Robert Dickinson—Books and Readers


Received 21st. August 1943.

Girl in the Dark.
Murder for Christmas
Grapes from Thorns

The following passages from Robert Dickinson’s diary in “Servigliano Calling” convey the importance of books to the prisoners. The nighttime reading aloud of books in Robert’s hut was welcome escapism—even worth risk of punishment!


Jul 9th

Denis and I bought a Penguin book “Crump Folk going Home” costing 20 Lira. A good investment, have now access to practically all the books in the camp. Reading aloud at night because of the bugs not letting one sleep; starting at 10pm till midnight.

Jul 12th

Being Sunday; dress parade all round; civilian shirts of all colours; hair greased and shoes polished. Boxing show, naturally the cooks put up the best show. The room ‘Book Reader’ put in jail for reading aloud and being out of bed at 11pm. Iti’s are scared that we are planning an escape. Always dropping in day or night. If out of bed at night in the ‘nick’ one goes; what a scramble sometimes, the signal is ‘red light’, hide all tools and look innocent.

Jul 13th

First try out with new oven, huge success: inside measurements 9 inches long, 6 inches wide, 6 inches high. Sliding shelve, hinged door and 3 walls outside mud, then hot air cavity inside, takes 2 of us to carry it up to the brewing spot. Reading at night continues, new ‘reader’.

Aug 10th

Denis received 3rd next of kin, also 2 book parcels.


Aug 21st

First Book Parcel as a POW. 3 decent books.

By August 21, 1943 Robert was interned at Camp 112/IV, a work camp in Gassino, Italy.

Sep 15th

Jerry passing through this village in convoy all night. 3 English books from Torino; Bill the Conqueror the best by P.G Woodhouse.

Did sympathetic Italians smuggle the books into the camp for them? Torino, Robert explained, was nine miles from the camp.

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