A war artist in the mountains of Italy

"Through Castel del Rio, a little mountain village packed with army transport, then on over some spectacular Bailey bridges and into the quiet of the forward area ..." Ardizzone describes his journey on 10th January 1945.
“Through Castel del Rio, a little mountain village packed with army transport, then on over some spectacular Bailey bridges and into the quiet of the forward area …” Ardizzone describes his journey on 10th January 1945.

The Italian Front had become rather neglected after D-Day in Normandy. If the Allies did not have the strength to break through, after the diversion of troops to France, they were still holding down significant German forces.

One man had a particular affection for Italy, official War Artist Edward Ardizzone. In January he returned for another visit. There was much that he could have covered and there was no requirement for him to visit the front lines, yet he seems to have been under some personal obligation to do so:

11th January Thursday

Idle morning by the Mess fire trying to warm up after another cold and sleepless night. To the Guards Brigade in the afternoon. Heavier firing as we passed. Pack mules slipping and sliding on the icy road. Arrive about tea, find them very comfortably established in a big farmhouse.

Shells drop nearby in the evening and an officer is wounded. Luckily not too seriously, but when he was brought into the Mess and laid on the sofa he was grey, speechless and sweating with shock. Touching concern of his batman.

"an officer is wounded. Luckily not too seriously, but when he was brought into the Mess and laid on the sofa he was grey, speechless and sweating with shock. Touching concern of his batman."
“an officer is wounded. Luckily not too seriously, but when he was brought into the Mess and laid on the sofa he was grey, speechless and sweating with shock. Touching concern of his batman.”

Later the M.O. arrives with ambulance and after a first aid dressing to leg and back he is taken away. Sit next to the Brigadier at dinner, which was really wonderful, the best I have had in Italy, the Brigade H.Q. having discovered a wonderful woman cook. Sleep well and am warm for the first time for four nights.

12th January Friday

The Brigadier and his aide take me with them on their visit to Company and Battalion posts in the mountains — a tremendous walk through deep snow and up icy slopes which nearly kills me. Realise how unfit I am. At one moment thought I would have to give up.

Posts usually in small, grey mountain farmhouses, but the highest, on a great snow’ ridge, consisted of holes dug in the hillside covered with tarpaulins. Another a combination of holes and a burrow in a ruined farmhouse.

We are dressed in snow suits of white linen, as much of the way under observation. Finally We reach an A.D.S. in a small farmhouse where we collect a jeep and travel by an appalling steep and bumpy track, deep with snow and ice, down to the river. We cross by a footbridge and the last short walk home was precipitous and awful. Being tired I fell over at least half a dozen times.

See Edward Ardizzone: Diary of a War Artist.

A Soldier Shaving in the Snow, Tuscany 1945
A Soldier Shaving in the Snow, Tuscany 1945

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