The patient and the anaesthetist

Capitano Luigi Socci’s watercolours offer a unique perspective of Yol Prisoner of War Camp.

The paintings were a gift from Luigi Socci to George Purves: the Italian prisoner of war to the British anaesthetist. While they met in the hospital at Yol, theirs was a friendship which continued decades after the war.

Mr and Mrs Purves with Luigi Sossi (photo courtesy of James Purves)

A special thank you to James Purves, son of George, for his contribution of these watercolours to this history.

Yol Prisoner of War Camp Kangra Valley 1943 (photos courtesy of James Purves)

Capitano Luigi Sossi was admitted to Yol Prisoner of War Camp hospital with a serious infection. It was however an order that penicillin was reserved for Allied soldiers only.

Penicillin was a new treatment for infection but it was a precious commodity; WW 2’s miracle drug. In the lead up to the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944, a total of 21 U.S. companies joined together, producing 2.3 million doses of penicillin.

Operating Theatre: Yol Prisoner of War Camp Hospital Kangra Valley 1943

(photos courtesy of James Purves)

James Purves recounts that his father realised the quick deterioration of Sossi’s condition and without treatment, Sossi would die. “Father took pity on Sossi and somehow acquired the drug for him, either by deed or theft, though I doubt theft. Either way, Sossi recovered and when he found out what had happened, he asked Father how he could repay him. Father replied, “Teach me Italian.” It was the beginning of a life long friendship.

My parents would drive over to Italy virtually every year on vacation and sometimes stay with Sossi. Letters were written, but have since disappeared or been thrown out. When I was about eight years old, my family went on vacation to Viareggio. My parents left us with our uncle in the hotel for a week, while my parents went to stay at the Socci villa, a few hours drive away.

After his return to Italy from India, Luigi Socci worked in the Fiat Factory in Torino [Turin].

Yol Prisoner of War Camp Kangra Valley 1943 (photos courtesy of James Purves)

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