Veteran Stories:
Lawrence Fish

Army

  • Lawrence Fish (left rear) and three men of 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, on post war policing operation in Veroia, Greece.

  • Lawrence Fish's first photo in uniform as a recruit, 1942.

  • Lawrence Fish in tropical uniform, Summer, 1944. Uniform depicts divisional (battleaxe) and unit (star) emblems.

  • Welcome letter, confirming acceptance into the British Army.

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"Almost 60 years later that image is still sharply etched on my memory. I survived Monte Cassino but many of my comrades did not."

Transcript

My name is Lawrence Fish. I served in the British Army in the Second World War. I served in North Africa, Sicily, Italy then in occupation in Austria and then continued in a policing action in Greece.

Having fought the entire length of Italy, including being wounded, I would like to comment on the most vicious conflict in which I was involved - the Battles of Monte Cassino. A fortress-like Benedictine abbey atop a 1700-foot mount surrounded by almost insurmountable physical features was the site of four epic battles. I participated in the last three. At one point, my formation held a position close to the enemy-held abbey. As the ground was all rock, trench digging and burial of dead was impossible and our area was literally strewn with the bodies of friend and foe alike. With the arrival of spring weather and its threat of pestilence from the decaying corpses, it became necessary to pour creosote over them under cover of night. This ghoulish exercise was in sharp contrast to the songs of normally elusive nightingales which seemed to flourish in this nightmarish wasteland. Almost 60 years later that image is still sharply etched on my memory. I survived Monte Cassino but many of my comrades did not.

On the post-war return to the Cassino area, we arrived during the night and stayed in a hotel, three of us who had all served together. And the following morning we opened these huge curtains and immediately drew back when we saw Monastery Hill with the monastery on top. It struck a blow seeing this monstrous image again where so many of our people of all nations in the Allied armies had died.

After the occupation in Austria where we shared duties with the Russians and French and Americans in Vienna, my formation was moved to Greece on a police action intended to keep the Royalists warring against the Communists apart, and to keep the elections free of violence. And that was our role there. It was successful. Democratic elections did, in fact, take place. But it was a delicate period of time during which we could not show any favouritism to one side or the other. This, fortunately, allowed us to integrate with both sides without being seen as a champion of either side and that was quite a success story in achieving those democratic elections.

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