Beginning of a four-page letter from Victor Parkin to Gladys Wash.
Early last year I heard from Gillian Pink about the experiences of her father, Tom Ager, who was an escapee from Camp 82 at Laterina, Italy.
Gill wrote, “In my burrowings, I discovered a letter dated 5 November 1944 to my mother from a Victor Parkin, asking if my father had arrived home safely. He said he was with my father at first, but then they separated—so he might have been the friend my father mentions in his account. It seems he got away while my father was recaptured.”
Gladys was Tom’s fiancee at the time he was a POW; the two married on his return to England.
Here is the text of Victor’s letter:
Mr. G. V. Parkin
15. Pendennis Road
5/11/44 [November 5, 1944]
Well first of all I think I had better introduce myself. I was a great friend of Tom Ager’s, perhaps he mentioned me in his letters at some time we were in the P.O.W. camp together. I should have written you before, but I had quite a difficulty in remembering your address, although Tom always talked alot about you.
I am writing these few lines to find out if Tom has come home or if you have heard anything from him. we escaped from the camp together in Sept. we stayed together until Feb. when by a little bad luck we got separated. I have been told since by another friend who was in the P.O.W. camp with us, that he was recaptured and taken to Germany.
So if you would kindly drop me a line to let me know if you have heard anything, I would gladly let you know everything that happened while I was with him, but I can tell you now that the last time I saw him, he was in the best of health and spirits, and also looking forward to seeing you. I only hope you are able to write me and tell me that he has arrived home.
I hope you don’t mind my writing these few lines to you, but I know that sometimes news of any sort is welcome, so hoping this letter finds you and your family in the best of health I will say cheerio and I shall be looking forward to a reply from you.
Your Sincere Friend
Victor [He appears to have crossed out “G. V. Parkin” in favor of signing with his first name.]
P.S. Letter writing was always my worst subject, so I hope you’ll excuse me.
Here is the part of Tom’s story Gill was referring to when she wrote, “…[Victor] might have been the friend my father mentions in his account.”
“…Three of us left [the camp] one night and struck north. Our idea was to get to the Swiss border. But we got into all sorts of difficulties on the way and we never reached the Swiss border—I don’t think we stood much chance at all. Our Italian wasn’t very good and we looked what we were—we hadn’t got wise to it—we turned round—lost one of the blokes, he was picked up. Poor kid—he was lost from the start; we had to mother him. I think he was a Scot—he was a good lad, a tea taster in Glasgow.
“The two of us got on quite nicely together; we wandered along until we met up with some other people and off we went together. We were on the way back by then—on the way back past Florence. Our idea then was to go to the east coast and try and get picked up, because we’d heard rumours that every now and then someone would arrive and pick up people—but how true it was I have absolutely no idea. But we never reached it—it was too heavily fortified. By that time my friend had gone off and I was alone.”