Signalman Laurie Warner 74th Medium Regiment Royal Artillery wrote this fascinating World War 2 diary and 3 letters in airgraph envelopes. The diary is very comprehensive and starts with “received my enlistment papers today”, 1942.
There are references to guarding a POW camp in Cattolica, various ships and destroyers, lots of different military bases. It covers a period from 1942 until 1945 and it appears that he was in the thick of fighting with many casualties reported.
There are 3 Airgraph letters included, 2 with original envelopes. One is to his wife Peggie, the other two to his sister Edith, as well as a photo of Laurie as a boy.
Of all the diaries published, this is one of the most moving with the full horror of war in the artillery made apparent by his frequent noting of fatal casualties in his unit.
Received enlistment notice.
Enlisted at Rhyl.
Posted to 1st Reserve Field Regt. R.A. Rhos-on-Sea.
Posted to “P” Battery 74th Medium Regt. R.A. Sevenoaks.
Regt. Moved to Eastbourne.
Regiment left for Liverpool.
Embarked at Liverpool.
Anchored outside Oran & left after a few hours.
Disembarked at Algiers (camp on racecourse wind & rain).
Embarked at Algiers on destroyer Wheatland.
4am attacked by enemy torpedo bombers & subs 5 times. One narrowly missed boat.
Disembarked at Bone & marched to camp in sandy hills. Wind & rain.
Moved to wagon lines. Slept open air. Raid on Bone.
Guns went into action for 1st time 8am. (No grub yet). Two days duty O.P. Exhausting climb over mountainside with equipment & infantry patrols.
Duty at top position.
Duty at O.P. (Terrible return down mountainside). 2 Jerry prisoners. Much rain about now & hence much mud.
Welcome arrival of first mail.
Moved from Beja 10pm after heavy rain. Bogged after 10 miles, had to stay in cover all the 12th. Moved during night to Bou Arada district & went into action straight away.
Heavy rains & much mud. Had to move command post. Duty at new O.P. (Eagles).
Received 2nd batch of mail.
Nearest shelling yet. 1 right in no. 2 gun pit. Fortunately crew were in slit trench.
Deluge of rain again. Carrying party to O.P. hectic ride & trip down mountain with Wally May transporting the truck cover. Left Bou Arada area at night stuck in mud. No. 3 in reccy party, enjoyable ride till met with engine trouble.
Stayed at Tabarka & then moved to new position few miles on. Sleep in open in wood.
Grand day. Lovely strip wash in clear cold stream, another move. Travelled all night in intense cold. Thro’ mountains. In hide all next day in heat, a strange contrast to the night before. Move in evening to Beja area (Djebel Abiod).
Another night climb to O.P. hut & stream. Slept in cactus trees near wog huts.
Took up residence in wog hut.
Returned to troop position.
Preparing position for big do. Afternoon grand swim in stream with Bill Knights.
20.00 hrs big do starts.
Rain sets in. Initial success.
More rain (more beyond Abiod)
Objective achieved. More rain.
Quiet day. More rain.
Quiet day. Move to Abiod.
Hide for day. Weather fine & warm. Last night very cold, ice formed on ground sheet. Move at night to old Bou Arada position.
Laid 10 mile line. Ran behind truck for some way. Very fine & warm. Wild flowers & sunsets now very beautiful.
O.P. telephonist at new O.P. On duty 2 hrs during night & started at 5am next morning until 7pm evening then had to go out on line repairing with Tom Tucker, got back 3.15am & slept till 5 & on O.P. duty again.
More restful period. Weather very fine. In action all time, usual duties.
As above but more rest.
Move to new position. Still Bou Arada area. Wet again accompanies move. Night line laying. Shelled. Saw first 8th Army personnel.
Reeling in line. More rain. (Shelter in gun pit).
2am called for guide to Plaza. On way saw tanks massing. An enemy aircraft about much ack-ack. Orders to use mosquito cream. Big do 3am. Terrific barrage. (40,000 shells fired).
(Good Friday). Moved forward (B.A. area still). Part of large convoy which had been going thro’ all day & previous night. Numerous dashes from trucks to shelter on account of air attack. 2 Bren carriers & one truck set on fire. 1 killed & some wounded. Arrived new position & in by dusk. Air activity, much tracer & some bombs. No casualties.
Air activity all day kept to shelter. Had practice on motorbike.
Moved to new position short way. Recently in Jerry occupation much u/s Jerry kit spotted in ravine.
Easter Monday. Very hectic day, shellfire, air attack, shells exploded near C.P. Alf Branch hit in neck. One gun had premature, miraculously no fatalities, one gunner injured, broken ribs. Another move, short distance.
More air attacks & shelling. C.P. in slit trenches. Bombed by 11 own Boston planes (own wagon lines hit, one killed & some injured). Also pamphlets in German. Also Focke-Wulf only few feet above our truck in ravine. Alec L. had near go. Hole right thro’ tin hat but only superficial neck wound.
Another move, short distance same district in ravine.
Quiet period. Situated in deep wadi.
On way to LAD. Saw spitfire crash & pilot bale out.
Rather uneventful. Some shells near our position but welcome relief from attention of Jerry’s planes. He must be very short now. Some hectic monkey truck rides in search of firewood.
Our guns in five minutes gunfire (5 guns) fired 120 shells. One gun getting off 29, is this a record? (Target tanks).
3 moves in one day to Zaghouan area. Detailed wireless in T Truck O.P.
Move off early in morning but soon halted. Stopped for night in farm. Some shelling. Enemy seen in rear.
Move again in evening Creteville (La Gebala).
Line laying to O.P. in mountains. Along road saw much enemy M.T. on roads & in fields. Italian camp left in panic. Eventually reached mountain village (French & Italian) at foot. Rifle Brigade. there. Enemy surrendered. Hermann Goering’s P.D. and Italians. Laid line up mountains with Bert Greenhalgh. (Hard work). On way back saw more Jerries saw presentation iron cross. Whilst away battery shelled, some killed, we were lucky to be away. (Djebel Ressas).
Another line up mountain. Finish of war in Tunisia. People in village excited.
