3 May 2009

Always Tomorrow - Sempre Domani

Alfred Nisbett's book, Always Tomorrow - Sempre Domani, is his memoir of his wartime experiences in North Africa and Italy. It is not however a tale of combat, as shortly after joining the Royal Engineers in North Africa, Alfred found himself captured by a German panzer unit during the retreat from Benghazi in 1941. Shipped off to Italy, he soon busied himself with attempts to escape. First held at Sulmona (Campo 78), then moved to a smaller camp near L'Aquila (Campo 102). When the Italian Army surrendered in 1943, Alfred took advantage of the chaotic situation to take his leave and slipped away into the surrounding countryside. Unlike Charles Mayhead (see 'Rumours: A Memoir of a British POW'), Alfred was successful in his escape, and by the time the Germans had stepped in to manage the camps, he was hiding out in the mountains, befriended and looked after by Italian villagers. Moving frequently, he managed to avoid recapture due to the care and selflessness of the local people, who were under the constant threat of reprisals from German troops should Alfred, or any of the numerous ex-POWs in the area, be discovered. In July 1944, he encountered an advance party of British soldiers, and his adventure 'on the run' was over.

The story of the escaped Allied POWs in Italy is not particularly well known compared to that of POWs in German and Japanese hands (although I am rapidly discovering a number of books on the subject!). Alfred Nisbett introduces a number of fascinating characters in his story - the Marchetti and Morelli families who hid and fed him and fellow POWs; a Scottish-Italian caught visiting relatives in Italy at the outbreak of the war who ended up being a camp translator; a German deserter who was on the run alongside British POWs; a South African who was carrying out propaganda broadcasts for the Fascists in Rome; and it is the human aspect of his story that is the strongest. Alfred witnessed many acts of kindness and compassion from the people who he'd believed were the enemy - often at great danger to themselves - and through this friendships were made that have lasted over 60 years. While the book would benefit from the addition of some maps to trace Alfred's route and clarification of dates, it is a very well written story which I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone who'd like to learn about this unusual aspect of the war in Italy.

Available from:
Athena Press

Similar title(s):
Rumours: A Memoir of a British POW

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