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Posts Tagged ‘Foggia’

Two weeks ago we left Foggia and arrived here (Anzio) two days later.  we travelled via Naples but as it was night time when we passed through the city I couldn’t see very much.  I said goodbye to Nino now and his family the night before we left . ‘Bona Fortuna’ was wished upon a many times as we sat and drank much wine. Phil Banks and I have got his address and intend to write to him after the war.  When we rose to leave them we parted in the typical Latin manner by handshakes and kissing each other on the cheeks.  Good look Nino and your family. Italy needs men like you after the war.

Since arriving here we have had one or two raids and one very narrow escape when a very heavy bomb burst a few yards away causing a few casualties and damage to vehicles.

Two days ago I spent a never to be forgotten day in Rome. Rome really and truly is a beautiful city and had it been destroyed by war it would have been a great loss. I visited quite a few famous places but one day isn’t much in which to see Rome. I am hoping to go again in the near future.  I entered Rome along the famous Appian Way along which Caesar must have travelled many times.  On each side of the road were ancient tombs and monuments all carved in figures and pictures. I entered Rome by one of the old gateways in the great wall surrounding the city.  I passed down lovely avenues of trees and ancient monuments and statues. First stop was the great Colloseum an ancient relic of pagan Rome of olden days.  The inside has partly crumbled but the great terracing and arena is still a there.  Right in the centre of the city is the modern buildings and monument to Victoria Emmanuel the second. This is magnificent very high and built of pure white stone with gold colours and bronze statues and carvings.  On the very top are mounted two imposing statues in bronze representing chariots drawn by horses.

Saint Peter’s church was the most inspiring of them all. The nave, which is the longest in the world,  is beautifully decorated.  The walls are of the finest marble and the pictures are all composed of fine pieces of mosaic.  The statues and carvings are too beautiful to describe. The high altar is superb and underneath is Saint Peter’s tomb  decorated in gold and bronze and continuously lit up.  A great high canopy mounted on four solid bronze pillars covers the tomb and altar.  Each of the pillars weighs five tons and the nave holds 35,000 people.  I went up into the great dome and after climbing endless steps reached the bronze bull on the pinnacle.  From here I could look down on the Vatican City and survey the wonderful panorama of Rome.  Perhaps I shall see more of it soon.

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Still here in Foggia and more fed up than ever of this very static existence, the only ray of sunshine is the many happy hours I am spending just now with the family of the Sicilian whom I have known for some time now.  I have just spent a very pleasant weekend with them and being with them has made me feel more cheery although at the same time more homesick.  His name is Nino Gitto. Peter and I intend to write to him after the war. His wife is very charming and works very hard besides looking after their three children. Yesterday Phil Banks  and I visited the house of Nino’s sister to repair their radiogram and fortunately it turned out to be a very simple job.  There were four of us in the party Nino, Salvatore his brother Phil and myself.  We rode all the way in Nino’s horse drawn cab and it was a very pleasant ride too down the Bari road to Foggia.  Of course we were drinking vino and some spirit all the time. Back at Nino’s house in the evening we had a good chat and drank lots of wine until we were all quite merry. My Italian is coming on quite well and I can easily make myself understood as well as understanding what they say.  Yes they are a real good family and I simply love their three children Maria aged seven, Guiseppi  aged five and little Helena aged three.

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It is now quite some time since I wrote last I have  been so fed up recently that I couldn’t get into the writing mood.  My days at the R.E.M.E workshops  over now and I am once again with  163 battery.  I was not sorry really as the going was very stiff of there and the hours were shocking.  Being with the battery again gives me a much freer hand as I am my own boss and make my own decisions.  We are in tents here and consequently we are leaving very healthy lives.

The weather is beautiful,  fairly hot during the  day with very cool and refreshing evenings.  The scenery though still scrappy and tawdry  has improved quite a lot, the grass is rich green and the fields full of rich red poppies look really beautiful.  I have plenty of work to keep me occupied having to radio locations to maintain and keep in action.  In the evenings I usually write letters or listen in to my own little 3 valver. Sometimes I visit a wealthy Sicilian and his family who have lived here for the past eight years. Generally speaking I don’t like the Italians but this family is altogether different.  I first got to know them when I repaired their radiogram for them and now I am just one of the family. Their house is both modern and comfortable and the master is even  putting up his own extensions. He must have both money and influence to do that with the frontline not far away.  The tide of war has only just swamped over Foggia.

