Damien Parer, war photographer, Department of Information
82 Pitt Street, Sydney
Thursday, 6th May, 1943
I must start this bloody diary.
Left Brisbane complete with 212 lbs baggage at 06.30 hours by roadster. Arrived Townsville 11.30. Was off loaded, had a dinner cost 22/6 each at officers club. I enjoyed it but meal was a bit late and they poured too much dry sherry into us before the Chaplain. Sat beside Colonel Considine US. He’s a canny bloke old cobber or Howell’s, was with him in New Guinea and felt strongly about his removal. Met a Supply bloke, Lieutenant Charlie Moore US – The idea of this dinner was to promote friendship between the American and Australian Officers.
Friday 7th May, 1943
Fiddled around. Spoke to Allan Anderson on phone. Received wire from him asking for me to send him copies of his letters which I did. Packed his gear and mine and Tom Daylash sent them on. Saw Chaplin’s Great Dictator, as interesting colour short.
Saturday 8th May, 1943
Up at 3.30am –00h – to flying boar and take of at 0600 hours for Moresby. I have about 235 lbs of gear. We had a couple of PR boys take the tripods to keep the weight down to 205 lbs. Good trip. Had a bit of sleep. Arrived 1100 hours. Great to be back to see the blue Port Moresby. It’s a great day. Dick Bimey – a great cobber of Max (Dupain?) gave me a lift to the Preese Hut. Plenty of old faces there, Jim Howard, Dave Gillison, Axel Alson, Bob Curtain, Ed Widdis, Earl Crocarle Crochett, Frank Robertson, Pen Kenyon, Mall Prst and others – a great number to cover a phoney distended war. Words have blown it up – a great airy balloon – will it burst?
Sunday 9th May, 1943
Mass at 9.30 at YMCA Hut at barracks. Saw Captain Kelly (Ned) in the Mass and had a good yarn…. Last night went along to 30 and 22 Squadrons, great blokes. A number of names. Keith Humphries asked me to stay with them, and I appreciated it very much…. Saw Matron Marshall – she’s OK – good and sensible, none of those dreadful inhibition about being photographed. Ben Knox talked about Wau and the ban being lifted on Correspondents going over. The lads seemed very keen, I was the only one to say I wasn’t interested unless there was an attack on Salamaua. Operational flights preference to DOI. Photographers and Parer’s Bismarck operational flights came up for review, Terry Knox didn’t have smart answers and generally wasn’t convincing enough. George Weller popped in, he’s been in New Guinea for 6 months now – he’s veteran at present. Was oing to do some work on the little item of verse but mucked around too much and did no work before lunch.
Norman Winning was at lunch. He looks magnificent, all his courage, fine leadership and outspokenness are in his fine looking Scotch face. He mentioned in passing my dreadful mistake of trusting the Office to hold that still I took from the Scout’s lookout. It had made me most unpopular for a period. He gave us a talk in his forthright way on the Salamaua, Wau area. He’s the best man I know of to talk about the show down there. I wish he had time to give a talk to the Boston and Beaufigher boys, they would love it.
It seems a man always has some fear in his life. My main one at present is the fear of growing lazy, of losing enthusiasm, of not being electrified by the strong impulse to make the film. It seems dead here in New Guinea. This war is a phoney McArthur made one. He’s blown up a big balloon full of bull and someone will prick it one day.
Tuesday 11th May, 1943
Had lunch and did a spot of work illustrating this crook verse about the boys needing mail. It’s a good subject, but the verse is very crook.
The cook gave me a taste of his jungle juice (prune base) and his cider (raisin base) quite good for Moresby. Had a yarn with George Weller (Chicago Daily Sun and News) he’s the most impressive American Correspondent yet met. First time I saw him was in Greece when I covered the Italian survivors of the battle of Cape Mataphon. I saw this soft spoken almost hesitant and rather unimpressive looking bloke. He quietly offered to carry my tripod for me. I was staggered (almost unprecedented, it was a red letter day). Tonight we had a yarn. He has a fine vocabulary and he talks quite sense. He gave me some good advice on waiting quietly and working hard the breaks will come later. The fruit is there, it must ripen before it falls. Don’t ask for a job. Work quietly along and if the films are good enough and get shown the breaks will come.
Wednesday 12th May, 1943
Up to Mass. Met Father Steele. Shane Benson is in the area he says. I’ll go and see him. Met an old friend Goldstien from the 96th Eny. US. Invited one to a show on Friday. A Stien will be there. Saw AA Covers re search light and before shots.
Tonight went along with Captain Adams of searchlights we resolved to do or die with some new photographic flares. This afternoon Jim Howard made a beaut shield of tin for the flares. At the searchlight position we decided to put a bit of smoke across the beam to show it up, after the preliminaries were over lit fire. Fire lit and projector exposed etc. We had lost our daylight, undaunted we went ahead and Jim lit the flare. Swoosh! Sparks flew blindingly. The projector itself was endangered. I yelled, “Take it back”, then it contacted a large canvas cover. I continued yelling and Jim pulled it out holding it aloft with sparks and stuff to fall on all below. I couldn’t take any pictures, I was laughing so much indeed and the flare had fizzled out.
Getting on with the next flare Jim lit it and I shouted all instructions, “ Yes, right. Good”. Then out went the flare, a bit premature. So Jim put it in the fire again and belted it and scraped it and suddenly it lit. “Bring it around here”, I balled out. By this time the boys had gathered to get a better view of the beaut fireworks. ON the last order however, Jim who was a temporarily blinded by the light, hadn’t seen the little knot of men and swung the belching torch around in a gentle arc. Thee was a rush away a helter skelter movement. “Careful”, I cautioned. “Round here”, the patient Jim obeyed to the best of his ability, but that wasn’t enough light. “In further”. Jim came to the fore and pushed the burning thing in. It is impossible at this stage for me to adequately describe what appeared in the camera finder. There was search light and great intermittent puffs of smoke from on fire suddenly caught in the strong beam, men on the projector weren’t sure of anything and looked at it. The great torch was sending an enormous flood of sparks into the picture. It look like a scene from Speed Gordon, or something from Dante’s Inferno. Although no use to me in my story it was too wonderful to let slip by so I shot it. Earlier in the day I said we would probably get more fun than film and we certainly did.
Thursday 13th May, 1943
What an easy life it is for us correspondents and photographers in Moresby. The Press camp is an ideal place, except for the excess of press people. The food is grand, had ice cream for tea tonight, all condiments and great fat tomatoes, grapefruit for breakfast. The whole camp is clean and electric light throughout. This is a great rest camp. The best I’ve been in so far.
Had lunch with WC Keith Humphries DSO. He’s CO of 22 squadron. A grand cove, made a fine job of his squadron. The previous CO wasn’t so hot from all reports. Hampshire is an intrepid flyer as I’ve good reason to know. Ted Woods of 30 squadron fixed my camera again today.
As I woke this morning Jim Haward passed my mail to me under the mosquito net and I luxuriated in reading my mail in bed, a letter form Jack Beardwell my old driver in the Middle East. He would dearly love to be back on the old job again, and one from Nadeen a most flattering one too.
Saturday 15th May 1943
Finished the corny little story on the verse asking for more letters to be sent to the troops here.
Saw the dentist today. A couple of Jap bombers came in tonight, we expect a few more before mooring. Last night went out with Jack Golstien to go to a dance somewhere, it turns out there’s no dance, so we go out and get 2 American nurses that he has lined up. On arrival at the hospital we meet them maybe I was sensitive but after seeing us, or me, one of the kids whispered something to the other and I heard the word “armful” – I don’t blame them. I was standing sheepishly fingering my chin, or trying to pat down the back of my bush shirt that has never done anything else buy stick out like a duck’s backside – felt really sorry for the girl and thought seriously of suggesting that we call in at the Press hut and I’d get suitable American for as I was quite inadequate, but I thought that would be rude – as it was I had put my foot in it to the extent of saying it was only recently that I had realised the great difference between the American and the Australians and that we Aussies were more like the English than the Americans. She agreed. We went up on a hill ot meet a friend who was to have some grog. He din’t arrive, but on the hill in another command car was an old Yank engineer friend of ours parked with another nurse. We waited for a good 40 minutes for the grog but it did’t arrive. Finally on my instigation, we went home after a peculiar sort of night. (2 air raids, 3 bombers each night).
Monday 16th May 1943
Mass at Barracks at 7.30. Got domestic and darned my socks. Dan Condon at Mass, and his cobbler Bernie Leonard both Lieutenants, came and had a cup of tea.
Had a bright idea this morning to go and cover the Mube show and do it in the way I intended doing my next infantry film. Show the life of the whole infantry section. Just one section shows that the extraordinary comradeship that exists there is not seen in any other unit. Not that a closer friendship does not exist, but does not knit other units together. This is a special sort of mateship peculiar to the good Aussie infantry unit. Follow the way Dyson painted out in the last war – it can be done in film! Now is the chance, but the only draw back is that no correspondents are allowed to go to Wau as yet, so I’ll have to wait.
Sherry gave me some excellent dope for newsreel story on anti-malaria discipline amazing figures that show how effective this campaign has been in Milne Bay. Abel Alson is going to do a story on it. If I get out to the infantry story and bring it back, it will probably take 6 weeks to 2 months to make, but it should be a cracker. I mentioned the idea to Gavin Long, our war historian, when I was down south and he agreed the idea was a beaut and had never been tackled before. I think if it is done decently and if I have the guts, help, sense and initiative, it should be as effective as the Kokoda Front Line. Use 3 or 4 characters as the main lads, give their names, introduce them to the audience doing their job. In all their casualness, and hard cursing, their whole world is bound by the company line. To them in their section, even chaps from the same battalion but different company are almost foreigners. To try and show the utterly unselfconscious casual heroism of a crack section of AIF – the smallest infantry unit – just as a family is the smallest unit of a state. Show them on patrol – weary, experienced . Show them in a malarial bout, of shivering. Show the relief of a cup of tea. Show their dread weariness after a hard show – drew glazed eyes. No consciousness of the camera. No smiles, utter weariness. Show the vet, the dirt, attention, the triumph of the kill, the deep pain of a cobbler killed, the bloody wound. This mateship is found in kindred spirits – trained to a fighting pitch, it is fostered in the close hard life, in the fine spirit of their battalion that had its birth in Gallipoli, then opens up, nay before that in the Eureka Stockade. It is forged in the glorious steel that it is in the heat of the battle and tempered in the trying times of waiting and waiting and the hardship in the finish it is the most striking quality exhibited in any of our fighting services. When an infantry man leaves his unit he’s completely lost. As lost as a short sighted man without spectacles. His feet itch and he sometimes even breaks camp to get back to his unit. This is what I want to show. Please God I can.
