Cummins, Ronald Loftus (Part 2: 1943)

Summary of Ronald Loftus Cummins part 2

(Part 1 can be read here)

Ronald Loftus Cummins’ story covers his entire WW2 experience from his enlistment in 1940 until his discharge in 1946. His file comprises the very personal letters he wrote home to his wife along with his diary entries, and letters amongst his friends, which have been transcribed into a chronological narrative. This story is an unusually personal account of the events of WW2 in North Africa and Italy.

Ronald’s story has been divided into five parts, of which three are presented on this website. This section covers 1943 when Ronald was spending time in Camp 59, Vario, in Italy, and from which he escaped towards the end of 1943. Please contact the Monte San Martino Trust if you would like to see his entire file.

The full story follows, in two versions. The version in the first window below is the original scanned version of the story. In the second window below is the transcribed version in plain text.

Cummins, R L (Part 2: 1943) by George Mitchell

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[Editor’s note: the letters and diaries of R.L Cummins have been transcribed, and integrated together so that his letters and diary entry for the same date can be read together.]

1st January 1943 The War Office, Cas. POW.
Curzon Street, London.
I am directed to thank you for your letter of 14th. December and for the information contained therein.

I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant.
GTH Rogers

4th January 1943 PG 29. PM3200. Italy.
My Darling precious,
Well, we are into 1943, afraid for us it so far seems much like ’42, but I am expecting great things of it, the greatest of all being to get back to you my dream. We have had snow now for a few days but the days are sunny so it is going quickly. Don’t worry! I am quite warm.

I have received nothing more from you in the letter line since my two, precious, lost children arrived with 6 photos in each, they have given me great joy, darling. I also got at the same time Ruth’s L Card so it’s an old mail which has turned up. I scan the ‘parcels list’ each week but so far no luck, none of my ‘batch’ have had anything yet either. I thought the photos of Daphne and Kit good, I was talking to the MO today who knows David well. Have had a sort of boil-cum-cyst on my neck but they lanced it the other day and it is almost better now, please don’t worry, poppet, otherwise I am very well indeed. PR’s photo and yours have been much admired on my wall. I am now looking forward to when he starts talking, but most of everything when I can SEE him. Well, precious, the end again, God knows when you will get this, but it brings all my love to you, take great care of your adorable self. I am sure it won’t be long now. Love to Granny C and all at home, hope they are all well. God bless Darling. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 2nd Feb. 1943.]

7th January 1943 Reader’s Digest, 2-3 Norfolk Street,
Strand, London. WC2.
Dear Madam,
We are very sorry to hear that Major Cummins is now a prisoner of war in Italy and hope most sincerely that you have good news of him. We regret that we are unable to send copies of the Reader’s Digest to prisoners of war, much as we would like to do so.

We should have been able to transfer your husband’s subscription to Mr. Denning in normal times but the severe paper rationing has resulted in a long waiting list of would-be subscribers and when any existing subscriptions are cancelled, we feel it only fair to take those names in strict rotation. Your husband’s subscription is dated to expire in April next and we are wondering whether you would like us to post the February-April issues to you so that you may either keep them until he returns or post them on to one of your friends.

We should be very glad of your kind co-operation in this matter and await your reply, which will receive our immediate attention.
Yours faithfully,

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L. Lawry
Corresponding Secretary.

14th January 1943 PG 29 PM 3200. Italy.
My Darling precious. No further letters from you during last week, but perhaps any day now.

How I love all the photos which have arrived. I am well and comfy, darling, so don’t worry.

How I long to write the old, long letters. Take all care, won’t you, love to all and God bless precious. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 22nd. Feb.1943]

14th January 1943 Fleet, Hants.
My dear Brenda,
Thanks awfully for returning the newsletter. It was awfully interesting wasn’t it? I can’t help wondering though if Sammy oughtn’t to have stopped behind as obviously that was the whole crux of the matter, there was nobody with real authority. Ovenden didn’t get his MC for that affair, but earlier in the month. I should think he would almost have lost it for this, not meaning to be unkind. I don’t know what the military etiquette is but perhaps Sammy didn’t know there would be the mess up with the tanks and if he had perhaps he would have sent Ovenden on ahead or stayed behind himself. Anyway, Ronnie comes out of it with untarnished glory and jolly well ought to have something for it. Must have been terrific fighting while it lasted and they certainly were lucky to be alive at any rate. It is sickening to think with a little more guts behind it would have been a frightfully good show instead of this fiasco. I quite agree with you, it must have been a lack of determination and courage that did it. However, no use crying over spilt milk.

No wife gets the newsletter and I don’t know if every officer can get it or not. I get it through old friends of mine, the Sumners, but Lt. Col. Sumner collects them so I have to return it to him and register the correct amount of gratitude for him letting me see it!!!!!! If you’ve any old friend you might ask him to send them to you and not even want them back, but it’s a bit late now that Ronnie is out of it.

I did see the other months too and they were full of interest but I knew if I asked Jack Sumner if I could send them on he’d say “no” and didn’t like to but this one I felt you simply must see. How deceitful of me. Don’t think I mind what you copied out, I didn’t a bit, copy anything you like, it was only this semi-official affair.

I heard from Betty Clarke 2 days ago, she asked me to tell you that Andrew wrote to you but had it returned by the censor! I never understood how his letter to me got through, they were so candid. He’s written you again since I should like to know the truth as regards Bill as I must write to him soon. I think I’ll assume he’s still in command.

So glad you’ve got your maid and do hope she’ll be a success. Rather frightful without servants. I always hated having to show them everything.

We all still flourish here, thank goodness. I must admit I get rather depressed at times with no sign of a letter. I do hope they’re not trying to escape and I wonder if they’re frightfully cold and hungry and bored. It’s pretty wretched but then I think how awfully lucky we are compared with some and feel ashamed. Marvellous to think they have a good doctor with them. Delighted to hear that.

Suppose I must continue with the usual chores.
Love to you all, Karin.

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15th January 1943 63rd. General Hospital, MEF.
My Dear Brenda,
Very many thanks for your airgraphs. I was very pleased to hear that all is well with you. I do hope that you have heard from Ronnie again. I am going to write to him and  am getting all the regulations. I believe that it is very difficult to write as one can say almost nothing.

You will be pleased to hear that the old unit has covered itself in glory and now has a tremendous name out here. I wrote to Daphne about poor old Tim but I don’t fully know the details myself although I have had letters from some of the chaps. My old Sergeant was also unfortunately killed.

I am enjoying myself thoroughly at my present job and I am getting a good deal of surgery to do. The fellows hear now are a very decent crowd. We live in comfort with baths etc. and a tennis court which is pleasant after our previous abodes. However, we have been very busy until Christmas.

I have made enquiries about the two men you asked about. 4452371, Pte. Davison J. is still with the unit and I expect his letters, if any, may have been lost. I am afraid that Pte. Bond A. has been missing for six months since Ronnie’s show and so I am afraid there is not much hope for him.

I hope that you are all well and Peter flourishing. Daphne will be busy now that our Nanny has left but I hope you will see her again before too long. Yours, David.

18th January 1943 PG. 29 PM.3200 Italy.
My Darlings.
I have not been lucky with any mail for about ten days now but I can’t really complain. I think I must have received nearly all letters which have been written up to the end of Nov.

From what I can gather my letters are not getting home very well, I hope a few more have arrived by now. Well, life goes on much the same, I manage to do a fair amount of thinking and planning for ‘apres la guerre’ but of course it is all theory. So far no parcels have arrived, I am hoping that any week now will see my name on this precious list. The photos which B has sent are a great joy, I look at them so often, it is almost too much to wait for to see you all in real life once more. I am so glad you are both so well, darlings, and that you have been able to get some golf, Dad, how I wish I could join you!! Sammy is still with me though not in the same room, also a Ross Mclaren, ex. 8th and a Padre Gordon who used to be with us before France, so I get scraps of North Country news. Take all care of yourselves, won’t you, I think so much of the old days and the reunion to come. I have had letters from Ruth, give her my love. Tons of love to you both. Ron.

18th January 1943 6th. DLI MEF.
My Dear Brenda,
Thank you so much for your airgraph giving me news of Ronnie. It is good to know that he is well and I shall most certainly be writing to him when I get a second to spare. I suppose I shall have to be rather careful what I say but have much I can tell him of interest with regard to the two D Coy. men of whom you are enquiring, Bond was missing in Ronnie’s party. We are still getting information in and should I hear anything I will let you know. Davison is quite all right though not actually with us at the moment. When I see him again I will ask him why he has not been writing. Several people, including myself, have written to Tim’s mother and she should, long before this, have had as much of the story as is possible to tell. We were

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back that way after we had pushed Jerry out of things and put a wreath on his desert grave, in the shape of the Regimental badge. I hope that all goes as well as is possible with you and may we all have a speedy reunion. Please give my love to wee Peter. Yours, Dick.

19th January 1943 the Red X notified BPFC that they had sent off a parcel to RLC. The contents were extremely varied and the list is available.

19th January 1943 Red Cross, POW Dept. 14. Finsbury Circus.
Dear Madam,
We have received the parcel for Major RL Cummins but very much regret we have to return the diary as printed matter or paper of any description are prohibited in the next-of-kin parcel.

We also have to return the 1/11 you sent for chocolate as the weight did not permit of this being added. Will you please make allowance for chocolate you wish to send to be added to your parcel in future.

We are sorry for any disappointment caused you in this matter.

Yours faithfully
pp Dorothy Ferguson, Manager.

21st January 1943 PG 29, PM 3200 Italy.
Darling. Superb mail yesterday. Hope, Ruth, Uncle Charlie, Home, six from you, it brings me up to Dec., Ruth’s was dated Dec. 19th., direct here, the first. Photos Karen, Ruth etc. grand, the two of PR in chair quite perfect, I love the twinkle in his eyes. So glad some of my stuff getting home. All love in world my precious. God bless Ron. R.
[Arrived 22nd. Feb. 1943]

22nd January 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear,
I was on the point of writing to you when your letter came this morning. I did have a post card from Sammy on Monday, sent October 1st. What can they do with them? Surely they can’t keep them in the censors here? I feel like strangling everyone, not just the postman, and am really in danger of becoming morose. I, too, heard of someone who’s had a letter last week written the end of December. It’s simply sickening.

In this 3 1/2 months old card Sammy says he’s still in bed with a poisoned foot (very cheerful) but that “Ronnie Cummins is now very fit also Dennis and Butler whom I don’t think you know.”

I’ve heard from friends of mine, the Phipps Hornbys, today. Their nephew, John Rodwell, is in the same camp PG 29. He was taken in June and they heard this week that he’d had his first next-of-kin parcel. Arrived in November, a pair of pyjamas and a lovely pullover were stolen, but otherwise everything intact. Marvellously quick I think, but of course the N African show hadn’t happened when it was on its way. Ours were almost certainly delayed I expect.

I’m so glad that you think Sammy was right to go on with the front lot. Oh, before I forget, Mrs. Phipps Hornby says that PG 29 is near the Swiss Frontier! Horrors. It fills me with fear to think of them lying about in damp grass eating new turnips and being shot right on the frontier. I do hope they have more sense than to try. I must find out for certain where the camp is.

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I’m meeting Betty Clarke for lunch in London on Monday week, so may have some more news then. I’ll let you know.
Love to your mother and Peter and yourself. Karin.

25th January 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Any complaints which I may have had in receiving your letters are now, I think, at rest, I have had a grand week and from what I can see I must have got most letters up to Dec. 20th. They are now coming direct here which is a blessing. Everyone, darling, has been very sweet, letters from Norman  Dewhurst, Hope and Karen, the latter tells me without any need to what a wonderful person you are. Last letters from you and Bp. Auckland, Dec. 20, from Ruth Dec. 24th. I have now a superb lot of photos ( don’t stop sending) three PC ones and 24 snaps, what heaven they are! those of Grandparents arrived today. So far no parcels but I live in hopes, don’t worry too much about further next-of-kin parcels, the ones you have sent will be perfect, keep on cigs etc. Darling, how I love all your letters, how I wish we could write our old reams. I can’t get over the two photos of PR in chair, he has a dangerous glint in his eye I am sure he has just had a quiet ‘pint’. I am keeping well and busy, precious, at the moment trying to write advert material for after the war and dreaming so much about our reunion, it is just the stuff that nice dreams are made of. All love in the world, Darling heart. God we will make up for this separation. Take all care, love to wonderful Gran. C and PR. God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived  20th. July 1943]

26th January 1943 PG 70. PM 3300. Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
So pleased to have received your most welcome letter, dated Oct. 16th., and glad to learn that you are well and in the best of spirits, as it must have been a very trying time you and the Baby until you received word from the Major. I hope he is keeping well too, as it leaves me in the best of health, up to the time of writing. I would very much like to be remembered to him through your letters as I am unable to write to him. I hope it won’t be long before we are all back again, Pray God that that day isn’t so far off. The Baby will now be over a year old, how time flies, and by the sound of your letter he must be a great comfort to you. I was very disappointed myself when the Major left to go to another camp, however I hope we are able to see each other when we get back. Well, I see space is becoming small so I will have to close, so for the present Cheerio. All good wishes, Lumley.

27th January 1943 6th. DLI MEF.
My Dear Brenda,
Just a line to let you know that all is well with the Battalion and to thank you most sincerely for the cigarettes, it was most awfully kind of you to send them. Both D Coy. and myself much appreciate both the cigarettes and the thought behind the gift. I handed over them myself to George Wood who is now commanding D and he, no doubt, will be writing to you himself. I wonder what it is like in England now, here after a couple of comfortably hot days it has turned cold again and the wind whistles right through even me! It is good to know that little Peter is getting on all right as I know how much Ronnie is looking forward to seeing him. May we all be together again in the very near future. Once again very many thanks for the cigarettes. Yours, Dick.

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28th January 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
Darling Precious. I have had a grand lot of mail during the last week or so, and purring with delight. So far no parcel but I live in hopes. Am well and fit darling only longing to be with you again, take all care Precious and give my love to all at home. Lots and tons of love and God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 15th. March 1943]

28th January 1943
A postcard today, thank Heavens! Same date as yours. Xmas time. He says he’s had lots of letters, latest sent Nov. 11th. He also says “Don’t send any more clothes. I have quite enough”. Can that mean they have had our parcels? It almost seems so, which would be wonderful. No mention of food at all. Of course they’ve no idea their letters to us never turn up, otherwise they’d repeat everything like I do.

I feel like a new woman, I can tell you, though can’t think what to send in the next parcel if he has so many clothes!
Love, Karin.

February 1943 Red Cross, POW Dept. St. James’ Palace,
London, SW1.
Permission has now been given by the War Office for the next-of-kin of Army Officer prisoners of war to send them new uniforms if they so desire.

The regulations of the Board of Trade do not allow us to issue any extra coupons for the purchase of uniform, but those issued with each quarterly label for a next-of-kin parcel may now be used for this purpose.

EM Thornton

1st February 1943. PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Again this week I have been lucky with mail and I now must have had all your letters nearly up to the end Dec. also lots from others, Aunt Blanche, Ruth, Phyliss etc. all grand to get.

Your last letter was Dec. 16th. just after you had heard I was at the new camp. Yes, it is quite a good one, but there is still wire round us! So glad you are buying things for the Warren. God how I plan, I must have lived every hour of the next 30 years already thinking what we will do together. The photos of Mummy and D at Grove are very good, I was glad to see how well they look and how young, don’t you think? Still with Sammy, he and I swop news after mail arrival as we do with  other Northerners. Save a bit, my dream, we must have a holiday, if only small, in some heavenly part of England, where we can wallow in its complacency, but away from crowds, I want you all by yourself for years and years. Well, the end again, darling, I am well and cheerful, Felicity is in the offing I am sure. Take every care of your precious self. All my love to you, PR and Granny C, Dad and Mummy and God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 17th. July 1943]

3rd February 1943 Reader’s Digest, 2-3 Norfolk

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Strand, London WC2.
Dear Madam,
We are glad to confirm that your payment of 11/- for the Officer Commanding D Coy. DLI now carries forward to April 1944.

We hope our magazines will provide the men with much pleasant reading during the coming months.

Yours faithfully,
Corresponding Secretary.

4th February 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious. Have had good mail during the last week, should think most letters now til the end of Dec. No parcels yet but I live in hope. News of Mick, Bill and Peter and tank, strange can you enlarge. Planning hard, precious, for future, what heaven. Take all care, am fit and well. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 24th. June 1943]

4th February 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,

Thank you once again for your lovely letter, dated Dec. 23rd. which I received a few days ago, and am now able to answer. Glad to hear you have heard from the Major and that he is keeping all right, as it leaves me in the best of health up to the time of writing. We have been issued with Battle Dress and boots so we look quite smart again. It is very kind of you to send me some cigarettes and I appreciate it very much and I don’t think I can thank you enough. Glad to hear that Peter is keeping all right and by the sound of it he is going to have a nice Xmas with his little stocking and tree. I can imagine how a great comfort he is to you.

I, too, hope by the next Xmas we are all back and as you say it will be a proper Xmas. I many a time lie and wonder how the Major is getting on myself, I only wish they would send me to his camp, however here’s hoping it isn’t too long before I see him again. Yours faithfully, Lumley.

4th February 1943 Fleet, Hants.
What a brick!
Thanks awfully for letting me know, complete with extracts. I shall now hope to hear something in about 10 days. Sickening Ronnie having a boil. I’m afraid this poisoning they get must be due to lack of good food but thank heavens they are warm. I’ve heard all about the censoring this end; our officers (some of them only) are given a plain code in case of being taken prisoner and then they try and get what information they can. From the time Sammy’s letters take I should think he must be HEAD SPY!!!!!! If they haven’t had their parcels, what can Sammy mean by “Don’t send me any more clothes, I have enough” Perhaps that’s a bit of official code. Anyway, I feel a lot happier about them now, don’t you?

I think Peter’s got too many teeth!!!!! Never heard anything like it, they seem to appear every day. Hope your cold and throat are all right. I met Betty Clarke in London on Monday but she’s no news as she hasn’t heard for weeks and weeks, poor dear. I hope soon now to send a few more eggs, the hens seem to be ticking over again.
Love, Karin.

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7th February 1943 Fleet, Hants.
My dear Brenda,
At last my batch arrived yesterday, 2 letters of Dec. 14th. and Jan. 4th. and a postcard of Nov. 5th. It sounds to me as if they can buy what they like as Sammy says “don’t worry about the parcels, by the time they arrive I shall already have got all the things I asked for or not want them any more”. Rather damping! but I do sympathise when they come 6 months after they’ve asked for things! He doesn’t mention food at all but says that stoves in the passages were lit on Dec. 1st. and it’s a very mild winter so they are quite comfortable as regards that. In his Dec. 14th. letter he says “I am going to write all about the camp and routine in my next letter.” In this letter he comments on all my letters, lovely to get an answer to things again and in the Jan. 4th. one he talks about the future, he wants us to take a farm!!!!!!! He doesn’t mention anyone in the camp, neither Ronnie or John Rodwell nor anyone. He’s learnt to dance reels and had a terrific New Year’s party apparently. I sympathise with Ronnie as he must be much younger than most of them there. Sammy had had heaps of letters from me and it seems as if the long ones get there as quickly as the letter cards. He evidently realises that theirs are not coming through to us as he says he is keeping a copy of all his letters to me so as to form a sort of diary. Rather a good idea.

Sorry this is so illegible, but I’ve cut my thumb and have a most inconvenient little bandage on it.

It is heaven to hear from them but I always feel I want a lot more, they’re so short and inadequate.

Tunis is still horribly sticky, I feel we shall never get out if they don’t buck up there, but perverse Russia is too wonderful for words though it’s all foully grim. The stories of that Stalingrad 6th. Army are a nightmare.

I do hope your domestic is doing well and neither you nor your mother are overworking.
Love to you all, Karin.

8th February 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious.
Well, as I have said in previous letters I have no complaints now about mail. I must have had by now very nearly all letters written in 1942 and what joy they are. I only hope by now, darling, you are getting more of mine so that you will know I am well. Even parcels seem to be coming in better, tho’ so far I have not been lucky but I am expecting to be any time.

My array of photos is quite large, the only thing I have to complain of is that there are not enough of you my poppet, what are you going to do about it!! The weather is a bit changeable, one day fine and warm, the next cold and wet, however there is no need to worry, I am quite comfy. I am managing to get through quite a bit of work relative to after the war and have already ( on paper) made my fortune and spent it!! on a very adorable wife and son, not to say anything  of an enormous rose-garden and private launch for myself. Darling heart, there is so little to say, we all knock along and keep cheerful.

Sammy is in very good form. From this end my plans for Felicity grow every minute, so save like hell for that holiday after the war. Take every care my precious and my love to PR and Granny C, to Dad, Mum and Ruth and all who have been so kind, you know the only thing I live for.
God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 11th April 1943]

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11th February 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling precious. Your 1st. parcel arrived today and I simply cannot express how wonderful it is, just everything I wanted, thank you a thousand times. The red slippers ( on my feet now) take me back to C and Bournemouth. All is quite perfect my Darling. Take all care. I send all the love in my heart. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 22nd. March 1943]

15th February 1943 Monday. PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling precious.
The great thrill of last week, my darling, was the arrival of your first parcel and what a perfect one it was, you have been a marvel, every single thing in it was just what I wanted, there is so much to say about it I don’t know where to start. The shirts with fixed collars are just what I like as you can wear them without a tie in the hot weather, and my red slippers, what memories and how comfy. Pyjamas for the first time since capture and English shaving soap and brush, heaven! The housewife (needles, cotton, pins etc.) is the envy of my room and they have all said what a perfect parcel and what thought must have gone into its packing. Really, my dream, you could not have improved on it, I feel much more comfortable now and more civilised. Now that parcels have started to arrive I can expect cigs. etc. any time. One or two letters during the week, Daddy, Mrs. Weld and one of yours, how I long to see you and Peter and everyone, I have such plans. Well, precious, the end again, don’t worry  about me I am fit and well, only longing for the end and now with the wonderful parcel, well fitted out. Take all care of your precious self and give yourself all the hugs and kisses I only wish I could give you. Love to all at Grove and Clarence. God bless.
Ronnie R.
[Arrived 29th. July 1943]

15th February 1943 British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John of Jerusalem,
Joint War Organisation, 2 Vicars Lane, Chester.
My Dear Brenda,
Joy has told me that you are worried about your husband’s parcels, I wonder if I can help at all. I will write as briefly as possible.

It is possible that it may take 6 – 7 months from the time you dispatch your quarterly parcel till the time you hear of its arrival, and the fact that your husband has moved so much, might make it much longer, because the parcel may have arrived after your husband had left that camp. In which case it will be forwarded, but this often takes a considerable time.

The Italians are bad managers. They find it difficult to cope with the large number of prisoners in their hands. Their censorship and other arrangements are much slower than the Germans, but they are much kinder to their prisoners. A very small percentage of parcels fail to arrive, considering the dangers, and difficulties that have to be contended with.

Of course, the bombing of the Italian ports and railways adds to the risk. For this reason the next-of-kin are advised to keep on sending quarterly parcels regularly in case one dose not arrive.

Owing to the difficulty of transport, and various causes, a lot of Red Cross food has been sent to the camps in bulk, to be distributed by the camp leader so that the men get the food, and not in individual parcels, and sometimes they do not realise that this is Red Cross

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food and the same quantity as they would have received in parcels. When the food is sent in this manner, it is done in order to speed things up.

As prison camps go PG 29 is quite a good one.  I enclose a copy of information I obtained from St. James’ Palace about this camp.(Copied earlier. Ed.) I feel sure you will find this interesting. I do hope you hear soon that your husband has received sent parcels. Please don’t despair. So many people worry unduly over the first parcel. It takes so long for news to come through.

I hope the babe is flourishing and that you and Mrs. Bennett are well.

With kind regards and best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
K. G. Boulton (Aunt Gill, who was John Boulton’s sister. Ed.)

Do please forgive typed letter but I am writing this from the office. I’m terribly busy now.

I have lost our splendid maid and have no one at the moment. I am trying to run this office as well with a young typist. Amongst other Red Cross work I am in close touch with, and help, the next-of-kin of 200 prisoners of war so I think I know most of the problems. If there is anything else you would like to know please don’t hesitate to ask me. I do hope you will have good news soon. I am so sorry for you in your anxiety.

18th February 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
Darling Precious. Your mail not quite so good of late, but I have no complaints. Letter Jan. 14 from Daddy yesterday. Contents of parcel superb, I have on one of the shirts now, quite a perfect fit. How I long for your letters and photos, send more of latter of you. All love Darling. Take all care won’t you. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 22nd. March 1943]

19th February 1943. Fleet, Hants.
My dear Brenda,
Thanks awfully for your letter. I’m so glad at least 4 out of 5 arrived all right. It’s absurd of you to send me stamps but very sweet. Do send the box and packing back.

I wonder if you got letters this morning. I got 2, but so old, Oct. 31st. and Dec. 17th. Wasn’t it awful, when Sammy arrived at this camp he met my old friend John Rodwell with a letter from me in his hand and Sammy had then not had a single letter of any sort!!! Anyway, it was better than no news for him and he says he’s had every letter now up to No. 11th.

(Sorry my pen ran out) He seems to have met lots of friends in this camp and to be very pleased with the place. He says “I feel a lot better now” so I suppose he was very run down with that wretched poisoning. Still no mention of food or parcels but he says he’s bought a pullover amongst other things, so I think the clothes position is quite good.

I wrote to him with your very good suggestion of mentioning Ronnie when he writes. I think it’s an excellent idea.

Ross McLaren was 2nd. in Command of the 8th. and was taken prisoner early on in May. His wife is what I used to call (before I knew you !?!!!!) a typical TA wife. Very pleasant but not exactly a kindred spirit.

Did you here that Kit Truman came and looked at my people’s flat in London? Rather a coincidence wasn’t it? She thought it too expensive and my people wanted a year’s let so they did not click, but rather amusing. We’ve let it now to a staid married couple for a year at the rent they were asking, so very satisfactory. Lovely to have the house reopened as I now have a room to stay in too and I celebrated by a night out on Wednesday, the first since

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Sammy went. I enjoyed awfully up to a point but felt rather near tears at the same time, if you know what I mean. London is so foreign, it’s like a fancy dress ball, all the different uniforms and one hears far more foreign tongues than English.

I hope your Irish woman is not sick, that would be the limit, it is so hard on one’s parents, this frightful drudgery. Do hope you had a more recent letter from Ronnie and that he’s perfectly well again.
Love Karin.

Saturday morning.
I thought there might be a letter from you this morning so did not close mine up. You are a marvel at finding out things. Most frightfully interesting about the camp. It sounds quite human when they talk about carpets on the floors and so on. But, as you say the numbers have probably doubled by now.

Doesn’t sound as if you had heard from Ronnie this time but perhaps you have by now. I do hope so. Don’t I know what it feels like to be down in the mouth!! I get horrible attacks when I want to lie down and weep but kick myself hard as I see Vera Dawes and Pam? nearly every day, both of them widows with 2 small girls each, great friends of my 2.

We have got a future to look to, though Tunis is a fearful blot at present I must admit.

Perhaps the 8th. Army will do the trick again. I sincerely hope so. The yanks do sound a bit ? there.
Love Karin.
I trust your mother is much better by now.

22nd February 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Two of your wonderful letters this week, it is hell that you aren’t getting mine. I don’t know how many there should be on the way as I have written a letter and PC every week since arriving in Italy. Darling, I do realise how much the parcels you send cost and please don’t send any more as I am quite fitted out now. I have been wanting to tell you this for ages but my letters don’t get to you. Keep up the cigs. but send no more next-of-kin. How I love hearing about PR, he must be growing by leaps and bounds, it is hell sometimes having to wait like this to see you both, let’s hope it won’t be long now. Sammy still in the best of spirits, I was only having a chat with him today. By the way your last letters were Jan. 14 and 21st. so I am right up to date. Managing to get through a fair amount of planning and work for “after the war”, tell Daddy and have all kinds of plans in being, I am so impatient to start them darling. Weather grand, just like spring and I am very well. Yes, precious, I shall be 30 in a week, we have a lot to make up for. All the overcrowding love in my heart, darling, you know where I want to be. Love to all at home. Take care of yourself and make the preparations. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 6th. August 1943]

25th February 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
Darling precious. My 2nd. wonderful parcel today, cigs. (500) from you, a thousand thanks, also two letters during the week. Darling, I quite agree next-of-kin parcels cost a lot, I am now well off for kit so don’t send any more. Keep up cigs. etc. but no clothes. I do pray, darling, my letters are arriving now, very well. Tons of love precious and God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 8th September 1943, the day he was liberated from the Camp. Ed.]

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25th February 1943 Red Cross and St. John War Organisation,
POW Dept. St. James’ Palace, London.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
It is exceedingly kind of you to send us some further interesting extracts from letters you have received from your husband in Italy. We are very glad to have these for our reference library of news items from the prison camps, selections of which are taken for insertion in the Journal as space allows.

We feel you will like to know that we have received a great number of prisoner of war letters from Italian camps during the past month, showing that our men are keeping up their health and spirits in splendid fashion. We quite understand that names should not be quoted should we find ourselves able to mention your husband’s experiences, but we feel it only fair to point out that in view of the amount of material received from Italy and the fact that we must divide our limited space as evenly as possible, it would be wrong of us to make any promise regarding publication.

We are so pleased to know that you are hearing regularly from your husband and trust that you will continue to have as satisfactory news as circumstances allow.
Yours sincerely,
pp The Editor, “The Prisoner of War”.

25th February 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Annoying our letters always crossing like this. Thank you very much for your last PC. I’m awfully glad your letters turned up, I’ve had a letter and PC since, but both November. Sammy sounds very happy in this camp but then he’s much more the same age as the rest.

It is rather wretched for Ronnie but there surely must be some younger ones. Sammy shares a room with only one other, a Willy Forbes in the Guards whom he likes very much (may both loathe each other by now!). He says there’s an absolute pet in the camp, an old man of 73, Admiral Sir Walter Cowan who wangled a liaison job and got caught.

He mentions lots of old friends we knew in years gone by whom he’s now with again. Rather a great life I must say, they seem able to buy almost all the clothes they need, but Sammy never mentions the word food in any letter. The first one he got from me took under a month, which was lucky. Long letter seem to take less time than letter cards he says.
Must fly, Karin.

27th February 1943 British Red Cross, POW Dept. London.
Dear Mrs. Cummins
re: 51447 Major RL Cummins
I was so sorry to see from your letter of Feb. 22nd. that there has been some confusion over the percainal ointment which we sent to your son [sic. Ed.] by Air mail.

The reason for it having been packed in a box which once had contained a pipe, was because of our very great difficulty in obtaining suitable boxes nowadays in which to pack the articles for Air Mail. We are therefore supplied with all sorts of boxes which people are kind enough to bring in to us.

It is most unfortunate that the directions were removed from the ointment, but I hope by now your letters to your husband telling him that this was a remedy for piles should have arrived, so that he may know for what the ointment was intended.

It is most disappointing, especially as it arrived safely. If you continue to feel anxious about him, and if he is still suffering from the same trouble perhaps you will write to me again, for

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I should very much like to help you and could write by Air Mail to the Senior Medical Officer and ask him to give your husband something to help this troublesome complaint.

As the percainal does not seem to have been satisfactory we do not wish to ask you to pay anything at all.

Please be sure to let me know if you would like me to write to the doctor, although I think he is bound to know what the percainal is intended for, and would have told your husband by now.

Yours sincerely, Muriel Bromley Davenport. Hon. Secretary, Invalid Comforts Section.
From “The Prisoner of War” March 1943.

Viano, Camp PG 29. Is a British senior officers camp. Still overcrowded. Sufficient wood burning stoves are being installed in the E wing of the camp, and the recreation, dining rooms and the infirmary. The defective lighting in the dormitories has been remedied.

Letter forms and cards have been unavailable from time to time, but mail arrives regularly from England. Both private and Red Cross parcels were reported to be arriving well, and enough consignments of clothing have been received to make the clothing situation satisfactory. There are four British chaplains, including two C of E padres. The drought during the last summer caused a water shortage in the camp. New books have been received. A wireless has been installed and loud speakers are in several rooms. (Visited October 1942.)

28th Feb. 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear.
Many thanks for your most interesting letter. As usual I’m long behind you and haven’t had any of this lot of mail, but perhaps mine may come tomorrow. Joking apart, I can’t help feeling there must be something queer about Sammy’s letters as they are slower than yours every time. It was good hearing Ronnie’s remarks anyway. I had realised from Sammy’s letters that he had met lots of people in this camp whom he either knew before or was friends of friends, if you know what I mean. But most of them are about 40 or late thirties so it must be rather trying for Ronnie.

However, by this time he’s sure to have dug himself in and his shyness, in the end, is a certain way of making friends. I’ve just been turning out my desk and look what I’ve found! I do remember receiving 2 odd copies from another source and promising faithfully to burn them. They were right at the back of my desk and having committed such a sin of carelessness I don’t see why you shouldn’t benefit but you’d better burn them if you have the heart!

I’ve put the egg box away safely and will do something about it in a week or two. I like to think of Peter having an egg or two occasionally, especially now he can walk. He deserves a lot. It is an exciting time, isn’t it, but makes one grind one’s teeth with rage not to have their fathers.

It’s too tragic.

What a lovely day for the wedding yesterday. I thought of you in your smartest spring creations and hope it went off without a hitch.

How extraordinary that it should have been Truman boy who released the DLI lot. I didn’t know much about it I’m afraid. I heard they mentioned a North Country Regiment in Tunis last night, I wonder who it is.

What a frightful time poor Daphne Joy has had. I don’t know how people can cope with it

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all. I can manage any amount of work provided no children are involved but one baby and I’m sunk, simply cannot combine the two.

I saw old Pinney had died. I’m taking your cutting to my Father in law on Friday when I’m taking Aurea by 2 buses to lunch with him. Reading was very badly bombed a fortnight ago so I’m a bit nervous lest they return. They come around here in daylight and drop odd bombs. Reading, Newbury and Basingstoke have all had it quite lately.

So glad your mother is better and do hope the maid keeps going. This food business is getting worse I’m afraid, can’t imagine how you manage without eggs.

I’ll let you know when and what I hear from Sammy.
Love Karin.
I had another letter returned by the censor last week!!!

1st March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling Precious,
Your last letter was sent off on Jan. 24th. and I was overjoyed to hear you have at last heard from me after the long wait. I hope you know by now that I am getting your letters very well, it seems that very few have gone astray. Also your first next-of-kin parcel which was superb, as I have already said, my dream, in other letters don’t send any more n of k as I will have ample clothes etc. when the next arrives. I have, so far, had one cigs. parcel, 500 Players, very welcome. For all the wonderful things you have sent and done my deepest thanks precious. You will see I am writing this on my birthday, no different, I am afraid, to any other day, two years ago I was with you and Pray God next year it will be so again. I am at the moment, and have been for a long time Darling, working on Printing and Fishing tackle business, all kinds of plans and reams of writing, only wish I could turn some of it into practice. I was amused over PR’s stubbornness, one begins to see Mrs. Luxton’s point of view eh!! Oh, my darling, it will be heaven to be back and to help you in all these things, you have had so much to do for your menfolk since getting a family. Am very well and comfy so don’t worry. All love in world to you precious and all at home. Take every care and God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 6th. August 1943]

1st March 1943

3rd March 1943 Red Cross, POW Dept.
St. James’ Palace, London
The Editor of “The Prisoner of War” acknowledges with grateful thanks your letter of February 24th. with copies of extracts for his consideration. The trouble you have taken on our behalf is much appreciated and we are most glad to glad to have these details for our records.

3rd March 1943 Wolsingham, County Durham.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,

[Digital Page 15]

Thank you for your very kind letter of 24th February. I am so pleased that Ronnie has received the “Countryman”. As a prisoner of war in the last war in Germany I know that these little parcels do mean something to the recipient.

With good wishes,
Yours very truly,

3rd March 1943 Yorkshire Penny Bank, Bishop Auckland.
My Dear Brenda,
We have today received response from Barclays (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas), London, to your letter regarding a possible credit of Ron’s remaining at Cairo ( or Alexandria, I forget which). This was the letter you sent to me for forwarding and which required the Bank’s Indemnity.

We have received from them a Banker’s Draft on London and this has been credited today to your joint account.

You were uncertain whether or not there would be any credit at all, so, as the amount we have received is £15-16-6, I think you will be quite pleased that you took the matter up.

I have not seen any of the Cummins family for quite a while (except Ruth, when she was home on leave recently) and so I have no news whatever to give you.

I hope that you and Peter are very well and that he continues to thrive and be a joy to his mother.

Kindest regards,
Yours very sincerely,
James F. Glover.
4th March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious. Great news today I received 3 cig. parcels, two of yours and one from Ruth, I have already had one from you so I am in comfort. Your precious letters coming in well, latest Feb. 1st. hope you are getting mine. Am fit and well and making great plans for apres la guerre. All love in the world precious. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 8th. April 1943]

7th March 1943 Fleet, Hants.
At last a letter of Jan 13th. and still more November ones in which he says “Ronnie Cummins with me, very well.” No parcels, not even one of the Swedish ones by Jan. 13th. My sister will be furious as she sent a special Xmas one through the Delegation in Rome! Still they sound very well off except for the food and Sammy doesn’t grumble even about that.

I forgot to tell you, Sammy said he was sharing a room with one man only, Willie Forbes in the Guards, I happened to have a girl, Anne Wilbraham, here to bridge last week and as her husband is in the Coldstream’s I asked her if she knew Forbes and she did very well. He’s a Coldstream too and she knows his wife intimately. Rather funny isn’t it? She wasn’t sure he’d be an ideal room-mate as he’s untidy and rather selfish but very good fun. I wonder how the wedding went off, I haven’t seen “Lippie” since. Sammy says he’d like to hear more about their “show” and wants to know who was blamed as he’s a lot he’d like to say!!!!

The next two lines are blacked out, very annoying. I hope Ronnie understood your disguised account and passed it on.
Hope all well with you, Karin.

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I had another letter returned, this time because it was illegible!!!!! I’ve now taken to typewriting them.

8th March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
The last letter I got was yours of Jan. 31st. and I think I must have had nearly all up to that date so I can’t complain, the mail is quite good. What heaven your letters are, I only hope you are getting some of mine now, it is hell not getting them through. I had such a sweet letter from old Hickey, our artist, it was good of him to write. I told Sammy that his instructions to send no more clothes had got back, he was very pleased, yes precious, the same applies to me. By the time I get the parcels which are already on the way I shall have quite enough. Two more cig. parcels, making three from you in all, have arrived this week and one from Ruth. I am now very well off for cigarettes, thank you a thousand times.

I have been very busy of late, darling, on Printing and F/Tackle business and have all kinds of plans which I am longing to carry out. I also have all kinds of things which you and Peter and I are going to do, it seems almost like a dream that we will soon carry them out. Well, my dream, the end again, you know how I feel from your own thoughts, we must just go on praying hard. All my love to you and take every care. Thank Granny C for her very sweet and welcome letter and give love to all at Grove and Clarence. Hope Ruth is all right after raid. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 13th May 1943]

9th March 1943 Times Book Club, London W1.
Dear Madam,
With reference to the subscription to the “Argosy” magazine which you arranged on behalf of Major RL Cummins MC in Italy, we regret to inform you that we have been unable to forward the January, February and March issues as these have not been permitted by the censor. In these circumstances we shall be glad to know if we may arrange for other publications to be sent in place.

Unfortunately no other story magazine may be sent but perhaps one of the following may interest Major Cummins :-

Apollo, Artist, British Chess magazine, Musical Times, Studio.

We have, in the meantime, cancelled the subscription to the “Argosy” and have credited your account with the sum of 12/6d., the unexpired value thereof.

With Compliments,
Yours faithfully, for The Times Book Club.
[On the back BPFC has written: Just received this from the Times Book Club. Very sad he can’t have the Argosy. What do you think about the others? I don’t know any of them. Perhaps you do. He doesn’t play chess! Let me know what you would like done. I am sorry about it.]

10th March 1943 Penguin Books Ltd. West Drayton, Mddx.
Dear Madam,
We thank you for your letter of 3rd. instant, and cheque for £3-3-0 covering twelve month’s subscription to THE PRISONERS OF WAR BOOK SERVICE, and have pleasure in enclosing our official receipt.

The first parcel of ten books will be dispatched to your husband in early April and further

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selections will be sent at monthly intervals.

Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,
Ashton Allen. Sales Manager.

11th March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious. Another parcel today, half a pound of tobacco, very nice, up to date that is 4 cig. and 1 tob. parcels and 1 next-of-kin. Don’t send any more next-of-kin I have enough, darling. Your letters also up to date. Am very well, only longing to get back to you.

All love in world to you, PR and all at home. God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 24th. August 1943]

12th March 1943 Yorkshire Penny Bank, Bishop Auckland.
My Dear Brenda,
I had a letter from Ruth yesterday telling me that she has removed to a flat, and today I hear from you! So the “Cummins” family is right in the limelight this week. I return Glyn’s letter re: tax. As they, I believe, have always looked after your tax returns (I think you told me so) they will be in the position of knowing that everything is OK. Evidently you and Ron are assessed separately and the various allowances (£140 for a married man, £50 child allowance etc.) will no doubt be apportioned proportionately to your separate incomes, so much deducted from your gross income and the balance from his. As Glyn’s have had all Ron’s pay statements from you I think you can safely assume that their figures will be correct and that they will have made certain that you have received all the deductions to which you are entitled. I am assuming that they know there is a Peter, and also the amount of annual premiums paid on any Life Insurance on Ron’s life or your own.

Glad to hear good news of Ronnie, I hope he has now got his parcels all right.

Peter appears to be coming on amazingly, someday soon I hope to see him and, of course, his mother.

We had 2 sirens last night, first at 10.15 and then 11.15, almost immediately after the first all clear. The second all clear was shortly after midnight. There was plenty to see, flares and flak, terrific gun-fire all round North and North East of us, but nothing in our immediate neighbourhood thank goodness. There were some nasty bumps too, one shook my bed and all the windows rattled. I’ve not yet heard reliable details of where all the trouble was. Hope you are keeping free of trouble.
Yours very sincerely
James F. Glover.

13th March 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My Dear Dick,
Many thanks for your last airgraph. So glad the cigarettes eventually arrived, things do take a time, I had a parcel of photos from Capt. Wood yesterday which he posted on Sept. 26th.

It was kind of him. No more news of Ronnie since I last wrote. I hope to hear soon that he has had some parcels as cigarettes etc. are evidently very short. We are hoping to see the Army film of all your exploits “Desert Victory”. It will be a terrific excursion for us as we never go to the cinema. Had a card from Shelagh, she had had no airgraphs from you for ages and was very envious of my two! The mails are so irregular aren’t they? When Sammy arrived at camp 29 he was met by an old friend who was holding a letter from Mrs.

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Battiscombe and Sammy himself had never had any of hers!  Peter is in grand form walking by himself across the lawn. He wears blue wool dungarees as he has outgrown all his pram suits and he looks rather sweet. He is on the prance all day long. We have had such a mild winter and have had tea out in the garden which is looking very spring-like with all the daffodils out. Have you seen Leslie Proud? I hear that he has been around and also that Bill is a Major. I have written to Capt. Wood but it may take longer than this. Best of luck to you all. Yours Brenda.
[This letter was returned by the Post Office. Ed.]

13th March 1943 The Times Book Club, London W1.
Dear Madam,
We thank you for your postcard from which we have had pleasure in sending the two books required. We hope they have by now arrived safely.

We regret that we are unable to offer second-hand RETURN VIA DUNKIRK, Gun. Buster, nor do we expect to be able to do so in the near future. New copies of this book are, at present, unobtainable as it is reported to be reprinting.

In regard to the outstanding items on your previous order, we regret that LITTLE GREY RABBIT’S WASHING DAY, Uttley and BAMBI are still temporarily out of stock at the publishers, while PETER AND CO, Heanly and DESERT ARMY, Gun. Buster are not yet published. Unfortunately no date can be given as to when stocks of these books will be available but your order will be completed at the earliest opportunity.
With compliments,
Yours faithfully, for The Times Book Club.

15th March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling precious,
Well, another week gone by and so much nearer home. Nothing very much has happened, I received a tobacco parcel from you last Wednesday, so now, having also my pipe, I am enjoying a change from cigs. Mail has not been so good of late (I can’t complain) and I am waiting each day for another letter from you. I received, a short time ago, four “Countryman” very good reading, but as they contained no name I don’t know who to thank. Am spending most of my time on planning for work (and play) after the war, the ideas feel all right, how I long to put them into practice. Darling, I am so longing for some more photos and this time of you! I still only have one or two of you, I do hope there are some on the way. The contents of your 1st. next-of-kin parcel are doing good service, I repeat don’t send any more next-of-kin. Sammy well and in good spirits. It’s a wearisome wait but no doubt will end soon. Well, precious, write as often as you can and don’t forget photos, these things are quite inadequate to say what I want. Take all care of your adorable self. I am sure we will be able to make up for all this soon. All my love to you and all at home. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 16th August 1943]

15th March 1943 Silksworth, Sunderland.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I can’t express to you how grateful I am to you for sending on the Red X report of PG 29 to me, I have copied it out for my private use so that I can read it when I feel depressed! It is so cheerie.

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I am sure we are lucky that our husbands are at a Senior officers camp as from what I hear from other people with relations in some other camps, the food is far from plentiful and clothes have not always been supplied, especially in cases of “other ranks”.

Judging by the letter enclosed you have been worried about your parcels arriving. I posted my first parcel on Sept. 9th. 1942 and Ross received it about January 3rd. 1943. I have not yet received the official notice saying he has had the parcel, just a letter from him.

A friend of mine who has her husband at PG 17 sent her first parcel nearly two months before I did and she sent it to PG 66 to be sent on if her husband had been moved, the poor man had not had the parcel when last he wrote about Feb. 2nd.

What a lovely mail to receive all at once, I have had a letter a week since Xmas but some have taken a very long time to come, last week is the first I have missed.

It is a year next month since Ross was captured, how long has your husband been a prisoner?

Yes, Ross too was without pyjamas for months, his last letter said he now had everything except enough darning wool, buttons and material to patch! I feel they will be better menders and darners than we are when they come to return.

Again very many thanks for your kindness. Do let me know if you get any more news. How is your little boy? Alison, my little girl, is just four and what a joy she is to me these days.
Yours sincerely,
Marjorie McLaren.

16th March 1943 Red Cross, POW Dept.
Invalids Comfort Section, London.
Dear Mrs. Cummins
51447 Major RL Cummins.
Thank you so much for your nice letter of March 9th. and for so kindly offering to pay the cost of the Percainal ointment sent to your husband.

The Air Mail postage amounted to 1/5 and the ointment cost 11/4 which seems a very high price, but it is apparently usual with ointments which contain such things as cocaine.

If you really wish to pay, we will be most grateful to accept your kind offer. I do hope that by now your husband knows for what the ointment was intended so that he may keep it by him in case of a recurrence of the trouble.

Please write to me again if at any time I can be of further help to you.

Yours sincerely,
Muriel Bromley Davenport.
Hon. Sec. Invalid Comforts Section.

17th March 1943 British Red Cross,
Dear Brenda,
I’m very sorry I have not written before, but I’ve been trying to find a way of getting your husband’s badge out to him. I knew it was not possible for you to include it in your quarterly parcels but I thought it just possible the Indoor Recreation Department might manage it for you, but after a long wait I have just been informed that there is no hope.

Personally I should advise you to send plain canvas with wool and silk for working as, in all probability, someone in the camp will be able to work out the design for your husband.

So glad letters are getting through better. I do hope your personal parcels will soon arrive in

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good order and that you will receive excellent news.

What a joy your babe must be to you and Mrs. Bennett, I’m so glad he is such a healthy young rascal.

I’m sorry I’ve been so long but that hold-up was in London, it seems they passed my letter from department to department and they are terribly busy and understaffed so replies take a long time.

The family join in sending love and every good wish to you and Mrs. Bennett. We shall be so thankful when this war is over and we can get all our grand men home again.
Yours, Gladys Boulton.

18th March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darlings. Your various letters received and much loved, the mail is good to us, also had cig. and tob. parcels. I am very busy at present on some ideas for after the war, print and f/tackle. Am well and comfy so don’t worry, you are both always in my thoughts. Take every care. Ronnie.

19th March 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Have you heard today I wonder? I had a letter dated Nov. 23rd. and a PC dated Jan. 28th, which is the most modern thing yet. He sounds amazingly optimistic, wonders if our parcels will arrive “in time” and tells me not to send any more! I shan’t obey as I’m afraid they’ll be there longer than they think – curse it. Sammy is now in charge of “private parcels” so hopes to get one himself soon. He’s had lots of letters though not so much from me. It almost sounds as if he thinks the Italians are about to crack up. I’ve rather given up the hope personally. It is a beastly slow war and Eden was most depressing I thought.  Loathsome it all is.

We’ve had a tragedy in the hen line, one brute who started to eat all the eggs, it took us a week to find out which it was and in the meantime we got hardly any but it might improve now since we kicked her so don’t give up hope!!!! How’s Peter, running about yet? Hasn’t the weather been simply wonderful, we’ve had tea in the garden three times.
Love to you all, Karin.
Another PC today dated Feb. 11th. He’s just got 2 Hugo Grammar from me (neither of which he wants!!) his first parcel. Would be. KB.

On the night of 22nd March 1943 Major Dick Ovenden was at Querzi. Harry Moses writes ” During the night several attacks were made on the left flank held by Major Ovenden’s mixed band of A and D Companies’ men, supported by some of the carrier platoon and two tanks. He also had two mortars, part of Ian Daw’s Mortar Platoon. The Mortar Platoon did sterling work throughout the night, continually breaking up enemy concentrations and frustrating attempts to attack in force. The Platoon fired over two thousand rounds in total during the battle. The enemy attacks were broken with heavy losses but the lack of ammunition was becoming critical and the Bren guns were so choked with dust that they would not fire. Major Ovenden made his way over the bullet-swept ground to Bn. HQ to obtain .303 ammunition. He was given the last box but on his way back he was shot and killed by a sniper.”

22nd March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,

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Mail not quite so good but received Dad’s of Feb. 1, Granny C’s of 14th. and two old ones of yours, darling, this week. I was so glad to hear Wood is a POW, I have been worrying a lot about him. I long for the letters so much with all their news. How I wish I could see PR before he gets much older, I am looking forward to more photos soon. Parcels, I have had 4 cigs. and tob. and your first next-of-kin. I repeat no more n-o-k, my dream, shall have all the clothes I want. I have been working hard on Ptg. and F/tackle work of late with all kinds of plans wish I could put them into operation soon. Weather fine but a little cold, but don’t worry I am quite warm and very well. Glad to hear my pay is reaching you all right. We must have a binge after this, poppet, and a holiday. It will take me a long time to tell you how wonderful you are all over again, it seems like a dream, but will, no doubt, come true soon.

These damned things are about as private as a railway station and there is so much I want to say. Take every care of your precious self, we will make up for this long time apart sometime. All my love to you, PR and all at home. Sammy is very well. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 10th. June 1943]

23rd March 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. Just a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health, hoping everyone is the same your end. I hope by now you have heard from the Major and that he is well too. Lumley.

23rd March 1943 PG 29, PM3200, Italy.
Letter printed in “The prisoner of War” June 1943.
There is no need to say that we are all as usual very fit and in great form, and have that very comfortable feeling that all is going well and though we may have to wait for a bit yet, all will soon be well and we will be together again. We get Red Cross parcels regularly once a week and the extraordinary part is they get better each time. We get a slice of bacon nearly every Sunday and porridge one day a week.

