Campo P.G. 21 P.M.3300 Chieti – inspection report.

Aug 28th, 2012

As is often the case with POW letters home the truth of the conditions the men were enduring tends to be glossed over for obvious reasons. They would not want to upset loved ones at home with dreadful details and all the letters were censored by the Camp authorities.

Some camps were visited by the Red Cross however and here is a report about Campo P.G. 21 Chieti at the time Wilfred was there.

1,328 prisoners of war are detained in this camp. This can be considered as grossly overcrowded. Since the previous visit stoves have been installed and are reported to have functioned quite well.

There are now two British Doctors in camp, otherwise there has been no change. Living accommodation is certainly not fit for British Officers. The only furniture in the whole camp is a few tables. almost all the Officers have to use the two tier wooden beds, and there are no cupboards or lockers in which to keep personal belongings.

The water supply is still absolutely insufficient, water being turned on only for about 30 minutes daily, although there is ample water in the wells at this time of year.

Messing in the camp is described at the time of the visit as “disgraceful”, cooking utensils being non existent. Food is brought to the dining room in big cooking kettles. Light in many of the Barracks is do weak it is impossible to read after dark.

Other ranks have no recreation room whatsoever. It is said that the  Camp Commander was aware of these deficiencies and did all he could to improve matters , but that he was unable to do very much. Medical treatment by the two British Doctors and the Italian doctor is said to be satisfactory.

Clothing conditions can now be considered good.  A great number of next of kin parcels have recently arrived. In view of the really bad conditions at this camp, the visiting delegate proposed that it should be closed unless improvements could be made in a very short time.

July 1943

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Wilfred’s last letter from Italy.

Aug 26th, 2012

18 August 1943.

My Dear Harvie,

At this date everything is developing in the most exciting way and we are very cheerful indeed. We get news over the Italian radio which is translated and posted up for us. It seems likely that I will beat Miles on the home run, and that  pretty soon: but you never can tell. This year completes a year at this camp (fifteen months as a prisoner) and I have been well treated here. I am fit, brown and of normal weight – this is a great thing for a prisoner of war and now nothing can undo the benefit of the last year. During July and this month the weather has been very hot indeed, much as it was in Monte Carlo when we were there, but soon it will be fresh again but still hot. One can sunbathe nude until November and then begin again in March. I am going to live in this Mediterranean area, by the cleanest, bluest, loveliest of all seas, and in a practically perfect climate. I am in love with this constant brightness and the sight of green and smiling lands – even Cairo, after months of the desert, was like a dream.

Recently I had four letters from you, May 14 to July 5, and I was very pleased to receive them. You seem to be busy with work, visitors and so on bu I am glas you are well. I was amused at Auntie Emma getting back all your letters to me. Hoping that all goes well still. AU REVOIR!

Wilfred

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Now that the Italian Government has so happily changed …

Aug 26th, 2012

[Another postcard – admin]

31 July 1943

Now that the Italian Government has so happily changed one looks forward to great events – and we are all in high spirits as the newspapers say. I am very well, as usual, and hope all is well with you too. This month I have had two Rothman’s parcels, thanks very much, also a letter from you and one from Mrs Walker. Best wishes

Wilfred

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Positive about release and coming home!

Aug 26th, 2012

14 July 1943.

My Dear Harvie

I have to thank you for another letter and for the third parcel  of 1,000 cigarettes from Rothman’s which arrived this week – very welcome indeed, the more so as I had been without parcels (though not entirely smokeless) for several weeks. I hardly expect to get many (if any) more parcels from this date, as no doubt the railways will be abnormally busy under the circumstances. Recently I had from Hilda a letter which only took 14 days to arrive – she said that Auntie Bertha’s furniture fetched £1,700, not bad going. I am glad to hear from Billy that cotton shares are twice the price they were in 1940. I f they are more I think I shall sell out after the war. I shall be very glad to be back in blighty and it may not be so long now before the war is over, but I do not think I shall live permanently in England. I cannot praise too much this wonderful Mediterranean climate, the long , hot, clear days, the exhilarating mornings and the beautiful evenings, the pleasant constancy of it all. One becomes used to sunshine and I could never live, for instance, in Manchester again!

I suppoise I shall see many changes when I come home again, having been away from blighty for more than 2 1/2 years, but it will be pleasant. I am very well and carrying on as usual. I hope everything is well with you and at Belle Abbey.

Wilfred

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Impatient to be home.

Aug 25th, 2012

3 rd July 1943

I am pleased to have had this week a letter from you and one from Hilda (dates may 1 st and 20 th respectively) and am glad you are all well and having a bit of summer. Billy tells me that Cotton shares are twice the price of 1940, very satisfactory. I am well and quite impatient to be home. But I shall live eventually far in the south.

Wilfred.

[This letter is on a postcard or Cartolina Postale – Admin]

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Work as a sanitary orderly.

Aug 25th, 2012

2 nd June 1943.

My Dear Harvie,

Many Happy Returns of July 2 nd. I too have just had an anniversary: last week I finished my first year as a prisoner of war, and though I hope not to complete a second year, I must admit that the time has gone more quickly than I would have thought possible. In any event the worst is over now.

Emma told me how well the sale at Ash Grove had gone. [The contents of Auntie Bertha’s house – Admin] No private people had a chance , she said, for the buyers were there from Kendle’s, Warings and so on. This, I take it, is an indication of what prices will be like for some time: but I am glad you and Gilbert did well out of it. [Harvie and Gilbert were left the house contents – Admin]

I have had neither mail nor parcels recently and I look forward eagerly to the third consignment of cigarettes from Rothman’s, and also my second clothing parcel from Hilda. I had an old one from Emma last week, sent from Egypt through Geneva.

I write this lying in a pair of shorts only, in the hot midday sun. I am quite brown all over, otherwise I would not risk it; I began sunbathing weeks ago, ten minutes each way at first, and so now I can bear it all day if I wish to do. Every evening I walk round the camp with another fellow to the equivalent of  three or four miles. That and my work as a sanitary orderly, slinging buckets of water round a huge lavatory twice a day, and cleaning acres of white tiles, keeps me pretty fit. I am well, sunburnt and of normal weight. What more can I say except that I am quietly optimistic as well? I am learning Spanish, too, and this is another good pastime. Hoping to see you sometime this year (you never can tell) and with best wishes

Wilfred

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Rothman’s Cigarettes.

Aug 25th, 2012

14 th April 1943

My Dear Harvie,

I was very pleased to have your letter of March 17 th  written at Gatley when you were clearing out Auntie’s house (and also a previous one, undated) and delighted yesterday to receive the first parcel from Rothman’s containing a thousand cigarettes.Thanks again very much indeed for this thought. Cigarettes are a great consolation of this prison life and one cannot have too many for, of course, one shares them round as other people also share theirs: and consequently, thanks to the many parcels now arriving, we are hardly ever without plenty to smoke.

Gilbert was probably right to sell Ash Grove again, especially at that profit, because he would never have lived in it himself. Which of us wants to  live again in the soot of Manchester? For my part I am already half inclined to live abroad in the sun – maybe in Switzerland – because I am now used to sunshine and a clear atmosphere. And I ask myself whether it is worth paying 50% income tax to endure what you describe as “long dreary winters”, when they can be so pleasant elsewhere. But all this is a problem for the future, though I hope it will not be too long before I am solving it.

You yourself will no doubt be glad to have Auntie’s Estate further cleared up. I note that you have credited my account: I should be quite rich when I arrive home again! I am quite well and cheerful, looking forward quite eagerly to our release: and the weather once more like midsummer at home. with thanks again and best wishes.

Wilfred

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First winter of captivity.

Aug 25th, 2012

31 st March 1943

Dear Harvie,

I am sorry to hear that your engagement to Norah has been broken – perhaps for the best – I doubt that you were strong enough for all the cares that matrimony would bring. Maybe peace and quiet would serve you best in the long run. I myself warned Pat when I was in England that some men felt an almost equal pull between the altar and the monastery: and she remarked in a letter that she would not be surprised if, in my case, the monastery won.

Now it is spring and I have come well and luckily through my first (and I hope last) winter of captivity – this is the eleventh month and I have had enough. I often think of you and your cottage, of Belle Abbey and Gatley, Didsbury and St. Annes – so much has happened since mother died – and I shall hardly believe it when I am released though we think of nothing else. I have had cigarettes now from Pat, Emma, Dollly and Hilda and am daily expecting your own generous order to start arriving. I am quite OK and looking forward as ever.

Wilfred

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Parcels are frequent.

Aug 25th, 2012

20 th March 1943.

Very grateful for your pleasant steady flow of letters. Have now had clothing parcel and several of cigarettes from Pat, Hilda, Emma. I expect yours daily now parcels are frequent. Spring rather dull and wet here but delightfully warm. I am well and cheerful and hope you are all right.

Wilfred

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Map of Prisoner of War Camps in Italy showing P.G.21 Chieti.

Aug 25th, 2012

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