“Servigliano Calling”—A Return to Camp 59

Robert Dickinson kept a diary, titled “Servigliano Calling,” from the date of his capture by the Germans until six months before his death (November 23, 1941 to September 3, 1944).

Robert arrived at Camp 59 on January 18, 1942, and a year later—on January 24, 1943—he was transferred to Camp 53 in Sforzacosta.

Robert’s log for his year in Servigliano is a fascinating, candid record of daily life and events in the camp.

I first learned about “Servigliano Calling” though e-mails from Robert’s nephew Steve Dickinson in April 2008.

Referring to Camp 59, Steve wrote:

“My uncle spent some time there during WW2, but was later transferred to another camp in Northern Italy. At the time of the armistice he walked out of that camp and fought with the Italian partisans until his death towards the end of the Italian Campaign.

“However, during his stay at Servigliano he kept a diary like many of the POW’s. This was found during renovations in a farmhouse [in Gassino, Italy] where the partisans had been hiding him some time after the war and returned to the family. It details the day to day events in Servigliano, football matches, escape attempts, cooking recipes, poetry, etc….”

In September, I had the pleasure of meeting Steve when we both visited the Marche region of Italy and toured Camp 59 together. Steve brought “Servigliano Calling” with him. It was a thrill to hold the diary in my own hands, turn the pages, and appreciate the beauty of its construction—the frame of the book having been fashioned by hand from brown cocoa tins.

In carrying “Servigliano Calling” with him to the camp, Steve was allowing the book to come full circle—to the place of its origin and where most of it had been written.

The Survivors of Camp 59 site contains many posts on Robert and “Servigliano Calling,” including all 34 poems written in the camp by fellow POWs.

Only a few parts of “Servigliano Calling” are yet to be posted here. Upcoming posts will offer a detailed list of the contents of Red Cross parcels received by Robert while in the camp and several pages of “Camp 59 Cookery”—recipes for concoctions the prisoners created from the parcel foodstuffs.

For the full diary portion of “Servigliano Calling,” see post “Servigliano Calling” Calendar of Events.

Steve Dickinson at Camp 59, September 2010.