Ernest Lodge’s diary detailing his and Dennis Newman’s escape from the Prisoner of War camp at Chieti, hours before the Germans took over. Lodge’s diary covers the 20th September – 29 October 1943. At one stage Lodge and Newman join an abortive attempt by the SAS [Special Air Service] to get Prisoners of War away by sea, where they encounter Pennycook, Gordon McFall and Bill Wendt.
However, when this fails, they set off, keeping near the Adriatic coast and they got through the lines on 19th October. In addition, Keith Killby includes information about Claud Weaver, an 18-year-old American pilot with the Canadian Air Force, who escaped from the camp at a similar time to Lodge and Newman.
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.
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[Envelope addressed to Keith Killby with handwritten notes naming those involved with collection:] Ernest Fisher Lodge of Malaysia [referred to as Oliver and Ollie throughout the document], Dennis Newman [referred to as Danny throughout the document] and David Swanbursy of Huddersfield [nephew of Ernest Lodge]
[Subtitle:] Memories from Malasia.
[Typed summary of collection, likely written by Keith Killby]
One copy of ‘Home by Christmas ?’ quickly got transported to Malaysia by David Swanbury for his 91 year old uncle, Ernest Lodge and, in return – besides useful cheques from them both and a copy of the diary of Lodge’s quick exit, in defiance of the order to stay put, from the camp at Chieti, hours before the Germans took over. Even before him Claud Weaver, an 18 year old American pilot with the Canadian Air Force, one of twenty in the camp had left. Weaver had been a keen tunneller. He got through the lines only to be killed in another air fight at age 19. With Lodge was Danny Newman who had been with him at Sforzacosta. The diary in staccato form, reflects the speed and determination of the two of them.
At one stage they join an abortive attempt by the SAS [Special Air Service] to get POWs [Prisoners of War] away by sea, but are quickly off again when it fails. Keeping near the Adriatic coast there is no need to climb mountains but rather to wade rivers. They encounter Trust supporters Pennycook and McFall who, with Weymouth, had some, at times, hilarious adventures as recounted in last year’s Annual Report. Lodge and Newman left Chieti on 20th September and got through the lines on 19th October. Obviously the Germans were, at that period, less thick on the ground and far from organised. Lodge had gone from Malaysia to join up in England and got back to Malaysia, still in the army, to release 5000 Allied POWs from the Japanese.
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3rd March 1998
Mr J. Keith Killby, Honorary Secretary, Monte San Martino Trust, London
Dear Mr Killby,
I recently purchased a copy of ‘Home by Christmas’, (your letter about the Trust dated 19th January 1998).
I am afraid that I never got the opportunity to read the book as I bought it to take to my Uncle, Mr Ernest Fisher Lodge, who lives in Malaysia and who also escaped from another camp called Chieti. He was delighted with the book and as a consequence has made a donation of £100 to the Trust. Whilst he has done this through me I would appreciate your acknowledging his donation directly, and his address is appended. He is now ninety one years old and shared some similar experiences to those of the author.
Signing up in 1940 after returning from Sumatra where he was a rubber planter in order to do so, my Uncle was a tank commander in the 7th Tanks Regiment in the desert during the time of Rommel and Montgomery. Rommel attacked Tobruk in force in May 1942. Its defences were weakened and could not be repaired in time. My uncle was sent to lead some tanks to meet oncoming German ones. Moving to close range against an echelon of German tanks he was dismayed to see that the two pounder shells were bouncing off the German armour. His tank was hit, the turret jammed and the engine was immobilised. The tank behind was knocked out and the rest sought safety behind a ridge, only to meet a similar fate later. Two of the crew of the tanks died from wounds whilst my Uncle was knocked flat by a bullet through his side.
Eventually he was sent to the camp at Chieti. The point of the story is that Claud Weaver mentioned in the book, was a pal of his and has an interesting story.
Claud Weaver was a fighter pilot who also ended up in the Chieti camp at the age of eighteen, having shot down fifteen enemy aircraft. Pilot Officer Claud Weaver DFC. [Distinguished Flying Cross] DEM. [? DFM, Distinguished Flying Medal] + Bar, of the USA had joined up in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was one of twenty American airmen in the camp. He met my Uncle in December 1942 and they shared the same hut initially but along with the other Yanks, was moved to a separate block the next day. Contrary to regulations, Claud associated with other ranks and participated in tunnelling in their cookhouse as well as benefiting from extra food. There were several tunnels progressing although his tunnel was reckoned to have the best chance of success
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course of the digging, they struck a sewer which they opened from the top. With Claud leading, two of them tried to follow it to the end using a light of oil and a bootlace wick in a tobacco tin. Claud was overcome by fumes and had to be dragged out. A second attempt was even less successful. This time Claud was following when there was an explosion and the chap in the lead had to be dragged out unconscious. The injuries were explained away as a cookhouse accident and the man spent some time in hospital. They decided to forget the sewer and passed over it with the conventional prisoners tunnelling techniques.
The reason that Claud is mentioned in the book is that he heard that some British pilots were being transferred to another camp. He decided that during the transfer he might have the opportunity to escape as it was to be by rail. He exchanged identity with another prisoner who was scheduled to go. Being blond, and the other dark, he used boot polish to darken his hair. As it happens, he was unable to escape and a bit discouraged when a Spitfire pilot was shot and killed attempting to do just that. Eventually, he decided to reveal that there had been a mistake and wangled his way back again. He took great delight in loudly denouncing the Italian guard who shot the escaper.
He was a Golden Gloves boxing champion and was shot down in Sicily, holding off the Italians with his pistol until he ran out of ammunition. A determined escaper, he tried twice. The first time he got stuck in the wire and was beaten up with a rifle and the second time ended up in the local jail. When he arrived in the camp, the first issue of toilet rolls had just arrived and being the oldest in the room they were given to my Uncle. He offered Claud one. Claud pulled a slim roll out of his pocket and retorted, “I won’t need it! I’ll be out before I’ve finished this!”. He was always active and full of fun, wanting to wrestle and at one point floored Jack Bentley, a former textile designer from Huddersfield, who got on his nerves.
The cricketer Bill Bowes was in this camp as was Tony Roncoroni who played rugby for England. His Aunt lived on a ridge within sight of the camp. He was a big strong fellow, and like my Uncle, had only a woollen blanket to wear for quite a long time. His name appears to be mentioned in the Fontanellato list and assuming it is the same, it is not known how he got there.
