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January 1st 1944 268053

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

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.

1400hrs.
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.

WROTE HARRY
WROTE FRANCES No 47 13pg

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
morning.

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.

WROTE FRANCES No 49 9pag.

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

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1 Monday

Clocks back 1 hour

Rained all day, had 24hrs rest from the guard, it was to much and we were cracking up. The sea was very rough to-day and some of the boys were sick but not very bad, slept and rested most of the day on my bed. The food is very poor still but I hope when we get on land it is better.

2 Tuesday

Wrote Frances 26th

Sighted land the S.E coast of Sicily at 1000hrs We are still getting ————-porridge for breakfast. Clocks back 1 hour. Berthed at Augusta (Sicily) 1600hrs. The hills are covered with green grass, the town almost deserted. Don’t think I will get ashore. Passed by Syracuse at 1220hrs. We are now 11 ½ hrs behind N.Z

3 Wednesday

Wrote Gran

Still berthed in Augusta.harbour, we are 420 miles from Bari. Bari has a population of 196,000. Two Italians came along side and sold a full sack of Arlmons and a barket of oranges, right from the tree. The weather is fine, there are 5 ships seen in or burnt out lying in the harbour. There is another town up on a hill a place for Malaria fever.

4 Thursday

Wrote Harry No 3

Left Augusta at 0720hrs , raining and blowing.Are going up the east coast of Sicily We got ships with us, some landing barges also. Was on guard 1200 – 1400 hrs and again at 2400 to 0400 tomorrow morning. Still see land it is sicili but we will lose sight of it during the night. Still very cold.

5 Friday

My darling wife’s birthday – 25 years old. Many Happy Returns Dear. If Frances knew I was about 200 miles from the port of Bari she would not be feeling as she is to-day. Land in sight, Italy this time but the light is bad so we cant see much. Lost sight of land again, could not see which place it was now.

6 Saturday

Air raid on land, could see it from the boat, hear it to. Landed at Bari 0922hrs a fair size city. Seen some Italian soldiers also about 100 young chaps about 19 they would be. There is a ship in the water right alongside a wharf a destroyer, it is, it was scuttled by order. Weather overcast, have to be ready to move as soon as our truck comes out of the hold at 2230hrs again at 0915hrs

7 Sunday

This raid at 0015hrs was short, it woke us up, had another one at 0430hrs. No damage done in any of them. They droped some bombs and mines , draged mines. Up this morning. Went on to land at 1545hrs drove to Bari Stadium and parked the night. No air raid, walked around the track twice as it is a great show but it is unfinished.

8 Monday

Up at 0630hrs raining and cold. Left Stadium at 1030hrs on our way to Taronto, Took wrong turning and ended up out on our way to Naples. We were going inland instead of following the coast road, bedded down for night and was it cold. I had 4 blankets and my over-coat on top of me but the wind had ice in it.

9 Tuesday

Wrote Frances No 27

Up at 0600hrs and on our way back to Taronto arriving there at 1030hrs after a very enjoyable drive along the coast road, a great country.this. Taronto is full of all types of soldiers and trucks. We are parked up on a hill overlooking the harbour, big bombers are passing over all the time, aerodrome not far away , full of Hurricanes.

10 Wednesday

Received leetters No 74 to 81. Two cables, five airgraphs yesterday. Rested most of the day. Drove about 50 miles

11 Thursday

5 months in ME

Went on leave to Matina a wine centre but only light wine is made there.( rest unable to read.)

12 Friday

Worked all day on New Morris Quad it is a terrible mess. I have just finished. Time now is 1730hrs. Will be going on picqueet at 1745hrs and we have to be ready to move at 0845 in the morning . Tom and I both slept in the Quad to-night the weather is quite good but a cold wind

13 Saturday

On guard from 0400hrs to 0600hrs. Moved into possition at 0815hrs. Moved at 10.15hrs. We are going up to the front line our route was Matina, Loccrotonda, Alberobello, Loci, Gioti del Colle, Santeramo, Altamura. A distance of 78 miles from Taranto Staging Camp. Weather fine getting colder now and it is dark at 1730hrs, day-break is about 0550hrs

14 Sunday

Started off again this morning at 0800hrs and traveled until 1430hrs stopeed at our area which is 80 miles from the front. We came through Corato, Andrea, Canosa, Cerignola, Foggia, Lucera. We will be stopped here for two days and then up to the front. We go for I don’t know how long

15 Monday

Wrote No 28

Up at 0650 hrs worked all day on the Quad and done some more-(unable to read)-I suppose it will hang on for quite a while. It is now raining very hard it is hard to keep dry. I have to stay in the quad all the time. Had two helpings at teatime. I was very cold and hungry.

