Composite Carrier Group
Dear Mother & Dad
Just a few lines to let you know I’m still happy in the service and quite fit and well and hoping this letter finds you both in the pink and May & Anne too.
Since I last wrote you we’ve seen quite a lot of country and some good examples of American organisation – ‘behind the lines’. There’s no doubt about them in industrial matters they take the palm. We’ve had an opportunity to have a look at Moresby and its immediate surroundings – not a bad little place at all. The Militia certainly let their imagination run away with them when they compared it – even before there was any fighting in New Guinea – with Tobruk and called themselves ‘The Mice of Moresby’. Even since the evacuation of civilians it’s a veritable paradise compared with the desert and when it was only a garrison station I guess they never went short of anything.
The jungle of course is a different proposition – we haven’t seen much of it but what we have seen leaves nothing to the imagination. It is impossible to describe the almost homogeneous mass produced by the dense growth of trees, shrubs, vines, roots, in fact everything that challenges man. Thorns and prickles and every pest known and feared by man abound in it. Everything that squirms, swarms or crawls finds its home in this incarnation of hell – and hot – well it’s like a Turkish bath – you can’t see the sun but just sweat. The New Guinea Police Boys – ‘Weddies mob’ – are doing a marvellous job getting the wounded out. How the hell they get through defies imagination. This crowd I’m with haven’t contacted the enemy at all yet but I have no doubt we will. The war being fought up here makes 1914 – 18 look like the days of chivalry.
I think Snow Lewis will get home soon – he hasn’t been wounded or anything but got a bad attack of flu or something of the sort and has gone to hospital and once they get him in a hospital I fancy they’ll send him home. His ticker is pretty bad. He did all sorts of things to trick the powers that be in the early days but he’ll be a damn fool if he tries to buck this time.
We camped a while on a beach under a coconut grove – a delightful spot that must once have been a native village. Remnants of their thatch and basket ware houses are still there and a missionary church – incidentally one of the chaps found an old registry of marriages.
We’ve been quite close at times to native villages – all built like the one where we camped – in coconut groves. The New Guinea blacks are the best type of coloured race I’ve seen. The men are nearly all slight of build with wonderful heads of black unruly hair. They carry a wooden teaser – a three pronged fork like arrangement for stirring the fleas up. The women are more heavily built and wear grass skirts. Little kids that can scarcely walk climb coconut palms and swim like fish.
The life up here suits Jim McDonnell perfectly. He wears his hat pork pie style and affects all the mannerisms of a beachcomber. He’s grown a long moustache and is as brown as a berry. He’s asked to be remembered to you. Old Ack has grown a moe too and looks like the Terrible Ming in Speed Gordon caricatures.
Well I must say cheerio now Mother & Dad. My love to May & Anne and regards to the boys.
Your loving son
PS How much do they want for Catoes place
Censor unknown (signature indecipherable)
Much has been written in recent years about the lack of training and equipment provided to the Militia forces sent to New Guinea. At the time this letter was written, Dad was probably typical of many in the AIF who looked down on the Militia as men who didn’t have the courage to volunteer to fight overseas, but as we now know this was a very long way from the truth.
The New Guinea Police Boys – how they get through defies imagination
This is a great article about a ‘former police boy’ who was waging a very successful one man war against the Japanese: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/11999437 This photo depicts a man of the same name: AWM 127566
Port Moresby: Not a bad little place
From the website – indicatorloops.com/portmoresby.htm – The following is an extract from a Japanese intelligence report made by Major Tetsuo Toyofuku on the basis of personal observation in March 1941. The study known as “Military Data on British New Guinea” was reproduced by (Japanese) General Headquarters, Southern Army, in 1942 for use in the New Guinea operations. The assessment of Port Moresby’s harbour was very accurate:
- General Condition of Harbor and City: Port Moresby has a good, wide harbor, and the bay is entered by passing between Hanudamava Island (at the mouth of the harbor) and Bogirohodobi Point, approximately 1.5 miles (2400m) to the east. At the beginning of 1940 there were approximately 800 Europeans, approximately 20 Chinese, and no Japanese residents. The natives (approximately 2000) have built their village over the water and live apart from the white residents. The city is situated between Tuaguba Hill and Ela Hill on the eastern shore of the harbor, and is the center of the government, military affairs, economics, transportation, communications, etc. of Australian-controlled New Guinea. There are various offices, including government offices and branch offices, a radio station, a government-managed electric power plant, church, school, European and native hospitals, an ice plant, bank, hotels, etc.
We’ve been quite close at times to native villages
As he gives the impression of travelling around, it seems Dad may well have been accompanying Major General Morris. (see photo in post of Sept 19)
Snow Lewis…has gone to hospital.
AWM 107160 Interior of a tent ward at the 2/9th Australian General Hospital. Nurses stop for a tea break. Note the earth floor.
This was the only General Hospital in the territory at the time so is probably where Snow Lewis was sent for treatment.
The Terrible Ming
The character was actually known as Ming the Merciless…image from Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (ref Wikipedia) film made in 1940.