Family’s trip traces steps of war artist dad
THE daughter of a war veteran has spoken of her emotional visit to the place where he was held prisoner for three years.
Horace Wade was captured in Libya on June 15, 1941 and transported to a prison work camp in Chiavari, Italy.
A talented artist, he spent some of his time documenting camp life, producing dozens paintings and sketches.
The hoard was later donated to the museum of the Royal Tank Regiment in Dorset.
Now 75 years on his daughter Angela Hopper, from Langley, has spoken of her visit to Chiavari, where she recreated, in photographic form, some of the scenes Horace captured.
Angela, who visited with her husband Derek, said: “Taking in those same views that my father had seen all those years ago in such difficult circumstances was amazing and quite emotional. It made me very proud of him.”
Horace grew up in Nottingham and was 27 when he became a trooper in the 6th Royal Tank Regiment (Corps).
Based in Libya he took part in Operation Battleaxe, a disastrous operation which resulted in 969 Allied casualties.
Horace was feared to have been killed in action but in truth had become a POW. For three years he was kept in Campo 52 where food supplies, managed by the Red Cross, were intermittent.
To relieve the boredom Horace painted and drew the landscape and the buildings of Italy, as well as more lighthearted moments with prisoners
of reading in their bunks, receiving letters from home and putting on performance in the camp theatre. But he also documented the brutal reality of life behind the barbed wire.
After two years Horace was transferred to Upper Silesia in Poland to work down the mines. There he painted the grim faces of men waiting for the cage to take them underground and the darkness of the tunnels. It was a hard and dangerous life, and ended in tragedy for Horace when his left leg was crushed in an accident and was amputated.
On his return Horace trained as an art teacher but died of cancer in 1968, aged just 56.
Today, all that is now left of Campo 52 is a commemorative plaque on a bridge next to where the camp was.
Angela, 68, said: “My family never mentioned the war. I think everyone found the memories too bad.
“It is amazing how many of the buildings survived and how little some of those views captured by dad have changed.
“I did quite a bit of research though war websites, Google Maps and Google Earth. It wasn’t difficult to find the camp site, now a paddock, and to see four of the churches he’d drawn and painted.
“The camp site is situated next to a river and on one side is a bridge which bears a plaque saying it was where Campo 52 had been.
“It was certainly a moving experience and made me feel very proud of my father, who died when I was only 21, and also enabled me to feel I now know and understand him much better.”
●● Angela Hopper in Italy with husband Derek and daughter Kate. Inset: Horace Wade in a self portrait sketch, penned in 1943
●● One of Horace’s sketches and Angela’s photo
●● A small chapel in 1942 and now