The enemy was doing a good deal of night bombing at this period. Treviso and Padua were attacked with great persistency, so much so that the British G.H.Q. decided to move from the latter city to some smaller and more peaceful place. We used to hear the bombing planes coming over nearly every night and explosions more or less distant. They bombed Bassano, Cittadella and Castelfranco, the latter especially because the French had their Headquarters there. But luckily they left San Martino alone, thinking it too small to worry about. There seemed to be no anti-aircraft defences anywhere. But our Air Force soon mitigated the nuisance by raiding their aerodromes, and brought down a number of hostile planes in air fighting.
Our Staff again brought themselves into notice at Christmas by altering our official address from “B.E.F. Italy” to “Italian Expeditionary Force.” I heard that the distinguished General, who introduced this reform, estimated that it would hasten victory by several months. But the stupid soldiers and their stupid relatives at home, having got into the habit of using the abbreviation “B.E.F.,” shortened the new address to “I.E.F.,” and the stupid postal people began to send the letters to India! And then the distinguished General had to issue another order, pointing out that “this abbreviation is unauthorised” and that “this practice must cease.”
In the midst of such excitements the New Year began, and the Major was awarded the D.S.O. for work on the Carso. He was as delighted as a child, and I too was very glad. This decoration, even more than most others, has been much too freely dished out during this war among quite undeserving people, who have simply made an art of playing up to their official superiors. The Major, however, had always been something of a thorn in the side of various Headquarters, and seldom hesitated to speak his mind both to, and of, Colonels and Generals and Staff officers generally. For this reason, and also for others, I consider that he deserved a D.S.O. a great deal more than many who received one.
THE FIRST BRITISH BATTERY UP THE MOUNTAINS
The Major’s words were soon to come true, after many of those delays and conflicting orders of which the victims of war time “Staff work” have profuse experience. On the 7th of January we moved up the mountains into the position previously selected near Casa Girardi. We were the first British Battery to go up. Two others and a Brigade Headquarters were to follow, when it had been seen how we got on. When in doubt, try it on the dog!