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Bernard Petrulis’s story in the previous post ends with the poem “Prisoner Son,” which is one of the poems recorded in Robert Dickinson’s journal and presented on this site as “Servigliano Calling” Poem #4.
In Robert’s journal, F. Chiltern is credited for the poem.
The poem is also recorded in Edward Smith’s book of poems, and there, too, it is credited to F. Chiltern.
Alan Petrulis wrote that the poem “came from a small notebook full of poems in my father’s hand. I had thought he may have written them in camp but I was very apprehensive about ever attributing them to him.
“My father’s book contained nine poems: Unholy Conflict, Prayer of a Soldier, Wishful Thinking, Doubtful Future, Prisoner Son, In a Desert Outpost, Far Away Dream, Tribute to Women in an Air Raid, and The Gunner.”
Some of these poems are in Robert’s journal.
Of the nine poems, “In a Desert Outpost” is in G. Norman Davison’s notebook. And although “Prisoner Son” is recorded in Norman’s notebook—yet a fourth appearance of the poem—there the title of the poem is “Diplomacy” and the author is F. Chilton (not Chiltern).
Norman recorded an address for F. Chilton in his notebook:
8, Alfred Road
This is Norman’s mate Fred Chilton. The two were sent to North Africa on the same boat, were captured together in Libya in April 1940, and were transferred from camp to camp together, eventually ending up in Camp 59. After their time in Servigliano, the men were sent to separate camps and, after escape from their respective camps, both made their way north to freedom in Switzerland. They were later reunited in their hometown of Sheffield. The story of the friendship is recounted in Norman’s memoirs, In the Prison of His Days.
There are more poems in Norman’s book: “A Point We All Agree,” “Ten Little Foreign Lands,” “A Little Toast to Love,” “Reflections of A P.O.W.,” and “A Tribute to The Women of Blighty.”
Of these, “Reflections of a P.O.W.” is the same poem as “Reflections” in Robert’s journal (though the poem is a slight variation).
“A Tribute to the Women of Blighty” is also in Robert’s journal. Again, some of the wording is different.
These poems convey so freshly and intimately the prisoner-poets’ longing for home and loved ones, pride in country, and feelings about war and the experience of captivity that it is a moving experience to read them again so many years after the war.
This map was drawn by Camp 59 prisoner Bernard Petrulis. According to his son Alan, “The scale would seem to make it impracticable but it was bundled with the poems and letters my father took with him when he escaped.”
The fascinating story of Pfc. Bernard Petrulis is available on the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City blog, maintained by Alan Petrulis.
As you arrive at the site, scroll down to the entry entitled “The Long Trail Through Bari.”
Many thanks to Anne Copley for having discovered this site.
“There’ll always be an England….” by G.A. Crawford is one of two works by this soldier-poet in Robert Dickinson’s journal, “Servigliano Calling.”
We know G.A. Crawford to be George A. Crawford of London, as Robert recorded his address in the book.
There’ll always be an England….
In days of old, when ships like these
Sailed upon the sea,
The brave courageous tars aboard,
Kept old England free,
Names like Drake and Raleigh,
Nelson and Hawkins, too,
These were the men who made us,
Masters of the blue.
The spirits of these men still live
To haunt our ships today,
Inspiring the deeds of valour on,
“Rawalpindi” and Jeori’s Bay”,
And when our force is mustered,
Confident we can be,
The men aboard our ships today
Will be masters of the sea.
This photo from Roger Chessell is of his dad and fellow members of the British Royal Army Medical Corps.
As noted on the back of the photo, the fellows are:
Back Row from right to left
Ptes [Privates] Tyler Chessell Sgt Tyler Ptes Simpson Nelmes
Front Row Ptes Brown Caldwell Sharpston
This photo of Arnold Chessell was sent to me by his son Roger Chessell of Lincoln, UK. Writing on the back suggests that it was taken in Camp 59 and sent home to England, perhaps as proof of his captive status:
PRE No 7264690. HUT 8.
CAMPO P.G. NO. 59. PM 3300
Arnold Chessell served in the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.) of the British Army.
Roger wrote of his father that “Like most men of that period he didn’t give us much detail about his war experiences, but he did say that he was captured in Tobruck [Libya] and ended up in a P.O.W. camp.” That camp was, of course, Italian P.G. 59.
Roger continued, “He told us a story that he was one of many that had walked out of the camp during the 24 hour period between the Italians leaving and the Germans arriving.”
Arnold’s medical records indicate that he had been bayoneted at some point in time.
His army records indicate that he was missing and believed a P.O.W. on December 12, 1941, identified by the International Red Cross as a P.O.W. on February 2, 1942, and repatriated to 15 F.H.S. (Field Hygiene Section), which was based in Alexandria, Egypt, in June 1943.
This last date of June 1943 seems an error, as the mass escape from Camp 59 occurred three months later, in September 1943. However, Arnold’s story of walking out of camp before the German’s arrived to take control fits the Camp 59 escape episode.
Rodney Smith’s grandfather E. G. Smith, served in the British Buffs regiment during WW II. He was captured in North Africa and thereafter was transferred from prison camp to prison camp for a period of over two years.
He was in Camp 59 from December 30, 1942 until he was transferred the following February to Camp 53 (Sforzacosta).
At Servigliano he was housed in Hut 10—Bed 1158.
Here is a timeline of his internment in various camps:
Capua—from January 2, 1941
Behgasi—from December 17, 1941
Tripoli—from December 23, 1941
Camp 59, Servigliano—from December 30, 1942
Camp 53, Sforzacosta—from February 24, 1943
Camp 82, Laterina—from April 8, 1943
Camp 72—from April 19, 1943
He was repatriated from Italy on June 6, 1943.
Rod owns a book of poems and drawings that his grandfather compiled while in Camp 59.
Interestingly, the poems Rod typed out and sent to me are ones that also appear in Robert Dickinson’s journal, “Servigliano Calling.”
The poems and authors are:
By C. G. Hooper Rogers and A. Forman
By D. Crooks
“A Prisoner Son”
By F. Chiltern
by Cpl. D. Nevitt