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Shell Shocked from the Italian Campaign

by bottrell

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Frederick Bottrell
Location of story: 
Italian Campaign 1943-1946
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
22 December 2004

This is the brief story of my Grandfather's war. His name was Frederick Bottrell and he was born and bred in Leicester. In civilian life he was a chromium plater. In 1943, at the age of 30, and with a wife and very young children, he was called up to the Leicestershire Regiment, and served in the 2nd/5th Battalion. Only recently, I discovered a group photograph of his draft in an excellent book detailing the history of The Leicestershire Regiment, and he is grinning broadly. My Grandfather's army record reveals that his first action must have been in September 1943 at the Salerno landings. His record indicates he was wounded several times during the Italian campaign. As many books record, the bloody fight up the length of Italy was perhaps the closest conditions to those of the First World War trenches, and the shell-shock effect on soldier's minds was much the same. We know that on one period of home leave, when he was recovering from wounds, he returned from a shopping trip without one of his children, whom he'd left in a pram on a busy shopping street in the city. When VE day came I'm sure all the family must have rejoiced, and my Father who was 8 years old at the time still vividly remembers it. Unfortunately, on the 7th February 1946 my Grandfather committed suicide by jumping of the roof of the Military Hospital in Klagenfurt, Austria. A few days previously, his mind obviously in pieces, he had tried to stab himself to death. These facts were only officially revealed after my Grandmother tried and failed to receive any type of pension after his death, and even then she kept them to herself for 40 years. The resultant effect was that my Father was raised in a separate household to his two younger sisters due to the financial burden. I am now the same age as my Grandfather when he died, and I have two very young children of my own. I was the first of the family to visit his grave in Austria about ten years ago, and since then I have taken my Father to visit the dad he has always missed.

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Message 1 - A3437453 - Shell Shocked from the Italian Campaign

Posted on: 28 December 2004 by troopergeoff

Your story about your Dad brings back memories of when I was in Austria at roughly the same time as your Dad, and whilst there I was in Hospital with an injury suffered during ski-ing on an 8th Army course. While there one of our chaps (8th RTR) jumped off a balcony to his death, he was convinced he had a serious disease when in fact he had'nt. I can't remember his name but he was aged about 25. Strange is'nt it how your story bought back old memories for me.
All the best to you

Message 1 - Shell shocked in Italy

Posted on: 22 December 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Frederick -
As you so rightly say - the Italian campaign was similar to the first war in it's bloodiness and it was always a source of wonder to me, that the Infantryman always stood up and went forward no matter what the situation. We Tank men only got the heavy stuff to deal with whereas they had everything thrown at them.

The 2/5th Leicesters, as members of 139 Brigade of the 46th Inf Div.of Xth Corps, had a great deal to suffer at Salerno - not least the idiotic US General - then on to the Garigliano nighmare where the whole division was cut to pieces along with the 56th Div. Finally recovering to do it all again at the Gothic Line around the Croce - Gemmano area. Before finishing at the S.E. corner of Austria as "peackeepers" for the Italian - Jugoslav fracas at Trieste.

I recently made a trip to Riccione and the cemetery at Coriano Ridge where too many of the Infantry and Tank men are buried. There are nearly 2000 men buried there which is only one cemetery out of seven for that
series of Battles in the Aug/Sept of 1944 which we call the Gothic Line.

Many hospitals including Klagenfurt were full of disabled men, even the whole ones have to shake their heads to-day in watching the idiotic politicians falling over themselves to legislate for the horrors we fought against, and ask " Why " ?

with the greatest respect for your loss
Tom Canning


Message 2 - Shell shocked in Italy

Posted on: 23 December 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Frederick

A very sad and deeply moving story. Your grandfather was a war casualty in every way equal to his many comrades who fell in battle.

Kindest regards,


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