War Letters – New Guinea: 7 Feb 1944, Port Moresby; Picnic at Rouna Falls

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O PR Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
6th Feb Mon 10 am
[7 Feb 1944]

Darling,

Am back in Moresby and will soon (in a couple of days) be on my way back to the mainland where I am afraid I shall have to put in a week or so on the Tablelands.  In any case it is certain that I shall be home within three weeks – maybe two.

14

Tommy [O’Dea] called into this unit on Sunday afternoon after five minutes after I had arrived back from the local air strip.  Had only a few words with him but may go round to his living quarters tonight.  Previously I couldn’t locate him as he is stationed away from the Navy proper.  He drove off in a jeep.  Christ, he looked funny!  Quite a bleaming blade.  Just as well he didn’t have a nurse or Amwas or something with him because on such occasions travel is accompanied by screams, cat calls and yahoos by all and sundry.

He looks well enough & quite happy.  Said he flew up from Brisbane with only the slightest of brain flappings.

Bill Marien ex-Telegraph man (you will remember him up at the Castlereagh – big dark fattish chap with a girl wif lovely teef from Rockdale way) has gone back to mainland.  I shall have a few drinks with him at the Officers Club where I last wrote you from.

Don’t write me any more letters here – or anywhere for that matter as I probably won’t get them.  I received one from you while staying in the Ramu Valley.  Sorry to hear you are so lonely  – it won’t be so long now darling,

Hawkeye Hawkesley is the big noise around here.  The life & soul of the party so to speak.  Must get Tommy to take me down to the American Officer’s club as I would like to get myself some few things.  Everybody at St Percy’s (as this school for boys is fondly known) has managed to get something or other.

Sunday saw a great organised picnic in the hills at a joint called Rouna Falls.  Really very pleasant & falls quite impressive.  The celibates managed to collect 5 nurses to take along.  No Helens of Troy amongst them.  5 nurses to 12 men is a super abundance of feminity in these perfumeless parts.

Haven’t contracted as far as I know any scrofs, plagues or poxes.  Have lost my pot belly and most of the other superfluous fats.  Found it necessary to drag the belt in 4 holes.  Sweated quite a bit in my time up here.

W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port Morseby
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port Morseby
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port Morseby
2 New Guinea - 10 Port Moresby Area-5
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work in New Guinea near Rouna Falls, Port Morseby

Had a few snaps taken of myself.  They are not of much consequence.

Nothing doing here, so there will be no more news from me until after I get away.

Saw “Stage door canteen” at the pictures Sat night. Just a show.

Hope you are feeling well & are not getting too bats for public circulation.  Be good until you see me again.  Shall probably arrive at Martin Place about 4.30 pm one bright day.  Bring the Ponty in & we’ll give Coys a slight break.  [Harold and Bassie Coy ran the Hotel Hunters Hill, a favoured drinking spot of Wep and Jess.]  Haven’t missed the grog up here.  If it’s not about you don’t need it.  Lots of love dear.

Bill.

Unidentified War Correspondent, possibly a photographer, at Roun
Unidentified War Correspondent, possibly a photographer, at Rouna Falls, near Port Moresby, New Guinea
A native Fuzzy Wuzzy at Rouna Falls, near Port Moresby, New Guin
A native Fuzzy Wuzzy at Rouna Falls, near Port Moresby, New Guinea

Caravanning with Wep – Jindabyne 1938; Man From Snowy A Rum Chap

Man From Snowy A Rum Chap

By L. W. LOWER

JINDABYNE, Thursday.

It was a proud moment for the Daily Telegraph Polar expedition when it bought all the eggs in Jindabyne.

The whole six of them.

The hens had staged a stand-up strike. The butcher here is a butcheress, and wields a classy cleaver.

A traffic cop in this town would have to bring his knitting with him if he wanted to keep awake.

There is a small, round, silent cop in the main street, but nobody seems to know why.

I have met the man from Snowy River.

He wears two pairs of trousers, drinks rum, and doesn’t like food with his meals.

He was a great disappointment to me.

He Went Red

Poor Wep, my caravan comrade, has decided to paint something.

None of the scenery around here seems to suit him.

I tried all kinds of scenery on him, but I’m afraid that the Main Roads Board will have to make a few alterations in the general contour of the country before Wep is satisfied.

Another thing is that he just made out his expense account and I had to post it for him.

He must have a conscience, because every time he approached the post office he went red in the face and became boyishly embarrassed, the burglar.

Having no craven inhibitions, I posted it for him.

When I get the courage I will send in my own expense account.

Whip Music

The wee snowflakes have started flickering down.

I’ll tell you something.

Have you ever heard a bullock driver singing “Drifting and Dreaming”?

And accompanying himself with a 20-foot whip?

I have, and you needn’t lie awake worrying about it.

You haven’t missed anything.

Well, we must be getting along.

Caravanning with WEP – Winter, 1938; a week at Jindabyne with Lennie Lower

 

In the 1930s, Lennie Lower was considered one of Australia’s foremost humorists. His novel, Here’s Luck was first published in 1930 and is considered a classic of Australian humour.  It has been reprinted many times since and was illustrated by his good friend and colleague, Wep with the 1955 edition.  Wep and Lower were closely associated from the time Wep first started illustrating his column at the Daily Guardian in Sydney and later at The Australian Women’s Weekly when that publication commenced in 1933 cementing their notoriety throughout Australia.

Lower was reknowned for his drinking and in the winter of 1938, Wep and his wife Jess were accompanied by Lower for a week’s sojourn in the Snowy Mountains region around Jindabyne and Cooma.  Lower was to write a series of columns for the Daily Telegraph and Wep was under instructions not to give Lower any more money than 2 shillings.  Lower went to Cooma with his two shillings and returned rotten drunk with seven and sixpence change. He’d gone into Cooma and told everyone who he was, and that he was there with Wep. No one would let him pay for a drink and actually pressed money on him thus defeating the other instruction to Wep to “sober him up and keep him sober.”

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 – 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