Sunday, Jan. 14, 1945

A few thoughts at random which I thought you might like to read, and which I hope will interest you, as actually seeing them interested me.

The first thing which any newcomer to Europe will realize, is the fact that he is unconsciously learning a lot of geography, and how interesting a way to do it as compared to a classroom of bygone days.

Our first bit of “new” found knowledge is the size of the Mediterranean Sea, which we enter through the Straits of Gibraltar, as if you didn’t know! I must admit that as far as seeing it through the pages of a travel folder, the Mediterranean was a bit of a disappointment to me, although I must also admit that the knowledge that I was really sailing over this body of water was quite a thrill. Perhaps the fact that this was Army 100% and the fact that this trip was government sponsored had a tendency to take the edge off what would ordinarily have been a heavenly trip. (Put a Mediterranean Cruise down on our list of “Things to do on retirement” - I know you’d love it.)

But let’s get on with the story -

On arrival in Italy the first fact that impressed me was the absolute filth of the Italian town and the extreme poverty of its people. When we landed I was fortunate in being chosen to be a member of the “rear” party - our job was to stay behind the others and to help sort out the cargo on the ship. We naturally had rather bad visions of working in the bowels of the ship; however, we were very pleasantly surprised to find that actually our only task was to direct the dock workers where to put the various articles for our particular draft. My only reason of mentioning the above is to let you see that for two days after arrival, I had a pretty good chance to observe the Italian worker and my opinion of him hasn’t changed a bit, even after traveling a lot through this country. The workers we saw there were a hungry lot, often fighting for scraps of food and cigarette butts, and what a depressing sight it was.

When finally our last bit of luggage was on our trucks, it was with a sign of pure relief that we climbed aboard for what was to be our first of many trips on the highways of Italy. I can’t even begin to describe the sheer beauty of the countryside as it unfolded itself before our eyes, and unfortunately the continuity of this will be spoilt by the ever present thought of censorship. Our route took us up from the flat country up into the hilly country and when I say “hilly” I really mean hilly - mountains compared to Quebec. As it was summer when we landed, we were able to buy all kinds of fresh fruit; after the long trip from England you can imagine how welcome that was. Plums, grapes, apricots, various kinds of nuts, not to mention pears, oranges and more melons than I ever saw in my life. A few of the lads went overboard as far as being foolish in the quantity of fresh fruit consumed, with disturbing after effects.

The general country side around our first camp was beautiful - really high mountains on all sides and so many vineyards and orchards. Because this camp was a large one, the inhabitants of the town were well accustomed to Canadian troops and lost few opportunities to exploit the average Canadian’s generosity - that is, they did until he got wise, which wasn’t long!

The vineyards over here are quite something to see...a whole hillside will be nothing but a terrace and makes for a very picturesque setting. The lack of woods and forests, as we know them, is rather hard to get accustomed to, you feel there is something missing and it takes some time to realize that there just aren’t any forests, at least not that I saw.

The major just came in and needed the typewriter, so I had to give way to seniority of rank!! He’d better not plan to use my “bedroom” very long or - come to think of it - or what!! Think I’ll mail this anyway, even unfinished, will continue again sometime! Hope you like these little jottings but at that I’ll still have lots of other things to tell you when I get home!

Your loving Ken

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