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  • Author: Jim Smythe
  • Date Posted: Wednesday, August 30, 1944
  • Category:
  • Address: Pisignana, Italy

1 Tuesday
Received 164-167 Frances
Fired first thing this morning at 0715hrs and we were off and on all the time. I was transferred to E.4guns at 0100hrs This is my old gun I used to drive for I had to help them dig their pit also I had to dig another slitty. These two jobs took me and the rest of the crew up until tea time 1800hrs. We were told at 1900hrs that we have to fire a barrage starting off at 2300hrs. It was over 200 per gun but we had to get 500 ready. The barrage started at 23 00 hrs and we fired the last shot of it at 0345hrs. We then had to fire more away these carried us to 0420hrs in bed at 0435hrs. We were all done.

2 Wednesday
Up and firing again at 0715hrs. I had had only 3 ¼ hrs sleep. We have been firing all morning to and it looks as if there is another barrage tonight.
Later: There was but it only lasted for ¾ hr starting off at 1800hrs and finishing at 1845hrs. We then went to bed after we had cleaned up a bit.
PARCEL: No 30 Dicenory etc. Since we have been in action this week we have fired nearly 2000rounds. This means we have fired on a avg 500 rounds a day. I am just about done too, we all are anyway. “I” Sectoon said that Jerry was pulling out tonight from our sector.

3 Thursday
Wrote Frances No 99 (6pag)
Jerry did pull out last night and we are going to follow him because we were told this morning we were leaving this possition at 0930hrs and go forward. We are still here and it is now 1335hrs. I am going to drive E5 for about five days as the driver has gone to Rome on leave for that period. We have fired no rounds to-day although our guns were still in “action”. Moved at 2000hrs. The road out was very twisted and very steep our route took us through two villages the first one being PISIGNANA then LA Romola. They were blown to pieces by our shells. The second one was where we fired on all night on the 29 July. Very smelly. This last one, must be a lot of Jerrys buried in the ruins.

4 Friday
We came 7 miles (by road) last night and our new possitions are very close for Artly being only 2000yds away. We arrived here at 2215hrs last night and the guns are getting ready for action now 0700hrs.They have some very high hills in front of them and they could not fire last night for fear of hitting the hill. It is only this morning they could fix up their “crest clearance” Florence can now be seen from one of these hills it is only three miles away. Reports came through at lunch time that there were some “kiwis” in the town so it looks as if we have it at last. We shelled this vicary (?) pretty good and heavy by the looks of the holes and the amount of shrap lying around. There are quite a few dead (good) Jerrys still lying about. There is a ————- pit on the side of the hill which must have got————— hit there is a bit of a mess around. There is shaving gear in the pit. They were shaving.

5 Saturday
Yes it looks as if the crew of the gun were in the act of shaving when the shell hit their pit. Their shaving gear is all over the bottom of it. The guns have not fired to-day. In this country to date 15,000 rounds per gun have been fired this was told to us two days ago. We have no shells back in this area yet and we don’t want any either. I am still on the Quad E5 but I only expect to be here another two days more. I made a jelly this after noon I was going to have it with a small tin of cream for supper tonight but it has not set yet so now I am going to have white bait tomatoes and onions instead. The meals have gone back the last few days. We were told our troup have withdrawn from Florence to regroup, we go around this (open city)

6 Sunday
We are just resting now although Jerry is landing shells not ½ mile from us, he is shelling the road somewhere in front of us. I will be back on the guns tomorrow. We are moving to sometime tomorrow the rumour says it is going to be 17 miles to the west so we will be over on the Adriatic Coast soon again we are going to take the place of a Indian Div (they say).
Received Airgph Frances 17.7.44.
Rained all afternoon but it eased about tea time. The ground was wet for the rest of the evening. I was in bed by 2130hrs.

7 Monday
Received 172 Frances. 1 Norm 1 Gran
Very quite this morning up till 1105hrs when we got orders to get ready to move. I was still living up with the quads as there was nothing doing down at the guns. After pushing our gear on the limbers we moved down to the guns having lunch at 1200 and by 1230 we were on the move. We went back the way we had come in to this place. We went as far as La Romola and turned left passing through two more bombed out villages. The people were hunting through what was left of their homes for what few items they had. We came to a halt at 1615hrs and we had to wait here until 0100 the next morning when we were going to move up under the cover of darkness . The gun pit we were going to was already we were taking over from the 8th Indian Div.

