18th May 1944

From Lieutenant RD (Douglas) Room, C Company, 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers.


Dear Olive,

I have very sad news to give you.

Douglas Room

Yesterday morning, about quarter to eight, Lawrie died. I was about five yards from him when the shell exploded so was with him immediately. I am certain he was not conscious after he had been hit and so suffered no pain. He died in a few minutes. There is so little I can say to help you in your great loss but all my heart and sympathy is with you.

I think you would want to know exactly what was happening, what he was doing and feeling immediately before it happened. Our company was one of the leading ones in an attack. We had moved up on foot overnight and, just before light, were lying up in a sunken road. Lawrie had been away to see the CO and he came back just after light to give us our orders.

There was a lot of noise going on and quite an amount of stuff flying about. But he was so calm, sitting on the edge of a ditch with his map, telling us what was to happen. So calm that he steadied us all just at the time when we needed it. Frank Higgins was commanding one of the platoons and Jimmy Trousdell the other, and myself the third. At seven o’clock, the barrage started and at sixteen minutes past, we moved off. Lawrie was magnificent, quite beyond praise.

He seemed to move everywhere with his tin hat on the back of his head and tommy gun slung over his shoulder. He was with me a good deal to begin with and then went over to the right. A few minutes later, I saw him walking back towards me and as he came near me, he grinned and, at that moment, the shell fell. I went to him immediately but there was nothing I could do. I spoke to him but it was obvious that he was unconscious. I think that you would like to know also that he was in no way disfigured. That was the worst moment I have ever had. There was nothing I could do but take over the company. He would have been happy that the attack was quite successful.

I’m still numb about it and am very grieved. He was such a wonderful officer and the men loved him. He understood them so well and was so wholehearted in his genuine liking for them, cheered them up and gave them courage. When things were difficult, they knew he would be there and merely in being there helped them. So many of the men yesterday and today have spoken to me and said some wonderful things about him and have shown their greatest affection and respect for him.

Just what I have lost as a friend, I cannot begin to put into words and hardly dare think. In some ways, it seems such a little time since I first knew you both in Ballykinler, yet having had that great quality that made him a lifelong friend. I know that, since he came to our company, he has been happy with us all and there are many memories, tricks of speech, odd little happenings, the way he walked, so many that they would fill many pages. I always felt the happier when he was there and he has helped me so much and given me courage.

Frank Higgins was wounded in the leg a short while after but not seriously. Fellowes, I know, is very upset. Lawrie will be buried this morning in a cemetery and I will go and see his grave at the first possible opportunity.

If there is anything I could do or tell you which will be of any help, please let me know.

Do believe that you have my deepest sympathy and that I share very sincerely in your sorrow.

With much love from Douglas.


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