Sunday 21st November 1943

From Torino di Sangro behind the front line

My Dearest Olive,

(NA 8816): The Sangro river Copyright: © IWM. 

Have just received airgraph Part 1. Very interested to read about Valerie and the dog given by your mother and Eileen. It amazes me how fast she seems to be coming on and speaking quite a lot. I never thought she would speak so many words so soon. Perhaps it is just the proud father speaking, but I must say she seems to be advancing faster than most children. God, what I would give to be with you both again. I was showing Porter some photos of Valerie this afternoon and was greatly tickled, thought she is a grand child and is looking forward to seeing her in person. I miss Johnny a lot when I read your letters, perhaps it is just pure selfishness but it was grand to have someone to turn to and read out those interesting little bits. I am the type that naturally cares to talk about my loved ones to all and sundry but Johnny was always so interested and asked for more. Of course Denis and I swap tales about our wives and children but sometimes several days pass before I see him as we may be separated by the situation. I am very glad she is such a lively young spark.

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.  Dennis Dunn had them very badly just before he was killed and said he would have ‘gone sick’ but for the impending battle. Dicky Richards had them fairly badly recently, Tony Pierce was very bad in N. Africa. They are much the same as normal sores except they are painful and spread rather considerably. I have one on my left hand, a very large one on my right wrist, another on the right elbow and a very painful one on my leg. The leg one is half way between the knee and the foot and makes it quite painful to walk. The MO (Captain Rawlings), an awfully decent fellow, is treating me and I hope they will be better in a few days time as It is very irritating and very unpleasant. I felt extremely fit up to the 27th and was thinking how well I was surviving conditions out here, but I must admit I have been feeling off colour ever since.

The Sergeant Major of the Coy at Saltfleet arrived out here a few days ago and told me that they heard at Saltfleet just before they left that I had been wounded. The proprietor of the New Inn said to him “Do you remember Mr FV that was here? He has been wounded’. I think it was rather anticipating the event as I cannot see how the news could possibly travel so fast. When he first arrived in Italy, he enquired about me at the Base Camp and was told I was recovering. Arthur Davis is going along there very happily. One of my youthful NCOs at Omagh, ‘Ginger’ Rhodes, also arrived with the draft. He was a very good lad under me but fell foul of Mack and lost his stripe. Sgt Tom and the others were very indignant about it. I told McNally his history and he was all for giving him his stripe back so that has been duly done and ‘Ginger’ who will, I think, make a good NCO in the field, is very pleased about it.

As you have no doubt been reading in the papers, the weather is bad out here and we are continually surrounded by seas of mud. A big change from a little time ago. We have been having rather a wet and muddy time of it recently. Plenty of rain and very little shelter. Stumbling around in the mud at night is far from pleasant – how I miss John’s cheerful smile and Irish jokes. The one man I have met who never grumbled, when everyone else was grumbling he would say, ‘You know, Frank, we are not having it nearly as hard as we might’.

Hope you are keeping well, precious, and are comfortable. Have you heard anything more from the Rooms?

All my love and kisses, dearest little wife. A great big kiss for Valerie.


Read letter dated 23 November 1943


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