The big job of this war is a Correspondents one. After that I think a canteen Sergeant and thirdly I think a correspondents driver overseas. Had a yarn to Roy Hodginson war artist. First time I met him he gave me the impression he was a good workman, without yet having seen his work, this conversation confirmed my impression.
Ronnies latest letter to me is so good that I’ll quote some of it incase I loose the original. It concerns his visit to Nadeen and Pat Hollingdale in Sydney.
Dear Damie boy,
My instinct as a literary craftsman (“however inadequate”) revolt at putting the climax at the beginning but circumstance is unusual. You must ask Pat to marry you. She is perfect for you, which is even greater than being perfect. (End of quote)
This life here is easy indeed but so many correspondents under one roof is not conducive to good work, a sort of dog eat dog atmosphere. Hungry pressmen generally speaking not particularly well educated. When first I went to the Middle East my simple mind stood agape in the presence of such personage as correspondents. That soon changed. Unfortunately the mass of correspondents, can’t be judged on the Wilmot, Nowella, Morrison, Wilmot or White high standard.
Thursday 18th May 1943
Ken Glestor and myself played many games of ping pong. Colonel Lehrbuslor who arrived with a bottle of Johnnie Walker – dinkum stuff – burst in whilst we were at tea. He didn’t excuse himself but made some announcements.
Operational flights for correspondents fixed.
Wau trips for one week almost finalised. This conflicts with Ben Knox who spoke of 3 weeks minimum trip because of air transport shortage.
Had a dirty big filling put in my tooth by Menzie Bartlett, a good type of dentist at force headquarters. He has been here 7 months. He has one of those pedal drills and operates it with extraordinary smoothness. He has become so accustomed to this peddling motion, that one day when he was pulling out a tooth his orderly noticed that his leg was pumping up and down at nothing, out of sheer habit. Jean O’Driscoll’s brother is Chaplain at Force.
Monday 17th May 1943
Keith Humphries came around to tea. He is dead keen to get to England. Reckons if they won’t send him he’ll enlist in the RAF as a Staff Sergeant pilot. He has made a fine job of 22 Squadron, he’s a most intrepid flyer, as well he reckons that things will be dead here for a long while. The Allies will finish Germany first, he wants to be in that and out to India where he reckons the RAAF squadrons from England will be the first to go to finish off Japan.
Ken Gleeson arrived today, now have 3 DOI blokes here: Norm Browning, Ken and myself. Big cumulus clouds around Moresby and the tropical blue seas with the neat brown American tents made a fine sight as we were driving into the town.
Wednesday 19th May 1943
Wrote to Jack Allen asking him to send me a rucksack, also answered Captain Smart’s letter. Silk’s beaut letter arrived, its a beaut. Poor old Haws, he’s much maligned, the office – since they’ve found out that he’s been accredited for life they’ve refused to give him his release. Have tried war nerves but Silkie is defying him – and I think Haws is uncomfortable.
Thursday 20th May 1943
Wrote a long letter to George and Allan telling them although I didn’t want to resign I was disgruntled. Three causes:
- Absurd living expenses 25/- a week.
- Sacking of Anderson.
- Sabotaging of Silk.
Also posted the Feridan Parer letter to Smart in England in answer to this congratulatory letter.
Friday 21st May 1943
Saw Shan Benson for a few minutes today expected him to tea but it rained like beggary and he didn’t come. He is camped out in the hills and to see through the infantry in their eternal uncomforted gave me the old feeling of the wonder of it all, also gave me some new impetus to get on with my new infantry film.
Last night a letter arrived from Jack Allen in answer to my memo on living expenses. The Office refused to increase my expenses, I decided to get straight down to the job of putting the matter in the hands of the AJA. I don’t think that the office realises that I’ll carry this thing to a finish. While in Sydney I told Haws that I couldn’t continue to work with this expense allowance so if the AJ will not handle, or do anything about it I’ll give the Office my necessary 3 months notice. I wrote to George to tell him of this today as it contradicted what I said to him in my letter yesterday about not resigning.
Tonight went along to the 5th Airforce US. They rig up a 16 mil show in the mess much better than the outdoor as it is the case in other areas in Moresby. The actual quality is really good for 16mm. Sound not as good as picture. Main film was Warner’s Yankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney mainly, Joan Leslie, Walter Houston etc. Interesting show play, weaving and sentimental-ness to the highest degree. The boys liked it.
On Thursday, Brown and myself went to the 29th AGH to do some CCMY pictures of the nurses – Matron Marshall is very pleasant and appears efficient, had the usual beggaring about that happens when a photographer wants to do some shots of nurses in an otherwise strictly male area. The collective reputation of the girls must be doubly guarded a wealth of scandal can blow up like wild fire into a howling gale, so they are naturally reticent. I remember very clearly the time when I first met Matron Sage to AGH as her ship pulled into the Middle East. I met her she asked me if I had taken shots of the nurses 1. at a cocktail party. 2. On the beach mucking around. I said yes and she told me off in a big way. I felt like crawling away and dying.
Saturday 22nd May 1943
Went up to Shan and brought him down for tea, had it with the boys outside.
Shan being a Corporal. It is great to yarn to a cove who is thinking the same way as yourself. He lay on my bed and talked about Ron, Ray, Bert, Nadeen, Witaker and Australians the army and Shan in it, the DOI and me in it. A letter came from Ron and I read it to Shan it was mostly advice to me to marry Pat – A letter from Nadeen thanking me for the picture of us. Ronnie enclosed a cutting about an announcement of Mr Drakeford “A RAF film to be made including the RAAF work in England “– on Sherry’s advice I decided to write Mr Drakeford – damn shame about Shane he could be doing a much better job on the land as an Infantry Corporal – He is so sincere about his job. He told a recruiting officer bloke he didn’t agree to being put into the army as he had a more important job to do for Australia far on the land – He won’t join the AIF as he doesn’t think he is doing the right thing for Australia by leaving the land. If he joins the RAF he will be a volunteer and so going against what he thinks is right – on the other hand he reckons he should be with the AIF as they are his type – He also realises that not to join the AIF will be a possible obstruction in his promotion – He is a man of principles and he is a damn good sectional corporal whats more and is keen to get into the stoush.
Went to visit the MRS – RAAF and photographed the sisters in this bonze little hospital. The senior sister is very charming and the other sisters are efficient and likeable. There’s a standard mobile Xray here and the sisters like it. In the morning I photographed the physiotherapy department and found Trevor Rice there. We yarned about Adrian and Noel.
Sunday 24th, May, 1943
7.30am mass at force Father O’Driscol – received George’s beaut book it is really good. This afternoon took Sister Hamilton on a picnic to Rono Falls, got a couple of shots. Took a great big jar of iced coffee, biscuits and cakes. The 3 cameramen are going to Wau as soon as possible. Im going to do the bits first – small joy.
Monday 24th, May, 1943
Our Lady help of Christian’s feast day. Awoke at 1.30 a couple of Jap bombers. Yes I got out of bed and put on tin hat with everyone else and cursed myself as a weak kneed fool for not having the guts to stay in bed. No bombs near us. About 5am everybody awoke again as a liberator crashed about 700 yards up from our hut. The fog had been too thick. It crashed through a hut and the whole thing was busted. It was the pilots 7th mission. A couple of lads on the ground were badly injured by the crash, and a guard had 6 months growth frightened out of him. Tonight a letter from Patricia – she writes much like Nadeen, from the envelope I thought it was from her and then it dawned on me. Actually from her writing you’d expect her to be very matronly, not a crossed out word, and a letter from Butler, He’s had the malaria again. Last sentence in his letter is a climatic Butler Style “ Does the beast love beauty? Does the green of the jungle become the blue of her eyes?” – Butler. Why are both my intuitive cobblers so sure about Pat? Each came to his own conclusion independently after they had seen Pat once, to me its most extraordinary. Frank Howlett back today. I like Frank he’s easy, quiet and humorous and a good workman. Bob Croney is another American I have grown to like, I’ll be sorry when he leaves he’s in the next bed to me. The Americans are leaving this hut to go to a new one opened by Colonel Billon on Tuesday. Bob Croney and his cobbler were fond of verse. Bob said I’ll bet your poetic Damien. “That’s right” said I. Ahh Damien. Damien he said. His voice was sad. Shan Benson came for tea, he’s a fine chap he’s big and brown, he’s mentally starved in the Infantry.
Tuesday 25th, May, 1943
My soul is troubled again. Troubled! – again – I’m faced with a decision, will I send the department my resignation or will I merely seek the aid of the A.J.A. On Sherry’s and Jim Howard’s advice I decide on the former and Sherry drafts out an excellent memo to Haws.We had dinner at the Officer’s Club, given to us by the American Correspondents. A sort of a farewell gesture before they leave our mess, about 22 present, no grog. Some old hands reckon its the first correspondent’s dinner they’ve had that’s been dry.
Saw Dick Hart, I like him. He’s going South.
I have promised him a letter of introduction to Phonse. Dick must be pretty upset about Bill Newton’s death. Bill was a grand bloke, and as grand as hell. Bill and Dick used to chip each other about who was more likely to be killed first. They both seemed to be in favour of the same girl. Frank Howard, Bob Croney and Geo Weller are fine U.S. correspondents. When talking to anyone of them I find new hope in the Australian-American friendship. Frank and I had a yarn about this friendship last night. He is sure it will come.
