No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess Dear… After seeing today’s Allied ‘aerial pageant’, it is obvious that the date will become one of the days of the war to historians. (Operation Varsity) It was indeed an amazing sight: very thrilling… inspiring… and strangely moving. To many of us it signified the end of the recent lull: before we heard any official announcement over the radio, we knew that ‘this was it’… the Rhine barrier would soon be a thing of the past. That awful period of waiting… with nerves in constant tension… had come to an end. I felt relieved… elated… perhaps hysterical. It is difficult to describe one’s feeling under such circumstances. I knew that I was witnessing an event which would help materially in ending the war… But I knew too that it meant an end to my temporary freedom from battle. And so my feelings seemed to be a mixture of intense gratitude to those lads above who were opening the assault… and deep apprehension about the immediate future. In view of the tremendous significance of what is taking place, it may seem an impertinence for a mere soldier to even think about his own little existence… but I suppose it is natural to think of one’s personal safety… especially when one has so much at stake.
We watched today’s aerial ‘armada’ for about three and a half hours… and during the whole of this time, the sky above was literally a huge procession of aircraft: it must have covered hundreds of miles in length. There were planes of all types… from the busy fighters high overhead, to the huge four engined bombers, many of them towing two gliders. The sight must have upset my emotional mechanism in some way: tears would persist in filling up my eyes as I gazed skywards… You will by now know all about these events, so I will not attempt to say any more:- furthermore, I may offend the censor by being too explicit.
We haven’t done much work today… there was too much excitement to even think of working-! And the dance in the evening meant an early finish, anyhow. Most of the lads were cleaned up and ready to go out by lunch time. The dance should be a success… from the drink point of view. They seem to have purchased enough liquor to stock a good sized pub.
I felt a bit queer about the tummy yesterday, but am much better today… thanks, maybe, to going to bed early last night. Stomach troubles are very prevalent in the army, and I marvel that I am usually immune from most tummy epidemics.
I have received two letters today, Jessie Mine: I was very glad to see them, having been without mail for two days. You mention Barry’s birthday… and now I know that it is March 22nd, the second day of spring. I don’t know why on earth I should have forgotten such an important date. You have vivid recollections of Mar. 21st ’44, haven’t you dear… And fancy me knowing nothing about your ordeal… until those telegrams arrived the following day. I can recall that day as though it were yesterday – of how the major sent for me, and then shook hands as he broke the good news. At that time my only concern was your safety. I think every potential father, in love with his wife, must have similar fears at the birth of the first child. I know my imagination played hell with me for a few days. But it is past history now, dear one… and we are the proud possessors of the finest little “sweetie pie” in the world – thanks to you.
Aren’t we lucky, darling. I could howl with laughter at some of your descriptions of the little fellow’s perambulations:- we find him up the chimney, beneath the sink, jammed in the gramophone cabinet, tied up in the aerial… and frightening himself with the gas-cupboard. Where will he be next? Keep him away from holes, Jess: they only lead to trouble!
You spoke of Ann Copestake… I admire your resolution to try and cheer her up… and your concern for her misery. It is a pity that there aren’t more people who are able to appreciate the unhappiness caused by these long separations. There can be little doubt that the average person is blind to such human misery… It would appear that people like yourself and Phil, (Phyllis, Jess’s cousin) who know what it means, are the only unselfish people left.
I was surprised to hear that Mrs. Wright is hoping to have Noel back at home. It certainly is nice for her to feel that efforts are being made to have him released. But I hope she doesn’t expect too much. I believe he is a tank commander now… and tank commanders with fighting experience seem to be rather valuable creatures these days.
You tell me that you have bought some paint and enamel for the scullery… and that you intend to do the job. I could scold you, Jessie Mine. Now is the time to be out of doors if you have any spare time, not messing about with decorations however urgent they may be. Why do you do these things? (…) If you start the actual painting, for Heaven’s sake keep Barry away from the paint tins: he will eat the darned stuff.
What do you think of the war news darling? Very encouraging isn’t it. Those lads of the 51st Highland Div! They are incredible. And how Monty uses them. I don’t think any single British Div. has done more dirty work over here. They are a grand lot: worth fighting with… and for. We worked with them several times in Normandy.
I heard the broadcast accounts by the B.B.C. reporters who crossed the Rhine with the assault groups. I wondered whether you too were listening. I feel sure you were. What are your impressions dear? Can you visualise the scene. Perhaps it is difficult for you. The artillery barrage, for instance… it is a difficult thing to imagine… And the maze of ‘tracers’ from the ‘Bofors’ guns: the fear, the horror, the noise… What a hell it must have been… And yet, resistance appears to have been slight, thank goodness. Heavy casualties would be worse than tragic at this stage of the war. The news from the American sector in the south is grand. They have done a fine job. Even our most rabid anti-Yanks are now admitting that the Yanks can fight. It is good to hear these admissions: I think they will help to clear some of the bad feeling which existed earlier on.
I have notice one or two press reports about possible Russian activity on the Oder sector. There is no official confirmation from Moscow, but I hope they are true. I feel certain that once they do start, they will not cease until Berlin is captured. And I would like Berlin to be taken by the Russians: they deserve the credit.
I have little further news for you about myself, dear Jess. We are still enjoying a life of comparative luxury, and having a certain amount of recreation. Tonight, for instance, there is a game of “Housey-Housey” in progress… with free beer for all! And the dance last night! I can’t say much about that. It was a combined B & C squadron effort… and seemed to end up with the usual free-fights. One of B squadron officers says they suffered more casualties than during the whole fortnight on Hill 112!!! But the lads say it was a grand dance!!
Must leave you now, Jessie Mine…
Try not to worry about me dear.
I am quite well… and am going to keep out of trouble.
Au revoir, my love