Here I must put in a word or two about the Yanks over here. I don’t think anyone has a good word for them. There is nothing solid or sincere about them. Anything which is cheap and showy they revel in it.  It is said here that all the Yanks have been withdrawn from the front in this new offensive as they are no use at all.  They walk down the streets of Foggia with the American W.A.A.C.O  which are the equivalent of the ATS as if they owned the place when they know full well that the 8th army captured Foggia and all the other towns around here.  One American pilot was seen wearing a leather jacket with all the places he had bombed written on his back.  I wonder what would have happened to an RAF pilot had he walked into the mess wearing such a thing.  If this sort of thing goes on out here what must it be like in England.

Letters from Evelyn are coming in fairly regularly now and I can just imagine how fed up she must be.  I only hope that we can get out to South Africa after the war and settle down and be very happy.

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Tonight I am still in the old disused paper mill at Foggia. Since I wrote last I have been out into the town twice once to walk round the town last Sunday and  the other night I went to the ENSA  cinema at the opera house.  I was amazed at the amount of damage to buildings.  It reminded me of the terrible night I saw at Battipaglia where every building had been damaged.

Mount Vesuvius was in eruption last week and I must describe the events as it was described to me by Wilf Tilliton who had the good luck to get within a few feet from the lava when he visited Naples last week.  Looking at the volcano from Naples it’s like five great plumes of fire and volcanic dust shooting up into the sky making it a red glow for miles around.  Incidentally black volcanic dust fell as far away as Bari 150 miles away.  It appears that looking at the bubbling seething slimy molten lava from close quarters was a really awe inspiring sight.  The the height of the lava at its crest was about 30 feet and the noise it made as it moved down the mountain at 30 yards an hour  was terrific.  Nothing held up its advance for more than a few minutes , the houses  just crumpled up under the pressure and  vanished without trace.

It is awful to think of people losing their homes and everything within a few minutes without a sign of where they originally stood.  Acres and acres of fruit farms and pasture land have been destroyed leaving just a bare land without a living thing on it.  Such was the eruption of Vesuvius March 1944.

The weather here he is now quite warm, the rain seems to have had gone for good until autumn and very soon the weather will be hot enough for us to wear KD [14] again.

My  S. Africa project has dropped off a little and it now looks as if I shall have to wait until after the war before  I can do anything definite.  In reply to my letter to them the  John Hilton Advice Bureau say that the government will be doing all they can for potential emigrants after the war, so that is that.

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As I expected we soon moved from Paestum near Salerno and we are now at Foggia almost on the Eastern coast of Italy. We are quite near the front so at regular intervals we can hear the artillery firing on enemy positions probably near Cassino where the battle has been going on for weeks. The weather is clearing up at last and the American and Royal Air Force are taking full advantage of the fact. Every day we see hundreds of Flying Fortresses and Wellingtons flying to the front.

We are billeted in a (unclear) much bombed and disused paper mill. There isn’t much comfort of course but we have got a roof and four walls which is more than some soldiers have got. This is our third place in Foggia having had to move from the other two billets.

Foggia itself is not much to look at though no doubt it was a fair city in peacetime. It is now much bombed, dirty drab and full of typhus & VD. A few canteens and a couple of cinemas provide our only entertainment. We go to the baths once a week which are run by the Yanks and they are quite good.

The city is situated in the centre of a wide plain which leaves the mountains about 15 miles inland and stretches down to the sea. It is very fertile and soil around here and much of the land is cultivated. The remainder is used for the many aerodromes which are all around here.

I have had quite a few letters from my darling this weeks and after what she says about the way she is saving up for us I can’t be mad with her any more. I do trust her though I was afraid that she may have been talked into doing things she didn’t want to do. She is very sensible and I know that I can leave everything to her. Tonight I have just been outside and again I have noticed the Plough in the sky. Many times we have looked at that group in the sky in each others arms and it always reminds me of the lovely little girl I have left behind and whom I hope to see this year.

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