19th September 1943

My Dearest Olive,

Today is pleasantly cool – the first day of this kind we have had since I arrived here. I am having quite a good time on the Course, doing a certain amount of instructing and learning quite a good deal regarding mines. I now feel reasonably competent to clear an enemy minefield and to render harmless enemy mines. They are an extremely pleasant crowd up here and we are doing ourselves very well on food, very much better than the battalion. Actually, I much prefer it to the 1st, far too many ceremonies and so forth with them.

The other night Brigadier Russell came to dinner. As you know, he comes from Lisburn and used to be CO of the 6th. A couple of days previously, I had been introduced to him in the field and he had asked me quite a number of questions and finished up by saying ‘You have had quite a good deal of experience.’ There were several recent arrivals present at the dinner and Jack White said ‘Do you know FV Sir?’, and the Brigadier replied, ‘Oh yes I know FV alright.’ Subsequently, Frank Lyness said ‘He used to be my Company Commander at Omagh, Sir,’ and the Brigadier, in his drawling voice, said ‘You never know he may be your Company Commander again’. It was a very gay party which went on until about 2am. I could not make out why my wine tasted so great in the later stages of the evening and finally discovered John Glennie had been pouring rum into it every time I was not looking.

This group think very highly of Denis Hayward. Lyness says he is just as quiet and unassuming as ever and tends to be unimpressive out of action but in action he is very cool and quite a lion. Lyness, McClinton, Seymour and I have had some great talks on the old days at Omagh and the many good times we had there.

We are in an agricultural part here but the people have to work terribly hard to eke out an existence. The farms are very poor and most of the animals are in frightful condition. At night time, one sees our men sitting outside the farmhouses with the inhabitants and although naturally there is not much conversation, everybody is smiling cheerfully and drinking the local wine. I am quite convinced they really like our lads quite a lot. I have struck up quite a friendship with a little 7 year old girl called Nina. She is dark and very pretty with lovely eyes and a lovely smile. We say ‘good morning’, ‘good evening’ and a few other phrases in Italian and the rest of time we make conversation by smiles and gestures. She was much interested in the photos of you and Valerie and was amazed at the blondness of Valerie’s hair comparing it with her own and making remarks I could not understand.

If at any time, there is a bit of a gap between letters, darling, do not worry as I will write as regularly as possible but there will be occasions when it is not possible to write for a few days and that does not necessarily mean going into action. It should not be too long now before the first letter comes from you sweetheart.

Remember, I love you far beyond anything in the world, dear heart, all my blessings for you and Valerie.

Your devoted husband


Read Lawrie’s 22 September 1943 letter Home


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