24th March 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Another old letter (Nov. 30th.) and a birthday card to Aurea sent Feb. 18th. very punctual as her birthday is not til Saturday. In the letter Sammy says he weighs 9stone 6lbs. in his clothes but I am not to worry as he lost most of it in the desert. He says he swops cigarettes with Ronnie for biscuits!!! Isn’t it pathetic? Makes me rather want to cry and now this set back in Tunis. Oh, H! Haven’t you heard at all lately? You must have I feel sure. Sammy said they saw “Crazy Gang” on the cinema in Italian and it did them all good to get a real laugh.

He sounds a bit impatient, poor darling, and can you wonder? In Aurea’s PC he says he’s had 8 letters the day before, 3 from me, a red letter day.
Must fly. Hope all is well. Karin.

25th March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling precious. Another tobacco parcel today, for which my very great thanks. Mail not so good during last two weeks, but really can’t complain. Working hard for when I get back, wish I could put things into operation now. Don’t send any more next of kin. All love in world my precious. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 6th May 1943]

28th March 1943 Fleet, Hants.

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Brenda, my dear,
Thanks awfully for your letter and the Express which was most interesting, not only for that escape story but also for the details about Oliver Krona the Swedish brain specialist. We know him awfully well, I’ve played lots of golf with him and the rumour is he’s been to see Hitler? I wonder. It’s quite possible.

Talking about brain, I’m awfully sorry to hear of your sick headaches. How perfectly miserable for you. Touch wood I’ve never suffered from headache but i do realise how beastly they must be and I sincerely hope this treatment will do some good to you.  Sounds a tricky procedure!

How thrilling for you that Ronnie has got his parcel. I do hope Sammy’s had mine too. 4 months is really very good you know.

I had a PC of October 29th yesterday!!!! but also a letter of Feb. 8th which was very encouraging, he sounded full of hope, as if they all were in fact. Ronnie had just got my letter then, written from Burton you remember?

When I heard on the wireless of that old Admiral Cowen coming home, I could have wept. Think how awful it must have been for the others when he left the camp. Still at 73 of course he did deserve to get away.

Peter must look a pet now, almost the sweetest age when they first totter about.

We had a lovely afternoon yesterday, hired a car and went primrosing some miles away, glorious warm sunshine and the children adored it. Aurea’s 5th birthday and she had a friend to lunch and tea. On Christopher’s birthday, next month, we shall have to give another party I suppose. Really the children’s social engagements round here fill a diary!

Love to you all and I do hope the headaches get better soon. Karin.

29th March 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling Precious,
I am writing this longer to see if it gets through any quicker. Letters are a bit slower than usual, your latest is Feb. 14th. Had 500 more Players from you and 100 Chairman, sender unknown? yesterday, very many thanks my dream. I am very well off for cigs. and tobacco now, continue sending, but I repeat no more next-of-kin. Darling, I have so many plans in my head and written down for after I get back. It is rather like a dream thinking about it but like you I don’t think it will be too long, I have been remembering so much lately, our time at Cullompton, but I have all kinds of things I want to do now. I do hope, darling, you are looking after yourself and not letting PR tire you out too much. I am very busy on Ptg. and F/T work. The family seem in good spirits, what a reunion! Give my love to all at home, darling, and for yourself all my heart, which you know is yours already. Give my love to PR and say his Father says he must be good. God bless precious. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 24th August 1943.]

30th March 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Thank you ever so much for your letter dated Feb. 24th which I received a few days ago.

Glad to learn that both the Baby and yourself are keeping well and that you have had several letters from the Major to say he is well too. As for myself I am in the best  of health, but regarding mail I haven’t one for several weeks until I received yours, but I am not the only one as other chaps are the same, I suppose we will get them all together when they do

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start to come. I don’t know how I can thank you enough for the books in which you have sent me and I appreciate it very, very much, it is very kind of you, so once again thank you very much. It sounds very much that Baby is getting quite a big boy now when he has started to walk, he must be a great comfort to you these days and I can just imagine Cobber’s face when Peter hits him a little bit too hard, it must be very amusing. Lumley.

30th March 1943

SUBJECT:- Committee of Adjustment
ALL AIR 02E/ 1116CA/ C942
General Headquarters,
Mrs. B. Cummins, 2nd. Echelon,
BURTON BRADSTOCK, Middle East Forces.
Bridport, Dorset.

This Committee is responsible for the collection and disposal of kit of prisoner of War Officers.

The following effects belonging to your husband have been collected and forwarded on the dates shewn to Messrs. Cox and King’s Ltd. Liverpool, England, for storage:-

One suitcase and contents, forwarded 21st. November, 1942.
One camp bed, forwarded 2nd. January 1943.
One suitcase and contents forwarded 11th.March 1943.

If you wish for these articles to be sent to you, will you please write to The War Office

Effects Branch, Blue Coat School, Church Road, Wavertree, Liverpool, 15.

Captain P.F.Goodall.
For President.

31st March 1943
Parcel number 10 sent via the Red Cross. [From details in the diary BPFC kept of all mail. Ed.]

1st April 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling precious. Another month over and your birthday soon, how I wish I was with you. Little mail of late, perhaps tonight will bring some, got large cig. parcel from you last Sat. All the love in the world to you and PR and all at home. So much I long to tell you.
Ronnie R.
[Arrived 24th. June 1943]

2nd April 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. Just a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health, hoping everyone at Burton is the same. Remember me to the Major. Hoping you have heard from him to say he is all right, as the mail is scarce here.

5th April 1942 [sic] PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
It is sometime now since I heard from you, the mail is not too good but this week I got my uniform parcel, for which very many thanks. Also 500 Players from Daddy and 200 from

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John Boulton which was most kind. The days slip over my darling, but each one makes the longing to be with you almost too much, however perhaps it won’t be too long and I suppose we should be thankful. I am still very busy on ‘works’ work and have hundreds of things I want to discuss with you, we will have a lot to talk about when we at last get together. I got your Vatican cable the other day saying Peter could walk, he does sound adorable from your letter, precious. I do hope you have sent me some more photos. Sammy is in good fettle and I am very fit so there is no need to worry. Save hard, darling, for our after war holiday. All the love in my heart, poppet, the only thing I want is the day when I can say that in person. Love to all the dear ones at home and take care of yourselves. God bless. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 13th. May 1943]

7th April 1943 The Times Book Club, London.
Dear Madam,
With reference to your order for the “Studio” to be sent to Major R. L. Cummins in Italy, we very much regret to inform you that we have now been informed that as this journal sometimes contains War pictures, we are unable to forward it to Prisoners of War.

May we arrange for the “Apollo” magazine to be sent to Major Cummins instead? The publishers assure us that their magazine will pass the censor.

We await your further instructions.

With compliments,
Yours faithfully, for The Times Book Club.

8th April 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious. Mail poor of late, but parcels coming through quite well, uniform, cigs, books etc. Weather lovely, brings to mind so much Spring ’41, still next year!! Am fit and well and planning hard for after war. All love my Darling. Take all care. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 11th May 1943]

8th April 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. Once more I write these few lines hoping they find you all in the best of health, as it leaves me A1 up to the time of writing. Also hope you have heard from the Major recently to say he is fit and well. Lumley.

9th April 1943 Fleet, Hants.
I am sorry 2 out of the 4 were cracked, bad enough to send so few but wretched that they didn’t all survive. I wish you wouldn’t send a stamp, too scrupulous for words! I had a PC from Sammy a week ago, written March 4th. He’s just had both his first Next-of-kin and uniform parcels and he says they were both complete, isn’t that wonderful even the hand-made shoes got through. Again he tells me not to send any more parcels and the whole sound of the PC is frightfully cheerful. I wonder!

What price the Mareth line, poor old 50th. Div. I’ve heard no details have you? Nanny away for ten days so I’ve not even time to breathe! Just imagine having 2 Peters and you’ll know what it’s like!!!!!!
Love to you all. Karin.

10th April 1943. 6th. DLI, MEF.

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My Dear Brenda,

I do so apologise for not having answered your letter a great deal earlier but I am sure, when you heard the wireless news, you realised we had been very much in the thick of things out here. First it was the attack on the Mareth Line and then the Waadi Akarit and in consequence I have had very little spare time.

I was very interested to hear what you had to say about poor old John Jackson’s escape. He was so full of it when he returned to the fold after the breakthrough had been completed. In the dark he had lost direction and apparently walked into a German Regimental Aid Post where he was relieved of his revolver and compass only to be able to hand over his cap, too, later in the day to the 12th. Lancers. In this last fighting in the Waadi Zigzaou he was killed, I am sorry to say. By now you will have heard that Dick Ovenden and Tony Wilmot died gallantly too. All so sad. When the full story is published it will, I think, prove one of the epics in the history of the Regiment for, from Monty downwards, those in authority have said that we have written such a page in history that will never be equalled. It was a grim business but we made the enemy pay dearly.

In the Waadi Akarit we had the joy of the fruits of victory for we rounded up some 300 prisoners in addition to much loot. This is a sample of the loot:- 1 cheese of very large dimensions, 700 rifles, 14  65mm guns, 60 automatic rifles, 3 tins of plum jam, 4 crates of large dog biscuits, 3 crates of tins of bully beef ( my driver declares it is horse flesh), 1 bicycle, 20 motor bicycles, 1 Lancia car, 3 lorries, 5 tons of ammo etc. etc. Not a bad haul for one Battalion. I managed to find 1 large bottle of eau de cologne!! As to the prisoners, they really were a down and out crowd. Half-starved and thoroughly demoralised. We found 4 wounded Germans left behind by their nasty friends who freely declared that they were finished with all this Heil Hitler business. One told us all about his family in Silesia, in fact it was hard to keep him quiet. Not one was over 21 years of age, but later some, about 36, came in from the Quartermasters department who I imagined were too old to run away! Although very tired the men so enjoyed bringing in the spoil to the dump. At the very end of the day when it was dark a German, child almost aged 18, walked in completely finished and at the end of his tether. So for us finished another phase in the war.

I have been somewhat perturbed about the kit of Ronnie’s in view of the fact that you have heard nothing about it so wrote to GHQ about it, I enclose their reply. It has only just come so would you be good enough to let Karin know it’s contents in case she has experienced the same trouble.

Please give my love to Ann, although she never even sent a note of any sort at Christmas and therefore is not in my good books. I hear a little gossip from time to time for the battery commander affiliated to the Bn. is no less than one Weber who married a Williams of Bride Head. He is a terrific fellow in battle.

I must stop for I am going to dine at Brigade. (on rations and a drop of gin!)
Ever yours, Bill.
Lieut. Col. W I Watson.

10th April 1943 Fleet, Hants.
My dear Brenda,
How too hideous but I feared as much, it sounded the most frightful massacre from the reports. I am most awfully sorry and feel very ashamed that I don’t know any of these wives. I think I ought to write, though, on Sammy’s behalf so do send me their addresses if you have them and if you think that account is really reliable. I always doubt any unofficial

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statement after our experiences. Poor Mrs. Jackson sounds in a dreadfully pathetic state.

Has Mrs. Ovenden any children? Not a nice job for you to have to talk to her on the telephone but you are extraordinarily good at that sort of thing, you know. Where was Bill Watson do you suppose? Sounds very queer that he should not have been with them. I suppose your friend Ferens was a safe distance away from the scene?! What we have been saved, my dear. I wonder so how Andrew Clarke got on. I wrote to Betty to say I was thinking of her but have not heard anything.

These lovely spring days and the country looking so heavenly make it all seem twice as ghastly. Spring is a very unsettling time!!!

So glad Ronnie sounded cheerful too but I do hope there is some foundation for their hopes and that they won’t be disappointed by events.

How maddening with your wretched servant. My mother and I both say we’d rather have the physical strain of all the work than the mental strain of dealing with these irritating women. I sympathise with your mother, rows always reduce me to a limp state. A peaceful atmosphere is worth a lot.

We, too, are spring cleaning spasmodically but nanny going away rather tied me up as I have not many spare energies after the children

I feel it is time we had another letter from Italy, don’t you, but one can’t grumble or even murmur when one thinks of all those other people, poor devils. It’s difficult to see daylight through it at times.

My love to you all and do let me know about Mrs. Ovenden, Jackson etc. please. Karin.

12th April 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darlings,
It is some time since I wrote to you I am afraid but you know the reason. I had a letter from Ruth of Mar. 17th. in which she said you were both very well, it does cheer me up to hear this as I worry about you. I have had little mail of late but parcels are coming through well and I am now well off for clothes and cigs. etc. Am spending a lot of my time planning printing and F/tackle after the war, afraid it is all theory but I have some good ideas which I am so longing to put into operation. The days seem to slip over and perhaps it won’t be so very long now. If this is a quick letter tell B to save as I want a little holiday before starting.

How I long to see you all again, I can hardly realise I have a son who is talking and walking.

Take every care of yourselves, Darlings, as Daddy used to say every day (step) takes me nearer to you all. Am very fit and brain active and still have a sense of humour, so things are not too bad. All my love to you both, remember me to Uncle and Auntie and Major Ruth.
Your Ronnie.

15th April 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling precious. No mail for some time, hope everything is all right with you. Parcels of uniform, cigs. and books coming in well. Send no more next-of-kin and save like hell!! for that holiday. Am fit and well, darling, so don’t worry. All the love in my heart, my precious.
Ronnie R.
[Arrived 10th May 1943]

16th April 1943 The War Office, QMG House,
10, Whitehall Place, London SW1.

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I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 6th. April 1943, and to inform you that one suitcase has arrived, the camp bed is on its way, and I have no information yet regarding the third piece.

Your letter has been passed to CAS/PW to whom all applications are made for the release of the kit of prisoners of war.

I am, Madam, your obedient Servant.
Director of Movements.

16th April 1943 66 Ravendale Road. W. Dulwich. SE 21.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
Thank you so very much for your letter. I appreciated it so much.

I always regret not writing to you when Ronnie was missing and my only excuse is that everything seems to have gone wrong in my family since the DLI left England and I hope you will forgive me.

I feel so terribly proud of John, and, in fact, all the DLI, that it has helped to lessen my sorrow. When Anthony grows up he, too, will share my pride.

Shelagh Ovenden spent last weekend with me, and our common sorrow helped us both so much.

I expect you realise, having a son of your own, what a tremendous comfort and help Anthony has been and will always be to me. I can look forward to so many years of happiness with him, and although my dearest hopes have been shattered, I know that the fact John had a son gave him intense happiness.

I do hope you hear fairly regularly from Ronnie. Please give him my kind regards when you next write.

John’s sister is coming to Bridport for a holiday shortly and I have given he your ‘phone number, as she would like to call on you one day.

I hope your little boy is well. Aren’t they grand company, one simply can’t be sad or depressed all the time when they are so happy and carefree.
Yours sincerely, Alma E Jackson.

11 Cavendish Square, London W1.
The enclosed message was collected by a representative of His Holiness the Pope and is forwarded to you on behalf of His Holiness by Archbishop Godfrey, the Apostolic Delegate in Great Britain.

17th April 1943 Easter 1943

19th April 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear,
Thank you so much for your letter with the addresses. Here’s rather an interesting letter from Bill Watson. I’d like to have it back when you have time. He was there it seems, after all. What a frightful show it must have been.

Yes, I got a notice about Sammy’s luggage at the same time, also lots of old letters returned very dismal!

Nanny came back on Saturday and I went away for 2 nights directly she got back, am feeling

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quite recuperated today.

Isn’t it maddening with all these exchanged prisoners, but I can’t help having a big hope that something exciting may happen with Italy this summer?

So glad your maid is staying on and do hope she’s a permanently reformed character.

Must write to all these other people, how I hate it!
Love to you all. Karin.

20th April 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. Thank you ever so much for the parcel of cigarettes which I received two days ago, and I think it is most kind of you to do all this and I appreciate it very much. I hope everyone of you are keeping all right, also the Major who I miss awfully. Lumley.

21st April 1943. PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
This letter is for your birthday, a poor present I am afraid but the best can be managed at the moment. The next time I use the words “happy returns” will, I pray, be in person. Every day that passes brings us nearer to each other and makes the eventual meeting all the sweeter, still, I am afraid God must be awfully bored with my repeated prayers to make the time as short as possible, it’s like imagining something that is too wonderful to come true but it will quite soon, I feel sure. Till then, my precious heart, take every care of yourself and don’t worry about me, I am more lucky than I ever deserved but have the grace to realise it.

Received your 2nd. next-of-kin (no more please) cigs. and books, also today, letters of Feb. 18 and Mar. 11th. I am so longing for more photos of you and PR. Still hard on plans for the future, we will have so much to talk over when I return. Love to all at home and everything in my heart to you darling. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 24th. August 1943]

26th April 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Your perfect letter of March 14th arrived yesterday. Darling, it is just the same with me, letters seem so inadequate to say how much we long for each other, but there is nothing much we can do but be patient and pray it will not be long. Gosh, darling, we are going to have such a wonderful time. At the same time as being thankful I am safe, I, indeed all of us, also feel very, very envious of those who are doing so much at the moment. Still we must just be patient. A great bunch of parcels this week, cigs, from you, Dad and H. Wood, very sweet of him, and books from you, have received 20 in all of the latter up to date, a thousand thanks. Only send cigs. and tob. in future, precious, cut out everything else.

I can manage quite well. I am still planning hard and learning all I can about my business. How I long to talk over everything with you and put things into operation. Tell Daddy and Uncle to hold on tight, I will make the wheels hum once I get back. All the love in my heart Bunny, our future together is a wonderful staff of life and keeps me cheerful and to a small degree patient. Love to all our dears at home. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 18th September 1943]

26th April 1943 Fleet, Hants.
My dear Brenda,
Thanks awfully for your letter and for sending me the map which is most interesting. I

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haven’t ever seen such a detailed map of that district.

I had a letter written March 8th. (all about his parcels) some days ago and today a very old PC of Dec. 3rd.! He swopped 2 pairs of pants for sugar and was delighted!!!! I wonder how much he got for my precious pants. I met a man yesterday who had just been talking to a returned RAMC prisoner, one of the repatriated ones you know. This man said the Italians couldn’t have been nicer but the food is almost nonexistent, they have so little themselves.

Rather what I gathered as Sammy makes so little mention of it and not one of my sister’s food parcels from Sweden has reached him. I have the fervent hopes of something happening as soon as Tunisia is settled. But, isn’t the description of the fighting too horrible?

I had a printed answer from Mrs. Ovenden, nothing so far from Mrs. Jackson but I told her not to write unless she thought I could be of any help to her. Poor girl, I am most terribly sorry for her and she must feel so alone.

Christopher is just recovering from a horrid coughing bout, he was kept awake 2 whole nights by it. I think it was the sudden change from hot to cold weather. Bad luck as it is his 3rd. birthday tomorrow. I must put off his party. Anyhow, he’s much better which is the main thing. I was so thankful Nanny was back so she couldn’t blame me for the neglect!!!!!

What about your headaches, are you still taking these nasal douches or whatever they were? I must say it’s absolutely essential to be well these days, life’s hectic enough even so, but being ill is the finishing touch. I do hope your mother is fit too and of course the precious Peter.
With love. Karin.

Monday evening.
My dear, the man I mentioned who told me about the repatriated prisoner, got him to ring me up this afternoon. He’s Col. Steel, RAMC and was with the 50th. Div. It seems he knows of Ronnie’s people in the north and will be telling them all when he gets there tomorrow.

He told me lots of detail. So extraordinary to think he was with them only a fortnight ago! They are all very fit and I mentioned Ronnie’s boils and he said he’s quite fit from them now. The rations are very bad, mainly bad macaroni, but they pool their Red X parcels and do quite well. They have orderlies who do the cooking etc. so lead a fairly civilised life.

In front they have a patch of grass about the size of 2 tennis courts where they sit in the sun.

Lovely view but rather obscured by masses of barbed wire. They do for three walks a week in a crocodile with heavily armed guards. They have another patch of ground at the back where they play net ball etc. No real baths but shower baths. There are about 200 in the camp and 17 English doctors as well as one Italian. They were very cold in the winter as they were short of fuel but he says the health and spirits are marvellous.

He was taken himself in May 1942. Can’t remember the rest but you can hear it from your in-laws. I felt quite queer talking to someone who’d seen Sammy so recently. Dear me!

29th April 1943 The War Office, Cas. PW,
Curzon Street, London W1.
With reference to your letter of 6th. April, I am directed to inform you that one suitcase belonging to Major RL Cummins has arrived, and is in the custody of Messrs. Cox and Kings (Agents) Ltd.

One camp bed and another suitcase are en route for the United Kingdom, but in the present

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circumstances it is not possible to predict when these articles will reach this country, having regard to the transport situation from the Middle East.

As you will no doubt appreciate, the Department is normally precluded from authorising the disposal of any officer’s property without his personal instructions. I am to enquire therefore, whether you have any evidence of your husband’s wishes in this matter (a reference in a personal letter from him might be sufficient evidence) and if so forward it or a copy of the relevant extract to this Department for perusal. It would then be possible to issue the necessary instructions for the release of Major Cummins’ personal belongings, if and when they arrive in this country.

The communication would of course be returned without delay.

I am, Madam, your obedient Servant,
GTH Rogers.

30th April 1943

30th April 1943 31 New Walk Terrace,
Fulford Road, York.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I have just been repatriated from Italy, where I was at PG 29, PM 3200 and your husband, Major R Cummins was in my corridor and sat opposite me at table. He gave me you address and asked me to write to you as soon as I reached home. I left the camp at Viano on the 13/4 and at that time Mr. Cummins was in the best of health and spirits and looking forward to the day when he would be returning to you at Bridport. He is a busy and valuable member of the community, being handy with tools, he spends a great deal of time in the carpentry shop doing such jobs as making rabbit hutches, repairing deck chairs, making crib boards and carrying out the minor repairs in the house. We found a lot in common as both of us are keen gardeners and were able to discuss the various articles in the Countryman, copies of which he was receiving and passing on to me.

The camp is situated in a home for Nuns and is a comfortable one. There are two or three officers in each room which is furnished with spring beds, good bedding and tables, bedside locker, chairs and wardrobe. The exercising ground is limited but walks under escort are available to officers once a week. The camp is in an agricultural district in the hills overlooking the plain of Lombardy, with a beautiful view of the Alps on a clear day some 60 miles away. The weather was delightful when I left and we had been bathing on most days.

The food provided by the Italian authorities is meagre but with the aid of the Red X parcels, which are issued weekly, a good and varied diet is available. Plenty of good vegetables are obtained and the quantity of food is sufficient to keep one in a reasonable state of good health, although one always got up from the table feeling hungry.

Mr. Cummins asked me to let you know that the parcels have arrived safe and sound. He does not want any more clothing parcels sent out but to continue the tobacco parcels. Items such as shaving soap, leather boot laces, chocolate, safety razor blades, tooth brushes, etc. are difficult to obtain and when obtainable are of very poor quality and expensive. He sends

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his fondest love to you both and hopes that his letters are reaching you safely.

If there is any other information you require I should only be too glad to let you know my views on the subject.

I am now on 28 days sick leave with a view to appearing before a Medical Board at some future date. Personally I’m feeling fit and well, although underweight, but as the powers that be have granted me double rations for the leave period, I hope to pick up before the end of the month.

Hoping you and the family are fit and well.
Yours sincerely,  H W M Stewart. Major. RAMC.

Repatriation of British Prisoners of War.

The Prisoner of War Convention allowed for the exchange of sick and wounded prisoners as well as protected personnel, defined by the Geneva Convention as Doctors, Nurses and Ambulance men and some naval personnel. The exchange was proportionate to the number of these people held by each Government. Figures found indicate 8,000 were exchanged in the spring of 1943, 660 British sick (some suffering from Tuberculosis) and wounded, 950 protected personnel against 2,255 Italian sick and wounded and 4,210 protected personnel.

These exchanges took place in Turkey and Portugal. The vessels they travelled in were under safe conduct protection from each Government. The first the relatives in the UK knew of their return was a cable sent from the port of entry to say they were home. Ed.

3rd May 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Mail still poor but parcels good, I have a good supply of cigs. etc. I repeat send nothing more now except cigs. and tob. Received the two large photos of you and PR today they are perfect but I want one of you, a real photo not just someone holding PR. Still perhaps it may not be so long now when a photo is no longer necessary. Have had a few arrivals from another camp this weekend and we have a new man in our room, he seems very nice.

Weather has not been so good, rain and mist but we are very comfy. Still planning hard, precious. This war will have to finish soon or we won’t have time to do all the things I want to do with you and PR. So glad to hear family is well. Give my love to them all. I have an idea you have not been very well, my dream, from scraps in letters, I do hope not, but be sure and take every care won’t you. The end again. All the love in my heart, Darling, we must be storing up a lot of happiness for the future. R.R.
[Arrived 9th. June 1943]

5th May 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins, Thank you so much for your letter which I received today dated Mar. 12th. Glad to hear everyone is keeping well, as it leaves me fine up to the time of writing. I received my next-of-kin parcel today and I was delighted with it, everything one needs.

5th May 1943 Cable and Wireless Ltd. Beam Wireless Station,
Dorchester, Dorset.
Dear Mrs. Cummins
Thank you for the snap of Peter, he is a charming fellow, very big for his age, he looks strong and healthy, it’s a credit to you as a Mother, Mrs. Cummins.

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We both keep it in the office, Mr. Ravenshaw is absent owing to illness and I am sure he will also be delighted with his photo. I sincerely hope one of these fine days I may be able to cycle and then I will have the pleasure of seeing Peter in the flesh. I am very busy so please excuse this brief letter and I thank you on behalf of Mr. Ravenshaw.

Kindest regards, Yours sincerely,
E W Roberts.

8th May 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Dear Brenda,
Thanks awfully for your letter and the enclosed from Bill. It’s certainly very interesting and the 6th must have done jolly well but I do wish he wasn’t quite so pompous about it.

Perhaps it’s my imagination but his letters always sound like that to me. I must write to him and also to Andrew Clarke. I wonder where they will be going next? What price their meeting Ronnie and Sammy soon?!!

I was tickled your writing to the wrong man but quite understand your taking for granted it was Steele. Poor you being left alone to cope with everything whilst your mother was away. I only hope the maid behaved herself.

Christopher is quite recovered I’m glad to say and they are both sparkling. I am probably going to take Aurea down to Lee near Ilfracombe for a fortnight while Nanny and Christopher go and stay with my father-in-law. Some of my friends with children are planning to go there at the same time.

I had a PC from Sammy today, sent April 8th, the quickest for a long time. He’d got one of my sister’s food parcels at last but he says “Don’t worry, we are quite all right”. He also says “Lovely weather, such a waste”. Poor dear, can’t you feel how homesick they are. How I loathe to think of them caged up there. I had a very sweet letter from Mrs. Jackson and a smart printed card from Mrs. Ovenden, rather typical I should say?!

It really does sound as if the invasion show is nearly over. I can hardly bear to see what happens next and where we invade. My dear, I wonder.
Love. Karin.

10th May 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Various of your letters have arrived, the latest April 3rd. and also the two large photos of you and PR, they are grand, but I do so want one of you so far they are all side face holding PR. Parcels continue to arrive, books, clothing etc. and I am well stocked up with cigs. and tobacco. I repeat send no more parcels of any kind except cigs. and tobacco. Life goes on much the same, some new arrivals from another camp, no one I know except a Burgoyne-Johnstone who knows the Summersons etc. tell Daddy, he is about 25 but not the one I was at Aysgarth with. Still managing to fill in the time with various kinds of work, my darling, largely on our future, it is such a grand subject to plan and with such possibilities. Sammy in good form and myself very well and cheerful, perhaps it will not be so long now. Have not had Dick and David’s letters yet, am looking forward to them. Precious, you have been so good to me and so clever in your parcels. I am longing to be in a position to show my appreciation. Love to Granny C and Mum, Daddy and Ruth. Do take care won’t you, letters suggest you a bit naughty. All love Ronnie R.
[Arrived 10th. September 1943]

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13th May 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious, Your letters April 4 and 11th. to hand. I was very distressed to hear about Tony Jackson and partic. Dick. As you know he and I were very great pals and did everything together and I came to love him a lot, almost like a brother. I will miss him greatly. He was a good soldier and a grand chap. All love my dream. Pray hard it won’t be long.
[Arrived 25th. June 1943]

17th May 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Some of your very recent letters to hand namely April 4th. and 11th. in which you told me about Dick, Tony, Jackson and Lindrea. Poor old Dick, it hit me very hard, Darling, as you know since leaving home he and I did everything together and he was a very close and dear friend, it is almost like losing a brother, he was a grand chap and very brave, I know only too well the show he must have put up, and like me he worshipped his wife. Knowing how I feel about it there seem to be no words of comfort for Shelagh and I am not writing, but you can tell her if you like that I have lost a friend whose equal I can hardly hope to find again. It has been a bad time with all these casualties and the glorious reports coming in, Darling heart, about the Durhams, one’s own safety seems so unfair. To more pleasant things. Parcels arriving well, remember no more of anything except cigs. and tob! Weather much warmer in fact very hot, but we are hoping for hotter things!! Working hard and only existing to be with you again soon, it is almost too much to think about sometimes. All love in world to you all, take every care and don’t worry, I am quite OK. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 28th June 1943]

17th May 1943 The War Office, Cas. PW,
Curzon Street, London W1.
I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 30th. April and in reply to state that the necessary instructions will now be issued to Messrs. Cox and King’s ( Agents) Ltd. for the release of Major RL Cummins’ suitcase which is now in the custody of Messrs. Cox and King’s ( Agents) Ltd. for  its immediate dispatch to you.

The two remaining pieces of your husband’s kit will be dispatched to you if and when they arrive in this country.

The enclosure to your letter is enclosed herewith.

I am, Madam, your obedient Servant.
GTH Rogers.

18th May 1943 58912 Major G L Wood. 6th. DLI. MEF.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I must apologise most sincerely for not having written sooner than this, especially after your kind letter and numerous kindly gestures to myself and men of D Company. You have kept us well supplied with reading matter for some months now and we are indeed grateful. I have not as yet written to Ronnie but intend to do so very soon. Peter Walton is fit and well and I believe has written to you.

You will, of course, have heard the sad news about Dick Ovenden and Tony Wilmot. I met the latter’s brother a few days ago so was able to pass on a few details. I believe Peter wrote

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to Dick’s wife, I myself did not know her. Dick was very splendid all the way through, I know his wife will feel proud of him. Ronnie will feel the loss also, he and Dick were such good friends.

There are but few old D Coy. men now, I think you could count them on the fingers of one hand! Do so hope the son and heir is still going strong. My little girl apparently is making the regulation amount of progress. I suppose Ronnie, like myself, is just looking forward to the day when this war finishes and we can all get home once more.

As you will realise we have all been frightfully busy and hence the delay in writing.

Meanwhile, good luck and keep smiling, will write again in a week or two or whenever there is any news.
Yours sincerely, Leslie Wood.

19th May 1943 31 New Walk Terrace, York
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
I must first apologise for not answering your letter before but I was away for a few days and did not arrange for any mail to be sent on. I will endeavour to answer the many questions that are troubling you.

I think that from the events of the past few weeks there is no doubt that Italy will be out of the war either voluntarily or compulsory, perhaps by the end of June. The punishment that she will receive from the bombing of her cities will be such that their morale will crumble.

Having been in Italy yourself you will appreciate that they are a very temperamental people and not capable of taking much punishment. Ronnie and I have often talked of the war and it’s termination and he was always of the opinion that Italy would “pull out” at the end of June after Tunis had fallen. At that time, I must admit, I was not quite so optimistic, but it certainly looks as though his forecast is going to be right.

As regards the parcels, he did get the uniform one, I remember him mentioning the breeches. He had Battle dress and great coat during the winter months also stout boots so with what you have sent him he should have an ample wardrobe. A second pair of pyjamas would appear to be necessary, but when one realises that washing dries quickly in the Italian climate he would not be too inconvenienced by only having the one pair.  I do not think he looks at the parcels question solely in the light of the trouble it gives you. Probably, as I said in the beginning, he foresees the speedy fall of Italy and the repatriation of all prisoners. Once it does start it will not take long to get the 90,000 out of the country even if it is only to Northern Africa for the time being.

Mail is frightfully irregular and I had the pleasure of opening a letter of my own to the wife in which I had described the Xmas festivities and it was dated 29/12/42. On the other hand postcards with it were dated March 1943.

Apart from a very painful cyst Ronnie had on his neck just after Xmas, his general health appeared good. I think he had the cyst incised and it then cleared up splendidly. He did not make any remarks about the piles, although I am afraid they will always be with him until removed by surgical interference. The diet, being for the most part a vegetable one, should be to his advantage as the amount of starchy food eaten is very small. With the regular weekly Red X parcels the diet will be greatly improved and when I left there was three months’ supply of parcels in the camp. I know Ronnie purchased fish paste etc. from the canteen and had his wine ration daily so I do not think you need worry about his general health being undermined by starvation.

Everyone contemplated escape, but as an Escape Committee had to review all proposals

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and sanction any individual efforts, I do not think was too serious about his remarks. The Escape Committee controlled such things as the necessary clothing required, food for the journey, Italian currency etc. all of which was essential for a successful attempt. I know there was a long waiting list and I do not think Ronnie’s name was down on it. It would be perfectly hopeless to try and get out of Italy without suitable clothes and money for fares and bribes etc.

The news, in Italian, and of Italian version, was broadcast in and outside the camp daily from loud speakers. In addition we were allowed to purchase the Italian dailies and certain weekly papers. We were fortunate in having a war correspondent with us, a Lt. Col. Desmond Young, he was an Indian journalist employed as a press liaison officer between the Indian Government and the Indian Army. He used to spend his time going through all the papers and sorting out the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and on Tuesdays after dinner he gave us the news as he saw it, with forecasts as to coming events. Altogether his judgements were very good and true to form. All Italian successes were greatly exaggerated and reverses made light of and explained away. News to the Italian people, if bad, was always belated.

Thus we heard of Stalingrad and Benghazi falling some week or ten days after it had happened. I do not remember Ronnie saying any item in his letters had been censored.

I knew a Major J K Maclean of the RTR, a tall lad about 6ft. with a very fair head of hair. He was quite fit and well and in the best of spirits. He was a very active member of the escape Committee and was doing some excellent work in that respect. I have written to his married sister at his request.

I hope Peter is keeping well and enjoying the present spell of fine weather we are having. There is something to be said for the Italian climate at times. I hope I have answered all your queries. If there are any others you must let me know. It will be no trouble at all to pen a reply.
Yours sincerely, HWM Stewart.

21st May 1943 Cox and Kings (Agents) Ltd.
11 Rumford Street, Liverpool
We enclose Army form G. 980 relating to one package described below which has been dispatched by us to your address in accordance with instructions from the war Office.

When the package has reached you will you kindly sign the form in the space marked X and return it to us as it is required by the War Office as your acknowledgement of receipt.

1 Suitcase.

Yours faithfully,
Cox and Kings (Agents) Ltd.

Inventory of personal effects of major RL Cummins, MC. 6th. DLI
received at GHQ. 2nd. Echelon ME from the MFO. 12.11.42.

1  Coat-hanger.
1  Sports belt.
1  Cap comforter.
1  KD Shorts.
2  KD Shirts.

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1  Angola Shirt.
2  Prs. Stockings.
2  Prs. Socks.
1  Pr. Bathing trunks.
2  Handkerchiefs.
1  Sports vest.
1  Pr. Mittens.
2  Coat-hangers.
1  FS Cap.
1  Balaclava.
3  Angola collars.
3  Poplin collars.
1  Poplin shirt.
4  Khaki ties.
1 Pr. Stockings.
3 Books.
Misc. Correspondence.

20th May 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darlings. Well the days slip over, have been thinking so much about you all at Grove, praying it won’t be long before I am with you. Parcels and letters coming in well. V. sad about Dick Ovenden. Take all care and don’t worry I am very well. Lots love. Ronnie.

22nd May 1943 84, Rodney Court. London W9.
Darling Brenda,
Thank you so much for your postcard. It was such a lovely holiday, thank you very much for it all including my lovely birthday.

I am glad about Ronnie’s kit. What a lucky thing he mentioned it in one of his letters.

Yes please, I’d love some stockings, I pair of silk and one of Lisle, size 9 1/2 or 9, I prefer 9 1/2 in the Lisle as they usually shrink a bit. I enclose my coupon book and will send the money when you let me know.

How is Peter? He really is perfect. I have written to Ronnie but it is hard to explain about him without sounding too unbelievable! I expect Ronnie will believe though.

We’ve had such a series of air raids since I came back, but not very bad ones, mostly noise.

Forgive note paper but I’m scribbling this in the office so as to catch tonight’s post.

Very much love to you all,
As ever. Ruth.

25th May 1943  Capt. D Joy, RAMC. 50th. Div. MEF.
My Dear Brenda,
Very many thanks for your letter and the delightful present you sent me for Christmas. It has just arrived! Quite a few parcels took over 6 months.

I would love to hear how Ronnie is so please let me know when you have time. A friend of mine has treated some of the repatriated prisoners and says their condition was very good.

They had, apparently, been getting parcels fairly regularly. I believe their food was very monotonous but my friend said all looked remarkably well and most were quite fat.

Peter Walton is back with the Bn. You will have heard the sad news of some from Daphne I

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expect. Now that Daphne will have more time I hope that you will hear from her. It would be nice if you could spend a holiday with her at the farm.

I see that H. Weld got an MC, I was very pleased. Peter sounds grand and Daphne quite fell for him. I think you are very wise to have him inoculated and I consider protection against whooping-cough worth it as it is a nasty complaint.

I have just had a few days leave which I spent in Cairo. It was great fun. I went to Shepherds and Mena, I am very fond of both. I hope by next year to see all three of you.
With best wishes to you both. Yours David.

27th May 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
Darling precious. A little more mail this week, letters of  Mar. 22nd., 25th. and 1st. how I love getting them. So glad you are getting some of mine. Am planning hard for all kinds of things after I get back. Am fit and well, darling, so don’t worry. All love in world to you, PR and all at home. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 23rd. September 1943]

29th May 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear,
It certainly is quite a gap since we last wrote but I’ve just been sitting, all keyed up, waiting for the blow to fall. Won’t it be too disappointing for words if Italy neither gives in or is invaded? I’ve been trying to avoid false hopes but one simply can’t help it. I was very interested in the enclosed letter; he sounds so certain that the Italians will collapse, I do pray he’s right. Very nice for you as he seems to have known Ronnie really well. My man Steele only knew Sammy as “OC private Parcels”!

I had a whole lot of letters and PCs. to me and the children about 3 ago but nothing since. I hate these long intervals as one feels so hopelessly cut off but I don’t expect we shall get much now until the end. Oh, my dear, wouldn’t it be unbelievably marvellous if they really should come home say in July? I hardly dare think of it.

I heard from Betty Clarke yesterday that Andrew had got the DSO, quite time too after Alamein and Mareth. I’ve just written to him. She says he is busy practising “water tricks” which sounds like an invasion.

The news and papers are so boring now in this interim, I hardly bother to listen or read, awfully wrong but I so feel we are being slow. However, if it was our husbands going to invade and someone else the POWs I shouldn’t be so impatient.

I’m afraid there’s not much chance of Aurea and I stopping off on our way to Lee (Ilfracombe) as it’s a through train. We must wait till we both go down to the sea to wait for Ronnie and Sammy! We’ll make a party then won’t we?

Has your servant really gone? What a shame but in some ways they are more nuisance than they’re worth. It’s so tiring always to have to propitiate them. But you must be pretty weary when evening comes and I expect Peter is terrific now, rushing everywhere and never staying in one place for 2 seconds together and not sleeping as much in the day time. I think really 18 months is about the most exhausting age as they aren’t house trained reliably and yet can’t wear nappies in the day. Aurea and CCR are in crashing form and very nice except when they quarrel and then they’re perfect little devils and I could beat them with ease.

Has Peter plenty of sandals? I’ve a pair CCR is just too big for which might come in for him for next year, but perhaps you don’t like him wearing someone else’s. Don’t bother to answer unless you do.

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Love. Karin.

31st May 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Quite a lot of mail this week including your letters Mar. 1st., 18th., 22nd. and 25th. and a very good one of May 9th., they are a joy to get, Darling. Parcels still arrive and I have had two more from H Wood which is very kind of him. I repeat again no more parcels of anything except cigs. and tob. So glad you have heard from Stewart, he was no particular friend of mine but sat at my table. Daddy may also have heard from Steel. I have been imagining you all at Grove during this month. I hope it will not be long now before I am able to join you. Weather very warm now but pleasant. Still v. busy on ‘homework’ shall be glad to have books on fishing and Ptg. when they arrive. Nearly June 1st. again, afraid there are few of us left to celebrate now, but I shall have many memories, a lot has happened since then hasn’t it precious, the best of the lot being you. Won’t it be heaven when all this is over and we are together again. I turn thoughts over and over thinking what we will do. Ah well, perhaps it won’t be long. Am fit and well so don’t worry. All love in world Bunny to you all, Canadian Rye is an idea worth thinking about. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 23rd. September 1943]

31st May 1943 Nornay House, Blythe. Notts.
My Dear Brenda,
It is our first wet day for weeks so I am writing long overdue letters. I was so pleased to have yours of March 9th and to hear all your news of Ronnie and Peter. I hope by now he has received all your parcels and letters and that you have good news of him. The news certainly is most heartening and one feels that perhaps the end of all this ghastly blood-shed is not so very distant.

I am writing with the most lovely smell coming up from the kitchen. The electricity went off this am and Commander Lambert’s wife ( he is a POW with John Heslop in Germany) has brought her lamb joint over to cook, a whole leg, it’s a marvellous sight, my weekend is 4 tiny chops in a little piece!!

Peter, I hear, is coming on in leaps and bounds and keeping you very busy. Won’t Ronnie love him when he gets home, I’m sure he will nearly want to eat him! What a red letter that day will be. I hope Bevon hasn’t condemned you to sell kippers yet!!

I am expecting a job of work to be done by the WVS which I feel sure I shall enjoy. Running around in a van with a circulating library to the isolated posts. Sounds very good to me and a change from knitting.

Since writing to you last I distribute fruit juices etc. to the rising generation, at the canteen, not a very arduous job but much appreciated owing to transport difficulties. I wrote Ronnie only the other day, I hope he gets them eventually. My dearest love to you and Peter. I shall be delighted to hear from you when time permits.

Yours affectionately, Auntie Norah.
I’ve more than doubled our target for Wings for Victory last week. Amazing.

31st May 1943 Cox and Kings (Agents) Ltd.
Rumford Street, Liverpool.
Dear Madam,
We acknowledge receipt of your favour of the 27th. instant and have so far only received

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one suitcase containing the effects of Major RL Cummins, MC., DLI. and so far have no advice of any further packages coming forward.

The one package received was handed to us unlocked by the Military Forwarding Officer, Liverpool, on arrival from overseas and we suggest you communicate with the Effects Branch of the War Office, Blue Coat School, Wavertree, Liverpool 15 with regard to further effects to come forward.

We remain, Your obedient servants,
For Cox and Kings (Agents) Ltd.

From the British Prisoners of War relatives Association news Sheet, No. 38, June 1943.
The DLI Comforts Fund.
The Durham Light Infantry Comforts Fund are ready to help all next-of-kin with their quarterly parcels and have made this known to all next-of-kin and the Red Cross. They can, of course, only help in cases where application is made to them as next-of-kin normally receive the labels for these parcels, but when application is made, the Durham Light Infantry Comforts Fund never refuse help and apply no means test.

The DLI Comforts Fund will adopt a prisoner entirely in cases where next-of-kin are unwilling or unable to send parcels.

They will also send regular parcels of cigarettes to all men of the regiment who are prisoners of war and they try to send books to the men who ask for them.

3rd June 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling precious. Various letters from you of late, some good ones of May 6th. and 8th., how I love getting them. Glad you have had news of me from the lucky returns! Working hard and keeping cheerful and well. All love, my darling, not long now I feel. Take care.
Ronnie R.
[Arrived 5th. July 1943]

5th June 1943 Capt. H E Walton, 6th. DLI. MEF.
Dear Brenda,
This is the first time I have been able to write you a letter which I know ought to have been written months ago, and it is perhaps ironical that the place affording most comfort and freedom from dust and heat is the fly-proof waiting room of a Dental centre. We have had the necessary attention but have a wait of half an hour until a truck can pick us up, so, knowing this beforehand, I brought pen and paper and resolved not to miss this opportunity of getting a letter away.

The last three months have been one long disturbed dream, broken at times by frightful nightmares. I joined the Bn. on the move one day out of Benghasi and found them in the usual state of urgent haste which is the characteristic of this Division. They were rising before dawn and travelling during daylight occasionally saving a few hours daily by speeding. There were no Coys. without Commanders and you will understand how glad I was to be with poor old Dick, and work with him as his 2nd. I/C as I used to do with Ronnie.

Dick was grand and made the tedious journey light for everyone. The officers in his Coy. were all types with a variety of views which didn’t always mix together, but Dick got a mess going every evening where we all sang and talked, Spike, Sandy and I now think those were some of the best evenings we had.

Arriving in the Mareth area, there was no wait, I watched the battle from Brigade as I was

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fortunate in being LOB. I last remember Dick marching down the road to form up for the attack, I marched and chatted with him for about a mile. He was very confident and cheery and had everyone in good spirits, You will know what a shock his, Dick Jackson’s and Tony Wilmot’s death was to us all. Everyone who was there was struck by Dick’s complete indifference to fire and he remained calm and cool whatever happened. I wrote to Shelagh and told her all I could find out, but others must have written too with something more first hand, I am sure.

After that we were not allowed time to brood. I took over HQ Coy. and then C Coy. A huge draft arrived and ten days after Mareth we took them into Akarit, training them as we went. There we were more fortunate and captured prisoners and weapons with hardly a casualty.

The story afterwards was the same, never more than one day in one place except an occasional one for maintenance and so it has continued until now when we are hard at it training. At Enfidaville we turned about and since then, on arriving at civilisation, everyone had four days leave.

I was so glad to learn in my last letter from home that you have had a message through Col. Steel from Ronnie. I don’t think it will be long now until we all meet up again. When everything does start I think it will be as swift as the last days in Tunisia.

I hope Peter is thriving as well as ever. It cannot be long now til we see everyone at home for ourselves. It is two years now since we arrived.

Please convey my kind regards to your Mother and Ronnie’s parents and look after Peter.
Your very sincerely. Peter.

7th June 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Have had many memories this month and they grow more wonderful as the month goes on, particularly when we get into July. The weather, too, is just like it was three years ago.

Only wish I could be back by Oct. 12th. as a culminating point, still stranger things have happened. Mail not so good this week but I can’t complain I have done very well up to now.

I am longing to hear, darling, about family’s visit to BB. Life goes on much the same I work on accounting etc. and read, most of the books you have sent have come back from the censor and I am enjoying them v. much. Had another letter from Joy which was sweet of her. Sammy in good form still. I had an idea you had not been well, precious, do take every care and not tire yourself with PR, we will tame him together when I get back if he grows too fearsome, what heaven that will be. You know the only thing I am living for, lets pray it won’t be long now. All the love in my heart, Darling. Love to all at home. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 8th. July 1943]

8th June 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
There is absolutely no news whatever, especially as I have had nothing in the letter line for about three weeks. But everyone is more or less in the same boat.

We have been very lucky lately, having strawberries! So far we have had them three times. Cherries are also very plentiful, not to mention fresh peas.

I missed my early morning walk today owing to a slight tummy upset, and I fear I will be kept off walks for a week or so as I did not “warn out” last night!

Weather is very nice, warm during the day and cool at night.

I have now been “in the bag” two days over a year, but time goes very quickly indeed when in prison, which is just as well!

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A letter published in the British Prisoners of War Relatives Association News Sheet, August 1943.

10th June 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling Precious. Little mail of late but I live in hopes each day. V. many happy memories of this month, darling, and more so of July three years ago. Perhaps it won’t be long now. Planning hard. Am very well so don’t worry. Love to all at home and everything to you darling. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 28th. July 1943]

11th June 1943 Yorkshire Penny Bank, Bishop Auckland.
My Dear Brenda,
Your letter of the 8th. has just reached me, my word – you’re a super patriot aren’t you?

Your calculation is accurate. Your cheque for £112.10.0 will slightly overdraw the account, by 5/10 actually. I don’t think we shall close down because of this, in fact we shall trust you implicitly until next pay day.

Sorry you are having such a long period without news from Ron. I expect those slimy little Italians are in such a state of jitters that they’ve forgotten to deal with the letters.

I still haven’t seen Ron’s father (except just for a ‘good day’ in the street) so haven’t heard of the good time which I know they would have when visiting you recently.

I hope to have a week in Blackpool next month. Trust Peter is still growing a pace.

Yours very sincerely,
James F Glover.

14th June 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darlings.

Afraid it is some time since I wrote to you but you will know  where all my letters have been going. During May I thought a lot about you at Grove with my family (wonderful expression) I only hope that it will not be long before I can be there as well. Letters are coming in rather badly of late, but I can’t complain I have had my fair share. Have received one or two cig. parcels from H Wood, which is very sweet of him, I am going to drop him a card. You will, perhaps, have heard from Steel by now through his brother, lucky man, it was tough watching them go. Am still working hard on Printing and F/tackle work and have taught myself a lot and have many ideas which I think good and am longing to put in practice.

Very sad about D. Ovenden, he and I were great pals and I miss him a lot. Sammy very well and so am I for that matter so there is nothing to worry about. Am only longing for the one thing which I don’t think will be long now. Take all care Darlings, it will be heaven to see you again. All love Ronnie.

14th June 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. I hope everyone at your home is keeping well as it leaves me A1 up to the time of writing. Also hoping that the Major is well and that you have heard from him regularly. Give him my kind regards as I am unable to write to him. Lumley.

15th June 1943 84, Rodney Court, London W9.

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Darling Brenda,

I enclose Ronnie’s letter and the very interesting description of the camp. It does give one a good picture and is on the whole comforting. I am sure the news of the situation must be getting through to them. Ronnie sounds so cheerful.

I’ve been very gay recently, so many people have been in London and it has meant most evenings out. I hope I will have a peaceful week now.

I went to the premier of the film “Colonel Blimp”. It was very good but the big excitement was the arrival of Mr. Churchill, I have never heard such cheering, it was a wonderful moment. I’m off today and am going to the Zoo! It looks as if it would rain hard but we can always rush into the Lion house if it does. We’ve had such bad weather ever since my leave. I was so lucky.

Peter sounds full of energy still, what fun he must have had with his pen when he untied it! Poor Mummy, she has to be on the alert all the time.

I am so glad you are not finding things quite so bad. I was very worried at first. I was wondering if the following would interest you. As you can imagine we have cases of unmarried ATS having babies. They have to leave the service, but recently we have had some people asking if we can put them on to someone as a maid and have found jobs for these girls. Many of them are decent types who have been led astray but would not be really bad. If you think you might like one I could give you the name of the Welfare Society who finds jobs for these girls and you might hear of one. One woman asked if we could help and she was willing to have Mother and baby and it has been a huge success as the girl was so grateful to be given the chance of earning a living and making good.

Now I must go and meet the girl who is joining me at the Zoo. I am longing for the time we can take Peter.

Very much love to you all and I hope you and Granny Cecil are not feeling too tired. My leave seems like a lovely dream now. It was really perfect.

Bless you darling.
As ever Ruth.

16th June 1943 The War Office, Cas. PW.
Curzon Street, London W1.
I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 3rd. June and in reply to state that the Department considers it advisable, before making a claim for articles stated to be missing from your husband’s kit, to await the arrival of the further suitcase which is still en route for this country. It would then be possible to check the articles in the second suitcase to verify that some kit is in fact missing. As soon as the suitcase arrives it will be despatched to you immediately.

I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant.
GTH Rogers.

21st June 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Thank you so much for the letter dated March 21st. also the photographs which I think are very good and must be of great comfort to you, He is a lovely baby and looks very well, I

[Digital Page 43]

guess his Daddy was proud of him when he first received the photographs in this country.

