16th February 1944

My Dearest Olive,

Received a letter dated 4/2 from you a couple of days ago. I hope, by this time, you have completely recovered from your lumbago, as it must have been very painful and a confounded nuisance.  We had quite a pleasant time in the town in which we were staying – several parties took place and some of our officers did quite well for themselves with the local girls.  The CO pulled my leg about it the other night. He said, ‘I think you must be the most faithful married man of all, Lawrie, I did not see you engaged once.  However, wait until you have been out here a few months longer’. Nevertheless, I don’t think the extra months will tempt me. I have a charming wife and daughter and I am waiting to rejoin in England some happy day.

We gave the Sergeants a very good party in return for the one we received from them on Christmas Night.  Our own Sergeants in ‘B’ Coy received quite a good deal from our hands and towards the end, some of their remarks about the new boy Commander became rather personal and a certain amount of ‘hushing’ was necessary. Frank (Higgins), in particular, came out with one very amusing crack under the influence of Italian ‘vino’ and fortunately was not heard beyond our immediate circle.  Incidentally, he has done very well since his promotion and Plymen, his platoon commander, thinks very highly of him and always has a talk with him whenever they meet.

I ran into Jones the other day. I was out on a route march and suddenly heard a voice, ‘Mr Vaile, Mr Vaile’, and there was Jones seated in a truck. He is now a driver with the Royal Coy of Signals, and is quite a nice job which well satisfies him. I also had a long talk with Porter the other day, and he is still just the same and asked to be remembered to you.

Sgt Payne who was in all three of my Companies at Omagh has just arrived here. He told me that Tom is, of course, discharged from the Army but although he lost his right arm he made a magnificent recovery and very quickly learnt how to write with his left hand. He was just as cheerful as ever when he visited the ITC after being discharged from hospital  The place is more ‘Skin’ dominated than ever, apparently. When Payne and Moyle returned from a drill course in which they had done very well, Col Heard congratulated them and said he wished they were ‘Skins’ NCOs!  Moyle has gone to the 6th Bttn. They had a daughter. Payne said to me, ‘With all due respect, Sir, the Company was never the same after you left, the NCOs never took to the other Company Cmder in the same way and there was not the spirit. Shale and Byron are both Sergeants, but Slowley when warned for a draft ‘went sick’ and apparently, they vowed they would never get him onto a draft.  Comment is superfluous  John Corbertt is still the Adjutant.

I am sending by surface mail a photo we had taken of the officers a few days ago. It is a shocking photo and makes us look like a bunch of crooks. The officers of the battalion are not quite as ugly as depicted, but you will just see how few of the ‘old hands’ are still here. Dawson has left the Bttn but he was staying in the same town and I thought it rather cheeky on his part to push himself into the photo, especially the front row. Incidentally, I am the only rifle Company officer still with the same Company as when we came into Italy!  In addition, Dicky Richards and I are the only two rifle Coy officers still with the battalion since we arrived in Italy, so you can get some idea of the changes that have taken place.

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. They are certainly anxious to have a ‘go’ at the Germans. One of them told me that the finest fighting troops he has met in his experience, which included Poland 1939, France 1940 and the Middle East, since then were the Australian 9th Division and he did not know I was an Australian.

I am quite well, a little bored at being 2 i/c after being Coy Cmd.  The tactical side always interests me much more than administration.

Look after yourself precious, I am eagerly awaiting the day when I return to you and Valerie.

All my love and kisses to you both, darling



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