17th December 1943

My Dearest Olive,

Received an airmail dated 28/11, which actually arrived several days after the one written on the 9/11. Today, two letters arrived from Susan – one written on the 31/10, the other an airgraph written when she heard I was in hospital. She says she wishes I was near enough for her to make me a Madeira cake – so do I, and it would be very acceptable. She gives me some of the Omagh news, apparently Mack has departed to the Queens’ OTC and someone by the name of Hynes has taken his place. GC is supposed to be expecting to be out here shortly, I should not give him a week in front line conditions. In any case, I am certain he will never arrive here – he will find some cosy job on the way up. It is an absolute scandal the way people are able to do this and there is a lot of feeling on the matter – decent fellows like Dicky Richards carry on throughout and these swines pick up soft jobs on the way out. All the base depots are full of them. I have had a letter from Mrs. Glennie and another one from Muriel. I think it is giving them some satisfaction to feel they still have someone they can write to. The mother is very broken up by what happened and I should imagine it is made all the worse in Ireland by the fuss everyone makes.

(NA 9920): View of the bridge and River Moro valley, as seen from the West. Copyright: © IWM. 

Something to remember – at one stage of the Sangro battle I must have been the most forward man in the British Army. Towards the end, when we were on the ridge, the CO told me to place a section right forward overlooking the next river (Moro). I went forward with my runner to recce the position and sitting on the slope looking down on the German ‘lines’, it suddenly occurred to me that as the ‘Faughs’ were at that time the spearhead of the 8th Army, I was presumably right in advance of anyone else – a curious position. Of course, there was no actual danger unless some snipers were about because we had already pushed them on to the other side of the river and the only danger was if they spotted me and put across a few mortar bombs. It was an interesting experience looking down on their positions from comparatively close quarters.

Over the last couple of days, I have been defending five individuals in a Court Martial – all charged with ‘desertion in the face of the enemy’. All five asked for me rather to my annoyance as I had plenty of other things I wanted to do but the CO adopts the view that if an officer is asked for, he should do the job if humanly possible. Out of curiosity, I asked each man why he had requested me as Defending Officer and got the sort of replies, ‘I served under you at Ballykinler, Sir,’ ‘I served under you at Omagh, Sir’. ‘All the chaps say you’re very good at it, Sir’, (a gross exaggeration). ‘The chaps say you give us a fair deal, Sir’. Under the new system, all the cases are conducted at the 8th Army Court Martial Centre, so I had two days in quite a fair sized town (Campobasso) and as Dicky Richards and ‘Pixie’ Brown were there on leave, we had quite a decent time. A number of “Skins’ officers were also there and a rather wild party was held at a hotel.  Dicky and I retired at about 10pm and it was a good job we did so, for the party became extremely wild and a portion of the place was smashed up and the Brigadier is absolutely furious. The wild Irish!

At the moment, we are making preparations for Xmas which we should be able to spend in peace. It should be quite a good affair for the battalion. Although, I have been 4 years in the Army it will be the first Xmas we have spent apart, darling, and let’s hope it will be the last.

The CO had a talk with me on promotion. He told me he is expecting, with very mixed feelings, the arrival of a number of senior officers from England but he said that, unless they were either very senior or of outstanding ability, I will obtain ‘B’ Coy and be promoted Major. So I am rather ‘sweating’ on their arrival as the saying goes and am hoping for the best. At present, the Company is going along in fine style.

We have a gramophone in the Mess and I am rather teased because of my fondness for the record ‘My Blue Heaven’. Remember the refrain ‘Just Molly and me and baby makes three’.  Jimmy Clarke always says to anyone coming in ‘Just you watch the look in old Lawrie’s eyes when we put on ‘My Blue Heaven’.

Well, sweetheart, I wish it was the three of us together, I hope it will be before too long.

You ever loving husband


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