Summary of Ettore Damini
Ettore Damini’s story is that of an Italian anti Fascist working with the Allied forces as an interpreter (despite not speaking much English). His account is a mixture of both recollection and referenced archive research.
He participated in the British Army’s Operation Sassoon along with James Cameron, Corp Williams, Sgt Fitzpatrick and Corp Gordon Brake, which aimed to recover missing British PoWs. He describes in detail attempts to evacuate soldiers using the ship ‘Saturnia’.
In 1944 he describes his work in Operation Bee, establishing a new so-called “ratline” through the Cassino front, to provide British PoWs with an escape route from the German occupied side. His account includes biographies of his colleagues from these Operations.
The full story follows, in two versions. The version in the first window below is the original scanned version of the story. In the second window below is the transcribed version in plain text.
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My days at war: 1943-45
Ettore Damini November 1998
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[Autograph]For Monte San Martino Trust
25th April 1999
To my mother
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Introduction, dedication and acknowledgements
I have extracted from my book “Memories of War” the period that goes from the 12th September 1943 to the 2nd June 1945. It is the account of 629 days, pieced together with accuracy, which I have called “My days of War” and which I documented as far as possible. I would like to dedicate this work to my mother, AMALIA ELSA CADINI DAMINI. They were critical days also for her, as she was very anguished for my sudden disappearance, which most definitely left a deep scar in her life.
She waited for me during the whole Nazi occupation without ever knowing where I was or what had happened to me. She probably imagined where I had gone as she knew my political feelings, but it could well be that I had been captured by the Nazis, hung elsewhere or ended up in Germany sealed in a cattle wagon.
She lived the horrors of the Grappa Rounding up in September 1944. She had been forced by a fascist military to be present at the hanging of a partisan in Piazza Caniezza, for a moment she was even lead to believe that that young man could have been me, this she told me after the war was over. I recently managed to discover that that partisan was called Michele Ancona, from Grottaglie and was 22 years old. He was hung in Cavaso on the 24th September in the afternoon. The suffering was so strong that my mother, who was only 39 years old at the time, never forgot that disfigured face which looked like mine. Michele Ancona was one of the 170 persons hung in those days in our villages around the Monte Grappa, another 300 fell in battle between the 21st and 23rd September 1944 or were hung on the spot when captured.
Moreover, I owe my mother the credit for having cherished for years and catalogued with extreme care documents and material of those days without which I would have never been able to piece together much. Years later that collection made me feel the need to reconstruct a past which would have otherwise disappeared. She gave me the whole file a few years before her death (30th July 1990) with the following dedication: “I hand these documents of life and death related to the historical events between 1940-1960 to my son Ettore, former partisan. Mother. Treviso, September 1963”.
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Furthermore, I would like to thank Lucy Ismail Deas, niece of Capt. J. E. Cameron, for helping me piece together the facts of my days of war, for her patient research work in the Public Record Office of London and for having given me all the letters and documents left by Capt. Cameron at his death; and also Major Christopher M. Woods, eminent historian of the S.O.E., for the fundamental help he gave me with his accurate information and details. During the German occupation Maj. Woods operated for about nine months between 1944-45 as liaison officer of the S.O.E. with the partisan formations on our mountains of the Veneto region and is now an honorary citizen of Asiago.
Finally, I must thank Richard Lamb, well-known and much-discussed historian of Italian recent affairs, for having directed me in my researches and suggested the right contacts, and also the many friends, associations and British offices whose kindness and willingness were a big help.
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Notes for Readers:
“A” Force – The cover name used by MI9 in the Mediterranean Theater until a certain point in 1944.
M.I.9 – Military Intelligence 9. (Escape and Evasion Service).
I.S. 9 – This abbreviation was adapted in 1944 by the units of MI9 scattered throughout the various theaters of operations. The unit in Italy, therefore, was IS9 (CMF), Central Mediterranean Forces.
S.O.E. – Special Operations Executive. The principal British organization operating in enemy territory. It maintained contacts with the partisan formations. The American equivalent was the O.S.S.
Special Force – (1SF). The SOE. section for Italy. The H.Q. was in Monopoli, in the province of Bari.
S.A.S. – Special Air Service. Military units composed of paratroopers-demolitions experts with specific training in special military operations in enemy territory.
F.S.S. – Field Security Section. Military security and counterespionage (and other functions).
POW – Prisoner of War
September 8 – The date of the Armistice, that is, of the unconditional surrender of Fascist (and not) Italy, with all that followed it.
P.R.O. – Public Record Office
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Saturnia – One of the Italian fishing boats requisitioned by IS9 for this purpose. It is probable that also the landing of the Sassoon mission team at the mouth of the Chienti River on 16/12/43 was carried out by means of Saturnia. It finished by going aground in the vicinity of Campomarino, five miles east of Termoli, on the night of 31/12/43, after a successive attempt, which also failed, to recover our mission team. It was commanded by Capt. Vlasto. (Newsletter no. 7, 4/1/44, WO 208/3416, 48669 no.6).
MS – Motosilurante. A small fast torpedo boat of the Regia Marina Italiana (Royal Italian Navy), utilized by IS9.
SASSOON – The Sassoon mission was part of a much larger operation which provided for operations also in other parts of the Adriatic, including the coast of the Veneto region to the north. It was organized by IS9 and the purpose was the same everywhere: the recovery of ex-prisoners or of flight personnel shot down in enemy territory.
P.W.B. – Psychological Warfare Branch
U.N.N. – United Nations News
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My first (private) war mission
Towards evening on September 8, 1943, the unconditional surrender of Italy was announced over the radio. I was in Cavaso, the town where I was born (1927), at the home of my paternal grandparents. Cavaso is a small town in northeast Italy, on the border between the provinces of Treviso and Belluno, at the foot of the Alps. Our valleys in the Triveneto were the traditional and mandatory routes for an army that wanted to invade the Italian peninsula from the north. At the extreme southern end of the country, the Allied forces had already carried out the occupation of Sicily and without a doubt, I thought, were now preparing to make their way up the peninsula (I could have been wrong, but that’s exactly what happened). The Germans, who could not allow themselves to give up a territory that was strategically important to them, would not just be standing by and watching, I thought furthermore, but would be hastening to go up against the enemy invading the country. The Italian peninsula, mountainous terrain that lends itself to defense, would become the theater of a long and bitter battle. Where the two enemy armies met, an impenetrable front would be consolidated within a short time. Therefore, there would not be much time to lose. While I was contemplating all these things, the people around me were celebrating the end of the war (just as on July 25 they had celebrated the end of Fascism, which was, in fact, not over yet). My decision to combat Fascism (anti-fascism was in my DNA) had been made about a year before, in the autumn of 1942, when the Allied Forces had landed in Marocco/Algeria. The successive Allied conquest of Sicily and the fall of Mussolini had confirmed my expectations. The announcement of Italy’s unconditional surrender did not come as a surprise to me, therefore, and I understood that the moment had arrived to commence my part in the war for liberty and democracy; at least I believed so at the time. I decided, therefore, to depart immediately, in order to reach the Allied forces before an impassable front would consolidate on some part of the peninsula.
I remained in Cavaso for three more days, trying desperately to gather more precise information on the situation, but the news that arrived in Cavaso was meager, uncertain, and contradictory. So I decided to leave and to stop off at my boarding school in Rovigo (“Angelo Custode”), where perhaps I would be able to
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find out more. In Rovigo, where I had left my belongings, I would, moreover, be able to get some articles of clothing more adapted to a long march, especially shoes, and probably a little spare food (rare in that era). I left Cavaso by bus very early on September 12. In Padua I saw the first Germans, armed to the teeth, who were guarding the station, and some others who were stopping a group of young men of military appearance. The trains, consisting only of freight and livestock cars, were few, overloaded with people, and without any schedule. Some agents of the just-revived Fascist Militia, armed with muskets, were asking every so often to see the documents of some traveler, whom they stopped at random, who was hurrying towards the trains. I sneaked into an uncovered livestock car packed with people, and I arrived in Rovigo at dark. The city was without electricity. There was no one at the boarding school except the kitchen sisters, who gave me something to eat by candlelight. I was exhausted; I had not eaten since the evening before. I remained in Rovigo for seven days, until the 19th of September, almost always at the train station or in the vicinity, keeping an eye on the trains and gathering whatever news I could. The few trains, always composed of freight cars or livestock cars, arrived slowly and were incredibly overloaded: people clinging to the steps, on the roofs, between one car and another, on the locomotives. Many got off to drink at the fountain. They were almost all very young soldiers from southern Italy, dressed half in civilian clothes and half in uniform, coming from every direction, and all going towards home, or so they intended. They knew nothing of the situation; the majority of them knew as much as I did, or even less. Some spread incredible information, such as, for example, that the Germans too had surrendered to the Allies, or that the Allies had united with the Germans to continue the war against Bolshevik Russia. Bullshit. Frequent trains with German troops (in normal passenger cars) transited quickly and without stopping, in the direction of Ferrara, which refuted such fanciful news. They were on their way to stop the Allied forces. The station of Rovigo, in contrast to that of Padua, was not yet under guard; I never saw the shadow of a German or fascist (the large roundup of men to send to forced labor in Germany had not yet begun). The only Germans that I saw in Rovigo those days was a little group of 7 or 8 very young soldiers around an armored car in a comer of the central piazza, surrounded by the usual curious people.
