Signed Typescript of the unpublished Second World War memoir of Commander Geoffrey Scott Stavert, Royal Artillery, 'Goodbye Campo 49. (A Slow March through Occupied Italy)', regarding his imprisonment and escape from a POW camp. With autograph note.
298pp., 4to. In good condition, on lightly-aged paper in blue ring binder. From the collection of J. L. H. Batt, who writes the following autograph note: 'Lt. Geoff. Stavert was E. Troop Commander of 155 Battery at Sidi Nsir Feb. 1943, & was my Troop Commander. On 26. 2. 43 I was up at the O.P as a Signaller on Hill 609. [signed] Jack.' (It is interesting to compare Stavert's account with Batt's own unpublished war memoir, 'Nothing Spectacular 41-45'.) Batt has also photocopied the dustwrapper biography of Stavert's published work 'A Study in Southsea' (1987), along with a number of maps, and these are present in a wallet at the front. Stavert has signed the Author's Note 'G. S. Stavert', and has written beneath this in pencil, 'This Book was never published. This is a typescript copy only, but in the main is legible. Please excuse corrections and alterations.' Stavert describes how he is captured in North Africa and imprisioned at Fontanello, near Parma, from which he and the other 500 prisoners escape at the end of chapter 4; the rest of the book describes his adventures as he and a couple of friends travel across Italy, literally 'crossing the Rubicon' and joining with an English vessel at the end of the last chapter. The fifteen chapters are 'Sidi Nsir, 26 February 1943', 'For you the war is over'; 'The French Hut at Campo 66'; 'The Last Days of Campo 49'; 'Another Four in the Family'; '"Before You Go"'; 'Gentlemen of the Road'; 'Getting Close'; 'If at first you don't succeed'; 'Keeping on keeping on'; 'Umberto'; '"Parachadutisti!"'; 'Ten Days to go'; '"Tedeschi!"'; 'Der Tag'. Stavert writes vividly and well, if somewhat melodramatically. He describes a French officer, angered by an impertinent question, as follows: 'Lebrun glared. His eyes bulged. His hands clasped and unclasped. His face turned dark, his lip curled, his veins stood out like pieces of string. When the words came he spat them out like broken teeth.' Typical of Stavert's writing style is his description of his capture: 'The commander of the leading Mark III leaned over as we trudged alongside. He looked about twenty; round-featured, fresh-complexioned, not at all Teutonic - he might have been a young British officer but for his green overalls and his curly-peaked desert cap. He couldn't resist the traditional words: 'For you der var iss over, ja?" | He spoke without a trace of arrogance or I-told-you-so, in a plain, matter-of-fact tone of voice, with the confidence of one who is used to being on the winning side and still believes that he will go on winning. There was no suggestion of animosity; recognition, rather, with perhaps just a touch of communication. After all, somebody has to lose, he might have said. For a moment, just for that moment, I felt a little bond of contact had been made between us; the kind of bond youget between men who've been at the sharp end together, between complete strangers meeting on a mountain top, betwen opponents after a match that's been fought to the limit yet still within the rules.' Stavert has a particular eye for dialogue: '"Napoli ha tombata," he said. "Americani hanno preso Napoli!" | "Hear that?" cried an officer in shirt sleeves, as he helped himself to a large bunch of grapes from the sack. "They've got Naples." | "You sure?" said another. "He's not romancing?" | "Si, si, e vero," said the fat man. "Nostri bravissimi soldati hanno entrata in la citta a cinque hora oggi, dopo grande bombardimento. Dieci mille Tedeschi catturati." | A dozen excited men had gathered round the one with the sack, who was now handing out fresh peaches, figs and loaves of bread. | "I like that," said one. "Our brave soldiers, eh? Hasn't taken him long to join the US Army. Any news of the other landings?" [...]' Stavert was a leading member of the Sherlock Holmes Society, and the following obituary is taken from The Baker Street Journal, vol. 53: 'Geoffrey Scott Stavert died unexpectedly at home in Southsea on 17 December 2002. His studies at Oxford were interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939. Part of the Royal Artillery, in North Africa in early 1943 his unit was overrun by the Germans and sent to a prison camp in northern Italy. Demobbed, he returned to finish his degree and tried schoolmastering. Finding this rather tame, he joined the Royal Navy as an instructor officer, rising to Lieutenant-Commander. Next he was a senior lecturer at Sandhurst, for which he was made a Member of the British Empire. While living in the Officers' Mess with spare time in the evenings, he rediscovered Conan Doyle. In 1974 he joined the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, serving in several posts including Membership Secretary. He received his investiture in 1994 and became an Honorary Member of the SHSL in 1998. His book A Study in Southsea added much to our knowledge of Conan Doyle's early days.