Summary of Daniel (Jack) Hobbs
Daniel Hobbs, known as Jack, left his son Robert his diary from 1943 about his time on the run in Italy. Robert Hobbs returned to Italy in 2007 to find the families who had helped his father. This story comprises excerpts from the BBC Memory Share website and a transcript of Jack’s diary.
Names and places associated with Jack Hobbs are Tobruk, Brindisi, Roccamontepiano, Reginaldo, Teramo, Foggia, Bari, Solenza, Luigo Orlando, Carlo Orlando, Michele Orlando and Giovina Basciani.
The full story follows, in two versions. The version in the first window below is the original scanned version of the story. In the second window below is the transcribed version in plain text.
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64 years later Son meets Son
mirafloriman’s memory of 30/08/2007
In September/October 1943 Daniel (Jack) Hobbs an escaping British PoW in Italy was sheltered and helped by Orlandi Luigi in the village of Reginaldo / Roccamontepiano (CH).
On 30th August 2007 Robert Hobbs (son of Daniel) and family visits family of Luigi in the village of Reginaldo and meets Carlo (son of Luigi) WHAT A DAY!
In all started after my Father died in 1989.
My Mother gave me a hand written diary that my Father had kept during his journey from a prison camp in Italy to meeting up with advancing Allied Troops. My Father rarely talked about the war and never about Italy.
Over the following years my wife and I tried to find out more. The Army Records Office could not give us any information not could we find anything out from the various agencies that we contacted. A mini breakthrough came via the Red Cross in Switzerland who had records of my Father being taken to Brindisi, Italy after capture in Tobruk.
No other information was found and I still do not know when and where he was moved to in Northern Italy. I know he must have been moved as he was travelling south from a point north of Teramo. In his diary he had written about staying In Roccamontepiano – near Pescara and Sulmona.
Hours were spent searching on the Internet to try and find out about Roccamontepiano in the war years with very limited success. Nothing could be found about British POW’s in this area.
In 2005 as a family,(myself, my wife Cynthia and son David) decided to go to Sulmona on holiday in the summer of 2006 as it looked a very nice place and maybe we could see the area that my Father had been in all those years ago. We drove from Carlisle to Sulmona via Hull, then ferry overnight to Rotterdam, travelling then to Heidelberg, Germany, Verona, Italy then on to Sulmona.
We had a super holiday and also managed to find and visit Roccamontepiano. Unfortunately the day we visited was the Festival of San Rocco and the town was shut off and nothing was open. I tried speaking to some of the local inhabitants but had no success with regards to the war years. Anyway we had found the town, taken some photographs and felt reasonably happy with our achievements.
On returning to England more time was spent searching the internet to try and gain more specific Information about POW’s in Italy but with no real success. Time went by and when our holiday for 2007 was discussed we chose to return to Italy again.
The apartment we had rented in 2006 was available but a little later this year so plans were made to do the trip a second time but Included two nights In Lindau, Bavaria and two nights In Venice instead of Verona.
As we only had one week in Sulmona we planned to re-visit Roccamontepiano on the Tuesday before leaving for our homeward journey on Thursday. This lime we managed to go into the town and found the Comune Di Roccamontepiano (Town Hall) but it was closed until 3.30pm some two hours away. We returned at 3.30pm hoping that there may be records of the war years from which we could find out more about POWs.
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The person I met did not speak English and my Italian could be written on a small postage stamp! However he made a phone call to his wife who spoke excellent English. After explaining what we were trying to do she asked me to return that evening at 8pm and speak to the Sindaco (mayor) who would be very helpful. We returned at 8pm after visiting the beach at Francavilla al Mare on the Adriatic coast to fill In some time.
Leaving my wife and son in the car park I went to meet the Mayor, Adamo Carulli. He was a very pleasant man in his mid 30s and it transpired that he was writing about the history of Roccamontepiano from 1914 to 1948 – hence an interest in my story. Unfortunately he did not speak English but found a young lady in the building who could. I was with these people for about an hour, I showed them my Father’s diary and explained that I was trying to find out more about his three week stay in the area. He discussed the contents of the diary-sometimes with difficulty because of the language-well me not speaking Italian! He picked up on the name of Luigi Orlandi whose name was written in the diary. He then made a few phone calls, which I could not understand then told me that Luigi, the person who had helped my father, was now dead but his son and grandson were still living in the area and would I like to meet them. Fantastic!! Could this be happening? Arrangements were made for us to return to his office on Thursday morning at 10.00am, he also arranged for an interpreter to be present. It seemed that Wednesday (which would have been better for us as we were leaving to start our journey home on Thursday) was not possible, so it was agreed that we would call In on Thursday-on our way to Sirminione on Lake Garda.
