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Christmas Day 1943, Major Alan Hay

The following short item was written by Major Alan Hay for the Christmas 1945 issue of Geordie Magazine--the original heading is reproduced above. The then Lt Hay joined D Company of the Battalion in Italy in late 1943 after home service with the 17th DLI. Of the names mentioned in the piece, Sgt Vic Walker was an ex-Beds and Herts NCO and was with the Battalion from its formation in 1940--click here to see the 1940 group photo on which he features alongside several other future 16 DLI NCOs. Sgt Freddie Lynn was later commissioned.

Christmas Day 1943...

Operations on our front were of a static character. 16 Platoon were in a ruined house--ruined long before the war--just walls and a roof, but much better than most people enjoyed. Standing patrols were out in front. There had been a lot of rain but it was now fine--not too cold either. The day began with much tin opening--Sgt Lynn, Maitre D' hotel, and Sgt Walker (Horizontal Harry) Chief Chef served sausage, tomato, Compo tea and biscuits for breakfast. The fire itself was a work of art; it was a biscuit tin that day, regulation holes, earth and petrol. 'Careful there ... watch the smoke,' --one said it automatically as more petrol was poured on to the last flicker of flame producing a thick billowing mass of black smoke that blotted out the rest of the room.

There were pork chops for dinner! Yes the genuine thing. Horizontal Harry said we had better get on cook-ing right away (it was 0930 hrs) as it would take a long time. He was always master in such a situation and the first chops went on. A choice of duff was also to be a happy decision.

‘What'll you have sir, treacle or mixed fruit duff? Treacle’s very good.’ I didn't buy it. 'Mixed fruit for me'. One didn't blame them, but who wanted treacle when there was Xmas Pudding? There was to be a little fresh bread too. We thought Harry was rather overdoing it when he announced, about 11.30 hrs that he thought that there might be enough fat to fry a little bread--he wasn't going to make any promises though. It was with a certain amount of pride that I climbed to the OP above to give the Gunner Officer and his Sergeant their meal. It certainly looked like an Xmas dinner, the chops, succulent and sweet, fried bread, some tinned chicken, followed by the pudding rich and fruity.

That night after dark I went along to Company HQ at the invitation at the Gunner Officer who said he had something in a bottle; there was about a third of the battle left when I arrived, the Company Commander being no mean 'performer'
.
'Just a little nip each'.
'Just a nip'.
'Cheers'.
'Call from the RA'.
'Hello.' 'Oh.'
'Anything wrong?'
'Not really - Capt. Garland's ration was in that bottle too.'

A H