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The Spirit of the British Soldier

by BBC Scotland

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
Alex Sim
Location of story: 
Sicily, Italy
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
20 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Helen Oram, Scotland csv on behalf of Alex Sim and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

This is a humorous story about the morale of British soldiers in action.

We were in Sicily in July 1943. While advancing we ran into enemy fire and retaliated. The enemy was far too strong for us. We called up Artillery Support.A German Tiger tank came into action: our two self-propelled guns were no match for it. We had to make a tactical retreat from enemy fire.

Shells were bursting all around us. It was very frightening. It was 90 degrees and the sweat was pouring off us. As we were trudging back, our Tank boys passed us and gave us a lift. The Officer-in -charge asked the bombardier,"What's the name of that song Bing Crosby sings?". The bombardier was quite perturbed by the question. The answer was "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas". It was a joke, to boost our morale.

This is a good example of the spirit of the British soldier. At the time, I had never heard of the song. Any time I hear the song, I think about this incident.

Later we were in Italy. It was winter and freezing cold. There was a wood between us and the enemy. Myself and another lad thought we would get some wood to light a fire to keep warm.

We got an axe and a rope from the quartermaster and the two of us set off with our rifles. We had to cross a burn, which was in spate.

We selected a tree. I swung the axe - and missed. The other man picked up the axe. He missed the tree, and the axe flew out of his hand and into the burn.

We were frightened to go back without the axe as we would incur a penalty under Army discipline for losing equipment. So my companion stripped off and I put the rope around him. He waded into the freezing water up to his neck and tried to fish around for the axe. We never found it.

We were not punished for losing the axe. There were more pressing considerations at the time. We did not get our fire. It was a daft idea anyway as it would have given away our position to the enemy.

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