Camp PG 66 POW Card

Hyper-linked at right below, these letters and cards were all written by Pte Tom Tunney from Camp PG 66 and PG 53 in Italy back to his mother and father back in Thornley, Co Durham.

The POWs were aware that their correspondence was subject to strict censorship, so there was a limit to what they could say. On the cards especially, there’s little more than a repeated reassurance every week that things were still fine. The letters are much more detailed and full of fascinating clues about the POWs’ daily routine. What comes across especially is their hunger for news from home.

One letter indicates that my father’s first letter from home was about three months in coming. (None of this correspondence has survived). My father paints a fairly rosy-hued view of life in the camps for home consumption: the real conditions were much more onerous. My grandparents were both very devout Catholics and this helps account for the emphasis on church services in the letters.

I’ve add specific comments to the link to each letter opposite as appropriate. Of the names mentioned in the correspondence; ‘Norman and Sid’ were Norman Cook of Wheatley Hill and Syd Shutt of Thornley, both ex-16th DLI and also captured at Sedjenane.

Nora was my father’s elder sister. Katie, was his younger sister. Leo, his younger brother, served in the RAF. Hubert, his older brother, was in the Royal Navy. Margaret, another elder sister, was an Army nurse in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service

Les Rowley, from Wheatley Hill, Co Durham served in Royal Engineers and was captured in Tunisia. He later married Katie. ‘Lloyd’ was Lloyd Saunders of Thornley. ‘Godric’ was Godric Franey, a cousin from Ferry Hill, Co Durham, who was captured with another DLI unit in the desert. His Army Number was 4457054 and via Stalag 4B, POW Number 224024, he was at a work camp of Stalag 4C in early 1945.

‘Callie’ was John Callaghan of Wheatley Hill, who served in the RAF. Peter Wilson of Thornley was an old school mate, captured in 1941, Army unit as yet unknown. Jack Kirk of Thornley was in the RASC. Eddie Lennox of Thornley was captured at the Fall of Singapore. News that he was still alive didn’t reach his family until mid-1943, and this is mentioned in one of my father’s letters here.

‘Norman and Sid are Still With Me.’ POW Letters and Cards from Camp PG 66 and Camp PG 53, March-August 1943

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Illustrated at right are the address side of cards from Camp PG 66 and PG 53to Thornley, Co Durham. The other items in the collection are as listed below:

Blue Italian POW card with ‘cross out’ message.

‘The lads are still here with me.’ The first and second POW cards from Camp PG 66, 23/3/43 and 30/3/43.

‘Norman and Sid are still with me. Also Les Rowley and a chap named George Smith from Wheatley Hill.’ The first POW letter from Camp PG 66, 23/3/43.

The Reverse, Address Side, of the 23/3/43 Letter.

Letter for 30/3/43, which mentions conditions in Africa and Thornley Band.

An Easter Message via the Vatican, 14/4/43.

Letter 29/4/43 describing the Camp Easter Carnival.

Card 4/5/43, mentions Lloyd Saunders

PG 66 Letter 12/5/43, mentions officers receiving mail

PG 66 Letter 19/5/43, ‘Bennett from Southampton’, sharing parcel with Norman Cook and learning to cook

26/5/43 Letter from PG 66, Les Rowley gets the only letter from Durham

2/6/43 Letter: remarks on receiving a first letter from home ‘Norman also had his first this morning and Les Rowley has had another one.’

4/6/43 Card, written from hospital.

4/6/43 Letter ‘All of the Lads from Durham have had letters and are more content.’

24/6/43 The first card following the move north to Camp PG 53

28/6/43 Letter: describes Camp 53 ‘The other chaps are all here as well and also a lot of our mob who were captured with me whom I haven’t seen since leaving Africa.’

4/7/43 Letter: more on Camp 53 and Camp money.

5/7/43 & 7/7/43 Cards: remarks on lack of mail from home.

14/7/43 Letter remarks on DLI man Ronnie Harris and receiving father’s letter.

14/7/43 & 28/7/43 Cards.

28/7/43 Letter Mentions Jack Kirk of Thornley and desire to go to a working camp.

5/8/43 Card

20/8/43 Card

20/8/43 Letter, remarks on news of Singapore Thornley POW Eddie Lennox.

A December 1943 Card from Bad Schmiedeberg, Stalag 4D. ‘This is the first time I have written since leaving the Stalag.’

A January 1944 Card from Bad Schmiedberg, Stalag 4D.


Camp PG 53 Card Address Side