Diary of Writing Italy’s Sorrow

February 26, 2004
Today I drove up to Northamptonshire to see Sir Stephen Hastings. Earl Jellicoe, when I interviewed him about North Africa, told me I should talk to his old friend, as Sir Stephen had not only served with the SAS in the Western Desert but had later won an MC working for SOE behind enemy lines in Italy.
His house was absolutely stunning. Rather grandly, he has a valet and a secretary, but he himself was incredibly affable and down-to-earth. He’s well over eighty but acted, sounded, and behaved a lot younger, and rather like the Poles yesterday, seemed to have a perpetual twinkle in his eye. We chatted for ages, then had lunch, then chatted some more. Although much of the conversation was about North Africa, it’s clear he has a special fondness for the Partisans he helped organise in the mountains south of Piacenza. Before I left, he told me he was thinking of going back there to see some of his old Partisans chums and suggested I might like to come along too. Well, I said,, as it happens, I’m intending to be out in Italy in May. ‘Hm – that might work rather well,’ said Sir Stephen. ‘Let’s try and work towards that then.’ I really hope that comes off.

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