No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess Darling: Things are happening out here… all conducive to the forthcoming peace declaration… but somehow I can’t believe that the war in Europe is practically over: I keep wondering whether we are all dreaming… I find myself gazing apprehensively each time a dispatch-rider pulls up at the major’s quarters… this is because the arrival of a “D.R.” in the past has usually been the prelude to a “prepare to move immediately” order by the major: And then… battle…
And whenever I see an officer carrying a map I suffer the same old quickening of the pulse… that dreadful constriction around the heart which has its basis in fear. To me, Jess, the sight of a rolled up map has become a synonym for battle. Battles cannot be fought without maps, and they have therefore always been the essential requisite for the “order group” which always precedes battle. I used to love maps… but now I hate the sight of them.
There are several other factors which still continue to agitate my peace of mind, in spite of present circumstances, and I don’t suppose I will ever really be able to relax until I am home… with my uniform discarded for good.
You have a similar problem: you tell me that the war will not be over, for you, until I am home. I can so easily understand your predicament, darling… But even though there will be dangers out here after ‘V.E. day’, I want you to understand that my principal object in life is to return home to you unharmed… and I have no intentions of running any unnecessary risks whatsoever… And so far as is humanly possible, I am keeping well away from trouble.
Your letter today – (dated 1:5:45) tells me a nice little story about Barry and of how he is developing ‘baby charm’. It is grand to hear that he is progressing so well, Jess: it is, too, especially pleasing to know that he is affording you so much happiness… amusement as well, I have no doubt. I am not blind to the fact that he still causes you much work and worry… but you have the consolation of knowing that the worst is over, and that he is daily becoming a separate and delightful little personality.
It will always be one of my grouses against the Germans that they are the cause of my being denied the pleasure of witnessing our little son’s development at such an interesting period of his life. Fortunately, I have had you to keep me informed, and am therefore quite up-to-date with his physical progress:- but even a beautiful and much loved wife cannot perform miracles in spite of daily letters:- No… there is much of Barry’s babyhood that I have missed. And it is not only I who have been the victim… there is your side of the picture. The untold work and misery you have had to endure, simply because of my absence. God! it makes me furious to think about it… If ever anyone dares to sympathise with the Germans after this war in my hearing, I will… well… I’ll tell them a thing or two.
I have just been given a ‘snap’ which was taken in Limont (Belgium) last January. You may remember my telling you how we were rushed down there to the fringe of the Ardennes at the time of the Jerrys’ offensive. It is not a good ‘photo, but I will enclose it with this (unless I forget!!!). It shews my crew as it then was, plus Sgt. Ernie Cooper on my right. The lads are… left to right: Tpr. Eric Ward (driver) Tpr. Dave Slade (co-driver) l/c Edmonds (gunner) Tpr. Pedder (wireless operator). I think you have already heard about one or two of them… particularly Ward, Slade and Pedder: they have been with me since our first battles in Normandy.
Interruptions are inevitable today: I am on guard, and the guard-room these days is almost an information bureau… there is always somebody popping in. But I have no prisoners on my hands this time… nor do I want any -!
Jess… I have just been listening to a news broadcast, and have once again heard about the breakdown of the talks on Poland by Britain, USA, and Russia. This in itself is a nasty business, but what about the cause of the breakdown? I remember reading some weeks ago about the disappearance of the Poles who went to Russia. But the Soviet government said nothing, and I half wondered whether someone was attempting to ‘frame’ something against them. Now, however, after all these weeks, the Russians admit to having arrested the Poles for subversive activities against the Red Army. I don’t doubt that the Russians have good reasons for their actions, but why on earth weren’t they admitted at the time? If the Poles were in fact saboteurs, the entire world would have applauded the news of their arrest… But now… It is bewildering. I do hope the Soviet Govt. have a good reason for their strange behaviour. There are so many people who will rejoice in what has happened: it seems to me to offer splendid ammunition to the anti-Russian groups in Britain and America… at a time when they can do so much mischief. What do you think, Jess?
I don’t know what to talk about now. It is Sunday, and nothing has been happening here. During the afternoon, there was the usual Sunday parade of all the local young ladies past our billeting area… Gazing at them, I can’t help thinking that their behaviour is identical with that of English girls. It is almost amusing to observe our fellows, sitting in the windows of their respective rooms eagerly scrutinising every female form that passes by… and maybe longing to fraternise-! The girls, of course, are well aware of their audience… and they too are no doubt longing to fraternise… not from any ulterior anti-British motives, but just… oh well… I s’pose German girls enjoy making conquests. They don’t appear to resent the ‘non-fraternising’ order, but I’m sure they must feel it. I wonder whether the experience will do them any good…
Perhaps it is unfortunate that all the Allied troops are not so scrupulous in their observance of the order forbidding fraternisation. The Poles seem to be the principal offenders. I told you a week ago about one incident… this was followed a few days later by an order directing about twelve of our lads to spend the night in a certain village… to guard the local females from possible molestation! I wouldn’t like to repeat what our fellows said about Germans in general, and ‘Frauleins’ in particular… but it would certainly appear they are all illegitimate… apart from other things!
