Kenneth Taylor's War Diary 4

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Wed 12 - Wed 19 July, 44

Static for one week. Fine weather mostly, with occasional showers. A little shelling. Heard a rocket gun once and a Flying Bomb one night. A Spandau fired on a fixed line over Bn HQ Latrines. Spent a pleasant afternoon, July 14, in Bayeux. Had a bath and half an hour in the Cathedral. It was still familiar after 10 years.

Went down nearly to beach one evening and had a look at places captured on D-Day. Masses of troops everywhere who seem to be having a picnic. We have given up all hope of being relieved. Pleased to see Brian [Scholes] on 18 July.

Read a few French books found in a farm. Fair amount of rest but morale of Battalion fairly low.

Wednesday 19 July, 44

Enemy thought to have withdrawn so moved forward. Enemy still there. Cpl Murray and Priestley wounded in carrier hitting a mine. D Coy lost Sgt Major, 21/C, Pl Comd and a signaller with one shell. C.O. took it into his head to speak on the wireless - his procedure and security agonizing.

Reached objective but had to withdraw a bit owing to 56 Bde on right not reaching objective. Had great trouble from Spandaus, shells, and mortars. Lost 3 killed and 16 wounded by dark. Positions shelled rather accurately from time to time. Up nearly all night laying lines.

Thursday 20 July, 44

Had a couple of hours sleep but too busy to sleep in daytime. Rained most of day. Decided to sleep above ground in bivvy and be comfortable if less safe.

Friday 21 July, 44

Rained nearly all day. No time to shave. Heavy shelling all round Bn area during evening. A fed-up-making day.

Saturday 22 July, 44

Still raining but longer fine periods than yesterday. No cigarettes received for weeks - since tax-free began. Good job I brought plenty, but nearly all gone. Life will be desperate if there are no cigarettes. I have a good tea system laid on, having bartered my whisky for 2 extra pints per day. After many rumours of further probing forward we seem to be here for some time.

The Bn is sadly different from the D-Day one. I don't think it is capable of doing much now, nor has anyone much confidence in C.O. Hear that Col. Hastings wants to come back. I hope so.

Sunday 23 July, 44

Weather a bit better today. Listened to afternoon concert - Dvorak - and wrote letters. Spent evening at C Coy talking to Major Morton - mainly about the non-decadence of the French. Spandaus still active and shelling. 200 cigarettes arrived.

Monday 24 July, 44

Great improvement in weather. Looks like keeping fine too. Spent a busy morning and went to Bde in afternoon.

A lovely mellow evening which seems to have thawed everyone. The air is balmy - everywhere people are sitting about in groups talking spiritedly or in a contemplative mood. The sunshine has broken the tension and there is less an appearance of strain. They sit and talk about their holidays and past experiences. All this serves to reawaken one's senses and feelings and brings a consequent feeling of unrest to the mind as the perspective of the environment adjusts itself. When one is wet, shelled, and worked incessantly, the intense desire to live does not make itself apparent, but once one can begin to appreciate the high moments of life, one shrinks anew from the thought of death and maiming. This becomes worse the longer one is in action and the desire to find some escape becomes more insistent. There is scarcely a man in the Battalion who does not shrink from the thought of further heavy fighting. Seven weeks ago everyone was keen to get into action. There is talk of a few days rest in the near future. No-one is very enthusiastic as it will only be in preparation for something else. C and D Coys have only 2 officers each and very few NCOs. All we can do at present is to hold a firm line.

Tues and Weds 25 and 26 July, 44

Still holding same position. Bn HQ shelled on Tuesday and I had a piece of shrapnel thro' my tunic which just grazed my chest. I felt a little shaken after this.

Shelled heavily on Weds night. Had to go and mend a line in the middle of it which was very unpleasant as the line ran along the road which was receiving Jerry's attention. Potter lost 2 fingers.

Thursday 27 July, 44

Prepared all day for relief by 231 Bde. Relief began at 2100hrs and enemy left us alone fortunately. Left with signal truck at 2230 and received a send-off by 105mm shells. No-one hurt.

I don't remember ever having had such a feeling of relief and exhilaration as that experienced as we drove away from the line in the moonlight. As the weight and worry of the battle seemed to slip away, one's senses gradually thawed and perceived the beauty of the night, the scent of the hedgerows, the shades and colours of the sky. Arriving in the rest area I found a tent awaiting me, put my pyjamas on for the first time for weeks and went to sleep.

Friday 28 July, 44

The rest is going to involve a great deal of work, checking kit and stores and carrying out maintenance, but no shelling. Anyway it is my turn to go to 30 Corps Rest Camp for 3 days. I was a little annoyed at first at going there whilst the Battalion was already resting, but on second thoughts it may be worth getting out of a lot of niggling work.

Arrived at Rest Camp at a place called Longues sur Mer near Arromanches. A lovely cove almost like some of those in the less rugged parts of Cornwall. The camp is very pleasant - everything free and easy - food excellent. Went to Cinema. Kept awake at night by small Air Raid with heavy FLAK.

Saturday 29 July, 44

Got up for breakfast at 1000hrs. Wrote some letters and sunbathed. Had a swim after lunch and then went out on a bicycle in early evening. At Reyes met Kenny and Peters and had dinner with them. This would be a lovely place to cycle in if every village were not full of soldiers.

Sunday 30 July, 44

Spent practically the whole day swimming and sunbathing. Saw an airman parachute down in to sea and drown. Cycled to Bayeux in the evening, returned and found a truck waiting to take me back to Battalion for a conference. Very annoyed as it was a useless conference.

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