pow_instruction_r72

Tomorrow is my father’s birthday. He died in 2000, but had he lived, he would have been 100 years old. He was born on February 9, 1918, to Finnish immigrants in a lumber camp in Michigan’s heavily forested Upper Peninsula.

I’m dedicating this post to his memory.

The document pictured above, issued by the U.S. War Department, entitled “Amended Instructions Concerning Publicity in Connection with Escaped Prisoners of War, to Include Evaders of Capture in Enemy or Enemy-Occupied Territory and Internees in Neutral Countries,” is dated August 6, 1943.

The document stresses the need for secrecy about information relating to the POW experience, and it lays down guidelines.

It states, “Information about your escape or your evasion from capture would be useful to the enemy and a danger to your friends. It is therefore SECRET.”

Former prisoners, on their repatriation, were required to sign the form.

The poor condition of this copy suggests my dad carried it folded in his pocket or wallet for some time after his return to freedom.

The form instructs servicemen to not disclose, except to certain military personnel, the following information:

(1) The names of those who helped you.
(2) The method by which you escaped for evaded.
(3) The route you followed.
(4) Any other facts concerning your experience.

“You must be particularly on your guard with persons representing the press,” it says, and “give no account of your experiences in books, newspapers, periodicals, or in broadcasts or in lectures.”

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The letter shown here and an accompanying list of Allied servicemen referred to in the letter are among many documents from the British National Archives that Brian Sims shared with me during our brief two-year friendship at the end of his life.

According to this communication, 51 ex-POWs were assisted by Domenico Mancini of “Monte Falcone” (presumably Montefalcone Appennino in the province of Fermo, in the Italian Marche).

There are two versions of the list, the first a carbon copy and the second a typed copy with some discrepancies and errors. Fortunately, it contains many service numbers that are useful in confirming some of the men’s identities.

The letter makes mention of the murder of prisoners at Comunanza (see “An Execution at Comunanza.”)

Here is the text of the letter, followed by the list of names:

SECRET
Ref: No.
SIB60/A-Gp/WC/45/9a.

H.Q., ‘A’ Group, 60 Section,
Special Investigation Branch,
c/o A.P.M’s Office, 61 Area,
Central Mediterranean Forces.

SUBJECT :- Ex-Prisoners of War.

To :-
D.A.P.M.
60 Section, S.I.B.

1. Herewith a list of 51 ex-prisoners of war mostly members of the United States Army. The names may come in useful at some later date as the list was commenced on 2nd October, 1943. MANCINI, now residing at MONTE FALCONE (Italy, 1:200,000. Sheet 14. MR. X(B)5687), lived for over 20 years in America. Some of the names on the original document, which was obtained by Sergeant HOWARTH and BURGESS., are difficult to decipher and other possible interpretations have been included. I am retaining the original as it may be required as an exhibit in file 9A.

2. Reference Progress Report No. 2. on file 9A, paragraph 3, LOUIS LYCKA’s personal number would appear to be 38028716 from the enclosed list (No. 10), and possibly the American authorities can trace him from this and let us have some information regarding his activities.

Check of the other names may reveal some relevant information as it is believed that the British ex-prisoners in this case were exhumed and transferred to another cemetery in August 1944, and that the bodies of the Americans at COMUNANZA have been searched by American personnel. If this is correct the respective Second Echelons may have the names of these people.

D. A. THORN. Lieut.
60 Section, S.I.B.

29 Mar ’45.

Copy to :- File.

DAT/GBG.

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The following two newspaper articles were provided by Vanda Jessopp, daughter of Stanley Thomas Dunn, a POW was interned with Jimmy Peters in Camp 59. (See “Stanley Thomas Dunn.”)

The Germans Got Merely Rice-Stew
Their British Captives Drank Champagne

After being held in an Italian camp for two years Private J. Peters, R.A.M.C. has arrived back at his Halchard-road (Upper Halloway) home after travelling through Turkey, Egypt and South Africa. He said to-day:

“The Germans made us work 17 hours a day for seven days a week in a working party in Tripoli, but as it was on a food dump we enjoyed it. When the Jerries were lining up for rice stew we were lying in the shade drinking sherry and champagne and eating 7 lb. tins of ham. It was nothing to eat a whole tin of pears at a time.”

He is to marry Miss Joan Lines, Falkland-road, Honsey.

Caption for two photos:
Pte. James Peters and Miss Joan Lines.

They Want Polish

“Razor blades and good boot polish are what British war prisoners want most,” Private Jimmy Peters told a Hornsey British Legion meeting. Recently repatriated, he was in eight camps in Italy and Germany.

