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It is just a month today that I landed in Sicily and since last writing here I have moved with the battery about 20 miles from Catania which during the past few days has fallen. Everything seems to be going very well and it shouldn’t be long before the Germans evacuate the island.

Our present gun site is not as good as the last one, there is no cover and all around are R.A.F. dumps of bombs and petrol, heaven knows what would happen if a bomb hit one of those dumps. We are defending the port of Augusta so naturally we are quite close to the sea. For the first few days and nights there was little or no action but now that the moon is coming up action is here in plenty. Last night in particular was a real fireworks display. About 20 bombers came over and for about an hour it was ‘Hell let loose’, bombs were dropping close to the ships some of them very close to us, shells were bursting thro’ the air, tracer bullets were everywhere and the whole harbour was floodlit by the flares dropped by the Jerries. I saw two planes brought down thanks to our own Radio Location, one of them was pretty ghastly. I heard the plane screaming down and thought it was going to attack us but just as I though it was all up with us a terrific crash and flash from the plane as it hit the earth about half a mile away and if the pilot was still in it I hope he had a quick death.

I have talked with one or two families here and I am surprised to see how friendly they are towards us. They are people much like us, peace loving and I am sure they dis not want war. They are mostly Roman Catholics and dislike Mussolini intensely. It is almost funny to see them scuttling like rabbits every time a gun goes off but it is also tragic to see the older people having to run for their lives too.

Letters from my darling Evelyn are very few mainly because the postal service isn’t in fiull swing yet but nevertheless I am loving her more than ever. I pray for us that we might be together again soon so that I can try to realise my ambition of making her the happiest wife in the world.

The diary seems to be playing second fiddle these days. The reason is that for the past five weeks I haven’t had much spare time and now that my correspondence course has started I have even less spare time.  I even find it difficult to write to Evelyn these days.

Well I arrived down here at Scafati near Pompeii about the 10th of June from Ferrara, where I was having a good time with Brian and getting  in quite a liberal amount of spare time.  Then I did a silly thing and volunteered to come down here on an upgrading course, little dreaming that I should have so much trouble to get back to the 55th who are now doing a good bit of sunbathing on the Lido in Venice.

It is very uncomfortable here in this dirty of dirty places and as a result of the dirt have spent some time in hospital with food poisoning which resulted in my missing the course and having to wait until the next one starting today.  I tried to get back to the 55th when I came out of hospital but the CO wouldn’t hear of it, so now I am here for about another month and I shan’t be surprised if I never seen the 55th again.

On the course I have to work 10 hours a day, six days a week, and leave and a home seems a very long way off just now.  The waiting for Blighty leave is just about unbearable now and I know how my darling must be feeling about this too.  If I didn’t have the utmost confidence in her I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that she hadn’t gone on the loose a long time ago.  I can trust her however and knowing that makes me love her increasingly and my determination to make her happy increases daily.  I have had a very encouraging letters from South Africa and I am very hopeful for when my de-mobbing a number comes up.  Since I have been here I have visited many interesting places such as the ruins of Pompeii , Sorrento , Naples Salerno and the Isle of Capri.  The nex place must surely be Blighty.

We have all celebrated in great style and this morning there was hardly a man on his feet. Wine flowed like a river last night. We lit a huge bonfire and fired verey lights into the air. The Basantars  did their war dance round the fire and it was a sight worth seeing.  I have seen such dances before on the films but last night was the first time I have seen a real one.

Now I am looking forward to going home again. I don’t know when that will be but it can’t be very long delayed.  I shall be thinking of my darling one more than ever now as the moment approaches when I shall be seeing her again.  Oh what a wonderful honeymoon we shall have.

Even now I can hardly grasp the fact that I have just come safely through six years of England’s greatest piece of history.  We are still making history now but Roland, Benny and Frank are doing the work from now on let’s hope they come through safely and all in one piece god bless them all.

V.E. Day

Well today is without doubt the greatest day for me since I joined up in 1939. At long last this cruel and hateful war is over and with all my heart I truly thank God. I thank God for not only giving us peace but also for keeping my family and friends safe from the dangers which have been showered upon England during the last five years.

At long last it is all over in Italy and the wonderful news came last night and everyone went mad. Even now I can hardly believe that the war is over for me but it’s true and last night we celebrated in a manner befitting the great occasion. Needless to say I was just about drunk. Almost a million Germans have been beaten in Italy and today they are all being disarmed and put where they can do no more damage.
The defeat of Germany proper isn’t complete yet but we are expecting the news any time now. What a glorious relief it is to know that it is all over and I thank God with all my heart for bringing me safely through the war. There have been times when I needed spiritual uplift and I never failed to get it when I needed it most. Now we have packed up all our equipment and are now waiting for orders to move south to Rimini to what will be we hope a de-mobbing centre. How long it will take to get home I don’t yet know but I am hoping it won’t be very long. Some of the eighth army have gone straight through into Germany but I don’t think we shall go though I wouldn’t mind going that way home.
I wonder what Evelyn is feeling like today. I think she will be as joyous as I am now that she knows I will be home soon. I am so happy and relieved and the waiting to go home is agony.

The big push is on at last and going very well indeed. Two days ago it opened with a terrific air attack on the German front lines and our bombers were guided in by our shells bursting into the sky. The 55th were definitely the first RA regiment to open the attack and we are very proud of that. After the bombers had finished we started firing for the infantry to go in. The barrage started in earnest then and it was a sight I shall never forget. It was equally as terrific as the one at Cassino last year. Yesterday I went on the guns to do some laying and it was quite a welcome change. It is hard work but it is a job worth doing. The front is now out of range so we shall be moving up again after we have regrouped. The amazing part about the whole thing was that not one shell came back at us so we dug ourselves in for nothing. I feel sorry for some of those Jerries who managed to live during the last two days they must be bomb happy by now.

I am still here in Ravenna after nearly a month of inactivity but in a day or two there is every indication that I shall be right up front with the battery getting ready for the coming big push. This coming push looks as though it is going to be on a large scale with the object of driving the Jerries out of Italy. Well I’m all in favour of getting on with it and maybe going right up through France to the channel coast. The war might end any day now and what a glorious relief it will be for all of us.
I have just recovered from a very bad spell of homesickness one of the worst I have ever had. Something had to be done. I was so fed up so I scrounged eight bottles of beer from the lads and drank a lot sitting on my bed. My browned off feeling faded away after the fifth bottle and then I got really and truly drunk. The other chaps said I did some queer tricks which included singing as many of my favourite school songs as I could remember. I recited much poetry too reading from a book by match light. I used up two boxes of matches altogether, what a waste. The day peace is signed there is going to be a great glorious booze off. I am sure to be drunk again then but it won’t be because I am browned off.
During the past months I have already quite a lot of poetry and have become very keen on it. like reading Wordsworth, Browning, Brookes and of course Kipling and many others. I think it is because I have travelled around a good deal that makes good poetry appeal to me. In England where one is cramped up in one little sphere for a lifetime, poetry never gets a chance to make itself understood, because I maintain that people who don’t travel can’t ever hope to be influenced by the poets.