« The Back Bays Of My Mind | Main | You Are Never Too Old To Blog »

To War With The Bays: 71 – Roll On Blighty

...As usual the train journey was uncomfortable. We stopped at Jesi and Asti for meals and spent the night trying, unsuccessfully, to sleep in the corridor, regularly being trodden on by other passengers and bitten by bugs. Next day we arrived in Naples and were taken by lorry to a transit camp about four miles out of the city....

After years of combat in North Africa and Italy Jack Merewood is at last heading home.

I couldn't believe it - right in the middle of the fighting my name had been drawn out. Within a few minutes the scout car arrived and took me back to our HQ. Captain Crosbie Dawson greeted me. “I drew your name out,' he said, 'and no one could have deserved it more.”

I thanked him profusely, then from there I was taken by jeep to RHQ.

We all had kitbags, which were stored at bases many miles behind the lines, but moved up as we did. Mine was brought from Pesaro, 100 miles away, and I sorted out a few personal belongings and changes of clothes, put these in the kitbag to go on the boat, and packed the rest in a valise to be put back into storage. I then wrote a postcard home to give them the news, and sent cards to a few people, like Ronnie, to let them know too.

21 April: 'To transit camp yesterday - couldn't sleep last night, but reveille at 2 a.m. anyhow. Very hot and dusty but who cares. Breakfast 3 a.m., left in lorries at 4. Crossed the Reno, Santerno and Senio to Ravenna, and on to Forli. Railhead now here instead of Rimini. Train pulled out about 8 a.m. We're away! - roll on Blighty.'

As usual the train journey was uncomfortable. We stopped at Jesi and Asti for meals and spent the night trying, unsuccessfully, to sleep in the corridor, regularly being trodden on by other passengers and bitten by bugs. Next day we arrived in Naples and were taken by lorry to a transit camp about four miles out of the city.

13 April: '... Lire changed to English currency. Great to have £1 and 10/- notes again.'

On the 24th we boarded the Orduna, sailing next day from Naples. She was an English troopship, but unlike the Empire Pride not overcrowded, and we had plenty of room to sling our ham¬mocks. However, it was so warm in the Mediterranean that many of us slept on deck. The food was good, 'fresh bread and best butter!' Few of us knew each other, but there were more men from my Regiment, and it didn't take long to get acquainted — and join a solo school.

We saw shoals of porpoises and flying fish. The weather was beautiful, and three days after leaving Naples we dropped anchor off Gibraltar. We were there overnight and before sailing next evening took more troops on board. No doubt, like us, many of the other men were on 'Churchill leave'.

There was no training now and plenty of entertainment; whist drives, cribbage drives, housey-housey, and also a cinema where I saw Bing Crosby in Going My Way, among other films. A band played some nights, and we had a library and reading room; it was like being on a cruise.

We had sailed up the Mediterranean on our own, but at Gibraltar we joined a small convoy. Once into the Atlantic the sea turned from blue to grey-green, and began to get rough. Occasionally we heard the destroyers that accompanied us dropping depth charges.

I wondered how the Regiment was doing in Northern Italy, and hoped and prayed that we had no more casualties. We knew that our troops were still advancing there.

And then, on 2nd May, just a week after leaving Naples, we heard of the unconditional surrender of the Germans in Italy and that Hitler was dead. This was the news we'd been waiting for, and I just hoped all my friends in the squadron had survived. The war in Europe wasn't over yet, but surely now the end was soon to come.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.