The start of December 1943 saw Captain Lawrence (Lawrie) Franklyn-Vaile taking part in the Irish Brigade’s advance north of the Sangro river to San Vito and onto the River Moro. For a short while during this period, he takes over command of A Company as several of their officers become casualties.
In Lawrie letters home to his wife, Olive, he describes the desperate realities of the advance towards the River Moro, when at one stage the Faughs were the spearhead force of the 8th Army’s progress northwards. His letter home dated 6th December perfectly encapsulates the experiences of an infantry unit in the front line, and is clearly written under the most trying of circumstances.
The Irish Brigade are replaced in the front line by Canadian forces, who will soon face some desperate fighting of their own at Ortona. After coming out of the line, Lawrie takes over command of B Company as the Faughs are able to spend two weeks in relatively benign conditions well behind the front line in central Italy. After some days of rest, Lawrie’s letters re-focus on Olive’s life in England, and he also describes some of the social activity of the battalion, including cross country running. He is acutely aware that his command of A Company may be subject to change if more senior officers are posted to the battalion in the New Year.
The Faughs are able to spend a relatively restful and comfortable Christmas period and Lawrie describes a day of relaxation and occasional libation spent with his comrades and friends across the battalion. Positive spirits are most certainly the order of the day.
At the end of December, the Faughs are moved forward to positions near to Castel di Sangro and encounter blizzard conditions as they start to face the realities of being overlooked by German defensive strong points in the mountainous area to the north.