In Italy – A visit to Monastery Mountain
By George Mock (Signalman
with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals)
almost two weeks at sea, our troop ship, the S.S. Chitral
drew in sight of land in the morning. Went out on deck and
saw Mount Vesuivous and the coast of Italy, it was very mountainous.
As we pulled into dock, it was quite a sight to see the burned
out hulks of once famous boats, now just a pile of junk. Many
ships were partially sunk and others should have been. What
caught our eyes was the Red Cross ship that we spotted lying
on its side. The Germans had apparently bombed it and they
had done a very good job of her. An Italian submarine lay
half in the water and half out. We had to use a burned out
ship called the “Resolute” for a dock. Our draft
disembarked at 9.30 a.m.
wasn’t very hot but as we were carrying our kit bags
and arms while marching for nearly a mile through the streets
of Naples, we sweated with every step before arriving at a
square used by the Canadian Army for all incoming drafts.
There we were told to wait and not to leave the square.
were served dinner, which was the American K-3 ration comprising
of a can of hot stew, a cup of tea and hard tack. It was good
though and we didn’t complain. We had to wait for two
to three hours for the train and in that time we were getting
our eyes filled with the strange sights of a new country.
to where I had laid all my equipment was a church, which the
boys had been investigating. I later ventured inside myself
and was amazed at the beauty of the altar and of the size
of the church itself. All around us were buildings, or I should
say, what used to be buildings. Our air force, the RAF, the
Americans, the Germans, our Navy and the German Navy, our
Artillery and the German Artillery all at one time or another
had sent plenty of shells down on this famous city of Naples
so that it was quite a mess. Just walls remained in most spots
and the houses very badly bombed.
saw extremelt dirty people and children running around by
the hundreds. Most of us felt sorry for them and were giving
them the candy and chocolate bars we had bought on board ship
train was more like a Toonerville Trolley – just jammed
with people. When we arrived at Nola we transferred into trucks;
we were packed in like sardines. Just as we were pulling away
I spotted Billy Herron, who I hadn’t seen for nearly
three years but it was too late to draw his attention.
truck ride was very interesting and we soon came into mountainous
country, which was quite a sight, as I had never seen mountains
before. We arrived at our reinforcement depot at Avellino
and just as our truck turned the corner it had a flat tire
so we all had to get out and wait until another truck came
along. While we waited I spotted orange trees, palm trees
billeting was in a large bombed out building; I was so cold
that I went to bed with all my clothes on except for my shoes.
I had four blankets, a greatcoat, and ground sheet and I still
froze. I slept like that for four nights in a row before I
finally got up enough courage to take the rest of my clothes
off. I soon put on my winter underwear instead.
“Latrine”. Road out of camp is on the right. The
path on the right leading to the latrine is for sergeants
and officers. (They had walls around theirs.) The one on the
left is for “other ranks”.
On New Year’s Eve, we received permission to climb Monastery
Mountain. At the top was the Sanctuario di Monte Virginie,
which was run by the Capucini Brotherhood. During our climb
we passed the seven stages of the cross. It took about three
hours before we reached the monastery.
was plenty of snow up there and it was very cold. A monk showed
us all through the church, which was magnificent. A nun, who
had died some 300 years ago, had been preserved and her body
lay near an altar. All the altars were made of marble, which
had been carried up the mountain by the women or by donkeys,
and was bordered with gold.
bought various souvenirs of the monastery then went over to
the bar and had a few drinks to warm us up. It only cost us
25 cents for a shot of rum or any other liquor and it was
all Benedictine, which was very good.
had the good fortune to be able to mail a broach, necklace
and bracelet I bought there to my girlfriend; Isabel (now
my wife of 56 years) and she still has it.