War Letters – NW Australia: 24 Aug 1943, Darwin; 10th Wedding anniversay

From Friday, 20 August 1943 through to Monday, 23 August 1943, Wep was on assignment at a Mission Station on Bathurst Island. Whilst absent, Wep penned a letter to Jess, of which the first 13 pages have been lost or misplaced.

Continuation of letter written 23 August

Page 14

 

…. but plain damn silly.  I wish you hadn’t told me.  Anyway I’ll be home within a week of you getting this letter.  So expect a lot of things to look up.

Had a fair trip back.  Couldn’t see much as we were flying blind in bush fire smoke for a hundred miles.  Am glad to be back and have already made application for my return trip.  Hurry up that new dress and look your damndest.  Only the two of us together the night I come back.

Am getting tired as I have had to put off writing tonight until the typists gave up the ghost – which they unwillingly did about 10.30pm.  Didn’t sleep to well over on the island.  The nights turned out too cold for only two blanket over me and the sand fly itches gave me de woiks.  Used to wake at 2 or 3am, or even earlier I imagine, & toss for the remainder of the night.  No good.

And so to bed. – Goodnight my darling.  I hope you managed the anniversary pleasantly & tolerably happily.  I haven’t got to mine yet although I’m only about ¾ hour off the 24th August.  Lots of love sweet, save yours all up for my return.

 

24th August
Page 15

 

Good morning my bride.  Tis the wedding morn.  Ten years removed.  Got your telegram – Thanks a lot dear.  I hope you got mine on the right day.  I had to get the man mountain here to send it for me on Monday as I was still away.  They say that it would get there on the auspicious occasion.  I hope so.  Everyone has wished me happy anniversaries.  To give the real domestic flavour to the day I have lit up the copper and am about to do the washing.

Am trying to get air transport to Sydney, but there seems to be some bother, a lot of the air services have been cut down.  So, at the moment I’m still in the air (i.e metaphorically speaking) again.  Give me the works when you dress up for the happy day.

XXX  Bill

Little flowers for anniversary day.  They were a frangipani & a pretty red wild bloom.

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.

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

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

Darling,

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

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

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

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

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

Hours later.

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

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

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

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

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

And so to bed

Bill.

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

[Then all crossed out.]

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

Skip it!

Love to my

Darling.

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

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

References:  

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

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

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

War Letters – NW Australia: 13 Aug 1943, Manton Dam; inspecting Darwin’s water supply

W.E.Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin
Friday
[13 Aug 1943]

Darling,

After posting yesterday’s letter I had a most welcome surprise.  One of your letters was delivered to me via the good graces of an Officer who had been in Darwin.  It was quite a treat.

I have a box of 200 cigs put away for you.  I can’t bring anything else much down because I will still have weight limits to consider on the place trip.

See if you can buy some poultry shears.  I don’t know what I want – leave till I come home – it won’t be long.  Whacko the dinner – and after?!  Your letters ar’nt censored.  So speak freely.  Am back now with the crowd from Sydney.  Amused them all last night with mad sketches of them waiting for a shower and straining at the stool.  They were well received.  Prior to the padre’s (there is one here at the moment) departure last night the drawings were strictly on the up & up.

One of the Captains here took me for a run to the dam which supplies Darwin with water.  It’s a pretty big affair and water is held back for about 7 miles.  The Manager of the plant there lives in a delightful cottage overlooking the river which flows from the foot of the spillway.  Tall and gracious ti trees intermingled with pandanas palms and eucalypts shade the languid water lilies.  His house on the hillside is surrounded with the greenest pawpaws, bananas, jacarandas and gums.  A rustic fountain plays amid tropical lilies speckled like coleus.  Bush orchids hang on the trees, citrus fruit, chrysanthemums, flocks and tomatoes add variety to the pattern.  Hanging baskets of purple backed leaves complete the picture.  The dam itself is full of fish which we could quite plainly see – perch – garfish – & one tiny snake swimming on the surface – a boat is moored nearby.  It’d make a wonderful weekender.  Apparently anything grows at any time during the dry season.  The ground is extraordinarily indulgent when supplied with plenty of water.

Sort of

The climate is getting one a bit lazy now.  Also I am becoming somewhat rattled as time is drawing to a close –  there are so many odds & ends I want to check on.  I suppose I’ll find I haven’t half enough stuff or have overlooked something – when I start in re drawing it all.

Next weekend I am flying over to a mission station where are plenty of blacks etc.  Should be a wad of material in it.  Native dances, tropical scenery.  Air force base, shipping scenes, crocodiles – in fact – the whole works.

You can’t help but be amused at the conversation in the territory. Only 2 basic topics – women & beer discussed ad infinitum.  Lurid speculation precedes the arrival of the Tivoli ballet.  I shudder to think of the boys’ conversation after each performance.

Have borrowed a pair of shorts from the Loot at Darwin, hoping to get my legs a bit sunburnt – so far all I have collected is several hundred sand fly bites.  A microscopic fly with a Gargantuan bite.

Am due at the big do tonight so cheerio whilst I am still whole & healthy.

Lots of love sweetheart

from your Willie.