19th February 1944

My Dearest Olive,

Am writing this letter with a new pen which Fellowes bought for me this morning. I lost my old pen a few weeks ago and have been existing on his, until this one arrived. It cost 250 lire which equal 12/6d. Two letters arrived from you this afternoon dated 6/2 and 8/2. Very sorry that you have had a touch of lumbago again – look after yourself, darling, you are very precious to me.

It is hard to know what to suggest regarding a birthday present for Valerie, because I do not quite know what you can obtain at home. I think the best plan is for you to buy whatever you consider most suitable, tell her it is from Daddy, let me know how much it costs and I will let you have the amount. Try and buy something really worthwhile, and I don’t mind if it costs £2 or more. I wish I could be with you both now, as she must be very adorable in her funny little ways. Naturally, there is bound to be a certain amount of shyness when I return, but the fact that you have kept me in mind with her will make an enormous difference and will enable us to become very good friends quickly.

At a Company football match this afternoon, the CO during a conversation with me said, “If a certain adjustment takes place in  the Brigade during the next few days, as I anticipate it will, I will be able to give you back command of a Company, Lawrie”.  He went on to say that he would give me command of “B” and Collis could go to another Company as he knew how attached I was to “B” Coy. Very nice if it takes place and I will be delighted to get command of my old Company again as I am rather bored with being 2 i/c, but I will endeavour not to count too much on it as sometimes these adjustments, whatever they may be, do not occur.

I think the CO has rather a soft spot for me, and it is curious how one gets an affection for a man one has fought beside, and ever since the day the Germans broke through in the centre and endangered Bttn HQ and I launched the counter attack with my depleted Company which saved the situation, we have got on extremely well together. The other day, a number of us were discussing that dramatic day when the CO turned to me and said, “I thought I had seen the last of you, Lawrie old boy, when you went up that hill”.

(NA 15652):  Major General C.F. Keightley, Commander 78 Division ( right) with Brigadier T.P.D. Scott, DSO., Commander, 38 Irish Brigade, and other officers. Copyright: © IWM. 

We have a new Brigadier (Scott) – 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.  He did not think much of the 30th Bn during the short time he spent there after McCarthy’s departure, but I told him it greatly improved under Burke-Murphy’s rule.

I met Williams, who was Dental Officer at Ballykinler in late 1940 and early 1941. You remember he wore spectacles. We had quite a chat and I was able to tell him about various people.  He was very interested to hear about Valerie and sent his kindest regards to you.  He has been out in the Middle East since 1942. Douglas (Room) is still going strong and is at the moment sitting opposite me at a table reading a ‘Punch’, both of us endeavouring to read and write by aid of a rather dim hurricane lamp in a farm house which “B” and “C” Coy officers are sharing as a mess. The Germans carried out a systematic destruction round here, every upper story roof of buildings, no matter how small has been removed.

If letters are rather irregular for a time, don’t worry, circumstances often prevent a good postal service. Tell your Uncle Harry I was pleased to see Major Buckley has gone to Notts County. Things ought to look up for them.  A large parcel of papers arrived from Jim Lawrence.

All my love and kisses to you both, my dearest sweetest wife. I have always loved you more than anything in the world.



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