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An Extraordinary Italian Imprisonment the brutal truth of Campo 21, 1942-1943

by Brian Lett
published 2014.

This book provides a unique insight into PG 21, a notorious Italian Camp for Allied POWs, at Chieti between August 1942 and September 1943. Superbly researched and written by an experienced published author who has made the Italian campaign his speciality, it exposes shocking mistreatment by the prison staff.

PG 21 was grossly overcrowded, with little running water, no proper sanitation, and in winter no heating despite the harsh climate. Indeed conditions for the POWs, including their food and clothing, were so bad that they were debated in the House of Commons.

The prisoners suffered under a violently pro- Fascist regime. The first Commandant personally beat up one recaptured escaper. A pilot was murdered by an Italian guard following his escape attempt. Tunnels were dug, and the prisoners were even prepared to swim through human sewage to try and get out. Remarkably morale in the camp remained high due to the resourcefulness of the inmates. Two England cricket internationals staged a full scale cricket match and theatre and music also thrived.

After the Italian Armistice in September 1943, the Senior British Officer, whose conduct was controversial, refused to allow the ex-prisoners to leave the camp although a number defied this order. Germans took over the camp and, in time, most prisoners were transported to Germany. Some managed to hide, and more than half of these subsequently escaped. After the war, a number of the Camp staff were arrested for war crimes.

An Extraordinary Italian Imprisonment is a fascinating, if shocking, read and Brian Lett’s narrative skills are once again amply demonstrated.

 

 
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