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I seem to be getting very slack about recording my life out here. The reason being that I am not losing interest but there is a very little of importance happening these days.
We moved up from Rimini two weeks ago and we are now firmly established about 2 miles south of Ravenna which is about two or 3 miles from the front. There is a little doing here though not much. All day and night the guns are rumbling and at night there are some pretty firework displays.
The gun site is a very good one, a lovely green field with plenty of room to move about in. We have got a good football pitch going and much time is spent thereon. The weather just now is beautiful, very warm and just right for sunbathing on our off duty moments. Just before I left Rimini I met two chaps from of my old field regiment the 74th Med. Regiment. One of them, Ron Brown, I knew very well and the other Bill Lloyd hadn’t been with them very long. We spent almost 48 hours together talking about old times in Kent and good old Brighton. The drinks we had were very good to.
I wrote to the south African government a short time ago asking the minister of labour if he would put me on to anything out there after the war. I haven’t had the reply yet though I am waiting very patiently.

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Since leaving Leghorn for with its more or less warm climate I have made a journey over the Apennines to the big rail head and peacetime holiday resort of Rimini on the Adriatic Coast.
The journey was the worst we have yet made since leaving England. The intense cold made it all very uncomfortable and at times it was very miserable. We left Leghorn about 10.00 P.M. and arrived in Florence about 1.15 A.M. where we halted for two hours until we got permission from movement control to proceed. We spent our time in Florence brewing tea and making Oxo by the roadside to keep warm. When we were all thoroughly cold and miserable we moved off and after a very dark and uneventful journey we arrived at Arezzo about eight o’ clock. We should have gone into a proper staging camp but due to the usual army mis-management we had to spend the day and night by the roadside. As soon as dinner was over at 6.00 P.M. I went straight to bed and slept like a log until 4.00 A.M. when we had breakfast and then prepared to move off. We spent most of the day in the foothills of the Apennines and the scenery was both beautiful and interesting. It was still very cold but the sun was out and we didn’t seem to feel the discomfort. About three o’clock in the afternoon we were approaching the great mountain pass which takes you right over the Apennines. About this time it was beginning to freeze again and the roads were getting icy. We all expected to spend the night at the foot of the pass and go over it in the morning when it would have thawed out again but no, the mad major decided to risk it. Then and as we all expected things began to happen very quickly. Up and up we climbed on the very narrow road until we reached the snow and about there the first lorry stuck and skidded. From then onwards it was very dangerous going. To stop on the pass would have meant sticking there for ages until a bulldozer or tractor arrived. As it was, only a quarter of the convoy got over the pass that day. Most of the lorries stuck fast on the pass while others never even started. I was lucky my lorry kept going and after a perilous descent I landed safe and sound at the bottom. All the time it had been snowing hard the convoy was split up so we had to pull in as soon as possible. We couldn’t very well sleep in the snow so seven of us went to the nearest house and moved the furniture and family out of the room and spent the night there. The place was filthy but we swept the house and more or less made ourselves comfortable. In the morning there had been no new arrivals and the roads were still icy but as we were now almost out of the mountains the officer in charge decided to move out about 10.00 A.M. Once out of the mountains of the weather became very cold and it was difficult to realise that we were still in the same country as we were at Leghorn. We soon saw the Adriatic and then turned north through the state of San Marino to Rimini. We are now in a gun site here within the sound of the firing at the front but so far we haven’t seen a great deal of activity. It’s grand to be with the eighth army again amongst the British and Canadians after so long with the Yanks who fail to impress me in the least.
The mail is coming through again so everything is fine except the weather. The Russians are almost in Berlin and I can’t see the war lasting much longer. My wireless course hasn’t come through but I am living in hopes. South Africa is now the main subject for Evelyn and I. The time is drawing near when we shall have to start making plans in earnest. I feel sure we shall pull it off successfully.
Everything is OK at home Evelyn my darling has been hill and resigned from the MMB but she is now back to normal again.

It seems ages since I last wrote in this book but the truth is that there has been very little to write about. I am still here in Leghorn and life is very boring. It makes me mad to think that we could be doing so much more useful work in France. It is almost Christmas again and I hope that soon after we can get away from this area.
I haven’t been feeling too good lately. My father died in November and the sudden news kind of shock me for some time. I was rather worried about the way he felt before he died about the terrific row we had before I left England. However I was very glad to hear both from Evelyn and my mother that he had very much realized his mistake and was waiting until I got home to set matters right. I know he had changed his ideas about Evelyn a long time ago and that was enough for me, my wishing that both mother and dad would see in the end. What a wonderful girl my Evelyn really is. So now dad has gone but my memories of him are pleasant. I admire his pride for I think without pride a man can sink very low in life.
Although it will be Christmas in a few days’ time there is no Christmas spirit or feeling of goodwill towards men in Italy amongst the civilians. I think war must have destroyed them beyond recovery and reduced them to little better than half starved peasants who have failed to keep in step with progress. Leghorn was deserted when I first arrived but today all the people are back. They must be bunched together in some houses for a about a third of the city has been blasted by bombs and shells. Everywhere there is nothing but a dirt and filth.The bad weather has brought mud on such a scale that I never believed it was possible for so much mud to accumulate.
There are quite a few shows and cinemas we can go to in Leghorn and this helps to break the monotony. A great blessing is my wireless which is now on all mains, plus battery set five valve.
I am hoping to go on leave to Rome for Christmas with George Gulliford but if I can’t manage it I shall be spending it here though I am afraid it is going to be a poor one this time. I think I shall get merry in the canteen even if it is only to drown all my cares and worries.
Evelyn has been expecting me home on this month’s leave scheme which Churchill has promised us. But after I had explained to her that the last man will be going home in about 30 years from now she has realized how Churchill has hoodwinked everyone in two, believing that he is giving something away, whereas he has just made a big statement which means just nothing to the average soldier.
I want to get ahead with my South Africa plans. Evelyn is very keen on it now. We are both just pining to get settled down and start increasing the population . Well here’s to the new year and may I soon be with my own dearest darling Evelyn again.

