No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess Darling, We seem to be very much out of touch with events lately: mail services have been very poor for two or three weeks, and it is at least a week since I saw a newspaper… and even that was four or five days old. Around ‘Xmas, we knew practically nothing about the progress of the German thrust, altho’ local civilians always seemed to know a great deal… most of it untrue. We have learned to disbelieve much of what we hear locally… especially when it concerns the war. I don’t know where they get much of their news, but it is often highly exaggerated.
The other day, I heard, quite by accident, that Churchill and Eden were in Athens. This news struck me as highly significant. Churchill has evidently realised that the forces opposing us in Greece amount to rather more than a few groups of guerrillas:- no doubt it will be impossible for him to admit that the government have been guilty of a major blunder, but it seems to me that his visit is a sign of a guilty conscience. This afternoon, we managed to fix up a wireless set, and I have heard the news. And I learn that Churchill has paid a visit to Buckingham Palace… so his Greek mission must be over. But still the fighting continues…
The weather here continues very cold. But this afternoon there was a fairly heavy snowfall… so it may now become warmer… and wetter! I think I prefer the cold to the usual after-effects of snow. I have seen enough mud to last for the rest of my life.
Later – Sunday 31.12.44
I couldn’t continue writing last evening… there was too much disturbance. There were the people who live here… mother, two daughters and a son-in-law… plus Sgt. Hamnett and Sgt. Challinor and the Sergeant major… and then a ‘cousin’ dropped in for a chat… I tried to carry on with my letter, but the cousin tacked himself on to me and I couldn’t get rid of him. He grabbed me for about two hours… and at the end my head was spinning beautifully… such is the strain of trying to understand a foreign language of which we know very little.
Jess… can you imagine how terribly tiring and boring it is? Wherever we go, we find the people almost tumbling over themselves to make us welcome and comfortable. They talk incessantly… apparently oblivious of the fact that we cannot understand them. And they all try to tell us the same story… how glad they are to see us, how they prefer British to American troops, how they hate the Bosch, of his cruelties, of their own hardships during the occupation etc. etc… It is the same story over and over again. Of course we are grateful for the hospitality we receive, and we try to listen to their tales of woe as though it is all new to us… but it is an effort to always appear interested. But why on earth they continue speaking to us as though we were natives, is beyond me. They know we can only speak a sort of “pidgin” French… but in spite of this, they ramble on in the typical French style. There is a funny side to the business, of course.
Tom Hamnett causes me much amusement. His knowledge of French is negligible… and he seems to have no intention of learning the language. Whenever he is addressed by a member of the household, he just tries to look intelligent, as though he understands every word, and then answers with an emphatic “oui, oui”, or “non, non, c’est par bonne”… whichever the case may be. He says he knows when to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ simply by watching the speaker’s face. And he always seems to be right.
The sergeant major gave him some advice yesterday which rather amused me. The old ‘grandma’ here had been speaking to Tom for about five minutes: he was getting a bit desperate listening to her… and asked the S.S.M. what it was all about… but neither of them knew. So the sergeant major (S.S.M.) said “just belt back at her with a mouthful of English and see how she likes it: I’ll bet it quietens her”. And Tom ‘belted’ back a few sentences in English, and it did quieten her. Rather a successful counter-attack, to my mind!
The family here have invited us to join them at dinner tonight as it is New Years Eve… and we have accepted the invitation. Fortunately, the SSM has provided them with an enormous chunk of meat, and one or two other odds and ends, so we will not be depriving them of any of their scanty food supplies. It will be a queer dinner: on ‘our’ side there will be the S.S.M. the S.Q.M.S and three sergeants including myself… whilst their ‘side’ will comprise the Mother, two daughters, and son-in-law. I wouldn’t be surprised if that darned cousin turns up to even things up… and plague me to distraction…
Jess… it is now exactly seven days since I received any mail… A whole week without word from my love. You can imagine how I have hated it. But ‘Xmas is now over, so perhaps the mail service will return to normal soon. Meanwhile, there is still time for something to turn up today… I am almost terrified of the mail orderly coming back… in case he has nothing for me…
I am now back again with my crew… and they all seem very glad about it… much to my regret. In my present frame of mind, I would much rather Not be welcomed back. Their enthusiasm contrasts harshly with my complete lack of interest in my job. But we must carry on.
Must finish dear…
Be with you again tomorrow… and it has just occurred to me that tomorrow is next year – 1945. Ah well… I hope it is a better year than 1944. We have seen very little of each other during the last 12 months. I have survived this awful separation, but I cannot contemplate a repetition of it… such thoughts will drive me nuts.
Jess… I love you dear
With all my heart and soul