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By: Janet Kinrade Dethick

Some Corner of a Foreign Field

Pages: 254 Ratings: 5.0
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“Even after capture, the full horrors of war still persisted. Bombed and strafed by our own planes, and shelled by our own artillery, the words ‘For you the war is over, Tommy,’ had a hollow ring…November 1942, after five months in Suani Ben Adem, we sailed from Tripoli, en route to Naples. We were held in the hold of a coal boat, battened down, with only a few buckets for sanitation purposes. Packed in like sardines, we would have had no chance of survival, had the ship come under attack from the Royal Navy, not an uncommon occurrence.”


These are the words of Private Bill Blewitt, 1st Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters, captured near Gazala in the Western Desert. He survived his capture, but over a thousand did not.

Laid to rest alongside the battle casualties in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries in Italy are these prisoners of war. They died from neglected wounds or diseases, were accidentally or deliberately shot both inside and outside their camps or were victims of friendly fire incidents. Some lost their lives when trying to cross the mountains to freedom, and some were betrayed by spies. Some had taken up arms again, had fought with the partisans and had died alongside them. Others had been captured whilst on dangerous missions and summarily executed. Many, but not all, have a name.

Janet Kinrade Dethick was born in Derbyshire, England. After graduating from London University, she taught in schools on Merseyside, in Derbyshire and Sheffield, before becoming a Senior Lecturer in Human Studies, at the Sheffield College. Winning a bursary to study Italian, in Florence, led to a huge career change and she now lives in Italy, where for some years she has been researching the effects of the Second World War on the lives of ordinary people. On this theme she has published: The Trasimene Line, Cortona 1944 and a volume in Italian about prisoners of war in the region of Umbria.

Customer Reviews
5.0
5 reviews
5 reviews
  • Janet Kinrade Dethick Has Done It Again

    I have often felt that the Italian campaign, at least here in America, has been overlooked in favor of what are perceived as the more pivotal and oft-told parts of the war; D Day, the Battle of the Bulge. As the daughter of an American serviceman and former POW in Italy, I searched for years for information on my father's experience, to no avail. And then along came Janet Kinrade, whose "Bridge at Allerona" tells the story of what may have been the worst incident of friendly fire in the Italian campaign. With this book, Janet was able to provide comfort and information to hundreds of families across the U.S., Europe and South Africa on what had transpired, and in many cases, what had happened to the parents they never knew. She has now done that again in her new offering, Some Corner of a Foreign Field. In another remarkable work of investigation and storytelling, Kinrade collects eyewitness testimonies from those who were there, enabling her to tell the story of forced marches, imprisonment and cold-blooded murder. The first-person retellings that Kinrade has uncovered give the stories an immediacy that would have been impossible without them, and one hopes that the identification of where these men are buried will provide their families with some small comfort. It's a brilliant bit of research, and a sad reminder of the inhumanity of which man is capable.

  • Roy Hemington

    A brilliantly researched book that expertly covers a fascinating and largely unknown part of the history of world war two - allied POWs on the loose behind axis lines in Italy.

  • Chris

    Born in the UK the author has spent many years, almost dedicating her life in Italy, to finding out what happened to the "missing, taken prisoner" who lie in War Graves in Italy.
    In so doing she has offered closure to many families who craved knowledge of their lost loved ones.
    These are not "war stories" but facts as found through ardent expertise and research by a person who cares.

    The book is well written and extremely informative, indexed for clarity when searching for stories of particular interest to the reader.
    Easy to understand maps are provided to locate sites which the reader may wish to visit. Sources of information are referenced for the more serious researcher.
    All together an excellent book on what may be construed by some, as a sensitive subject.

  • Ann Hamlet

    Janet has worked tirelessly to bring us an insight in what, is yet another, forgotten war! The depth of the information Janet has provided makes her book an for excellent read and should be on every school, college and university book listings.

    The research and insight that has gone into preparation of this book is extremely commendable. Many of the veterans or their families who spoken to Janet were captured in during the North African Campaign and sent to POW Camps in Italy and then, when the Italian Government/Forces capitulated, were transported to Germany as slave labour and their recollections are recorded in Janet's book - "Some Corner of a Foreign Field - Deaths behind the lines in Italy 1942-45."

  • Richard O’Sullivan

    As we mark the 80th anniversaries of the desperate period of war time fighting in the Mediterranean arena during the 1940 to 1945 period, we shall certainly hear about the campaign-changing victory at El Alamein, the complete capitulation of German forces in Tunisia and the various battles in Italy: in Sicily, at Anzio, Cassino, and Trasimeno and the battles in northern Italy that led to final Allied victory at the Po river in April 1945.
    Understandably, a lot of the conversation over both recent and the coming years will focus on the army commanders and senior officers who led the way for the Allies. Eisenhower, Alexander, Montgomery and Patton being some of the legendary figures who were involved in the theatre.
    Full attention over the coming years will also rightly be given to the fate of tens of thousands of servicemen who died, were wounded or captured on the long road from North Africa to northern Italy. Families all around the war, and especially so due to the multi-national make-up of the Allied armies in southern Europe, will continue to pause to reflect on the memory of the sacrifices of their fathers, uncles and grandfathers.
    Not as well known, though, are the more detailed background stories of many of the men who did not make it home, their families probably not learning of their fate until much later. In some cases, mothers may have been told that their sons had gone missing or been captured but it would only later come to light that they had actually died while in captivity. Some died during their evacuation to prison of war camps or in the camps themselves either through accident, sometimes due to deliberate intent or even as a result of the fire of “friendly” forces.
    In Janet Dethick’s examination of this period, she has set out a detailed review of the circumstances of the deaths of some of the men who were captured during the various advances and retreats of the Allied armies. It’s a very informative study and she shares the underpinning stories of men who, without this type of research, may have remained as a simple entry on the database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
    As well as encompassing sources from military and governmental archives, this well written book includes stories from personal and family memoirs and is extremely moving. I have known Janet for more than ten years and met her a number of times on the battlefields and in the war cemeteries of Italy and she will ensure that her researches are always meticulous and precisely detailed.
    I had been aware of the background to one or two of the stories described in the book but this will now prompt me to seek to learn more detail. The narratives within the book are helpfully delivered within thematic sections for ease of interest (eg “Hospitals and Illness”) and there are exhaustive bibliographic sourced references that will aid follow up research for the experienced historian as well as the previously less well-informed.
    I am travelling again to Cassino and Sicily during 2023, and I shall ensure that I pack Janet Dethick’s very informative book within my luggage as an additional research tool for my journeys. The stories of these men should be treasured – and putting a background “face” to a man’s name or grave marker will continue to be a vital element of ensuring that they continue to be spoken about with respect and into perpetuity.
    The book is highly recommended indeed.

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