Recently, Luigi Donfrancesco—nephew of I.S.9 Italian agent Andrea Scattini—and I have been in touch with Nancy Lewis, the wife of Captain Richard W. B. Lewis, an American officer with I.S.9 POW rescue operations in Italy during the war.

Richard Lewis served his role during the war admirably, and was discharged from service in 1946 with the rank of major.

After the war, he had a long, distinguished career in teaching at Smith College, and Princeton, Rutgers, and Yale Universities. A profic writer, recognition for his work included a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for Edith Wharton: A Biography. He retired from Yale in 1988. He died in 2002.

Richard Lewis is mentioned in a number of posts on this site, including I.S.9 diaries, situation reports, and other documents.

Mrs. Lewis has kindly given permission for us to share a section of her husband’s book The City of Florence: Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings (1995, pp. 64-68), in which he recounts his experiences with the I.S.9 rescues.

We are very grateful to Mrs. Lewis.

Notes in brackets were written by Luigi Donfrancesco.

“My own knowledge of the Casentino [province of Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy] began in the autumn of 1944. The first stay in Florence had, after all, been a short one, and during it I housed our little headquarters – two American officers, two British sergeants, and half a dozen Italian agents – in a luxurious apartment on Lungarno [Riverside] Vespucci (it had belonged to the former Fascist mayor of Florence, who had fled with the Germans and was later brought back and tried). It was a time of curious contrast, for while the German shells whistled about the Bailey bridge being thrown up below our windows, we inside, having for the moment nothing to do, indulged in a mild and continuous orgy.

“In early September, the front line had sufficiently established itself across the Apennines to permit us to go back to work, and we moved to a farmhouse just beyond the village of Rufina, about fifteen miles northeast of Florence and a few miles into the hills above Pontassieve. From here we could dispatch agents through the relatively unguarded mountain areas north toward Imola and Forlì and east into the Casentino.

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Charlie’s brother Fred Standing (left) and Charlie in the doorway of their family’s home at 54 Lincoln Street, Brighton.

This month I received a note from Simon Hasler of Brighton, UK, addressed to Gillian Pink.

Gill’s father, Tom Ager, was a prisoner-of-war in Italian camp P.G. 82. Tom’s story is recounted on this site in several posts (read “Thomas Ager—Escapee from Italian Camp 82,” “On the Sheltering of Tom Ager,” “Unexpected Letter—News of Tom Ager,” and “Greetings Sent Via the Vatican.”)

Simon wrote, “your post really resonates with our family. My wife’s granddad was in the same POW camp as your father and left at the same time. His name was Charlie Standing. He was a private from Brighton, but in the Hampshire regiment.

“His story is almost identical, other than he stayed uncaptured.

“He lived in caves and was helped by locals near Viterbo. He even learnt Italian whilst on the run and mingled with locals whilst German soldiers were around.

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Coenraad Willem Frederik Stoltz

As mentioned in the previous post, I heard from Conradt Stoltz, Coenraad’s grandson, earlier this month. (Read “Coenraad Stoltz—the ‘War-Box.’”)

Concerning the photo above, Conradt wrote, “This is photo the oldest photo I have of grandfather. It was taken around 1963 when he was in his late 40’s.”

Here is a short history of Coenraad Stoltz’s military service that Conradt sent me:

Pte. Coenraad Willem Frederik Stoltz
Private, 1st Regiment Botha, South African Army
Force Number 40011

27 February 1941: On strength – 1st Regiment Botha, Alfa Company (Basic Training)

9 October 1941: Embark HMS Mauritania in convoy with HMAS Australia

21 October 1941: Disembark Suez, Egypt, North Africa

26 October 1941: On strength – Mersa Matruth, Egypt / 2nd Regiment Botha, Charlie Company

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Letters dating back to the war are arranged on Coenraad Stoltz’s open “war-box”

Earlier this month, Frank Vaccarezza and I received a note from Conradt Stoltz, who lives in South Africa, concerning the March 2015 post on this site entitled “Vaccarezza Family—P.G. 52 Escapees Protected.”

Conradt wrote, “Regarding the escapees sheltered in your family’s barn, it seems quite possible that it could have been my grandfather Coenraad Stoltz and two of his compatriots‎, Migiel van der Schyff and Hennie de Bruyn.

“I have not been able to track down any of the two’s family or war records, as I do not have their service numbers. However, I have attached some photographs.

“Hope you can add something more, ‎as it would seem I have reached a dead end.

“It would be really amazing if it is verified these three South Africans were indeed amongst those sheltered by the Vaccarezza family between September 1943 and April 1944.”

Conradt sent several photos.

He continued, “The photographs are from my grandfathers ‘war-box,’ as we call it. There are several letters dated between February and August 1941 written by my grandfather to my grandmother.