I rejoined my wife and son. My wife asked me if I had found anything out. I replied “If meeting Luigi’s son and grandson on Thursday counts then YES!!”
We arrived at the Town Hall a little after 10am on Thursday in time to see the Mayor leaving, we were asked to wait. I received a phone call from Carmelina our interpreter to be to tell us that she would meet us in about 15 minutes. When she arrived she asked if we knew where the Mayor had gone, we didn’t but I thought to myself he may have gone to collect the people we were to meet. He returned a little later alone and we were asked to follow him and Carmelina by car which we did.
We arrived at the village of Reginaldo (I had previously thought this was a person’s name) and were taken to the house of 82 year old Giovina Basciani who warmly welcomed us and took us inside her house, where she brought out drinks and homemade biscuits for us.
We were there for about 45 minutes asking and answering questions about the British POW’S who had stayed in the village in 1943. Carmelina showed her the photograph of my Father, which had been taken In December 1943 on his return to England. She said she remembered about the British soldiers. What a feeling!! Photographs were taken and on leaving she gave us a book of stories and poems which she had written.
On our way to our next meeting we passed some men who remembered hiding in the hills with the British soldiers. We were shown a part of the village where houses once stood and told that my Father and his comrades had stayed in these buildings. On arriving at the next house we were greeted by Luigi’s son Carlo, his wife Rosa, their son Luigi and his son and daughter. What a meeting!!
For the next 4 1/2 hours or so we talked about the happenings of September/October 1943, there were so many stories recounted. Carlo being 10 years old at the time could remember so much. We had a super 6-course meal and were made to feel like family. We were given every hospitality and wine made in 1939 was brought out and we were told that my Father had also had this to drink. Carlo gave me a bottle of this wine, which will be kept for Christmas Day.
We were shown documents from Allied Command [three words superscripted, illegible] thanking Luigi Orlando for helping British servicemen to escape detection from the Germans.
Luigi (grandson) brought out a safety razor, which his Grandfather had passed on to him which had been my Father’s and Insisted that I keep it. It was like a fairy tale but this was really happening. Many photographs were taken before we left Carlo and his family.
lust as we thought we were leaving we were taken to the home of Michele Orlandi a 91-year-old man and his family, who also remembered my Father and his 5 comrades. More food and drink was produced and many more stories told. We were invited to dinner and also stay the night but as we had to be in Lake Garda that evening we had to decline. Another bottle of wine was given to us as we said our goodbye’s and then Adamo and Carmelina took us to the auto strada to start our journey north. Some 6 hours late we arrived at our hotel!
So much happened in such a short space of time and so many stories that I have yet to put into writing but will do at a later date.
1 German Troops
2 Drinking too much (Dad)
3 Mending clocks and shotguns
4 Luigi Orlandi (In his 50’s ) returned from N.Y. spoke English
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5 Luigi’s family
6 The Mayor
7 The Interpreter
8 Hiding with villagers
9 Clothes washed, mended and ironed
10 Us only ones to go to village since war.
If these people had not helped my Father I might not be here today!
Having found these very special people we must return to find out more and thank them properly.
[Comments from people left on the Memoryshare website in response to Hobbs’ story. These have not been transcribed.]
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[Photographs, probably of Jack Hobbs as a soldier, overlaid on a form about South Africa]
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Diary – September to November 1943
Friday 17th (September 1943)
Arranged to stop the day at present rest position, very tired and suffering from sore feet. Richard has gone to village for latest news and also to make some necessary purchases. Up to present we have been treated very well by the Italian farmers. Great abundance of bread and wine. General opinion of Italians seems to be very hopeful towards advance of British Army. Report received that German patrols are in area. Left camp and proceeded towards Mountains. Further news received that German motor cycle patrols are operating, so left road and hid up in farmhouse for the night. Treated very well by local farmers. Have decided to make for Foggia 110 degrees.
