29th January 1944

My Dearest Olive,

Today is a lovely, sunny day – quite warm and the snow clad mountains present a most beautiful sight. Except for an occasional spot of shelling, the scene is peaceful and none of the shells landed very close. People’s ‘near bomb miss’ stories will seem rather futile to the average infantryman who has continual near misses. The difference between good and bad never becomes very noticeable under such conditions. I never take any notice of shells landing near at hand, as such annoyances have simply become a matter of routine.

Castel di Sangro, January 1944.

I have had some trouble with Edward (Gibbon) again. He has become extremely nervous and is always worrying about our future operations…Two Germans were believed to have got into a tower and we just had to get them out and I told Edward to take down a section of his platoon and search the place. It was, I admit, a really nasty job but Plymen was out on another task and in any case had had most of the unpleasant work. Quite obviously, it was not a job a Company Commander to do such a task. If I had done it and got wounded, no sympathy would have been wasted on me but equally, obviously, an officer had to be there to organise and set an example…  As it happened, two fine lads volunteered to go up first and the Germans (if there had ever been any) had got away…

A Company Commander takes enough risks as it is, without adding unnecessary ones to his list and I knew perfectly well that if I had gone down, I would probably have finished up by going up first, not out of any special heroism, but simply because I feel bound to set an example. Edward has been complaining for a long time that he has been feeling ill through some nerve in his leg and so I arranged with the MO for him to see a specialist and he has gone back and I hear has been admitted to hospital, so I hope for his sake, it is cleared up.

I have had a letter from Denis Haywood. His posting as an instructor was ‘messed up’ and he expects to be back with the battalion shortly. He has had to revert to Captain and says in his letter, ‘once again you are my senior officer’, and offers me very hearty congratulations. He sends his love to you. I like Denis immensely, but curiously enough I have not missed him to any appreciable extent. Johnny’s death dried up something inside me and you and Valerie are the only people capable of arousing such a great emotion.

In a recent letter, you said you were very proud of me, darling. Well I am very proud of you, sweetheart. I think you have accomplished wonders. I was very anxious going off and leaving you with such responsibilities, but in my heart I knew you would surmount your difficulties and I think you have done splendidly. I will not say that I am particularly anxious to settle down in Nottingham after the war but it is nice to feel there is somewhere to go for a start before we decide on future plans. I just cannot see myself going back to the BUAN the thought of being an organiser with them after being a Major in the British Army is almost ludicrous.  However there is still a ‘row to hoe’ in the Army yet.

Look after yourself, precious, and remember I love you more than anything else in the world.

Some great big kisses for Valerie.



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