Thursday 7th October 1943

Near Termoli

My Dearest Olive,

As you will see from the above, I have regained my Captaincy which I am sure you will feel is very satisfactory. I must admit I am very pleased about it and it is nice to once again to be referred to as ‘Captain’. Hence, I am no longer IO – the CO told me this morning he was making me second in command of ‘B’ Coy and giving me a captaincy and he was nice enough to say he felt it would not be long before I was in command again. He told Dennis Dunn, my new coy commander, that although he was well satisfied with me as IO, he felt I was happiest in a rifle coy and having commanded a coy for a long time it was only fair to give me the opportunity again. The four rifle Coy Commanders are now all Majors so Dennis Dunn and Denis Hayward have just been promoted to that rank. Dennis Dunn has had a meteoric rise as he was a 2/Lt a year ago but he had done very well since he came out here in February. The CO said to me ‘Of course you are very senior to Dunn, but the only thing that can be said is that he has had the battle experience’. I said I did not mind in the slightest and was very glad to serve with him. But Dennis definitely deserves his promotion and he is just as quiet and modest about it as ever. He really is a great fellow.

The gap since the last letter is due to the fact that I have just had my first battle experience (1 RIF boarded landing craft in Barletta in the morning of 5 October and landed in Termoli that evening). I cannot say a great deal about it, except that I came through quite alright. A bullet whisked across my hand and left a slight scar but there was no other. It was rather grim but also rather exciting. In the first place the Germans launched a sharp surprise attack on the area occupied by my company (this appears to have occured on 6 October). Dennis Dunn was back with the CO and I had to get the company out to a new position. The Germans moved very fast and nearly cut us off and we had the pleasant experience of crawling down a shallow ditch with bullets zipping over our heads and banging up against the brick wall behind. Every now and again, the ditch was blocked and we had to get up and make a run for it. I extracted the coy from this highly unpleasant position without a single casualty which was pleasing. Subsequently we put in a very successful attack. The ‘Faughs’ put up a great show as per usual.  I was very glad to find I kept extremely cool through out and never felt the slightest feeling of panic. John Glennie got a bit of shrapnel in the neck but carried on and did very well. He told me afterwards that he never really worries about it – if he gets it, well it is just too bad.  He said the only thing he would not like would be for Mrs Vaile to be bereaved. I like him immensely but he is a hard hearted Ulsterman not much given to sentiment although I think he has a soft spot for me, if for very little else. The other night we had a nasty journey forward. I arrived in some way behind with a rear party and when I came in, he caught both my hands in his and squeezed hard for a moment and then let go with rather an embarrassed laugh and teased me about where I had been.

The hot weather has broken and we are now having a lot of rain, which does not make nights in the open very pleasant. All the dust has been churned up into mud but the flies and mosquitoes are just as bad as ever and obviously up near the enemy, it is not very practical to sleep under mosquito nets. We took some Germans prisoners and a very dejected lot they were, only too anxious to help in any way and nothing of Prussianism or Nazism about them. It is curious how impersonal one feels – no feelings of hate towards them just a matter of doing the job on hand.

Don’t worry, darling. I have faith in my lucky star, all the time the battle was on, I felt I was coming out alright.

All my love and kisses to my own most precious wife and darling daughter.


Read letter dated 10 October 1943


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