CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan with the London Irish Rifles

Edmund O’Sullivan was called up in October 1939 to join the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles and he would proudly serve with them for nearly 7 years.

After completing basic training in South London, Edmund was posted as a Rifleman into G Company commanded by Major Colin Gibbs as the London Irish Rifles spent 2 years on home front duties. The battalion would be based across England and Wales before joining up with the newly created 38 (Irish) Brigade in early 1942 and then in Scotland as they completed their intensive preparations for overseas front line service.

By November 1942, Edmund had become Company Quarter Master Sergeant of E Company, a most responsible position, the appointment being confirmed on the eve of the battalion’s journey to join the 1st Army in North Africa.

Over the next 2 1/2 years. CQMS O’Sullivan completed the full journey of the Irish Brigade, from their initial arrival in Algiers on 22nd November 1942 to the advance to the Po River that led to the final capitulation of all Axis forces in Italy on 2nd May 1945, apart from a 4 month period in late 1944 when he was hospitalised and had slowly recovered from pneumonia in Alexandria. He re-joined his battalion in December 1944 when they were based in the mountains north of Florence.

After advancing into Austria, the Irish Brigade undertook peace keeping duties in the Carinthia area before spending a relaxing nine months near to Villach. During this period, Edmund was promoted to RQMS and was heavily involved in the eventual disbandment of 2 LIR. On 8th March 1946, he would leave Austria for good to return home to his family.

His time with the London Irish Rifles was a remarkable period and one which Edmund would later record in detail and the story can be read over the following pages.

The testimonial provided by his Commanding Officer, Lt-Colonel John Horsfall DSO MC, in January 1946 sums up the period for which Edmund served in order to fight tyranny.

“RQMS O’Sullivan has rendered outstanding and devoted services to our Brigade through three campaigns….

…..I strongly recommend him as a man of exceptional worth.”

Home Front – October 1939 to November 1942

Joining the London Irish Rifles.

“Tuesday 17 October was my last night as a civilian. I worked late as we were so busy. The other salesmen suggested packing up and going for a drink at the local pub. I excused myself after a couple of halves of light ale which was about my capacity. I walked to the bus stop and rode home. I had a small snack and walked to the club which was very crowded. All the committee were there. They were surprised that I had not arrived earlier and could not understand why I would work so late on my last night as a civilian…”

Day 2.

“Reveille was marked by a bugle call at 6am. Even after a poor night’s sleep, I was glad to get out of bed. I joined the melee at ablutions, washed in cold water and shaved. It was no hardship as very few people had running hot water in their homes. Breakfast was served: lumpy porridge and a sausage with a couple of doorsteps (thick slices of bread and margarine). Inspection followed and names taken. ‘Unshaven. Stand closer to your razor. Filthy ears,’ were the remarks made by the inspecting officer. A squad at a time, we were marched to the stores and given an assortment of webbing: packs, haversacks, belts and straps. We carried our bundles back to our places…”

The making of Rosie.

“After church parade and lunch on 22 October, we were told that the rest of the day was for ‘interior economy’. This was free time for cleaning kit and polishing boots. ‘Will we be allowed out?,’ we asked. ‘Not until you look something like soldiers,’ was the reply. It was approaching mid-afternoon when the corporal in charge of the picket asked for me by name. He said that my father was at the gate with a parcel. I went to see him. Dad asked me how I was getting along. I was very abrupt, as I did not want people to think I was a mummy’s boy. Dad asked me what the food was like. I told him it was bad but we were all in the same boat. He then said: ‘Your mother cooked this little fruit cake especially for you.’ I said: ‘I can’t take that. What will the other chaps think?’ Corporal Grandison saw my father leave dispiritedly and asked me what was wrong. I told him about the cake. ‘You sent back a home-made cake! You must be mad. You could have given it to me. Don’t for Lord’s sake tell your mates. They’ll murder you.’ When I told my group, they were not at all pleased….”

Training on Centre Court.

