Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Club that bred Heros

On the BBC WW2 Website I told a story about an old friend of mine by the name of Donald Carlton who earned himself an MM during the war in Italy (To see the original story click the link below)
C&BG Boys Club, The club that produced heros.

Last night, in London, I went to a re-union of that club and was delighted to meet up once again with Donnie who had travelled down from Bristol for the occasion.

The club, which started in 1924 and closed down in 1989 still draws over 130 ex-members or sons of ex-members to its reunion and friendships forged, in my case, over 70 years ago are still as strong today.


Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron -
interestingly when your friend - Donald Carlton - won his MM.his unit 10th Batt Rifle bde had just joined the 6th Armoured Div in their push towards Lago Trasemeno as they were then the 61st Inf Bdeas just before the fall of Rome the 6th Armoured had lost the Guards bdeand were reduced to just the one Armoured bde and one Inf bde.
Another intersting point is the Commanding Generals of that Division who went on to greater things and I am thinking of Crocker
who had the big spat with Crerar in NW Europe and was fired until Monty stepped in - Templar who was wounded and never came back - Eveleigh - Murray -it seemed to be a good training ground for Generals.

Thursday, 07 September, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Some of the 'Boys Clubs' were a good place to meet friends, learn and perfect many different skills that held young lads in good stead for life. You seem to have been in a really excellent Boys Club, Ron. What a great thing that you are still meeting your mates after all these years.

During the 1940s and 1950s my Great Aunt Sarah Jane used to take in theatrical lodgers. One of the young lads she took in used to say how good the Boys Club was in Liverpool when he went there. This young lad went on to become a big patron and fund raiser of Boys Clubs. He was the singer, entertainer and actor by the name of Frankie Vaughan. Just like you Ron, the Boys Club gave the young Frankie Vaughan a good start in life and he was always grateful.

I've also been catching up reading up on WW2 in Italy and thinking about a few of the "People's War" Site Helpers I've read about. It seemed much harder going than North Africa, and then by mid 1944 NW Europe was getting a rather higher priority.

Friday, 08 September, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph - Italy - from start to finish was a hell hole. You must understand that - basically the Americans didn't go along with ANY operation which deflected from Gen Marshall idea - expressed to Gen Alan Brooke in their first meeting in London - July '42 " the way to finish this war in nine months is to load a few divisons on troopships on the Eastern seaboard of the USA - sail across the Atlantic - land at - say Chebourg - drive across Europe and capture Berlin "
Gen. Alan Brooke's answer was a classic " you may be right that the war would be finished in nine months - but not perhaps, in the manner we are planning"
This naivety lasted throughout the war and only the President who felt that his troops should be "blooded" in North Africa saw the operation Torch come to pass - it was a fast learning curve for them with serious errors at Kasserine and Gabes and in Sicily at Palermo, and Messina.
Eisenhowers prevarication at "Husky" nearly drove Monty mad, as did the non plan for the invasion of Italy.
It finally came off with three divisions of British troops bolstering the two divisons of Americans at Salerno. The 46th 56th and remnants of 7th Armoured were nearly left on the beaches of Salerno but for the intervention of Gen. Alexander.
It should be noted that at all times in Italy the American 5th Army was bolstered by a corps of three divisons of British Troope all thoughout that campaign.
The casualities of 46th - 56th - 7th armed - 1st - 5th -23rd Armed Bde - 6th Armed Div - 6th Sth African Div still lie as "D Day Dodgers" in the mountains in marked and unmarked graves all the way from Salerno to past the Argenta Gap - as the the US high Command did not think the weakening of the massive German forces holding Europe was worth troubling themselves over. witness the idiotic removal of SEVEN divisons from Italy for the idiotic landing at the South of France at a time when we needed all the strength we could muster for the Gothic Line !
From having landed in Sicily on july 10th '43 - the Canadian Corps - as an example lost 6000 men killed and God knows how many wounded never to fight again.
Extrapolate that with the British losses and you will see just how vicous that campaign was - it waa no picnic in horrendous conditions.

Saturday, 09 September, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
further to my last posting - pop into your local library and borrow the book "Cassino - The Hollow Victory" by John Ellis: pub Andre Deutsch -
Isbn 0-233-97569-1
This will give you some idea of the ferocity of that battle which was replicated at Salerno- Ortona -Sangro- Mintorno-Garigliano - Gustav Line- Anzio - Gothic Line and the Argenta gap - not forgetting the two vicous winters spent in atrocious conditions by the men in the line at both the Sangro and the Senio.
Check also the battle for San Pietro to gain some insight as to the stupidity of US Gen.Mark Clark !

Saturday, 09 September, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


Two aspects of the war in Italy which are often overlooked are the terrain and climate. Italy is a beautiful country warm and sunny, full of vineyards and olive trees, but that whilst true, is only one aspect - it is the Italy of the tourist.

But running down the whole leg of Italy is the Apennine chain, literally hundreds upon hundreds of mountains and hills, peppered with villages built in the Middle Ages when peasants sought refuge from marauding Saracen pirates. Even now, with many excellent post-war roads, you can still get lost in the mountain mists. In the Abruzzi there are still bears and wolves (now protected). These remote areas have torrential rains which turn mountain streams into raging torrents, and bitterly cold winters with huge snowdrifts. When I went to Italy in 1940 we stayed for a month or so with my mother's relatives in Santa Maria del Taro in Valtaro, itself fairly remote, but to visit some of her mother's relatives we had to go by mule with a guide, trecking half a day. This is the area of Valtaro. It was in areas such as this that the battles of WW2 were fought.

I am not for a moment suggesting that it was as bad geographically as, say, Burma or the Russian steppes in winter, but it was far more rugged than north-west Europe (France, Belgium, and Holland) and far more diverse than North Africa, over which many in Italy had already fought.

Monday, 11 September, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Peter - you are so right - I'm not sure where Valtaro is but I get the sense of the Eastern end of the Gothic line - Croce or Gemmano area which Stu Hamilton of the 6th RTR describes so well in his "Armoured Odessey" and where 46th and 56th Divs had so many casualites.
Almost impossible Tank country and even that logging road with the logs piled to one side just needed one "Faustpatrone" to ensure that no more tanks moved up to support the Infantry, who then had to take eveything thrown at them.
As you so righly say - wonderful tourist walking country - but we should have followed the ancients and promoted by Monty at the Sangro - to go into winter quarters and start again refreshed in the spring. Who knows, had we done that then rushed up the East coast to Pescara then East over the mountains to take Rome from the East - might have made a very big difference to the casualty rate!
The pleasure of 20-20 hindsight !

Monday, 11 September, 2006  

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