Gerald Milner’s letters to Eva document his devotion to her and pride at becoming an RASC driver and Desert Rat fighting for his Country through Egypt, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Italy and Austria. They illustrate his loneliness, sadness, optimism, laughter, comradeship, sense of duty and changing attitude to life during many years of active service overseas and his eventual disillusionment with the Army while waiting for demob.
Realising the need for tolerance in the world he writes: If petty spites and hatreds are not going to be forgotten then the future is not likely to be a bed of roses.
Raymond E G Seale DL, Grenadier Guards wrote, “Gerald Milner was my close friend and mentor- We first met in 1953 and from that first meeting remained close associates for the next 45 years. Gerald was a man of honour and of the highest integrity: Regardless of personal inconvenience he was fearless in declaring his strong feelings for truth and justice. He would not give in to intimidation. He met his death with the same philosophy he had lived his entire life with fortitude and courage, giving words of comfort to his family and friends interwoven with his little jokes as the end drew near.”
Ian Paterson: Historical Consultant - Desert Rats Association.
I found the books captivating reading, as they tell the human side of the war and the miles of separation between two newly weds, who did not know when they would see each other again. The addition of the many photographs also adds to the experience. This is the story of a man and his comrades, who although we not in the front line trenches or enclosed in the tanks awaiting battle, were still exposed to death and injury at any moment from a shell, aircraft or landmine, plus the ever present risk of tropical infection or disease. After telling the story of the Desert War from late 1941 until the end of the campaign in May 1943, it continues with the less fashionable Italian Campaign through to the end of the war and demobilisation, containing interesting snippets of life in Italy towards the end of the war and later as part of the occupation forces.
May 5th 1942
“But in addition to this these people who live in the desert tell me all kinds of things. Some of them are almost unbelievable but I know them to be true. Just one small instance. Abdul was almost killed about a fortnight ago. A
blood feud had to be settled. All his relatives from miles around marched to war against all the members of another family. Abdul had a terrible gash across his skull, but he survived. Those things are just incidents in their lives. Then there are all the strange customs of marriage of the various tribes. I think that had better wait until I see you personally.”