Accounts of incarceration as a prisoner of war in Italy and Germany will have an important addition in April 2018 when Frank Unwin, MBE, publishes his story of capture and escape.
Frank has long been a stalwart member of the Monte San Martino Trust, which commemorates the bravery of escaping PoWs following the Armistice with Italy in September 1943, and the generosity and courage of the Italian country people who hid them while they attempted to reach safety among the invading Allied troops. Frank, aged 97, was the only former PoW present at the Trust’s most recent annual lunch, in November 2017, and the only supporter older than him is the Founder, Keith Killby, who was 101 in June 2017.
The book, entitled Escaping Has Ceased To Be A Sport, will be published in hardback by Pen and Sword*.
Frank, who now lives in Orpington but whose family home was in Liverpool, enlisted in the Territorial Army in 1939 and was mobilised the same year. He was first deployed to Egypt with the Royal Artillery before being sent to Greece to support the Greek Army. He was evacuated from mainland Greece to Crete and again a few weeks later from Crete to Alexandria. In June 1942 following the collapse of the Tobruk garrison he was captured by German forces and handed over to the Italians, still aged only 21.
Transferred to mainland Italy, he was imprisoned at PG82 Laterina, in Tuscany, where he learned Italian by talking to the sentries. His first escape lasted one week before recapture. He then joined a tunnelling party but shortly before the tunnel was completed the Italians signed the Armistice and he was able to escape by cutting the barbed wire.
This time he spent five months on the run in the Tuscan hills, hunted by the Germans and Italian Fascists. He was sheltered by the people of Montebenichi and other villages. In his book he describes the lifestyle of these peasant farmers, the contadini, who risked their own lives by giving him refuge.
Knowing that their own families had had no word of them, Frank and two companions set off to re-join the Allied Lines but were recaptured and taken to a work camp in Germany.
Hopes of an Allied victory grew when gunfire was heard in March 1945. The camp guards ordered them to leave the camp, whereupon they marched for several weeks before being rescued by American troops.
Back home in Liverpool, he discovered that he weighed only six stone.
*Escaping Has Ceased To Be A Sport will be published by Pen and Sword, ISBN: 9781526714930. The RRP will be £25 but a 25% discount will apply through a pre-publication order.
Enquiries@pen-and-sword.co.uk, Ref: ESC001. Post and packaging with the UK £4.