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Instead, I found out from a priest who came to the boarding school looking for Don Mattioli (the director, who was away), that the Allies had landed in Naples or nearby. He didn’t know the exact location and he didn’t want to reveal the source of the information (probably Radio London); nevertheless he was certain of the event (in reality the landing had come in Salerno on September 9). This information gave me the confirmation that the Allies, in fact, intended to proceed up the peninsula. Even though I didn’t yet know anything about what was taking place along the Adriatic coast, I decided to depart in that direction without any further hesitation. I decided upon the Adriatic route for very simple reasons. I thought that if the Allies were in Campania, the Germans would not be able to defend Puglia, but would be forced to retreat also from the east, at least to Molise and beyond; furthermore, that the major battles would be around Rome, on the opposite coast. Orientation would also be easier; all I would have to do was to keep an eye on the Adriatic Sea and follow the coast. I went and sat down on the edge of my bed and I thought for a long time, looking at the floor of the empty room. I was thinking that I still had time to return to Cavaso and that, once the decision was made, I would not be able to turn back even if I wanted to. I left Rovigo late on the evening of September 20, heading south, in a freight car which carried me to Ancona, where I arrived late the next afternoon. The night of September 22 found me in another freight car traveling toward Pescara; the train concluded its journey the following night, a little before Giulianova, the tracks having been uprooted by bombs. I started walking inland to distance myself from the coast, along with a group of Calabrian soldiers who had fled from Yugoslavia, who’d been with me on the train. They were heading towards Calabria.
I was glad to have left the train and the coast and to be in the mountains again. Even if the coast did not yet present any extreme danger (aside from some machine-gunning), it would do so soon enough: it was the only direct communication line toward the south, and the Germans would be forced to utilize it as soon as possible; it was a question of a few days, maybe even hours. I felt safer and was at ease in the mountains; I had been well trained in hiking since my childhood and I knew how to find my way. These mountains were different from my own, the Alps, but they were still mountains. The people were different as well; their language was almost incomprehensible to me. I had the impression of
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having arrived in a foreign country. Alien, too, were the frequent groups, at times very numerous, of disbanded southern Italian soldiers dressed in all manners and coming from all directions (France, Yugoslavia, northern Italy, and even some from Greece and Russia), who were fleeing toward their towns in the south, hoping to be able to reach them after years of war and absence. They also spoke the most disparate dialects, one different from the other, and all unintelligible. A few were able to express themselves in Italian or something which resembled the Italian language. They circulated information that was just as incongruous, always uncertain and contradictory, at times preposterous and unbelievable, that ended up with confusing ideas; in reality no one understood what had happened and what was happening around us. Allied planes, flying very fast and at low altitude and heading north, passed over our heads ever more frequently, which meant that the Allied forces were no longer very far away. The sounds of explosions and the rattling of machine guns were heard ever more frequently, coming from both the coast and from other points inland. The farmers spoke of the roundups of dispersed Italian military personnel carried out by the Germans in places not far from us. Allied prisoners of war fleeing from the prison camps to go into hiding frequently met, almost all of them heading toward Maiella to wait for the arrival of their troops (it would be reached after a good nine months!). I noted that they were almost always alone or in pairs, on rare occasions in threes, never more than that. I asked myself why and I understood that in those circumstances it was more prudent to go alone. I didn’t hesitate, therefore, to leave the group of Calabrians (8-10 people), and I resumed my march on my own before dawn on the morning of the 25th. From that moment on I kept as far as possible from anyone I happened to meet, especially if it was a group. Experience had taught me that this was the right conduct and I kept to this rule for the rest of the war.
Toward the evening of the same day (September 25), I found myself at a point between Chieti and Francavilla a Mare, where I ran into two English POW’s who asked me if I had anything to eat. I shared with them what I had and we ate together. They gave me some Senior Service cigarettes (in a tin). They were the first I had ever seen. After that, I would continue to smoke Senior Service for over fifty years. In the space of half an hour we became friends. They told me
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that the 8th army had occupied Bari and perhaps Foggia as well (in reality Foggia would be occupied two days later, the 27th).
That was the first precise information that had reached me, and I understood that I was about to reach my objective. As for them—they told me—they would wait for it in hiding in Maiella (they, also, would spend the terrible winter of 1943-1944 in Maiella!). I decided to go on. I had no hesitation; on the contrary, I was filled with a sense of haste. I resumed my march of forced stops.
I saw Ortona from the mountains, and this is the last date of which I am certain. I passed Luciano to the west; I crossed the Sangro River with great effort and fully dressed, and I dried myself off by walking (there, along the Sangro, the front would be stabilized not long after). I arrived at Montenero di Bisaccia, where they spoke Albanian, and they mistook me for an English prisoner of war on the run. Next came the outskirts of Guglionesi, Ururi, and the ford at Fortore. Then I passed between Casalnuovo and San Severo, and in Lucera I met the first Indian units of the 8th Army, and saw the British flag waving for the first time in my life. I had left the Germans and Fascism behind me. It was the evening of September 30, or perhaps October 1, 1943; I was dead tired, starving, and filthy dirty, but moved and proud of my first mission of the war (a private one). I was just a little over sixteen years old.
The riskiest part of my undertaking was over: I had reached the Allied forces. But that was only the first part of my objective. Now I had to take care of the second part, less risky we could say, but more important and perhaps more difficult: to make my story and my intentions known to the Allied authorities and to get myself accepted by them. Only in this way would I be able to participate in the war. Otherwise I would remain just one more of the thousands of refugees, evacuees, escapees, and who-knows-what, who, for reasons totally different from my own, crowded the southern regions just liberated by the Allies. In that case I would fail in accomplishing my principal objective, and my journey from the north would be rendered completely useless and mistaken.
I realized this immediately upon my arrival in Lucera, where maximum confusion reigned. I did not see one British officer; the soldiers were all Indian,
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their language impenetrable. A crowd of dispersed people, stragglers, castaways, etc., for the most part Italian ex-military men who had just arrived from the north, moved aimlessly up and down the street; local people were shooting hunting rifles at someone who had taken refuge on the rooftops, who answered the fire every so often (firing that was completely ignored by the Indian soldiers who just stood by looking on). I asked where the commander of those soldiers was. No one could tell me where; probably it was not in Lucera. No one paid any attention to me at all; I just was one of many. Darkness was falling and I had reached the limits of my strength; I needed to eat something, and above all, to sleep. I saw some men, with a different appearance than usual, who were in line with mess tins in hand, and someone who was handing out food. I moved closer and forgot about the Indian command. They were political prisoners who had gotten out of a local prison by popular acclaim, almost all of them northerners, many with eyeglasses, and for the most part communists. Someone recognized my Veneto accent and immediately gave me a mess tin. I got in line with them and ate, and then I went with them to a school with straw scattered on the floor, where I slept. They wanted to know who I was and why I was there. I recounted my story. They were enthusiastic about it and congratulated me. That was the first approval that I had received (inside of me I was asking myself what my grandfather and my mother, who had no idea where I had wound up, would have thought if they were present!). Furthermore, they told me that the British commands, “those which really mattered,” were in Bari, and that it was there that I needed to go. It was to Bari that they would be transferred within a few days, in an Allied truck, and I could join them if I wished. I thanked them and answered that I’d think about it. I left for Bari at dawn on the following day, alone and on foot; I was already used to walking and I had learned that it was always better to travel alone. In Bari, some weeks later, I saw one of them again at the PWB: it was Professor Antonio Pesenti. He recognized me and we became friends until his death. Pesenti became Minister of Finance in the first Italian government of Salerno.