“My greatest joy was the pipes and drums band. The bagpipes were under the command of Pipe Major Archibald (Archie) Evans. He had a Welsh surname, a Scottish Christian name and spoke with an accent that he thought was Scottish. He had been the pipe major of a battalion of the RUR but he was born of English parents. He looked extremely fierce in his green doublet worn above a saffron kilt and green socks with the whole covered by his green cloak. His headdress was a green caubeen with a St Patrick’s blue hackle above the London Irish badge, in my opinion, the most beautiful in the British Army. The bugle major commanded the drummers, who were also buglers when required. He wore a highly polished (or patent leather) cross belt that bore the regimental battle honours and a whistle in silver. The bugle major carried a silver-headed walking stick which acted as a mace. We were not to see the dress uniform of the band again until after the war. I loved pipe music, particularly Irish war pipes….”

Invasion alerts.

“At the end of February 1940, the regiment moved to St Alban’s and into more comfortable billets though we still had floorboards as beds. We stayed in a large detached house towards the outskirts of the city and on the road to London Colney, near St Mimms. I nicknamed our new platoon leader Sergeant Brown as ‘Tapper’ because he would quite unashamedly tap us for a loan half way through the week. We were a battalion in the same brigade as two Royal Fusilier territorial battalions and part of the 47th London Division. Training consisted of lots of route marching. On these, we were encouraged to sing as we marched along the country roads. Corporal Belding, a very large NCO with red hair, led the singing of often ribald parodies of popular songs, much to my disgust and that of any passing pedestrian. A favourite was McNamara’s band, which was directed at the commander of 15 Platoon Captain Hennessy. He used to join in with gusto and secretly enjoyed his nickname ‘Tootle Hennessy’ from the verse: ‘Hennessy, Hennessy. Tootle your flute’….”

From Lowestoft to Haverfordwest.

“It was at Lowestoft that I got my first promotion and was given the longest title in the British Army: local acting unpaid lance-corporal. Also honoured were Pip Ward, Terry O’Keefe and six others. I was immediately rebuked for being improperly dressed and was compelled to purchase from my ‘unpay’ four pairs of black and green chevrons. For many hours, I squatted sewing them on my various uniforms. These had been augmented by a pre-war, other-ranks tunic and a pair of knee crackers, very tight trousers, the bottoms of which were folded over long puttees. This was a walking-out dress that took hours to adjust correctly. I had, of course, also been compelled to buy a set of regimental black buttons to go with my new uniform….”

Onto Goodwood.

“In August, we were granted our first seven days leave. I managed to time mine to attend my brother’s (Danny) marriage. He now worked as a rigger in radio location, the forerunner of radar, and was in a reserved occupation. Kathleen’s father was the chief officer at Brixton prison. He would soon be promoted to governor at Shrewsbury. We were fortunate that my leave was during the first part of the Battle of Britain so we missed the first phase of the Blitz in the autumn which was to mar many others’ leaves. The time in London was called privilege leave as it was not an entitlement. For some it would be no privilege but frightening due to bombing….”

Joining the Irish Brigade.

“The summer of 1941 was beautiful. I enjoyed the wonderful weather and the sparkling sea off the Sussex coast. We occasionally bathed but were extremely wary because of the mine danger. Our billets were close to three airfields including Ford and Tangmere. At night, there was a great amount of aerial activity. Some bombing was heard but that was often the result of the jettisoning of bombs which could not be dropped on target. The nearest railway station was at Ford junction three miles from our billet….”

Operation Dryshod and Ready for War.

 “It was early summer 1942 and we were on our way again. The Irish Brigade had been chosen as the lorry-borne infantry in the 6th Armoured Division, a new type of formation created from the cream of the army, so we were told. Our new home was in the grounds of yet another titled potentate. Our host this time was the Marquess of Bute who gave over part of his vast demesne at Auchinlech in Ayrshire to the 6th Division….”

Algeria/Tunisia – November 1942 to July 1943

Setting sail from Glasgow.

