With the 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers on the North coast of Sicily
My Dearest Olive,
The days slowly pass gradually getting nearer the time when I will return to you. Today is Sunday and I am feeling rather homesick. When there is little to do, one’s thoughts turn towards home and I miss you and Valerie more and more as time goes on.
We are not doing over much here at present. Reveille is at 6am and we have PT from 6.30 to 7. I take my own platoon on PT and quite enjoy it. We then have a swim which is very refreshing. After breakfast, we do fairly vigorous training from 8 until about 12.30. The heat in the afternoon is usually very considerable and little is done. I have usually been doing a spot of motor cycling. After tea, we usually have another swim and there have been several officer study groups. It gets dark here by 8pm and consequently there is only the alternative of sitting in the Mess which is very small and not at all comfortable or to go to bed in one’s little bivouac.
We had a guest night to celebrate the capitulation of Italy and it was quite a hectic affair (the capitulation was announced on 8 September 1943). Quite a good deal of Irish dancing was done and everyone had a good time especially as the whisky and gin ration had just arrived. A few people got very drunk but I think I can say that I was not one of them.
I have just had a long talk with Douglas Room. The following is his parents address: – ‘…’ He has written home telling them you may come and he says they have often mentioned you and said how pleased they would be to have you stay so do not hesitate to write. It would be a pleasant change for you. According to Douglas, we might quite easily obtain a house in that district as several have been going recently and as the Rooms are apparently fairly big people in that part of the world, their name would undoubtedly be a help. In any case, it will mean different and interesting people to meet. The nearest stations are Stratford on Avon or Moreton on Marsh. Birmingham is about 30 miles away but they will no doubt advise you as to the best way. Dicky Richards has just had a letter from Denis Hayward in which he says he hopes to be back very shortly. He asks if an officer by the name of FV has arrived and suggests Dicky tries to contact me. He describes me as ‘a queer cove but a really sound chap’ and goes on to say that I was his Company Commander in England and would fit very nicely into ‘D’ Coy. As it happens, I am in ‘D’ Coy and well and truly contacted by Dicky.
At the present time here, all the local population are very busy picking the grapes. All over this part of the world, one sees hundred of women of all ages carrying large baskets of grapes on their heads to the places where they are pressed. It is remarkable the way in which they balance the baskets on their heads – their carriage is magnificent and some of the young ones are very pretty, but as they all walk barefooted, their feet are usually squat and ugly. The girls are very modest and will not look at the men. I must say our fellows are very good. You know how they ‘cat call’ after the girls at home – well there is none of that here.
I have had several talks with Keenan who seems to be doing very well as RSM. Incidentally, poor (Wilfred) Thomas was killed. The first of the runners to go. He had only been married a few months when he came out.
Don’t forget, will you, to have the ‘New Statesman’ and ‘Tribune’ sent out. The easiest plan is to give the address to a newsagent and get him to do it each week. Could you occasionally send me a good book. I would like to get Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”? I believe you can get a cheap edition now. Finances should be improving. I have not drawn anything since I left home and am hoping to save £10 per month which will be very useful after it is all over. I am sending you a parcel of oranges and lemons. Let me know when they arrive. It will take some time of course.
Look after yourself my dearest darling wife and give my little daughter plenty of kisses from her Dad.
All my love,