“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.
That afternoon, the London Irish had an officers versus sergeants rugger match. I did not join in, as the last time I almost lost all my teeth. The sergeants paraded in all sorts of weird gear. Roy Prudhoe wore a dispatch rider’s crash helmet. The sergeants produced two Panther tanks stolen from the park of captured German vehicles. The officers retaliated by having our Army Co-operation Squadron dive bomb the match with smoke bombs. By this time, most clothes had been torn off and Prudhoe was left only with his boots and crash helmet. The Italian ladies watching seemed to be appreciative.
We had a sergeants’ mess party in the evening. I invited Father Dan who asked:
‘Is it going to be a blinder?’ I truthfully, but inaccurately, said no. The RSM asked me to provide two reliable mess waiters to serve drinks. I told them to look after the E Company sergeants. They delivered locally-produced gin and lime. The lime was thick and the gin strong. Soon people were passing out and I was one of them. I left the hall to go to the toilet. What happened after I do not know: perhaps I fell down the stone staircase. Anyway, I crawled into the party and, allegedly, my drunk companions playfully rubbed their boots on my face. I was taken home and put to bed by two officers. My face the next morning was a mass of open sores. One sergeant had walked through a plate glass window and was hospitalised. We later found out that much of the drink sold in Italy was made in a laboratory. We were lucky we were not poisoned. Two days later, an officer asked what I had done to my face.
‘Fell off a tank in the exercises, Sir.’ I replied.
‘Bloody liar. I put you to bed!’ he said.
I resolved never to touch a drink made with cordial and Italian gin.”