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Dad's War Diary 5

by cliffsjulie

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Archive List > Books > Dad's War Diary

Contributed by 
cliffsjulie
People in story: 
Clifford Spencer
Location of story: 
Italy
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4477278
Contributed on: 
18 July 2005

March 17th A good day. All good things come at once. Receive my first parcel from you darling. 120 S :Express (cigs?) Thank you my sweetheart also get a letter from you saying that you are getting mail from me. Parcels turn up. Anyone reading this diary can see that the Red Cross parcels are our salvation.
March 18th St Patrick’s day. We have some Irish Chaps in our hut, and they are having a singsong tonight.
March 19th Suit cases in canteen 100 lire. I don’t know where they think we are going!
March 20th the guards have made their loafs double size, but only get one instead of two. It’s to try and stop bartering.
March 21st Sunday I new way of counting, we are put in between two outside wires, we look like sheep penned up. Service by Padre. Bill a non-smoker gets cig parcels, but will be able to get bread with them.
March 23rd 150 S.Africans come in, they have had a rough time. Lovely day, but still a bit nippy for the cold showers, but managed one. S. African comfort stuff comes.
March 25th A chap in the next compound dies. A little while ago, one was being taken to Rome Hospital on a Donkey cart and died on the way.
March 26th Bury the poor chap in the next compound. Our men carry him, and show the Ities up for smartness. Clean boots new battle dresses, did the slow march.
Three roll calls some men escape, what excitement there is, this last roll call lasted 3 and ½ hours, five missing, the old Major can’t believe that his boys would run away.
Sunday Still one short. Ities very upset. Officers and guards having extra work to do. Service.
March 28th Ities make us walk through the mess that runs through the latrines A complex is made.
March 29th The Ities admit that things are going bad with them in the war. Showery. Mail bad this month. Through this escaping do, we are all gong to stop bartering for a week.
March 30th Start a crib competition. Miss count again, lasted 2 and ½ hours.
March 31st All our camp police are sacked through this escaping, so we still have to go in the pen.
One of the chaps as made a new bartering list
The list—
10 cigs (any brand) = 1 loaf
20 cigs “ “ =2 loafs
20 AO/s “ “ =1 loaf
1 pkt tea 2 oz =1 loaf
1 pkt tea 4 oz =2 loafs
Bar Choc =3 loafs
I tin Cocoa =4 loafs
1 Bar Soap =1 loaf
A chap is beat up and put in Hospital for bartering before the week is up!
April 3rd A nice day for a good wash, but no water.
April 4th Sunday No water. Camp band gives concert. The men who escaped have been caught. Fifteen men go away for patriation, how I envy them.
April 5th I get one of your photos that you sent of you and Julie dear, coloured by Bill Darby, not bad.
April 8th Cold and raining. Bartering starts again, but not keeping to the list that was made up.
April 9th Bitter day. Have a letter after a long wait.
April 10th Hair cut Snow on the mountains again. Cold. Wash places are finished, not before time. A big improvement.
April 11th Sunday Wake up with a black eye, must have got cold in it. Search for Diary’s. After reading some I guess they get some home truths. They haven’t found mine yet, but our hut hasn’t been searched yet.
April 11t I did not win the crib match. Have a good wash in the new wash house.
April 12th Paid 30 lire
April 16th Wash my vest, it was nearly ink black, had it on four months, dare not take it off before, with only having one.
April 17th Change into groups of 50 now, two groups per hut. I am in 26. Beds changed.
April 18th Sunday, have my photo taken with 8 more chaps. Go to service. Another book at last, (Donalson)
April 19th Change into K.D. shorts also stop-wearing socks. Burn my foot; red-hot ember drops down my boot top. Change back into trousers, cold and raining. Read book (The mystery of Cape Cod Tavern.)
April 21st At last I receive my clothing parcel, everything is lovely darling. Have a good wash and change into clean clothes, how grand it feels to be clean once more. The Ities keep my pullover back; it has to have a red patch put on because it’s a civvie one. The choc’s, Oh boy will they go down well. Towels and socks were the most wanted things, how glad I was to see them in the parcel.
April 22nd I look a nice clean boy once more, clean vest on etc. Good Friday, I spend a good part of the day queuing up for water for brews, none for washing. The General pays a visit. Have my foot dressed.Go to service (12 noon)
April 23rd No water for washing.
April 24th Easter Sunday Up at six queuing for water, just managed to get some, after two and a quarter hours wait. Got washed in about a ql of water, and 10 to 20 follows on, Service 8.0p.m. The Irish lads give a concert in our hut