“Dawn was breaking when our train stopped at a platform which was in a dock. Through the doorway labelled Customs we could see a mighty ship. We had arrived at Greenock. We dressed in our equipment and, wearing our greatcoats, climbed up the gangplank and into the bowels of the ship. The ranks were separated. Officers and Warrant Officers were led off in one direction, sergeants in another while the men were led below deck by their corporals. I was allocated a cabin on the boat deck which I shared with three others. Double bunks almost filled the space….”

Arrival in Algiers.

“We entered Algiers Harbour and berthed at the quay without tugs. It was Thursday 22 November 1942 and a beautiful morning. The sun shone brightly. We speedily disembarked, and the great liner pulled away. On the quay was a great stack of kitbags which we would not see for months. Some would be permanently mislaid.

While we were waiting, we were attacked by aircraft which were chased by some of ours. Bombs were dropped but not on us. We were formed up in companies in full marching order with a blanket on top of our other equipment. All the men also carried two filled bren magazines or a case of three two-inch mortar bombs. I carried two cases of maps of the whole of Algeria and Tunisia in large and small scale. The officers carried almost as much as the men….”

Christmas in Tunisia.

“Winter rains had replaced summer drought with a vengeance. We were part of the 1st Army under General Anderson. This army was, in reality, barely a division in strength and comprised two battalions of the Irish Brigade, one independent Guards brigade, a couple of regiments of tanks and one of armoured cars, a brigade of paratroopers, a motorised battalion and some ancilliaries.

The Skins were the first Irish Brigade unit in the line. We followed and the quartermaster set up the supply base in a wooded area close to El-Aroussa to the west of the front that was to be used for the next three months. When we arrived, we found boxes of rations had been broached and the more attractive items of food and cigarettes replaced by a half brick. This felony was compounded by the thought that sailors had risked their lives to bring half-bricks thousands of miles to be dumped in the hills of Tunisia. The absence of comforts was to be a trial and it would be months before fresh food and bread would replace the eternal hard tack…”

Point 286.

“The battalion’s first real action involving casualties was on 11 January. H Company was given the task of covering the recovery of tanks that had bogged down in the Goubellat valley. This involved attacks on farm buildings and several casualties were sustained, including two sergeants who were killed. Both were friends, and I was called upon, much later, to help in the identification of H Company Sergeant John Hogan, 37 from Croydon. He was to remain unburied on the plain for five months. A lesson was learnt from this action. The wireless sets worn by platoon sergeants carried an aerial which could be seen by snipers. The large black and green chevrons of sergeants were much too obvious. I was to seldom wear these insignia when in or near action….”

Stuka Ridge.

“The battalion was spread over a wide area. Between each company and even platoons were large areas of dead ground and wadis. F Company was centred on Stuka Farm, a group of buildings on a hilltop to the south of the line. G Company, now under Major Gibbs, was in the centre on Castle Hill and the surrounding features of Booby Hill and Steep Hill. E Company was on the left near Djebel Rihane. H Company was away from the battalion. There was little or nothing between E Company, which was the reserve company, and the other three. We, in turn, were widely dispersed: 8 platoon, commanded by a subaltern aged 18, was on Mosque Hill, on the left and overlooking the thick woodland to the east. 9 Platoon was on Flat Top, on the right, overlooking Goubellat plain. 7 Platoon was in the centre on a feature called Hadj. Company headquarters was positioned at the rear of Hadj. It was an impossible arrangement. To reach 8 Platoon on Mosque Hill by track from company headquarters took over 20 minutes. To climb took even longer. Flat Top and 9 Platoon were a good 15 minutes up a steep track…”

Rest and Recovery.

“Captain Curry of the Toronto Scottish took over as E Company commander and we were moved to Stuka Farm where F Company had held the Hermann Goerring Division on 26 February. We encountered a smell similar to that on Hadj. I looked around and found a badly-interred body that was partly exposed. I discovered it was the decomposed remains of my old friend Ian Brooks who had been promoted F Company CSM after the battle for Point 286. We rolled his corpse in a blanket and tied the remains into a tidy bundle before reburying him in a marked grave. I remembered vividly his words the previous November when he read our palms: ‘If I live beyond my early 20s, I will live to an old age.’ Ian had wished me luck as he thought my chances of survival were slim. He left a young wife in Wales and a baby he had never seen….”