Saturday 18th September 1943
[Handwritten note of place in margin of paper, town name is Servigliano]
On the march at 0530 hours, arrived at our objective at 09.30 hours after some very hard marching. Hills are very hard work. German bombers (Hoffman) sighted heading north.
09.30 hours. Large bomber sighted on course south 12.30 hours. Richard decided to leave us this morning instead of carrying on to reach British lines, he preferred to stay in present locality. Picked up with American Mercantile Marine from Camp 59 yesterday, 59 Camp is now occupied by Germans. Left farm 15.00 hours and marched towards Ascoli. Stopped at Italians residence at 16.00 hours obtained information as regards route and present situation of troop positions. Intend to proceed on new course as instructions obtained. Arrived at farm of Italian American and put up for the night.
Sunday 19th September 1943
Still at farm, have changed plan and intend to stay for a rest. A great deal of aerial activity this morning, news received that Pescara has been bombed by allied forces. German bombers have been passing over a course of SSE to NNW since dawn this morning up to 07.30 hours about 10 planes have passed over. 08.10 hours 4 heavy bombers sighted on course of SE to South East By East.
Monday 20th September 1943
Started on march again after a good rest, have parted with Yank, just a bum, made for Ripaberarda and arrived there at 10.00 hours, short rest and then on towards Poggio di Bretta, laid up at farmhouse at 1200 hours intend to carry on towards next village at 0600 hours tomorrow. Started off again 16.15 hours and passed through Poggio di Bretta at 19.00 hours. Crossed main road and laid up for night in farm.
Tuesday 21st September 1943
Started off towards Teramo at 05.45 hours and arrived at Passo di Civiletto at 12.00 hours. British internment camp treated remarkably well, supplied with cigarettes and a good meal, feet very fit and satisfied.
Wednesday 22nd September 1943
On march at 05.30 hours towards Teramo very heavy going, but are making pretty good time. Crossed main road and saw jerry truck making towards village that we had just passed. Put up at farm for breakfast, feel pretty fit although a trifle stiff. Have good supply of medics kit, it has come in very handy. On the march once again making course SE along an A class road. Met Italian American and received news of our route. Rested at farm of Italian American at Veneggaso and had a late lunch there. Started marching again at 17.15 hours, crossed main
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road from Teramo to Pescara – used by German transport – and railway line then on course SE until 19.00 hours when we rested up for the night. Not a very good billet, very badly received and not at all welcome, very different to previous treatment.
Thursday 23rd September 1943
Up and on the march at 04.15 hours, and made good progress towards SE, when we heard of German troops ahead, so detoured to west and south, and after 2 and a half hours steady going through ? and tracks arrived at a good resting place of ex soldier. Our position at the moment is approx 15K east of Montorio. Intend to rest up for the day and continue our march towards S tomorrow morning. During day heavy detonations heard in vicinity of Grand Sasso NE ? . Changed plan and started the march again at 15.15 hours going south. Had grand bath in small river and put up for night at farmhouse at 18.00 hours on top of hill. Very good welcome, made to feel very much at home great drawback having very slight knowledge of language, cannot join in a more proper conversation. Went into local village to hear BBC news. (Germagini) Made very welcome there and on our return found that we were accommodated in the best rooms of the house. Protested against it but did no good. Have been treated with great respect and cordiality. Ex Alpine Trooper, very fine chap.
Friday 24th September 1943
Started off this morning at 07.15 hours, our host of previous night came with us for 4 K to show us a side track, very good, as it saved us some very heavy hill climbing. Stopped at 09.00 hours for breakfast and put up for day in farmhouse at 13.00 hours. Intend to rest for the day and start off again tomorrow morning. Were given very good lunch of potatoes and beans followed by fried eggs, of course as usual there was plenty of vino. Have been out in field this afternoon watching them crush grapes for wine.