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U.S. Navy Musician 2nd Class Lucas Swanson salutes after playing taps at the Sicily–Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, Italy, on Memorial Day 2013. Each year U.S. and Italian service members participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery, which honors the 7,861 service members buried there. Photo—Christopher B. Stoltz, U.S. Navy (Wikimedia Commons)

It is Memorial Day weekend in the United States—a time set aside each year to remember men and women who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. This is an appropriate time to review records of American prisoners of war who did not return from the Second World War.

Records of American World War II Prisoners of War on the United States National Archives website cover a total of 143,374 individual prisoners in all theatres of war.

Within this listing, 9,310 records indicate a prisoner “Died as Prisoner of War.”

Many individuals are reported to have died in an unspecified “dressing station” (first aid station near a combat area established for treating the wounded) or an unspecified “lazarett” (military hospital). For some a camp is listed. Occasionally, the “camp” category is blank (no designation of dressing station, lazarett, or camp).

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Front and back of a Christmas postcard Eric Sanderson sent to his nieces in Doncaster, Yorkshire (England) from P.G. 59 on November 11, 1942

Yesterday I received a note from David Sanderson, who lives in Esher, Surrey (England).

David wrote, “I recently visited Campo 59 with the Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS) on their Tenna Valley Trail for 2016.

“My dad, Eric Rockliff Sanderson, was at Campo 59 during WW2.

“Dad was a tank driver with the Fourth Hussars, and was captured in Greece on 28th October 1941. Like many others, he had been left behind in Greece in April 1941 during the evacuation to Crete. Dad escaped into the Taygetos Mountains (for six months), until finally being captured by the Italians in October. He was transferred via Bari to Campo 59, where he was imprisoned from—I think—November 1941 until July 1943.

“In July 43 he was moved to Bolzano in northern Italy. When the Italians surrendered in September 1943, he was captured by the Germans and taken to Germany. In Germany he was in Stalag IV B at Lamsdorf for around six weeks, and then sent to Stalag IV F (near Chemnitz) where he remained until the end of the war.”

Eric’s details are as follows:

Army Number – 320875
Rank – Trooper
Enlisted on June 20, 1938 in the Cavalry of the Line (4th Hussars)
Medals received – Africa Star, 1939–45 Star, and War Medal 1939–45

The postcard pictured above reads:

“Breezy greetings send this ship
On a pleasant Christmas trip,
Bringing you kind thoughts sincere
With its cargo of good cheer,
And of lucky wishes true.
Joy and health and peace to you.
Love Eric”

I directed David to a post on this site with a holiday postcard featuring a full-rigged ship drawn Robert Dickinson (see “The Christmas Ship.”) Robert’s postcard was also sent in November 1942.

David wrote, “It does seem likely that the same person drew/penned the two cards. Certainly my dad’s handwriting was not so neat, so his card would I’m pretty sure have been drawn and written for him. Perhaps by Bob or maybe a third party?”

I noticed that the art is initialed—a further suggestion his dad was the artist.

“You may be right, he replied. “I still think it likely that someone other than my dad drew it. However, I’ll keep an open mind.”


Eric Rockliff Sanderson


A new memorial plaque

In the Italian village of Comunanza last Sunday, May 15, a plaque was installed to commemorate the killing of escaped Allied prisoners of war in 1944.

See “An Execution at Comunanza” on this site.

The men killed were English, American, and Scottish (Private Charles Gordon was from Gartochorn, Dunbartonshire, and Driver James Didcock was from Bridgend, Linlithgow—both in Scotland, although the official military inquiry into the case referred to them simply as “British soldiers.”

To the best of my knowledge, some of the dead to this day remain unidentified.


Attendants at the memorial ceremony

For other photos of the dedication, visit the La Casa della Memoria Facebook post regarding the ceremony.

This event was on the final day of the Freedom Trails 2016 walk (May 11–15)—sponsored by Monte San Martino Trust, WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society, and La Casa della Memoria di Servigliano.


Escaped P.O.W.s arrive at Royal Park, Victoria, Australia, 1944. From left: Private J. W. Feehan from W.A. (Western Australia), Sergeant E. J. Brough from Victoria, Lance Corporal L. Worthington from W.A., Mrs. T. G. McClounan from the Red Cross, Private H. A. Lockie from Queensland, and Private J. A. Allen from W.A. (Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria)

Helen McGregor directed me to the above photo, which she found among the digitalized images of the State Library of Victoria. She had been searching for information on Jimmy Feehan, a friend whom her father, Scottish soldier Thomas Penman, spent time with after the men escaped from Camp 59.

I was pleased to see other P.G. 59 escapees in this photo: Leslie Worthington (see “Les Worthington—an Australian’s Adventure” and “A Timeline of Les Worthington’s Service“, and John Albert Allen (see “Conversations with Vaughan Laurence Carter and “Simmons’ Address Book—the Lone Australian.”