He is quite a big boy too and I can just imagine what a great joy it will be learning him to salute, what a great day it will be for the Major when this war is over. Talking of repatriation in your letter we have had several Naval personnel and RAMC leave this camp and it was hard to believe at first it was true, however there seems to be no danger about that now.

Well, judging by the chaps letters here the news appears to be very good, so maybe it won’t be long before we are all at home again ourselves. Well, I will have to draw to a close now.

Hoping everyone at your home are keeping well and that you have had more letters from the Major to say he is well too. Lumley.

21st June 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
I organised a party the other day of fathers who had children they had never seen; it was very successful and there was an attendance of 14. I got photographs from each, stuck them on to a sheet of stiff cardboard, numbered each one and ran a guessing competition to say who was the father of whom.
Letter printed in “The Prisoner of war” Vol.2 No. 17. September 1943.

24th June 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling Precious. Your grand letter of April 25th. just arrived with perfect photo of PR, he does look superb. Also glad to hear about purchases at sale, things sound grand. Weather is v. warm and we keep fit and cheerful. Longing for more letters. Take every care my Darling. All love in world. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 31st. August 1943]

25th June 1943 1 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Dear Brenda,
Very many thanks for your birthday letter and the enclosure of Peter Ronald. He certainly looks adorably innocent of all the crimes you say he is guilty of!!! He evidently is a little pickle and mostly” one person’s work”.

I am so glad you are getting settled in the kitchen regions again. The maid question is past solution I fancy.

It is almost as bad in the nursing line, we are full up, every bed occupied in our Camp Reception Station and a lot of out-patients to attend to daily and still nurses are being called up to conduct on buses and similar jobs, just because our work is voluntary.

Believe me no one is supposed to be doing any work unless he or she is drawing good wages for doing same.

I have almost lived up there for the past 10 days but today I have felt so tired and exhausted that I could have wept!!

Both Uncle and I need a change for a few days, we must really set about making arrangements, most of our little country pubs have no staff at all and so can’t take visitors.

However we shall see what turns up when we make a concentrated effort.

Well, my dear again many thanks for remembering me.

Don’t worry about lack of letters from Ronnie, mails will be very uncertain and irregular for some time yet.

Remember me kindly to your Mother whose natal day corresponds with mine!!
Very much love from Uncle and self. Auntie Blanche.

[Digital Page 44]

28th June 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling Precious.
Two of your letters just arrived, May 20th. and 23rd. and one from Bishop A, May 21st. I loved the photo of PR picking daisies and hearing about family’ visit. Glad you have had particulars of camp life. Darling, I am certain you are bringing PR up very well indeed, he must be a handful at times. I don’t think it will be long before I can help you (what heaven). Am finding plenty to do, darling, planning, working etc. Story about Mick, knowing Angus I should have thought he would have kept it quiet if only for his own sake. Parcel of cigs. last Wed. but they are coming through slowly. Furniture sounds grand, we have so much I long to discuss with you precious., we won’t stop talking for weeks once we get together again.

Take every care Darling. This time 3 years ago made life so wonderful. Love to Granny C and all at home and everything to you. Don’t worry I am fit and well and all very cheerful.
Salutations to PR. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 9th. August 1943]

1st July. Red Cross parcel sent, details available as well as the information from the Red Cross about exactly what could be sent to prisoners in Germany, Italy and Vichy France.

1st July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious, Grand photos arrived yesterday, PR has grown, how I long to see him, I have quite a bunch now. Also letter from Ruth, April 24th.. Am re-living this time in ’40 in many ways. Take all care my Darling. All well and cheerful. All love Ronnie R.
[Arrived 6th. August 1943]

5th July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Well, I shall soon have done my year and I hope sincerely it will not be much longer. Letters poor for quite a bit now, though I got the superb photos a short time ago, how PR has grown, standing so straight and all the time I imagine him crawling about, he looks very sweet, Darling, in his dungarees. The weather is of course perfect and the country around looks lovely, you will know the kind of thing. Am still doing various bits of work though my theory is getting a bit thin now. Reading quite a lot and have had some good books. Sammy seems in good spirits and I am in the same room as always. Glad Stewart let you know how I was getting on, he was no particular friend but sat opposite me at meals. Well, my Darling Precious, I am praying hard it won’t be long, we have a lot of heaven ahead. All my love to Granny C and all at home. Take all care of your adorable self. I am fit and well. Salute PR for me, how I am longing to see him, save hard darling we’ll need it. All love Ronnie R.
[Arrived 9th. August 1943]

5th July 1943 18, Ensingerstrasse, Berne.
My Dear Brenda,
Many thanks for your long letter, I was very glad to hear from you after all these years, but sorry about the circumstances surrounding your letter! I would certainly have done anything to help; my own cousin, Jack Leslie, has been a prisoner since Dunkirk so I know something about the matter! As it is, I am writing to your husband but am afraid I can do nothing in the material way as no foodstuffs, clothes etc. are allowed out of Switzerland. But he may be glad to have someone writing, and I can always wire you any important news.

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It is a pity I did not hear from you last year as I was in London for a fortnight on a special trip. I only got back here just in time or there would have been no wedding bells! We got married on December 16th. and are very happy in a little flat. My Mother and Step-father are in Switzerland too, but my brother is in the RAF. I expect the Navy Frewen you heard about was my Uncle or distant cousin!

Poor Granny died here in Berne two years ago. She was in Normandy at the time of the invasion and her subsequent adventures proved too much for her at her age.

So glad to hear your Mother is flourishing and that you have a son and heir. All my old friends seem to have got married and breeding right and left, I ran into quite a spate of them in London.

My wife comes not far from your part of the world, as her mother was Cornish. You may have read some of her grandfather’s books (Joseph Hocking) Incidentally, if you still have the Tatler photo, do send it out to me as I heard it appeared but never saw it, and we were intrigued as to what they had got hold of, Virginia thinks it might be an old passport photo!

Love to your Mother and yourself from us all.
PS It there is any important news for your husband you can wire it to the above address. Letter telegrams take four days here, and are quite cheap. What of your sister?

In the envelope that contained this letter the following were of interest:-
You are reminded that although it is not an offence to receive messages or letters from enemy or enemy-occupied territory, it is contrary to the Defence Regulations to attempt to communicate with such territory by any means than through an authorised intermediary.

This prohibition covers the sending of messages intended to be sent on to enemy or enemy-occupied territory by a third party as well as the sending of actual letters or written documents.

As announced in the Press, authority to act as intermediary has been granted to Messrs. Thomas Cook and Son, Berkeley Square, London W1 from whom all information can be obtained.

Remittances or business correspondence cannot be despatched without licence from the Trading with the Enemy Department, Treasury and Board of Trade, 24 Kingsway, London EC2.

Personal messages of not more than 25 words between relatives and written on a prescribed reply form, may also be sent through the British Red Cross Society. Details of the procedure to be adopted for sending these messages can be supplied by the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux. You can obtain the address of the nearest Citizen’s Advice Bureau from your local Post Office. The messages can only be sent from a Citizen’s Advice Bureau or other agency mentioned in the Post Office.
NB This slip must not be enclosed in letters leaving the United Kingdom.

Enclosure:- With reference to request for Tatler photo.

The despatch of printed matter, photographs, snapshots, picture-postcards (including any cards bearing any photograph or illustration, and Christmas or other greeting cards), calendars, drawings, maps, plans, prints and literature for the blind to certain countries is prohibited, except under Permit.

[Digital Page 46]

Permits have, however, have been granted to the principal book-sellers, newsagents, stationers and photographers for the classes of goods in which they deal and despatch should be made through them.

Permits will be granted to private individuals only in very exceptional circumstances, when application should be made in Great Britain to the Chief Officer, Permit Branch, Postal and Telegraph Censorship, Aintree, Liverpool, or in Northern Ireland to the Chief Officer, Permit Branch, Postal and Telegraph Censorship, 119, University Street, Belfast.
NB This slip must not be enclosed in letters leaving the United Kingdom.

6th July 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My Dear Peter,
Many thanks for your most welcome letter. I was beginning to wonder when I was going to hear from you again! You are very good about going to the dentist and I always hold you up as an example to Ronnie who would rather have his teeth drop out than go to one.

I had a card from him yesterday written June 3rd. and he had had my letters of May 6th. and 8th. so it seems they are speeding up a bit. He was very cheerful and says he is working hard and is sure it won’t be long now. His camp must be almost the best in Italy except for the food which is meagre and bad everywhere. He is still with Sammy and one of the 9th., Ross Mclaren. I don’t often hear and then it’s mostly cards but I did have one letter not long ago in which he said he had just had mine telling him about Dick and the others and he was terribly upset about it. We were so sorry. Shelagh rang me up and told me and it was a dreadful shock. One somehow felt after all they had been through they would be all right. I know what a bitter blow it was for all of you too. There must be very few of the original Cullompton lot left now and I expect you feel rather lonely at times. We were very proud to read of the wonderful feats of the 50th. Div. and I was only too thankful Ronnie was out of it all, though he isn’t.

Has Pears written to Lumley? I do hope so. I’ll give you his address again: PG 70, No. 1 Compound, PM 3300, Italy. He writes to me quite often and is always very cheerful. He had had a next-of-kin parcel and some cigarettes at last and so was feeling grand, his poor mother has had a very bad bout of heart attacks lately. Don’t pass that on as they won’t be telling Lumley so as not to worry him.

We are servant-less, completely now, except for the gardener who is very good giving a hand with the washing up and scrubbing and boilers. Life is incredibly hectic and there are always innumerable jobs to be done. My leisured life at Cullompton seems another world!

It’s a very good thing to be busy as it makes the days pass more quickly. We have been making jam and bottling fruit for the winter as well and generally prepare it all after supper so my letters just don’t get written! We are having our first holiday for over two years on the 23rd. and I am taking Peter to stay with a friend near Bath (Lavender Watts. Ed) and Mummy is going to an inn at Castle Cary. We shan’t know what to do with ourselves. The journey is going to be some feat with Peter and two dogs plus all our belongings!

Your Godson is in terrific form and needs a firm father’s hand! Now that he can walk he is all over the place and is rapidly breaking up the home. Mummy is very good about it but he is a destructive young imp and one can’t replace glass and china and furniture these days. We have taken him down to the beach several times and he loves it there and is most independent walking off all by himself a long way and going up to people. One fat lady was stretched full length, having a nap and such an irresistible target was too much for Peter and he threw two handfuls of shingle all over her! He can say “car” and “plane” now and has a

[Digital Page 47]

large vocabulary all of his own which is most expressive. Ronnie’s parents and Ruth came down in May and adored him.

I had a letter from Betty Roddam the other day. She says her Ronnie is very well and enjoying four-a-side hockey in the moat. He is in the same camp as an old friend of ours who was Padre to the Rifle Brigade at Calais.

Do write again a bit sooner than last time! Take care of yourself. I hope you are keeping a diary of events to show Ronnie.
With love from us both. Brenda.

This letter was returned by the Army Post Office as, on 10th. July during the landing in Sicily, Peter was killed. Harry Moses quotes a Private Harry Wilkinson: “We were going to land at a place called Avola. We had been told that much but a heavy swell washed us about four miles down the coast at a place called Little Avola. I remember getting ashore from there and looking back over my shoulder as I got out of the water onto the sand. I could see our captain, Captain Walton and quite a few more who had been hurt. He was holding his belly and singing “Blaydon Races”. That was the last I saw of him going down into the water.”

However David Joy said he was carrying a Bangalore Torpedo, a device for blowing holes in the enemy wire, and this exploded when he was on the beach and it killed him.

8th July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling Precious, Three letters today yours Mar. 8th. and home Mar. 7th. and June 21st., so wonderful to get. Regarding Permanent Comm. No! in all ways. Photos received short tome ago, they are grand. Am very well, my dream. Take all care of your Precious self. All love in the world. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 3rd. September 1943]

9th July 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
So glad to have received two letters dated March 21st. and May 21st. from which I am glad to learn that all at your home are keeping well, as it leaves me the same. I am sorry to hear that the mail from the Major is coming slow, it is a very disappointed chap here when there is no mail for him, so I can just imagine how it is at your end when the same things happen.

Peter seems to be growing into quite a big boy, they are certainly lovely photographs and I think he is very like the Major. He must be a great joy to you, as every day you will see a change in him, as from your letter I gather he can walk now, in fact run. I guess he is very amusing and I would like to see him with his stick. Well, Mrs. Cummins, I made enquiries as to whether I could write to the Major but find I cannot so would you please give him my kind regards when you write to him and explain the reason why he hasn’t heard from me.

9th July 1943 Cox and Kings (Agents) Ltd. Liverpool.
We enclose Army Form G. 980 relating to two packages described below which have been despatched by us to your address in accordance with instructions from the War Office.

When the packages have reached you, will you kindly sign the Form in the space marked X and return it to us, as it is required by the War Office as your acknowledgement of receipt.

1 Suitcase.

1 Bedsticks.

[Digital Page 48]

Yours faithfully,

Inventory of personal effects of Major RL Cummins, MC. 6th. DLI.
received at GHQ. 2nd. Echelon ME from IBD by road 6th. March 1943.

1 Suit Pyjamas                            1 Pr. Battle Dress Trousers.
4 Prs. Long Fox Puttees.                        1 Linen Bag.
2 Shoe Bags.                                1 Tea Towel.
6 Prs. Socks.                                1 Sports shirt.
2 Cravats.                                     1 Pr. bathing trunks.
2 Cigarette Cases.                      3 Khaki Ties.
1 Cash Box.                                  8 Khaki Shirts.
2 Prs. KD Shorts.                        1 Pr. KD Trousers.
1 KD Jacket.                                 1 Pr. Kid Gloves.
1 Sports belt.                              4 Khaki Collars.
8 Books.                                       1 Linen Bag.    

10th July 1943. Invasion of Sicily. Prior to this the Allied Air Forces had bombed targets in Sicily, Itayl, Sardinia and Greece.

12th July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Various very welcome bits of mail during the last week, together with equally welcome news. I was most amused to hear from family about the pig. I hope it will be very much the fatted calf. You say in one letter, my darling, about staying in the Army, but i really think not, for many reasons which we can discuss when at last I am back. I think I am right in saying it must have been about now in 1940 when we had the 1st. picnic on the beach, remember the stick and my Tom Mix shooting!! What heaven it was and I was just thinking last night about our long talks on the phone and the laugh at the exchange each time I asked for BB 61. Still, Bunny Darling, on business work, don’t hold out much hopes for my wonderful Italian, I have not learnt much. No more parcels except cigarettes, precious, and save hard, we will need it. The thoughts of being with you again are almost too much to bear, it is like some wonderful dream which could never come true. All love in my heart to you and all loved ones. Take every care. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 17th. September 1943]

12th July 1943 The Durham Light Infantry Prisoners of War Fund,
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Thank you very much indeed for your cheque for £5 towards the Prisoners of War Fund. It is very generous of you to send this and it will be greatly appreciated by our men.

I am afraid that I cannot guarantee to expend it for the benefit of the men who were in ‘D’ Company of the 6th. Battalion, but I can assure you that all such men are being helped to the fullest extent possible.

I hope your husband is well. Please remember me to him when next you write.

[Digital Page 49]

Yours sincerely,
AAT Willoughby,
Major. Hon. Secretary.

15th July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious, Parcels of cigs. good of late and am well off now. Letters not so good. Send no more parcels except cigs. now. Working hard for when I get back, what heaven it will be. Take every care, Darling, and save for that holiday. All the love in my heart. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 14th. September]

15th July 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear,
It certainly was a long time since I’d seen your handwriting but I couldn’t sympathise more or understand better. It’s just the final straw after a hard day’s work to sit down and write letters. I’m terribly remiss.

Aurea and I have just come back from our sea-side visit and I find it most unsettling to have been a lady of leisure for 14 days! We had a lovely time with 10 heavenly days and it was a sweet place.

I’ve had one card from Sammy sent June 4th. which took just under a month, and this week I’ve had 2 letters and a card, Dec. 21st., Feb. 1st and April 29th. What do they do with them?!! He’d just had your very nice letter in one and he mentions the snap you sent Ronnie and says what an attractive baby Peter is and how unattractive I am, at least not quite the last but it was a dreadful one of me! Sammy says too Ronnie is “in good form” (the usual description). Aren’t you absolutely thrilled now the show has begun and is going so well. I feel quite sick with excitement and long for them to get on to the main land.

The only news I have is that Betty Clarke thinks Andrew is in the Sinaian peninsular and if that is so the 151 Bde. is not in this party. The DLI were mentioned but I gather it was that BN. that used to be with the first Army, the 10th. or 11th. or something so they have been attached to the Americans. Wonder how they like that? I expect every day to hear that we are attacking the other end of the Mediterranean through Syria or somewhere.

What a good idea your going away with Peter, do you a world of good to have a change. One becomes so buried in a rut nowadays, especially if tied to a child.

Sammy’s kit has at last begun to arrive and I’ve been thanking God he is a POW and not dead as I don’t think I could bear to see all his personal belongings if he was no more. Must be too awful to have to go through that ordeal. Everything seems to be intact but some of it is singularly unattractive, a dirty shirt and dirty socks and hankies which have lain in dirt for nearly a year!!!!

Isn’t it extraordinary to think it’s all but a year since they were captured. I heard from Sammy too, since they knew of the casualties at Mareth and he was dreadfully cut up, especially over Eardley Willmot, whom he both liked and thought a lot of as an officer. I don’t somehow think he had much opinion of poor Ovenden.

I’m sending you 2 odd pairs of Christopher’s shoes. There’s no need for you to use them if they don’t do for Peter, but pass them on to some other child. And don’t dare talk of payment, too absurd!

Must stop now before I fall asleep. Love. Karin.

[Digital Page 50]

19th July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious.
I have had quite a lot of mail during the last week and I think I must have had all your letters up to the middle of May by now. Very good news indeed about those Saving Certs. Darling, it will be a useful start to the Burrow and we can always touch PR for a bit!! Very warm at present, I long for a cold North east wind, afraid heat does not suit me. Am thinking so much about this time in ’40, I won’t say I wish I was back there because we would have to have this all over again and every day brings us nearer. PR sounds grand, I don’t really think I quite realise yet that I can be called Daddy but I am looking forward like !!! to learning.

I have had good news also from Daddy about works, so everything in the garden looks rosy.

I am looking forward to the first slice of pork, tell them, it sounds most biblical and the dates I am certain are right. Give my love to everyone, Darling, and my thanks for their kind enquiries. Despite various bits of work most of my time is spent planning the things you and I and PR are going to do together. It’s wonderful dreaming when you know it will come true. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 7th September 1943]

22nd July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darlings. Various letters last week, so glad you are well and enjoyed Grove. I love all the photos of PR, he looks very strong and fit. Am very well myself so don’t worry my darlings. All my love, have many plans in mind. Ronnie.

25th July 1943 Mussolini was forced to resign and put in protective custody. The King was returned to the throne and Marshal Badoglio became Premier. Hitler moved troops to northern Italy to prepare to take the country over in the likely event of an Italian surrender. Negotiations began for the surrender. Ed.

26th July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
No more mail during the last week but I can’t complain, the last lot of photos are grand but I still haven’t one of you alone. I can see I am going to have to take it myself. PR looks superb, but I can’t yet decide which one of us he looks like. Darling, you have done wonders getting all those Savings Cets., we are almost rich and what a help it will be in lining the Burrow.

Am still working on the “homework” and have so many plans to put into operation. I was so sorry, precious, to hear about the returns of your bad heads, since I left I am afraid you have had the thin end of the wedge having to work out and send all my needs, look after P and try and plan and buy for the future. I am only hoping it won’t be long before I can try and do something to help. It is certainly heaven to think about. Am fit and well, darling, also Sammy, and counting every hour. Give my love to all at home. Take all care of your precious self. I hope to relieve you of that job soon. All my love to you Darling and to Peter. No more parcels and save hard. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 17th. September 1943]

28th July 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. So pleased to have received another of your letters, which was dated Dec. 7th. Glad to hear  Baby and everyone of you are keeping well as it leaves me A1 up to the time of writing. Remember me to the Major. Lumley.

[Digital Page 51]

29th July 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious. More photos this week. I love the ones of you with Peter and tulips etc. and all the others for that matter. We are all very well and cheerful as you will realise. Give my love to all at home, Precious, and everything to yourself. Take all care and God bless.
Ronnie R.
[Arrived 14th September 1943]

30th July 1943 WRNS Quarters, Beer, Nr. Seaton, Devon.
My Dear Brenda,
Many thanks for your letter which I’m awfully sorry not to have answered before.

You probably will get this on your return, I hope you had a lovely time and I expect you enjoyed the change after 2 years. Mummy and Daddy spent a few days at Seaton and they found it a marvellous rest being away from all cares and worries.

Brenda, I expect you are as thrilled as I am about things in Italy. It’s just too wonderful to know that there is a real chance of them being back soon. I’m so impatient for it to happen, after all this long time of waiting and hoping, it’s like a dream coming true. How excited all the prisoners must be too. Let’s hope they don’t get involved in any riots or demonstrations as the trouble seems to be mostly in the north.

Are you sending any more n-o-k parcels off? It seems rather pointless, but I’m definitely going on writing.

Yes, I’d love to come and spend a night with you as it will be quite easy for me to get a sleeping out pass. Let me know when it suits you. Perhaps I should wait until I’ve had my leave as I go on Aug. 20th. for about ten days. Perhaps by then there will be more definite news. Oh! I do hope so.

It has been so perfect here in this marvellous weather, and I’ve played quite a lot of tennis and bathed quite a bit. So it’s been rather fun.

How is little Peter? as adorable as ever I expect.
Cheerio for now. Love from Anne.

2nd August 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darlings.
Am writing this for your birthday, Daddy. Very many happy returns and may I be with you for the next one. I have had quite a few letters recently and was so pleased to hear about the machine, you have done wonderfully since taking over again and have a lot to be proud of. It has made it so cheering for me as I have been working a great deal on printing and f/tackle problems after the war. Well, darlings, the weather is very warm but we are well and cheerful so don’t worry, you all know what I am only longing for, but so are many others. I have had some grand photos from B of PR, yourselves and herself, you can imagine how I devour them. Sammy well and in good form. Don’t think it will be long before you can retire to a well-earned rest dad and I can once again make myself useful. Take care of your precious selves and all my love to you. Get that pig nice and fat, you know how I like the crackling. All love. Ron.

5th August 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Precious. Other odd letters from you during week, must have had about all up to end of June and some July. Plans for future going well ahead. You will know what i am living for.

[Digital Page 52]

Take all care Darling. All my love to you all. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 8th September 1943]

9th August 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious,
Not much mail during the last week but I really can’t complain, I have been very lucky. I did love that last lot of photos you sent, taken in June, they are so good of you and PR, he has grown. I can now trace him from a tiny thing in shawls right up to his shirt and shorts, you can imagine my thoughts. He certainly sounds rather a handful now, but in a clash of wills I think I know who will win! Perhaps even father may require a bit of management yet, but he will endeavour to do his bit once he is home. It is very hot, darling, but the country side looks lovely even if a bit brown. So often think about this time 1940, exciting and lovely days and so many more to look forward to. I have things pretty well planned all ready to offer to you for your approval, my sweet, then we can get a start. It is almost too good to think about. Give my love to Granny C, Mother and Daddy and Ruth when you next write and save hard for that reunion holiday. Take care of your adorable self and don’t tire yourself too much with Peter, we can tame him once I get back and together. All love in world. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 6th. September 1943]

12th August 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious. Little news from you of late but it is to be expected. I expect you are wondering what has happened to some of your holiday places. For myself I am very glad, only hope there is more to come, you will know how I feel. All my love my dream. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 14th. September 1943]

13th August 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Many thanks for your PC. It is all rather worrying now, I agree, but I honestly don’t believe the POWs. will be moved to Germany. I did hear rumours that some men had been moved but have been “officially” informed that there is no talk of officers being transferred.

I couldn’t bear it! I’ve had heaps of letters too, some very old ones, but one of July 1st. and one July 5th. Sammy said that Ronnie had had one of those wretched boils again, but was recovered now. Sickening for him, but nothing too serious. How d—-ble that Ferens is back, don’t understand why, is he sick?! Yes, the 50th. must have done marvels, can’t help feeling sad for R and S’s sakes that they are not with them but very glad from our points of view.

I still think we shall have them back by Xmas so keep cheerful. All very well though. Still bottling and making chutney!!!!!

Love. Karin.
Just heard that Andrew Clarke has been killed. Too sad!

16th August 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear,
Thanks awfully for letting me see the enclosed. It is a comfort to know one has someone a bit nearer the scene even though they probably can’t do much and it’s sweet of you to have given him Sammy’s name too. I am absolutely eaten up with anxiety about what is happening and wish to heaven that their camp was down in the south. I feel the Italians may inadvertently let our people slip into German hands without meaning to, they are so terrifically stupid. My one life line is what this man said officially that “they were keeping the

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officers to barter with”. Jolly hard on the rank and file but one can’t help being selfish can one?

Yes, I saw about Peter Walton and am terribly sorry. As for Andrew Clarke, I could weep. he was so nice, always sending sweets to the children because Sammy couldn’t and that kind of thing. It’s a hideous world.

Must fly but thought you’d like this back soon. I wonder if he’d write to you if he hears they’ve moved?
Love. Karin.

17th August 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. Here’s hoping everyone at your home is keeping well as it leaves me in the best of health up to the time of writing. Also hope you have heard from the Major often to say he is keeping well too. Well, I must close now, remember me to the Major. Lumley.

17th August 1943, all Axis troops had withdrawn from Sicily to the Italian mainland.

19th August 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious. More cigs. arrived but little mail, it can be expected I think! Very warm weather, long for the English cooling breezes. Take care of your precious self and give my love to all at home. Salutes to PR. God bless Darling. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 20th. September 1943]

21st August 1943 C/O The Rectory, Culmstock, Cullompton.
My Dear Brenda.
Once again I must apologise for a long silence. I was so very pleased to get your letter and to hear that you were off for a little rest. As there was no chance of seeing you, and I was at the time involved in packing up once more, I didn’t reply at once.

I do hope you and your Mother felt better for your respective holidays.

It was a coincidence that you should suggest Mrs. Luxton as I had by then arranged to return to our old haunt where David and I were. They were so fearfully kind to us before and I knew that it would be an ideal place to bring the children as the Vicar and his wife simply adore children. I had a terribly kind letter offering us a home for the duration. We shall have been here 5 months next Tuesday and it has been so terribly nice and comfortable that I have asked if we may stay indefinitely.

It was lovely for me being at Pinchford and Michael was very happy there, but Richard is too young for ‘hotel life’ and since I have had the blessed boon of a sitting room to ourselves I realised afresh how vital a nursery is to the very young. It is so difficult to enforce nursery rules in a public dining room. Richard is passing through the various tricky stages of the 2-3 years period, only he seems to have started them early! He is given to going stiff and flinging himself on the floor in a rage and banging his head at the same time. I wonder if Peter does this? if not I can safely promise you that it is one of the joys to come! They all go through it I am told, fearfully strong passions and rage when thwarted. I believe it is supposed to be a highly emotional stage. Michael was so different after he turned 3 so I am just longing for this year’s hour to end! and I am just praying that as it started early it will end early too.

The poor lamb hasn’t cut his teeth as early as Michael did either which adds to life’s difficulties. I think he has had a cold with every one and has had a rotten time cutting his first eye tooth. We do however have bright and sunny intervals when he is too adorable.

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He too has a passion for David’s photo so I was fearfully interested to hear about Peter’s loving Ronnie’s so much. Richard developed such a craze that he wanted all my photos of David to carry about with him all day! If he was miserable because I scolded him for being naughty he would stretch out his hand for a photo with tears streaming down his face crying ‘Dad, Dad’ and when given the photo would cheer up at once and say ‘ Dear Dad Dad’ with immense satisfaction! Things reached such a pitch that the name Dad Dad nearly drove me mental and my lovely leather frames were covered in sticky finger marks and the cellophane in one was torn so I could bear it no longer I had to put all my photos away and gave him one of his own stuck on a piece of cardboard which solved it. I did so wish David could have seen all this as it was so touching.

You must be nearly sick with excitement about Italy and the prospect of seeing Ronnie! I should think he will easily be home by your anniversary. I can’t tell you how much I envy you. David has been through the Sicilian campaign and from the magnificent way the old Div. has conducted itself I should think there will be no rest for them until they are inside Berlin. The trouble is they are so damned good and useful they are becoming indispensable.

Did you know that poor Peter Walton was killed? I know Ronnie will be very sorry. David said he got too near something he was blowing up on the beaches. I told Mary Cummings and she wrote to Duggie Caldwell’s wife (I expect you knew that Duggie and Peter were cousins) and I’m sorry to say that they got the news that way before the W O cable! David wrote on 23rd. and I got the letter eight days after and the invasion was the 9th. so the W O must have been terribly slow.

Do you hear at all from Shelagh O? Alma writes very cheerfully, I think she is just marvellous.

I have got a fearfully interesting booklet on the 50th. Div. which David sent me and which I will lend you as soon as it comes back. It describes their part in the battle for Libya in great detail and I know will interest you. At present David’s father has it but I will lend it to you next.

I can’t tell you what it felt like at first coming back here and driving along the roads I knew so well. But I have got over it and just feel terribly glad to be in the place where we were so terribly happy each minute and where David can imagine exactly what we are doing. He has written the most fearfully interesting letters about Sicily. They went in a luxury liner and had quite a pleasure cruise getting there! They arrived overnight and he said it was a magnificent sight at dawn to see all the warships, liners, and merchant-men closing in on the island. He was one of the first to go ashore at 9.30 and the first town the Div. took was Syracuse. He says, as everyone does, how friendly the people are. They are having the best rations they have ever had and are reveling in the good water supply and lashings of fruit and wine! It is so exasperating to think of David being so much nearer home but unable to come on leave and yet I suppose we both would rather that the job was finished first.

Only sometimes it gets a bit unbearable. David says that practically ever since he has been out there his target for getting home has been Xmas 1944. I only hope and pray that it will be before then and there seems reason to hope now that it may.

Well, my dear, I would love some more news when you can spare a minute to write. I do wonder how you are fixed for domestics now. Please give my love to your Mother and a kiss to Peter. I will enclose a polyphoto of Richard taken last April.
With lots of love from Daphne.

23rd August 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My Darling Precious.

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Letters poor but I received, yesterday, a next-of-kin parcel but, stupid, of me I destroyed the date of it, however it was a wonderful parcel, darling, containing slippers, blanket etc. a thousand thanks, everything most useful but I am now stocked right up so no more except cigs. Give my heartfelt thanks to any subscribers to it, darling. The weeks go slowly as you can imagine, nearly Sept. however we are very cheerful and we think the fatted calf may be prepared etc. Still v. warm and a breeze is welcome but we are doing all right. Life remains about the same, I have about exhausted my knowledge of Ptg. and F/ Tackle on reams of notes and plans which I am longing to talk over with you, it is going to be heaven to make our plans together for the future and to carry them out. I don’t even think new factory is quite impossible if certain things work out which means we can choose pretty well anywhere in England. I should require a pad to tell you all and I want to be with you before I start. Longing to hear about you and PR and everyone again. Give all my love to family and PR and take care of your precious self and pray hard with me for speed. All love in the world. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 20th. September 1943]

24th August 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Just a few lines to let you know I am still in the best of health hoping everyone at your home are the same. Now I am enclosing a photograph of some of the chaps who were in D Coy. and are now in this camp and I would like you, if it is possible, to forward it on to the Major if of course it isn’t to inconvenience, as I am unable to send any from this camp. Well, I do hope the Major is in the best of health and that you heard from him quite frequently of late.

Sgt. Wilson is often asking kindly after the Major and would like to be remembered to him.

We are at present under canvas as the billet is being disinfected out but it is only for a few days. I guess Baby is becoming quite a big boy now and, as you say in your last letter, I hope the Major is home for his 2nd birthday. I will have to close now so cheerio for now, remember me to little Cobber. Lumley.

25th August 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear,
Many thanks for your letter and enclosure to Betty Clarke which I forwarded at once. I know she likes getting letters, poor dear. I went up to meet her in town on Friday and she seems completely shattered, it’s particularly awful as she’s so utterly alone and is not the sort who makes friends very easily or likes everyone. She’d had some marvellous letters, Andrew was, no doubt, very popular. Extraordinary, he and Bill Robinson were killed together by a stray mortar in the night, no battle at all and they were buried peacefully the next morning.

Yes, I heard Lewis Hastings, very good and it must have been Andrew he referred to. I do sympathise with you about Ferens, I think I’d be pretty cold if I met him!!!

Isn’t it encouraging that they cannot confirm the rumours of POW transfer. I’ve hung on grimly to the one straw that that man gave me as I feel he really did know what he was talking about. Someone else said that they think the Germans are far more likely to want the troops because of the labour shortage. they can’t make the officers work. At least I should think they would soon be capable of doing anything but have not up to date. I can’t imagine anything much worse than if we heard they were in Germany. Absolutely grim.

We’re not out of the wood yet but I feel better.

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You know Sammy said Ronnie has quite recovered from his boil, so you mustn’t worry.

I didn’t know whether to tell you or not but didn’t like to lie, saying that S said R was in best of form, makes any information we get pointless! S seems to have frightful liver, result of so little exercise and he asks if I can get a very good laxative we used to take sent out, but I don’t see much use in trying just now do you ?!!!!!!!!! The only thing I’ve had lately was a letter of April 21st. he’d just got my January parcel and was very pleased. Awfully quick you know and everything intact.

I’d just heard about Philippa and written and had a letter from her today. Peter’s got a job in Nigeria and although Philippa is still shaky but out of hospital, she and her children are going back to the flat in Devises. Awfully bad luck to have an accident like that but lucky that Sally was all right.

Do you know Lt. Duncan? I see he is another death in the DLI. I am very sorry about Peter Walton, I didn’t know him at all well but know he was a good man. What a ghastly world. I just long for the days when we won’t be immersed in death and destruction.

My people are away for 10 days so I am single handed except for Nanny who is crippled by fearful rheumatism, poor dear. We’ve just bought 4 small ducks to add to our “farm”, we hear they lay as well. The old hens have almost stopped laying and the pullets not begun so are very sorry for ourselves.

Do hope you can decipher this. Go on holding your thumbs!
Love. Karin.

25th August 1943 The War Office, 64, Eaton Square. London SW1.
With reference to your letter dated July 16th. 1943, concerning compensation for effects missing from your husband’s suitcase, I am directed to request that you will forward a complete list of articles together with the purchase price and replacement cost and date of purchase of the lost articles. On receipt of this information your claim will be further considered.

I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant,
E W Emery.

26th August 1943 PG 29, PM 3200, Italy.
My darling Precious, Very many happy returns of yesterday, my dream, I have lived over 1940 often. How I cursed Sammy for catching us at Askers. He won’t next year anyhow.

I had your letter of July 18th. yesterday, a lovely one precious. How I pray for the time to go quickly. All love Darling, am well and cheerful. Ronnie R.
[Arrived 26th. September 1943]

As mentioned in a previous letter Charles Cummins printed stationary for BPFC to use, the envelope is printed as is the letter head as follows:-

From Mrs. RL Cummins
Tel. 61.
British Prisoner of War.
Campo PG 29. Posta Militare 3200     ITALY.

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The PG and PM numbers were hand written. Ed.

29th August 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own darling Precious.
It is Phyllis’ 20th wedding anniversary so we have had some wine to celebrate! It has been a very poor day otherwise, sea mist and drizzle. P took PR down to the beach this morning and Mummy went down to meet them and they had a grand time while I got lunch. So far we have had a very nice week-end but unfortunately no weather for bathing. Not that I want to go in, darling, as you know I’m no good unless there’s a heatwave. PR has been such a little monkey sitting on his pot and will play so I tell him Dada won’t be pleased with him.

He is killing over the lavatory as he adores to hear the plug pulled, so he rushes to the seat and calls Mama and points and grunts encouragingly! He has a wonderful vocabulary, it’s getting quite large, darling. I’ll give you some examples, moo = cow, burrr = Cobber and Candy, miaow = Jimmy, ker = clock, ba = bath, bytie = bed, Mama = me! baba = baby, wer = wind and rain, car = car, ooly ooly = bird, da = this, that etc, gaga = gardener and then he has many phrases which I understand, but nobody else does, to indicate he wants a table napkin ring or a spoon or to put the tea-cosy on his head. I think he is fairly slow about talking but then he understands practically everything. He adores the wireless and is most indignant if it is not on or it’s talking. He has long conversations about Dada and I never can get over how, for ages now, he has recognised all your various photos about the house. His own private one is like mine, the glass all smeary from the many, many kisses. He adores kissing you and beams all over his face and hugs your photo and when I put it down on the table again he waves good-bye. Daphne says Richard is the same and adores David’s photo. Phyllis has been very sweet with him and played with him a lot and he is very happy with her. She came on Friday afternoon and Foot met her and then we all had tea in the garden and it was very blowy and would have been better in the house. We then went down to the village with her ration card and I saw Mrs. Allen outside Mullins and so told her about Peter Walton.

She was very sorry. They always want to be remembered to you Darling. You know I shall be amazingly cheap to entertain, I only had two glasses of white wine tonight and everything is very pleasantly rosy! I wonder if you will be the same, darling. I have quite lost my rock-like head. We shall be able to have lots of evenings out when you come home as we shall spend so little! Am writing in bed as I find it so difficult to write with conversation going on all round you and, generally, the wireless. I had a letter about your missing kit, would I send the date of purchase of each article and the price paid! I am going to compose a suitable reply, as you can well imagine darling. I don’t know what they cost or anything. I had a long letter from Karin, we are holding each other’s hands hard. I may be going in to Bridport tomorrow afternoon as Phyllis will be able to keep an eye on PR when he wakes up and it is an opportunity to go there and not leave Mummy everything to cope with. Jennifer Bulliver is going to have a baby, I don’t know when. We first heard the rumour from the gardener and we had previously wondered as her face looked like it and we saw her yesterday and she is getting a good tummy. Remembering myself, I should say January sometime, but then I was so outsize it may be in a couple of months! I wonder if Peter Ferens will produce a son and heir now that Mick has been home. Apparently he told Ruth you were very lucky to have a  son!!! He is a most amazing child, he simply hates to be still for a second, real boy.

We were up in Phyllis’ room before tea and he derived great joy from climbing on to the bed and then plunging off it head first on to the floor. I made him sit on the pot and told him it was Auntie’s and after we had put it back under the wash stand he went and fetched it and

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solemnly carried it to Auntie as much as to say it’s your turn now. I think, darling, you will have a fit when you see him. He may be a bit overcome for the first few minutes and be very quiet but he is a most energetic child and no baby any more. He’s a real young man, not a baby that sits playing with woolly toys for hours. He adores a broom and sweeps up leaves and last week he had a hammer and was cracking up the large dog biscuit and he stirs up his own orange juice and he can shake out a napkin and then hand them to me to hang up.

He adores his woosy bear and cuddles him at bedtime and makes me kiss him good night. He has lost one eye so we are sure PR swallowed it sometime. Mummy is feeling much better, hardly any giddiness left and I think it is doing her a lot of good to have someone else to talk to. Darling, very soon we shall have been married three years, it is an amazing thought, and only so few months together. Sometimes the longing to have you home is almost unbearable, I never shall get used to it, it always seems as though part of me went quite numb on May 20th. 1941 and is waiting to be brought back to life again. I pray you are taking care of your precious self. This is written a bit larger than usual, I wonder if it will get to you more quickly than the letter you wrote larger to me which took five months! We just live for your return, darling, and I do repeat myself so much over that but then it’s the thought upper-most in my mind. God bless. All our heart’s love, PR and Bunny.

By 30th. August 1943 seven, fully equipped German Divisions were in Italy.

31st August 1943 PG 70, PM 3300, Italy.
Dear Mrs. Cummins. I think all of us at this end is keeping all right, hoping everyone at Burton are the same, also that you have had word from the Major to say he is well too. Well, this week has been a week of sport, namely football, tug of war and various other games which I’ll mention later. Lumley.

2nd September 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My own darling precious,
Your card of June 24th. came Monday and your Mother sent on your letter to her of June 14th. which they loved getting. I long for some recent news. I have had the two old cards from Lumley wanting kind regards sent to you and saying he misses you awfully. He is not the only one! He has had several of my letters and cigarettes and says he is A1. Have had a militant evening over your pay slips and the claim for the things missing from your suitcases.

The former are always paying themselves for over issues and I’m writing to find out what it’s all about! They never by any chance find they owe us anything! Then I had to give details as to purchase price and date etc. of the other things I didn’t know. I suggested leaving it until you come home and then you can tell them all they want to know. We went on the beach this afternoon, it was very cold but PR loved it. The moment we got there he shot off on his own, independent is his middle name. He shunted large stones around and then walked all the way up the hill on the way home to lighten the pram for me. He adored it and goes so fast and is quite undaunted by the wild Irishman’s conversation theme! He and Cobber between them are a pair. Phyllis is writing to you, darling, to tell you all about him.

She so thoroughly approved and said she adored him and that’s high praise indeed as she never minces matters. My tough upbringing evidently pleases her and he is good. He now insists on my giving him your photo when he is in his cot at lunchtime and at bed time and he hugs and kisses it saying “Dada”. Now if I smack him anywhere he walks round smacking himself in the same place saying “Mama”. So funny when it’s on his bottom. Rosamund rang up

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tonight, she and Jenny come Tuesday at 6pm for a week. I had a card from Betty Clarke, printed and she had written a message on the back. She is quite shattered, poor dear, but trying to be brave. Am on the track of a pram for PR, a pushchair. Mummy is much better, her chest clear again. God bless sweetheart. Longing for news. Take all care of your precious self. I love you so much. Your Bunny.

2nd September 1943 Potterne, Devises, Wiltshire.
My Dear Brenda,
Thank you so much for writing and for your sweet snap shot of Peter, he is a perfect pet.

You must feel very proud of him, I think he looks the most lovely little boy and so fit and strong. I’ve sent on all your news to my Peter and told him about his God son.

Peter is now in India! he only spent 6 days in West Africa and then flew on to India. My letter today was, I’m sure, from Bombay but he said he had several further hops to make. As perhaps you know, Peter is GI to the 81st. Division, he is very pleased about his job and delighted to be off again at last! I was so thankful he didn’t lose his job through our accident, luckily he was able to catch the next plane the following week. He soon recovered from the accident, thank heaven, in fact a week in hospital did him all the good in the world! I had 4 weeks in hospital, but am much stronger now, although I’m not allowed to do much which bores me! It’s simply lovely to be back here with the children, they are both most flourishing, but getting horribly grown up!

I have thought of you so much lately, knowing how anxious you must be for Ronnie not to be sent to Germany. I do think they are all so marvellous to be so cheerful, and so are you. I was so distressed to hear that Peter Walton had been killed.

We are very thrilled as my sister has just got back from New Zealand where she has been stranded since the beginning of the war. I haven’t seen her yet and I don’t even know how she got here, she arrived unheralded.

The very best of luck, do write every now and then, it is so nice to hear your news.
Yours ever, Philippa Jeffreys.

4th September 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear,
You are a wicked child – such extravagance! it was quite thrilling, I must confess, to get such an unexpected present and all the books are much appreciated by the Battiscombes and none of them had been read before. Thank you a thousand times and also to Peter, but you must never do such a thing again. The Chinese book looks perfectly fascinating, I’ve not begun it yet.

Here’s a pair of white sandals which I hope may be of use as you can’t buy them anymore. Also I have 2 Chilprufe sleeping suits which are just too small for CCR, they’re in perfect condition, hardly used at all. I daren’t give them to you else I’d get a library back by return!!!!!! If you think they’d be any use I thought half price (9/- each) and half coupons.

I’ve just had to buy him new ones at 18/- and 4 coupons each. But they may not be much good for Peter until he’s housetrained so don’t worry about them. Just send me a PC if you’d like them. They’re such swarms of children in Fleet I can get rid of them any time.

Have you seen about poor Jes Percy today? His wife was expecting him home any day and I wonder if he was on his way or if he had not been able to start. He had pernicious anemia you know so perhaps it’s for the best but a terrible blow to poor Kitty who’s a perfect

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darling. One is surrounded by tragedy.

I daren’t think about our precious husbands. Not knowing where they are, the suspense is just awful I think, but I really do feel pretty hopeful and my inside is bubbling with excitement.

My people have come back, it was hectic while they were away. So glad your mother is a little better.
Lots of love and thanks galore. Karin.

5th September 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious.
It was lovely getting your card of July 8th. but as usual I long for more recent news. It seems such a long time ago that I was amused about your remarks re a permanent commission!

In this month’s Red X magazine there was a most amusing letter from someone in your camp describing how he had organised a competition taking photos from all of you fathers who had never seen their children and pasting them on cardboard and making the others guess who was the father of which child. He said he mustered fourteen. I wonder how many guessed you were PR’s daddy darling. I have just been talking to Mary Kirby, I rang up because in Friday’s Telegraph we saw her cousin John, Fay’s husband, had died in India.

All too sad, apparently he had a bad knee from rugger and had been in hospital some time and they had sent him to another one to see if anything could be done and the next Fay heard was he had died, no details. Poor girl, I do feel for her. You remember she came to our wedding and we met her again at Mary’s and then up at Askers. Her youngest boy, Nigel, was born a week before PR. Mary also told me she had been to tea with some people and met Nancy McCosh and baby and she was horrified by the baby. She said his body was grand but his legs like sticks and he can just stand but can’t walk and he’s over two now.

Also whenever he moves he goes a deep purple and pants most alarmingly. Mary said it was quite embarrassing with her Nicholas so healthy and all over the place and Nancy’s like that and when Mary got home she told Gran Nanny who was equally appalled and said it must be suffering from heart. The legs looked like rickets, Mary said, and just like those pictures if half-starved children. How thankful it makes one feel for one’s own child. People are odd as the other day, a week ago, Margaret Lesser said they were going to start getting the orange juice for David who will be four in November, fancy, he could have had it since he was born but she never got it for him. PR has it and the cod liver oil every day. David looks stronger now but at one time he looked very puny. We had the young Dittmers in this morning, it was really rather funny as they are so completely peace-time minded and I was what Mummy calls claws out but we think too subtly, if such a thing is possible for me, for them to quite realize. I don’t suppose you will believe that Darling! I asked them what they thought of Bristol and she as usual answered for both and said nice theatres, cinemas, shops, music and picture galleries all of which she loved and it was so nice living near all that. I remarked, with a very sweet smile, that surely doing part time war work and running her home she wouldn’t have very much opportunity to visit the afore mentioned places.

Mummy said when she when she came out to say how d’you do they seemed rather subdued and I made her laugh at lunch time telling her our conversation. The attitude of the war being completely remote from people who wish to pursue a peace time existence makes me furious. I wonder if they will come and call again! Darling, I really don’t care what I say to people like that. Rosamund and Jenny are coming on Tuesday evening. I do hope she and PR will get on all right. He lay face down in a puddle before lunch and was quite black to

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the amusement of the Dittmers and after tea he fell into a rose bush and scratched his face and ear because he departed with the screw driver which I had been putting on his horse’s wheel with and I chased him as he wouldn’t give it back! Then he fell on the lawn and bit his lip. He has a passion for chocolate now and comes and sits on my lap and chews at tea time.

His bath water was black tonight as he was running about naked and covered in mud and squashed mulberries! On Friday I went to Church twice, once in the morning with Mummy when old Mrs. Brown looked after PR, much to the delight of both, and in the evening by myself after putting him to bed. Both times your name was mentioned, darling, so I hope the combined prayers of everybody will bring us our heart’s desire. I wonder how much you hear, it’s all pretty good to date. I am trying not to get too excited in case nothing happens.

I got so worked up in July and then fell on my nose with disappointment. Did I tell you I got us an orange cottage tea cosy in Bridport. It will look very cheerful at breakfast time. PR takes after me, he’s one big yawn in the morning! You are going to have a time with your pair of nestledowns, sweetheart. I had a letter from Philipa, very nice. Peter is all right again and has a very nice job. Fairly cool here, possibly predicting a hard winter. PR scorns blankets and sleeps on top of them on his tummy, feet curled up! He has a tepid bath too, so darling I only hope he will come up to your expectations of being tough. I do my best! God bless, beloved. Take every care. It won’t be long now. All our devoted love from your own BUNNY.

6th September 1943 The British Broadcasting Corporation,
Broadcasting House, London W1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Many thanks for your letter of 31st. You should not have sent the £1 note at all, but as it’s been done I will send it to my favourite fund, which is the Merchant Navy Comforts Service. I am sure you would approve.

I have, since the first week or so in Sicily, felt quite certain that the Italian Army would never fight in earnest again. The total surrender may not be far off, and then I hope your husband, with all the other prisoners, will find their way out of captivity.

Yours sincerely,
Lewis M. Hastings.

6th September 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My darling Brenda,
You rather “stumped” me regarding warrants (Railway) for wives as in my military days wives never had these privileges given to them, however when I was over at Brancepath yesterday I made enquiries from a chap at the Depot and he said you write to the Adjutant, Durham LI, Brancepeth Castle, Brancepeth, Co. Durham and he would be able to supply.

We miss Ruth very much, the house is very quiet, in fact so much so we are going to the Picture House tonight, no matter how dull the picture or pictures may be.

Pip and Blanche went to Kirkby Stephen last Wed. and return the coming Wed. I think they have had and will get fine weather, it will do Pip good as he has had a hard working time since Easter.

I want to know what is going to happen in Italy, many consider she will make terms before the end of Sept. clearly the people and the Army, other than the higher ranks, want to be quit of the war, but the leaders are, I think, angling for more acceptable terms than the Unconditional Surrender and we and America do not seem disposed to give them any other offer, whether the Government in Italy will knuckle down remains to be seen, I hope so. I

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feel that our Government must have pretty accurate knowledge that the “Ities” will accept our conditions sooner or later, they of course know much more than the British Public who after all only glean their information from the Press. However I live in hopes which I trust will not be long in being facts “For hope deferred maketh the heart sick” and that would never do.
God bless you all, Grandpa.

A Military Armistice was signed by the Italians on 3rd. September, the same day as the invasion of Italy started, and this was made public on 8th. September, at 7.22 pm, just before the Allied landings at Salerno by which time the Germans had seized Rome and Kesselring had declared all Italian territory under German control.

From now on the diary written by RLC will be incorporated and all the letters from BPFC which were returned by the International Red Cross after his release. Ed.

September 8th
Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of prison camp life is “rumour”; someone has always heard from someone else that someone said he had heard something or other.

Our camp at Viano, about six miles from Piacenza, was no exception – most stories were disbelieved on principle until they had been traced to their source and judged on their merits. We had heard during the preceding weeks most of the important news, partly through a wireless that had been constructed, and partly through the guards who, although full of news, were rather apt to distort a simple piece of information to suit themselves.

Therefore, despite the lack of newspapers, or perhaps because of the lack, we felt a landing on the mainland of Italy was near. It was also felt that this landing would be enough to topple over any remaining wishes of the Italian nation to stay in the war.  Never at the best of times a fighting nation, it was apparent that the army was only kept in the field by the Germans and the ardent Fascists who saw only too clearly their future should the nation rebel.

The results of an armistice, should it occur, were hard to see concerning ourselves. On the one hand, optimistically, we hoped that a short stay in the camp, living on our reserve food and with certain liberty, would be necessary until the liberating forces reached us when we should immediately be transported back to the bosoms of our families.  Pessimistically, on the other hand, we realised that if the guards did not free us and the Germans took over Italy we, as a Senior Officers camp, would be one of the first to be transported to Germany.

To safeguard against the latter possibility, certain plans were made which involved the taking-over of the camp by ourselves and over-powering the undoubtedly poor quality garrison.  Parties were formed to tackle the carabiniere, no great job, and other parties to breach the wire and make a dash for the hills.  As it happened, none of this was necessary.

