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Extracts from the book

Flies and worse in the Western Desert
A peculiar addiction to Irish lyrics
Burying the dead — Tebaga Gap
British Army at a minefield near Sfax, Tunisia
The countryside near Sousse, Tunisia
The Padre's tools of trade
A minefield near Takrouna, Tunisia
Kelly in Cairo
Housekeeping in a two-man bivvy in the rain — Sangro, Italy
Falling asleep on duty — Sangro
Kelly dies at the Sangro River
Civilians caught in the frontline — Castel Frantano, Italy
Getting sadness off your chest
Giant drunken zooming fireflies — Alife, Italy
Christmas 1943 — back from the front
Maori Battalion, Trocchio, Italy
Fear, and fear of fear — Cassino, Italy
A break from Cassino
All in a day’s work in the Cassino rubble
There for your mate at the finish — Terelle, Italy

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cairo-s.jpg (2970 bytes) “That was a crummy area,” mused Bull. “The way those dead Itie bodies came bellying up out of the sand after we had been there a couple of days. And the flies! I still cover my tea with a handkerchief as soon as it’s poured out, just from habit.”

Jeff spat and shuddered.

“Suck your tea through a hanky and then try to kid yourself the crunchy bits are tea leaves. Hell! Chuck us some beer.”


The colonel at that time was a man I enjoyed immensely. He had been one of the company commanders, and was quiet in speech and manner, except for a peculiar addiction to Irish lyrics. In the mornings while dressing and shaving he had a habit of singing odd lines and stanzas as they came into his head, until finally something would click and become the rhythm of the day. We would hear it all day long as he stood in his car, head and shoulders thrust through the spotter’s hatch in the roof. It might be Kathleen Mavoureen, When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Killarney, or any of a hundred others, but once settled, the same song would go on and on, carolled to the winds of the desert until it faded out in his sleeping bag that night.



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Copyright Roger Smith, 2000