- Contributed by
- Ronald Winch
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- Ronald E. Winch
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- 16 August 2004
R.E. Winch — 111th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
The Regiment was involved in the invasion of Sicily and were standing by to cross the Messina Straits with the Eighth Army into Italy.
A party of us from ‘F’ Troop set out to climb Mount Etna. It was a long and dusty slog to the summit and the view of the inside of the volcano was beautiful.
We turned to start our decent of the mountain when, to our real amazement, we saw two R.E’s struggling up the steep slope carrying between them a large board with the legend ‘GO SLOW, CRATER’, a sign familiar to all vehicle drivers when troops were on the move. This scene was thought to be so typical of the British Soldier that it was depicted on the Christmas Card designed to portray the Regiment’s action from the day we arrived in Durban to the Alemein Campaign, Sicily and Italy. A copy of this Christmas Card is with the Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich.
Later in the campaign, when the Regiment were bogged down in the hills for the winter at the approaches to Orsogna, ‘F’ Troop commandeered a farm complex still occupied by Italian Civilians, mostly elderly ladies and old men and my gun team were allocated a large kitchen area. After a while we began to share our rations with the natives so that we had fresh baked bread in return for ‘Bully’, etc. When they baked bread the oven was loaded with faggots and after about an hour or so a ‘Tomato Tart’ was inserted and if that cooked in ‘X’ number of minutes the oven was ready and hot enough to bake the loaves. We, of course, enjoyed our share of the ‘Tomato Tart’ so we were enjoying Pizza was back in 1943/4.
We thought it was very time wasting heating the oven and so one day, Jock, my limber gunner came up with the idea of using the cordite in unused ‘Charge 3’ bags (which resembled spaghetti) to generate the necessary heat. This, thrown in the oven bit by bit, was an immediate heating success and was a miracle to the hard working women. In consequence, we had a better diet of Italian food and they benefited from more of our Hard Tack rations.
Perhaps I should explain to the non-gunners that when the 25lb guns were fired at low range, the ‘Blue Bag’ of cordite was removed from the charge and there were always a lot laying spare.
Sergeant R.E. Winch
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