War Letters – New Guinea: 10 Feb 1944, Townsville; killing time waiting

W.E. Pidgeon
C/o P.R. Unit
7 Murray St.
Stanton Hill
Thurs. 10th


As you can see by the letter head I am back on the mainland, killing time while I wait for transport up to Cairns.  In all probability I shall be home in a week’s time.  Have a nice steak in the house – and a cold bottle of course.

Will you please send me a page, or about 20 clothing coupons.  Do not send the book as the Officer’s shop will accept loose coupons.  I want to buy a pair of shoes they are very good and only 25/-.  Post them as soon as you get this letter for I shall only be about 3 or 4 days up north.  Shall then try and get home on the flying boat which gets to Sydney about 5 o’clock which, I hope, will just give us time to dash off a quick one at Coy’s.  [Harold and Bassie Coy ran the Hotel Hunters Hill, a favoured drinking spot of Wep and Jess.]

How are all the parlour geese there?  Can Molly [Turton] get through the swing doors now?  Got any home brew?

Had a fine trip down from the island.  Left at four on a slightly cloudy but moonlight morning and arrived here at 7.30 am.  That’s good going.  The dawn was really magnificent coming on while we were flying above the great cumulus clouds.  The effect was brilliantly violent.  It was a Superman sunrise.

Have struck Bill Marien, who, by the way, is married to that girl and has a kid about 18 month’s old.  We had dinner at the Officer’s Club and a quantity to drink.  It affected me poorly and I am now happily feeling the retirement of the ragged hangover that accompanied my awakening.  The rest of my time has been spent dismally sitting on my bum and gloomily reading old Lifes, Reader’s Digests, Mans and other sundry publications.

Have just heard that I will be moving off tomorrow.

If you happen to be going to town will you pop into Moore’s Bookshop next the Criterion Hotel and ask if they have a copy of the cheap edition of Laurence’s (sic) Seven Pillars of Wisdom [T.E. Lawrence].  Also can you get me, at any bookstore a copy of Cleanliness and Godliness by Reginald Reynolds?

Have only had one letter from you so that if you have happened to send others I must presume their demise in the Jungle Hells of NG.

Nothing else of interest at the moment.  So accept my utmost adoration.  Your devoted willie.


[At some stage Bill visited the Atherton Tablelands where he then got a lift from Major C.H. Cheong, editor of the Army newspaper ‘Table Tops’ who drove him to Townsville presumably on his return trip home. It is estimated that he made it home by Thursday, 17 February 1944.]

Sgt. Marney, MM
Sgt. Marney, MM
Believed to be Sgt Ray McDonald Marney, NX1441, Military Medal, 2/2 Aust Inf Bn
Most likely sketched when Wep returned from New Guinea during a transit through the Atherton Tablelands.
See also http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/82053801
Pte. N. Blundell, MM
Pte. N. Blundell, MM
Believed to be Pvt Neville Blundell, NX4320, Miltary Medal, later L/Cpl, of 2/3 Bn
Most likely sketched when Wep returned from New Guinea during a transit through the Atherton Tablelands.
See also http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44893679
Sgt. Wyatt, MM
Sgt. Wyatt, MM
Believed to be Sgt Arthur James Wyatt, NX4211, 2/3rd Bn, awarded the Military Medal
Most likely sketched when Wep returned from New Guinea during a transit through the Atherton Tablelands.
See also http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44893679

War Letters – New Guinea: 18 Jan 1944, Townsville; lousy with troops

DPR Unit
[18 Jan 1944]


How’s my little lonely honey?  As hot as I am?  Boy that is plenty.  It’s much hotter here than in Darwin.  I’ve done nothing but sweat & replace it with a noggin of beer.  I didn’t get away from Brisbane on the midday plane as I had anticipated, consequently poor Willie had to be wakened at 3.45 am on Monday to get an American Navy plane to Townsville.  We arrived at the aerodrome at 4.45 but the plane was not due to leave until six so we just sat around on our bums in the darkness for about an hour.  Couldn’t get booked through to Moresby direct – hence the above address.

2 New Guinea - 2 Townsville-21

I was the only Australian aboard the big Douglass.  One of the fellow yanks was an artist from the Chicago Tribune.  An elderly kind of Carl Shreveish looking guy with a long upper lip & untidy dress.  We left just as the sun was coming up over the sea the whole vision was a blend of purple & red gold slashed and scored by brilliant reflected light from the rivers & pools.  Couldn’t see much after that as the sun brought the mist up and obscured most of our vision.  Arrived here about 9.30am which is a pretty fast trip considering its nearly 700 miles.  We flew mostly about 10,000 ft – about 400 felt above the clouds which looked like wads a kapok methodically sprinkled over the earth below.

