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Offline Snoopy

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2009, 12:56:53 PM »
 eeek: eeek: eeek: eeek:


(Don't worry BM ~ he'll have to find it first.)
I used to have a handle on life but it broke.

Offline Nick

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2009, 08:37:53 AM »
Quote
18/10/42

I saw Brackenbury today, who had just returned from leave in Cairo, where he had met Colin Bellam. The news he gave me came as a great shock. Trevor Anderson had been killed in action It brought home to me, for perhaps the first time, how easily we, at times, forget we were so close to death. Trevor, the carefree happy-go-lucky fellow of about 22, who, along with Colin had been such good friends of mine on our voyage.
It seemed difficult to realise at first that he didn?t exist any more. After I had pondered on it for a while and then inevitably cursed this bloody war with all my heart, I wrote, as best I could to Colin, who, I understood had been wounded.

22/10/42

The Colonel addressed us this lunchtime and gave us General Montgomery?s message to the Eighth Army. The big push, for which we have been waiting so long, is to commence tonight at 10p.m.  This is the first time in history, I think, that a commander has told his troops the hour of the attack. Although it did not affect us very much in our position, we did , nevertheless feel some sense of excitement and expectancy. But the night passed without any incident to mar the sleep of the camp.

9/11/42

The battle, as all the world now knows, has gone well for us. I hear that the church bells are to be rung in England in celebration of our victories[a little prematurely I think] The Americans have landed many troops in West and North Africa and it seems at last the tide may be turning in our favour. The Air Force have done splendid work, for the last fortnight we have watched formations of bombers accompanied by fighters cross over our camp about every half hour throughout each day. Most of the other camps round here have moved up, but we are told that we have to stay and clear up. I don?t mind. We are quite content here. I have just sent Gwen a food parcel.

16/11/42
At 8a.m. we said goodbye to our old site. We had packed up the previous day and were formed up, widely dispersed, and ready to move off. Our journey was interesting, only, I think, in as much as we were travelling along one of the busiest, longest and most important roads in the world, the coast road of N. Africa. The scenery was not attractive enough to make it exactly of interest, except occasionally for instance when the road ran over the crest of a range of hills, and we were able to see the Med. To our right and the vast wastes of the desert stretching away into the distance on the left. We enjoyed this view for some time during this morning and at about 3p.m. after having done about 100 miles we parked for the night at Daba. I was travelling as drivers mate  in a Dodge recovery truck and I spent an hour or two at the wheel. After passing through El Alamein we witnessed many signs of German and Italian occupation, crashed planes, burnt out lorries and an occasional cemetery marked by small white crosses, some surmounted by a black Maltese cross or a German helmet. We were very hungry most of the journey. Yesterday we had drawn the inevitable bully and biscuits, and this was our only means of sustenance for 2 and a half days apart from the tea our cookhouse made for breakfast, or what we had made ourselves by the roadside in an old tin over a fire made by pouring petrol into a tin of sand.
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Offline Uncle Mort

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2009, 09:23:58 AM »
Excellent!

Offline Nick

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2009, 09:33:10 AM »
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22/11/42