North of Medjez-el-Bab.

“The brigade once more entered the line refreshed from its rest and captured Djebel Mahdi with little loss. From there, we took over positions around Bettiour, a rocky hill about five miles north of Medjez el-Bab. As usual, I brought up supplies but, unusually, was required to do so during the day. On my first trip, I left the cooks and their kitchen equipment well below the skyline. After about two days, I discovered that they had moved and had built a cookhouse just below the crest of the hill….”

Entering Tunis.

“The brigade had cleared all the accessible areas in the mountains west of Tunis. They were withdrawn from the line for rest and reinforcement. The 1st Army continued the push towards Tunis. By the evening of 7 May, its armour reached the city’s outskirts.

The Irish Brigade was given the distinction of being the first marching troops into Tunis. The London Irish entered the town in buses through the crossroads at La Mornaghia. A senior officer in immaculate uniform stood beside his jeep. It was the ‘boss’, General Sir Harold Alexander. Debussing at the entrance of the city, the battalion marched in single file along both sides of the road. I remained in my three-tonner, which soon became be-decked with flowers. The men were garlanded, kissed and cheered by the French colons, who were relieved the war was over for them with little damage to their home….”

Rest and Renewed Training.

“We moved back into the Atlas Mountains to Guelma through which we had passed months before. Here we encamped in proper tents. Letters from home were the main comfort and I was kept abreast of the news. My other comfort was reading my multum in parva, the anthology of verse I always carried with my missal in my small kit.

I wrote often to a variety of people. I was unable to tell anyone where I was. My mother had her first clue when I asked for Mass to be said for my dead friends…”

Sicily – August 1943 to September 1943

Stormy Mediterranean Crossings.

“We embarked in the early morning into the various vessels awaiting us in Sousse harbour. Companies were packed in pairs into infantry landing ships. With the company transport, I boarded a tank landing ship, a very roomy vessel with bunks and other luxuries.

E Company Commander was Major APK (Kevin) O’Connor….” 

The Sicilian Campaign.

“As we moved through the countryside, we were struck by its natural beauty but appalled by the poverty of the villages and towns. Our welcome was subdued, as the people were obviously uncertain whether we were friend or foe. The Irish Brigade advanced steadily, passing through the town of Catenanuova. Here we became infantry once more and prepared for our attack on the centre of enemy line at Centuripe. I served the company by jeep.

One evening, I was being driven by Corporal Allen when we were hit by heavy shellfire. We jumped out of the vehicle into the roadside ditch. It was so shallow that, despite crouching, our heads and chests were exposed. We clung to each other, shivering. The fire was coming from our rear. The bursts lifted and through the smoke emerged a figure with his face masked by blood. ‘Stop these bloody shells. They are killing my boys.’ It was a sergeant major of the East Surreys. Our 25-pounders had been firing continuously for more than six months. Their barrels were so worn their shells were unable to clear the mountain peaks….”

Italian Mainland – September 1943 to May 1945

From Termoli to the Trigno.

“We were evidently no longer at war with Italy. No longer enemies, nor Allies apparently but co-belligerents. Soon we would be off once more, this time to the mainland of Italy. More ‘soft underbelly?’ We sang: ‘When this bloody war is over, just how happy we would be. . . . .’ But when? The war seemed to stretch ahead for ever.

Although the initial crossing of the Strait of Messina was on 3 September, we were not to cross to Italy until 20 days later. We sailed through the Strait of Messina and up to the vast Gulf of Taranto….”

Crossing the Sangro River.

“The Sangro was in full spate with great tree trunks and other debris and filled the whole valley’s full width of about three quarters of a mile. The Germans had once again harnessed nature to hold up our advance. Two heavy cruisers, which I saw steaming majestically along the coast, joined the bombardment of the enemy line.

