Category Archives: Life in Camp 59

Huts and Sections

Italian historian Giuseppe Millozzi, in his dissertation Allied Prisoners of War in the Region of the Marche and Prison Camp at Servigliano, offers this description of Camp 59 as recorded in the Swiss Red Cross inspection report of May 1, 1942:

“The camp is formed of 16 wooden huts on concrete foundations. The rooves are tiled. Of those 16 huts (30m. X 10m.) 14 are occupied as dormitories, one as a store house, and another for recreation […] There are also three brick buildings; one used as a sick bay, another for shower baths and the third as a kitchen.”

Millozzi goes on to say, “Dormitories were sufficiently lighted thanks to 14 shutter windows, they had electric lights but there was no means of heating. Other ranks dormitories had 70 bunk beds, those for NCOs [non-commissioned officers] had 62 bunk beds. Each prisoner received a pillow, sheet (washed once a month in laundry), three blankets and a straw mattress which was regularly changed.”

From Armie Hill’s record of the men in Hut 4–Section 11, we can deduce:

There were 36 men in a section (including one man who was given the responsibility of overseeing the other 35). Men in the huts, or dormitories, were identified by “B. No.” (which might indicate bed number). Armie’s section numbering starts at 361, which is evidence that each of the preceding 10 sections were composed of 36 men.

The Red Cross report indicates the camp had a capacity of 2,000 men.

An Unpaid Bill for Onions

This note reads:

“SEC. No 11. received from Canteen 30 KILOS of onions at 3 LIRE per kilo TOTAL LIRE = 90 Lire To be payed on the 16/9/43.

“8/IX/1943 [signed] Armie Hill Sec. Sergt.”

This scrap of paper, which was both a receipt for onions received and an I.O.U. for payment owed, was in Armie Hill’s pocket when he escaped from Camp 59 on September 14, 1943.

Armie was the Section 11 “section sergeant,” the serviceman who was put in charge of the 35 American servicemen who lived with him in Hut 4—Section 11.

The date of the receipt is written 8/IX/1943, seemingly a combination of Arabic and Roman numerals. If this is the case, then the transaction date was September 8, 1943—the day the Italian Armistice was signed.

And the due date for payment was September 16, 1943—two days after breakout from the camp.

It’s interesting to learn the price on onions from this slip (paid for in special Camp 59 POW money, of course), and to know that at least on occasion purchase of food on credit was allowed.

The POW Cook Stove

In March of this year, ex-POW Neil Torssell sent me this diagram of a handmade Camp 59 cook stove. He labeled the parts of the stove: 1) fire pot, 2) air shaft, 3) blower pot with crank and fan blades, and 4) pulleys. Sketch 5 is a top view of the fire pot, showing supporting wires to hold the wood and fan blades under the wires for fast heating.

All parts were crimped together, he explained, as screws and solder were not available. Some of these burners were mounted on wood—when wood was available.

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Mail Sent from the Prison Camps

Each POW was entitled to send one postcard and one letter from camp each week. The letters were an early form of aerogram, a lightweight piece of paper that became its own envelope when folded. Note the shape of the following aerogram sent by Armie Hill from Camp 98 on Sicily to his mother.

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The following postcard was sent by Armie to his mother from Camp 59. Note the letters and cards are lined with 24 lines and 10 lines, respectively, thereby limiting the writer’s message space. Note also that the correspondence bears the stamps of both Italian and U.S. censors.

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