Saturday 25th September 1943
Started on journey once again after a good night’s rest 07.45 hours. Keeping course parallel with alpeine mountains. Very bad tracks consequently very heavy going. Stopped for breakfast at 10.30 hours. Were nearly caught by German truck with about 20 jerries on Penne road, luckily truck did not stop and we carried on across road to rest up at 14.00 hours for lunch. Carried on again at 16.30 hours and found decent place to lay up for the night. Met 2 other parties, one from camp 70 the other from camp 53. Arrived at farm of Italian soldier and decided to put up for the night. Quite good accommodation and made pretty comfortable.
Sunday 26th September 1943
Rain fall during night and at break of dawn it was pouring. Weather seems inclined to be very showery, are hanging on at present rest position to see if weather will improve. Cannot afford to get wet as we have only shirt and trousers and no change of clothing. Reported that there are about 300 jerries in Penne (approx 4 k NE). Started on road 11.15 hours steady going and pulled up for lunch in sight of Sulmona at 16.00 hours. On again at 17:15 and detoured to pass jerry, arrived at refugee camp at 19.00 hours and put up for the night.
Monday 27th September 1943
On the road at 05.15 hours crossed road and then laid up for ? carried on again at 06.15 hours and was surprised by 2 trucks, took cover and escaped detection. On once again and arrived at Rosciano crossed river here, took 1 and a quarter hours to do so, took our clothes off and waded across. On again and had to cross main arterial road, just crossed when 4 jerries and 1 staff car (jerry) passed, very nearly caught again. It appears that he is evacuating Pescara and moving towards mountain pass at Sulmona. Put up at farm near railway for
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lunch. Decided to push on a little further and eventually arrived at farm on hill top overlooking rail and road way. Put up there for night made very comfortable.
Tuesday 28th September 1943
Rain again this morning held us up, wish to push on a bit further as we are too close to main road to be comfortable. Weather appears to be breaking up 09.00 hours, shall give it about another half an hour and then push along to next farm. Started off at 12.00 hours, and arrived at commercial farm area at 17.00 hours. Made very welcome, given a meal and a good bed.
Wednesday 29th September 1943
Received warning after breakfast that Germans were searching the farms so accompanied by a number of Italian ex soldiers we were taken into the hills and hid there for the day. Returned to farm at night and after a good meal got down to sleep once again. Have decided to lay up here for a couple of days as we have received news (BBC) of our troops are advancing up towards Pescara. Present troop position is said to be at S. Severo about 40 K north of Foggio. Our position is at Roccamontepiano.
Thursday 30th September 1943
Very little doing today, a large party 2 British Officers and about 40 Italian other ranks passed through this morning making for the hills. Things seem to be very quiet at the moment. Spending the time getting our clothes washed and repaired and sorting our packs out. Have heard that ex POWs and Italians are lighting in the mountains attacking German convoys.
Friday 1st October 1943
Set off for hills at dawn this morning as a search is likely to take place throughout the local farms, returned at 12.30 hours for lunch. German scare at 14.30 hours, two motor cycle combinations passed along road, took to hills again as a safety precaution, returned once again at 19.00 hours and after an excellent supper retired once more to bed. Troop positions said to have advanced to Termoli.
Saturday 2nd October 1943
Situation very quiet this morning. Pop has sent into village to try and find out latest German movements, trying to make ourselves useful around farm, but very little that we can do. Very fine day, hoping to get radio news later on. Had a good breakfast, the idea seems to be that we get a meal with each family in turn, they are doing us very well, too well in fact. We are not able to do our washing or mending, as soon as we approach to do it, it is taken from us and done by the women and returned to us washed mended and ironed. News received that we have taken Naples. Saw 7 of our planes over this morning, bombing raid this evening thought to be over Chieti.
Sunday 3rd October 1943
Weather very heavy this morning, it looks as if we are in for a day of rain, waiting for radio news from local village, hoping to be able to make further progress soon. News received that German motor cyclist that passed here on the 1st were killed by a band of English and Italian troops in the hills. Have been able to make myself useful repairing clocks, watches and shotguns.
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Monday 4th October 1943
Still at farm, waiting for news, heard that by proceeding to a point on the coast we may be picked up by boat, but are trying to get confirmation of this news – said to have come from parachutist. Repaired a couple more clocks today ? acting as my assistant. Party passed through at midday making for the coast. Had search party scare this afternoon and took to the hills for a few hours. Nothing of importance today.