The division was billetted south of the Sangro in Cassalbordino and surrounding farms and villages. My task each evening was to take my supplies in a decrepit jeep with a faulty clutch along miles of flooded roads to cross a quagmire near the Sangro….”

Interlude at Campobasso.

“We said good-bye to our Canadian friends and were taken south beyond Campobasso by TCV to San Marco. It was cold but we were comfortable and billets were allocated to the company. A battalion sergeants’ mess was set up. Because of the attrition caused by constant fighting, the companies were like strangers to each other and the sergeants even more so. E Company was under the temporary command of Lieutenant Wilson. Colonel Rogers had left the battalion and it was now under the command of Colonel Goff with Major Bredin, a regular from the RUR, as his second in command. We did little at San Marco except to get to know each other. New officers appeared, including Lieutenant Nicholas Mosley, the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the imprisoned leader of the British Union of Fascists….”

Meeting the new OC.

“We had a new company commander: Major Mervyn Davies from the Welch Regiment, with his own batman. I had not seen the company commander when his batman came to me and said: ‘Major Davies would like a mug of tea.’

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘Officers’ tea is served at the officers’ mess.’

‘That’s what the corporal told me.’

He left to return a few minutes later. ‘The company commander wishes to see you.’

For a change, I was correctly wearing my badges of rank. I marched into the company office and saluted this rather severe young man, who stood and towered above me. ‘What’s this about I can’t have a miserable mug of tea?’

German raid at Montenero.

“I was not sorry when I trudged back daily to the billet allocated to the company in Montenero. The London Irish had brought 500 men into the town and posted more than 300 in the hills. This meant much of the local population had been displaced. The story was repeated across Italy. A populous and overcrowded state had two vast armies that took over nearly all the limited accommodation and were at the same time destroying most of the country’s facilities.

Snow descended in blizzard strength. Conditions in the line were appalling. ..”

In clear sight of Vesuvius.

“Companies were told to surrender all winter clothing. I collected the pitiful assortment of duffel coats, jerkins, boucheron boots, string vests and dirty winter socks. The quartermaster called the colour sergeants and said that a court of inquiry would be convened to investigate the losses, which amounted to about fifty per cent of what had been issued. I was asked what happened to most of mine. I explained we had losses due to evacuations, casualties, deaths and prisoners. ‘Why did you allow men to go to hospitals wearing winter clothing?,’ I was asked. I was dumbfounded. It would have meant stripping men already hurt and suffering from shock and stripping the dead before burial. No court of inquiry was ever convened. I noticed that duffel coats were the normal attire of the quartermaster’s staff…”

Defensive Positions at San Angelo.

“One evening in March, I could see smoke, steam and lava streaming from the crater of Vesuvius. It was an awe-inspiring sight. Vesuvius had been almost quiescent since AD 79 when the caldera exploded and completely destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. Since then, the new volcano had risen to a height of 2,300 feet, although that was a fraction of its former massive proportions. Its balmy slopes were the sites of convalescent homes for sick and wounded soldiers and these had to be hurriedly evacuated during the night. I thought then, and still do, that both Etna and Vesuvius had become lively after so much use of heavy explosives during the war.

We were warned that our time had come again but the brigade had been allowed to celebrate St Patrick’s Day out of the line. I was MC at the Brigade Mass. The celebrant was Father Dan Kelleher, a former amateur boxer who had sponsored boxing in the brigade….”

Ascending Monte Castellone.

“I was taken with my supplies to San Michele and here I was allocated about 30 mules which I loaded with tools, food and water and some of the men’s kit. Following immediately behind the company in pitch darkness, we climbed down the hill and came to a mysterious cavern which I was told was called the inferno. From here we continued towards the town of Cassino and crossed the Rapido by a stone bridge. When we were in the middle, a salvo of shells landed on the road. At this point, we had difficulty controlling the mules and the drivers….”

