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15 October 2014
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El Alamein to Montecassino

by BBC LONDON CSV ACTION DESK

Contributed by 
BBC LONDON CSV ACTION DESK
People in story: 
Albert Frederick Taylor
Location of story: 
North Africa and Italy
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4172041
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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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Alemein to cassino

Posted on: 09 June 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Sir,

It may be that I am getting on a little bit - though I hate to admit the fact - but try as I might - I cannot find any reference to the Royal Ulster Rifles being anywhere near Montecassino during the six early months of 1944.
Another query is how did you manage to get into Milan -which was US 5th Army territory - before - we captured Rome ?

Which division would your battalion have been attached at the time of El Alamein and afterwards - as most of the British Desert Divisions went home for the Normandy thing ?

Rimini was not exactly home from home for most divisions either ???
See what I mean about getting on a bit ?
cheers

 

Message 2 - Alemein to cassino

Posted on: 09 June 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

I have already commented about being in Milan in 1942 in the other thread "Death of Mussolini" here F2138231?thread=654736

You say that "Capturing Rome, Montecassino and El Alemein were all memories that I cherish". The problem here is that El Alamein was an obscure railway stop which purely by chance gave its name to two famous battles, the location itself was always in British hands. As for 'capturing' Rome, the Germans declared it an open city on 3 June 1944 and withdrew. It was entered on 5 June by the press corps and the American generals Clark, Keyes, and Truscott, following minor mopping up operations by elements of the US 88th Division on 4 June.

I see also that due to hunger you were obliged to make a stew of snakes and lizards, which you found vile; I can well understand that. I became a pretty good trapper myself in Italy, most village kids were, but I never was able to capture a lizard, the small wall lizard was far too skinny for food and the green lizard was off like greased lightning if you got anywhere near it. There was plenty of wild life without resorting to snakes and lizards, which incidentally are a bit thin on the ground up in the mountains. Any Italian peasant could have assisted you here gladly. As for deer, in Italy they are in the North, mainly in Lombardy in Val Zebrù, Valfurva, Val Viola, and Livignasco (I never saw one myself), and in the upper Trentino, but the Allies didn't get there until 1945.

Message 1 - Death of Mussolini

Posted on: 09 June 2005 by Tad Podhorodenski

It's a minor point in your story, but to be exact, Mussolini was strung up by his feet by the partisans together with Clara Petacci, who was his mistress, not his wife.

 

Message 2 - Death of Mussolini

Posted on: 09 June 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

A further minor point, Mussolini and Petacci were strung up on the morning of 28 April 1945. Moreover, no Allied troops were anywhere near Italy in 1942, let alone Milan.

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