16 Tuesday

Rained at 1710hrs. Raville at 0615 this morning but it is not raining yet. Traveled in the Quad . Up to-day at 1853mls. We did not do much work today for we done most of it yesterday. We got orders just now to be ready to move at 0630hrs tomorrow our destination is the front line so within 36 hours I might be in action, I hope it does not rain much.

17 Wednesday

Traveled from Lucera to Furci. Ravelle at 0515 hrs no shave because it is still dark. Started moving at 0645 hrs drove all day and all night and finished up 5mls from Jerrys lines. The time was 0800hrs on the 18th so we drove for 20 hours but we only traveled 114 miles but it was through nothing but mountains (unable to read)

18 Thursday

—Jerry started to fire two 88’s he was shelling a bend in the road but no damage. Traveled from Lucera to a place by a river no name. We moved out of our possitions at 1630hrs and I got stuck ot out of that and was going along the road and two wheels sliped over the edge. Stoped , right road to bad washed out.

19 Friday

1ACTION. Rained. Started off at 0630hrs, breakfast at 0900hrs, we got on again at 1245hrs we were under

Jerry’s observation———————————————————————————————————-

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20 Saturday

Up at 0615hrs raining all night and up to 0800hrs.

This morning it is very muddy. We had to put branches on the road so we could get a grip. Have not fired yet . My Quad is right below and in front of E3 gun. It will be like all hell let loose when it sstarts. Dug slittys because there might be something come back. Fired 5 rounds at 1720hrs.

21 Sunday

wrote frances no 29

Up at 0615hrs. River gone down to normal, no tobacco yet. We are 4000yds from the Sangro River. 4 shells came over at 1300hrs they landed on the road about ¼ mile from us. Guns fired 8 shots at 1700hrs. Very little sleep because Jerry was shelling from 2000hrs until 0800hrs on the 22nd 12hrs in all

22 Monday

Wrote to Gran

Up at 0630hrs. Breakfasst at 0800. Guns have only fired about one round up to the present time which is 1615hrs. The big attack which was to go is at 0900 hrs in the morning has been cancelled because of bad weather. We have had no rain to-day . I had a barth in a half a keroseen tin to-day. I still have my cold

23 Tuesday

Wrote to Hilda no 1

Fired a barrage this morning starting at 0400hrs and going until 0600hrs. 50 shots per gun. 72 guns and it –

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24 Wednesday

Wrote Frances No 30

25 Thursday

Wrote airgraph Wrote Harry No 4

On picquet last night 3/4hr. Dryed out a pair of boots and put nugget on both prs. It has been fine today except for a few spots which are falling now 1545hrs. I had a very sick tummy last night but it seems to be alright now. Guns only fired 6 shots so far to-day. Planes very active. Kitty bombers and Bastons.

26 Friday

Wrote airgraph to Frances

Received two airgraphs from Frances. Not much firing too-day no rain but very cold, was woken up by shells at 0230hrs but they were 100yds away, not far enough. Bombers very active to-day. A U—88 flew just over our heads at 1000hrs this morning . We could have hit it with a tommy gun but it was past before we got our breath back, it crashed our side of the Sangro River.

27 Saturday

ME 410. Wrote Frances No 31

Shot up at 30,000ft by spitfires —-The plane had been hit and was smoking in one engine. We got the two chaps who were in it alive as they can’t tell tales . The big atack is on in the morning we are firing 200 rounds per gun. I don’t think Norm is going to be in it until later. I might have to help on the guns as we are a man short 4 gone out in the troup on piquite at 2000hrs till 2045hrs. Broke the nib in my pen made a new nib out of a ordinary pen nib.

28 Sunday

Mail in to-day. Never received any airmail received up to the 7 oct. Think some mail was received in NZ about the first week in Oct. Gun Mitchell who took over driving the Maj “jeep” was killed by a mine to-night, a tank mine. They think it was. He was up the front at theO.pip(?)Planes very active. 1 Messie was shot down by a spitfire never seen it my-self, no shooting to-night.

29 Monday

New moon and the weather is still good. The tanks took a village this afternoon at 1330. We put over a barrage of smoke. 25 shells each (1800 altogether). Us drivers went away today to get a load of smoke shells. 5 Kittyhawks of the U.S.A. Air force came over. There was a hay-stack burning nearby. I think that’s what attracted them anyway they opened up with M.G.shells(?). You cant trust the yanks. Landed near us.

30 Tuesday

Left possition at 1030hrs to go forward. Passed over the Sangro River at 1200hrs. It has a very wide bed but the chanal is only about 40ft wide. Pontoon bridge only so far. Took up new possition at 1300hrs 5000yds from Jerry seen 5 planes shot down , missie’s (?) they were and one spitfire can hear M.Guns fire at times. Shows how close we are. 4 and 5’s are just behind us and the tanks were going up all night. Traveled 6 9/10th miles

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