Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

19th April 1944


19.4.44

My Dearest Olive,

I am writing this sitting on the balcony of a hotel gazing out at the sea – the sun is pleasantly warm and the sea looks very blue. From this, you can conclude that I am having my first leave since I joined the battalion. As I told you in previous letters, I did not want to go but Dicky Richards, back from his course, was fresh and very keen to come up and relieve me for a short spell.  I declined a couple of offers to go back for a break but the CO rang through one afternoon and said that Dicky was coming forward with the rations that night and bringing his kit so I had better go back for 2 or 3 days rest. At present, there is a very strict rule that the Coy Commander and 2 i/c must not be in a forward area together. So, as I had already sent my platoon commander back for a rest, my conscience was fairly clear so I agreed to go to ‘B’ Echelon for a short break. About an hour before I was due to leave, the CO rang through again and said, “You know Jimmy (Geddes) the Red don’t you Lawrie, well you are going on 7 days leave to —–, good night,” and hung up without giving me a chance to reply. Subsequently, when I got back to ‘B’ Echelon the 2 i/c of the battalion told me that the plot was hatched about 24 hours before, but they decided to say nothing to me until the last moment in order that I would not have time to think up an excuse. I am rather glad my hand was forced because I was beginning to feel somewhat stale and I think the break will do me a lot of good, and already I am thinking up fresh ideas and things I will do when I return. 

Most unfortunately, Jimmy moved to another area about 70 miles away only a few weeks ago.  It is a great pity, as he would have undoubtedly given us a grand time as he has to several others of the Bttn including the CO and he had sent up repeated messages asking when I was coming down.  However, I have a truck with me so I sent off a note to his people and if the reply is favourable, as it is certain to be unless he is away, I will go down on Friday and stay a day or so with him. I would certainly like to see him again and we will have tremendous amount to say to each other. 

My partner in crime here is Capt Cammiade, the I.O. “Cammy” is an excellent chap – 31 years, half French, and very witty and intelligent. The hotel we are staying at must have been a very luxurious affair in peace time, and it has been taken over by the British authorities and is run as a hotel for British Officers.  “Cammy” and I share a room with two extremely comfortable beds, a wash basin, with hot and cold water, with all the peace time amenities one had almost forgotten about. Last night I slept like a log.  The service is quite good and apart from the number of people in uniform the atmosphere is completely non military. Run by our own people, the prices are very reasonable, 2/6d for a bed, 1/- for breakfast, 2/6 lunch, 2/6 dinner. I was looking around today to see what I could buy you but the town seems sucked dry. The shops are very empty, however, and when I know my way around a bit more I may be able to pick up something useful.

Today we saw Florence Desmond and Kay Cavendish in an ENSA show. It would have been rather indifferent but for Florence Desmond. They are staying at this hotel and, as is usually the case, do not appear quite as attractive off the stage. FD, in fact, looks distinctly bad tempered and rather older than I anticipated, especially in the morning. Kay Cavendish is quite attractive and very smart but I would not change either of them for you for one solitary moment, precious. I only wish I had you here with me.

You remember Mills at Omagh. I don’t think you liked him very much. I ran into him today, and he said he has been out since December and is engaged in some special work but remembering his ability to “shoot a line” I imagine it is probably some very ordinary kind of work.

Fellowes and Jarvis are both here at Rest Camp on leave. I have not seen them since we arrived but imagine they are having a good time.  Fellowes has not had a leave since he became my batman and he well deserves one – he always places my interests first and gets me the best of what is going. Jarvis has had quite a grim time recently. It is no joke being a Coy Command runner in action and he is extremely good, very cool and absolutely dependable.  He anticipates my every move which saves a lot of trouble.  He is very popular in ‘C, and everyone likes him immensely. 

I hope everything is going well for you darling. I would dearly love to see Valerie now – she sounds fascinating from your letters and I very much like reading about all her doings and sayings.  

All my love and kisses to you both, sweetheart. 

Your devoted husband.

Lawrence



 

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