After the usual day and without any particular warning, the armistice was announced. 

Our first intimation was the cheering guards which we noticed as we sat down to our supper – they were throwing their hats into the air with as much obvious relief as if they had been prisoners themselves. Servants brought in the news which at first was treated with caution, but very soon the S.B.O (Senior British Officer) himself stood up to say that an armistice had been signed between Italy and ourselves and that he was then going to see the Commandant to arrange the future organisation.

It is not necessary to go into the remainder of the night. There was little sleep for any with

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such wonderful visions before us. Visions, I am afraid, which would have been sadly dampened had we known what was going to happen.

One of the Armistice proposals was that post-war treatment of Italy would depend on how much the Italians did to help liberate their country. Churchill insisted during the negotiations that the Italians must do everything possible to prevent Allied POWs falling into enemy hands. MI 9 was responsible for captured British prisoners and on 7th. June the War Office sent a message, via the clandestine radios in the camps, that POWs. must ” not make mass break-outs but in the event of invasion to try and send escapers to give our forces information…….. we cannot authorize (mass break-outs) owing to possible danger of mass reprisals”. As a consequence of the 80,000 approx. POWs. about half were taken by the Germans to camps in Germany. Lumley was one of these. A new order was issued on 8th. September that POWs should try and escape if they could, but it was far too late. However some Senior British Officers in charge of camps ignored the first order and with the help of sympathetic Italian Commandants many were able to get away.

There had been a traditional friendship between the Italians and the English going back many years and they also realised that, as Germany was unlikely to win the war, they needed to be seen to be helping the Allies. The Italians hoped that the POWs. would join the Guerillas and fight for Italy rather than be repatriated to their own forces, however the bands of partisans were so badly organised and political that it was wise not to.

The choice was to make for the Allied lines or to go to Switzerland where they were safe but had to wait until August 1944, when the Franco-Swiss border was liberated, to be able to return home. Ed.

8th September 1943 MEMORANDUM

From: O C Army Pay Office,                                              To: Mrs. B. Cummins,
(Officer’s Accounts)                                                            Grove, Burton Bradstock,
Stockport Road,                                                                   Bridport,
Manchester.                                                                         Dorset.

Dear Madam,
A/ Major RL Cummins DLI.
In reply to your letter of the 2nd. inst., I have to explain that an over-issue of Family Lodging Allowance, amounting to £12-3-0, was occasioned by the fact that this allowance was issued at the wrong rate for the period 1st. October 1942 to 31st. May 1943. The correct rate of Family lodging allowance is 6/- a day, having regard to the fact that your husband’s rank is Major. In accordance with War Office instructions recovery of this amount was commenced in July at the rate of £4 a month. The balance still outstanding amounts to £4-3-0 and it is proposed to recover £4 in September and 3/- in October.

Adverting to your query re the recovery of the over-issue by the Command Paymaster, Middle East, I have to explain that this over-issue was caused by the fact that Allowances were issued beyond the date of capture. The details of this over-issue have only recently been notified to me, hence the delay.

The question of refunding any sums due to your husband from the enemy government must be held over until such time as your husband is repatriated.

Yours faithfully,
Captain, For Army Pay Office.

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8th September 1943 Fleet, Hants.
Brenda, my dear,
Here are the sleeping suits. I won’t touch your cheque or coupons for a few days in case you find them unsuitable or even too small and don’t hesitate to return them if so as they are quite easily disposed of.

Peter must have huge feet as CCR was wearing those shoes at the beginning of the summer, aged 3!

I, too, got letters, one of July 23rd. and one August 9th. and a PC of July 19th. They sound in terrific heart and no hint of any possible transfer so evidently they have no fears themselves. Let’s pray nothing awful has occurred since and then our prospects seem too wonderful.

I’m loving the Chinese book, it’s fascinating. I have to read the children a story from each of theirs every day, they adore being read to and I’m thankful to have some new ones!
Love to all. Karin

September 9th
A glorious day with glorious possibilities. After breakfast, a council was held amongst our Seniors as to our policy. The information so far gathered was that our troops had landed at various points along the coast, the nearest to our camp being La Spezia, a matter of only 60 or 70 miles, and rumour said (so soon to be proved wrong) that the Germans were getting out of the country as quickly as possible. The Italian Commandant decided to co-operate and informed us that his sentries would remain but that we could break down the wire and wander where we liked.  Opinion was divided on this policy; some wishing to leave the camp entirely, as a danger spot, and others wishing to remain until our relieving columns reached us.  Eventually a compromise was made: to give warning of the approach of German soldiers, patrols of 4 officers were placed on all the roads leading to the camp, with a warning signal to the camp to clear out. This was then transmitted throughout the camp by the Italian bugler. For the time being anyhow, we were to remain in the camp as it was hoped a relieving column would not be long.

After an enjoyable half hour removing parts of the wire, me and three others set off on our road patrol. We had been given the side road leading from the main road to Piacenza on a slight bend where a road block was easily sited. It was glorious walking about free once more with the added excitement of wondering how soon we should be home. We found our place and soon had a crowd of men women and children around us.

A cart was commandeered and a small, but effective, block was soon in position. It was decided that an Italian should be with the block to interrogate trucks arriving. If they were Germans then we hoisted our signal and the officers in the camp dispersed.

9th September 1943

September 10th
I had just arrived back with my sack full of various things when the alarm went up at the camp.  Monty had secured some maps and also cash by selling some clothes, so with the

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100 Lire each which I brought out we had enough to go on with. I had been wondering quite what to do when the alarm went, but Monty solved this for me by asking me to go along with him.

After a hurried collection of our belongings, we set off over the nearest hill together with most of the camp. It was a wild scramble to start with, the only idea in everyone`s mind being to get away from the camp. After reaching the top, very hot and sweaty, Monty and I sat down to rest and consider. We both came to the same conclusion on one point:  to get away from the crowd at the first opportunity. But where to go was a different matter.

The rumours had been many as to our troops’ whereabouts and we expected to meet them in the near future. With this in mind, we set off, in the first place, merely to get well hidden in the mountains until matters became clearer. It was a difficult business, scrambling up and down ravines and in a short time I was soaked with sweat.

After about three hours, we came across a farmhouse beside which we met Winton and Monty’s C.O., both pushing on like ourselves. After a drink at the farm, Monty and I started off again and swung round the hills covering the road to Piacenza. We passed various parties at rest and at last lay down ourselves in a hollow where we consumed some of our Red Cross provisions.

It should be pointed out that neither of us could speak a word of Italian, so it was rather a triumph that we managed to explain to a young girl that we wanted water. She showed us the well and then made us understand that we could go to her father’s farmhouse later in the evening. Whilst waiting to go down we met Col. Lancaster and party who were hiding just near us.

At about 7pm we went to the farm house. It was the first, but by no means the last, that I was to see. It was very primitive, but by using signs the farmer and his wife and daughter made us at home. After a supper of polenta (made stiff and turned out onto a board, then cut with string) which I found hard to eat, having already had a meal, the farmer said that we could sleep in his barn, which was nicer than hard ground. We removed badges and rank etc. and gave them to the farmer’s daughter, the idea being that if caught, we would pretend to be private soldiers and thus hope to escape again. At about 10pm, getting tired of sign language, we turned in.

10th September 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious.
I don’t quite know what to say or whether I am on my head or my heels or not. You are probably thinking and feeling the same, darling. I keep thinking if only we could wake up and find you were all safely home. I wonder whether you will ever get this and where you will be if you do and what’s going on near you and whether you’re getting anything to eat. So many questionings! We didn’t actually hear the news as it was the children’s bed time and just as I was feeding PR the phone started to ring. My first reaction was hysterical tears and PR kept trying to kiss me better! It was lovely when your parents rang up as we all rejoiced together.

I am much more subdued today, one hears all arrangements have been made to get you all home but unfortunately you are all ungetatable. Rather Irish that. We shall know so much more in a few days’ time. I only hope you all get left alone for a bit and the people we aren’t so keen on don’t start taking an active interest in your welfare to the extent that you are all taken under their care. That would be just too much. So, darling, out of all this you can gather, after my first burst of joy, I’m telling myself not to count my chickens before they’re

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hatched. We are doing marvellously down in the South but it all seems such a long way from you. Rosamund was grand when the news came through. Poor dear, it was very bitter-sweet for her with Dick a prisoner for 3 1/2 years. I did admire her, I should have never have been so brave or entered so completely into someone else’s rejoicings. Everybody has been so kind. Your parents sent lovely, fawn corduroy for trousers for PR today. Karin has sold me two Chilprufe sleeping suits too and he looks adorable in them and proud of himself.

We all went on the beach after an early tea and the children had great games. PR is such an independent little monkey. Fletcher is leaving on 25th, no double meaning! but she has wanted to get away since the boy died and so has got him a job near where he used to live at Blandford. We may have to shut up the house if we can’t get anybody and go as we can’t manage alone. Holding thumbs tight and praying hard. God bless beloved, take all care. All the love in the world, Bunny.

September 11th
Up at dawn to coffee and bread and milk. I swapped an army shirt with the farmer for one of his coloured ones (a start to get civilian clothes) and Monty swapped a blanket. We also left them some of our tins of food, so much wanted in the months to come. During the morning we went and saw Col. Lancaster and party, and told him we intended to cross the road and railway below us at dusk tonight. It was thought that the Germans had motor patrols on the road which made it difficult to cross. Later, during the morning, Monty and I went down and did a ‘recce’ of the road and found it not so hard, although we also found a river to get over.

About 1300hrs we both decided not to wait for the dark but to cross to the far side of the valley straight away. So, bidding “goodbye” to the farmer and Lancaster, we shouldered our sacks and set off down the hill.

The day was red hot and long before reaching the valley I was again soaked with sweat. The crossing proved quite easy and we split up to cross the railway and road, and met again on a little road running up the far hillside. After climbing this hill for a bit and feeling very tired, we reached a small village where an Italian befriended us and took us into the pub for a drink. We were almost mobbed when we got in and I was kissed on both cheeks by a very unshaven and smelly old man. However the vino did us good and after a bit we were ushered into a back room where Monty changed into a pair of grey flannels he had made in the camp and I exchanged my battle-dress trousers for a civilian pair. A very bad bargain, as I found out in a few days, but I hardly expected to have to wear them for so long. The Italian then started to make some very rude remarks about the two girls in the pub, the only suggestions of this kind I ever heard in Italy as a matter of fact.

At about 1600hrs we left, with very many fond farewells, to find a place in the hills to spend the night. After about an hour’s walk we chose a place where we left our kit and went to the nearest farm for water. Whilst there, there was a scare of Germans so we skipped back to our hide-out which we later moved further up the mountains.

Spent a most uncomfortable night in the open, which, although warm, was very bumpy lying.

11th September 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
I’ve almost rung you up over the last three evenings just to talk and see how you feel. At first I was too thrilled for words but now I am feeling rather frightened. they’re so

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ambiguous in what little they say of the prisoners and as far as I can see if our men were not got out before, many will now, literally, be in German hands. What do you think? If only Ronnie or Sammy were in the south, how lovely it would be, but up there on the Po it’s a very different affair and the Italians themselves sound completely chaotic now.

The suspense really is rather wearing, it’s been going on ever since Mussolini went hasn’t it?

So near and yet so far, I could cry for their sakes if they don’t get free, apart from our own feelings. It would be too utterly damnable and it makes it worse everyone ringing up and writing just as if they were safely home.

Do hope we shall soon get some news. No good asking your friend in Switzerland I suppose? This is a pointless letter but I feel I must put my fears on paper. Very selfish. Love Karin.

September 12th
Up at dawn and made ourselves some breakfast and left to cross the valley straight after.

Met B. Richards and G. Cole and party when starting, but did not travel with them. We worked our way across the valley during the day – it was very hard going.  About midday we met a woman who spoke English but she had little information.

We lay up in the woods during the afternoon and in the evening I went down to another farm and bought some eggs. I met the English-speaking woman again who said some more English were near us. A girl led me to their hiding place and, after returning to Monty, we both went down and found Ross McLaren, Burton and Barber etc.  A pooling of news seemed to indicate that most of the rumours were false: the nearest troops being at Naples, which is a hell of a long way away.

After a wash in the stream, Monty and I went back to our hide-out and had some food – raw eggs etc. I re-organised my sack.  Cigarettes were going down rapidly and only about three slabs of chocolate were left.

We slept in the open again. Thank heavens for Granny C’s blanket: it is light but very warm.

12th September 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
BPFC addressed this letter to the Agence Centrale des Prisonniers de Guerre, Geneva, Switzerland. It was opened and resealed with Wehrmacht post marks.  The subsequent letters were similarly addressed but returned by the Red Cross. Ed.

My very own precious,
It is very difficult to know quite where to write until I hear what camp you are sent to in Germany. I suppose you will definitely be moved there as soon as possible so hope it won’t be too long before I hear where you are. Perhaps you will land up in a camp with friends, it would be very odd if you met Dick Wingfield Digby and Ronnie Roddam. Wherever it is, sweetheart, I hope it’s a comfortable one and where you will get good food and be well looked after. I will wait to hear from you before sending the September parcel as you may not have been able to take many clothes with you. I gather there are good supplies in the German camps so you will be issued when you arrive, but darling, I want to send you all I can for the coming winter, though I fear it won’t arrive for some time. Darling, I suppose all this is good for one’s character, at least I’m trying to find some consolation and keep telling myself that even though our reunion has been postponed indefinitely we have still got it to look forward to one day. It is so much worse for you sweetheart, and I know only too well what you must be feeling, as I feel it all myself. My language would beat Billingsgate!

After hearing the first news Wednesday night, by Friday I had got rather uneasy and now today we know where we are and that there’s no hope of you getting home this time. I fear,

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darling, your poor parents will take it very hard, I will try and comfort them but I’m being very selfish and needing all the comfort I can get for myself! Even tonight people are saying to me aren’t you getting excited and it rather turns the knife to have to explain why not to those who didn’t hear the news during the day. Rosamund is grand, I don’t think I could have born anybody else here just now, certainly not some of my friends who think they are very badly done by not seeing their husbands for a month! Rosamund went through all the disappointment of the repatriation from Germany which never came off so she knows what it’s like. I had hoped there would not be another winter to go through without you but I suppose one will duly get accustomed to the idea. For you too, darling, having to resign yourself to it, but I mustn’t go on talking about it as it doesn’t help. We still have each other though at a distance and we must hold on tight and not get depressed by disappointments and set-backs and set our faces forward to the future and not glooming over what might have been and one day we shall have each other, one day soon I pray. Rosamund hasn’t seen Dick for 3 1/2 years so we are lucky compared to her with 2 1/2 years only apart. I wonder if Sammy will be with you and how many of your friends and how you will go.

Darling heart, if only I could come with you. Having patted ourselves on the back having you in Italy and the possibility of a homecoming we are now dashed down again, sort of pride before the fall or something. I must stop, darling, and change the subject to something more cheerful but naturally my mind is full of it. Keep cheerful, sweetheart, and one day we shall have our reward. Jennifer is a very odd child one of the “I don’t want” sort, always pouting or sulking or in tears because she is disobedient. Rosamund is very good with her and very firm and stands no nonsense but Mummy doesn’t think the child is well. She’s such a bad grey colour. She had meningitis last year and one does hear that does leave traces.

She hates being touched, Major Wrattislaw picked her up in the village and she howled and he was most upset being so fond of children and the woman at Mullins’ patted her head and she turned away and said “Don’t touch me”. Every time PR has a toy she wants it and is most disgruntled if she can’t have it and makes an awful fuss. I am very glad she isn’t my child, really she’s not at all lovable. PR is sweet with her and thrilled at having a “Baba” in the house and wants to kiss her and puts up with being knocked down and things snatched from him. Every meal time it’s “I don’t want that” Rosamund is very sweet and so helpful about the house. We love having her. Goodness knows what we shall do when the gardener goes as no replies have come to our advertisements except one quite unsuitable, beery fisherman. I rang up Mrs. Luxton to see if she could have PR, Cobber and me and Mummy go to the Cullompton hotel, as it has central heating, and she is going to let me know as Kenneth’s sister might be going there for the winter with child. We can’t stay here alone as we can only just manage now and Mummy isn’t too well as it is. We have been on the beach several times and I actually bathed yesterday, very rough it was. PR is quite adorable and beautiful. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful husband and wonderful son. Remember, sweetheart, whatever we have got to go through I love you with all my heart and only live for the day when I see you again. God bless and keep you safe. Take all care. Always your own BUNNY XXX.

September 13th
Scare of spy this morning at a nearby farm, so after consultation with Ross, we all decided to get going again in the parties the same as before. It was very hot going and tiring, particularly after so long in a prison camp. We had frequent rests on the way and called for water at a farm. Eventually we found a village at the top of a hill where we stayed for the

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night, going just outside into a wood so that we could watch anyone arriving.

We got some bread from a farm and ate some of our own rations which are going down rapidly.

September 14th
Another hot day. After a cleanup we left at about 0900hrs for the bottom of the valley, which showed signs of water, for a bath. On the way down we met a farmer picking polenta who spoke American. He gave us a lot of information, including the fact that the village on the other side contained a man who had lived in England all his life and spoke English well. He also had a wireless.

We found a nice little river at the bottom and also a hide-out amongst the trees. We had a wash, a shave and a rest which did us good. We were just beside a mill, the owner being very kind with grapes etc. and giving us water.

In the afternoon we decided to go up to the village and see if we could locate the wireless to get some news. So leaving our kit hidden, we set off.

Eventually reaching the village, we slipped into the house with the wireless that was also the local pub. Unfortunately the man who spoke English was away, but his mother made us welcome. She was very jittery, apparently there was a lot of jealousy in the village and she was afraid she and her son would be denounced to the Germans if they had anything to do with the English. However, she gave us a cup of tea but could get no news from the wireless. We left after a short time saying that we might come back.

On the way down to our hiding place we discussed plans and decided to push on with the vague idea of trying to get into the area of Bardi, which seemed to be off the main track and not likely to be in German occupation. It seemed obvious that there had been no further landings and that the Germans were pouring troops into Italy.

When we got back to the mill an old lady made us understand that the village we had just left was dangerous, so, not being able to get the full implications, we decided not to go back, but to push on again at dawn tomorrow.

A wind sprang up in the evening and it clouded over. I only hope we do not get rain – it would be very unpleasant.  Slept in the open again.

14th September 1943 The War Office, 64, Eaton Square,
London SW1.
I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 2nd. September 1943, with regard to the articles missing from your husband’s kit, and it is noted that you wish the claim to remain in abeyance until his return to the UK.

I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant,
EW Emery.

September 15th
Away at dawn over the mountains and a very tiring climb, but we followed a stream and so were at least able to get a drink. My civvy trousers started showing signs of coming apart – I’m afraid I did a rotten exchange. Thank heaven my boots and feet were so far good.

We crossed over the top and down into a village at about 1300hrs, where we found some Yugoslav officers. They kindly asked us to stay to lunch which they had managed to get at some farm house: a good minestrone and some wine which they were then pressing and

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this soon revived us.

We pushed on again in the afternoon and reached another village in the mountains, only to meet more Yugoslavs.  One spoke English (and 4 other languages), which he had learnt in his camp and, thanks to him, we got a barn to sleep in.

The farmer`s daughter mended my trousers, by then very necessary.  I gave her a slab of soap, for which she was very grateful. They also asked us in for food which I was now getting too, but conversation was still almost impossible.  It is amazing how primitive everything was. They lived in conditions of about 1600.

Cigarettes are getting very low. We never expected that we should have to wait so long before meeting our troops.  Eight days since the armistice and from all reports it was to be sometime longer, though the landings at La Spezia were expected any day. (Taken April 1945). We were all beginning to feel a little uneasy as to what lay ahead, though confidant it would  not be too long.

To bed in the straw – much more comfortable than the ground.

September 16th
Away over the mountains again this morning – a stiff and hot climb to start with. At about midday we arrived at another small village where two more young Yugoslavs spoke to us. They could not speak English, but made us understand that we could eat with them, which we did. They had been civil prisoners and were just wandering about waiting for something to happen.

We had quite a good lunch in their farm-house and, in the afternoon, all went out in the fields to sleep. The two Yugoslavs, Yanez (tall and blonde) and Bogdan (small and dark) could speak fluent Italian and seemed well known in the village, so we decided to stay the night with them.

About 1800hrs, Monty and I were conducted to the house of the school-mistress, who had a wireless. She gave us supper and we heard the news. It was very nostalgic to hear first a dance-band, playing at some restaurant in London and then the BBC news. I think it was then that the enormity of our task first hit me. The news gave little information, beyond saying that our troops were advancing from the south against slight opposition. The northern ports had been raided, so it looked like a landing soon, and a few landings in the south had been successful.

After trying to make difficult conversation in French, we left at about 2200hrs and went back to Yanez and Bogdans’ house, where we sat talking til midnight, and then into the straw.

Apparently, Monty said they could come on with us tomorrow, rather against my wish, but perhaps they will be useful in finding accommodation for us.

16th September 1943 Lt. Col. P Jeffreys, India Command.
My Dear Brenda,
Just a scribble to tell you I am hoping, with you, that Ronnie has got away from his camp in Italy without the Boches stopping it. What a staggering thrill if he has.

I wonder how you and young Peter are. I am a rotten Godfather I fear. I doubt if he is old enough to appreciate and Airgraph to himself yet, even one of my rotten drawings which I inflict on my long suffering brood! Let me know how things go and my love to Ronnie when you next write – or see him!

Yours Peter.

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16th September 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
It was really consoling to talk to you the other night and get your letter today. I simply couldn’t feel more depressed or sick at heart and now each morning when one wakes up there’s that frightful moment of realisation. You’ve seen the German declaration today of course. I do hope Ronnie and Sammy will go back to PG 29 if they haven’t, by any miracle, got out of Italy. At least then they would get their kit back and I feel there might be a hope of the Nazis leaving them where they are under German guard and then we might still rescue them in time. Have the Nazis time and means to transfer 60,000 into Germany in the middle of all this turmoil? I try and find what consolation I can!!!! The worst fear is that they may stay at large as long as possible getting weaker and weaker then be caught and sent back to Germany minus all their clothes and the winter ahead! Oh my heavens, how wretched it is and I do feel bitter that the authorities made no plan for their release.

I suppose it was difficult for them but one can’t help feeling they might have tried and they don’t seem to have done anything at all.

Anyway I think your wire to Roger Frewen is a masterpiece and I’m awfully grateful for you sending it and including Sammy’s name. My people are much impressed by your energy and say they’d love to meet you but I don’t see quite how unless you could leave Peter as there isn’t room for you both, it’s a bit of a squash even for you. If you ever find you can get away for a night or two, we’d love to have you.

I’m going up to London on Tuesday to see Betty Clarke who is in Hospital for a slight operation. I shall then try and find out a bit more about the mysterious wire her in-laws got from Bologna. She tells me that a Humphrey Wood of the 60th. is commanding the 9th. Bn. He was the man that Lewis Hastings gave that broadcast about.

Well, I suppose we shall, in time, get news of some sort but meanwhile it’s pretty good hell but a great comfort to have you to grouse to.
Lots of love. Karin.

September 17th
Away after breakfast. The village gave Yanez and Bogdan plenty of food for the road. They were very well equipped anyhow, having very decent clothes and hiker’s haversacks.

Altogether we covered about 12 miles including crossing the Bardi road.  It was not bad going as we were travelling along the side of a mountain, but very hot. We gave Bardi a wide skirt as there were Germans billeted there, and at about 1700hrs we arrived at a small village where we were fortunate enough to find a girl who spoke English. Her family had been to Wales, and we found that certain areas always went to the same place abroad and later found others in this area who had been to Wales.

The girl gave us bread and eggs which was kind for such a large party, and later in the evening we went to the local for vino. It was rot-gut and very strong, however we had quite a party. Our general impression is to stay here a few days and see how the news works out.

Quite a good barn to sleep in, but a dog would sleep with me – to his pleasure not mine.

Union House, St. Martins-le-Grand, London EC1.
The attention of the director of Postal and Telegraph Censorship has been drawn to a

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cablegram addressed by you to Roger Frewen, Berne, dated 13th September 1943, which reads as follows:-


In view of the possible bearing of the Defence Finance Regulations upon this communication, I am to request that you will be good enough to explain the matter to which it refers.

I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant,
……….  Brown,
Deputy Financial Adviser.

September, 18th
Felt foul in the morning (which is not surprising) so I went down to the river for a bath, which improved things. I was just in time as after breakfast we had a thunderstorm which made things very wet. We mucked about during the day.

I am getting rather tired of Bogdan; he is very much a know-all. Yanez is not so bad.

Opinion seems to be to stay here until Sunday or Monday and then push on. We all hope for something to happen to give us the lead as to what to do. We arranged with the local pub to give us our evening meal as the English-speaking girl was very poor. Had quite a good one and afterwards wandered to a very dirty, smelly village where we were given bread and milk.

The two Yugoslavs get on very well with the Italians but find it a help, I think, to have us around as the Italians will do more for the English than the Yugoslavs.

I am beginning to feel very distressed about the outlook; unless there is a landing soon, the winter will be here and we will be 600 miles, as the crow flies, from our lines, with solid mountains in between.

We turned in when we got back, the others being as tired as I was.

September 19th
Another lovely day. As it was Sunday, we spent the morning in the barn in case the incoming church-goers should carry away stories of English in the village when they went home. A lot came in – one could hear them singing their rather unattractive songs as they came along the mountain paths to Mass.

After lunch in the English-speaking girl’s house, we went up into the mountains and had a rest and a sleep. Various plans were discussed but nothing concrete fixed except that we would be on our way tomorrow further round the valley. There was talk of going into France but nothing decided. While in the mountains, there was a scare of Germans in the village, but nothing to it really.

Cigarettes finished and onto Monty’s pipe tobacco made up in paper. Most of our tins were finished too. In fact, we are travelling very light now. When we got back, we found three very tight, private soldiers (English) in the pub. They left the village steering an erratic course later that evening.

Monty is a rather trying companion at times – he is always so right. I have given up saying anything much for the time being, until things become clearer. Trousers are standing up to the strain quite well, but boots showing signs of wear.

19th September 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.

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My very own precious,
Am just writing these letters once a week until I hear your new address. I only hope they will reach you all right. I’m still telling myself it’s good for the character! The Harts called in Monday and she said it was damnable for the character!!! Several of his friends were in 29 and they are going to let me know if anybody gets news, also Anne Reid and Karin. Huggin’s wife wrote too, said she felt she was sitting on a volcano. I quite sympathise as I’m sitting on a dozen! Tonight’s news was pretty definite about you all so I’m afraid I must resign myself.

It’s such hell for you, sweetheart. I had your letters of April 26th., July 12th. and 26th. last week. Heavenly ones, darling, but we both suffered from the same complaint, hatching our eggs before they were laid. One thing, darling, I shall be able to save many more certificates so we shall be rich by the time you do get home. There are all PR’s insurances to pay next month and if there is anything over in your account, which I very much doubt, I will buy some more. There hasn’t been much pay coming in lately because of endless over-issues.

I wrote to the Paymaster and had a reply explaining it all which I am keeping for you. It seems quite in order. I hope to buy some more myself too when I get my October statement and see where I stand. I do so wonder where you will land up, darling, and if you will meet any friends. I only hope you were allowed to take your clothes and possessions with you so that you will have warm clothes for the winter. As soon as I hear your address I will send you off a parcel and perhaps you will have let me know what you want most. I believe the letters and cards from Germany are longer so you can get more on them and also they come fairly quickly. I nearly wept over your reminiscing in your letter, it is such hell being without you.

I had prayed this winter would see us together but I mustn’t start grumbling as really there is so much to be thankful for. We’ll have our wonderful time together soon, sweetheart, so keep that thought ever before you. We love each other, darling, and that is all that matters, one can survive any disappointment as long as we have each other. Poor PR is cutting his four back, double teeth and is very white and right off his food. He brought up his supper last night and some tonight. Poor lamb, I wish I could bear it for him. He wakes up at night yelling “Mamma”, sudden bursts of pain I suppose. He is very good and patient and brave but I hate seeing him miserable. I am giving him plenty of barley water and milk of magnesia to keep his blood cool. Now and again one cheek will be bright scarlet and he opens his mouth and points inside. What a bore teeth are, mine aren’t too good. The stopping came out of a back one in April and now a front one is twingeing but it’s hopeless trying to get away to have anything done. So far not a single answer to our advertisements, but a friend of Mummy’s has suggested a friend of hers who wants a job. She’s 50 and domesticated and Mummy knew her Mother, one of the Lyons. We might be able to get a Barnardo’s boy for the garden, scrubbing and boilers too. Any port in a storm and I believe they are very good.

We shall see, perhaps we shall know something by next week. Mrs. Wratislaw has just had her appendix out in Bridport hospital. She is getting on very well, we went to enquire and everybody has been very kind asking for news of you darling. I did our decorations in Church on Saturday for the Harvest festival but my heart wasn’t feeling at all festive. I haven’t heard from Mrs. Luxton whether she can have us if all else fails. Reading the Echo Thursday we saw Robin Wordsworth had divorced Ann. Such a surprise. You remember Nancy married McCosh, well Ann, at the same time, met a Major Stewart and apparently he spent all his leaves at Baglake and Ann told Robin she wanted to marry him and admitted misconduct. So the paper said, but then they have to say that to get the divorce. She was still there very recently so I rang up to say goodbye and wish her luck and who should answer but Robin! He must have got compassionate leave from the ME. He wanted to go off with somebody a

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few years ago and Ann was very good about it so Nancy says it’s six to one and half a dozen to the other. Anyway it’s none of my business and I thought I would like to say goodbye to her before she went for ever. Robin was only down for 48 hours. We had quite a long chat and he was very nice but of course we talked of everything but them! Nancy said nobody knew anything about it, also that it was a very good thing. Probably it would have been all right if they had had children. Ann looked so much happier when Robin had gone away. He is very charming so I should think just a case of two people who didn’t get on too well.

Sammy would be interested having lived at Litton. I had a letter of Aug. 24th and a very good photo from Lumley of all the men of D in his camp, in the middle Sergeant Wilson.

They all looked very well and brown and it was very clear. Lumley looked older, but then it’s only to be expected. He and Wilson wanted all their regards and wishes sent on to you.

Lumley had made enquiries and found he wasn’t allowed to write to you and would I explain that’s why you haven’t heard from him. The photo was to be sent on to you but I won’t now til I hear your address. I’ve sent it to his parents and asked them to pass it round as many will be interested. I couldn’t recognise anybody but those two. I do think it’s high time I had a photo of you, sweetheart, my last one was October 1941. Can’t you do something about it? The end again, must go and love one baby and put him on his pot. I do hope he’ll be better tomorrow. Goodnight my very own darling. Take all care of your precious self.

Whatever happens it won’t be long now. I love you with all my heart. Your own adoring Bunny.

Undated 7 Dixon Street, Blackhill, Co. Durham.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I know you must be wondering why I haven’t answered your very welcome letter, before now, but I know you will forgive me as my husband came home on leave, quite unexpected, and I’m afraid he took most of my spare time up. I really didn’t expect him until the first week of this month, but, however he went back last Wed. and so it is over now for the rest of this year. We were all so pleased to receive the photo of Norman and we think it is a very good one, but he is looking old. However, we are bound to see a change in him as he will be 24 in Dec. They all seem to be pretty well and content but I can imagine how homesick they must feel at times. We haven’t got a photo yet from Norman but in his last letter dated Aug. 24th he said there was one on the way for us, so we are eagerly looking forward for it.

When we do get it Mother is going to have it put in to our local newspaper and we all think it is a good idea putting it into the magazine. It’s going to be hard not being able to write to them, but we can only hope and pray for their safe and speedy return.

My mother is keeping a lot better now but she will have to take every care and precaution. I do hope that you have had some more recent word from your husband and that he is quite well and still in Italy. The news is still very good and maybe we will see the end of it all. How is little Peter getting along? His Daddy will be so proud of him when he gets home. There is another chap on the photo who lives beside us, he is second on the left, and we let his mother see it and she was so pleased. I am enclosing it with my letter and we hope that ours comes very soon.

Hoping that you are all well and wishing you all the very best.
Lots of love for Baby Peter.
Yours sincerely. M B Hepple.
PS By the way, Mrs. Cummins, could we send Norman a Xmas card as his birthday is on Dec.

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September 20th
Away at about 0900hrs on our next lap, still with little on our minds. The weather was not so good, with wind and rain squalls. Sometimes Yanez and Bogdan were very annoying about routes etc. Bogdan seems to have no idea of direction. Anyhow if we wish to cross the valley we would have to hit the road – so why this detour I can’t imagine.  We found a pub right up in the mountains where we had lunch – an expensive way to feed, and our small store of money is dwindling. We heard at the pub that there is a wireless somewhere near, so we decided to try and hear the news tonight.

We went to the nearest village where Bogdan secured us a barn for the night and places to eat. Contacted three English officers heading for France. They said the road south was impossible so they were going to try France. They were of the opinion that the battle was going to start any day.

Monty and Yanez went off to hear the news which had nothing much in it. I sat talking, after a good meal, to an Italian who had done mosaic work in Leeds at the Central Hotel.  He was very fed up with war and only anxious to get back to England and work again.

Into bed early thank  God – quite a nice barn.

September 21st
Decided to stay here the day to do a bit of make and mend. We went down to the river and washed clothes etc. and I tried hard to decide which was the best way to go. I felt strongly that we should get south to our own forces, but, if this is impossible, then France seems the best to me. The others seemed to like this best as well, so we eventually decided to get on this way tomorrow.

About 1600hrs, we went back to the village. Monty and Bogdan went off to listen to the wireless again. Yanez and I went and met them. Nothing much to report – still no signs of another landing and the Germans seem to be forming some kind of line. Had another good meal and, after a further chat to our English-speaking Italian, we went into the hay. It rained hard at night – I only hope it is fine tomorrow.

Nearly two weeks out now and not much to show.  If only some lead could come to show us what is best to do.

21st September 1943 Postal and Telegraph Censorship Dept.
Union House, London EC1.
I am in receipt of your letter of the 20th inst., for which I beg to thank you.

I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant,
Deputy Financial Adviser.
21st September 1943 20 Sunningdale Drive, Cobham. [? Ed.]
Brenda Darling,
You have been constantly in our minds, hoping and fearing and hoping again that your news from Ronnie will be good. I am praying he is still in Italy. If only – oh, if only he could get home to you. I have almost dreaded writing to you, there is so much in my heart for you and it’s quite beyond me to put it into words. Yes, we heard Hastings on the DLI, and felt we had a proprietary interest! I expect you heard de W….(?) the other night, and it’s a relief to know

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the Red X  has done so well in Italy. We dreaded the news when the Salerno battle was in the balance, but I do not feel we can have such odds against us again in Italy, and the Americans are gaining in experience daily which seems to matter enormously in this war. Do send me a card to say if you have had any news lately, don’t write a letter, I know you are more than busy, but I do so share your anxiety.

I am immensely proud of my God son, he is absolutely splendid in that photograph, it’s too adorable, thank you so much for it. Don’t you still get the most terrific kick when you go on the beach or where there are people who obviously admire him? I should want to put a label on my chest “MY SON” ! How I wish I could see him, he is nearly two and that is such an attractive age. All ages are equally attractive though, aren’t they, at least we think all Jane’s are! Here are the first photos of her, the man has printed them so badly, but they will give you some idea of her. Terence bathed her on leave, it was a slow but completely successful operation! I cannot be too thankful for this patch with him ashore. He may be at sea for the other little Tibbits, but he will be able to imagine things so much more easily now. He is rather aching to get to sea, though poor darling, and have a crack at the Hun for Nigel’s sake and he would love to be in the Mediterranean now. He has asked to go but they won’t release him and now we have got through mid-September he thinks he may be there til mid-January ( praise be!) and I have laid in as much coal as possible in the hopes that he is right. It will be less crowded travelling at that time of year too, though I do not much like the prospect of the crossing very much.

Where does the time go when you have a baby in the house! I am hibernating this week as I must make her winter smocks and go blackberrying for jelly.

Our fondest love to you all and Jane sends friendly, dribbly kisses and she would love to be cuddled and give you them personally.
Always Hope.

September 22nd
Not very promising weather; we had heard it raining during the night, but we were dry enough in the straw.

After a bowl of milk and bread we all set off. Our minds were pretty open, but it was generally agreed that 1) West towards France was best.

Shortly after leaving the village and while still climbing in not very good weather, it began to get obvious that Yanez was not happy. We heard a long argument between the two in Slav.

From what we made out, Yanez favoured going south in the direction of Rome. Rome then was about 400 miles away, but I must admit that, despite having made no effort to suggest our moving south, I was nevertheless in agreement. It always seemed better to move towards our own troops than away from them, even if they were a long way away.

It was so difficult in those early days, with no accurate information of the situation, to form any concrete idea – but at least we would be going towards our own lines. We eventually, therefore, turned about and retraced our steps for a short distance, before crossing the valley which we had previously walked parallel to. Bogdan knew a house where we could see a map, so, after calling there and getting particulars of our route, we set off.

At last, after threatening all the morning, at 1200hrs it began to thunder and pour. Luck was with us however, as an old barn turned up just at the right moment, and we were able to eat some bread and cheese and rest. About 2.30pm, the rain slackened and with the necessity of finding a night’s food and lodging, we pushed on. It was a foul journey for the next five miles; up and down mountain gorges which tore the soles of our boots.

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About 6pm we found a village where we went into the local pub – an extravagance but it was all we could do. We had food and vino and Bogdan found us a barn for the night. He’s useful in that way. We should be moving in more of a straight line I feel.

I had the usual confused dreams.

22nd September 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
It sounds funny but your first letter actually gave me quite a lot of comfort. I would be even more miserable if we hadn’t each other and I couldn’t agree with your sentiments more. Sunday night was my worst time, I just howled my eyes out, and of course once one lets go it’s awfully difficult to get control again. I find it almost unbearable to read his recent letters, so full of hope, and know what a heart breaking disappointment it must be. My latest was written on August 23rd.

As you say the alternatives are all so frightful that the possibility of them being safe in Germany is almost the best of evils and yet I find that horribly depressing too. I’ve not really been happy since they were POWs. and I know they must both find the life appalling, however cheerful they sound. Do you know I find myself very resentful of the young officers I see walking about and thinking “why on earth should you be free and ours shut up”, quite ridiculous but there it is.

Sickening about the cable, they are wretched the way they take such ages to let one know. We had a cable from Sweden returned 10 days after despatch, they’d sent it to Switzerland by mistake! But it is a shame as it was such a cunning cable and it would have been rather nice to know your friend was trying but he probably is in any case.

I haven’t written before because I was away all yesterday and all today. I went to see Betty Clarke down in Brentwood, she looks ghastly but seems a little less desperate, has found some philosophy for herself. Anyway she says her in-laws definitely got a cable from Bologna saying “Safe and well”. She doesn’t know the date but says they have had some mysterious information that his camp (35) is all right. I simply don’t know what to think from all these rumours and wild stories. I wish we knew for certain if they were released or not because I don’t believe they all were.

The suspense is indescribable, I feel physically sick half the time but I am even more sorry for you with all your other domestic crosses and poor little Peter not being too well. Teeth are the very devil so don’t worry unduly, all children are upset with them but it doesn’t help and cheer one up. And it’s wretched for you to be so tied, that’s where I am lucky, I can leave the children and house and have done this week on purpose. I feel I am depressing company for both parents and children and I simply can’t be cheerful. This war, as you say, has gone on far too long.

Everybody I meet looks embarrassed, not knowing whether to ask after Sammy or not, and I try and avoid saying anything as tears are apt to spring up and I feel such a fool. For some unknown reason I feel worse now than I did when they were missing. Quite illogical.

Well, my dear, no good writing more, I’m no more cheerful than you but I pray hard for both Ronnie and Sammy and others, all one can do.
Lots of love. Karin.

September 23rd

Fine but windy. We started out this morning, without breakfast, but after a short walk we were asked into a house in the next village. We split – Yanez and I into one house, Monty

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and Bogdan into another.

The house we were in was of the usual style: as poor as possible. During our food of bread and milk, we were visited by the local priest and a woman who spoke a little English. She had little information to give.

After leaving the village we had a bad time with the route. Of necessity, we had to leave a good deal to the Yugoslavs who were able to ask directions, but they went badly wrong at times, having a poor sense of direction. At one time we got hopelessly lost and only righted ourselves by scrambling down a cliff-side and wading a river. Of course, it made it much more difficult avoiding all roads, but we felt that we were such obvious escapees that we only had to be seen once by the Germans to be retaken.

Monty and I discussed our future all day and were of the opinion that it was best to park in this area, which seemed moderately safe, until we could get some definite information to work on.  A lonely farm for a week or so might make all the difference. We seem to have changed our minds a lot but it is impossible to fix any particular plan without information.

At about 6pm we arrived at a village – we were to know it well. Bogdan again worked the trick: a very poor farm and filthy dirty, but very kind people. After supper we went down to the local to hear the news – it was apparently quite safe. The news was practically nil. After, we met an Italian who had spent a lot of time in Wales. He was very depressing about the war and said it might be months before they reached here because there were mountains all the way. How right he proved. Altogether, although glad to find a bed for the night, we were a depressed party which wended its way up the cobbled street home.

September 24th
A lovely day and up very early after rather a restless night, despite the straw being comfortable. We had the usual breakfast of bread and coffee, then, after collecting Yanez and Monty, we went into the mountains for the day. It was safer, we thought to get away from the village. We mucked about during the morning – Monty and I discussed our future and tried to do as much as we could with Yanez and Bogdan – that is as much as Monty’s Italian would run to.

At about 2.30pm the women with whom Yanez and Monty are living brought us out a basket of bread and cheese and cooked pears.  She has more money than our farm and is, I believe, the wife of a carabiniere. After we had eaten, we helped her and her children to cut wood, which passed the time nicely.

We have very roughly decided to push on south tomorrow, but this may be changed – we have a large valley to cross if we do.

At about 6pm we went down to our respective houses for a meal and then Bogdan and I went to the pub to hear the news – we thought it safer for only two of us to go. The place was pretty full, everyone wanting to hear the news, but after a while I did manage to get a bit of English news. Taken all in all, it is not too bad. I also managed to get across to Bogdan our plans, using the English-speaking Italian as an interpreter. As far as I can see, our plans somewhat differ and we may have to part, for which I am rather glad.

When we got back, after a difficult scramble up the cobbled street in the dark, I gave Monty the news and went to our barn.

September 25th
A slight mix up about what we were going to do: first we were leaving the Slavs and then staying. We eventually decided to stay one more day. I only hope we are not ruining the

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poor people that feed us, though they seem quite happy about it.

During the morning Monty and I went on a walk for a scout around. We went right across the valley to a little village, which was hidden on the far hillside. We thought that no-one was going to offer us anything, until a man brought us some bread on the edge of the village. He then said he could show us three other English, which he did after a stiff scramble up the mountain. They were three English soldiers and had got themselves very comfortable in a charcoal-burner’s hut or baracca. The hut was almost invisible and near to water. From what we could gather, the Italian who is a farmer, has a place for Monty and me, so we arranged to return the next night and sleep at his farm and at first light, he would take us to the place he has in mind. He seems rather frightened but, I think, genuine. This should suit us well if we can lie up here in peace and quiet until the news gives us some idea of what to do. He made various suggestions about a hut in the woods, but I think a stone affair would be better.

It rained as we made our way back to the other village, but we did not get very wet. After a good supper of minestrone, Yanez, Monty and I went down again to hear the news. It was quite good, but nothing really to get hold of. We had some wine and managed to buy some Italian cigarettes – ours are of course all gone and we pick them up when we can, ends and all.  Today as we came back, a little postman gave us some tobacco because I think he thought we were Germans. He was very quick to leave us.

The English-speaking Italian was very depressing about how long it will take the English to get here. I only pray he is not right.

It poured again at night, but the barn did not leak much and we were quite dry, but I’m afraid the woods will be soaking tomorrow.

September 26th
A rough night of wind and rain and the day was not too promising with heavy showers. Just after we got out of the barn there came a spy scare, so Bogdan and I ducked for the woods. Yanez and Monty must have done likewise as after about half an hour we collected together again. Apparently, one of the women had seen a stranger in the village who looked like a German in mufti. He turned out, I think, to be another of us, though I never saw him.

After breakfast, Monty and I decided it was a good opportunity to cut adrift. We had this other place to go to which was good and, taking it all in all, we were getting rather tired of Yanez and Bogdan, apart from the fact that four was far too much for the families we were staying with.

About 10.00hrs we said goodbye and parted. It took us sometime to accomplish our journey back to the little village of yesterday; it was rough going and now and again we had to shelter, it seemed safe enough, except for the unknown which we never met. We avoided the village for the time being and went straight to the hut of the three soldiers where we spent quite an amusing day. One was a parachute man, Irish and – we soon found out – tough, the others were Green Howards and two quite nice chaps. They had a stove in their hut which was ideal for warmth and cooking and, of course, unlimited wood all around them. They had a bracken bed which, although soft, was I believe rather cold; still they were very self-contained. We chatted of all kind of things and had occasional visits from some of the nearby village people. The news, which we pooled, was much the same and did not get us much further; none of us quite knew the best thing to do.

About 7.30 pm, as it was getting dark, we slipped down to the barn of our farmer friend, as instructed last night. After a little wait, he arrived and told us everything was alright, and

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that we were to go into his house for supper. He also gave us some tobacco which was grand, as we had been without a smoke for some time and even Italian tobacco was a joy.

Spent about an hour in his house with his young wife and his old father and mother.

Conversation was difficult but, as usual, photos of families and children etc. were good value. A very poor farm by the looks of it, but very kind. After about an hour he took us back to the barn and said he would collect us tomorrow morning to take us to our proper living place.

To sleep in nice straw, things look a bit brighter but had the usual troubled dreams.

On September 26th. Kesselring ordered the death penalty for Italians who harboured POWs.

The rival fascist Government, headed by Mussolini, also declared the death penalty.

Rewards of L1,800 (about £20 in present day money) was offered for giving away POWs. in the country and that of L5,000(£2,083) in Livorno. The Badoglio Government countered this by secretly distributing leaflets offering L5,000 to any Italian who gave hospitality to POWs. Ed.

September 27th
Just as the dawn was breaking the farmer came back to show us our future quarters. After a rough walk up the mountains, we found it was an old stone barn containing hay. It looked just the right thing, being nicely tucked away. As far as I could make out, he intends bringing us food every night to last us the day. Only hope he keeps his promise or we shall have to go scrounging.

After he left we went to sleep again until about 11.00hrs when we went up to the soldier’s hut for the day. We had some bread for breakfast and took some pears which we heated on the stove and ate, they were quite good. Found some mushrooms in the field as well, which gave us something else for food. It started to rain just after we arrived and kept it up all day, so we could do little else but sit and talk, mostly about the same subject; what is going to happen?

About 18.00hrs came back to our barn and, despite certain risks, lit a fire in the underneath part. With no chimney it was a bit smoky, but it dried our clothes at least and gave a bit of comfort. Our farmer brought some bread and milk and potatoes, which were very welcome and stayed chatting for a bit.

Went to bed at about 21.00hrs. Was glad of my blanket, which is a certain comfort at night and keeps the straw from getting inside my clothes. My boots are beginning to wear and I will have to try to get something done about them.

It poured all night – we couldn’t have moved far if we had wanted to.

27th September 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious.
Just listening to Cyril Fletcher who is as amusing as ever. Plenty of odd odes and George Wurzel. Sundays do seem such long days, darling, they seem to start Saturday afternoon when you used to be free and one would be doing something lovely together. I should be hardened by now but I’m not! Had some perfect cards of May 27th., Aug. 26th. and letter May 31st. You seem to have got my letters very well. The card is the most recent news I have and it was lovely to feel you were all right then. PR is much better now, thank goodness, I had the Dr. three times during the week, he was so rotten sicking up all his food and very white and wanting me with him all the time and sobbing, heart brokenly, when I

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went away. So unlike his usual independent little self. The teeth aren’t through yet but I can feel them in his gums. At one time we wondered if there was anything else wrong. He isn’t quite back on his food yet but does keep down what he eats. I made him a baked custard for supper tonight, he’s rather like his Daddy over it and makes many faces and won’t eat much but it is nourishing. The Dr. gave him a bottle of medicine which he has three times daily, at first he made a most fearful fuss and it was a pitched battle to get it down, however he is now most docile and opens his mouth for it but makes a terrific face of utter disgust. It has been so cold, I fear it will be a hard winter starting so early. I go to bed in dozens of woollies already! We are sitting over the electric fire now. It was Battle of Britain Sunday and I went to Church this morning. I go til the sermon and then I come out as it is all the time I can spare which sounds rather naughty but there is so much to do. I am a grand char, darling, yesterday morning I washed the bathroom, lavatory, cloakroom and passage and in the afternoon got in all the tomatoes and hung them in the greenhouse to ripen off in case of frost and then swept up the lawns after tea and the paths and PR helped me collect the leaves and put them in the basket! Quite a busy day with everything else to do as well!

It is wonderful how I manage without anyone really as there is a lot to do. Mummy has had one reply to our advertisement from a couple at Bournemouth and she has written to another man who advertised. There is nobody in the village who will do anything. It was awful saying goodbye to the gardener, we all nearly howled. PR gave him two little photos as a parting present, Mummy a fiver and me a humble pound. He was dreadfully sorry to go too. We are eating all the pears which shouldn’t ripen for weeks, I must get in the carrots soon and store them and the beetroot. You would laugh, darling, if you could see me in my trousers and old shirt and jersey. I wear you pyjamas underneath them as they are so scratchy! They fit me beautifully! Quite soon I hope to be posting them off to you when I get your new address.

Karin and I are holding each other’s hands, we write copiously and you can well imagine what we say, very much what you and Sammy will be saying. Did I tell you that I heard from Mrs. Luxton and she can’t have Peter and me, if all else fails, as her maid isn’t at all keen on visitors and she’s terrified of losing her. Also she is sleeping in our room and her Peter has his own room so she really hasn’t got room for us. She wrote an awfully nice letter and said she would have loved to have had us had it been at all possible. If only we could get somebody just to do the boilers, it would solve so much. Mummy isn’t too grand as this weather touches up her chest. Last week wasn’t at all a good week all round, what with poor, precious PR, I get so worried when he isn’t well, not that it happens often thank goodness. He seems to have got so tall lately and is walking so well. We went round to ask after Mrs. Wratislaw, who has had her appendix out, and he was most impressed by PR and thought he was very developed. He walks all round the village, now, so fast that I almost have to run to keep up with him. One needs all one’s wits to see that neither he nor the two dogs get into mischief. PR has a great liking for gardening and earth, he spends hours scooping up handfuls and putting it into tins or throwing it on to the paths, which isn’t too popular! He decided, today, the front step should be well covered and so it is now! I shall have to get the broom going tomorrow. I wish you could see the Michaelmas daisies, darling, they are beautiful. Not long to our wedding day, precious, you know what I shall be thinking then and praying so hard we won’t have to have another anniversary apart.

I can’t believe we shall have been married three years then. It is an amazing thought. I don’t know how we have got over all this separation, sometimes I feel I can’t bear another moment of it, yet somehow one does. So much worse for you precious. I try to imagine what it will be like to see you again, I have dressed PR and myself many times and pictured where it will be.

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I long to see your face when you really see PR and what you will think of him and whether he will come up to my glowing accounts of the most adorable baby in the world, and at times the most wicked little devil as befits a son of mine! Perhaps it won’t be too long now. You can picture my thoughts now precious, the thoughts of so many longing wives. I love you so much sweetheart. Keep cheerful, my beloved, we’ve got each other. God bless you and keep you safe. Take all care Darling. Your own BUNNY.

