Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


March 1944

March 1944 saw the Irish Brigade continuing a period of training near to the Volturno river. Whilst the brigade awaited the call to join any successful breakthrough near to Cassino, they were able to celebrate Barossa Day and St Patrick’s Day in customary fashion…

In his letters home this month to his wife, Olive, Captain Lawrence (Lawrie) Franklyn-Vaile is in positive mood and keen to keep up to date with news from the home front as well as sharing stories about many of the men that he and Olive had known from their time with the Faughs in Northern Ireland.

During the early part of month, Lawrie’s thoughts turned to family matters. On their 9th wedding anniversary on 9th March, Lawrie writes home to Olive:

“I think this is only the second time that we have spent our wedding anniversary apart, the other being in 1940 when I was at the ITC Bedford. I certainly hope that next year we will be together again. Well, we have had some fine times together and I am certain we will have many more in the future. Today, is very pleasant, fine and sunny and quite warm, a very great contrast to the same day in 1935.”

And then on 11th March, Lawrie is thinking of his daughter:

“I would certainly like to be at home with you today sharing in Valerie’s second birthday. I expect she is now able to realise the significance of the day and is having quite a good time. I hope she has got a few presents and that the doll I sent her will not be too long in coming. I think she will quite like it when the box arrives. I will be interested to hear her reactions…”


4th March 1944.

“…The weather here continues to be very wet, and a good deal of rain each day but the temperature is quite mild. We are not too badly off in our farm house, excepting it’s rather crowded and at night time we only have two hurricane lamps so that reading or writing is rather difficult. I managed to find a large farm building for my Company so that although they are somewhat crowded, they are very much better off than being out in the open in tiny tents on very wet ground and in the evenings we are able to have tombola quizzes, etc….”


9th March 1944.

“Nine years ago today, we were married and what a lot has happened since then. I think this is only the second time that we have spent our wedding anniversary apart, the other being in 1940 when I was at the ITC Bedford. I certainly hope that next year we will be together again. Well, we have had some fine times together and I am certain we will have many more in the future….”


11th March 1944.

“…During the last two days, each Company in turn has carried out quite a strenuous ‘Company in Attack’ organised by the CO. ‘A’ Coy did it first and did fairly well, ‘B’ Coy followed and put up an appalling show. I did not see it but everyone there said it was extremely bad, and the CO was furious and said that 80% of the Coy would have been casualties….”


15th March 1944.

“….Nothing much has happened during the past few days – there is slowly some heat getting into the sun but it is still very chilly at night time. We are mixing training and pleasure quite nicely and there is a cheerful atmosphere in the Company. Certainly, they always tackle any job wholeheartedly. Turner and two other NCOs in ‘B’ Coy reverted to fusilier at their own request recently and he is now across in this Company and doing very well…”


18th March 1944.

“…Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day which was duly celebrated. There was the usual church parade in the morning with all our officers as per custom attending the RC parade. Afterwards the Brigadier presented shamrock to the field officers – they only managed to get hold of that amount but subsequently we got sufficient for each officer….”


20th March 1944.

“….The CO had a long private talk with me about ‘B’ Coy. He said it hurts him to think that the Company he once commanded and has been such a good Company is now the worst in the battalion. I think he talked to me about it because he knows how attached I have always been to ‘B’ Coy and although I am now a great ‘C’ Coy man and very proud of my new Company, still I have a very soft spot for my old Company….”


24th March 1944.

“….I am writing this letter in the sun. It is a beautiful day, clear blue sky and the countryside is beginning to look very pleasant. The mountains, some of them snow topped, present a magnificent sight. It is very much a case of ‘All prospects please and only man is vile’. The thunder of our guns, the drone of our planes, and the heavy AA fire of the enemy all seems strangely incongruous under such surroundings. What a life….”


27th March 1944.

“….The shelling during the past few days has been absolutely incredible in its power and concentration. The whole 24 hours, our guns are thundering and just to make matters a little more pleasant the RAF periodically go over and drop their bombs, and the whole earth shakes for miles around. About the most amazing sight I have ever seen was our shells pouring into a certain town and the remainder of the town being shelled at the same time by the Germans….”


Olive Franklyn-Vaile.


 

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