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Library Reference Number: 023

Growing Up in a War Zone

Bill Taylor, ex 70 Squadron, and ex P.O.W. in StalagLuft 7, Bankau

While serving with No. 70 Squadron at Torterella, Foggia, Italy, I met an unusual character. Our crew called him 'Joe' (we never knew his real name), but he was a small Italian boy of about 8 or 9 years old. For all his tender age, he seemed to radiate a maturity far beyond his years. All he had ever known was war; his country first occupied by Germans, and now by us. We had pitched our tents in a wheat field close to the Airfield when we first made Joe's acquaintance. He was seeking, of all things, our soiled clothes for his mother to launder.

Through the fields he pushed a large bicycle, to which he tied his bundles of washing. Pushing the bicycle became progressively more difficult as the wheat crop grew to maturity. For all his tender years, Joe never made a mistake with either his deliveries or his Liras.

Always his plaintive cry was "Johnny chocolatta for Bambino malade." Needless to say, Joe's requests for chocolate were seldom ignored. Strangely, the bambino was always malade.

Joe's mind very quickly sized up situations. The crew in the next tent went missing. The tent was being cleared of their possessions, when Joe arrived with their laundry. Joe shrugged his shoulders and simply said "Finito!" There was something very final about Joe's "Finito". In a way it summed up the futility and horrors of war.

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