12th December 1943

My Dearest Olive,

Two airmails dated 25/11 and 9/11 arrived; also a surface mail enclosing letters from Mother and the snap of Valerie and Roger arrived a couple of days ago. It was a pity Valerie was taken side face. I quite agree with your remarks about Mother’s requests to help Pat. Why she herself should help I cannot understand – surely Tapley cannot be so hard up and his own family is a large one. If Mother herself was in need, I would not hesitate but I cannot see why I should send money to be passed on to Pat when you may well need every penny in the future. Hence, I am taking ‘no action’, a favourite Army phrase. Today, I received four airgraphs from them, three from Mother and one from Helen. This was in answer to my airgraph sent from the battalion. Apparently this is quite a good means of communication with Australia as there is no airmail service. The letters were written between 15/11 and 27/11. Helen says she is very happy indeed and looking forward to the day they will visit us, she says Mother worries rather more now she knows I am out here but that is only natural. Mother however wrote quite cheerful letters and is very anxious to hear from you. Please do write, darling: after all she is my Mother and it would be a long time for her to hear if anything did happen to me. If anything ever did, let her know as soon as possible.

We have got quite comfortable billets and are having a decent break. Eight of us have established a very pleasant Mess in an Italian house with a nice roaring fire to sit beside and with a gramophone and some good food and sleep, we feel very different men from a few days ago. Denis (Haywood) has just left to become an instructor at the Allied School of Infantry. Not a bad job and a pleasant change for him. The battalion had to provide an officer and the CO thought that as Denis has had a long spell of fighting, he deserved a break. Personally, I am rather happy with the battalion and it would take a lot to drag me away. I still miss poor Johnny (Glennie) a terrible lot but get on very well with most of the officers in the battalion and seem to be rather popular. Edward (Gibbon) told me a couple days ago that my action in returning so quickly after being wounded was very greatly admired and very favourably commented upon. He also said I had the most amazing gift of getting the best out of my subordinates. He said he has never met an NCO or man who has served under me who has not got the utmost praise for me. Incidentally he is returning to me as my 2 i/c.

Major Jimmy Clarke (second from left) in January 1944.

I am very friendly with Jimmy Clarke (Major Jimmy Clarke). He studied at Cambridge University and had just qualified as a barrister. He has a most brilliant mind and very ‘left’ in his opinions. He has been with the battalion for about 2 years and has done extremely well out here, and is now a Major commanding ‘D’ Coy. We do not always agree in our views and have some grand arguments and as he has a very keen sense of humour, we get on famously.

I have just had another letter from Muriel Glennie. She is very anxious to get in touch with you so I hope you have written. Denis thought her first letter was a wonderful effort under the circumstances and that she must have a very fine character. I hope we see them one of these days. Poor Johnny, I have just written his obituary for the ‘Faughs’.

Benton Blood, Dougie and the people they were with are wiped out. They were in the Leros affair (2 RIrF) and the best we can hope for is that they have been taken prisoner. Bob Ambrose was also with them. I gather the battalion has been written off as a dead loss. I don’t think there is anyone else we knew with them. Good job I did not agree to go to them 2 years ago.

Very glad you are settling down nicely and my darling is coming along in such fine style. I would dearly like to see you both again.

All my love and kisses, dear heart


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