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di Oliver Barres

In central Italy there is a small mountain-top village named Capracotta, which overlooks the valley of Sangro River. In December 1943 there was fighting down below in the valley. The snow was heavy, and they had to bring the wounded up the steep winding trail by mule-back. It was a rough four-hour journey, and many died of exposure on the way up to the Regimental Aid Post.

Most of the homes in the valley below Capracotta were rubble, and every day the eighty-eight shells, sounding like freight trains as they rumbled overhead, made new heaps of stone. One cold night shortly before Christmas the soldiers in that mountain-top outpost were ordered to stand-to. A German attack was expected at any hour. In order to warn the English commander of the new troop movement and the heavy guns Jerry was bringing up on the far side of the mountain, an old Italian peasant and his ailing wife had waded the icy river and slipped across the no-man's-land of that valley below.

Inside the Regimental Aid Post a young British doctor sat gazing at the fire. He was thinking of his wife and child back in England. He seemed suddenly to have a premonition and a dread, for he looked up, smiling uneasily, and said in his British way: «It's a bad do. It's a bad do to be dying in a strange land far from home».

  • O. Barres, One Shepherd, One Flock, Sheed & Ward, New York 1956, pp. 62-63.


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