26th December 1943

My Dearest Olive,

We have successfully got over Xmas and it has proved a big success. I was hoping for a letter from you, but none have arrived for the past few days – I hope everything is alright. A good deal of liquor has been consumed over Xmas. We had a very gay party on the night of my promotion, and the CO was in great form and he and Magginis “pulled my leg” a lot.

A magnificent dinner was provided on Xmas day – there was keen competition for the best dining hall, with each Company having their own. We were fortunate in having an artist in our Company and he made a very good job of the walls.

The CO was very pleased with the turnout when he paid his customary visit and Magginis told me afterwards that it was easily the best dining hall in the battalion. As old Magginis spends most of his time trying to tell me about the rotten state of “B” Coy, (all in good humour, of course), I was well satisfied with his remark.

Afterwards, we adjourned as usual to the Sergeants Mess but I was not quite in such a bad state when I returned. We had our own dinner about 7 and then in the evening, another very gay party took place in the Sergeants’ Mess. I must admit I was very merry and the CO was in terrific form.  He really is a grand fellow. About 2 am we adjourned to the Bttn HQ Officers’ Mess and I suppose it was sometime about 4 am that Jimmy Clarke and I successfully wended our way back to our own mess. I would not like it too often but once in a while does not harm especially in these conditions.

You remember Dawson at the 30th. He has just arrived here and has taken over command of “A” Coy.  He is full of talk about getting “into action”. Dicky Richards and I told him we did not mind if we never saw another shot fired in anger, so he said we must lack his adventurous spirit. I told him that once he had been in action, he would see precious little adventure about war. Have excellent friends killed and see fine chaps lose their lives and the adventure and romance seems singularly lacking.  Of course, John and I felt the same way when we first came out and used to wonder why people, some with decorations, talked as we talked to Dawson.

The CO said to me when we were by ourselves, “It’s a damned shame, Lawrie, these senior officers….coming out here now and my hand is forced over putting them in command of Companies. If this continues, I will go into action with Coy Commanders I know nothing about and have no confidence in”. I strongly agreed being a somewhat interested party.

Douglas Room has arrived back and is with the battalion. He looks quite well and is with “C” Company as a platoon commander. His people wrote and told him I was wounded.

Jimmy Clarke and Brian Clark spent 4 days in a town where Jimmy Geddes is stationed and had a very good time with him. He was just the same as ever and is very anxious that I should come and spend a few days there which with a bit of luck I should be able to do. Appalling stories seem to have got around about my wound. Jimmy G said to them “What a pity poor Lawrie Vaile had such a short stay with you”, and was amazed when Jimmy Clarke said, “What do you mean, he is very much in evidence at the present time”. Dawson told me that the story he heard when he was with the 5/Innis was that I had been badly wounded.  Apparently Huband and Tim Coughlin are fairly well dug in with the 7/R.U.R but they may well find themselves caught in the “Second Front” for which plans seem to be going ahead. I am glad the Russians have survived the German counterattacks. 1944 ought to see the climax.

I hope you had a reasonably good Xmas, darling. Next year Valerie should know what it is all about. All my love, precious, to you and a great big kiss for Valerie.

Your devoted husband,


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