I felt there is too much difference between the two peoples, but he helped to change that idea. Last night Bob Curtis, a real labor man and working here for Daily News and Truth, reckoned I’d be a fool to resign, he reckoned I should play my cards with the A.J.A. and I decided he was right. Better to play safe. He said he would write to the A.J.A. secretary Geoff James. Damn this business, a lousy cheese paring of those shiny bums is getting me down.
Wednesday 26th May 1943
Told Sherry that Bob Curtis has shown me that it was far better to do things through the AJA. Went to Mass and prayed for guidance. Sherry was annoyed about my weak and changing attitude, and refused to do any typing for me so I copied my memo and the departments answer out in handwriting. While doing it I thought and said an occasional prayer, walked up and down and decided to send in my resignation. I compared this problem to the one I had last August, when the department kept sending me urgent signals to come South, and I wanted to go on the Kokoda Trail. I quite made up my mind finally to go South and Ches Wilmot with his forceful personality simply talked me out of it. Without Chester there would have been no Kokoda film. Without Charlie Maddan getting my film supplies to me in some miraculous aerial way too, there’d have been no film. How much do we depend on a small twist of fate or men for our success or failure.
Well the resignations gone in and I feel better already, they can go to hell. I date this the 25th May, that means my release on 25th August.
I wrote to Ken Hall, Allan Anderson and Geo Silk, Phonse Parer and Ron Williams. Yesterday a signal came through for me to pass to M.E.A. to see Clobby to get instructions on Catalina story. I won’t have time to call and see Cyril and Bern now. Young Silk got an excellent write up in the Argus, his position is getting strong and now that I’ll be joining him it should be much better. I looked up at the sky and a liberator in full view passed by batting over. I thought how good it felt about having resigned my job and everything, and an after thought struck me that there’d be plenty of times that I’d regret having made this break.
The Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, arrived today. His plane got in at 25 to 6 pm. Light was going and I had another jam in the elmo so I threw out the whole spool. This bloody camera is worrying me, I feel I’ll never take a decent picture with it now.
Thursday 27th May, 1943
Dashed around with the G.G. He inspected a company of P.I.B. first and gave a talk. I got them to do a few draw movements after he left, these dark skinned lads had been standing up a good while – suddenly one cove fell flat forward he went out to it – just went straight out no half way – they look good types. Illuminating letters from Professor Chisholm and Cyril Pearl – he still belongs to the group of Philistines. Arel Olson tackled it conscientiously once said for people to find out what they were writing about. Having read Professor Chisholm’s letter I’m most dejected. Before I read his correspondence on “Mordicamus” I kidded myself that with constant application I’d get at the thing. (I think it’s poetry. MSP.) But after reading about super realism and the non-subjective objective and illumination that poetry never has been for the hard anyway. I feel like admitting defeat and I feel too that even with all Patruacka’s enthusiasm she may not be able to see the light either. Posted the films of G.G. today. Wrote Jock Allan a letter and casually asked him if he wanted any special job done as I’d be finishing with the department on the 27th August. That’s the first notification I’ve given of my resignation.
Last night Ken had 6 double rum with cities, at some mess and came home in the pink of condition. He talked for about an hours as he went to bed. I was most interested in his story of Chris Brennan, MoRay Brennan’s no Bohemian Cafes left in Sydney now. Ken’s patient in life is Ben Johnson, he reads him almost exclusively and reckons he’s a greater man than Shakespeare. Sherry was quiet, just finished with Modecais and delivered his judgement, :It’s bloody abortion”, the bloke who wrote it aught to be in a lunatic asylum and Professor Chisholm with him. He glanced at it again and uttered one syllable, ugh!, and handed it to me. Gleeson now reckons that its a slavish imitation of T.S.Elliot. He doesn’t know about it’s content as he can’t make head nor tail of it.
Friday 28th May, 1943
Letter form Allan Anderson. He’s seen S.P.Ashley and finally been ousted. It is undoubtedly a dirty bureaucratic trick. I’ve decided if DOI wanted to hold me, I will make 3 points.
- Adequate expenses.
- Good possibilities of English trip.
- Revision of Allan’s dismissal.
I wrote and told him today, made my will too. Jim Howard and Sherry witnessed it, everything I have goes to Mum and Dad except my books which go to Ronnie Williams. Captain Joe Woods fixed my elmo lens once more. That dreadful uneven noise was caused by (A) a loose spindle. (B) a loose lever sprocket. (C) a rubbing by the door on the cat take up spool or all three.
Saw form goes at 21 Squadron – not much.
Saturday 29th May, 1943
Anderson’s wire arrived asking for a signed and witnessed statement of what I said to Haws about being as guilty as Allan in returning from New Guinea in September without permission. I wrote it out and Ken Gleeson witnessed it. I wrote to Allan. Bob Curtis wants to send the details of my resignation to his office and get them to question Haws, Hall and Silk on the thing I gave him as much relevant information as I could sticking studiously to the truth – told him of the other resignations showed him Jack Allen’s reply to my memo, showed him a copy of the memo too. I mentioned this to Sherry who said that the story wouldn’t get past the censor as they would refer it to the DOI – This I related to Allen and suggested he didn’t use the document for about 6 days as I had given Curtis the facts of his case too. I can’t make out where George Silk is – I have a feeling he may have left Australia.
Mucked around getting packed in this afternoon. Ken’s ping pong has improved. He’s worked out a tricky spin serve. Tricked me for two games, I told him I would report him to Haws and co for his waste of time at the ping pong table.
Went to PRUS at 5th US RAF tonight. Major Brown officiated. Bob Curtis badgered him with what I considered impertinent questions. He inferred that a coming move of the Australian films was to split team from US. I felt sorry that Brown should have to put up with such questions. Brown gave some answers and Curtis answered yes in a way only Curtis can. In all the correspondence behind him Bob Croney said that man can say yes and make it mean any bloody thing he wants to. Sherry was disgusted. I think the PR Officers jobs a lousy one – to be good at his job he must have an enormous amount of patience. The besetting sin of correspondence is (and I include us) is selfishness – so many of them had the glamour of wearing an Officer’s uniform and they haven’t the background necessary to act in the manner befitting that uniform or the high office they carry. So many give the impression of being spoilt children. However, it is the good correspondents that help to brighten the same scene. The Cavin, Longa, Wilmots, Whites, George Weller, Bob Croney, Dick Brown, Frank Howlett, Allan Daws etc.
Tonight I slept at the reception depot. Captain Ned Kelly is the A.D.J. there, he is a fine type of old generation and fighting fit too.
Sunday 30th May, 1943
Couldn’t get along to Mass this morning because of the call for the flying boat. Got there early. It left about midday. It always seems to me that the number of men and baggage waiting to get onto a flying boat will never fit in.
We have a few negros with us. How colourful they are, stilted they seem in uniform, one can almost feel the primitive instincts lying dormant ready to spring. The thin features, the sensitive lines of the face, the texture of their skin with the back tight on it, and the elegant longness. It’s terrifically interesting to any artist, looking at them now how much more do they interest me than a couple of other American whites with them. These eyes and lips and teeth are extraordinary.
My weight on this trip is personal 153. Ujano camera no film 26, Newman camera no film 42, 2 tripods 30, film can 66, light 16, kit bag 44, personal 40. Total 266.
Have just read Professor Chishom’s letter to Cyril Pearl again and amazing ? am beginning to see the light. Arrived Townsville 5.15pm and P.R. drove me to, at tea I said I’d like to go to church. Bill Williams said he would come along. I asked him if he was a Catholic. He said no, I go to any church. He went on to say when he joined the army he was given his choice of religion for the first time in his life. When the Clerk asked him with religion he replied “Salvation Army” thinking the Salvation Army Padres would bother him least.
Monday 31st May 1943
Meet the much decorated Commodore Colloy. There is certainly a competitive spirit between the different commands. I’ve heard a chap remark that our Air Force was doing a good job. The pilot said which air force? Bostocks, Jones’, Clobby’s, Saving’s or Landing’s?
John Pauman told me the news I’ll be going to the Cats, The Catalinas for a few days then on to Moresby to team up with him. Looking through Pat’s letter, her first one and only one so far, I see at the finish of it “I’m looking forward to your next leave”. I wonder is she at all interested. Skin was telling us the base has the habit of leaving crew on the intercom will be heard by all the other aircraft. I was flying with the boss on this particular day and out the blue came my voice “I don’t know why my bloody camera won’t work”. It wasn’t that I had too much to drink tonight, but I had made the fatal mistake of mixing the grain with the grape. I drank too quickly anyhow, started on beer then vermouth, Australian champagne with dinner followed by a cherry brandy and lastly creamed do cocoa. I left the boys, walked home fairly sober but was a little sick after I got into bed, lying down seems to unsettle my stomach when I had a few drinks.
Met Jim Emmerton, he’s squadron leader now and going to New Guinea officially. Not a flying job but he hopes to turn it into one. Grand flying cove with guts galore. Great comrades, gallant men as are in our air crews with much an extraordinary as moral outlook – “nesting” – is to them quite in order – normal function – there’s no bout the liberalism we have practiced for the past 400 years has sapped our moral strength.
Tuesday 1st June, 1943
So I met the famous Cat boys and W.C. Stirling DFC. His reception wasn’t particularly warm, fairly casual. I put it down to the general unpopularity of the correspondents with the Cata following an unfortunate announcement that the Japs had done a certain job when it was not a good thing for the future safety of the Cats for the enemy to know this. The squadron had given the drink a pretty solid bash last night and was just recovering which gave him that vague casual appearance. During the day my first impressions were quickly dissipated and his officers made me feel absolutely at home.
