Category Archives: Servigliano Calling

“Servigliano Calling” Poem #32

This is another of Cpl. D. Nevitt’s eight poems in Robert Dickinson’s journal.

Like several of the corporal’s other poems, “Escarpment Escapade” is a ballad of an event during the war.

Escarpment Escape:
An account of the June encounter

The dawn broke clear and crimson,
With a halo of golden rays,
As the Tommies woke up early,
For this was a day of days.
Today the “Wops” and “Jerries”,
Were to get a big surprise,
And not a pleasant one at all
By the look in those soldiers’ eyes.

At zero hour the trucks moved off,
Arcoss the yellow sand,
The sight they made, dispersed for miles,
Was nothing short of grand.
The men all joked as usual,
And sang any old refrain,
Although they knew that some of them
Would ne’er see dawn again.

They stopped, at last, to let the tanks
Wake Jerry from his bed,
He didn’t get hot coffee that morn,
But hot lead instead.
For above the roar of artillery.
Came the Besa’s deadly rattle,
And the men slide on their bayonets,
Then charged into the battle.

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“Servigliano Calling” Poem #31

This humorous poem gives a revealing peek into daily prison camp life—and behavior!

It is one of three poems by H. Stewart in Robert Dickinson’s journal, “Servigliano Calling.”

It wouldn’t quite do for the Ritz!

I’ve noticed since being “prigioneri” here,
That manners have gone by the board,
One often sees things done, quite coolly, that which
As a civvy one would have abhorred.
And really, we ought to remember these things,
Or one day our folk will have fits,
It hardly would do for the Berkeley, old boy,
It wouldn’t quite do for the Ritz!

To sit down to dinner without any shirt,
Is a habit of ours, I’m afraid,
And cleaning our teeth in a dixie of stew
And shouting rude words on parade.
You should say to the man eating lemons next door,
As pips in your coffee he spits,
It hardly would do for the Berkeley, old boy,
It wouldn’t quite do for the Ritz!

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“Servigliano Calling” Poem #30

“The ‘Bluebell’ Must Go Though” is one of eight poems by Cpl. D. Nevitt recorded in Robert Dickinson’s prison camp journal.

The “Bluebell” Must Go Through

I’ll tell you all a story
That’s ne’er been told before,
Of how our gallant merchantmen,
Are helping win this war.
T’is the story of a convoy,
Of a dozen ships at least,
That were bringing ammo and the “bluebell”,
To troops in the Middle East.

The Navy supplied an escort,
With some of their finest ships,
And the Admiral wrote out an order,
For this was a trip of trips.
“My men I send you a message,
To every ship and its crew,
No matter what may befall you
The ‘Bluebell’ must go through!”

“Though you be bombed by hundreds
Of Heinkels and Messerschmidts,
All must stick to their stations,
Even if the ships are in bits.
We may be attacked by cruisers,
By battleships and submarines too,
But never forget your orders,
The “Bluebell” must go though!”

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“Servigliano Calling” Poem #29

This gem of a poem is one of four by A. Forman (including one he co-authored with C. G. Hooper-Rogers) in Robert Dickinson’s “Servigliano Calling.”

The title of this poem plays on the popular idiom “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,” meaning that wishing for or wanting a thing is not the same as getting it.

If Wishes were Horses

The Red Cross came to our prison camp,
To hear complaints and such.
Two thousand voices spoke at one,
Resulting in “plain Dutch.”

But with the help of interpreters;
Pro-Iti’s not the word,
He made some sense of all our din,
And this is what he heard.

Our first complaint was breakfast,
We miss our ham and eggs,
And by the time our lunch is up
We’re knock-kneed round the legs.

And then ten-thirty seems the time
For team fruit-cakes, and buns,
The tea we’ve got, so send the rest
Big, fat, and well baked ones.

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“Servigliano Calling” Poem #28

“‘Gonna’ Win,” is one of six poems by C. A. Hollis recorded in Robert Dickinson’s “Servigliano Calling” journal.

“Gonna” Win

When you’re feeling blue,
And you don’t know what to do,
And prison life to you seems such a bore.
When you’re feeling out of sorts—
Making hasty, bad retorts,
Just remember, that we’re gonna win this war!

Though you’ve lost your place in battle,
And you’re penned in just like cattle,
And your pride has been battered pretty raw.
Though you haven’t got your guns,
You’re still old Britain’s Sons,
And remember, that we’re gonna win this war.

You have done your little bit,
Though you didn’t make a hit,
Your pals are sure to add it to their score.
So lay a double bet,
It’s victory they will get,
For aren’t we going to win this bloomin’ war?

And someday you will find,
When you’ve left this life behind,
And the “Wops” have shown you where’s the door.
That you’ll say to your sons,
The new Brittanic ones,
Old England always wins a blinkin’ war!

“Servigliano Calling” Poem #27

This short work is the only poem by J. R. Cromley in Robert Dickinson’s “Servigliano Calling” diary.

It’s a simply stated—but heartfelt—observation.

It’s Principle Makes the Man

A man without principle
Is as a tree with no leaves,
A rose with no perfume,
Torrid day without breeze.

For principle is the spirit
Of the man that’s within,
Should he lack this fair jewel,
He makes life a sin.

Let it burn like a beacon,
Through his daily life;
He can make it a signpost
Midst trouble and strife.

“Now what is this principle?”
Fools often shout.
It’s the inner-man
Guiding the outer, about.