Returned to village reeling line. Moved goods for French inhabitants to next village. Spoke with Frenchman. Moved Creteville district.
Another climb up mountain.
Trip to Tunis, as expected nothing to buy except bad wine & few rings at exorbitant prices. Some damage due to fighting. Chief memories Arabs (chiefly dirty) – hairdressers shops – chemists shops – perfume & make up on French girls. Got lost & had to sprint to catch passion wagon which had started.
Bullshit parades started.
Victory parade in Tunis.
Ammo gathering in morning. Glorious swim in sea at Hammam-Lif.
Service to commemorate victory in morning. Another glorious swim.
Evidence of stomach trouble. I had dose today.
Started 4 day journey.
Reached Souk El Ahras.
Reached nr. Constantine.
Reached destination nr. Setif. Look like being here some time. More bullshit.
Reported sick with stomach trouble which still persists. Castor oil & bed down two days.
Went into Setif. Nothing much here. Little happening now.
Went to ENSA show in Setif.
Sent £15 of credits home.
Rest camp for 3 days nr. Bougie, marvellous ride thro’ mountain & gorge & by cliff road down to the camp on ground overlooking bay surrounded by mountains. Lovely view & grand swimming.
Order of day read.
Sport. 74th won by 1 point taking 3 out of 4 shields.
Aug 26th – 27th – 28th
“Stafford” exercise Chateaudun.
Sept 2nd & 3rd
Left Setif area.
Reached Bizerte after forced ride.
Sept 14th & 15th & 16th
Pictures in bombed out picture house in Bizerte (this terrible).
Moved to another camp nearby. Very uncomfortable.
Pictures in Yankee hanger Bizerte docks. Bizerte appears to be a mass of bombed out houses & buildings & seems uninhabited.
Embarked HM LST Thruster.
Sailed for Italy.
Landed Salerno area.
In action positions Salerno area. (Bombed). Italian peasantry looked starved, seemed very friendly to us. The Bosch had taken all their food & clothing. We gave them good quantities of food. Initial impression of country poor but better inland. Many walnuts, apples & grapes. Saw most damaged spot ever, Battipaglia.
Moved to Salerno. The position by railway near station. This place very badly knocked about by our naval bombardment. Got wet thro’ at night, no bivvy & only one groundsheet.
Moved forward about 8 miles. Took all day. Convoy 15 miles long vehicles almost touching. From here can see Vesuvius smoking. Passion fruit, grapes, walnuts etc. in fields.
Prepared to move but now cancelled.
Move few miles. Jerry counter-attack.
Move twice today. Still given ovations through towns & villages.
Oct 6th & 7th & 8th
Oct 8th & 9th & 10th
Went forward with digging party to prepare gun positions for assault on river Volturno. Road building and ammo humping. Continuous rain, first night in house, second night in tent with Tom T, absolutely soaked through lying in pool of water. Eventually had to dig new gun pits owing to flooding. Troop position shelled.
Returned to troop position situated in house “Lingi Andreozzi”. Comfortable sleep in room.
Night move into new position Maversa.
Awaiting zero hour.
Move, short way. Stan & I both soaking again in tent but water soaked through & ran in as well. Pool in blankets 2 inches deep.
Night move across Volturno thro’ Santa Maria & Capena.
Some shelling near “100” Bty. Move to position in wooded fields near bombed house. Much firing here.
Night aircraft (enemy) over, much tracer fired up.
Much shelling both sides. Saw Jerry plane brought down evening. Two short bursts from night fighter & came down straight towards our position. Fortunately it straightened out above us & landed in a burst of flame a few hundred yards away.
Another move a few miles away, Sparanise, near some oranges. More enemy shelling near us.
Own mosquito machine gunned us. Much enemy shelling.
Mosquitoes again & shelling, many duds.
21 Focke-Wulf dived bombed near Charlie troop. Much shelling, Harry Heath hit 10 yards C.P.
30+ aircraft & shelling activity both sides.
Less activity today.
Should move, but Jerry going back too fast.
Nov 1st – 5th
Unexpected respite out of action.
74th “went to town” Santa Maria. Able to get sweets, vino, cheap trinkets etc. but little else. Made a very enjoyable change.
Moved up through Teano about 15 miles. Position in glorious mountainous country, slopes covered in chestnuts, now yellowing. All along Jerry had blown bridges & felled trees across roads. This has accounted for our few days rest at Sparanise.
Return of rains, more fortunate this time due to better drainage.
Nov 9th & 10th
Still in chestnuts. Some Jerry shelling during night & some aircraft over, but nothing very near us.
New Officer, one Potter, joined us. Nice cobber!
Laid O.P. line for first time in Italy through Roccamonfino.
Bill & I 5 hours on maintenance during night. Wet & miserable.
Bonk & I on maintenance 12 hours 8 till 8 during night. Ditched bogged tractor, pulled pole down at overhead crossing. During last few days continual heavy rain & still continuing.
Many tents flooded out, & site a quagmire. So far our tent fairly dry.
Nov 17th – 21st
More rain, have had to move our tent. Much shelling on our part all the time, some, but not a lot from Jerry. Much line work on O.P. line.
Tom T & I out on line, mud terrible, many breaks, eventually helped by R. & W. Finished at 1.15am.
Nov 21st – 25th
More rain, our shelling continuous.
Move about 3,000 yards. Finish digging & shell humping in readiness for big barrage. Reputed to be 600 guns massed.
Still in hilly country among trees. C.P. in TLB at roadside much shell humping. Damaged thumb.
Big do starts
73 & maintenance party between O.P. & troop in hallway of bombed out house. Elma, Tom B. & Reg Law.
Monastery Hill taken. Many casualties. Mt. Cassino.
Return to troop.
Should have moved to Monastery Hill but roads impassable.
Moved out of action after Monastery Hill & went back about 30 miles to Albanova for rest period. “B” troop billeted in large warehouse.
Albanova – Nigger (US) jive band.
Concert at Aversa.
R.A. Orchestra at Santa Maria – poor programme.
Layout in Naples. Rather disappointing, prices exorbitant.
Another day in Napoli.
Xmas day, good dinner, but completely browned off.
