The Saga Of Fred Lytwyn
This folder is a selection from an amazing collection of letters and documents representing an infantry soldierís life. Fred Lytwyn was underage when he volunteered for service, but he slipped through the system, as Stan Scislowski Ė the Perth Regimentís unofficial historian Ė tells in his short article about Fredís death.
Fredís family kept all the letters he sent home and only a few have been chosen to illustrate specific phases of his military experiences. There is nothing remarkable about the letters; Fred was always upbeat and very conscious about keeping his family informed and less worried. In any event, the censors would not have allowed anything revealing to pass. From the regularity of Fredís correspondence, a picture emerges of a loving, conscientious son and brother. Even the regimentís 1944 Christmas card is in the collection.
There is also a consoling letter from the regimentís padre, one of the hundreds he had to write, and a certificate from Fredís High School. There are several official government letters and documents sent to his mother, and three photographs of Fred in Italy that nicely capture his good natured self.
AT THE FRONT
Too Young To Die
by Stan Scislowski
The night was black as pitch ó no moon, no stars, no flash of artillery fire to light the way for the Canadian infantry moving forward to the start line of their next attack. It was unusually quiet, as though both armies facing each other in the flatlands of the North Italian plains had gone to bed early. The only sound came from the scuffle of the infantrymenís boots on gravel as they worked their way forward.
To a man, as always, they fervently hoped that the advance would be a Ďwalkover,í but it was not to be. The enemy had not gone away, and they had not gone to bed early. Except for those momentarily relieved of weapons post duty, the enemy was very much awake and alert.
They were in positions all through the area with their weapons trained at the single point where they were sure the Canadian attack would come in on them, and that was the roadway crossing the Fosso Munio stream.
In the lead section of the lead platoon of the Perth Regiment from Stratford, Ontario spearheading the attack was a 17-year-old Windsor lad. Actually, too young to have been inducted into the army, Lance Corporal Freddie Lytwyn had to have lied about his age to get in the army.
But he was a veteran now, a veteran of several hard-fought battles. As he marched on towards yet another battle, this one only five days before Christmas, he hoped as all men do when going into battle, that it would be an easy affair and that he would come out of it okay.
Undetected thus far as they approached the start line at the roadway crossing of the insignificant narrow watercourse, they entered a roadside drainage ditch, and with stealth, made good time on the way to their first objective. They strained their eyes peering into the black fields around them to catch signs of enemy presence to evade them if they could, or to throw fire at them if that had to be.
The immediate danger, however, was not in the open fields to their left, nor was it in the impenetrable darkness on their right. It was straight ahead along the line of the ditch. An enemy machine-gun crew hidden behind a stone culvert waited for them, their weapon pointing down the centre of the ditch. Their weapon, an MG 42 rated at 1200 rounds per minute, almost twice as fast as the Bren, could in the narrow confines of the ditch, do considerable slaughter. There was no way the man behind the gun could miss the unsuspecting approaching platoon.
Fredís letter home of October 8, 1943 before joining the Perth Regiment. As instructed, and probably through his own common sense, Fredís letters were always about simple subjects and never alarming.
Fredís first letter home as a Perth rifleman in A. Company written on November 15, 1943.
Fred and a buddy heating rations in the field.
Three days after the Perthsí first action at the Arielli on January 17, 1944, Fred wrote home in his usual laconic, homey style giving no hint of the battle. A. Company had been in the lead and had taken a considerable beating.
Fredís letter home dated September 6, 1944 that mentions the key role played by the Canadians in the penetration of the Gothic Line and that the fighting had been against Germanyís best, their paratroopers.
Fred on leave in Florence with a Perth cap badge on his beret.
Fredís Christmas Card dated November 15, 1944
The inside message of the card.
Front cover and last page of Fredís last letter home to his sister Mary dated November 28, 1944.
Inside Fredís last letter home.
An attack at the Fosso Munio was launched on December 20, 1944 and saw A. Company in a leading role. The company seized a strongpoint, which the Germans repeatedly counterattacked, and Fred was killed during this action. The dreaded official announcement of Fredís death was sent on January 4, 1945.
The regimentís padre, H/Captain Crawford-Smith, sent this letter to Fredís mother on January 6, 1945
The Department of National Defence sent details of Fredís burial in Villanova Cemetery, August 24, 1945
An official certificate of appreciation from the Minister of National Defence
A certificate of remembrance from Fredís High School