Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 27 Nov; Basel to Zurich, Switzerland

Tue 27-Nov-56: Got train to Harwich, boat to Holland & down the Rhine by Lorelei Express, arrived Zurich about 9pm
Basle, Switzerland
27 Nov 1956

My ultimate darling,

This is positively my last word on the whole of the matter. I am finally, definitely, irrevocably, finished when this letter is completed.

I have just come out of the Georges Chirico station of Deutschland Bâsle.

The interminable station – grey in its extended length, no one on it to say or wave goodbye to whoever may have been committed, like me, into the night’s dark care. Overhead the great vaulted roof which in the dismal gloom took on the quality of a cathedral without its soul, and as the train pulled out, the greyness stretched into a memory of parallel lines which hoped to meet but never did & under the disappearing single row of lights a solitary figure, an official of some sort, keeps pace with the train until he too, fades off into the gloom of memory.

I am now changed from the comfortable Lorelei Express into the local Swiss train to Zurich and the seats are wood and feel like concrete under the behind. I am in proud and solitary splendor – one dame having just fled from the presence into a ladies non-smoker. All of which is as it should be.

I assure you this is the evening’s finale. It has been a long day & I think I have just about said everything that has entered my head during the first leg home. Do you still think being together has its delights? If so, when? Now?

I don’t know when God is going to stop looking after me. I’m tired and unshaven but I am very happy because people have been nice to me & I am now lying down in the second bridal suite I have been in since I left home. The first was at Grünwald near Munich, remember. I hope I dream about you tonight. When I got to this Hotel Italia in Zurich, King’s friend had gone the last 4 years. There was no room but somehow someone moved & here I am in a perfect spot for a thing or two, the way I am, three. Anyway darling, I am happy after an exhausting day all told. And I will be on a plane towards you both tomorrow. I know that I will be home before this letter but I can’t help wanting you now – and the only way I can have you is by writing. As I hear the footsteps padding off up the road, or street, I have not seen. I think it becoming to say goodnight, my very dear, and completely, honey chile.

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 19 Nov; London – catching up with an old friend

Mon 19-Nov-56: Picasso exhibition. Met with McNulty & Ronnie – went to cocktail party at Kensington. Bought [air] gun for Graham & coat for Dorothy.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0125

Monday 19 Nov 56

Dear wonderful girl,

There is nothing worse than a wife who can’t handle a situation in front of a stranger-if there is, it is a husband. It seems to be my fate to always accompany someone who was about to be in the gun in any case. But why, (when the excuse is that you haven’t seen a friend for six years) you can’t get a little out of schedule is beyond me. Not that I caused it. It happened before I arrived on the scene. I would say it happened two days ago when McNulty [Head of Consolidated Press’s London Bureau] arrived back from New York. But why sour off on the innocent accomplice? Even I never did that (within limits!) If I ever bring someone home, dear sweet girl, please remain your charming self. This is the first night I have been slightly thinged since I have been in London. And I am enjoying telling you about.

But suddenly everything collapses about my ears, and there is little to write about and nothing at all to tell, with the love, and the deepest affection that I have for you-and you, really only. I love you. And sometimes I think there is something wrong with me, that I don’t get any real thing for another woman. Yet, when, I first met you I had a desire. Could it be that my being, knew better than my head? I have never experienced the same thing since. I don’t forget that I went back to the Journalists Club and told King Watson that I had met a nice girl and that I had kissed her good night even if she had sat on my hat. And I don’t forget that I wrote in the back of my cheque-book that Dorothy Lees (21 Beresford Road Strathfield XM 8822) was to be taken out for a meal and affection. And what is more I don’t forget that I asked you as we reached the top of Greenwich Road in the old Pontiac why a nice girl like you had not been married-and you had no real answer. And I didn’t know either. And later when you said to me one wonderful morning-I can remember you sitting, where you sit now, at the breakfast table, and it was Sunday morning and light and as crisp as a chip. And you said to me “don’t you go getting shy on me, Bill Pidgeon”. And to tell the truth I was so shy I could hardly look at you but you seemed somehow quite happy, which I couldn’t understand-yet knowing, very implicitly, that you were as innocent as I, about what we had done and sealed, without completely knowing it, in our hearts. Why did you so suddenly give yourself to me? I didn’t expect it! Did you know that by doing so you had marked me down for yours? Because you did. I knew was well as you, that your,-not generosity, not magnanimity, not anything but a certain psyche that you had, would come true-and that you gambled upon it and in its way, it has worked. I don’t mean gambled-I am sure that you knew then that I needed you, rather than any other type of dame. And I know that you still think that. And I assure you it is truer than you ever imagined. The trouble with me when I am a bit buoyant is that I can’t write fast enough, to say the things that should be said, with grace they deserve. Strange, but one of my life’s most vivid recollections, is that Sunday morning with your “don’t you get shy on me!” You looked (although I know now I was wrong) so sure of yourself I thought for a moment what a woman of the world, and yet I knew that was false because you gave yourself to me in an innocent way. And that was fatal-for me. Perhaps for you too. Although what I had to offer you at that time seemed less than nil. A comparison on a dead love-a half grown child-and a surly, egoistic, lazy, sensualist. Yet one who responded to the feeling of your heart, as strongly as Graham did. You know, my darling, from all this distance I can appreciate your love and stupid faith, which at times can be unsaid, but still remains, as mine does, for you. You know I loved Jess-and you also know that there is nothing to be done about that, and that my heart is yours now-even if it is quieter and not as gay as it could be for a honeymoon couple like ourselves. Every day I go two miles out of my way to collect a letter from you. Every day I get one-and my heart is warmed and my love for you become stronger. I love you very much indeed-dear sweetest Dorothy girl wife.

