This photo of Stanley Taylor was sent to me by his daughter, Barbara Chapman. Written on the back of the photo is this information:
TAYLOR. STANLEY. L/BDR 1555824.
P.G. 59. PM. 3300
MRS. M.A.E. TAYLOR.
81 ASTBURY ROAD. QUEENS ROAD.
PECKHAM, LONDON. S.E. 15.
I exchanged several e-mails with Barbara Chapman of Worcester, England, last month.
“Please find attached a photograph of my father, Lance Bombadier Stanley Ernest Taylor, 1555827, Royal Artillery, along with the reverse giving his POW details. My Dad died in June 1973, and all I have are photographs which he’d kept of my Mum and some taken in Africa prior to his capture. However, on the back of these photographs, all rather faded, are details of his capture and also a brief diary. I have to admit for a while I thought it was a shopping list, until I looked closely and realised there were dates, etc.
“Dad’s records from the Ministry of Defence state he was a POW in Italian hands from December 29, 1941 to November 2, 1944.”
According to information on the back of a photograph, Barbara explained, “He was in Naples on the January 26, 1942 and first went to Capua before transferring to Campo 59 on March 11, 1942 (I have an identical picture to the attached photograph dated November 23, 1942).
“I know he escaped from the camp and made his way to Switzerland where his records state he was located on November 2, 1944. I also have a certificate regarding this stay in Switzerland. The faded details on a photograph read: ‘Degersheim, St Gallen, Suisse.’ What I don’t know is what date he escaped, though, I imagine from what little he said, that it was probably winter and he was in woodland and it was cold.”
Barbara explained that her father might have perished, “had it not been for the local Italians, who he regarded very highly. As he said ‘they didn’t know us,’ but they risked their lives by leaving bread and cheese out for the escapees knowing that if they were caught they would be shot.”
“He always said he would have loved to have gone back to thank the locals. Unfortunately, he never made it. Maybe it is up to me to make the journey before it is to late!
“Dad didn’t keep in touch with anyone after the war. I think he felt it was a job done! To be honest, he needn’t have joined up as he was a fireman in the London Fire Service and he was 31 when war broke out.
“His medals were among my toys,” Barbara explained, “and got lost when my Mum moved so I don’t even have them, and I can’t get replacements either.
“I did visit the Imperial War Museum in London yesterday and ‘picked’ their brains as to getting more information, and I now have an email address for Red Cross. Unfortunately, they tell me it can take up to a year to get answers, as they are digitilising all their records.
“I think the next stop will be a visit to our National Archives near Kew in London. To be honest had I not got official paperwork from the Ministry of Defence I would wonder if my father even went to war as I keep coming up with dead ends with various websites in spite of having the necessary information regarding unit, army number, etc.!”
I wrote to Barbara, suggesting her father might have been transferred from Camp 59 to a work camp in northern Italy before the Italian Armistice and the September 1943 breakout from Camp 59.
She wrote back:
“Your suggestion regarding moving from Camp 59 might have happened, because the mileage between Camp 59 and St. Gallen [Switzerland] is 823 kilometers, which seems a hell of a journey. But then, I guess it was a case of needs must!
In a later e-mail, Barbara wrote:
“I have taken the opportunity to look at Mum’s photograph again and note that someone has written the date August 31, 1943—I am wondering whether this was the date that he got moved!
“I happened to look at another photograph, one of my mother, which she sent to Dad. I’d assumed that it was sent to Camp 59 but I suddenly realised that the address is different: P.G. 146/XVIII P.M. 3100.”
A Wikipedia entry indicates that P.G. 146, near Verona, in the Lombardy region, was a labor camp for 250 prisoners, mostly New Zealanders, but also English, Scots, Egyptians, South Africans, Americans, and Indians. According to the Wikimedia entry, the camp consisted of 14 satellite work camps at Isola della Scala, Lazise, Mozzecane, Vigasio at San Bernardino, Montecchia di Crosara in the Cava Basalti stone farm, Legnago/Vangadizza at Rosta, Zevio at Villa da Lisca, San Martino Buon Albergo, Bonavigo, Oppeano in the Mazzantica Village, Mozzecane near the church, and Angiari. The camp was closed following the mass outbreak of prisoners in the days after the Italian Armistice was announced on September 8, 1943.
Here are notes Stanley Taylor penciled on the back of a photograph (shown above) regarding his capture and internment on the back of a photograph. Some words are illegible, but much of it is clear.
Captured 28th December 1941
S. E AG_DA__ [This unclear word may be a place name.]
ARRIVED TARHUNA [Libya] 1 January 1942
___ NAPLES 26.1.42 [January 26, 1942]
___ NAPLES 28.1.42 [January 28, 1942]
CAPUA P.O.W.C. 2.2.42 [February 2, 1942]
[Capua is a city and comune in the province of Caserta, Campania, in southern Italy. It is 25 km (16 mi) north of Naples.]
R.C.P. 12.2. R.C.P. 26.2. [This must certainly refer to receipt of Red Cross parcels on February 12 and February 26.]
CHANGED CAMP 10.3.42 [March 10, 1942]
ARRIVED DI SERVIGLIANO 11.3.42 [March 11, 1942]
Rat_____ Reduced 13.3 [March 13] Approx 50% _______
R.C.P. 14/3. [March 14] 1-3 Play [probably referring to Player’s cigarettes, the brand usually sent in British parcels] & M.I.C. [or M. &. C] 18/3 [March 18]
R.C.P. 3/4 [April 3] 1-2 VRoom 59 22/3/1942 [March 22, 1942]
Sports & Football 16-3 [March 16]
Sports 6-4 [April 4]
Sports & Foot 8-4 [April 8]
Small Even Service
In memory of fall of
Muhele 8-4 [April 8]
Sports & Foot 10-4 [April 4]
Church Service 12/4 [April 12]
3 H sung same as
were being sung in England
Very good service
[It seems likely H is for hymns.]