Still in Leghorn and life is once again very static and monotonous. The guns don’t fire very often now although this is quite a big port and there are a good many ships in it. When we first captured Leghorn we were shelled regularly for a few weeks afterwards but the German guns have been silenced and Leghorn remains quiet except for a few stray aircraft which sometimes come over at night.
Everyone is talking about the demobilisation plan which has just come out and I don’t think I shall have to wait very long once the plan starts operating. I am simply dying to get home again to my own darling Evelyn and as the news from France gets better every day I can’t help but think that the war should be over by next spring.
My homesickness becomes more acute when I read the letters from Stanley who has just arrived back in England. He will be going to see Evelyn and how I wish I were in his shoes. All day long I am thinking of our plans for the future and loving my darling more and more for the wonderful way in which she has looked after our interests since I left England. Can a man expect more of his wife? I think not. I hope that after the war I can fulfil my dearest wish to make my darling the happiest girl in the world.
Yesterday I arrived back from 5 days’ leave in the Eternal City – Rome. I had a wonderful time being stationed at the fifth army rest camp where everything was done to make us comfortable. I went on a motor tour of Rome and visited many more of the famous historical places such as the catacombs where the early Christians lived during the time of their persecution and where Saint Peter and St. Paul are believed to have lived. The Pantheon church which is the oldest of Rome’s 400 churches , the old Roman forum which was the centre of old Roman Life round about 100 BC and also of the colosseum and saint Peter’s which I visited when I was in Rome a month or two ago. Rome is really a wonderful city but to soldiers on leave it is also a very expensive city.
Now here I am back in Leghorn just becoming bored again until the next letter from Evelyn arrives.

At last I am on board ship, after months of waiting and wondering it hardly seems credible that I should be here waiting for the ship to move off. I have long expected it, but not till now have I fully realised what it means to be leaving dear old England. We left Wakefield yesterday morning and arrived here in port at dinner time and we are now waiting to set sail, though when that will be I can’t say. My first impressions of the ship aren’t too good and this proved to be right all through yesterday. The ship itself HMT Andes is a fair size of about 15,000 tons, and in peacetime was a luxury liner, though all that has been changed now. The living space is very small and we on the first deck are packed in every sense of the word just like sardines. Ventilation is also poor and I can foresee that when the ship moves off 90% of the men will be seasick. We are sleeping in hammocks and this is even worse during the day. They are packed so close that I dread to think what will happen when they all start being seasick during the night. What really ‘beats the band’ is the meal times. I am sure they think we are a lot of pigs instead of human beings. The dining hall itself is very nice but it becomes so packed that we can’t even eat in comfort. So far we are only getting three meals a day and no chance to get anything else because the two canteens have not been opened yet. The washing up facilities after meals are deplorable and if something isn’t done about it soon I shan’t be surprised if a few of the men turn very poorly.

RMT Andes

Well I am still here in Wakefield after five of the most heartbreaking days I have ever spent (1) . I have been seeing Evelyn. for a few hours nearly every day, and yesterday we went to see my aunt and uncle who were expecting us. We had a lovely time there as we always do so we came away feeling very happy. Tonight I can’t get away to see Evelyn. as we are expecting to move tonight or tomorrow morning, but I have been on the telephone again to her and said goodbye for a little while. This morning I sent her a birthday card. It is a bit early yet, though I had to send it because I couldn’t go away without wishing her happy returns. God bless you Evelyn. darling and may we spend many more of your birthdays together.

Also yesterday I had a reply to my letter from home. It seems this time that we have broken off definitely because they will not see reason and even begin to like Evelyn. I’ve done my best and until Evelyn. and I have had an apology I have finished. I have got my fair share of patience but this state of affairs is too much for me.

This brings me to the present moment this evening when I am sitting here all alone writing this diary and thinking all the time of my darling wife and wondering when I shall see her again. My heart is very heavy but with plenty of my own work to do I shall get over it and think the loveliest things of my own darling Evelyn. Where I shall be tomorrow I can’t say, but wherever it is here’s hoping for the best with God’s help.

Well here I am in Leghorn,  or Livorno as the Italians call it, after waiting quite some time to get into the city. It has cost quite a few lives to get this big port and judging from the amount of damage done around the dock area it will take some time to get the docks working again.  The divers are being interrupted consistently in their work by shells from the German guns.  We can hear the shells whistling over our heads and a few moments later there is a loud explosion as they land in the sea.  Fortunately  our site hasn’t been spotted yet.  Mines are laid everywhere and already quite a few soldiers (mostly mad Yanks) have lost their lives.  There are booby traps in almost every house and it is fatal to push open a closed door.

I think the war must be very near its end now. We are in the south of France and the general opinion is that it won’t be long before the four fronts are on the borders of Germany proper.

The weather here is beautiful and I am in perfect health except for the fact that I am terribly browned off and I can’t keep my mind off home.  I thank God that he has safely brought me through to this stage of the war and he has given me sufficient courage to withstand any shocks I have come up against.