Saturday 6th November 1943

With 1 RIrF near the River Trigno

My Dearest Olive,

I am still back at ‘B’ Echelon  –  my wound in the arm has been giving a little trouble and I have to have it dressed each day in the nearby town.  Otherwise, I don’t feel too bad, although not bursting with energy – however, a few days of taking things quietly should do me good. It is surprising how even a comparatively small wound shakes one up. The acting CO (James Dunnill) sent me back a message by Maginnis that I was to stay here until I felt quite alright.

I visited John’s grave yesterday afternoon and got a shock when I saw a few yards away the grave of Sgt Farbrother.  He was wounded in the attack and I spoke to him the following morning as he was being brought in by stretcher and he said he was not feeling too bad – hence I thought he would recover. However, he had to have both legs and arms amputated so it was the best thing under the circumstances. He had a little son he had never seen. Poor (Lieut) Marmorstein (2 LIR) is missing ‘believed killed’. He had only been out here 10 days and I had not ever had the opportunity of seeing him. I thought very highly of him at Saltfleet and was looking forward to seeing him again, especially after John’s death. Only 3 of his platoon survived. Two officers of the ‘Skins’ (Major Crocker/Lt Hewitt) that I knew very well have both been killed. Honestly Olive, it is a simply ghastly business, you just cannot conceive at home how bad it is – good life after good life goes. Men who have been out here all the time say that the fighting here is very much worse than in N. Africa or Sicily.

I am lucky in having an extremely good batman. My first three were all ‘flops’, but this lad named Fellowes, who comes from Birmingham and was in ‘F’ Coy under me at Omagh is really first class.  He has been my batman for a month, looks after me perfectly. I gain, instead of losing, in kit with him, and I never need to give him an order; he anticipates all my wishes and the day after the disastrous attack when I was wounded and struggled on, because I was the only officer left in the company, he was splendid helping and assisting me the whole time. I sent for him as soon as I returned and he has just been telling me that the men have been looking forward to my getting back.

They said I put up a fine show that night – it was well known how attached I was to John and they were all saying they knew how upset I was and how sorry they were for me.  A corporal said to him, ‘The Captain has an abrupt manner, but he’s a grand chap and always thinking of the men’. John used to say, ‘I don’t know you can bear being batman to Capt Vaile, Fellowes. Look at the way he throws everything around, you ought to resign and come to me’, and I used to say, ‘Now, Fellowes, I want to warn you, I have the misfortune to live with the two biggest rogues in the Army, if any of my kit goes missing, just look in Major Dunn’s or Mr Glennie’s kit and you will find it’.  Happy days. It is sad indeed to think that no longer will a young man smoke all my cigarettes and burn holes in my camp bed, wash basins and blankets. How I used to explode, ‘My God, John, another hole, you really are the limit.’

A letter arrived from you and one from someone else while I was away and the damned fools have re-addressed them to the hospital, so it will be ages before I receive them. It is nearly a month since I had a letter from you – the postal service is incredible. I have just received an airgraph letter from Jim and Jenny. I was very glad to get it. He is going to send me the ‘Labour Monthly’ each month and says they have sent off some cigarettes.

It is amusing listening to the news from home. Accounts of battles sound very mild compared with the bloody business it really is.

I do hope some letters arrive soon, darling. I am just dying for news of you and Valerie.

All my love, precious. I do miss you terribly.

Your loving husband


Read letter dated 9 November 1943

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