Acquafondata April 14th 1944
The regiment arrived into this position up in the mountains to the right of Cassino. We, along with our 11th Infantry brigade, took over a holding role. The infantry and our forward observation sections had a long winding track up into the mountains. While up in very exposed positions, they were supplied by night by jeep and mostly by mules which packed in radio sets, food, grenades, and mortar shells. Orme Payne tells of some of these nightly jaunts with the mules. If you were walking in front of the mule and you heard a noise or a burst of machine gun fire, and you hesitated with your foot not taking the next step. The mule would not place his foot down either. When you arrived at the spot to un-load the mules one had to be careful as soon as the load was off the smart mules would turn and get the h---- out of there.
The guns were in very steep positions having to be winched up the mountain side, and trails dug in so the guns could be elevated to fire over the mountain in front of us. This position was taken over from the 2nd New Zealand division. RHQ was situated in the hilltop village of Acquafondata, a very old village.
I took the opportunity to walk up to the old church and cemetery. I was interested in the dates on the headstones. The headstones were dated back to somewhere In the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Most of the headstones carried the name San Phillipe. Rather odd as I would think that a French name. I checked with a lady of, I suppose, about 75 why the French names on the headstone. She said this dated back to the San Phillipe's arriving on this hilltop a few centuries ago being expelled from France. Also the San Phillipe boys could marry girls from neighboring hilltop towns but they had to remain living in Acquafondata, so the name was perpetuated for centuries.
At the foot of this village was a spring of beautiful clear cold water that ran out of the mountain side but what a carry to get the water up to the village. The girls and women carried the water from the foot of the mountain daily. This was carried in large earthen jugs on the women's heads. The jugs were so heavy one girl would assist the other in placing the jug on the other's head. Oh, I did not mention the women would wind a circle of cloth to cushion the jug from grinding into their heads. On the very steep hill the water carrier may need to pee, well there was no way they could remove the jug and squat, so they just leaned against the hill side or the stone wall and let it flow. Not too sanitary but efficient.