Regt moved up to position near river Corigliano & sea for a special do. Fired on many targets on night of 29th. Also navy fired & commando landed. Little shelling & bombing in return (ineffective) & bomber brought down.
Returned to Albanova.
4 days leave at Amalfi.
Day trip Salerno.
Motor boat trip to grotto.
Ammo fatigue at Capua.
Ammo fatigue at Capua.
Jerry sent a few over. Putting up wireless aerial with Stan & piece of shrapnel hit him in leg from one near us. 21.00 hours battle began. Terrific bombardment including Bofors & naval support lasted all night & into next day.
Four F.W. came over suddenly & dropped bombs & machine gunned near our position. Blew a cookhouse but grub & cooks OK. Some of another mob killed & wounded near cookhouse.
More Jerry shelling near our position. Much shelling of Jerry these days by whole group.
Spell of fine weather breaks & rain this last 2 days. Still much shelling both sides.
Some (3) B troop guns went out of action, replaced by some from our Q. Bty.
Line party, Wally, Reg & self. Marvellous oranges. Self groggy.
Returned to troop.
Left Lauro midnight. Stayed at Santa Maria la Fossa. Bloody cold.
Moved on to San Angelo. Lucky to get into a farmhouse & thus escaped a wetting. Expect to move on soon.
Climb up mountain laying line & humping, was I weary. I felt double my age by time I reached top.
Yanks moved in near us.
Yankee shows. Yankee pictures. Yankee tobacco, Yankee cigs & Yankee blade & Yankee shaving cream.
Stage show. The Yankees do look after their boys. What a contrast to the British Army.
Unfortunately we move from San Angelo today. We shall miss the daily shows & pictures & sweets etc. with which the Yanks have brightened our lines during the last few days. Arrived at Assiglio, where we were about 2 ½ months ago after Roccamonfino. Caught for guard.
Rained & snowed all day & on into the night, got soaked while on guard. Rest moved off to battle position while I was on guard, so I stayed at wagon lines.
Still at wagon lines, weather finer, so drying out a little after yesterday’s rain. Comfortable sleep in M3.
Moved up to gun position, near Cassino monastery, Cervaro. About worst position ever. In mountains & sea of mud in view of monastery.
Lucky to go to rest camp from this position. Weather incredibly bad. Rained all way down & in lorry no cover, were saturated.
Visited Eyetie house where was good radiogram.
Returned to position at Cervaro after enjoyable few days leave in spite of wet weather. Spent evenings with Eyetie family (Angelo) very nice people.
Went to Shell Rep. O.P. overlooking Monte Cassino. Much humping & mud.
Returned from O.P. found position much drier thank god.
After many disappointments & postponements due to the weather the battle for Cassino started today, from 8.30 up to midday, waves of bombers (about 560) Mitchells, Forts, Liberators with Lightening & other fighter support have been going in bombing the town & the monastery & surrounding district. The guns fired at midday & the air was full of noise & the smell of cordite & the sound of planes. The weather was brilliantly fine, & a curious phenomenon was the shimmering effect of some vapour. A Liberator dropped its bombs in error & they hit 100 Bty. Direct hits on one gun & command post, occupants of the latter buried. Two other lots of bombs were dropped wrongly. Watched fighter bombs dive vertically to bomb monastery. 800 guns in this barrage, 1400 tons of bombs on Cassino. Tragic results of error bombs on 100 Bty, 10 killed including Major Sturt, 2 missing, 8 wounded. Venafro was another place bombed in error. Terrific air attack & barrage all day.
Quieter today, but some enemy shelling near our position & some enemy aircraft over. Driven off by some intense ack-ack. We hear that Cassino is ours. Bitterly cold wind.
Beautiful warm sunny day but cold at night. Uneventful day, few Jerry planes over. Helped in cookhouse in morning & did job in Cervaro in afternoon.
Back at Yankee depot.
Plenty of Jerry shelling all around & attention from planes. Rain & a gale again. Heavily shelled about 7.30. Heard today total fatalities due to mistaken bombing on 100 Bty was 14.
On truck with Frank Stowers, Bill Ashworth & Captain for shoot on “Hotel Metropole” Cassino. Cold, windy day ending with blizzard at night. Day of misfortune with signal equipment remote control no good. Phones poor – what a life!
Another day at O.P. shoot on Hotel Metropole, better luck with wireless. Seems after all bombing, shelling little headway has been made & casualties heavy.
Advance party to new position nr Acquafondata. Position right in mountainous country on plateau on hill sides. First night there heavily shelled, much shrapnel & rock falling near. Slept that night in ditch.
Laid tannoy to gun pits & O.P. link. Very hilly & rocky wild country.
Troop moved in. Dug bivvy well into side of bank & sand bagged front. Built door in as well. Last two nights slept in Jerry built stone & wood shelter – rats.
More shelling near, red air bursts. Good Friday. Weather now glorious.
Moved to new position only 1000 yards away in next valley. Advance digging party only. So had only two nights in our “luxury” bivvy.
Started digging C.P. Heavy going. Rain mid-day, so had to move our bivvy & dig temporary hole, struck rock & raining all time, we were browned off. (Alf Harding). Much rain all night & mud.
Easter Monday. More digging, cloudy but no rain, majority digging party moved back but left with Bill Pearce to continue digging.
Still at 2nd position of Acquafondata, digging C.P. Saw tragic incident today, one of own shells hit “flying chore horse”. Took away wing of plane, doubt if pilot could have survived. Rain again yesterday & today.
Returned to troop position for leave. Heavily shelled about midnight. Worst night shelling yet, was I scared. O.P. line broken. Bert Parker mended it.
Left for wagon lines slept in open by tractor.
To Amalfi. Roads for miles banked with piles of ash from Vesuvius eruption. Beautiful wash & brush up in showers. Row boat in evening lovely. Finished up at the house. Veal, chips, Marsala & wireless. So to bed 12.30.
Shopping in morning, lovely ices, afternoon boat out & swim, marvellous.
Glorious day, lovely swimming. Evening at house, lovely meal.
More swimming & food.
Return to troop. Ammo fatigue. Rain at night.