On the surrender of the Italians, the order was issued that there was to be no escaping. Anyone who did so would be court marshalled after the war. Claud Weaver and his Spitfire pilot pal did, were the first, and got down to Taranto quickly by jumping trains and lorries. They were flown back to the UK for further training on Spitfires. He was finally shot down and killed, and last seen with two ME109’s [Messerschmitt Bf 109] on his tail. The inscription on his headstone gives the date as being 25th January 1944. He was 19. His brother was also killed.
My Uncle who was also involved in a tunnel which was worked on the basis of three men on eight hour shifts, 24 hours a day. However, on the second night, the night after Claud, he and US bomber pilot, Danny Newman escaped. A roughly typed diary note by my Uncle is appended which briefly tells of the episode.
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Danny Newman has only just disappeared, possibly in hospital or dead, after a long active life including free fall parachuting at the age of eighty. He went back to California after completing operations as a Lancaster skipper and bought a ‘Dude’ ranch of 90 acres somewhere in the San Diego area.
The Germans had already begun to occupy the camp when my Uncle left and I do not think many others escaped at that time. I understand that about forty hid in the tunnels and one in a water tank until the camp was emptied by the Germans shortly afterwards, the prisoners being entrained to Germany. Many were killed on the way due to Allied air attacks on the railway system.
Being fluent in the language of Sumatra, my Uncle was sent to a special forces training camp in Colombo and also in India. He was landed on the North West coast of Sumatra at night from the Submarine ‘Clyde’ but after some exploring, had to retreat under fire to paddle back in the inflatable to try to find the submarine. A second attempt with three Chinese in the submarine ‘Torbay’ was successful, landing in a mangrove swamp on the east coast facing Malaya across the Straits of Malacca. He lived there collecting information until the Japanese surrender. There were 70,000 Japanese troops on the island at the time. He was ordered by W/T [wireless telegram] to go to a large prison camp in central Sumatra where Prisoners of War had just finished laying a railroad across the country. He strolled in to the Japanese officers’ mess at night, after a two day trip by boat, in jungle green with a carbine over his shoulder. Fortunately, the smartly dressed Japanese Guards Regiment knew the war was over and he was driven some two miles to the camp. It held some 5,500 Prisoners of War, all Dutch except for 600 British. The last survivors of the Prince of Wales and Repulse in this camp had died before he arrived. He organised the survival of the remainder and later commanded Japanese who had to be responsible for policing the country for some months. One of the officers he liaised with was Captain Nishimura who was born in Hawaii, (where my Uncle’s brother lived and watched the attack on Pearl Harbour) and represented the US at the Olympic Games but happened to be in Japan when the war broke out. His last job was to hand over 1000 Japanese troops to the Navy. Just before this Nishimura sent a troop of Japanese to rescue my Aunt who was also living in Sumatra, from an area where she was being held by Indonesian locals as the Indonesian revolution began to simmer. The convoy of lorries and armoured car went 150 miles to find her and bring her back to the safety of Medan.
After the war he resumed rubber planting in Malaya, as it then was, to be further inconvenienced by being caught up in the Emergency, with the odd ambush and other incidents.
He now lives in retirement with my Aunt after a very eventful life (far more so than this note suggests) in Malaysia. His address is:
Mr E.F. Lodge, MALAYSIA
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As I mentioned, it would be nice if you could acknowledge his donation. He very much appreciated the book that I gave him during my stay of the past two weeks. His short term memory is going a bit wonky but he is still pretty fit with an interest in current affairs and a fairly detailed memory of an eventful life.
To express my appreciation for the pleasure it has given him and to support the cause of the Trust I enclose a further cheque of my own for £50.
[signed and printed name]
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[Subtitle:] With Danny Newman in Italy.
[Handwritten date range:] 20th September 1943 to 29 October 1943
[Handwritten note, possibly Ernest Lodge’s handwriting:] 14th November 1995, sent copy of this to Danny Newman, he had not kept a diary.
Some characters met enroute:
Signora Rite Vito-Colona (Pietro)
Constantini Camilo. Rapino.
Pauluchi Palmino. Rapino.
Leo Glavan, Zagreb. Jugoslavia
Antonio Pasquini. Pasquini. Lanciano. Chieti.
Camillo Maschili. Pasquini. Chieti.
Sergeant D.McKirdy. 4388377,
Bridlington. Yorks. (5 Green Howards)
Escaped 20th September 1943. Met him at Macerta. 1st October 1943.
Monday. 20 September 1943.
[Handwritten note:] Still in POW [Prisoner of War] Camp. Italy. (Camp Chieti., near Pescara)
Saw Danny in morning, after receiving negative reply to my invitation to Paul Landsdell, and arranged to leave camp same night. Received Red Cross parcel today. Obtained small Ite [Eyetie] pack. Sorted out my gear and explained things to Kempo.
At 9 pm. began to dump things near to wire. Lost Danny and hid in latrine until after 10 p.m. waiting for him. At lights out went to Danny’s bed and was told that Danny was through the wire and had got the stuff through with him. Out of window and rolled up to wire whilst Yank talked to Eyetie in box. Crawled through wire and took some time to locate Danny. Lot of light about. Collected gear but could not find my best pack and water bottle. Left them. Stood upright and walked into Eyetie quarters through strong light. POW ‘guards’ stopped talking to look at us. Through Eyetie barrack without seeing anyone. Crawled to stable below sentry box. Eyetie guard entered shortly afterwards and found us. Argued and bribed him. He was terrified of Germans who had just taken over the camp. Allowed us to climb up some cart shafts to reach top of wall. Me over first. Pulled Danny up then dropped and ran to some bushes. Looked round to see Danny stuck in the barbed wire on top of wall. Threw himself down (14ft) bringing wire with him and joined me. Ran down a ditch until we were puffed. Walked south all night, up and down very steep slopes. Raging thirst. Physical wreck. Found deep narrow well. Grapes – only increased thirst. Course by stars. At dawn descended an eroded precipice into wooded ravine giving good cover. Bucchianico to left and Chieti road in view.
Tuesday. 21 September
Lay up in stream bed. Slept a little. Ate 3 biscuits, little margarine and 1/8 lb. cheese, 1/4 lb. chocolate, rationing ourselves for long hike. Found 1 water bottle insufficient. Dusk set out following country track down valley, hoping that it would lead us around a nasty headland jutting across our route. No luck. All night crawling up and down what felt like precipices. Dead beat. Frequent stops and naps. Much swigging of dirty water from a stream. Ate stacks of
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unripe tomatoes and soon began to know all about it. Climbed a mountain to a small stone village and did everything to find water except knock on the door and ask. 1000 dogs barking. Found small well with long stick. Grapes. Descended and found hide-out in a creek-bed with small pools of water.