September 28th
A most depressing day; it rained continuously and, with fog as well, was not very cheering. After a little exploration, Monty found an old charcoal-burner’s shack about five minutes away from our place. It contained a stove and was next to a spring, so taking our potatoes, some pears and an old pot, we retired there for the day, spending the time eating boiled potatoes and pears and in snatches of conversation. Did a small amount of washing but it was difficult to dry.

The farmer does not like us to spend the day near his barn, so we leave each morning in case someone comes up to spy. About 16.00hrs we went back to the barn and had a short nap to fill in the time and again at about 17.30hrs our farmer arrived with food, a thick minestra etc. which was very good after our diet of potatoes all day.

Into bed early to the usual dreams. Only pray it will be fine tomorrow.

28th September 1943 Bank of England, London EC2.
Dear Madam,
Defence (Finance) Regulations 1939
With reference to your recent correspondence with the Director of Postal and Telegraphic Censorship, I write to draw your attention to the above-mentioned Regulations which provide that no person in the United Kingdom shall incur a liability, whether actual or contingent, in respect of any payment outside the Sterling area, or agree to accept such a liability at any future time.

You will appreciate, therefore, that the arrangement proposed in your cable to Mr. Frewen would infringe the above Regulations if carried into effect.

In the circumstances I would suggest that you consult your bankers in this country or any local bank should it become necessary for you to transfer funds outside the sterling area as a result of your husband’s escape or release from Prisoner of War camp in Italy.

Pleas acknowledge receipt of this letter.

Yours faithfully.
JJ Price,
Bank of England, Foreign Exchange Control.

September 29th
The number of days is growing: it is the 21st day since being free!! Cloudy but fine, thank heaven. After breakfast of a slice of bread and a cold potato, we left for the soldier’s hut where we spent the day. Two of them went off for a few hours to scrounge food and news, but on return they had little of the latter. Managed to get a wash and a shave and make ourselves some hot food, which made us feel better and spent the rest of the day chatting.

It is amazing how windy the Italians are round about here; as far as I can make out, there are only a few Germans at Bardi – about five miles across the valley from us, but the Italians act as if the place was stiff with them. Of course they can never be sure that one of their

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own villagers, or even relations, will not give them away if they help a prisoner, so they are very careful. Quite a number about here speak English, having lived in England a short time, but they are just the same as the others. I understand that quite a wealthy farmer, who speaks English well, lives just below the soldiers hut, but he is afraid to do very much to help us.

Monty and one of the soldiers decided to go down to a nearby village to get news, so at about 17.00hrs. I went back to our barn alone. The farmer brought food, which I divided, ate mine and kept Monty`s. He arrived back at about 23.00hrs with little news, except that the Germans seem to be going to hold the Po which is an obvious line, if this means they are going to pull back to the river is another matter.

Idea’s coming into my mind that we should move south, but I don’t want to go alone and Monty does not seem too keen. It is a pretty deadly life with others to talk to, but alone it must be hell I should think.

29th September 1943 2, Devonshire Place, London W1.
Brenda, my dear,
Thank you so much for your letter and the book which I am enjoying very much. She writes extraordinarily well and I find books now are rather like a drug, I just read til I fall asleep!

Our butler’s daughter (very involved!) has a fiancée POW in Italy, fairly far south. She’s heard nothing from him but she tells me that someone farther up the road has had a cable from their son who was in a Naval camp in the north saying he’s all right but no mention of where or how???? That’s the second mysterious cable I’ve heard of. If only we knew whether they had been released from the beginning, it would make such a difference. I think and argue with myself back and forwards, it is such utter hell because one has that dangerous little hope that they may, by some miracle, get free and yet I feel it’s quite impossible. Oh dear!

I am sorry about Peter, it’s so miserable when they are off colour and if you’re like me, you’re probably very worried even though it is nothing at all. I always am too, very absurd!

In many ways I would adore to come and stay with you, at least we shouldn’t have to put on any stage effects of being brave, but I simply can’t at the moment, in fact I doubt if I can this side of Xmas. We’re having awful trouble with various tenants who won’t pay, won’t get out and lead immoral lives on the premises!!!!! As well as the flat here, we have a mews flat and both lots are behaving in the most queerest fashion. As soon as we get them out of the mews it’s got to be done up and re-let.  Mother and I have to be at Fleet to run the house and I can’t get away for more than a night at a time. What a damnable business life is at times, nothing but complications and really the people in London, there are hardly anything but Jews and dark races!!

I am very sorry, too, for your Mother, teeth are such a curse. If affairs get settled quickly here I’d love to come for a few days and I can cook.

Lots of love, Karin.
I’ll return the book when read.

September 30th
A dull day, trying the whole time to clear but not succeeding; the mist seems to sweep up the valley, at times obliterating everything. We spent the day sitting in the soldier’s hut talking and cooking potatoes and pears etc. It was decided that one of the soldiers and myself should go over to Cereseto for the night to hear the news. Left at about 16.00hrs and took the direct route straight across the valley which, despite being a little more dangerous,

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was much quicker, though a stiff walk. Arrived at Cereseto at about 18.00hrs and swung round the outside making for the houses which we knew before. It was raining by now and we were very glad at last to get under cover. The woman who had looked after Yanez and Monty took us in and gave us a good feed. Yanez and Bogdan are still in the village but are living with another woman.

After supper we all went down to the pub for the news. There was little to get hold of, but the English seem to be advancing, so it may not be long now. Saw the two Yugoslavs in the pub who had given us a meal just before we met Yanez etc. Had some vino and also managed to get some cigarettes, which was a great find. Had a scramble home up the cobbled street in the dark and then into the hay; altogether quite an amusing day.

By the beginning of October the Germans and Italian Fascists started rounding up the POWs. German soldiers even dressed in civilian clothes in order to catch them which made the sympathetic Italians very wary. Ed.

October 1st
A dull day. After the usual breakfast of milk and bread we said goodbye. They gave us some food to take back; I think the Yugoslavs think we are starving in our hut. On the way home, first we stopped at a little village at the bottom of the valley, who gave us a little bread, and again at the house of an English-speaking Italian. He was very frightened, but gave us food and wine and mentioned the names of various other English who had passed through, some from our camp. By now our sacks were quite heavy and it was a hard pull up the mountain back to the hut. Found the others there with little food, so our collection was welcome – also our tobacco.

Sounds of bombing La Spezia way; only hope it means something.

Found , much to my distress,  that my silver cigarette case – B`s wedding present – had gone from the small haversack which I had left in the soldier’s hut. This was hell as it was practically my last link with home. I am convinced it is the parachute chap (he is a very rough customer) but, short of a search, one can do nothing, blast it.

Went back to our place about 19.00hrs, farmer brought food but not quite so much, and then into the barn above.

A very disturbed night.

October 2nd
Up at dawn to a misty day. Went straight to the soldier’s hut collecting some mushrooms on the way. Still no sign of case, so must put up with the loss. Spent the day round about the hut discussing the usual things. Monty and Thomas (one of the soldiers) went off foraging and later the para chap.

There are reports that our troops are forging ahead in the south. We also had a visit from our farmer friend, who said that Rommel has his H.Q. at Parma. Who knows? All longing for a cigarette, still it may not be long now before we are in English hands (8 months). Saw new moon tonight . All felt certain this moon should see new landings, perhaps at La Spezia or Genoa. There are hundreds of P.O.W.s in the hills around just waiting for the landing, but one sometimes wonders if further would be better.

October 3rd
A lovely day for a change. Went up to the soldier’s hut at dawn and later, when the sun was

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out, Monty and I went up into the mountains and lay in the sun. Examined a charcoal place with the wood all ready for lighting, very clever. Went back to the hut at about 14.00hrs.

The para chap is most annoying – Irish and full of himself – the other two are quite nice chaps. Two of them went out for food and news and did not get back in time before we left.

Monty and I returned to our hut at dusk. Apparently the farmer had told Monty that we were to go down to the house for food tonight but, owing to the language difficulty, we misunderstood and waited, expecting him to collect us, which he did at last. However, had a good meal and Monty got his boots mended. I must do the same.

Back to our barn for the night.

3rd October 1943. Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious,
Such a happy day, even though it’s a Sunday, culminating, after tea, in wheeling firewood and logs from the garage up to the boiler room! I got up the beetroot after lunch and have stacked them on the garage floor preparatory to burying them in sand tomorrow, by the time I got the barrow of sand from the yard down there I had had enough! Then all the geranium cuttings had to be carried into the greenhouse, some pots and some boxes, which were hellishly heavy. So now, Darling, I am bursting with righteous priggishness! I was by no means full of virtue whilst doing it all, my language was choice. Then there are the carrots to get up and the garden seems full of weeds already and the strawberry-bed wants something doing to it but goodness knows what and the cabbages are full of holes and the lawn wants mowing again and the leaves sweeping up, all the roses on the house pruning, and countless other jobs. So, darling, by the time you get back the garden will be a hayfield liberally plastered with groundsel! I wish I had a dozen pairs of hands and the strength of an ox instead of being only me. I picked some lovely roses this morning and a few violets which are scenting the room. Granny went to Church and PR and I to post and then up to the mill to see the quackquacks who all obliged by coming close to the pram. He was thrilled with them. He is much better now but still looks white and there are four large lumps on his gums, not through yet. I wish they would hurry up. He is so sweet and good and we have great tickling parties and he squirms and yells with laughter but one thing he can’t bear is his Mama being cross with him when he’s naughty, he opens his mouth and roars piteously and flings his arms round my neck and presses his face close to mine and heaves great sobs.

It’s very hard to enforce good manners and general behaviour when faced by that but I do try and so does he, next time! He is thrilled with his little blue dressing gown and most intrigued by the Mama quackquack and two yellow, baby quacks on it and talks about them often. He always looks rather a little tramp in his every day clothes, his jersey and dungarees, but it’s the only clothes for playing in the garden as he plasters himself in mud within the first few minutes and then looks surprised! I’m told small boys are always grubby anyway and that it’s most unnatural if they are not. Mary Kirby rang up on Friday night and asked if she could come over with Nicholas on Thursday. They arrive at 2.15 so we shall have quite an amusing afternoon. Then on Saturday I am meant to be taking PR over to West Bay to a children’s party at Mrs. Waces’. Her daughter has a boy two months older than PR, I wonder how he will behave. We were going to tea with Mrs. Ryan today only she rang up this morning to say she had a sore throat so we are going next Sunday instead.

Then, Monday, Mummy goes to Bournemouth for a week to the dentist as she has to have more teeth out and her plate altered. I only hope it will be decent weather for her. Phyllis very kindly offered to come down and help me. She was so nice when she last came and she

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adores PR so will be able to take him for walks whilst I cook etc. We haven’t got anybody here yet as you can gather, Mummy has had several applications but they all ask such colossal wages one would almost have to go to work to pay them! We really could do with a gardener/handyman alone to do the garden and boilers and help in the house as we can manage all right then. Poor Mummy’s breathing has been rotten, she spent Friday in bed and is very wheezy now. The weather is so odd, muggy one day and then cold the next and the sudden changes are no good for her.

I shall be thinking so much of you on 12th, sweetheart, and praying hard this will be our third and last anniversary apart. We must look forward to the fourth together. I wonder when we shall hear where you are, perhaps soon now. Karin rang up the other night, she had had a little news that was comforting in one way and not in another. I am still wearing your pyjamas under my trousers, darling, they keep me nice and warm. You would have a fit if you could see me, I have forgotten what it’s like to dress up and do my nails etc! We went on the beach after an early tea yesterday, it was lovely down there and did us good. PR walked a lot and was most alarmed when a lorry came round the corner on top of him rather quickly. He fled into my arms quite appalled and the lorry stopped and produced comforting sounds. It wasn’t really terribly near but he had never been at close quarters with one on his feet before. Cobber discovered a rabbit skin and brought it triumphantly to within a few yards and then decided we wouldn’t appreciate it after all so sat down wondering what to do next. He adores PR and never leaves him, too sweet. God bless precious. Take every care sweetheart. All our devoted love. Bunny and PR.

October 4th
Up at dawn and, after the usual meal of bread, went up to the soldier’s hut. They said that the news was not so good but after hearing it I don’t know. They seem to be stuck in the south a bit, but a landing somewhere else might alter that. Afraid I am getting very restless and feel we should push on further south. If they use the Po as a line, they will use the mountains we are in I feel sure. On the other hand, Monty does not seem so keen and it is rather miserable to travel alone, apart from the fact that I know hardly any Italian. I must also get my boots attended to.

Monty went over to Cereseto for the night to see what was happening and get news. I went up onto the tops during the afternoon to rest and think. It is so hard to know what to do for the best, we seem safe enough here but I still think we should go down towards our own troops. Saw grand sight of 30 of our bombers pass over – the first really that we have clearly recognised.

In the evening, two of the soldiers went off on the scrounge. I mucked about and then went down to our sleeping-hut where the farmer gave me bread and milk, not quite so much, thank heaven the pears etc. have kept us going.

October 5th
Another glorious day. After some bread I went up to the soldier’s hut collecting some mushrooms on the way. Two of them had heard the news last night which was good; we appear to be advancing all along the line, but it may be some little time before we are relieved here.

Monty came back at about 10.00hrs. A house over there has asked us to go over and stay with them for a bit. He said it was a good place, perhaps it would a good idea for a bit, though I feel Monty and I should split as we are getting on each other’s nerves. Eventually

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decided to go across for a day or so to hear news and then go off south alone. I first want to get my boots attended to. Spent the remainder of the day in the hut with the soldiers.

Locals brought us news of spies and carabinieri in the local village but probably untrue. I believe the nearby priest got into hot water a short time ago for helping prisoners.

After an undecided day as to what was best to do, I had my plans somewhat fixed by news which our farmer friend gave us when he brought our food. He said, as far as we could make out, that he had been instructed by an Italian officer to tell us to remain where we were until we are contacted again. Couldn’t make out if this was some rescue organization or what, but decided we must wait a bit and see. The farmer also took my boots to patch them up which was kind of him. Monty slipped back to see if the soldiers had heard anything but they hadn’t, it is all most mysterious.

October 6th
Not such a nice day: cloudy and a bit cold. After a good breakfast, which a friend of the farmer brought, together with my boots, we went to the soldier’s hut. Sat talking all morning but still cannot understand our instructions of last night. Monty decided to go off to Cereseto again to hear news, so left at midday. Apparently there is an Italian who speaks English who wants us to go and stay. He has a wireless which is easy to work and one gets the complete English news. He left at about 12.00hrs and I went for a walk on the start of our walk south. It seems easy going to start with anyhow. I am certain that is the best thing and I am ready to start at any time. I am afraid I will have to be alone – Monty does not seem to want to move, but perhaps it will be just as well.

After a chat to the soldiers, I went down to the hut for a very small supper and then into the hay.

6th October 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Darling Brenda,
With this short letter I am sending some small sheets of note paper and envelopes, the visiting cards will follow as soon as possible.

I had hopes that after hearing Dennis was safe in Switzerland the next would be Ronnie as, strangely, on both of our most worrying times, viz Dunkirk and round about the attack and retreat in N Africa, we have always heard first that young Dennis was safe and then news of Ronnie, we still live in hope it will be so this time. I wish we could help you, honey, to bear your and share your anxiety, but you know we are always thinking of you. There is a problem now that some of them have got to Switzerland how will they get home to England, they cannot fly them home so I suppose they will just have to stay there until there’s a road through France, or until Italy is ours.

Weather just foul, it’s rained all this week and I haven’t seen a golf club since Saturday. It looks like keeping on too as the sky is dull and dour and never a break.

We had a letter from Captain Omley of the USA Air Force, he was and is, evidently, a very great friend of my cousin William Loftus’ son, also called William, otherwise Bill, and he asked if he can come up to see us. Mary at once wrote and told him to come whenever he could. I want to do all we can for these lads as both Ruth and Mary had such a wonderful welcome when they went to the States, not  only from my own relatives but from friends of my cousin.

My love to you all, darling, by the way I hope to get a decent wheelbarrow made by a joiner

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here for Peter’s birthday present if you think he would like it.

Hope your Mother has recovered and also that you have news of some reliable person to come and live in.

October 7th
A foul day: mist and rain. Went straight up to the soldier’s hut and at about 11.00hrs went with the para chap to scrounge food. Had a hard walk over to the village the other side of the mountain where it was fine. An old woman and the village schoolmistress gave us something to eat and to take back to the others, also the blessing of some cigarettes (10).

When we got back to the hut, found Monty and the two Yugoslavs, Bogdan and Yanez, there. I am afraid the news is not so good after all. Came to the ground with a bang. That is the worst of it, one gets no real information on which to make plans.

Monty said he has a good place for us the other side of the valley, but did not sound very enthusiastic. I can’t make up my mind. I know it would be best to part, but it would be very lonely alone. The two Yugoslavs went back to their village, Monty and I to our hut where, to crown it all, we got no supper. I think the farmer is rather regretting his generosity. So we went into the hay hungry.

7th October 1943 Yorkshire Penny Bank, Bishop Auckland.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I have today received from the Scottish Widows’ Assurance Society the premium receipts for your two policies with them.

These I have sent on to our “Safe Custody” branch with a request that they be placed with the respective policies.

Yours faithfully,
James F Glover.
He hand writes: Hope you are both well and if the good news has not reached you I sincerely hope it is on the way and that all your anxiety will be ended. Kindest regards.

October 8th

I was up early, Monty slept in. I went down to see the Yugoslavs as I had an idea that if they were moving south I might tag along with them, but in view of what they said, decided to wait another day or so to see what was happening. I went straight to the soldier’s hut, Monty said he might go direct across to Cereseto so I left him to his own devices. We are getting rather strained.

Did some washing at the hut and chatted to the soldiers. Back to the sleeping place and Monty had gone, so he must be over at Cereseto. Got very little food at night and so damned hungry. I fear this place is finished and will go over to Monty`s place tomorrow. No more news from the farmer, expect it is all rumour.

8th October 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda my dear,
Another grain of information. A Mrs. Skerfield, who I don’t actually know, wife of Commander Skerfield, has heard from him from Germany. He was in PG 19 and he writes very bitterly to say they were double-crossed by the Italians. They demanded to be released when the Armistice was declared but the Italians said “No, they were responsible for their

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welfare and couldn’t let them run loose”. Two days later they were handed over lock, stock and barrel to the Germans. I believe the same happened at PG 5 but that I have not heard so authentically as this. Rotten business, but in a way they may be lucky as they are safe and have their kit and everything. We may possibly hear from Germany too, but not so soon as we know 29 were let out! Lord, what a mess it is and how miserable I feel for them. Every time I have a hot bath or sit in an armchair in front of the fire and eat a good meal I think of them and nearly choke.

Terrible rush. Do hope your Mother and Peter both well. Love Karin.

October 9th
A foul day. Went up to the soldier’s hut to eat chestnuts which we had collected. The owner of our barn came up and two of the soldiers went off to the local village with him. The other soldier and I made ourselves a stew with mushrooms etc. which was quite good.

About 16.00hrs decided to go across to Cereseto, I wanted to arrive at about dusk. The weather had cleared by then thank heaven, so one could see one’s route. Took the long way round the valley, after saying goodbye to the soldiers. The trip did not take me nearly as long as I expected and I had to hang about in the woods feeling damned hungry. I eventually went into the house of the woman I knew, who gave me a good welcome with food. After a bit, Monty arrived and took me to our new abode. It is good, being a little bedroom in the house of an Italian, who was a chef in America, called Vittoria. He speaks English a bit and seems very kind.

After a grand supper (very welcome) and the English news we retired to our room. Monty had the bed and I slept with my blanket on the floor. This was my choice as I felt he had found the place so he should have first choice and the bed was too small for two.

By the end of the first week of October both the 5th and the 8th. Armies were well entrenched some hundred miles south of Rome. The terrain between was rugged and mountainous and Kesselring thought he could hold it as it was ideally suited to defend, particularly in winter. The German plan was for a series of fortified defences across the width of the peninsular using the natural terrain to help them. When one German line was breached they withdrew to the next, thus the Allies had to fight every inch of the way. Ed.

9th October 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
Many thanks for your letter, darling, which came last night. I can hardly wait, Friday afternoon, to see the evening post as I get your letter and Ruth’s, and as we are having tea Charlie and I do so love reading them. The photo of Peter is lovely, very like we have one of Ronnie taken on the beach at Seascale, the same shaped head. I hope you enjoyed all the tea parties with him. It is so good for him to have children of his own age to play with. I hope Granny Cecil will have decent weather at Bournemouth, although it isn’t a very pleasant trip, having a new plate made and teeth out. I wish she could have had someone with her. Glad you are having Phyllis, how she will love having Peter for a whole week. I envy her.

By the time you get this it will be the anniversary of your Wedding day, I hope the flowers arrive in time. We are sending you an old, silver soup ladle, but it may not arrive by the early post. I know who will be thinking of you wherever he is. Oh. Darling, Ronnie is never out of my thoughts. If they have got away they will have had some trecking to do and if taken by the Germans he will be feeling pretty sick. Anyhow it is just in the lap of the Gods and we

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must wait patiently to hear. I know what your anxiety must be, Grandpa is so quiet about it all, he won’t talk about it but I know Ronnie is always in his thoughts and you too. Yes, we will gamble on Christmas and then you, Peter and Granny will have to come up and we will celebrate all together.

The photo of Ronnie, Charlie will send the beginning of the week as it needs a special long envelope. It is a group of the DLI taken in camp, he looks such a kid in it but a nice one. Charlie has gone to golf or he would have added to this.

All our love and I hope Ronnie will be with you the next anniversary October 12th and Felicity on the way. God bless you sweetheart and a kiss for Peter.
Granny Mary

October 10th
A dull day, spent it in the house of Vittoria. He is a grand old boy, seems to have a bit of money and a better house than usual. Passed the time cleaning up etc. and listening to any news we could. At about lunch-time, Clifford, who had been on the road block with us, came over from a nearby village to see us. He is living in a barn with a family and a New Zealand Sergeant. After a good lunch we walked back over with him and some English-speaking Italians and met the other two. Talked all the afternoon about what is the best thing to do and decided to stay another week to see how things worked out. When we got back to Vittoria`s we met Yanez who had some strange story about a Major who had contacted the three soldiers at their hut. I couldn’t make out whether English or Italian, or in fact what it was all about, but decided to find out tomorrow. It might be something to do with the thing the Italian farmer was talking about, though I doubt it. To bed and, as last night, a very disturbed sleep.

10th October 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious,
What memories of three years ago, you will be thinking the same, darling. It seems incredible to think in two days’ time we shall have been married for three years, quite an old, established couple in fact and yet it doesn’t feel like that at all, I suppose because we’ve spent nearly all of that time apart. I still feel the bride, sweetheart, though I don’t suppose anybody else thinks so and I certainly don’t look like one in my trousers! No news yet if you, darling. We heard Dennis made it all right, he started off from not far from you. It may be some time before he gets home as I don’t think transport is very easy from Switzerland.

Lovely for his parents to know he is all right. He always turns up, lucky chap. Neither Karin or Anne has heard anything so we are endeavouring to bestow our souls in patience which none of us are particularly enjoying, none being particularly patient people! PR and I had an outing yesterday and went to West Bay, to John Thomson’s second birthday party. He is an ash blonde and so is his cousin Andrew Bannerman, aged 18 months, who was also present, a colossus of a child, scarlet cheeks and blue, blue eyes and rather like a battle-ship. John is about a size smaller than PR all round though he is six weeks older, but he only weighed four pounds when born. PR looked adorable in a yellow and white woolly suit and white socks and his new, blue coat which sets off his hair perfectly, though I suppose that is a sissy remark to make about a boy. Mr. Foote came to fetch us and as he had a wedding he was early so we went on to the front and there met Fatty from the bank who whooped when he saw PR. He was on a bike if you can imagine it. Poor bike as Mummy said. Then we met Roy Thomson with John on a harness, I of course had forgotten PR’s so he was like quicksilver,

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on to the sea wall one moment and heading for barbed wire the next and then running down a car and, after, a Shetland pony’s hind quarters. I was breathless by the time we got to the flat. John is a much quieter child but maybe it was Papa’s steadying influence which made him trot sedately beside him. R Frankau has just come on the wireless and started off saying “As my Grandmother used to say to me Ronnie Ponnie…..” That’s a good name for you, darling! To go back to the party, it was a colossal success, wonderful tea and cake with two candles and Mothers and babies sat at the table and the rest round the room. PR beside me on a chair with a cushion on it, helping himself right and left and wanting to put back the things he had bitten in to back on different plates. He had a huge tea and made everyone roar because for the rest of the evening he kept trotting back to the table and having another snack and then walking round the room offering the other children bits. I having previously said he didn’t eat much tea as he had supper after his bath!  He ate far more than anybody else so I expect they think I starve him! It was the attraction of the food left on the table in the room. He picked up a whole currant cake once and tried to gnaw bits out of it but was fortunately rescued in time. They were all sweet playing and running about and so good and happy. John and PR played hide and seek behind chairs and giggled hard.

It was very sad when the time came to go as it had all been such fun. It was a heavenly day like today too and we had tea here in the garden. Mr. Foote fetched us and said he had had three honeymoon couples in the car between taking and fetching us. PR wanted his party all over again today and kept saying “Mama – car -baba” hopefully. I did feel so proud of him, sweetheart, he looked so beautiful and was so sweet and good. His one blot was to grab his orange juice off the table and pour it down his front on to the carpet. My fault for having it on the edge. Betty, Andrew’s Mama, is having another in January and is huge. That’s four I know then, a very popular month. Mary Kirby brought Nicky over on Thursday, she looks like another boy, we think, and she wants a girl. Nicky has been playing with all the evacuees and is very tough, he would keep slapping and kicking PR, he didn’t mean it unkindly as he’s a nice little boy, but it was just the way of playing he was accustomed to. PR didn’t understand at all and looked puzzled but didn’t make a sound. Ever since then when we have talked about Baba Nicky PR has smacked himself! They are about the same size. Mary came on the 2.15 bus and we put Nicky to sleep in PR’s pram in the back garden til four and then got both babies up and they met. They were so sweet over your photo as we were all in PR’s room and he rushed to the table and picked it up saying “Dada” and kissed you whereupon Nicky rushed up also saying “Daddy” and took it and kissed it and they got so excited about it. We had tea in the kitchen and then unfortunately it was very soon time to go for the bus. We didn’t go to tea with Mrs. Ryan today as she still has a throat but we are going next week instead. Mummy goes off tomorrow afternoon to Bournemouth and Phyllis comes at 6.30 til Saturday when Mummy returns. We shall miss her so much.

Still no servants but we survive. After tea PR and I swept up leaves, much to his joy, and I chased him with the brush and he nearly died laughing. We had plaice for lunch yesterday, local ones, so now, Darling, I have learnt to clean fish, not that there’s much to doing plaice. No news to tell you, sweetheart. For every year we can’t celebrate our wedding anniversary we’ll make up with the most gigantic one eventually. I’m sure next year will see us together, precious, so keep cheerful and think always of what we have to look forward to and of PR. God bless and keep you safe. All my heart’s love. Bunny.

October 11th
Another dull day. Monty and Bogdan went off first thing to see what the soldiers had to say

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about Yanez’s story and I went up to the woman’s house to give her a hand with the work in return for food. Spent the morning stripping polenta, a dull job, and chopping wood. During the morning two of the soldiers arrived; they had missed Monty and said they knew nothing about any Major and that as their hut was getting too well known, they were off south tomorrow – lucky dogs, it is I am sure the best thing to do.

At about 15.00hrs I returned to Vittoria`s and hadn’t been in the kitchen more than five minutes when Gary Cole and B. Richards arrived. They had been at my table in camp and Monty and I had seen them once or twice since the armistice. They were on their way south and, hearing that we were here, had called to see us. Sat chatting until Monty returned. They had news of others, but little information as to events and thought that south seemed the best chance. When Monty returned, he said he wanted to be off as well, which was grand. So we are all going on Wednesday (DV). Vittoria was against it; he said he could look after us and we didn’t realise what it would be like with the winter coming on, but we were adamant.

After a good supper, the four of us went down to the pub for news and wine to drink to our future. I told them that we must have a celebration tomorrow as it is my Wedding anniversary. Back to bed – Gary, Branny (?) and I into the barn, Monty into the bed.

October 12th
A better day and one with many memories of three years ago. During the morning, we all went down into Cereseto to have odd bits done to our boots. The little cobbler was most kind and did them for practically nothing. I had mine patched and studded for £3 and they now look fit for miles. Vittoria turned up trumps. When we got in we found that in honour of the day he had set too and made a perfect feed: “to make up a little,” as he said, “for my being away from home”. I never found out who had told him. We had a grand minestra, pastry and jam and about three different cakes – he is certainly a good chef and we could hardly walk after it. He must have used up some precious supplies. In the afternoon, we sauntered over to see Clifford but he was out. We also discussed our journey and have decided to travel together for a start and if four is too much, then we must split. Our general direction is to be slightly south of west, keeping to the mountains and avoiding large villages and roads. A lot, of course, rests in the hands of the Gods. After a small supper (we couldn’t eat much), we all went down to the pub where we had a farewell and anniversary drink.

A good party and back to our barn for sleep before tomorrow. I wonder what the future holds – I am sure we are doing the right thing at last and I am afraid the last month has been rather a waste in some ways.

Our Walk
Taken from a book called “Back -packing and Walking in Italy” by Stefano Ardito. “Terrain, Northern Apennines. The visitor has a choice to make. Some of the mountains offer a real mountain flavour, subtle ridges, exposed summits, rock faces, whilst others, lower in height, are essentially, heavily forested plateaux. Rock is generally schist or arenaria, making the trails slippery when it rains and the rock poor in any weather. The relative lowness of many of the summits can be misleading. Being very exposed to Tyrrhenian winds, all the highest are covered with heavy snow and mountaineering equipment and experience are required on many trails until June. This is also needed in the Central Apennines which are, by far, the highest and most rugged part of Italy. Beware of the mountains during late Autumn”.

On October 13th the Badoglio Government declared war against the Germans. Ed.

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October 13th
Thank heavens a nice day. Thanked Vittoria very much and left him our addresses. He also gave Monty and I 200lr. each for the trip. He has been grand and I must try and return it somehow if I get through. Got ourselves collected together and away at about 08.30hrs.

First we went across the valley and then swung west. It was a very hard day’s walk and at times I felt almost done. Afraid the other three are rather tougher and younger than I, with the result that it is all I can do to keep up with their pace. However, after covering about 25kms and crossing four mountain ranges, we made a small village at about 18.00hrs – almost done for.

Managed to get a good meal and a warm barn for the night and I was also lucky enough to swap my old pair of trousers and battle-dress jacket for other ones of rather better quality and fit, so I am quite well fitted out. Gary is best with his Airforce trousers and pullover, which might be civilian clothes.

Into the barn to a very cold night, but slept.

October 14th
Another glorious day. After milk and bread we got off again at about 08.30hrs and, with another hard days tramp, covered about 20kms and three mountains by 17.00hrs.when we decided to stop. It was always difficult to know when to stop, as one usually found that if one left it too late it became difficult to find a place for food and a barn. On the other hand, one wanted to make the most of the daylight. One also had to be careful in case a village was German or Fascist.

Found our three soldiers from the hut in the village. We went to the other side where Branny Richards, our Italian-speaker, got us into a very poor house. However, we hadn’t been there long when an Italian officer came and took us to his house. He was living with three other officers and a girl and we found out they were the contacts of an Italian force which had taken to the mountains with arms etc. and wanted to continue the battle against the Germans. Their job was to contact British and Italians and try to get them to join their band, but we didn’t want to. However, later in the evening the three soldiers did join, chiefly to get fresh clothes and boots when I think they were going to get off again. I never so much saw or heard of them again, so I don’t know what happened to them.

During our walk, we heard of many of these Italian bands but, after investigating, found most were a myth. Anyhow, we had no wish to join considering it was far better to join our own forces than to risk a dubious existence with Italians who might run away at the slightest thing. Despite our refusal to join they looked after us very well; we had a good meal and vino and then they had a dance with the locals. Monty and I did not partake; we were far too tired, but Gary got off with the girl in the house, a most attractive woman. They made us beds on the floor after the dance which we were very glad to get into.

October 15th
Left after a latish breakfast; Italian officers gave us bread and jam which was nice, seldom have I longed for good cigarettes more. Another hard day’s walk with a main road to cross which was accomplished all right. Covered about 20kms and crossed three mountains. This country is heart breaking; after trailing up one mountain, one is greeted at the top with a view of mountain after mountain as far as one can see. I have considerably reduced my sack and now carry my small belongings rolled up in my blanket and slung across my shoulders.

Of course, there is no doubt that with my Alpine jacket and rolled up blanket that I am a

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fugitive, still it is easier to carry. I must have lost pounds as the climbing brings me out in a heavy sweat, which rolls off me and drips off my nose. The quiet time in camp has not left me in very good shape, still I am improving and my feet are sticking up to it.

Found a small village with a barn at night, lambs underneath which cried, but soon asleep.

October 16th
Woke to a rotten day; thick mist which later turned to rain. At first we thought the mist would hold us up as we did not know our way over the mountain before us, but over our milk and bread an old man told Branny that he would act as our guide for a good part of the way. He had to take one of his oxen up the mountain to graze, so we had a slow journey.

Nevertheless, he was invaluable as we would never have found the mountain tracks without his help and he also went at a good pace one that I could manage. After crossing the top we went down the other side past a mill, where we were given a small loaf of new bread each, which we ate as we walked. We were quite wet, so were glad to stop at a large village when asked into a house. We were rather dubious at first as it was on a road, but they assured us Germans came up very rarely, so we decided to stay.

They were very kind and of better class than most of our benefactors, having quite a nice little general shop attached to their house. Just after our arrival, all kinds of people came to have a look at us and bring vino etc. and then we all went up to, I think, the daughter’s bedroom for a wash (all over) and general clean up. In the meantime, they collected our dirty clothes and washed them for us and also got in a local cobbler who patched up various boots and shoes. We all went into their shop and chose things like blades and soap etc, which we had the greatest difficulty paying for.

Poor Monty and Gary have bad colds – they have both obviously got a bad chill. My leg too is very sore and I have held them up today by being slow. If a night’s rest does not put it much better they must go without me tomorrow.

We divided up for the meal at night: Gary and I went to another house, where we had some good food and vino, afterwards returning to the first house to hear news, which was very nondescript.

Later, back to the other house with Branny, where we had more vino, and to bed – he in a bedroom and I made a bed on the kitchen floor. Disturbed dreams, I wonder how long this is going on for, at least no great scares yet.

October 17th
Another lousy day with mist and rain. After breakfast we decided to push on. They gave us various bits of clothing; Monty a cap, me a beret etc. and have been grand altogether.

Gary was obviously running a temperature and Monty had a sore throat – both should have been in bed. Branny had a sore foot with a blister and I still had a bad leg which was little better from last night. From what we could gather we had a hell of a mountain to cross – which proved to be 4,500ft. But again our luck held as a friend of the family, an old woman, took us halfway up and then handed us over to her nephew who took us to the top and showed us the way. Our maps were good, but the mist made it very difficult to follow any directions and to see where we were going.

After a hell of a climb, we reached the top at about 12.30hrs, we were soaked with sweat and mist, but must have soon dried off on our downward run. Managed on the way to find a tiny village, very primitive, which gave us minestra and vino which did us good. Later, after more walking and all very tired, we found another village at about 17.30hrs. Here we found

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old Major Clayton living with the priest, who he said was anxious to get rid of him, but he was not going on until he was fit. He had been travelling with two others, but had a bout of Malaria and had to lie up. The others had managed to buy boots in the village and had gone on.

After a chat to him, we managed to find, with some difficulty and with the help of an old man, an old woman who had spent twenty years in Portland, Oregon. She was not so keen to have us as apparently all POWs were sent to her as she speaks English, but with the help of some outside food she gave us a meal and a barn to sleep in. All very tired, so into quite comfortable hay early. Leg very sore and the others in a bad way as well, but both Gary and Branny very much in a hurry and do not want to stop.

17th October 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious,
Everybody was so sweet on our wedding day, darling, heavenly pink and copper chrysanthemums from your parents, which arrived on the mail van, the only way of getting them here. We seem to have a partiality for mail vans don’t we darling?! Telegrams from Mummy and Ruth and a letter from Joy and a phone from Mr. Dittmer who made a most terrific speech and then started reminiscing about the wedding which nearly finished me off. Your parents also sent us the most lovely fish servers, silver with ivory handles, and a sweet photo of you, darling, in a group with Leslie and Mick taken in 1936. You look so young, about fifteen and just like you did when we shaved off your moustache, darling.

About three years ago that was, what fun it was too. What amused me was you had two, large pips and Mick had one tiny one which just shows you. Billy Watson was in it too, he looked quite different too, so young. How we all have aged in those years. It took me ages to pick the others out. Leslie is back with the old lot, he got very fed up with red tabs and asked to be sent back. Billy is back to a crown with a job, nobody knows why really. He’s probably living at Shepherds or something equally pleasant to my present mind which revolves around a cold winter and no central heating!

We have had a hectic week while Mummy was away doing all the odd jobs. Phyllis was awfully good and so helpful and turned out the drawing-room and Mummy’s bedroom and cleaned all the brass which we have put away as, in the ordinary day, there just isn’t time to cope with it and she got up a lot of carrots and stored them. I’m better at getting up in the morning than she is!! You will be surprised at that darling, knowing me! I got up at 7.30and potted PR and put him into my bed where his great joy was to find the leather photo frame with all the photos of you in it ever since you were tiny and he got them all out and strewed them round the bed and shouted Dada with great glee and incidentally tore the frame and lost one piece in his haste to get them out! He is sweet as I made him kiss a letter to you once before posting and now every letter he sees he picks up and kisses and says “Dada” hopefully.

Needless to say I haven’t had any news, sweetheart, and am still trying to wait patiently but not very!!!

Phyllis and I went on all day unceasingly and sometimes sat down with a drink about eight, before supper. We seemed unendingly to find things to do which I suppose, of course, you can in a house and rather over did it one day giving PR cod liver oil and malt and he had two accidents which meant an hours washing after putting him to bed! Friday night we made pastry galore so as to have it all done by the time Mummy came home, for the Dennings to have something to eat. They come tomorrow at tea time. We have made their beds up so

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there isn’t too much to do really. I made fish cakes on Thursday and thought of you, sweetheart, and the lovely ones you used to make. I had a chat to Karin one night, I forget which, and we hear that you were not allowed to take any clothes at all or anything to Germany so we shall get very busy as soon as we hear your address, sending you everything we can. We had a day of it yesterday as Mummy was due back at 5pm so I managed to go in on the 4.15 bus and meet her. It was a quick change as I was still at the sink at four!

The days are gone, darling, when I took over an hour to get ready to go out, it’s now a question of one eye on the clock and a mad scramble so that’s one thing the war has done for me darling! I did a quick shopping, the photographer, Palmer’s and Lewis’ and Elms’ in quarter of an hour, just running as hard as I could from one to the other and everywhere heartfelt enquiries for you, darling, even shop-girls. People are kind. Our cellar is now seven bottles strong, don’t you think that’s good? I am so proud of it! Mr. Foote met me opposite Elms’ and we went to the station and no Mummy so we returned to the town and I rang Phyllis to tell her I’d meet the 6.30 and put PR to bed when I got back. I called in to see the Chemist’s new baby, a beautiful boy rather like PR when tiny. Then I went in to the Bull to wait and had a gin and french for old time’s sake and chatted to an old Irish woman all about the ideal home. She told me it was 6.20 when I had to meet Foote at 6.25 and when I got outside to my horror I saw the big clock said 6.30 and he had gone thinking I had gone home so I ran, in the rain, all the way to the station, only in a coat and skirt as it was fine when I left home. Mr. Foote had fortunately produced an umbrella and I blessed the Irish woman and her slow watch. Anyway again no Mummy and Foote and I scoured the train and then I leapt I to the up train with no ticket and went off to find her and discovered her on Maiden Newton station, pitch darkness, pouring and clutching a broom!!! A very forlorn Mummy, she sends you her dear love. We went into the waiting room, all unblacked out and wide open to the air, so as soon as we could we went and sat in the train which went soon after mine as the connection was late. I hadn’t had time for any tea so was pretty hungry so we ate biscuits and talked. I think the change did Mummy good. She will have her new plate in a month’s time. She did a little shopping and went to “Dear Octopus”. We had a huge supper when we got in. Phyllis had managed to put PR to bed very well and he hadn’t cried though he kept asking for Mama. She had an awful lot to do to get supper and blackout as well as him. Had a very nice tea with Mrs. Ryan today. The end, darling. Take all care and God bless and keep you safe. Always your adoring BUNNY.

October 18th
It poured last night, but we were warm and dry in our barn. Gary no better and had some milk in the straw. The old woman had no milk, so we had to delve into our precious store and buy some. After some food at about 12.00hrs, it had faired up and, although Gary not fit, it was decided to push on. Gary`s nose keeps bleeding, poor chap, and we had to stop every now and then to let him lie with his head back. After covering about 10kms over rough country, a small village asked us to stop which we did (it was generally a question of us asking if we could). They were very kind and we got beds – at least Branny and I had one, and Gary and Monty another and we got some hot milk in bed. I think I have started a cold but will know tomorrow.

October 19th
A nice day for a change and after a good breakfast we got going. Again we were lucky and had a guide for a short way. My cold made going hard and leg very painful; I think it must

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have been the cobbler at Cereseto who built my boot up wrong, but if it goes on they must leave me as I am holding them up. Gary and Monty a little better; Branny seems to be the best of the lot.

Had to cross two roads and a river today, apart from four mountains, and altogether covered about 20kms. The roads did not prove difficult: if one waited undercover on our side until the traffic ceased and then slipped across. Saw German trucks passing – a most funny feeling.

We left finding a place to sleep rather late and then found it difficult; first an obvious Fascist said he would give us bread but nothing else. At last found a farm who took us in and gave us polenta. Gary and Monty had a bed, Branny and I went into the barn, a thing I preferred not caring to share a bed except with one person. A very disturbed night with cold and worry about the leg. If they could only go a bit slower I could keep up, but they are about one mile in four too fast for me.

19th October 1943 Fleet. Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
Still nothing, isn’t it too grim? I dread every post in case it brings a letter from Germany. So many of them are turning up there including Betty Clarke’s brother-in-law, the one who sent an ordinary wire from Bologna, you remember. They all ask for clothes, which is so depressing when you think of all the nice things we had managed to get them. Did you see that Lord Haig was in Germany? He was in 78 with them and Sammy said a lot of him at the time. Doesn’t sound hopeful that he should not have got away as far south as that.

As you see I am returning your book with very many thanks, but minus the paper cover which fell to pieces. Both Mother and I enjoyed it very much, sweet of you to send it.

To add to our troubles in the London house the butler, who is the pillar of the place after 19 years with us, has become seriously ill so that I can see myself having to turn in to receptionist up there very soon. Just one damned thing after another, isn’t it? How are you coping without Fletcher and how is your poor Mother? I do feel sorry for you.

I had a letter from Margaret Proud the other day after 9 months gap. She says that Bill Watson is now on some Selection Board and very disgusted, from which I can gather he is no longer the CO. Do you know anything more? I’m not altogether surprised but wonder who has got the 6th. I don’t believe Sammy and Ronnie would know anyone in the Bn. nowadays. By the way, do you know anything about Runciman. I imagine he is Quartermaster, but what rank?  S says I should write and thank him for dispatching all S’s kit so efficiently. I can’t remember him at all. Lucky Dennis, how I envy him and all those lucky ones who are safe out of prison.
Love to you and Peter and here’s hoping our dreams may come true. Karin.

October 20th (42 days out).
Another fine day but hard walking; did about 15kms by 16.00hrs having crossed three mountains. Branny and Gary wanted to go on, but Monty and I to stop after we had left things too late last night so we decided to split. Monty said he would like a little rest and would stay with me for a little to see if my leg got better. Gary and Branny went on, we made affectionate farewells and parted and I was sorry as they had been good fun.

After a short look round, Monty and I found a farm just near a road to look after us for the night. It was difficult, in a way, to have to talk oneself after leaving it to Branny for the last week or so. We were a little worried about the place as it looked down on to quite a large

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town in the valley which had a German garrison, but after a meal we were shown the barn, which also contained the cow in the next stall, and were soon asleep, for despite the smell it was warm and we were very tired.

October 21st
Out on our own again. It was fine which was one blessing. Covered quite a distance, really, over rough country crossing two mountains. At about 14.00hrs we had got a bit lost about our direction, a thing that did happen, particularly without a good Italian speaker. However, we met some workers in a field who gave us rough directions. Our intention was to make for the area of Monte Piano, but after arriving at a small village that contained a dam and altogether was rather depressing, and after receiving rather poor replies at the few farms in the valley for a bed for the night, we did not know quite what to do. My cold was bloody and Monty was not feeling much better with a sore throat.

Eventually, after crossing the dam with some trepidation, we decided to make for Monte Piano which was about 3 km through a deep cutting (natural) in the mountain. We did this after a rough walk and arrived at quite a nice looking farm the other side at about 17.00hrs. It had started to mist over by then, which made things a little difficult. The farmer, however, was not at all keen to have us, but after a bit of a talk he at last showed us into a barn and told us to stay there until he came back. As far as we could gather, the Germans were quite near and he was very frightened.

We had just settled back into the straw, glad of the rest, when the farmer and two women came into tell us that it was too dangerous we must go. They gave us some bread and cheese and said that a farm up the mountain might look after us for the night, but we could not quite gather their instructions as to how to find it. It was getting dark by then but, despite our tiredness, we set off at a roaring pace up the mountain to investigate.

After about 20 minutes nothing had appeared and we were now getting worried that we might have to stay on the mountain all night as it was getting quite dark. So, after a hurried conference, we decided to return through the pass to the area of the dam which was safer and see there if we could find a place for some food and sleep. A foul trip back; both dog tired already and the quick walk through the pass whilst the light lasted was very exhausting. However, just before it was pitch dark we found a house that took us in. They were as poor as possible, with no light except the fire and a large family from grandmother to children, but were very kind giving us polenta and eventually a barn to sleep in. We also dried our clothes which were soaked with sweat. Altogether rather a bad day, but at last we got a place to sleep for which we were very, very thankful, I was not looking forward to crouching under a tree for the whole night.

October 22nd
Away at 07.30hrs after a small breakfast (due not to inhospitality but to poverty) to quite a good route for a start, but after some bread and the remains of the jam given to us by the Italian officers, we struck a bit of trouble. The valley in which we were was quite a populated one and wherever we went the locals warned us that the Germans were near, so we had a bit of difficulty getting onto a good route again. We found the people much more frightened and in consequence not too free with help or food, but we managed alright. Both Monty and I not very well and still tired after yesterday’s hard walk, but we are now just above Florence so have covered quite a distance.

At about 15.00hrs we stopped at a farm in the mountains. A girl, the farmer’s daughter, said

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she thought we could stay but we must see her father. After washing, we went up with her to a field where the farmer was ploughing and mucked about until he had finished. He seemed quite agreeable. Our supper was not a very good one for two hungry men; the farmer cooked some chestnuts in a warming pan over the fire and we had these with bread and water. If that is how they live always I pity them, but it was quite a nice farm. As a matter of fact, being the chestnut season they were using them in many ways we noticed; as bread, in the place of polenta, and cooked and boiled. A few were nice but one got very sick of them in time.

To bed in rather a cold barn and soon asleep. The usual disturbed night; the future seems to stretch to eternity and is so uncertain. We have heard little news of late, but there is little to hear I think. Begin to wonder if this year will see us home.

October 23rd
Another fine day thank heaven. Away after a slice of dry bread at about 07.30hrs. Was able, however, to stop later at a farm for some bread and milk and later touched a woodman for tobacco – was ever a smoke more lovely. Had to cross the main Florence-Bologna road which was teeming with traffic, but managed it, after a bit of a scramble, by following a stream under a bridge. It amused me a lot to look onto the road and see German officers in their cars only yards away – if only they had known English officers were watching them.

Just after passing this road, a woman took us into her farm and gave us some food for which we were thankful; the excitement had made us ravenous. At night we were not so lucky and were refused once, however at last found a very kind farm who gave us food and a barn to sleep in. Find it rather more difficult to find places to spend the night now and started early to look out for them, possibly because we are in a more populated area. Monty`s maps are working well and, except for small local mistakes, our general route is quite good. Crossed one large mountain today, about 20kms in all. Our Italian is, I think, improving. Of course, one always has to answer the same questions such as where are you going, where have you come from, are you English, are you married etc, so we know the questions and answers.

When general conversation starts it is not so easy, but photographs and the contents of our pockets, compasses etc give endless opportunities for chatter. I usually am only too glad when we can get into the straw, but one has to earn one’s keep at each place by giving them entertainment. Before we leave each day we also hand them a chit saying, in English, that they have given food and lodging to the two of us and that we hope that when the British arrive they will recompense them. Italy must be littered with these, as all did it and one could, at some places, find five or six from other escapees. In fact, we always thought that in case we just disappeared it would have been possible for someone to trace us by them.

October 24th.
Fine, thank heaven, but getting colder as the month advances. We left at about 08.00hrs and covered quite a good distance in the area of Palazzudo [Palazzuolo?]. In the evening, after two refusals, both I think because they were too poor, we were directed to a big farm at the top of a mountain, our third today. The farmer and family were very kind and, after shaving and washing, we had a good meal.  I was glad of the rest as my cold was making me sweat at the slightest provocation.

After supper the farmer’s children put on their gramophone with some English records, and then told us that there was a large collection of POWs who had formed a band at a mountain called Benedetta. We decided that we should go and investigate. Apparently one had to contact them in a certain house in a certain village – how the Italians love

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melodrama. They gave us straw palliasses in the cellar which were comfortable and a change after plain straw. My clothes are standing up alright and my blanket which Granny C. sent is invaluable, but my boots are getting very bad and I can feel the grit coming through them, however the farmer said he could do something to them tomorrow before we leave.

24th October 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious,
Have just done up two large bundles of papers for George Wood. There hadn’t been time to do them lately. I had a most successful afternoon turning out one of the store cupboards, a job I had dreaded but which went very well as we hadn’t much washing up after lunch and PR had a beautiful sleep. The Dennings want the store cupboard they lent us back and all their Kilner preserving jars and other bits and pieces so I cleaned them up. There is a good deal more to do but I am just bursting with pride having got so far!  Poor PR developed a cold in his nose, at least we think it must be that as he has streamed but otherwise has been very happy and full of energy. I don’t know how he caught it but the weather has been so awful, wet and damp and chill. Last time he streamed it was because he had pushed a whole Michaelmas daisy right up his nose and there it stuck and the pollen made him run and then he gave a terrific sneeze when I was potting him at 10.30 and out it came! Yesterday he was on his pot when a huge stone shot out of him! He must have swallowed it days ago and it had been travelling all through him! Thank goodness it came out, I left him for a moment in the drawing-room on Friday while I was putting his pram ready and when I came back he was happily brushing glue on to the armchair by my desk! The things he thinks up. He is an absolute menace now that he can climb out of his high chair and his play pen so we now put him in the nursery to play until it is warm enough for him to go out. You never saw such a mess, he even turns back the carpet. We tie up the handles of the chest of drawers with string otherwise he’d have everything out as well. Mummy has picked a lovely vase of roses which are on the mantelpiece, they really are perfect. We must have a terrific rose garden in the Burrow, sweetheart. I heard today there is an Anderson in your camp, he comes from Morcombelake, but not the ones we know, in fact no relation. Have you talked Dorset to him sweetheart? Also have you come across a man called Tuck? We are all without news, the latter’s family advertised in the Times for news so it seems the same everywhere though I heard through our Andersons that the others had heard some of you had arrived in Germany. Had a letter from Karin, Andrew Clarke’s brother is there and several others including Earl Haig who she said was with you at Sulmona. What a long time it does seem, darling, without hearing from you, longer than when you were missing. I’m not saying much about my feelings, you can guess them! Thank goodness there’s a lot to do. Mummy seems better, I think, but is naturally very tired and could do with a rest. We can’t get anybody here but nor can anybody else.

