“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.