'Does anyone speak Italian?", came the urgent call from the nurses at our local cottage hospital, where I was recuperating after a 5-week stay at our larger hospital where I was detained after having a nasty MS relapse.
As there was no reply to this anxious call, I said that I could speak a little Italian (and it was a little), and that was because during the last war - in approximately 1943 - my father had an Italian prisoner of war (P.O.W) living with us, and working on our farm. I was 12 years old and the Italian P.O.W. (his name was Dominica) could speak very little English.
The fact that we spoke Welsh on our farm confused this Italian more.
My father had little time to talk to Dominica, and as someone had to be with Dominica at all times it was up to me to try and converse with him. He was a very hard working and pleasant guy who frequently used to say "Italiano not want war. Mussolini very bad man". He had been captured at Benghazi and was worried about his family and his girl friend Fransessca, as he had had no word from them in about 3 years.
As he was such a pleasant bloke we gave him civilian clothes instead of the Khaki uniform with its large, round, red (I think) patch on the back and smaller patches on the trousers.
Whilst I tried to talk in English to Domin (That's what we called him) he in turn tried to teach me Italian. I learnt for example that every Italian word ends with a vowel. Domin's hobby was making lovely willow baskets of all shapes and sizes, and I used to cycle miles with him collecting willow saplings.
Although he was a P.O.W, he had a tremendous sense of humour and I felt sorry for him. He was able to converse a little in English with me. He told me how terrifying it was when our Spitfires were machine gunning the Italian troops. "I used to hold a large slab of stone over my head for protection from these bullets as our steel helmets were quite useless against a Spitfire's machine guns and there was no other form of protection for us".
Anyway, back to the hospital. As soon as I mentioned that I could speak a little Italian, the nurses pushed me in my wheelchair to the bedside of an elderly Italian lady who was very ill. She appeared to have lost all hope and was sinking fast and the nurses were panicking.
They asked me to say something, anything, in Italian to try and cheer the old lady up as she couldn't speak any English. Her daughter, who was half Italian, worked as a nurse at this hospital but she was off duty and could not be reached.
So I leaned down towards her and said (anyone who knows the Italian language, please ignore my spelling) "Coma stata Senora", a kind of "Hello" or "how are you?"
She jerked up, and waffled back to me many Italian words. Of course I didn't have a clue as to what she was saying and Italians talk so quickly. "Lo spero voi felige mia bella Senora" (Hope that you are feeling happy/better my lovely lady), I said to her.
"What is she saying please Glyn", pleaded the nurses, calling to the other nurses "Glyn has got her talking, but the he won't tell us, what she is saying!"
How could I as I didn't have a clue as to what the old lady was saying!
But I was the 'hero' of the day having cheered the old lady up a bit.
When the war was over, and Domin was going back home, he said to me "You Glyn have always been very kind to me, and I will write to you after I get back home". But he never did.
Were his years of captivity just a dreadful nightmare best forgotten?
Ex-British P.O.W.s may be able to answer that question for me! Dominica's address in Italy was: Dominica Petrella. Via Gariboldi, Avetazzano, Roma. Avetazzano is 30 miles from Rome. Does anyone know that address please, as I would truly love to make contact with Domin again, assuming that he is still alive now of course.
He would probably be nearing 80 years old by now.