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 – 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: 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: 17 Aug 1943, Darwin; Back at the Correspondents’ Mess

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
APO Darwin
Tuesday 17th

[17 Aug 1943]

Sweetheart,

Am back in the correspondents’ mess again.  Arrived in this morning after a car trip of some 4 hours.  The weather here is certainly to be preferred to that at the bomber strip which I reckon must be the hottest blarsted spot in the whole N.T.  Think I might have got a touch of the sun yesterday after setting out in the middle of a glaring road with no shirt on.  Felt quite sick after ½ hour or so although I didn’t get burnt much.  Possibly the glare of white paper with the sun shining on it may have been responsible.  Anyway, I up & left.  One of the yank officers reckoned I must have been a bit troppo to pick the spot in the first place what with the heat & thundering great trucks raising all smothering dust within 20 yards of me, etc.

At a water hole on a dusty Northern Territory road
At a water hole on a dusty Northern Territory road

Smoko
Smoko – Transport men are seen at a halting place near a waterhole on one of the winding, dusty roads of the Northern Territory.” – the Australian Women’s Weekly, 26 Feb 1944, p9
At a water hole on a dusty Northern Territory road
At a water hole on a dusty Northern Territory road

Working out of doors in the middle of the day knocks you up alright.  I feel positively exhilarated at the prospect of the cool Sydney spring.  We’ll go out places together – eh?  I’m practically certain to be down before your birthday.  If I get transport accommodation OK.  So when you get a telegram from me you’ll know to meet me at Rose Bay. [via seaplane]  I’ll be looking for you – save up some juice.  I won’t be able to tell you much in the telegram I shall send when I leave – It will be up to you to find out time of my arrival.  Put some beer in the frige for us.  Which reminds me to tell you I am happily having my weekly bottle at the very moment.  It’s extremely good & most welcome as I have just finished doing the weeks washing & ironing 3 shirts 3 pants, handkerchiefs, underpants socks & towel.  It’s hot work in these h’yar parts.  The weather is getting warmer as the wet season approaches.  Blarsted flies are banging about too – damn their wings.  Don’t worry about me drinking a lot.  There isn’t that much here!  Even a few knocks everyone and I haven’t had more than 4 real hangovers in 6 weeks.  I don’t suppose I have lost much weight really. Although one sweats to a prodigious extent water is consumed in replaceable quantities.

Have now taken up my pew in the sunshine as I must bring you back some visible indication of the tropics.  One’s colour is said to disappear very quickly so I shall devote my last days here solely to the acquisition of a body tone you will really want to touch.  Cunning little man!

Have also switched radio on and am listening to short wave transmission from the eastern states – whether Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane I, as yet, don’t know.  Ah me – how I am suffering.

Have just heard it was from Sydney.

Am becoming quite benign in all my attitudes – the bottle is practically empty.  My good intentions of a long letter weaken – my sole desire at the moment is to sit by radio and dream happily & nebulously about you.  With the pilots I say “I’ve had this place” – but also I say – “I want to have you”

A week today to the 24th. Oh dear! I wish I could buy you something!  Some little permanent thing we could keep for remembrance of our tenth.  After all it’s quite a while.  If you should see anything buy it for me to you.  Up the clothes, I’ll buy them for you anyway.  But I guess there is nothing left about anywhere.  Maybe King in his second hand snoopings will see something.  However don’t worry pet, about it – one day I’ll find something.  Your best present to me will be to look your prettiest & to be ever so pleased about my being back.  I think of you such a hell of a lot now.  Seems as if I’m back at the going out to Brighton stage in my love life.  High time I changed the record – playing this old lonely note doesn’t help either of us much.

You appear to be living an extremely quiet life.  For goodness sake honey don’t drive yourself nuts.  I hope you are eating something substantial occasionally for there has to be something left for me to grab hold of.

I’ve just come back from the pictures – a waste of time sadly regretted – the Ritz Bros in “3 Roaring Romeos” – My God! What a show! [The Three Musketeers (1939)?]

Have plenty cigs for you.  Looks almost as if I have been receiving stolen goods.

