War Letters – New Guinea: 28 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Scarlett Beach, on the nose

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O P.R. Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
28th Frid
[28 Jan 1944]

Darling,

We have another lamp – scrounged from the same poor simple soul from whom we borrowed the remains of last night’s signal lamp.

Roy sits opposite writing his new sweetie (brunette & beautiful and with husband in internment camp) and punctuating the oppressing stillness of the night with requests regarding the correctitude of his spelling.  The old garrulity with less physical actions.  He writes like he talks – it pours out of him, pages flash past on the blink of an eye.

I haven’t had a clean shirt on since I hit Finschafen.  The one I wear at present has the odour & appearance of a tarpaulin from one of Gearin O’Riordan’s trucks.  The other is still wet from its rinsing in a creek down by the beach.  Although I am as pleasant a little nosegay as one would find in many a week.  A European Gorgonzola would walk away from me with a peg on its snout.

19

Now that the lamp is here I find myself regretting not having brought that New Testament with me as with its kindly simplicity I could have killed a few hours before sealing myself up in the meat safe up yonder bank.

You have guessed, I hope my uninspiring letters are due to the overwhelming enervation of the tropics plus the lack of comfort in the tent.  I’m sitting on an oil drum with grinds of flesh off my behind, my eyes are full of coral dust – I’m due to start turning yellow from surfeit of Atabrin tablets (to suppress malarial infection) from neglect of taking salt tablets which they say are necessary to counteract the excessive loss of bodily salt in sweat, and God knows what else. The half if me that is alive is tolerably happy.

I don’t know particularly what to draw as under the present conditions camp life is practically synonymous with that in the N.T. Make it all green & the jobs done.

Went about 8 miles down the Road this afternoon – hitch hiked in half a dozen different trucks.  May just have well flown as I was in the air at least half the time.

4

I forgot to give you a rough idea of what I look like in jungle green & American garters.  Of course the Japs just flee squealing for the son of Heaven at such an apparition.

5

Scarlet Beach

In front of me is a picture reconstruction of a beach landing for official War Artist Cpt R C Hodgkinson Military History Section.

6

The light is going out for want of kerosene.  Bugger me – this is the sort of thing that slays one!  I can just see you now.  Everything is going black – it’s quite black now.

Later – we have managed to get some more kerosene, whacko the diddle-o!  I’m not smelling any better – even the skunks are moving out.  I don’t’ mind that so much but I seem to be bringing in the flies.  Soon I shall thwart them in my little meat safe.

7

Am putting off going to the blarsted hammock.  12 hours of posing in various uncomfortable postures is much too much of a good thing even for a body like mine – “booful hunk of a man! These are the basic positions.

8

War Letters – New Guinea: 27 Jan 1944, Scarlett Beach; – Casualty Clearing Station

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O P.R. Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
Thurs 27th Jan [1945]

Darling,

Am writing by a 1 candle power lamp which as the mood suits the letter may be changed to cast either red, green or white light.  Green is the color called for but unfortunately its illuminative qualities are quite on the blink.

Red is not helpful.

Roy H is under his mosquito net growling about things in general and about the job he is on in particular.  He has to reconstruct a beach landing made here a couple of months ago.  Not the best of jobs in the world with the extremely limited facilities available.  He has just yelled out his regards to you.  Alice comes in for a lit of cracks – appears she had all sorts of affairs.  Roy laughs a lot about it all.  Says she is stinking to the girl he now takes out.

Today is about the first time I have felt human since I arrived.  Possibly because I have done a bit of modest work and am settled down for a few days.  Am going round to the Casualty Clearing Station to see if there is anything of interest for the Weekly.  Should be because the nurses there are closer to the front lines than any others.  Did I tell you I travelled from Moresby in the plane with them?  Fifteen there were, and no beauties amongst them.  After that off to the Ramu Valley.

Filed Hospital in the Ramu Valley, New Guinea
Possibly a Casualty Clearing Station near Scarlett Beach in the Finshhafen area, New Guinea
21 x 11 cm
Possibly a Casualty Clearing Station near Scarlett Beach in the Finshhafen area, New Guinea

We had a swim this afternoon – it was delightful.  Crystal water – cool, refreshing.  Bombers going Japwards overhead.  Lots of lads in the water & on the beach. We’re getting pretty sick of the sight of bare bums & privates.

Friday morning [28 Jan 1944]

Disaster overtook this letter last night.  Roy had borrowed this lamp I spoke of above from the Signallers – they implored him to look after it.  At the above stage of my letter the bloody thing caught fire & I couldn’t for the life of me blow it out.  All my puffing & blowing served to feed the flames turning the whole gazaboo into the finest of blow lamps.  The solder melted reflector and handle fell off – flaming kerosene spilled on Roy’s drawing board – he was in a panic for his work – I was busy shovelling sand (rather mud) over the blaze.

The lamps was a sorry sight.  We laughed ourselves sick.  Must have done me good for I slept till 6am.

Lots of love darling – Taking it easy?

Bill.

War Letters – New Guinea: 26 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Scarlett Beach, snug as a bug

W.E. Pidgeon
C/o P R Unit
N. G. Forces
Moresby
Wed 25th 26th or 27th
[26 Jan 1944]

Darling,

How would you be feeling this morning?  Taking it easy on the verandah?  Keeping the mosquitoes off?  I am managing that quite well now that I have commandeered a decent American hammock from the P. Relations.

