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

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

Darling,

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: 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: 18 Jan 1944, Townsville; lousy with troops

DPR Unit
Townsville
Tuesday
Midday
[18 Jan 1944]

Darling,

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

From
Bill

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

W.E. Pidgeon

Morotai

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!

 Image9

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.

Image10

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

Love,

Bill

 

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

Townsville

Sunday, 9.30 am,

[15 Jul 1945]

Darling,

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.

Love

Am running out of both time and ink.

Bill.

 

Background:

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