I don’t care if this is all thing on paper. I am in the mood to be extra urgent and tell you that you are the most necessary focus for 85 Northwood Road. What would Graham and I do without our crumby old sheet anchor? Can you tell me, or even see, one who could take your place? Your wonderful girl body under the shower with 1 foot slightly raised and the face towel down near your moustache, and the water glistening down your 34” bust and 35 ½” hips? Not to say anything of the 13 ¼” neck with a small kissable mole on the left-hand side nearest the oven, when you are unfortunately forced to be perpetually washing up. Or the flat little feet all covered (or rather soled) with planters? Did you ever see your wonderfully formed behind shake a cup? No! But I did. And can still! I am in the mood to forgive you almost anything until I get home. Then your last-minute rushes will provoke me to rolling you on the floor (i.e. in embrace not anger). One other thing I want to tell you, before I fold up is that you always look wonderful when you walk up the path towards the front door. That is, when we are waiting to you. Before we were married you looked grand and gay, and after two years, you still look grand and gay to me. I hope soon you will look grander-if not gayer, or more expectant. That is the key word expectant. You have such implicit trust-it is all wrong-and yet, who wouldn’t envy that look? – Oh Darling – dear girl.

That was a breathless bit-wasn’t it? Almost all of it without one cigarette. All because I got 4 letters from you this morning and I have been out with Clarrie McNulty to a cocktail party at a well (or fairly well) heeled gent’s place. He had two beaut Buddha heads, for which he paid only £3 each 25 years ago. And a magnificent Chinese Sing horse and all sorts of other things. I love you for sending me a daily note. The only thing against it is the fact that I am too lousy to go away for the day for fear of missing it. I have been thinking it over and I would be much happier if you all could meet me at Mascot. I didn’t mean to be discouraging about it. I get mixed up when I’m tired and can’t get a proper thing on what should be done. I would really love it. You could ring Mascot or Qantas to find out how the schedule is going. I definitely expect the three of you at Mascot even if you have to take a picnic lunch and a grilled knuckle for the chopped down ankle dog.

I flatly refuse to go to bed. I am not fat, and on the looks of things and not likely to be any more cuddlesome when I arrived in Sydney. However I hope you will accept me in spirit, if not in flesh. I can tell you now that the dressing gown is off. Much as I love your suggestion-I can’t see how I can do anything about it. I am so glad you liked, and received, the mad black cat. I don’t know whether I told you it was baked enamel from some bloody place or other in France.

Really, sweetheart, I don’t feel like writing any more about the aspects of the western world. Whether it is in Gothic or Classic, or this side up, or Antipodean, I have got to the stage where I couldn’t care less. I have seen all I want to see of London (apart from the Tower). From now on I will stick to the three galleries and have done with it.

I loved very much your lipstick. It is such a pity that I can’t request anymore because you cannot answer this letter.

I could see the imprint of the fabric of your lips. A little open and very kissable-I tried to get it-but all I tasted was writing ink. I do wish you could use a unguent that was expensive and lasting. I would have slept with it.

It never dawned on me in our haste on that memorable Saturday (although I didn’t forget anything-and as a matter of fact, took too much) to take a well soaked handkerchief of yours. Just like a knight of old-off to the jousting. I would have worn it as a cockade. I am getting to look more and more like a colonial as my clothes get tireder and tireder.

