Thursday, 13 June 2019

D DAY plus 6 (?)

Letter from my father to his, 12 June 1944. All appears sunny, although early on the previous day the battalion (1st (Airborne) Royal Ulster Rifles) had come in for a lot of mortar and machine-gun fire. It was dug-in, holding Ste Honorine.

Monday 12 June 1944
Our address remains the same: our location pretty different. Today we have bags of lovely leisure – to wash, chatter, see one bedraggled much-read copy of last Thursday’s Daily Sketch, write letters, clean guns, remove boots, beam at civilians, rest. Everyone is absolutely OK & everything has gone like a Cyfanfod Pregetha. No hitches anywhere. We are in an enchanting place now, living like Lords.
A pen has come from somewhere – French of course: the people are superb. They give us all manner of things, and in the first days were unconcerned to the point of musical comedy: shells were just another bluebottle to these extraordinary folk. Their houses & property are swamped with us and our like: they work away contentedly in a forgotten scullery, intelligent mortals, not resigned, but accommodated to their scrutinised fate. The Germans they undoubtedly hate like poison. In these parts they appear to have plenty of meat, butter & so forth (their own produce of course) but the salt & the bread, German supplied, is pitiful stuff: gray salt, dirty sand, and bread like coagulated soil. German stuff magnificent, what they left.
Dai is still reading Gibbon. I had tea with him today. A mattress on the floor, there are bits of furniture and rubbish all round this clearing with Gibbon here and a box of pills there: near the mattress where four of us sat, Roman Emperors no less, a tray with our tea.
Tea. Biscuits. Sardines. Jam. Two cups. One tin for pouring tea, one knife and this beastly Daily Sketch. Dai had his boots off and we are all wearing shirts & slacks.

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