Our most recent donation of WW2 material includes two books with interesting inscriptions; a “Greek New Testament Lexicon”, by G. Abbott-Smith (1929) and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, both belonging to Rev. (Major) Robert McDowall
Behind each of the five stamps on the inside front page of the ‘Lexicon’ are many tales to tell. You can see at a glance Robert McDowall’s movement between Prisoner of War camps first in Italy and then in Germany. After being captured by the Germans in Sidi Rezegh at the end of 1941 he was moved in quick succession through four transit camps at Benghazi, Brindisi, Bari and Viano. The earliest stamp “Campo Concentramento Prigioniere di Guerra N. 57” is the Italian Camp at Udine where McDowall remained until September 1943 when German’s invaded Italy and POW’s were transferred into Germany .
The Lexicon passed through the official censor which for POW’s was in Rome with the censor mark 358/1. As is to be understood evidence of censorship was imperative or the POW could loose the priveledge of receiving his mail. McDowall notes in his diary the experience of a POW who received a parcel of books with every cover ripped off, “and because the Rome Censor mark had fallen from the outside page of some, the page being loosened with the removal of the cover, the fool of a camp censor had withheld them”.
The move from Italy saw the POW’s pass through Stalag 18A where all material was censured, in this case by Censor 42. McDowall remained at Stalag IVB until the end of the war. His Greek Lexicon was put to considerable use during his Greek Classes that by all reports, appeared to rather popular. He notes in a diary entry “Had three more in Greek Class. Amazing to me that these chaps came to take Greek but not Bible Study! Yet how readily one will do most things other than Bible Study.” Further on he notes how enjoyable the classes are and that the ‘boys’ requested a break of a week so they could revise.
The Pilgrim’s Progress inscription appeals to me. He gathered a small library of books this one obviously donated. There maybe a story behind it but as yet I can’t locate it. The Stobbs 48B could well refer to a Hut in the Camp; it may be the ‘home’ for some Scottish POW’s. Stobbs Military Camp trained military personnel in WW2.