Now I Know

Ole man phones on his new cellphone. FINALLY a cellphone like I always wanted.

As usual, its a one-way call; he can’t hear me, but I can listen.

The phone is perfect. BIG numbers, which display BIG on the screen when pushed AND I can actually hear when I push the button; And get this, the best of all! – it speaks out the number when I push it! It doesn’t just beep, it says SIX when I push the six. Only the four is not working. I told them to take it back to the shop, the four isn’t working.

But they told me they can’t – they bought it online. So the four makes a scratchy sound, I know now that means FOUR.

Then he starts laughing. He says It came with a pamphlet and I saw ‘Italiano’ on it so I turned to the Italian description and I’m still laughing. It said this is a special phone for “ANTICA” – not for “ANZIANI,” for “ANTICA.”

That means it’s a phone not for THE ELDERLY; it’s a phone for THE ANCIENT!

Now I know what I am! laughs the 97yr-old!

– WW2 – where he learnt his Italian –

Gotta go – this call is costing me a fortune. You owe me R33.


The Forgotten War in Italy – 1944

Dad talking about the Second World War.

He was with the Eighth Army who landed in Italy in 1943 and worked their way up the East coast, the Adriatic Coast. The more famous battle was up the West Coast, the Mediterranean coast, so the advance up  the East coast was called “The Forgotten War”.

Here he is, 94 in the shade, telling soldier adventure tales. They had roared off in a Jeep looking for the Yanks. Then he goes on to talk about breeding pigeons. Like Darwin!

After pigeons he started moaning about his tenants, so I cut him off!


The “Forgotten War” – up the Adriatic Coast of Italy

The 8th Army continued fighting along the Adriatic coast; sadly this created the need for cemeteries at Ancona 1029 burials, Castiglione South African, 502 burials; Montecchio 582 burials; Gradara 1191 burials; Coriano Ridge 939 burials; Rimini Gurkha 618 burials; Cesena 775 burials; Medola 145 burials; Forli 1234 burials plus a cremation memorial for nearly 800 Indian servicemen; Ravenna 955 burials; Villanova 955 burials; Villanova Canadian cemetery 212 burials; Faenza 1152 burials; Santerno Valley 287 burials; Bologna 184 burials; Argente Gap 625 burials; Padua 513 burials.

Fighting along the Adriatic section of Italy was quite intensive and continuous from Bari in the south to Milan in the north. The CWGC estimate that the Commonwealth lost nearly 50,000 dead in Italy during World War II most of whom lie buried in 37 war cemeteries, and over 4000 soldiers whose graves are not known but remembered by name on the Cassino memorials. Almost 1500 Indian servicemen, whose remains were cremated, are remembered on three memorials in various cemeteries.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the 8th Army had a difficult time fighting the Germans over very difficult terrain along the Eastern Adriatic coast of Italy.

german tank

The Mediterranean side of Italy was extensively reported on. Maybe it was because the American 5th Army proved to be more attractive to the news editors – or they had better PR?! More journalists? They certainly had more money.


The Canadians also fought on the Adriatic coast and have documented it here.



Colonel Freddie Hodgson

I suddenly thought of old Freddie and wondered where his books were. He came to me for his eyes and sold me a book he’d written: From Hell to the Himalayas. Later he added to it and published a second, thicker edition. Made me buy one of the new ones too! A charming and persuasive rogue was old Freddie, Colonel CF Hodgson.

He must have been about ninety in the shade in 1980 which means born ca 1890. Got pushed around in a wheelchair by his young girlfriend – probly a mere seventy year old. She was very good to him. He ordered her (and everyone else) about with supreme confidence, pointing his walking stick at things and directions to go. Yes, he was in a wheelchair but he still carried a walking stick. He was an officer in the British army after all, and was stuck in the days when that meant you were king of the world.

Having thought of him, I went looking for him. On the ‘net of course. Eventually found something on It seems he must have shuffled off this mortal coil, gone to the big officers mess in the sky, as his medals and his book are for sale as a bundle.