Rain all day.
Tom T, self, Frank Stowers, Alf Adams started laying line to OP, first mile & half in daylight. Last 7 miles at night owing to Jerry observation. Started 8 o’clock & finished at 6.15am. Pitch dark. Difficult line to lay owing to rough path through mountains & many overhead crossings, trees to climb & night convoys. Once or twice nearly run down. Laid by jeep & hand.
Heavily shelled by Jerry at night. No casualties but line broken again.
Walked over new OP. Line marking safe route, found this had also been broken by Jerry shelling.
Line again broken by shelling. My turn out, took 3 hours to find & mend seven breaks.
Premature on a “100” Bty gun, two injured. Heavy Jerry shelling at night.
Tom Tucker & I out on line to new OP (on 1 motorcycle) this morning. Germans air bursting all day. Shelling in evening & during night. Direct hit on slit trench no.6 gun, 2 killed, 1 badly wounded. Self out on OP line twice during night, 1st with Bert Greenhalgh & 2nd with Bill Rolfe.
Wearing K.D.! Guns moved up to new position. 100 Bty “B” troop HQ staying behind. Tom Tucker & I join Frank Stowers & Alf Adams on maintenance party tomorrow. We roofed our bivvy this afternoon with logs, iron sheeting & sand bags.
Tom T, I, Frank Stowers & Alf Adams manned maintenance point. Found grand spot already built in a log sunken cabin. Latrine & all complete. We soon made ourselves comfortable, seats & tables, mirror on tree etc. Spot was in a lovely pine forest just off mountain road. Only drawback Jerry very near. Battle (Cassino again) commenced 23.00 hrs, shells going & coming for hrs & quite a lot in our area. Line went, Tom & Frank out all night. Line went again in morning & I was out all morning.
Gun troops in OP area bombed in error (Kittihawks).
Few line breaks through shelling. One Jerry plane over.
Few line breaks. Tom & I went out on motorcycle at dusk & found two breaks where a shell had just landed just on the roadside. We lost no time in mending it but on way back ran into convoys which made our journey a nightmare. During last few days, some bombs dropped by our own planes in our own lines. This happens much too frequently lately.
(Hear Cassino & monastery ours). Tom & I out at dusk to repair line, but found no break.
Jerry shelling all day.
10 or 12 F.W. over today. Much Jerry shelling round about now. Tom & I out again at dusk found shell dropped near line & broken it in two places. Also mended another mole line.
May 19th – 24th
Few breaks much shelling & also shelled back at position. Premature on Bert Spenders gun. Cliff Sarah hurt.
Finished at maintenance point worse luck. Very happy there. Returned to troop.
Reel in line & left to move up to Sant’Elia.
Whit Monday. Regt. moved to Atina area. Left us at wagon lines to reel in cable & do maintenance.
Reeled in by hand line at old position & also OP line. Moved up nearer to Regt. wagon lines at Castell Vierri.
Moved again to very nice spot around oak trees. Weather grand. Still wagon lines.
Heavy hail & thunder & rain so slept back M3. Hear Rome now ours.
From wagon lines to Sora.
Fetched guns & went back to Casalvieri. News of invasion of France.
Further move. Stayed in hide for night.
Further move. We have now left 2nd Agra & are to support 8th Indian Div. In hide near Stn. Maria Romeo about 12 miles from Rome.
Hear today that we are to support 6th Armoured Div. this means bags of moves.
Jun 10th – 13th
Moving daily, stayed tonight in house near Gualdo (Lucia).
Move via Narni. M3 crew at “B” Echelon Troops taking turns in duty. 24 “B” Echelon – easy time.
Left “B” Echelon & re-joined troops in a position near Perugia. Still being shelled. (San Sistra).
Pictures in Perugia.
Moved about 3 miles.
“B” separated from “A”, moved about 2 miles near Ajello. (Farmhouse chaff cutter).
Moved nearer to Perugia. In house large wine presses etc.
Another move CP in farm buildings not much room for sleeping so put up bivvy.
Heavy rain, hail & thunder.
Move 1.30am to position in fields (Umbertide), no houses, tent near wood & small stream. Most nights now attention from Luftwaffe.
Move to position. (In house tobacco drying room).
Another move, left behind to reel in lines. Could not join rest owing to congested roads. So soon after midnight stopped at Eyetie house & got fixed for night in room. Joined troop next day & was able to share Eddie Colbin’s bivvy.
Quite a lot of firing today Jerry making bit of a stand. Rain.
Jul 14th – 17th
Fine weather, much firing.
Move to Morra.
July 17th to 25th
Position by stream. Plenty of firing from this position.
Move today to Molinnuevo. Nice position in shady spot by river.
Move about 4 miles from above near river again into which stores bedding launched itself.
Jul 29th – 30th
A little rain but still hot & some enjoyable swimming in river.
Went on digging party to new position. Stayed night in Eyetie house, very pleasant. Bill Lawford, W. Shires & self.
Hard morning work digging ramp. Midday Wally May came & so did not occupy but going to new position. On way got ditched & passed along road under observation. Luckily not shelled while we were on it. Mines had to be cleared before we could occupy & ramps dug to get tractors over dry river bed. Dug command post, quite nice position at foot of wooded hill. Regt. took over 4.5’s from 140 on Aug 1st.
Jerry shelled us heavily today. Repeat our game of cards & I dug deeper in my bivvy.
Heavy rain. I just caught my drainage in time. Stream downhill had to be diverted. Moved at night short distance to position on hillside. Returned with Bill to old position to put motorcycle on tractor.
Heavy rains again. I kept dry but some were flooded out. Some Jerry shelling near this position. One from “A” troop hit power cable just above No. 1 gun.
Yippee! Got on party to Rome rest camp on 12th.
Very tiring journey down. Break down near Perugia lost us 5 hrs & it was midnight before we arrived. Tired, dusty & bruised but thankful.
Marvellous day in Rome. Went to opera, a great treat, Maria Caniglia was singing. What a marvellous voice.
Rome sightseeing show at night.
More sightseeing opera at night. “Aida”.
More sightseeing & pictures.
More ditto & show.
