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

War Letters – New Guinea: 20 Jan 1944, Port Moresby;

Public Relations
Field Unit
HDQ
N.G. Force
20th Jan 44

Darling,

I am trying to write this in the correspondents dormitory.  Three or 4 of them lie about spine bashing – Others reminisce of their experiences in the area.  It is about 4.30 pm & it is still hot – albeit not so bad as Townsville where on Tuesday the water out of the taps (when one was allowed to use them) was 92º.

Left about 6 in the morning & we here for lunch.  It’s quite a treat to see land after flying over the sea for a couple of hours.  There were lots of clouds about & occasionally you could get glimpses of the barrier reef below – not that its much to see from the air.  Circled the town & landed amongst hills very little different from those down south.  The foliage & earth are much the same colour as that around Darwin.  However it is a picturesque spot as the mountains run fairly close to the sea & are an ominous blue under the clouds.  Long long off above the clouds can be see peaks jutting through – I guess they must be plenty high!

Tried to ring Tommy [O’Dea] but they said they hadn’t heard of him so I suppose he has not arrived yet.  I would have rung him in Brisbane but didn’t.

I don’t know that there is much I can tell you about this place.  Letters take some time to get down to you from here & God knows how long from other areas.  If you do not hear from me for a while don’t worry because it will be purely a matter of mail difficulties.  I ……[torn]…….. will not be writing much under …………………….. I shan’t be able to get many ………[torn]………………d… 10 days so don’t bother ………[torn]………… feel like it.

Am leaving here tomorrow for more important spots.  Have been issued with jungle green clothing – that beautiful aspidistra leaf trembling in the breeze over there will be me.  I don’t feel like doing anything here – even writing – it’s such a dead end.  When I move off I shall probably be too tired to send much.

There were 2 correspondents here who were at Darwin.  Caught up again with Trotter  yesterday but he moved out today.  Bill Dargie official war artist called in on me yesterday & we passed the time of day.  Roy Hodgkinson called this morning & I lunched with him at his mess up the road a bit.  He and Alice are divorced.  She is about to marry the Yank corpl (?)  Roy seems quite happy about it all.

Saw a native sing song which was turned on for Stella Wilson who is up here at the moment.  It was interesting enough but somewhat scrappy around the edges.  Not the real McCoy.  Hardly get the best effect when the music consists of a boong banging a bucket with sticks and another playing a drum like the one we have at home.

Am going tonight with the rest of the gang to hear the final concert from Stella Wilson and Edwin Styles.

Reg Harris who used to work in the office has just stuck his head around the door & sends his regards to you & Petrovs [Geoff and Molly Turton], etc.  You probably don’t remember him but what the hell!  He is not a reporter.  Has just returned from Shaggy Ridge after months of front line fighting.  He very decently gave me aluminium mess tins to save on weight.  Said you  can buy him a drink when he gets back.

Later

I’ve had a rest – a shower – a shave, etc. Tea – & the rest.

All are getting ready for the show so bye-bye for the present dear.  Hope you are well and are being careful with Junior.  Not too much work – grog – travel – and contemplation.

Lots of love, darling

Bill

War Letters – Morotai: 20 Jan 1945, Hollandia; met cousin Ilma’s husband

Hollandia
Saturday 20th Jan 44 [45]
7.20 am

Darling,

Am writing this whilst sitting safely & placidly on a comfortable bed in a comfortable camp.  As you observe I have at last got this pen into some semblance of working order. I hope it stays like this.  Jack Hickson is still asleep – he’s been asleep ever since we left Sydney.

War Correspondent, photographer Jack Hickson, asleep on the tran
War Correspondent, photographer Jack Hickson, asleep on the transport plane to New Guinea

We got here about 6.30 pm yesterday after a strenuous 11 hour trip from Townsville.  And what a trip! 5 hours over the bleeding ocean, through rain squalls & bumps and vague (at least to us) turnings.  Sometimes only a 100 ft or so over the sea & at others 8000.  A dirty trip which caused your old man a certain amount of mental distress.  Landed at Moresby drome where there was only one other plane on the field – that place is plenty dead these days.  Took ½ hour to climb high enough to cross the Owen Stanleys which were covered with enormous clouds.  We then turned up the Ramu Valley but were forced back by cloud before we got near Shaggy Ridge.  Climbed to about 15000 ft & passed over the bottom edge of the Bismarck Range & so to the Finschhafen coast to the accompaniment of more mental agitation.  Took us about 4 more hours flying time to get here which is just over the Dutch border.  Was I glad to land?  Was it good or bad?  No one wanted us as no one had heard of us.  After 1 ½ hours bum warming we managed a frugal meal at an air force camp & finally made our way up to the American Public Relations section of this huge US camp.  We slept here in some luxury.  Was introduced to the major in charge [Richard (Dick) Brewer] who asked me my Christian name.  His reaction to my weighty information was “I am married to Ilma” [Ilma Brewer nee Pidgeon, Wep’s first cousin].  So you see I am living with relatives namely my cousin-in-law.  He asked me how our chee-ild was.  And how is the little pet?  Does he miss dear old da?  Drop me a letter (one only) c/o RAAF Public Relations Morotai – but do it straightaway.  I’ll probably miss it anyway.  Breakfast is due in a few moments. I’ll try to write to greater length when we settle down some place.