This stage of our journey proved more interesting. We were fairly high up and were able to see for a tremendous distance all around us. Particularly striking and impressive was a huge flat topped plateau which stood some 1000 feet above the rest of the country which was fairly flat and which stretched away to the south until it dwindled into the purple distance probably 50 or more miles away. I thought at first it was the sea on the previous day as it was so level and couldn?t understand why it lay to the south when we were travelling roughly west. The road turned toward the sea and soon a large bay came into sight, backed by the hills rising up the plateau. There at the foot of the hills lay Sollam, marking the border between Egypt and Libya. We passed a road branching off to the left which led through the hills to Halfaya Pass. I thought we were to have gone through here, but after going for a few more miles along the road fringing the bay, I saw the alternative route we were to take. Up above us was a massive headland rising up from the sea and up this zig-zagged our road. As lorries were only allowed through a few at a time, we had to wait for some time and we watched our vehicles among others crawling up the side of the mountain. Our turn came eventually and although we were towing a broken down car, we made it alright with a gear to spare. The gradient averaged i-in-6-8 about, but the several hairpin bends were a bit tricky to negotiate and at times the edge of the road droppes sheer away down to the town below. The view was magnificent, we could see far out to sea and also back the way we had come for a long way. After passing 2or 3 lorries, wrecked or stuck we  reached the top at last and passed some barracks on the summit, which had had a lot of holes blown in them. A few miles further on we passed through Ridotta Capuzzo, which was marked by piles of stones which had presumably been buildings at one time. Here too were many graves marked by little white crosses, steel helmets or German crosses. How foolish it seems for so many men to have to die for a country like this which has practically nothing to offer that is useful to humanity, no crops can grow, no water [or very little] and apparently no minerals have been discovered, just hundreds of miles of wilderness, some covered in stones, some dotted with scrub and some just plain sand. Passing through Bardia we had to make a detour to avoid a bridge which had been destroyed by the enemy. From here on the road grew increasingly worse and our speed slowed to around 10 mph. in order to avoid the potholes and ruts and bomb damage. We stopped at sunset about 30 miles from Tobruk.
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Offline Pastis

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2009, 01:13:57 PM »
Gripping stuff!

Ta Nick.
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Offline Nick

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #20 on: August 03, 2009, 01:26:09 PM »
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10/12/42

The ferocity and speed of the ?big push? has abated somewhat. Our efforts in the workshops seem to have abated too. From what I can gather, at least, production does not seem to have reached the high peak it did in Amerea.I can only attribute this to a general feeling of ?browned-offedness? in the unit together with a certain amount of stagnation. It has been a constant source of amazement to me that the troops out here put as much effort in as they do. We have been literally dragged from our homes, wives, mothers, sweethearts etc., forced into the Army and, to add fuel to the flames, have been brought across thousands of miles of oceans, to a God forsaken country consisiting of 99% of arid desert, some of it even uncharted, and then expected to assist in the destruction of another Army. Made up of men we have never seen personally, and who have most probably been unwillingly forced into it , as we were. How can any intelligent and right thinking man be expected to take a keen interest in such seeming madness.
?When wilt thou save the people O God of Mercy, when? The people Lord, the people, not thrones and crowns, but men. Flowers of thy heart thy children they: let them not pass like weeds away, their heritage a sunless day, God save the people.?
I can only hope that soon, the prayers of millions of people throughout the world will be answered. Although little good is to be derived from this life normally, I believe my character to be improved slightly as a result of it, if it has only made me appreciate , even more, how happy I was with Gwen and baby  in Nottingham and how fortunate I was then.  Often at odd moments during the day and in the quietness of the now long evenings I let my thoughts travel back to those pleasant days when I would come home in the evenings, and Ann, hearing my bicycle bell would run to meet me with a smile of sunshine on her sweet little face, how we had tea, after which I would take Ann to bed [in later days she would consider it undignified for me to carry her upstairs, but would struggle up laboriously on her own with me following], how we sat afterwards, listening to the wireless, reading or talking. Gwen on one side of the fire, me on the other. I know she often must think of me  too, although it would be difficult for her to imagine me in my present surroundings with any degree of accuracy. I know too, that she prays for my safe and speedy return, as I do too. Soon, I hope , our patience will be rewarded and then will come that wonderful reunion which we have tried to visualise so often but failed. I am blessed by having with me  always, the memory of the two grandest little women in the world, which assists me in retaining my sanity in this insane world and gives me the courage  and faith needed to carry on under these unnatural conditions.