I should be able to write you for hours tonight as I am (believe it or not) the only inmate at present incarcerated in the asylum.  All the others are out on their job.  There’s been quite a bit of plane activity about here lately and they are covering all the news angles from the pilots, bombardiers & so on and so forth.  3 of the fighter pilots I was staying with bagged a bird each.  Nice going.  You’ll read about it all in the papers before this letter reaches you. [* See Note]  Wish I had our coleman stove – I’d set down right now to hot toast & asparagus.  As things are I would have to build a wood fire.  That’s too much.

Still haven’t any butter.  Altogether I’ve had it only a week & a half since arriving.  Oh boy, will I make a hog of myself down south.

Have just turned on short wave radio to some oriental station broadcasting some indescribably mournful dirge which suits my present mood like a tight collar.  It’s really wonderfully glum.  One of these days I must get me a short wave set – an amazing variety of stuff comes over – surely sufficient to suit every mood.

I’m still trying to make up my mind as to whether I should or should not, wolf the asparagus.  The betting at the moment is two to one on that I do.  May as well get something inside me – you can’t tell but that the yellow men may not be over later tonight.  The moon is still perfect – they have had time to rest their bomber crews after the last raid – and they a getting a bashing from the yanks here – which sort of thing tends to make them a little angry.  Perhaps I should remain awake a while – with no one in the house I may stay asleep at the wrong moment.

Only 14 or 15 days before I clear off.  I’m beginning to count them.  I suppose you will too, now that I have told you what I hope to do.

Asparagus is out in front turning into the straight – it’s no race folk – Asparagus wins pulling up, 3 bellyfuls in front of Some Bread and NO Butter.

So lots of love and kisses
from yours
as ever
Freddie
XXX

[*Note: 1943 ‘AUSTRALIAN PLANES IN N.-WEST THRASH JAPS.’, The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), 19 August, p. 3, viewed 16 August, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42034094]

War Letters – NW Australia: 2 Aug 1943, Darwin; Reviewing the N.W. Navy

W.E. Pidgeon
C/O DPR Unit
Army Post Office
Darwin
Monday night
[2 Aug 1943]

Dear Jesso,

I may as well carry on with the news concluded by the letter I posted you by today’s mail.  As I’m going down the road tomorrow I won’t be writing.  This letter will serve that day’s purpose as it won’t get away from here until then.  This week I am staying with a fighter squadron under the command of Caldwell – shall probably meet Flutter eye Gloria’s husband – I believe he is with the same bunch.

Thanks for thinking about my lack of amenities.  I’m running somewhat short – only 24 large packets left.

I hope Tommy got as much out of his drawing as he hoped for.  Selina is dopey alright.  Are you still getting plenty of steak over there?

The thing has started off again – Gawd help us!  Tap-tap-tap-BLOODY TAP!  This will be damn short – I get into such a helluva bate (?).  It’s worse than being in a machine gun nest with all guns firing and hailstones beating on my tin hat.  I’m not deaf enough to take it – Tap – tap – taP – tAP – TAP TAPTAP! – and so on.

I’ll write you tomorrow some time – or else wait till the bastards go to bed.  Up’em!

[3 Aug 1943]

Next morning – Much quieter – I am by far the earliest bird up here, all of which doesn’t help catch the non existent worms, but it’s plumb peaceful like.  Inside, spines are slowly being zipped into action, razors being flapped, and kidneys drained in preparation for a general exodus down the road in the wake of the Governor-General who has begun his tour of inspection.

24 x 18 cm

Yesterday he reviewed the N.W. navy such as it was.  We got out onto the flagship & under panicky directions of some naval lieut. allowed ourselves to be hid behind pipes, vents, doors, etc so that the G.G.’s august vision would not be defiled by the sight of the lowly non-combatant press correspondents.  It was wretched farce – the boys have wiped the navy or so they say.  Seems more like to me the navy doesn’t care about the press.  The review of passing ships was catastrophic.  Some of the old tubs couldn’t make any speed against the out-running tide, with the unhappy consequent cancellation of part of the programme.

The tide, by the way, has a rise & fall of 20 ft and as the approaches to the land here are very shallow the water when it gets a move on races like one thing.  In the harbour I believe it does about 5-6 knots and in the creeks about 10.  I’ve seen it coming in on the creeks – it moves alright.  The harbour is a big one with an average width & foreshores much like Botany Bay.  Because of its lack of depth the water is quite green.  Here and there the side of a sunken ship rises up.  Somewhere else the masts & funnel of another stick forlornly & ridiculously out to provide parking stations for the few sea birds to be seen in these parts.