It was very nice having the Dennings from Monday til Thursday and they were very good helping wash up and doing their own room, but it did mean a lot of extra work preparing food. We did our best for them but unfortunately the gin ran out. We keep one bottle for emergencies which we don’t break in to for pleasure, sort of iron ration and we had finished all the other! what there was of it. By the way, darling, our cellar now contains seven bottles, three white wine, three burgundy and one of dry vermouth, so we aren’t too bad. It will make you laugh, sweetheart, but it will be something to welcome you home one day. PR is too sweet sitting on the sofa with Mummy, whilst I get his bath ready and do the black out, and they read Alice in Wonderland together. PR loves the pictures and makes Mummy

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tell him the story of each one over and over again and makes her point at everything and if she doesn’t he seizes her finger and points it. He really is a most interesting child and so full of character. I can’t believe I was sitting at Taunton two years ago waiting for him to be born. What a lot has happened since then. For instance, one thing I always feel terribly is not being able to write to you like I used to. One page once a week is next to nothing. Did I tell you I had an airgraph from Peter Jeffreys. He wanted news of you. I must write to him.

I have the usual pile to answer on my desk. You have so many relations, darling! I feel I am quite guilty not writing to them. Music while you work is on and I am in the drawing-room, and a very good band which makes me long to dance with you. I get so fed up never doing my face or dressing up to go out with you, this life of perpetual slacks and no make-up is all very well but after nearly 2 1/2 years I could do with my husband and my home all to myself! Does that sound very selfish, sweetheart, but oh dear, how I miss you and waking up every morning with another day to face without you. I mustn’t start being self-pitying, it’s far worse for you, darling. I just wanted to tell you how much I love you and long for you all the time. PR loves his Daddy so much, he never will go to bed without asking for you and loudly kissing your photo and he, hopefully, says “Car, Dada” when he hears one outside.

I went shopping with the Dennings in the rain on Tuesday and had quite a successful time buying a feather duster brush for PR for his birthday as he loves housework! He always tries to mop the carpets! The end again my precious. God bless and keep you safe. All the love in my heart. BUNNY.

October 25th
Quite a fine day. After a good breakfast the farmer repaired my boots which was grand and then, mounted on a donkey, he took us over part of our route which was also, as a matter of fact, on his way to the local market town. He left us at a main road which we dived across after hurried farewells, but almost immediately met really tough mountains, at times almost perpendicular. Farms were few and far between and the information about Bernadetta got less and less, so we decided to leave it alone.

After rather a depressing day, we hit a mountain road which passed one house which gave us some nuts and bread and then leaving the road, we tried the next farm. The old woman was not too civil and directed us to the rather better house next door. Here we met two much better types of Italian women, who turned out to be school teachers from Florence.

They saw the woman in the farm and we were installed there. They were obviously afraid but it wasn’t until much later that we found out that many prisoners were hiding in the mountains nearby, including two Generals and that, because of some partisan raids by Italians into the nearby town of Santa Sophia, they were afraid the Germans might send parties up to search. Of course, they imagined that we might be Germans in disguise. All this area was very jittery, which at the time we could not understand.

After being in the farmhouse for a bit, the women next door sent us in some bread and meat which just took the edge off our appetites. When the farmer and his wife sat down, we had to wait quite a bit before being asked to join them, in fact they were not very co-operative. However, we had food and a small loft up a ladder, which was full of straw, to sleep in. Monty not very well but we had managed to cover quite a good distance including three mountain ranges. Felt a little uncomfortable about the place as they seemed so suspicious, but nevertheless slept soon after getting into the straw.

October 26th

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A fine, but depressing day. People are much more suspicious and not very helpful. We pushed even further into the mountains and at one point were helped by a priest on our way. At about midday, managed some bread and cheese at a very lovely farm where we heard that Marshall and Syme had passed through two days before. This cheered us up a little; we felt that we were not quite lost if others were on the same route and we felt that if Syme with his leg could do it, then so could we. [Major Marshall was Seaforth Highlanders and Major Syme was Royal Artillery and they had both been in Camp 29. Ed.]

Had some difficulty at night in finding a place to take us in, but at last found a poor farm who gave us a meal and a stall to sleep in next to the cows. Both depressed and uncertain. I feel we must get out of these mountains to easier going; they are so bleak and the people seem unfriendly. I wonder when we shall see baths, sheets and home again. Unfortunately, no way of getting news to them at home. I expect they think we are in Germany.

October 27th
Weather foul and woke up to mist and rain, which fortunately cleared later in the day. Off at about 07.00hrs without breakfast but managed to find a farm who gave us polenta and we were thankful for it. Decided that these mountains are too much and took a risk: the map seemed to indicate better country further east so we hit a road and walked down it for four miles towards Santa Sophia, keeping up a quick pace and listening for traffic all the time.

It wound gradually down until we decided that the country looked much better, when we struck off south-east again. After crossing a river by a bridge and climbing a bit of a hill, we stopped at a much better type of farm who gave us a grand lunch and quite a lot of vino which lifted us out of our depression a bit. We got a little information out of them about the Italian partisans and then, despite further rain, pushed on our route.

The rain got worse so we stopped at a farm for shelter and eventually stayed the night. The farmer seemed quite happy and we were very glad, being loathe to go out in the rain again to look for a place to sleep. Had a good supper and more vino and then into a stall which, although smelly being beside the cows, was warm. Cold giving trouble and sweating freely at night.

October 28th.  50th day out 7 weeks.
A foul morning and it rained nearly all day. The farmer said nothing about us staying, so after coffee and bread we pushed off. It rained so hard we had to shelter soon after crossing a road which we found just beside our night’s lodging. The place we sheltered in was very poor but they gave us potato cakes which were very nice and also said that another Englishman was living nearby. After getting directions we set off to find him. Had to stop once again to ask directions and at last found his supposed house. Two young Italians of obvious better class came out – one speaking a little English – who, after questioning us, said that he no longer lived there but that they would take us to him. They gave us real cigarettes, which were grand, and we set off. Unfortunately, they did not know the way very well and were continually loosing ourselves and having to go to nearby farms to find out. Apparently, the other house was dangerous after the trouble in Santa Sophia and the Captain had moved to a mountain farm.

Got very wet with hanging around, but at last reached his farm which was perched on the top of a hill with a good view around. Found the Captain dressed in good Italian clothes and obviously well settled. He was a nice chap and we learnt later that he was under orders by the Generals hiding in the mountains to stay where he was; being an engineer he might be

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needed for sabotage work. He said that quite a number of POWs were in the mountains around and many had passed south – some in bare feet. There was an Italian hiding with him; a large rather aggressive man, but quite nice. He had been one of Mussolini`s motor-cycle body-guards and seemed to have a fair amount of information. Monty and I were glad to get our clothes off and dried and to get a shave. At about 18.00hrs we sat down to a grand meal round the farmer’s table. It was quite a large party and the Captain was obviously well liked.

After supper had a talk: they were of the opinion that to get back to our lines was possible, but very difficult. The Italians gave us a rough route which was a help, still of course right through the mountains. The general opinion is that it may be some time before our troops arrive up here, so we look like having to wait a bit longer yet. Apparently the trouble at Santa Sophia had been when some Italian partisans came down into the town, dragged one wretched German out of bed and shot him, so the Germans sent a lot of troops to the village and gave it a good going over. Now the place was very dangerous, thanks to the misplaced activities of the partisans.

Monty and I had a good mattress on the floor which was grand and, after chatting with the others for a bit, fell asleep. It poured hard all night, so I was glad to be safe – particularly as our colds are no better.

From a Newspaper cutting dated 28th. October 1943:
500 Mile Walk To Freedom.
Lieutenant Mark Bonham Carter, Grenadier Guards, who was captured by the Italians last April, has returned home after escaping from his prison camp.

He walked almost the whole length of Italy, between 400 and 500 miles, got through the German lines, before rejoining our forces. He arrived home only an hour after his Mother heard of his escape. Lady Bonham Carter said “I was out when my son telephoned saying he was back. An hour later he walked in. We knew he was in a camp where all the prisoners had been transferred to Germany and we felt sure he must be there too. He has told me something of his story, and I cannot imagine anything more thrilling. He looks a little thin but is quite well”.

October 29th

It never stopped raining all day; despite wishing to get on, we could not. Spent the day chatting, feeding, smoking etc, the latter grand as we had been very short before. It is a crowded house, but the farmer seems quite happy and we were glad of the shelter in such foul weather. News practically nil; only wish we could get some good stuff. The Captain and the Italian want to go off to the south directly they can, and anticipate going on a motor-bike so far. Sat in the kitchen a bit at night and went to bed.

29th October 1943 10, Sparacre Gardens, Bridport.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
I had a letter, yesterday, from my friend whose son is a POW in Italy and she asked me whether I knew if you had had any news. Have you? I hope so for she has not, poor soul. She also asked me in what camp your husband was. Really the state of affairs in that unhappy country is dreadful.

I trust you have also managed to get some help. I’ve just been ill for about three weeks and we had to wire for my sister-in-law to come for we just could not carry on! She went back

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on Tuesday and I feel better now. As long as one is well one can feel one can just exist and grapple with it all, but if one gets ill it’s impossible.

Our son’s letters are coming through well, but where he is we know not. However, I begin to really think it won’t be so long now before the Hun is through with it!

I trust your Mother and babe are all right.

With kind regards, Yours sincerely.
Eva Robarts.

October 30th

Rain again all night and all day, so couldn’t possibly go out, but afraid we might be too much for the farmer. The Captain says he knows of a rich Italian nearby who may put us up for a bit until the weather clears. We are going to see him tomorrow. The trouble is that since the upset in Santa Sophia, he is rather windy, still we will see tomorrow. Travelling in this weather is no fun. To bed early, to a disturbed night.

October 31st
Fine at last this morning, but a thick mist. After breakfast left with the Captain to try the rich Italian. Had about an hour’s walk and arrived at his house. His wife took us into a lovely place just like home; they were obviously very cultured people and very wealthy. He and his daughter arrived, the latter very attractive in trousers, and the Captain, who had met them before, asked if we might stay the night. They all said, of course, yes – though it was much more dangerous now than when they had done it before. I felt quite the bull in the china shop; in dirty old clothes and muddy boots in a lovely room, but they were most friendly and kind. He owns most of the land round here and, although really living in Milan, had come to his shooting lodge during the war. He has a great art collection and I, even with my inexperienced eye, could see some very valuable pictures on the walls – and that was only part of his collection. I should say he was quite worth a million.

 After a real English tea, Monty and I were taken up by him to our room and shown the bathroom; the first I had seen for years. Had a good wash and brush up and then down to a lovely dinner complete with silver and glass – in fact all rather unreal after the conditions under which we had been living. They were all very charming and plied us with food and drink, including coffee and brandy afterwards. The girl had been to England and could speak a little English which was a help. The wife had obviously been very beautiful and there were many paintings of her dotted around the house. After supper ……….  [gap in manuscript Ed.] He took us into his study and showed us our best route on and also gave us complete maps for the trip. His bailiff also came in and gave us a good half-pound of tobacco with papers which was a Godsend.

Altogether a good day, but a little sad-making having to go out into the hard world tomorrow. To bed in grand beds. Monty not so good, I felt a little better thank heaven.

31st October 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious.
We are sitting in front of the electric fire listening to Flotsam and Jetsam and having a peaceful Sunday night. I have mended my vest and done up the papers for George Wood and the dogs are in the garden. Still no news of you darling, I wonder when we will hear.

At least there is another month behind us. I have never gone so long without news of you and what a long time it does seem. I wonder if you are getting these letters all right, I do hope

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so. You won’t get a parcel for ages as I can’t send one till I get your address and it will be spring before it can reach you I fear.

It has been a busy week, darling, the usual round plus Mummy in bed for two days with a bad cold caught from PR. We think he must have got the germ from Elsie Denning as when she arrived she had a sore on her face from a cold and evidently it was a virulent one. PR is still snivelling, of course he can’t blow his nose which makes it difficult for him and he has been bitten by a mosquito all over him, about forty bites, poor little boy. He is too sweet trying to scratch and takes my hand and puts it wherever it irritates most as much as to say, Mummy you do it. I smother him with lotion and today flitted his room and killed the mosquito which was on the ceiling. Mummy felt ghastly and went to bed on Tuesday evening and got up on Friday and is now much better, but this place with no help does completely overwhelm her. It isn’t really cold yet and we still can’t get anyone to do the boilers even. The garden is fearful, weeds everywhere and leaves galore. I sweep the latter up when there is time and PR promptly scatters then again! I did all  the jobs I hate on Saturday afternoon, emptied the hoover bags and the scrap bucket and cleaned shoes and got up the vegetables and washed them and felt very virtuous after I had done it all but cursed whilst doing it! Jack Denning has lent us a mousetrap as there are a lot about, Jimmy doesn’t do his stuff. He lies in his basket all day and sleeps. I caught one mouse which appalled me and I had to deal with the corpse! Since then they have got clever and eat the cheese rind off the trap. I suppose I don’t set it properly.

We are embarking on a small birthday party for PR, quite how I don’t know as we shall have to get up overnight! Peggy Thomson is bringing John and Nancy her TH if she and Janey and her Vanessa can get over from Litton . Nancy is there now with Thomas and TH. I have also asked Allison and her two and Margaret Lesser and her two and Mary and Nicky, so it will be quite a rugby scrum if they all come! We felt we must rise to something for the poppet. He has no clothes to wear so I am going to Bridport on the 4.15 bus tomorrow to see about some. Your parents gave us some fawn corduroy for pants and Elsie cut them  out and said she would make them up but hasn’t time what with getting in to their house so I rang up Mrs. Green and she said she would do them, and I want to get some Dayella for bodices to button them on to. Joy made him his chamois leather jerkin which really is very sweet with wool sleeves and he is so proud of it. He loves new clothes like his Mummy! His latest words are “tea” and “we we” and he is really killing when he has been a very good boy on his pot and when he’s finished he leaps up and seizes the paper and triumphantly copes with himself!!! It makes me roar. Several times last week he asked for Dada at 11pm when I had tucked him up again and put out his hand for the photo and kissed it and then gave a little gurgle of contentment and snuggled down.

It was a pretty busy time with Mummy in bed and looking after PR. I had one in each room! No housework got done, there just wasn’t time. One morning I went to his room where he was playing to find he had pulled the whole chest of drawers out from the wall and your little white cupboard full of bottles was balanced on the edge, a little more and it would have been on his head. I said a prayer of thankfulness. He makes an indescribable mess of his room, he even tears the wallpaper off and puts everything on the floor. He has your little table and chair up there too and he carts that round and round. He is tough, mighty tough!

I don’t think there is any news to tell you, darling. It is Joy’s birthday tomorrow, fancy she will be forty. Shows how old we are all getting. I do so keep wondering where you are and what is happening and if you are comfortable. It does seem such a long time sweetheart.

Several lucky people have got home, nobody I know but you may. Their camps weren’t

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given. I do hope you and Sammy are together at least. I wonder who will hear first and what we shall hear when we do. I have got to the stage, darling, now when all I long for is to see your own handwriting to know you are all right. Xmas letters have to be posted by Nov. 12th so I hope I hear before then so as to write you one. It will be an airmail letter card as greetings aren’t allowed. The village school sent round for you address the other day as they wanted to send you a Red X parcel so I had to tell them I didn’t know it but would let them have it as soon as I did. Miss Mercer came in last night with some mushrooms, already peeled, which was sweet of her, but she pealed the bell long and loudly and then banged the knocker hard. I was in the kitchen and my heart nearly stopped beating. It’s silly isn’t it, darling, to get like that, all worked up, but I hear every car that passes and as for when the phone rings or the bell or even when the gate clicks, each time I wonder.

 Mummy sends you her dearest love. Phyllis sent PR some chocolate biscuits for tea last week much to his joy. He has a passion for biscuits, I wonder if it is because I ate them before he was born. Remember darling? God bless and always remember how much I love you. Take care and keep safe. Your own BUNNY.

November 1st
Weather much better today, so we were able to get on which was a great relief, I think, to our host. They gave us a lovely breakfast of ham and eggs and good packets of food to take with us. What with the 400lr he gave each of us last night, we are well set up. When we were ready, he set out with us and showed us our best route from a prominent point near his house. Bidding a fond good-bye to the old ‘cock’, we started out again, very glad for our little rest during such awful weather, particularly as we were so well set up with maps and things which, unfortunately as it turned out, Monty carried.

It was quite an easy day on the whole, covering about 15kms at quite a slow pace. Monty was feeling bad from his insides and wanted, if possible, to find a good place to lie up until something happens. Afraid I would like to get much further south yet as we have only really started to go south during the last few days, having kept to the mountains east so far. Found a good village and into the hay early.

Sunday 1st November 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Darling Brenda,
You will have by the time this reaches you received Mary’s letter, suggesting we send you down our lass Edith, to help you out for a month or more, now do seriously consider this.

First we can easily get other help, there is a daughter of Pip’s gardener, who is anxious to come, and further I can send up a girl from the works, so that deprives you of any argument that we will be without. I do hope you will accept, as we both want so much to help your Mother and yourself in this very difficult domestic time. What I propose doing is this, I’ll get Edith off to London and Ruth will meet her and take her and the kid to some quiet hotel near Paddington from which station she will get an early train to Bridport where she can be met before dark. I am writing GWR for suitable trains of which I’ll let you know. I’ll square up her train fare etc. so there is nothing for you to do, now you must agree to this, as in a month or 6 weeks you may or will have time to look out for someone else. She’s a good lass, clean etc. and the kid’s a very decent one just Peter’s age but Mary will have given you all details, she’s very north country but very honest.

Now don’t disappoint us by saying no, it will be such a good opportunity for your Mother and for you to get at any rate if not a complete rest a very considerable easing from

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housework. I’m afraid my writing is a bit shaky, but I’ve just finished chopping logs and it’s heavy work with axe and hammer.

Don’t get down hearted about Ronnie, he’s safe, but doubtless in German hands and still I should think at the same camp. I know it’s damnable no news, but it may come any day and the end of Germany sooner than anyone thinks possible.

Send me or rather us a wire saying yes and we’ll get busy at once as every day is important.

God bless you all. Grandpa.
PS Mary has done the punctuation so please excuse mistakes!

November 2nd
Fine today, but we struck a bad patch of country and did not go very far, although we crossed three mountain ranges, but neither of us was feeling much like it so we took many rests. Stopped at night at a lovely farm above a river and decided to leave the crossing of it, which might be difficult, until tomorrow. It was a poor farm but the wife managed us food at night and then we went to our barn. I felt awful all night; something was wrong inside and I had to make periodic dashes outside.

November 3rd
A fine day but couldn’t make it; feeling awful so just lay in the straw all day. I don’t think that Monty minded another rest either. Had a little milk at night, but couldn’t manage anything else and then to sleep at about 20.00 hrs.

November 4th
After some coffee this morning decided to move on. I felt better, thank heaven, but rather weak. Managed to cross a river and then a main road without trouble, but once into the mountains again we did not go far. In fact we stopped at a village at about 12.30hrs who said we could stay until tomorrow, which we were glad to do. Monty told them that I had been sick, so they gave us a barn where we rested during the afternoon and then we got food in two separate houses at night. I was given a raw egg which was very nice. Found one of the usual chits signed by Syme and Marshall who had been through only two days ago – Syme is a marvel with his bad leg.

4th November 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
Still we go on knowing nothing, 8 weeks now. But I’ve heard two stories of some interest. Yesterday a friend of ours wrote to tell me that Rudolph de Salis had just arrived in Switzerland where his sister lives. He’s a pre-war friend of Sammy’s and was in PG 29.

That’s the first of their camp I’ve heard of. Personally I still don’t feel that Sammy would have made for Switzerland, what about Ronnie? One can only guess. The second story you’ve probably heard. This Lt. Col. Mainwaring who arrived a week ago was in 49 near Bologna. His aunt lives here and through her I hear that on Sept. 8th they were all marched 25 miles in to the country and given 10 days rations and told to disperse how and where they liked but advised to go in as small parties as possible. He went south and got through without using any of his rations, all the peasants etc. were so kind to him.

One can still hope for the best as they are trickling through very slowly. I cannot imagine what I’d do if I got a wire to say S was safe and it’d be too ghastly if either he or Ronnie gets through and not the other except I truly think I’d manage to be a little glad for your sake

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despite my envy! So don’t hesitate to ring me up will you! It’s hardly likely they are together I suppose.

I wish this Rudolph de Salis had got back to England, then one might have gleaned a bit more.

As you say one’s parents do need a real rest and change and above all a little comfort, but that’s impossible to arrange and it is hard on them. Thank goodness our butler is still standing up after all. The operation is postponed and they have put him on a very strict diet instead. It’s all very difficult but a great thing to have him still going about, however weekly. Our tenants are gradually being cleared up too so the prospect is a bit brighter. The children are in great heart but Anne never ceases to ask after “Daddy” and I rashly said in the summer that I thought he’d be home by Xmas, afraid I feel rather doubtful now. I never rang up your cousin as I hated the thought of troubling her with a comparative stranger’s worries!  Love Karin.

November 5th
A bad day altogether: Monty was captured. We started away from our village at about 09.00hrs and at about 12.00hrs had just crossed a road into a field on the other side when Monty, who was in front a bit, turned round and said: “My God, there is a Gerry” and sure enough there was! Monty, who was in battledress trousers and khaki shirt, put his hands up. I just stood gaping, then the German, looking at me said: “Where are you going?” in Italian. I replied: “Sestina”, which was the local village. He replied: “Well, that is the road to Sestina” and pointed to the road we had just crossed. I said: “Grazia” and turned round and walked away, half-expecting Monty to follow or to get a bullet in my back. However, nothing happened so I nipped round a hill to see if Monty had gone straight on, but there was no sign of him. I had another scout round, but almost fell into the arms of another German and had to duck, so I thought it best to get up the mountain a bit to see what happened.

Unfortunately, I had torn my trousers and, with Monty having all the maps and the compass, was rather stuck for a route except what I could remember. I was still not sure if Monty had got away, so told odd farmers I passed to tell him my route if he came on.

About 1000yds from the fatal spot, I stopped at a small farm for some water and kept a look out on to the road we had crossed, but although there were quite a lot of Germans working on fortifications and passing up and down, I could see no sign of Monty. There was nothing I could do, so I pushed on and at about 16.00hrs stopped at a small village for food. I told them my story and they were heartbroken; nothing was too much for them and they looked after me very well. At night a woman came back from Sestina to say Monty was definitely caught as she had seen him in the charge of a German herself.

Had to share a bed with a young Italian boy which I didn’t like much, and before sleeping considered my position. I decided it best to go on towards our lines until something cropped up; either to stop me or to show me what was best to do. Poor old Monty, in some ways it was perhaps for the good; he was obviously ill and should have attention. Otherwise in some ways it is good to be alone, one can do things how and when one likes.

November 6th
Away after breakfast, the people wanted me to stay until someone came through and then to go on with them, but I wanted to get on so left. Did, I think, about 10 miles, it was not difficult to keep to our original route, which I half remembered, and before leaving this morning I had had a look at the priest’s map which gave me the general direction.

As a

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matter of fact, the locals put one on the “Caravan route” as we called it; in other words, the route that all POWs were taking to the south.

At about 16.00hrs stopped at a little farm to ask for some water and once inside asked if I could stay the night. They said I could, so after quite a good minestra I went down to the stall next to the cow and turned in. I found my blanket grand and, despite the colder nights, was quite warm.

It felt rather foul always sleeping in one’s clothes but one got used to it. Had to get up and take off the bell from one of the oxen, who was restless, but with the “clang, clang” one could not sleep. After hearing an accordion upstairs for a bit I soon fell asleep. Miss Monty; it is lonely never being able to talk in one’s own tongue and I find it so difficult to keep up a conversation in Italian, particularly as the dialects alter so much. Still I might meet someone soon and join them.

November 1943 St. Leonard’s Rectory, Wallingford.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
I have had so many requests for prayers to be offered at St. Leonard’s, Wallingford, around St. Leonard’s day (November 6th.), in response to my offer in the Prisoner of War for November, that I am obliged to reply with a printed letter; and this, I am sure, you will understand. All the names which have reached me during the Octave (November 6-13); as they have amounted to nearly 500, with those previously received, they could not obviously be remembered at one service. The Prayer for Prisoners published some time ago in the “Prisoner of War”, has also constantly been used.

I am very anxious that any relatives of prisoners who may not be able to arrange for prayers to be offered by name in their Parish Church, or who desire that they shall be offered additionally elsewhere, can look upon St. Leonard’s, Wallingford, as a House of God where such prayer is regularly and gladly offered. I have, however, regretfully to say that I cannot myself write to Prisoners of War: I have no spare time.

You may like to know that S. Leonard’s is a very ancient Church, dating in part from the tenth century, and although quite small, is in many ways, very beautiful. I wish I could send you a copy of the Parish Paper but we are unable to get any additional copies printed.

We pray, indeed, that God may hasten the day of release. It has, however, seemed wise to arrange for a further general Remembrance during the Christmas season (from December 27th. to January 13th. the Octave of the Feast of Epiphany).

A very large number of names received have been in respect of Prisoners of War who were in Italy at the Armistice, and whose present whereabouts are unknown. Very special remembrance has been #made in such cases.

Some of you have kindly sent contributions to the Church. there may be others who would wish to send some small offering to cover the cost of printing, postage etc. Any balance will be given to the funds of the Church, or the local Prisoners of War Fund, or as requested.

 May God bless you, and give you His peace and comfort you at all times and in all ways.

Yours sincerely,
Rector of S. Leonard, Wallingford.

Note on S. Leonard.

His day is November 6th. He died about AD 560. He was the godson of Clovis, King of the Franks. He gave up all prospects of worldly advancement to become a monk. He devoted himself to the special task of ransoming prisoners, and therefore is sometimes represented

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in art in fetters.

He became the Patron Saint of Prisoners, who, when released, often hung up their chains in Churches dedicated to his name.

November 7th
Away early to a fine morning. Soon after starting, managed to find a house with a map and checked up my route – it is really a question of just pushing on, but it is growing into winter with bad weather ahead, so let’s only hope that something happens soon.

After about 15 miles I dropped down into Pioubicco, which was a little dangerous but I had got through its streets all right when it started to rain. I took shelter in a little house on the outside, who gave me bread but did not seem to want me in for the night, so when it had slackened off a bit I pushed on up a mountain road to another tiny village at the top.

About at the top I met a New Zealander, who was living nearby, on his way to get his boots fixed and he said that he was going back now but if I could get a place in this village he would come back tomorrow and see me. When he left I slipped into the house, part of the local pub, and asked was there a barn nearby which I could sleep in. She was not too keen but said there might be. After sitting at the fire a bit I got some food and quite a number came into look at me, including one of the Italian Police, about whom I was a bit nervous, as well as an Italian who could speak English. He said it was quite safe up here and that they would all look after me. Heard that Syme and Marshall came through a few days ago, wish I could catch them. Into a cold barn which leaked and it rained all night, but slept. It is lonely by yourself.

7th November 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious darling,
Karin rang up Friday night with the great news that Sammy is safe in Switzerland. (This was the day after she had written saying she would try not to be too envious if RLC got back first. Ed.) She had heard from the War Office but nothing from him. He is in an internment camp and also several others from your camp. Darling, how I wish you had been together.

I thought I couldn’t cry any more and yet I did after we had finished talking. It is wonderful for her that he’s all right and we are delighted as you can imagine, but Oh God how envious I am. Still we can’t all be lucky and for both of us, sweetheart, we must grin and bear it as best we can. Sammy and Dennis being safe and my precious lost sheep isn’t in the fold. I know what you will feel like, very much the same as me only it’s much worse for you.

We’d better stop talking about it or we shall both be howling and then this letter will be all blotches both at its dispatching and receiving end. Karin was very sweet and said she wouldn’t feel really happy till she knew about you but I told her not to worry about that. We’ve been damned lucky really compared to a lot so we must look on the bright side of it.

We have just sent our cheques to the Red X, I do hope you are getting everything all right, darling. I will send you your next-of-kin parcel as soon as I have your new address. I have just listened to a wonderful, inspiring postscript by one of the repatriated prisoners of war.

He spoke awfully well and made one feel a bit better. Now Beatrice Lillie is on, singing in her own, super way. I think the best song she ever did was the little fishes. It has been bitterly cold today and Mummy was very tired so I made her stay in bed. By the way, did you know I was at a co-ed school with B. Lillie’s son Robert Peel? Poor boy was killed as a naval rating.

Having just written that about fishes, she’s just started singing it! To go back to today, I have been, as usual, very busy and have ended up in bed as it’s so cold having done the work.

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Jack Denning is making us some shelves in a cupboard as they want their own store cupboard back and he wanted the whole thing washed and all the shelves so I had a busy afternoon doing it. We have PR’s birthday party to cope with next week, I have asked several children and Mamas so we shall be busy. The baker is making a cake and I found some icing sugar when turning out the cupboard so am going to ice it for him. I hope I shall achieve it as the last time I did a cake was years ago. We felt we must do something for him to celebrate and I am thankful to have something to concentrate on just now, the more work the better. Great news about John Thompson, he wrote Thursday to say he had got engaged to a Wren and they are to be married in April. We are thrilled as he’s such a dear, I hope she is nice too. He said his parents and everybody thoroughly approved so that’s good.

I must write to him. We sent a telegram at once knowing the amount of time there just isn’t for letters! I went into Bridport on Monday afternoon to see about PR’s winter pants, the corduroy ones which your parents gave me the material for and Elsie Denning cut out. I hadn’t time to make them so took them to Mrs. Green and got some stuff to line them and make bodices to button on, very nice war-time Vyella. I also got him a pair at Elms’ and had to get the size for a three year old to fit him and two more pairs of cotton dungarees for him to wear in the garden. They help to keep him comparatively clean.

You will be pleased to hear we have another hundred saving certificates; I brought fifty each from Fatty who, as usual, asked after you, darling. Everybody I meet asks and I always have to say not a word from him and then we talk very promptly about the weather or something. I wrote a letter to Glover saying I hoped we hadn’t overdone it! So we now have over 600 certificates which will be a lovely nest egg for the Burrow and the super, all electric, labour saving kitchen I have set my heart on! I also bought a blanket for PR to cut in half to make two, I was lucky to get it. He is in terrific form and all over the place. The first three days of the week it poured so hard he couldn’t go out at all but was very good.

We are starting the central heating tomorrow, the plumber is coming out to put it right and light it and then I’m going to take on the stoking and Jack Denning is coming once or twice a week to get the fuel in for me and do the flues and the de-klinkering. I find that part too heavy work. You should see the garden, it’s fearful, weeds and leaves everywhere. Now that vegetables are so filthy it takes me all my time to get them up and wash them, let alone do the gardening! You will be glad to hear, darling, my figure is as you remember it when we were married. It took some time to recover from PR, didn’t it! Keep cheerful, Darling, and always remember how precious you are and how much I love you. Take all care and God bless you and keep you safe. Your BUNNY XXXX.

November 8th
Hard rain all day so I stayed put. The old man who owns the pub made me to understand that I could stay and not to worry as it was quite safe. So I just sat, smoking an odd cigarette which I made, watching the people who came in. I heard nothing more of the NZ – I expect the weather put him off. They tell me the mountains around have snow on them, which I can quite believe; apparently the villages are snowed in at times. Let’s hope that I am in a good spot when that happens. Anxious to get on but not be soaked. Hard rain again all night.

8th November 1943
So many thanks for PC just received with the news that Col. Battiscombe is in Switzerland and I so wonder whether the Red X there will be able to get in touch with him and hear the

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latest news about R? I have a strong feeling that he is still wandering in Italy and will turn up eventually with our troops somewhere! E was writing to M today and has given your message. So sorry Mummy and Peter have had bad colds, bed was the best place for them! but you must have been extra busy. Many thanks too for your last letter, dear, we did laugh over the glue episode!!! he sounds a thorough little pickle, bless him, a real boy!!!

Much love to you all from us both, Mother Grubb. [Cousin of BPFC. Ed.]

8th November 1943 84, Rodney Court, London W9.
Darling Brenda,
I am sorry to have been so bad about writing. I’ve thought of you very often, but I have just been lazy and tired when I have come home each night.

First, please give my beloved nephew very much love and wishes for the 12th. I hope the shoes will fit him. I do wish I could be there on his birthday morning but give him an extra special hug and tell him I’m thinking of you all.

How exciting about Sammy, it makes one feel more hopeful that Ronnie had got there too. Perhaps any day now we will hear.

I met two men who had got through from Campo 21 this morning. They didn’t know anything about 29, but said people were gradually arriving in our lines. However, I think if Sammy went towards Switzerland Ronnie would as I am sure they would stick together if possible. I will ring my man at the W Office again tomorrow in case, though he promises to let me know as soon as he has heard anything. He is probably terribly busy. The men I saw were looking marvellously fit and both had been taken about the same time as Ronnie, one thought he remembered seeing him at Bari but he was a bit vague as it was a long time ago. I was very cheered to see how well they looked. They have promised to ring up if they meet anyone who was in 29. So far I’ve not heard of anybody from there. Most of the people have been Captains according to the papers.

How is Granny Cecil? I do hope better. I’ve been trying terribly hard to find you a maid but no success so far.

My dearest love to you all. My thoughts are so much with you, darling. You are so wonderfully brave. Ronnie will be very proud of you when he comes home.

A very happy day on the 12th.
Lots of love. Ruth.

8th November 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
You really are next door to a Saint to write such a sweet letter under such circumstances. I can’t tell you how I feel for you. I’ve waited to write in the hope of hearing from Sammy but I did get a cable yesterday but no mention of anyone else so I’m afraid nobody can have got there yet. I do wish I could do something but I may get some news for you in answer to my cable particularly asking. Sammy says “Address Camp D, Gossau, Switzerland.

Please circulate and omit rank, very comfortable” and then greetings to various relatives. It’s rather mysterious as it’s a different address to the WO, though the same district and they told me to write to Lt. Col CRB P/20019, his number which I promptly did. Now I’m terrified that Sammy may be posing as a civilian or something in order to get back and that I shall have upset the apple-cart. What do you make of it? Although I couldn’t really foresee this I do feel rather upset and worried but hope it is not too important.

Anyway I feel so incredibly lucky, I can’t stop thanking God for it but I be shall really happy

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only when I hear Ronnie and the others have arrived either with our people or in Switzerland.

I’ve not yet discovered whether those in Switzerland will be allowed home or not, at the moment I feel too relieved to have him safe to worry much.

If I hear anything the least bit encouraging from S about Ronnie I’ll ring you up of course.

Isn’t it awful S is 40 today and he was 37 when I last saw him. What ghastly years we’ve been through, Brenda, and one can never feel sure that some other crisis won’t arise.

Anyway do keep up heart as I too agree with you, I do not feel that Ronnie is in Germany but only waiting his time to get through and he is in my prayers now more than ever.

Sweet of you to let your friends know about S. I’m sure he’d appreciate it if they can do anything for him.
Lots of love. Karin.

8th November 1943 WRNS Quarters, Beer, Devon.
My dear Brenda,
I suppose you haven’t had any news yet or you would have phoned me. It is desperate, really, as if they were still free in Italy they must be hiding somewhere and probably going through an awful time. It would be better, almost, to know that they were in Germany now, where at least they would be moderately well looked after.

I have just come back from 10 days leave and spent quite a while in Scotland with John’s people. It was simply lovely up there and it was grand to be with them. The weather was really kind for once as it never rained once. Quite a record for Scotland! While I was up there we had word that his kit from the ME had been returned so when I got to London I went to Curzon Street House to make enquiries about it and was horrified to learn that it had been destroyed by enemy action on the way over. It really is rotten luck, but I should think he will get compensation for it. They looked through John’s files while I was there and of course had no news and they are as much in the dark as everyone else.

There is a Mrs. Tuck who lives quite near us at Farnham, and she told me that a Major Russell had cabled his people that he had escaped to Switzerland and was safe and comfortable. This was from PG 29, Mrs. Tuck’s brother-in-law was in the same camp.

This is all I’ve heard about the camp. From 21 30 tank Corps men were released and the rest sent to Germany.

Oh! it’s miserable, if only some news would come.

How are you all Brenda? very well I hope.

Here’s hoping we all hear soon.
Love from Anne.
[She was Mrs. John Maclean but there is no information as to who he was apart from being in PG 29 with RLC. Ed.]

November 9th
A little better but still quite hard rain. However, I couldn’t sit still any longer so decided to push on a bit. The old man didn’t want me to go but I said that if it got worse I would return.

It was very wet walking but I had managed to cover about 6 miles when I hit a road. At the same time it came down in torrents, so I had to take the risk of diving into a little pub in the main street of the village. Once again my luck was in and the massive old woman, who smoked a pipe, quite took me under her wing. She had been, at one time, a servant to an English couple in Switzerland and couldn’t do enough for me. In fact, by the time I went to

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bed I had had quite enough vino. They dried my clothes and during the evening an Italian, who spoke very good English, came in and told me that he and his American wife lived up the valley and that I could go up to them tomorrow if I liked.

Had a bed to sleep in at night, which was a joy, all to myself as well. Very tired and not sure what to do tomorrow, though I am sure I should push on providing the weather is good.

Apparently, there is a South African nearby who I will see tomorrow and if he is nice I might travel with him for a bit.

9th November 1943 59, Albert Road West, Bolton.
Dear Brenda,
How I feel for you these days, you must be going through several kinds of hell. I wish I could do something about it. Ronnie may be wandering about occupied Italy and unable to write, or may have even got to Switzerland! Anyway, I hope you hear something very soon, and before Christmas too. Let me know as soon as you can.

Anyway you can walk about during the day thinking of me doing the same. Brigid left me last week-end for a job in St Annes, in a hotel. I have a very nice woman who comes in four mornings a week to help me out over the heavier jobs. I think it is a scandal: this Mrs. Clarke is a refugee from Guernsey (we have a small colony here) and she tells me that she is given 30/- a week for herself and the two small children: her Mother-in-law who lives with her only gets 18/-: they have to pay rent etc. out of this pittance, further they are only allowed, legally, to earn 5/- a week extra. How can they possibly manage. Anyway, we ignore Red Tape and she will be earning 18/- from me. If anyone questions it, I shall feel inclined to get on my hind legs and make a row. After all, it isn’t as though they are likely to flood the so-called market after the war as they will return to their homes, meanwhile they are satisfying a very acute demand. I can’t imagine any of these munitions workers going into private service after the war as they are getting such phenomenal wages now.

This letter is really one of birthday greetings for Peter, our love to him on the great day.

Much love from us both and our sincere hopes that you get some word quickly.
From Sheila.  [Potter. Ed.]

November 10th
Quite fine this morning, so after some coffee and bread I went down the main road, which was risky, and saw the SA. He turned out to be of Dutch extraction, so I decided to stay by myself. Anyhow, he wanted to go down the main road which I thought dangerous. So, after a chat by a bakery fire and a wait while I decided what to do, I set off to go back towards the village. On the way I had dodged two Italian policemen on bicycles, but on the way back I ran slap into them. My heart came into my mouth when they asked me who I was and where I was going; I could do nothing but tell the truth. However, they wished me luck and I staggered off, very glad that they had been decent police – some were not.

Had a long, dreary walk up the road then, after some nuts and bread in a farm, struck into the mountains again. At about 17.00hrs arrived at a village high up and asked an old woman if she had any food. She took me into a very poor house where I had supper etc. The old man of the house gave me quite a nice lot of tobacco, breath-takingly strong but I can smoke almost anything now. Later I was taken to another house where I was given a bed with an Italian farmer. Comfortable, but I would prefer to sleep alone, even in the straw.

From the view from the village I have a river and road to cross tomorrow, always a bit of a

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worry, still that must be tackled tomorrow.

10th November 1943 35, Maitland Court, Lancaster Terrace, London W2.
My dear Brenda,
Firstly many happy returns of Peter’s birthday. I enclose just a small gift.

Please forgive me for not writing for so many months, but I seem to have had so many things to do, that I’m ashamed to admit I have put off writing letters. Amongst other things as you can see from the above address, we have moved. The house was so large and of course my Mother was simply ruining her health. We were lucky enough to get this very nice, modern flat overlooking Hyde Park and it really is very pleasant, and of course infinitely less work and much more convenient in every way.

I do hope you are hearing from Ronnie. I have been thinking about you, even though I haven’t written, and hoping everything was all right. I expect you heard that Mike Ferens came home for a few weeks leave. What a shock and wonderful surprise for Peter. I saw her when she came up to meet him but I didn’t see him.

I went to the Investiture about three weeks ago and got Dick’s MC. I didn’t want to go but I couldn’t refuse so had to and was very glad when it was all over, I don’t mind telling you. It was most extraordinary, I sat next to the RSM’s wife, I don’t know if you knew, Page was his name. I knew he had won the MC but I didn’t know he was dead, apparently he won it and was killed four days later at El Alamien.

Of course you’ll have heard that Jimmy and Peter Walton have been killed, and do you know what happened to Bill Watson?

I took a big exam last week for my job and am anxiously awaiting the results. I don’t think I have passed for a moment, I have had too many other things on my mind. I have been working for that as well so you see I haven’t had much time.

How are you both after all that? Peter must be enormous I should imagine, but what a comfort to you.

We have all been having colds, the weather has been so awful, but are better now. If there is any chance of your coming up at any time please let me know and you can always stay with the greatest of pleasure. We have plenty of room.
Let me hear from you soon. Much love. Shelagh.

10th November 1943 Potterne, Devises, Wiltshire.
Dear Brenda,
I hate to bother you in these anxious times, but I so long to know if you have any news of Ronnie? I hear this morning from Karin that Sammy has escaped into Switzerland so I pray others may be doing likewise. I’ve been thinking of you so much, it’s awful what you have been through.

Yours ever, Philippa Jeffreys.
I know Peter will be anxious for news of Ronnie too.

10th November 1943 Capt. MW Grubb, 1st. Air Reconnaissance Sqn. CMF.
My dear Brenda,
Thanks very much for your letter received today. I am afraid it was a long time delayed as we have only just started getting mail after a three week delay. Was very glad to get all the details as I am afraid I was a bit vague about them before. Having the names and the position of the camps will be a great help. When I last wrote no-one had come through, as

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far as I know, from round Bologna as it was too far in the time. Am trying to get down to give more details as soon as I can.

24th. Nov. Please excuse pencil but I have lost my pen. Have been somewhat delayed in continuing this but have been on the go more than usual. Unfortunately I could not get myself to find out details about Ronnie but got another officer, whose brother is also a prisoner, to get in all the details you gave me. Am sorry to say they had no news so far of Ronnie or John McLean, although they had all their particulars docketed. They knew that Lt. Col. Battiscombe had reached Switzerland. He could not find out about Lumley. I wish I could give you something definite but I know the moment they come through the news would be sent on, whether it was the 8th Army or the 5th. As things are at present it would be difficult for any prisoners to get through and they would be much better off lying up, as I am sure a lot are doing, waiting until they find themselves on the right side.

So glad to hear all your news. Peter sounds great. My family all sounded very well when I last heard. We continue to have an interesting time and have managed to see quite a lot of this part of the world. The Italians in southern Italy are a pretty depressing lot but I should think they must be better in the north. Have not laughed so continuously before. They can provide the most comic, unintentional, entertainment possible. An Italian fire brigade trying to put out a fire was a really comic floor show, free. It was amusing to find so much stuff, unobtainable at home, in the shops. I have managed to get a Zeiss camera for very little. Bari was a nice town, modern and moderately clean. There are some extraordinary houses south of there, which look as if they came out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with comical roofs painted in different colours. They are unique to that part of the country.

That is about all the news for the moment. I wish I had been able to give you something definite, but although I know it’s easier to say, don’t get depressed. There is every chance Ronnie will escaped being taken and into Germany and get through all right. I will not forget about the cable.
With love to you all, Michael.

November 11th
Sunny but cold. Left after some coffee and bread and set off down the mountain side to the road and river. It was an easy matter to cross them, thank heaven, and I was asked into a house on the road, but decided it was too dangerous so pushed on up the far side mountain. Was able to use a road for some distance which, although dangerous, was a great help. Winter is now coming on with the mountain tops covered in snow, but the air is clear and invigorating and I feel much better now. In fact, although thin, I am in good trim.

After asking the way at the top of the mountain, I swung right down another valley into very beautiful country. At about 16.00hrs I found a little farm which fed me and gave me a barn to sleep in. I am surprised how far I have got with only a smattering of Italian, but with lots of luck I suppose.

11th November 1943 Heatherling, Farnham, Surrey.
The last few days I have had news of 7 officers from PG 29 who have reached Switzerland. The names are: Wheeler, Russell, Haynes, Tanner, Gordon and Kerr. The last named only on Monday. There are sure to be others so I do hope you will soon have good news. From the 40 letters I have had it seems certain that the Italians let PG 29 go free. Forgive a PC but I have such a heavy correspondence.
Yours sincerely, Antonia Tuck.

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11th November 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Nothing more from Sammy yet but keep up heart. I have heard of two more getting through this week and I’m sure Ronnie will soon be joining them. I heard from Mrs. McLaren yesterday, she’s heard nothing yet but was very optimistic. I’m told by one of the repatriated German POWs. that over 100 got away from a prison train when passing over the Brenner Pass. Apparently the train reached the German prison camp with only 47! Thinking of you all the time. Karin.

11th November 1943 Dorset War Organisation, British Red Cross Society, Bridport.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
Mrs. Edwards has asked me to return the enclosed cheque to you. She says you are willing to allow the amount to go through the Bridport “Next of kin” Prisoner of War Fund. It is a pity to give you this trouble, but we are anxious that any money coming to us should be added to our Bridport POW Centre Accounts, this stimulates local interest in the Red X work.

When sending the next cheque to St. James’ Palace, your name and that of Mrs. Bennett will be mentioned with the amount of your subscription and the major’s POW number.
Yours faithfully, E Perkins.

November 12th
Away early, still running along the river below, but keeping to the high mountain tracks. At about midday I ate some bread that I had with me and then swung down to cross the river and also another road. I am, once again, back in the vino country as the mountain sides are covered in neat rows of vines as far as one can see. They look very attractive and a change from the wild mountains, particularly as they mean better farms and easier lodgings.

After getting well away from the road, I stopped at quite a neat little farm and the farmer`s wife gave me some polenta which was a help as I was famished. Only stayed an hour and then pushed on. Arrived at a small village at about 17.00hrs and asked if I could sleep there, but presently rather an awful apparition came out of a carpenter`s shop and asked me in. He had no nose or ears and his hands were all broken and withered; apparently, he had been blown up in the last war and had no love for the Germans. He took me to his house, where I met his wife who took no pains to show that she did not want me. After some supper he went out and so did she and, as I did not feel comfortable about it all (the village was very near the road), I slipped away to find a better and more secure place to sleep. It was a damned trouble as I was tired and it was getting late, but after an hours walk I found a farm who took me in and gave me the manger to sleep in. It proved very comfortable and, despite the noise of the oxen beside me, I slept well.

12th November 1943 Culmstock Vicarage, Cullompton, Devon.
My dear Brenda,
Thank you so much for remembering Richard’s birthday in the midst of your troubles.

I love the photo of Peter and your description of him. It was grand of you to be so thrilled and to send the card when your own news is so anxious. I just can’t imagine how I have deserved such happiness and good luck. I haven’t anyway and can still scarcely believe that it has happened. I knew it was in the wind as David had managed to get some clever hints

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passed the censor! I also knew that Tom Black had flown home a fortnight before. But even so I just couldn’t believe it and daren’t let myself be too hopeful and had a month of utter hell until David’s wire came on Nov. 5th and the next day he phoned for my birthday!

Of course the most intensive and exciting preparation as he expected to come last Wed. and of course I took hours getting dressed and spent from 11am – 3pm at Taunton Station and he never came! Yesterday I had a letter from Thetford in Norfolk saying that he hadn’t been able to get thro’ on the phone and couldn’t get away til Monday!! After only three hours sleep plus the disappointment plus Michael in bed with glands and temp. I felt as if 10 steam rollers had squashed me flat!! You will be able to imagine what an anticlimax it was.

However I feel much less depressed today and expect by Sunday that I shall be as thrilled as before. Michael is fearfully thrilled too. He kept on telling Mrs. Bees “You know, Mrs. Bees, my Daddie is coming home. He is a Doctor you see and he will make me better”. Richard went about saying “Daddy today” at intervals on Wed. and I’m afraid when Mon. comes he won’t believe me when I tell him again! He has made a sudden spurt with his talking which will delight David and he can now put 4 words together and is constantly giving us surprises.

Well, my dear, I can’t tell you how sorry I am that you are not sharing in this unexpected and miraculous happiness. I do hope so terribly much you will get some news. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear that Ronnie is making his way home. I am sure he would never be content being interned in Switzerland if he had a chance of getting back. Anyway I feel that he is all right for what that is worth.

Forgive me for not letting you know at once about David, I wanted to but there was so much to see to and get ready. I sympathise with you from the bottom of my heart over you domestic trials. I had many weary months of the vegetables and the boiler, not to mention the chickens! so I know just what it means.

I do believe tho’ that it is not much longer now tho’, don’t you? If only something could happen before the awful carnage in Europe begins.
Please give my love to your Mother and a kiss to Peter. With lots of love from Daphne.

12th November 1943 A Coy. 6th. DLI, Cambridgeshire.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty of writing to you, but I am a clerk in the above Coy., previous to which I was a clerk in D Coy for 15 months and one of my duties is the handling of mail. Major Wood has not been with us for a while now and your papers have been arriving regular while we were out East so I passed them around the Coy where they were very much appreciated. I have spent many happy hours reading them and would like to thank you on behalf of the men. We are now back in dear old Blighty again and a couple of bundles have arrived here, so I thought it better to write you and let you know the position so you can stop sending them if you wish. You have been very kind to D Coy and some of the old lads haven’t forgot your kind gift of cigarettes you sent us. I served under Major Cummins for nearly two years and there isn’t many of the old faces left who left England.

You may have heard from other sources of our activities in Sicily but if there is anything you would like to know of the old Batt. I will only be too pleased to let you know. I trust major Cummins is keeping well, also yourself and baby and you are hearing quite regular from him. It has been a very anxious time for you and I hope it won’t be long before you will be seeing him once again. I haven’t had leave yet but expect to any day. I will close with the very best wishes to you and all at home.

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Sincerely yours, E Fowler.

November 13th
Away early, after some breakfast, to a depressing day. The walking was all right and it was fine and I also managed to pick up some food on the way, but at about 16.00hrs I ran against two Yugoslavs coming back from the south. They were very depressing and said it was impossible to get through as around Aquila the Germans had made a block and all such as ourselves were being raked in by the hundred. They had decided to move back and find some place to stay as the Italians further south were frightened and would not give you food. This was bad news to get with no-one else to discuss it with, so as I walked on I was pretty depressed.

At about 18.00hrs I came on a little village at the entrance to a steep pass right over the mountains and went into the pub. They fixed me up with some food and then handed me over to a farmer who showed me to his barn. Feeling very depressed and not so well, inclined to sweat easily. Wonder what is best to do.

November 14th
A very bad night: foul dreams and in a bath of perspiration, on top of which found on getting up that I had lost my tobacco tin so could not smoke. I would like to have stayed in the barn all day but the farmer did not seem so keen, so after some coffee and bread I set off over the next mountain.