Wednesday. 22 September.
Slept a little. First brew-up. Good. Dug hole for water. Bath. People passed but did not see us. Off before dusk to good start. Bad luck right away getting cut up in dense brambles. Thence to creek bed which we followed for miles until it petered out in to a small canyon. Climbed up slopes through vineyards, guzzling grapes and apples. Got on track. Met Eyeties. Desperate for water. Directed to farm. Old couple gave us water and we gave them Red Cross soap. Climbed again and came to country road giving wonderful view of mountains and sea. Began to descend but decided to wait for moon. Slept soundly in small ‘goeboek’ alongside vines. Great wrench to break sleep and start again the night hike. Little progress.
Thursday. 23 September
Came to wayside fountain and horse-trough. Whilst filling water bottle Eyetie came out of neighbouring farmhouse and warned us that the district was lousy with Jerries. Left him and hid in large ravine for day. Found by kid looking after sheep. 2 biscuits each and an American emergency ration. Difficult to swallow as again no water. Returned at dusk to fountain. Eyetie surprised us by inviting us in for bread, macaroni, and wine. Wonderful stuff. Felt new men. Gave him Navy cut tobacco, soap, matches, and little choc for kid. Headed out for mountains across flat olive groves. Soft brown loamy soil. Soon came to rough slopes and stone walls and couldn’t move in the dark. Cold gave us hell on the mountain side. Lost last hanky.
Friday. 24 September.
Started off at daylight hitting road in search of water. Got some from surly peasant and daughter. Away to ruined castle. Found large cave with water and small cave for hide-out. Brew. Good camp in wooded creek and straw hut below. Decided a good place to stay for a few days until our troops arrive. Foraged neighbourhood for fruit and vegetables at night. Almost spotted by goat-herd. Dogs. Made cache for food. Unsuccessful long night forage. Country broken by colossal river beds, dry but thick with massive boulders and precipitous banks. Treacherous stone terraces separating fields. Returned to straw hut and had cold sleep.
Usual brews of water from Goats’ P [piss] Cave. Sitting in sun outside Sheep-Shit Cave when a shot rang out nearby shaking us more than somewhat. Retired quickly to gully. Another night forage collecting grapes, tomatoes and turnip. Cold night in shack disturbed by quick moves owing to rain. Danny p’d [pissed] -off.
Brews. Rain. Moved up into Sheep-Shit Cave. Found emergency water supply. Bully stew. Dog and boys look us over. Sleeping in S.S. Cave. Cold and damp. Had to brew up half-way through the night. Dense smoke screen.
Taking the sun when we were spotted by peasant who gave us his lunch (bread) and offered to bring more. Showed us another
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arch-roofed stone hut. Filled same with ferns and looked forward to a better night. Cold and draughty – bad night. Picked up wild apples.
Raining. In lull made rush for S.S. Cave. Brew. Went down to Goat P. Cave for water and found 2 Eyeties there (cadet and civvy) who had run away from Chieti. Next came whole tribe of nondescripts end adolescents running away from Germans in Chieti. Eyetie captain arrived in civvies – impressive type who made a speech at mouth of cave. All kinds of arms present in mob and all types of itchy fingers, one type already having taken pot shot at us earlier on. Now friendly and gave us lots of bread, cheese and chillies. Mob continued to grow in spite of rain. Retired to S.S. Cave to our fire, cornstalks and ferns. Damp cold night compelled midnight smoke-brew.
Riff-raff continue to arrive at grotto. Two better class youths arrived, well-dressed, practiced English and French on us. Running away from Jerry forced labour squads. Had gun and binoculars. Ancient labourer gave us his lunch (Philedelf). Shaved in gully. Joe Mascioli (Fu), Repino, District Chieti, turned up with bread, cheese, salt, tomatoes, apples, vino and offered us lire as well. Cold damp fern bed with usual midnight brew.
Hardly finished breakfast when swarm of adolescents arrived bringing two Jugoslavians (Richter and watchmaker). Well-dressed couple who brought jam, cheese, sausage, and a fine guide book of Abruzzi. They left early but youths hung on for most of the day. Sergeant McKirdy (5th. Green Howards) arrived, wearing white gym shoes, had cup of tea and left within 2 hours, heading south. Jugoslavians returned in evening bringing answer to our note (request for news) and also a blanket, sheet, underpants, and more jam. Now plenty of food and slept much better with extra clothes. Previously I had stuffed my shirt with grass and ferns to help keep warm.
Friday. 1 October.
Shaved. Packed for move to another cave suggested by Jugoslavians. They promised us clothes also but failed to appear. Quiet showery day. More Jugoslavians arrived (innkeeper) bringing another blanket and hot meal, plenty sugar. Returned to cave for night. Heard that Jerries thick in Guardiagrele and using road between there and Chieti for main transport.
Saturday. 2 October.
Ate early and cleared out of cave to avoid crowd. Bath in grotto. 3 Eyeties appeared – Palmino and 2 Jew-boy types who offered us food and money. Old Eyetie gave us figs. Young Eyetie gave us walnuts. Palmino returned with 6 large eggs and some grapes. Jugoslavians arrived in rain bringing 2 litre bottle of water. Plenty of rain. Sky illuminated with flashes for hours. Local Eyeties have hundreds of plans to help us but nothing material results.
Sunday. 3 October.
Rain all night. Hardly finished eating when biggest invasion ever arrives. A Russian captain (Jew internee), a red-headed Jewess and child, bringing with them Sergeant Turmayne (1st. Buffs, Royal East Kent Regiment) and Sergeant Wright (USA). Interness brought blankets, sardines, bully, etc. and offered us hand-grenades, guns, etc.,
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also a house to live in. Turned down all these offers as Jugoslavians had promised us a house and plan for get-away. Tried to persuade us to join guerrillas – nothing doing with this undisciplined mob. The Sergeants – dressed in civvies and carrying nothing said that the going was easy and that they were heading straight for frontier. (P.S. Turmayne retaken prisoner and spent rest of war as POW in Germany – heard from him later), this talk later turned out to be boloney – the Yank actually stole my underpants when I lent him my roll to use sewing-kit – louse. The Rapino Town treasurer then appeared with a Lieutenant and offered to help us in any way. Vetoed same. Palmino then arrived with an Eyetie farmer – sturdy young chap – and at dusk we were conducted secretly into Rapino, first of all edging around the town and then apparently walking straight through the centre of it. After long wait had spaghetti, wine, eggs and grapes and then taken to small granary at far side of town for nights sleep.
