February 1944

At the start of February 1944, the Faughs were relieved by Polish forces from their defensive duties in and around Castel di Sangro and, after a period in reserve, the whole Irish Brigade were transferred across to the 5th Army front, along with the rest of 78 Division. There was expectation that they would soon be taking part in offensive action near to Cassino.

In his letters home during the month to his wife Olive, Major Lawrence (Lawrie) Franklyn-Vaile describes this period of rest, as well as continuing to keep up with all the latest news from his family on the home front.

After a number of newly posted senior officers join the Faughs in late January/early February, Lawrie relinquishes command of B Company, much to his disappointment, but after two weeks of mounting frustration, the month closes with Lawrie telling his wife that he was now to take over command of C Company.

3rd February 1944.

“…We have been relieved from out positions and are now back having a brief rest and doing some training. It is a pleasant change and something of a relief for, although the physical strain was not great, the mental strain did become very considerable. One always had to be on alert against possible mishaps, and I don’t think I had a proper nights sleep during the whole time….”

6th February 1944.

“…Received your letter of 29/1 darling. I am glad Valerie is in such grand form, and it would be marvellous to see her again and I expect I would notice some very big differences. Sorry this has been rather a dismal letter, darling, but I think you can well understand….”

8th February 1944.

“…I had a very nice thing said to me yesterday. I said to one of the Coy Signallers, ‘Well, how are you, Hampton?’ and he replied, “Feeling very sick, Sir, at you no longer being Coy Commander, Sir.’ So I admitted that I was feeling a little sick about it as well and had indeed seriously thought of applying for a transfer to another Coy and he said, ‘Don’t do that, Sir, we would all hate to lose you’….”

11th February 1944.

“It is six months today since I left you at Saltfleet and it certainly seems very much longer. An enormous amount has happened in that time, yet the picture of our last day together at Saltfleet stands out very clearly in my mind. I dearly wish we were together again, and miss you a tremendous amount but perhaps the time may not be too far distant when we are together again….”

16th February 1944.

“…We had a certain amount to do with the Poles recently. Their anti-Russian bias is most marked. As many of them introduce it into the conversation at the earliest possible moment, one suspects that it is done deliberately, and a lot of them speak quite good English. From a social viewpoint, I prefer them to any of our other Allies I have met. Their manners are very good, and their conversation, apart from Russia, quite interesting and intelligent and they impress as being hard headed and good soldiers….”

19th February 1944.

“…We have a new Brigadier – he commanded this battalion when they came out to N. Africa so you can probably guess who I mean. He and the CO are, of course, very great friends, and they have been together for some considerable time. The new Brigadier came round at yesterday’s match against the London Irish. He asked me when I had come out here and when I left the ITC….”

22nd February 1944.

“…A much awaited for event occurred yesterday when Valerie’s photo duly arrived. I was delighted to receive it and very pleased indeed with the photo. I think she looks absolutely lovely and everyone very much admired her. I was amazed at how much she had developed. I still visualized her as the little girl I left behind in Saltfleet and I think she has come on in extraordinary fashion since I left home…”

24th February 1944.

“Once again I am Company Commander – this time I have taken over command of ‘C’ Coy. The ex-commander of this Company, one of the three senior officers who recently joined the battalion has gone to a higher appointment….”

29th February 1944.

“….The weather has been extremely wet of late with almost continual rain and we are knee deep in mud, but this afternoon for the first time for some days the sun is shining.  Progress seems very slow at the moment, but it is no doubt affected by all this rain which makes conditions so difficult to move in. I had no idea an Italian winter could be so unpleasant….”

Faughs’ officers, February 1944.

Lieut Howard, Lieut Manson, Lieut Hanssen, Lieut Lloyd, Unknown, Lieut Coetzee,Lieut Thomason,Lieut Room,Unknown,Unknown.

Unknown, Lieut Broadbent, Lieut Richards,Captain Cammiade,Captain Brown,Unknown, Father Kelleher, Captain Franklyn-Vaile, Captain Hodsoll, Captain Kentish.

Major Heidenstam, Captain Collis, Captain Bass, Major McNally, Major Holmes, Lt-Col Dunnill, Captain Clark,Lieut Maginnis, Major Dawson, Major Clarke, Captain Kentish.

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