Friday, February 24, 2006

Commandeering billets in Italy

Photo shows: The 78 British Infantry Div epaulette 'Flash'
Sunday 22nd. October 1944
Through Firenzolia, roads murder as it had rained all night and was still raining. Had to evict eyeties out of house for Major Mouland. Carried set up mountain to try and contact Batteries. Near Div cemetery.

The entry in my diary brings the scene back immediately to mind.

At the time I was still being called upon to act as an unpaid interpreter.
We had arrived at this small farmhouse complex and Major Mouland decided it would do nicely as B.H.Q and sleeping accommodation for himself and the other officers. He told me to explain to the very belligerent looking owner of the property that it was being commandeered by the British Army and that he, the owner, would have to leave forthwith.

I tried to sugar the pill as nicely as I could by explaining to the farmer that he would be re-compensed in due course but that leave he must. The Italian wasn’t having any of this.
“Spara!” he said vehemently, “Shoot me!” ..."Spara! Non posso far'
piĆ¹!" or, in other words “You can’t do any worse to me!” and he demonstrated this by tearing open the front of his shirt and offering his broad chest to Major Mouland.

The O.C. turned peevishly to me and said “What’s he bloody talking about Goldstein!” I explained what the farmer had said to which Mouland replied, equally vehemently “ I don’t want to shoot the bloody man! ....tell him not to be such a stupid bloody idiot!”.

Somewhere along the way reason must have prevailed and I vaguely remember that the house owner was allowed to stay in his house by keeping two rooms upstairs, from where he was able to keep an eye on his property, while BHQ remained down below.

With reference to my use of the word 'eyeties', this was common parlance in the days in which it was written, were I writing it today I would have used a less offensive word.

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