Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

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  It is said here that all the Yanks have been withdrawn from the front in this new offensive as they are no use at all.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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Today I am 25 years old. This is my fifth birthday spent in the army and I sincerely hope it will be the last.. I don’t feel any different, I am still fed up and bored and what is worse my spells of homesickness get worse every day. Often during the day I suddenly think of home and Evelyn and all that we should be doing together and for quite a time I am driven almost mad by those thoughts. Oh if could only get back to England, any part would do so long as I could follow the words or Wordsworth.

I wondered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

I am still very annoyed with Evelyn. I had a letter this week saying she was almost certain to buy that car so I sent her a telegram telling her not to. I do hope she doesn’t take it the wrong way for I have no wish to hurt her. I love her far too much to do that. Iy does seem though as if my little world is toppling over. First she gets a new job then wants me to give up radio and now the car. My S. Africa plans for us seem to be very remote now but I still intend to have a shot at it if possible even if I have to go out by myself. Anyway I have made a firm stand and I can now only wait and see.

This week I saw another opera, Madame Butterfly and it was great. Next week i am going to see the Barber of Seville, another opera. I am becoming a real opera fan mainly because of the lovely music.

I shudder when I realise that compared to two years ago my morale is down at least 50% and only my sense of duty keeps me going. Evelyn used to send me words of inspiration but they are finished now. Two lads from Leeds are with me here, Jack Taylor and Joe Shastall (?) They keep my spirits up no end. Jack is a real beer drinker and he is seldom sober though he is vey good natured. Joe is a comedian if ever there was one and he too would give his last drink away. They are the ” (unclear)  in action”.

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Sunday July 19th 1942

Two days ago we set sail from Durban (4) after spending a glorious two weeks on shore. The journey from our first port of call down to Durban was uneventful and we all breathed a sigh of relief when South Africa and then Durban itself came into view. As soon as we got off the ship at the docks we were taken by train to a camp Clairswood, about eight miles from Durban. Here we spent our two weeks on shore and they were indeed two weeks of real pleasure. I was in Durban almost every day and the first day I went there I experienced the hospitality of the South African people. No praise I can give can possibly be high enough for the way the people of S. Africa treated us. Many canteens were opened for us beside the regular ones, and they were all literally stacked with food and fruit of all kinds. The best meal possible consisting of two eggs, sausage bacon, mash, bread and butter, tea fruit salad and ice cream could be bought for ½ (5) , and the women who served the food were always very pleasant. One canteen in particular was exceptionally good. St. Pauls and it was here that I bought some photographs of Durban and sent them home to Evelyn. and Nan. The manager never tired in his efforts to help the troops and he said that after the war he would be going to England. He can be certain of a warm welcome from my family if we meet him. I went to two services in St. Pauls and also to a gramaphone recital during the week. Although I enjoyed myself very much I never forgot my darling Evelyn. and my family and I prayed for her and them many times.

The city of Durban is far better than any city I have seen in England. The buildings some of them almost skyscrapers are white and picturesque. The streets are wide and the town planning is perfect. Indians roam about the streets pulling rickshaws, they look very out of place in such a modern city. The camp was the biggest I have yet seen, half of the tents were occupied by the R.A.F. and I have no doubt that it was where Stanley (6) spent his shore leave. Indians and natives were always at the camp gates waiting to sell us fruit, and consequently I always had a large stock. I have even got some oranges left now. I would have given much to send some fruit home. I know Nan and Evelyn. and Gerald. (7) love oranges and bananas. I wrote to my darling wife twice by air-graph. I do love her with all my heart and I am always thinking of her. Without her inspiration goodness knows what I should do. It seems like years since I heard from her and I am hoping to get some letters from her when we reach our destination. Please god keeps her safe for me until the end of the war.

Now we are on the last stage of our journey wherever that may lead us, and the ship we are on is even worse than the last one. The other was clean, this one is filthy and bugs and cockroaches are everywhere. I sleep on deck where the air is fresh and clean. All I am hoping for now is a safe and extra fast journey to our destination.

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