OUR ITALIAN FRIEND
There can be few of us in the village that don’t know Gilly and his two sons . His adventure began nearly 70 years ago in 1938 when he and his family and seven other families from Italy moved to Barche in Egypt with the encouragement of Mussolini. They had to pay expenses to get there but they didn’t have to pay for the land. There was little work in Italy so it looked a good option. Wheat was planted along with 150 fruit trees and 200 grape vines.
This 20 year old received his call up in March 1940 before Italy was involved in the conflict and was soon wearing his grey uniform His service life began in Benghazi, and then he and his fellow soldiers were moved by lorry to the front line in Tabrook. Battles were fought but many Italian soldiers were rounded up as prisoners of war including Gilly. The prisoners had to wear brown uniform with yellow patches on the knees of the trousers and back of the jacket, this made them very visible. Unfortunately he became ill with chest problems, so ill in fact that the priest was called to give him the last rites. He was gradually restored to health so was moved to Palestine to a hospital camp in tents to convalesce. When completely well he returned to Egypt to be shipped to England via South Africa. After landing on our shores in September 1941, the soldiers, about 70 of them were taken to Aylesbury where there was a POW camp. For several months the soldiers were shipped out each day to local farms to work. But then they had the job of putting up buildings to form a new camp, these were Nissan huts and were built along the Buckingham – Brackley road at Shalstone. In 1943 when the camp was complete the prisoners were taken by lorry to local farms.
Gilly and Luka, another Italian prisoner were brought to Mr Harry Weston’s farm in Yardley Gobion to work. The prisoners were not paid but were fed. The prisoners were not allowed to speak to people in the village unless they were working with them. One day when he was in Churchill’s field near the allotments where he had been setting mangolds he stopped for a smoke and to his surprise a man came up to him and shook hands. It was Harry Henson and it was a wonderful gesture from someone who had lost his son in the war, they remained firm friends until Harry died.
After several months Mr Harry Weston asked his two workers if they would like to live in Yardley in one of his cottages, this they agreed to do and moved into the one up one down cottage that was near the road where Rosemary Weston’s drive is now. Mrs Henry Horton lived in the other small cottage behind this one. They agreed and lived there for several years. When Gilly needed any new clothes or shoes he had to cycle over to his camp at Shalstone to collect them. In the meantime, there working in the farmhouse was a young Maggie Holloway, she had a friend called Mary Key. Over the ensuing months Gilly and Mary became friends and in March 1948 they were married. After marriage they moved into Johnny Brown’s small cottage next to the butchers shop. John was born there but before Tony was born they moved into one of Bill Weston’s red brick cottages near Grey’s lane and Gilly remained there until his death.
The small cottage on the left, now demolished, is the cottage where Gilly and Luka lived in the 1940s.
A German prisoner of war, Hans also lived in the village for many years with a family in Warren Road, it may have been with Mr Ernie Atkins and his wife. Hans worked for Mr Charles Weston at Moorend Manor farm.
His burial is on the website and can be found, his name was Hans Richard Pfeil, he died aged 73 in 1980.