Thursday, 23 November 2017

Searching Again

To keep me awake the museum have ordered me to find an Italian Prisoner of War, or at least details regarding his stay here for a visitor.  This I find is not an easy task!  You might expect a list of such people to be located in some archive but this it appears is unlikely.  The Red Cross appears to have more chance of providing an answer to individuals seeking individuals than the UK government.  
Thousands of such men arrived here after being captured, or surrendering in droves, in North Africa during the early part of that campaign.  Only the hardened Mussolini Fascists were keen to continue the war and cause upset in POW camps, most just wanted to go home and get back on with drinking wine and leering at women.
Once the Italians had left the war a vast number of Italians were allowed to roam comparatively free around the nation or at least near to the camp.  In our case it is clear they were moved out as German POW's moved in, I met one a couple of years ago and listened to his story.  
In our case it appears the local man with a lorry trundled out on special petrol coupons to carry the Italians to various farms round about where they kept themselves fit by seeding, ploughing or harvesting or one of the million or two other jobs available on the farm in those days.  In summer this could be very pleasant indeed especially if 'Land Girls' were also working there, in winter however this would be hard and often unpleasant work, freezing cold, handling beets and turnips by hand, small food allowance and cold berths back home in the camp.  Often I suppose not much different for many from the land they had left but for city dwellers this would be a hard life.
Anyway so far I have discovered little, the museum has less, and I cannot trace official lists.  That may be resolved by the Red Cross but it will not be resolved by official channels.
I am back off to sleep... 



the fly in the web said...

One of my closest friends in England was an Italian lady whose fiance had been taken prisoner in Africa. He had found himself a job on an estate as a gardener and shortly after the end of the war was able to apply to stay in the U.K. Probably it helped his application that the owner of the estate was a peer of the realm. He sent for his fiancee who was employed in the kitchens and gradually they got on their feet.
She always remembered being asked to go to find onions in the gardens when her husband was absent - driving the peer - and returning with tulip bulbs which she proceeded to try to cook, wondering the while at the strange nature of English onions.
Boy, could she cook! I have a lot of her own far from restaurant Italian as you could imagine...from her own background in Parma, making a good meal from next to nothing.
I miss her still.

Jenny Woolf said...

I watched a very interesting series of the Australian version of "Who do you think you Are?" the genealogy programme. One of the guys' grandad had been an Italian prisoner of war. I had absolutely no idea what so many Italians suffered in the war. I hope they had a better time in England than they did in some other places.

Jenny Woolf said...

Just as well, Helen, that they were not daffodil bulbs - they're poisonous. :)

Adullamite said...

Fly, That's a great story! Many Italians remained after the war and I am glad he found a good life, and a good wife!

Jenny, Italians were not despised as much as the Germans, the army was weak and ill equipped and most were unwilling to fight. If you can get this link to work you get a great deal of info re Italians in our camp from this doctor.