It was a foul day with a high, bitter wind blowing. After about two hours walk, reached the top and found a few cottages together so stopped at one and asked if they had a barn in which I could sleep as I did not feel too well. They showed me quite a nice stall and I was soon asleep. Woken up at about 15.00hrs when they told me that two more English had arrived, so feeling better I went to see them. It was raining and snowing so, like me, they had taken shelter. They turned out to be two Rhodesians, one Bob Brown a L.C. and originally English, and Gordon Mackay, of Scotch parents and a private. Both very nice boys and a cut above the average. They had walked all the way from north of Genoa and, like myself, were just going on to see what happened. Spent the rest of the day talking, they had lots of tobacco so were able to give me a little which was good. We all piled into my stall at night to find two Yugoslavs as well beside us. A foul night, snow and rain

November 15th
Weather awful again today, so, despite the obvious displeasure of the farmer`s family, we just sat and talked. Bob and Mackay asked me to join them, which I was only too glad to do. They seem nice lads and have my type of sense of humour which is of great value at a time like this. Only hope the weather breaks tomorrow as I feel we will have to go on no matter what happens. All had a wash and shave and general clean-up in readiness, and all decided we would just go on until we found it impossible to go further.

November 16th
Away without breakfast; it was better today so after thanking our hosts we made a move.

After a bleak walk of an hour we found a farm who gave us polenta of the “eat towards you” variety. Just as we had started, two more POWs arrived who turned out to be a Major Garland and a Colonel Adherne. They were pleased to see us and joined us in our polenta.

They also had a Russian Sgt. with them. They gave us their stories and we gave them ours

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and after about an hour they left, followed by ourselves. We went on a different route to the nearest village, where we managed to get our boots patched and to buy a few small things at the village shop, including a glass of wine each. Then on a short way; to a meal and a stall for the night. It is so much nicer being with someone else and we are fitting in well together. Bob was learning stock-broking in England before the war and then decided to go out to farm tobacco in Rhodesia when the war broke out and he joined up there. Gordon was in Civil Administration and has some very interesting tales to tell about animal and native life.

We feel we are on rather a crowded route and think that if we can swing off it then all the better, also we all agree, thank heaven, that we do not need to make terrific speed.

November 17th
Away after a good breakfast but travelled slowly. At a small village we found Garland and streams of Yugoslavs. It is getting very crowded and only wish the Yugoslavs would go for their borders and not clutter up our route. As a matter of fact, they are not liked by the Italians, who don`t help them much.

After Bob had washed a shirt and I had had a chat with a Slav Colonel, we had some bread and cheese and pushed on, but this time decided to try and get off the crowded route so cut off at right angles onto the next mountain. This did not prove successful and at night we found it hard to get a place to eat and sleep, but at last, when we were getting very cross, we were taken into a house which were very kind. Sat chatting over the fire about our prison life and other things. Very nice to have companions again. Into the straw at about 21.00hrs.
[Major Garland, in a letter to BPFC dated 28th. April 1944, wrote that he met RLC at a place called Colfiorito, about 30 miles SE of Perugia. Ed.]

17th November 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
My poor Brenda,
I couldn’t be more sorry, it’s too utterly damnable and I’m afraid I’ve no cheering news. I had a cable from Sammy today in which he says “much regret no news Ronnie”. It sounds to me rather as if Ronnie was making for the south and that would be too lovely if he got there as you’d get him home straight away. I saw in the Times today that someone from 29 had reached our lines. The first one I’ve heard of. I do pray it is so, I couldn’t want anything more, my dear. I know so horribly well how you feel and how I should feel myself and then Peter’s birthday and everything brings it home worse than before. Not to mention the 50th. being home, I’d no idea of it. Extraordinary to say, I hardly know a soul left if Bill Watson isn’t there. Only David Joy and Leslie Proud. What changes since they went out!

The War Office tell me there is very little chance of getting S back until we get a land frontier with Switzerland because of transport. At the rate we are progressing up Italy I doubt if they’ll reach Switzerland until long after the war is over!!!!!!!!!!

I know my writing is shocking especially at times of crisis, the address is:- Camp D, Evades, Gossau. The WO also told me that the Foreign Office had confirmed the fact that they should be addressed as civilians. S cables he is having a “lovely time” but hurriedly added that he is longing for me!!!

I’ve just written to Betty Clarke, she felt it dreadfully that the 50th are back here. Almost worse than you because you’ve got lots and lots of hope, and at the worst he’ll only be in Germany whereas she feels there’s nothing to live for at all. Anyway I now have a strong

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feeling that Ronnie is biding his time to make a dash for our lines and that I shall soon be turning green with envy when you dash off to meet him at Liverpool while I have S in Switzerland, so keep up heart. Extraordinary how often one’s fears are fruitless and everything turns out for the best.
Lots of love to you and the 2 year old. Karin.

17th November 1943 29 Apsley Road, Bristol.
Dearest B,
A phone message has come from a friend tonight which may be a “straw”. She says in the Times today there was a notice saying that a Major Beaumont Thomas PG 29, 3200, is safe in Allied territory. Do you know the name? The address of his Mother is Heathersett, Norfolk. It might be worth your while to write to her for details and give Ronnie’s particulars in case she has any method of communication.

I am sure these officers who get through will do all they can to give information about others. Anyway it’s worth trying. Wish it were something more helpful but even a link like this may be useful. If these men come home one could contact them for details.

No more. Lots of love and hope. Phyllis.

November 18th
After a good breakfast of polenta we left and had quite a hard day’s walk. Again, in the evening, we found it a little difficult to find a place, but managed it in the end. I suppose the farmers are getting a little fed up with having to feed so many.

November 19th
Away without breakfast, but at about midday struck a small village where we found a pub run by the cobbler, so while he mended Gordon`s boots (they were always wrong) we had some wine and bread and cheese which cheered us up a lot. Had to cross a road at night and had a scare that two police were patrolling it which proved false. Stopped for the night at a village, perched right on the top of a hill. The house which took us in was not too keen, but gave us food and a very cold barn. Bob and Gordon had no blanket and borrowed each night but sometimes they were not so fortunate. So far we have all been lucky and not had lice, but perhaps we will before we finish.

There is no doubt that we are getting to the more difficult country and cannot be very far from Aquila. There is, of course, little need to worry about direction as the locals all tell you the way. In fact, they like to do so in case you stay with them. One gets all kind of rumours that it is possible or impossible to get through, so we are just pushing slowly on until something happens. It is some time since we have heard any wireless, so are rather blank as to what the military situation is.

19th November 1943 1 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Dearest Brenda,
Uncle Pip and I are terribly sorry we let Peter’s birthday get over without sending our love and greetings to the little chap. Please don’t think you are not constantly in our thoughts, you come into our conversations every day, in fact, how could we talk of Ronnie without immediately thinking of you. I take all responsibility for this slip in the date. Several times Uncle has said it must be about Peter’s birthday but I fancied it was later in the month so I delayed writing.

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Also, I have been fairly busy in the CRS. Every bed is occupied and there is a waiting list for beds. It is all due to the quick drop in the temperature and also these Batteries have come up from the south and complain bitterly of the cold. Keeping them warm in bed with fires and hot water bottles is almost one nurses work in the morning, and Thursday I had no cook and one nurse. I cooked 16 dinners and 18 10 o’clocks, besides having the patients to attend to and quite a lot of dressings etc. for the out patients. I really was very tired both Wed. and Thurs. evenings when I got home, round 7pm. Then I had a good meal to prepare for Uncle!!

All week it has been one big rush.

I was in next door this afternoon and heard of your telegram about Ronnie. Now, although the disappointment is very hard to bear, you must just go on hoping he is, with other friends, in some safe part of Italy, waiting to get in touch with the British or American Armies. Trials and hardships borne in the company of friends are much easier to bear than when alone, we hope and pray there will be good news of him very soon. You have had a very trying time, dear, and I am certain little Peter has been a prefect blessing to you.

Uncle and I so look forward to seeing him, what joy if we saw the three of you together! We enclose a few savings certificates for Peter’s Post Office book. It is so difficult to know what to get as a gift and I really hardly ever get away from Auckland anyhow. Later on he will be able to purchase something worthwhile with his accumulated savings!!

The weather has been very cold here and it has been a struggle to get out about 8am to the hospital.

I hear Peter had a fine birthday party, bless him. He will be quite a big handful to look after and I am sure he is in every kind of mischief.

So sorry to hear your Mother has been laid up, I hope she is quite recovered now. Have you been able to get a decent help in the house?

It is just striking 11pm so I think it is about bedtime. I wish to goodness we could get along a bit quicker in Italy, everything seems to be against us there.
Now, my dear, do give Peter a big kiss from me. With all my love. Yours, Auntie Blanche.

19th November 1943 Red Cross and St. John War Organisation,
St. James’ Palace, London SW1.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
It was kind of you to send me the interesting photograph which you had received from Private Lumley, and I only return it now because for some considerable time I have a sufficient selection of photographs from Italian camps. I know you will understand the position, and hope that you will accept this message of my true appreciation.

I am so sorry to learn that you are still awaiting news of your husband, and can understand well how anxious you must be to hear from him.

Yours sincerely,
pp The editor, “The Prisoner of War.”

November 20th
Away early and covered quite a distance. Where possible we pick up bread which we eat during the day and rely on a hot meal at night. At about 16.00hrs we ran into much more prosperous country, but still found it hard to get a place to sleep. After trying the priest in one village, we went onto the next and found it full of Yugoslavs so had to go onto a third where we were well settled, all divided up for the evening meal and then went into a stall together. A little worried by being locked in, as we thought, and the light being on all night.

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Also the bull in the next stall could stretch it`s chain to within about 6 inches of Gordon`s nose which made Bob and I laugh a lot, however we slept very well. We keep running against too many, very dirty Yugoslavs who seem always to stick to us.

20th November 1943 Caldwell, Irvine, Ayrshire.
My dear Peter,
What a bad Godfather! I never can remember birthdays, but as Xmas draws near I hardly ever forget, so I am enclosing a slip of paper for your banking account and it certainly has to cover at least a birthday and Christmas.

When the war is over, how much Auntie Dorrie and I look forward to seeing more of you.
Best of good wishes to your Mummy in which Auntie Dorrie joins.
Yours ever, Uncle Con.
November 21st
A lovely day, warm and sunny, but we are getting into the snow area. After breakfast called at the village shop for some chamomile which we mix with our tobacco to make it go further. At midday we stopped at a small village and asked to buy some bread and cheese.

As we suspected, they gave this to us, which we ate with some grapes in a little wood beside the village.

Had one or two tries at night – taking it in turns to ask – and at last found a village which took us in. The leaders of the village seem to be four brothers who had lived in America and could speak some English. We had quite a lot of vino and a good party. They called the Germans all kinds of names, but I expect that if one German soldier came into the village they would be very quiet. A nice warm barn at night with lambs underneath. There can be no doubt we are now in difficult country. Still it is quite possible to live and, so far, no particular scares so we are going on. We have lots of laughs together.

November 22nd
Into the eastern edge of the province of Rieti this morning and we had to cross a main road first thing which we did successfully. We also took a risk and walked along a road which worked its way over the mountain, it was quite thick in snow so we could tell that it was not used very often.

Stopped during the day and washed socks and feet – thank heaven all our feet are good and my two pairs of socks are standing the strain well. At about 16.00hrs, feeling very tired, we took a great risk and called at a pub for a drink. They also gave us some food, but as it was just next to a main road we did not feel too happy about it and kept our eyes and ears wide open for a quick getaway.

After leaving, we looked about us for a place for the night. As it was my turn I asked the next place, in my awful Italian, the usual question when the man replied: “let’s speak in English, it’s easier.” We roared with laughter. He turned out to be very kind and his mother had been English, so he spoke it well. His wife gave us a good meal and he gave us particulars about our route, together with a little Italian lesson which was useful. We had about 200lr each so we blued 100lr each on cigarettes, which he got for us. They were grand after the foul tobacco rolled in newspaper which we had been smoking. However, altogether quite a good day and we all slept like logs when we got into the straw.

I used to say I was a Major to the various farmers as we found we got extra attention, which was a help. From what we can see, we have a tricky start tomorrow over a main road and

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river, but no doubt it will go all right.

November 23rd
Away from our good friend after a good breakfast and crossed the road with ease. It was very cold, with no sun and we were glad to keep on the move. Altogether we crossed quite a distance, when, after meeting a South African in a field who was living in the district, we struck a small dirty village. On asking for food, we were directed to the pub who, as far as we could gather, said we could stay. We had not been there long before others arrived and quite soon there must have been 8 or 9 of us; S. Africans and Yugoslavs. Bob, Gordon and I had bought some vino and, whilst drinking it quietly in one of the rooms, a terrific row developed between an old man, who was obviously drunk and saying he liked the Germans, and other inmates of the pub. An old woman went for him with her hands, so Gordon jumped and separated them. He is very large, so the trouble died down.

After more vino and food we turned in, with others, in the local barn. A stranger arrived in the village from one of the out-lying houses and wanted me to go to him for food, but I didn’t like his looks so told him I wanted to stay with my friends.

23rd November 1943 Cedar Grange, Hethersett, Norwich.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
I took the liberty of opening the letter you have addressed to my son as I guessed it was connected with his escape and he has not yet returned to this country. As soon as he comes I will hand it over to him and he will, no doubt, send you all the information he can. I have had many enquiries from all over the country so we shall be kept busy! but of course one sympathises very much with those who are still in a state of anxiety. I do hope you will soon hear some good news of your husband and that the friends you mention will be equally fortunate.

I think all at 29 had a sporting chance to get away as I am told that the Commandant was quite kind and helpful. Such a journey is bound to take a very long time and it is only quite lately that any names have come through, so you can still be very hopeful. My son is an experienced mountaineer so that probably helped him to get along in out of the way places.

With all good wishes and Nigel is sure to write when he returns.
Yours sincerely, Pauline Beaumont Thomas.

November 24th

Still fine but cold. After a poor breakfast we set off, followed by the other wayfarers. It was a bleak walk. On our left, far below, lay the valley with Aquila away in the distance and behind this the Grand Sasso covered in snow and the tops shrouded in cloud. At midday, we left our general route a little to call on a nearby village for food, they were very frightened but did give us something to eat. They said that about two weeks ago the Germans had had a big round up of escaped prisoners in the district and that there was a large prison camp just near Aquila. At night found the very greatest difficulty in getting a place to eat and sleep, but at last we had to almost force our way in. The other people in the village would hardly speak to us, let alone give us shelter. After rather a miserable evening, the farmer showed us to his barn, which was a bad one and very cold. Still, we were thankful for a roof over our heads. By the looks of things, we will have to go on tomorrow whether we like it or not.

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24th November 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
I really can’t bear that you shouldn’t have heard anything yet, every ring on the telephone I hope it’s you and every post too, though I feel it will be the telephone if you have good news. I can’t help it, I think Ronnie is trying for the south all the time and I know they have to bide their time til the right moment comes. If you knew how much you are in my thoughts. I just pray for you all the time. Wish to goodness I could get Sammy’s letter, they seem fairly slow, as I’m sure he’ll give some inkling of where Ronnie was making for if he dares. Though I’m told that some Swiss letters come via Stuttgart!!!? Can hardly believe it but one friend wrote and warned me of it and said I must be very careful what I wrote.

Betty Clarke came and had tea with me in London yesterday. She’s going to work in the “Wounded and missing” place in Belgrave Square after Xmas. She looks very thin and ill but, I think, has worked out some sort of philosophy to carry her on. Travelling up to town I was with Pam Gote (Strafe Gote’s wife) and she is still inconsolable, it’s made her so awfully bitter which seems to me all wrong. But it’s easy to preach when one’s in luck oneself!

I always mean to tell you how much the children enjoy those books you sent, we’ve read them through dozens of times.

Did I tell you, a great friend of mine, Pam Kirby whose husband was commanding the 1st.Bn. DLI, had to be left behind at Cos. He was wounded in the face and knee but the second in command write to Pam and said the wounds were slight. But, as Pam says, if they were why didn’t he get away with the Bn?! Apparently the MO stayed with him which I call very noble as now I presume they are both POWs., this was at the beginning of October and Pam had no idea when she’d hear from John and sounded sick with anxiety. In fact I feel quite ashamed to be the only bright spot in a circle of gloom but I do hope and pray you will soon join the bright spots.
Lots of love, Karin.

November 25th
One of our worst days: snowing and raining when we got up and shortly after 06.00hrs the farmer arrived to say we must go. Our route, we knew, was over the next mountain and across the Aquila-Rieti road but we had hoped to have one more night this side of the road before crossing it.

However, after leaving the barn we called at a house who gave us some hot, boiled potato which did warm us up and off we set up the mountain. The small track soon dwindled out and we had to continue in a rough direction, up to our knees, at times, in snow. When we reached the top, the full blast of the blizzard hit us and, with only thin trousers, coat and shirt, we were soon soaked to the skin and frozen.

After about an hour’s walk down the other side of the mountain, we decided that unless we got shelter and our clothes dry, something serious might happen, so, no matter what the risk was, we made for the nearest, small village and dived into the first house. They were very kind and, despite the fact that the Germans were living only half-a-mile away, dried our clothes, gave us an old, ruined house with a fire to sit in and a good barn for the night. We were most grateful and did not lack for food as the women of the village kept coming in with bread, cheese etc to keep us going. We spent the time completing our drying and getting the dirt off and at about 19.00hrs went into the hay, very thankful we had been so lucky to hit such a grand village.

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November 26th

Away first thing after some breakfast and after two hours walk we looked down on the Aquila-Rieti road. It had a railway running beside it and contained quite a lot of traffic.

However, it was no good just watching it so, taking a detour to bring us to a good crossing place, we pushed on. We passed a small village just beside it who said there were no standing patrols on the road, so with 100yds between us, and me leading, we went across.

There was a bit of dodging of traffic, but all went well and after about another mile we sat down and ate some bread. As far as we could see, our direction was straight over the mountain in front of us, so despite our curses at the fatigue of it we began the climb which was a stiff one, arriving, eventually, into the snow again. We must have reached the top at about 16.00hrs and by the time we had looked about us, it was growing dusk. After following a road for a bit, we found a collection of barns which, we found, were occupied by the shepherds who looked after the flocks that were grazing a little further down.

We looked about for a bit and then went into one of them. They made us comfortable and gave us food and later a barn to sleep in. As far as we can see, there are no women up here and when the snow really comes the shepherds take their flocks and themselves down to the villages in the valley. When chatting at night, some of them said it was possible to get through, some that it was not possible – so we still don`t know what to think, but nevertheless, we are well passed Aquila; a thing we thought at one time impossible.

November 27th (78 days out).
After a grand breakfast of lentil soup and bread we set off again and had a good, if wet, walk. Passed a party of Italians, returning, carrying their belongings on horseback, but did not say much to them. At about 14.00hrs, after scrambling down the plain, we went into a village where we got some bread.

We had seen some Yugoslavs already and soon the village was full of English, South Africans and Yugoslavs. We met a New Zealand Major and an English Captain, who said that this was about the furthest point south which could be reached with any degree of safety and that many who had gone on from here had returned saying it was impossible unless one slept out and carried all one’s own food. From now on, there were many Germans and, of course, the mountains were covered with snow. This was a great disappointment, but what we had been expecting to happen. They also said that this village was about full, but that if we wanted to rest a bit and consider the matter a bit it would be best to go onto a village called S. Anatolia which was about five miles further on. Past that was Avezzano [?], which was particularly dangerous. Just before parting, there was a scare of an SS man in civilian clothes so we moved quickly.

After a longish walk, we reached a tiny village called Contonne, just near San. Anatolia, and decided to stay there provided they would put us up. This they did in a very poor barn filled with polenta stalks, which made a very poor bed and gave very little warmth. They also got us some food, which we ate in a house in which lived a family of 26 all in about five rooms and a kitchen. After food we went to our uncomfortable bed and talked for some time about what we should do. We thought it best to try S. Anatolia to see if we can stay there until we can either get some news or make up our minds as to the best policy.

27th November 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My dear Brenda,
I have just had Glover in my office and he has received from the Paymaster details of

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Ronnie’s pay, the figures don’t really matter it is more the details. The Paymaster’s slips will be sent on to you on Dec. 1st. by Glover and this is just advance news and below is a copy of the Paymaster’s slip.

Details                                                                                    Deductions.
Prisoner of War Refund                                                     Over issue of Ration All.
Diff: between Italian and                                                  Sept. 9th.- Oct.31/43
German rates                                                                       £7-19-0
From Sept.9/43-Oct.31/43                                               Pay received from enemy
              £18-16-5.                                                                 (Germany) £7-4-0.

This looks to me that Ronnie is in German hands and has at some time got £7-4-0 from the German Prison Camp, apparently there is a difference between the pay of a prisoner in Italian hands and that of a prisoner in German hands. I have all along been of the opinion that Ronnie was recaptured and was either in a transit camp in Italy, waiting to be removed to Germany or actually in Germany, perhaps not in his permanent camp. I am sending this off so I hope it will reach you earlier than the paying in slip from Army Paymaster which Glover will send you. I hope this may relieve, to some extent, the anxiety you have been enduring with such fortitude and bravery. It has, if only reading of the details is correct, certainly relieved my mind. I haven’t been home yet but will give Mary my news when I get back. She will be writing to you today.

So glad you liked the barrow and that Peter uses it. I am alone at the office, Mrs. Pearson is off on Sats. and I have all to do.

My dear love to you all and God bless you.
Yours, Grandpa.

November 28th
After some bread and milk we moved to S. Anatolia, which was just over the hill. We have the difficult job of trying to get someone to keep us for a bit. As it was early, we waited on the mountain-side until about 12.00hrs to allow people time to get back from Mass and spent the time helping an old woman to collect acorns for her pig (she re-paid this later with a meal) and by planning our best action.

Eventually we went into the village and had not gone far when two women hailed us from one of the houses and asked us in. They were youngish, with their two husbands and their father living in the house and were called, we found out later, Gasbar. They seemed to think that it was OK for us to stay at least the night and told us there were two other English also in the village. So after some food we went up to and saw them, they turned out to be two privates, very decent lads, who from then on we called the oldest inhabitants. They had been there about two weeks and said it seemed impossible to get further, but that S. Anatolia was a good village and they were living quite well. After a chat, we returned to the Gasbars and met Papa, a funny little man, very proud of his grandchildren, then supper and then to bed in a good, warm barn for which we were very thankful.

28th November 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My very own precious,
I haven’t written to you since Nov. 7th. because I thought it was pointless because had you been in Germany I should have heard long ago. It sounds a bit involved, darling, but after hearing Sammy was all right and so many others, John McLean is the latest, I thought you couldn’t be that way hence would never get my letters. Now another muddle has ensued

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which foxes me more than ever so I am starting to write again. Your parents rang up yesterday to say Glover had had your pay slip and on it was written “pay deducted from enemy Government (Germany)” and then some over issue of ration allowance dating from Oct. 9th. which looked to them as though you had been in Germany since that date and the War Office had forgotten to tell me all about it. Of course it may be happening to all prisoners pay slips and mean you are all being paid at the German rate since Italy is out of the war, hence no longer an enemy country. Your parents were full of gloom and were sure you were there, but then they seem to have a different idea every week! Whatever I have said in my letters to you I shall stick to my own idea, not that I’ll tell you what that means! I shall be livid if I’m wrong and am writing again as a form of insurance! I am writing to the Prisoners Dept. as soon as I get the details from Grandpa as to exact dates etc. on the slip which should be here tomorrow and then we shall know more. I gather cards from Germany take one month and that brings it to Nov. 9th, which is again rather mystifying.

Anyway, darling, I’d better stop wondering and get on with my letter. Nothing has happened since I last wrote except Peter’s birthday party. He loved it, Peggy Thompson and John, Margaret Lesser and her two, Holly and little Caroline Rowe. I nearly passed out icing the cake with the last of the sugar, however it was all right. We had tea in the dining room and a box of toys in the drawing room which they spread all over the room. Peter wore his new corduroy pants and green and yellow jersey and looked sweet. He had lovely presents, savings certificates and books and toys, a most magnificent wheel barrow from his Grandparents, painted in colours you will never have seen before, green and red with his initials PRC on it. He adores it and trots round the garden so happily and when he’s lucky he gets a ride. We gave him a rather nice book, darling, it’s his Xmas present as well as it’s expensive, by AJ Munnings. We also gave him some other little oddments I picked up in the town for present use, but the book is for when he’s older. It’s all pictures of horses and hunting and English country life.

David and Leslie etc. are having lovely holidays. Leslie will be seeing your parents this week. I had such a nice letter from Eric Fowler thanking me for the papers and cigarettes on behalf of all the others and they all sent you their best wishes. Shelagh Ovenden wrote that James Chapman had been killed, poor lad. No news of little Lumley or of Wilson.

PR is really getting quite chatty, he says “baby”, “toe”, “choc” all today! They say that talking always starts suddenly like that. He is so coy saying words and puts his head down and blushes. He seems huge now and is a terrific weight to carry about. He helps me make beds! Jack Denning now comes and stokes the central heating boiler in the mornings and rakes out the ashes so I only have to poker it and bank up at night which is a huge help as it took a large slice out of my morning, especially carrying in the fuel which was heavy work.

I went into Bridport last week with Elsie to do the shopping and as usual the whole Bank asked after you. I also went out to supper for the first time in 2 1/2 years! to the Harts. It was an outing, I worked all day getting ready for it. It was just the old people and their daughter and her husband. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoy everything these days. I had almost forgotten how to pansy myself up! Donald Cox came in one night just for half an hour, and we gave him some cake and Algerian wine which is very good. Just listening to The Stage Presents and Bebe Daniels is on. Somehow she seems to remind me of something, darling, a very long time ago!!! I washed my hair last night and was it black. We still have some roses in the garden which looks even more of a wilderness than ever. PR and the dogs tear around madly, he now can say “Down ber” when Cobber jumps up with excitement. When the weather is nice enough I want to take a photo of them all with the barrow.

It is

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amazing to think our baby is already two years old. Such a big boy and a real little laugh.

Every morning he comes into my bed and gets all the photos of you out and spreads them round and kisses them. He simply adores his Dada. I told him you had given me my brooch so he points to it and says Dada. He also tries to groom the dogs with my brush and comb and blows a very perplexed Jimmy’s nose. Friday he nearly killed himself as we went upstairs to open the spare room windows and he leapt up and hung out of one which gives out on to the back garden, all in a flash. I nearly had heart failure. Otherwise, darling, life has been just the same, work-mop-dust-cook-wash up-scrub and so on and on. The hot water system went wrong in the bath room and we had the plumber out, two days to put it right but it wasn’t too good today.

Well, sweetheart, the end again, how I pray my dearest wish comes true, but if it doesn’t, as Nancy Haig would say “these things are sent to try us”. I’ve had enough being tried I think and so have you precious. Take all care of your beloved self. God bless and keep my own RR safe. All my devoted love, your own BUNNY.

November 29th.
A foul day, and Bob not well; his tummy had been ruined as a prisoner and he had tummy trouble very easily. We left him in the straw with some milk etc and Gordon and I had a general clean up, our shirts washed and ourselves, in fact felt much better when we had finished. Had lunch of toast and bread and wine over the fire and tried to make plans. We feel that this family will not be too keen to look after three of us indefinitely, but don`t quite know what to do about it. After supper joined Bob in the barn and soon to sleep.

29th November 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Darling Brenda,
I am terribly sorry to have given you wrong information or at least  a wrong impression got from the slip of paper Glover brought in. I got in touch with Ruth on Saturday and she, on Sunday, made enquiries from the POW branch and they said that the transfer of money paid to a POW was automatic. When Italy capitulated Ronnie was not a prisoner in Italy but a prisoner in enemy hands and as Germany was the only one we were at war with in Europe, the name Germany was included. So this doesn’t mean he is yet in German hands.

I am as I said above very sorry, I did not find these details out before writing to you and hope my explanation will account for you not getting any word from the WO. Ruth said the names of those actually taken by the Germans were coming through in very small numbers, about 16-20 per diem.

I enclose POW mag. which was omitted from your letter posted Saturday. We went down to Ernest and Dolly Proud’s on Sunday morning and saw Leslie, he looks very well, but by no means brown, tho’ that may have worn off since his arrival in England. Margaret was not there being ill with flue and Leslie goes back today.

It’s beastly cold here today and very dull and damp, yesterday was warm and mild.
My love to you all, Grandpa.

Undated. 7 Dixon Street, Blackhill, Co. Durham.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
Just a few lines to let you know that we had a card from Norman on Sat. morning saying that he has been transferred to Germany. It had taken six weeks to come and on it he says that he is all right, in good health and that my Maam hasn’t to worry.

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We were all sort of built up that he had escaped but it is a great relief at least to know where he is. We have all been wondering over the weekend if you have had any news of your husband. It is an awful worrying time but we can only put our trust in God and pray that we will see them soon. The news is still very good and maybe it will crack up sooner than we realise.

We are having some very cold weather just now and have had some snow. I do hope you are all keeping well and that little Peter is a little gentleman now. His Daddy will be so proud of him and may the day hasten when he will be able to spend his time happily together with you all. My mother is still wonderfully well and you are very much in her thoughts.

As I close I do hope, once again, that you have some news.

Kindest thoughts and best wishes from mother and dad.
Lots of love, yours sincerely, M B Hepple.

November 30th. 81 days out.
Bob still a little sick and he stayed in the barn. Gordon and I went up to the main part of the village and found more English there – they seem to be streaming in. It is a strange village, having been wrecked in 1917 by an earthquake an then built up from the ruins. The general impression one could get from the POWs was that we had reached the end of the caravan trail. Spent the afternoon in the barn and early to bed at night.

Undated. Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
Your letter came this morning, I am sorry we did not telephone you at once when Ruth rang us up but it did not come through until 10.30 so Grandpa wrote you at once the next morning, Joan Heslop rang up this afternoon, she had a letter from John today saying that one of the men in Ronnie’s Company had come in and he said how wonderful Ronnie had been when they were all taken prisoner. He has not heard anything of Ronnie since. John also said that he had heard that so many of the prisoners in the PG 29 area had been sent to Poland. She had hoped that Ronnie would arrive in one of the camps near him, he sent his love to us all and knew how worried we would be. It is no good making any suppositions, we will just have to wait until we do hear. Hutchinson, the gardener, has been in this afternoon to say his son is in Switzerland.

Grandpa has had lumbago but is much better today, he is sending off your note paper etc. next week. Leslie looked very well, still the same dull colour, but he was very alive, after all he has not been having a bad time out there, office work principally.

Grandpa met young Kirby’s father the other day and he said that Ronnie had been marvellous when he went in to the last attack. He was ill in bed and was told not to go but he said if his Company was going he was and jumped in to the last truck and followed them, he said he ought to have had the VC! Never for a moment forgot what his men had to go through. Oh, Brenda Darling, we have got to be very thankful for Ronnie, he certainly has done his best in this war.

I should love to hear Peter asking for choc and also his dinner, he was always a good trencherman. Yes, I am well equipped as far as warm clothing is concerned, Ruth wrote saying she was getting me a crepe de chine blouse for my Xmas present so I wrote and told her I would rather have vests as I could not get warm, woolly vests here. They came last week and are lovely and warm, pure wool, and my jumpers are warm, don’t worry. I keep myself as warm as I can. We have many jokes about bed equipment, bed socks, shawl, bed

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jacket, but how lovely it is just to slide down in bed with a water bottle and feel warm and comfy.

Ruth comes on the 21st. how lovely if you, Granny and Peter could have been here too. Auntie Norah may come for Christmas day. She must lead a very lonely life altho’ she is busy each day with war work. Her old cook, Annie, who had been with her for 15 years had to go and she is left entirely on her own in that great house.

Uncle Pip and Auntie are nearly all right again, Pip has had a nasty chest but the Capsolin and Thermogine certainly did good, he would not have it at first but now he is thankful.

Darling, I know how tired you get each day, I agree “no leisure, no pleasure” but it won’t be long now and after all  we have food, warmth (to a certain extent) and so many others have not. You are in our thoughts so much, I think Granny Cecil and I are about the same, try to do what we ought to in three minutes and take one. I think all women at the present time of 69 ought to have a gold medal.

All my love, darling, I should just love to see you and kiss you, you are so part of Ronnie.
God bless you, Granny M.

December 1st

Bob still sick. Gordon and I had a walk around and had a near shave; just after leaving the house, a German walked up to buy food – he could hardly have failed to spot us if we had been sitting over the fire. Decided to stay away from the house during the day. Another two S. Africans slept in our barn at night; it is becoming quite an Allied colony.

December 2nd. to December 10th. Life at S. Anatolia.
For a few days, life was rather trying, as we felt that three of us was rather too much for the one house, so we tried to get into some other house for our midday meal. This involved a lot of sauntering round the village looking, as we all said, like beggars, but we usually managed to feed, either at some house, or at the communal bakehouse from which we got new bread.

By now the village was pretty full of POWs, perhaps 20-25, and eventually the priest arranged that we fed at certain houses. I got Gasbars which was not so good, although he was quite a warm old man, as he was as mean as sin. We spent the day chatting with other POWs, dodging the German truck which came up to the main pub selling tobacco and salt and also wondering if the German deserter, who was supposed to live in the village, was a fact or a story.

In our rounds for food, we met a few good people, particularly the school mistress of the local school, who fed us and many others on a meagre salary, I have no doubt. Others too, were always ready to let you sit by their fire and have the odd bit of bread and cheese, but none of us ever felt comfortable about it and always felt we were in the way and just scrounging tramps, but we had to eat.

There was a rumour of a Colonel and a Major arriving, but although I tried to find them I never succeeded; perhaps they were too well hidden. Two S. African officers came in who had cycled from north of the Po – a terrific feat. We had a few chats with them. But, taking the week by and large, it was a great trial, largely because of the difficulty of knowing what was the best to do and what was likely to happen.

Continued to sleep at Gasbars, which was a good barn, but our feeding took us to a number of houses. Bob recovered somewhat, but still had to be very careful. An Irish Captain arrived, very nice but very shy, and did not appear much.

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3rd December 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Many thanks for yours this morning which I will answer properly by letter. This is just to tell you that I’ve still had no letter from S, frightfully slow isn’t it. The “Mr. Ford” of your cutting I have been in correspondence with because he was one of the ones whose Times advert for news I answered at the beginning. PG 29 seems to be by far the luckiest camp and people are trickling through all the time. I feel certain R will soon turn up but don’t wonder at your nose bleeding when I think of you having had 4 whole more weeks of anxiety more than me, too frightful for you. I couldn’t sympathise more. We’ve been working like blacks in London and are just about settled now but then Xmas coming plus children’s party!!!.
Love and hang on my dear. Karin.

Undated Ashbury House, Kemerton, Tewkesbury.
Dearest Brenda,
I’m just scrawling this off in a frightful hurry in case it will be anything fresh for you. I don’t suppose for a moment it is but even so I won’t risk keeping it to myself. I had a talk, yesterday in Cheltenham, with Peggy Burton. Her husband’s Major Robert RA, also PG 29. She says that all 170 got away from that camp, only two are known to have been recaptured. I think she said 5 were in Switzerland (but she knows Robert won’t have made that way) and seven have got through, one only the day before yesterday. It is believed that all are hiding in the mountains and that there is little hope of them attempting to get through until spring comes and the weather is more hopeful. She feels form all her information that this is satisfactory and she is, consequently, refusing to be worried.

As I said before, you will be sure to have this from another source, but for what it’s worth! here it is. Anyway, I’ll be seeing Peggy again and will glean all I can.
Lots of love, Tina.

5th December 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.
My own precious.
Am sending one of these hoping it will get to you sooner if you are in Germany. We heard last week that Lumley is, his family had a card to say he had been transferred and was safe and well. Am very much wondering when I shall hear from you, sweetheart. I hear several from 29 were in German camps as early as Oct. 3rd. Such a day with Mummy getting PR’s cold and I put her to bed before supper and coming down to wash up I let Jimmy in because it was so cold outside and he promptly made a terrific mess so I have just cleared it up and stoked the boiler and am sitting on the sofa writing this and listening with one ear to the news in case anything very vital has happened and then will go and dry up and lay trays.

I do hope Mummy will be better tomorrow. PR started a cold on Thursday and so has been indoors ever since. He also decided not to sleep for two afternoons and just tore round his cot having removed all clothing from his waist downwards, so I had a hectic time rushing to redress him and tuck him up every few minutes and I ended twice by taking him on to my bed and keeping him covered but he wouldn’t keep still for a minute. We think he was cutting teeth as well as he still has four large lumps on his gums. The young Bickfords came in after tea, it was very nice seeing them. Nothing has happened since I wrote last week, darling, and the increasing longing to hear from you goes on worse and worse. I dreamt I met you last night and it was all so real I nearly died of disappointment when I woke up, especially as they say dreams always happen in real life in the opposite way which means I

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don’t meet you yet. Karin has had no letter from Sammy yet, only cables. I had a very nice letters from Mrs. Luxton, she has asked me to take PR down for a week or two in January. It would bring back such memories and yet I feel I’d like to go, it would make me feel nearer to you, darling. I must see if it can be arranged. Well, darling, perhaps next week will bring some news. Take all care of your very precious self. God bless. All the love in the world.
Bunny and Peter.

5th December 1943 HQ 81 Div. India Command.
My dear Brenda,
Thank you very much for your air letter of Nov. 2nd. and your airgraph of Nov.8th, they followed very close on top of each other. I do hope when you get this that you will have heard news of Ronnie, you must have been bitterly disappointed when Karin heard and there was no news for you; you have all my sympathy. One can only just hope and pray; you are pretty good at that now I expect, brave you. The news of Sammy, of course, is wonderful and I am sending a wire to Karin; I hope it will get through as I am merely sending it care GPO Fleet as I know no better address.

Your description of Peter delighted me. I have sent a present or two for Christmas which I expect will arrive in March! I will now try and draw an airgraph picture. Here I am very fir and on top of the world; lovely climate and lovely country (at least I think so because I like hills and scenery) more or less on the job at last. I must stop, God bless and may you hear good news of Ronnie soon.
Yours, Peter.

6th December 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Darling Brenda,
I am sending with this about 40 cards and in spite of your saying no more envelopes I have dared to send you some to  take the large card, don’t be cross with me, honey, for doing this. I hope the note paper is all right. My lumbago is a little better, in any case I can walk upright now, tho’ I have twinges now and then. If weather anything like a decent day I’ll play golf on Wed. tho’ I expect it will be a foul day as when I couldn’t play we had a lovely warm Sat. and Sunday each last 3 weeks and a good Wed. in addition.

I wish we could get news of Ronnie, every time the telephone rings we hope it’s news (usually it’s the wrong number which makes me mad). Mary gave you what little news we had so I cannot add to it as I have nothing new.

It will be grand to see Ruth again it’s only for 8 days and is alas soon over.
My love to you all, Grandad.

6th December 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
I’ve just answered the telephone and it was a long distance one and I was so thrilled as I thought it was you and then it was only a wretched poultry keeper about our pullets which have turned in to cockerels just when they should be laying!!!

When are you going to hear anything, talk about slow torture. I think this exceeds everything and I do so understand your dread of getting a PC from an Oflag. I felt just the same until I heard, one can’t bear to think of their disappointment. Incidentally about the POW pay, I don’t understand it and have just written to Glyn Mills to say so. You don’t mean to say that our Government has been paying out to the Germans while the prisoners were

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on the run, not getting any keep. £19-18-0 is clocked up on our balance sheet and it makes me furious. Just too silly.

I can’t very well get hold of Mrs. Skerfield as she was only a friend of a woman I met playing bridge, a woman who happened to be staying in Fleet just then. But I’ve asked Betty Clarke to write to her brother-in-law as he was in PG 19 and is now in Germany so tell Mrs. Ruggles Brise, will you? Of course I know how one clings to any straw.

Do hope you take the Times as there is a PG 29 escaped nearly every day and coming all the time.

Still no letter from Switzerland, terribly slow, and I’ve had no answer to my last cable sent just a week ago so I expect he’s moved. I do realise so well how lucky I am and thank God every day, but I’m sure your turn will come and in some way it will make up for all this extra suspense you’ve had. I’m sure it’s not orange juice you need, just peace of mind, that ghastly worry makes one feel absolutely rotten, I couldn’t eat or sleep properly.

I don’t think this letter is much good I just seem to be wallowing in gloom with you If only I could do something, I pray and pray.
Love to you, Karin.

7th December 1943 The Brown House, Liss, Hants.
My dearest Brenda,
I have been thinking of you and Ronnie so much lately and on Sunday I had a sudden brain-wave: your advertising in the Telegraph or Times or both and yesterday I saw the ad. of a great friend in Liss doing it, I enclose slip. What I feel is, quite a number of prisoners from Italy have escaped back to England and they might know something of Ronnie’s whereabouts, anyway I think it might be worth trying. But of course it is only a suggestion.

My friend Mrs. Gibbs who had a young nephew a prisoner in a camp south of Rome told me yesterday that his Mother had a PC from him from Germany on Nov. 26th and a friend opposite also had a PC from his son the same day and he said that the food was better in Germany than in Italy. They were from the same prison camp. Of course I have a strong feeling that Ronnie is in hiding somewhere in Italy until he gets the chance of joining up with our troops, we feel sure there are hundreds of them in similar circumstances.

We’ve not heard from Michael since Nov. 26th, posted Nov.14th, but we live for the postman daily!!!

Much love Darling to you both and a big hug to that precious, little Peter.
Ever your loving, Mother Grubb.

8th December 1943 A Coy. 6th. DLI, Cambs.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
Once again I am taking the liberty of writing to you to thank you for your very welcome letter of the 15th. Nov. which I have just received on returning from my leave, also for a bundle of papers and magazines received. I am very pleased to hear you and baby are keeping well and I sincerely hope you continue so. It was grand to hear about Col. Battiscombe and I only hope that you hear some good news from Major Cummins very soon. It will be grand if he is free again after all this time and I hope so for your sake.

I had a grand leave and I think most of the men did and I have told some of the old lads I have heard from you and they were very pleased. You have asked me about several of the boys and Captain Chapman. Yes, he was killed in Sicily I am sorry to say and I have wondered did you know Capt. Walton was also killed there. Nelson gave himself up at Mersa way back

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in June 1942, Robson was taken prisoner the same night and I think they are in Germany.

L/C French was killed at Mareth in March and I believe he was magnificent in the fighting there. The C/Sgt. left us last April to go down to the base and he has a good job in Cairo now, although he may come home. Major Wood is in England, but I have no idea where he is. D Coy was broken up after the fighting in Sicily on account of the shortage of Officers and men, but it has been formed again under Capt. Tomlinson who was a Platoon Officer in B Coy. in Cullompton. The cigarettes you had posted to Major Wood arrived here before I went on leave and I posted them to his home address not knowing who had sent them, at least I think it would be your parcel. I wish we were a bit nearer Dorset and some of us could have paid you a visit, but I think it is out of the question here as we are very near the east coast. I will close once again with the very best wishes to you and all at home.
Yours sincerely, E Fowler.

10th December 1943 The Reader’s Digest, Strand, London WC2.
Dear Madam,
We acknowledge, with thanks, receipt of our Christmas order form together with your cheque.

We cannot trace that we have been sending magazines to you personally and your name appears on the buff slip as the donor and not necessarily as a direct subscriber. If we are correct in our assumption, then we are sorry to tell you that we cannot accept a subscription from you at the present time as we have been unable to accept any new subscriptions, as distinct from renewals, for any addresses in Great Britain or N Ireland for some time past. The position is that we have a long waiting list of would-be subscribers whose names we must take in rotation when a vacancy occurs and we feel sure you will readily appreciate the fairness of this policy. We are adding your name to this list and shall not fail to let you know as soon as we have a subscription available.

With our sincere thanks for your continued interest, which we greatly appreciate.

We are, Yours faithfully,
The reader’s Digest Association Limited.

11th December 1943. The following notices appeared in both the Times and the Telegraph:-

Campo 29. Major RL Cummins MC, DLI. Any information gratefully received by his wife at Grove, Burton Bradstock, Bridport, Dorset.

December 11th

After some polenta I went up to the schoolmistress’s house to find Mack. Found that, despite the fact that we thought he was fixed for food, a new arrival was there as well.

It is bad luck but it can`t be helped. After a chat and a look at a map, Mack and I went to Bob`s place to pick him up before going out to the luncheon engagement which, for a change, we have. Had a good lunch of minestra and after the three of us had a short walk up the mountain. When we tried to return we were chased out by a woman who said that there were three Germans in the village looking for English prisoners. We beat a hasty retreat and worked our way round to the west of the village, on the way we met the Lieut. and Captain (I don`t know their names) who had been given the same information.

Eventually found a small cave, which overlooked the village, and contacted three from 4th Indian Division and the two oldest inhabitants who said that, as far as they could make out, the Germans were drunk and the inhabitants say, looking for prisoners. This was a bad

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outlook as well, as all our kit was in the village, including our pullovers which I had left to be dyed. The sounds of an automatic being fired came up to us and later, again, this time much nearer. Decided we should get out of the cave as it was rather a dead-end, which we did moving further round the mountain. It was getting dark by then and things looked rather black for food and a place to sleep, however just then an Italian came up to say that they had gone. At the same time, I met J. Walker and one of the chaps who was on the patrol with me before we left the camp, I can`t remember his name (Raeburn), but only had time for a few words. They seemed to be going on down. I went off to collect our pullovers, Mack and Bob heading for Gasbars. The owners of the pub, who were dyeing our pullovers, did not seem to consider the matter very serious and said that the Germans were drunk and had now left in the truck for Avazzano. From many tales it seems that some stupid Englishman had asked one of the Germans for a light and made some remarks about their truck. The Germans twigged he was English and, after having a lot of vino, went round the village looking for the English! This seems to have bust the story that the German living in the village is a deserter; I expect his sweetheart has been giving him all the information he wanted. Despite the village saying there is nothing to worry about, it does not look too good to me; if the Germans know there are English in San Anatolia they will raid it.

Gasbars for food, Bob and Mack there. They were a little shaken, but not unduly so. Gnocchi, as far as I can remember. Into our barn at night, am afraid we will have to move tomorrow, at least until we can see how things go. Quite an exciting day.

11th December 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
My dear Brenda,
I saw your notice in the Times today, also that Victor Seely, whom Sammy often mentioned, had just arrived in Switzerland. I know it’s absolute hell but I honestly don’t think there’s the least reason to loose heart. They are quite evidently hiding up all over the place awaiting their chance. I wonder if your notice will bring you any news, do hope so.

It’s most disappointing, I had my first letter from Sammy this week but it was covered in swastikas as it had come through Stuttgart and he had obviously been warned as he wrote as a business man. Not one word or hint of escaping or any mention of anyone, neither those with him nor the others who had not arrived. It was written Oct. 30th and he was staying in a hotel with excellent food and beer. The only hint of anything was that he said “I hope to get some skying later, circumstances permitting” I don’t think he could spell skiing like that except on purpose so I suppose he means “flying”.

I was so longing to hear details both for your sake and my own curiosity that I felt very flat even though it was so wonderful to hear from him again. He said, too, that he believed it was easier for me to write than for him, our letters, it seems, go through Lisbon and not through Germany.

I should be so blissfully happy if only you could hear that Ronnie was there too but I can’t forget your not knowing and it is so utterly miserable.

Do hope Peter is all right, to have him off colour as well is just the last straw.

Isn’t this ‘flu frightful? We’ve personally escaped so far but are surrounded by germs, every other house in Fleet is down with it, not to mention whooping cough and the rest! I’m giving a children’s party again on New Year’s day. I’ve asked 28 children but don’t expect more than half to turn up. I’ve got hold of a conjuror this time as I didn’t feel I could cope with games again.

Well, my dear, I do pray you will hear something soon.

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Lots of love, Karin.

December 12th
Hear many have left and after collecting our kit and some food we headed over the mountain towards Cartone (?). This has caught us unprepared, but it certainly looks as though we will have to get on the way. I wonder what has happened to the Irish officer and the two S. African officers – I have heard nothing about them. If only our troops could make a break-through somewhere, but the 8th Army is firm near Chieti and the Castel de Sangno and 5th is making no progress at all.

At Cartone we left our sacks etc in our previous house and then went into the mountains to find a cave with ideas that, at a pinch, we might live there if food could be brought from S. Anatolia. Saw one or two which were quite impossible and then in a larger one, which was difficult to get at, found the two oldest inhabitants, three Indian Div. Sgts. and others crouched over a miserable fire. It was a large cave but quite impossible to live in so, waiting for the rain to stop, we decided to risk S. Anatolia for one more night. We left the others in the cave at dusk and slipped, once more, into Gasbars. ‘George’ gave a groan when he saw us – poor old man was doomed to another night away from his fire. Bob and Mack went off to the other houses for food, I had mine at Gasbar’s, they are still a little jittery but quite friendly. I must admit the risk is a large one: if the place is surrounded there will not be much chance of getting away. Bob and Mack came back to say that the schoolmistress is a bag of nerves, also many of the other villagers, but some are quite calm. Apparently the truck did not return today and the ‘deserter’ has not reappeared.

12th December 1943 Grove, Burton Bradstock.

My darling precious,

I am in the throes of doing up Christmas presents and not feeling in the least like it, such a grind. I hate the thought of it all without you and what is a thousand times worse, having no news of you. I got desperate last week and decided to advertise in the Times and Telegraph three days running in the personal column. Everybody reads that nowadays and it may bring some word of comfort from somebody somewhere somehow! This isn’t a very cheering letter for you Darling, but I’m indulging in an abscess in a wisdom tooth so hardly feel a ray of sunshine! The doctor is making an appointment for me with a local dentist and I think I’ll have it out and have done with it rather than go on and have this happen again. It has been bitterly cold today, we thought it might snow. I haven’t been outside the house for about ten days what with PR’s cold and then Mummy’s cold and my tooth. I had another very nice letter from Fowler, I’ve got him now he was your driver wasn’t he. Derek Tomlinson has now got your old job and poor French is no more. He went at the same time as Dick and put up a magnificent show before being killed, so Fowler said. I am so sorry about French, he was a good lad.

Did I tell you Lumley is in Germany, I don’t know where yet. I had a card from Dick Wingfield Digby and thought at first it was from you and nearly had a fit. He says Ronnie Roddam is flourishing. John Heslop sent lots of messages via Joan too. Peter is in cracking form dashing all over the house and up to no end of mischief. He looks adorable now when he goes out in his chamois leather jerkin and wool dungarees and scarlet skull cap! We have huge fun every evening playing hide and seek and he hides his eyes in his hands and enters into it with gusto. He also adores piggy backs and pretending he’s in a car on an armchair or being a bicycle with us on the floor! What a wonderful world of imagination a child has.


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people round here seem to have had ‘flu, it’s very prevalent. I pray you are safe and well darling heart. God bless you and take care of you. All the love in my heart. From your own Bunny X.

12th December 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
Thank you for your letter which came yesterday. You have been in the wars all of you again. Hope, darling, Peter’s cold is better, you did say in your last letter he had a slight cold. Also Granny Cecil, she seems to take cold so easily, I expect she gets hot flying around then cools down too quickly. And you, poor dear, those abscesses are very painful. The young devil to throw his Daddy’s photo down the stairs, I wonder if they like the noise when they throw things about, it would be interesting to know why so many children do it. I am sorry about the candlestick as it can’t be replaced.

Grandpa has just been in next door with the “Illustrated London News” and they showed him the cutting from the Times which he has brought in to me. You were very wise to do this. Charlie and I had talked of it and I meant to suggest it in my last letter. Something might come of it, I do hope so. It’s a very long wait darling. I am glad there is news of Lumley, but it would have been better if he were free. In one letter in the “Prisoner of War” the man had written from Germany as early as Sept. 26th, I think.

We are sending off your parcel this week, I hope it arrives safely. Ruth comes on the 20th. now. I want to get all my letters and parcels off before she comes. Grandpa has your correspondence cards on the way and will send them this week. His lumbago is better, in fact he played golf yesterday but is very stiff today. Tell Granny I am not wearing a scarf but a knitted jacket which comes up to the neck and is very warm. It is made of heavy wool and has a good collar. Peter will love his game of hide and seek, he will soon start to talk again. I wish we had all been together for Christmas, I shall be cooking the turkey next door and we will go in there for our dinner. Auntie Blanche will be at the sick bay most of the day. They have been very busy, so many ‘flu patients.