The Liri Valley.

“I had injured my knee during my nightly journeys into the mountains and it had swollen so much that my escort had to carry me to see Major Davies. He ordered me to rest and loaned me a senior NCO to make the daily run to Monte Castellone until I recovered. Soon after, we were relieved by the Poles who were going to use our hill as the start point of their attack on the monastery. We were not sorry to leave the mountain.

The division was taken back to train with their tank support for the impending offensive. I went down with malaria and I was taken back to a general hospital in Naples where I remained a couple of days and was then shipped to Bari on the Adriatic. There, the hospitals were being cleared ready for the heavy casualties of the coming battle. Once more, I decided to discharge myself from hospital…”

North of Rome.

“On the 12 June, it was announced that thirty Catholics and Irish Officers and men from the London Irish, plus the pipe band, had been invited to join the first private audience for the Allies with the Pope. We were already some 30 miles or so north of Rome, so it meant that detachments of the Irish Brigade would have to go back to the city. Each company provided six men and I made sure that I was there. We were driven back in TCVs led by Brigadier Scott, an Irish Protestant, who did not intend to miss this singular honour for the brigade….”

Onto Egypt.

“We withdrew from the line to near Tivoli for what we thought would be a rest. There were all sorts of rumours about where we would go next: the second front, southern France or back up the line. The battalion transport was surrendered and I said farewell to my trusted vehicles, most painted by its driver with my name. The three Tonner was The O’Sullivan. The 1,500 cwt was Little Rosie. A new CSM, Steve Kelly DCM, appeared and a complete set of new sergeants….”

Hospitalised in Alexandria.

“Our camp in the canal zone was a peaceful tented town. The tents were large marquees and every man had his own ‘charpoy’ with a straw mattress. It was luxury for those who had survived the mud of a Tunisian winter, the heat of an Italian summer, the snow and bleakness of the icy mountains of the Apennines. We had endured the dangers of the campaign from Cassino to Trasimeno and normally slept under the stars, seldom with any cover. But there were not many left from those who had landed in Algiers in November 1942 to enjoy it. Within the battalion perimeter were a NAAFI, a central sergeants’ mess and a cinema with a frequent change of programmes. Men were given seven days leave in Cairo….” 

Out of the Line.

“I was finally discharged and taken to a South African convalescent home, a mansion in the leafy suburbs of Alexandria. The principal greeted our small party and apparently recognised my sense of mischief. She said in mock serious tones: ‘I’ll have no nonsense from you.’ I was popular with the staff as I was different from other senior NCOs. I still looked like a boy and treated all ranks and the native staff with courtesy. We were allowed out for much of the day and I explored Alexandria…”

Back to the London Irish at last.

“I arrived back at E Company on Boxing Day. They were in the line near Monte Grande. I took over from Colour Sergeant Rice, a former 2nd Skins. I felt sorry and inadequate as he had performed well in my three-month absence. The company commander, who had replaced Major Boyd, who had been killed at Spaduro in October, was my former platoon commander in Haverfordwest, Major Gerald FitzGerald. We were friends and he tolerated my rustiness.

The conditions were appalling. Mule point was a broken down farmhouse without any heating. Each night, I had to make my way to the company with about a dozen mules. I would climb a precipitous track to the peak where the company was. The last stretch was too much for the mules. They would just lie down. …”

Resting in Forli.

“Withdrawn from the line, the company rested in the rear areas. But there was no rest for me. I had the task of virtually re-clothing the company, as their boots and trousers had, like them, suffered. One day, I found myself with two crucial tasks: to sell the NAAFI ration and to collect trousers from an RASC store in a distant town down south. I left instructions for Jimmy Barrett and the other two sergeants to sell the NAAFI ration to the chaps. When I returned in the evening, they handed over to me the total amount in lira….”

St Patrick’s Day.