Monday 4 October.
Yokels soon began to push their noses around the door. Hot milk in neighbouring house with piece of dry bread. Hovel of usual type with huge fireplace, scrappy fuel, dirty women dressed in black and barefoot. Old Eyetie present who spoke a couple of words of English. Sat around creek for a while. Palmino came with civvy clothes. Danny got complete suit (blue) and later I was also fitted out. We then walked up the main street to meet the Glavan family (Mr. and Mrs. and young girl). Also to house of Constantine to hear wireless – no luck. Then taken by Palmino and Constantine to an empty farm-house owned by Angelo, with cow, chicks, rabbits, etc., below. Easily our best billet to date. Plenty of fruit around and we necked into some juicy figs burst by rain. Wonderful view of mountains and neighbouring hill-top towns. Had to listen to Angelo (’I give my life for you’) shouting his views for 2 hours or so. Very excitable type. Hot lunch in oak plantation, brought by Mr. Glavan and girl. Fetched clothes from last hang-out at dusk and on way back were invited into Glavan household where we had coffee and met rest of family. Old Lady, Mrs. Glavan’s sister and son, and young Glavan. Had supper of Eyetie bully and bread. Eyetie innkeeper came with Cheese, butter and jam.
Tuesday. 5 October.
Up late to pleasant smell of hay and dry leaves. To well for water, Breakfast and general clean-up of house. Washed underclothes and socks at spring. [Dark skinned] woman came along and drew water. At request of Glavan kids drew Union Jack, Danny, Stars and Stripes. Palmino and Richter arrived with 2 Eyetie officers in civvies. I ploughed along in Dutch and Richter in German. He has plans worked out for retreat to the mountains when the Jerries arrive and invited us to accompany him. Palmino brought lunch and later Glavan kids. My Eyetie pants falling to bits. Brew in open fireplace. Entertained by Angelo. Shave and clean-up. To Glavans for supper and yarn.
Wednesday. 6 October.
8th Army reached Termoli. Palmino brought milk. Righter and Padre arrived with a Yank Sergeant pilot who they were trying to persuade to stay. He left – bound south. Another Eyetie took away my
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pants to be patched – typical Eyetie job which I had to completely re-sew later. Learned from Padre that apart from a few escapees bulk of Chieti camp had been removed by Jerries. Meat and potato lunch from Glavans. Two larrikin-type BOR’s [British Other Rank] arrived in battle- dress (Aquilla) – drunk in town last night. Glad to see them away. Richter had arranged to take us this afternoon to see an English girl internee but failed to turn up. Evening chez-nous with stew of spuds, peppers, bully and tomatoes; roast spuds; brew, bread and jam. When we had turned in Padre arrived with a mattress. Didn’t use it. Ate a lot of walnuts today.
Thursday 7 October.
Usual fig-hunt. Whilst having breakfast Palmino arrived in a flap and said that Jerries had posted proclamations in town stating that all Eyeties found helping POW would be shot, etc. Followed by Angelo in a state of nerves asking us to beat it. Packed up and evacuated to hills in mist and drizzle. Just got into ‘dome’ hut before heavy rain, Peasant handed us bread, apples and walnuts. Palmino gave me an automatic earlier in the morning. Down to S.S. Cave as rain abated. Laid in wood and water. Found an upper cave – small, dry, no water supply, excellent view. Watched our ‘Warhawks’ shooting hell out of convoy on road to Guardiagrele. Cheerful fire and dense smoke dried us out somewhat. Fern bed and log fire all night.
Friday. 8 October.
After breakfast carted half of gear up to top cave and sat there for the day. Wonderful view – no visitors. Decided to beat it south for our lines, first of all calling in on Palmino to return his gear. Two quick brews and away at dusk, locating Angelo’s house pretty quickly. Dumped gear there in his barn and went to Glavans. Exchanged addresses and explained situation to Palmino. He had got wind of a scheme for removing POW by sea and had already collected 5 POW to take to coast. Had dinner with Constantini, his sons and daughters, (he had arranged the move apparently), dumped more gear and set off at 1Op.m. for the mouth of the river Foro, just below Francaville. Seven of us, scattered, and Palmino ahead as scout with small red torch to signal any danger at crossroads. Roughly 20 miles along a good flat road. Had two short rests and arrived at main coast road at 4 a.m. Walked down road for about 1 mile, crossed a huge bridge, turned right and set down in a damp cold field waiting daylight in a drizzle.
Saturday 9 October.
At daylight Palmino took us to a house by the side of the road where we hung around, gradually learning that in the vicinity had been collected about 350 POW who were waiting with some 50 heavily armed SAS [Special Air Service] men for the arrival of a destroyer. They had been waiting for 3 days and this was the last chance. Pennycook and Weymouth emerged from a side-room doss-house and we got our first news of Campo 21. The Jerries took over the same night as we decamped and began moving the POW three days later, Yanks first. Some 40 stayed behind in tunnels and hide-outs. Slept in opium den atmosphere for most of day. Dinner with Pennycook and Weymouth. Signalling from sea at 9 p.m., which turned out to be Jerry patrol. 4 Jerries sent ashore in dinghy and were promptly killed by the SAS men but not before the Jerries had heaved off a couple of hand-grenades. General panic end chaos amongst
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the Jugoslavian element who had rushed to be first into the boats. Captain Bailey (Officer in Command of SAS men) advised all POW to disperse and make their own way down Italy by land. After short conference with Bailey, Danny and I decided to hoof it. Met Gordon McFall. Hit the trail (alongside river) at midnight and after ploughing along for some time through muddy lanes turned into a brushwood shelter and slept until morning.
Sunday 10 October.
Somewhat discouraged at yesterday’s fiasco and the prior jettisoning of out kit. Eating apples all day. Got on main road to pass Miglianico and were accosted by middle-aged Eyetie on push-bike. Tried to shoo him off but he insisted on taking us home for a meal. Another Eyetie drew up and stated that he was a colonel and suggested we escape with him by sailing boat from Francaville. Sounded good. Hearty meal, wash and shave before a whole gallery of peasants. During meal host grew very cold on the boat deal, urged us to hurry and thankfully put us on our way to a sheep track. More hopes crushed by excitable Eyeties. Hit the road immediately and found the big sheep track. Terrific switch-back trail. Met a lot of weeping Eyetie peasant women. Near Gugliano intercepted by young girl and side-tracked. Ended up in company of young English speaking Eyetie who took us down to a farmer’s house after feeding us some big juicy grapes. Met 5 ORs [Other Ranks] down there. Meal of bread, cheese, nuts, wine and to bed seven in a row.
