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  • Author: Jim Smythe
  • Date Posted: Monday, January 31, 1944
  • Category:
  • Address: Lucera, Italy

January 1st 1944 268053

Gnr. J.F.Smythe
E. Troop
3d. Baty
6th NZ Field reg

To my darling wife Frances
January 1 Saturday New years day
Woke up this morning only to find 9″ of snow on the ground. Went for breakfast. It is still snowing and raining and it is very cold. It wasnt the snow on the Quad that made it so cold last night, I have been in the quad all day, have not been down for any meals yet.

The Gunners have been moved into the house because their tents were flooded out. Very
little shooting today. It has been snowing and raining all day. Our holes are full up with snow, so are the gunpits the road is just a river for as we are on hilly country, the rain and snow is melting and draining down onto the road.
2 Sunday
We were shelled this morning at 0030hrs never got out of the Quad, but they were landing
very close, we never had any slittys to get into if we had got out, They were 88s and the
suction of them as they went past rocked the Quad, we (Tom? and D?) were shaking with fright and we dont mind saying so. A piece of shrap hit the back of the Quad but never went through, when I took off my boots tonight I could ring the water out of my sox for my boots were just ozzing water We dug another dug out today and are going to sleep in it because we expect more shells over tonight.

3 Monday
Fine today and not so cold tonight. No parcels yet. was road making nearly all day. Had
hair cut by Itie. My knee is very sore, I never nicked it as I thought I remembered
I hit it on one of the seats yesterday. nothing has happened today “yet” time now is
1745hrs was told today that we were going forward to relieve the tommy 111 bty and after
a week we would be coming back into our forth positions. They say all this is going
to happen within the next five days if the weather holds off the way it has been, we are
having very good days lately

4 Tuesday
Another very fine day, relieving the other batty at dusk. We started to pull the guns out
at 1300hrs and the ground is in such a state that it was 1600hrs before the first gun
got onto the road and it was 1700hrs after number three gun got up or rather we were one
hour in getting our gun onto the road, after the third one pulled out. We are going
forward to a position which makes it our fifth one. Travelled 11 miles and dropped the
guns and came back to the wagon lines, we are now living in a house. Got into bed
at 2330 hrs and the frost is coming in because our room is very holey, we will see if we
can find another in the morning, 5.5s guns were taking our place back where we had
come from

5 Wednesday
Up at 0730 hrs no one awake until 0820hrs, snowed slightly at 11.15hrs and it was very
cold today. Ossie had a rat jumping on him through the night, we shifted into another room today, and I think it will be better than the one down stairs it is larger, drier and it has a fire place also.  We are now cooking for ourselfs. We have four days rations with us.
We are almost stuck for water for the well is 200ft deep and it is only with the Ities rope we can reach it. We could never reach the bottom even if we joined all our ropes together.
I had a bath in lovely hot water.

6 thursday
This is my birthday.
The town we are now near is called LANCIANO very cold this morning but we have an ammo
job on. We started it at 9am and we are back at the “mud hole” doing it.
It started to snow and we were soon covered with it. The cold was intense and it was the worst 4hrs I have ever spent in my life. I had enough by lunch time. The guns wanted it so get it they must. I was hungry, cold, wet through, lucky we have a house to go back to, a big fire too. I was rewarded after we got back which was 1500hrs for I got a cable to say Frances had received my parcels. Started to write Frances no 43

7 Friday
Received three parcels one from Gran one from Mum and one from mum and Hilda. The one
from Frances was lovely, in it was two tins of fruit, salts also this makes me 4 tins
now. Moved ammo again today and we were shelled, some landed ten yards from us no one was hurt. I dont know how we were missed. I thanked God for my being left unhurt. Finished this job at 2 o’clock. We had steak, chips and fried onions for tea, topped off with apple pie
and tinned cream the best feed I have had for many months. We got some veno and I had my birthday today instead of yesterday.
8 January Saturday WROTE FRANCES NO 44 7 Pages
Not much doing today. had a meat pie for tea, with prunes and rice very good for us.
Received airgraph from Frances telling me that Clary Crew and Clem Ragg were wounded, this was not right because they both went out sick. Wrote another airgraph to night telling her so.

WROTE FRANCES No 45 11pages

9 Sunday
Another fine day but the wind was and still is cold. We had another apple pie tonight. This one was a wee bit better than the last one. We are going to have oysters for breakfast in the morning and for those who don’t like them there is going to be whitebait for them. All this is coming out of our own rations not the armys.