Xmas Day 1942
We have a holiday today, the first for some time. After a service in the morning, held at the North end of the camp and overlooking a wide Waddi beyond which lay the blue Mediterranean [it seemed strange to be singing carols under a warm sun and blue sky amid such un-Christmassy scenery] , I was able to complete some much needed washing and various odd jobs about our ?desert home?. The first Christmas dinner I had in the Army was on quite a grand scale. An extension had been put onto the mess tent for the occasion and after seating ourselves at 3 long rows of tables, our dinner was served to us by our senior N.C.O.s and officers, consisting of Turkey, Pork, sausages, peas ,potatoes and Xmas pudding followed by nuts and oranges.  The inevitable beer was provided on the tables before we arrived, one bottle per man. The Colonel read out General Montgomery?s message to the 8th Army and added a few words of his own and then we received a pair of socks or a scarf each and some cigarettes from a comforts fund [a S. African one I believe] . The quality and quantity of the midday meal was sadly offset by the quality of our tea, bread and jam [one slice] and cake, which sported a little icing halfheartedly. However the best was yet to come when at 7.30 our concert, which we had produced ourselves opened with a chorus and carols from our choir[including myself] .After this followed one good turn after another, short sketches, songs, monologues, music and the irresistible cockney, Kimberling who gave his story of the fire at the officers mess at Amerea, and various humerous impersonations. Even the Officers did a sketch for us, the Colonel taking the part of a nurse, much to the delight of the audience. An excellent stage had been fixed up, including footlights, curtains spotlight and even a microphone and amplifiers. The show was compered brilliantly by Capt. Cathie who displayed to those who were not already aware of it, his pleasant and dynamic personality. He had worked hard and patiently at our rehearsals and I think he was satisfied his efforts were not in vain, when at last the entertainments drew to a close near to midnight.. We wended our various ways across the desert illuminated by an almost full moon, satisfied with our Christmas Day, but all, I think, fervently hoping that this would be our last Christmas away from home and that 1943 would see us where we rightly belonged, with our loved ones sitting round our own fireside, singing carols and exchanging presents and enjoying all those things which Christmas at home has to offer. I wonder, I wonder??
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Offline Pastis

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #21 on: August 03, 2009, 01:52:59 PM »
 sad24:  sad24:  Very poignant.

There's a scene in The English Patient that this reminds me of...  rubschin:
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Offline barmisspah?

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #22 on: August 04, 2009, 02:13:51 PM »
Quote
How can any intelligent and right thinking man be expected to take a keen interest in such seeming madness.
?When wilt thou save the people O God of Mercy, when? The people Lord, the people, not thrones and crowns, but men. Flowers of thy heart thy children they: let them not pass like weeds away, their heritage a sunless day, God save the people.?


Amen
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Offline Nick

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #23 on: August 04, 2009, 02:14:41 PM »
This is all revealing a side of my dad I had no clue about. He was about 22 when writing this stuff (and had left skool at 14)
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Offline Snoopy

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #24 on: August 04, 2009, 02:17:33 PM »
The bugger is that you never know until it's too late (speaks the voice of experience ~ given the things I have uncovered in my researches)

Many of our Fathers would fall into the definition of heroes but never would have accepted that. Our Grandfathers too. As for the Mums and Grandmothers who got through the wars ~ words fail me when I see what they went through.
I used to have a handle on life but it broke.

Offline Nick

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #25 on: August 04, 2009, 02:18:51 PM »
My mum spent the war selling home insurance!  whacky115

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Offline Snoopy

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #26 on: August 04, 2009, 02:23:56 PM »
Mine spent it manning a Post Office (now BT of course) switchboard by day and Red Cross every night. She reckoned the tin bowler was hell to wear so she never would. Somehow she also managed to court a RAF pilot who got shot down and was killed by the Japs in a POW camp. Then she hitched up with me Dad after the war ~ tho' she had met him before at a dance.

Father was a Sergeant Instructor with Royal Hampshire Regiment.
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Offline Nick

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #27 on: August 10, 2009, 06:43:36 PM »
Extracts (there's tons of this!)

