It seems that just yesterday I advised followers to “mark your calendar” for a September 2023 eightieth anniversary celebration of the Italian Armistice—and subsequent POW camp breakouts. (See “Mark Your Calendar for September 2023.”)
Amazingly, we are now four months away from this wonderful event, co-sponsored by UK-based Monte San Martino Trust and the Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS), in conjunction with Casa della Memoria in Servigliano. Details of the program are set and excitement is growing!
The September 7–10 program will be packed with activities that you can pick from, but there will be plenty of time for socializing and discovering local food and wine as well.
A Special Reason for Americans to Attend
In January 1941 the internment camp at Servigliano, which had been constructed as a First World War POW camp, reopened as P.G. 59. The first prisoners were Greeks; but soon the Greeks were transferred and the camp filled with Allied soldiers who had been captured in North Africa.
Records show that through the end of 1942 there were only a handful of Americans in the camp, but beginning in January 1943 there was a sudden influx of American captives.
By the end of August 1943, 236 of the 490 noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and 814 of the 949 enlisted men in the camp were American. (See the MSM Trust/Istituto Nazionale Ferruccio Parri website Allies in Italy for a month-by-month count.) By then most British and Commonwealth soldiers had been transferred to camps farther north, including work camps in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. So at the time of the September breakouts, P.G. 59 interns were overwhelmingly Americans.
Over the years many Americans have shared with me how a father, grandfather, or uncle had escaped from P.G. 59. Some of these contacts had visited Servigliano; a smaller number had connected with descendants of the Italians who protected their family member on the run.
Most have not made connections, but expressed a desire to one day visit Italy and see the camp. The trip, they tell me, is on their “bucket list.”
If this sounds familiar, I’d like to suggest this event could be the perfect time for your visit.
The occasion will be a rare opportunity in that:
- Although ELMS and Monte San Martino Trust have sponsored events in Italy for many years, this is the very first time such an event has been planned for Servigliano. The Italians of Casa della Memoria (the group dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Camp 59) are very excited about cosponsoring and are hoping for a robust turnout.
- The event will be a chance to learn and ask questions. There will be a variety of short presentations by researchers and authors. There will also be opportunities to meet Italians whose families sheltered POWs on the run, and bus visits to nearby communities and daily walks through the countryside traversed by the escapees.
- The daytime sojourns will take you to Smerillo (where Letizia Galiè in Del Gobbo hid and cared for two American POWs); a memorial in Montelparo where Sidney Seymour Smith lost his life while on the run; the villages of Ponte Maglio, Montefalcone, and Comunanza, and to neighboring POW Camp 70 and Villa Salvadori.
- There will be ample time during and between events for participants to interact with one another and special guests—which will include the Right Honourable Edward Llewellyn, British Ambassador to Italy and San Marino.
- From the time Camp 59 was designated a National Memorial by the Italian Senate in 2021 there has been a surge of interest in the camp and its history. Be a part of the excitement!
In 2010, I first visited P.G. 59—where my father, American Sgt. Armie Hill, was a prisoner. It was a deeply moving experience to walk within the stone wall enclosure and know that my dad was captive in that very space as a 25-year-old.
Over the top of the walls I could see the same cultivated hillsides and vineyards he looked out on nearly seven decades earlier.
It was no less than a spiritual experience. I treasure the memory of it, and I since returning home I have reflected on it time and again.
I’ll be returning to Servigliano this September as a guest presenter; I’ve been invited to talk about camp59survivors.com. I’m hoping to meet in person a number of the people I’ve gotten to know over the years through email correspondence.
Please try to join us! For more information or to register for the event, contact Anne Copley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The attached PDF highlighting “The ‘undiscovered’ charms of Le Marche,” which Anne authored, provides an overview of Le Marche history and culture, a brief history of P.G. 59, and helpful information on transportation, food and wine, and accommodations.
Having spent a little time in Le Marche, I can attest to it being one of the beautiful places I have ever visited—the landscape is breathtaking!