I love you and this is, in some way, a means of being close to you. I wish I could write you with the fluency you write me. I have so much more to say but somehow it gets left unsaid. In the near summer nights when we are both together and alone I shall wander off into a dream sequence, out of which you will get something of what I felt and saw in these long two months of Europe. I probably won’t recollect what I have seen consciously, but in your arms, images may come back and against your love, and your warmth, the realities may come to life in a dream tale for you. I’d like to be semiconscious letting a flow of visions, people and ideas, flows smoothly over your warmth, and your sweet and tiny breasts.

I have folded up stop I love you, I love you, I love you! Much binding about the marsh to you from an absent admirer-your husband-Mr W. E. PIDGEON.

[Paragraph inked out]

P. S. Don’t waste your time trying to read through that-it’s impossible-it wasn’t anything crude or nasty-I somehow just lost the grip on my affection and the words were forced came from the head and not from the heart. I can’t see much possibility of me writing you another such letter before I get home. I should be there about a week after you get this note. You had not mention that I said anything about being delayed. I suppose that is in order-for what I can gather you had only received one letter from am sure I mentioned it later but in any case I will be home on Dec 2 at 7 a.m. Mascot.

By way of being repetitious-I love you-and still love you,

Yours singularly,

Your husband.

A pretty letter-many things said twice-bed as I meant them, I hope you accept them.

XXXX Bill.

P. S. You can’t answer this letter. Save your thing up.

[Additional page]

You wonderful, wonderful girl!!

What are you trying to do? Make me die of love for you? If you were here I kiss you right in the middle of Fleet Street. Might utterly adorable little woman. I love you even more than I did last night. I’m pining away fee you.

Must say though, I beat it down to Fleet Street to get that cable, in fear and trepidation. Almost had the flaming shakes all that money-so unexpected-I don’t need that sort of money. Can’t very well not get a dressing down now, can I?

My sweet, Darling, most loving, scrumptious, inestimable, fantastic, kissable, /-able, dearest, most unbelievable, adoring, delirious, unpredictable, delicious, and utterly unique, darling girl wife-I love you.

I have half a mind to seal this avowal with my life’s blood.

Your abjectly devoted husband.

Willie

I can’t get home quick enough!!

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: 29 Oct-1 Nov; Chartres revisited and the Louvre

Mon 29-Oct-56: Roamed around, quick look at Louvre & saw Picasso film again – dinner alone at St Germain.
Tue 30-Oct-56:   Rose 5am & got 6:30 train to Chartres, cold but enjoyable. Dinner with Bob Close & others.
Wed 31-Oct-56: Went to Louvre. Quiet day.
Thu 1-Nov-56:   All Souls Day here. Everything shut, did nothing much, went to Place de Vosges.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0075

Paris
Mon 29 ‘56

Dearest girl,

Another very grey day, with the significant difference that it looks grey to me, too. I’ve just come back from a scouting trip to the Louvre. And these great galleries can depress one very easily. One is forced to contemplate one’s own inadequacies & other’s noble communications with succeeding generations. It was very dark in the gallery but I managed to locate some beautiful things. Leonardo’s “Virgin with Jesus & St Anne”, so much better than the “Mona Lisa”. Giorgione’s “Le Concert Champetre” Titian “Virgin au Lapin” del Sarto “La Charité” & a superb portrait by Raphael of “Jeanne D’Aragon”. Very beautiful. All this beauty of city & past efforts are saddening. Perhaps I’m tired – and reaction has set in after yesterday’s strong impact. I felt like giving it away, but the more one sees of this fabulous city, the more one realises how little one can accomplish in the time allowed. God, how I’d like a month here with you. We could give back to each other the needed help. I hope you understood why I had to become so direct at the end of my last letter. It was very necessary to combat the upward surge. I know, anyway, that you would have been all you could to me. I think I’ll go out and find myself something to eat. I’ve been roaming around a fair bit & am getting rather hungry. Strange as it may seem I wish I could hear you chatter madly, and not too pontifically about all the things we could have seen together. I’d like to buy you some wine, & to get you slightly high, and be (that is me) all sort of mildly amused & knowledgably superior. Miss you darling. Au revoir.

Have just come in – it’s about 11pm. Went & saw the Picasso picture again but couldn’t manage to keep awake. Went and had a feed alone. Cost about £1 for a very indifferent meal.

