Saturday, February 25, 2006

The day my brother Mick nearly killed me

Photo shows: All is forgiven Mick! That's Mick (on right) with Ron at AJEX Parade, Whitehall, November 1992

First of all, some background to the day itself. Mick, who is three years older than I, was called up in 1939 (whereas I was not called up until 1942). He was originally an Infantryman, serving in the 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, and spent the next three years serving all over Britain, most of this time as a Sergeant Instructor. When the War Office needed more anti-tank units, he took courses on the 2-pounder, 6-pounder and eventually l7-pounder guns.

In 1945 he heard of the formation of the Jewish Brigade and, eager to join in the fighting, volunteered to join the unit. He arrived in Naples on 13 January l945, and after eight days in Eboli joined the Jewish Field Regiment at St Bartolemeo, leaving there on his birthday, l5 March, for a regimental hide about lO kilometres from the front.

The Regiment, consisting of three battalions of excellent infantry, had already been in action and had fought superbly. Mick found himself in bivouacs near a dirty Italian farmhouse, close by some Polish troops near Forli and by March l945 his unit was an established part of the Eighth Army.

News from Mick
Anyway, as the war in Italy was coming to its close, I had this letter from Mick to say that he had arrived in Italy and was a battery sergeant major with the Jewish Brigade.

Once I knew this, I started looking out for regimental or brigade signs that would give me a clue as to where he was and so give us a chance to meet. The fates conspired against us, however, and as the action was so fluid at the time I had no chance to get away from my unit to find him.

Brotherly fire
What did happen however, was that on the last big push over the Senio I discovered that the guns giving our own unit covering fire were actually the Jewish Brigade's. The inevitable happened, and when some shells fell short, SSM Busty Thomas, my tank commander, said to me in his lovely Welsh accent: "Your blooty brotter will bl****n' kill us yet!"

Two diary entries of around that time, compared after the war, make interesting reading:

Mick - 10 April: 'We commenced firing again at 4.2Oam. Zero hour 04.3O. Worried about my brother Ron who's also in the region with the Eighth Army. All five boys of our family in the services.'

Ron - 9 April: 'Moved to other side of Traversare. Dug in and have bivvie to myself. D-day and H-hour have started. One rocket landed fairly near. Leaflets dropped.'

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