A Wartime Reminder Of Italian Prisoners Of War
A Memory of Wells.
During the Second World War there was an Italian prisoner of war camp at Penleigh, on the outskirts of Wells in Somerset. The Italian POWS were put out to work on local farms, and one of them was Gaetano Celestra, who had been a sculptor and mason before the war. When a stray enemy bomb fell at Beech Barrow and damaged a wall belonging to the farm where he was working, he rebuilt it and asked the farmer for permission to sculpt a she-wolf suckling two children, Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome who were brought up by a wolf, to place on the wall to remind him of home. The monument is beside the A39 road from Bath to Wells, on the left hand side near the Mendip transmitter, approaching from the Bath direction.
During their time in Somerset, long lasting friendships were made between the Italian POWs and local people, and marriages took place with local girls. A number of the Italian ex-POWs returned to Somerset after the war, and there is still a large Italian community in the Mendip area.
Contributed by Julia Skinner, taken from the book ‘Wells – A History and Celebration’, by Maria Jepps, published by The Francis Frith Collection