The opening of Richard Knott’s book about war correspondents in World War 2:
1 copy of ‘The Trio’ can currently be won on Goodreads!
In the middle of August 1943, a small group of war correspondents arrived in the hilltop town of Taormina on the island of Sicily. There were three of them – Christopher Buckley, Alexander Clifford and Alan Moorehead – and they worked for three London newspapers: The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail. They had been drawn together by the shared demands of a dangerous job, the familiarity of living cheek-by-jowl in the open air of the North African desert, and the recognition that each of them would be the lesser without the other two. They had not known each other long – a few eventful years – but, in a world of guns, bombs and frantic movement, their friendship had been accelerated to the point where it bordered on love. They were known as ‘The Trio.’
On that hot summer’s day they approached Taormina by way of a tree-lined road which passed through shaded verges where wild geraniums grew. It was a cautious progress prompted by the fact that the Germans had planted scores of mines in the road. A young peasant woman appeared, clutching a jug of wine and glasses, and offered them a drink. So began the pleasures of Taormina. The town was captured ‘in the old style’, the Daily Mail’s Alexander Clifford wrote home to his mother, declaring it to be ‘the most lovely place in the world.’ On that Saturday afternoon the three men slowly climbed ‘the precipitous goat-track’ which led up into the town, watched by the ‘townspeople leaning over the ramparts.’ On one side, far below the red cliffs and rocks, lay the Mediterranean and, in the distance across the strait, the pale outline of the Italian mainland. To the north west was ‘the great black lava bulk of Mount Etna.’ It felt like walking into paradise. By the time the Trio reached the top of the winding path, they were panting for breath and desperately hot, scarcely ready for what greeted them, an excited, enthusiastic mob, and an Italian officer with a fine sense of occasion and a Shakespearian turn of phrase. ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘we have waited too long for you!’