Monday 28th November 1943

From the front line north of the River Sangro

My Dearest Olive,

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.

Yesterday, I received a letter from Muriel Glennie in answer to my one telling her of John’s death. It was a very fine letter and I felt very sorry for the poor girl having to travel from Omagh to Enniskillen to break the news to the parents who were heartbroken at their loss. She says, “Oh it hurts so much to think of him ‘wee Gordie’ as everyone in Enniskillen is saying – dying away out there”. She said there had been a constant stream of folk calling who loved “Gordie” as they say. If I am ever glad I did a thing, it was to write to his mother earlier. they all seem extremely grateful and touched by that letter – in fact they magnify it out of all proportion.

I must say I was very touched by the unselfishness of the letter. They had just suffered a terrible loss and people at such a time can well be encased in selfishness, but she said that all their thoughts were with me now and they would all pray for “my safe return to my home and loved ones”.

She wants to get in touch with you, saying “I would like to know your wife’s address. I have been thinking of her – somewhere – and how anxious she must be all the time and would like to write to her”. The Omagh address where she stays all the week is T.R.E (South West) Office Military Depot Barracks, Omagh.  However, I expect you have already been in touch with them. She finishes up by saying, “I think of you as my older brother – Gordon’s brother”. How sad the whole terrible business is and how many homes are the same. They seem terribly pleased over our friendship and glad that I was with him to the end and apparently he wrote them very happy letters so at least that is something. There is not much romance about it out here, darling. The only good thing is the fine spirit of comradeship. How quickly people forget. Of course, it could not be otherwise. The old members of his platoon still talk about him – one sometimes hears them saying, “Mr Glennie said this” or “We asked Mr Glennie that”. He is never really absent from my thoughts, but of course to everyone else he is just another officer “killed in action” and such forgetfulness would be the fate of all of us. Even our late CO (Lt-Col Butler) has been very quickly forgotten. Poor Johnny, I feel very alone without him.

(NA 9152) : Sherman tanks passing through Paglieta. Copyright: © IWM. 

My “desert” sores have nearly healed now. I have a rather irritating cough and cold but then most other people are the same. These nights in the open air are not particularly conducive to curing it.  We hear lots about “sunny Italy”, but whatever the days may be like, the nights are damned cold. I shivered and froze in my great coat last night and slept very fitfully and tonight does not promise very great warmth. Matters were made worse last night by the fact that we had to wade across an icy river, I could not help smiling when I heard my runner say, “Jesus, it’s cold”, in such a surprised tone.

Fellowes, my batman, still continues to look after me splendidly. He is a grand lad. The other day, the four second in commands had to go on a recce. The other three sat hungrily awaiting for the remainder of their companies to arrive, but the fourth, myself, had a magnificent dinner provided by Fellowes from heaven knows where. He comes from Birmingham and is a very bright, pleasant lad who creates a good impression wherever he goes. I will never forget the way he looked after me the day I was wounded – it was very fine and more especially as we were being heavily shelled for hours on end.

I have run out of my present supply of available airmails and it will probably be some days before I can get some more.  Consequently, do not worry if it is a few days before you hear from me – this is bound to be unavoidable at times. Look after yourself, precious and write as often as you can. I live for your letters.

All my love and kisses to you and dear little Valerie.

P.S. Still fit & well on the 30th.


Read letter dated 6 December 1943

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