31st January 1944

My Dearest Olive,

Mail arrived last night and we eagerly waited for the sorting, three letters came from you 15/1, 17/1, 18/1 also the ‘New Statesman’ etc. Letters certainly play a most important part in one’s life out here.  I think it would be a wise plan to have Valerie immunised – in these times it is not worth taking any risks.

You ask about German atrocities. Of course one does not actually see them, one inevitably finds an enormous amount of damage in the wake of the Germans but that is sometimes done by our shelling and bombing. The language problem makes conversation with the Italians very difficult and, in any case, one can never tell whether they are telling the truth or simply putting it on for sympathy. My impression, after several months, is that actual atrocities are comparatively few.

SCORCHED EARTH IN CASTEL DI SANGRO (NA 9668) Original wartime caption: A view of some of the ruins in the town Copyright: © IWM. 

The Germans do conscript all available men for work and often take them away. When retiring, they take with them every possible scrap of food and all livestock, but I would scarcely call that an atrocity. A small boy who often comes to my Coy HQ is supposed to have had his father taken away and his mother shot, while the Italians tell us that many of those who resisted the Germans were locked in the houses and blown up with the houses. Certainly there is ample evidence that the houses were destroyed but I have not found any bodies although I have not looked far for them. I gather from fairly reliable sources that they usually behave quite well, until just before leaving a place and then there is sometimes something of an orgy of shooting.

You mention about added responsibility. Yes, being a Company Commander in action is no joke – the strain at times is very considerable, but nevertheless I would not change it for one minute.  Responsibility definitely does stimulate me and I am deeply interested in what I am doing. I like handling men and usually seem to manage to get a good deal out of them. Having this responsibility was just what I needed after Johnny’s death – it took my mind away from brooding too much over him. An Artillery Officer, who has been attached to us for the past month says that he has been attached at one time or another to practically all the battalions in the Division and he has never met such a cheerful, high spirited crowd of fellows as in ‘B’ Coy.

We are now having lovely sunny days, as if it was April or May at home but for certain reasons are unable to enjoy them to the full extent. The nights are still very cold and very long, and it gets dark shortly after 5 and it is not light until nearly 7.

The Russians continue to do great work. The advance from Leningrad is highly satisfactory and arousing a great interest among the men. Those Poles who think we are going to fight Russia after the war with Germany is over are in for a horrible shock. The ‘Eight Army News’, a very good little paper, published daily is very pro-Russian and often has excellent articles about re-construction after the War. A lot of people out here wonder what’s going to happen about the Middle East afterwards. I suppose the prospective Second Front is causing a lot of discussion at home. There are apparently plenty of troops available and it may come fairly soon. Progress in Italy is still slow but the landing south of Rome seems to be going ahead nicely and should have a good effect.

I am looking forward to the arrival of Valerie’s photos. Fellowes, my batman, has sent one of those photos of Valerie and myself home to his people. He is a splendid lad, and I never need worry about my kit, as he knows far better than I do what is there.  Everyone likes him and envies me.

Well, darling little wife, look after yourself and try and get some fun.

Some great big kisses for Valerie and all my love to you both.



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