Col Freddie Hodgson

The writing on the card the medals are pinned to reads: “Bombardier to Colonel; C.F. Hodgson, Royal Field Artillery; Commissioned 8:8:17; Wounded; Wrote a book ‘From Hell To The Himalayas’; Book comes with medals and medal entitlement card”;

The seven medals (three WW1 and four WW2) and the book can all be yours for $875. The sales pitch:

An interesting grouping of seven medals ranging from WWI to WWII and a career that is documented in his written autobiography of “From Hell to the Himalayas” (King & Wilks Publishers). The medals are affixed to a section of heavy white coverstock with a handwritten notation. The medals are in order: 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal 1914-1920 (engraved “2 Lt. C.F. Hodgson”), Victory Medal (engraved “2nd Lt. C.F. Hodgson”), 1939-1945 Star, British Commonwealth Africa Star, Burma Star and the 1939-1945 War Medal. The hardcover book is a first edition, printed in 1983 with a colour dust jacket. The book measures approximately 15cm x 21cm and consists of 206 pages with a section of 12 pages with black and white photographs to the center. Also included is a black and white glossy photograph with “Col. C.F. Hodgson (France)” to the reverse, as well as photocopied pages showing his career in WWI as a Bombardier in the RFA, through to WWII.

I can’t find his books on my shelves at the moment. They’ll be here somewhere. When I find them I’ll quote some or other bombastic comment by the bombardier. I’m sure there’ll be one!


The Ancient Marinades

So the old man went to Maritzburg College for their 150th anniversary 1863-2013* on Saturday. Sheila ignored his protests and arranged it all, including getting free tickets. He’s 91 and was in the 1938 matric class when College was a mere 75yrs old. He bailed out around April and went to work for the GPO – general post office – then off to the war as soon as he could.

Wonder what memories were swirling around here? Walking up to your familiar school entrance seventy five years after your last walk up that path.

PGS Maritzb College (2)
PGS Maritzb College memorial

He thought he’d be the oldest there, but he was trumped by the only other chap from the 1930’s: 97 year old Cyril Crompton – Matric 1933!!

Cyril Crompton (97) and Pieter Swanepoel (91)
– how’s that head of hair!? –

Cyril had driven down from JHB on his own! – watch out on the roads!
He’s driving back on his own tomorrow, but will be stopping off in Underberg to play bowls.

My old man believes in much activity. He does woodwork and metalwork, making clocks, furniture, mosaics and turning wooden bowls, etc; Drives around buying stuff at auctions, butcheries, SPCA sales, etc. Talks about selling stuff, but seldom gets round to it – too busy buying stuff!

He firmly believes “keeping busy” is the reason for his longevity.
So he asks the older Cyril: What do you do to keep busy?
Cyril: Oh, a bit of gardening. The rest of the time I drink beer.

Cyril gave the old man a book he wrote on the war. They were both in North Africa and Italy. In his book “For The Adventure Of It” he writes how he survived the Battle of Sidi Rezegh, one of the most costly in lives in South Africa’s history.  He was captured, the ship was torpedoed and he was taken on a death march from eastern Germany – now Poland – away from the advancing Russian Army.  A gripping story.

Later, the school put their mugs on a mug:

– mug says 2016 so I have some dates mixed up –


Sheila read and vetted my post:

All spot-on except for the free tickets. Lunch was R140 pp. The organisers wore sworn to secrecy. Cyril was delightful, flirting with me throughout. I sat between him and Dad. We all loved the whole day. Will write a proper report which I’ll send Robbie Sharratt plus a pic of Dad and Cyril. Love Sheila

– Dad in 1937 –
– the 1937 U/15 athletics champion donates some wood-turned trophies to his alma mater –

Footnote: Cyril lost his drivers licence due to failing eyesight at 99, played bowls till he was 100, then passed away. Dad has renewed his drivers licence at ninety five and eight months, valid for five years!


Read a lovely article in the Sandton Chronicle about Cyril when he turned one hundred. In it he says “My secret to a long life is Castle Lager and cane spirits, my two favourite drinks.” Funny that: For years we listened to Dad expound how the secret to him not being as bad as other drinkers was cane spirits and water. The colour in brandy and whisky was somehow bad, as were mixers – according to him.

– read about his book at Echoing Green Press