Thursday 18th November 1943

From behind the front line in the River Trigno area

(This letter was sent on the day that 1 RIrF, reinforced and rested after the repulse on 27/28 October, were ordered back to the front line near the River Sangro)

My Dearest Olive,

Received an airgraph from you dated 25/10 and headed Pbii. Presumably Pbi is somewhere on the way. It infuriates me to read about Jenny – how ever did she have the audacity to refuse to pay any money, what excuse or reason did she give?  I hope you will let me have her address and I will write her my best letter. I am deeply sorry I did not get her out during embarkation leave, but she made so many promises about paying back what she owed etc and I did not want to spoil the last leave with rows, so I let it go, thinking it would be alright. …Johnny used to say he never knew anyone who could impact so much venom into so few words and there will be quite of lot of venom on this occasion.

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. When we are sheltering in an old farmhouse, as at the moment, we have a hurricane lamp but the surroundings are rather gloomy. Still, it is better than sitting in a slit trench which we have to do often enough. Our hours of retiring to sleep are a trifle early compared with ordinary standards.

Major Desmond Woods 2 LIR

I have just heard that McConnell was killed early in September, only a few days after we said good bye to one another. The news came from a new draft that has just arrived, who said it was reported at Saltfleet shortly before they left England.  Poor old Mac, a nicer chap one could not ask to meet and as you know devoted to his wife who he had only married 18 months before and spent very little time with. He was eagerly looking forward to settling down after the war and having some children. Of the six of us at Saltfleet early in July, four have been killed in that short time – only Desmond Woods and I are still alive, I should imagine if there is any sort of law of averages, we should stand a reasonable chance of survival.

The platoon Sergeant of 12 platoon (Johnny’s old platoon) told me that the lads were very touched and extremely pleased with my talk to them. He said they are tremendously proud of their platoon and keep on impressing on the newcomers what a great fighting platoon they belong to and what a reputation they have to live up to. The Sergeant Major thinks that morale in that platoon is far higher than any other in the battalion. I feel sorry for the platoon commander who has to take them over – they were devoted to John. I am letting their Sergeant command them as long as possible – he is a very good fellow and I keep a friendly and helpful (I hope) eye on them and so far the arrangement is working very well. Some people in this battalion thought John had a very off hand manner; perhaps he had towards those he did not care much about, but I have found that those he liked, as he liked his platoon for example, thought the world of him. Several of them asked me if I could let them have a photo of him.

Denis strongly agrees with your theories on telepathy and about the influences of houses.  He remembers you discussing the subject at Omagh.  Have you heard from Susan lately?  I should soon be getting a reply to my letter to her. Have you kept in touch with any people in St. Albans such as Allan and Molly. I have written to them; also Freda Revill. It was a great pity about Pat’s baby. I expect it was a big blow to her.

All my love and kisses, most precious of wives, one day we will be together.

Big kisses for Valerie.


Read letter dated 21 November 1943


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