Monday 11 October
Breakfast in open. Bread, nuts, cheese. Away 8.30 on sheep trail. Succession of terrific ravines – real cross country mountainous going. Little rain at mid-day. Found panicky citizens at Arelli who caused us to make a wide detour. Found hospitality at one Eyetie’s place – chillies, bread, grapes. Then crossed Ortona-Orsogna ‘strada provinciale’, having temporary fright from Jerry lorry stopping alongside us, and railroad. Again hailed by farm-house and had pleasant half-hour eating grapes and out of rain. Very fine looking young Eyetie woman here with baby. Three young Eyeties on the trail also stopping here. Away again up and down the mountains, heavy with mud. Hard plugging, especially for Danny with blisters and bad knee. Had difficulty finding bed as all Eyeties around here are windy of Jerries. Turned away from several places but eventually found young soldier type willing to help us. Plenty of food, vino, and large crowd looking us over and talking 50 to the dozen. Turned in and slept through a few panics on part of neighbours.
Tuesday 12 October
Cup hot coffee and dawn start. Rain and heavily overcast. Crossed road and railway in between Castel Frentano and Lanciano. Tricky. Hit long falling track down towards river Sangro. Sheltered in barn-door from heavy rain. Arrived small one-horse village of Pasquini where we were fed and made very welcome by all and invited to stay. Tony, unofficial mayor, took us in tow and allotted a roster of houses to bed and feed us. Schoolmistress and daughter very interested in us. Ate with Tony first evening and slept at house of Camillo – a young Eyetie deserter living with his wife and mother. Accordion by Tony.
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Wednesday 13 October.
Walk to view Sangro. Breakfast then to work with Camillo felling an oak tree. New sweet wine. Typical Eyetie farmhouse with stables below, living room above approached by stone steps on side of house. Brick floor on living room upstairs resting on ‘I’ beams. Chickens roam at will. Neighbours walk in and out at will and spit upon the floor. No lavatories – use byre. Shown family photographs. In evening Jerry car shot into village. I shot out upstairs window like a dove. Hid under bushwood. Danny beat it out to the country. Jerries shouting for supplies. Collected again after panic. Old lady massaged Danny’s knee with lukewarm olive-oil, incantations, white of egg, round wooden spinning stick, and sign of ‘X’. Depressingly gloomy cottage, old boy sitting in chimney corner by small remnants of fire. Poverty. Crowd of spectators of all ages sitting on decrepit chairs. General feeling of misery all round because Badoglio has declared war on Germany. Meals at Camillo’s.
Thursday 14 October
Breakfast at School ma’am’s but supplied by farmer with toe-less son. Swing and splitting felled tree. More massage for Danny. Bed early alongside the apples and figs. Not sleeping well. Big crowd fills Camillo’s room each night to hear the news, spit all over his floor and hang around until far too late.
Friday 15 October.
Meals today with Tarzan straw-hat. Splitting logs all day with Camillo. Most gruesome shave with ancient blade. Got the rough off Danny with a cut-throat. Jerries taking cattle and pigs from neighbouring farms. Weeping farmer. School ma’am depressed at slow allied progress. Cannot understand miserable show of allied troops. BOR [British Other Rank], Durham chap, who was with Pennycook and Weymouth, arrived to pay us a call. He is staying with local Eyeties waiting for troops to pass through.
Saturday. 16 October.
Fed at old couple’s house today. Found time hanging heavy. Decided to head south again tomorrow for our lines. Enjoyed newly baked corn cake. Old girl gave us a hanky each. Clothes mended. Socks washed. Shirt for Danny and underpants for me. Hair cut each from Tony. Gave him chit for our men when they arrive. Young Yank who is being cared for by Miller came to see us.
Sunday 18 October.
Away at 5a.m. with food (chicken) and escort from Tony, Camillo, and other down to Sangro. Hissing rain and we were soon wet through, apart from river crossing. Sped South East Crossing main highway without difficulty and then descending a mountain with Atesse on our left. Heavy mud made heavy going. Struck sheep train and by midday had gone 15 miles meeting plenty of Eyeties walking in the opposite direction. Then we began to meet with all kinds of scaremongers and windies who delayed our progress to zero. Met a young Yank from Chieti who had with him a B.O.R. and an Eyetie guide. He had come down from Bologne and gave us more news about Chieti-Eyeties. From camp 21 the POWs were moved to Salmona and many escaped from there, Mordle being killed in the attempt. Then entrained for Germany when lots more jumped the train. Jock Short killed here.
[digital page 13]
After a long climb, when we almost walked into a farm occupied by Jerries, and passed over many of their telephone lines, we crossed the Vasto road and got quickly into a sparsely populated valley. Collected water from a farmer who had just been robbed of his total stock. Slept alongside haystack, some of which we dismantled for bedding. Tomatoes, grapes, bread and meat.
Monday 18 October.
According to locals we are now within 10 km of our troops. They say that the Trigno river is the line at this point. Made our way slowly towards the river by walking down the banks of its tributary (Lantella on left). Found very wide open river bed. Lot of firing and troops – decided to travel only at night. Lay up in a wooded part of the riverbed. Studied maps minutely for night hike. Ate Danny’s last Chieti homemade ration and scrounged a few tomatoes. As soon as it was dark, we took off our boots and crossed the tributary – some 150 yards. wide. After proceeding South East for a short while found that we had to cross and re-cross it again, in order to get around a cliff. Excellent starry night. Set South-East course. Came across Jerry posts on North bank of Trigno – luckily heard them first and lay quiet whilst they searched around for something with torches. Crawled through them to river bank. Crossed Trigno, feeling like a conspicuous target against the white stones of the riverbed. Wide river but not more than thigh deep. Plugged along in good light – moon having risen – following course learned by heart from map. Crossed Mafalda-Montenero road OK and hit some devilish country thereafter. Real mountain-goat work but plenty of incentive. Hit the river Sinarce valley. Followed this until daylight and came to recently vacated Jerry gun-position near farm-house. Heavy barrage going on over us through night, particularly between 4-6 a.m.
Tuesday 19 October.
Slept for an hour in farmers flee-ridden loft. Farmer ruined and miserable. Plodded wearily on down the valley eventual spotting a BOR [British Other Rank] walking across a field. He took us to his forward anti-tank post on another farm where we had beer and big meal. Thence to Brigade HQ [Headquarters] at Guglionesi and Division HQ at Termoli. Sent on to sleep at Compamarino with a bunch of ORs [Other Ranks] Drew blanket and slept in school-house. Some Jugoslavians and 2 Russians with us.
