- Contributed by
- People in story:
- James H Hughes
- Location of story:
- Rome, Italy
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 October 2005
The following is the 8th installment of the Memories of my Uncle Jim who served in the 1st and 8th Army, who as agreed that they may be posted.
ROME — THE ETERNAL CITY
From now on we were making for Rome, although we took part in many more battles before we reached the Eternal City. There is only one place I can remember clearly, after what must be fifty six years. That was in the vicinity of Monte Oreste, where the German General Kesselring had his headquarters. I never saw inside the place as a platoon of the London Irish Rifles had the job of guarding it. It consisted of several tunnels into the mountainside, a panelled room for the General, a large garage for this transport. The Rifles Quarter Master found plenty of wines and liqueurs, and tableware. The General certainly roughed it.
And I feel sure that was the place where I buried Fusilier Finch, known as ‘Pop’, on the edge of a village near to the roadside. He was forty years old and was a despatch rider. I understand he had gone to get a turnip from a field and got caught by a shell. I got the village joiner to make me a cross for his grave.
Soon after Rome fell and the Battalion was at a place near Tivoli, near to Rome. I was walking across a field one day when I met a chap from Sutton-in-Ashfield, who I knew very well. He was in another regiment. After the war I worked at two different places with the same chap. We had a day in Rome and saw the usual sights. Some of the Irish men and Officers had an audience with the Pope and our Pipers played Irish tunes to him and the Irish priests.
Our next battle was at Lake Trasimene. This was where two thousands years ago Hannibal came over the Alps with his elephants and beat the Romans. We had been told that after this battle we would be going back to Egypt for a month’s rest and then up to Palestine for some training. But we had a job to do before then, and a lot of lads would be left behind as usual. May gun was against a house on the outside of the village which was on a hill, and two of our 6-pounders were up there. They were attacked and knocked out by German tanks and some of the crews wounded and taken prisoner.
The Officer came to me in the afternoon and said “We shall be going back tomorrow, so fire off your HE at two minutes to six in the morning”. So at two minutes to six the next morning I gave the order to load and “Fire”. Wanting to get the job done as quickly as possible. But the loader was a young lad who had not been in action before so he was rather slow, so I told him to go and get under cover and I would load, which I did. It was still a bit dark and later on in the morning the Officer came and said “I could see your gun from the village and it looked as if it was on fire”. I thought “That’s it, we’re finished for a while”, and then he said “Hook up, you’re going with the Irish Fusiliers”. So I had to follow him up through the village, along a track to where the Irish Fusiliers had had a right old battle, and there were still tanks running about.
The usual drill — “Put your gun here” — and off he went. It was, as usual, on a track wo we got ready for action. Then the Nebelwerferas starting dropping. After a few I decided that I could find a healthier spot and pulled the gun into a gateway. I don’t remember just when I returned to my own Battalion, but we went to Taranto ready to go to Egypt.
I remember going into a cinema and meeting a chap from Huthwaite who was in the Navy. I didn’t know him personally, but knew his cousin. And walking down the street one day in Taranto I saw a chap with a barrow, on which were a number of carcases. I never said anything do my mate, but thought they were only big enough for dogs. He apparently had the same thoughts. Some of the lads went into a shop and presented me with a pipe when they came out. Whether they paid for it is doubtful. I gave it to my Dad when I came home. It was what I called a Codgers pipe.
I also bought my mother a silk housecoat and necklace and bracelet, and my wife silk stockings.
On 9th June we were told that the 6th Skins were to be disbanded. On 14th June General Allfrey, commanding V Corps, came to tell us why, as if we didn’t know. Why, nobody knew better than us how few of the original 6th Battalion were left. But we didn’t like the idea of the 2nd Battalion taking our place in the Brigade. Three days later the Skins and the London irish set sail on HM Troopship Banfora, and the Irish Fusiliers on the Pontanic for Egypt.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.