JUNE 23, 1944
I am sitting amid a lot of dirt and confusion writing this. Waiting for a tent to go up to house my weary bones. I guess I have written you from various places along our route. Of course you didn't know from where, nor will you know now, except we have finally found a setting up place for a while. I am hoping Gladys is still with you, but I suppose by the time this reaches you she will have departed. Right now I have a cold in my head, and why we haven't all pneumonia I can't fathom out. On the day we left our last staging area, we drove in open trucks for two hours and a half in torrential rain. We were really soaked-we wrung our coats out. The sun came out before we boarded ship, and we had quite a wait there, so we dried out. Have done quite a bit of sightseeing. Visited Naples-Pompeii was most interesting. I stood and tried to picture those days BC. They dug down twenty-seven feet. Some statues, urns, temples, beautiful paintings and inscriptions. The cornucopia was much in evidence. The red has never been copied to this day-they can't find the ingredients to produce that color. There was goddess this, and goddess that. Bacchus the god of wine, and Venus of women. They had their women in those days, in fact a part of the city was for nothing but. The streets were very narrow, and ruts between stones for the chariot wheels. I just can't describe it all. Bought some pictures which I will either send or take home. Mount Vesuvius in the background. You perhaps have read where it erupted a couple of months ago and wiped out two villages. We could see the paths of the lava flow. Beats me why people will live near the treacherous thing. It was the eruption of that which destroyed Pompeii the second time. Visited Anzio, and wonder of wonders, Rome. It's beautiful countryside here, the lovely fields of grain and lovely green fields. Much more like North America, both in climate and agriculture, than Africa. I did love the trees so. Rome, as you know, was relinquished without a fight, so nothing was destroyed. It's a lovely city. Nice wide streets, and a city of monuments. Such ornate and large things. I got lost if I turned around. I'm sure every country in the world is represented there in uniform. It's a rest centre for tired, weary, front-line boys. Saw many Canadians. Any I asked where they were from were from Western Canada. Not a bluenose in the lot could I find. We had no transportation, so had to thumb-ride. The boys in khaki are very good about picking us up. Can you picture me thumbing it? One day we went to Vatican City. Being a neutral state we are not allowed in, only in St. Peter's. We walked miles upstairs, and then could see the Vatican grounds. Did not see the Pope-some did-but expect to sometime. Such a beautiful place, but as usual mostly for show. It is commercialized so outside below the steps. Vendors of all sorts selling beads, medals, and pictures of the Pope. In fact, it's done all over the city, it seems. The most gorgeous paintings on the ceilings and walls. Paintings, we thought, but they are mosaic put together in stone about a half inch square. I can't see how they painted them and shaded it so beautifully. What we thought from a short distance were draperies were mosaic also. Of course St. Peter is supposed to be buried there. Also went to the Coliseum-remember the Flavian Amphitheatre? Here we had a picture of Christians being thrown to the wild beasts and the gladiator fights. I tried to remember my ancient history, but I'm afraid I forgot a lot. Saw the ruins of the old Roman Forum and temples. From there we went to the catacombs, which was most interesting. An old monk there from the church took us underground. Gave us a candle to see by. Saw bones of some of the Christians whose tombs had been opened, the old lamps and inscriptions scratched on the walls-Peter and Paul and hundreds of others. It covers eight miles, and a lot has not been excavated. Peter's and Paul's remains were supposed to have been removed, and each one buried in the different churches-St. Peter and St. Paul. Saw many of the stone tombs now opened with the names written on. There is so much to see in Rome. When I go again, I will explain more.
We are going to work, I believe, tomorrow. Mostly getting set up. It will really be much better for us to get to work, as we are so unsettled. The hospital is in a big stone building and we are quartered there now, but expect to move out in tents tomorrow. Two in a tent, and believe me, there isn't much room either inside or between them. Have six-holers and places for helmet baths. The Germans were in here before, and did they leave a dirty mess. There are plenty evidences that they scrambled out in a hurry. Food left uneaten on plates, etc.
Had a letter from Eva. She is looking forward to her vacation. Had one from Scott a while ago. She said she wished she could write a letter like you. We must have a lot of mail held somewhere.
This will have to suffice for now. Must write Gladys a note next. So here goes.
Love to all, Frank