10 Monday
Done my washing today. Weather is still very good.
No more parcels yet a few letters but I never got any. We are having a fairly easy time lately which is a very good thing. Very little doing so I find it hard to find anything to write about

WROTE FRANCES No 46 6 pages

11 Tuesday
Up at 0800hrs. Breakfast at 0815 hrs. Fried bacon, toast and beans.
This is another fine day. The snow is still hanging around in different places. Was told E Troop had to stop firing last night because of the shelling they got. It must have been very bad if they were forced to stop firing. Received 2 cakes one from Gran and one from Frances.
We had word of a shift back, don’t know if we might even be going to another front. We heard today that the date was to be the 15th Jan. We shall see.


12 Wednesday
Went in to the village by us and had a look around. The name of it I don’t know nor the age of it but there was a church in the middle and on it was a tablet with the date 1766.
The houses were all in a very bad way some of them were falling down. As usual the roads were all made of stones. The clock was still going although a piece of shrap had knocked a hole in the face of it. Been at this place 8 days now and if everything goes alright we will be pulling out on Sat 15th. We heard we are going back about 200 miles which will be past Foggir

13 Thursday
We are now in a state of mind where we are all trying to guess where we are going after we pull out of the line tomorrow. We think we are leaving Italy for good this seems almost certain. All our Kiwi signs have to come down making us once more the Phantom Div. We drivers had a party last night and we drank Robbie’s health until 2330hrs we all felt very good. We got into bed at 2400hrs. One or two chaps were sick but they had drank two much vino. Altogether we had a very good night.

14 Friday
Everyone feeling very ill this morning. I am alright my-self. We are going to shift the Quads out onto the road today in case it rains we have had them in a ploughed paddock for nearly a week.We don’t know the exact time our move is tomorrow. Jerry shelled B E** tonight this means us to no damage done or no-one hurt. The Ities were very frightened as they don’t like them at any time. Received cable from Frances sent on my birthday Jan 6th.

15 Saturday
Weather still good. We are getting our old Quad back this afternoon so told by Morris.
Had steak and onions for breakfast. Quad back at 1615hrs everything was in pretty good condition. Slept in the Quad again tonight to save a picquet
Rained very hard for about two hours. Quad leaked but it can be fixed.
No move to-day.

Out of action
16 Sunday
Put the rest of our gear in the quad this morning. Checked over oil etc.
Moved at 1213hrs and went 3 miles to guns. We did not have much trouble in getting the guns out. We have them lined up on the road nose to tail. We are due to move at 1025hrs tonight and we are going back as far as the Sangro Halting at 1.30am and we all slept in the quad 6 of us. We had a drink of tea and some cake. going to sleep at 2.30am.

17 Monday
Started to move at 0600hrs this morning. It is very cold and we were very tired. We are going back as far as Lucera. We had breakfast in the dark. It was stew for we had to cook our own. The towns we passed through to-day those of any size at all were starting off with TERMOLI,
SERRACAPRIOEA, SAN SEVERO. Arriving at our staging area at 1317hrs still very cold. We are going on in the morning and we now know where we are going we aare not leaving Italy but we are changing from to thats all.
We are now going to fight in the 5th Army front. We are now on the west coast. We came on the east coast three days ago.

18 Tuesday
Up at 0545hrs moved at 0715hrs. We passed along very flat country for about 40 miles and then we went through 55 miles of very hilly country. In some places we used our very low gear Starting of from Lacerna we next passed through ARIANO which is 4 mls away next was GROTTAMINARDA which is 4mls from ARIANO. next in line were AVELLINO, BAIANO, CICAIANA, CANCISLLO, CASSROIA, CAPUA, BIANO, just passed this we stopped for the
night. We travelled 99miles to-day we by-passed Naples.

Where we are now we can see Mt Vesuvio it stands alone and it is very high. Grapes are grown in great numbers around these parts. There was an air-burst by us tonight it was close enough for us to hear the report when it burst. Bed at 1900hrs stoped 1545hrs

19 Wednesday
Up at 0315hrs on the move at 0400hrs traveled right on till 0915hrs. We are now about 20 miles from the front line. Our route to-day was through several towns starting off with CAMCAFLA, MAPALONA, CERLA, CIAZZO and DRAGON. In one village the streets were so narrow that there was places we had only 4″ of spare room on each side. We seen Mt Vesuvios give out sparks and smoke this morning at 0850hrs. We traveled 35miles this

20 Thursday
Up at 0700hrs washed shaved and ready for breakfast which as at 0800hrs after the boots were polished rifle cleaned we were now ready for the 0900hrs parade. We have only been out of action three days of this we spent most of the hours of daylight and in darkness to traveling the distance of 230mls and we are now carrying on just the same if we were back in Mardi doing “one stop two” Although we have come 280mls by road we are in a straight line only 67 mls from our starting point. LANCIANO.
We are going to the workshops in the morning and as there is a Reg. parade. Tom and I shall miss it.