The following address from among Stanley Thomas Dunn’s papers from the war appears to be remarks given before a Christmas evening dinner at the Sonne Wolfertswil—the Sonne Restaurant—in Flawil, a municipality in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland.

See “Stanley Thomas Dunn” for more details.

A Christmas Address

Christmas Evening 24th Dec 1943 8 o’clock at the Sonne Wolvertswid.

Dear Swiss Soldiers and British Internees,

Already for the 5th time since the beginning of the war we celebrate the Christmas Feast in our Switzerland that lies like an Island of Peace surrounded by all these horrors. Who would have once thought that the destruction of mankind and the laying waste of towns & villages would have continued for so long; or that so many foreigners would have to take refuge in our country, and even into Wolvertswid itself. Here we do our best to give you a simple home and to take care of you. We all have great sacrifices to bear, soldiers in service on our frontiers just as we have at home.

Your thoughts will naturally be at home with your dear ones; your fathers, mothers & sweethearts and children which we quite understand. When will they see you again and embrace you with the desire “For no more war in all the world.” So let us celebrate Christmas in my family circle simply & modestly. This little celebration will bring us nearer to one another until the star of peace shines brighter and you will be at your own fireside. We hope and pray that this desire will bring the reality “Peace be unto men of good will”.

So only take courage brothers; tomorrow cares and troubles will be swept away and the sun will shine again on our native land. Above all we thank you especially for your excellent behavior and chivalry.

We wish you luck and a very Merry Christmas.

from Loser Hofstetter his family and children.

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At left, Stanley Thomas Dunn, 5th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment; at right, James (Jimmy) Peters, Royal Army Medical Corps. Photo taken in Camp 59, Servigliano.

My friend Anne Copley met Vanda Jessopp and her husband Peter last November at the 2017 Fontanellato–Monte San Martino Trust Luncheon in London. They have since exchanged information about Vanda’s father, Stanley Dunn, that they are allowing me to share here.

Stanley Thomas Dunn (Trooper 7908395, 5th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment), was captured in North Africa on April 8, 1941.

He was born November 6, 1919. He died February 22, 2003.

Here is the apparent chronology of his internments:

From Africa, Stanley was transported to Sicily (where the POWs built a road). From Sicily he was sent to Servigliano (P.G. 59), then Fontanellato (P.G. 49), and finally Sforzesca (P.G. 146/18). He escaped from Sforzesca and in time was able to make his way to Switzerland, where he lived in Camp d’Eoades in Arosa, Switzerland, until his repatriation.

It’s somewhat of a mystery why Stanley would have been sent from Servigliano, which was an “other ranks” camp to Fontanellato, which was an officers’ camp before being transferred to Sforzesca.

After his escape in Italy, Stanley was helped by Eric Newby’s wife-to-be Wanda Skof.

British travel writer Eric Newby, who during the Second World War served in the Black Watch and Special Boat Section, was captured in August 1942. He escaped from Fontanellato POW camp after the Italian Armistice and was befriended by Wanda Skof, a Slovenian woman living with her family nearby. Eric married Wanda after the war.

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I’ve exchanged several notes with Bruce Allum throughout 2017. Bruce’s father, Douglas Walter Allum, Service Number 2585112, Royal Signals (2nd Middlesex Yeomanry) was captured in Libya on December 29, 1941.

Douglas was in P.G. 66 Capua (February 2–March 10, 1942), P.G. 59 Servigliano (March 11, 1942–June 2, 1943) and P.G. 146/18 Sforzesca (June 3–September 10, 1943), before escaping and making his way to Switzerland on November 17, 1943.

He passed away on November 6, 2014.

Bruce sent me a two-page prisoner list kept by his father. A note at the bottom of the list indicates “All at Campo P.G. 59.” It contains details on rank, bed, section, and hut.

On the list, there are check marks after four names; a different kind of mark precedes 12 names. There is no indication what these marks signify.

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A page from the register of the Partisan Hospital of Santa Lucia

I received valuable information from Italian researcher Michele Becchi several days ago.

He wrote, “I’m sending to you a page from the register of the Partisan Hospital of Santa Lucia, in the village of Fontanaluccia, not far from Montefiorino (the partisan republic).

“There are names of British ex-POWs that may be interest you.

“In the register are also some names of Allied pilots, Russians, and Germans.”

“The word ‘ospizio’ means hospital but also nursing home. Don Mario Prandi, the parish priest of Fontanaluccia, opened it in the ’30s and during the war, with the help of some antifascist doctors, it became one of the four or five partisan health centers of the mountains open to partisans, prisoners, civilians, and anyone needing help. The acronym ‘S. Lucia V.M.’ is a religious abbreviation for ‘Santa Lucia, Virgin and Martyr.’”