8 Tuesday
After we landed here this morning at 0200hrs we put the gun into the pit and then we were told that no men was to bed down without first digging himself a 2ft slitty. Some place this must be we thought. The ground was very hard for the first foot but after I had gone down a bit more I put some straw in the bottom and then my bed roll into which I soon got when I looked at my watch it was 0250 hrs. I was soon asleep and I never woke until we got a take posts at 0215hrs. This morning breakfast was at nine. Never fired much during the day we put over a few after tea but we were all in bed by 2145hrs and were soon asleep. Jerry sent over a few shells about tea time.

9 Wednesday
Wrote Frances Aircard (1)
This morning at 0315 seen me in the gun pit firing. It was to break up a slight attack Jerry was putting in we fired 5000 rnds and from then until 0700hrs I was asleep again. This morning when we were firing E2 gun hit a tree twice and there were four or five chaps got a wee piece of shrap in different parts of their body. Five rounds was all we fired up till 2100hrs for then we had to do harrassing fire until 2359hrs This was three hours and we only had to fire 30 rounds in this time only three of us stayed up to do it. It started to rain about 2400hrs but it was only a slight thunder storm lasting until 2300hrs we were in bed by 0015hrs. Les Moore joined the troop today.

10 Thursday
Wrote Frances No 100, 6 pag. Wrote Joss
I was woke this morning by the call for breakfast the time was 0840hrs and I was in for a shock because it was teaming rain, the water had run down the sides of my dugout and my bed was slightly wet. It was on and off nearly all day after this. The front is very quite just now as we are now at the Gothic Line and Jerry has not fallen back on to it proper. We are going to try and break through it before he does get dug in propely.

11 Friday
Received letters 170-1 173
Also two air-graphs and 1 airgph. Also one airgraph from Clarise telling me she is expecting Fred home within two weeks. 1 Letter from Gran.
It rained this afternoon and it was very heavy. It washed us all out. My tent was leaking so I had to take every thing off the floor. Then I striped off and got out with a shovel and dug drains all round. I got wet through of course. I even took off my watch before I wenet out. The rain stoped at 1500hrs it lasted one hour. Went to bed at 2200hrs I never had to get up tonight my night off.

12 Saturday
Wrote Frances no 101 8 pag. Wrote Air card “Farmers” Wrote Air card Frances
Up this morning at 0800hrs very quite. Played bridge all morning and wrote most of the after noon only fired five shots all day. Had some lovely grapes from a vineary only a few yards away from our gun. Played bridge nearly all day. We only fired a few rounds.. Very hot to-day. I wrote out-side it was too hot in my dug out.

13 Sunday
Wrote Harry 3 pag
Up this morning at 0800hrs. This was just in time to have my shave and wash before breakfast came down. Played bridge all morning and afternoon also a round or two after tea. We were payed tonight at 2200hrs. I drew 4 pounds the reason for this was we are going to another possition and we were told to draw about 2 pounds extra so we must be going to somewhere so we can spend it. The rumour is over to the “Adriatic Coast” for the break through onto the Lombardy Plains. The news is very good to-night we are going forward fast on all fronts bar this one (40 miles from Paris) Gun out of action it is firing 400yds short. We need a new ———-

14 Monday
Very heavy mist this morning it did not clear until 0845hrs. We are all short of smokes again there has been very few in lately. Played bridge nearly all day. What rounds we did fire only needed three men because we only fired three all day. After tea there was a task for us to do harrasing fire. This meant because our gun was out of action as far as the night firing was concerned we had to go on other guns to help because the time was from 2100hrs until 0800hrs. 6 hours. We four went on first and the rest at 2359 hrs. We fired in those three hours 61 rounds

15 Tuesday
Up to 1330hrs to-day we have not fired a shot. We are going out to-night or rather we are leaving this place in the early hours of tomorrow morning either 4 or 7 oclock. The quads are coming in when it gets dark. We are not allowed on the road until 0700hrs tomorrow. We are going back towards SIENA for how long we don’t know. Was told of the landing in the south of France. The only things we could do was take our tents down. We were able have a rest for six hours so it was whorth getting into bed.

16 Wednesday
We were up this morning at 0300hrs we had to be ready to move by 0415hrs. There was a new moon up but this never made much difference, it was very dark. We had all our gear packed up on the quads and limbers and we got under way at 0440hrs. The distence we were going was 35 mls it should not have taken us very long but there was some long halts etc and we never landed at “Castalina” until 10.15hrs. The other five towns we went through were MONTESPERTOLI, POPPIANO, SAN PANCRAZIO, TAVARNELLE,TIGNANO,. Played bridge all afternoon. Slippery Sam at night Lost 22/- Received Airgph Frances (1)

17 Thursday
Breakfast at 0745hrs. Troop parade at 0830hrs. Reg parade at 0845hrs. We were only out of action 29hrs when we had this last parade but hats had to be on the right angel, boots pollished, clean clothes etc. The rest of the day was taken up with cleaning and oiling the Quads, guns and limbers. This took us up until 1500hrs so after this the time was our own. I played bridge until 1800 which was tea time, it was a game for 6 pence per 100 and I was 5/6 which meant I was 1050 ahead of the others.. Went down to the 4 Field Reg after tea and seen Les Bradshaw he is now a two pippers(?) and is G.P.O of D. Troop 26 Battery.

