Noel Langley books doing the rounds.

Nov 3rd, 2012

Capt. G Tattersall

H.Q. R.A.S.C.

7th A.D.

19th November 1943

Dear Harvie,

I hope I thanked you for the arrival of your parcel with another posh brush in it and plenty of soap. Have you read the book “There is a porpoise close behind us” by Noel Langley? Quite a odd book. There are quite a number of Noel Langley books going about the Division at present. Thank you for the books.  In particular the book on “Whistler” was much appreciated. At the moment ( but for how long?) we are in a Villa. It is without bathrooms (there are wash bowl and lavatories temporarily out of use) in spite of its large size. It has a marble staircase and tiled floors. The Italians do not have wooden floors – I suppose it is warm for most of the year. At present it is raining and chilly but the day becomes quite warm if the sun shines. Yesterday I was almost driven to distraction by the chill in the Officers mess. I don’t think we are acclimatized yet to the European winter. I can step out of the back door and pick a ripe orange from a tree.

I have been giving lectures on V.D. and not before time. It has become a necessity. I claim rapt attention for one and a half  hours! On no other subject in the world could I claim to do this! Well, it depends, I suppose.

Gilbert

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Well supplied in Italy.

Nov 3rd, 2012

H.Q. R.A.S.C.

7th Armoured Division  C.M.F.

9th November 1943

Dear Harvie,

The V.D. rate has gone up by leaps and bounds. I can imagine a fond mother after the War saying of her son. “The poor boy has been ailing ever since he served abroad” but she should say with the shock of truth “My poor boy has never recovered from his first fuck in Italy”. I can say no more than that. This letter may yet be held up to me as an example of undermining the civilian morale at home, but it is such a tragedy. Most of these boys are of a type that under different circumstances have married the girl next door, worn a bowler hat to work, and never have had to worry about sexual health. They would have considered V.D as as disease that other people get. I am always thankful that Hermaphrodite blessed my cradle.

Thank you for the soap which will, in this picturesque but dirty land, at least keep me clean until the summer comes round again. I have no qualms about Italy – not for myself. I tour the same bit every day (through the same lovely squalor) hidden behind the windows of a limousine. Let it go on until next summer and on into next winter, if only the scenery will change by the success of our forces. Let me get to the Brenner Pass and to Vienna.

At present and for some months to come the supply of cigarettes in Italy will be more than adequate for my smoking needs. Could you write and have the supply you send me stopped, perhaps you could divert them to Wilfred if you can find out where he is. At the moment I store them in my car and I have so many that during the rainy season I am worried that they will get damp before I can smoke them. Thanks for sending them when we were short but now our supply line is not so long ( it used to go three quarters the way round Africa) we are well stocked. Soap on the other hand is scarce in Italy but thanks to you I now have a supply that will keep me washed until the day we reach Berlin.

I will wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in all my letters as I have no way of knowing how long they take to arrive. Unfortunately there is no news of Prisoners and perhaps it would be better for Wilfred to go to Germany than risk and escape and all the hazards that would entail. (Gilbert is obviously aware of some of the rumours about what happened to POW’s in Italy after the Armistice – Admin)

Cheerio – Gilbert.

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Billeted in a Slaughter House.

Nov 2nd, 2012

Capt. G. Tattersall

H.Q. R.A.S.C.

7th Armoured Division C.M.F.

2nd November 1943

Dear Harvie,

I am billeted at the moment in a model slaughter house. This is a wonderfully clean place. Probably the cleanest building within miles. Our mess is a room with red tiled floors, shuttered windows and whitewashed walls. High ceilings.  I am listening to Beethoven on a portable gramophone at the moment. We have plenty of alcohol  There is quite a supply of German Gin and plenty of Vermouth (“IT”) and plenty of local “VINO” – this wine upsets my stomach but the occasional glass is pleasant.

The climate is a bit like England in September. Apparently we are in the middle of  the worst part of the Italian year. If so, it is a smashing climate. It rains frequently but the sun shines frequently too. And when it shines the sun is warm. The villages are squalid but also undeniably picturesque. Men, women and children – pell mell, with horses, donkeys, mules, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, geese, carts, manure, straw, vines. No apparent order in it all. Marvellously haphazard and wonderfully dirty

Cheerio – Gilbert

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Silk Stockings.

Nov 2nd, 2012

Capt G Tattersall

H.Q. R.A.S.C.

