A trek in tribute

On August 31st 2017 Chris Robillard is embarking on a 150 km trek to pay tribute to his father and to the Italians who helped him after his escape from a prisoner of war camp.

David Robillard had been captured near Tobruk and was transferred initially to Sforzacosta, in the Marche. “My father was there from November 1942 to May 1943. He lost six stones in weight in this place and several others died from the Devonshire Regiment who were captured with him,” says Chris.

David was transferred north from Sforzacosta to a work camp at Zevio, in the province of Verona.

He escaped in July 1943 and set off on a four-month trek with three other men to reach the Yugoslav border. As they could not get across, they retraced their steps back to Asparetto, south of Verona, reaching it in November 1943. They were given refuge for 18 months by Marina Ferrari and her children at their farmhouse, at great risk to the family.

In April 1945, however, David was recaptured and taken up to the Brenner Pass. He escaped again and eventually reached American lines on May 7th.

Chris’s own journey will take in about one-third of the distance covered by his father. He will set out from Zevio on August 31st and head towards Padua and then back to Asparetto, reaching it on September 6th. He is kindly raising money for the Monte San Martino Trust. Donations can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/montesanmartino/Donate. They can also b e sent by cheque to the MSMT treasurer, Justin de Meo, at Cottells, Dinton, Salisbury, Wilts, SP3 5HN.

Chris visited Sforzacosta in 2016 and is very grateful to MSMT Trustee Anne Copley, and her husband David, who helped to make the visit possible. Later in the year he attended the MSMT luncheon. “I found it very inspiring,” he says. “The real affinity, warmth and friendship generated from the event was both moving and motivating. I met two Italian students who had each benefited from a Trust bursary – and oh how it had changed their lives!”

Chris can be contacted at chris@devonmatters.co.uk or by phone at 01626 832070 and 07775612154.

Chris has written a book about David’s escape, entitled From Barry to Bari. To find out how to obtain it, and to read about David’s adventures, go to http://www.msmtrust.org.uk/from-barry-to-bari-david-robillard/