Pictured above are Robert Dickinson (left) and Denis Crooks.
The 12 letters in this post were sent to me by Maggie Clarke, Denis Crook’s daughter.
Ten of the letters were among those Denis sent to his parents while he was interned at Camp 59–Servigliano. The final two were written in Camp 53–Sforzacosta. The letters are a testament to the deep friendship between Denis and fellow prisoner Robert Dickinson, who is mentioned in each of the letters.
Denis also is frequently mentioned in the log of daily events in Robert’s prison camp journal, “Servigliano Calling.”
The two men were, as Denis put it, “best of chums” from January 1942 to May 1943. When Robert was transferred from Camp 53, it would be the last time the two men would see each other, as Robert did not return from the war.
In addition to reports of what Denis and Robert were up to, the letters provide a wealth of information about daily life in camp—invention and refinement of the “blowers” the men used to warm food, the concoctions that they created from Red Cross parcel contents (see also “Robert Dickinson’s ‘Campo 59 Cookery'”), and details of a camp-sponsored “grand carnival” (see also “Carnival Time”).
(No. 11) April 12th. 
Dear Mother and Dad,
I received another two letters last week—no. 50 dated 4th. Feb. and letter-card dated 30th. Oct. and then today I had a letter-card (no. 3) dated 1st. of March, so I was very pleased. After I had written my last letter on Easter Sunday we received another Red-Cross food parcel, one between two. I and my friend Bob were very lucky, we had an apple pudding (tinned of course) and with it we each ate a pound of jam which we had bought at the canteen; we get paid here and can buy cheese and jam at the canteen. Gee! was it good!!! Amongst other things we had ½ lb. oatmeal, so on Monday the cookhouse made porridge for those who had oatmeal, and that was jolly good too. I hope these parcels come fairly regularly now. [missing text] had an extra 8 o’clock service last Sunday morn… [missing text] that. There were over 100 chaps there. The padre has [text missing] evening services every evening at 7:30 for about 10 minutes. I hope you are receiving my letters every week now, we write regularly every Sunday. Please thank everybody for their greetings, and for being so good to you at home, it must have been very worrying for you. Remember me to Michael and Joan Field, and also to Elsa and through her to Ron Gilbert. Yes, I do smoke a little, it helps to pass the time, so I’d love to get some cigarettes. We have an Italian issue every week, and also 50 English with each parcel. Glad your back is O.K. Dad, keep it up! Lot of love and kisses from Denis xxxxxxx
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