Big thank you to Rocco and Family

I really must express a public and sincere thank you to Rocco and his family for their superb hospitality during my visit to Italy.

It was wonderful to be treated as one of the family and to be made so welcome in their home. It was very brave to have invited a strange Englishman. It could have been an extremely uncomfortable few days. (I certainly hope it wasn't.)

Especial thanks to Fulvia, Rocco's wife for her kindness and the wonderful evening meals that we enjoyed after each hard day's trek. It was a fantastic way to experience authentic Italian cooking.

The visit was particularly good as, with Rocco's local knowledge, it was possible to cover a lot of the important places in Harry's story. I just had to present myself for an eight o' clock start and my host did the rest.

The rest of his family also made me so welcome and seemed very pleased to practice their excellent English. We all learned to use the word "replete" after Fulvia's meals. Federico generously allowed me to play his guitar and Rocco's two lovely daughters Verena and Margherita were always helpful with the translations when language got in the way.

Thank you. I hope I'll be able to repay the hospitality one day.

The Piave Front 1917 -1918

This was a real anti-climax after the Asiago Plateau. There was no sign of the events of 90 years ago. Harry spent some time on the Piave front at the end of 1917 and in 1918 but all that is left is the river - and that with a much reduced flow. The only evidence of trenches are reconstructed ones that have been used in re-enactments.

Harry's battalion crossed the Piave where the main Autoroute from the North to Venice crosses the river there now.

In the battle of Veneto Vittoria at the end of October, the trench warfare gave way to a very mobile battle as the Austro-Hungarian army was forced back. Harry would have marched and fought across the plain. It was possible to identify locations where they stopped for the night outside Cimetta and Sacile, but there was no sign of it on the ground.

All I could gain was the impression that I was somewhere close to where my grandfather was fighting 90 years ago.

Asiago June 15th 1918, revisited

Armed with maps, war diary entries and as much material as we could carry, I set off with Rocco to find Harry's location on the day of the Austrian attack, 15th June 1918.

Unlike Flanders, where much of the topography has been disturbed and modified, the plateau has changed little.

It was quite possible to find out exactly where the 9th Battalion, York & Lancasters were on that day.

The trenches were there, clearly evident, in lines about 50 metres apart, with the front line sited a few metres inside a wood.

The sketch map from the 11th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (p144 of the book) on the Y & L's right flank, made the job easy, especially as the boundaries of the woodland have changed little in the last 90 years. There was a track through the woods which was the boundary between the two front line Battalions. That is still there and so it was easy to find the very trenches that Harry and his comrades would have occupied. It was exciting and emotional to look out over the ground over which Harry would have seen the Austrian advance.

I have a load of pictures from the day. Click this link to view. The account of the day from War Diary can be found at this link. Harry's letter about that day can be found here.

Venice "It is a most wonderful City"

I can understand Harry's wonder upon seeing this city in January 1919. I, having seen much in books, on TV and in magazines, was impressed with the real thing. Harry, from a small town in the heavily industrialised east midlands of England, having seen none of that, must have been totally amazed.
I would think that little has changed in the last 90 years. (Maybe the prices have crept up a little. The aptly named "Harry's Bar" quoted me €150 (£125) a head for lunch.)

(I MUST make it clear that I have no problem with Harry's Bar prices. I emailed and asked and they told me the prices. It's too expensive for me, a retired school teacher, but it may well be worth every penny. We didn't eat there. And, Harry did warn me "things are very dear" when he wrote about his 1919 visit. )

With Rocco I called in at the Canal Hotel and asked if they would have the registers from 1919 - to see if Harry had signed in - but with no success. I did ask the young lady receptionist if she worked there in 1919. Apparantly she didn't.

Link to Harry's letters about his Venice trip.

Letter to Jack, September 10th 1919

40843/1st Garr Batt
Royal Munster Fusiliers
A.P.O Box R L9
I.E.F. Italy
Sept 10th
Dear Jack
            Just a line to let you know that I have received your paper and letter.  The explosion you speak of was at the dump we are guarding but it was nothing. it might have been worse I think one Austrian prisoner got killed of course biggest part of the men here belong to A.O.G and have seen no fighting at all so it would be terrible to them.  I dont know when I shall get on leave now as it is stopped for September expect for special leave when a man goes on leave from here he does not return but stops in England.  You can please yourself whether you write for a special leave but whattever you do dont write to this end.  if you could not get any thing from the war office dont write here I would rather wait six months. I expect I shall be home for Christmas.  Write as often as you can and let me know all the news.  Glad to here that you are both keeping in good health.  Ethel address is 19 Mill Street.  I think it is all this time. I will write again soon. 
with Best Love to you both 
If you write for leave tell them that I have only just been transferred to the 1st G RMF as this Batt as seen no fighting at all.  It is twelve months now since last leave.

Well, that's Harry's September leave gone. I've tried, unsuccessfully to find a newspaper report of the explosion. I'll see what I can do next week with Rocco's help. Also I can't recall what A.O.G. stands for. Any ideas? Something that indicates a non-combatant, I'm sure. To Harry a single explosion would hardly have been worth commenting on! 

A.O.G. - I've had the suggestion that it could well stand for the "Army of Occupation of Germany". O.k, I know it's in Italy, but they may be part of one of the non-combatant units raised for the German occupation. BL