British infantry morale during the Italian campaign, 1943-1945
The Second World War Italian campaign has long been overshadowed by the Normandy landings. Yet it was the longest campaign in Europe in which British forces were involved, and the first to be crowned with success. Much has been written about the strategic and tactical aspects of the Allies' Mediterranean policy, and the Italian campaign within that context, but little attention has been paid to the soldiers who executed that policy. It was principally an infantry and artillery war: the topography of Italy mitigated against any larger-scale use of armour. This thesis examines the morale, the willingness to fight, of the British front-line soldier, the infantryman, and the factors which influenced his morale during the 22 months of the campaign, and it looks at the army's response to fluctuations in morale, both at institutional and battalion levels. Morale is never constant it varies across time, across units and the individuals who make up the units, and there is ample evidence to suggest that morale in Italy, in the winter of 1944-1945, was seriously degraded. But the evidence also indicates that as high as the desertion figures were, absenteeism was not in the main the result of men's unwillingness to fight, a symptom of cowardice and self-interest. On the contrary, many deserters were men who had fought too hard, for too long, as the result of a series of political and military decisions over which they had no control, but whose morale was robust enough, in the end, to accomplished their goal.