Book Review: Come back to Portofino
Written by Leon Engelbrecht, Saturday, 06 August 2011
“The amusing anecdotes told by the returned soldiers [after the war], the majoriy of whom had not seen te front line, added to the misconceptions which censorship and propaganda had already inculcated in the national consciousness. In South African folklore, the Italian campaign is perceived as a great adventure, and the volunteers are justifiably proud to have taken part. But those few who experienced mindnumbing violence and fear, or comforted a friend in his final death agony, wanted nothing more than to forget. Life carried on and the images of Italy became hazy through the mists of time”.
The 6th South African Armoured Division was probably the most powerful field formation South Africa ever fielded. Formed in February 1943, it entered combat in May 1944 and served under the British 8th Army and then the US 5th Army until the final days of the war. Afterwards, while awaiting repatriation – only finally achieved by March 1946 – the division was posted to northwest Italy to perform border safeguarding and peacekeeping duties.
Bourhill, whose father served in the divisional artillery, laments that today “few traces can be found of the deeds of South Africans during the war in Italy. Even in those towns liberated or destroyed by the 6th South African Armoured Division, the locals seem to suffer from selective amnesia. Visitors don't ask questions about the war. At Castello di Brolio, the massive wooden gates which were holed by shells from the Pretoria Regiment's tanks are covered with sheets of metal. The staff can tell you about the castle's history from medieval times but no nothing about what happened there in 1944.”
The title, incidentally, refers to a small fishing village near Rapallo, the post-war divisional headquarters. Here gunner Bourhill “had an affair that was more than a mere fling with a girl called Giulia Vitorello. … She called him 'Stefano' and wrote to him after a year, pleading with him to come back to Portofino”, their special place.
This fine work, refreshingly written from the point of view of the division's fighting men, is a excellent stab at wiping away at least some of the amnesia and stirring some old memories. It is thus thoroughly recommended.
Come back to Portofino – Through Italy with the 6th South African Armoured Division
30 Degrees South Publishers
- Combined Joint African Exercise kicks off in Pretoria
- Anti-rhino poaching “war” to take on new intensity
- Three more South Africans now listed on the country’s war dead inventory
- Striking inside Angola with 32 Battalion
- BOOK REVIEW: Assegais, Drums and Dragoons
- The IF Man
- Book review: Hitler's First War
- Book review: Operation Dingo
- Book review: Selous Scouts
- Book review: SuperFreakonomics
Saab provides next-generation vehicle simulators to Norway
by Saab, 2 September 2014
The BT46 two-way simulator has the ability to simulate the ballistics and time of flight of a projectile in real-time.
Dual safety: new generation of mortar fuses
by Atlantis Corporation, 1 September 2014
The wind wheel fuses DM183 and DM111S are available from Atlantis Manufacturing Management Services, the official Junghans South African representative.
Here's how chairman of Africa's largest private defence company sees the continent's future
by Paramount Group, 1 September 2014
Africa is no longer a charity case and can solve more problems on its own, says Ivor Ichikowitz, executive chairman of Paramount.
US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) signs five-year framework contract for Carl-Gustaf weapon system
by Saab, 1 September 2014
Saab signed a new framework contract with the US Special Operations Command for the company's Carl-Gustaf man-portable weapon system.
Saab Grintek Defence partners with Specialist Maritime Services
by Atlantis Corporation, 28 August 2014
New MD 530G Scout Attack Helicopter
by Safomar Aviation, 27 August 2014
MD Helicopters successfully completed the Live Fire Qualification Exercises for its new MD 530G Scout Attack Helicopter.