18 Friday
Wrote Frances No 102 5 pag. Sent photos of the boys. They were the ones from Clary Carew
We had another parade this morning at 0900hrs this was only a troop parade and we had to clean in side the limbers also the ammo which it carries 32 rounds. This took us up till lunch time and just as we had finished eating this it rained as hard as it did a few days ago flooding us all out just as it done before. I had to make another “home” altogether and this time I will be safe if it rains again . I have a drain one foot deep around my tent. It turned out fine about 1600hrs and the rest of the day was alright. I wrote the above letter after tea the time was 2030. I used my candle to do it.

19 Saturday
We are now having a parade every morning at 0900hrs but from on there is not very much work to be done this will give us plenty of time to ourselves until we move again when this is going to be I don’t know.
Norm came back this afternoon and I did get a shock to see him . I thought he was getting a job back at Base. I wrote him a letter last night and posted it this morning. He will get it in about a months time . I will check the time. We had some vino at the Battery area to=night and we all had a good time. Mr Barron (?) and I had a understanding.

20 Sunday
Wrote Frances airgraph (1)
To-day the guns are going back to a range to be calabrated. We are leaving at 1815hrs. The distance is over 50 miles.
My gun was the last one in the convoy as the new “piece” it was getting was not finished being fit until 15min after the convoy had ended. This meant we would be on our own which was a good thing. We were going back as far as Lake ————- Our route in turn through MONTERONI, BUONCOVNENIO, TORRENIERI, SAN QUIRICO, PIENZA and at 1800hrs we came to our camping area. We had tea but at 2030hrs we had a big meal of saugiges, potatoes, tomatoes then some vino to finish off with. In the last town there were some very pretty girls. We won’t be able to get back to this place the only trips we are getting from here is to the lake which is nine miles away.

21 Monday
We are having a very easy day to-day. We won’t be taking our gun down until tomorrow sometime. Those who wanted to go down to the lake and swim could do so. We on E.4 had to stay for our guns had to go down and fire 10 rounds from our gun at five oclock they said but our day was mucked up as usual and we never went down until 1930hrs. We went to a Cassa after the finish. After we came back we had a feed of chips and tomatoes a few more drinks and then to bed. Went out realy to pinch some fowls etc, never got any.

22 Tuesday
Breakfast was at 0800hrs as usual and we were told that we was not going to fire to-day. This meant we would be free for the rest of the day. The Sargt “took a snack” and four of us set off across country starting off at 1045hrs we walked for miles and at 1800hrs we had lunch at a Itie Cassa. This consisted of tomatoes, eggs, and bread. We left here and went on to a few more and we got eggs at every one. By the time we arrived back we had 24 and we arrived back just in time to take our gun out to shoot, we went to the Cassa when we came back, this time we took some soup, meat and coffee. We got another 18 eggs here making us 42 for the day. Full Letter ——- notes.

23 Wednesday
To-day we returned to our Camping area. Most of us went down to the lake for a swim this morning we came back at 1100hrs cooked our own lunch which was spam, tomatoes and three eggs each, we played bridge until we got the word to move, this was at 1345hrs. The trip back was along the same route and there was PIENZA, SAN QUIRICO, TORRENIERI, BUONCOVNENIO, MONTERONI, then Siena and back home where we arrived at 1730hrs. We got our Alabassta goods, we put in money for the day we left they are now good to and I wish now I had put in a bit more. I only had 100pounds in but I got a small ———- out of it. Camp area Lake Chuise.

24 Thursday
Wrote Frances No 103 – 9 pag. Aircard (1)
Check (?) Parade this morning at 0700hrs and there was a troop parade at 0815. We have to be ready to go on a parade anytime after 0830hrs . This is for Mr Churchill who is going to inspect us the exact time is not known. We are also under very short notice to move from this place and go into the line again. There is going to be a big push within a few days. News came through that Rumainer has chucked it in—–Had two bets on the “two up” to-night and lost 300L. Seen old Churchill to-day , it was a great thrill he is very short and bald.