Quote
During our afternoon meanderings Harris and I noticed a small crowd of our lads (could I say comrades?) at the end of a narrow little alley.  ?Ah? we said. ?It?s one of the two B?s, Booze or Brothels?.  We investigated and found it was the latter.  Round a door which opened onto the street was a cluster of our Empire?s Defenders, all trying to peer through a grille at the top of the door.  Through this (when we had elbowed out way to the fore) we could see a small room from the back of  which an opening led off into a courtyard.  Squatting on a shelf a few feet above the ground were three very ugly, repulsive, aged and dirty women (am I insulting the sex by saying women?).  These creatures were regarded with hungry eyes by my sex-maddened fellow countrymen, and after one of Gallic blood had had his breath smelt he was admitted to the coveted precincts, much to the envy of his friends. So much for our day in Mahdia.  The remainder of our leave was spent in camp, swimming, reading, writing and having a peaceful time in general.  After three complete days there we set off back on the morning of the fourth day somewhat reluctantly and arrived at camp at mid-morning.

27/6/43

Much to my surprise and pleasure I was informed today that I, among about a dozen others, was to proceed to Tripoli and bring some vehicles back.  We all set off at 1.30 in a 3 tonner and followed the familiar road southward.  We kept up a good average speed (60-70 k.p.m.) which enabled us to reach the hills north of Medenine about     7 pm where we camped for the night.  The route so far was just as I have described it previously with one exception, that was when we passed through Gabes.  Coming up we had by-passed this town.  It was a very pleasant little place where very profuse vegetation flourished and many square miles of date palms grew quite thickly.  The medium which made this possible was a small running stream which meandered through the town and had been made to flow through irrigation channels among the palms.  This is the only running water I have seen so far in N.Africa apart from the Nile.  Where the road crossed the brook, native women were washing clothes on the bank and children were bathing in a rocky pool which had formed there.  Between here and Medenine the road was very uninteresting passing through desert country.

28/6/43

We set off early this morning and after an interesting ride reached the outskirts of Tripoli by 5 pm (We had crossed the border of Tunisia about mid-day).  Tripoli is a fine place with some truly magnificent building of very ambitious architecture.  There were many troops stationed here and the streets were crowded with them and  civilians too. There were several fine statues and monuments typically Italian.  We continued through the town and along the beautiful palm lined promenade round the 19/   harbour which was full of ships, sunken and otherwise.  Passing through the suburbs to the east of the city we eventually arrived at the famous Grand Prix race track and passed alongside the impressive grandstand on the right and the pits on the left with the lofty observation tower and indicator board.  It was a fine wide road lined with graceful eucalyptus trees and palms, the curves being banked steeply.  We followed the track for some little way and then turned off to the beach where we stayed for the night.  I had a swim and visited two nearby NAAFI?s.

29/6/43 

We picked up our lorries this morning at a vehicle park alongside the race track and spent the morning checking up.  I thought we might have been allowed to stay tonight and see a little of Tripoli, but I was disillusioned when our officer in charge decided we would start away about 3 pm.  I was driving a 15 cwt Bedford which ran very well.  We passed through Tripoli slowly and had a good look at everything, rather sorry that we hadn?t had more leisure to see it properly.  It was similar to Alex. In a way  the buildings were if anything more imposing and futuristic, trust the Italians for that!  The Banco Di Roma was a particularly fine building built of a greenish stone and having many hemi-spherical domes and situated facing the harbour.  We reached Zuara that night and after a meal I had a short  walk around the place which is simply a native fishing village.
 As usual a few of the lads were seeking diligently for ?bint? or beer.  I think they were unsuccessful in both quests.

Next stop: Sicily!
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Offline Nick

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #28 on: August 17, 2009, 06:15:59 PM »
More. My sister and I have been talking and we find that the Imperial War Museum wants this (the original) for its archive. They can preserve it properly, so we have agreed. Once it is all typed up (she hasn't even started on the first book yet) they shall have it.