He introduced me S.L. Tom Stokes a high and super enthusiast he was most enthusiastic about the film and suggested a number of shots, got me all enthusiastic too. When first I mentioned the film to Warrant Officer W.C. Atkinson, he said there’s nothing much you can take, a Cat taking off, landing or loading the bombs. We had a couple of the march of times chaps here. Do you know them I said. Yes well, Maurice Lancater and Bob Navarno and added lamely that I thought a good film could be made. The central theme being the team work in the catalina air crew. He said would I do a film with a theme or just a newsreel. I tried to explain that if we wanted to make a good long newsreel it was necessary to have a central theme to hang the thing together. Tom Stoke’s cobber Dave Vernon asked me if I’d like to come for a short flip with him while he tried out some skip bombing in the catalinas, but I went along and made my first cat trip. The flaming skips were a failure.
Dave said that in his dive he had done 180 knots at 225mph and couldn’t go much faster with safety. The cat is exciting, a crew of 10 and excellent discipline. To think that these aeronauts go up for trips of 25 hours duration in which they cook their own meals and go about their business just like the crew of a corvette. It’s so entirely different to all the other aircraft I’ve been on. The chaps are different: quiet, solid, stable. The two squadrons work as one. I saw Tom Stokes take off on a long mission. It took him 1 minute 50 seconds to take off. He was about 3600 lbs overloaded – the maximum allowable load. I thought he’d never get off.
These lads fly on the longest bombing missions in the world. Here they go from here as far as Caveang. They do the famous millrun. There’s more room for individual taste in these boats than any other aircraft. If a pilot decides on his millrun that he’d call in a Pinch Haven and drop a fun he does so he stooges around and carefully picks a new target, the gunners most enjoyable time is when they ground strafe. These lads love the cat boats. They complain of the absurdly slow speed, their terrific hours as high as 300 hours per month, but they’d rather have them than any other.
Norm Fadder is south on leave. The lads say he’s gone a bit deaf from flying boats. He wants to keep going although it appears that the Doc will stop him. He feels he’s a bastard if he gives up doing the work. From all accounts of Norman he seems to be a fine chap and a great little flyer. My mind wonders to the stickiness in the DOI. It seems the peace time democracy is quite unfitted to fight a war and so has had to be adapted to get on a war footing. It is either a dictatorship of a bureaucracy. I don’t know which is the better or worse that we have a bureaucracy, we have civil servants and others who have been inefficiently carting files around from room to room suddenly thrust forward in positions of great authority. They have become very powerful men and can control the destiny of we lesser mortals. In many cases their small capacities and minds prevent them carrying out the jobs properly. They are either too incompetent or too blown up with their own importance or both and they are a bloody menace.
Wednesday 2nd June, 1943
Great change has taken place in New Guinea in the past 12 months there’s no doubt we must give credit for that development to the Yanks. Their speedy work methods, their policy of sparing no expense, of using the best machinery available and their knowledge of construction have been the main reason for this development. There’s no doubt the thin edge of the wedge is being applied to Australia and Australian units. Each little more puts us one back and the Yanks one forward, this is seen clearly in our own PR unit, a week ago the Americans found their own PR mess at 5th airforce. Definitely looks as though the Americans are taking complete charge. They consider us as rough and slow and in some ways are right. Their industrial methods, their speed of handling is marvellous. Perhaps if the Yanks take over it will stop us meddling about politically. DOI have been sedulously courting Col. Diller with the end in view of defeating the Australian Army PR under Knox and being the main source of publicity in the South West Pacific. As Charlie Madden said tonight that won’t get them far as they’ll be ousted too just as our own PH Will. I let him know Haws told me he looked at the time that the battle would have grown bigger and south west pacific headquarters would be outside Australia so that the DOI would be the big show. Haws reckoned that big Ben Knox was only a publicity man for General Blamey and was seeking his own glorification.
Charles told me that DOI have made a statement in their news service about George Silk. I must have a look at it.
Cohen looks well. He’s a well built young chap. At present he’s reading Alexis Carroll’s Man the Unknown, he’s most fascinated with it. This is his second time through it. Casually glancing through it I see he’s marked notes in it. He’s certainly a keen student. He’s full of beans today and gives the impression of speedy energy.
Had a look through the engineering section today. These are the first people I’ve met who don’t feel that the cat boys deserve more praise than they’ve been given. They reckon had the cat’s crew had done the grand jobs they were supposed to have done the aircraft would have been far more shot up. They claim that since last June only 3 cat have returned form ops with AA holes in them. They claim also that this fact was remarked on by another E.O. from NEA.
Saw General Jack Stevens enjoying himself in the most heartening way for a General. I felt most important when he said hello and came round for a meal one day. He’s one of the really good Generals.
Thursday 3rd June, 1943
Up at 4am to get out for the demonstration of the Jewish US Paratroopers. George Weller who had come with me into the centre of the field to watch was ecstatic about the beauty of the whole thing. He was crooning happily of the whole thing. “Oh Damien, look at this quick see that man. Oh boy what shots. They’re super!” He was more concerned with my pictures than his own literary angle. George found a wonderful interest in the paratroopers. He reckons they’re the most fascinating section of the service he’s come in contact with. There’s so many problems for which to find a solution. We chipped George about his ever lasting questioning of the paratroop officers. Bob Nelson and myself would be finished and waiting and George would be quietly pushing his exhaustive questions home. Yes Colonel and do you wear knee pads, no, well is that because you can’t get any or because you don’t believe in them and then, why don’t you believe in them and so on and on. He’s extraordinary though. He and Wilmot are a good pair. The field was soft all ploughed up and the lads who landed reckoned it was too much as when they hit and tried to toll over the wire too was liable to get caught in the soft crater and be stuck. Lady Blamey to whom I was speaking waxed eloquent on the claims of Garzer (sic) while I thought it the dullest place in the Middle East. She spoke of it so tenderly I liked her. We spoke of Ronnie. Betty Lark thought Ronnie’s verse was like Keats without Keats’ sluggishness.
Saturday 5th June 1943
Tried to get to Moresby on a cat but nothing doing. Bob Nelson got me to make a statement on my resignation to the department for the Telegraph and with the occasional advice of Charles Maddern we did it. It’s a funny thing Anderson the most conscientious cameraman we had who would never so much as raise a protest to the department was sacked. Bob Nelson quoted a case at his last office where the same thing had happened. The good worker who’d never kick up a fuss in the office and in consequence ridden over rough shod. I think of all the times I went to Haws and company, cap in hand asking please give me a little more, please, no I won’t resign but won’t you give me a few shillings more, and they wouldn’t give me a penny. The silly goats thin chess paring is now bringing a wealth of most unwelcome publicity on their hands at the particularly critical time of the coming elections also it is quite possible that my loud wing with Silke and Anderson’s will make it necessary for them to increase the other cameramen’s expenses. Silly goats the old army strain they’ll be sorry, we might be too, but we’ve disturbed them quite a lot anyway. Yesterday with Kath I took a full liker spool of Red Cross pictures in the hospital. She wants to use them as “From the Camer of Damien Parer”, that doesn’t matter to me. It’s very flattering to get this publicity but as I’ve told her it doesn’t matter a damn whether she gives me acknowledgement or not. On doing the pictures I met Captain Ron Campbell and we yarned about the Owen Stanley show they showed me a marvellous Bren gun they had in the unit which was carried all the way out and credited with 70 Japs. Later his wife had a baby and the boys asked him what he’d call it. Bren he answered simply, yes but what about the second name Mark too said he without hesitation. Ye gods saw Aileen Baker must be 6 or 7 years since I saw her and she spent 16 months as a V.A. in the Middle East and I never met her. She looks well and has not lost her sensitive way of talking although she has blossomed into a more defiant personality that when I knew her. She told me she had just been reading an article in Women about me that said a lot of things we would like to believe about ourselves but we know untrue. Today at the Cairns officers club Geoff Laidlow minus beard came up and said hello. He was the independent boy leader in Timor a big man the boys called him The Bull game as a lion. Went to a film this afternoon and was conscious of the softening escapism of the films. Being a matinee there were kids all around me. It was a serial about an octopus who is about to attack a cove in the sea, quick good cutting, the kids squealed delight, fright and encouragement to the actors. There were churning bodies, octopus and water and out to the next west…; No doubt about films they are universal entertainment for I/– or 1/3 today you can escape your cares, your life a thrilling hum of talk of hundreds of kids and grown ups at the interval warms the theatre to a live thing. I can just imagine the children almost living for this thrill of the moving picture. In later life they’ll look back as we do now on the Saturday afternoon s the icy poles, the orangeade, the lollies, the serials and wonder how they enjoyed themselves so much. The next film was somebody in love with a girl. A paramount cartilage affair, it was bloody awful. I couldn’t stand it, my taste and intelligence being insulted to quite such an extent, so I came home.
Had a look at the Catholic Church today. It is upstairs, the top floor of a school. I’ve never seen a Catholic Church like it before and the queer thing is that on the opposite corner is the Church of England, it looks just like the Catholic one with crosses and all tat.
Sunday 6th June 1943
To Mass at 6.30. No time for a shave. The Priest read out a collection list and gave a short talk on attention at prayers. Leave AN with Tom Blakley for Moresby. Amazed at how a crew of 9 fits into a catalina. The boat looks so small from the outside. Below us the sea is green with deep purple in the shadows.
Arrived Moresby 4pm and received a big bundle of mail. Gosh they’re filled with cuttings. Phonse is on the job making statements and Silky is crying Haws had victimised him. Even Allan Andersons baby was mentioned a lot of times.
Sydney Sun and Telegraph took the thing up with open arms. Here are a few of the extracts. 31st May, War camera ace out of job. Spite says war cameraman. Silk Andrews statement and comment. For Australians sake the public should demand that from line war photographer George Silk should be released to work for Life said E K White. Haws replies – or does he. Two six forty-three telly editorial. He only wants to do job. The department has succeeded in getting Silk’s appointment to Life quashed and now threatened to have him manpowered into another job. When Silk has put his camera aside and started picking rice on their irrigation area the department will no doubt glow with rye satisfaction, but what about the pictures of Australia and Americans won’t see.