21 Friday
Only three of us went to the workshops the Seargent Tom and I when we dropped the gun we came back leaving the sergant still there.The boys had a route march up to the old ruins which stand on to of the hill at the back they must be hundreds of years old for they are falling down
everywhere. We got another needle this afternoon Typhus 11V.

22 Saturday
Another good frost this morning. A Baty parade at 0845hrs followed by a route march of 5mls. We marched up towards the front line and when we got to within 1/2mile of the yank Army we turned back. There is going to be a big march past in a few days, first on foot and then in the truck. We have to clean our Quads up by first washing them in the creek 4 miles back after this we have to rub them all over with oil. There was a mail in today. I never got any. Not feeling so good today the needle has knocked me rotten.

23 Sunday
Small route march and then a Reg Church Parade. We finished oiling our trucks today. Bombers were circling over nearly all day (ours) We received news of the landing south of ROME behind Jerry’s lines there was 1 British Inft Div. 1 YANK inf1 Div and one armoured yank div at present they are doing very well.
Rained a little today but nothing to worry about.

24 Monday
Finished letter No 48 started it on Jan 20th. 9pgs. Up at 0700hrs Parade at 0800hrs small route march followed by one hour of foot drill. This was to get us in training for our march past which I think is on Thursday.
We had to scrub our **belts, braces and gaiters a thing that we were never allowed to do at home because they all have been treated with anti gas stuff. Jerry is attacking very hard and the Yanks are coming back a little. The landing is going very well still. they are now only 8miles from the road within gun range.

25 Tuesday
There was another trail this morning first in the morning and this was on foot. In the after-noon we had a trial with the vehicles which was not bad. To day has been very cold and it looks as if we might be getting some more snow. Received 6 parcels in the afternoon. three from Frank one from Mum and one from Gran and after tea I got two more one from Frances and
one from Gran I received the soap etc and this Diary.

26 Wednesday
No parade this morning. we are having one at 1200hrs instead. We are having another trial this after-noon. The great day is to-morrow. We walked about 5 miles to-day. We got back at 1630hrs just in time for tea. On picquet tonight. Norm and I together we got first shift 7-9pm. It has just started to rain so it will be a night like last night I suppose. I am very tired or rather my feet is I will be able to take my boots off until after 09 oclock when I come of picquet tonight. Read the NZ times and did not get to sleep till 2345hrs raining just a few drops nothing to worry about.

27 Thursday
The great parade day has arrived, we only had a small parade this morning, we had to line up the Quads at 1100hrs. We got on the move at 12.30hrs and we had 6 men per quad. we arrived at the parade ground at 1300hrs and we never started to move off on the foot part of it until 15.20hrs all this time we were in line when the time came our legs were nearly all numb and so was the rest of us. Linney Fryburgh took the salute not yanks as we were told first there were NZ Nurses there also every thing was in a bit of a mess by the time all the trucks had gone by but we got home at 1640hrs and thats all that worried us.


28 Friday
Parcels received to date 12
Our first day we have had off since we came out of action 12 days ago. All this time we have been getting ready for the big parade. I had a good wash my-self and also done some washing singlets shirts etc. Received two letters from FRANCES No 103-4 and two from Gran. I answered the two from Frances straight away. Very cold to-night. I am nearly frozen stiff
sitting up in my tent. Laurice’s baby was only 7 months?

29 Saturday.
Another good day so far just a troop parade this morning and then on with TASK 10. We are going to the pictures today the night section went at 1315hrs this afternoon. the name of the town where we are going to see them at is ELIFE which is only three miles back. We are only a short distance from a point of the Volturno River. The name of the picture was “The Meanest Man in the World” it was “not bad” We also seen the great polish paino player PADERISKEY? Broke my pipe stem but was able to fix it.

30 Sunday.
Reg Church parade this morning at 0915hrs. *M surplies came in there was 1 pkt of “Greys” per man and one cake of Choc cadburys 6″ size. I am going to see a game of football this afternoon. The first game was between 30th Baty and R.H.Q which was won by Rhq 8-5. The next game was between the Reg side and the Reg officers. this was a very good game and was won by the O.R’s by 3.0 which was only scored by a free kick, neither line was crossed so one can see what sort of a game it was.
Sent Frances (2) NZ Times.

Wrote frances Airgraph
31 Monday
Had 25 army acts read to us by the B.C. Then we had a route march of 1 hour up the hill towards the old ruins on top of the hill. Came back, had morning tea and then done a “tasks” in the truck. I am playing football this afternoon but I am only emergency for our troop “in the backs”. My pen is playing funny tricks again I hope it is does not break down altogether. We are leaving for football at 1345hrs.

F.Troop won the football 10-0.
Wrote Gran, Norma