I reached Foggia, which was completely destroyed by bombs, the same day. It was very hot and the atmosphere was dusty and stinking, the traffic intense. There was a total lack of water and there were still corpses under the ruins. There were no civilians, only English soldiers. At a parked armored car I asked for
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water to drink, dragging out my best English (the few words that I knew!). They gave me some beer. There were four or five soldiers not much older than I was, maybe twenty years old. Then they gave me some crackers and a tin of meat. I pulled out more words of thanks in English. Pleased with this, they added cigarettes, chocolate, and more beer as I was about to leave. Now I was well restocked.
Intoxicated by the unaccustomed drink, I spent the night in a semi-destroyed Italian storehouse, where I found blankets and even some clothes to change into. The following day I proceeded to Cerignola along the provincial road, meeting endless columns of motor vehicles which proceeded in the opposite direction at a walking pace. Groups of disbanded soldiers of the ex-Italian army proceeded my march, others came behind. I was always alone, taking care to avoid any contact. At Cerignola I was put up by a family of fervent middle-class Catholics. I was taken there by a priest whom I met by chance. For the first time I could take a bath, wash with soap, eat a meal at a table with a tablecloth, and sleep in a normal bed with lots of sheets, all things which I had forgotten. At Barletta I succeeded in taking a snail-like train, rickety and dirty, that took me to Bari. I slept deeply in a comer of the station. I woke up on the morning of October 6, 1943, as fresh as a rose. Towards the middle of October I was working for the P.W.B., the Psychological Warfare Branch, a type of political unit of the Allied headquarters. It couldn’t get any better than this. I was immediately accepted with respect and consideration, and treated very well. I would like to mention here Major Greenlees, who was in charge of Radio Bari, Colonel Munro, who was the head of the press, and Captains Robertson and Howard, who took care of relationships with local political personages and Italian anti-fascism; all were British officers of high intellect who had a perfect knowledge of the Italian language, and above all, the Italian situation (which rarely happened in purely military commands).
My principal objective, as I said, was that of participating in some way in the war against fascism (which continued to live with the black shirt in the north, and without the black shirt in the south). The main obstacle was my age. I never ceased insisting, emphasizing to those officers the experience that I had already acquired on my journey from the north. Finally, toward the end of November,
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Capt. Howard, perhaps tired of my insistence, presented me to Capt. Kennard of the F.S.S., and on the 2nd of December, 1943, I wound up in Termoli in the service of the “A” Force (MI9), saving Allied personnel who were hiding out in enemy territory. I would soon be returning to the Italy occupied by the Nazi fascists. Thus my first war mission (a private one) concluded successfully.
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[Map of Italy featuring the route along the East coast travelled by Damini]
[Caption:]The flight route South______BY TRAIN…………….ON FOOT
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Central Italy, Dec. 1943 – Jan. 1944
“…None of us spoke more than a smattering of the language, and we were given an Italian lad of sixteen, who spoke French (but not English), as interpreter… “
From the article by Captain James Cameron in Blackwood’s Magazine, Feb. 1946
I arrived at the “A” Force in Termoli on the 2nd of December, 1943 (having been sent by the F.S.S. in Bari).
On the 13th or 14th, a patrol of the 2nd SAS Regiment arrived in Termoli. There were five men, commanded by Capt. James Edmund Cameron of Cambridge. The others were Sergeant Fitzpatrick, Corp. Williams, from Yorkshire, Corp. Gordon Brake from London, the radiotelegraph operator, and an Irishman whose name I cannot recall, who, after me, was the youngest member of the group. It was probably on the morning of the 15th that Maj. J.V. Fillingham called me into his office to present me to Capt. Cameron and to ask me if I wanted to go on a mission with him, to serve as a guide and interpreter. I accepted. In those days I spoke only French (and a little German), and I was barely over 16 years old, but I had already crossed the lines in the opposite direction, fleeing from the Veneto region after the 8th of September. Capt. Cameron spoke French very well. The H.Q. of the “A” Force was on the top of the highest mountain in Termoli, which rose straight up from the sea, and was near a convent with a little church, facing the Tremiti islands. We six left Termoli on an old Italian fishing boat, late on the night of the 15th, or perhaps at dawn on the 16th. We all remained in the hold for the entire duration of the voyage and we landed the evening of Dec. 16, 1943 at the pinpoint (the mouth of the Chienti river, on the right bank), without any problems or inconveniences, and at the expected hour, 19.30. After the landing, the moon was just starting to rise.
The objective of our mission, code named Sassoon, was the recovery of 25-30 British ex-prisoners of war (POW’s) who were hiding in the Chienti and Tenna river valleys, in the provinces of Ascoli Piceno and Macerata, the majority of them having fled after September 8 from CP70 (prison camp 70) in Monte Urano; and furthermore, that of finding and bringing to safety “an important officer who was operating in EOT” (enemy occupied territory). I learned more
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than 50 years later that the person in question was either Capt. Andrew Losco of the “A” Force, English, or Maj. Scratchley of the SAS, the latter of whom had not returned to the base after a preceding mission. It’s more likely that we were dealing with Maj. Scratchley, who returned instead to Vasto on the 15th or 16th of December, as we were leaving. We would have to learn the whereabouts of these people and establish contact with them, organize their embarkation, create a permanent base in the area, and then return to base in Termoli. All this would have to be completed in 10-12 days. This was the content of the briefing before our departure from Termoli. We also had a strict order never to dress in civilian clothes for any reason, and to remain hidden by day, with the exception of me, the only one who spoke Italian and who could move about even in the daytime for connections. This, in fact, was precisely my assignment. The order was never broken by anyone. No one ever moved from the refuge of the moment if he were not in my company, not even by night, except for Sergeant Fitzpatrick on only one occasion. Of this I am certain, both because it remained impressed in my memory, and because James Cameron had the habit of speaking to me of this detail (and of others) every so often, during the 45 years of our friendship and our post war visits to one another.
Having landed and moved on into the interior, we found refuge and substantial assistance at the homes of the Barbizzi, Curletta, and Lattanzi families (in chronological order), the first two on the estate of Count Brancadoro (Casette D’Ete, Sant’Elpidio), the third in Val di Tenna. We lodged in the Barbizzi home the first 4-5 days, then at the Curlettas’, where we spent the Christmas of 1943 and a few successive days, and finally at the Lattanzis’, until our return to Termoli, which came on the night of January 20th or 21st, on an MS of the Italian Navy.
During the entire period of the mission, that is from December 15, 1943 to January 21, 1944, 37 days in all, the six of us always lodged together, without any other British presences, except for five, or at most six days, during which our group united with Capt. Fowler and Lt. Darwell in the Curletta home after their landing on the night of December 21.
Right after Christmas, Fowler and Darwell transferred to another family; I don’t know which and I have never learned, and from that moment on I never saw them again, nor did I hear anything more about them. A long time after the end of the war Cameron told me that they left because they were destined for
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other assignments. I always thought that they remained to continue our work. The documents, instead, say that they returned to Termoli with us on January 21. Fowler spoke very little; he was reserved and liked to keep to himself. Darwell, on the contrary, talked all the time; he always wanted to be right, and he annoyed everyone somewhat. There was a general sense of relief when he left.
It was not difficult to locate about thirty prisoners. In the Marche region there were several thousand ex-POWs, and in our district surely hundreds. The most difficult thing was to organize them, and above all to convince them to follow us. The majority, in fact, did not desire to run further risks, preferring to remain in relative safety where they were and await the arrival of the 8th Army. The rendezvous with the boat turned out to present another considerable difficulty. Many of them failed, either because of bad weather, or due to the enemy presence on land or at sea, or as a result of errant navigation. Our good fortune was the almost daily radio communications with our base, which besides facilitating our assignment, gave us a certain security and moral support. Cameron always said that it was a pleasure to hear, from the other side of the lines, “someone who still loved us.”
