1st October 42
Dear Mother & Dad
After quite a flood of rumours about complete suspension of mail and all that sort of thing it was a relief when Ack brought a bunch of mail out today and more pleasing still to me to find there were two for me – yours of the 14th and one from Youngster written the same day.
The news about Bluey Brooks is not really surprising. He was always a past master at scheming and probably acquired a little finesse in diplomacy in his role of Batman – anyway good luck to him. Like everyone else or at least everyone in infantry units I’d like to be out of it too but not that way – having been buggered about for nearly a thousand days we’d like to see it through now. Which one of the Dowds is a postman – the one who was a carpenters labourer at the zinc works or the mechanic chap?
The balance sheet of the AIF Club certainly shows she’s a little goldmine run rightly but it would be hard to imagine any show not making money these times. There’s a lot of people have made fortunes out of the war – Lennie Woodlock (my driver) had a letter from his girl saying that the League were batting to have soldiers’ pay raised to £1 a day but I can’t see that ever happening. It would only hasten the decline of the pound to dollar level and it’s really only single men that are worse off than on pre-war pay and even a lot of these are getting their money made up – quite a lot of married men and married women too were never as well off in their lives as they are now especially the men in base jobs where stars and stripes are as common as dirt.
So far as I am concerned very little has happened up here. We’re still on the move and still enjoying new sights and new experiences. On patrol one night we struck the heaviest concentration of mosquitoes I think I’ve ever seen. Not as noisy as those at Fidar in Syria but much more fearsome – mosquito nets were nothing to them – they’d suck a pint of blood, then drunk with satisfaction trample you to death as they taxied for a take off. As one bloke said we should be equipped with rabbit traps to catch them. Things were so bad on this particular occasion that Joe – the most unconscientious soldier in the world – got up half an hour before his time to do his piquet. May not sound very convincing to you but to those who know him it answers all doubts. On another occasion we met an old nigger who was quite different in type to the natives we’d struck at the shore villages – a really primitive being armed with a spear, a bow and a sheaf of arrows. He had a high forehead and much less hair than the others but like all the natives we’ve seen very bad teeth. He was accompanied by two gins carrying big swags of stuff on their backs.
The Yanks certainly do things in comfort. Passing through one of their working camps we stopped for a drink of water – everything on the struggle buggies was boiling – gawd blimey they had frigidaires and wireless sets in their tents, camp stretchers and goodness knows what. They said Churchill had broadcast that the war would be over by Easter – well we’ve been sold so many pups by furphy wireless that we took it with a grain of salt. A Tokyo broadcast was on while we were there – a woman counterpart of the great Lord Haw Haw was saying her piece and spitting venom in great style – classifying the Australians as snakes she hissed with excellent realism – so good in fact that you instinctively took in your surroundings without taking your eyes off the wireless.
Although we’ve just had a thunderstorm the heat is very severe. The humidity is worse than the actual heat – we had a very enjoyable swim just after dinner today.
Well Mother & Dad I must say cheerio now. Give my love to May & Anne and best regards to the Boys.
Your loving son
PS I haven’t had a letter from Mrs Toomey for about a month now but had one from her friend last week.
Censor – M Todd
It seems that Dad’s section had at last caught up with the others of the Battalion who had been ‘Left out of Battle’ under Lieutenant Todd when the bulk of the unit moved up to the Owen Stanleys on September 10. (see blog entry of Sept 19)
Dad didn’t ever contract malaria, so presumably these were not ‘malaria mosquitoes’. It is clear however from this letter and others that orders regarding covering arms and legs between dusk and dawn were not necessarily followed.
AWM 026343 One way to combat the mosquito menace in New Guinea: This Australian soldier reads mail from home over a fire of dried coconut shells which gives off a very pungent smoke. (The caption does not identify the soldier or his unit)
Despite the experience with malaria in Palestine, the potential impact of this disease in New Guinea was initially underestimated. An irregular supply of quinine contributed to high infection rates among Australian troops. In Jungle Warriors, Adrian Threlfall speaks of the ‘disastrous delay in issuing quinine tablets to the militia units – 30th Brigade at Port Moresby and 7th Brigade at Milne Bay’.
By November 1942, an epidemic of malaria had broken out, with rates of incidence increasing from 33 men per 1000 per week to 82 men per 100 per week by December of that year. A recognition of the importance of reducing the rate of malarial infection led to the establishment in June 1943 of the Land Headquarters Medical research Unit in Cairns. (ref https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2011/194/8/war-malaria-and-nora-heysen-s-documentation-australian-medical-research-through)
One of a number of US army posters re malaria prevention : others can be found at http://flashbak.com/japs-japes-and-dr-seus-us-anti-malaria-warning-posters-from-world-war-2-36536/
Yanks – doing it in comfort
Image…not a US army tent – but an example of a kerosene refrigerator. AWM 070401: Sister L Rae (AANS) 2/3rd Casualty Clearing Station, examining the contents of a kerosene refrigerator….
The Yanks in question were presumably officers. This extract is from a personal account by Major Bernhardt L Morternson of the US Fifth Bomber Command, in particular in PNG – see http://www.ozatwar.com/ozatwar/morternson.htm The officer’s area was being given first consideration on much of the detail program. Many of the tents were pitched high on the bluffs near the office quarters. Paths were constructed to these lofty points. It was a tremendous physical effort to help carry the large-size electric refrigerators up the steep bluffs in order that some of the “wheels” may enjoy a cool, refreshing drink of water or a suitable wash for a highball while the rest of the proletariat struggled on in thru chain-gang fashion earning the full and appropriate right to chant the lusty strains of the “Volga Boatman” had they enough strength to do so.
The first mention of refrigerators in an Australian Army facility in New Guinea that I can find, is in Colonel Joan Crouch’s account of the 2/9 Australian General Hospital at ’17 Mile’. http://userweb.eftel.com/~cantwell/files/9thAustGenHospDFJ.pdf From August 1942 – January 1943 this was the only General Hospital in the territory dealing with huge numbers of both medical and surgical cases. It was a great relief when, in January 1943, the 2/5th AGH arrived to set up a hospital at Bootless Inlet near Port Moresby…..A general all round improvement occurred ….Grass roofs and floor boards were installed in the acute wards, and the dysentery ward was flyscreened. Best of all, kerosene refrigerators were installed in every ward…..
As well as broadcasts claiming sweeping victories, the Japanese produced propaganda leaflets such as this one, which were dropped in areas where Australian troops were fighting or based. Other examples can be found at –
That is absolutely AMAZING that your father never contracted malaria !!!!! His case must have proved a rarity in those days???