Monday 7th June – Ace camera newsreel man resigns from department. Mr Haws added that Parer’s work as a cinema photographer was very good indeed. Mr Anderson was dismissed for leaving Darwin at a time when he was posted there to cover spitfires in action. The real reason Mr Anderson left Darwin was because his wife was expecting baby.
Sunday 2nd June 1943 – The growing casualty list of information department. Bitter feeling of star man.
Monday 3rd June 1943 – Loss of ace departments fault official sin pinpricking and blasphemy forced ace news reel cameraman Damien Parer to resign of the DOI, said his brother Mr A Parer.
Editorial same issue – Information Please Mr Curtain. With the resignation of Damien Parer recognised as one of the best news reel photographers in the world. It becomes obvious that something is wrong with the department of information. An anonymous government spokesman informed that Parer threw his job because he was not getting enough money, but the issue is not money, the reel issue is whether the department is doing it’s job. Silk was dissatisfied with the unimaginative ways. So was Parer. The dread hand of bureaucracy is upon it this is the whole story the public would like the PM himself to clear up this issue.
Monday 3rd June – The Sun – DOI casualties now 7. Captain Frank Hurley. Nonpower Dickie, Mr Ballymore said as Silk is now unemployed he had to register with the national service officer within 7 days. This is humiliating news for young Silk. Damien Parer’s brother said Damien has been forced to resign because of incredible shortsightedness and petty fogging restrictions placed on him. When he complained, Mr Haws said, I gave you your break on the Bismarck Sea.
A letter from Silk dated 2nd June 1943 – Damien we’ve got the heat on the bastards. Everybody in Sydney is on our side and newspapers are going the full hog at the moment. Everybody is confident we’ll perform Coup de grâce and the bloody department will blow to bits. Bombshell Ashley will not grant me an interview. Angel is as cocky as hell and is saying these statements won’t worry us as I have something on every editor in town and can squash them at a moments notice if I want to. Isn’t he a little BT.
In the pile there is a letter from Ken Hall. He tells me not to resign. It would do my career harm if I lost. They might manpower into the army. I have chosen the wrong excuse to resign on expenses. Ken is also keen to keep the thing out of the papers. It seems of course that he wants matters left as they are, it suits him that way. Now I owe a big debt to Ken for bringing my name but truth comes first he gratefully says if the department asks to reconsider my resignation he advises me to do so very strongly. I answer and say that because he has asked me to do so I will, but on 4 conditions. 1) Anderson reinstated. 2) Silk free to go into Life. 3) Opportunity for English trip for £15 per week plus 30/- a day expenses. 4) That the department must offer me this and that if they heckle about it I’ll immediately start negotiating about another job.
Monday 7th June, 1943
Finished and posted letters to Williams and Phonse and Hall telling them my conditions and asking Phonse to go easy on the press campaign. Hawks last letter to me said Charlie Baltimore says Silk… At the worst you can only die in the glorious flames of publicity dear oh hear my friend how true. I am feeling that we will win this show. Silk has done a grand job. His fight has been a most courageous one and full honours must go to him for it. Her’s got guts. I’ve only sat down 2,000 miles away and calmly written out my resignation. I didn’t even do that, Sherry wrote it for me. The brunt of the battle has been on Silk. He’s put his can out and led with both fists with a clean ringing challenge. I am full of admiration for his performance and realise how lucky I am and Allan is to have such a plucky fighter.
Phonse my brother is another one. He’s a beaut. Absolutely i his element. He wrote asking for an interview with the Prime Minister and it was refused. So he used that. He thought up my past and used that. I’ll give Silk and Phonse the silver star.
Silk says Percy Splender says its a plain case of victimisation and is going to fight to the end.
Tuesday 9th June, 1943
I suggested Haws is walking around his patted office in a dazed sort of way since the great brunt of resignations flooded his little world. The mine laying loads of Silk followed by Parer and Anderson burst the great Damien of DOI and his rushing on air. His petty ambitions swelling his dreams into oblivion.
Wednesday 9th June, 1943
The Americans have only 2 movie men out here and they need 3. I told Crochet I would rather photograph Aussies at less money as it is my job. I’ve written asking for a fair deal. I the department refuses it I’ll immediately contact the Americans.
I wrote to Phonse telling his this. Also to see Ken Hall and my conditions. That I’d give the department 8 days before I’d start negotiations.
I wrote to Ronnie and suggested I go with him on a trip into the New Guinea bush. He’ll do a story for National Geographic and I’ll do the photos and split 50-50. He reckons it would be worth £50 each.
Last night there was a letter for Ken Gleeson with his faultless handwriting on the envelope. On opening it Ken found the entire letter to be cuttings about our resignations. Ken was disgusted. Tonight there was another letter. When Ken opened the envelope out poured another heap of Parer-Silk cuttings.
One letter for me from Martin Barnett. Yes it’s definitely a feeling he is interested and on my say so he will cable New York to see if they want to appoint me.
Thursday 10th June 1943
Letter from Haws dated 4 June 1943 accepting my resignation. He also says, “May I take this opportunity of expressing on behalf of the Department of Information appreciation of the excellent services you have rendered in the Middle East and in the South West Pacific areas.” Ye Lord it’s the first time he’s expressed his appreciation for any of my work in writing.
Allan Jones just told me that dear Rocky Mullins has gone. Oh golly, how small are my little troubles beside the heroism of these flyers. Lovable tired looking Rocky. It happened a couple of weeks ago. I never knew anything about it and may his soul rest in peace. His WAG was a fine type of chap with complete confidence in Rocky. Apparently it happened in a search for a missing launch. It wasn’t a strike.
Today I received Martin Barnett’s letter and I made 7 points.
- I am not yet tied to anyone.
- Haws accepts my resignation.
- Ken Hall asks me to reconsider.
- I will if the department accepts my conditions.
- It looks as thought the department will not.
- I am interested in his offer.
Work on any front preferably England or Middle East.
Have written to Phonse telling him of American offer and that it’s nice and that I’ll give the department until the 17th of June to make up its mind whether they want me or not. Both letters posted today.
In a letter to Shan Benson on writing to the department blocking Silks efforts to get a job with Life says: “Greater hate than this no man hath.”
Looks like something is moving in the South West Pacific. Much guessing is going on in the Wau Merboo area going to advance and take here and Salamaua. Are we going to push out from Milne Bay to Woodlark and the Trobriands?
Saturday 12th June 1943
Start on Moresby medley film. Do a few shots of bus service.
Monday 14th June 1943
Letter from Nadeem and from Chas. Memo from Taylor. They’ll allow me £50 on my camera I lost on the Kokoda Trail. Ron reckons that the whole of the show will take its correspondence from GHQ. That buggers us.
Jim Howard took me around the strips and picked out the most interesting insignia on the planes and the best one was a stork carrying a bomb wrapped as a baby entitled “the deliverer”. “Yanks from hell” as a title was OK and after that a nude girl – something like “Blond Bomber”. Strange about names on aircrafts.
On an Aussie kite there were very few and what there are are not very interesting. On American transport planes the names are quite dignified and very few pictures accompanied. for example “South winds”, “Zephyr”, “Miss America” and “Miss Ohio”. The heavy bombers burst out into the main themes with generally humorous with the common denominators power, speed and sex.: mustang, semi-nude girls and horse tail skid trolley, a donkey skidding on its rear, nea food mama, mermaid with bomb poised in her hand, look here tojo, a gremlin, Crosby cruise.
A letter from Allan Anderson. He’s a great chap. I’d love to be away from this crook cold and work with Allan. They did the dirty on him. The most conscientious technical man we ever had. I feel good to think of poor Bob Haws dull outlook. Allan tells me that Frank was very secretive hone he saw him. Sounds as though the department have given him the offers.
Frank Bagnell arrived by flying boat. I went down in the car to meet him. Between us at first there was a definite coolness. A barrier to the old friendship obviously caused by my resignation and subsequent publicity and the department instruction to Frank. As the day passed we opened up more and the following day we were good robbers again with all the dirty water off both out chests.
Friday 18th June 1943
Frederick Howard told me that Frank was on the list and so I said I would like to go ahead with my Infantry section idea in the Wau area. He suggested I do a story on the Bulldog Road and think the other camera men would not do justice to the story. He said they had a press photographers complex and couldn’t see the big thing in any poetic way. I told him if I covered it it would be no better as the newsreels would only give a few hundred feet of it and also I had covered the same track last year.
His term “press photographic complex” kept coming into my mind during the day. Biased I suppose by my early ambition of being press photographer or Studio I generally imagined that these people had the more feeling and craftsmanship in their war than they actually have. The chaps I know show Fred to be right, hard working well trained. Their game of producing pictures for the dailies a definite lack of sensitivity. When they relax in their return to work. It is to take sentimental chocolatey composition to the old saying that ask photographers sign their name with a cross isn’t quite true. I think for a man to be a really good photographer or cinematographer for that matter, too much of a normal press education and work is inclined to stultify the beauty of his work. It gets one int a groove, not an ordinary groove, but a groove of extra ordinarily variable working conditions with the fixed idea of beating his rivals. His work is of fleeting importance. Beauty has no part in it except on occasionally the heroes beauty of coming sentimentality. It seems that as a rule so little time is spent in actual productive work. Waiting around takes up a big percentage of the time. It being very difficult to use this time profitably, a lazy mentality is inclined to develop far more than with the journalists who working with words have to use their literary skill in their work. Besides no matter how far a photographer goes in his job he’ll only be doing similar subjects. He’s limited, where as a journalist on the up and up gets more and more opportunities of improving his craftsmanship. He’s widening his scope of fields.
In this case a good paper is interested. In my own case, training in newsreel work would have been a great assistance to me in my first 2 years in the war photography. I would never have made the silly mistakes I did make. Having gained my initial kick off in the 2 years, it’s probably better for me now that I didn’t serve an apprenticeship in the newsreel although on shower items I lack much confidence in my judgement that otherwise I would have had.
