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15 October 2014
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The Piano in the Piazza

by BBC @ The Living Museum

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Contributed by 
BBC @ The Living Museum
People in story: 
George Figgins
Location of story: 
Village near Rimini, Italy
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4409714
Contributed on: 
09 July 2005

My father and comrades

This story was added on behalf of Joan Waller by Pauline Pearson os London CSV Volunteers. The author is aware of the site's terms and conditions.

My father who was in the 8th Army Service Corps in Italy had a few funny incidents with his chums. On this particular occasion they came across the piazza chambers which were in a state of dereliction from air raids. They found this old piano inside the chambers and my father, who enjoyed a tinkle on the ivories, decided to take it away. They put it on the back of the truck. As they did this, Jerry decided to come over and they were machine-gunned. Impossible to believe but the chums were more concerned for the piano than themselves! Years later, on a holiday in Rimini, I visited with my husband and saw the bullet holes. I put my fingers in them to celebrate the fact that I was where he had been and remembering all the stories my father had told me. I was proud to be there in his footsteps. This prank seemed typically British!

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Message 1 - Re: The piano in the piazza

Posted on: 10 July 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

I read your story with great interest and I think it is a valuable contribution to an archive on WW2.

Understandably, perhaps, the literature on WW2 mainly records the more extensive looting carried out by the Germans and, later, by the Russians - not that of the western Allies. Perhaps things were more lax in Italy at the height of the war. Had the piano incident taken place in Britain, where punishment for looting was draconian, the outcome might not have been so happy.

If I can give some recorded examples from Juliet Gardiner's book "Wartime Britain 1939-1945":

"An auxiliary fireman, for example, was sent to prison for five years for filling two buckets with food from a bombed-out grocer's shop (though this was quashed on appeal), and there were cases of ARP wardens being prosecuted for pocketing lumps of coal, picking up a couple of tins of food that were lying around, taking some sodden cardboard boxes that were no use to anyone. The man in charge of a Heavy Rescue Squad found a quarter-full bottle of gin among the ruins of a London pub which he passed round to revive the spirits of his fellow workers who had been labouring for hours to dig for victims of that particular bomb incident. Leonard Watson was sent to prison for this crime."

Regards,

Peter

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