Don Carter RIP It is with much sadness that I have to report the death of one of our veteran members, Don Carter, better known to us here as ‘Niccar’. As some of you know Don had just been to the battlefields in Italy, with a tour group I was leading. During that week Don got to see many places he hadn’t been to since the war, and see the graves of men from his regiment, the Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment; his unit was the divisional support battalion to the 78th Division. Don, an East End lad who had seen the cruel hand of the Blitz and witnessed his father go grey as he cleared the streets of Stepney of bodies, had volunteered under age to join the army. He arrived in North Africa, where his brother’s battalion was close by. When he went to see him, his brother couldn’t believe the youngster was in uniform. Don was thrown into battle in Sicily, but he said last week his first real taste of what being a front line soldier was like was at Termoli, where he vividly remembered the dead on stretchers in the streets, awaiting burial. He ended 1943 on the Sangro and moved down to Cassino where he spent the first half of 1944 driving his carrier like a lunatic along the ‘mad mile’ bringing up supplies to the Jeep Head. Following the breakout from Rome his division went for rest in Egypt and then returned for the fighting on the Gothic Line, and then took part in the final battles in Italy. I only spent eight days of Don’s long life with him, but last week in Italy he proved a good friend as we chatted about the tough times, and laughed at the good ones. Like many infantry veterans who were at the sharp end, he hadn’t really spoken much about the war; he’d come home in 1946 wanted to make a life, have a family and move on from what he’d seen in the war. But as he got older thoughts of Italy returned; he told me our forum had done him a world of good. He said he was a ‘lurker’ not a poster, but he’d marveled at how fellow veterans had been able to be so vocal with their experiences, especially those like him who had served in Italy. In fact he couldn’t speak too highly of WW2 Talk and converted a few people in the tour group; he said he was especially grateful for the kindness shown him by two forum members who had been copying the battalion war diary for him; the highlight was seeing his own name in there. I think that helped him to make up his mind and return to Italy. Don at Cassino. In some ways we’ll never know what went through Don’s mind on the tour last week. He saw name after familiar name, and the visible signs of his war in the cap badges of the graves of his comrades. He was generous in the way he gave people his time on the trip, but some had not even realised he was a veteran, as he didn’t wear his medals like others in the group. Don was not a showy sort of bloke in any way; he felt uncomfortable wearing his medals when those under the white stones in the cemeteries never would, and had only claimed them late in life for his family. As a battlefield guide working with groups of veterans the best compliment you can be paid by anyone is when you see a veteran nodding in agreement while you talk, and when one of them says to you over a drink ‘you’re a credit to what you do’. Don was generous enough for both of those and I was genuinely sad to see him depart when the group went its separate ways last weekend. I can only hope that in some small part I was able to help Don get what he wanted from the trip, if just to lay a few ghosts. Don with forum member Damiano. I’m a firm believer that we need heroes in our lives. Don was one of those heroes, although he would never have willingly admitted it. It’s not just about charging machine gun posts but there is a quiet heroism in men like Don; they’ve been there, they’ve seen the shooting war, but they don’t need to make a fuss of it - they would be embarrassed to. Occasionally as he stood in a war cemetery last week I’m sure the feint glimmer of men in khaki marching to an unknown destiny flickered across his mind, and the voices and sounds and smells of the battlefield came tumbling back. We owe much to men like Don, sometimes we don’t know how much. Even in their old age they can enrich our lives and help us see that war isn’t just about weapons, technology, generals and leaders, but about ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances. Don was one of those ordinary men, who I will always be honoured to know he called me a mate. Goodbye Niccar. Don with his son (right) and grandson at Cassino.