“St Patrick’s Day had passed but Brigadier Scott again ensured that the brigade could celebrate it properly out of the line. It paraded in Forli town square on 29th March and shamrock was distributed. A limited supply of the sacred plant had been sent from the London Irish Welfare Officer in London. To supplement it, fatigue parties were sent out the day before the parade to pick anything vaguely green. This was mixed with the shamrock, solemnly blessed by Father Dan Kelleher and distributed to the brigade by the officers. I received a mixture of weed and grass….”

From  Argenta to Austria.

“We had trained with a tank brigade and were introduced to the ‘Kangaroo’, a tank with the lid removed to allow two infantry sections to be carried into battle, sheltered and speedily. The colour sergeant (me), in contrast, followed in his open-topped jeep. After all, he and his driver had steel helmets.

The 56th Division with the 1st Battalion of the London Irish started the assault in the east (on the night of 5 April). Our attack over the Senio began with massive air and artillery attacks. This was followed by flame tanks called wasps. Bridges across the floodbanks of the Senio were made by driving Churchill tanks with bridge attachments into the ditches. A massive column of about 100 heavily-armoured vehicles stormed across. There were Churchill flamethrowers, Sherman flail tanks for mine clearance, Sherman Arcs, Sherman Bulldozers, tracked artillery pieces and the Kangaroos….”

Peace at last.

“Leaving the Po behind, we moved swiftly north in TCVs and passed through Udine. E and H companies were pushed up on to the Yugoslav border at Caporetto and Plezzo. Here, with some tanks, we hoped to persuade partisans from Tito’s Yugoslav partisan army, who had crossed into Italy, to go back. I managed to get to Mass on the Sunday. Although it was Italy, the Mass was in Serbian. We moved the next day back into Italy proper and passed into Austria by the Tarvisio Pass. It was Monday 7 May and the war in North- West Europe was in its final day. It was said that the Irish Brigade would be allowed to claim the European Star as well as the Italian Star which had already been awarded. In the event, we didn’t get it….”

Austria – May 1945 to March 1946

Home on Leave.

“We barely had time to settle into our new quarters when I was told that I had 28 days leave in England. I should have gone months before but had been prevented by my illness and, latterly, by my rank. I had about two days to pack and hand over to a young sergeant from another company who had some clerical experience. The job was no longer arduous and was confined to feeding, clothing, quartering and paying the men.

I reported to Villach transit camp. It was run by an artillery unit and reminded me of the army saying: ‘If it moves salute it, if it doesn’t, paint it.’ …”

At Ease in London.

“I had arrived on a Saturday. Next morning, I went to Mass and met many people that I knew, mostly elderly civilians but a few servicemen on leave. My brother Danny, who had been flying in India and Burma, had been sent home to train with new planes. But as the European war was finished and he had but a short time to serve, he had been retained at Croydon as warrant officer in charge of the officers’ mess. It was a well-deserved cushy number after hazardous service in the Far East….”

The Atomic Sergeant Major.

“I returned to Austria across Europe, but by a different route. When I arrived, I was informed that I had been absent without leave for 14 days. I showed my papers issued by Aldershot which explained my extended absence was due to sickness. Returning to my company, I took over as before and settled down to finish my service. I discovered that I had extra duties and was responsible as duty officer for mounting the company guard. One day, I had to rebuke Nick Mosley for being untidily dressed while inspecting it. He was not a smart soldier and I probably exceeded my authority. I wrote often to Pat Webb. I kept her replies in a little tin….”

RQMS Edmund O’Sullivan goes home.

“I soon settled down in my new position which made me responsible for the clothing, food, equipment, quartering and arms of the battalion. Delegation was the key and helping me were NCOs and men who were specialists in their skilled jobs. George Charnick also delegated many tasks to me and I started to act as RSM at battalion orders and in the HQ guard mounting.  Inspecting the meticulously-turned out guard as the pipers’ wonderful tunes were being played and again as they marched off was the thrill of my life. On several occasions, Colonel Horsfall hid behind some bushes overlooking the parade. One morning, he said to Rodney Cockburn: ‘He should be an RSM’….”