More ditto & opera Pagliacci & Coppelia most delightful.
& so back after a marvellous week. Broke down & stayed night at RASC camp.
Found Regt. who had come out of action & were at Umbertide.
Back into action in position near to where we came out.
Move again short way, very hot, in hilly country no shade.
Move about 8 miles. Bibieno.
Heavy Jerry shelling about 3am. 100 Bty “C” CP hit & 1 killed.
More shelling, no damage.
Heavy thunderstorm some of the fellows washed out. On signal class last 3 days.
Bty moved, Alec & I left behind. Heavy rain so we slept in casa & got lousy with fleas.
Moved up to join troop about 10 miles, ride through good scenery in mountain again. Heavy rain lucky to have house OP party. On maintenance – jeep track similar goal.
Returned to troop position (Chiusi).
0300 hrs heavily shelled.
10.30am heavily shelled.
Learned today that Jimmy Allan died of wounds received of during shelling on the 14th. (Stretcher bearing & Tannoy repairing).
Line laying & maintenance party. Had to lay wire (2 of us) 4 miles by hand to OP from intercept. Bouther, self, Frank Stower & Venney in bivvies. Rained. Hell of a time.
Day in Florence with Bert Parker. A grand city of beautiful buildings. 75 mile journey. Rained all day at troop & bivvy in pools when we returned. Rained all night & we had reveille at 4am ready to move. Were we browned off? Absolutely soaked kit as well. Long ride forward through mountains cold & wet. Rain came through covers. Near Bagno di Romagna. Fortunately got in house here. Hide only. S. Piero.
Bty move to bad position under water for Air OP shoot (Mandriole pass). I go on leave to Perugia. Weather improved good journey through mountains. Went to Lilli cinema & saw Noel Coward’s “This Happy Breed”.
Oct 3rd– 7th
Quite good time, some rain at Perugia. Met interesting young medico (heard that Matt Watts died of wounds).
Returned to camp. Heavy rains, pass dangerous. Stayed wagon lines.
Joined troop. CP house near river. Sarsina.
Humping party to OP. Heavy going. (Honey).
Move to 3 miles from San Piero. No house, CP in tent.
Hot showers in S. Piero also pictures in the afternoon. “The Major & the Minor”. This position overlooks valley & S. Piero. Cookhouse near pig sties!
Pictures again! S. Piero. Abbott & Costello” in “Hit the Ice”. Bueno.
Line & maintenance party out. Laying line to new OP only partly laid today. Line broken at night by shellfire.
Out laying rest of line. Much heavy going part laid by hand. Heavy rain all day, got soaked. Intel point in picturesque village in mountains. Returned to troop for bedding etc. could not return to Intel point owing to track through mountains being too bad & muddy, so had to get mules & get through that way. Got bedded down at midnight.
Meantime Bty had moved & so we had to reel in line & lay out new one to new OP through San Sofia. This was being shelled when we arrived & heavy machine gun & tracer being fired at one end of the village. Laid line to house in centre of village & returned to jeep track where rest of lads were waiting. M3 ditched on way. Rain threatened so when we eventually got going picked up rest & found a house to sleep in. Bed eventually in cow shed by ½ past midnight.
Up at 3.30 to continue line to new OP (3 miles by hand). Through mine field saw dead Poles & Ities killed that morning so trod warily. Bill had rough going laying from OP to meet us. Eventually joined up & returned to S. Sofia about 4 o’clock. No grub apart from some boiled chestnuts in Itie house (very poor). We now established Intel point in large house owned by Itie doctor. Line gone so I & Len Howarth went out into mountains, missed turning & landed among some Itie partisans gathering to go into action 3 kilometres away. Eventually found line & mended break & returned to Intel point (with difficulty owing to darkness & poor mountain track) as we neared S. Sofia saw more Jerry shells landing in town. Got back OK to a good meal well-cooked by Harry Pellicci & to bed by 11 o’clock. After a very hard but satisfactory day’s work. (Spring bed!!)
Bty on move again & OP going forward. More line to lay by hand but I was left at Intel point to man phone. Not sorry as I have had a hard time this last 3 days. Fortunately last two days have been fine & warm. Making work in mountains hot work. Line laid to S. Sophia. New Intel point beyond S. Sofia. Dark when most of it laid & had trouble with overhead crossing. Stayed night in house between S. Sofia & Galeata, here they provided us with plates etc. & roasted 2 rabbits for dinner.
New line laid to OP beyond Galeata. Len & I walked back making safe line laid previous night. During afternoon I took phone up to OP. Much Jerry shelling & Polish infantry in slit trenches. I narrowly missed a Jerry shell which landed only a few yards away. I got down just in time & fortunately it fell other side of mound. I was covered with earth from explosion. New Intel point established in farmhouse. First English they had seen & pleased to see us. We spent rest of time here up to Oct 26th. A number of breaks to be repaired day & night during this time, but we had it much easier. Started to rain heavily again Oct 25th & we found troop position a quagmire. Lucky to get under cover in a 3 floor building although we had to make our bed on a pile of potatoes.
Oct 26th 27th & 28th
Heavy rains & much mud.
Move to Tontola. In mill slept in kitchen. Guns very near & each salvo shakes house & breaks something. Glad to be under cover, although weather bit better.
Oct 30th & 31st
Still in mill. Windows all gone by now & some plaster!
Nov 1st – 7th
Little unusual. Did heavy days firing Nov 5th. Weather now a bit finer. Wall of CP room caved in.
Moved 2km north of Predappio. Alf & I forward first to lay tannoys. Finer weather now. Predappio Mussolini’s birthplace. Seemed nice modern place. Aeroplane factory. Fortunately we got in another casa.
Awoke to snow. Mountains looked lovely. Snow soon went.
Saw Jerry shells, selves doing little firing.
Little doing. Still enjoying spring bed in casa. Generally fine, little rain about 14th.
Poles after attacking Forli pushed back to OP manned by Pascall.
I nearly set fire to billet!!
Left position to go out on rest days, journey back over mountains. Fine day, but through cloud over Mandrioli pass. Saw many our old gun positions. Arrived Corciano nr. Perugia 9 o’clock. Pleasant, very old village on hill top. In old school, fairly comfortable billet.
