September 1943, Italy. Two injuries, scarlet fever, and the king visits again

Dennis’ army record show him arriving in Italy in September 1943. The regimental diaries, however, suggest that he may have gone later than this. He departed from Bizerta, and landed in Naples. The regimental diaries below should illustrate my confusion about when he left North Africa.

By November 1943, Dennis was “in action” in Italy.

In action engaging the enemy in November 1943. This would have been the Allied liberation of Naples. The video shows anti aircraft guns, which Dennis’ men would have used.

Mary’s photo album confirms that he was in Italy in 1943 and 1944. The domed church in the background of the photograph is Positano, off the Amalfi coast, and it looks more like a beach holiday than a war.

Related image

On the 9th July 1944, an outbreak of scarlet fever is documented in the regimental diary.

There was some subsequent instructions to troops on disinfecting and getting rid of flies and mosquitos.

On July 24th 1944, the king visits Naples, where Dennis was serving at that time. This is the second time in the war that he has been visited by the king! You can see footage of that visit here.

Then disaster – Dennis is injured.

Dennis admitted to general hospital, there is no reason for this given. This is mentioned both in his campaign diaries, and in his own army record.  CD is coastal defence, and HAA is heavy anti aircraft.   The note in his personal army records says “X(11) list” which means he was evacuated away from the front and his unit, and admitted to 92 General hospital. He’s not in a fit state to be serving.   There was no major battle in Naples that day – the king had just visited, the battle was won, so there’s no further way to identify what might have happened to him.  

He was in hospital for twelve days, which seems a long time – this wasn’t a mere scratch. His record says that he “returned to unit after injury.” He didn’t return until 15 Aug 1944.

Dennis appears again after this in Mary’s pictures, but he has lost his grin. He seems older, sadder, almost grim. It would be speculation on my part to say that he may have been traumatised by his experience, by his serious injury. It is my opinion, based on the change in his expression after the injury happened, and the two different characters described by those who knew him growing up, and his wife and children. Trauma can change a man, and I believe that him having PTSD is the best explanation for the different versions of him that I have heard.

Mary, his wife, and his son, Geoffrey, may have known nothing about it. They were nin Cullercoats living with Mary’s father.

Record states that he re-joined his unit after 12 days in hospital. He is only back with his unit from August 9th until November 13th 1944, before he is sent to a “recreational course.” Looking at pictures of him in 1944, he may have needed it.

I don’t know what this means –  presumably to recover from whatever happened to him that put him in hospital? If it is what it sounds like, I guess it might be relaxation and recuperation. I can’t find anything on the internet about it. I’ll keep looking.

I love this letter from the regimental diary. Read it in a posh tone, think upper crust, clipped, British army man. It’s great. “The camera cannot lie,” which was maybe true back then.

Dennis travels up Italy with the Italian campaign.

Dennis is shown in the record as being in TP position 9 – which was singled out for “letting the side down” under “the camera cannot lie” (above). Hopefully he had sorted it all out by then. Longhorn is Livorno – Dennis’ unit has travelled up from Naples as part of the Italian campaign.  

He is still a lieutenant at this point, meaning that his promotion to acting captain was after April 1945. This confirms the ambiguous end to his army record, which suggests he may have stayed in the army after the end of the war, at least for a period.

A letter to Dennis’ regiment suggesting that their contribution toi victory was “modest, not spectacular.”

In July 1945 Dennis was awarded the African Star, a campaign medal for Africa, with a first army clasp.

He was at this point in Trieste.

Morale was low at this point, officers worrying that the men might be in a “mental rut.”

On 11th August 1945, Dennis’ record show he was injured again and admitted to field hospital. “Admitted to 167, transferred to FDS, Added to x(ii) list on admission” – this is a readmission to hospital, an evacuation on medical grounds, and him being declared unfit for duty, due to injury. FDS is a field dressing station which patches up injured soldiers – he was injured again. He returned to his unit on 15th August 1945, so this may have been less serious than the other injury.

On 11th September 1945, Dennis embarked for 28 days leave in the UK, on medical grounds. This was the end of the war, but not of Dennis’ army career.

2 thoughts on “September 1943, Italy. Two injuries, scarlet fever, and the king visits again

  1. Re: Naples, the Allies did not arrive until 1st October. The 59th had a defensive role, so were not involved in the liberation.
    The 59th recce party arrived on the 23rd October, and were followed by the rest of the regiment, arriving on 16th November.
    I hope that helps.


    1. Thank you so much, Steve. If you know things about military history, I would be very glad to have a chat about some things in this record that I have a hard time interpreting. I’m a researcher by trade, but I have no military background. If you would be willing to help me out, I’d be really grateful. I have questions about the military record that I don’t know how to answer.

      There’s a service tomorrow for the 40th anniversary of Dennis’ death I’ll post about it. I feel like I only have a partial understanding of his military record. I’d love to have a fuller one.

      Thank you for your interest, Steve, I’m in Oz, where I guess they’d say you were a “good bloke.”


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