- Contributed by
- BBC LONDON CSV ACTION DESK
- People in story:
- Albert Frederick Taylor
- Location of story:
- North Africa and Italy
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 June 2005
My parents died in an accident when I was young, so at 14 years old I joined the drummer corps in 1937. In 1939, after a two year term I came out of the drummer service and rejoined the regular army. I toured North Africa and Italy, including stops in: El Alamein, Egypt (commenced battle there), Phillipville, Montecassino, Italy, bay of Naples, Rimini, Rome and Milan.
A place you should remember is Montecassino. There was a big monastery on a hill. It overlooked an Italian village. We captured two high-ranking German officers there in 1942. We then proceeded to Milan where Mussolini would be taken away with his wife and hung by the ankles. We didn’t witness it in person but we were sufficiently satisfied to know that he died. Next we went on to capture Rome which was a long job, along the Appian Way, which was the main road in Italy. We came out to a river embankment near Florence when we heard that the war had ended. I felt about 10 years younger. It was 5 days after the war ended that I realised it had ended — we were still fighting.
Capturing Rome, Montecassino and El Alemein were all memories that I cherish. My experience of the war was very torrid. I was upset most of the time. I was 17 when I went to Africa. Most of the youngsters were from the drummer corps.
In El Alemein we were dug into foxholes — little crevices in the sand — and we would fire from that position. It’s something hard to talk about. There were lots of casualties.
It was hot in Africa and you had insects to contend with like scorpions. I hung my boots up every night and shook them out every morning so I never got stung.
I felt closed in by the atmosphere. There were loads of bad times and a lot of good times.
I once got turfed out of a bar in Rome by the red coats and locked in my barracks for 56 days. It was boring and I wanted my freedom. We used to go hunting for foxes and deer. We’d often catch a deer and have a pot over the weekend. In Italy, in a place called Ostrafino, there was a farmer with 100 chickens. The next morning he woke up 12 chickens short. I wrung their necks and cooked them for everyone. In Italy we’d run out of food and didn’t have anything to eat. We dug a hole in the ground and would make a stew, putting anything we could find into it, even lizards and snakes. It was vile, it was filthy. We just got on with that. We had to do it pretty often when we went up in the mountains.
I wrote letters to my sister, everyday stuff like the weather.
Fellow soldiers: a couple of them were beastly but most were pretty good. We were called the 8th Army, a tight-knit group. I made a lot of good friends. They were terrific. I came home with a soldier who was still visiting me up to two years ago. I’ve travelled the country visiting as far as Aberdeen, Dundee and Newcastle.
When we got back, it was so different. All the shops were boarded up. I found life hard to adjust to. Everything was out of place. When they opened the London Palladium, I saw my first West End Show, ‘Kiss Me Kate’. It was the first show I’d seen since I’d been abroad and it was a novelty.
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