25 Friday
Down has to come our signs once again. We are on a move somewhere very soon and it is very secret Its just they are trying to keep it quieter this time than ever before. The places that have the best chances with the boys are the south of France and the Adriatic Coast of this country. Some even say to England, Greece, Yougaslave, and of course “Home” is in the running too. The Kiwi Concert party was in the Arty lines last night and gave a very good show for two hours twenty minutes. We never got back to our own area until 2230hrs. Received letter 174 Frances.

26 Saturday
Wrote Airgph cousin Anne in Scotland.
We are moving tomorrow night so we have been told. So far they have gave the troop one new truck. T.L.F inspected our boots both pairs, gave all the guns new cough-play nets(?) and they are making sure every truck has them to. Don’t know where we are going yet. This after-noon was only passed away in playing bridge so was the evening . I was in a game for 6d per 100 in the evening and I lost 7/6. The weather is still very good.. The grapes are nearly all ripe now and there are some wonderful bunches.. Some of them must be five or more pounds in weight. We were told tonight our starting time is 0900hrs tomorrow as it will be a day-light trip.

27 Sunday
Up at 0645hrs and breakfast at 0730hrs we were ready to move long before the start time. The troop started at 0900hrs but the Reg never got going until 0930hrs and our route was to take us back to Lake Trasuneno and the length of our days travel was 135miles through some very pretty country. The trip around the lake was very pretty. We passed through several towns on our way they were the same nearly as before. After leaving our camping area we came through SIENA, PIENZA, MONTEPULCIANO, NOTTOLA, ACQUAVIVA, CASTIGLIONE, PERUGIA, SPELLO, FOLIGNO,. We were told to-night we were going another 90 miles to-morrow to a place called JESI which is only 10 mls from the Adriatic Coast and this place is only 20 mls from ANGONA. We were very dirty when we arrived but we had to cook our own tea before we could clean up and we were in bed by 2130mls and soon asleep.

28 Monday
Up this morning at 0650hrs and cooked our own breakfast as we have to cook all our meals to-day. We are moving sometime around 1100hrs. We moved at 1045 hrs and our route took us back through FOLIGNO where we had stayed the night about five miles on the south side. SCOPOLI, CASENOVE, CASTELLO, TOLENTINO, MACERATA, FILOTTRANO, JESI. This trip was 89 miles to-day. We stoped about 1 1/2mls on the north side of the town. We traveled right around Lake Trasuneno which is the large lake between Rome and Siena. The country through which we passed was very pretty and over here on the Adriatic is very well cultivated, the vinerys are very good, tomatoes, potatoes, melons etc are plentiful. After cooking our own tea we went to bed at 2100hrs.
29 Tuesday.
Wrote Air card (1) Frances
Up this morning in time for breakfast (0800). There was a parade at 0900hrs then after we had cleaned the guns and the drivers their trucks we were free. There are some wonderful grapes around about us and this after-noon I got some tomatoes, and cucumbers. The cooks are once again cooking our meals for us.
Received 4 Air cards Frances, 1 Airgraph mother, Received parcel from Mother. Shortbread and wafers. Post dated 5.5.44.
I was in bed by 2130hrs and was soon asleep. At 2400 hrs I was woke up by our Bdr who told me that I had to be ready to go forward at 0700hrs in the morning. This meant fully dressed with bed roll ready and everything else.

30 Wednesday
Received Airgraph (1) Frances
Up at 0635 shaved and packed up ready to move at 0655hrs but this move never came off so I and the other seven who were going with me will now go with the rest at 1400hrs. We were on the road again and we went back through the town of JESI and turned off in an easterly direction. This meant we were going towaards the coast. We passed through REVELLATO, OSTRA and we were within 4mls of FANO when we turned left again towards the hills and of course the Gothic Line. The days journey was a long one and we never stoped until 2100hrs. This meant we had been 7 hours on the road and we had only traveled 45 miles all told. Tea was at 2200hrs and it was steamed pudding, stew mince, potatoes and tea. Not bad for the time of night. We are going to stay here to-night and move up into our possitions tonight. We are going to break this Gothic Line and Italy.

31 Thursday
We could hear a few shells come back last night but they were half a mile in front of us. We were all very tired so we slepted on top of the ground. To-day has been one of rest well up until 1505 anyway. At this time we moved again. We were now going into action once again. The distance we were to go is not known when we first moved off and it was not known until 2300hrs. The distance covered was 9 miles and it took us 8 hrs 45min to do it just over 1 ml per hour. We put the guns “down” at 2345hrs and then dug a pit. Up till now we had had no tea so at 0150 the cooks lined up their dixies and we got stew, peas, potatoes with rice and stewed peaches. We then went on digging the pit after we done this we dug ourselves in. Went to bed at 0315hrs. Jerry was sending a lot of shells over.