Italy, December 1944. Christmas day was celebrated very quietly on the gun position. Most of the gunners were thinking of home and loved ones and keeping warm. But this Christmas our cook, along with the Italian Farm owner, cooked up a great meal that surpassed any we had for a long while.
The old out door stone oven baked the chickens and turkey and loaves of bread to perfection. There was some extra chocolate bars and a bottle of beer, real Canadian beer, for the gunners. I wonder how much of this beer went missing at the loading port then on board ship but I think that a tremendous amount was drank by our own quarter master 's crew. It was not often the gunner's had a bottle of Canadian beer [ oh yes four of us were guilty of drinking a bottle each last night ] Mind you I always shared a bottle of Rye or Scotch that I received once a month perhaps. If it was not all stolen and black marketed before getting near the front. If I remember correctly the crews of the guns stood down in turn for their meal and it was a good one. There was mail from home to cap the day. Mind you some of this mail was dated October but some of it was late November and a few early December. We did not have any email those days and were glad to get it even though late.
After Christmas day probably boxing day I went over to Battery Headquarters and seeing I had filled in all Christmas day and did not have a drink, took the bottle of Vermouth over to BHQ and on the way had a few belts of this smooth old vermouth. I failed to mention I had a bodyguard along with me to see that I returned to the troop okay. None other then Lou Gravem who was not going to see the Boss wander around on his own. On arriving at BHQ there was a crap game going on. Now I was not a crap shooter or a poker player, but having a few Lira I joined the game. When it came my turn at the dice I had unbelievable good fortune, winning multi lira. All the good Allied Military Currency that I was winning. Lou kept jamming it into my uniform jacket saying Boss save all this good stuff, play with the old Italian bills. As the game progressed I was feeling the warmth of that fine vermouth and threw caution to the wind, throwing a four and taking all side bets I would make the near impossible four right back. Which I did! Soon I had most of the money and Lou saying it is time to go before you lend it all back and be playing against your money. We wandered back to the troop position counted our money and went to bed.
Next day a NAAFI ration Navy Army Air force Institute [another way the Brits had a strangle on any supplies to we Canucks]. Most of the fellows were broke so you know where my crap shooting money went., Easy come easy go, and the chaps got the soap and what not and I was once again without any Lira. But I did have a lot of fun while it lasted. Still not a great gambler. Lou no longer around to pick up the winnings.
RIP old friend, the one who called me Boss .