The enemy presence in our territory was not very substantial. The Germans were in the major centers such as Macerata, Ascoli, Porto Civitanova, etc., and the patrols moved frequently along the coast, that is, along the railway line and the coastal road towards Pescara, on which troop convoys transited by night directly toward the front of the Sangro, frequently shelled from the sea or machine-gunned from the sky by the British forces. The most inland areas were entrusted to the control of the fascists and carabinieri, who were minimally efficient, disorganized, and lacking in motivation. They were armed to the teeth, but with antiquated and often harmless outdated weapons. Nevertheless, they were dangerous. With a telephone call or a rocket they could at any moment call in the Germans, whose promptness and methods, on the other hand, were well known to all. We had to beware more of the servants than of their masters of the moment Moreover, we learned that a few days before our landing, a special unit of German-equipped fascist police, composed of fanatic elements, had been established in Piceno, whose capital was Ascoli, namely, exactly in our zone of operations, with the specific assignment of catching British prisoners of war and Italian partisans. We signaled this immediately to the base. This fact was confirmed in the Newsletter no. 6 of 29-12-43, 9/2, WO 208/3416-48699[Editor’s note. This is a reference to a War Office file in The National Archives].
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Only five days after our landing we attempted the first embarkation of prisoners. The archive of the P.R.O. speaks of it as follows (History of IS9, PW 208 3250, p. 69). It says, among other things, “Finally a party of some 25 E & E’s were mustered at a beach RV and Capt. P.S. Fowler sailed in the I.S. 9 schooner “SATURNIA” on Dec 21 to carry out the evacuation. Due to a series of misfortunes and enemy interference, Capt. P.S. FOWLER was left ashore and the “SATURNIA” was forced to abandon the evacuation, returning to TERMOLI…” An article by James Cameron, commander of our mission Sassoon (which I read only now–1998–for the first time), speaking of this episode in no. 1564 of Blackwood’s Magazine of February 1946, that is, immediately after the war, effectively confirmed the failure of the evacuation, attributing the responsibility to Saturnia and to the commanding officer of that expedition (which was Capt. Fowler, who in fact remained ashore with us). Cameron spoke of it thus: “…Arrangements (for the rendezvous with the boat) were completed and the weather was fair. Our thirty prisoners were briefed to slink down to a certain spot on the beach after dark, and they had been squadded under appointed leaders. The radio in the afternoon reported that the boat was on the way, and as soon as dusk fell we moved off across country to the rendezvous, where we arrived three hours later, wet and contented. The prisoners were all there, it was a dark moonless night, and it was the appointed time.
“The boat was there. We could hear its engine and just make out its shape in the darkness, and I began to flash the signal. The noise passed up and down and back again and I went on signaling to it, getting more and more puzzled, and wondering when some hostile body would come to see what was going on. After an hour of this sort of thing nothing had happened except a succession of vague shapes in the dark, and as the time limit was nearly up we began to feel embittered.
“Suddenly there was a loud hail, and a landing party appeared very noisily in our midst, with a dinghy and a rubber boat. They had delayed coming in, thinking there were enemy craft about. All now seemed to be well, and the subdued delight of the prisoners was rather pathetic; so the less said about the next hour the better. The dinghy turned out to be stove in and quite unseaworthy, filling as soon as launched, and the rubber boat was half-deflated. When at length the latter got off it was unable to find the parent boat, and when we send the landing party
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to look for it they returned with long faces to say that it had gone—vanished—fled into the night from an imaginary enemy.
“We were thus left on the beach on this December midnight with two unserviceable boats, thirty disillusioned prisoners, many of them soaked to the skin, and my own very angry handful, gathered in a menacing circle round the landing party. The Italian members of it dissolved into tears and vanished into the dark. But there was not much to be said. The prisoners had to go back to their old addresses where they could be found again, and we started sombrely back to our last billet. It seemed a miracle that nobody had come to see what all these goings-on were about, and the first thing we met on the way home was a party of angry Germans with a broken-down car on the main road. A few shadowy craft had passed, but these were only part of the normal enemy coastwise traffic, and it was from them that our boat had gone in panic flight.
“Our only consolation on the walk back was the composing of an adequately descriptive message for the radio next day, and we ultimately fell into our straw dog-tired—stanco morto, in the expressive Italian phrase.”
That is how Cameron related the events of that night in his journalistic report written immediately after the war, which, as I said, I have read only now for the first time. Nevertheless, he did not name any names nor furnish any date; he did not mention the drowned prisoner whom we buried in haste on the beach, and whose identity disk he took, a disconcerting fact which remains indelibly in my memory (and his own, as well—we spoke of it many times after the war). Just as we spoke many times of Capt. Fowler and of Lt. Darwell, the only ones who disembarked that night from Saturnia. There were no others, as a matter of fact, and no Italians at all in the landing party. The two were alone, I would not say noisy, and it was I myself, alone, who went to meet them on the beach while the others waited at a distance, hidden behind the dunes and bushes. Then there were some sounds when we three reached the group, sounds of collective joy that were immediately suppressed. Still, I am not completely certain that no one could have embarked. It seems to me that the rubber boat could have been able to reach Saturnia with some prisoners at least several times. Then, at a certain point, the boat virtually disappeared in the darkness, leaving the others, that is to say, us, on the beach. Finally, I think that there was, in fact, the danger of enemy interference, both by road and by sea. Just one or two nights before, in that same stretch of the sea, an enemy craft had shot a burst of tracer fire at one of our
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aircraft, and several times it had suddenly turned on a search light and scanned the coast. On the coastal road the traffic was not intense, but incessant. Cameron did not pardon Fowler (“A” Force), and rightly so, for not having thoroughly checked out the dinghies before departing from Termoli.
Another documented source affirms: “before the evacuation could be completed, Saturnia left, leaving Fowler and Darwell on land.”
A series of subsequent evacuation efforts were attempted in the immediately succeeding days.
The second rendezvous was established by radio for December 24, Christmas Eve, only two nights later, and again with Saturnia. It was necessary to chose a different meeting point along the coast. During the preceding evacuation attempt, in fact, which took place just south of the mouth of the Olienti river, we had abandoned on the beach the two unserviceable craft, which we were unable to hide, as well as a badly buried body: only too evident signs of our presence, if they should be discovered by the enemy. Thus the new meeting point was established north of the mouth of the Tenna river. Capt. Cameron, however, had reservations about the operation’s prospects, and was therefore unwilling to expose the entire group of prisoners once again to the risk of another failure (which would have convinced them definitively to abandon the idea of a risky escape), so he preferred to send only Sgt. Fitzpatrick with a few volunteer prisoners. And it was well that he did so, because Saturnia, due to a navigational error, waited a long time in the wrong place, and Sgt. Fitzpatrick’s platoon returned to the Cinfetta home at dawn on Christmas day, disappointed, wet, and overcome by fatigue. Several days after Christmas, on the 28th or 29th of December according to my calculations, all six of us (Fowler and Darwell had already left a few days before) transferred from the Curletta home to that of the Lattanzis, in the Tenna valley, both for security reasons and because the Lattanzi home was nearer the new point along the coast that had been chosen for the evacuation.
The third rendezvous was established for December 31. the last day of that cursed 1943. Saturnia departed from Termoli but was forced by bad weather to change course, and ended up running aground, I don’t know where. We were alerted by radio a little before we were to head out.
The fourth rendezvous, established with an Italian Navy MS for the night of January 4, was impeded by bad weather and the MS was forced to return to
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Termoli. And we, who this time were already prepared and hidden on the beach with our prisoners, were in turn forced to return a few at a time, stealthily, to our respective refuges.
The fifth rendezvous, again with an Italian MS, was canceled on January 6 due to bad weather, even before the vessel could leave Termoli. THIS WAS THE LAST MOONLESS NIGHT. During the lunar period, which would last until January 18, our evacuation attempts would have to be suspended.
This is how Capt. James Cameron (later Maj. Cameron) describes our missed connection with the boat on the night of January 4. in his article in Blackwood’s Magazine after the war:
“…A few days later the radio again called us to the sea, and our arrangements worked like a charm. We drove down in two dog-carts to a known farm a mile from the beach, which was to be the waiting-point, while I dropped off at a bridge en route where the prisoners were to gather. One of my men came back whistling ‘in Italian’ that the coast was clear, and we moved in without incident, squadded the men, and settled down to wait our time at moon set. It had been a fine still night, and we felt almost free men. Then it all happened again—the same sudden shriek of wind, an evil roar from the sea, and within thirty minutes a half gale blowing onshore. The boat, as we heard afterwards, hit the storm earlier and was almost lost, limping home long overdue in a very bad way. Our own walk home in the wind was not a gay one.
“What followed was less so. The radio next day said that it was sorry, but the state of the moon would not allow another attempt for a fortnight, and we would have to wait. One of our prisoners produced a pocket Bible and over the radio we referred our people at base to 1 Kings xviii, 43-45, which gives a lively description of the prophet Elijah under rather similar circumstances—six fruitless inspections of the sea, and rough weather. The other end retorted with Psalm cxix 10, With my whole heart have I sought thee.'”