Wednesday 21 October.
Hanging around. Only help available from Padre Pike who gave us a wash, shave and breakfast. Taken to Major Tilly who saw us off in a Jeep to Foggia. Very different country. Extensive flat areas. Gross inefficiency at Foggia transit-camp. Got away eventually at 2.30 p.m. with lorry-load of ORs [Other Ranks] for Taranto. Arrived 9 p.m. and got usual bully and bread. Found McKie, McDermott, Jimmie Clemenson. Came through Bare and Brindis without stopping. Had 2 fat Jewish-looking Eyeties with us. New Zealand Transit Camp at Taranto.
Thursday 21 October.
Got battle-dress and one shirt. Cold bath. Dumped old Eyetie clothes, poor treatment. To Taranto to get battle-dress altered. Fed. Chinese waiters in mess. Major from Recce Corps here who can’t get away. Met Benntt (RCAFO [Royal Canadian Air Force Officer]) and Doctor Martin.
[Digital page 14]
Friday 22 October
Hung around in morning and collected a little pay (£6). Afternoon to docks and aboard almost empty transport ‘Aronda’ (BI [British India]). Nice ship. Expensive drinks. Good food. Got cold at last – aspirins and bed. Bad night.
Saturday 23 October.
Passed Sicily (Augusta) and picked up more convoy. Bridge-four at night with McDermott and 2 colonels. Aspirins.
Sunday 24 October.
Passed Cape Bon, Biserta, and huge convoy of Victory ships. Bad throat. Aspirins.
Monday 25 October.
Cold and blowy. Chess with Bennick and early to bed.
Tuesday 26 October.
Arrived Oran (mistaken, should have gone in to Algiers) and tied up to buoy. Lots of warships, including French Strasbourg sunk by British. Offby lighter. Taken in large Yank trucks and trailers, through long tunnel blasted in rock, to Oran station. (Oriental architecture in station). Much hanging around before train got away. Efficient Yank RTO [Railway Transport Officer]. Two Yank Colonels with mountains of luggage.
Wednesday 27 October.
Bad night in train. Travelling all day towards Algiers. Flat open country fading away into mountains, both North and South. Big farms cultivated on large scale in modern way. No hedges or walls. Large olive groves, clean and regular. Ditto vineyards. Had drink at one stop with French woman and daughter. Bumpy train. American compo rations supplied – good. Arrived Algiers at night and taken to transit Camp – race course – tents and usual barren atmosphere. Doctor Martin here met old school pal who was acting commandant whist recovering from many wounds. Hence much rum, food, etc.
Thursday 28 October.
Lost Danny – taken over by RAF and flown quickly home to England. Breakfast and away down town with McDermott and Martin to officer’s shop. Cheap. Haircut by Frenchman. Walk around town. Like small piece of London almost except buildings are cleaner. Large stores like Selfridges. To Officer’s Club. Back to camp in a hurry to see Adjutant about move home.
Friday 29 October.
Breakfast. Packed and away to docks at 11 p.m. boarded battleship Rodney and left for Greenock in company of the Nelson and six destroyers. Zig-zagged around the Atlantic and home. [Hand written note:] (to Greenock Scotland)
P.S. Sergeant McKirdy got through O.K. and I heard from him in England.
[Handwritten note:] Sergeant Turmayne and Yank friend recaptured and POW in Germany until end of the war. On December 1951 he was back in the United Kingdom, Staff Sergeant in the Buffs [Royal East Kent Regiment] and wrote to ask me to confirm that he was with a group of Partisans. His Colonel Lieutenant Colonel A.G. Geff, 4th Battalion the Buffs, also wrote. I confirmed it from my diary date and all, he was awarded a campaign medal. The Italy Star.
[digital page 15]
[Handwritten Subtitle:] Claude Weaver. [Golden Gloves Champion]
A young American who when only aged 17 years joined up in the Canadian air-force as a fighter pilot to help Britain when under heavy attack from Germany. After shooting down 15 enemy planes he himself was shot down over Sicily. We met in a Prisoner of War Camp in Italy, Chieti Camp and escaped, unknowingly at the same time. Returning to United Kingdom and fighter planes he was killed on 28th January 1944. His brother, also an airman, was also killed.
[Handwritten note:] He bought it 2 months after was returned to U.K. I believe Bill Wendt – (who also laid up when Jerries came in) – then escaped and went back on Spitfires, did the same thing in 1945.
[digital page 16]
[Poor quality photograph of military gravestone, perhaps that of Claude Weaver.]
[Possible handwritten caption for photograph of gravestone:] Claud Weaver
[Photographs of three men, the middle photograph is captioned:] P/O [Pilot Officer] Claude Weaver, DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross], DFM [Distinguished Flying Medal].
[digital page 17]
[Handwritten accounts written by Dennis (Danny) Newman.]
Civilised structure for fear if Facist turned us in the people would often be shot – Thats what the posters said.
Another thing barns were most likely to have lots of fleas!
Met an American Ranger, tells us about getting group together to meet our sub.
We had met with blokes who could arrange a small boat to take us to Yugoslavia and there were lots of Yugoslavians around. One Italian wanted to take us to “dinner at his home”. As we stepped into small house he met his wife, who looked as if she would faint right now! Ollie [Ernest Lodge] saw it and whispered “shall we go?”, but what was cooking “got the best of us”. So some kind of meat roast and potatoes and gravy and with wine made the quickest disappearance! We thanked them, gave man a chit for our troops and tumbled out of house down the little road, quarter of a mile to pass out in the sunshine by a big tree. It was, I think, a Sunday. The Jerries had just begun to use those small roads also!
After – March to the Sea Fiasco [reference to the failed attempt by the SAS to escape with POWs by sea.]
It crystallised our determination “to head south” but my knee was packing up so I said to Ollie “you will have to do it alone!”
Then the old woman and her magic cure that night by the fire and it worked for the run from the German pig hunter and for the rest of our tour south.
[digital page 18]
5th or 6th Day after stumbling over rocks and climbing over stone walls.
a. Tried a walk by late one day, saw man on porch of small house following used pathway.
‘Hi fellows how are things going?”. Cab driver in New York for many years, now home to retire.