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I would like to draw readers’ attention to an interesting article that appeared last week on The Text Message Blog, on online publication of the U.S. National Archives.

“‘Let’s Make a Movie:’ The Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and the documentary Onore al Merito (To Whom Honor is Due), 1946″ was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

The story is intriguing. As early as April 1944, an idea was proposed for a film to recognize and honor the scores of Italians who helped Allied evaders and escapees from prisoner-of-war camps. The film concept quickly drew interest and support, and the work came to fruition in the summer of 1946, a joint effort of the Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and the British Embassy in Rome.

Entitled Onore al Merito (To Whom Honor is Due), the film was about 25 minutes in length. Both Italian and English language versions were produced.

The Italian version of the film premiered in the village of Camarda, Italy, where much of the film was shot. It was later shown both formally and privately in Rome. It’s doubtful the film was ever shown in the United Kingdom.

Greg Bradsher writes in his post that neither the U.S. nor British National Archives possesses a copy of the film.

“Perhaps a reader knows where a copy might reside,” he writes. “My guess is that it will be in Italy.”

If any readers of this post have knowledge of the film, please contact me at hilld@iu.edu. I will gladly pass along any information.

The “Scheda Personale P.G.” Italian personal identification card for my father, Sgt. Armie S. Hill. Greg Bradsher describes these prisoner of war cards, now held at the U.S. National Archives, in his research below.

Last month, I received an excellent paper written by historian Greg Bradsher of Silver Spring, Maryland.

He has generously allowed me to share his research on this site:

Stories of American Escapers from Prisoner of War Camp 59, Servigliano

Greg Bradsher, Ph.D.

At the time of the Italian Armistice on September 8, 1943, there were almost 80,000 Allied prisoners of war in Italian prisoner of war camps. Among these prisoners of war were 1,310 Americans; many were soldiers captured in North Africa and airmen shot down over Italy. (1)

Most of the American prisoners of war were confined at Camp 59, at Servigliano. This camp, 15 miles north of Ascoli, in the foothills of the Apennines, held perhaps as many as 3,000 prisoners, mostly Allied enlisted personnel. Although the camp was well-guarded and thorough searches were frequent, numerous tunneling projects were continually in progress. There were quite a few escapes, but most of the prisoners were recaptured. (2)

When the Allied prisoners of war learned of the Armistice, most were in a quandary as to what action to take. Under orders received earlier in the summer, most remained in their camps under the mistaken impression Allied forces would soon liberate them. Italian camp authorities also faced their own quandaries. Without clear orders as to what to do, many simply opened the gates to allow the prisoners to leave their camps. During the first days after the Armistice, perhaps as many as 50,000 prisoners remained in their camps and quickly became prisoners of the Germans. Another 30,000 left their camps. Some 16,000 were recaptured and 4,000 found safety in Switzerland. The remaining 10,000 found safety in hiding with the help of Italians, and many found their way back to Allied lines.

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Robert A. Newton’s biography of his uncle, Corporal Robert Alvey Newton, Soldiers of the Strange Night, is now available in a Kindle edition through Amazon.

Here is the Amazon description of the book:

“During the night of September 14, 1943, an estimated 3,000 Allied prisoners of war escaped from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy, under the mistaken impression that friendly forces were only days away. In reality, the Allied armies did not reach that region of Italy for nine harrowing months. With the German army and Fascists feverishly sweeping the countryside for the escapees, they were fed and sheltered by courageous Italian farmers who risked their own lives and property to rescue desperate strangers. The author’s own uncle and namesake was among those who escaped from Camp 59 and evaded recapture until March 9, 1944, when he was betrayed by a turncoat to an elite German commando unit, caught and immediately executed.

“Drawing on interviews, letters, and accounts written by the survivors, as well as war crimes files, Soldiers of the Strange Night vividly re-creates not only one American soldier’s journey into war, imprisonment, evasion and murder, but also the aftermath of the escape as seen through the eyes of his fellow warriors and the valiant Italian family that sustained him during the final days of his life. Soldiers of the Strange Night is a tribute to these remarkably heroic and resilient men who did their duty while facing impossible adversity. It is also a testament to the gracious humanity of the Italian people who dared to protect them, even under penalty of death.”

To learn more about Corporal Newton, read “The Story of Robert Alvey Newton,” “Cesare Viozzi on Sheltering Robert A. Newton,” “Robert A. Newton—Further Details,” and “Soldiers of the Strange Night.”

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