SIR – I hope that this weekend the country remembers a “forgotten” war in Italy. Seventy-five years ago this bloody campaign was coming to a successful conclusion for the Allies – but not before many thousands had been killed or wounded.
Having begun in Sicily and advanced north, the real battle started at Monte Cassino. Then came the landings of Allied troops at the resort town of Anzio. My uncle took part in the latter and eventually participated in the capture of Rome and Florence before being killed in the Apennines on the Gothic Line.
During this time the Normandy landings were taking place. Those soldiers came home heroes while, unfairly, the Italian campaigners were ridiculed as D-Day dodgers.
I have just returned from Faenza where I visited my uncle’s war grave, exactly 75 years to the day after he was killed. He was aged 21 and died two months before I was born. I had a guided tour of the Gothic Line and saw for myself the inhospitable terrain where our brave soldiers fought in atrocious weather conditions. In many respects it was far worse than the war in western Europe.
My lasting thought is how genuine, even today, the heartfelt thanks of the Italians is, for the sacrifices the Allied army made for their country.
SIR – During the Second World War, it was the Merchant Navy that ensured that we didn’t starve, and that we had sufficient coal, raw materials, ammunition and weapons to fight.
The ships were poorly armed and there were no major battles to mark their skill, determination and heroism – just individual encounters with a well-armed enemy. Without that skill, endurance and heroism we wouldn’t have won. D-Day would have been impossible.
Over 3,000 British flagged merchant ships were sunk by enemy action in the First World War and 2,828 in the Second World War, with losses of over 14,600 and 32,000 merchant seamen respectively.
Cdre Malcolm Williams RN (retd)
Checks on volunteers
SIR – I recently needed an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check – the most rigorous that can be requested (“Magistrate protests at ‘ridiculous’ checks for hospice work”, report, November 3).
It took two weeks, cost a few tens of pounds and, for volunteers, the update service is free. It is hardly a deterrent to volunteering.