Hammock with built in mosquito net and rain roof
Hammock with built in mosquito net and rain roof

A legitimate transaction I hasten to add it’s a very flash doover – a hammock with waterproof roof and walls of mosquito net joined together with zippers.  In I hops & does myself up like a ruddy meat safe while the anoppeles wave frustrated stingers without.

24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm

Am in another camp again.  Have pitched tent with Roy Hodgkinson & another fellow.  I’m praising the place when I say it’s a pretty dreary joint.  I’m told it is typical of a forward site.  No lights, so these letters are written hastily after tea.  I haven’t done a drawing in your letters yet because I’ve been too b- sour.  Last night I slept or rather attempted to, on a bed of coral covered with a ground sheet and a blanket.

US Post Office APO322, Finschhafen, New Guinea
US Post Office APO322, Finschhafen, New Guinea
A Matilda tank near Finschhafen, New Guinea
A Matilda tank near Finschhafen, New Guinea

Trucks coming & going all night & 3 air raid alerts.  I suppose I managed a couple of hours shuteye before my hip bone wore through the skin like a hole in the heel of a sock. That’s 2 nights out of 4 I have been awake since I arrived on the northern coast of N. Guinea.  Haven’t done much work so far for the simple reason I have not been able to settle down. On two occasions the camps have shifted their sites the day after I arrived.  The humidity is terrific.  I wish they’d have this show on down near the pole or someplace like.  My brain’s like a soggy lump of porridge.

After about 4 or 5 days here I’ll move off to the Ramu Valley, spend maybe a week or more & start back for the Mainland where I shall have to go on to the tablelands for a week.  Then back – I hope.  The rush has got me something rattled.  However I have about 5 pictures lined up already – should have any amount by the time I get through.

Thurs Morning [27 Jan 1944] – Not much sleep again last night – seem to be taking your complaint over.  First rain last night.  Came down in sheets.  My sweet little hammock kept it off.

Hope you are eating well.

How did that brew turn out?

My regards to junior.

Lots of love

Bill

War Letters – New Guinea: 24-25 Jan 1944, Finschhafen; Barge to Sio

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O Public Relations
N. G. Force
Moresby
Monday
[24 Jan 1944]

Darling,

I was going to write to you last night but learnt on returning to the tent that a black out is enforced  up here – the Japs planes occasionally fly over so it seems.  Some went over last night I was told – but I didn’t hear them being dead to the world.  I went to bed when it was dark and didn’t wake until dawn.  My God I was tired – I had been awake travelling half the previous night.

The balmy surrounding of the beach on which I sit are poppingly disturbed by the exuberant troops who punctuate the silence with machine gun bursts and rifle fire.  Not that they are shooting at anything – they just like hearing them go off.

I’m tired and dirty.  I’ve lost the only towel I brought up here with me.  There is no fresh water to bathe in – I’m as sticky as a stamp with accumulations of salt, seawater & salt sweat.  I should taste good!  Especially as I dry myself after a dip with my underpants – adds just that Parfait de Nuit touch!

1944 Patrol S10 Clr neg 1 - Copy
Patrol, Sio

I have been as far as Sio on the northern coast.  Went on a barge with three other PR people who are in effect somewhat irresponsible.  They missed the barge back to where we are at present.  Although I must say it was only a fluke that I happened to catch it.  I am glad that I didn’t have to spend a night up there.  A dismal spot.  Most of these jungles stink of decaying vegetation & have that dank warmth of a mulch heap to help one along.  Beautiful and lavish enough they may be, with a kind of monsteria deliciosa vine winding up the trees, and a dozen other types ….ed from the branches.  Not so many birds.  A few butterflies & a bloody lot of mosquitoes.  Not the healthiest spots to live in under normal circumstances but the necessities of obtaining cover makes it almost imperative for the troops.

Sketch study for 'Patrol, Sio', New Guinea
Sketch study for ‘Patrol, Sio’, New Guinea
Patrol, Sio, New Guinea
Passed by Operational Censor SWPA
Photo No. MNG 893
New Guinea – A bomb scarred area at Sio with troops encamped close to a bomb crater which was quickly filled with water following heavy rain.
25 pounder artillery guns, most likley near Sio on the north eas
25 pounder artillery guns, most likley near Sio on the north east coast of New Guinea

[Camouflaged Gun II]
[Camouflaged Gun II]
[Camouflaged Gun I]
[Camouflaged Gun I]

3 pm Tuesday [25 Jan 1944]

Been travelling since 9 am have just landed at another point [Scarlett Beach] & am prostrate wit de heat.

These dirty marks on this page are sweat decorations.  As there are a lot of lads writing letters in the YMCA hut I thought it best to get it best to get away pronto.

I’ll write you again tonight.  A few bombs were dropped down this way a few days ago.   Nothing happened however.  I guess I’m ½ stone lighter.  It’s no question that you (sic) ole man is melting down to a soup pot of unfunny stew.

Lots of love from Willie.

Don’t worry about sending letters they will never catch up with me.

Have just bumped into Roy H. again.  He is at the camp I am now in.  Calls himself the “Erl King” (translates into the oil paint king).

More love.