Frank Bagnall suggested that as he had previous newsreel experience he was inclined to think in terms of short stories where as from my own work I thought in terms of magazine stuff, full reels. Which sound pretty correct. I am lost in a short item and he is lost in a bigger one.
Tonight a letter from Ken Hall.
- An apology to Ashley and asks for job back.
- I will be sabotaged by DOI if I try to get another job.
- Don’t worry about Anderson and Silk. Last night a letter from Phonse arrived saying that Ken would write and advise me to do this and Phonse warned me against it.
- As the DOI would publish such a statement.
- That he could bring political pressure to bear if they tried to sabotage me. Also not to bother about Silk and Anderson.
- Thinking it over I find Phonse right.
- Ashley would give the thing to Haws.
- Haws would publish it.
- Haws as seen from previous would not have me back on any conditions. A smooth working department is better for him than a star, so called, photographer.
- Haws would publish it and if I did get back I’d look a bloody fool.
- If I did get back the department would stop me getting any good jobs and play my name down as much as possible.
Finished Moresby medley and posted it tonight – 800 foot. I wonder whether it will be used.
Saturday 19th June 1943
Am waiting very solidly on the letter from Barnett. If Paramount say no go I’ll get in touch with Leo McDonald.
Am reading Green Mantle by John Buchanan. A spiced story of the last war. It is very convincingly written, but not particularly good style. It could almost apply in many ideas to this war. The repetition of so many things in the last war leads one to surmise that history will repeat itself to the extent of an allied victory.
Went to the pictures and saw a nurse from home with my nurse story in it.
Monday 20th June 1943
Feeling very down. My desire to do an infantry section film is mounting and hope within a week to be up and down. The idea is growing more vivid every day. It could turn out to be better than Kokoda Trail film and quite different.
When suggesting the idea of the film to Ken Hall he was somewhat doubtful as to whether it could be put across in a non-dialogue film. I disagree, it can be done. It can be portrayed in the gesture that faces the eyes, the everyday incidents of self sacrifice, the hundred trivialities of life. This life that is so far removed from ours is. It’s where men are seen at their finest. No fake, dinkum. Half light climbing up the sticky ridge, up the telephoto lens for unposed close ups, helping a wonderful cobber. These men in the sphere, worlds apart from us and is as remote as live is form ours. The rain massively sleet pelting down runs off the grass roof of the native’s hut/native’s lean to. The camera tilts down, a wounded lad, a close up of his sweating face. His cobber with him. This is wonderful mateship and it is the common thread with the last wars Anzac. For the first time in our theme newsreel coverage of this war we are working with a clear central theme. A theme that will stand the test of time because of its essential truth. It’s propaganda value is a by-product. It is the truth that Will Dawson painted in the last war.
The greatest binding force in our army is mateship. This is found to the highest degree in the infantry platoons and sections. The particular quality of this mateship is uniquely Anzac.
The rain, fog, slush and malaria conspire with the wiry Japanese to lick our boys, but these things are part of the factor that adds fuel to the fire that helps to forge the great mateship.
Most importantly, the film must have a good finish. Perhaps it is the withdrawing of the company or platoon from the forward area. Perhaps it is the evacuation of one of the robbers wounded. Perhaps we could have a platoon parade camera travel along the rough and finish up one section the shots of our section. If any lads have been killed there will be a sudden gap in the ranks. If I film the dead lad previously a double exposed print shot could go over the parade showing the shot with him in it.
Suggested titles – Spirit of Anzac, Mateship, Henry Lawson called it mateship. I’ll consciously differ these shots from Kodak Front Line material.
Tuesday 22nd June 1943
Peter Henry arrived. He confirms Silk has the Life job.
Wednesday 23rd June 1943
Some quotations I read. Mathew Arnolds from Culture and Anarchy. The great aim of culture is the aim of setting ourselves to ascertain what perfection is and to make it pivotal. The pursuit of perfection then is the pursuit of sweetness and light. He who works for sweetness and light united works to make reason and the will of God prevail. On translating Homer nothing has raised more questioning among the cities than these words, “Noble” – the Grand Style. I think it will be found that The Grand Style arises in poetry when noble, mature poetically gifted, treads with simplicity or with severity. A serious subject.
Chesterton all slang is metaphor and all metaphor is poetry. There is nothing wrong with the Americans except their ideals. The real American is alright. It is the ideal American who is wrong. Tennyson would not think up to the height of his own towering style. For the great Gauls of Ireland are the men that God made man for all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad.
Thursday 24th June 1943 – Corpus Christi
Mass at 6pm at Murray barracks.
Friday 25th June 1943
Am leaving at 6.30am tomorrow for Wau so will continue diary in another book. Wrote to Ken Hall telling him of my infantry film plan and that I can’t apologise as he wants. Also to Allan Anderson, Phonse and Jack Allan getting him to send 1,500 feet to me and 1,500 feet and that I’ll be in Sydney in the middle of August.
Mateship of the AIF. Back from the New Guinea jungle, our troops surrounding the jungle on the Salamaua front and our thoughts keep coming in to my mind. I’ve been thinking all the time on and that’s the end of this diary which is Mitchell Library Manuscript 10971 Item I.
The next manuscript. Called the title on top. The yellowing blood drained face. Show them all but through all and over all runs the finest mateship in the world. This mateship was founded in the kindred spirit and the hard toughened trained to the fighting pitch, it is fostered in the close hard life and the fine Anzac spirit that was born at Gallipoli. It is forged into a glorious steel in the heat of battle and tempered in the trying times of waiting and waiting in short it is the most striking quality exhibited in any of our fighting services. It is not necessary to have a dialogue to make this film in the gestures, the faces, the eyes, we can bring to the screen images saturated with our central idea, here is no fake, it is dinkum. Nearing half light, clambering up the stiff ridges use the telephonic lens for unposed close ups, helping the wounded cobber. Here we are a world apart, the rain merciless pelts down it runs off the grass roofs of the native’s lean to, and a camera tilts down to a wounded lad big close up of his sweating face his cobber is with him. This great mateship is the common thread that runs through the Anzacs of the last war and this one.
The theme of our own film is the greatest binding force of our Armies mateship, this is founded in the highest degree in the infantry platoons and sections particular quality of this mateship is uniquely Anzac. The first time in our film coverage of this war we are working with a clear central theme, a theme that will stand the test of time because of its truth. Its propaganda value is a by product, it is the truth Will Dawson painted in the last war on the battle fields of France.
The rain, sleet, slush, dysentery, the malaria conspire with the Japs to lick our lads but they are factors that add fuel to the fire of mateship. The film must have a good finish it might be with the withdrawal of the company from a forward area, it might be the evacuation of one of the robbers wounded. It might be a final parade with a platoon, the camera travels along the ranks and comes to rest on our section if any of the lads of this section have been killed and have appeared in the film before there’ll be a gap in the ranks. The double print will be made over the shot of the lad. That’s the finish.
Tuesday 29th June 1943
Bloody hard climb, ditto to descend. How the hell the native carriers can carry stretcher cases back on this slipping steep slope, rotty track, I can’t imagine. This stretch of the track is worse than any I encountered on the Kokoda Trail. Over there, eight natives were needed on the stretcher, here they need 16 natives per stretcher.
Wednesday 30th June
Heard thumps of bombers over the Salamaua last night, so it must have started. Has been raining all night and still going strong. Am patient to get forward, but have no native carrier to carry my gear. We have had three natives until now. Our camp can’t contact the Conga Bloke. There is still a shortage of carriers. Anyway it seems as though they must working on the forward areas.
After a good walk we came to the Salvation Army stop where we had a welcome cup of coffee, but were also hungry. Nothing seems to be dry. I’m constantly drying out my pack with film on it, and have double tinned all my film except 500 feet. It rained practically all day. The chaps are in good spirit and are completely confident on our securing the objective.
Monday 13th July 1943
Went to Mass at 6.45. Father English the Catholic Chaplain took Holy Communion to over 40 men on the forward area yesterday. This morning I was rudely awakened by the noise of strafing and then a bomb. We all got out of bed, 3 Jap planes with fixed undercarriage had done some bombing and strafing, but it was quite inaccurate and it was rumoured that they strafed their own men. This is the first time the Japs had attacked us by air in this area. Was nearly going to our house to have a rest but thought it better to hang around in case anything happened.
This afternoon a lad assisted by a good Anzac came along the track. He had a dressing over his forehead covering his eyes and his arm was in a sling. I got a walking shot of him. He rested on the old RAF and Gordon Ayie took him forward. I went along.
The rain started to come down and as Gordon was helping him across the creek a line of carriers passed them. I got a long shot of the bloke close up. They are the best two I’ve done so far. Perhaps it’s a copy of George Silk’s blinded digger, but its effective just the same.
I’ve a new pair of boots now. It’s a great relief! So many of our boys are suffering from bad feet and ring worms, tinea and mocked bites. The trouble is their feet are never dry, wet all the time.
A lad came in yesterday wounded on the 9th and only got help yesterday 13th. His wounds were not bad, but the flies had got to them. He’d been without food for 4 days.
Yesterday the CO went forward with Major Howard and Len Osborne to have a look at things, without realising it they passed our forward section along the bench cut track. They passed two dead Australians and came to a Jap grave, there was a beaut booby trap on it. Above them they heard some movement and thinking they were Aussies the CO was going to speak, they then heard a click of a gun bolt and before the CO could get his pistol out his holster they were fired on. The CO got out quick time without a scratch. Major Howard has been missing. The CO thinks he has been killed. What a terrible mistake, no-one in the forward position mentioned to them the Jap position was ahead. Major Howard should have known. It is typical of this show. There is no detailed planning, no precise conditioning of this unit.
