9th December 1943

My Dearest Olive,

Already one is feeling very much better after a couple of days rest. I seem to be unable to completely get rid of these ‘desert’ sores, I have still got one on my hand and a painful one on my foot just by the instep which is very unpleasant with boots on but otherwise I feel quite alright.

I am now commanding ‘B’ Coy.  As I told you, I took over ‘A’ Coy in the middle of the battle and Dicky Richards told me today that when he was at Battalion HQ on the night following my action against the German MG posts he heard the CO say to the Adjutant, ‘I am very pleased with the way FV handled that Coy, he certainly made things get a move on’. After the battle was over, and as McNally was wounded,

I asked the CO if I might go back to command of my old Company as I knew and liked the men and got on very well with them. He readily acceded saying he had been thinking about making the change before I spoke to him as he knew I got on very well with ‘B’ Coy. So on Monday, I returned to ‘B’ Coy and they all seemed very pleased to have me back as their Coy Commander. How long I keep it depends on what reinforcements arrive among the officers. If some senior officers turn up, as may well happen, I will have to step down to 2 i/c again – otherwise I hope it will not be too long before the Majority appears.

It is pleasant to be commanding a Company again – it gives me a stimulation, and certainly there is plenty to do as I am the only officer in the Company and there is an enormous amount of re-organisation.

(NA 9393) Original wartime caption: Some graves of British soldiers with a blazing lorry in the background. Copyright: © IWM. 

It certainly has been a grim and fearful show. You have probably read in the papers how the 78 Div smashed the Sangro Line – well in actual fact it was 4 Armoured Brigade and the Irish Brigade. Once again, our people put up a magnificent show – the officers of the unit that finally relieved us said to me “’Well you guys have got a great reputation around here. I guess we have something to live up to”. I am glad to say that my talk with Edward did him a lot of good, and he put up an excellent show and supported me splendidly in ‘A’ Coy, and he did his very best. He said he was deeply grateful to me for my help. I was able to give him a very good report to the CO, and so he has gone back to his first love, the A/Tk platoon and regains his Captaincy. We are now in a rest area and are promised at least a month’s break (Castelnuovo) which is something to be thankful for. My Company is billeted in a school and I am sharing a room in an Italian house with (Major) Jimmy Clarke and Dicky Richards.

I am very pleased that you have at last secured a house. It is difficult to comment from here on the question of buying or renting, because I do not know the terms your uncle was prepared to offer.  I was rather favourable towards buying because we seem to have spent so much money on rents with nothing to show for it and I should imagine it will not be at all difficult to sell the house after the war if we wish. In fact, we will probably do so at a profit. The best plan is to let me know what are his terms for buying and what the likely upkeep of the house will be and then it will be easier to make a decision. However you are on the spot, and I feel the final decision should rest with you but I will advise as best I can when I know the facts. At any rate, the main thing is that you have some central base and it greatly pleases me to know that I will have a home of our own when I return too. Your uncle has been very good and I will write to him. It was quite alright about the cheque – I presume the total amount for the three cheques was £35.

Well, darling, I hope you are keeping well and not worrying too much. I know if must be very difficult when you read of all these actions occurring. We took a large number of German prisoners, actually quite a number were Poles who fought extremely hard for the Hun. Most of our fellows say the Russians can have as much of Poland as they want. I had the experience of suddenly coming around a house and running into 10 Germans. For the moment I did not realise they had already been disarmed and it was a nasty moment. I was just about to fire when their hands shot up and they frantically signified they wished to surrender. Was I relieved!

Give my darling Valerie a great big kiss and also a whole heap for her lovely Mother.

Good night, sweetheart


Read letter dated 12 December 1943.

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