It's curious how one thing leads to another. I posted recently on this blog a Unity Theatre photo from the late 1940s which included Joe Figoff, a name which meant nothing to me but which is sufficiently distinctive that I thought I'd see what an internet search revealed. And, indirectly, it has led to the photo above - taken at Arncott Camp, near Bicester, in 1942.
I am publishing the photo with the blessing of Pat Langham-Service. It belonged to her father. George Dorrington, who died a couple of years ago in his 90s. He features in the photo, along with other members of a Pioneer Corps company - one of them, the tallish guy just right of centre, is Joe Figoff.
George Dorrington had done what so many others neglect to do - written down the names of all those in the photo on the back.
Some of these same colleagues, though not Joe Figoff, put their names to a wonderful signed Christmas menu - at the time, December 1943, they were serving with the Pioneer Corps in Catania in Sicily. Again, my warm thanks to Pat Langham-Service for permission to post this moving memento of war. I wonder how the 'community singing in the dining hall after dinner' went?
It may well be coincidence and nothing more - but also among those fighting in Catania in 1943 was Alec Bernstein, the novelist Alexander Baron, who was later a colleague of Joe Figoff at Unity Theatre. He had also at one time been in the Pioneer Corps. Baron wrote about his few weeks in Catania in one of the most powerful of his novels, There's No Home, republished just last year. I wonder if he would have known any of those who signed this Xmas Day menu?
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