It was probably in the days immediately preceding our attempted embarkation on January 4. 1944 that we met Ken de Souza (“Arturo”) and Sgt. H.L. Curtois (“Aroldo”), two RAF aviators captured at Tobruk by the Italians in ’42, who had fled from CP70 in Monte Urano after September 8. Arturo and Aroldo were hiding out with the Brugnoni family, not far from the Lattanzi (Mannello) home where we were staying. They helped us to recharge our radio battery, which had gone flat, and they embarked with us for Termoli on the night of the 20th or 21st
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of January, regaining their freedom after almost two years in captivity. Ken de Souza wrote a book, Escape from Ascoli, in which he narrated the events of his capture and imprisonment, and of his flight from the mouth of the Tenna river after having met us of Operation Sassoon. In his book he mentions our names and other details, several which I also recall very well. And thanks to this book of his (and to Christopher Woods of the SOE!) we were able to find one another after 54 years and to reminisce about the hot tea with rum that we drank together, safe and sound, on disembarking in Termoli.
During the period of moonlit nights, our activity quieted down, while that of the Royal Navy was intensified along the coast, and that of the RAF a bit everywhere. In those days, Fermo and the state road along the Tenna River, just 200 meters from us, were machine-gunned. This “friendly fire,” often without motivation, irritated all of us somewhat. With the radio back in working order, Cameron hastened to request the boat for January 19. the first moonless night. The day after, the radio, instead of responding to his request, asked us to take advantage of this period of inactivity to report on enemy traffic heading toward the front via the road and railway line along the coast. Cameron could not hide his irritation, and responded that this was not part of our assignment, and he absolutely didn’t want me to be the one to do it. I remember clearly this circumstance cited by Ken de Souza. But someone had to go, and now I find out that it was Ken de Souza himself, and that the requested intelligence was in fact sent to our base. This too was mentioned by Cameron in his article, but in a rather curious fashion: “…learning by chance of a train filled with troops, I took action which resulted in the train not proceeding along its route” (the words in quotes give the gist of what happened, but not the literal meaning). The sixth rendezvous. An archive document which Christopher Woods pointed out to me affirms: “January 19. (The boat) was not given permission to set sail (from Termoli) because naval operations (of the Royal Navy) were still in progress (in the Adriatic).” The evacuation was rescheduled for the following night, the 20th-21st of January, the second moonless night. On the seventh attempt, the rendezvous was successful.
The evacuation of the Sassoon team and the prisoners, on the night of January 20, 1944, was a combined operation of the “A” Force and the No. 1 Special Force (1SF) of the SOE. The operation called for the disembarkation of two respective missions: Operation Abberton of the 1SF planned for the landing of four of its
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Italian agents, accompanied by 2nd Lt. R.A. Clark (today Sir Robert Clark), while Operation QWQ2 of the “A” Force anticipated the landing of the agent Silenzi, an Italian, for the recovery of Capt. Andrew Losco, also of the “A” Force, and the evacuation of Capt. Fowler with 23 POW’s. There was no mention of Sassoon, our mission, which was comprised of men of the 2nd SAS, who nevertheless had operated on behalf of the “A” Force. As the “A” Force documents demonstrate, they preferred to count the us six of Operation Sassoon among the 23 prisoners who embarked. Why was this so? No one can say. Nevertheless, two plausible hypotheses can be proposed:
a) to demonstrate a larger number of POW’s saved by the organization;
b) because the “A” Force, for some reason, did not intend to reveal to the 1SF the presence of the SAS (this behavior was not so infrequent among the various organizations of the Special Services, which were accustomed to operating independently from one another and, in some cases, even in antagonism among themselves). It is a point of fact, however, that all of us embarked, we six of Sassoon, plus Darwell and Fowler, who were not part of Sassoon at all. This is confirmed by the Newsletter of IS9 no. 10 of January 30. The number of prisoners brought to safety is uncertain, and varies according to the documentary source. For example, the History of IS9 (W0208/3250) records 25, another source 23, then 24, and still another, 16. At this point I don’t know what to say. It seemed to me at the time that it was a group of at least 30 people. It should be clarified that Capt. Fowler of the “A” Force, who appears in all the documents about the mission as a protagonist, in reality never had any role in our operation, and moreover, never put his nose in it. He was left on shore by the boat on the night of December 21, 1943 in unfortunate circumstances and he remained hidden and secluded for the entire duration of Operation Sassoon.
The embarkation-disembarkation operation took place 500 yards north of the mouth of the Tenna River and was effected by an Italian MS 65, commanded by Lt. Di Vascello Pinotti (p. 357 of Voi. XI of The Italian Navy During the 2nd World War, the Historical Office of the Navy, Rome, 1971), accompanied, as I said, by 2nd Lt. Robert A. Clark of the 1SF (SOE). The report of Lt. Clark of January 22 provides, among others, the following details:
“We…arrived at our pinpoint 300 yds off shore at 2200 hours. The recognition signals [from shore] were clearly visible.” The landing party (including Clark) manned a row boat with three rubber boats in tow, in which the four Italians were
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embarked. After they had landed, 17 prisoners were embarked in the boats and towed back to the MS, “arriving on board at 2240 hours.” Then the three rubber boats were rowed back to shore and carried aboard the remaining seven “prisoners” (the remaining seven “prisoners” were we six of Sassoon, plus, most likely, either Capt. Fowler or Darwell—we six were the last, in fact, to leave the beach, as our rules, moreover, had called for). “The anchor was weighed at 2305 hrs and we set course for Termoli, arriving there 0315 hrs 21st.”
This is how James Cameron describes the episode of our definitive evacuation: “We went down the valley, again by dog-cart, on a dark still night (telling our hosts to leave the door open as we would probably be back as usual before dawn), met and squadded the prisoners, and after a brief wait at the farm on the coast, led them in groups over the road and railway to the beach. Ten minutes after we had got them squatting in their sections, with my armed party about for protection, a shadow appeared to seaward. It was no longer the ill-fated fishing-boat, which by now had wrecked itself for keeps, but a fast Italian motor craft, with an Italian naval crew and an officer from the Royal Navy. This time there was no mistake. A string of rubber boats paddled in and took off all the prisoners in one lift. An interesting wait followed on the beach for the rear party, but nothing stirred, and the boats returned to take us off unmolested. A few minutes later we were off to the south in a cloud of spray.”
This is what Cameron relates. When we were all disembarked and on the pier in Termoli, Capt. Cameron turned toward our group of five and exclaimed: “Well, here we are…the all of us!,” and that was his final comment. Thus ended Operation Sassoon.
In a large room behind the pier they gave us hot tea with rum, biscuits, and chocolate; it was a question of ten minutes or so. Then a truck arrived, picked up all the prisoners (in a state of euphoria), and left immediately.
We would not see them ever again. Almost simultaneously, two jeeps carried all six of us to the H.Q. of the “A” Force on the mountaintop, where we slept a few hours in our big room, and when the day broke, they gave us clean clothes, then a collective shower with red isoformio (disinfectant) soap, and finally an abundant and relaxing breakfast that lasted a couple of hours, which we passed laughing and joking and smoking decent cigarettes (we had exhausted our ration some time before, and had been smoking those stinking Italian ones). At the end an SAS truck arrived, picked up my five companions, and carried them to Noci
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(Bari) to the regimental camp (and from there, to Naples for a few days leave). I arrived at Noci about 10 days after, recalled by Cameron, and they welcomed me back with eggs and chips and rivers of beer.
I never saw Darwell and Fowler again after that day when they left the Curletta home, neither in the Marche, nor during the return to base, nor at Termoli, nor at Noci.
Just two years after, in the summer of 1946, James Cameron came to visit me in Cavaso, and we went on foot on Monte Grappa for 2 or 3 days to visit, military maps in hand, the sites of the battles of 1917-18. Then we returned to the Marche to greet our farmers. James and I remained friends for the rest of our lives.
Corp. Williams and Sgt. Fitzpatrick fell in combat in France in 1944-45.
Corp. Gordon Brake remained in correspondence with me for several years after the war, perhaps a decade, and he got married. He sent me, from London, a photograph of his wedding and a little piece of cake. Then we lost contact with one another. It was a shame, because I was to spend long periods in London in the course of the succeeding thirty years.
I learned nothing of the young Irishman since the period in Noci; I have never been able to remember his name.
So I would be the last survivor of Operation Sassoon, unless, as I hope, Gordon Brake, who would now be 78-80 years old, is still alive. I would like it immensely if I could find him. But how to go about it?
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The attempted evacuation of 21/12/43
As I said, Capt. Peter Fowler of the “A” Force and Lt. Darwell of the SAS disembarked together from Saturnia. Fowler’s assignment, as an officer of the “A” Force, was clearly that of seeing to the end the evacuation of the prisoners recovered by the Sassoon Mission, as well as the six men of that mission. He remained stuck on land, surprised by the hasty departure of Saturnia, which came before the evacuation could be completed.
The landing of Lt. Darwell, instead, was surely part of the plan, that is to say, anticipated, but with objectives that had nothing to do with the Sassoon mission. And also this turns out, it seems to me, clear enough.
With the evacuation having failed (completely or partially?), the prisoners went back to their respective refuges on their own, and Darwell and Fowler came with us (what else could they have done?), but they remained with the Sassoon mission team only a few days. Then they left on their own. Darwell, probably, to carry out his assignments—what they were, I have never learned—and Fowler, his unfortunate task concluded, to wait for the next and more successful evacuation, as all of the other prisoners did. Both of them disappeared very definitively from the scene of Operation Sassoon and for all the rest of the mission itself.
Capt. PETER FOWLER
Having returned to the base in Termoli with the Sassoon team on the night of January 20, 1944, Capt. Fowler was then transferred to Corsica in February to direct sea operations on the Tyrrhenian coast on behalf of the “A” Force. Here he operated in close collaboration with Maj. Andrew Croft of the SOE, who directed similar operations from Bastia, both on the Italian coast and in the south of France. When such operations were suspended in August, (the Allied armies were moved north in the meantime with the occupation of Rome and Florence), he united with an SOE group commanded by Croft and parachuted into France with them on the occasion of the Allied landing in Provence (August 15). He fell in action on the 21st of August in Anvil-Dragoon. Maj. Croft, who was his old college companion (Stowe), describes him in a book of memoirs as “a tall man,
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blond and well-formed, with the sensitive hands of a pianist.” I recall him like this also. When he disembarked from Saturnia on December 21, 1943, he seemed to have just departed from the officers’ mess, with his impeccable uniform, creased trousers, foulard around his neck, and totally unarmed (he had even forgotten his pistol, and presented a contrast to Darwell, overloaded and armed to the teeth). It must be noted that it was not a beautiful spring morning, but a cold December night on a rocky beach controlled by the enemy! I recall him as a person of educated and genteel demeanor, discreet and respectful to all. He must have been very cultured and sensitive; you could tell this from his way of speaking and from his accent, both in English and in French. A long time after the war, James Cameron, once falling by chance on the subject of Fowler, defined him as “a dreamer, a man who was certainly not one to send behind enemy lines.” In me he inspired much instinctive affinity. On August 21, 1944, Fowler died in France, and the last German troops completed the retreat behind the Gothic Line in Italy.
(News received from Christopher Woods, in his fax of 30/04/98).
The news of the train arrived on the first days of January, 1944. We somehow learned that a train carrying enemy troops toward the front at the Sangro was stopped just outside of Porto Civitanova. Capt. Cameron, who was busy at the radio with Corp. Brake, establishing our next rendezvous with the boat, immediately inserted a report in the message to our H.Q. in Termoli. The intervention of the RAF, which probably departed from Foggia, was immediate, and the train was hit many times and could not continue on its route to the front. This action, completely incidental to Operation Sassoon, was mentioned in the Newsletter no. 7 of 4/1/44, WO 208/3416, 48669, 6th paragraph, which, however, attributes the initiative to Capt. Fowler of the “A” Force, who remained stuck on land on the night of December 22, emphasizing that this organization, even when confronted with impediments or periods of standstill, could render itself useful, carrying out actions which effectively advanced the war effort. In this particular case, it did not correspond to reality at all, no matter how much the Newsletter asserts it. Capt. Fowler did not have any role in this train episode. In
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fact, several days had passed since his departure from the Sassoon unit, and for certain he did not have the radio at his disposal.
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Capt. James Edmund Cameron
James Edmund Cameron was born on January 11, 1906 in Cambridge, of Scottish father and English mother (from Newcastle). His father was then bursar of Gonville and Caius College and when he became master in 1928, the Camerons moved into the master’s lodge inside the college. The family included James, his sister Jane (b. 1911), mother of John, Lucy, Alison and Pippa Deas, and his brother John Ronald (“Rollo” b. 1908), who died in a Prisoner of War camp in Germany in 1941.
James Edmund was educated at the Leys School, Cambridge, and at Gonville and Caius College, where he read geography. He worked for Shell Petroleum Company – his only employers – both before and after the war, but his association with the London Scottish was equally, if not more important, to him.
He would have liked to become a professional soldier, but his parents opposed it, probably because of the Quaker tradition of non-violence on his mother’s side, and the strong academic tradition of his father’s – both powerful conditioning factors. So in a strange way, the six years at war in such active units and dangerous undertakings gave him the opportunity to fulfill his ambition to a certain extent.
I knew him very well when he was young (37), as well as at an advanced age, in war and in peace time. He was a clever and brave officer, always well-balanced; he treated all equally and was highly trusted by his men. He was a man of many interests, especially in historical matters, and possessed a vast culture and an attachment to the best British traditions and principles. I learned a lot from him; he was the same age as my mother.
He married Katherine (“Kitty”) Turner in 1950 and they spent a long and happy lifetime together. They had no children. James Edmund died in Cambridge on October 11, 1988, followed by Kitty a few years later. It was sad to see them
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disappear. We were close friends for 45 years, a lifetime. They left me a little cash inheritance as a sign of affection.
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(from his obituary in the London Scottish Regimental Gazette)
“James Edmund Cameron, M.B.E., TD., M.A., died at this home in Cambridge
on the 11th of October 1988. He joined the London Scottish in February 1928 with the M.G. Platoon, and in 1930 he was commissioned to “C” Coy on its conversion to M.G.. A Lt. in 1933, he was promoted to Captain as 2 i/c to then Capt. Maxwell and later took over as the O. C.. He was made president of the Athletics Club, a member of the Bayonet Fencing team for many years and was secretary to the Bn. Boxing Team for many years and was himself runner up in TA Officer’s Finals Light Weight in 1935 and Imperial Services in 1936. On the outbreak of war he was naturally called up for duty. He served for some time with the London Scottish, reaching the rank of Major, but feeling the desire for more exciting activity he transferred to the then 5th (Scottish) Para Bn. – at the same rank, and after training with that arm he went to N. Africa in Spring 1942. Later he was with the 2nd S.A.S. in Italy seeing action behind enemy lines. In 1944 he returned to the UK and became Liaison Officer to the 3nd French Para Bn.. In 1945 he parachuted into France (Poitier District) behind enemy lines, also in N. W. Holland, and he finished the war in Norway. His exploits were many and – two “Mentions”, the awards of the M.B.E., the Legion d’Honneur, the Croix de Guerre (two) and the Dutch Bronze Cross give some idea of the value, success and recognition of his services in the last years of the war. Pre and post war he worked for the Shell Petroleum Company. He re-joined the London Scottish in 1947 and was 2i/c Bn. in 1951”.
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In the post-war years he came to visit me a number of times, always equipped with military maps of the Italian fronts of the First World War: Grappa, Piave, Isonzo, etc., of which he already knew everything. He explained to me on the spot every phase of the Italian defeat at Caporetto, and the strategic/organizational brilliance of the offense mounted by an enemy that was by far inferior in men and means. He recounted to me, phase by phase, the battle of Waterloo in 1815, which definitively eliminated Napoleon, “the great strategist, utmost plunderer, and false revolutionary, who disrupted Europe needlessly for 25 years”. He directed me to the appropriate authors for understanding the anomalous formation of the anomalous Italian state, which emerged against the will of the population, from defeats, from betrayals and from anti-democratic repressions. James Cameron, nevertheless, loved this country and its people very much, and had a profound understanding of its history. Besides being a great soldier, he was a great scholar.
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Document sources consulted on the Sassoon Mission
Marche Region, Central Italy, 1943-44
1) “A” Force Newletters from no. 4 of 14/12/1943 to no. 10 of 30/01/1944 WO 208/3416-48669.
