18th January 1944

My Dearest Olive,

No letters have arrived from you during the past few days, but some mail is expected tonight so I am living in hope. The weather has improved enormously and it is now quite pleasant. Most the snow having melted, although it is very wet underfoot. However we are lucky in that although we are close to the enemy, we have quite comfortable billets which makes matters very much better for the men after returning from patrol work etc. Coy headquarters are in fact living very comfortably, the only mishap occurring when a shell made a direct hit on our house. It made rather a mess of my bedroom but there was no other damage. It was only in the afternoon and I was sitting in the next room trying to make up my mind as to whether to return for an afternoon nap, which I sometimes do as I am up and about a good deal during the night. Fortunately, I had not done so, as otherwise I would not have been in a very happy state. This is the second time I have had an escape of that nature. However, on the whole, he leaves us very much alone as he usually gets 10 back to everyone he sends across.

Fusilier T Atkins at Castel di Sangro in January 1944 (courtesy of the War Museum in Castel di Sangro).

I believe there have been a good many complaints at home that progress in Italy is very slow. It is very easy to fight a campaign from an armchair but people do not realise the conditions out here – the narrow fronts, the few decent roads, and the mountainous country which makes defence so easy. In addition, there are numerous rivers and the Germans have carried out a big programme of demolitions and this war, of course, depends more than ever on the means of getting our transport forward. The miscalculation most people made was to think the Germans would not fight in Italy or at any rate south of the River Po. As it is, they have put up the most determined resistance and we are continually having to break through carefully prepared defence lines which are aided by natural barriers and because of the nature of the country, it is impossible to employ more troops. It is absurd to compare our advance with that of the Russians because of the nature of the country.  Further north we should be very much better off.

I have written to Lloyds telling them to pay £10 extra into your account in February and that when my pay as a Major is credited to my account, to pay to your account £30 per month. This will mean a little over £7 per week for you which should ease the financial situation nicely. If you can manage to save any of that, do so darling, because one never knows what is going to happen and the money may be very useful.  However, I don’t want you to stint yourself, or Valerie on clothes, etc. I want you both to dress really well. By the way of fate, I am earning more than I am probably likely to in peace time and, I suppose, ironically enough, it is justified because it is one job I seem to be able to do really well. It is curious when one thinks of that in spite of my views I should be a good soldier, commanding a company interests me enormously and I am very glad that so far, I have managed to prove that not only was I a good training officer but that I am good in action as well. I must admit I would hate to go back to training. War is bloody, but the fact remains that there is a certain curious fascination and excitement in the whole business. Heaven knows how it will all end, but I hope it will not be too long before the three of us are united again.

I hope everything is alright with you, sweetheart. Do you see much of your Mother? I rather gather she is difficult at times. I hope you have managed to make some friends. Curious about the doctors. Your Uncle and Aunt seem to have been very good and I expect they are rather relieved over Kenneth being graded.

All my love and kisses to you both darling wife.



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