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Letter : “We have no time to bury you”

by Etters

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Allan Stoddart, Albert(?) Swanson
Location of story: 
Palestine and Italy
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 November 2005

On leave in Tel Aviv. Allan Stoddart (left), Albert(?) Swanson (right). Circa August 1944


My uncle, Allan Stoddart died in 2004 leaving a widow, Jean with many happy memories and a collection of war time letters he had written, some photographs, diaries and memorabilia. Allan had wanted to tell his story and maybe he did tell some of it but it was never recorded. Jean has given me his letters and so far I have transcribed those written to my parents, Florence and Bill and a few to Allan’s mother. Using extracts from some of the letters, photographs and memorabilia and information from diaries, a small glimpse of his story is now told. Jean and I understand the site’s terms and conditions.

Allan enlisted in Dundee in January 1940 and was UK based until he sailed on the troop ship, S.S. Almanzora with the 5th Division Signals to India in March 1942. Over the next 3 years, the war took him from India to Iraq, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sicily (landings), Italy (including Anzio), Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Palestine, Italy, Palestine, Italy, (home leave), Belgium, Germany. The 5th Division moved about so much they were nicknamed the “Cooks Tour Mob”.

This Letter

From diary entries, Allan was somewhere in Palestine when he wrote this letter to my parents. He had arrived in Palestine on 14 July 1944, after having sailed from Taranto, Italy on the 3 July. He was to stay in Palestine until 22 November 1944, then they sailed back to Italy, but after a month in Italy, they returned again to Palestine.


L/Cpl Stoddart A
“B” Section, No. 1 Company
5th Div. Signal

29 July 1944

Dear Florence and Bill,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Then there was Tel-aviv which I visited while on leave some time ago. It is a remarkable town. They say that 25 years ago the spot on which Tel-aviv now stands was a desert. If so, then the place is in some ways even more remarkable, and in another way less so because I think it must be one of the most modern cities in the world — and at the present time one of the most expensive. The residential quarter (if any distinction can be drawn between one part and another) is built entirely in modern straight lines. The houses are white, very bright and very clean. The streets too are very clean and there are dozens of hotels, open-air cafes, big shops and little shops, cinemas and cabarets. Somehow I was not greatly impressed. The Mediterranean rollers charging up on to the beach impressed me more. The sea around these parts is dangerous and only certain parts are allotted for swimming. Life-guards keep a constant watch all along its length and you only have to step a foot beyond a safety line before the whistle blows. The whistles keep blowing all day. There did not appear to be much poverty in Tel-aviv itself and most people walked around very smartly dressed and some very smartly undressed. It was nothing out of the ordinary to see women strolling along the main streets in very pretty two-piece suits, while on the beach itself everything between 9 and 90 appeared to enjoy the habit of sunbathing — old women and two year olds plus all the young belles of Tel-aviv. Quite a place, but inclined to be demoralising. Cost of living was very high and any soldier, unless “well lined” would be well advised to stick to Services’ canteens. I bought some snaps of Tel-aviv and other places I visited last year which I intend sending home. I hope you’ll see them.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
You will know by this time the outline of our itinerary in Italy. A record of the travels of the division has been written in the Crusader starting from the morning of 10th July when we landed in Sicily. Incidentally, I was in the wireless room of a ship that night and worked as I’ve never had to work before or since. I got the news stop press because I worked to some of the first patrols going ashore. It was an unforgettable experience. I arrived on dry land myself just as Jerry was beginning to realise that there was an invasion going on somewhere. Then there was the landing in Italy — a fantastic affair because it seemed more like a ferry service than an invasion. Yet on the other side, right on the toe-nail, there were a few typical 8th Army notices, which had sound sense as well as humour e.g. “Disperse quickly. We have no time to bury you”. But I’m gripping you and it’s all history now anyway. I guess the tales can keep until we meet again. It won’t be so long now, I’m sure.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Yours affectionately

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