During September 1943, Lawrence (Lawrie) Franklyn-Vaile continues the written dialogue with his wife, Olive, sending ten letters to her during the month.
Lawrie’s first letter confirms that he and John Glennie had now joined up with 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Faughs) near to Patti in Sicily and he spends the first part of the month reacquainting himself with the battalion, which includes many men that he had known very well at the regimental depot in Omagh. He hears of the terrific exploits of the Faughs during their campaigns in Tunisia and Sicily but also learns of the deaths of, and serious injuries suffered by, a number of good friends.
His descriptions of this training period convey a sense of excitement that he now has the chance to play a leading role in the forward progress of the Allied Armies in Italy. While at the Brigade Training School, Lawrie becomes aware that, although he comes with extensive home front experience, a number of former “junior” colleagues are now holding more senior positions right across the Irish Brigade.
In his letters home during September, Lawrie continues to express hope that Olive had now been able to settle down in England, and raises ongoing concern about family finances, a theme that will continue over the succeeding months. This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that he has yet to hear from his wife due to the vagaries of the military postal system while he has been on the move. Lawrie also expresses pleasure in learning of the rapid advances of the Red Army on the Eastern Front, but it seems that his left leaning views do not always coincide with those of all of his comrades within the battalion.
On 22nd September, Lawrie takes over the role of Intelligence Office (IO), which requires close coordinated support of the Faughs’ Commanding Officer (CO), Lieut-Colonel Beuchamp Butler. He suggests that he might be slightly ill suited for the role, and would prefer a mainstream position in one of the fusilier companies, but recognises the advantages of working closely with the CO. It is clear, though, that Lawrie is well regarded throughout the battalion.
The last letter of the month, sent on 29th September, suggests that the Faughs, along with the rest of the Irish Brigade, had travelled to mainland Italy. The battalion had actually arrived in Taranto on 25th September (although the town is not able to be named) before travelling by train to Barletta, where they arrived on the last day of the month.
Due to the rapid advances of the 8th Army in Italy, the expectation of the battalion’s officers was that they would not see offensive front line action for a week or two. This belief, of course, turned out to be completely mistaken and October 1943 proved a most difficult month for the Faughs, bringing some shattering events for Lawrie and the whole battalion.
Lieutenant Douglas Room, who was with the Brigade Group in September 1943.
Read the set of September letters by clicking on the links below: