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John ?Jock? Gowans Port - 9th Commando 5th Troop - letter home to parents.  XML
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kennyport
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My grandfather John sent a letter home to his parents describing the action that took place for his unit in February 1944. He was injured on 3rd Feb so his descriptions are of the fighting on Monte Ornito.


No 2991563 Pte J. Port.
5 troop 9 Commando
C.M.F
9/4/44
My dear Mum & Dad,
​I?m writing this because I think you?d both like to know a little of what happened that night when Len Wade got killed & I got my little present? There isn?t much to give by the time I cut out military information, but anyway, here it is
?We had been resting for three days and Eddie and I were considering going out on the spree for we smelt trouble brewing, when suddenly we got the order to pack our kit, clean our weapons and load up with ammo? all the usual ?scoops? started everyone trying to guess where we were going, but the amount of work we had to do soon killed the gossip.
When we were ready, Eddie & I got together and promised each other that if one of us was killed, the survivor would.
(1) Keep all the personal kit of the ?departed?
(2) Write to certain people and break the news
(3) Destroy all ?love letters? (I?d already burnt mine!!)
If one of us was wounded the other would
(1) Write and break the news
(2) Look after the others kit till he returned?
So you see we had a neat and well tried little system.
I sat for a while just watching and looking at different faces and wondering what they were thinking? its at a time like this that one really gets to know people.
I tried to define how I felt, you can laugh if you like, but I was keen to get started and at the same time I was wishing it was all over. I thought of you all at home, of my friends, Geoff, May, Mrs Bager, Mrs Harrison, Mike (my pal in India he?s an officer now, of his mother, Mrs Burrell and wondered how you would all feel if I didn?t come back. I thought ?what a shame it would be if I got killed now,? then I started to laugh at myself and lit a cigarette.
We got the order ?get dressed? so I got my ?Battle Order? on, grabbed my gun and fell in. It was as black as sin outside but we all scrambled into trucks and were off. At first we were all singing & smoking but one by one we dozed off. We continued like that throughout the night and early part of the next morning. We stopped for dinner at a small camp, and then, worst of all stated marching. How far we went I don?t know, mile after mile hot tired and thirsty, and just when I thought we were going to stop, the column left the road and started climbing a huge hill. We climbed for about three hours, up hill down dale, and it was quite dark when we reached our destination, a little valley behind the front line.
We just ate some biscuits and cheese, had a drink from our water bottles and lay down on the grass and slept. Of course, we had to take turns at sentry throughout the night but nobody grudged that for it doesn?t pay to let a jerry patrol catch you all asleep.
We spent a few days there, just routine stuff, cook, eat, drink, wash, guard and an occasional ?sleep? thrown in.
Have you ever tried sleeping with one blanket between two? Its an art!! Just keep awake until the other fellow falls asleep and then pinch the whole blanket!! When he wakes up feeling cold and you are asleep, he pinches it off you, and so on till its time to cook breakfast.
When it rains you just throw a gas ? cape over the blanket and kid yourself that the trickle of water that you feel going down your neck isn?t water but just your imagination. In the end you get so ?drowned off? that you just say and wish it was time to get up.
The only excitement in that spot was when Jerry shelled it, which he did quite often?
We got briefed and told how lucky we were to have the honour of etc etc? and then we started off on business.
We scattered out on a hill to wait for ZERO hour, we had a last drink of tea while waiting and it was just my turn to drink when Jerry started shelling us. I gulped some down and dived for cover like a rabbit. He got fed up blasting us so he stopped shelling and we had a quick smoke and started off.
It was pretty dark by this time but we have our own ways of keeping together, so we got along pretty quick.
We captured a few of the enemy and sent them back under escort, we got fired at a few times and mortared quite a lot. That was when Len got killed. We were going down the side of a steep little gully (our troop in front) when all of a sudden Whoosh! Broom!! I got blown straight through a clump of bushes, I was only bruised, but I lost a little St. Christopher good luck charm which May had given me and was I mad!! It was too dark to find it so I went down to where the mortar bombs had landed. When I got there Len was dead but he hadn?t a mark on him, it was the blast that had done it. It was quick anyway, I know he didn?t suffer.
We crashed on and came upon a German platoon in a farmhouse & it was an answer to our prayers. We gave them hell!!
Unfortunately their pals on the mortar caught on to what we were doing and started lobbing bombs over and that was where your son, John caught his little packet.
I felt a smack on the foot and when I pulled my leg up I discovered the instep of my boot was blown away & blood was oozing out, a lovely little mess!! All to myself too!!
Anyway I shouted to one of my mates ?I?ve been hit Jimmie? ?Better take my Bren gun?
He took it, gave me his rifle and told me to crawl to the top of the hill where I?d get bandaged up. I started off and then some more mortar bombs came over and my rifle was blown out of my hand. I don?t know where it went to. I only got a little cut on my leg, from shrapnel so it wasn?t too bad.
Our medical orderly caught me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me between two huge rocks. There was a fellow called Todd there already, he?d got it in the legs too.
The orderly dressed both our wounds and said to me ? don?t worry your foots still there? I wont tell you want I said!!
Jerry was still pasting us so I told him to beat it and if he got a chance to come back when things quietened down, and help us get back. I thought we were goners and was no use him getting killed too.
Away he went and Todd and I were alone?
We lay for quite a long time, then I heard a noise being a rock. I thought it might be a Jerry so I grabbed my Colt automatic and waited. I saw someone move, so I shouted ?Hande Hoche? then a voice came ?Don?t shoot Jock. It?s me Scotty? ? it was another of our troop who?d been smoked out by blast. He crawled in beside us, so we were three in numbers again.
We were still being motared, all this time, as you can see we were in a mess.
I got fed up waiting and decided to crawl down to the farmhouse for help. I took off all my equipment except what I needed for food, water & pistol ammunition and set off at one mile per week.
When I got to the house (a distance of 200 yards) it was a quiet as a grave. I shouted ? no answer- then Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Over came some more mortar bombs and I was in the open. I cursed myself for leaving the shelter of our rock, finally I stopped swearing and started back as fast as I could go, for it was obvious that the place was deserted. I managed to find the other two & we huddled together for the rest of the night. Brrr it was cold too.
Gradually it began to get light, a beautiful dawn too, but bad medicine for us if there were any snipers around. However we had to chance that.
The mortaring stopped, they must have thought we were dead (but we weren?t!!)
We knew the ?boys? would be back for us but anyway we decided to make for the shelter of the house, so Scotty ran down & Todd & I started crawling. Half way down, Todd gave in so I kept on on my own with the intention of sending Scotty back to help Todd.
I just got to the house when a Jerry Corporal come round the corner, he got a shock when I stuck my pistol under his nose. Up went his hands, down went his rifle. ?Kamarad?. He didn?t want to fight so I got him to help me into the house, then I got a shock for there were eight jerries sitting inside and Scotty was standing there (unarmed) smoking. I showed them my pistol but only answer was ?Kamarad?. So all was well. I sent Scotty to help Todd and then made the jerries put all their weapons in a corner where I could watch them.
Scotty came back. He couldn?t find Todd, I cursed him & then hobbled outstide & showed him where to go. Off he went again and I was just going inside again I spotted Brittish troops on the hill, I shouted and they came down towards us.
Scotty came back with Todd, and one of the jerries came in carrying a fellow from 6 troop. I noticed a first aid kit lying on a chair so I got the Jerry Corporal to dress all our wounds. The British Troops arrived, an officer & three men. I gave them all the particulars, got some morphia for the 6 troop fellow & referred to hand over our prisoners. They promised to wireless No9 but made me accept responsibility for the prisoners, which I did? away they went.
Our prisoners gave us rum, fresh water, cigarettes, blankets. In return I gave them all my food & chocolate. I couldn?t eat as my foot was beginning to ache. I just drank & drank & smoked. We sat talking, then put the other wounded blokes to bed & kept talking. All they wanted to know was whether they?d go to London or America!!
After a few hours I heard familiar voices, it was two of our boys. They asked if we wanted anything. All I wanted was a shot of morphine. I got my jag & the pain soon died away. I felt numb all over.
The wounded, two of our lads and one Jerry were put on stretchers, the prisoners carried them back. An Italian farmer who?d just ?dropped in? offered me his mule, so I went back ?in style?. I rode that mule about two miles back till I came upon all ?our boys? ( I got a nice little cheer for my country act) All my officers and all my pals came over to tell me how glad they were to see me again and I felt glad that I was in such a grand Lot of lads. The medical officer asked me if I was fit to ride the rest of the way back. I was enjoying the ride so I said ?yes? and old Hermann, the mule & I started off again. (I arranged with the adjutant to see that the prisoners got well treated for being so helpful)
I passed lots of other troops on my way back and they all gave me cigs & tea, as you see it was fun.
I came upon a field dressing station and I parted with my ?faithful steed?
The rest was uneventful, just getting carried over the hills on a stretcher till we came to the road, transferred to a jeep and so to a hospital behind the lines. Where I met my Col. (R.T.F Todd)
The doctor who operated on me worked for twelve years in the Bellshill Maternity (he told me not to worry, I wouldn?t have a baby, even though he had worked there.)
When I recovered consciousness I was in a train, with my foot and leg in plaster. Then i was bungled into an ambulance and finally arrived here, That is the pot
Well folks, that?s my little story, I hope you like it. At present I?m feeling ok & looking forward to getting out & rejoining the boys again.

