“Servigliano Calling” Poem #22

The elaborate script, art deco typography, and art that decorate the titles of poems in Robert Dickinson’s journal, “Servigliano Calling,” are worthy of special attention in their own right.

Compare the drawing below of a Camp 59 lire to an actual Camp 59 lire bill; it is accurate down to the signature of Commandant Enrico Bacci.

It only takes a glance at Robert’s 1942 Christmas postcard home to his Mum, Dad, and younger brother Len to recognize Robert’s own artistry in these poem titles.

The brilliant, satirical “And They Pay Us a Lire For That” is one of three by Harry Stewart (or H. Stewart) in the journal. It’s one of my favorites.

Historian Giuseppe Millozzi had this to say about payment for work accomplished in the camp:

“Approximately fifty POWs worked in the administration of the camp. Being workers, they were entitled to double ration of food. A prisoner was the barber and he received a 60 liras pay per month. Among POWs there were numerous tailors and shoemakers who worked for a monthly pay of 30 lira.”

And The Pay Us a Lire For That

I’m really quite glad I’m a prisoner of war,
Although it seems silly to state,
We’re doing much better than ever before,
We’re far the best off, up to date,
We all look resplendent in clothes that are new.
We get lots of sauce and rice in our stew,
And we’ve none of our blinking “Arbieten” to do,
And they pay us a Lire for that.

The cookhouse fatigues here are really quite good,
And easy, or so I am told,
That’s I should say, if you dodge chopping wood,
And inside you get from the cold,
You go round and stir up a pot when you please,
And then help yourself to a large lump of cheese,
And if the stew’s thin, add a pair of split peas,
And they pay us a Lire for that.

They really look after our health quite a lot,
And look to our comfort and needs,
And p’raps when the Red Cross man’s looked at the spot,
We might get some sensible feeds,
We might swop the white wine again for the red,
And instead of muster, count us in bed,
They may even make’ em flour the bread,
And they pay us a Lire for that.

So really, I think we’re a fortunate swarm,
And just think how nice it will be,
Lazing around when the weather turns warm,
Just knocking back pints of sweet tea,
But now it’s quite warm in these beds without doubt,
And I lie there in luxury thinking about,
The poor “Iti.” sentry who’se freezing without,
And they pay us a Lire for that.

Note: Arbeiten is German “to work.”