My Dad drove the Nazis out of Italy.
Ok he had a little bit of help but I am convinced that he was pivotal and was the main reason the fascists were defeated in Italy.
My dad was a dispatch rider who served in Sicily and Italy. He would not tell me much about what he had witnessed but intimated that he seen people killed and might even have been involved in killing. He brought a knife back that he’d taken as a trophy off a dead German soldier.
My theory is that one of his dispatches contained vital information that enabled the Allies to defeat the Germans and drive them out of Italy. I can imagine him crouched over the engine of his motorbike with the throttle full open dodging bullets and explosions as the whole German army tried to stop him getting through. He valiantly managed to reach headquarters and deliver the message and the tide was turned. I could be wrong though.
What he did tell me was about going out nights drinking with his best friend and taking turns to carry each other home. He told stories of being chased by the Military Police with them on their bikes going flat out with the MPs in their wake trying to catch them. He also once told me about a time when he was delivering a message and was driving through this town with all these sandbagged machine gun positions and noticed that they were manned by Germans. He turned his bike round and drove back out without a shot being fired.
He had tales of mad drunken antics on a windy road coming downhill from where they were billeted, trying to get round corners on full throttle with cliffs and ruts, coming off and breaking a knee-cap and holding it together until the ambulance came. He was lucky they repaired it but it left him with a big scar on his knee.
I think the war was the best thing that happened to him. It gave him freedom that he never had at home. His war was long periods of fun, drunkenness, girls and wild times in Italy with short intervals of terror. It changed him.
He was billeted with an Italian family who more or less adopted him as one of theirs. He came back with a whole new cuisine. Unlike the other families around us we had proper Italian spaghetti, gorgonzola cheese and parmesan.
He also got to meet different people and see the country. He went up Mount Vesuvius while it was erupting and his guide made him an ashtray out of the lava. We visited Naples and I climbed Vesuvius and had a look at the solidified lava flow that he’s seen red hot and flowing.
I think he was romantically involved with an Italian girl. I’ll never know. But I could have been Italian!
After the war he came back, did a typing course, had another romantic fling, worked for Reuters News Agency and met my mum on the rebound.
The war was a defining moment for his generation. They all suffered loss, saw death and many came back traumatised. For my father I think it was a strange cocktail of emotions. He’d lost good friends, seen horrible sights but also had freedom, made life-long friends and had the time of his life. There might not be a tomorrow. You lived for the day. After that life was never the same.
Just think – if he had not delivered that message I might have been German!
There’s no end to the nationalities I could have been.