My Dad's war #postcards #WW2

When I was a child in the 1950s, my father used to tell me stories about his time in the Royal Engineers during the second world war. Initially he was sent for training in the north of England where he was allocated a bunk in a cold hut with a pillow full of straw and 3 army blankets and given 2 battle-dress uniforms, 2 pairs of boots, an overcoat, a rifle and a bayonet.  He also received a knife, a fork and a spoon to use and to keep clean.  They rose at 6 am and spent the day doing drill, PT, marching and learning to use the rifle and a bren gun, till lights out at 10 pm.

A humble sapper, a few months later, he set sail with his comrades shortly after his 21st birthday for Operation Husky the invasion of Sicily as part of Field Marshall Montgomery's 8th Army.  It was the first joint operation by the British, American and Canadian soldiers and the men were pleased to discover that the people of Sicily welcomed them.

Jim's soldier's service paybook gives me the dates and locations, and the collection of postcards he brought back, though pre-war photos, tell me something of what he saw.

A month later he was en route for North Africa.  The main African campaign had been successful but Rommel was still attempting to break through the British Army. 

Within three weeks, the men returned to mainland Italy, landing as part of  Operation Avalanche.  This time invasion was much harder. The engineers' tasks were to clear minefields and rebuild the bridges which had been destroyed by the Allies and by the Axis forces.  Moving north from Reggio, the British troops reached Salerno in late October 1943

before moving inland to Sessa Aurunca.

They also went to Ravello 

Agropoli and Capua

Jim remained in Italy until March 1944 when he returned to England for training prior to D-day.


  1. I am always staggered by how much you have from your family's past!

  2. Both families were reluctant to throw anything away. I’ve still got 100 cat ornaments of my mother’s in the loft and loads have gone to charity shops already!

  3. As carol said already, it's astonishing how much you have of your family history. Thank goodness for hoarders! My dad was in Salerno briefly but much later. He was only called up as the war was ending and seem to have had a good time in Greece (via Salerno).

  4. Despite the deaths and the danger, I believe both my parents were exhilarated by life in the army during the war and it took them quite a while to settle to normal life afterwards.