Quote
31/8/43

We rose at 4a.m. this morning and loaded up our bivvies and moved off before breakfast to a place called St. Teresa di Riva, which lies towards Messina. After passing through Catania the country became extremely pretty and reminded me of N Wales or Derbyshire. The hills rose up steeply from the sea and the road and railway wound around the slopes with the sea below, the water being exceptionally clear, the coast forming rocky coves and inlets. Every few miles was a small village built in a row on the coast road and high up on the hills above us were perched some beautiful hotels and big houses, some being built on the edge of a steep cliff and several hundred feet above the sea. Just before reaching our destination as we rounded a big headland ,we saw Italy, a mountainous coastline, still rather hazy, but becoming clearer as we travelled up the coast. In the Straits of Messina were several of our battleships, including the Rodney and Nelson, as I was to hear later, they were steaming along the coast northwards, only a few miles offshore and soon after we first saw them they began to shell the mainland. It was a magnificent sight. A flash of red flame, followed by cloud of smoke, preceded the terrific boom of the guns by several seconds and we could actually see the shells bursting. It seemed strange that there was no opposition or retaliation of any kind, either  23.   from the Axis Navies or Air Forces and later when the ships had finished their bombardment they sailed placidly away.

3/9/43

I had a very interesting day. Apart from being the 4th anniversary of the war and nearly Ann?s 5th birthday, the invasion of Italy commenced. We had a few vehicles to finish in the morning and we had soon cleared up and in the afternoon went for a swim. On the beach we had a grandstand view of the invasion and we sat there in the sun all afternoon and watched hundreds of boats passing to and fro, some only a few hundred yards off shore. They were loading up from the beaches a little lower down and along most of this coast. It reminded me of a regatta in the Solent, the sea was calm and blue and the sky flecked with fleecy clouds and all through the day the invasion boats passed backwards and forwards. Most amazing of all was the fact that there was no opposition that we could see.  No Luftwaffe above and no enemy ships at sea. After tea I had a walk by the riverbed to a small village which lay on the hillside. There were no streets here at all, as the slopes on which the houses were built were too steep, instead, rough rocky tracks wound at all angles between the stone houses, these being so steep in places that we had to scramble up from one ledge of rock to another, several feet higher up and coming down was accomplished by a series of jumps and quick runs. The church was built on one of the highest points and the old priest showed us round. We went up some steps to a small pipe organ at the back of the church. I played a few notes, while the priest pumped a handle at the side. Then we went up higher still past a little platform where the mechanism of the clock and chimes rested, to the tower where the bells were. Here we had a fine view of the village below and around us, the deep gorge through which the river flowed in the wet season, the hills the other side and to our left, out to sea and the mainland where our craft were still sailing to and fro. After leaving the church we sat on a high terrace on which were built a short row of houses, chatting as well as we could to a family who were quite pleased about the invasion.  As it grew dusk we set off down the hill to our camp.

4/9/43

We returned today to our old camp near Paterno after a very interesting morning ride via a different route from which we came, which took us through several towns and villages.


11/9/43

As of old, we moved off completely again on the road to Messina. Instead of going via the coast we took a road inland and right round Etna. It was about 130 miles, and the road took us over mountainous country, climbing sometimes to over 400 feet. One village, which we passed through on the 12/9/43 was 1108 meters altitude and we continued to climb for several hours after that. The views were grand. Deep valleys below us and high peaks above and Etna higher still. The air was very cold and I had my overcoat on. About midday on 12/9 we sighted the sea off the north coast while we were still a long way off and very high up. The whole route had dozens of hairpin bends and looking up the steep slopes we could see part of our convoy almost overhead and directly below were those in front going in the opposite direction to us. We arrived at Messina in the evening, which was a fine city before war had passed it by. From the high mountains behind it we looked down on the harbour and the narrow straits. On the other side was Italy, which we could see plainly. While we have been on the way here Italy has surrendered, the news was received with great enthusiasm.


