It began whilst on holiday in Rome, where on the 3rd June I happened upon the Anglican church of "All Saints" in the Via Babuino , close to the foot of the Spanish Steps. On display inside to the rear of the Church were the flags of the Allied Nations that liberated Rome on the 4th June 1944, accompanied by two commemorative plaques from the grateful citizens of Rome. It was here that a service of Thanksgiving was held on the June the 5th 1944.
"Deliberation n . 144 Of 3.17.1944 the Mayor Silvio Baratta
Since the major Stephen Burgess Hewitt, landed with the allied armies, the of September 8, 1943 , in Salerno, and here, assumed the charge of more of the city, has rendered, since the beginning of his office in today, famous work, capacity and attitude, struggling with deep humanitarian spirit and with resolute energy, complex and delicate problems of civil order. He, realizing, in a brief span of time, perfectly aware of the needs and the needs of the population, nothing has omitted to alleviate the pain and to hasten the return of the life of the town to the normality of his pace;
Since the major Burgess has, thus, competition effectively to remove the serious difficulties of the moment and to ensure that, within the limits of the possible, with many families, remained, as a result of the operations of war , free accommodation and means, assistance and protection , that they revived the spirit , awakening in them meaning of deep and undying gratitude;
Given that, in this way having acted, he purchased a haunting title of merit was awarded to the city of Salerno, who, to witness, it wants to in writing the name of his sons best;
Give, as it confers, "honoris causa", the Major Stephen Burgess Hewitt the Salernitan citizenship."
Stephen Burgess Hewitt T.D. J.P 10.6.1913 - 10.10.1970
Stephen attended Durham School where he excelled at sport, particularly rowing. It was here that he enjoyed his first taste of the military as a sergeant major in the Officers Training Corps. On leaving School he joined the 6th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers as 2nd Lieutenant and was transferred to the Royal Tank Regiment on the 1st November 1938. He was finally mobilised on 25th July 1940 to the Middle East with the 7th Armoured Division. From here he writes to his brother on 25th February 1942.
“I am still very busy, no job is outside my scope, at the moment my area covers about 80 square miles, with many towns and villages. I am really responsible for housing all the troops in such places, in addition here I have collected two clubs an Officers Leave and Transit Camp, a Town Guard Room and a civilian housing committee which has had to house about 35,000 people. I have also managed to get started a Civilian Transit Camp because it was quite common for me to have a family of 20 just come and squat in my Office at about 9 O’clock at night, so that I organised that one to save myself some bother .”
“I may add most of these are not my job but people are so slow at seeing the need for certain things and then so slow in getting something going, that I find I am diving into it. Good old Nosey Parker.”
On the 17th March 1944 he was made an Honorary Citizen of the City of Salerno, then temporary Capital of Italy, for his work in restoring a degree of normality to civilians whose lives had been severely disrupted by war. It is for this gratitude of the people that he will be remembered as part of the 70th Anniversary of “Salerno Capitale” commemorations.
His letters illustrate his great sense of humour in the face of such an enormous task. On one occasion during a brief period of leave, he finds himself stemming the tide of a burst pipe in his rented villa with a mop and bucket.
Another example from a letter dated April 1945 whilst in Rome for four days..
Post war, Stephen returned to the UK and to the firm of Connolly Shaw Ltd. He never married and died at his home Wreighburn House in Thropton, Northumberland on 10th October 1970 aged just 57. He was survived by his brother Richard Naylor Hewitt MBE, his sister Kitty Hindmarsh and five nieces and a nephew. One such niece would subsequently marry the nephew of another Army Officer with an equally interesting story to tell.
Brigadier Leonard Gilbert C.I.E, M.C.
"Gazette Issue 31759. M.C. Awarded the Military Cross. His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the undermentioned rewards in recognition of gallant conduct and determination displayed in escaping or attempting to escape from captivity, which services have been brought to notice in accordance with the terms of Army Order 193 of 1919. To date 5th May, 1919."
The 7th and Last Ruling Nizam
Iris had befriended one of the Nizam's daughters in law, who had once shown her the vaults beneath a royal palace, where dozens of trucks lay parked up in various stages of decay but still full of gold, silver and precious gemstones. The Nizam had at one time feared revolution and had made plans for the removal of a proportion of his portable wealth. Plans that were subsequently abandoned.
The Nizam spent his entire life at the King Kothi palace, where employed a huge household staff numbering in the region of 6,000 with 38 employed purely to clean and dust the chandaliers!
On the flip side he is said to said to have worn crumpled pyjamas, the same fez for 35 years, smoked cigarette butts and to have eaten his meals from a tin plate.
The Hyderabad Government minted it's own currency, the Hyderabadi rupee from 1918 and in 1941 the Nizam formed his own bank - the Hyderbad State Bank.
In 1941 the Nizam made a gift of a diamond tiara and necklace to the then Princess Elizabeth on the occasion of her marriage. Known as the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace it is still worn by royals to this day.
With enough pearls to pave Piccadilly Circus and a stable of horses that Godolphin can only dream about the Nizam also had an insatiable appetite for sex. He had countless wives, over 86 mistresses and fathered over 100 illegitimate children. He also had one of the largest collections of porn in the world, using hidden cameras in his zenana and guest quarters!
However this was not to last. Following Indian independence from Britain in July 1947 and the susequent division of India and Pakistan, the Nizam stood firm and declared Hyderabad an independent state.
Jacob or Victoria
Included amongst the Nizams vast collection of gemstones was a diamond, reputedly 185 carats in its uncut state that sat wrapped in newspaper on his desk of the 7th Nizam and was used as a paperweight.
Also known as the "Imperial" or "Great White" it was the largest diamond in the world until 1896 and had been bought by the 6th Nizam as a portent of goodluck and who named it the "Victoria" It was found by the next incumbent in the toe of one of his father's shoes.
More important than the material are the long lasting psychological effects of war. Not only for those who fought and survived, but those who survived so seriously maimed they were unable to provide for their families, those who were unable to fight and the inexplicable guilt they felt at not being able to do so, and of men too young to go to war who lost their youth replacing their fathers in the fight for survival at home.
A poignant fact to end on . In a report issued by the United Nations on 20th June this year it is stated that "the number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post World War II era, exceeded 50 million people"