Nov 22nd & 23rd
Took over Len Pursey’s motor cycle.
Fairly easy time.
Nov 25th & 26th
Nov 26th & 27th
Nov 25th & 27th
To Foligno for NAAFI arrived too late.
To Foligno again for NAAFI, got it this time but no grub at night.
Moved to Cerreto D’Esi near Fabriano. Sorry to leave Corciano we had got comfortable there. New billet clean but bare room. First impression of place poor as nothing there & Fabriano not so good as Perugia. We are getting loads of bull here – white blanco on equipment!
Pleased to get a film how tonight. “Crystal Ball”.
Went into Fabriano to see “Lady in the Dark” but film had not arrived.
Little of note. Much “bull” & dysentery.
Left for leave in Florence. Day’s journey.
Good leave, good camp. Good club (Robertson). Many picture shows. Saw Maurice Winnick & his show best ENSA yet.
Saw 8th Army luckily beat 5th Army at Florence Comunale stadium 3-1.
Returned to Fabriano.
On guard. Snow.
On saboteur picket.
Fairly good Xmas dinner. Singing in the billet, good time. Fire picket.
Guard. Much frost & snow.
New Year’s Eve spoilt by George Beeson.
More snow, 2ft deep.
Detailed for 7 days guard.
Heavy frost. Left 3hrs late for Germans to guard. Joined 8 Fusiliers.
24 hour guards 24hrs off. Miserable job. More snow.
Still guard. One night all prisoners had bad touch of dysentery. We were on the run with them all night & it was bitterly cold & sleeting.
Returned to Cerreto & rumours that we were soon to go into action.
Weather cold & wet. Went into Fabriano & had tea & cakes & billiards in the NAAFI. Afterwards to pictures. Hear we are to start off at 7.30 tomorrow for the front.
Moved up into action via Pesaro Rimini Forli. About 10 miles N. of Forli, near Faenza, in a house. Fairly comfortable. Stayed one night in the road & slept in M3. Elmer, Bill, & I.
Little action. Some air activity. Some snow & frost.
Good half day in Forli. Sent home flowers (airplane on way home). Cold but fine weather.
Weather warmer, mud & slush.
Still thawing. Hear we are moving tomorrow to Ravenna area. Sorry to leave this our easiest action position.
Moved today to position near Russi in Ravenna area. Got lousy job as traffic guide. Now in terribly muddy position. Luckily have large farmhouse for CP & sleeping. Had a locust in room first night. Built stove from charge cases.
Much road mending & much mud. Hear we are to move again soon. Ruddy nuisance.
Mud all the time. Moved up to forward position as one of the holding party. Got in a nice house. Very nice people. Still much mud.
Troop moved to new position. People here very good. Old lady, son & daughter.
Little activity but much mud. Had a very welcome but necessary bath today at Forli. Also saw “The Way Ahead”. Very rough ride to & from Forli.
Little firing. Fine weather. Went to Faenza & saw football.
Little of interest. Weather fine.
Road mending party at the waggon lines.
Into Forli. Haircut and pictures “Song of Bernadette”. Late out & missed truck got lift to Russi & walked rest of way. Glorious moon. Beautiful weather these days & little firing either way.
Quite a lot of activity.
Went to Rimini to see 8th Army play RAF. Very fine game. 8th won 2-1. Weather still fine.
Feb 25th & 26th
Glorious weather. Full moon. Things livening up. Much firing now both us & Jerry. Battle for river Senio.
Fine weather. Some activity around R. Senio.
Went to Ravenna to see Ali Baba. Fine show. But walked home after. Got a trifle foot sore. Alf, Roy & I.
Weather still very fine. Plenty of firing both sides.
Made court for desk quoits & having some good fun at this game. Bath at Faenza. Tom T. & I left behind & had to hitch hike back.
Still very fine. Little firing from our guns at moment.
Went to Russi to see Gabrielle Bruhn in ENSA show very good.
Mar 10th to 14th
Weather still fine. Excitement today, Bill Lanford set fire to hay stack. We have not done so much shooting recently sounds as though there is plenty of action. Strange thing today a British A.P. shell landed in our position.
Cheers. I am going on leave to Rimini. Guns went out to calibrate today.
Saw “Melody Inn”. Rest camp quite good but little to do.
Went to see spitfire drome. Weather still very good.
Quite an enjoyable day. Swimming in the morning. Water cold & shallow but quite enjoyable. Pictures in Rimini afternoon & at night in Viserba. (“The Girls He Left Behind” & “Song of Russia”)
Return to camp after quite an enjoyable leave. Dinner at Cesena. Weather still very fine.
Played 7 a side football. Winning 4-0 when ball burst. Injured my foot. Bad bruise on by toe joint. Weather grand &little firing.
Bert & Reg returned from UK.
Little firing. Weather changeable, some rain.
Calibrations at Rimini. Quite a pleasant two days. Weather very fine, nice ride there & back. Billiards, darts & table tennis in the Piccadilly & saw “Bathing Beauty”. In breakdown interval heard excellent imitation of trumpet & some yodelling. Also Officer shouting.
Mar 30th & 31st
Return to billets. Jerry a bit more active with heavy shells near our position.
Apr 1st & 2nd
Easter. Little happening. Weather beautiful.
Little activity. Some air shoots.
Very heavy Jerry shelling began at 11 o’clock at night. A bad night. Shells & rockets all around the area & troop position plastered. Poor old Bombardier Lewis killed. Must have been blown 50 yards for we found him some way from where shell fell & he had broken line in falling. Took 1½hrs to find him.
Dug deep shelters today.
Went to Forli to Church service on stadium given by Archbishop of York. Inspired service. Went to pictures in afternoon & saw “Canterbury Tale”. Had to leave before end.
Large scale attack started today at 1.50. Air force went in first & then barrage. Infantry later. As usual one lot of bombs dropped in wrong place this time near R.H.Q.
Bty moved up to Lugo. We (Tom, Alec, Elma & I) left behind in M3 to reel in cable. Had two very enjoyable days. Last day at the house we had grand meal of minestrone chicken & chocolate cream. They gave us nearly all our food these two days. They & we were sorry we had to leave.