14/10/43

Little has happened in the past month apart from the usual routine.  One Sunday afternoon about 3 weeks ago we were told that Gracie Fields would be entertaining, so we boarded the lorries provided and took a nice long ride of about 20 kms over the mountains on the Palermo road and down to the sea again on the north coast, but after waiting for about 2 hours, during which time we had a bathe, there was still no Gracie so we had the ride back again.  I considered it worth it if only for the outing and the splendid views from the tops of the mountains over to the straits and Italy.  The next high spot came a little later on when Monty addressed a crowd of 30 corps, (including a representative number from our ships) and told them he was trying to get us all home.  Since then rumours of all descriptions have been flying thick and fast.  We have been ready to move several times and now it seems that Monty?s implication is a fact as several units are as good as home already.  But for us it is not to be, as we later found out.  Last night and the previous one we produced a concert.  A good stage had been erected in the mess and we had practised for several days beforehand.  We are fortunate to have in our unit at the moment a coloured saxophonist and his brilliant playing in the band filled even me, who am no lover of jazz, with admiration.  They had four encores in succession last night when some civilians were invited.  An Italian girl gave us two songs, one, ?South of the border? seems to be an Italian tune as it is quite popular with the natives here.  Our inst. shop did a turn, (the Hill-Billies ? a quintet) dressed in chaps and old hats and neckerchiefs.  At the end of the show the first night the colonel got up and broke the news to us,  - ? Now has come the time for us to leave 30 corps and follow on with the Eighth Army in Italy?.  This announcement was met with groans and boos by most of us present, but on reflecting on it, I don?t think I am sorry.  Much as I want to see Gwen and baby again, I don?t want to go home only to be sent to France after a short time, which I am sure, is what would happen. I would rather go on to Italy, and I must admit I would like to see more of that country than just a range of mountains ever the Straits of Messina, and then return home for good, not having to say goodbye again.  So I think it is for the best, and I don?t think it will be so very long in any case before I am home.  The news continues to be good, Italy had declared war on Germany and the Russians are setting a fine example which is a pity England is not following by making an invasion instead of leaving all the fighting to them and the Eighth.  

18/10/43 Monday

Today I experienced once again the thrill of standing in a new country.  We crossed over this morning from Messina to Reggio Callabria and before midday had moved off in convoy up the west coast of the ?toe? of Italy.  We only covered about 40 miles today passing through several small towns and villages along the coast.  At one point we turned inland and crossed over some mountains, coming on to the coast again further north.  All along this route we could see out to sea the high peak of Stromboli, which I hear has been in eruption for some time.  On the third day, Wed., just before reaching Belvedere the route took us inland and here we climbed for many miles round tortuous bends until we eventually crossed a narrow ridge connecting two peaks which rose up on each side just above us.  They were about 6000 feet and were shrouded in mist and clouds.  It was very cold up here and rather damp, the views were of course, grand. Far below lay the road along which the vehicles behind us were crawling till they were lost in the distance, beyond lay the sea, a shimmering silver and blue and in front was a deep gorge which dropped almost sheer away to a river bed which wound along to the sea.  We descended by a pass and spent that night in a valley surrounded by high peaks.  Most of the country here was well cultivated and all the people seem to be farmers.  The women do a lot of heavy work and we passed many on the road carrying huge bundles on 25.their head or their back.  They are dressed very quaintly in red or black shirts and have them twisted up into a kind of bustle behind, some of them had a black hat, which looked something like a nurse?s veil.  Most of them were barefooted.  The villages had not been damaged at all and they didn?t seem as if they had seen much of the war.  The multitudes of ragged children cheered us, gave us the V. sign and asked for ?biskots? all in one breath as it were, while the men begged for cigarettes.  On Thursday we reached the opposite coast at the N.W. corner of the Bay of Taranto.  From here the road was very bad, it had been good up till here.  The country was fairly flat and we followed the coast all day and stayed the night near Sarracene where we had a bathe and after dinner walked up a hill which had a very old watch-tower on the top, something like Old John.