Very cold out – and the streets are wet & full of reflections from the lights of the city. The Seine doesn’t look too inviting in this sort of weather. Roley must have been in & out again. No sign of him at the moment. Don’t know whether to go to Chartres on the 6.20am train tomorrow – or not. Just can’t make up my mind at the moment. Don’t fancy it in the rain. Perhaps it would be better for me to see some galleries although the bigger ones are closed on Tuesdays. Good night sweetheart.

Good Heaven! It’s Thursday morning already! [31 Oct 1956]. On Tuesday morning I got up at 5am. Cold & very dark. Took myself off on a train at 6.30am to revisit Chartres Cathedral – arrived Chartres about 8am, not long after daylight. It was bitterly cold & a perhaps a perfect day to get the full impression of the cathedral. Austere & keen. I had slightly expected a letdown in emotional feeling on a second view – but all my first raptures were held. It is the most moving building I have seen. A wonderful work of the human spirit. Seems to completely embody the medieval gothic soul.

Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956

The great and simple southern spire – soaring without any commonplace cake like decorations into the cold grey sky – Everything very silent, save for the squawk of the black birds flying in & around the open chambers the high peaked top.

Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956

Around the main entrance – the typical Gothic carvings – but these so much better than most. Pure Gothic – as moving as can be – quite up to the Indian gift for sculptured embroidery conceived as a grand and united whole. A beautiful church. Went over to the Louvre but find the pictures hard to see – Paris is very dull & grey – cold too now. So dark, little light comes into the gallery. Most disappointing as there were many fine pictures to be seen. I getting too tired to really take them in. It’s a big gallery with plenty of walking to be done, and my legs have just about had it. Am looking forward to getting home for a rest for a few days.

All the world tension & disaster doesn’t add to the gaiety over here. I hope to God I can get home on time. What with the way things are shaping up it’s becoming a bit disturbing – Not knowing just how big the Anglo French war with Egypt will get. I guess you are getting worried about it. However, I think I will get through all right. I’m going to London tomorrow or the day after & will find out better how the flights home are standing. Shouldn’t be any trouble, as apparently plenty of French athletes are getting ready to take off for the Melbourne Olympics.

Here it is Thursday & midday already. Days are getting short here – I was up at 8am & big[?] a fair bit of washing. Managed to boil my handkerchiefs for the first time. Roley’s got a fire going & the flat is all tightly closed up – makes me sleepy – so I suppose I’d better go out & liven up in the grey chill. Very hazy & all – the buildings appearing like photographs with their almost complete lack of colour. Very paintable though.

I must get this letter off – perhaps my last from here. Longing to see you and Graham again. Nothing like having your own family around even if I never realise it when I have got it! Sorry that this is not a more enthusiastic letter, darling. When I am all keyed up to get the details good & hot – some interference takes place – much as you have complained about at home. Give my regards to the DolemansWatsons & Price Jones. I send you very loving thoughts – your Bill. XXX

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Taken from Rue de la Grenouillère, Chartres; 30 Oct 1956
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The same view, 19 Dec 2015
Taken near 1 – 3 Rue du Frou looking towards Chartres Cathedral, Chartres; 30 Oct 1956
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The same view, 19 Dec 2015
2-10 Rue de la Planche aux Carpes, photographed from Rue du Chêne Doré, Chartres; 30 Oct 1956
1957 oil on board 37.0 x 51.0 cm signed on the lower right: pidgeon 57 label attached: Invoice 26244 / $215.2 23.4.90 / $130.00 No.9 Charles Hewitt Frames Invoices #26243/4/5, 23/4/90 17 paintings not fully identified. Framing details per invoices Avg cost $446.86 ($7,596.70) Item 9 - [Bridge walk, Chartres, France, 1956] 26" x 20.5", S8047 moulding and small linen bevel, $215.20, Restoration $130.00
[Bridge walk, Chartres, France, 1956]
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The same view, 19 Dec 2015
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Wep’s son Peter and family outside the house at 2-10 Rue de la Planche aux Carpes, Chartres; 19 Dec 2015
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Wep’s son, Peter Pidgeon and home owner Jean outside 2-10 Rue de la Planche aux Carpes, Chartres; 19 Dec 2015
1 Rue de Bethléem, Chartres; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Chartres Cathedral; 30 Oct 1956
Institut de France, Le Parlement des Savants photographed from the right bank looking across the Seine; 31 October 1956
[Institut de France, Le Parlement des Savants, Paris 1956]
[Institut de France, Le Parlement des Savants, Paris 1956]
Pont Neuf, Paris; 31 October 1956
The Louvre museum in the distance from the Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concorde, adjacent to the Rue de Rivoli, Paris; 31 October 1956
Place de la Concorde, Paris; 31 October 1956
Bassin Octagonal, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris; 31 October 1956
Margaret Murray standing in front of the Bassin Octagonal (camera looking north) in the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris; 31 October 1956
Jardin des Tuileries, Paris; 31 October 1956
Place de Vosges; 1 November 1956