Les Worthington’s son, Ray Worthington, wrote to tell me he has been able to narrow the date of the photo: “I can tie the date of it down fairly closely from my record of Dad’s service which shows:

10/9/1944 – Disembarked at Melbourne (report of 25/9/1944)
14/9/1944 – Entrained at Victoria. Vic L of C Area (report of 25/9/1944).

“So it was between the 10th and 14th of September 1944.

“And Dad then arrived back in Perth on the 17th of September, so the first time 7 years old me had seen him in nearly 4 years!”

American readers should note the day precedes the month in the above dates. For example, 10/9/1944 is September 10, 1944.

Thomas Penman’s Service Record

The following dates and locations for Thomas Penman are from a British military record for Thomas that Helen McGregor shared with me.

This information is in the left column of the form:

Deemed to have been enlisted March 19, 1940.

DSR. – September 8, 1940

Posted I.T.C. [Infantry Training Centre] Royal Scots – Private – March 19, 1940

Posted June 28, 1942 – Pte [Private]

Missing – Pte – June 28, 1942

Prisoner of War (Italian)
Escaped (Now in Allied Hands, S/Italy)

In another area, “Service at Home and Abroad” indicates:

Home – March 19, 1940 to June 25, 1940
Egypt – June 26, 1940 to December 15, 1940
Sudan – December 16, 1940 to July 9, 1941
Egypt – July 10, 1941 to June 27, 1942
ITALY (P.W.) [prisoner of war] – June 28, 1942 to August 10, 1944
NS. Y/167/44 HOME – August 11, 1944 to September 26, 1946

I assume the span of June 28, 1942 to August 10, 1944 is inclusive of Thomas’ time “on the run” after escape from Camp 59—and his involvement with the Yugoslavian partisans that Helen mentions in “Scottish Escapee Thomas Penman.”

The last entry apparently covers the period from his return to the UK in August 1944 through his lengthy recovery at Camp 197 (“The Mount”) in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales.


Dewey L. Gossett, a World War II soldier whose A-36A Apache fighter/bomber crashed in Italy 72 years ago, was laid to rest with full military honors six days ago at Fort Prince Memorial Gardens in Wellford, South Carolina.


A fighter jet flyover shook the ground before Dewey Gossett’s burial service.

Photos courtesy of TIM KIMZEY, photographer/Spartanburg Herald-Journal/

Read the Spartanburg Herald-Journal coverage of Dewey Gossett’s service at

On September 27, 1943, Dewey Gossett, a member of the 86th Fighter Group, U.S. Army Air Force, was the pilot of a single-seat A-36A Apache aircraft accompanied by three other pilots on a strafing mission in Italy. The planes encountered bad weather and poor visibility after take-off, and Dewey’s plane crashed into Mount Accellica, near the village of Acerno in southern Italy.

Human remains were discovered by avian archaeologists of the Italian Salerno 1943 organization (the “Salerno Air Finders”) in 2014 during their excavation at the crash site. Through extensive DNA testing by members of the United States Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and other organizations, the remains were identified as belonging to Dewey.

Dewey was laid to rest with full military honors in his home state of South Carolina this past Monday, April 11, 2016.

Dewey’s great niece Nora Messick wrote to me this evening that—in addition to the newspaper coverage—CBS affiliate WSPA Channel 7 did a news story on Dewey’s return. You can watch a video of their coverage, “Remains of WWII pilot returned to Upstate after 72 years,” at

Nora asked me to share this comment:

“On behalf of the family, we are truly grateful to everyone involved in bringing Dewey home. We especially would like to thank DPAA and the Association Salerno Air Finders for their work in finding Dewey. He’s finally back home and the memorial service was a beautiful, fitting tribute to our hero.”

For further details on the crash and the effort to identify the pilot’s remains, read “Lost Airman Dewey Gossett.”

A full account of the case, from the plane’s discovery by the Salerno 1943 team to the return and burial of Dewey’s remains is posted—partly in Italian and partly in English—on the Salerno 1943 website, “IL CACCIABOMBARDIERE NORTH AMERICAN A-36A APACHE 42-83976.”

You can also read the entire page in English by means of Google Translate.


Dewey L. Gossett


A hale and hearty Thomas Penman in 1946, after medical treatment for malnourishment in Chepstow, Wales— a “fattening up” gradually on small amounts of food, chocolate, and milk

I received a note from Helen McGregor, who lives just outside Glasgow, Scotland, last month.

She wrote, “My father was one who escaped from the camp at Servigliano and lived with an Italian family for at least one year.

“He is dead now, but I know he was mentioned in dispatches and given a hero’s welcome home. His name was Thomas Penman and he was from Glasgow, Scotland.”

Thomas Penman, Highland Light Infantry, was captured in North Africa between El Alamein and Tobruk and shipped to Italy. He escaped capture twice.

The following accounts are among those Helen’s father shared with her older siblings over different periods of time. Although the details are sketchy, the stories are nonetheless compelling.

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