7th Armoured Division C.M.F

19th October 1943

Dear Harvie,

I will send you a present if I can find something suitable. There were a few examples of tortoiseshell but nothing for a man. I sent May, Hilda and Mrs Wilson a powder Compact Case each – worth a fortune at Finnegan’s but only a quarter of a fortune here because we have the advantage of the exchange, just as the Germans had the advantage of the exchange in poor, dear fallen France.! How the papers sneered over the stories of the Germans sending silks and satins home to their wives from Paris etc.  I managed to buy six pairs of silk stockings which I have distributed between May, Hilda, Jean and Rhona. There is a silk industry in this country – busy worms on Mulberry trees. Of course things are difficult to get and I have to get what I can when I can.

The civilian population are a nuisance.  I was awakened by a soldier saying that a women was about to have a baby. I inspected her a told him to take her to hospital –  the birth was not imminent  The other day I was called out to see a woman who had had an abortion and was supposedly bleeding to death. When I got there she was an abortion case (some back street butcher) but quite normal loss of blood so I had her sent to Hospital as well. On my way there I had prepared myself to be standing in oceans of blood.  Another woman went up to a sergeant and embarrassed him by fainting – so I was called out again!

Cheerio – Gilbert

 

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Descriptions of Italy

Nov 2nd, 2012

Capt. G. Tattersall

H.Q. R.A.S.C.

7th Armoured Division

Central Mediterranean Force – C.M.F. not M.E. F.

Wilfred told me in a letter that he enjoyed the smashing climate of this country. The countryside is absolutely beautiful. I have been wandering through orchards as fabulous as the Garden of Hesperides admiring ripening limes, oranges, tangerines, grapes, peaches. There are avenues of walnut trees and we can eat walnuts from morning til night. There are beautifully clothed hills and mountains around us and a plain before us which is thickly wooded. A town we came through was musical comedy brought into the realms of reality – fly ridden, child ridden, dirty but picturesque. Wonderful views and sudden vistas are revealed as one glances down a side street. Hotels everywhere, steps, balconies with vines drooping over them, pantiles on the roofs.

Today I took the opportunity to buy a little kettle, a tin bowl and a small thermos flask. Soon, I feel , the shops will be exhausted.

The Wireless tells us the War is going well and I hope Wilfred is still in Italy. There will inevitably be a long pause before anything is heard of him, and hopefully he will reach an Army Postal Unit.

Cheerio – Gilbert

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The Desert Rats are now fighting in Italy.

Nov 1st, 2012

Capt. G. Tattersall

H.Q. R.A.S,C.

7th Armoured Division

19th October 1943.

Dear Harvie,

Probably you will know where the 7th Armoured Division are now. It was given out on the Wireless that the famous “Desert Rats” were now fighting in Italy. I wonder where the BBC got this information from? It is quite true.

I also hope the Jerries don’t knock down the leaning tower of Pisa. I don’t suppose they will. The damage they do is usually to buildings of no cultural value. G.P.O, Power Stations, the Kings Palace ( especially if it is an atrocity like Buckingham Palace!) Gas Works, Sewage systems, water supplies and so on. Causing inconvenience and epidemics of disease. All these things are mentioned in the papers. Thank you for the cigarettes: another two parcels have arrived.  The soap will be extremely useful.

If Wilfred manages to escape to and Army Post Office  you will know soon enough. Nothing is known in this Division about prisoners. We shall have to wait and see.

I am reading an amusing book called “The Penguin Herodotus”. A quotation is “Now it happened that this Candaules was in love with his own wife ……this fancy having had strange consequences …” Another amusing book is “Cold Comfort Farm”

Cheerio – gilbert

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A Manxman called Michael Forrester

Oct 31st, 2012

Capt. G. Tattersall

H.Q. R.A.S.C.

7th Armoured Division

6th September 1943

Dear Harvie,

I am remiss about writing. It must be psychological. Days go by and |I am suddenly awakened from my torpor by a letter or a parcel of cigarettes. I have received two of the smaller types of parcel as well as the 1,000 you sent. Thank you very much. They are always welcome. The supply of cigarettes fluctuates and is very bad at the present, and will probably get worse. But my real problem is with soap. A protest has been made and a factory set up, but even so the soap it produces is scarce and I have never seen a piece, but I do hear that it is a bit like sand pressed together with Vim. This commodity is rationed in England too I believe! Is it so seriously rationed that you could not send me some? Common soap is a welcome as toilet soap – common soap is Dhobie soap (laundry soap) for my  batman to do the washing. at the moment I am on my last tablet of soap which is a tablet of Morning Glory (Pears) which Hilda sent me. I don’t know when we shall live in a land of plenty again.