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 – NW Australia: 14 Aug 1943, near Hughes Airfield; Jap air raid interrupts the party

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
Army Post Office
Darwin
Saturday
[14 Aug 1943]

Darling,

I’m still here.  I suppose you gave me a little thought when you read that N.T. area had been raided by 18 Jap planes on Friday night.*  Well, your little Willie was right out of it.  It occurred during the middle of the party I spoke of in my last letter.  We were all gathered around some tables in the middle of the bush not far from one of the air strips (as they call the aerodromes here) when the warning came over.  Some of the pilots had to dash off to their Spitties.  The lights went off and we continued our drinking in the bright moonlight assisted by the light of a parachute flare which one of the Jap planes dropped over the area.  Old deafie didn’t hear the planes – there was so much alcoholic conversation being broadcast.  A moment later ack-ack fire started – booms & flashes split the night.  Shrapnel from the bursts fell in the camp where I stayed last week.  Fortunately for us the Japs weren’t after the fighter planes – they flew past & dropped their eggs near 2 bomber fields.  One of these I described to you as being situated in the hills. I stayed there on Wednesday night.  The yellow boys might just as well have saved their time, petrol and bombs as neither damage nor casualties (so far as I have heard) were inflicted.  So – a miserable flare is all I’ve seen of the war up in this front line.  There appears to be an expectation of another bash tonight – it being a magnificently full moon.  Perhaps it is just as well I’m not in Darwin or staying in a bomber camp, although they tell me that even a poor bloody Allied Works Council camp stopped a stick of bombs last night.  The only physical stress I have collected is plenty of bites – and then some.  I scratch like a lousy old dog.

The party was pretty willing while it lasted.  Met a Spitty pilot from one of the squadrons who asked how both you and I were keeping.  We met him outside St James theatre with Paul Brennan and some others just before they left for Canada two years ago.

Have just been asked if I’d like to go down to an American bomber field tomorrow.  Think I’ll go down & see what sort of holes the bombs made.  I don’t know that it would be terrible healthy to stay down there – I’ll see about that later.

Cripes I’m missing you honey.  Am really looking forward to getting home.  This life of celibacy is not what it’s cracked up to be.  You’re in for a torrid time my chicabiddy when the bronzed old boy gets back.  I don’t know that you’ll go much on my colour/pattern – I’m getting browned as far as the waist only, from there down snow white takes over.  Have been letting my mo grow a pace – perhaps you should buy me a moustache cup.

How are the Watson family coming along?  How’s the concrete idiot child?  And Bib & Bub?

Very quiet night – we are all sitting round like little goody boys – all writing to our dearests and sweetests.  All of which refers me back to wimmimck(?)  How’s Tommy’s Art for arts(?) sake?  Has he had the animated Selina out again?  Did you see her stripped – is she still much the same?

Sunday morning [15 JAug 1943] before breakfast

I get up early – as a rule before the sun.  The night passed off without incident which is all very well.

Called at a Sergeants’ tent before going to bed.  They were all on the jungle juice – a potent and horrible brew of their own manufacture made out of anything they can lay their hands on – prunes, dried fruits – potato peelings, jam – sugar & old boots, topped off with a liberal dose of yeast.  It looks like milk bar washing up water and tastes and smells like old yeast.  It is alleged to turn the mildest of men into maniacal dervishes.  I didn’t have any.  The conversation was still on the dames and what they would do to them on return to the flesh pots of our fair city in the south.

That’s all for the moment, dear Willie is signing off.  Get your squeezing muscles ready my sweet for the old boy won’t be long now. (I hope!)  Love in bundles for Jessie.

Bill

Answers:

No 1.   I live in tents – i.e. at different places – not in tents at one time.

No 2.   A pilot wrote that on your letter – he was in his cups – I’ll decipher it for you later.