Speaking of Poles, reminds me of a discussion I had a few days ago with a couple of their officers. One of them spoke English quite well: he was a doctor, and obtained his medical degree at Edinburgh in 1943. These two fellows could hardly say a decent word about Russia. It was the same old story… ‘Bolshevism’ is the real evil of the world… and Stalin is a scheming hypocrite… an avaricious imperialist: the ‘Western Powers’ would have to subdue him and his satellites some day… I have heard the same story before – from Polish officers. During our conversation, the doctor mentioned his losses in Poland… and I learned that he owned some houses and other property in the eastern part of the country… the part which will be re-occupied by Russia after the war. He has already said good-bye to it. I think he must have been one of the lucky Poles… the moneyed Poles. There weren’t many of them, comparatively speaking, but I don’t think the un-moneyed Poles will be sorry to get rid of them… But in fairness to the doctor, I must admit that the total loss of one’s inheritance would cause a saint to cuss. The unfortunate part about this whole business is that the disinherited part of the population simply cannot (or will not) admit another side to the problem… So poor old Joe gets all the blame: it is so much easier to attribute all the vices to one’s enemy… and the virtues to ones’ self-!
Another conversation I had recently was with a Dutchman. He was a fairly wealthy man and used to visit Manchester fairly frequently before the war to buy cotton or something: As we were in the Protestant part of Holland at the time, I assumed that he was not an R.C., and so I asked him what he thought about all the religious junk with which the houses in R.C. Holland were littered… I learned that he thought a lot about it… a hell of a lot: in fact, he agreed with all I said about it… and then added a lot more… which takes a lot of doing when you come to think about it-! This man’s chief worry was not the appalling amount of money wasted on the damned stuff… altho’ he admitted its seriousness: he was really concerned about the power of the R.C.’s in Holland… and about their growing influence, especially in governmental matters.
I felt really sorry for him as he recited countless instances of the machinations of the R.C.’s. He was obviously much upset at the prospect of his country falling ever more deeply into the hands of the Papacy. And from what he told me, I gather that Holland is almost a divided nation… seemingly settled and contented (in normal times, of course)… but carrying on a bitter internal religious conflict. It may be argued that Holland is a Protestant country, like Britain, and that the R.C.’s can therefore be controlled… But the difficulty is the large percentage of R.C.’s in the country:- the figure given to me as authentic was 36%. Couple to this the fact that R.C.’s everywhere are infinitely more united and more aggressive than Protestants, and you will see that my Dutch acquaintance has something to worry about.
I tried to console him by emphasising the declining world influence of the Papacy, citing Mexico and Republican Spain as instances of countries which had really rejected the Pope. I mentioned post-war Italy and post-war Poland… both strong R.C. nations… as instances of peoples who would probably soon develop left-wing governments, with really progressive ideas, which would not tolerate the former R.C. dominance in the lives of their people. But I don’t think he was consoled at all… and I can’t say I blame him. It is difficult to take a long-term view of human affairs when one’s entire reason and judgment call out for immediate action.
Speaking of R.C. countries reminds me of Eire… which in turn reminds me of Mr. De Valera. And that gentleman has caused me to get rather het-up lately. Jess… did you read in the press that he has actually sent, to the German legation in Dublin, a message of condolence upon the death of Hitler-!! Can you believe it? What the bloody hell! What sort of a world are we living in? Did he really mean it? Or was it just a colossal instance of hypocrisy?.. Or was it a deliberate attempt to create further ill-feeling between Britain and Eire? Why – oh Jesus! I give up: I want to go home and plant spuds in the garden and play with the youngster and love, and be loved by, my wife. There lies sanity and happiness. It is no use seeking it elsewhere in a world gone raving mad. But maybe it is I who am the crazy one. Maybe if I worshipped the same god, and were as fanatical in my faith as Mr. De Valera, I too would lament Hitler’s death. I’ll have to think about it-!!
I will have to stop now, darling: my eyes want to shut… and I have to keep them open whilst on guard… so I will have to go and get some fresh air into my system.
Good night, dear Jess…
I love you… I don’t think I’ll change my religion, after all-!