Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


23rd April 1944

23.4.44

My Dearest Olive,

I am writing this in the lounge of the hotel after having just got back from a couple of days with Jimmy Geddes. He is commandant of a Refugee Camp in a quiet little town. The Camp is filled mainly with Yugoslavs and there are several of them in this country. Apparently bitter enmity exists between the Royalists and the Partisans and they are kept in separate camps. You will not be surprised to hear that the Partisans are in far greater numbers and that Jimmy’s camp is a Partisan Camp. Most of the men had been fighting the Germans for the last couple of years and quite a number of the women have been doing the same. They are very good types, greatly superior to the Italians. The girls, for the most part, are fairly tall and have good figures and walk around with a free, athletic stride. They look to have character and Jimmy tells me that their behaviour is very good and they have a high standard of conduct. Of course, there is a lot of disease prevalent, and many of the women suffer from TB, due to the lives they have been leading.

Jimmy has not changed at all – he has put on some weight and now has quite a belly. He talks as much as ever and is just as hospitable and energetic as he has always been. The job with its organising and human contacts is ideal for him and, as he is due for a Majority, he is as happy as the day if long. He was delighted to see me, giving me a great welcome and we had some tremendous yarns.  He sends his love to you and thought Valerie was making great strides from her photo. Kathleen is very well – they had hoped to have another baby but, like us, it was a rush job and did not come off.

He did not know about my Majority as the CO and Magginis, when they had been with him a couple of months ago, always just referred to me as “Lawrie”. He told me that the CO had spoken very highly of me, saying that he had two really good Company Commanders, Jimmy Clarke and myself and that I was a glutton for work and for looking after my men and could not be persuaded to take a leave. Jimmy said I looked extremely well and thought I was putting on a little weight. He said I appeared to be bearing up under conditions better than anyone he had met so far. He said my dash was now probably tempered with a certain amount of caution and that he had always maintained that, if I survived the first couple of months of warfare, I would become an outstanding Coy Commander. He was quite flattering in this list of my qualifications – coolness, commonsense, drive, care of men and that I had such a sound tactical knowledge I could hardly make a mistake in that direction, although I felt that was a bit too optimistic an outlook. He saw no reason why I should not rise higher – well it is a big step to 2 i/c and then Bttn Commander but I am as ambitious as ever.  He regaled me with great tales of the various people he had browbeaten and outwitted. I could not resist a sly dig about Sgt Higgins and he took it in very good part and said he had always had a high opinion of Higgins’ possibilities and thought he might well make a good officer. I don’t agree with that but believe he may, with experience, become Sergeant Major. Jimmy said that he believed Dougie was not very successful as Adjutant of the 2nd and that although Dougie was his friend he did not really think him a good officer. Jimmy still has his “sleeping” habit and says he is liable to give absurd orders when under its influence, but otherwise he is very fit and I think he is happy at getting a job which he feels is safe.

I am glad I have had this leave, I was beginning to feel rather stale but now I feel full of life and energy and ready for anything.  Actually, I think there must be something unnatural about me. I am quite eagerly looking forward to getting back to the battalion to all my friends, my Company and all the many interests I have there. I have not got you and Valerie here so all my interests are bound up with the 1st. I am lucky to have fallen on my feet so well out here.  I am looking forward to a nice large pile of letters from you, darling, when I get back, and it will make some grand reading.

Look after yourself, darling, and don’t worry. Our immediate future appears quite good.

All my love and kisses to you and Valerie, dearest little wife.

Lawrence



 

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