29th October 1943


29.10.43

My Dearest Olive,

I have had a dreadful few days, culminating in John Glennie and Dennis Dunn being killed and myself wounded. My wound is not serious - a blast from an artillery shell puncturing the chest and left arm but poor Dennis, who was beside me, got it in the back and died immediately. I am in hospital at the moment and apart from a certain stiffness and a feeling of tiredness am suffering more from mental depression than anything else. In the event of you receiving a War Office telegram that I have been wounded, this is the case. Actually, I hope to be back with the battalion shortly.

We launched a big night attack on a certain day (on 27th October at San Salvo) and met with very fierce opposition. My company got rather badly knocked about and amidst the confusion, John and I bumped against each We decided to rally what men we could and push forward and, by using our ground carefully, we made a considerable advance. Despite the terrific noise, I have never felt cooler or more confident. Here, I was fighting beside my greatest friend and my older head and his youthful dash and cheerfulness brought us well forward. He laughed and joked amid the inferno and I felt his strength was mine and mine Once, I got hit in the face by a piece of shrapnel and gave a groan and he raced out exposing himself and insisted on examining me, before he took cover again.

Eventually, we were caught in the middle of a ploughed field: Johnny received a shot in the arm but it was not serious and, with the aid of a L/Cpl, I bandaged him up. We were trying to get back from this bad position when there was a burst of MG fire and he fell on his side and gasped, “I have been hit in the chest”. I completely lost all thought of personal risk and how I got him back, I don’t know but with MG bullets flying all around, I managed to get him to cover. It was a terrible hole but we did what we could and tried to carry him to where the stretcher bearers might be. We were causing him too much pain and so I sent our few remaining men off to find the Stretcher Bearers and for 1 ½ hours, I lay with him in an open field until he died. He was in great pain, so at least I have the consolation that he did not die abandoned and tried to ease him. Early on, I said, “You know I am here, Johnny” and he said, “I do Frank”. A couple of times he said, “Are you still there Frank, don’t leave me, will you?” At the end, he cried a little and called for his mother and then passed away quietly in my arms.That brave gallant boy, so full of life and high spirits - what a bloody shambles it is. Only two weeks ago, his sister asked if I would write first to her if anything happened and I am doing this.

The dreadful tragedy to poor Dennis occurred a few hours later, I carried on for most of the day but towards evening began to feel very bad and the MO packed me off to hospital. I don’t feel too bad, except my spirits are down to zero. We have had a ghastly 10 days and, at the moment, nothing seems worthwhile. You and Valerie and home seem so far away and inaccessible. I could have stood anything out here with the exception of Johnny’s death - no one ever had a better friend and there is now a huge void which I don’t know how I can possibly fill. In fact, it never will be.  

I will tell you about the Battalion another time but Denis Hayward is alright, thank goodness. Don’t worry, darling. I think we will be out of action for a little time.

All my love to you and Valerie.

Lawrence.



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