Sneyd Green soldier Albert Dickinson was veteran of war's bloodiest battle
ONE of the last surviving veterans of a bloody Second World War battle has died. Albert Dickinson passed away last week, 68 years after he took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.
The 91-year-old from Sneyd Green worked as a bricklayer for most of his life, but spent four years with the Somerset Light Infantry between 1943 and 1946.
Mr Dickinson's friends and comrades were among the 55,000 Allied casualties at Monte Cassino in 1944.
The battle, which resulted in the Allies seizing Rome, had a lasting impact on the young infantryman.
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Mr Dickinson returned to Italy with veterans' groups 25 times over the years, but only recently did he feel able to speak about his experiences with his family.
His widow, Lily, aged 91, said: "When he came back from the war he was more mature. He was just 21 or 22 when he left, but he was a man when he came back.
"He lost a lot of his friends at Monte Cassino but he never really used to talk about it. I don't think he could get it out. It was one of the worst battles in the whole war. But in later years he did start to talk about his experiences."
Daughter Alison Grant added: "I think it was when he got together with other veterans that it all started to come out."
Mr and Mrs Dickinson attended the same schools – Sneyd Green Infants and then Park Road Juniors – but did not start dating until they were 17 when they met on a Monkey Run in Burslem.
This was an old Potteries tradition where young men and women would dress up in their finery and walk in opposite directions around the same route in order to meet potential partners.
The couple were soon married, but a year later Mr Dickinson was called up to the Army and was sent to war.
When he came home in 1946 he returned to his job as a bricklayer, and he was still doing voluntary building work well into his 70s, such as installing a toilet block at Norton Church.
Mrs Dickinson added: "He never really retired. He would always work from dawn until the sun went down.
"Albert was a strong character. He always thought he was right. He'd read The Sentinel every day, cover to cover, and if there was something he felt strongly about, he'd go on about it. He wrote lots of letters to the paper."
The couple, who had four children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last year and received a personal card of congratulations from the Queen.
Mr Dickinson was a founder member of Burslem Olympic Wheelers cycling club, and in his youth would often go on cycling trips to Rhyl with his wife.
In 2009 he returned to Italy for the 65th anniversary of Monte Cassino, and was reunited with an Italian woman he first met and befriended after the battle, when she was a girl of 12.