A woman as witness

The memoirs of Lucy de Burgh have now been published, providing a delightful and fascinating account of wartime Italy and its aftermath.

In My Italian Adventures: An English Girl at War 1943-47, Mrs de Burgh (then Lucy Addey) describes her recruitment as ATS Officer, Military Intelligence, and posting to Italy, and her subsequent  work for the Allied Screening Commission, meeting the victims of Nazi atrocities and ensuring they received compensation. The book is unusual in that few accounts of Italy were written during the war by a woman.

After the war, the author married Lt, Col Hugo de Burgh, who had been the Senior British Officer at Fontanellato prisoner of war camp, near Parma.

The book, which has been edited by Mary Hodge but which has had no changes since  originally written, has been published by the History Press and is available through its website at £9.99. It was launched on 26th September at the Imperial War Museum.

Mrs De Burgh is kindly donating the proceeds of the book to the Monte San Martino Trust. At the launch, Sir Nick Young, the Trust’s chairman, thanked Mrs de Burgh and her family and read an extract from the diary of his own father, who had been a fellow internee of Col. de Burgh at Fontanellato. Col de Burgh was remembered as a “strong disciplinarian” who, as Senior British Officer, made the brave decision to ignore orders from London that PoWs should stay in the camps after Italy’s surrender in September 1943. Instead, he led the 600 internees out of the camp, from where they attempted to reach safety.

Sir Max Hastings, the historian and journalist, who wrote the foreword to the book, also spoke at the book launch. Describing the book as “utterly charming”, he said that Italy’s tragic situation was still insufficiently understood. “Italians saw themselves not as belligerent but as victims,” he said, adding that Italy might have escaped disaster if Mussolini had kept the country neutral.

He concluded:  “It is sometimes said that, in Britain, we remain too preoccupied, even obsessed, with the Second World War. But there are some aspects of the legacy that richly deserve to be kept alive, and indeed to be renewed, in the fashion that the Trust aspires to do.”