Thick, well-guarded walls must have seemed an impenetrable barrier to the prisoners of P.G. 59. But miners in the camp envisioned another way out.

In his dissertation on Allied Prisoners of War in the Region of the Marche and Prison Camp at Servigliano, Italian historian Giuseppe Millozzi described a dramatic breakout from P.G. 59:

“Twelve POWs had managed to escape through a tunnel on the night between 11 and 12 September 1942. They were all recaptured and put in close confinement cells for ten days.

“Inspectors also reported that three POWs – Kuhn, Lacey and Well – had been charged with crime and therefore brought to trial. Red Cross delegates would have checked that the court-martial complied with the Geneva Convention.

“Gilbert Broadbent, an ex pow who was interned first at Servigliano and then at Sforzacosta, in his book Behind Enemy Lines, recounts the escape of the POWs in September:

“‘On this occasion, the tunnel started from n. 1 hut on the north side of the camp (…) . Men who had been miners, helped to make the tunnel. (…) The date for the attempt was the 11th and rumour quickly spread around the camp in the familiar words ‘tonight’s the night’. Early the following morning we all knew that 11 men succeeded in escaping. Many more had been ready to go, but Cpl. Holland, a big man, had unfortunately knocked in the sides of the tunnel and it took two and a half hours for the rest of the party to dig him out.’”

(Gilbert Broadbent, Behind Enemy Lines, Bognor Regis, Anchor Publications, 1985, pp 105-106.)

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William Scalabroni in 1942. Mattia De Santis says, “One year later he would be a partisan in this place.”

Mattia De Santis from Ascoli Piceno, Italy, wrote to me two weeks ago, “I’m the nephew of two partisans that were in Ascoli between September and October 1943.

“My grandfather, William Scalabroni [also a partisan], told a very short story on video about himself and his comrades who helped two Italian officers and also a group of POWs from Servigliano to reach the road going south during the German attack on Colle San Marco.”

The video can be accessed through Storia Marche 900, a website devoted to the history of the liberation movement in the Marche.

“Maybe you would find the story interesting, even if it’s just a little reference,” Mattia wrote. “It is in Italian, but I can help to translate it.

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Ray Worthington (son of P.G. 59 escapee Les Worthington) and Linda Veness (daughter of escapee Jim McMahon) discovered and shared this 1944 news article with me this week.

Kalgoorlie Soldier Escaped Twice

Sunday Times (Perth, Western Australia)
Sunday, 24 September 1944

Welcomed home to Kalgoorlie during the week was A.I.F. Pte. Tom Alman, son of Mr. and Mrs. Les Alman, of Egan-street. Tom Alman has put up an unique record for he escaped from Italian P.O.W. camps on two occasions.

Prior to joining up in 1941, Tom had his own carrying business here. He served right though the Middle East and was unlucky to be captured by the Germans at El Alamein, in July, 1942, and taken to Benghazi, Lybia [sic] where he remained five months.

Then taken to Italy, he remained in a p.o.w. camp until December 14, 1943, when in company with four other prisoners of war, all Western Australians—Jack Allen, formerly employed at Masseys, Kalgoorlie; Jim McMahon, from Reedys; L/C L. [Leslie] Worthington, of Wiluna; and J. [Jimmy] Feehan, of Geraldton—he escaped and hid in the Italian mountains. Tom and Jim McMahon joined up with a band of rebels, and stayed with them three months.

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Charles Herbert Ebright

On January 28, I posted on this site a list of 51 escapees who were helped by Domenico Mancini, an Italian. (See “Domenico Mancini—A Key Italian Assister.”)

According to Allied military records, Domenico Mancini “had helped American and British prisoners in every way possible after their departure from POW camps by giving them food and shelter.”

One name in particular on this list stood out to me—Charles H. Ebright of South Bend, Indiana.

I live in southern Indiana, and South Bend is about 200 miles north of my home.

I searched online for any mention of Charlie, and quickly discovered his obituary on the Palmer Funeral Home—Guisinger Chapel website.

Charlie had passed away just 12 months earlier, in January 2017. Staff at the funeral home kindly put me in touch with Charlie’s niece, Angie Brechtel.

Angie and I exchanged several emails, through which she shared the following memories of Charlie with me:

“I came into Charlie’s family 15 years ago when I married his nephew Craig. Charlie was a fixture then. Everyone said he attached to me because I was a lot like his first love and wife, Viv.

“He did not have children, so we were the only family he had. When he became ill, I stepped in. I saw him several times a week, took care of all his finances, which led to my becoming his power of attorney, healthcare representative, and all that goes with it, for a little over 10 years.

“As his health declined, my visits and responsibilities increased.

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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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