"For Remember"

Drawings by an Italian PoW in Harpenden in 1944

Squad M.S.9 – on the reverse of the drawing of the work-party. Credit: Scanned from original donated by Alan Marshall

We have  been donated a set of five small, postcard-sized drawings made by an Italian Prisoner of War, Galli Pietro, when he was living at the Batford PoW camp in 1944. He evidently gave them to people who befriended him during his stay in Harpenden, and we are hoping to track down more information about Pietro Galli.

Maybe there are still relatives in his home town of Viareggio.  Maybe he was remembering familiar scenes, including Carnival in Venice perhaps.  And what was the team of PoWs building?

We hope these drawings may evoke memories in Harpenden families who were living near the camp.

Galli Pietro’s address in Viareggio – on the reverse of the mountain chapel. Credit: Scanned from original donated by Alan Marshall

Comments about this page

  • Alan and Caterina Marshall, who donated the sketches to the Local History Society archives, recently met Janet Payne (nee Hawkins) and her son Ian at Lea Springs, close to the site that housed the Italian PoWs in the 1940s. Janet had kept the sketches, then gave them to her son, who in turn passed them to Rosalba Brooks, an Italian married to an Englishman in Bedfordshire. Knowing of the connection with Harpenden, Rosalba passed the sketched to the Marshalls. Alan has summarised Janet Payne’s memories.

    “Janet was 12 at the time the Italian prisoners were here. Her father was William Hawkins who was employed by the Harpenden removal company Saunders. William is the figure in the foreground of the warehouse sketch (no. 1). He was in charge of prisoners and (despite having lost one eye) drove them about for various tasks, using the Saunders lorry. As far as we understand, no military were supervising prisoners, and they were “self catering” – hence the thoughts of food in the sketch! Janet met them and recalls that they refurbished a bike for her. But apart from casual meetings the group were not allowed out to fraternise with locals, so other memories are limited. However, she is fairly sure that two prisioners remained in the UK after the war and possibly married. She sometimes saw German prisoners working in gardens, and they would fashion rings which they gave to local children.

    “Janet’s son thinks that Saunders must have had some kind of contract to use the prisoners for work – possibly building pre-fab buildings in Harpenden. After the war William Hawkins branched out on his own using a horse and cart pulled by “Daisy” (Janet has a photo). The Hawkins family lived in Southdown.

    “Janet was unable to throw any light on the other sketches, but assumes they were from memories of Italy.”

    Ed: we are very pleased these sketches have made their way back to Harpenden.

    By Rosemary Ross (29/07/2016)

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