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News > Archives & History > Letters from the Front

Letters from the Front

John Selfe (Bishops 1930 - June 1939) writing from Italy, to Advocate Frank Reid at the ODU.
Lt John Selfe writing from Italy
Lt John Selfe writing from Italy

As a result of the featured article that Nicole placed in this week's OD news bulletin, Andy Selfe (OD) wrote in explaining his father John's service in the Armour (NMR) during WWII. John kept a very meticulous diary and Andy shared a few pages from the original MS.  This prompted the school archivist to report the following from the Sept 1944 'Diocesan College Magazine', as captured from a letter by John Selfe to the ODU Secretary, Frank Reid.

Italy: Lt. John Selfe, 6th Division, who served in the Desert with the Armoured Cars, wrote from Italy on 24th June 1944:

"It was a long and rather trying training period - but what results it has brought! The Field Marshal spoke to a few of us to-day, simply 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 simply had to be overlooked to a great extent!  In one whole week I know that I had 26 hours' sleep on my back and though being a 'dingo' 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 very 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 simply showered on us and on occasions my dingo has looked like a 'float' in the U.C.T. 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 live partly off the land, with green beans, peas, potatoes and beetroot.  It won't be long now before the grapes are ripe, too.  At the moment we're quite immobilised and more than a little damp - rain stops play, in fact!  I'm glad for the roof of a wine-cellar  (empty!) over my head at the moment.  Hope all is well your way".

Writing on 14 August to enclose Life Memberships of the O.D. Union, Selfe said: "While we are temporarily out of the line another casualty list has carried unpleasant news.  P. D. 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".

Note from the archivist - As one enters Bishops from the Campground Rd entrance, one passes through the Dacre Lovett Haddon Memorial Gates, in Honour and Sacred Memory of Dacre Lovett Haddon.

On the gate is inscribed the Latin 'In Limine' meaning that is grievous that they should die so young.

Background of Dacre: Son of Hugh Evelyn Haddon and Isabel Annie Godart (Goddard) Haddon (née Lovett) of “Fairseat”, Kenilworth, Cape Town, South Africa. He was born in November 1915, was unmarried and, until going to Oxford, lived in Alexandra Rd, Kenilworth, Cape. His brother Temple Lovett Haddon (1918-2004) was his sole beneficiary. He attended Diocesan College, Rondebosch (1930-39), was the Senior Prefect and was named a Rhodes Scholar to Trinity College, Oxford in 1941.  

Dacre was killed in action in Italy on 6 July 1944.  He was 22 years of age at the time.  He lies buried in the Florence War Cemetery.  MHDSRIP

Pro Fide Et Patria.  


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