Beginning of a four-page letter from Victor Parkin to Gladys Wash.
Early last year I heard from Gillian Pink about the experiences of her father, Tom Ager, who was an escapee from Camp 82 at Laterina, Italy.
His story and the story of Gill’s discovery of the family who protected him are posted on this site (see “Thomas Ager—Escapee from Italian Camp 82” and “On the Sheltering of Tom Ager“).
Gill wrote, “In my burrowings, I discovered a letter dated 5 November 1944 to my mother from a Victor Parkin, asking if my father had arrived home safely. He said he was with my father at first, but then they separated—so he might have been the friend my father mentions in his account. It seems he got away while my father was recaptured.”
Gladys was Tom’s fiancee at the time he was a POW; the two married on his return to England.
Here is the text of Victor’s letter:
Mr. G. V. Parkin
15. Pendennis Road
5/11/44 [November 5, 1944]
Well first of all I think I had better introduce myself. I was a great friend of Tom Ager’s, perhaps he mentioned me in his letters at some time we were in the P.O.W. camp together. I should have written you before, but I had quite a difficulty in remembering your address, although Tom always talked alot about you.
This Christmas greetings was sent by Camp 82 prisoner-of-war Tom Ager to his fiancee, Gladys Wash, by means of a Vatican representative. Note the light sepia drawing of a star with a scarp-life tail and the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica behind the message. The document is courtesy of Tom’s daughter Gillian Pink.
The text of the greeting reads:
SECRETARIAT OF STATE TO HIS HOLINESS
Date 23/11/42 [November 23, 1942]
Sender AGER THOMAS J
Rank PTE No. 6010271
Camp No. 82 Military Post PM 3200
Addressee MISS G. L. WASH
Street STATION ROAD
Town WHITE NOTLEY, WITHAM
County ESSEX ENGLAND
Message (10 words – Season’s greetings only)
A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.
FONDEST LOVE, TOM
This note of explanation accompanied the greeting.
VATICAN WAR ENQUIRY DEPT.
11 CAVENDISH SQUARE,
LONDON, W. 1
The Apostolic Delegate has much pleasure in sending the enclose message to you. The message was collected by a Representative sent by his Holiness the Pope to visit Prisoner of War Camps in Italy.
For more on Tom Ager, read “Thomas Ager—Escapee from Italian Camp 82” and “On the Sheltering of Tom Ager.”
Above left: the formerly unidentified Italian, now revealed to be Romano Maglioni, who lived in Premilcuore, Italy
Above right: Tom Ager, after war and imprisonment
See “Thomas Ager—Escapee from Italian Camp 82” for the story of Tom Ager’s escape from captivity.
When Gill and I were working together on her father’s story last February and she sent me the photo of Romano Maglioni, she wrote, “There is a bit of a mystery about this last photo. It was amongst the letters, and has a name and address on the back. As far as I can read it: Maglioni (and I cannot read the other name, something like Oronuoso) No 1, Via Roma H10 Premilcuore Forli Italia. I wonder if it was someone who helped him when he was on the run.”
Soon after that, I discovered online the name of a woman named Annarita Maglioni at an address on Via Roma in Premilcuore. “Maybe she is a relative,” I wrote to Gill, “Perhaps you should write to her (in Italian) and send a copy of the photo and scrap of paper with the address.”
T. J. Ager, after war and imprisonment, looking “rather the worse for wear”
On February 9, I received a note from Gillian Pink of Suffolk, England.
Her father, Thomas John Ager, who served in the Essex Regiment, was captured at Deir el Shein during the first battle of El Alamein. He was sent to Camp 82 at Laterina, Italy.
After the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, Tom and the other prisoners of the camp found themselves free of prison, but behind enemy lines.
“My father’s letters from Camp 82 stop in August of 1943,” Gill explained. “There is one dated July 1944 from the Red Cross to my mother saying he had been sent to a transit camp (Feldpost 31979), and another from the Red Cross dated August 1944 saying he was in Stalag VII-A. Shortly after, he was transferred to Stalag VIII-B, where they all seemed to end up.
“The first letter from Stalag VII-A is dated 16 July 1944. It says ‘The life that I am leading now is not quite so hectic as I have been used to for the last ten months. So I am having a little rest.’ I’m sure his time on the run is what he’s referring to, though my mother may not have known that. I can’t imagine an account of it would have been allowed past the censor.