Says look for his nail markings, quite a few Tedeschi use this train and we saw tracks.
b. First food lying up in ditch awaiting dark. Man and horse ploughing around and around. Finally he stops in front of us. We scramble up to ask for food. He gives us his whole lunch. A big beautiful sandwich cake never tasted so good. Our first food – he was so scared at first. Thought we were Germans. Said he would bring us food next morning and he did! When we told him we were Prigioniero di guerra [Prisoners of War]. Then after we found our cave, with all of its callers.
c. Two weeks and we wanted to get clothes and shed uniform. They supplied us. How they would stare at our beautiful boots, that had a mental horse shoe on the heel. Talk about a tell tail. In wet or moist soil, they, the Contridari, just had a piece of old tire with pointed front tied on with a leather thong. Bringing us food to cave when it was raining. Leaving chits when anyone helped – that they might turn in when our British or American troops arrive.
Worried about being in houses, barns or any
[digital page 19]
[Photograph of the schoolteacher, taken in 1948, mentioned in Lodge’s diary entry on 12 October 1943. Photograph enclosed by her in letter to Dennis Newman on 13th December 1973. See digital page 20.]
[digital page 20]
[Handwritten note]: original
[Handwritten date]:Forli, 13 dicembre 1973
What a joy I have experienced when I have received your letter; I thank you for your gift which has moved me and has been so useful for me! Chiefly I have been delighted to be remained so sweetly in your memory as you have remained in mine, bound by a deep feeling of human solidarity. On the “Sangro” there was war, with all its horrors, but you found there also the sun, the smile and a sister who tried to do all that she could do, even if little, all that also you would have done, perhaps for me or for my son.
Then you were a boy and you did not show your 32 years, you did not understand our language and you were fighting for liberty, especially for our liberty and I was happy to do some little thing for you and your companion. Rather when I saw you leaving, in that just far autumn morning in 1943, to cross German lines, not giving in to my advice to remain, I felt lost, I was caught by fear, by infinite sorrow.
The conclusive fight on the “Sangro” was approaching, danger was impending more and more. Few days after the Germans compelled me to evacuate. Then I delivered to the military allied Police those letters you gave me before leaving and which had to arrive at your families. I hope they have arrived.
Very nice your “Tower”, I should like to visit it, because it must be a wonderful and interesting place, but I am so far and I am not as young as then.
I congratulate you upon this nice realisation and I wish you many satisfactions. I send you a photo of year 1948 that you can enclose in your diary for completion of our story of fraternity between far shores.
Write sometimes, even if in English; I shall be very happy. Salute the other “Capitano” and I hope he will write to me, in French, I understand.
I salute you very dearly.
[digital page 21]
[Handwritten caption for photograph of schoolteacher on digital page 19:] This was the only one. A girl we couldn’t find when mama and I “went back” to Chieti (20 years later). School teacher would wave flag of advancing army! But she later found us and wanted her medal. A $20 dollar Gold Gaudens. But not being able to send gold I sent a money order for the 750.00 value. As you see she was grateful.
[Handwritten note:] Found out any gold in Italy is illegal
[Handwritten Address of schoolmistress:] Mittente: Forli, Italia.
[Repeat of photograph on page 19, cropped.]
[digital page 22]
[Handwritten note:] Complete
[Handwritten accounts by Ernest Lodge of events leading up to his being sent to the Prisoner of War camp in Chieti, Italy.]
8. Another tank had rushed down from behind the ridge hoping to be able to help but reversed back just as quickly. Meanwhile the big semi-circle of tanks approached. The extreme right-wing tank passed within 15ft of me. The captain standing up in his turret and giving us all a good once-over. He picked up a microphone and I guess calling up an ambulance, and the whole lot moved over the ridge.
9. Shortly, a German ambulance rushed up and two Red Cross men jumped out. One for me and one for the marquee hole. Mine cut off half my shirt and half my shorts, bundled me up in bandages and shortly after helping his assistant, who had attended to the officer, Jack Storey, who was later a close friend in hospital, found two dead and one slightly wounded. They apologised for not being able to take us away as they had to rush off looking for others. Soon a covered lorry arrived and took us to the central German ambulance tent. There a British Sergeant gave me a pair of shorts to take place of the rag still handing on.
10. Next morning the ambulance came again and loaded on the wounded. We passed south, within sight of the Tobruk perimeter. As some shooting came our way they hadn’t quite surrendered, but soon did. Our lorry took us to a large marquee overlooking the Mediterranean. A tented German hospital with about twenty double-level bunks, an Italian doctor and two male nurses. The place was called Derna and can be seen on the map as slightly out of Egypt. I could write a lot about the poor chaps in that tent. After about a fortnight an Italian hospital ship arrived, below Derna, the Vergilio, ex-tourist and a beautiful ship, painted white and with a big Red Cross on it. A spotless crew, hospital operating theatres, and first rate doctor. Princess so and so handing out goodies. What a break as we headed for Naples! Off-loaded there we were transported to a huge Army hospital on a range of hills behind the city, manned mostly by British doctors. Caserta the name, I should hate to describe the cases I saw there, particularly airmen who had been shot down in flames, gunners, tank-crews, all types of badly damaged Army rank and file.
[digital page 23]
[Hand drawn map showing the province of Chieti and Campobasso. Possible route taken by Ernest Lodge and Danny Newman from the Prisoner of War Camp in Chieti to Gugliones marked on the map].
[Handwritten note:] This is the map I went back for
[digital page 24]
[Left-hand side of handwritten diary entries in Newman’s handwriting.]
[margin note:] 17th Day
Thursday 7th. “Sorry boys you have to leave” says the man who would “lay down his life for us”. Tedesk [Tedeschi, i.e Germans] scare on since proclamation, so in thickish weather we push off. A couple of miserable sods we are sitting in the upper hut dodging drips. A Passing peasant drops us off a bit of pane. Food low. Back in S.S. [Sheep Shit] Cave we brew up. Cheer up and have a pea bully stew. Heartening sight to see Guardiagrele beat up by fighters.
Thursday Night. Not pleasant but no wolves.
[margin note:] 18th Day
Friday 8th. Bread, jam and coffee. Ready for the day forage for wood then move up to lookout point. Wonderful view. Mountain climbing. Return to cave, hit with idea to push on. East, Jettison uniform and head for Angelos. The key is not under stone. Indicative! We visit [Glavans]. Meet pal who is heaped on barca plan, so are we! Big meal at story boy.
Friday Night. Forced march 20 miles. Rough going.
Saturday 9th. Completely fagged. Arrived and had to squat in a field till dawn. Pal along still quite chipper. Hiding out in dangerous spot, waiting. Hearing tales of fuck up. Apparently this is no go. What a let down! Pennycook, Gordon McFall and Bill Wendt give us finale on Chieti. Jerry came in as we got out and about 40 made the grade.