I am sending you a PC I had from John. It came some days ago, don’t send it back as I have all his others.

All our love darling and I hope to hear you are all well when you next write. God bless you.

Yours Granny M.
I am enclosing pay slip £10.

12th December 1943 10, Croft Avenue, Crook, Co. Durham.
My dear Brenda,
Have had 4 letters from Doug after all these months. He tells me not to worry, that he has all his clothes and since being in German hands has had 3 Red X parcels.

He says that they are much better cared for, altho’ still in a transit camp. Have you news of Ronnie? Did he manage  to get to Switzerland? I hope that you have news of him before Xmas.

I adored the snap you sent of Peter in his birthday suit. He is a darling. I am waiting for some snaps of my children to be developed. If ready in time I shall send one for Xmas.

Am trying to deal with my Xmas cards and letters so do hope you’ll excuse the brevity and appalling scrawl. Children both well and looking forward to Santa Claus.
Love, Lena. [Doug Caldwell’s wife. Ed.]

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12th December 1943 3, Upgate, Louth, Lincolnshire.
Dear Mrs. Cummings,
I notice your appeal for news concerning PG 29. I have been collecting information about prisoners of war for a long while (as a sort of hobby) and heard some general news of PG 29 yesterday from a Chaplain who very recently escaped and reached Allied Territory. He tells me that all at PG 29 escaped, some making for south and some north. He, himself, travelled with men from another camp so is unable to give information about individuals. He warns me that it is very necessary that his news should be kept out of the press and “very confidential for security reasons”. I trust that you will respect this request. He is most reassuring as to the treatment of escaped POWs. both by the Italians and Germans. He was, himself, two months walking over the mountains. I hope this will help you a little.

Yours sincerely,
(Miss) Hilary H Riggall.
Please let me know should you receive news.

December 13th
Off up the mountain side after breakfast with bread etc. Decided to stay and watch the village today. Met the two S. African officers who seem to consider the whole thing a drunken frolic of the Germans – it remains to be seen.

We made a fire on the hill and toasted some bread and warmed ourselves, it was fine but cold. In the afternoon Mack and I went round the village to the cobblers and were able to get a boot each patched up after a fashion. The people very frightened to have us in the village during the day, but gave us some more bread to take away. After dusk, went down to the new houses in an endeavour to find a meal. After a little wait we were asked in and given minestra, but I am afraid it is getting difficult, at least in some houses.

Along to Gasbars and after sitting a bit went out to go into the barn. Just as we went into the barn shots rang near us; 6 in all. The chap showing us into the straw ducked back into the house and we climbed up and lay quiet in the straw. After about 15 minutes the other son came in and, opening the back door to the barn, told us to escape quickly as the Germans were in the house. This we did, the other son whipping up the blankets, and the five of us dived for the mountain. It was almost a full moon and we could see quite a long distance. Once we took a wrong turning and found ourselves in a yard, but at last, with tingling spines, we got a short way up the mountain. After taking the blankets and wishing the sons a tender farewell (I was kissed on both cheeks) we had a whispered conference and decided to go to Cartone. We blessed the moon, as otherwise we would have been wandering on the mountain all night. As it was, after an hour we were knocking at the door of our previous house. Luckily, late as it was, they were still up and we got permission to sleep in the same barn as before; a rotten place with polenta stalks as a bed and very cold but any port in a storm.

Found the oldest inhabitants asleep, but they woke up and we told them what had happened. They agreed that it was too risky to return, but thought they might try and stick on in Cartone for a bit. The three Indian Div. men had gone east – a difficult route. Well, it seems that S. Anatolia is finished. It has been a good two weeks in some ways, but it was always risky with a German deserter? living in the place. However, except for our long walks waiting to be asked in for meals, it has been a good rest. I don’t know what our best plan is now: it appears impossible to Avazzano.  Wonder what happened to the two SA sgts?

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13th December 1943 The Times Weekly Edition, Printing House Square,
London EC4.
Dear Madam,
May I suggest that it would be appropriate to repeat the attached advertisement in The Times Weekly Edition which commands as extensive overseas readership particularly amongst the Services.

The cost would be 6/- per insertion, the rate for this class of announcement being 2/- per line of approximately seven words.

On receipt of your instructions and remittance, the notice will be put forward for insertion in the first available issue.

Yours faithfully, H S Bush.
Advertisement Manager.

13th December 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Darling Brenda,
I have sent off today, by train, a parcel containing a small Xmas present of glass and also the material for the dungarees which I thought may protect the glass. The parcel looks a large one but don’t go by the size as to avoid breakage I put the small box inside a larger one, so I hope it will arrive safely and unbroken.

I am enclosing 2 savings certificates for Peter from Mary and me, we could not find any toy worth having and later on you can use the money to get him something he wants.

It’s a hard, hard frost today, everything white and the ground frozen. I had a game of golf on Sat. the first  for over 4 weeks and enjoyed it tho’ it was coldish especially the last 3 holes as the sun was setting, but I think the exercise and fresh air did me good.

I asked Maurice Summerson about game but he told me Harry Morrit hadn’t been shooting and none had come to him, if he got any he would let me have a brace of whatever came.  I’m afraid there’s a shortage of cartridges, few people are shooting now.

I have no fresh news at all as I seldom get out.
My dear love to you all, Grandpa.

13th December 1943 Branwoods, Great Baddow, Chelmsford.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I saw your enquiry in the Times. My son, Capt. Tresham Dames Gregg, was in 29 and I know that the camp was opened by the Italians at the Armistice. I have heard nothing from my son, but I have a friend in a German camp who says that officers from Campo 29 have joined their oflag. His name is Captain Christopher Evered, POW 111 (UB), Oflag V111B, Germany.

Perhaps you could write to him to ask if your son is there. It always helps to have a little clue to follow up, I find. the waiting period is so trying. I do hope your son will soon communicate with you.
With very best wishes, Yours sincerely, Jean Kinlock Smith.

December 14th.
Up and away early; the barn is no place for a late lie in and, after leaving Gasbar’s blankets with a man who promised to return them, we once more got on the road. In one way it was nice; a change of scenery etc, but it also had its snags; the continuous worry of finding food and a barn for the night and we must go into new country of which we know nothing.

Decided, after a bit of bread by the roadside, to go through Colvaro and over to the other

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side of the valley. On the way met the man who is looking after the two SA officers, he did not place much importance on last night’s affair, but said there must be a spy in the village. It entered our minds that Gasbar, frightened by the shots, had pretended that the Germans were in his house to get rid of us, but who knows without going back? It is a thing we shall never learn. Still, I am sure it is a village that is best avoided, for the present at least.

Walked down to Colvaro, all the farmers we met, most inquisitive, but we left them unsatisfied. Managed to get a little bread with salt at a house in Colvaro and then continued. As we passed the village close to Colvaro we met the SA who we had seen before we arrived in these parts. He was quite settled in and introduced us to a young Italian officer (also in hiding) who eventually gave us a very good lunch to set us on our way. After lunch we had to cross the valley and road which goes to Bongo(?), went across the latter one at a time without trouble. Crossed the next hill and then down into the next valley, on the way got directions to Grotte and Pongi Valle and also information on the usual danger points.

Decided to try Pongi Valle for the night; a village clinging to the mountain side with only a mule track to it, and as far as we can make out, quite safe. Washed our socks in a stream and then started our long climb up to the village. Reached Pongi Valle at about 17.00hrs; very tired and found it a very dirty place, however the first house we tried, thank heaven, took us in and gave us food and wine. After our food we were taken to the house of the owner of the barn in which we were to sleep. He and his brothers could speak a little English, but I don’t think his wife was too pleased to see us. After sitting for a bit we went to our barn which was a superb one (and I know a good barn when I see it) and within a few minutes we were all asleep. Our impression was that the village was rather frightened and we cannot expect to stay on tomorrow. Afraid we have no settled plan just yet but to try and find a place to wait until after Christmas.

14th December 1943 C/O NAAFI, Pucklechurch, Nr. Bristol.
Dear Madam,
With reference to your advertisement in the personal column of today’s “Daily Telegraph” regarding your husband. I would say that my brother, Lt. Col. C R Reynolds of the Royal Tank Regt. was in Campo PG 29, PM 3200 Italy. We have recently heard from the War Office, also a cable from himself, that he escaped and is now interned in Switzerland.

He would possibly know your husband and I shall be most pleased to supply his present address upon hearing from you.

Yours truly,
Jack B Reynolds.

14th December 1943 32 Heathfield terrrace, Headingly, Leeds.
Dear Madam,
Referring to your advert in the Telegraph. I had a son Capt. Derek Cotton a POW at Campo 29 from whom I didn’t hear since Aug. 24th. I recently ascertained that many had escaped from 29 and was advised to send a pre-paid telegram to Internee Camp, Wil St. Gallen, Switzerland. This I did and was overjoyed to get a direct answer from my son, well and happy. Try this procedure and a request to the Commandant to send you any news of Major Cummins if known. I received a reply within a week. If he has escaped they are well cared for.

God grant that this will be of help to you.
Yours sincerely,

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R W Cotton.

14th December 1943 1 Dixon Street, Blackhill, Co. Durham.
Dear Mrs. Cummins.
I am so sorry I have not answered your letter sooner, but we seem to have been kept busy dusting down for Christmas. There is not much we can do these times as everything is so very bad to get, but it is nice to know that all the dust is down.

First I would like you to accept my Mother’s most grateful thanks for the gift which you sent her towards Norman’s parcel and their Xmas dinner. She says she really doesn’t know how to thank you for all your kindness to us and hopes that the day will come when she will be able to repay you in some kindly deed. I do hope that by you get my letter you will have had some good news of your husband. We have only had one more card from my brother, and by it he seems to be working as work is not scratched out. I am sending you the address which was written on and it is the one we are writing to. I have a friend whose cousin escaped from an Italian camp and arrived home yesterday for six weeks and she is going to bring him along some time to have a talk with my mother and dad. We were much disappointed too when we got news  that Norman was in Germany but judging by the news tonight maybe it is well that he is out of the fighting as I am sure there will be a fierce battle soon.

I hope you are all free from ‘flu as it is very bad just now and there are quite a lot of people dying with it here. So far at home we have all kept well and I hope we will continue to do so. It is nothing like Christmas here at all and one hardly hears it mentioned. I think there will be a lot of kiddies disappointed this year as there is so little to get. However I am sure we will have happier days soon which may not be so very far ahead.

We are having some very cold weather just now but it is nice and dry. I can imagine little Peter being a little imp now, but he will be splendid company for you, you will be busy preparing Santa Claus for him and I do hope and pray that his Daddy will be a real one next year.

Again I would like to thank you on behalf of my mother for your most generous gift and for all your kindness. Hoping you will soon have good news and as merry a Christmas as anyone can have during these trying times.

Best wishes to you all. Yours sincerely, M B Hepple.
I am enclosing the card which we had from Norman the second time and you can write it out, then we will get it back next time you write.
Do you think it will be really his address and that the letters will reach him?

December 15th
A fine day, thank heaven, but cold. We went to the owner’s house and had a shave and wash and afterwards, coffee. An enormous sow feeding in the kitchen caused lots of laughter. After breakfast on our way once again – we still have in mind the finding of an old house where we could sleep, going around the country during the day, looking for food, but it seems impossible in this particular part. How we long for Contadini [contadino= peasant Ed.] country again.

Decided to try Grotte for tonight, it seems safe. Not a very long walk along by the river and arrived at about midday. As we intended to stay the night, it was necessary to be quite hard-hearted about staying. Walked through the village after making the usual enquiries, found it difficult to find a house to ask us in but at last enquired at one for permission to warm etc.

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The man gave us bread and then went off to get wood, leaving a small boy to look after us. He was rather annoying with all the German propaganda at his fingertips, however scored one about the pig which was running about the house.

Three Militia came into the village whilst we were in the house, and a great row started over some domestic matter. The old man came in to say that we need not worry as they were friends of his, but, as 40 Germans were living less than a mile away at Tarano, it was a bit of a worry, however they eventually left. The owner’s wife came in and was surprised to see us, but after asking if we could stay the night she cheered up. Quite a nice minestra at night. While we were sitting after supper they brought another Englishman, from London! in to see us. After an embarrassed silence he admitted that he was not English but Russian, but had been afraid to say so in the village. He claimed to be a S. Major and on his way to the line, but I have my doubts.

To bed in a very cold barn with no glass in the windows. Bob and Mack managed to get a coat each and I my blanket, but we got well down in the hay. Have no plans for tomorrow but think we may go over the mountain to see what is on the other side (Russian tells Italians what he thinks of them).

December 16th
After breakfast in different houses, we crossed the river with two wood-cutters as guides and with rough directions for Sante Marie. The climb up the mountain was a stiff one, being almost perpendicular and, in the higher parts, under a cover of snow. At about midday reached the top and saw the other side and, wonder of wonders, farms. Ate some of the bread we were carrying and at about 16.00hrs walked down to the nearest farm. Welcomed here and given some polly bread, cheese and superb sweet wine. The farmer was a cheerful little man with a wife and five children. Only a small farm on the half and half principle, but he said certainly we could stay the night. Whilst sitting before supper the wife came in and said: “hide in the bedroom, a plain clothes Fascist is coming up the road”, this we did, only to hear our Russian friend ask for a night’s lodging and say he was English. Poor lad – when we appeared was his face red!! After a good supper of minestra we all went along to the next farm, a poor one, to sleep. The family lived and slept in one small room attached to a large and comfortable barn in which the four of us soon buried deep. Still no set plans but ‘sufficient unto the day’. Understand that many have passed this way on the Sora route, but not many of late. Afraid I still think it impossible – anyhow, something may happen any day.

December 17th
A cold, windy day and after washing, the owners of the barn in which we slept gave us some hot polly bread and turnip. A very poor place and filthy, all in rags. Went back to the first farm to collect our belongings and the Padrone arrived just after we did, not a bad fellow but the farmer and his wife were very servile. After he had gone the wife gave us some bread etc, said goodbye to all and away.

Had ideas again of finding an old house in which to sleep, so stopped at another farm further north who said that the owner of a farm we could see might help, but that he would not be there for a bit. While we waited the old woman fixed us up some meat, very good, but again a very poor house and dirty. I don’t think the rest of the family were too keen on us. They sold tobacco in Foglio,(leaf) so we bought two ettos (etto= hectogram) at 25lr each, strong but we can take it now.

Eventually, the man arrived but he was not very sympathetic and couldn’t help. As it was late, we went back to the same farm who said we could sleep the night. Most

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uncomfortable room – tiny and only blocks of wood to sit on. Still, the polly at night was not bad, although we had the ‘eat towards you’ variety. The barn was a bad one, with poor hay and very hard, but we slept never the less. Decided under difficult conditions to exhaust this valley, at least before moving in any particular direction. There seem to be quite a number of farms about and if we can put in a week or two, all the better. We must consider Christmas – it would be nice if we could find a good place for that.

December 18th
Off again this morning, travelling slowly. Our main idea is to find a place for the night. Stopped at one farm at about 13.00hrs for a drink of water, only children there at first and many of them, but after a bit the old woman arrived. She did not seem very keen on having us but said that a Baronessa lived in the house we could see and was very good to “come noi” (like us). Decided to go down to see her but felt rather ashamed of our dirty condition.

However, we found our way down to the house (a nice one) surrounded by trees. Saw the housekeeper first who then brought the Baronessa and her son Giussepi Colletti. Both could speak quite a lot of English and made us quite at home. There was also an Airforce (Italian) mechanic living there. We were shown into a little house near the main buildings and given a superb lunch. Afterwards we told them our stories and saw their maps, good ones. In the evening I had a shave and a wash down in hot water – absolute heaven after so long.

The others did the same, after which we had supper, also very good. After supper the son told us some amazing tales about Rome, the armistice and after. They have done a lot for prisoners and are charming people. Only wish we could live in a place like this; it is civilisation again, in fact one feels like a tramp in a drawing room. They made up a bed! for me and mattresses on the floor for the others. What joy! I have not had a bed for a long, long time, as a matter of fact I did not sleep too well. Still on the wander tomorrow, we all said that if only it would snow hard we could stay here, but no such luck.

18th December 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Darling,
Thank you very much for your letter of this morning and enclosures. As you say Mrs. Riggall’s letter gives no more news but I am enclosing a letter from a Mrs. MacCrae to whom I wrote. It gives one some hope as long as Ronnie’s boots hold out. I am sure he would try his level best to get away. It is all such a long wait I know, darling, every time the telephone goes I think now there is some news. Sorry our telephone message was only a pheasant but I hope it arrived safely and in good condition. We have the other one which we are keeping for Ruth.

I am so glad you are having the Dennings in for your Christmas dinner. It makes it so much more cheerful. I shall have a busy day as we have some people coming in during the morning and then the turkey etc. to cook for 7 o/c. It does not mean much rest but it will be nice for the two families to have our meal together. We had hoped Auntie Norah would come but she is busy on some war work and would rather come later. She said she had sent Peter a duck for his bath. She must be very lonely. I think those evenings alone in that great house must be very trying. Will you thank Granny Cecil for her sweet letter, her description of Peter in his going out outfit was lovely. How I should love to see him in it. You are both wonderful the way you carry on. Never mind, Darling, the day will come when you will have your happiness again. Ronnie has such a great affection for your Mother, he will be so grateful at the help and love she has given to Peter’s bringing up. I only wish I could have

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done the same, I sometimes feel quite jealous that she has him so much and you too.

I think, darling, my Christmas card applies as much to you as anyone, as if there had not been a war, Ronnie would not have met you and you don’t realise the love and pleasure you have brought to Grandpa and me. I think now he thinks as much of you as he does of Ruth, he is so thankful for you giving all that happiness to Ronnie. He is busy now doing the kitchen fire, he is so wonderful, every morning gets up at 7.30, lights the kitchen fire, the gas stove in the dining room, then comes upstairs puts on the gas stove in the bathroom and I just get up and into my hot bath and go down to a warm house and make toast for breakfast. He also makes his coffee and all I have to do is to make a cup of tea. He helps me turn the mattress and make the bed. Before the war he never thought that these things were to do. I am thankful for Grandpa.

I gather from Granny Cecil you have been much worse than you said, I hope the mouth is better and you are free from pain.

I am ringing up Mrs. Roddam to tell her Ronnie is all right. She is a very depressing woman and it will cheer her up.

Well, darling, all our love and every good wish to you all for Christmas and the New Year. I pray that you and we will have news of Ronnie before then. We will think of you, God bless you, your Granny Mary.
Parcel arrived today for which many thanks, but not opening til Xmas day.

December 19th
Left after a good breakfast of toast and coffee. Bob and I left messages for home which they think they can get through for us. [A letter was sent by Giuseppe Coletti on 19th. July 1944 from Rome enclosing the hand written note from RLC. Ed.] After many farewells and promises to see them in Rome in better times, we started on our tramp again. Missed out many farms as we had found out particulars of an empty farm from a man on the road and wished to see it. It was in quite good repair when we at last found it, but we decided that as we had not met the owner, who lived in Leofreni, it would be better not to occupy. On our way we met a tall Indian, all alone poor man and on his way to Sora. He could speak a bit of English and seemed quite happy to be alone.

In the evening we tried one farm which turned us away. After a bit of an argument they admitted that they were afraid. Things were getting a bit serious by then as it was getting late and Leofreni seemed to be the only choice, but it was dangerous, so we had been told, because of the road. However, just when we had decided to risk it we saw a farm down in the valley which we decided to try. It was a bit difficult to find the track down but at last we arrived. Found two houses together, both very poor, one occupied by the old man and his daughter-in-law – the son being in Germany – the other by another son and his wife, various children about the place.

We were made welcome and given food. The old man could speak some English as he had been in America for a bit. Admittedly, this largely consisted of such expressions as “Son of a bitch”, “Goddam” etc, but he was very pro-allies and, in fact, only longing to get back to America. A small child of about 18 months, belonging to the daughter-in-law, was ill with a cold but they had been unable to find any medicine and it cried nearly the whole time.

Heard how they had fed and slept other prisoners, one a Captain!, when they heard I was a Major, great joy. They struck us as very poor, which they were, but nevertheless very kind. It was a thing we found always; the poorer people were the kindest. I suppose they understood better what it was to want! and be without. To bed in a moderate barn; hay,

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which contained thistles, was not too good. However we were warm, which was the main thing, and slept quite well. It started to rain in the early morning. Understand the valley is known as Vale du Vane?

19th December 1943 1 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Dearest Brenda,
We enclose 4 savings certificates for little Peter’s Xmas box and we do hope they arrive in time. for Xmas.

You must be nearly demented not having any news about Ronnie yet, I know how terribly anxious we all are and hope and pray that good news may come through any day now. One would not mind him being in Germany if only some definite news would come through. I should imagine there must be hundreds of POWs still not accounted for and every day nearly the Times gives a few more names of those who have managed to get away and been able to reach Switzerland.

I think you must daily thank God for little Peter, he does keep you very fully occupied and keeps your mind, at times, off where dear Ronnie may be. We talk of you and Ronnie practically every day and wonder if the next day will bring any news.

It is very easy for me to tell you to bear up and go on trusting that good news will eventually come along. I really don’t imagine that Ronnie would run any foolish risks, like he did before being married, he would be much too keen to get back to you and little Peter.

Ruth is expected tomorrow for the Xmas holidays. I don’t know how many days she gets but it will be very nice seeing her and hearing all her news. The journey from London won’t be too pleasant, I should imagine.

They are all coming in on Xmas evening to have dinner with us but as I am up at the CRS all Xmas morning getting the dinner for the patients I shall just get the bird prepared and send everything in next door to be cooked ready for about 7pm. My puddings and mincemeat are made so it really is chiefly getting the turkey cooked and the piece of ham (!!) boiled.

Mrs. Stockport (my help) and her little daughter come for dinner too and then do the washing up for me. That is worth quite a few dinners in the kitchen!!

Uncle and I are feeling a bit better now, only I am left with a bronchial cough which seems to come right from my boots!! It does give me a shaking up at times, I have not been able, even, to buy a Xmas card this year. Every spare minute I am in the CRS but tomorrow morning I am off to Darlington to get my hair cut. It is about 3 inches long at the back! It is over 2 months since I was able to have it trimmed. I may be able to get Uncle a good tie in D’ton and money will meet the rest of our gifts. There is so little to buy and mostly rubbish and at exorbitant prices too.

Both Uncle Pip and I wish you all a very happy time at Xmas and very good news from dear Ronnie in the very near future. Every good wish for 1944.

With fondest love from both of us.
Yours Auntie Blanche.

19th December 1943 6 Charles St., Berkely Square, W1.
Dearest Brenda,
I was so sorry to see your advertisement in the Times and to know from that that you have had no news of Ronnie. You must be terribly worried and I’m afraid it will not be a very happy Christmas for you. I know of so many people who have had no news and I am sure that no news is good news as there must be so many who are hiding in the mountains

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waiting to join our troops. Do let me know as soon as you hear anything.

I do hope you are all well. I expect Peter has grown a lot.

Nancy’s friend, Mark Leather DLI, was wounded and taken prisoner at Cos.

With much love from Kit.
Eileen often goes out with Peter Dickinson and David Swannell DLI, I hear that Peter Jeffreys has gone to Burma.

19th December 1943 Fleet, Hampshire.
Brenda, my dear,
It seems such a farce to wish you a happy Xmas but, as you already know, I do wish with all my heart that you will have news by then and good news too. I’m afraid I’ve nothing encouraging to tell you. I got a letter from Sammy written Nov. 23rd. and this is what he says “I cannot find out anything about Ronnie, I feel he must have become an RC but I don’t know. Perhaps you will have heard, do let me know, I am so sorry for Brenda ” Then he goes on about the men he shared a room with, Willie Forbes who, I’m afraid, is in Germany. I don’t know what he means by RC unless it is recaptured, my dear, I’ve debated whether to tell you this or not but I know I would want to be told if I was you and you’d be bound to guess that Sammy must have said something. Obviously they’ve all gone off more or less on their own and know nothing of each other. I still feel Ronnie is heading south, can’t think why but I’ve felt it all along.

I’m sending this cut-out thing in case it would amuse Peter. If you’re like me you’ll curse like anything at having to put it together but my two always love watching me do these things. Toys are hopeless and I feel Peter is a bit young for books except to tear to pieces!

I wonder so if you got any answers to your notices in the Times. Mrs. McLaren hasn’t heard anything yet either you know, it is Hell. I hoped I might be able to send you an egg for Xmas but they will not begin to lay, we’ve not had one for 5 weeks, beastly animals.

Lots of love and my thoughts as always. Karin.

December 20th

Pouring  hard when we got up and it continued all day. After breakfast we sat and sat but with no improvement in the weather, afraid three extra was a sad drain on the house but they didn’t seem to mind. Various indoor jobs done during the day, such as recovering nails, studs out of old boots etc. Everything is such a terrific price that old studs are worth finding.

Even salt, the great necessity, is hard to find, in fact some houses say it is not to be found, of course the Germans have cornered the lot like many other things and sell it at their prices which are high. Once again discussed our position, this continual circle is awful, with the worry of food and a place to sleep and to stay in a place for any time one must be alone, three or even two is too many. It looks, therefore, that sometime we will have to split if we wish to lie up. During the afternoon saw two damp figures in greatcoats wending their way along the mountain to Leofreni, obvious P.O.W.s poor devils, thank heaven we are at least under a roof. Great talk at night, got the usual stories about if only the Italians were fighting their bayonets would soon clear the Germans out of Italy. Well where were the rifles and bayonets? in all the lakes and ponds of Italy. Into the straw early, if fine we must push on, we have come to the end of the valley, only one farm remains before Leofreni but it is too near our present farm.

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December 21st

Fine this morning so we got on our way. Decided to see what is the other side of Leofreni and make plans for a good Christmas. Said goodbye to the old farmer, they all said that if we are back in these parts again we must pay them another visit, it is nice to have a place to go back to. A little worried about Leofreni as it is on the road and according to reports often has Germans in it buying eggs etc. However we went through with ease and down to a little village called Castel Luccio, had a chat to people in the street but did not go into any houses.

The next village was Rocca*1 where we were asked in for wine and bread, had thoughts of staying but as it was not suggested we continued on our way again in the afternoon.

Dropped down into the valley after Rocca, by a very slippery path, but found we were getting down to a road so swung left towards a village that was perched right on top of a spur, jutting out from the mountains. The name is, I think, Tomemimparte (?) and from information gathered from shepherds seems free from our enemies and quite safe. After wading a river and a very stiff climb we reached the out-skirts, it seems quite a large place, I hope no Fascists. At a forge made our usual request for a barn for the night and an old man with a donkey took us along to his house. During the evening we had a running meal, which was brought in by various old women of the village. We had an idea that they imagined we were Germans in disguise to start with but perhaps we were wrong. After food we were taken to a barber who shaved us all and cut Mack`s hair. They were a very good family and very sympathetic. Afraid the village is a bit afraid as usual, but not unduly so. Still no offers to stay tomorrow. Into rather a cold barn over the usual animals, but tired and soon asleep.

21st December 1943 Lilleshall Hall, Newport, Salop.
Dear Madam,
My nephew, Major JRA Kerr, from camp 29, is in Switzerland, and would willingly give you what help he could, but the censors will not pass any cables or letters asking for news of missing men in case this may help the enemy to find them.

I gave a Mrs. Saleby and a Mrs. Laird my nephew’s address and they both managed to evade the censor somehow and received replies. I wanted to know how they worded the cable, and I have been waiting for a reply so that I could tell you. Unfortunately this has not come.

I believe quite a few men are waiting to cross the border, but the snow may have hindered them.

My nephew’s address is :- Turbenthal, Zurich, Switzerland, and a reply paid cable should take 7 or 8 days. He is going to Lucerne for Christmas and to Adelboden in January but this address should find him.

Trusting this may be of some help to you.

Yours faithfully, Madeline Ford.
PS If you can word a cable carefully he will understand what you want.

21st December 1943 A Coy. 6th. DLI, Cambs.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I will take this opportunity to thank you for the very kind gift of cigarettes and the money which I have received. You should never have bothered as you have enough to worry about without us here and I was only too pleased to let you know a few things about the old Batt.

I have told some of the old D Coy boys and they think it grand of you to think about us and we will get together and go down to the local and not only drink to Major Cummins’ health and safety but to yours and the babies. There isn’t many of the old faces left, maybe a

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couple of dozen and probably only half of them are in D Coy now.

We often talk of the Coy what left Cullompton and I think, without a doubt, it was the finest in the Batt. I am sorry to hear you haven’t had word from the Major for such a long time and I sincerely hope you will be hearing from him soon. It must be very worrying for you. Sorry to hear Lumley had been moved to Germany, I don’t suppose they had a chance to get away. You asked me about Pears, well he is still with us and is working in the Officer’s mess here. I went over to see him and he was very pleased you had asked after him. He is very well and wishes to be remembered to you. I also met him this afternoon going home on leave so he is going to be lucky and be home for Xmas. There isn’t many going home for the holidays and all being well I shall be going on my privilege leave the second week in January.

As for major Proud, well Capt. Leslie Proud is in command of C Coy and I don’t know whether he is the one you mean. The other Capt. Proud is still in the Middle East.

It is very kind of you to offer to send me the papers and I would only be too pleased to accept them but we manage to get the daily paper around the camp and they would be put to better use if you give them for salvage. It isn’t too bad here, except that it is a bit too far from any villages of any size, 4 miles away is the nearest, but they have managed to bring ENSA shows here and all of them pretty good. Well, I think that is about all the news for now, so I will close with the very best wishes for Xmas and the New Year to yourself and baby and may 1944 see Major Cummins back home with you.
Yours sincerely, E Fowler.

December 22nd
Went back to the house this morning, but little forthcoming in the way of breakfast, a small piece of bread each that was all, however Bob had some bread in his sack still, which we can eat on the way. The old man pointed out a farm on the other side of the valley in which five P.O.W.s were living so we decided to call and see them for news etc. Worked round the valley and found the farm, a very poor one, in which were five P.O.W.s, one Yugoslav and four English. Two had tried the line at Sora and got within twelve miles of our lines but had to return, they said it was impossible. The others said that they were going down to try.

At the same time they gave us the names of one or two good villages to try nearby. They also said that this farm was very frightened and as a matter of fact while we were there the farmer came in and said that the Germans had arrived in the village and we must all go.

This I didn’t believe, but we all cleared out, going in different directions. We decided to try Marcetelli for the night. Poor Mack had discovered lice in his shirt this morning and was very fed up so in the next valley he stopped and washed in a stream, a cold business. While he did this I found a man chopping wood ( our barber of last night)  and got directions for Marcetelli, the route was straight over the mountains and when Mack had finished we started off. By then it was raining to add to our enjoyment and by the time we had lost ourselves on the mountain a few times we were not in good tempers. Found the top at last and the main track which took us to a washing point, here we got fresh directions from some women and after another hour or so we reached Marcetelli. It is a large village with the usual winding, cobbled street. By the time we reached the village it was raining hard, so swallowing our shyness we dived into nearly the first house. They welcomed us and we were able to dry our jackets and, by sitting near the fire, most of our trousers. After a good minestra a Greek arrived to take us to a barn to sleep. From what we could gather he and his family are civilian internees who have been allotted to a village after spending a certain amount of time in a camp. The barn was not a very warm one and the hay was hard but at

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least the roof did not let in the water so we might have been much worse.

December 23rd

Rained all night and still spitting this morning. Having had no instructions last night we went into another house for a wash and brush up before going on, but after a few minutes we were rescued and taken to the Greek’s house. They are obviously very poor and a large family but most charming and so clean. The old man and many of his family, for that matter, had spent a long time in Tunis and spoke Arabic fluently. Some wonderful, embroidered shirts hanging up to dry all looked most attractive. After some coffee and bread it was still raining so they said we must stay for the day, which we were very pleased to do. An Italian officer and a young boy anxious to learn English arrived, both very kind, the former brought us some meat and the latter asked us to go up to his mother’s for a meal at midday, which we did. After a good lunch his mother roasted some chestnuts and while we ate them we endeavoured to teach the officer and the boy English. Had a long chat all the afternoon.

Tried to work out a route south, but always up against the same snags. They say that Marcetelli is a safe village but the people are very self-centred, caring little for outsiders. It is amazing how self-contained these villages are, they can almost exist without any outside help except for salt, tobacco etc. Bob’s Italian is improving, I am afraid mine is not, I can make myself understood but get floored when they talk quickly to me in dialect. Old Mack with some vino gets along fine. Back to the Greeks for the evening meal and chestnuts and a chat to them. Our tobacco is running a bit low but expect we will be able to find some soon.

Back to our old barn at night, it is a bit warmer as the young Greek has plugged the windows with straw. The usual animals underneath and the usual number of visits during the night.  Must say I have enjoyed travelling with these two, they are good company and we have many things in common, best of all we laugh at the same things, this I think is about the most important thing in travelling companions.

It is a strange life and I never imagined when I set out in Sept. that it would last so long. Afraid we look no nearer home than we did three months ago, but you never can tell, something may happen and half the winter is already over. Must find a good place for Christmas if we can, somewhere to have plenty of food and plonk.

December 24th Christmas Eve 1943

A good day at last, sunny and quite warm in the sun. We had vague ideas of working round to Castel Leone again, hoping we could formulate some plan before crossing the Aquila road.

With this in mind got instructions for the route and, after a breakfast at the Greeks, set off with the young boy as a guide for the first mile. Fond farewells all round, I must admit they have done us very well considering how poor they are. Worked our way down to the valley where we met some men making a dam for a mill. They told us that Dagenti, the next village on our route, was not dangerous “senza niente”(without nothing). Arrived near the village and rested on the outside to decide what our plans were to be. If we got to Castel Leone tomorrow we could expect no Christmas festivities as it was only a farmer’s place for looking after sheep, but where to go, that was the trouble. While we waited four young girls came up the path carrying on their heads enormous logs, presumably the yule log. They showed quite a lot of interest in us and eventually we accompanied them to the village. Mack, in a weak moment, offered to carry one of the logs, Bob and I knew they were quite beyond us so made no offer. Walking behind Mack I saw his neck get redder and redder and eventually, just short of the village, he had to give up the struggle, the girl immediately

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flipped the log on her head and continued, talking the whole time. They must be amazingly strong in the neck and can carry weights that a man could not manage on his shoulder.

When we arrived in Dagenti a large crowd gathered round us and gave us wine and bread, the usual diet. At the same time they said that we must not go on through the village as below, only about a mile away, was a detachment of Fascists. This rather upset our route and at last, to a young girl who was doing a lot of the talking, we admitted that we wanted to find a place to spend Christmas. She was very good and immediately said very well you can spend it here and took us all into her house. We learnt later that her name was Carla and that she had been quite a long time in Rome, learning dressmaking. Her father was dead and she lived alone with her mother. A very kind family, and as far as we could gather, all prisoners went to her house and we were by no means the first she had fed.

Next door lived some relations, one a chap who was dumb. As it was Christmas he had been drinking vino and was rather a trial but, despite his continuous demands for matches, was not a bad fellow. I think the local Forest Guard a tough, quiet little man, is rather keen on Carla, she is an attractive girl, as he is in the house the whole time. He brought us vino and after supper we had a long chat about all sorts of things. Apparently nearby is a village containing a Fascist commando, of which we must stay clear, but they say we are quite safe here. An old man, I think Carla’s uncle, took us to his barn at night, a grand one and very soft and comfortable. It is nice to have a place for Christmas day and Carla has promised to dye our pullovers which will be a great blessing. If tonight was any criterion we should have a good day tomorrow.

December 25th Christmas Day 1943

A fine, sunny day, as unlike an English Christmas as possible. I can remember how we all were so sure, last year in the camp that this Christmas we would be home. Had a good wash and clean up during the morning, Carla prepared our dinner, pasta and a good quantity of meat, minced and made into a roll. Sat talking over the fire until it was ready and then enjoyed our meal very much. A Fascist arrived during the morning in full Militia uniform and stood us some wine at lunch. He was a friend of Carla’s and quite harmless.

I think the Forest guard sent some wine in as well. During the afternoon Carla took our pullovers and dyed them blue, they should be good and will be dry by tonight. A lot of drinking going on in the village and one or two who had been keeping it up for a week got into a fight with, I think, one of the pub owners. One chap was knifed in three places and another nearly had his ear taken off with a chopper, we watched some of the fight from the window. I have never seen anything like it, women and children made it worse by yelling and screaming all over the place, never the less two tough M.P.s could have cleared the whole thing up in five minutes, but instead quite a lot of damage was done. The Forest guard (also the policeman) sat quietly through the whole thing, like a wise man he knew he could do nothing now but tomorrow, when everyone was sober, would get all the particulars. Within an hour or two it was forgotten and people talked of other things. At night, just as Carla was preparing a very good looking minestra, the people next door asked us to go in and feed with them.

This we did to find very tough and cold gnocchi, is there anything worse? We had to struggle to get it down, almost too much for poor Mack. A fair amount of wine but the enjoyment of it was spoilt by the dumb son who was rather drunk and made the most amazing noise for a dumb person; grunts, squeals etc. which at times were rather disgusting. However after a plate of gnocchi he went to sleep, they would silence anyone. Back to Carla’s were the Forest guard brought us more vino and we had a long chat. Got our pullovers, like new again, and various

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members of the village came in with small amounts of money for us. In the end we had about 40lr. each, very nice for tobacco. This accepting money was difficult, but as with other things if they offered it, it was by far the best to accept, otherwise they might take offence.

At last, after thanking everyone for a grand two days, we went off to our barn. We must thank God for his great kindness in sending us to such a place, we could hardly have done better and we might have done considerably worse. Slept like logs, except Bob’s tummy rebelled and he was sick poor lad.

December 26th
After coffee and fond farewells to Carla etc. we set off once more having changed our plans somewhat. We want to stay in these parts so decided to try our valley once again to see if we can manage up to the New Year here. Met the F. guard who gave us fresh instructions for Rocca and after saying goodbye to him we got going. Straight down the valley where we found the road and along to a small village, then up the mountains and along to Rocca.

The day had clouded over by then and it was cold. Asked at one house for a bed for the night, which they said we could have but they did not ask us in. We were standing, wondering what to do until night-time when a girl from another house took us along and gave us food etc. Sat during the afternoon and evening and after supper the whole house and ourselves played a game called “the rug” quite amusing. To bed in a good barn, decided to get into our valley tomorrow, and if possible lie up there.

December 27th
A bad day with a high wind blowing. The owner of the house in which we fed last night said that another woman in the village would like to give us food today, so that means we can stay on another day. We went to her house at midday and had quite a good lunch, also sat all the afternoon there. Various people called and we had a chat with each. Afraid, however, that as usual most of our talking was done between ourselves. Nothing very interesting happened today but we were glad of the chance of putting in this extra time.

Tomorrow over to the valley. The two Armies have moved very little lately, in fact they are almost stationery. Still we live in hope of something happening in the New Year. We are still of the opinion that our first object is to avoid re-capture, but of course if any opportunities present themselves to get through the line, with reasonable chances of success, we must take them.

But I am quite sure that with the mountains as they are at the moment, without woods and covered with snow, that this is quite impossible. Heard part of the news tonight but nothing of any importance. I wonder if and when we will get home, we never expected such a long wait.

27th December 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
Darling, Joan Heslop has just rung up. She had two letters from John, the first says “I gather from people arriving here that Ronnie and Sammy are in Germany but cannot find out where”. The second says “From further evidence it appears Ronnie is in Germany. I have sent him some cigarettes but fear they went to the wrong camp”. This letter was dated 30th. Nov. Joan says we must not build on it too much, but the second letter sounds hopeful. They have a large number of Italian POWs. in their camp.

We didn’t telephone as we were so afraid the line would be bad and you wouldn’t get the message clearly. I will pursue this on Thursday with the POW Branch at the WO. The names were coming in very slowly when I left.

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I pray this is some evidence as I know John is very anxious and will be doing all he can to find out.
All love darling from us all. Ruth.

December 28th
A fine day but windy and a bit cold. After the usual coffee and bread we thanked our hosts, left chits and got on our way. Feeling hungry and having some staleish bread with us we decided to stop at some house in C. Luccio and ask if we might toast it. Asked a girl standing outside a house if we might come in and she said yes. Found three other fugitives inside having breakfast, an English Tommy, a S.A. and a Frenchman (Algerian). The people in the house were very kind and refused to let us eat our bread, this was usually the way, but gave us roast chestnuts and wine and more bread to take away. The other three were like us, marking time and had been here about a week. They said the village was a good one.

Had our usual laugh about the Italians and their bayonets and the English being “poco forte”(little strong). After about an hour we started on our way again. Once again passed Leofreni again without difficulty, one at a time, and eventually stopped at the empty house, this time we went inside and lit a fire as it was cold. While we were sitting there, wondering where we should go for the night, the son from the farm who had turned us away on 19th. came in. He was rather a miserable object and we were glad when he went. At about 16.00hrs we decided to try the large farm near the Baronessa, not having been there before.

It was my turn to ask, which I did and we were immediately taken in. Quite a large crowd beside the fire, found afterwards it is also the local pub, three Sicilians, waiting like us but working on the farm, the old woman, Maria, her daughter, the old man, son’s friends etc. They had a really big fire going which was a comfort and while we sat they told us the story of San Anatolia. Apparently three days after we left the Germans had surrounded the village and searched all the houses and barns, as far as we can make out about 7 were caught including the Irish Captain, but no doubt some escaped. They had a terrific story of one being shot in a pigsty and of houses being burnt down, which I don’t believe. I think the true story is that in the barns where the Germans found prisoners they pulled out the hay and burnt that. There is now a German commando in the village so we want to thank our lucky stars that we got out in time.

I was asked to a nearby farm for food where I had quite a nice little meal, a mixture of polenta and potatoes, and after sat talking as best I could for about half an hour. Like the others they are getting tired of this long wait and I brought the usual arguments and stories about our strength and waiting for the second front, but sometimes I wonder myself. Back to the farm and Bob and Mack and after sitting a bit longer one of the Sicilians showed is the barn. Not a bad one but Bob and Mack had no covers, however we all got under the straw and were quite warm. Two of the Sicilians slept in the barn with us.

28th. December 1943 Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
My Darling Brenda,
I should have written to you yesterday but your letter from Mary was posted earlier and so I put off until today to send you my many thanks for your very kind gift of tobacco, you and your Tobacconist have a good taste for cigarette tobaccos both (for I have sampled them) are very good and it was most sweet of you to send me such a good supply.

I am enclosing a letter of thanks to Peter for his present, perhaps you will deliver it to him for me.

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I do hope, honey, the news we sent you yesterday was hopeful, we have certainly been in better spirits, for though John Heslop hasn’t seen Ronnie he seems to have heard of him which is of some value. You and we will wait now as patiently as possible (and you have been a very patient one) for definite news which I hope will come soon. Ruth is getting in touch on Thursday with the branch dealing with POWs. and see if she can get further news.

I do hope your Mother, yourself and Peter are all well and that you had a good a time as is possible under all the circumstances. I shall be glad when the holidays are over.

We had Ernest and Dolly Proud up to dinner last night and did enjoy it, quite like old times, very quiet but very jolly.
God bless you all, Grandpa.

28th. December 1943 7 Dixon Street, Blackhill, Co. Durham.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I am sending you all a little gift for the New Year, hoping you will like them, they are not very much but there is not very much to get, but I felt I must send you something if it is ever so little at a time like this and it sorts of brightens one up when they get out to buy little presents, How I do hope you have had word of your husband by now, we have had no more word from my son but we keep hoping for news soon. I know how you would feel if you got word now it would make you all so happy as I was when we got our card. I do wish this war was over and we had our loved ones back with us.

Now I hope you are all keeping well as we are all well at home and I do hope your little son is well, if only he had his Daddy back to see him what a proud Daddy he would be to see such a fine boy, but let us hope that that day is not far off. I hope and pray for it to end for us all. Now dear Mrs. Cummins, I want to thank you ever so much for all your kindness to all, I don’t know really how to express my thanks to you for your kindness, you have been so good in every way, I think my son has been well respected by you all so I hope he will be spared to give you a big thanks for himself and me. He always said you were a fine lady and also your husband a real Gentleman. I am proud to think he has such good friends and is well liked and did his best among his friends. I only wish I had him back and also you had yours back. What a rejoicing that will be. So now I must close as I want to catch the post, so please excuse writing as in a hurry.
From Mrs. Lumley.

December 29th
A fine day, quite warm in the sun. We were given some polenta before leaving of the “eat towards you ” variety and after the usual goodbyes we set off. Had no particular plans so after leaving the farm we sat on the mountain-side in the sun for quite a long time chatting about all kinds of things. Bob’s pants causing the usual trouble, must say mine are standing up to the continual wear, night and day, very well. At about 14.00hrs went down to the farm the other side of the Baronessa to ask if we could toast some bread. We had been there on 18th. but this time the old woman gave us quite a welcome and a long story of the many fugitives who had returned from Sora finding it quite impossible to get through. She said we could stay the night, which was good, so we settled ourselves in front of the fire. A large family, all of course in rags, and they were a bit of a trial as they would push between us.

Actually the farmer should not be too poor as he has quite a large flock of goats and a number of oxen. The old man came in in the evening, a veteran of the last war and proud of it “contra tedesci”(anti German) and at about 18.30hrs we had minestra. After supper some

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girls from the local farm came in to view us and to work the usual canape(?), a large crowd considering there were no chairs. Into quite a good barn at about 21.00hrs. and so to sleep.

December 30th
After some polly bread and a wash we moved on once more deciding to try the first farmer again where we had spent the night of 16th. We were getting a bit short of bread by now so decided to try and get some food on the way. Previously we had passed a number of farms collected together to form a village, lying about a mile from the first farm. Called at one of the houses but found we had chosen a very poor one so used up the remains of our own bread. Noticed the Italian Airforce Major helping to make sausage outside one of the farms.

Later went along to the first farm and asked the farmer if we could stay for the night and he was quite agreeable, so after going to our old sleeping place for permission to sleep there, we settled down in the house. All had a shave and a wash which made us feel much better.

The farmer’s wife was in Santa Marie when we arrived but returned at about 17.00hrs. and I think was a little fed up when she saw us but soon cheered up. This little man has a nice family, mainly girls, but they are quiet and quite attractive kids. Had a good minestra and after sitting in front of the fire for a bit to give and collect news, we walked to our barn and so to bed. A cold night but quite warm under a few feet of straw.

Undated Clarence, Bishop Auckland.
Many thanks for your letter and the enclosures which I am returning except the one to Ruth (from John Boulton) and I am posting that to her tonight. They are all so conflicting, one does not know what to think, I don’t like to think of Ronnie waiting until spring in those mountains, but I am sure that as soon as Ronnie got into a German camp the first thing he would do would be to send a card. I don’t know what the date of John’s first letter was, but he said in that he had heard Ronnie was in Germany, but that was only rumour. It makes it now nearly eight weeks. Each morning, if the telephone goes my first thought is that it will be Brenda with news. They say the third time is lucky and we have been through the three.

You have such wonderful faith, darling, that he is safe in Italy, God grant that you will hear soon. I have told Ruth to get in touch at once with Lt. Erskine, which I know she will do.

It was sweet of you to send Ronnie’s ex-driver money to celebrate and it was a sweet reply from the boy. Did I tell you about a letter I had some time ago. When the West Auckland deliver the beer a very nice boy used to come with the older man and I always give them a cup of coffee etc. They always contrive to come at about 11 o/c and then the boy was called up. I sent him some cigarettes a little while ago and had a letter from him thanking me and saying, I wish I could still deliver your beer and have that nice cup of coffee etc. and ended up by “Your delivery man with the beer” I remember once giving him a cigarette, one of Rothman’s, and he looked at it and said “Do you mind if I take this to Mother as she only gets Woodbines and she would enjoy this”.

Well, you seem to have had quite a gay Christmas. I am so glad you went out and saw people and enjoyed it. It keeps your mind occupied and then something to talk about. I wish we had been with you and seen Peter at the Christmas tree and he got a lot of presents, savings certs. are deadly dull for him, he will soon enjoy the books. Granny amused us about the ring of roses etc. It is wonderful what a personality he has here already, perhaps because we talk about him so much. Everybody asks “any new snaps of Peter”.

I had a very sweet letter from Margaret thanking me for Anthea’s book, they come on the

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11th. She was so anxious to know when you get news of Ronnie.

Will you thank your Mother for her sweet letter, her description of your Christmas dinner sounds good. We have two bottles of Algerian wine and are having one tomorrow. It was lovely hearing your voice on the telephone, I put the call in about 7o/c and we thought it was not coming through, we went off to bed about 10.30 and had a late morning. Ruth said she had a good journey. We were so afraid she would not get a porter at Darlington as she could not have managed with that great dog and her suitcase etc. So glad you enjoyed the pheasant, we are sending off the gingerbread on Monday, the sweets come from South Africa, Auntie Blanche’s sister sent her a packet and me too but we don’t eat them but they will be pure and Peter will enjoy them. Auntie’s ankle is much better, I went in this morning and prepared the lunch. Yesterday I made two yule loaves and took them in half of one and Uncle Pip said how much they had enjoyed it for tea. I hope you got Grandpa’s letter thanking you and Peter for your presents. He did not write until the day after ours was sent.

Well, darling, all our love and I hope this new Year will bring us good news of Ronnie and we will all be happy again.
Yours Granny Mary

30th. December 1943 C/O NAAFI, Pucklechurch, Bristol.
Dear Mrs. Cummins,
I regret I have not been able to reply to your note of 16th. inst. before, but I was simply overwhelmed with work due to the Xmas festivities.

My brother’s address is:- C R Reynolds, Camp D, Evades, Grand Hotel, Adelboden, Switzerland.

He has not to be addressed by the rank of Lt. Col. so we are advised by the War Office.

I sincerely trust you will have had some good news of your husband by now.

I have already written to my brother asking him to supply me with any news of Major Cummins, and upon receipt of his reply will again write to you.

Wishing you a bright and prosperous New Year.
I remain, yours very truly, Jack Reynolds.

December 31st
A foul morning, snowing and quite a high wind. Not quite sure what to do at first as the people in whose barn we slept were far too poor to be able to feed us and we did not want to inflict ourselves on the first farmer again. However after some polenta bread for breakfast we set off to try and find another farm for the day. It was bitterly cold walking, and wet as well so when we arrived at the collection of farms we dived into a house which was empty but in which a man had a fire. He could speak a little English, having been to America, and said we could stay there for the time being, his own farm was just round the corner. Later, whilst we were drying ourselves over a rather inadequate fire, his son brought us in a plate of minestra each. By the afternoon a blizzard was blowing and we gave up all ideas of moving and later, Gaetano, the owner’s name, said we could sleep in his barn for the night. In the evening one of the village women asked us to her house for food, the snow was so thick that to cross over to her house was difficult. Found a S.A. there, a decent lad who had been living at Tarano, just over the mountain, all by himself for about two months.

It was a risky place as 40 Germans were there also, so every now and then he comes here for a change. Had a good minestra (3 plates) and a long chat. The S.A., like us, feels that for the time being this area seems the safest and he wants to cling on for as long as possible. I

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must admit that this valley is grand as, with no road, the Germans do not come here and if Militia or the police move along the mountain paths, the bush telegraph soon warns one.

After a scramble through the snow, we reached Gaetano’s house where we met two old crones and his son-in-law, a schoolmaster. The latter was very nice and during the next day or so we saw a lot of him, teaching him English and learning some Italian. His wife was in bed upstairs, having just had a baby. To bed in quite a comfortable barn, where despite the weather outside, we were quite warm. Afraid this year we had no celebration, our money was nearly done, but we think we might be able to afford a little vino tomorrow to drink the health of the New Year.

Read part 1 here

Read part 3 here

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