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: 19 Aug 1943, Darwin; Death before dishonour!!

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin
Thursday Night
[19 Aug 1943]

Darling,

You won’t be getting another letter after this one for at least 4 days as I am leaving at dawn tomorrow.  Hope to get back here on Monday night.  I hope to heavens the sand flies grant me some mercy – otherwise I’ll be coming home an object of abhorrence with itchy excrescence liberally besprinkling my poor old bod.

It is 8pm at the moment & I sweat like a pig.  No better this morning – God damn it I’ll have to wait until Tuesday now before I know what gives out down there in Sydney.  The last letter I received from you was attached to the cutting re the much publicised Ron Bennett [Art Director at The Australian Women’s Weekly].  Pretty horrible to have all that stuff splashed about in a blasted rag like Truth {Sydney newspaper].  I should imagine Betty is slinking around in a hell of a state.  I notice she is not defending. Doesn’t seem much she can do about it.

Have done nothing today but tour the town during the morning and go for a swim in the afternoon.  The tide was surprisingly low and we had to walk about 300 yards from the high water mark across an absolutely flat and sloshy sea bottom to reach the water.  Another 100 yards or so till we were in water only up to Fred.  Did’nt fancy it much – kept thinking of sharks and the long run home.  Hermit crabs (tiny crabs which find an empty shell get inside it for protection and pull it around with them) lung fish (a small species of fish which can breathe out of water and come up on the sand for sunbaking) were in their hundreds squiggling and crawling all over the place.

Very little to report save the indignation and dismay of war correspondents who object to doing their own washing and ironing.  As OFFICERS & GENTLEMEN they claim a batman.  The Department of Public relations has recalled the original unit which was serving the crowd here and replaced it with a fresh bunch which is 2 men lighter & have issued an edict that the press men are not entitled to the rights of Army Officers who in this respect have all their work done for them by their individual batman.  There has been a great protest meeting – their dignity has been insulted.  What will the commoner think of to see them as Officers choring at the tub.  At the thought of it one goes purple in the face, another grows pallid, yet another shakes as with a palsy.  All by the grace of God are not speechless, indeed they as a body are extraordinarily vociferous both orally and in writing.  Typewriters are running hot, pleas & denunciations march forth in effort to regain the status quo.  I, like Pilate, wash my pants and say, “what is washing?”  It’s all very funny to me – I’m not staying.

3

At the moment of going to press the boys are not holding their own.  Urgent signals for reinforcements from newspaper proprietors have been sent.  The battle is begun.  I have designed the banners – newsprint drawers, pants and socks are hanging on the wireless aerial stretched across the mess.  Each bears an appropriate motto.  Death before dishonour!!

I hope nothing prevents my return on Monday as I want to be sure the telegram gets to you on Tuesday.  If it misses it won’t be my fault.

There is just a possibility you’ll get this letter on the wonderful 24th so if you do take it as a loving wish for lots more of them to come darling. We’ll celebrate both our tenth and your birthday on the 5th.  We’ll make it a real day my dear.  On the 24th do everything I’d like you to do and nothing I wouldn’t like and I’ll do the same.  The boys may have a bit of a party for us.  Have a good time yourself.  Once more – many returns.

And now bung-ho, wifie!

from husband.