A woman as witness

The literature on Italy in the Second World War has had a valuable addition with the publication of the memoirs of Mrs Lucy de Burgh, entitled My Italian Adventures: An English Girl at War. The book is unusual in that few accounts of Italy were written during the war, and in that the author is a woman: the women serving with the allied armies in Italy may have numbered fewer than 50.

At the time of writing, in 1946-47, the author was named Lucy Addey – she later married Lt. Col. Hugo de Burgh, who led the break-out of PoWs from Fontanellato.*

The book falls into two parts. Part I tells of the author’s recruitment in 1943 as ATS Officer, Military Intelligence, posted to Italy, where her confidential research with maps had a direct bearing on the progress of war, logging the final assault on the Gothic Line. Part II covers her work for the Allied Screening Commission, when she travelled around Italy and Austria, meeting the partisans, recording the Nazi atrocities they suffered for sheltering Allied troops, and ensuring they received compensation. Besides being a riveting personal story, it paints a bigger picture of the aftermath of war and how people were coping.

Publication was in September 2013. The memoir, which has had no changes since it was written, was commissioned by The History Press, in association with the Imperial War Museum. Edited by Mary Hodge, there is a foreword putting the story in its historical context by Sir Max Hastings. There is also a note on the Monte San Martino Trust by Sir Nicholas Young, the chairman: Mrs de Burgh kindly donated the author’s share of the proceeds to the Trust.