There is usually a point in or weekly chats that George and I get round to the War. George 93 served in the Royal Artillery throughout the Italian campaign 1943-45. This week he told me of a great moment.
His battery for which he drove a truck had suffered 30 casualties out of its complement of 50 in the first year. The fighting had been particularly brutal as they got into Northern Italy as the Germans once again fought a brilliant rearguard action against a vastly superior enemy.
By Christmas 1944 the front had fought itself to a standstill.. Bad weather meant there could be little tank or air borne action. British troops were being withdrawn to Greece and Northern Europe. A policy of offensive defence was the order of the day. The switch from intensive fighting to nearly no action meant many such as Private “Lucky Roughy” had time to take stock.
“Up until then you knew that it was just a matter of luck that you and not the guy next to you survived. Of course you were frightened but you just carried on. I had got married just before I had left England in 1943 and I had never seen my daughter Pamela. But that Xmas as we knew that the Allies were on the Rhine, the Italian army was seventy miles from Germany and the Russian were doing well, we knew it was over. More importantly, as the fighting had all but stopped, I suddenly realised I wasn’t going to die and I was going to get home. I dont believe but I think when I realised that I did say a prayer, I had to thank someone.”
It took a year for George to get home. He spent a lot of time ferrying German prisoners to and from camps. When he got back to Engalnd in January 1946 he had to go into hospital.
“I will never forget little Pam and her Mum running down the ward shouting there’s my Dad.”
George doesn’t cry and as he was telling me this I looked at him very carefully. He shook his head, tightened his lips and just smiled. In war and peace he had buried his best mates, his brothers and sisters, his daughter and wife, he was not going to break now. To know him is to love him.