On way up to wagon lines we saw lots of damage resulting from bombing and barrage. Every house was hit & a lot were completely demolished. House at wagon lines still smouldering & yet people were happy to see us & made us welcome. It seems that they were glad to be alive & that jerry had gone. We cleared a small cubby hole in a ruined house (including Jerry excreta) & kipped down for night.
Cable maintenance & going back tomorrow to collect more cable.
Set off early and reached our friends at Russi about 10.30. A great welcome here. Got in 3½ miles cable.
Got in more cable & had good rest in afternoon.
Returned to wagon lines & stayed night.
Did maintenance & re-joined troop in evening. On 17th some machine gunning from air.
Learn we are to support 6th Armoured. Expect some hectic moves similar to Africa and around Rome. Troop now at Cavazzola.
Moved to bivvy position.
Boccaleone – moved to position where we slept in a large barn.
Apr 22nd & 23rd
In two different bivvy positions. Bags of dust. Seems fewer vineyards round here. On way up passed through Argenta, this was all in ruins, we heard that 1,000 civvies were killed here. We have done a little firing & have had little in return.
Still on move, stayed in house where there were a lot of ginger Ities, queer people.
In another house, slept in entrance passage. People here seemed better off for clothes etc. Probably fascists although quite pleasant to us. Place called Prate Gradella. We cannot keep up with Jerry & are often out of range soon after occupying a position. Dust on roads is terrible.
Reached river Po today. This time I slept in a large open ended straw loft over a cowshed. Some rain during night. Maybe it will lay the dust. Understand we are now supporting 78th Div.
We are going out of action tomorrow.
Left for Cattolica south of Rimini, good ride down. A nice modern town situated on the Adriatic coast. In good houses for billets although no furniture & sleep on stone floors. Of course all the old bull is starting but our new CO promises to be a much more reasonable bloke. We should have a reasonable time once we settle down.
Caught for guard.
War officially over in Italy. Surprising to hear that over a million Hun surrendered in Italy.
Shifted billets twice today, eventually comfortably settled in house 2 mins from sea.
Memorial service. Swimming again.
May 6th & 7th
Little duty, much swimming.
Went off to Forli to take Jerry prisoners of war to Ancona.
Took 2500 to Ancona by train, interesting job. 3 of us to 150 P.W.’s. Slept in transit camp on 10th returned to Forli by cattle truck train. Enjoyed journey.
Back to Cattolica & more swimming.
Spent nearly all day on the beach. Absolutely super.
Guard & got stick man.
Off to Cesenatico to do guard at Jerry POW camp. Got there about midday & had to start searching prisoners. This went on until 04.30 hrs
A rotten job. 11,000 were searched & listed & put in cage. Many small fortunes were made. Did 12hr guard.
On counting party.
(Whit Sunday). On counting party & then 24hr guard. In between managed to get a swim, a rare treat in the sea, shall be glad to get back to Cattolica. It is miserable here. Crowded in tents with no room for kit, food is poor & little is done for comfort or recreation of troops
Still doing duties at POW camp. 24 hour & 12 hour guards, 14hr escort, counting parties. Everyone thoroughly browned. Illicit trading only bright spot. Weather fine but windy. Little hay fever.
Getting more browned off every day. Some have gone back to Cattolica, but not me! Today (27th) a skirmish in hut when a 3ft snake came whipping in. A spade soon finished it off. There are no recreational or welfare amenities for us whatever.
Usual boring duties at POW camp. Thank goodness I return today to Cattolica.
Welcome swim in afternoon, but on picket at night. Quite a shock today Alf & others being posted to airfield role, probably going home & then out east.
Jun 2nd & 3rd
More swimming, still miss guard. Like being at a rest camp after Cesenatico.
A day searching prisoners at Bellario Tervia some loot. Been getting grand swimming, but am off back to POW at Cesenatico tomorrow.
Off to Cesenatico for guards. Still multi line for cigs, food etc. Our post was on canal bank & the air was full of line flying about in hankies weighted with earth. Riots expected in cage between two groups of prisoners did not materialise.
Return to Cattolica after boring week of guards. Feature was concerts of German prisoners. Heard Rossini orchestra again tonight, smashing.
Guard over weekend.
6 hours on beach & in again at midnight. Great sport but only just missed Regimental orderly officer.
Still some good swimming & quite an event today, got a game of tennis.
To the POW camp once more.
Nice evening out in Cesenatico. Len H. & I visited Itie house & had eggs & vino & vermouth, made a nice change.
Usual duties & few swims. Visited Itie house again. Stan & I had 8 eggs each!
Returned to Cattolica.
Went on leave to Viserba.
A merry night with Les Ellis & Harry Harrison. Slightly (?) inebriated.
Returned to Cattolica, Bill & Tom back from 8th Army HQ. Stan going on L.I.A.F. but has had bad news.
Up to POW on escort as soon as we arrived. But had a grand evening. Swim after dinner & then onto Cesenatico where we found a place & got some vermouth & sole & chips. A rare treat. After this a very good Itie show & on the way back to camp decided on a swim. Sea was grand. Bert parker, Bill Briggs & I.
Guards, escorts etc. A few swims.
Another grand evening. Bill Briggs & I went for a swim. Then into Cesenatico & had sole & chips & two bottles of vermouth (1,000 Lira!)
Grand swim in morning. Rotten 24hr guard at night. Not going back on Friday.
Duties. One good night out fish 7 chip supper, Bert George 7 I.
Alec & I had good supper & then a most wonderful swim, it was calm & warm & we stayed in from 9.30 until 11 at night.
Returned to Cattolica & had grand afternoon &evening swimming.
Grand afternoon swimming & pictures in evening, “Greenwich Village”. Yippee! Am going Venice tomorrow.
Left to go to show given by 10 Indian Div. Stayed at Mestre near Venice this evening. Went into Venice. A marvellous place.
Went to Udine & then onto Grado. Had afternoon swimming & then back to near Udine to see show. Natural amphitheatre in hills. Thunderstorms but show was able to go on. Enjoyed this. Back to Grado to sleep.
