14th December 1943

Typed letter

A summary of each day will give you some sort of idea of what we went through. For several days we lay up in a concentration area right across to the artillery guns and the noise at times was deafening and we got very little sleep during that period.Then one night, we marched about 10 miles, waded across a river. It was icy cold in the middle of the night and about 2 miles the other side dug slit trenches and spent the remainder of the night in them.

(NA 9390) The wreckage of supply vehicles hit during an enemy air attack in the Sangro valley, 29-30 November 1943. Copyright: © IWM. 

DAY 1 (Nov 28th). We stayed in this area all day unable to move about much as we were close to the enemy and slowly our clothes dried on us.

DAY 2 (Nov 29th). We moved forward to an assembly area and were very heavily shelled and suffering a number of casualties. We stayed here all day and had a miserable night.

DAY 3 (Nov 30th). The big attack was launched and it was the day of very fierce fighting but we had an easy time regarding casualties. We took up positions on the ridge that night and as I was going back I slipped on a cliff and fell 40 feet which left me feeling rather sick for a time. I got no sleep that night.

DAY 4 (Dec 1st). We spent the day mopping up small enemy pockets of resistance and must have covered 20 miles over rough country.

Day 5 (Dec 2nd). Had managed to get most of the Company in farm buildings for the night but we had to move at 4 am. However a quiet day after we had “dug in” in the new area.

DAY 6 (Dec 3rd). I was sent for early in the morning to take command of “A” Coy as the Company Commander had been wounded. My new Coy was very depleted in strength and I spent the day reorganising them. That night we moved forward about 10 miles and took up positions on the ridge, the most forward troops of the 8th Army. No sleep again.

DAY 7 (Dec  4th). An incredible day. While we had gone up one side of the ridge the Germans had come up the other side and when dawn broke, the two armies faced each other with a very small distance in between. The most confused battle imaginable occurred, my Company was down below in reserve being the weakest in manpower. Suddenly, the Germans broke through in the centre and brought very heavy fire to bear on Battalion HQ. The CO sent for me and said “Take your Company up to ridge, Lawrie, and clean them off”. What an order and my God what an afternoon it was. They had managed to get well concealed positions and fired heavily upon us and we could not for a long time find where the fire was coming from. Finally we got to near close quarters with them and engaged in a fierce fire duel which ended in us killing and wounding most of the Germans. The CO was delighted but no more so than I was relieved. My batman told me a few days later that the men said I led them with great coolness and always went to the front myself. That night we dug in and again had no sleep.

DAY 8 (Dec 5th). A most unpleasant day. We were very heavily shelled and I had to go forward twice on most unpleasant recces made all the more unpleasant by the knowledge that we were to be relieved that night. However pulled through safely and at night fresh troops took our places but even as we marched back we were shelled, the Hun would not leave the Irish Brigade alone.

We are now well back resting and never has there been a rest more well deserved or appreciated. The “Faughs” have, as usual, put up a magnificent show but have suffered very heavily and many good friends of mine have gone.


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