British Rifleman Robert Smith

Carole Procter—who lives in Berkshire, England—provided this information about her uncle Bob.

On the back of this photo are date and place: April 5, 1944. Adelboden. Gilback Ski-jump, Switzerland. Also recorded are the names Sera, Ginger, and Bill. Carole says her uncle Bob is the second one from the left with a cross over his head. Presumably Sera, Ginger, and Bill are (left to right) beneath the other three crosses. According to Carole, “‘Ginger’ was probably a nickname—people with red hair get called that over here!”

“My uncle, Rifleman 6142045 Robert Smith, was a prisoner in this camp. I have 10 postcards written by him, the first six being from Campo 59 written to his sisters, one of whom was my mother who died in 2005.

“Robert was always know as Bob.

“The first date on the postcards is August 5, 1942 and the last is December 23, 1942. The next postcard is dated July 31, 1943 and the address is Lavoro Base No. 133/xvii. PM3100. He is still there on July 4, 1943, but a card dated August 15, 1943 he says he is in a new camp–No.133/iii.

“I know that my uncle escaped from a camp and managed to get to Switzerland where he was in Adelboden—certainly in July and August 1944—and I have photos of him there with other soldiers. It was discovered that he had TB and was transferred to Laysin. I have photos of him there dated March 18, 1945.

“He eventually came home and sadly died in 1950 of TB. He was 30 years old. I was three when he died and have only very vague memories of him—he was also my godfather.

“Bob was born in South Shields, County Durham, in 1919 and his family moved to Surrey in the south of England in the early 1930s. I think he enlisted at the beginning of the war. I have photos of him in Egypt in 1940, but I don’t know where or when he was captured. He was in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was the ‘baby’ of the family and very close to my mother, which is why she kept his letters and photos I think.

“I have also found a letter to my grandmother from a George William Beer dated July 23, 1943 saying he was with Bob in Campo 59 for two years but has now been moved and wants Bob to know he is OK. He is in a working camp getting double rations and Sundays off!”

Of this photo, Carole says, “On the back is my grandmother’s name and address and then Robert Smith. Rifleman 6142045. Campo PG No 59. PM 3300 Italia—all hand written in capital letters. I don’t know if this photo was taken in the camp or before he was captured, but it certainly looks as if it was sent from there.” Robert is on the left. We don’t know the identity of the other fellow.