To the River book cover

To The River

The author of a new book about Allied prisoners of war in Italy has a name that will resonate with those interested in the subject – Hugo de Burgh.

To the River book cover
Hugo is the son of Lt. Col. Hugo de Burgh, who was the Senior British Officer at PG 49 Fontanellato, a PoW camp near Parma. He has drawn on his deep knowledge of this aspect of wartime Italy to write a novel, To The River, which carries an afterword by the historian, Max Hastings.
The secondary title on the book’s front cover sums up the dilemma that faced Italian country people (the contadini) when a starving escaped prisoner on the run came knocking on their door seeking shelter and safety: “Why would you risk your life and all that you love for a stranger?” Set in the central Italian region of Umbria in 1943, some months after Italy’s surrender through its Armistice with the Allies, the occupying German army and Italian Fascists are massacring villages in retaliation for help given to fugitives.

The story begins at a PoW camp outside a market town that holds 600 PoWs, coincidentally the exact number that were interned at Fontanellato and who then escaped. The main protagonist moves from farm to farm seeking shelter, during which his contempt for the defeated Italians turns into admiration for their courage – an emotional switch that was widely shared by escaped PoWs at the time.
Shepherding displaced villagers, the protagonist strives to conduct them to the border between two armies – the river.

To The River can be ordered online at Troubador and is also available from Amazon and at bookshops. Hugo de Burgh is generously donating profits to the Monte San Martino Trust