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Posts Tagged ‘Naples’

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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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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Today we are nearly at Naples at a place called Agropoli which is near;y on the famous beach at Salerno. Today’s run has been again in pouring rain through mountainous country with burned out lorries and soldiers’ graves by the side of the road. Big battles have been fought here and at Battaglia (?) a few miles from here not one building has been left undamaged. There must have been hundreds killed in that town. It is the worst bombed and shelled place I have ever seen. Well here we are up to the knees in mud doomed to stay in this dump for a week before we move up to the front.. God help the infantry in this weather.

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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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