2) History of IS9 CMF, pages 69-70, Dec. 1943, WO 208/3250.
3) Report of 22nd Jan. 1944 by Sub. Lt. R. A. Clark of No. 1 Special Force (SOE), today Sir Robert Clark. S.O.E. source.
4) Article by Maj. James E. Cameron of S.A.S. on the Sassoon mission in the Blackwood’s Magazine of February 1946 no. 1564, 7 pages.
5) References to the Sassoon Mission are also in the book “Escape from Ascoli” by Ken de Souza, an RAF man prisoner of war rescued by the mission. Ken de Souza carried out an important part in the bombing of the enemy military train.
ALL DOCUMENTS REFERRED TO ARE AVAILABLE AT THE PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE.
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Cassino Front, April 1944
This is about my second war mission on behalf of I.S.9 (“A” Force). Upon my return from Operation Sassoon in the Marche region, I spent the month of February, 1944 at the SAS camp in Noci, and the month of March at the “N” section in Manfredonia, where in the meantime, the H.Q. of the “A” Force in Termoli had been temporarily transferred. These were two months of intense and worthwhile training, to which I applied myself with all of my commitment and my conviction. That received from the SAS, especially, was fundamental. So, when at the end of March, or the first days of April, I was transferred to the No.2 Field Section in Ailano (Caserta), I had become a perfect British soldier, or better still, English, more English than the English. After six months even my speech had become quite fluent and confident; I no longer needed to rely on French. Upon my arrival I was presented to Capt. Christopher Soames, my new commanding officer, who was returning at that moment from leave. He received me with indifferent courtesy, addressing me in French, his eyes directed at my record on his desk. I answered in English. He looked at me with satisfaction, and his attitude went from being courteous to almost cordial. He asked many questions, dwelling upon the SAS, the Sassoon mission, and the details of my escape from northern Italy. He was a handsome young man of 24 and his accent revealed his membership of the British upper class. He presented me to his second-in-command, Lt. Bradley (or Bradly), an American from Arizona (whom I strained to understand because of his strong accent), a bit of a braggart and know-it-all. I can’t say that I liked him very much. Lastly, he introduced me to his third-in-command, an Italian-American sergeant, tall, dark-haired, and intelligent, who spoke with a northern Italian (but not Veneto) accent. I could never believe that he was really an American. In the section there were three or four Italian paratroopers (from the north) in Folgore brigade uniforms, engaged in I don’t-know-what duties, personnel from North Africa, and a certain Gilberto Negrini from Avezzano, a 22-year-old music student, a civilian who assumed the role of cook, who knew everything about Kant and Nietsche and always spoke in defense of the Germans. Lastly, there was an American Indian corporal, uncouth and fat, with incomprehensible speech, who was always laughing and who never
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finished uttering nonsense that no one understood: one understood only that it WAS nonsense. This was the No. 2 Field Section in April 1944 at Ailano.
The only British uniforms in circulation were those of Capt. Soames and my SAS uniform, which I was still wearing (and those of the frequent visitors who came and went). Lt. Bradley, second-in-command, was almost always away.
The section was based in a spacious and comfortable requisitioned villa which was situated on the left side of the road that arrived from the southeast and climbed to Ailano. The town was perched on top of a hill a few kilometers away. One entered the villa with a jeep by crossing a spacious portico that opened directly onto the street, and which also functioned as a garage. On the two sides of the portico were utility rooms and stairs leading to the upper floor, or floors. On the side opposite the entrance, there was a veranda which faced in the direction of the Volturno River, with one (or two?) staircases that went down to a spacious courtyard and its environs. Beyond the courtyard, on the slope below, was a magnificent olive grove, evidently abandoned, crossed at intervals by drainage channels full of weeds and briars. A beautiful Lancia civilian sports car (red, I seem to recall) with an extravagant number of cylinders, which was parked permanently at the entrance portico and snagged from I-don’t know-where, represented the pride of Capt. Soames, and sparked his fervor. The Section was not lacking in food and creature comforts, and there was plenty for all, just for the taking. The clever and improvised culinary art of Gilberto Negrini transformed the Anglo-American canned food into quasi-Italian cuisine, for which reason we frequently received officers from other sections at lunchtime. However, there were many hours of boredom during the day. In the silence of the night, the rumble of the cannons often reached us from Cassino, to remind us that there was a war going on. I certainly did not feel happy in that environment and I thought with regret of the SAS camp in Noci, where there was not much time to lose, but in compensation, everything inspired faith and conviction in what one was doing.
In April of 1944 the front had been stabilized for almost six months along the Gustav Line, tenaciously defended by the Germans. The Allied landing at Anzio, which was supposed to have broken the line from the rear, had failed in its objective, and now, in April, everyone was waiting day by day for the great spring offensive which would finally bring down the Gustav Live and carry the Allies to Rome (it began, in fact, on May 10).
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As I said already, the “A” Force’s assignment was that of extricating the escaped prisoners of war (POWs) who were hiding in great numbers in enemy territory. The “A” Force in Italy was organized into two sections that operated by sea: the one in Termoli, “N,” in the Adriatic, and that of Bastia (Corsica) in the Tyrhennian. Overland escape, that is, across front lines, was the task of a certain number of Field Sections (FS’s). The No. 1 and No. 2 FS’s operated in the western sector of the front (about half of it, towards the Tyrhennian), and the No. 5 FS in the eastern section, towards the Adriatic. I don’t know where the others were. I was in the No. 2 FS under the orders of Capt. Soames; the No. 5 was commanded by Capt. Robb. In April, in fact, the No. 1 and No. 2 FS’s operated together and a proposal to combine them into one unit was being considered.
During the winter months, the FSs’ activity was reduced to almost zero. The front, which had stabilized toward the end of 1943, had compacted little by little, leaving very few gaps. The routes followed in autumn by escaping prisoners to cross it, almost always inaccessible, had been closed by the enemy or rendered impassable by the winter season (that of 1943-44 was a particularly hard winter). Some positive results, albeit modest, had been achieved during the winter by the No. 5 FS of Capt. Robb, in the eastern sector of the front, but one must consider that in the Abruzzo-Molise and Marche regions there was a far greater concentration of POWs than there was in the other sections of the front, and that furthermore, as this section was near the Adriatic, it could avail itself of the collaboration of the maritime Section in Termoli (“N” Section).
When I reached the No. 2 FS in Aliano, with the thaw in the mountains and the impending favorable season, Capt. Soames was devoting himself to discovering a new “ratline” (that is, a route, a gap through the enemy lines), without which it would not be possible to resume the Section’s operations and rescue any POWS that he knew were hidden in the area just behind enemy lines, as well as the precise zone where they were to be found.
He knew this thanks to three prisoners who, in those very days, had succeeded in crossing the front in the Cassino area (some miles to the east), and in reaching
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the advanced British outposts. They reported that there were other POWs hiding in the Belmonte Castello/Valle Luce area, in enemy territory. They indicated as well, roughly (they didn’t have maps), a part of the route they had followed: the bottom of the Secco River valley. They warned that there was still snow in the area and that the river (of torrential nature and full of rapids) was in that moment in full fury. There were German mortars up to halfway up the left slope. There was no one in the valley floor or on the very steep right slope. Capt. Soames rushed to send a plane, which photographed the bottom of the valley along its entire length, and the two slopes. This resulted in a splendid collection of aerial photographs and relevant enlargements. This was practically all the information that the No. 2 FS possessed when Capt. Soames called me into his office for a briefing, warning me to hold myself in readiness. In a few days the snow would have disappeared completely. It was essential for the Section to verify that route before launching a group of paratroopers with a radio and supplies (shoes, clothing, food) into the zone where the POWs were. He added that that ratline was not completely new to the section because someone else had traversed it some months before, arriving at our lines. Perhaps, he continued, an Italian from the north would come along with me, a certain Antonio, who knew the area well. Lt. Bradley would accompany us to the last British outposts, which were at the beginning and on the summit of the right slope. I was shocked to learn that I would attempt this undertaking in civilian clothes, disarmed, and with Italian documents in my pocket.
Capt. Soames said that it was more prudent to do it this way: in case of capture I could recount to the Germans the little yam of a boy running away from the barbarous British to reach his town in northern Italy, and other similar, incredible pleasantries. I was even more shocked when he gave me a brand new suit, made in U.S.A., of pure virgin wool in the latest style, which kept a crease perfectly. Stuff like this had not been seen in Italy for years, and I had never seen anything like it in my entire life. Where would I have found a similar outfit in a country of uniforms and civilian clothes that were crumpled and threadbare, if not downright rags? So much puerility and amateurishness frightened me and made me anxious.