April 26th Beat Hodge and Miller at crib, (third round) Have apple pudding for supper. Have foot dressed. Receive another letter from you at last dear.they are all the world to me
April 27th Parcels. Have to be in bed by 10p.m. Set more workmen on.
April 28th Len gets his clothing parcel. 8p.m. Service. Get out photos, not much cop.
May 4th Three more men escape, what a do, extra roll call at 7.0p.m., huts searched for diaries,P.O.W. made knifes and even little wire toasting forks taken. They do get excited, and seem to have the mind of a child, also talk as much with their hands. Make Itie pants into shorts ready for wearing, Read book. Receive a cheerful letter from you dear, you seem to think we are ok. here, I like that bit about getting fat! But as you say, things could have been much worse.
May 7th Good news. Raining. No parcels in. Roll call takes longer now. The General round, so all water is on. Hope the meal will be thicker too
May 8th 80 South Africans go away to some aluminium works. Raining.
Sunday Foot not much better. Lovely letter from you darling.
Tuesday One of the Sentries in the next compound, when unloading his rifle, lets it off and kills a chap asleep in bed. I’ve expected something like that to happen, neither the gun or the man are safe. Les gets his clothing parcel. Lovely day. Wash my K.D. shorts
May13th Smiles again. Parcels in. Bury the poor chap who gets shot.
Fri 14th Tunisia fall at last
May 15th Good old Red Cross again. Get a pair of socks and one shirt each Sunday Service, have photo taken, with a batch of the 107 Batt.
May 17th A good day, two cig parcels. 120 from you my love, and 200 from Mr Baines (Dads Boss). R.A.F over last night, could see AA bursts in the direction of Rome. Hear that they were dropping leaflets.
May 18th Had foot dressed. Concert, Lulu draws the crowds, he really does look like a girl. 19th Change huts, while this one is plastered. Change straw in the mattresses. No greens now for our meals, so only get one per day, just rice or mace.
May 20th Get a pair of glasses, pleased to get them. Cost 9 shillings in English money.
May 21st Two cig parcels. 200 from ARD Goole. 120 YENS. Hut orderly. Double ration for the day. Read book. Out of the Blue.
May 23rd Sunday Boxing Contest
May 24th Concert with extra instruments. Empire day. Lovely day. Water off.
May 25th Red Cross man here. A list of complaints are ..Water, games, the patching of clothing, visiting the next camp, walks, huts raining in, Canteen shortage etc.
May 28th Man escapes.
May 29th Concert in out hut. O.K.
May 30th Escaped man caught at Station. Tony Mason. Payed 28 lire. 18 lire stopped for damages. Book parcels are coming in. When they reach here, the covers are torn off or slit with a knife, even bibles and prayed books. Lots of letters, but none for me. Make a frame for yours and Julie’s photo. I’ve got a shelf put on the wall, and that’s where the photos going where I can see it all day.
Sunday Itie soap issue, Workers go on strike because of food. Walks start again. Service.
May 31st Wash and patch KD shorts. Roll call 7.30 a.m. in future and 4.30.p.m. Ities take blankets off us, summer time now,(less to de-bug) Workers start again after coming to some agreements. Dixie Dean packs job up as camp leader. RSM Beaumont hopes the lads will play the game.
June 13th Whit Sunday Lovely day, how I wish I was home with you at these times darling. Here I am stuck in this hole. I am now on my bed, nothing on but shorts, my feet are on the window ledge, the bottom of my bed is right against the window, my outside view is the next hut, with lines reaching from it to ours with blankets and washing.Above the hut is a lovely clear blue sky. At this moment my dear I suppose you will be at Chapel saying a prayer for me. O won’t be going to Chapel, but our service will be in the stores tent, bricks and planks for seats, but I enjoy the services just the same. We have an accordionist to play for the hymns. Later Padre gives us a book.
June 14th The lads have made a few games up, such as Tenner Quoits, Basketball etc
June 18th Another man missing, three roll calls. Caught later. Wind blowing dust about, reminds me of the Desert. Group commander goes in Jail. Roll call after farmers come in which is 8.0a.m. More Farmers go out to work.
June 19th A Year ago to day we were captured. I hope and pray we aren’t another.
June 20th Concert. Service.
June 21st 130 men go away. Go as bricklayers. I don’t suppose two out of that lot are. Lovely day.
June 22nd Argentina bulk to-day, a good issue in. Thundering.
June 23rd Receive a letter with a little snap of Julie, she certainly is looking older, but still as that same sweet little face, and can see mischief in those eyes. All your letters and photos are a tonic darling. Get an issue of fruit; it’s to make up for the greens we don’t get. Also buy some out of canteen. Red Cross are sending next of kin parcels now with only one boot in, the other to come in the next parcel. There have been so many stolen, so trying the new way.
June 25th Get a pair of shorts
June 26th Got a rotten cold.
June 27th Sunday
