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Posts Tagged ‘Messina’

AFter nearly a week at Agropoli we have moved contrary to my expectations to a place only 8 miles away and close by a Yankee aerodrome. Latest information is that we shall be here for a further three weeks before moving up. We are now part of the Fifth Army comprising Yanks and British troops.

Our journey from Sicily is now completed. The highlights of the journey were first the crossing from Messina to Reggio which was made in the company of fifty or so girl students. They were packed in with the troops and lorries and the whole trip was very pleasant. Second, the mountain pass which we climbed on the third day, what a magnificent view from the top after four hours climbing and what a surprise to see a railway so high up. Third the village of Rivello which looked like something unreal. Perched on the summit of a mountain it reminded me of a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

My impressions of Italy are not too good. The rural people are very backward and live in poverty. They are as hard as nails and their houses are very badly built though they create a good impression from the outside. I think there are  still a great many Fascists in Italy and some of them are not afraid to give one that impression.

At the moment we are billeted in an old bakehouse and the rats are the biggest I have ever seen. The rain still pours down and the sickening mud gets higher and higher. I have had one letter from Evelyn this week, she doesn’t mention anything about our argument though she may see my point of view and all will be saved. I don’t really think my darling will ever let me down like that, she is too sensible and firm and she will never listen to other people if she thinks her own way is best. I love you Evelyn and I am dying to see you and hold you in my arms again.

I am fairly happy here at the moment, more so because there are a few Yorkshire lads here. Jack Taylor from Leeds, Joe Shastall from Leeds, Vic Middlesworth from Skipton, Eric Benson from Stanningley, Monty Bloomsbury from Leeds and Joe Naylor from Horsforth.

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Tonight I am in a very strange place indeed, that is if being about 6000 feet up in the vast mountains of Italy with rain and sleet beating down and likely to continue all night.

However to start at the beginning.. the regiment left Catania three days ago to go to Naples in Italy. The first night we spent in Messina but I couldn’t get out into the town as I am on guard. Next day we were ferried across the Messina Straits in an invasion barge and after a very rough crossing of an hour we went ashore at Reggio. My last impressions of Messina were anything but good. At a rough guess I think that at least 80% of the women are prostitutes and it is impossible to walk more than a few yards without being accosted by them or their agents (usually children). This is fact not fiction and such is Sicily and I believe Italy today. What a country!

During the first day in Italy we only covered 35 miles but it was 35 miles of real nature in the raw. One has to see the mountains of Italy to believe how vast they are. The mountains of Persia are nothing to these. The first thing that struck me in Italy was the way in which the rural people live. They live together in small villages in the mountains or by the sea and if any know what hard living really is these people do.

The women walk about (unclear) gathering (unclear)…….children are in rags and starving. The men lounge about gossiping as usual. Seeing these people reminds me of the “wogs” in Persia though I don’t think they are quite as bad but their living is just as bad if not harder.

The first day in Italy my lorry lost its rubber mud flaps while climbing a steep mountain pass. The children just run up behind the lorries and cut the flaps off when we round the bends. Doubtless they use them for soles for shoes. We spent the first night at a staging camp in the mountains.

The second day on the mainland we covered about 70 miles and spent the night in a crater of a now extinct volcano. The water running down the crater was quite warm and it was just right for showering. It rained most of the journey which was just parallel with the sea and then up in the mountains we past a  number of villages and the people stared at us while the children ran behind the lorries shouting ‘biscuit’ or ‘chocolate’. The older people look at us with frightened eyes, no doubt realising at long last that the British are a race to be feared. A gale came up during the night and the rain beat down on the canvas making such a noise that I couldn’t sleep.

Yesterday morning when we set off the rain had stopped but after a mile or two we began to climb and the rain started again. Up and up we went until we were higher than the clouds and it was bitter cold. I was surprised to see that there were villages even at that height. The people still walked about bare-foot and poorly clad. The view from this height was magnificent mountains and hills and in the distance far below the sea. The rain stopped as we came down to sea level and we spent the night by the sea in a village. After dinner and a wash Jack Taylor and I went into the village and drank much vino at the local wine merchant’s house.

This morning we set off in glorious sunshine and immediately began to climb again. Up and up we went again and this time I could see that we were going to cross a range of mountains. The rain started just after lunch as we climbed up. About 3/4 of the way up I saw a village perched on top of a mountain and it looked for all the world like a scene from some comic opera. The village was called Rivello. A little higher up we ran into the snow and some of the roads were as much as 3″ under snow and it was very dismal. By the time we reached the top it was just like looking from an aeroplane. We began a gradual descent, the road was one mass of twists and turns and one slip would have sent us crashing over the side to a horrible death hundreds of feet below. The rain was still pouring and after a miserable run today of 110 miles we are camped here in the local station at Sal Casalini and we are all browned off with this ceaseless rain and mud

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