Townsville is a most picturesque place to approach by air.  The town itself nestles beneath a huge rocky mass called Castle Hill & fringes the big bay which is blocked towards the sea by the mountainous magnetic island.  The airport here is an hellishly busy place – planes of all descriptions come & go every few minutes.

21 x 11 cm 20.8 x 12.3 cm

It is lousy with troops.  2 to every civilian.  The beer position is acute in the town’s hotels – they charge 2/- deposit on the glass.  Fortunately for us pukka sahibs there is an Officer’s Club – much bigger than that in Brisbane.  It is situated in a pleasant hotel on the beach front which is fringed with coconut palms.

Met Trotter up here we went for a swim during the afternoon.  The water is quite warm and we diddled around for about an hour – did ½ half non-fishing & got somewhat burnt.  Drove back and bathed in 2 inches of water (the supply is out off during the day because of the shortage).  Dressed & returned to Officer’s Club & drank nice cold beer in comfort.  Trotter left at 4 am this morning.

Edwards [Reg J Edwards, photographer] caught the midday plane from Brisbane & arrived yesterday afternoon.  We both leave at 4 am tomorrow.  Moresby is only 4 hours flight away so I’ll be there for lunch.  This weather is enervating so forgive me if the letters are both short and dull.  I haven’t been dry since I arrived – the nights are just as warm.  We were going up the mountain in a friend of Edward’s jeep but someone pinched it from outside the Officer’s Club last night, a pretty kettle of fish.  The major in charge here is a most amiable fellow & is taking us up there this afternoon after which we proceed swimming-wards.  This house is well up on the hill and is surrounded by most pleasant shady trees.  The enclosed flower for you is from a poinsiana (it sounds like that) [Poinciana] tree.  It’s a delightful thing with great long pods like 2 ft peas hanging off the limbs.  The general appearance is something like a jacaranda except for the profusion of brilliant red flowers.

Will write to you tomorrow darling.  Hope you are looking after yourself well and are eating up your ration of meat.

Lots of you to you darling


20.5 x 12 cm 20.5 x 12 cm 20.5 x 12 cm 21 x 11 cm 2 New Guinea - 2 Townsville-22 2 New Guinea - 2 Townsville-20 20.5 x 12 cm

War Letters – Borneo: 17 July 1945, Morotai; The trip from Townsville and other socialite gossip

W.E. Pidgeon


Tuesday morning, 15th July 45 [17 Jul 1945]


Dear Jess,

You might be pleased to see that I have got this far without bother.  We landed here about 3 pm yesterday after flying since dawn.  Capt. Mark Miller & I had a few beers before lunch at the Townsville Officer’s Club on Saturday.  It was over these beers that I came to remark that I had met Rod through the instrumentality of Grace Bowers.  Talking along in a generalised way we came to mention Alsatians of which he has two.  I then remarked that during a period of requited love I had also bought a hound to help me & my bruised heart.  Said that I used to take said hound down to Bondi.  He said he remembered the green Chrysler the dog and the attractive girl.  Complement to you my treasure, for he didn’t know then that I later swept you off your feet.

We retired to the bedroom after lunch & he produced a bottle of Scotch & we proceeded to give it a gentle nudge.  Just sufficient for him to be opened up on the divorce case.  Apparently his wife did her block completely over Alexander & had no compunction about leaving her two young boys for his sake.  Miller says that Alexander was considerably cooler in his approach to her.  What I mean is that he had no intentions of anything but a good time.  Miller reckons that the costs were about £9,800 of which he seems to think that he will be let in for his wife’s share – about £4,000.  Miller seems an amiable enough fellow to me.  A big man – & rather like Frank Packer to look at.  Not intellectual but with plenty of intelligence towards the practical side of life.  He began as a private & is now a Capt. Has done 5 years in the army is extremely proud of his kids & was so of his wife.  His importance to us lies in the fact that he controls the British Brewery end of Miller’s interests.  We got along very well.