June 28th Yesterday my cold got the better of me. I didn’t feel like doing a thing. We men are poor things when off colour; we want some one to comfort us. But can’t get that in the Army, or P.O.W. The only one who could comfort me, is you my dear sweet wife, and you are so, oh so far out of my reach.Oh when will that happy day come. I pray to God, that it won’t be long. You my dear know what this parting for so long is, at times it’s nearly past bearing.
June 29th We are getting a lot of fruit in now. Some issue, and some out of the canteen. I’m not so hungry these days; it’s the hot weather. Feel a lot better to night.
June 30th Nearly better, but my foot still wants a bandage on, what a while it has been, blood must be as thin as water, it would have been better weeks ago in normal life. Have a lovely letter from you dear.
July 1st Writing to you this morning, but I can’t tell you half I would like, there is not enough paper. It’s a case of, I’m all right, hope you are, yours etc, Cliff. Not aloud to put kisses on, they think it might be a code of some kind. Trousers go to have a red patch put on. Good old parcels up again.
July 2nd A farmer brings me some flowers in, they are wild ones, but look ok. on my shelf against your photo dear. More onions in Crib competition.
July 3rd We should have been packing our bags up and off to Haxey Feast today, had we still been at Goole. Wouldn’t Julie have been excited?
July 4th Sunday I can wish you many happy returns in thought only dear. How I am thinking of you tonight. It’s a lovely summer night, the hut is nearly empty, there’s a concert going on outside. I don’t often go to them; it’s the only time. One gets a bit of quiet in here.I expect you will have gone to Chapel. Went to a service this morning given by a Free Church Padre, he’s a new Padre to the camp. I will be going later to the service by the regular Padre.Last night we could see cracks and bomb flashes, also hear them, in Rome direction. Have two meals from cookhouse to day, good one, Mace and onions, tomatoes and greens, also issue of figs this morning. So once more your birthday passes dear. Please God may I be with you at your next one. Goodnight my darling one and to our darling Juliexxx
July 8th More farmers go out to work, back to one meal a day again. Did not win the crib competition.
July 9th Thundering and rain this morning, but hot now.
July 11th Sunday night. Concert going on outside, but I prefer the bit of quiet in the hut. Itie papers say Sicily has been invaded, it’s made us happy. And dreams of been free soon. More men leaving in the morning to work. Estonia, where that is I know not. Receive letter from Aunt Betsy, also one from Harold, says he’s sent books, but not received any yet. This is how the days go now. Rise at 7.a.m. Wash. Roll call 7.30 to 8.30. We then brew and have breakfast, which last about one hour. Bread and cheese comes up,so that’s what we get. Tidy up a bit and it’s 11.30 in no time, which is dinner, which is now either rice or mace and onions.12.00 mid-day to 1.30.I mostly have a lay down or read if I have a book. 1.30, another brew with mostly a couple of biscuits. If a Have two each day, they will last until the next parcel. 2.00 until 4.30 p.m. I either read or play cards, or sleep, not much sleep though; I never could in the daytime. 4.30 roll call to 5.30p.m 6.30p.m. we brew again and have evening meal, which is the main one. I save most of my loaf for it, and have a tin of something out of parcel, and that’s finished at 7.30p.m. 7.30 I go outside and walk about a bit, or watch them playing basketball, then come in again, mostly play cards, sometimes, I wash any clothes that want doing, after tea, it’s not so crowded then.Go to bed about 10.00 to 10,30p.m sometimes of course there’s a bit of patching or mending of somekind. On Sundays we always have a brew before rollcall, which is half an hour later. Len,Les, Bill and I take it in turns to get up and do it, it was my turn this morning. Service is at 8.0, shall be going. P.O.W. news as just come.
July 12th We have been getting parcels regular lately. Good news about Sicily.
July 18th Sunday Once again the hut is quiet. There is a concert going on outside. The news has been good this week. I have had five letters, three from you dear. Oh my darling your letters are beautiful, they make tears come to my eyes at times. Our little Julie seems to be full of life. Now for the biggest laugh I have developed a little tummy. Nearly every one in the camp has. It’s what we call a skilly belly; it will go when we get more solid food, this Itie stuff fills one with wind. I never had one like this before. Gosh it is hot these days. I’m glad I don’t have to work in it, in fact I don’t think I could stick it. The coolest place is in the huts; the evenings are lovely, I don’t wear a shirt, from getting up to going to bed. For a little exercise I play at a game called tenner quoits after tea when the heat of the day is gone.

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