At left, Stanley Thomas Dunn, 5th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment; at right, James (Jimmy) Peters, Royal Army Medical Corps. Photo taken in Camp 59, Servigliano.
My friend Anne Copley met Vanda Jessopp and her husband Peter last November at the 2017 Fontanellato–Monte San Martino Trust Luncheon in London. They have since exchanged information about Vanda’s father, Stanley Dunn, that they are allowing me to share here.
Stanley Thomas Dunn (Trooper 7908395, 5th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment), was captured in North Africa on April 8, 1941.
He was born November 6, 1919. He died February 22, 2003.
Here is the apparent chronology of his internments:
From Africa, Stanley was transported to Sicily (where the POWs built a road). From Sicily he was sent to Servigliano (P.G. 59), then Fontanellato (P.G. 49), and finally Sforzesca (P.G. 146/18). He escaped from Sforzesca and in time was able to make his way to Switzerland, where he lived in Camp d’Eoades in Arosa, Switzerland, until his repatriation.
It’s somewhat of a mystery why Stanley would have been sent from Servigliano, which was an “other ranks” camp to Fontanellato, which was an officers’ camp before being transferred to Sforzesca.
After his escape in Italy, Stanley was helped by Eric Newby’s wife-to-be Wanda Skof.
British travel writer Eric Newby, who during the Second World War served in the Black Watch and Special Boat Section, was captured in August 1942. He escaped from Fontanellato POW camp after the Italian Armistice and was befriended by Wanda Skof, a Slovenian woman living with her family nearby. Eric married Wanda after the war.
In writing to Anne, Vanda explained how she was named:
“I am sure you know of Eric Newby, who wrote the book Love and War in the Apennines. You may also know of his wife, Wanda. My Dad was at one time in the same POW camp as Eric Newby, in Fontanellato. They both escaped and were helped on their way by Wanda’s family. Eric went back after the war and married her, and I was named after her but my name was spelt the English way.”
Concerning the specifics, Vanda writes, “I have no idea really how Wanda helped my Dad. When I was a teenager he gave me Love and War in the Apennines to read, telling me that the Wanda in the book was who I was named after, as she had helped him after he had escaped during the war.”
Among her father’s wartime documents, Vanda has a document dated “Christmas evening 24th Dec 1943 8 o’clock at the Sonne Wolvertswid” and addressed to “Swiss Soldiers and British Internees.” See “Christmas 1943 Address.”
This remarkable three-page “letter” was likely the script of a speech delivered by Herr Hofstetter at a Christmas gathering at his restaurant.
Anne suggested the Sonne Wolvertswid may refer to the Sonne Wolfertswil—the Sonne Restaurant—in Flawil, a municipality in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland. “I am guessing that your Dad was put up there along with other Allied POWs.”
Vanda responded to Anne, “It was interesting to learn that the Sonne is a restaurant. I have tried to find out more about Loser Hofstetter, with no luck.”
Regarding the speech, Anne suggested, “Perhaps your Dad wrote it for him?”
Vanda replied, “I have no idea why Dad was in possession of the letter—maybe he was the only one that wanted to keep it. It certainly is not Dad’s handwriting, so that Dad may have written it is probably not feasible. I know that when he was in Switzerland he was not confined in Arosa. He was out and about a lot and he had many photographs of people in the snow and ice skaters, etc. If the Sonne was a restaurant back then, it would not be surprising if he went there for a meal!”
Vanda also has newspaper cuttings about Private James (Jimmy) Peters, Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). See “British Captives Drank Champagne.”
According to Vanda, Jimmy was held in the same camps in Italy as her father, but was repatriated before the 1943 armistice.
Vanda wrote, “Jimmy and my Dad became good friends during their time in POW camps. They stayed in touch after the war and Jimmy was my godfather at my christening in 1949. After that I have no idea what happened to him—he could well have gone to Australia.”
We can be confident Stanley was in the camp at Servigliano, as he is listed as such in “The Alphabetical List-British Soldiers C-F.”
Additionally, Private J. G. W. Peters (R.A.M.C.) listed in “The Alphabetical List-British Soldiers N-Z” might well be Jimmy. Although I cannot confirm his presence there by his service number—as we can for Stanley—that J. G. W. Peters is identified as Royal Army Medical Corps is encouraging.
Vanda continues, “Regarding the photograph of my Dad and Jimmy Peters, on the back of it is written, in my Dad’s handwriting:
Mr + Mrs S Dunn
86 Arne House, Tyers Street,
Trooper Stanley T. Dunn
Campo P.G.59 P.M.3300
“There are two rubber stamps: One is a circle containing the figures 220 and underneath a capital I. The other is the number 635.
“Mr. and Mrs. Dunn were my grandparents and that is the address they lived at as I was growing up.”
This photo is similar to one of Robert Smith and a friend, also seeming to have been taken in P.G. 59. See “British Rifleman Robert Smith.”
“Regarding Dad’s internments,” Vanda explained, “his final camp was at Sforzesca, which is near Vigevano, near Milan (not to be confused with Sforzacosta). I myself visited Sforzesca with my Dad nearly 30 years ago, taken there by the family of a young girl, Lina Cordara, who lived just up the road from the camp at the time of his escape. She had taken him home with her and when her parents came home from work they were happy to keep him hidden for a few days. She was around 16 at the time and is now 93—and is someone my Dad kept in touch with all his life. Indeed, I still receive a Christmas card from her every year.
“Lina never married and still lives in Vigevano. She is in good health and still living in her own home. She does not speak a word of English.
“My parents went to Vigevano for their honeymoon and I can remember Dad going to Italy in the 1950s to a funeral.
“In the late 1980s, Lina came to stay with Dad, accompanied by a young girl called Alessandra who acted as interpreter. Several years later we went to Alessandra’s wedding and were treated as VIPs.
“Another young girl, Sandra, stayed with Dad and later he went to her wedding—the bride and groom took him with them on their honeymoon.
“A young man, Giancarlo, stayed with Dad several times—believe he may be related to Lina.
“And there is Antonella Ferrari from Trezzano and Daniella from Parma.
“All these young people—probably now in their 40s—still keep in touch with me. Obviously, the Italians became very special people to Dad—he often said he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. His friendship with them continued throughout his life.”