My Dearest Olive,
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 (Heidenstam) who recently joined the battalion has gone to a higher appointment. I rather thought Collis might be changed over and I would remain with my old Company, but the CO, in his wisdom, decided otherwise and after about 24 hours of suspense, I was informed at midday that I was to take over ‘C’ Coy. I am sorry to part from the Company I have been with for so long and known the men so well, but ‘C’ Coy is a good Company and the people that matter seem to be pleased to have me. Dicky Richards is my second in command and I am certain that I could not ask for a better one, while Douglas (Room) is one of my platoon commanders. The other two are both South Africans, (Len) Manson and (Pat) Howard, both having plenty of fighting experience in the Western Desert, very sound fellows with that rather typical Dominion toughness. The men of ‘B’ Coy seem very sorry that I am departing but I felt I could not stay on much longer under existing circumstances. Collis simply took everything into his own hands and I just felt I had nothing whatsoever to do, which as you know does not suit me at all. The platoon commanders were very much in the same boat and Plymen, when he was offered a job at Brigade, promptly accepted it although, as he told me, he certainly would not have taken it under previous conditions. Now I feel again I have something to occupy myself and interest myself in.
Received a letter dated 16/2 from you today. It is good indeed to have a wife who can take the ups and downs of life in such good spirit. I don’t quite know how soon I am likely to regain my majority because the position is rather complicated by the fact that McNally is commanding ‘S’ Coy as a Major which means that one rifle Coy commander will have to be a Captain and both Chance and Collis are very much senior to me, so it looks as if I may have to wait a bit for the crown. However, except from the monetary standpoint I am not worrying too much about that. I also received a letter from Tyldesley – he tells me that the BU are making good progress and have big post war plans. He says they have divided the country into areas and started a system of Area Organisers. Barnett showed him the letter I had written to him on my experiences after the battle in which John was killed and Tyldesley seemed to think them rather and terrible.
The day before yesterday, I bought a doll for Valerie and three pairs of stockings for you – two pairs are supposed to be silk and the third half silk, half rayon. The first doll I fancied, I walked in and asked the price and was told 2,400 lire. In English money £6! Finally I got one for £1/10-, nothing extraordinary but quite pleasing to the eye. The stockings were also very expensive costing about £2/10-. The Pioneers have made me a box and all the articles are despatched with a duty free label. As the gift to Valerie was the largest, the box has been addressed to her. It will be something to show her that Daddy in Italy is thinking about her, and I will be interested to hear her reactions. I hope it does not take too long to arrive.
I went with Douglas and we had a very pleasant time together. Everything is shockingly expensive, and it is an absolute scandal the way prices are put up here. Handkerchiefs cost 15/-, a set of women’s underwear about £10 (ten pounds), silk pyjamas about £8 and so on ad lib. The Italians after fighting against us for over three years are now trying to make as much money out of us as they can. Douglas and I did a taxi tour and it was like a Laurel and Hardy film. The taxi chugged its way up a hill belching steam, the driver lost his way, it got dark and he had no lights and, even so, he would persist on driving while he turned talking to us. There was Douglas shouting at him, ‘Look at the road you bloody fool’ and the driver would grin and laugh at us as if he was receiving some compliment. Finally, he complained he could go no further so Douglas seized him and pushed him back into the car. Altogether, it was almost more dangerous than German bullets.
Look after yourself, darling, all my love and kisses to you and Valerie