Went back to Mestre & spent evening in Venice again.
Back to Cattolica after enjoyable but tiring 3 days.
Up to POW on guard immediately. Duties getting worse. Everyone fed up.
Many duties at POW camp. Wed. night had storm & wind blew in end of tent. Len Purdy left out in rain & self in rare state. Had one or two nice suppers this week but sorry I am staying here next week.
Heavy duty again this week. But a good supper at the Pino club last night & a lovely swim (& a kiss) this morning.
Back to Cattolica.
R.P. at Ravena races.
Quite a pleasant week at Cattolica. Swimming & pictures.. Did exchange duty at R.H.Q.
Up to POW again.
Having trouble with my back.
In pain all night so saw MO said I had sciatica, but did not excuse me duties gave me some embrocation. Had bad time all day. But considerably better in morning. Pity to have to miss swimming, lovely weather.
First swim for a week lovely.
Another good swim. My back is better thank God. Great news when I got back to camp I have been picked out for LIAP & leave Saturday.
Left for Blighty. Left at 12.45. Arrived Rimini 1.30. After much waiting & disorganisation left Rimini 5.15. Arrived Milan after uncomfortable journey about 7 o’clock Sunday morning. Stayed in 311 transit camp all Sunday. Terribly boring.
To: Miss E.E. Warner
113 Upperton Rd
Sender’s Address: No.1145766 Sig. Warner E.L. 99th Med. Bty 74th Med. Regt R.A. B.N.A.F.
June 27th 1943
Dear Edith and all at Leicester,
I am addressing this to all the L’cester folk, as I really forget to whom I addressed the last epistle. Many thanks for your welcome letters, sent about Easter time, & which reached me OK. Regarding the ink question, it is not so surprising really, most of us started the campaign with a bottle, which lasted a considerable time, then, as we were getting short, Jerry & the Eyeties were considerate to leave us new supplies in the positions we took over from them. Latterly we have been able to buy ink (of a doubtful quality) from a town a short distance from where we are in camp. There is not a lot to write about at the moment, one day passes like another. We are camped in rather high ground & our outlook is very limited by the hills which surround our depression in which we are situated. Our time is occupied by various jobs, maintenance when necessary & further training. We have had a regimental sports, my only part was in the battery tug-of-war team, which we lost. Football matches are arranged and we have had one or two concerts. At the last one there was a very fine pianist, & an opera singer, both French. The singer had a really fine voice, & sang arias from Carmen & Madame Butterfly. You can guess I thoroughly enjoyed this. This last few days I have been to a rest camp on the coast. We go in rotation in parties. It was most enjoyable, including the ride down, altho’ we were crowded in an army truck. It took us through some much more attractive scenery than we have so far seen, with more vegetation. One part of the journey was through a deep rocky gorge, which had cloud girdled peaks towering high on either side. The last part of the journey the road ran by the sea, being cut in the side of the rocks & mountains & tunnelled in parts. Eventually we came to the camp, which overlooked a sandy bay, surrounded by rocks & mountains. The bay was very similar to some in Devon & Cornwall, & I greatly enjoyed the swimming. Glad to say I am quite fit. With much love & best wishes to all, Laurie.
To: Miss E.E. Warner
113 Upperton Rd
Sender’s Address: No.1145766 Sig. Warner E.L. 99th Bty 74th Med. Regt. R.A. C.M.E.
May 6th 1944
I feel I have been very remiss in not writing before now to thank you & Elsie for the birthday wishes & most useful parcel you sent me. The days seem to pass very quickly and it seems impossible we are already one third of the way through 1944. If, as was hoped, this is to be our victory year, things will have to get a move on. The terrible mud & weather of the winter is being forgotten now, as the weather improves daily, & we are getting some grand sunny days. There is some beautiful scenery in these mountainous districts, also some quite pretty wild flowers, when one is in the right mood to appreciate such things. I had a grand leave of a few days at a rest camp by the sea, & was lucky to get some swimming & boating. I think you would appreciate the beauty of the coastal scenery here. So glad you received the lemons OK. I was doubtful about them. Congrats at your success at languages, I hope you passed the later exam you mentioned. I have been trying my hand at Italian, & during leave, manage quite well. But on returning to camp no further opportunity occurs & I forget it all by the time leave rolls round again. It seems queer to me that there has been so much controversy back home re bombing of ancient monuments etc. The answer to my mind is so obvious. If the enemy uses such places to his advantage, the best means at our disposal must be used to get him out, much as one deplores the irreplaceable loss of works of art. I feel this is a rather inadequate reply to your interesting letters, but I will write at greater length as opportunity occurs. My regards to Alice, Billie, Wallace, I will write them soon. Best wishes to you both, love Laurie.
To: Mrs E.L. Warner
34 King Edward Rd.
Sender’s Address: No.1145766 Sig. Warner E.L. 99th Bty 74th Med. Regt. R.A. B.N.A.F.
Sept. 8th 1943
My dearest Peggie,
So sorry that it has been some days since I last wrote you, but we seem to have been more busy, & I really have not had much opportunity to write during the last week. Even so, I have very little to tell you, but I know the main news you want is that I am fit & well. I am really quite OK. So you have no need to worry about me at all. The last lot of papers I received off you contained an air mail form, & it was thoughtful of you to send this. Unfortunately however, we have recently been prohibited from using these. You see we are rationed to one per week, otherwise I suppose the number would be too great to deal with by plane. Incidentally I have not received any papers for a few weeks, the last I had were for the last week of July, letters too are rather slower. I am hoping to learn that Billie is better now. The weather is still very hot, & the flies are becoming a greater nuisance than ever, they simply swarm all over your food, & tend to dull your appetite somewhat. Some nights ago there was a bit of a commotion at bed time, & it transpired that two fellows had found small snakes in their beds & others had found lizards. Last night we spent a pleasant half hour clearing our tent of a number of black insects, semi-beetle, semi-grasshopper which seem to have developed a liking for our blankets! Well dear heart, this is all for now, I hope you and all at home are keeping well, give my regards to all & all my love to you, dear, Laurie.