[*Note: Four raids occurred on the night of Friday 13th August and the early hours of Saturday morning. They were aimed at Hughes Airfield, Fenton airfield (9:45pm), Fenton & Coomalie Creek airfields (11:12pm) and Long airfield in the early hours of Saturday 14th August (Dunn, P 2013, Japanese Air Raids in Australia During WW2, Australia@War, viewed 14 August 2013, <http://www.ozatwar.com/bomboz.htm>). The raid which Wep refers to was most likely the attack at 11:12pm on Fenton and Coomalie Creek where he had been staying two nights earlier.]

afield2 from ozatwar
Fighter guide map of airfields near Darwin (from Peter Dunn’s Australia@War). Wep was probably camped just north of Manton Dam near Hughes airfield which had Spitfires along with Strauss and Livingstone airfields.

War Letters – NW Australia: 12 Aug 1943, Coomalie Creek; with the boys of a Beaufighter squadron

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
A.P.O. Darwin
Thursday
[12 Aug 1943]

Darling,

How’s my little pet today?  Listening to Janie?  Going to the pub?  Reading to the Watsos? Or just thinking of Willie?

Am at another camp where I stayed last night.  Am moving up the road this afternoon where I shall pass the evening with the Sydney fellows from the Auto Club.

Beaufighter, possibly at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory, 194
Beaufighter, possibly at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory, 1943

The crowd of pilots fly Beaufighters, a twin engined job used for strafing the nips on islands 300 to 400 miles from here.  They are somewhat older than the Spitfire boys but are all in early twenties.  The Commanding officer is youngish tall, dark & could easily pass for a brother of Good-O.  Something about his face is remarkably like her.  The air force COs are much more friendly than their counterparts in the army.  I suppose this is so because they are much younger.

An Army Liaison officer attached to this unit came up to me last night and asked if I was wep. Said he thought he recognised me.  Asked if I recollected trying to cook sausages with a blow lamp in the main street of Tamworth.  He was at the dance at Tamworth Golf Club.  Fancy coming 2,000 miles to have that brought up!  Wep, my girl, is a name to be contended with! – A young chap of 23 took me in tow last night & fed me with a few whiskies.  At ten o’clock we suppered on toast, asparagus and SARDINES!  Sorry I can’t bring you any down but I am not supposed to buy anything from their mess store.  In case you get the wrong idea that I am wallowing in epicurean luxury I might add that the usual mess meal is only too often blasted tinned bully beef – (tasteless goddamn stuff) & margarine which no one I have so far struck is inclined to eat.  Dry Bread is the standing order now.  It’s 3 weeks since the troops have had any butter.  You can imagine my sufferings.

Possibly near Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory
Possibly near Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory
Possibly near Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory
Possibly near Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory

This is the best camp I have been in.  Situated on the slopes of one of the few hills around this country it is sprinkled amongst delightful open forest.  Beautifully green trees, plenty of palms – and birds galore.  Dawn is a rare pleasure – you wake to the low and penetrating calls of the birds, and the air is as soft & cool as a whisper.

The shower is the coldest I’ve had up here – dispersed my crumbiness in a trice.

Gave the old sand fly bites their necessary scratchings & offed to breakfast of bully beef rissoles and tinned bacon.  For heavens sake get some sucker down there to eat ours.  I’ve completely had it.  Practically every morning since I arrived.  I never want to see it again.  It dished up like limp ham boiled in washing up water.

I’m afraid you and I will have a few guests when I return.  So many of the lads have been very kind to me.  I have asked them all to give us a ring if & when they are in Sydney.

Hope to see you soon sweetheart.  Better get all beautified for you birfday & little Will.  Lots of kisses.  Wish I was at Darwin in case I get a letter.

Bye, bye darling

Bill.

(Note – Jess’s birthday is 5th September)

Beaufighter EH-Y, A19-70, 31 Squadron, RAAF
Beaufighter EH-Y, A19-70, 31 Squadron, RAAF
Beaufighter, warming up
Beaufighter, warming up
Beaufighter
Beaufighter
Beaufighter
Beaufighter
Beaufighter
Beaufighter
Beaufighter
Beaufighter

War Letters – NW Australia: 10 Aug 1943, Darwin; funeral service for two mercantile seamen

W.E.Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin
Tuesday 10th [Aug 1943]

Darling,

Got another letter from you posted the 6th.  Thanks sweet you’re doing very well indeed.  Sorry you haven’t had any mail for 5 days.  I can’t understand that as I don’t think at any time have I gone longer than 2 days without sending you something.  Maybe a censor somewhere has tossed one out.  Why I wouldn’t know.