We left Townsville as you know on Sunday morning & spent the night at Merauke on the southern side of Dutch New Guinea.  As we arrived at dusk & left at dawn I can’t tell you what the place looked like.  Coming over the ranges in New Guinea the pilot had to take the plane to 20000 ft.  Boy was it cold!  Ice was flying off the propellers & in places you could scratch frost off the inside of the plane.  The oxygen apparatus wasn’t working for the interior of the plane.  It is amazing how short of breath you become.  You gasp like a blinking fish out of water.  Your knees sag if you stand.  I thought a 1/4 lb. block of chocolate would provide me with some energy but it only made me sick.  I felt lousy.  Picked up a bit on the way down to Biak where we refueled & took off on the 4 hours flight to this island.  The weather was stinking & we flew at 600 ft through squalls & rain nearly all the way.  There’ll be another hop like that to Tarakan in a day or so.  It is raining here and is pretty cool.  The cold weather has followed me all the way.  This camp is one of the best – or I should say the best I have been in.  Being a headquarters sought of do one might expect this to be so.  Banana palms all in between the tents, good food & 2 bottles of beer a week.  Not many cigarettes which are also rationed.  I wish I had brought my old boots these are taking time breaking in.  My feet feel rather like those of gouty diver.  My elegant apparel is, I am a sure a joy to behold.  As everybody here seems to have clothes of their own there is no occasion to into sharing my pants and my shirt.  Damn the rain too.  It makes much mud to stick to the corny foot!


I’m sick of sitting around so I’ll take a walk – corns, snuffles, out of focus eye, rain and all!  Come what may!  It shall scatter the cobwebs which spread a dusty net across my thoughts.

In the course of my work the very obliging Captain who runs this here part of the doings took me over to the O.M. store where I trade my wretched Vic. Barracks sack cloths for a shirt which fits & a pair of beautiful eau-de-ville pants with herringbone pattern.  They are the same size but look considerably daintier & command much approval from my aesthetic eye.  The general effect is now rather sweet than otherwise.

Soon it will be time for me totter over for the morning cuppa.  Before breakfast the Batman arrives with hot coffee & hot water for the shave.  What’s this for roughing it.

I have taken up the profuse sweating where I left it off in January last.


Well, lots of love to you & that young man.  Will write in all probability again from here before I leave for Balik Papan.




This is supplementary news, or lack of it

Afternoon about 3 pm

Have had lunch out – with Major Cheong who runs the army newspaper and who is the chappie that drove me down from Atherton to Townsville.  The weather at the moment is really wonderful & it finds your old man seated before his tent, basking semi nude in the sun – & sweating merrily whilst a nice cool breeze from the sea just a hundred yards off makes gentle passes at his back.  Bananas to the left, bananas to the right, vines, ferns, paw paws & trees just behind the canvass – this is the real tropic life.  A bird squeaks intermittently and some sort of droning insect keeps forever on a high pitched drone.  What a life!  Have been down on the strip but none of the crowd I met in January remain on the island.  I dare say I shall contact them at Tarakan.  Heard all the latest on “Tige’s ” bag snatching husband.  Appears he was the menace of the north.  Brace and bitted his eyes into every bedroom within sight.  Acquired no end of valuable commodities and generally behaved like a very queer duck.  It seems that it is just as well that we never invited him home.  We may not have had much left by now.  Am waiting on afternoon tea.  I find it is on – farewell me while I eat.  The tea arrives.  This is a blessing as I am getting really too hot out in the sun.  Must have lost a pound at least today.  Am feeling better now than I have done for weeks so cheer up when considering my health.  Lots of love again & will write again soon, very soon.

War Letters – Borneo: 15 July 1945, Townsville; Departing for New Guinea


Sunday, 9.30 am,

[15 Jul 1945]


Very hurried line to let you know that I am off to New Guinea in about 1/4 hour.

Lots of love to you and bub.

Arrived here about 11 am yesterday morning & have been staying at the Officer’s Club – am sharing the room & the trip up with Capt. Mark Miller of divorce fame.  Will write you all the gossip later.


Am running out of both time and ink.




Divorce Suit in 4th Week .

SYDNEY, Monday.-When the divorce suit of a Sydney couple well-known in social circles entered its fourth week before a judge and jury in the Divorce Court to-day, it was estimated that costs had already passed the £2500 mark. Parties to the action are Captain Marcus Matthew Miller,A.I.F., son of a leading coal mine and brewery owner, and his wife, Jean Josephine Miller (nee O’Halloran),daughter of a well-known Sydney solicitor.

Miller is suing for divorce on the grounds of his wife’s adultery with Clifford Alexander, knitting mills proprietor, of Surry Hills, while his wife is cross-petitioning on the grounds of her husband’s adultery with a woman unknown and also his cruelty. Alexander is denying the allegation against him.  

Source: 1945 ‘Divorce Suit in 4th Week.’, Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 5 June, p. 5, viewed 11 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68927076