L/Cpl Mallon M.M. 17 Pl. ‘D’ Coy. – A Mad Hatter

Xmas 1943 saw our Battalion in reserve and resting on the outskirts of the town of Campobasso a few miles behind the forward positions of that sector of operations.  There had been a pretty heavy fall of snow and the weather was very cold.

The troops were sheltering in odd buildings which were generally uninhabitable because of war damage, but through “make and mend” some were made quite habitable. The boys had developed the art of scrounging to a high standard, particularly at finding wood etc. to get fires going to heat rooms up in the evenings. A number of 17 Platoon of which L/Cpl Mallon M.M. was a member had managed to make a large room in one of these houses quite cosy and had got a fire going around which they sat during the evening in a wide packed semi-circle. They were having an Xmas drink, enjoying the warmth of the fire, telling jokes and stories and, in general, feeling quite happy.

Mallon who had been out on duty, returned to find a party in festive mood and all packed close together,. He requested a seat where he too could sit and enjoy the fire etc. but no one was prepared to move. Mallon then left the room and some little time later returned and made a similar request as before, but no one was prepared to make way. Forcing his way through the semi-circle of bodies towards the fire, Mallon took a grenade from a pocket and chucked it into the fire and in a flash the room was empty and, in an instant, he removed the grenade from the fire (the pin had not been removed). Now he had the room all to himself, able to sit close to the fire and help himself to what ever booze was left.

I suppose you could call that a daring piece of initiative or a fool-hardy prank!