War Letters – NW Australia: 17 Aug 1943, Darwin; Back at the Correspondents’ Mess

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin
Tuesday 17th

[17 Aug 1943]

Sweetheart,

Am back in the correspondents’ mess again.  Arrived in this morning after a car trip of some 4 hours.  The weather here is certainly to be preferred to that at the bomber strip which I reckon must be the hottest blarsted spot in the whole N.T.  Think I might have got a touch of the sun yesterday after setting out in the middle of a glaring road with no shirt on.  Felt quite sick after ½ hour or so although I didn’t get burnt much.  Possibly the glare of white paper with the sun shining on it may have been responsible.  Anyway, I up & left.  One of the yank officers reckoned I must have been a bit troppo to pick the spot in the first place what with the heat & thundering great trucks raising all smothering dust within 20 yards of me, etc.

At a water hole on a dusty Northern Territory road
At a water hole on a dusty Northern Territory road

Smoko
Smoko – Transport men are seen at a halting place near a waterhole on one of the winding, dusty roads of the Northern Territory.” – the Australian Women’s Weekly, 26 Feb 1944, p9
At a water hole on a dusty Northern Territory road
At a water hole on a dusty Northern Territory road

Working out of doors in the middle of the day knocks you up alright.  I feel positively exhilarated at the prospect of the cool Sydney spring.  We’ll go out places together – eh?  I’m practically certain to be down before your birthday.  If I get transport accommodation OK.  So when you get a telegram from me you’ll know to meet me at Rose Bay. [via seaplane]  I’ll be looking for you – save up some juice.  I won’t be able to tell you much in the telegram I shall send when I leave – It will be up to you to find out time of my arrival.  Put some beer in the frige for us.  Which reminds me to tell you I am happily having my weekly bottle at the very moment.  It’s extremely good & most welcome as I have just finished doing the weeks washing & ironing 3 shirts 3 pants, handkerchiefs, underpants socks & towel.  It’s hot work in these h’yar parts.  The weather is getting warmer as the wet season approaches.  Blarsted flies are banging about too – damn their wings.  Don’t worry about me drinking a lot.  There isn’t that much here!  Even a few knocks everyone and I haven’t had more than 4 real hangovers in 6 weeks.  I don’t suppose I have lost much weight really. Although one sweats to a prodigious extent water is consumed in replaceable quantities.

Have now taken up my pew in the sunshine as I must bring you back some visible indication of the tropics.  One’s colour is said to disappear very quickly so I shall devote my last days here solely to the acquisition of a body tone you will really want to touch.  Cunning little man!

Have also switched radio on and am listening to short wave transmission from the eastern states – whether Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane I, as yet, don’t know.  Ah me – how I am suffering.

Have just heard it was from Sydney.

Am becoming quite benign in all my attitudes – the bottle is practically empty.  My good intentions of a long letter weaken – my sole desire at the moment is to sit by radio and dream happily & nebulously about you.  With the pilots I say “I’ve had this place” – but also I say – “I want to have you”

A week today to the 24th. Oh dear! I wish I could buy you something!  Some little permanent thing we could keep for remembrance of our tenth.  After all it’s quite a while.  If you should see anything buy it for me to you.  Up the clothes, I’ll buy them for you anyway.  But I guess there is nothing left about anywhere.  Maybe King in his second hand snoopings will see something.  However don’t worry pet, about it – one day I’ll find something.  Your best present to me will be to look your prettiest & to be ever so pleased about my being back.  I think of you such a hell of a lot now.  Seems as if I’m back at the going out to Brighton stage in my love life.  High time I changed the record – playing this old lonely note doesn’t help either of us much.

You appear to be living an extremely quiet life.  For goodness sake honey don’t drive yourself nuts.  I hope you are eating something substantial occasionally for there has to be something left for me to grab hold of.

I’ve just come back from the pictures – a waste of time sadly regretted – the Ritz Bros in “3 Roaring Romeos” – My God! What a show! [The Three Musketeers (1939)?]

Have plenty cigs for you.  Looks almost as if I have been receiving stolen goods.

I should be able to write you for hours tonight as I am (believe it or not) the only inmate at present incarcerated in the asylum.  All the others are out on their job.  There’s been quite a bit of plane activity about here lately and they are covering all the news angles from the pilots, bombardiers & so on and so forth.  3 of the fighter pilots I was staying with bagged a bird each.  Nice going.  You’ll read about it all in the papers before this letter reaches you. [* See Note]  Wish I had our coleman stove – I’d set down right now to hot toast & asparagus.  As things are I would have to build a wood fire.  That’s too much.

Still haven’t any butter.  Altogether I’ve had it only a week & a half since arriving.  Oh boy, will I make a hog of myself down south.

Have just turned on short wave radio to some oriental station broadcasting some indescribably mournful dirge which suits my present mood like a tight collar.  It’s really wonderfully glum.  One of these days I must get me a short wave set – an amazing variety of stuff comes over – surely sufficient to suit every mood.

I’m still trying to make up my mind as to whether I should or should not, wolf the asparagus.  The betting at the moment is two to one on that I do.  May as well get something inside me – you can’t tell but that the yellow men may not be over later tonight.  The moon is still perfect – they have had time to rest their bomber crews after the last raid – and they a getting a bashing from the yanks here – which sort of thing tends to make them a little angry.  Perhaps I should remain awake a while – with no one in the house I may stay asleep at the wrong moment.

Only 14 or 15 days before I clear off.  I’m beginning to count them.  I suppose you will too, now that I have told you what I hope to do.

Asparagus is out in front turning into the straight – it’s no race folk – Asparagus wins pulling up, 3 bellyfuls in front of Some Bread and NO Butter.

So lots of love and kisses
from yours
as ever
Freddie
XXX

[*Note: 1943 ‘AUSTRALIAN PLANES IN N.-WEST THRASH JAPS.’, The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), 19 August, p. 3, viewed 16 August, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42034094]

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.

Image10

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.