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Transformation from Gunner to Trooper

by Ron Goldstein

Contributed by 
Ron Goldstein
People in story: 
Ron Goldstein
Location of story: 
Rieti in Italy
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 May 2004

Pete Burns, Ken Atkinson and I, all ex wireless-ops from the 49th Light Ack Ack

Tuesday 12th December 1944
Left Foligno after lunch in the 3 tonner. Arrived at R.A.C T.D. (Royal Armoured Corps Training Depot) just before dark. In No.2 Sqdrn Barracks. Visited YMCA
and Cinema, seeing "In our time".

By the time December 1944 came, the war in Italy had reached stalemate and it was decided by the powers that be, that the Luftwaffe was no longer a threat to the ground troops and consequently the Light Ack Ack regiments could be disbanded.
This turned out to be in Rieti in the exact centre of Italy, and I spent the following three months training to be a loader operator on Sherman tanks, as opposed to being a driver operator on a Bedford wireless truck! It was here, by the way, that I first met up with Leslie Gilbert, (Gelbfarb) who was to remain a lifelong friend.

Wednesday 13th December 1944
Drew black beret and badge and also TT, TAB, Typhus and Vaccination jabs. Strangely enough feel OK after it. Played 'Joanna'(piano) at YMCA and nearly saw film.
Thursday 14th December 1944
PT and route march took up nearly all the day. Still no sign of actual training.
Left camp shortly after 5 pm and had photo taken in Rieti.
Friday 15th December 1944
Lecture on Burma by Captain of 7th Armoured Div. Had vaccination inspection by
M.O. ABCA (Army Bureau of Current Affairs) period in afternoon by Sgt.Grimm.
Saw Eleanor Powell in "Sensations of 1945" at YMCA and so to bed.
Saturday 16th December 1944
Route march and PT in morning. Afternoon off. Went into town with Steve. After tea
went to the "Royal" to see Patricia Burke in a 3 person show which was very good.
Tea at the YMCA opposite.
Sunday 17th December 1944
Tried to see dentist but no luck. Collected my snaps, they're awful. Mooched around in town with Steve and tried rifle range. In the evening saw "The Vernons" with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Monday 18th December 1944
Visited dentist near the gunnery school to have tooth stopped. After dinner we were on "recreational training " that was rather like a sports meeting. In the evening saw "Sweet and Lovely".
Tuesday 19th December 1944
Tank recognition by models in the Intelligence Room. All afternoon spent in ABCA room talking about "what to do with the Germans after the war!"
Saw "Joe Smith, American" at the Bat.
Wednesday 20th December 1944
At Airdrome all day prodding with bayonets for mines. Found none, fortunately. Was late getting out in the evening. Received parcel and air-letters. Finished up at the YMCA and played piano in the dark.
Thursday 21st December 1944
Learnt a little bit about the compass and touched on the old 19 set. PT in the rain.
Some mail. Saw "Marriage is a private affair" at the Royal.
Friday 22nd December 1944
Volunteered for cookhouse fatigues and was on it all day. Queued up till 6 pm for NAAFI issue. Paid first visit to art class and learnt something. Stayed in for supper and cleaned up.
Saturday 23rd December 1944
Quite an energetic morning. "Normal working day" idea was cancelled and went into town in the afternoon. Had snap taken in the park. On fire picket 6 - 10. Haircut in evening.
Sunday 24th December 1944
Out with "the troopers " the better part of the day. The NAAFI had opened up and is quite a decent place. Saw "Moonlight and Cactus". Detailed for T.T.W (Technical Training Wing) on Tuesday morning.
Monday 25th December 1944 Xmas Day.
Tea in bed. Good breakfast and fairly good dinner. On the dodgems and rifle ranges,listened to the band in the square. Wrote letter to Jean, Draughts with Steve at the YMCA.
Tuesday 26th December 1944
Started refresher course at Wireless Wing. Our instructor, Sgt.Pike is quite a decent chap. The Morse code, about 14s shook me! . In the evening went with Ken and Pete to see an eytie version of an old film.

Morse Code
I was originally taught Morse Code back in Wireless Training School in Whitby. The passing out speed was 12 words per minute, which was always considered fairly slow. When we were given a refresher course at Rieti we found the starting speed was 14 words to the minute and this shook us up a bit!

Wednesday 27th December 1944
Pretty busy day today, Aerials, batteries, Morse procedure, I think we covered nearly everything. Ken (Atkinson) was ill today and packed up early. I rushed to see "The Iron Major" at the Royal, first show.
Thursday 28th December 1944
Bags of procedure. Have palled up with some other ex L.A.A . lads. In the evening went to the Royal hoping to see "Fallen Sparrow" but it turned out to be "The Iron Major" again. Finished up in the NAAFI.
Friday 29th December 1944
Fault finding on 19 sets. Security lecture by Major Carrol. Morse and internal Wiring.One long rush all day. Saw eyetie version of Joe.E.Brown film and finished up at the YMCA with Pete and Ken.

January 1945

Time went quickly at Rieti. There was so much to do so much to learn and I loved the glamour attached to riding around on tanks (as opposed to my old Bedford 15 cwt. truck in former times).

One drawback, however, was the weather. The time of the year and Rieti’s location in the centre of Italy meant that the barracks were freezing, particularly at night.
After a hard day’s work we would go into town as a group. We would usually try and get some food in the N.A.A.F.I and then see a film. On the way home from the Cinema we would call into one particular bar. We would have a cognac or some such spirit and this would be placed in a tumbler together with a twist of lemon. They would put this under the spout of a cappuccino machine and produce a scalding hot toddy. We would drink this up and then literally run back to barracks before the effect it produced had worn off. A quick dive into our bunks and we were asleep before we could get cold again.

February 1945

My diary entries have gone missing over this period but by

Thu 22nd March 1945

I can see that I am about to join the 4th QOH

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Message 1 - Transformation from Gunner to Trooper

Posted on: 05 May 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper


Great detail as always! And always a joy to read.

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