Saturday night. Things get hot with Tommy guns. Grenades and jerry boats. Bailey’s advice: piss off. We walk back into a haycock till dawn. Leg gone completely. Feet blistered. Low spot.
Sunday 10th. First light, begin the walk to keep warm. Walk 5 miles along trail and road. Meets a bloke the a military [1 illegible word].
[Handwritten upside-down address:] Leo Glavan Zagreb, Jugoslavia
[Handwritten note in Newman’s handwriting:] Between the two petite ? barka, so today we pay up, wait for developments. Trail south just off here.
[Right-hand side of handwritten diary entries in Newman’s handwriting]
Sunday. After lunch the rot set in. We are shown how people get mowed down for keeping prisoners [of war]. Enough said. The boat idea caput. Very nice trail to Fogg. So we strike out. Shack up for the night with five other boys. All in one big bed in kitchen. Eat pani, nuts, vino, grapes and cheese. Same for breakfast.
Sunday night. Warm Juli.
Monday 11th. Plug on following sheep track, tough. Getting into windy quarters. Orsogna, Arielli hotspot. Push on to Langiano Castel Frontano Line. Not popular in these parts. Finally after wet muddy afternoon we ask a couple of places to get the old push. Reluctantly a third puts the ok on a touch. Eat a bit. Gab a lot and after pressing the point get a bed. Big flap just before sleep. So I swear our being turned in. The rain goes on.
Tuesday (12th). Turfed out at daybreak. Wet walking. Feet weigh a ton. Rain so we hide. Arrive in small village. Eat, get a sleep, another swing of fortune. Resting when flap meter register on. Jerries in Vicin, nothing comes of it. Good grub, jumpy night. Rest.
Wednesday 13th. Did a recce from hill. Then off for a piano bit of L’abore (taking out an oak tree) follows a rest in the sun with Ollie’s observation. “This is too easy” then the climax. A car is upon us. Jerry. Ollie goes out the window, whistle around the corner. Through fields with the herd. The boys had lost their way! Things are steady afterwards. Old girls laughs like 4 drain! Sober faces at announcement that Italy had declared war. On edge all night, rumour of new line behind us (6 kilometers). Guns planted.
[digital page 25]
[Handwritten note by the schoolteacher:] I dedicate to Dennis Newman as an affectionate remembrance of days spent in Italy in Autumn of year 1943. RS.
[Handwritten note in Newman’s handwriting:] Our school teacher friend. She wasn’t around Chieti – Guardgrieti area when we returned. This came later.
[Handwritten note:] The 2 pictures: 1 of lady school teacher [on digital page 19], 2nd of Chris [on digital page 31]. When my wife and I ‘went back’ over 20 years later (1963) we wanted a reunion (if possible) with people that risked their lives to help us. And we had so little to offer them, only, I remember, a chit to give the American or British troops when they arrives. (Took 5 or 6 months I estimate). Long after we were through the lines exactly one month from “leaving” camp 21 in Chieti.
[digital page 26]
Dear Mr Killby,
I believe I have finally got to sending this mis-mach letter. Things have been chaos, Ollie, my old escape buddy fell down and broke his hip (he was 91 and the bone splintered). They got him in hospital where he stayed 1 day!) Then with a pin in hip and still bleeding they sent him home. His daughter in England was mortified and she and her husband rented a plane and flew out to Kuala Lumpur, got him back in hospital. (I hesitate to call it that). He died. After all the medical he received after his tank was hit on by fire in desert. He had a shot in his back. Germans took him to Tobruk where its doctors treated him (for some 3 months) He eventually wound up at Campo 21 in Chieti. I tried hard to make him a Christian. So we could meet in heaven. I gave my life to Christ at 60 but had depended all
[Digital page 27]
through the war with God as my co-pilot. But the lords pattern is not for us to know. I just pray from the last book I sent by Stanley made him see the light. Tim Lahayes “left behind” didn’t do anything that I could pin down. But in these pages of war experiences perhaps you can make some sense. Your “trust” seems a good thing. Afraid I cannot be much help to you. I think someone paid for the two books on escaping. Matter of fact they are the first on the Italian Fiasco I have ever seen. I believe the Americans made a real screw up in that entire campaign. See what the scramble I have sent you, if it shows any sense. I’m pushing 88 and not too smart. Just got a hip implant in march. It’s fine. Regards, Dennis.
[Digital page 28]
(Now this picture and letter of the school teacher was the only one I couldn’t find when I returned 20 years later to the day [to Italy]. I had five people to see, so that I could give them a “medal”. It was a $20.00 Gold St Gauden. Perhaps one of the most beautiful coins the Americans ever made. Although some of the modern ones are pretty nice. I used the little note of my “tower” now a historic moment (in both federal and California) has a big bronze plaque. It was a hobby I spent 5 years on it and I saw it when I drove a model T, 10 thousand miles in 1929. It was about third built, no water, electricity or gas. I put it all in, hit a “god given” well on top. 190 ft of solid granite. 70 gals a min. The school mistress heard about our “being there”. So since I found out (after I returned to Rome) dealing in gold was illegal. Any thought to put in in a cake was taboo! So I just sent an international money order for 750.00, about the price of the coin, then she wrote a beautiful letter of thanks.
[digital page 29]
Anyone know this guy? Crissy flew straight into the deck. Canada black fog ‘85! All she wrote.
We escaped from Italy (about same time) Chris from Sulmona and Ollie and I from Chieti. After escaping returned to UK joined fighter affiliation squadron.
[margin note:] got brassed off.
Chris and I volunteered for 2nd tour converted to “lancs” [Lancaster Bombers] and both finished our 23 Ops [Operations]. Both got a M.I.D. [Mentioned in Dispatches] for that! I think. Both of us picked up DFCs [Distinguished Flying Cross]. He stayed in “bought it” on a weather flight figured in the fog. His instrument froze, so he “bought the farm”. Went for a buryon. The old man with the chopper got him!
Just wondered if any of your people in the trust might have known Chris. He told me nothing about his escape although we were close on the fighter and bomber affiliation group. We were on separate squadrons on our 2nd tours.
[digital page 30]
At Stuttgart. In trying to escape fighter. Had I made about a yard of corkscrewed starboard. The bullet that went through my windshield would have taken my head off. 1 loudly yard! Made it back to U.K. 3 hours late. Safe landing on 6 inches of snow. From 13 minutes to target. Back to emergency landing on 2 engines!
[digital page 31]
[photograph of man in RAF uniform, possibly Chris, as mentioned on digital page 29.]