Will have to leave now – have had breakfast the all are ready for the trip.

Mail came in & I have just got another of your letters – you beaut.  Haven’t read it yet – lots of love honey – look after yourself for Willie.

Possibly Darwin Harbour
Possibly Darwin Harbour
[Bomb damaged Destroyer in harbour]
Possibly a bomb damaged Destroyer in harbour

24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm 21 x 11 cm 24 x 18 cm 24 x 18 cm

War Letters – NW Australia: 14 July 1943, Darwin; First impressions of life amongst the press corps

W.E. Pidgeon

DPR Unit

Army Post Office

Darwin

Wednesday night

Dear Jess,

Arrived here after a very long & rather exhausting trip which seemed to last for days.  Most of it was spent sprawled precariously over piles of sharp edged boxes and bloody hard crates of gear for some of the posts.  We left early Monday morning long before the roosters started their daily work.  I am somewhat vague as to the cans and cannots of communications.  All mail is censored.

Although I had no idea of what to expect in the way of habitation and country around here – none of it is even remotely like my nebulous preconceived notions.  Trees are laid on with lavish profusion & colour.  The climate is really balmy.  Typical summer days with mild & temperate nights which are really perfection at the moment.  Booful big moon plenty of stars & gentle Dotty Lamour breezes.  Everybody says it’s just perfect weather for the little yellow men to make a raid.  I’ve got my tin hat ready & the receptive trench eyed off.  Surprisingly enough there does not seem to have been much damage done – that is from what is visible now.  They do say as ‘ow they ‘ave cleaned it all up like.  Noticed a few big holes you could put half a house in but no one seems to have bothered to do so.  All so much useless spade work on the part of the nips.  Ninety-nine & then some percent of the houses (of which there are quite a lot) are made of fibro.  These are now nicely aired – cellstexed with irregular holes of varying shapes and sizes.

War Correspondents' Mess, Darwin; July 1943
War Correspondents’ Mess, Darwin; July 1943
War Correspondents' Mess, Darwin; July 1943
War Correspondents’ Mess, Darwin; July 1943

I was sure staggered to see my present living quarters.  A tin hut or hessian hut with rude bush carpentered beds and furniture was my dream.  Imagine my dismay in having to pig it in a two storied airy fibro cottage of very recent vintage and extremely pleasant design.  A large right angled room twice as big as our lounge occupies the centre of the building & from off lead a kitchenette, a tiled bathroom with shower recess & W.C. & 5 bedrooms.  It is all extremely airy – half of the walls are built on a pattern of venetian blinds – you may open or close them as is necessary.  About 11 of us sit down to meals – or to mess as is said.  The major of public relations sits at the head.  The good little boys are ranged down either side.  Food is pretty good – a new whole ham provided last night with tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber.  Sherry before dinner.  Australian whiskey on arrival & beer late last night.  It is hardly necessary to add that this grog was in moderate doses.  The ration is one bottle of beer a week.  I haven’t yet found out about the other alcohols.  Trotted off to an open air picture show last night – you take your own seat.    This is no trouble as 2 cars & 1 truck are at the disposal of the poor correspondents.  A team of American entertainers provided the first half of the show – they were really excellent.  Hard lines for the local lads that they were all men.  It is reported that down south 8 glamour girls were on the show too but higher ups decided such a show of limbs & breast might set in a rot among the troops, most of whom haven’t seen a dame for at least 6 months.  Comments when women appear on the screen are a trifle ribald.  I suppose real tarts would render them speechless.  It’s a rare sight to see the dags yelling out for Myrna Loy to hurry up & die (in the picture “The Rains Came”).  The distances between the various camps in this area are staggering.  I’ve been all day in a blasted car & seen about a dozen.  Christ only knows how I’m going to get around to the time needed to paint If I have to spend most of the day riding to & from the bloody joints.  I haven’t started yet.  It’ll take me a week to find the lay of the land.  It’s plenty hot.  Address your reply to W.E. Pidgeon – if you add a Mr. It will cost you 1 ½ d extra.  Airmail comes to me otherwise for 4d. Let me hear from you soon – am beginning to miss you – There’s no privacy & I don’t care much for a couple of these blokes.  Lots of love to you my sweetie-pie.

Heh-heh – love from

Bill.