General Savage the General Commander of this area has sent a message through his command and here is some extracts: The enemy has been defeated and is desperately trying to withdraw from his forward position to Mubo. He is trapped, we will destroy him. Captured enemy documents disclose that you and your command in this mission area played a part which cracked the enemies fighting qualities and started him on the road to defeat. You have been severely tried by appalling weather conditions, frightfully wanting and difficult fighting. I offer you only that which demands capacity for courage and endurance. The enemy is smashed. Victory is within our grasp. You must keep on top of him; repel him, his attacks and fight with that courage, the birth right handed to you by your kin has proved the Australian soldier second to none. I am proud of your efforts and want every man to know that your experience will make you better men. Good luck and God bless.
In the last few days the boys of this company who have made a grand stand on Ambush Knob, the average of 40 defenders, held out against 20 determined attacks by the Japs. Men were buggered before they went in and no sleep for three days or nights.
Friday, 23rd July, 1943
On the 22nd and 23rd had Mass and Holy Communion from Father English and arrived back at Mamling. I was keen to get back to these great chaps and again get into things. Now I have a 1,000 foot of film it looks as if the DOI are withholding supplies from me.
The film is gradually taking shape – a good infantry action, the captured positions, two dead Japs and perhaps a good bombing and I’ll get off to Mubo to do some of the other boys.
Tuesday, 29th July, 1943
Wizzed up to Victors to get captured equipment and back to Johnnie Lewins position at Parers Bowl and his attack on Timbered Knoll. Started 16.30, it was raining, mist and bad light, and we moved slowly, grimly up the track – it’s the AIF way.
I went in with Johnnie’s section as they attacked along the ridge. Moonie Munds was killed a wonderful bloke, Robie was wounded just above, and was rushed down to Rolly and nearly collapsed, it was a terrific sight. Then Johnnie gave his orders calling co-ordination working precisely and smartly. Hot tea and stew came up and they sent it around. Two more killed – Old Buck, a crack Corporal, and Corporal Hooks. Syd Reid was moving around to the left. We moved around to the Jap position feeling out the posts well with grenades just rolling them in and ducking before the grenade went off in case it happened to go off outside the pit. Satisfied we moved in a mortar, opened up and we ducked, it was difficult to know where the Japs, pits, pillar boxes and trenches were all burrowed. Amazingly I photographed the gun bursts.
Friday, 30th July, 1943
I went to Johnnies and got a few extra shots of dead Japs etc. The boys had slept next to a couple of Japs in one of the tunnels last night, and Lofty had them a few feet away, but didn’t like to wake his mates in case they thought he was checking up. Then one of the Japs made a faint stomach noise, they were sure it was a Jap so they killed them with grenades.
Sunday, 1st August, 1943
Decided to get going as soon as possible to make Mubo area. The CO called Johnnies place Parer’s Bowl, it sounds very funny them talking about it. Father English came over this morning to Bless the graves of Bonnie Muir, Buck and Hoosie, it was raining and the mist was moving slowly over the mountain. Slowly the boys filed past down and around the graves and took off their hats and bowed their heads as the burial service started. Hard fighting, tired men, wet capes, turned eyes they prayed with true sincerity, their homage to their thrice fallen comrades. It was the most moving ceremony I have seen, not one man looked at the camera.
The last shot I took was from underneath them, showing the huge figures standing silently by the grave and slowly moving as the Service came to a close. Bonny Muir was one of the most respected men in the company, a white man.
Buck Lewins gave me one of the Jap watches that one of the boys had souvenired, it was from the platoon he said. I felt awkward as anything I had done in my short association with the lads was nothing compared to their gallantry, their resistance and spirit. He said the boys would like you to have it. Hell what chaps these are. I thanked him awkwardly and felt very small beside such chaps.
Monday 2nd August.
Worried about my film, I went to the Meancs Creek and found my exposed film, it had been sent to ADS and had been lying around for over 2 weeks. Thank God I found it.
Thursday 5th August.
Went in there with the AIF lads. They’re great, buggered, but won’t give in. One lad got out of hospital to get back in time for the show.
As I watched George with broken leg and a bullet through the groin in pain, game, and white, cigarette hanging from his lips, yet cracking a joke, I almost cried to think that this cream of Australia is just going out and going on and on and losing, losing them every day fighting Japs. Japs who are bloody vermin, who stick in bloody holes. If it were Jerrys there’d be some reason but these Japs are just rats.
I couldn’t get any more shots there as it was all too thick, so I left. Three quarters of an hour after I left, one of the three inch mortars landed killing Fred Osterhotz and wounding Captain. It is amazing how it killed one and wounded another. It was indeed a break for me that I decided to leave when I did.
Our Lady must have been looking after me. I had been with them most of the time and shared my late breakfast with Osterholtz. Took some shots of the mortar gun, it got three direct hits on the pill between the Tambu this afternoon. It has a dreadful blast and worst of any I’ve heard. Up here the co-operation between the Aussies and the Yanks is bloody fine, the first time I’ve seen it and there’s no need for posed pictures to bolster that friendship. I’m writing this in a Yanks bed, just an artillery lad, he’s given me his pullover.
Thursday 5th August, 1943
I was jolly lucky again as I’ve been with the men who were killed, one Aussie and a couple of others wounded and I’d been with them most of the morning and had just left them when they were killed.
Friday 6th August,1943
It rained like hell. Rained like a bastard. So I dragged myself out of bed and had a beaut breakfast of potatoes, beans and an omelette and set out on the muck haunted Mubo track.
Sunday 8th August, 1943
Saw General Savage. Had a good yarn with him. He’s a good soldier and gentleman and has been getting onto the fighting in no uncertain way.
Tuesday 10th August, 1943
Arrived at Wau. At transport pool they were sympathetic of my endeavour to get to Bulolo. Captain Thomas gave me a good feed. Arrived at Bulolo 6.15, into Wau at last and got my film, great relief.
Sunday 15th August,1943
Planes come in and off. We went with Bluey Malthouse who was one of the wounded lads. Arrived over usual balls up at drome. The Doctor won’t let me go home. Sister was bloody good and cooked me two eggs. Wonderful! Worried in case they keep me here longer than two days.
Monday 16th August, 1943
Gave my story to the Doctor, he was sympathetic, but can’t let me leave yet. Showed that awful affair of my reaction. The new Doctor was sympathetic and said I could leave tomorrow. I could have kissed him. Infection in the leg is slowly going down.
Tuesday 17th August, 1943
Out today—hooray! Feeling so impatient.
Wednesday 18th August, 1943
Leave Moresby 1300 hours. Arrived Townsville.
Thursday 19th August,1943
Arrived for breakfast in Brisbane, went to Malany and saw Mum and Dad.
Friday 20th August,1943
First division of Sydney Express.
Saturday 21st August,1943
Arrived in Sydney.
Plan 14 August, 1943
Brigadier conference Long L of C aerial dropping, heavy guns, natives again, conditions of men, heavy weapon equipment, difficult country. Japs dig in. Twin attack plans vicars positions. Timbered Knoll, Burial service AIF types, rains, stretchers, wounded, Tanthow, Godwin, Yanks, defence positions bombing and strafing, aerial superiority proximity tracks arast, ambulance pool George.
Long and difficult aerial dropping through timber good view, Yank artery by sea, Australians and Yanks, tracks arast, ambush positions, wounded, stretcher cases. Brigadier, twin attack, bomb shelling, aerial blitz, George and Timbered Knoll, burial, fighting on, planes Salamaua, bombing fight. Silhouette, wounded men, fighter aircraft clouds. Cap. Reeve, John Andrew George. For Chester.
In the mountainous jungle parts, our main trouble is keeping film dry, all lens and filter are susceptible to the damp as well, but film is our main worry. If it becomes at all damp it is liable to stick together and cause irrefragable damage.
It’s extraordinary how the damp will cling and break in to tins that have been sealed with adhesive tape and by no means airtight. Some manufacture lead cans and put them in larger tins with film rolls and seal them even tighter, and they’d undo this Large tin containing about 5 rolls and seal it to the outer tin with solder, this is not obtainable. I would like to put some moisture absorbing material in the outside and then tape it. There are some commodities that will absorb moisture from in and are suitable for keeping the film dry and nice. Dried tea is useful in this respect. Most of the old New Guinea men who were keen on photography before the war realise this, and used to immerse their film in a bag of rice. As far as filters and lens are concerned the dampness in this subtracts the value and cements the elements together and leaves the cameras with little sort of spider web marks that spread and impair the definitions. As much as possible dry out the camera and case and accessories without heating the film unduly. Exposure is a great problem and one that so far has no solution. How to get an exposure in a deep green of the thickly tree’d area where the light of a match is noticeable at 2 feet.
Tuesday 14th December, 1943
In manuscript number 1097 – I item 4.
On the ship I met Bill O’Grady Sub Lieutenant, he’s a good chap his wife is Peg Kiely, brother to Paul Kiely with whom I went to CBC, St.Kilda. Pleasant voyage… met Arthur Bridgewater who is Chaplain to the ship. Received Holy Communion and Mass. Its years since I Last saw Arthur, we went to St Stanleys together. Was tired as hell this morning and didn’t do any filming until about 2.30. Took about 140 of building stuff.
Sunday 19th October, 1943
Was scared all Last night bloody big crabs kept pushing dirt down on me and occasionally getting down to the ground. They are very cunning and can see in the dark, when I’d get close to them to kill them they would sneak around. I killed two, but the third evaded me. I would definitely prefer the bombers to these crawly things. No bombers over last night. The big Corp. photo boys pulled out yesterday. I am the very last of the correspondents or photographers left on the Island. I’ll wait today for a raid and if none comes I’ll go forward tomorrow. Things are static here and I may not stay longer than a week or more. Father Forsyth is temporarily without a Mass Kit and so cannot say Mass. It is a delightful spot here. The water is beautiful and I am allowed 3 swims a day. Father Forsyth read the Epistle and Gospel and had Rosary and Confession today. He accented Devotions to Our Blessed Lady.
