Silkweed have been funded by Tas Regional Arts to write and develop "Letters from a Distant Heart".
This piece is based on letters written by my (Erin's) father during WW11 as a young soldier and Japanese prisoner of war. It also reflects through dramatic means and letters the plight of asylum seekers similarly separated from loved ones.
This is one of the first letters Dad wrote to my mum as they left Sydney via Perth to go to Malaya.
Sunday 11 Aug 41 letter no 3
Well, the boat and yours truly still continues on toward our destination giving us as good a time as we can expect on board. After pulling out of our storm about last Wednesday the sun shone through on a beautiful day, putting the storm away as quickly as it rose. Also, looking eastwards, we beheld land, good old Aussie, and it wasn’t long before we were once again alongside a wharf at Freemantle. It was one of the most high-spiriting feelings I have ever known, to know that before long we would have our feet once again on our own soil. The boys danced with one another on deck and sang songs which were pouring over the boats’ wireless station.
I don’t think I told you about the Public Address System. Well, it’s just a series of loudspeakers and for about an hour each morning we have cheerio calls and music and one of the officers gives us the news. It is quite good and it is the only way we can get any news, also we can give our mates cheerio calls and have them slung off in front of the whole ship.
At about 1pm Ray and I went on leave together and had a look first at Freemantle which tends to remind one of Woolloomooloo and then caught a pailsier coach to Perth. The trip is about 14 miles and takes about 35 to 40 minutes.
Perth is a small rather pretty and very old fashioned town with the Swan River running along the Southern end of the town. The trams and trains are very old fashioned and though there are many business buildings like the “Sun” and “Shell” and “T&G” there are no big rag shops like Farmers and Anthony Horderns.
We had a look at the YMCA and the zoo also saw a couple of parks which were really nicer than Sydney’s. Govt house is about equal, and then went to one of the best hotels and had tea. They have no classy hotels like the “Australia” or “Carlton” but we enjoyed a good meal and then went back to our ship meanwhile the mail had come on board and I was very surprised and pleased to find a letter from you waiting for me. I can quite visualise how busy you are as apart from having worked in our office. I know a boy and girl who work at the Sun and as the boy is in the army, I get quite a bit about the place from him. He is Jack Goddard and was a journalist so perhaps you know him. His photo was in the Sun monthly paper after rejoining the office from the army.
Any time you want a patient to try out your first aid on, just call on me and I’ll put my best foot forward. They build us pretty tough here so I don’t think there would be much chance of my passing out if I put myself in your hands.
Back on the boat we spent a day in port but had to stop on the boat and then the following morning set sail in quest of whatever adventures we are going to. No sooner had we got going than we ran into a really severe storm and for about one day I expected to be sea-sick after every meal. However, I managed to keep going and by the morning of the second day the going was clear again.
The weather is now very hot. We have discarded our woollen underwear and jumpers and are running round in shorts and singlets. Just writing this letter I am sweating at the brow, and I don’t mean that it is hard work writing to you.
By the time this letter reaches you we should be settled down at our destination and waiting for whatever is coming to us. We are all rather keen to get it all over and once again be back in Sydney enjoying peace and freedom. I don’t think there’s much need to tell you that we miss those we left at home and though we are having a good time it’s not as good as being with those who can look after us.
Have been doing a bit of boxing and gymnastics so am feeling fit and as we do nothing but eat and sleep the rest of the time we feel well. I think both Ray and I are pulling our weight though I am keeping it down a bit better than Ray as I do more exercise than he does. Ray is one of the best bookworms I have known and can sleep twelve hours a day and still come back for more. We go to bed about 8.30pm or 9 but apart from that Ray always has a sleep through the day. Well, this paper will only take eight pages per letter will have to close on this one. Just at present the weather is good, though very hot and it is just as well that the movement of the boat causes a bit of a breeze. Today we fired our anti Aircraft guns and our sub machine guns and they rock the whole ship. There are flying fish around and they got a bit of a scare.
Shall close, hope this finds you well and in good spirits and hope to see you, if not by Christmas, as soon as possible.