Bernard Petrulis’s story in the previous post ends with the poem “Prisoner Son,” which is one of the poems recorded in Robert Dickinson’s journal and presented on this site as “Servigliano Calling” Poem #4.
In Robert’s journal, F. Chiltern is credited for the poem.
The poem is also recorded in Edward Smith’s book of poems, and there, too, it is credited to F. Chiltern.
Alan Petrulis wrote that the poem “came from a small notebook full of poems in my father’s hand. I had thought he may have written them in camp but I was very apprehensive about ever attributing them to him.
“My father’s book contained nine poems: Unholy Conflict, Prayer of a Soldier, Wishful Thinking, Doubtful Future, Prisoner Son, In a Desert Outpost, Far Away Dream, Tribute to Women in an Air Raid, and The Gunner.”
Some of these poems are in Robert’s journal.
Of the nine poems, “In a Desert Outpost” is in G. Norman Davison’s notebook. And although “Prisoner Son” is recorded in Norman’s notebook—yet a fourth appearance of the poem—there the title of the poem is “Diplomacy” and the author is F. Chilton (not Chiltern).
Norman recorded an address for F. Chilton in his notebook:
8, Alfred Road
This is Norman’s mate Fred Chilton. The two were sent to North Africa on the same boat, were captured together in Libya in April 1940, and were transferred from camp to camp together, eventually ending up in Camp 59. After their time in Servigliano, the men were sent to separate camps and, after escape from their respective camps, both made their way north to freedom in Switzerland. They were later reunited in their hometown of Sheffield. The story of the friendship is recounted in Norman’s memoirs, In the Prison of His Days.
There are more poems in Norman’s book: “A Point We All Agree,” “Ten Little Foreign Lands,” “A Little Toast to Love,” “Reflections of A P.O.W.,” and “A Tribute to The Women of Blighty.”
Of these, “Reflections of a P.O.W.” is the same poem as “Reflections” in Robert’s journal (though the poem is a slight variation).
“A Tribute to the Women of Blighty” is also in Robert’s journal. Again, some of the wording is different.
These poems convey so freshly and intimately the prisoner-poets’ longing for home and loved ones, pride in country, and feelings about war and the experience of captivity that it is a moving experience to read them again so many years after the war.
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