I’d like to give a shout-out to Janet Kinrade Dethick for the two most recent books she has authored. I’m pleased to now own these two excellent volumes.
Some Corner of a Foreign Field: Deaths behind the Lines in Italy 1942–5 was published in 2022 and As if he were my brother: Italians and escapers in Piedmont, 1943–1945, was published in December 2021. The first book concerns POWs who met their deaths in enemy-occupied Italy. The latter covers the assistance escaped POWs in the Piedmont region received from local families and individuals.
Both of these books represent the type of academic excellence I’ve come to expect from this author. She is a meticulous researcher and a seasoned interpreter of WWII military records.
Janet has written several books and created more than a half-dozen websites. For more on her background and accomplishments, visit janetkinradedethick.weebly.com.
Some Corner of a Foreign Field: Deaths behind the Lines in Italy 1942–5
Here is the publisher’s description of this book:
“Even after capture, the full horrors of war still persisted. Bombed and strafed by our own planes, and shelled by our own artillery, the words ‘For you the war is over, Tommy,’ had a hollow ring … November 1942, after five months in Suani Ben Adem, we sailed from Tripoli, en route to Naples. We were held in the hold of a coal boat, battened down, with only a few buckets for sanitation purposes. Packed in like sardines, we would have had no chance of survival, had the ship come under attack from the Royal Navy, not an uncommon occurrence.”
“These are the words of Private Bill Blewitt, 1st Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters, captured near Gazala in the Western Desert. He survived his capture, but over a thousand did not.
“Laid to rest alongside the battle casualties in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries in Italy are these prisoners of war. They died from neglected wounds or diseases, were accidentally or deliberately shot both inside and outside their camps or were victims of friendly fire incidents. Some lost their lives when trying to cross the mountains to freedom, and some were betrayed by spies. Some had taken up arms again, had fought with the partisans and had died alongside them. Others had been captured whilst on dangerous missions and summarily executed. Many, but not all, have a name.”
Also included in this book are: an appendix of war crimes victims, cemeteries where they are buried, and memorials; an extensive appendix of war crimes investigations concerned with the deaths of POWs, (including National Archives file numbers); extensive endnotes, and a 12-page list of sources.
Order Some Corner of a Foreign Field directly from Austin Macauley Publishers or from Amazon.com.
As if he were my brother: Italians and escapers in Piedmont, 1943–1945
In an overview of this book, Janet writes:
“Following the Italian armistice of 8 September 1943 the prisoners of war who had been held in the work camps of the region of Piedmont dispersed into the surrounding countryside. They were desperately in need of assistance—above all, of a place in which to hide from the Nazi-fascists forces bent on hunting them down.
“Despite constant threats to reprisals, Italians from all walks of life, their erstwhile enemies, were quick in coming to their aid, and strong bonds were soon formed between these young soldiers and the families who helped them. One helper wrote: We provided him with day-to-day sustenance shoes, clothes tobacco and all the necessities of life, as if he were our brother.
“After the war these helpers were invited by the Allied Screening Commission to submit a claim for expenses and the originals are to be found in the ISTORETO Archive in Turin.
“The claimants’ stories have been translated by the author of this book. They tell of friendship and fear, of farmhouses and barns set alight, of helpers being shot and imprisoned, and of clandestine organisations leading ill-clad ex-prisoners across the Alps to safety.”
At the beginning of the book, Janet writes, “Rather than the author, I am the translator and compiler of this volume. Apart from the Prologue and the footnotes, I have kept my own comments to a minimum, as I wanted to let the protagonists speak for themselves.” This is all just as well—the Italians’ stories are engaging, and often deeply touching.
Prisoner-of-war camps in the Piedmont included: PG 112/1 Ponte Stura, Turin; PG 112/2 La Mandria; PG 112/3 Settimo Trines; PG 112/4 Gassino; PG 112/5 Castellamonte; PG 112/9 Beinasco; PG106 Vercelli; PG 113 Novara; and Montechiaro Denice (a sub-camp of PG 52).
It was common for POWs in the Piedmont camps to have been transferred there from P.G. 59 Servigliano, and so over the years I have written about many of these soldiers here on camp59survivors.com.
You can order As if he were my brother on Amazon.com.
A Note of Gratitude
I can’t adequately express what a gift these two books are to researchers. In the case of the first book, Janet has navigated the National Archives, sifting through files and presenting the essence of her findings to us. Who of us has the time or financial resources to dedicate hundreds of hours to research in Kew, or knows Italian well enough to translate the documents in Turin? She has done this for us, and makes it all available at the modest cost of two books. Bravo!