Campo Concentremento 53. Sforzacosta

 

by Bill Cooper

 

Sforzacosta is on the railway line 12 miles south of Macerata which is close to the east coast of Italy in the Marche region. The camp itself was about one mile from the town railway station. In 1942 the prison camp was on the western edge of the town and was a fairly modern building having been built to refine sugar beet. The outline of the camp was almost like a large capital "E" and entrance was made through an archway built into the wall of the main leg. The north and south parts of the camp consisted of tall storage buildings which, when I arrived, housed about 800 prisoners each on just the one floor with no room divisions. By the time I left there must have been more than 2000 men in that one area!

 

Between these two large buildings were another two smaller ones which had previously been the factory's administration blocks. They also now housed prisoners. In total when I first got there, the camp had 2000 inmates and this rose to 8000 by the date of my escape.

 

The buildings were fairly modern and were made of thick concrete. The west of the refinery was an open area of about six acres, the fencing consisted of an outer fence about 30 feet high and an inner one 15 feet from that and 10 feet high. The space between was filled with every scrap of barbed wire that could be found and was continually being added to with more old wire. At the corners of this wire and every 50 yards were wooden sentry posts with machine guns.

 

For this mass of humanity there was only one small crude toilet block, 12 "squatters" and only three stand pipes providing water.

 

The camp was commanded by a "Blackshirt" Colonel who had made the "March on Rome" with Mussolini. Under his command he had a number of elderly officers, an ample supply of sentries, dogs, Carabinieri, (who circled the prisoners living quarters night and day) and two interpreters. One of these was from a well-known Glasgow ice cream firm who had returned to Italy to bury his grandmother and was nabbed by the army at the outbreak of the war. He was called "Wee Jock." The other interpreter was a waiter from the peacetime Savoy Hotel who had also got his timing wrong. His name, for some reason I never found out, was "Harry's Brother."

 

The Italian administration was not very good but there was of course the British Camp Administration which was much more effective. However, in my opinion, this admin had become much too friendly with the Italians. The general camp were always hungry but I know these admin staff got extra food (and wine!) into the camp for themselves, but could not (or would not!) get such escape items as radio parts in. They seemed to go out of their way not to rock the boat for the Italians even to the extent of offering to guard the camp themselves to stop escapes when Italy withdrew from the Axis forces!!