Sometimes I get fed up with it here.  I think I’ll just clean up a few more things & come home within 3 weeks.  To cover everything would take me months.  So get ready to receive me right.  Am looking forward to seeing you again – it does seem such a long time – doesn’t it?

Wrote 4 letters on Sunday to you, George Finey, King Watson, and the boys at the office.   So that’s that.  I was quite exhausted after it all.

Wep hanging out his washing
Wep hanging out his washing. The Correspondents’ Mess is in the background

We have all been washing & ironing today as the batman is sick.  Frank Tierney knows all about the job.  I think he must have been a good wife to somebody.

24 x 18 cm
Sketch study for Loading A Bomber On A Camouflaged Field North-West Australia

Yesterday I spent with a bomber squadron and managed to get a good set up of the ‘erks’ (as the air force call the ranks who do the hard manual work) loading bombs into a plane.

Funeral service, Darwin
[ Note: The funeral services held on 8 August 1943 were for George Dew and Harold Keller, killed when their vessel, ‘Macumba’ was sunk during a Japanese air attack. This particular scene is of the funeral for George Dew which was conducted by Padre T. Gee, Church of England Chaplain – see http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/055131/]

Sunday afternoon I make a very quick note of a funeral near here.  Two of the mercantile marine seamen who were killed when Japs bombed a ship a few days ago off the coast north from here.  I think it would make quite a good picture.

Study for Relic of Feb ’42 - Darwin
Study for Relic of Feb ’42 – Darwin

Made a quick water colour sketch of one of the bombed houses here.  Water colors are hellishly awkward to manage out of doors.  The colour dries on the box before you can get it onto the paper.

Air Force Pool, Darwin
Air Force Pool, Darwin

Am dashing this letter off because I’m going up the road a little way to finish off a painting of a swimming pool I started some time ago.  As the mail will go before I return I am in haste to express my adoration.

You must be stopping a packet of cold weather down there.  The “Army News” (local paper) mentions it nearly every day.

Yes I am getting sunburnt.  Poor old nut had peeled several times and is now sweetly crowned with a tiara of freckles.  Borrowed a pair of shorts from the Loot yesterday so hope to lose the lily whiteness of my nether limbs.

It’s a hot day but with extra pleasant cool breeze coming off the sea.  The climate here much to be preferred to that down the road where there is a great lack of breeze.  The water pipe line feeding Darwin is exposed to the sun and the water from it is incredibly hot where it is tapped into camps alongside it.  Almost to hot to shower under.  In Darwin you can have a shower any old time night or day & it’s just beaut-o!

Will be off to the pictures tonight to see “Sun Valley Serenade” again.  Be pleasant to see Sonia skiing whilst we swelter & combat the mosquitoes.

Guess I’ll have to be getting along it is now almost 3pm.  So put your arms around yourself for me & save me some great big kisses.  Lots of love sweetheart – till I see you soon.

I expect to be home for your birthday.  Love

Bill.

42

War Correspondent Jimmy Smythe doing his washing in the Darwin area
War Correspondent Jimmy Smythe doing his washing in the Darwin area
1 NW Australia - 3 Darwin Area-5
Possibly War Correspondent Frank Tierney doing washing in the Darwin area

Relic of Feb ’42 - Darwin
Relic of Feb ’42 – Darwin
[Note: American Headquarters corner Peel and Smith Streets, Darwin, damaged by a crashing Spitfire. Building was originally McLure’s flats.]
AWW 1943-11-20 P8 Loading A Bomber On A Camoflaged Field North-West Australia Clr neg 2 - Copy
Loading A Bomber On A Camouflaged Field North-West Australia, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 Nov 1943, p8
Interior Cockpit, Transport Plane 1943
Interior Cockpit, Transport Plane, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 Nov 1943, cover
Lockheed Crew
Lockheed Crew, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 Nov 1943, p9
Lockheed Hudson Bomber, 'Houdini'
Lockheed Hudson Bomber, ‘Houdini’; sketch study for Loading A Bomber On A Camouflaged Field North-West Australia
Interior, Cockpit Hudson Transport Plane
Sketch study for Interior, Cockpit Hudson Transport Plane
Interior, Cockpit Hudson Transport Plane
Sketch study for Interior, Cockpit Hudson Transport Plane
Fuelling a Hudson
Fuelling a Hudson

24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm Lockheed Hudson Bomber 21 x 11 cm 21 x 11 cm

24 x 18 cm
Building in Darwin
Darwin Post Office
Darwin Post Office
Commercial Bank, Darwin
Commercial Bank of Australia, Darwin

 

War Letters – NW Australia: 24 Jul 1943, Darwin; Material for Women’s Weekly, daily diet & journo’s gossip

C/O DPR Unit,
Army Post Office,
Darwin,
Saturday night
[24 Jul 1943]

Darling,

I was enormously pleased to get your letter, sweetheart – it did me a lot of good –  picked the old soul up no end.  Forgive me if my last letter sounded somewhat morbid.  “Troppo” madness sets in early and I was too tired & weak to attempt good cheer.  However you will overlook it – yes?