Monday 20th October, 1943
Still sweating out this bombing raid. Have decided that it might be a good idea to write a book. Concentrate on the human interest angle frankly state my own knowledge of strategy and tactics is hopelessly vague. Aussie infantry – greatest jungle fighters and finest manner in them. American reactions, French troops and experienced Greece, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Timor, New Guinea and highlight anniversary and human instinct incidents.
Tuesday 9th November, 1943
With Mitchell Squadron Moresby. Arrived yesterday feeling strange in a new job and wondering how I’ll get on with it and the boys. They are very friendly and co-operative. Extraordinary emphasis seem to be placed on sexy pictures, not only are they in the Mess but in the Orderly room and some seem to prevail the place. It’s the same in the RAAF amongst the attack squadrons. The infantry doesn’t seem to go in for this sort of thing so much. Met a Group Commander, Colonel True, he has a good face and seems to be a fine type he is also a Squadron Commander.
Saturday 13th November, 1943
Awakened this morning by Chaippes insisting voice, “Are you coming today Parry”.
I yell out, ”Yes” and climb out of bed.
One of his duties is to see that everybody who is going on a mission be awakened in good time, this is the most unpopular moment. He’s a good solid fellow and according to his crew a bloody good pilot. They should know as his Mitchell is the only one without a gun or camera in the tail. I am fated to ride with him, as I have plenty of confidence, not only in him, but in the crew as well.
I practice panning on my new tripod.
8.40am and we’re on our way. We go up into formation, the squadron and groups still in sight. Today perhaps for the first time on any mission I’ve been on I don’t feel nervous at all. This is my 22nd combat mission so I shouldn’t feet nervous, but generally I do. Perhaps it’s a clear conscience and a greater confidence in Our Lady. Contrary to what I’ve been told by pilots and co-pilots, riding in the tail is quite a pleasant business, in fact I’ve never been in a better combat ship to photograph from. The waist gunner is a cheerful and co-operative soul. I’ll get a shot of him later.
We’re coming down to the target so I get right down into my tunnel taking a pair of goggles to shield the wind from my eyes and a blanket on which to rest my elbows as I hold the camera. The cold air rushing in gives place to the hot tropical air, my ears block up so I know we’re coming down, I check the stop, look to see if my condensation is on the lens and wait for the attack. A gentle weaving up and down and then he gives her the gun and starts his strafing run, smoke and shells fly back. I wait for the bombs I expect to see but they don’t materialise until I see them burst well behind us, so I start the camera looking to the left for them, for the other planes bombs and they start and I set about 10 bursts then we pull away to sea. A Mitchell under us is almost splashed by AA and falls into the sea and I try to get a shot of it.
We pull away at good speed and keep a tight formation against possible interception but nothing happens. Don’t feel particularly elated. These missions in the jungle aren’t very spectacular. I feel that I’ll have to put some good human interest stuff in this story to make it a cracker, even if I get shipping in Rabaul, and raids over Wewak and so home.
On arrival at the CPS rooms I find two American Red Cross girls with biscuits, cookies and ice cold orange drinks, and lots of it, to give to the crews. The flight sergeant also comes down with some bottles of real American bomber. The Americans do look after their boys. Then we went to lunch, some potatoes and fried eggs and good sponge pudding. One chap who came in late and only got 2 fried eggs and potatoes, also a little stewed apple, went very crook. This is a good life. I am building up fat now for when I go on the track with my poor bloody infantry.
Myron Davis, the Life photographer came on the raid and got some good shots, he’s a conscientious chap and has an excellent flair for picture stories.
Saturday 20th November, 1943
Arrived back from Dobaduna where I had gone to get an item on Garry Cooper. Cooper is wholly a product of the cinema. His outstanding ability to register his boyish shyness and pleasing personality on the screen is completely cinematic. He is no stage personality no stage artifice – his medium is the screen. He’s an object lesson to aspiring screen stars. Sincerity must be there. The extraordinary sensitivity of the microphone and the camera pick up and record the lowest whisper or the slightest gesture. It can almost read ones thoughts.
There is a lesson for us war photographers too, we shall find most of our gold in the almost hidden details of expression of our men by watching carefully noting expressions and gestures and shooting circumspectly at the dead right moment. Cooper was a type, he is the same off the screen, and almost what the Americans like to think is the best type of young man. I think it was Bazil Wright, when comparing the acting of Cooper and Charles Laughton in the two films said that Laughton acted conscientiously even when his back was to the audience. It appeared as it was conscience acting.
On the other hand Cooper never appeared to act he was just awkwardly, and at times stammeringly, natural. Some reporters asked Cooper a question relating to the stage and he frankly admitted he knew nothing of the theatre, this is an insight into the man’s natural modesty, he’s probably the only film star, male or female, who would admit it. He’s a living proof of the fact that stage acting and film acting are two totally different arts. He said he accidentally came to film, he was a cowboy out of work. To inspiring youngsters who certainly aspire to the heights of starring fame, the film is the road to glamour and money and reputation, but the stage is their real medium. The artifice of stage in one of heightening drama by exaggeration of facial expression and gesture and movement. The stage actor is more or less the master of the situation at any given place. The film actor is dependent on the long line of men. From the make up man to the camera man, the sound director down to the most important man, the cutter. What he considers his best scene might die an ignoble death on the cutting room floor. Of course when a film star was established in reputation or in a studio a tailor makes rolls and techniques to fit the star, so the result is more or less consistent.
Monday 22nd November, 1943
Awakened this morning for Wewak mission, but it was cancelled. There is some fine writing in this diary that carries on, but I’ll have to skip it now.
We photographers don’t actually realise the powerful weapon we hold in our hands, a weapon not only of immediate value but in the future it will be another stone in the building of an Australian tradition. Our sons will see with their own eyes the story of the cream of our own youth of their country who are now surely dying. I find my faith means more and more to me. This devotion to Our Lady is wonderful. I am sure I could never carry on my work or feel as much in sympathy with our boys if it weren’t for this Grace. I feel quite ready to die, the thoughts of being killed on a mission is not one of great alarm asIf my mother is interceding for me, everything must be for the best.
Wednesday 24th November, 1943
Australian mail has been held up for some weeks for lack of aeroplane space. Someone even suggested that Garry Cooper and company took the plane with our mail.
Received a letter from M Logan. It was most involved. Worked out at six seventh amount and two sevenths, but things I have discovered from it, I get £30.0.4 while in Australia and £37.16.8 out of Australia. Up to the 20th November, Paramount have given £198.3.4 of my salary.
25th November 1943 – Thanksgiving day
A National American holiday the boys explained that when the Pilgrim Fathers had gathered in a good harvest after their first 12 months in America they proclaimed a holiday in thanksgiving to Almighty God for His gifts. It’s a lesson to us we have a holiday for 8 hours day, Labor Day or ANA Day, Bank Holiday. No one has yet put forward the suggestion of a holiday to thank our Creator for His gifts to our country. It appears as though a lot of Americans use it as an opportunity to feast and drink and a lot without the thought of the Spiritual motive behind it, but the National gesture is there and we could well follow it.
Kim Keane asked me if I had read Robin Louise Stevenson’s letters in defence of Father Damien. He spoke of Peter Russo as having lost the Faith. That’s just what Ray Triado had said. Kim thinks Russo is a good chap, but a thorough cynic.
27th November 1943
I slept for only ¾ hour. I had a tin of Heinz tomato soup cold.
Next I was worried and began to think about marriage and I feel that Nadeen being a second cousin is unsuitable as Tony suggests. The whole thing boils down to Madge or Marie. As the night wore on I felt more and more that Marie’s very deep love of me is most moving. When she used to write to me in the Middle East I had no trust in her words, possibly humbled herself. Last night this thought came to me with great strength that the love is perhaps the most beautiful thing that has come in my life as far as women go. Alone was like that but Marie had nursed it and had taken all the knock backs and has patiently reduced all my unkindness and still waits.
I directed them to write her a long letter right away and explain my attitude and make it clear to her how wonderful I thought her love was. I also thought if in the morning or during the night I was still resolved to write this letter that I should do so as value sometimes become confused in the silent watches of the night.
What about Moira are you going to dangle her on a string. Does she love you as Marie does at present. The answer is negative. I know if I can track down the war all shots Marie would be the same.
Malee called this morning 4.45am. I was already awake. Went to off to Wewak. I flew with MaGee. We spent a hell of a long time mucking around with the Army and take off. I felt very tired and couldn’t sleep. Had a feeling that I might cop it today and repeated my trust in Our Lady’s protection not only from death but if I was to die to do it well.
I wasted 100 foot. It ran through the camera at 55 foot because of that stop on the start button. I must have it taken off.
We came down low. I waited. Suddenly the bark of guns. In my confusion felt that the flight would be 25 behind, some distance was zeros attacking us. The guns were on the turrets firing and I looked and saw one of the guns and the ship below us. I started on him and then I got the camera and went forward to get some shots of the navigator. He was a bit paler than usual and looked OK resting behind the pilot with this arm, dry blood spluttered. We passed. The gunner was working hard helping Rip get more comfortable and seeing how badly the plane had been hit. We had pushed a leather flying jacket into one of the holes where the hydraulic fluid was blowing through and other fine spray. Crawled up a little tunnel to the noisy part and coming back some minutes later yelled to me that there was a good night hole there. I crawled up and took a shot of it and when I returned to the navigators table got up above the bomb bay to get out of the way. Rip looked pale and gave him some oxygen. The motors sound healthy to me Magee was confident. Flinching around the strip we had thought a belly landing. The gunner told me to brace myself and put my head over this. The engineer out and energetically gear and we came down. We weren’t sure whether the wheels were locked or not and stayed braced until it pulled up. The boys met us and the doctor took Rip off to hospital. I got some shots of little Nell with holes in her and we were surprised to see a circular hole 1 1/2 inches in diameter in one blade of the wing. It was rather exciting and we congratulated him on a fine show.
Got a letter of Assualt of Salamaua.