The Old Diocesan Issue5 Mar2020 - Page 79

authorities gave him an
impressive funeral with
full military honours.”
Peter Griffiths had made
attempts to escape as far
back as North Africa and
was at large in Italy for some
time, but was recaptured.
ITALY: Lt John Selfe, 6th
Division, who served in the
Desert with the Armoured
Cars, wrote from Italy on 24
June: “It was a lone and rather
trying training period, but what
results it has brought! The
Field Marshal [Smuts] spoke
to a few of us today, radiating
confidence, and though he was
bound to throw some bouquets,
there was some real pride in
his tone when he spoke of
the progress the Division had
made. We moved so fast that
little matters such as sleep
or maintenance of our tanks…
In one whole week I know
that I had 26 hours’ sleep on
my back, and though being
Lt Col Angus Duncan addresses his
men before the assault on Monte
Sole near Bologna. He was killed
shortly after this photograph was
taken, two weeks before the war’s
end, probably as a result of one of
his party standing on a lethal “S” mine.
a “dingo” [scout car] officer and
so doing a bit more running
about than the troop officers,
they and their crews didn’t get
a great deal more. But it has
been well worth it, and we’ve
had some very thrilling times
and plenty of fun. It’s our job
to be there first nearly all the
time, and though this has
meant some sticky spells now
and then, there’s no denying
it’s a great feeling to be the
first into places. I had always
thought the photos showing
terrific welcomes to Allied
troops were to some extent
posed, but there has been
no doubt about the sincerity
of the greetings we’ve met
with, especially in some of
the smaller country towns.
Wine, flowers, farm produce,
all manner of presents are
showered on us; on occasions
my dingo has looked like a
‘float’ in the UCT Rag! The
Germans have done their
best usually to scorch the
earth as they go, so chickens
and livestock are scarce. One
thing we’re doing for the first
time since Abyssinian days is
living partly off the land…”
Writing on 14 August to
enclose Life Membership of the
OD Union, Selfe said: “While we
are temporarily out of the line,
another casualty list has carried
unpleasant news: PD Steele, Lt
Jimmy Gray, whom I’d seen only
a fortnight before, and Dacre
Haddon. About Dacre it’s hard
to write. All the time I knew him,
in whatever environment, he
was an outstanding character.
I am certain his Regiment will
be hard put to replace him.
The cost in outstanding lives
has been almost more than
South Africa can bear.”
Indeed, the cost in outstanding
lives was profound. Dacre Haddon,
Prime Minister Jan Smuts confers
with Maj-Gen Poole in Italy, 24 June
1944, the same day Smuts addressed
Lt Selfe and others of the 6th division.
The handwriting visible on these
pages is Smuts’s, from a letter to
Frank Reid dated 27.11.40, noting
that “Bishops has done outstandingly
well” in its contribution to the war.
for instance, was head boy of
Bishops in 1939, and the named
Rhodes Scholar for 1941. He was
killed on 6 July 1944 and is buried
in the Florence War Cemetery. The
Bishops memorial gates, donated
by his parents, are named for him.
Another fine OD, LieutenantColonel Angus Duncan, who was
at Bishops between 1917 and 1926,
was killed in action in April 1945
at Monte Sole in Bologna, two
weeks before the end of the war.
Probably the last OD lost to the
war, he is buried in Castiglione
dei Pepoli in the district of Bologna.
He was awarded the DSO for
bravery. Before he died, he wrote
to the parents of a colleague
of his who had just been killed:
“…If we are lucky enough to
survive, then we shall keep faith
with those who are gone by seeing
that the ideals for which we have
all fought are placed again high
before the world. Out of all this
evil we shall and must make
good come… Be happy that in
this generation again the cynics
are confounded. There are people
who value ideals more than
themselves – millions of them!”

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