Category Archives: Robert Smith

A Kind Letter from the Past

This letter, from the town of Oleggio in northern Italy, dated May 5, 1947, was most likely sent to Bob Smith’s mother from the family whom he stayed with in Italy before his escape.

(The other two pages of the letter are at the bottom of this post.)

According to Bob’s niece, Carole Procter, “It was obviously a farm and I think it was probably the one he was allocated to from the POW camp, rather than the one he hid in when he first escaped, although that is only a feeling—no proof either way.

“The name at the end of the letter looks like J Roselli and on the Oleggio website it does say that Roselli is an old Oleggio name, with members of the family still living there.

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Bob Smith—Convalescence at Leysin

Shown here are two of three pictures taken of Bob Smith on March 18, 1945 in Leysin, Switzerland.

Regarding these portraits, Bob’s niece, Carole Procter, says:

“I think these photos are really quite sad as they show very clearly how quickly Bob became ill. He looks to have lost a lot of weight in the 9 months since the last lot were taken and although he is smiling in two of them he looks quite gaunt.”

After escape from Axis-occupied northern Italy into Switzerland, Bob was sent to the Camp D’Internement Militaire at Bürglen in the canton of Thurgau.

In a letter from the camp, dated March 20, 1944, Bob explains, “I leave this week for a winter sports camp.”

Carol says, “I assume that’s Adelboden as the ski photo is April 44.” (See posts British Rifleman Robert Smith and Bob Smith’s Adelboden Album.)

Bob spent the spring and summer at Adelboden. Then, in October 1944, having been diagnosed with tuberculosis, he was transferred to a sanatorium in Leysin, Switzerland.

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Postcards from Bob Smith

Here are two postcards Bob Smith sent while a prisoner at two camps in Italy.

Bob’s neice Carole Proctor explains, “I have 10 postcards written by him, the first 6 being from Campo 59 written to his sisters, one of whom was my mother who died in 2005. The first date on the postcards [from Campo 59] is 5.8.42 and the last is 23.12.42. The next postcard is dated 31.7.43 and the address is Lavoro Base No. 133/xvii. PM3100. He is still there on 4.7.43 but a card dated 15.8.43 he says he is in a new camp—No.133/iii.”

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Bob Smith’s Adelboden Album

This set of photographs was taken in Adelboden, Switzerland, after Robert Smith’s escape from Italy.

The three photos above are all dated August 1944.

Because we know that G. Norman Davison was in Adelboden for a time (he arrived during the winter of 1943-44 and departed in October 1944), and that Patrick Cahill escaped to Switzerland and may have been in Adelboden, we have studied these photographs for servicemen bearing a resemblance to either man.

In the snapshot of the strolling men, we think the fellow in the middle might be Patrick Cahill. Of this image, Dean Cahill writes, “The man in the middle does bear a resemblance to my grandfather. We have some post-war photos in which he seems to walk with the same swagger.”

The other two photos were apparently taken on a patio of a hospital or hotel. In the center photo, Bob is at left—apparently smoking a cigarette. In the bottom image, he is on the right. We don’t know the identities of anyone else in these photos.

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British Rifleman Robert Smith

Carole Procter—who lives in Berkshire, England—provided this information about her uncle Bob.

On the back of this photo are date and place: April 5, 1944. Adelboden. Gilback Ski-jump, Switzerland. Also recorded are the names Sera, Ginger, and Bill. Carole says her uncle Bob is the second one from the left with a cross over his head. Presumably Sera, Ginger, and Bill are (left to right) beneath the other three crosses. According to Carole, “‘Ginger’ was probably a nickname—people with red hair get called that over here!”

“My uncle, Rifleman 6142045 Robert Smith, was a prisoner in this camp. I have 10 postcards written by him, the first six being from Campo 59 written to his sisters, one of whom was my mother who died in 2005.

“Robert was always know as Bob.

“The first date on the postcards is August 5, 1942 and the last is December 23, 1942. The next postcard is dated July 31, 1943 and the address is Lavoro Base No. 133/xvii. PM3100. He is still there on July 4, 1943, but a card dated August 15, 1943 he says he is in a new camp–No.133/iii.

“I know that my uncle escaped from a camp and managed to get to Switzerland where he was in Adelboden—certainly in July and August 1944—and I have photos of him there with other soldiers. It was discovered that he had TB and was transferred to Laysin. I have photos of him there dated March 18, 1945.

“He eventually came home and sadly died in 1950 of TB. He was 30 years old. I was three when he died and have only very vague memories of him—he was also my godfather.

“Bob was born in South Shields, County Durham, in 1919 and his family moved to Surrey in the south of England in the early 1930s. I think he enlisted at the beginning of the war. I have photos of him in Egypt in 1940, but I don’t know where or when he was captured. He was in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was the ‘baby’ of the family and very close to my mother, which is why she kept his letters and photos I think.

“I have also found a letter to my grandmother from a George William Beer dated July 23, 1943 saying he was with Bob in Campo 59 for two years but has now been moved and wants Bob to know he is OK. He is in a working camp getting double rations and Sundays off!”

Of this photo, Carole says, “On the back is my grandmother’s name and address and then Robert Smith. Rifleman 6142045. Campo PG No 59. PM 3300 Italia—all hand written in capital letters. I don’t know if this photo was taken in the camp or before he was captured, but it certainly looks as if it was sent from there.” Robert is on the left. We don’t know the identity of the other fellow.

Safe in Switzerland

Information for this post was provided by Carole Procter of Berkshire, England.
Bob Smith was her uncle.

Interned in Switzerland

The Herald (A paper serving the borough of Epsom and Ewell in Surrey, England)
January 25, 1944

“Mrs. M. Smith, Tonstall-road. Epsom, has received letters from her son Robert, who was one of the British prisoners who escaped from an Italian prisoner of war camp a few weeks ago.

“Robert Smith, aged 24, managed to reach Switzerland, where he has been interned. In a letter to his mother he wrote last December: ‘I can only say it is the best Christmas I have had in the Army. The Swiss people of this village made donations for the food, and the officers fixed everything else up. We had turkey, ham and everything that goes with it, including beer and fags. Don’t forget my bob on the Derby next year, and I am betting I will be there to see and collect it. I am treating myself to a rolled gold watch while I am here, and it is a pretty good one, too. We go to the pictures every week here, and there is also a wireless in the billet. The weather here is not too bad. We have been having snow.’

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