a cattle ramp into Queensland at Wallangarra & had my first northern beer. Better than the Sydney slush anyway. More good (according to the ignorant locals) roads to 8 miles of NSW side of Warwick.

Through the Darling Downs to Toowoomba thence down a Big Dipper Hell towards Ipswich & Brisbane.

Extraordinarily fertile looking country in Qld. Well grassed and cared for. Houses surprisingly neat & tidy after NSW hovels. All curiously stuck on stilts.

And the toy tram lines.

And PUBS OPEN TILL 8 O’CLOCK!

Caravanning with Wep – Sunday, 14th July 1937, Maleny, Qld.; a description of Brisbane traffic, other caravans and a visit to a local art gallery

14th July Maleny

Night on a razor edge saddle of the mountain.  Monstrous earth billowing and fading away to the distance. Far to the left lay those jagged tusks of rock blackly stabbing grey sky.

Brisbane burst on us about 11 a.m. Tuesday 13th morning in the guise of a tram & ice cream capped driver. Such trams! Sedans, tourers, town cars of all models antediluvian up – literally swarming to along the tracks. Policemen in white candle-snuffer helmets & ill fitting bum freezer coats, and simple cow like faces. And the smell of the river at night. The dreary looking wenches & general absence of dress style.

Camped at White Swan Camping Ground Upper Mt. Gravatt 8 miles out for night. Found way into city more by good fortune than anything. Finger posts being scarcer than ——. Bought much map in city & with aid of same & Cadbury’s cartes found camp. Infested with caravans. 4 of the b—— things! All from Victoria & such monsters! Fellow next us with a Stutz & a Chev caravan trailing 5 dogs! And a couple of boxes of canaries! Another chap with dog & 3 kids and enormous trailer he had to chock over Murrurundi in easy stages. Left him trying to sell it in Bris. so as to avoid taking it back.

Mild spring weather, – shirt sleeves weather. Balmy!

On way north (per favor map) pulled in to art gallery and looked over local treasures(?). What junk! Worse than Sydney. Nevertheless interesting etched cartoons of Dysons and good reproductions of old masters but some appalling jobs presented by their creators. I don’t suppose anybody else’d have them!

Arrived back to Jess to find her in conversation with buck tooth fellow – rather he was the conversation. Made caravans – took us to see one. Very fine indeed. Oh – balls to this.

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