Nov. 2 – 15, 1943

Nov. 2: Nothing of much interest today. Was talking to Timmy Cameron for a while this morning. War news is apparently very good.

Nov. 3 – Changing places with Capt. Sedenburg today. we are moving out on a dry spot for a few days then expect to set up an A.D.S. in Jelsi for a week or so then move forward again. Getting mighty tiresome here. See several Calgary boys every day. No further word of England but the rumour is that the 5th Can. Armoured Div. has landed in Sicily. I wonder what that means.

Nov. 4 – Two months ago today we landed in Italy. I am not living in my Eyetie tent. It is very cold tonight. Ralph and I are having a boiled ham sandwhich and a cup of tea before going to bed. “B” Section is taking on detached duty in a few days. We hope to move into a house in about a week. Brigade Medical Officers meeting tonight. It looks as if all activity for the Army Tank Bac is over for the winter. I’m afraid there is a long monotonous time ahead. The English captured Isernia today, the Town where the Tank Brigade expects to spend the winter. Very cold tonight.

Nov. 5 – A cold fall day – we lowered our tent and painted it, which will make it a little warmer. The Germans recaptured Isernia today. Nothing of importance.

Nov. 6 – Notified at breakfast that the MDS (Medical Dressing Station0 was moving into billets in Riccia today and “B” Section was going on detached duty, either remain in camp or move into the Town if a suitable place could be found. We are on the second floor of an old stone house on a square – one beautiful big room set up as an M.I. room – and it really is a surgery that I wouldn’t be ashamed to own in civil life – all scrounged, but grand. One big room next to it is used by three boys to sleep in and we have a big table and benches there as a reading and writing room. A three room suite behind this accommodates the rest of the staff. I am living in the Priests study. A beautiful big room with a mirror, five feet wide and eight feet high on the wall. One of the room is glass book cases. His desk and chair are still here and they loaned me a chesterfield, so am not suffering much here. I was talking to the lady today and she saw the photo of Jill and Muriel. I thought she said she had two bambinos, and I asked her if that was she said. She answered that she was not a Senora but a Senorita and had no spouse. Golly I laughed. Very good people at this house and very friendly.

 A Reception Officer at an Advanced Dressing Station examines a casualty wounded in the leg to determine whether a blood transfusion is required. One of a series of photographs showing the procedure when a casualty leaves the Regimental Aid Post. Field Transfusion Units working in conjunction with Advanced Dressing Stations saved many lives. © IWM (TR 2406)


A Reception Officer at an Advanced Dressing Station examines a casualty wounded in the leg to determine whether a blood transfusion is required. One of a series of photographs showing the procedure when a casualty leaves the Regimental Aid Post. Field Transfusion Units working in conjunction with Advanced Dressing Stations saved many lives. © IWM (TR 2406)

Nov. 8 – Cold and wet today – had a visit from Parlkey and Cheetham (?) this a.m. Old Frank Boyaver this afternoon. Examined the Bdge signals today and had a chat with Jim Clarke, who gave me another battery. We now have electric lights in all our rooms. Jim Furman dropped in for a nice long visit today and Bert Rutledge sent me word that he would be down tomorrow. Am getting things all fixed up for my move to England and I dread it and I dread leaving, but can do nothing about it so will wait and see how it turns out.

Nov. 9 – A good big sick parade today. Just at the end of Bert Rutledge dropped in and afterwards Parlky and Cheetham came. We had a little visit, then Bert spent the day with me. We went downtown and I took confession in Church annointed him, afterwards we did the Town. In the afternoon we went to brigade where I got his recommendation for a commission started. Had a short visit with Timmy Cameron also. A rather wet and miserable day. The Town the Brigade was going to for winter quarters is so badly knocked about that it is useless. Billets will have to be found elsewhere as men cannot possibly live out under this indefinitely.

Nov. 10 – A big sick parade this morning. Laird and Lieut. Charoneau paid me a visit. This afternoon Lt. Hauser from Bdge Sigs was in, he came from England in the same boat with me and both he and Morrow will be going back with me. Lieut. Booth, transport officer from the 2nd was in this afternoon too and tonight a young British officer from the 8th Army dropped in and is staying the night. Yesterday we all went in to a native home a musical hour. The Father Superior of the Monastery visited us tonight. Conversation is difficult, but sign language works well.

Nov. 11 – Jelsi, Italy. A cold but fairly bright day. All is excitement here today. The boys are busy decorating the big inner room, for our big dinner tonight. Ralph is making pies and pudding, and there is a big air of secrecy around. I am not allowed out of my room until we all go into dinner at 6 p.m. It reminds me of the day before Xmas at home. No peeking. Five big turkeys have just gone down the street to the ovens. Great day. We may have to move from here in a few days, as the Units are coming today to move into winter quarters.

Nov. 12 – Our farewell supper was a grand success. S/sgt Mackie was present but Bert Rutledge had moved forward so could not get here. The room was beautifully decorated. The “puma” sat in the middle of the table surrounded by flowers. Each plate had a place card – a big light brown envelop, on which each name was printed. Inside the envelope was a postcard view of Jelsi, showing the monument. All signed on the back of the card. We had toasts, wine and brandy, and a few ounces of whiskey. Was given a little Italian chest which will hold many of my souvenirs. A Carbonieri came in and we had a grand evening. One which will long be remembered. This morning I got a couple of snaps, I was given some nice souvenirs. The Col. was here this morning. We will be moving to new quarters in four days. Our section will still stay out. We are very glad of this. We will be with brigade about thirty miles from main M.D.S. No further word of England.

Nov. 13 – Going to M.D.S. Officers meeting tonight. Most of the Reg. M.O. were present and all the section men. All sorts of changes. I exchange Sgt. Hodgkins for Sgt. Mackie and Cpl. Cook for McKenzie. Everything is an awful dither. Told that Bde HQ, were to move on Thursday, but just saw them move this morning, so guess we will move up forward in a day or so. We expect to leave for England in a few days, but there is nothing definite yet. In the meantime my section will open up a little hospital forward. What tripe – will certainly be gland to get away as I loathe it.

Nov. 14 –slim and I went forward to Vinchiaturo then south to Sepino on a recce for an A.D.S. – several complications. The brigade is scattered over the hill side, all men under canvas. I believe it is an experiment – how it will work out, I don’t know. Returned by way of St. Gelliano and recced a spot there also. The Calgarys are there when we returned to Jelsi – then Scottie and I in an ambulance, went back to MDS (Medical Dressing Station) in Riccia, to discuss plans with the Col.

Nov. 15 – Terrible night and terrible day today. I am just starting forward in a jeep to hold a sick parade in Sepino, Then further recce with the Col. On arrival at St. Gelliano we find all hustle and excitement. Nobody seems to know the full score but apparently we are moving to the Adriatic Shore. Just received notice that our replacements have landed in Italy, so I suppose we go shortly.

 Major P.K. Tisdale treating a wounded Italian woman at the Advanced Dressing Station of No.4 Canadian Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (R.C.A.M.C.)., San Vito di Ortona, Italy, 15 January 1944. Credit: Lieut. Alex M. Stirton / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-114038

Major P.K. Tisdale treating a wounded Italian woman at the Advanced Dressing Station of No.4 Canadian Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (R.C.A.M.C.)., San Vito di Ortona, Italy, 15 January 1944. Credit: Lieut. Alex M. Stirton / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-114038

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.

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