During November 1943, Lawrence (Lawrie) Franklyn-Vaile continued his written dialogue with his wife, Olive, by sending twelve letters to her.
The start of the month saw the Faughs recovering from the heavy casualties suffered by the battalion at San Salvo, with large numbers of reinforcements joining up with them and James Dunnill taking over as commanding officer.
Lawrie returned to the battalion in the middle of the month as he continued to recover from the wounds he had suffered at San Salvo, but is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of so many of his close friends and comrades in October, particularly the death of John Glennie, who had joined up with the Faughs along with Lawrie during August 1943.
Lawrie continues to express concern with Olive’s financial position as well as making comments about the wider progress of the war, including the continuing good progress on the Eastern front.
In the last letter of the month written on the 28th, and updated on the 30th, Lawrie draws attention to the imminent actions to be undertaken by the Faughs, as part of the Irish Brigade’s wider assault across the Sangro River with the intention of breaking through the German Winter Line.
Fusilier Fellowes, Lawrie’s batman in Italy.
“It is nearly three months since I was fighting hard to restrain the tears on bidding farewell to you at Saltfleet. In actual fact, it seems very much longer. On the whole, I have been reasonably happy here, mainly because I was determined to look at my good fortunes rather than otherwise. I felt, well, we had 2 3/4 gloriously happy years together in N. Ireland, years which developed us both considerably and years which we had not had reason to anticipate when I precipitated myself into the Army on Oct 27th 1939….”
“I have just arrived back with the battalion. They wanted to evacuate me further back at the hospital but I protested most strongly and told the doctor I was far better back doing something other than just lying in bed thinking my thoughts, which were far from cheerful. He agreed that under the circumstances to let me return provided I took matters quietly, stopping the night at “B” Echelon with Maginnis. My wounds have virtually healed; they will now close of their own accord….”
“…I visited John’s grave yesterday afternoon and got a shock when I saw a few yards away the grave of Sgt Farbrother. He was wounded in the attack and I spoke to him the following morning as he was being brought in by stretcher and he said he was not feeling too bad – hence I thought he would recover. However, he had to have both legs and arms amputated so it was the best thing under the circumstances….”
“….My wounds are slowly healing up – the bit of shrapnel in the chest is working its way out. The arm still tends to be a little painful but is improving, although it was rather swollen last night. However, the MO says there is nothing to worry about but these things take time to heal completely…”
“…I re-joined the battalion proper yesterday and am back with my old company. The men seemed very pleased to see me, I have never courted popularity but a very firm bond was established that night between us. A considerable number came up and said how pleased they were to see me back with them. Amazing rumours get around – the story had got around that I was seriously wounded….”
“….We are taking matters fairly quietly at the moment, doing a spot of re-organisation and light training under our new CO. He is a very good fellow indeed, who has been out here since the start of the N. African campaign and has been wounded three times. His ideas are very sound and sensible and everyone is very glad to have him here – after the disaster of a couple of weeks back, we were wondering who we would get in charge….”
“…I did suffer terribly and I am still suffering terribly. It is no use saying anything else but I do have the consolation of knowing that my love for him was returned in full and he knew that, right to the very end, my friendship stood the test. Of course I carry on – don’t think I slack on my job or anything like that…”
“…I have got rather a nasty cold at the moment and do not feel over well. I have not really felt fit since my wounds – don’t get alarmed as it is just that I don’t feel in that peak of condition that you know I have often felt in the past. The weather has been rather chilly and wet of late and that may be partly accounting for it. It is dark just after 5, which makes a dreary evening as sometimes we are unable to use any light….”
“….Just at the moment, I am suffering from what is known as “desert sores”. These wretched things apparently started in the desert and seem to follow the 8th Army. No one really knows what is the cause – our MO thinks it is partly the perpetual tin food and lack of variety, the sweat and dirt that gets into any cut and they develop if one is feeling at all ‘run down’ in health….”
“….As regards John’s appearance, he had very fair hair, blue eyes, was about 1 inch smaller than me. I cannot speak much about any habit of rolling cigarettes because he used to smoke most of mine but I remember on one occasion when the three of us were completely without cigarettes, Dennis Dunn produced some tobacco and Johnny proceeded to skilfully roll some cigarettes….”
“…I received a letter from Mrs Glennie. It was written on 10/11 and to me made very sad reading, because at the time of writing she had not heard of John’s death, although my letter to his sister must be arriving at anytime then as it was sent at the same time as I wrote to you….”
“Am writing this under rather uncomfortable conditions so you will have to excuse the scrawl. It is a bright sunny Sunday afternoon but we are all very dirty, unshaven and generally the aspect is not unduly peaceful although there is no especial danger to me….”