Tuesday 5th October 1943
Fine day, met one of band who are operating in hills, news much as we have heard before, up to present they say they have taken 137 prisoners. Attacking road conveys using mountain pass to roam. Heard this morning that British troops are still at Termoli hoping for a further push along coast, are thinking of continuing our push down central country on course S ready to strike for coast on troop advance, will try to get further radio news tonight or tomorrow morning. A great deal of aerial activity lately (our planes). News received that ? troops have advanced from Termoli and are now in the province of Chieti. Hope to get confirmation of this news.
Wednesday 6th October 1943
Very fine day, intend to make plans on receipt of definite news to carry out course as made on the 5th. Should we get news will make a start on 7th or 8th. Will try to get one of the lads to get radio news from the village to get exact troop location. Then push on down to next large river (approx distance 30K). Have carried out local first aid in dressings to cuts and abrasions to local inhabitants.
Thursday 7th October 1943
German convey of trucks said to be moving from east to west making towards ?. Ten planes bombed and machine gun the road at approx 16 00 hours. Weather very poor, plenty of rain.
Friday 8th October 1943
Wireless news received this morning, troops said to be still at Termoli . If weather conditions suitable intend to carry on our march south tomorrow. Still busy on clocks and watches. 2 planes over this morning making a reccy of raid of last evening. Arrangements made to continue march tomorrow.
Saturday 9th October 1943
Early this morning 10 planes sighted flying around in area of Pescara and Chieti. Pop told us to stay a few days longer in hope of better news. Have helped this morning to gather wood down the creek. Rained again this afternoon.
Sunday 10th October 1943
BBC news received this morning, troops advanced on all fronts 6K, have plotted position on map. German activity this morning, one large truck (3 ton) and 3 motor cycle combinations have passed along the road, approx time 11 to 11.30 hours. Bombing said to have been heard early this morning on the coast. Germans said to be occupying ? also reported to be evacuating Chieti, this news not yet confirmed.
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Monday 11th October 1943
Weather still holding us up, waiting to push on.
Tuesday 12th October 1943
Same as yesterday, no further news received. Weather beginning to lighten up. Transport increasing.
Wednesday 13th October 1943
All set and left this morning for river Sangro. Intended to go back for lunch but owing to suspicious behaviour of 2 travellers on road, carried on and eventually arrived at a farm below town of Orsomas, after having crossed main road, and secondary roads between coast and Guardiagrele. A very good day’s walk.
Thursday 14th October 1943
Had a good night’s rest and started off at about 08.30 hours this morning. Called at farm house for directions and after having had to cross rail (small gauge) and secondary road arrived within view of Casoli. News here very poor. Fortified line from coast to mountains right along River Sangro, 6 K deep. Said to be impossible, put up in farm for night with Italian Officers and other ranks.
Friday 15th October 1943
Moved to a small cottage this morning and are staying with two officers and two others. May stay for a couple of days to see if position will improve, if not, our likely to retreat to a better position.
Saturday 16th October 1943
News received this morning that party we met on the 14th (5 strong) were captured trying to cross river. Have not been able to get any wireless news. May move back this afternoon or tomorrow morning.
Saturday 17th October 1943
News received from local farmers that G’s digging in AA guns along area. Troops said to be about 40 K away. Small gauge railway been totally destroyed according to local news.
Intend to stay here for a while longer to see if positions will improve.
Monday 18th October 1943
Plane fired upon by AA early this morning but was unable to locate position of guns. Very little doing today.
Tuesday 19th October 1943
Our planes over this morning doing a bit of strafing were able to locate position of some of the AA. Gerry appears to have finished his demolitions in this area, have been told that he has completely wrecked the railway and also electric lines pylons. Met 2 of our lads today and have got them fixed up in a place.
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Wednesday 20th October 1943
Further aerial activity today, dive bombing and machine gun strafing. Met up with MTO [Mechanical Transport Officer] of Wore, he is staying with us now. Gerry approached looking for food, a bit of a scare, but all passed off well.
Thursday 21st October 1943
Planes over early this morning but nothing doing, just passed right over. Have had a bit of a toothache, not very pleasant.
Friday 22nd October 1943
Much the same as yesterday only planes strafed a bit, a good deal of AA. Very fine weather.
