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15 October 2014
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21 Years Old on D-Day: With the Royal Engineers in Italyicon for Recommended story

by rick_farrar

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John Lister Farrar
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03 June 2004

Sapper JL Farrar

My father's name was John Lister Farrar. He was born in Canterbury on the 6th June 1923. He was 21 years old on D-Day.

He was involved in the Italian Campaign and was serving near the Po River. Some mates of his found a cellar full of wine and fortified wine. The area had been hit by shelling and there were some infantrymen resting in the parts of the buildings that were not completely destroyed. Apparently, the celebrations were fantastic. The soldiers who were billeted locally joined in the party. Their part of the Italian campaign seemed to be going well so they felt that there was good reason to celebrate and Dad's 21st birthday was as good an excuse as any. It was not until a few days later that they heard about the D-Day landings and the invasion of Normandy.

Dad had served in North Africa with the Eighth Army, was involved in mine and barbed wire clearance at the Battle of El Alamein. Later in his life he was taunted for being a D-Day dodger. He was a Sapper. At the time of his birthday he was a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers and was in charge of a lorry repair shop.

Shortly after this, his superiors sent him back to England to a WOSB, a War Officer Selection Board. He was selected for training for a commission and was trained in Scotland. When he passed out he was sent to India and served out the rest of the war in the North East of India and Burma. He was demobbed in 1947 as part of the Forgotten Army.

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Message 1 - 21 year old on D Day with the Royal Engineers.

Posted on: 23 April 2005 by pam wyer

I read your page with great interest, as my late father was with the royal Engineers in Italy, his name was Leslie John Nott. he was a P/BDR in 1944. his number was 947911 and passed away in 1977.aged 57.

He told me during my young days many stories and one that was very similar to your fathers story was to do with wine. Apparently he and a few colleques found a vineyard that had been damaged where upon, they found that a vat had been left intact, so they decided to get some wine, I dont know why but they decided that it would be a fun idea to go paddling in the vat of wine, and as my father was 6ft.3 he lent them his waders, the first chap went into the vat, but unbe-known to them the plug in the bottom had been left open, so of course when the chap went across the hole he fell straight down, fortunitly due to my fathers waders he popped up and they grabbed him by his braces and saved him.

My father said that although it was dangerous it was still very funny and they drank the wine anyway.

He also told the story again, during the time he was in Italy, of the day they came across a farm and in the back yard they came across some chickens and one of them decided that they would be very tasty as they hadnt had chicken for so long, so they decided to kill some of the chickens and then had the cheek to knock on the farmers door asking them if they could cook the chickens, but they were invited to eat with them. so the farmers wife cooked them a lovey meal and they all sat round the table and enjoyed their meal, but they nearly died when the farmer passed a comment that if he didnt know better they tasted like his chicken in the yard.

Dad said that they moved like stink to get away from the farm before the farmer and his wife realised that a number of their chickens were missing.

My father told me other storys but again like your father he was also called a D Day doger, but what they didnt know was they were holed up and couldnt get through the Germans. unfortunitly I didnt take down the details of where he was holed up, but he did say they were there for several months.

Pam Wyer, ne Nott (daughter)

Message 1 - 21 Years Old on D-Day: With the Royal Engineers in Italy

Posted on: 08 June 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Since this story will now be placed permanently in the archive, I must point out (and I am absolutely certain that Mr Farrar would have agreed with me, as will any soldier that fought in Italy) that on 6 June 1944 the front line barely included Rome, stretching across Italy in a loop to Ortona on the Adriatic coast. This was several hundred miles south of the river Po.

It took many months of bitter fighting even to reach the Gothic Line, the main German defensive line, which stretched across the Apennines from La Spezia in the east to Pesaro on the west coast, many miles south of the Po. After the Gustav Line was breached in November 1944, the front line on 8 April 1945 was still some 60 miles south of the Po. The IV Corps of the US 5th Army were the first to cross the Po, near Gustalla on 23 April 1945.


Message 2 - 21 Years Old on D-Day: With the Royal Engineers in Italy

Posted on: 08 June 2005 by ritsonvaljos

Thanks Rick and Peter,

The information you provide is very interesting. I've recently been trying to find out more details about what went on in Italy after June 1944. After the Liberation of Rome there are comparatively very few books and research papers in my library about Italy. The SE Asian Army was forgotten but the Army in Italy has largely been ignored as well!

Anyone who was a 'D-Day Dodger way out in Sunny Italy' can be proud to have been so! People did their duty wherever they were sent.

I have been given a couple of versions of the 'D-Day Dodgers' song. They are different to the ones found on the "People's War" website. All the lads in Italy must have had a great time in making up all the different verses the song! Some good memories from difficult days I would imagine.

Best wishes to all the D-Day Dodgers.

Message 1 - the war in italy

Posted on: 09 July 2005 by BBC @ The Living Museum

we have a house in italy near Ancona. Did anyone fight in that area?


Message 2 - bbc broadcast languages

Posted on: 09 July 2005 by BBC @ The Living Museum

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