Love and War in the Apennines

Eric Newby

Illustrated by Robin Heighway-Bury

Introduced by Edward Stourton

Eric Newby’s story of escape and evasion, dedicated to the ordinary Italian people who saved his life, remains funny, vivid and deeply moving.


In 1942 Eric Newby, a member of the British Special Boat Section (SBS), was captured by enemy soldiers during an operation off the coast of Sicily. Held for more than a year in a prisoner-of-war camp, Newby and his fellow prisoners took advantage of the Italian surrender in 1943 and escaped into the countryside. Newby would go on to be a celebrated travel writer with titles such as A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, but this book – a funny and moving tribute to the people of rural Italy who helped him survive – is perhaps his most personal and most poignant.

Production Details

Bound in blocked cloth

Set in Janson

272 pages

Frontispiece and 6 colour illustrations, and 4 pages of black & white photographs 

Plain slipcase 

˝ x 6¼˝

‘Love is its heart’

Suddenly released into the countryside and separated from his fellow soldiers, Eric Newby tried to stay one step ahead of the German army by virtue of the exceptional courage and kindness of the contadini, the rural peasants of the region who hid, fed and smuggled Allied prisoners-of-war at great personal risk. Newby builds a warm and affecting picture of human kindness and grants the reader ‘some faint inkling of what total war meant to ordinary people’.

‘War is the background to this story, but love is its heart’ 

  1. Edward Stourton  

More than an escape memoir, Love and War in the Apennines is a beautifully written homage to the people who saved Newby’s life, and contains sharp insights into the quality of freedom, that prize that most of us take for granted and can only really appreciate when it has been lost and regained.

It is also an account full of funny, bizarre and dangerous moments with Wanda Skof, the local girl he would later marry, who teaches him the language and fills him with love and hope.

As well as striking colour illustrations by Robin Heighway-Bury, this edition features four photographs from the Newby family collection. Journalist and broadcaster Edward Stourton, who interviewed Wanda for BBC Radio 4 in 2013, has written an introduction that discusses the context of the events in the book, and the unique viewpoint that Newby brings.

On publication of this new Folio edition, Eric and Wanda’s daughter Sonia Ashmore got in touch to say: ‘Many thanks for the copies of Love and War in the Apennines. They are very handsome books and we appreciate how much effort has gone into producing them. I am only sorry that my father and mother are not here to enjoy this new edition.’

‘What makes a classic?’

‘What makes a classic? This book became one almost as soon as it was published; I remember it floating in the conversational ether in the mid-1970s, long before I actually read it.

‘Its success surely owes something to its memorable title which, haiku-like, brings two universal human passions into collision in a very specific place. And I have a theory – quite unprovable – that the book also benefitted from the InterRail train ticket, which was introduced in 1972, a year after Love and War in the Apennines was published. This wonderfully liberating form of cheap, rough European travel created a whole new market for travel writers like Newby. He first set foot on Italian soil when he landed on a Sicilian beach during a daring commando raid in August 1942; by the time we arrived with our rucksacks three decades later the danger had gone, but it still felt like an adventure. As this new edition underlines, however, the book’s status as a classic has endured; so there must be more to it than a clever title and lucky timing.’

An extract from Edward Stourton’s introduction

About Eric Newby

Eric Newby (1919–2006) was a British journalist, soldier, writer and traveller. In 1938 he joined the four-masted Finnish barque Moshulu as an apprentice and sailed in the last Grain Race from Australia to Europe, by way of Cape Horn. Following service in the Second World War, during which he was captured and met his future wife, Wanda, he briefly worked in the women’s fashion business before setting out to climb Mir Samir in Afghanistan, an expedition later published as A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1958). Newby became Travel Editor for the Observer in 1963 and was made a CBE in 1994. His many works of travel writing include The Last Grain Race (1956), Slowly Down the Ganges (1966), A Book of Travellers’ Tales (1985) and Round Ireland in Low Gear (1987).

About Edward Stourton

Edward Stourton is a broadcaster, presenter, journalist and author. A regular contributor to the Today programme, which he presented for ten years, he has written and presented several high-profile current affairs programmes and documentaries for radio and television, including The Italian Freedom Trail for BBC Radio 4 in 2013, for which he interviewed Wanda Newby. Stourton is the author of several books, including Cruel Crossing: Escaping Hitler Across the Pyrenees (2013).

About Robin Heighway-Bury

Robin Heighway-Bury has been illustrating for 30 years, having arrived at it via a circuitous route as a lab assistant and an engineering draughtsman. In that time he has produced work in many media for numerous British and international clients in publishing, advertising and editorial. One high-profile project was the Heinz advertising campaigns (1991–4), for which he won two D&ADs and other awards – examples of the posters can be viewed at the V&A Printroom. His other book projects include covers for Mario Vargas Llosa novels (Faber & Faber) in the late 1990s. He continues to work from his studio in East London.


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