22/10/43

We arrived just outside Taranto this afternoon where we picked up petrol.  We had covered about 350 miles since landing at Reggio.  During the morning we passed what looked like an old Roman remnant consisting of two rows of pillars, 15 in all and about 20-30 feet high.  On Saturday we crossed the ?heel? and came onto the Adriatic where we followed the coast northwards.  Early Sunday morning we passed through Bari a fairly large town and a port,   which boasted trams, which I didn?t see actually running, and some fair sized buildings, churches and etc.  The people here seemed a bit more civilised than those further south and dressed better although the standard of cleanliness and hygiene was still pretty low.  I noticed that the men don?t seem to do much work.  There were crowds of them in some of the towns just loafing about and staring at us.  They are a very easy-going race on the whole and except the farmers, don?t seem at all inclined to exert themselves sufficiently even to keep the streets or their houses reasonably clean.  I think the English must be the most industrious race in the world, although I often wonder if they?re proportionately better off for being like so many busy bees.  Apart from the interest point of view, scenery and etc, I was a bit browned off with this trip.  I slept out each night and as the dews were very heavy my blankets were damp.  Our cookhouse provided us with breakfast and dinner each day, but for tiffin we were given 1 tin of bully and 2 pkts of biscuits which had to last for 5 days, and we would have been rather hungry if it had not been for the apples, oranges, nuts, figs etc which we were able to buy or barter for cigs.  But on Monday we reached our journey?s end about 40 miles north of Foggia.  Foggia was the only town I saw which had been badly damaged and it was, or had been, one of the biggest and best which we had passed through.  The Plains of Foggia, which had seen much fighting, were very flat and uninteresting, something like the Fens.  Farms were dotted over here at regular intervals and must have produced much agricultural stuff. At night-time, there were millions of mosquitoes.  So far, Italy has been very interesting.  The people and the country will give me much to talk about when I get home.  The fruit and vegetables are much the same as Sicily, figs, apples, oranges, lemons, bananas, nuts, onions and etc.  although I think it is a little more fertile on the whole.  There are many olive plantations, the trees being much older, bigger and closer together that in Sicily or Tunisia thus forming practically large olive forests.  Even high up on the mountains there are many fir and oak and chestnuts, (the sort what are roasted) and plenty of pasture land everywhere which support large herds of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.  The majority of these animals have bells tied round their necks.  To be high up in the hills and hear the cattle bells tinkling and perhaps a couple of ragged bare-footed boys doing shepherd duty, while lower down in the valley a plough is being drawn by a pair of oxen forms a typical and very rural scene.  Grapes are of course in abundance and the ?vino? industry was being carried on strongly.  In some of the villages we passed through on the latter part of our journey, great barrels about 6 ft high stood in the streets and the whole place smelt of wine, while on the roads were many carts taking in tubs full of grapes.

