Living life to the max (when he could)

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It is hard not to get a bit misty eyes reading my grandfather’s letters. I only wish I had done it earlier. From New Guinea he wrote about how much he grew to appreciate life. Then again he knew he, like his mates, could be offed at any moment. Lt Peterson wrote on 16 March 1943,

”Next time I go home – when God only knows – I will profit from previous mistakes of my previous leavein that this time I’m going to have a hell of a fling in case it’s my last! I have 108 pounds in my paybook and it will be none by the time I get home – I mean you can’t help but save in an operational area because there is nothing to buy, not even a stamp. Our tobacco is issued by the Comfort Fund. Our recreations  -nil. Except talk and letter writing and I pine for the bright lights and life and gaiety. – the flick, – children, -trams, – shops, a pot of beer, – electric light, – steak, fish and chips. I am going to buy some civvy clothes this leave to get the feel of them again. We take life’s amenities for granted too much I think. At least the army has taught me to place a value on things I never gave a thought for…

…At the moment I’m in tip top condition. Lean as a rake as usual but feel extra well. I suppose its the air. Old Nippon is a bit quiet here at the moment- but I guess the big news will break shortly – you’ll know when and are we ready and rarin’ to go?…

…you have no idea how eagerly mail is looked forward to by the boys. As soon as it comes up the track the cry goes up, “Mail’s in!” And you get knocked down in the stampede…

…excuse me for a moment. I’m about to partake in half a huge succulent pawpaw with lemon all for nothing…like some? It was delicious indeed…

a lot of blokes to save razor blades are sporting mutton chops and side levers with waxed moustaches – it gives ‘em something to do. Cripes some of ‘em look funny…

…Sgt Wilcox is now telling me about his past girlfriends- all virgins of course-but it is going in one ear and out the other as I write. Capt “Doggy” Reid after having been staring into a hurricane lamp for the last past hour just made us laugh. Usually the quiet type, he hasn’t said a word since meal time, but just stood up and said , “Japanese Bastards!!”and went straight to bed. It sounded funny as hell. He has been daydreaming about his missus and leave – it’s a morale thing

tell Jim to lay in a stock of plonk and we’ll down it like nobody’s business!”

It would appear from reading all the other letters that the troops were feeling far more confident they’d win against the Japanese. This is perhaps his cheeriest letter with battle hardened experience behind him. It reads much like the pre battle stationing in Palestine. Truly powerful stuff.

 

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