This letter was written by a British sailor serving aboard the HMS Dido, September 9, 1943. From the letter.....
Dear Mum, Dad, and Alan,
I am taking advantage of one of the few chances we have these days to write air mail letters. This one comes to you from Malta, my third visit. I don’t care much for the place myself, we don’t get afternoon leave and it gets dark early now, so I don’t care how soon we leave. It is better I suppose than Salerno from where I wrote the last couple of letters yo would get. After the Taranto? job was finished we went off to Salerno and helped the Fifth Army to push the Jerry inland a bit. We did a large number of bombardments on villages, concentrations of infantry ?transport, gun batteries, tanks, and all sort of things, and the army seemed to think we did pretty well. “Target destroyed” was a signal they often had to send to us. The German gun batteries occasionally lobbed a few shells out to us but we manages to dodge them all, and we also had the pleasure of avoiding one of those rocket velocity bombs Mr. Churchill talked about. These radio controlled bombs sounded terrible when we first heard of them, but nothing as bad as it sounds, and we would all rather spend one time doing a real job like that than we would waste our time in harbor cleaning ship, falling in, falling out and so on!
Speaking of all the forms of naval warfare, now I’ve had a view of army artillery in action. I know the meaning of that phrase, desultory barrage, so often used in the last war. The concentrated all night barrage which precedes a dawn attack. Of course there was usually smoke all over the bay, and we could hardly tell where our won troops were and where the enemy were firing from but it reminded me of that tattoo we saw at Ravensworth Castle except that instead of rifles they were big gun’s and live ammo. It became so common place that I even slept thro some bombardments, during the afternoon after on all night on, and the concussion of the guns must have lifted me a couple of inches from the deck each time they fired!! The most amusing part about it was that we used to listen to the news each day to find out how things were going at Salerno! This was the part of the coast I described to you, by the way, as being cultivated in terraces on the mountain sides, and looked beautiful from the sea. We did manage to swim now and then (even tho shells had been landing in the vicinity not long before) and all round it must be nice to holiday in Southern Italy. We didn’t get up as far as to see Naples or Vesuvius but the glow in the sky at night in that direction sometimes seemed too bi9g for fires and we used to have heated argument as to whether or not it would be the volcano. When we used to visit the coast of Italy before (including Scalea which you read about in the Express) we sometimes saw the volcano of Strouboli? Erupting.
Mail came to us today with five air letters cards for me from home. The prime piece of news of course was the new arrival on Sept 6th, Whom I am calling Junior until I know his name. I sent Edie an airgraph today and may be able to send a cab le , I’ll see in the morning. Sorry my paper is running out now, if there’s anything I’ve forgotten I’ll say it next time.
Love to all,