Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


Tuesday 16th November 1943

From behind the front line in the River Trigno area

My Darling Olive,

Have just received a lovely letter from you dated 9/11. I cannot express how grateful I am, sweetheart. It was a most beautiful and understanding letter, which I will always cherish. How absolutely typical of you, all through our married life when a crisis has occurred, you have risen to the occasion, you have shown your bigness and width of spirit and character and so it was on this occasion. To think that only yesterday I wrote wondering if our minds could keep attuned. I should be kicked for ever doubting it and not realising that the only reason why you had previously not commented about John was because of absence of mail. My only excuse, precious, is that we got through such a lot here that we all sometimes wonder how we will react afterwards. Dicky Richards worried about it quite a lot to me one night and even Denis (Haywood) has sometimes wondered.

Curiously enough Denis was thinking along the same lines as you when we discussed the subject a couple of days ago. He does not believe in an after life but he felt that in some way Johnny’s spirit would live on to help and influence me. I would rather like you to keep his letter. I should like to read it sometimes. It is sad to think he knew you so well without ever having met you. He seemed quite certain you would meet one day and he used to wonder if you would like him. Somehow, I always felt you would and I used to tell him that just as he was my great friend, so I knew full well he would become yours and seemed very pleased.

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 get on very well with McNally and I carry on as one must in the normal way but I cannot get him out of my mind – only one in the millions suffering and dying, but to me the indescribable tragedy of it all. But I will say I have been immensely cheered and heartened by your letter, dearest. I realise yet once again what a wonderful wife I have and I can only say in the deepest sincerity that I am eternally grateful and will never forget it. People who do love and understand one another very deeply seem sometimes to have some form of telepathy. Ingrid had the same feeling about Denis once when he was going through a particularly bad time. I only hope you don’t get it too often though, darling. I expect by now you will have written to his mother. I wonder how they will take it – badly I fear. I wrote in the first place to her about the time he wrote to you, but I expect by now, she has been informed of his death.

Porter has just returned to the battalion from N. Africa and came across to see me. He looks much the same except he has grown a moustache. He sent his very kindest regards to you and was very interested to hear about Valerie and the dogs. Very calm and philosophical is Porter, very little altered. I have a great respect for him. Hartshorn has been slightly wounded in much the same way as I was and is in hospital.  Dick Unwin, another officer with me at Saltfleet, has been killed. He was 21!

Edward (Gibbon) has had to revert from Capt to Lieut. Edward has been out here ever since the beginning but owing to his job has seen very little action….  He has changed completely since the old days and no longer cares about his appearance and lacks interest. I have got on very well with him and would not make any accusations against him but when I think of the glorious bravery and inspiring leadership of John (Glennie), well I don’t feel bursting with sympathy. The man I feel sympathy for is the one who has seen a lot of action and is now getting that ‘tired’ feeling like poor Dennis Dunn or our own Denis. Maybe I am wrong, but an officer has just got to sacrifice his personal feelings and show no weakness in front of the men.  Johnny was as brave as a lion in the ‘line’ and not a bit regimental. Edward is very regimental out of the ‘line’ and in  – well?. Douglas is in hospital with jaundice and Frank Higgins is in hospital with a perforated ear drum.

I am very glad you get on well with Ann B.

Look after yourself, precious, this will end sometime and we will be very happy again together with our dear little Valerie. All my love and kisses.

Your grateful husband

Lawrence

Read letter dated 18 November 1943



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