A transcription of a letter my grandfather Ashley Smith (author)wrote my grandmother on 3 May 1945. I believe he is based close to Rome, Italy, and writing to her in England (Olive Avenue, Leigh-On-Sea, SS9 3QE). The day prior ‘The Allied Spring offensive in Italy ended with the official surrender of German forces in Italy.’
At the end of the transcript, I’ve added some other interesting aspects of the context of the letter. Please feel free to correct me, or add to my understanding of this.
WO I A Smith 10673705 34 Special Training Barracks CMF 3 May 45
Don’t get upset at receiving a land letter instead of the usual air letter as a matter of fact this goes by air too so you should get it just as quickly and it is easier for me to type on this until I get a new ribbon in my machine which I hope to do today. Mostly I am thinking of the news as I write. You can’t help feeling jubilation. There is just happiness in the air even though people may have all kinds of worries at the back of their mind — yet there is the faint feeling that a nightmare is over (or nearly over I should say) and there is a kind of slow waking up from a horrible dream. It is hard for me to describe this feeling but I only know it persists. I can feel it in my finger tips — I can feel it behind all my thoughts. It is over — a kind of silly whisper — that you do not believe quite. But I mustn’t go on like this. We here are jubilant that the Italian campaign has been the first to be ended. The troops here are mad about General Alexander who has led the campaign. They say ! Ah, Monty is brilliant but give us good old Alexander! and all last night they were just walking up to the bar and silently toasting the picture we have of him behind the bar. It is very strange there is little jubilation but I noticed in the truck coming back from trie big city last night that troops were singing softly but merrily, not with the determined joy of other days but with something that seemed real for the first time — but I mustn’t go on — I will tell you exactly what it is like out here when full cessation of hostilities in Europe is declared — but as I’d say — no one can take away from us out here the feeling that we were the first to get this unconditional surrender.
I am still trying to catch up with your letters — or have I done so and only my conscience reproaching me falsely. I don’t know. I only know that now somehow I want to be with you always. Every time I finish a letter I want to begin another one. I think this last stage is the hardest after all in spite of what I said yesterday. We, out here in this theatre of war, are all being worried by the kind of thing you wrote in your letter of the 28 — other men get home on leave — why don’t we — well sweetheart we don’t quite know why not — all that I hope is that things will be speeded up tremendously as soon as Germany is finished. We are not getting the same leave allocation as Men in France and Germany — nothing like it as far as 1 can make out — there’s a certain amount of bitterness over this — it would amuse you to see us all gathering with wry faces in the midst of our mess and saving well the wife still wants to know why I am not home on leave ? I seem to have become very patriotic about my own little geographical section of the war set-up. I suppose it is last night’s news that has done it — you don’t know how proud everyone feels at striking the headlines at last!
I had another of those encounters which you like me to tell you about — this time with a couple of Yugoslavs — they invited me to their flat and took turns — they were two brothers — at playing a concertina for me — they told me something about Yugoslavia — said it was a very hospitable country but they said that the finest country they knew was Albaania — they said no people in the world had such a high sense of honour — that they still fought wars for instance as if they were back in the days of King Arthur. They said the whole of the Quisling Albanian govt had been sentenced to death bv the Albanian patriots but one of them was still alive because he had taken refuge in the house of his bitterest enemy and this enemy then had pledged himself to fight for him against any attempts at assassination, because he was a his guest , but as soon as the Quisling left his castle then he would murder him himself! I enjoyed talking to these two young lads — and also I was interested to hear that they had a high opinion of Turkey — remember I have an address to go there after the War!
Another thing — as you may have gathered — I have steered safely past that danger spot as you said I would! And I feel as happy as a sandboy in consequence. I only hope I don’t hit any more snags as they worry me so much . more than they should perhaps — but I don’t think I will somehow and everything now should go smoothly until the day I come home!
By the way, what do you think of oar comic strips? They are all entirely different. I don’t know if we have become childish because of our deprivations! but we get tremendous satisfaction out of these things There!s Dagwood who represents the kind of domesticity we are all longing for — and we all know the two types and hern and willie the american doughboys — we have met hundreds of them! Must finish now — off to a dental parade
All my love over + over + over + over + over + over again.
From your loving husband Ashley
Ashley Smith is writing of his jubilation, and I believe it is about ‘The Allied Spring offensive in Italy ended with the official surrender of German forces in Italy.’ This happened the day prior on May 2 1945.
He references General Alexander and Monty, I believe this is Harold Alexander, who went on to earn an Earl, a Viscount, a Sir, and named governor-general of Canada. His chief field commander was General Bernard Montgomery.
I don’t exactly understand the reference Quisling Albanian — but it may refer to a fascist. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10848770.2014.919192
He uses the phrase ‘happy as a sandboy’ here is an explanation as to why they are always happy https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,,-197902,00.html
At the end he says ‘he must go to a dental parade’. It seems dental officers had the power to parade men for compulsory dental inspection https://www.army.gov.au/our-heritage/history/history-focus/pull-other-one-dentistry-1st-aif I seem to recall he had a good set of teeth.