“Servigliano Calling” Poem #26

Aside from the entertainment provided by C. A. Hollis’s “Our Prison Canteen,” this poem is interesting as a snapshot of one aspect of prison life—the long wait in line to be served at the canteen and the disappointment when supplies sell out!

Of interest, too, are the foods the poet lists as available at the canteen.

Historian Giuseppe Millozzi has this to say about the Camp 59 prison canteen:

“The camp shop was open at the following hours:

• Morning 8.00 – 10.00
• Afternoon 13.30 – 16.00

“As time went by, besides the usual items, the shop started to sell wine and more and more POWs called it canteen. Takings were used to cover part of the camp expenses.”

Our Prison Canteen

In our camp, there is a queue,
Of men eternally waiting.
And if you want ought, you’ll wait too,
Each hour, fresh hopes creating.

Polony, oranges, cheese, and jam,
Will there be enough
To serve these men, and also me.
Now “Tutti” do your stuff.

The system’s bad, and blooming slow,
Two Italians, only serving,
Hooray!, only a hundred more to go.
It really is unnerving.

Perhaps one day, I’ll reach the door,
Before they’ve sold right out,
Maybe tomorrow they’ll have some more,
Till then, right turn about!

Salami, oranges, cheese and jam,
I never get a “Smell”,
With all these men in front of me,
Oh! “Tutti” go to hell!

“Tutti” was the nickname given to a Rhodesian, who acted as interpreter at the Canteen.

Note: Tutti in Italian means “all” or “everyone.” Polony is another name for Bologna sausage.

“Servigliano Calling” Poem #25

“The Link” is one of six poems by C. A. Hollis recorded in Robert Dickinson’s journal.

The “capturing chains” that link letter writer to reading prisoner is an unusual way to acknowledge the humanity that allows mail between loved ones to flow even in the worst of situations.

Perhaps the grateful serviceman pictured is a self-portrait of Robert.

The Link

There’s a time when we are happy,
T’is the happiest hour of the day,
When our capturing chains link us
With our homeland far away.

This link brings words of comfort,
Of friendship, and good cheer,
It brings to us the fondest thoughts
Of all who hold us dear.

They come from Town and City,
Wherever freedom flows,
The message that keeps us smiling
The smile, once surrender, froze.

They help us to remember
Each English hill and dale,
And each night our hearts whisper
Thank God for our mail.

“Servigliano Calling” Poem #24

“Army Slang!!!” by C. G. Hooper-Rogers and Alec. Forman is the only poem in Robert Dickinson’s journal credited to two poets.

C. G. Hooper-Rogers authored two other poems that Robert recorded in “Servigliano Calling,” and Alec. Forman (or A. Forman) authored three other poems.

The colloquialisms in this poem might have been lost to time except for their having been defined here.

Army Slang!!!

You’ll hear these words in any mess,
The meanings they are hard to guess;
“Pass the muckin”, you’ll hear a mutter,
When all meant is pass the butter.

If mess-orderlies do they duty,
They’ll keep you supplied with “Rooty”,
Supplied with Rooty? what’s that? you said,
Why rooty’s only just plain bread.

“Char and wads”, you hear them yell,
T’is a thing all Naafies sell;
Hindustani is from whence it comes,
They’re only ordering tea and buns.

“Tucker”, “grub”, “konner”, “skof”,
Food is all they’re talking of,
“Pawney” now that is a snorter,
But that and “moyer” is only water.

With “eating irons”, you play a tune,
The instruments—knife, fork and spoon,
“Gunfire please”, you’ll hear a shout,
When tea is being talked about.

So when you hear these words again,
Your face doesn’t screw up in pain,
Remember that we soldiers roam,
To other lands besides our own.

“Servigliano Calling” Poem #23

This ballad of heroism by Bdr. P. G. Whapples would have had special significance for Robert Dickinson, who was himself a gunner in the Royal Artillery.

The crest Robert drew to illustrate this poem is the same crest that adorns his grave marker at Milan Military Cemetery.

The Artillery’s motto, “Quo Fas et Gloria Ducunt,” translates “Where Duty and Glory Lead.”

The Gunner

Come sit by my chair lad, I’ll tell you with pride
Of my brave Gunner comrades who fell at my side,
Who stuck to their posts—the smouldering guns
Spewing destruction to those vile hated Huns;
In that thick desert heat—no where else can compete
Only Egypt and Lybia (one’s out in his feet)—
Through the smoke and the shell from my side came a yell;
I looked at old Brummy-Stone, dead as he fell;
Our No. one gone—leaving five, four, and three,
And a good pile of Ammo and with it was me.

The Jock gave a shout and said “Pal, count me out”
There’s a pain in my legs—the Devil’s own gout.
With a quick glance at Mac he was there on his pack,
With his “Scotland Forever ye’ll nae see me back”;
With our gun going well but leaving just three;
We were madmen from Hell when a sniper caught me.
I was game for a “do” but “lie still” from the two
Made me realize—my soldiering was though.
The Gerry came on in spite of the strain,
Towards our old gun-pit, but those two remain;
Old Jordie is hit, I could tell by his grin,
Just as I guessed—a great gash on his chin.

He was told to lay off but said “not on your life!
All’s fair in war but not to my wife;
It’s just them or me; I’ll not move an inch.”
He died like a Hero, not even a flinch;
Poor old No. three was doing his best
When all of a sudden the whole Gun went west,
But not by the Gerry—but old Number three
With a round in each end he destroyed it you see.
So listen! my lad—if a soldier you’ll be
Join up and be proud of the ARTILLERY!