In the 2nd World War from 19 November 1942 to 8 January 1946, my Dad George Stimpson served as a front line gunner with the Scottish 8th Army division.
These images and memories are taken from his scrapbook (in italics) and the fragments of conversations from himself and friends. Like most men returning from war he survived by forgetting not remembering – but only in his dreams.
After 3 months training at Bonhill barracks Dumbarton he was sent to fight for the final months in the North Africa campaign under Field Marshall Montgomery (Monty).
I think this photo was probably taken in the desert.
After the allied victory in May 1943 George joined a new unit in Sicily at the beginning of the Italian campaign. He took part in the barrage across the straits of Messina.
8 September Italy surrendered and Germans quickly disarmed the Italian forces and moved north.
13 September 43 – Into mainland Italy
George’s work mate Albert who emigrated to Australia phoned me after my Dad died and told me about hardships of swimming the guns across the rivers.
It was a remorseless slog across the river valleys due to the tactics of Field Marshall Kesselring always taking the high ground.
10 Nov 43 – He sent Christmas greetings home.
Feb – May 43 After fighting all winter in Central Italy went into Anzio for hectic 3 months where many were injured and killed. I was lucky to get off intact on the physical side.
Jan 44 Anzio (south of Rome) Amphibious tanks hooked round the German defences but the troops were slow to push onto Rome and the Germans contained the American and British troops at the beach head. They established the Gustav line.
4 June 44- Troops finally entered Rome.
George was on leave at a Salerno rest camp from the Anzio struggle and reports that he had 3 months rest on this lovely Amalfi coast.
He had an entrance ticket to the ruins of Pompeii.
Although George was not involved at Monte Cassino which broke the Gustav line he has a comment in his diary – I have never seen such devastation!
June 44 In Benevento (Caserta) – this was the Allied HQ and originally the King of Naples palace. George was being changed from the 78 Field (25 pounders to M8 med.(5.5)
Aug 44 – All in Pisa area
Nov 44 – Feb 45 Holding Winter line in the Appennines some 25 miles south of Bologna. (some snow too brrh!)
He did talk about ‘going up into the mountains and being taken in by the peasants sharing their food’.
Also as he was in a Scottish regiment ‘he volunteered for duty at New Year, St Andrews day and Burns night’. He was not a big drinker!
Waiting for Spring offensive which resulted in
2 May 45 German surrender.
After this George reports on his recuperation at various resorts with lots of picture postcards.
5-15 May 45 Had a 10 day rest on Lake Garda (Sirmione). Beautiful district with Alps in background.
16 May 45 Came to Pesaro on Adriatic coast 15 miles south of Rimini. Lovely bathing spot and I did eventually learn to swim!
24 June 45 Florence for leave at a rest camp
6-8 July 45 Went to Venice for a 3 day visit – quite unique.
26 July 45 Iurea – 25 miles north of Turin. Delightful stay.
13 Aug 45 San Remo
Aug 45 French Riviera – were allowed to visit Nice and Monte Carlo
25-30 Sept Moved up to Bordighera where we were billeted in a hotel with beautiful view of Italian and French Riviera coastline with lights of Monte Carlo twinkling at night.
25 Oct A month’s course at that lovely city of Turin.
I came home on a month LIAP leave via Milan and Switzerland to Calais.
12 Nov 45 George reached home.
I never went back as I accepted the ‘B class’ release offered me whilst at home/
8 Jan 46 Finished (what a relief in all of what I have seen)
It couldn’t have been easy for my mother bringing me up on her own. However somehow she acquired a camera and took photos of me growing up. So I have inherited a wonderful momento of my early childhood. I was 4 and a half years when Dad returned. His interest in travel was self evident in the postcard record scrapbook. I inherited this love and have visited some of these places in Italy.
Although the Italian campaign was complicated I have tried to understand the role of the 8th Army division using the following references:
- DVD Robin Holmes World War 2 The Italian Campaign
- Book World War 11 Day by Day – editor Peter Darman
- The Oxford Essential Guide to World War 11 by William L O’Neill
There is a website called
However Robin Holmes remarks that it was no picnic for the D-Day dodgers as it was a punishing place especially as Jan 44 was one of worst Italian winters.