My present habit of not writing is due to – I don’t know what – I have time enough on my hands. Flies perhaps – because if my hands are both engaged flies walk all over me. Or perhaps the lack of a table. It is always meal time when I am in the mess, and if I sit in the front seat of my glorious limousine (a V8 no less!) flies and patients disturb me. I have just completed dressing the sores of a fair haired Corporal. This took about 20 minutes. I travel a round of four Medical Inspection Rooms but have to doth the H.Q on my own. Well, there are not many of them and they all have soft jobs.

Apart fom the fact that I am no longer a front liner, I am quite happy with my change of unit. It makes a change to have a new sort of soldier in the M.I Room, even though the sores and diseases are the same. I have nearly twice as many to look after than on the front line, but now I have four M.I Rooms and four orderlies, and when I have done the rounds that is that for the day, except for hygiene lectures, skin inspections and so forth. Also I am bound to be called out at odd times.

I think it was intended that I should be given hard work to do ( I asked for a change of situation) but I have in fact had harder work to do than this in Hospital or at the Base Depot.

The Mess I am in is “polite”. We have real tea cups to drink out of, and use a tea pot, and there is plenty of sugar. For Alcohol we have a bottle of Gin each. It is Canadian Gin and therefore quite unlike Gordon’s Gin or even Booths Gin. I wrote a letter to you describing my holiday, or did I not? I forget.

It was a pleasant seven days with a bedroom,  a bathroom attached and running water! The food at the Hotel was rationed food and the Hotel keeper was a Manxman called Michael Forrester (Capt.) who went to King Williams College from 1926 onwards ( two years junior to me). He is a swarthy dark haired fellow, Manx like and not very tall, but with no particular trace of a Manx accent. I was invited to a Ack-Ack Battery full of Manxmen sometime ago who were celebrating Tynwald Day. I couldn’t get transport however which was probably a blessing as I did not want to get wildly drunk. I am very wary of the cheap, strange, foreign, badly controlled, immature liquor that the men drink.

Cheerio – Gilbert

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Still a Desert Rat.

Oct 31st, 2012

Capt. G. Tattersall

H.Q. R.A.S.C.

7th Armoured Division.

27 August 1943

Dear Harvie,

Note my new address. I am still in the famous division, a “Desert Rat” – yet now I am am a rat among the supplies. Ergo, not quite as far forward. I run around in a large limousine. This is more comfortable in some ways than a truck. Until the glass windows finally break or jam, I shall have some protection from the wintry elements, I f I live as long as winter, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t. It amazes me that I have sailed through all the sub-tropical diseased and hazards of the desert without an illness. The catarrhal  Jaundice that  trouble others ( also known as Hepatitis A – admin) never touched me. Malaria has not come my way. I had a touch of diarrhoea only once and that was about eighteen months ago. Dysentery and Typhus have also avoided me. Well, well, I must be tougher than I knew. I wonder if I shall escape the next few moths without contracting Malaria  The thing I do suffer from is skin sores, as do most fair haired men. This is a constant source of trouble.

Sicily is ours.  Russia is still doing well. Perhaps Wilfred will be released and home before we know where we are!

After Europe, Asia? Is that to be my lot? I wouldn’t be surprised. Nor would I jib at the prospect.

Cheerio – Gilbert

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Ash Grove, Oriel Road, Didsbury.

Aug 31st, 2012

I found this picture of Auntie Bertha’a house. She had the house built on land behind her brother’s house on Barlow Moor Road and this is the architects impression in water colour – admin.

Auntie Bertha’s House

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What happens to Wilfred after the Armistice?

Aug 28th, 2012

I found this about Chieti – link here.

Old convent; Officers Camp. After the Armistice, anybody wishing to leave the camp was forcibly prevented from doing so by the orders of the Senior British Officer who was following to the letter the orders of Allied HQ to remain in the camp and await the arrival of Allied forces. Consequently the Germans were able to capture them all. They were subsequently transferred to P.G. 78, just outside Sulmona, and thence to camps in Germany where they remained until the end of the war.

Some more information about the Stay Put order here. With many thanks to Tom Carver and his book “Where the hell have you been?”

When the Italian guards abandoned PG21 in Chieti in the middle of the night, and the SBO Colonel Marshall threatened to court-martial any POW who left the camp, there was a near  mutiny among the prisoners. He appointed his own phalanx of guards and ordered them to man the watchtowers. Many of the prisoners could not bring themselves to disobey a high ranking officer and for a week remained docilely where they were – guarded by British guards in an Italian POW camp. When a Battalion of German paratroopers arrived they were astonished to discover prisoners still milling around inside the camp compound, with no sign of Italian guards. The entire camp population – about 1300 soldiers – was shipped by train to the Nazi camps in Poland and Germany. Extract from”Where the hell have you been?” by Tom Carver

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