Saturday 23rd October 1943
News received that Gestapo (4) are carrying out a search of farms looking for ex POWs. Decided to move position and make for Fara. Left house at 15.00 hours and headed west to detour Casoli. Followed small river all the way, ran into small Gerry patrol but managed to get by without being seen. Crossed main road to Guardiagrele and Fara in darkness and put up in farm for night, after supper.
Sunday 24th October 1943
Up and on the move at dawn, crossed road and followed river bottom heading SE. Later up and across road once again making for Palombaro. Stopped for breakfast in sight of Palombaro. On once again heading south to detour Palombaro then stopped for lunch. We are getting some of our own food cooked that we have been carrying with us. A great deal of aerial activity today. Set off once again at 16.30 hours to complete detour, and eventually arrived at a point NW at 19.30 hours. Very bad night, one boiled egg and bread and then to bed. i.e. bracken and foliage, not to comfortable.
Monday 25th October 1943
Started off at dawn and climbed mount Hiela then skirted top towards Fara very bad going, a great deal of time wasted, uncertain of where to put up for the night. Italians company very shaky. Have put up in shepherd’s cave for the night and intend make across the mountains for Lama tomorrow morning. Dickinson went off on his own today, and did not return. Met 2 British Officers at present position from Sulmona camp. Heard rumours that we have taken Sulmona and Atessa and also that we have bypassed Vasto. No confirmation of this news yet received.
Tuesday 26th October 1943
Changed plan this morning and came down off the mountain and crossed road to Farra and then made across country to pass Chintigga to the E. Frank left us staying in mountains with 2 officers. Pretty good going, arrived at farm community and got put up for the night.
Wednesday 27th October 1943
Latest wireless news, we are at Vasto, started off at dawn and got down and crossed river and road and then made up the hills towards the SE. Met up with Italian who is going to guide us through across Sangro. Got caught in rain and thoroughly soaked today, but luckily were able
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To put up at farm for night where we got our clothes dry and also a good feed. Very close to Vigga S Moria [Villa San Maria] intend to cross river tomorrow.
Thursday 28th October 1943
Started at dawn and made our way to Sangro. Started to pour with rain, got across river, rail, and road, wet to the skin, made our way up through valley towards Rioa. Held up by German scare, but eventually arrived and were able to get our clothes dried and a meal and away to bed. Quite a good bed.
Friday 29th October 1943
Weather not looking to good are awaiting to move as not quite certain of where to make for yet. Left at 0.900 hours and made for Castiglione, arrive there and passed round the back of it to make for Solenza. Put up for night in small farmhouse well hidden in valley.
Saturday 30th October 1943
Started at 06.30 hours this morning and after half an hours walk picked up Italian who is going to act as guide to nearest British positions (approx. 15K). Approached road but could not cross so retired to await darkness. Started again at 6.15 hours and crossed road but got lost on mountaintop so returned to our original start.
Sunday 31st October 1943
Started before dawn and crossed road made our way around mountain and crossed second road and then descended towards river. Ran into 2 jerries but got past OK dawn and crossed river, everything quiet. Uphill and met up with Indian outpost, English cigarette. Followed tracks back towards Company HQ arrived there at 15.00 hours. Now awaiting further developments. Transported back to company HQ by bren carriers, tea, and cigarettes, what a good smoke, then on by truck to Div HQ. A good feed, more cigs, and then down to bed for night in ambulance.
Monday 1st [November 1943]
Up at 0700, breakfast and then interrogation, off to RASC [Royal Army Service Corps] for transport to Corps HQ, Officers gave us a good feed in mess, more cigarettes and then off on our way. Arrived at 18.30 hours supper and then to bed in a
Tuesday 2nd November 1943
Still going back, arrived at Foggio at 12.30 hours by 3 ton troop truck, and then caught bus at 13.30 hours to Bari. Arrived at 18.30 hours bath, issue of kit, a jolly fine meal and to bed.
Wednesday 3rd November 1943
Tea at 06.30 hours, breakfast at 08.00 hours, cigarette issue (50) feeling fine what a relief to get into clean uniform again after our dirty disguise.
[Handwritten Note] Not debriefed ?