- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Fred Beacham
- Location of story:
- Rome Italy
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 15 December 2005
Beach’s War Chapter 5 — Epilogue
Note: A volunteer on behalf of Fred Beacham has entered this story. The author has seen and agreed to the People's War House Rules.
Rome was to be liberated. We hoped, of course, that the Germans, or ‘Teds,’ as they were called by the Allied troops serving in that theatre of war, would pull out of Italy. As history shows, this would not happen and a long slog to the extreme north of Italy was ahead. With hindsight, it was as well that we did not know what was still in front of us. Our Division followed in the rear of the advancing armies as the Germans quit Rome and formed a holding position some miles to the North. Taken by road to the outskirts of Rome during this period, we camped there for the night.
The next day we were allowed into Rome. The city had not returned to normal trading. Apart from the odd restaurant, which remained open, there was not much in the way of entertainment. As I recall, we had to walk everywhere, which was very tiring. At midday, we, as a group, the remains of ‘B’ Company did have a walk around the Coliseum, but little else. So ended our trip to Rome, where so many had died.
The remote regions of central Italy were like something out of medieval times - isolated villages surrounded by walls. On entering the huge gateway, we spotted chickens, dogs and various animals roaming at will. In the more spartan areas, all that could be seen were isolated ramshackle buildings, built amidst rocky ground. I could not imagine how anyone could sustain a lifestyle in such primitive surroundings. Poverty must have been the watchword every day. Our foe, the retreating German forces, in every possible instance, made use of rocky high positions and with their excellent machine guns employed to hold up every advance. It usually required the use of tanks to make them quit their positions and run northwards, sometimes under a hail of rifle fire.
It was always on my mind, whilst moving up, that I was under observation and orders were relayed back to the battery commander from the gunnery forward observation post to commence firing and my senses, at every step, tuned to listening for the first sound of incoming shells. Most times, I had selected an area where I would try to seek shelter from shellfire. I often wondered if the young soldiers immediately in front of me, in the straggling column, had the same kind of thoughts. Perhaps I had experienced too many near misses from shells and it was having an effect?
There were still many more engagements with a superb enemy, for more than a year before the war finished. Many Royal Fusiliers were destined to die. It was as well that no one knew who it was to be.
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