Saturday, February 25, 2006

Keeping a diary in wartime: 49th LAA & 4th QOH

Photo shows: Diary entry for 16th August 1944, my 21st Birthday, celebrated in Egypt

Occasionally, on this site, I get my knuckles slightly rapped for admitting that I kept a diary during my days ‘up front’.
I admit it was stupid of me, perhaps I justified it at the time by saying to myself “if it looks like I’m going to be taken prisoner then I will throw them away ” but in reality it was remiss of me and I hang my head in shame.
Looking back as I do now, over 60 years later, I find them of great use in propping up my memory and in providing me with a 100% reliable source of reference. Take the following as an example, written in Italy as the war ended.

Sunday 22nd. April 1945
Woke to find mortar crew right at my head in yard right in front of casa. Rations came up with T.R's kit (?). More prisoners. Slung my 'spare' rifle. Moved into fields.

On this particular day I was literally woken up by the sharp crack of the mortars being fired at an enemy who could have been no more than 500 yards away. I remember feeling distinctly aggrieved that the Infantry mortar crew had not had the common decency to wake us up and to give us a chance to move out of the way while they fought their own private battle with their German counterparts!

On the reference to the ‘spare rifle’ anyone in the line, that is anyone who was anywhere near the enemy, usually had two lots of ‘kit’. The first set of kit was the official stuff that one had been issued with by the Army. This would consist of, for example, 1 Large Pack, 1 Small Pack, 1 Large Mess Tin, 1 Small Mess Tin , 4 Blankets, 1 Groundsheet , etcetera, etcetera.

The second lot of ‘kit’ that one owned was gradually accumulated along the way and was hidden in the truck or tank whenever a kit inspection was looming on the horizon.
A typical list of un-official kit would probably include such items as extra blankets, camp bed, eating utensils such as enamel plates and non-Army cutlery, a suitcase, a German rifle, binoculars, in fact anything that could help to supply a modicum of comfort whilst trying to survive in very unpleasant surroundings.
The reference to ‘more prisoners’ referred to the small pockets of German soldiers anxious to give themselves up to our unit. It was particularly shocking to see the many young boy soldiers, some of them looked no more than 13 or 14 and made us realise that Hitler was really scraping the barrel at that stage of the war.
The reference to 'T.R.s kit' is now completely meaningless but perhaps on some wonderful day yet to come 'T.R' will come out of the woodwork and say 'Here I am, it was me!'
The reference to 'moved into fields' meant that we moved away from the farmhouse area probably to get away from the mortar firing Infantry.
Thank you Diary!

No comments: