'Little lizards used to be running about under the huts. We were lousy. Covered in lice and fleas. Bloody mice! You'd be taking your shirt off, getting the bloody lice off and killing them. They used to have a bloke, he was in charge of each hut, a Sergeant or an RSM. They'd take charge but they'd still get the same rations and everything else as us.'

And there were escape attempts?

'Oh, there was a few tried it. They put the buggers in the "cooler", it was like a little compartment. They were all little Itie guards. Oh, the officers used to come around, walk about, see that everything was all right.

And there were inspections?

Sometimes, aye. In the first camp we were, 66, they were huts.

Campo PG 53 PM 3300, Sforza Costa

'There are over 7,000 prisoners here, about 6,000 of them are English and the camp is filled to capacity. All the Prisoners of War use three-tier bunks. Ventilation is inadequate and light in the dormitories is too weak to enable the men to read. As in most camps in Italy, there was a complaint that outgoing mail was held up, though incoming mail is fairly regular. The wood ration is smaller than an most camps. The water supply is insufficient, some of the taps are unusable and the showers do not work. The infirmary is rather small for the number of patients, a great many of whom are suffering from skin troubles. There is a fairly large sports ground, but no recreation room or place where lectures could be organised and run successfully. An English Roman Catholic priest holds religious services in the camp (visited March).'

Official Red Cross Report quoted in the July 1943 Prisoner of War Magazine.

'And then after a few weeks, they invaded Sicily. Well, we were right near Naples, about half way up Italy, so we had to move, they moved us further up a couple of hundred miles. Trains, aye, cattle trucks. It was Camp 53 they called it. It was like a big factory, it had been built as a factory, a big high building. Oh, there was two or three thousand men in it, must have been. We had treble bunks, they went right away down. There was only about a two-foot opening in between. There were dozens of them, three men to each. All the way down, end-to-end, there were dozens in each building.

'There was some of the buggers, they'd been Prisoners of War for years. They'd took them at the beginning of the Desert War. Old Sweats! We had like a palliasse and a couple of blankets, we didn't need them, it was red hot.'

And there were study classes you could join.

'Oh aye, they had these tents, like German tents, you could button two or three of them together to make a big tent. They used to have big classes. I used to go to this bloke, he was a clarinet player. Eeh, I forget his name, but he was a professional musician and he used to give music lessons, harmony and things like that. But I wasn't very well up on it then. I'd only done about six or seven months in the band before I got called up. They had all sorts going, football teams, racing, you know, sprinting?

'We had our own doctors, POWs. We had our own padres. We had a padre, one Catholic, on Protestant. But they had a proper place of their own at the bottom end of the compound, they used to live in there.'

And the prisoners gambled?

'Oh, aye! Crown and Anchor--for cigarettes. Find the Lady. I forget how you play it, it's a board game. But there were cigarette millionaires in that camp. They had millions of cigarettes and that was the currency, you could buy anything with cigarettes. In the parcels we used to get 50 a week, I think.'

NEXT, continued

Camp PG 53 Postcard, 1943