Lots of love dear.  Look after yourself, Graham, and Mum.  Giver her my love.

Poppa

(alias Daddas

alias Weppie)

[Richard and Ilma Brewer went back to the US after the war but returned to Australia a few years later to settle permanently. Dick became the General manager for Parker Pens Australia and Ilma earned a PhD and became a Lecturer in Botany at the University of Sydney]

W.E. Pidgeon's (WEP) War Correspondent licence, No. 370, issued
W.E. Pidgeon’s (WEP) War Correspondent licence, No. 370, issued 13 Jan 1945 for his third trip to the south west Pacific war zone.
W.E. Pidgeon's (WEP) War Correspondent licence, No. 370, issued
W.E. Pidgeon’s (WEP) War Correspondent licence, No. 370, issued 13 Jan 1945 for his third trip to the south west Pacific war zone.

21 x 11 cm
American ambulance

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 – Borneo: 24 July 1945, Brunei; Afternoon tea with the local villagers

Brunei
W.E. Pidgeon
C/o Public Relations
1 Aust Corps
Tuesday night
24 July

 

My dear Jess,

Am now on the mainland of Borneo and am camped at a spot by the river about 1/2 mile out of what is left of the village of Brunei.  I remember seeing an article on the leader page of  ‘The Herald’ in which this joint was described as the ‘Venice of the east’.  If Venice is anything like this God help it!  On the opposite side of the river there must be a couple of hundred native houses built over the water & supported by timbers much the same as the Papuan houses around Moresby.  There is an incessant coming & going of small boats – in & out from the houses, up and down the river – all over the bleeding place.  These houses look drearily squalid but the touch of tropic romance (sic) is supplied by a group of young kids paddling & singing a queer Malayan song which carries well across the water.  A slithering sound & a rasping of dry grass makes me jump & consider horrific images of pythons crushing Willie’s bones.  I escape this pulpy fate & sigh to see a lizard of the brightest cutest green imaginable and he eyes me obliquely & unmovingly.  After time I’ll take without a qualm the pinkest of elephants.  Maybe it was the gin I had last night.

I am escorted by an intrepid bodyguard from the Public Relations.  Apparently his job is to arrange transport for me and to fight off the Japs while I pursue the arts and further the successes of the “Women’s Weekly”.

It took us 4 1/2 hours to cross from Labuan.  After a large trip like this and a modest suggestion of a hangover I would willingly have given Borneo back to the wild men.

Had a bit of a snooze just before tea which is at 5.30 pm.  Incidentally the time the army is operating on is all haywire. I reckon it is about 1 1/2 hours ahead of what it should be.  This close to the equator one must expect normally sunrise about 6 am and sunset about 6 pm.  As it is sunup is nearer 7.30 am than anything and it gets dark at 8.  All this guff merely to tell you we have tea really at about 4 pm.

MP escort on a visit to the village at Brunei
MP escort on a visit to the village at Brunei
Wep with some local children, most likely in Brunei
Wep with some local children, most likely in Brunei

Went over the village (the part that is sensibly built on land) after tea.  Accompanied by an army cop who talked and explained all the doings like a cook’s tour spruiker.  Had two cups of tea in a native home – this palace was underneath the house proper and in the room which I would say was approx. 15′ x 15′ lives 4 couples & an uncountable number of children.  These natives sure know how to reproduce the young.  The provost fellow knew a few words of Malay and all was giggles & tea swilling.  The higher social level here is maintained by the Chinese of whom some are really good lookers.  Many of them are pretty wealthy and live in large & airy homes bounded by gracious tress, bamboos, & banana plants.  Basically it is an interesting enough place although now sadly in need of repair & paint since the Japanese occupation.  The natives here are hard bargainers and see to it that the army boys pay plenty for what they want in the way of souvenirs.  Saw some magnificent sarongs some of the lads had paid 50 dollars for.  50 dollars to you mug, is about £7.10.0.  Quite a whack!

There’s a bug of some sort creeping round here making noises just like dear old Joe Palooka’s “Tch, Tch”.

Some of the little native kids are delightful.  I’d like to buy one for little Graham.  They carry on with the same antics.

Little Wep; The Australian Women's Weekly, 21 Jul 1945
Little Wep; The Australian Women’s Weekly, 21 Jul 1945

Jimmy Smyth’s wife posted him the cover with our little man on it.  I look at it lovingly & it is now travelling Brunei State with me.  Is he looking after you all right?

I think I’ll push off to bed as I’m all wore out.  My salubrious couch consists of a hip hole in the earth – a ground sheet, a blanket, and a mosquito net.

Yours for better sleeping – loving Will.

Image11

8.30 am Wed.  The Brunei ground takes the fun for hardness.  It all added up to the longest night I think I’ve ever spent.  At last I have achieved a measure of benevolent dignity.  Graciously I acknowledge the salutes of the astute and discerning natives.  I walk along bowing & beaming like Queen Elizabeth.  The natives are nuts on gold teeth.  One soldier here told of a Malayan who had all his teeth covered & leaving a heart shaped window in the gold in the front – “Very pretty it was too”, says the boy.  I’ll bet?

 

Image12

Smart effect that

Lots of love darling to you & Graham

Bill