Cheerio & all my love
Your loving son,
John xxx
kennyport
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kennyport
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kennyport
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kennyport
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kennyport
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kennyport
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kennyport
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kennyport
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kennyport
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Pete
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Hi Kenny

Many thanks for providing the letter and a transcript which I will add to the archive over the next few days and post a link here when complete. Can you advise me do you have any other good resolution photo of your Grandfather from his service days. We have this one at present in the gallery:
https://gallery.commandoveterans.org/cdoGallery/v/units/9/9+Cdo+_7_.jpg.html

Additionally if you provide dates and places of birth and death I can include those. Feel free to email me on the email link below this message should you wish.

Pete


Pete Rogers, son of LSgt Joe Rogers MM & nephew of TSM Ken McAllister. Both No2 Commando.
God and the Soldier, all men adore, In time of danger and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.


**** nb. I no longer monitor the pm facility ****
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kennyport
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Hi Pete

I posted three at this link here -
https://forum.commandoveterans.org/cdoForum/posts/list/8656.page

I will add them on this thread.

Please see details of birth and death below -

04/03/1924 - Bellshill, Scotland
15/12/1973 - Wishaw, Scotland
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Pete
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Ah...I had not spotted that there were two messages (senior moment perhaps). Excellent thank you.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 10/12/2023 19:39:01


Pete Rogers, son of LSgt Joe Rogers MM & nephew of TSM Ken McAllister. Both No2 Commando.
God and the Soldier, all men adore, In time of danger and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.


**** nb. I no longer monitor the pm facility ****
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kennyport
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Not at all! Thanks Pete.
Let me know if you need anything else.
Pete
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I have added them to the No.9 Commando Gallery here:

https://gallery.commandoveterans.org/cdoGallery/v/units/9/Port/

and added a page here: https://www.commandoveterans.org/John_Port_9Commando

I will add the letter in due course. I see he is wearing the Tam O'Shanter in one of the Commando photos so would have been an early commando volunteer. Do you happen to know the date he was attached from the A&SH to No.9 Commando?

Pete

Pete Rogers, son of LSgt Joe Rogers MM & nephew of TSM Ken McAllister. Both No2 Commando.
God and the Soldier, all men adore, In time of danger and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.


**** nb. I no longer monitor the pm facility ****
[Email]
 
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