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15 October 2014
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Experience in Italy, North Africa and Palestine

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mr. Edward George and the Frassi family
Location of story: 
Uliveto Terme, Italy
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site b y Karolyn Milam of Uckfield Community Learning Centre, a volunteer from BBC Southern Counties Radio on behalf of Mr. Edward George and has been added to the site with his/her permission. Mr. Edward George fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was married in 1938 and I joined a special unit of the Royal Engineers on the 1st. April 1940. It was called the County of London Unit. It was an electrical and mechanical company made up of tradesmen who worked mainly abroad repairing all the damage caused by the destruction of war. They repaired roads, machinery power stations, water generators and things of that type.

When I was first called up to Chatham we were confined to barracks after our embarkation leave. Our Commanding officer said that if we lived in the London area we should write a letter to our families and a senior NCO would deliver it. I was AWOL for a couple of days and when the NCO knocked on the door, I opened it. He told me to reply to the letter and he would give me the reply with everyone else’s reply when we got back to camp. I could have been in a lot of trouble but the officer was a kind man and did not report me.

I was posted abroad on 1st. October 1940 and continued without coming home until 14th. March 1945. From 1940-1943 I spent my time in North Africa and Palestine and then in 1944 I was posted to Italy.

This particular memory is from my time in a little Italian village called Uliveto Terme. Two other sappers and myself were billeted with Mr. &. Mrs. Frassi and their two children Elena who was 10 and Piero who was 9. When we arrived the Frassi house had been badly damaged and our first job was to restore the electrical supply in the house. Our main objective was to repair a stone crushing machine in order to keep up a supply of materials for repairing the roads.

Our unit was attached to the American 5th. Army and all the American troops were of African American decent and we were not allowed to eat with them. Mr. & Mrs. Frassi made the three of us so welcome that we used to share our rations with them and we were treated as members of the family, which made our time in Italy much pleasanter than it might otherwise have been.

On my return to England, after my five years of service, I tried to keep in touch with the Frassi family but due to language difficulties this was not easy.

Two or three years ago I decided to contact the Italian Consulate to see if they could put me back in touch with the family. They sent me four addresses with the Frassi name and the first family that I contacted from the list was the family that I was billeted with. Since then we have been in touch by air-mail. We can’t speak each other’s language but by using my computer I can write my letters in English and press a button and it is translated into Italian

Since contact was re established with the Frassi family I have received three food parcels from Elena [maybe in return for sharing our rations with her all those years ago]. I think this was very generous of her.

Elena is now a widow and her brother Piero still lives in the house in which we were billeted.

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