My Dearest Olive,
Received your letter dated 30/3. I don’t quite know how your cousin has managed to buy all the articles he apparently does. Did you say he was in the RASC ? If so, that presumably accounts for a lot as naturally they get around very much more, as the last time I saw a town was when I visited Naples with Douglas early in February. Since then, the only towns I have seen have been almost devoid of life. I am glad you agree with me over the shoddy articles, I certainly do not feel like buying indifferent articles at the scandalous prices which are demanded. It is a disgraceful state of affairs that we conquer the country for that is what it amounts to and then allow these miserable people to exploit us. As far as fighting is concerned, the Italians have been of no use whatsoever to us – in fact, most of our misfortunes seem to have occurred since they came over on our side. There was a very witty poem along these lines in “The Eighth Army News” the other day.
One heard a lot about the glories of Fascism and the magnificent new manhood being reared. Naples impressed me as a decadent city, but the façade was hollow beneath the glittering sham. The shops were full of luxury goods of very poor quality – sweetmeats were abundant but one saw scarcely any substantial foods, and the streets were crowded and, on the whole, the people were reasonably well dressed but occasionally one saw some shocking malformations. The city is, of course, absolutely rife with VD, and every few yards some old man would sidle up and whisper, “Me got sister, 17, very nice”.
You will smile at my innocence but for a long time I could not make out what they were saying, with my ear not being very quick as you know, and thought they were begging. The Via Roma is a magnificent thoroughfare and the Bay with its two distinct halves is very beautiful. In the distance, Mt. Vesuvius presents a superb sight long to be remembered when it was in eruption, and the whole sky was lit up in the most glorious fashion. I saw very little damage, indeed, and we gathered quite an extensive area. It is one of the few cities that has had electricity restored and expect that there are no trains or trams and life seems to function fairly normally.
I hope you were listening to the 8 o’clock News this morning. It gave a very graphic description of condition on the Cassino Front. The broadcaster said how “Nothing to report” gives a completely wrong impression in people’s minds. He described the ordinary night routine – the mule trains, the Jeeps coming forward loaded with rations, water, mail, etc, the unloading in the dark, the almost continuous sound of machine gun fire, the artillery and mortar duels as the Germans try to put crumps down on our positions and our supply routes and we, of course, do the same with them. The patrols going out into “No man’s” land, and all this occurs every night even when the official communiqué says “Nothing to report” and it is always a time of anxiety, excitement and strain.
You know how I have always tended to worry a good deal and anticipate events, but now I have developed quite a calm philosophy and just refuse to get anxious or excited over things. The CO has two great sayings, “Nothing is ever as bad as it seems”, and “Everything comes right in the end” and it is surprising how right he is. He is very fond of saying, “There are enough people worrying about this war as it is, without my doing so” and I have slowly tended to adopt that attitude. Added to that, I know my job pretty well by now and do not get easily thrown out of my stride. Neville Chance has had to go back for a rest as he refused to sleep at night with the result that his own nerves are very bad and consequently other peoples as well. The Adjutant said to me this morning, “Every time I ring you up, Lawrie, your Signallers always seems to say “Well, Sir, I think he is asleep, do you urgently want him?”. Of course, that is a gross exaggeration, but I still have a good routine and consequently keep fit and lively and the Company are all the steadier for it.
Let me know if the £40 was paid in alright this month. I should be glad to occasionally receive a good book and I think there are still some good Penguins published. I have just started “Claudius the God” after finishing “Disraeli” by Andre Maurois. You never sent me “War and Peace” by Tolstoy which I asked for many months ago. The papers arrive regularly. Would you like to send me a parcel containing toothpaste, toothbrush, Brylcreem, notepaper and envelopes? I don’t think there is anything else I require, and I have far more cigarettes than I need. I hope your cold did not develop darling, and that you and Valerie are both very well.
I miss you both very much indeed. All my love and kisses, it will be grand when we are together again.
Your devoted husband