Letters do help – one has to be away to realize that.  Poor Ivan – he must eat his heart out waiting for them.

I’m sitting down to work – have been fairly busy although my painting is not of any class as yet, it being overwhelmingly amateurish.  Obviously I need much more practice.  It’s mostly rough notes that I am compiling for a more or less free use when I come home to my cuddly snugglepot.  Judging from the material I have gathered in less than two weeks it will take me at least 2 months back in Sydney working flat out to cover the space necessary for any sort of decent display.  That’s good news, heh?

They’re still discussing this & that.  It’s U.S. and Jap strategy now & I cannot help but listen.  Destroys my thoughts.

25

A great call comes through for us to eat supper sandwiches.  And at present that’s nothing to look forward to.  We are on “tropical spread” a bloody margarine substitute – tastes like blasted coconut oil.  Should be butter any time now.  We have only had to bear the burden for a couple of days.

The poor old pate is sight to behold, huge shivers of burnt up skin float slowly off its tarnished dome.  My face is a dried apricot with pimples on it.  The bank roll is still well – I’ve only spent a tenner so far.  You must apologise to the boys for me and explain that to date it is next door to impossible to buy anything up here.  My only expenses are household – you can’t spend any on grog at other camps as each officer only gets so much ration & none is really left over for visitors to buy for them.  I’ve just bought 18 large packets of Capstans.  They seem to be all you can get.  Also I let the office buy me a real kangaroo skin tobacco pouch for 10/-.  Incidently (sic) I haven’t heard from them yet – touch wood.

You’d better go in and price that casserole doings as it’s a moral I won’t be home to consummate our tenth anniversary.  Get it if you like & give a dinner to the Watso’s & O’Deas out of it.  Do me in style and don’t forget to leave an empty setting at table for me – don’t neglect my drinks either.  Telepath me lots of lurv.

It’s no secret about McNulty.  I knew in Brisbane.  No doubt King & Cyril resented his queer behaviour.  Perhaps he didn’t like to let Cyril know that the estimable Brian was to be his superior.  The set-up has violent possibilities.  Cyril will object to Penton’s policies & the daily night work.  Pretty ‘orrid what!

We don’t do our own washing.  Every day we change and one of the poor unfortunates chores for us all.  Ironing is done as well.  We do nothing but eat.  None of these blokes are what you could call drinking men.  Although there is at least 5 bottles Corio – 3 gin & 5 port, 1 hock, 1 advocat & 2 beer no one wants a drink.  I’ll be glad to get out again.  Am going down the road tomorrow – shall be away about 4 days finishing up at the last camp I stayed at.  They’re having a do on Thursday 29th.  Ray Stehr & Tom Izzard, prominent Sydney footballers, also 4 other leading Sydney Rugby players are in the unit.  To my great despair I won’t see any of your letters until I come back, my pet.  I’ll forward you letters from where ever I am.

Mindil Beach, Darwin
Mindil Beach, Darwin

 

24 x 18 cmAll the gang have been on the beach this afternoon.  It seems incredible that the water should be so warm and the weather so glorious.  Dozens of soldiers turn out for a dip it’s all very gay and nude – the probeing & squealing is reminiscent of a schoolboys water carnival.  An amazing assortment of Freds strike the eye.  I retire with modesty – grander and stouter are encountered with every flick of the eye.

W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work
W.E. Pidgeon (WEP) at work

 

 

Air Force Pool, Darwin
Air Force Pool, Darwin

Yesterday I spent some time painting the delightful freshwater pool I wrote you of some time back.  To my great satisfaction I had the spot alone for close on 1½ hours when 20 or there about soldiers came roaring down like wolves on the fold.  I fled soon after.  On the way back saw dozens of wallabies.  The poor creatures suffer the fate of rabbits down south – dazzled by car lights they are struck & killed.

The blarsted typing has started again. So farewell for the nonce my love.  It’s going to be a great thrill when we meet.

Lot & lots

Bill

Inside, looking out
Inside, looking out

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 – 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.