With 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers on the north coast of Sicily
My Darling Olive,
Today, I have been appointed Intelligence Officer for the Battalion, and I’m probably the most unsuitable person of all for the job (“Lieut L Franklyn-Vaile was appointed IO vice Lieut CC Hill, who was admitted to hospital” 1 RIF war diaries 21 September 1943). This morning, I was just starting a lecture to the Company on Assault Boating when a message came that the Adjutant wanted me immediately. On arriving, the CO (Lt-Col Butler), whom I only met yesterday for the first time since I only knew him slightly in Omagh, came out and said “Colin Hill (the IO) is going to hospital, and I want you to become my IO.” He went on to say it required someone with experience, and that it was a pity I had never been in action but my experience as a Company Commander would be highly useful. I told him I really knew nothing about the job but he said I would pick it up quickly enough.
It is not a job that arouses my enthusiasm, but at the same time it provides valuable experience. I act as Adjutant when the Adjutant is away and, as IO, I go everywhere with the CO. In battle, when he goes to receive orders from the Brigadier, I go with him and when he goes on his recce, I am the only other person with him and then I put the Company Commanders in the picture while he completes his plans. I attend all Brigadier conferences with him taking notes for him etc. From that viewpoint, it is very interesting. I learn far more than the average what is really happening. It also has the advantage in so much that I am learning a new job, whereas as a platoon commander I knew the job backwards. Here is something fresh which will certainly test my brains. Subsequently, it sometimes leads to one becoming Adjutant, especially in a case like mine with fairly long service. Tony Pierce held the job for 8 months until he was wounded last March and had held it as a Captain. Of course, it is not necessarily a Captain’s appointment and the rank depends entirely on promotion being available. The IO is supposed to keep his CO supplied with all kinds of information which I should be able to do, but he is also supposed to be an expert map reader and very good with the compass and while I am good enough as a platoon company commander, I am certainly not of the standard required. However, I can only practise and do my best.
Last night, I was the guest of Douglas Room at the Brigade Guest Night and had a very good time. It was a comparatively small and select party and highly enjoyable. Douglas was in fine form, discussing old times. He said the coffee he used to have at our house as a L/Cpl saved his life. One often talks about lack of gratitude in people, but in the case of Douglas he is really grateful and a very fine friend.
The course also ended yesterday. I have found it thoroughly interesting and apart from doing some instructing had learnt quite a useful amount. It was a very happy atmosphere. Both John Glennie and I contrasted it strongly with the atmosphere in the battalion. We got a very good bridge four going and had some fine games
The war seems to be going quite well, although the Germans are not going to be too easy to drive out of Italy. It is quite amazing how they let Mussolini get away – it looks queer to me. The Russians continued advances arouses much enthusiasm here.
Can you send me a strap for my watch, Darling? I fear the present one is going to break.
All my love to you, my most precious wife, and my darling little daughter.
Editor’s note: the battalion received notification on 15 September that it was travel to Taranto on the southern coast of the Italian mainland. The advance units of the battalion set off on 18 September. The formation embarked for Taranto on 24 September.