Lt. Col. Denis L. A. Gibbs, DSO, was among the 600 prisoners of war who escaped from PG49 Camp at Fontanellato after the Armistice with Italy in September 1943. He had seen action at El Alamein and been captured in Egypt– and by the time he rejoined the Allies after a long trek down the Apennines he had indeed completed what his daughter Rosamund Woodard describes as an “epic journey”.
Denis Gibbs died in 1983 but now Lady Woodard has republished her father’s book Apennine Journey in illustrated, hardback form. (See below for details).
Lt. Col. Gibbs, who served with the Queen’s Royal Regiment, was forever grateful for the help given him and fellow PoWs by Italian families during their escapes. References to him in the book Home by Christmas? report that he set off south from Fontanellato, near Parma, after spending a few days hiding on neighbouring farms. Only after a few weeks’ marching did he lay his hands on a good map. Although he sometimes despaired at the huge distance he was having to travel, and hated looking like a tramp, he had a strong religious faith that sustained him. Eventually he and his companions made it through to Allied Lines, near Isernia. He described their condition as “filthy, dirty, unshaven, very long hair, clothes torn and toes coming out of their boots”.
Lady Woodard says that he would have been delighted to have known of the Monte San Martino Trust, which was founded after he died. Denis’s daughters are generously donating to the Trust a percentage of each book sold.
Apennine Journey costs £11, not including p&p, and can be ordered by email to [email protected]. Please contact Christine English, MSMT trustee, at [email protected] for details about how to pay for your purchase.