With B Company of 1 RIrF in the Trigno bridgehead
My Dearest Olive,
After writing to say I had not received many letters from you, three promptly arrived in two days dated 27/10, 31/10, 3/11. My heart contracted when I read that Valerie was unwell but I was very relieved the following day to know that she is very much better. You are probably right about the climate not being too good for her. It would certainly be much better in the country. I am glad you have heard from the Rooms and perhaps they will be able to find something. Nottingham seems fairly hopeless – it is pretty grim to think that people like Denis (Haywood) and myself are nearly always in danger of being killed but our wives cannot find a home to live in. I am sorry that finances are still troublesome – cash that cheque for about £15, if you have not already done so. I am not expecting you to save on what I allow monthly. I am well satisfied if you are able to keep going on that, as I will be able to save fairly well out of the remainder each month. By the way, in the event of my getting killed, I understand the pay and allowances go on for three months and by that time pension arrangements are complete. Not a cheerful subject, but I wanted you to know you would not suddenly be left high and dry.
Your little thought, as you wrote in your letter on 27/10, what a grim and tragic birthday I was having. I can quite honestly say that I will never have the slightest wish to celebrate my birthday in the future – it will always bring back the terrible memories of poor Johnny’s death.
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. From what one or two “higher up” have said to me apparently it seems to have been considered, I put up a very good show that night.
I think that if I had not been away wounded, I might have got command of the company – certainly I feel if the old CO had lived I would have, but the new Company Commander McNally is a very decent fellow indeed and a fine soldier. In any case, he is senior to me and we get on very well together, so it does not matter. The new CO is a first rate fellow – he told me last Sunday to stay back a few days at “B” Echelon and rest and today he said he was very pleased to see me back with the battalion and hoped I felt quite alright.
Desmond Woods (2 LIR) invited me to his Coy HQ this afternoon and we swapped experiences. He also had an exciting time. He seemed to think my experiences were particularly grim. He had liked John very much in the 7/R.U.R and was terribly sorry over his death. He said it must have been simply ghastly for me but it was the only thing I could do and I must have been glad I had been there. Two or three people, I had never even mentioned the subject to, said it must have been a dreadful experience and they did not know how I stood it. I was rather annoyed and said “What the hell do you think I would do, leave my best friend to die by himself?”.
The wounds are healing quite nicely – although a little sore, I would not like to do any strenuous PT but otherwise I feel alright and am glad to have something to occupy my mind. The weather has been rather wet of late, not much sign of sunny Italy, and everything around here is choked full of mud. The weather is quite cool as well. The news from Russia seems marvellously good and it is beginning to look as if it will not be too long before they have completely cleared Russian soil of the Germans.
The German has a very unpleasant habit of placing booby traps under dead bodies. Yesterday, a party of our men went to bury some of our dead, the booby trap went off and 5 were seriously injured. They even do it to their own dead.
An airmail letter arrived from Ted today, it was quite interesting – he said he has written to you a couple of times, I hope you will reply darling.
All my love to you and Valerie, my own precious wife.
Your devoted husband