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  • Writer's picturePaul Press

Part 6: Operation Fustian (Sicily)

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Lieutenant Andrew Roberts signed Albert’s Service and Pay Book to confirm that Albert had qualified for the Africa Star, dating the entry as 12th May 1943. However, Roberts did not join the 2nd Battalion until 15th June 1943, whereupon he took command of No. 2 Platoon, ‘A’ Company. Moreover, the Africa Star was not instituted until the 8th July 1943, therefore Albert could not have been awarded it until that date. The qualifying criteria for the Star was a minimum of one day's service in an operational area “in North Africa, Malta or Egypt between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943”, hence the date of 12th May 1943, written by Roberts, was intended as the date that Albert qualified for the Star, not the date of the signature. Assuming Roberts signed Albert’s book on or around the date of institution of the Africa Star, it places Albert in ‘A’ Company, probably No. 2 Platoon, around the time the 2nd Battalion dropped into Sicily on 13th July 1943.

Therefore, it is highly likely that Albert took part in Operation Fustian, which is consistent with both his testimony, and his souvenir postcard of Syracuse, despite the operation not being evidenced in his Service and Casualty Form.

Captain John Desmond “Slapsie” Brayley was ‘A’ Company’s Block Officer and Second-in-Command for this operation, so if Albert had not already encountered him in North Africa, his participation in the Sicily invasion would also account for his connection to Slapsie, as evidenced in the 2nd July 1945 letter from Corporal Thomas Hastings to Albert. Operation Fustian was Slapsie’s last operation with the 2nd Battalion, although it is uncertain where he was posted to next as the 2nd Battalion War Diary is not available for August 1943.

During the withdrawal from Sicily, Albert would have spent the night in Valletta harbour, Malta, crammed into a Tank Landing Ship (LST), with the remaining members of the 2nd Battalion, sitting out an aerial bombardment of Syracuse until the early hours of the morning, when safe passage could be made to Sousse in Tunisia.

While resting in Sousse, and training for the next operation, Albert sent a photograph home to his mother on 28th August 1943, and wrote a letter to his wife, Marjorie, on 5th September 1943. From the heading in this letter, it is clear that he was definitely in ‘A’ Company by then, and had been serving alongside the 8th Army in the British North Africa Force (B.N.A.F). The letter was censored by Captain (later Major) Timothy.

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