3/11/43

Our camp is situated on high ground overlooking the Adriatic.  To the N.W. lies Termoli, which can be seen in the distance on the coast. This town was evacuated by Gerry, a few days        26.  before we arrived here.  All around is rolling hilly country.  This morning a trip to San Severo was arranged for those who wished to buy anything to send home for Xmas.  It was about 25 miles away on the road to Foggia.  There were not many shops but I was able to buy a jumper and some slippers for Gwen.  Some parts of the town were indescribably filthy, great piles of mud and refuse cluttered up the gutters and pavements. I am beginning to learn that the Italians are as bad as the W..s.  Some of the children are dressed in rags and have sores and dirt all over them, it is a common sight to see a woman sitting at a doorstep with the head of one of their large families, in her lap, searching, like some she-ape scratching at their youthful offspring.  I had a glass of vermouth and bought some nuts and we returned to camp in time for dinner.   We have had a bit of rain since we have been here, which apart from damping our spirits, has damped our bivvies, blankets and most of our kit and turned the camp into a mass of mud.  It is at times like these that I see the advantages of a dry climate as in N. Africa.  There, each day was the same with a few exceptions, it was always fine and warm and existence in a bivvy was quite endurable, but now we all have colds, and I don?t feel as fit as I did in Africa.  When I return to my bivvy at night, to the little things that crawl, jump and bite, to damp, rough and dirty army blankets, it is then that I think most often of a fire and an easy chair, slippers and a hot cocoa and a bed with white sheets and a pillow so soft and a wife quite close.  Roll on happy day, no more bully and Burma, no more cookhouse tea, no more pips and stripes, or guards at night, queues for V.s or irritating bugs and fleas.  When time?s my own and the world is sane, a world of proportionate work and leisure, pictures, theatres, cafes, trams and buses, music and walks in quiet lanes with rustling autumn leaves or Spring?s buds and flowers.  A little hand in mine, ceaseless, childish chatter and no more worrying for dear ones far away.

20/11/43

About a week ago we moved a few miles to our present site, which is right on the coast near some station buildings and one or two farmhouses. Our wagon is parked under a corrugated iron shelter near one of the farms. Here live two little girls named Anna Maria aged 8 and Lina aged 11. They have become very friendly during our short stay here and they come in and out all day, chattering away in Italian. They sell us nuts and vino and Mama does our washing and on occasions Lina even sweeps up for us. We provide them with tit-bits of buckshee grub and in return they have given us various dainties they have concocted. Although they are both of the usual peasant type they are remarkably bright and intelligent as well as being attractive with their black hair and big dark eyes.  Needless to say, wishes have been expressed for about 5 or 6 years on to Lina?s age, but then I am afraid our workshop would not be such a safe place for her. The weather still continues cold and wet with only a fine day occasionally, but the site is better than the last, as it is sandy ground mostly here and not so muddy as a little way inland. One day this week we were suddenly machine gunned by a lone Jerry plane, which opened fire almost over our wagon and shot off over the camp only a few feet above the ground.  No damage was done, so the excitement it caused was almost worth it, I think, as it served to break the monotony. The war news is good. On the wireless we have heard of the terrific bombing of Berlin and the Russian advance. Over here our bombers have been going backwards and forwards all day and we can sometimes hear the bombs dropping in the distance, while at night can be heard the continuous rumble of gunfire. ?On to Rome!? is the cry, I wish it were ?On to Home!?

27/12/43

We are still in the same site and very little fresh has happened in the last month. We are now in 180pdv tents, which protect us from the elements more efficiently than bivvies did. Our Xmas was fairly good under the circumstances. We had the day off and a good dinner. At night I took part in the concert, which was a great success and was held in the theatre at Serra Capriola. We gave a second performance on Boxing Day and afterwards went with Q Pring to some friends he had made and had an unforgettable supper. They appeared to be quite a    27. good class family and were certainly not short of food. Numerous dishes were placed before us and pork, bread, cheese and a cross between an onion and a leek, sweetbreads, figs, nuts, apples and oranges, all of which were piled up in huge quantities. All this was washed down with pints of vino. One of our chaps could speak Italian well and he told us that this was only a hastily prepared snack and if only they had known we were coming they would have got us something to eat!  Q. Pring told us that on his previous visits he had sat down at 7 and eaten till 10 and then been asked, ?When are you going to have something to eat?? The Italians are notoriously big eaters. Rumours of going home are gathering in strength and frequency and I believe they are not without foundation. The weather here has at times, been atrocious. For three days after Christmas, for instance, a terrific gale blew and it was bitterly cold and still is, although the wind has dropped slightly. Apart from that we have had rain, hail and snow and intermittent sunshine?????.


                  

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Offline Uncle Mort

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Re: War Diary
« Reply #29 on: August 18, 2009, 07:36:54 AM »
Fantastic! Thanks Nick