I wouldn’t need a large supply of food, Capt. Soames continued. A few kilometers into the gully I would find a clearing thick with bushes and the remains of a rustic building. It could be clearly seen in the aerial photograph.
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There I would meet someone with whom to continue the journey. The only difficult part would be the first two or three kilometers, where there might be some enemy anti-personnel mines. I had to be very careful. Just how I was supposed to be careful, especially at night, he didn’t explain, nor did he tell me what I was supposed to do if for some reason I didn’t find that person or persons at the ruined cottage. And to top it all, the Antonio who was supposed to come with me had not yet arrived in Aliano by the day of my departure, and Lt. Lee Bradley, who was supposed to accompany me to the front, was elsewhere on that day and unable to make it. But I didn’t complain at all; rather, I was content: I preferred, as experience had taught me, to go alone rather than with an unknown person about whom I knew nothing, and with Lee Bradley, the man from Arizona who was not at all a pleasant companion for even a day long journey. The Italo-American sergeant (a likable person) accompanied me in the jeep as far as the foot of the mountain, in the area just behind the lines, and he left me with a detachment of that sector. I climbed to the last outpost above the valley of the Secco River (west side) with an English sergeant (an infantryman, I think) and some soldiers who were going to relieve their companions. We were arriving as darkness began to fall. Across the valley, very near in front of us, were the sporadic little flames of the enemy mortars scattered on the opposite (east) slope. It was normal nuisance fire directed at the slopes in back of us (it had accompanied us on the way up). Climbing the mountain in daylight, one could notice, to the west and more or less at the same altitude, the ruined Abbey of Montecassino, and down below and slightly to the southeast, the ruins of the town of Sant’Elia. And low and to the west, the plain of Cassino, devastated by bombs. It was the 21st or 22 of April 1944. I do not recall the exact date: I have extracted it from the documents, but I am certain that I am not mistaken, there being too many coincidences between my memories and other references in the documentation. Much more probable is that it was the night of April 21, 1944. Furthermore, always going by the attached archive documents (especially the Newsletter no. 20 of 5/4 and no. 21 of 22/4 – WO 208/3416), everything indicates that the exploration of the Secco Valley was part of “Plan Bee.” It is certain, nevertheless, that in the same days other explorations of potential “ratlines” were in progress by other Field Sections (No. 1 and No. 5), with which the No. 2 operated in strict collaboration, and that some other routes were found. The launching of Operation Bee in the preestablished zone could therefore be
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programmed for the date of May 2 (N.L no. 22 of 30/4). That doesn’t mean that that date was respected; it is said, however, that only one part of the group could be parachuted in (two Italian “Forks”), and what’s more, without a radio (N.L. no. 24 of 15/5). While awaiting the arrival of the rest of Mission Bee with the radio, the two Forks (agents) unexpectedly found themselves behind British lines and no longer in enemy territory. On May 10–23 00 hours–in fact, the great Allied spring offensive which broke through the front was launched (Newsletter no. 24 does not mention it), and on June 4 the Allied troops entered Rome. The Secco River valley, Belmonte Castello, and Valle Luce with all their hidden prisoners had become, in the space of a few days, far behind Allied lines, and the No. 2 FS (and the others) had exhausted their function along the Gustav Line. The offensive had rendered Operation Bee, and the efforts already carried out, useless.
My attempted infiltration during the night in that sort of canyon failed because the bottom of the valley was occupied by enemy soldiers who were carrying out some work (probably putting up barricades). Fortunately they did not notice me and I succeeded with great effort in climbing back up the steep and rocky right slope and relocating, in the dark of night, the British post, my climb illuminated at times by the firing of enemy mortars on the nearby opposite slope. I had descended into the valley as darkness was falling; dawn was beginning to break when I arrived safe and sound at the post. It was really my good fortune to have met the enemy just below. If I had gone beyond that and into the bottom of the valley, and had found the Germans a little further ahead, I would certainly not have come out that gorge, lacking as I was in the necessary equipment, food, and means of finding my direction. I would not have found the way back. And, if the enemy had captured me, I would for certain have been shot for spying, given the civilian clothes I was wearing. I was saved by the proximity, and by the SAS military boots that I was still wearing (fortunately, Capt. Soames had not been able to procure a pair of “civilian” shoes for me). I returned to base in Ailano on the day of April 23rd or 24th (more probably the 24th). I reported to Capt. Soames. He listened to me impassively, without any comment. After a few days, perhaps a week, he recalled me into his office to tell me that the floor of the Secco Valley was actually in enemy hands, that he had had this confirmed by other sources as well, but that my attempt had been useful to the mission just the same (I have never understood how). I took the occasion to tell him, with all due
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respect, that according to me my sortie had been organized with extreme thoughtlessness, to say the least, and I listed for him the reasons why (which are those stated here), and I concluded by declaring that I felt that I had been simply thrown into the fray without any concern for my safety. Above all I had not digested the fact that I had been sent to cross a front line (and what a front line!) in civilian clothes. For what reason? What practical advantages could that clothing have offered? Only a useless, greater personal risk, without anything to gain. I concluded by saying that I felt profoundly humiliated by that treatment and that I had lost all my enthusiasm. He kept listening with ill-concealed impassiveness and he did not say one word. A few days passed. His behavior toward me had totally changed; it seemed that he wanted to avoid speaking with me. Then I went to his office and told him that I wanted to go to Bari to speak to Capt. Kennard of the FSS. He assented without any objection. On the night of May 10 the awaited offensive began. On the morning of May 12 I was at the FSS in Bari, 42 Via Dante, in front of Capt. Kennard, who listened to me and then wanted a written report, honest and detailed—he told me—”without any fear or reticence.” He got it. I wrote more or less what I have said here.
This was the second written report that the FSS asked of me. The first was at the end of January (for the same Capt. Kennard) about Operation Sassoon with the SAS, and on my experiences in the few successive days with the No. 5 FS commanded by Capt. Robb: very positive the first part with the SAS, equally negative the second (the FSS was the security and military counterespionage service). A few days later Capt. Kennard sent for me to tell me that the offensive was in full development, that the liberation of Rome was expected within days, and that the war, at least in Italy, was nearing its conclusion. Therefore, it was better for me to return to the PWB to wait for the liberation of the north. I asked to join the SAS in France. He answered that it was not possible and that it wasn’t worth it, the end of the war being in sight! I returned on 7/8/1944 to the PWB. The war, instead, raged on for exactly one more year, a terrible year, especially for Italy, but my experience of life and work at the PWB was highly positive, a school that very few have had the fortune to be able to attend. I was for all that time with the British Military Wing of the PWB at the employ of very fine British officers (most of them English), among the very first to receive and select the news from the war theaters.
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But still something else about the No. 2 Field Section and about the “A” Force. In the News Letter no. 24 of 15 May 1944 (after my return to Bari) I find among other things: “Source states that it is essential for anyone taking the route given him by Sgt. ANTONIO [I don’t believe this was the Antonio who was supposed to come with me] to take 5 days food, a container for water, a rigging line or rope to descend the rapids of the river SECCO.” And just how would I have been able to climb up? In the News Letter no. 21 of April 22, 1944, one reads, among other things, “90% of our FORKS [code name for Italian agents] go unarmed, and we discourage “belligerency” on the part of British personnel although they are normally armed. Experience has proved that more effective work can be done by stealth than by shooting up the neighborhood, even though our British personnel are dressed in uniform.” (British personnel, in fact, were required to always be in uniform, even in enemy territory). One notes the difference in treatment: Italian personnel in civilian clothes and unarmed, British personnel in uniform and armed. British personnel, in uniform and armed, advised against using weapons.
A strident difference. A discouraging, and I would say counterproductive, attitude toward Italian personnel, above all if one considers that the “A” Force was composed primarily of Italian operators, without whose close, dedicated, and loyal collaboration the service would not have even minimally functioned.
In my report in May to the FSS in Bari, I asked above all that this observation be included. Capi Kennard did not say anything, but it was evident that it gave him great pleasure to include it.
In the succeeding months, I learned for certain from a director of the PWB, very reliable, that the FSS, because of its assignment, considered it very important that the Italian operators in the service of the various sectors of British Military Intelligence were as motivated and satisfied by their treatment as possible. For the FSS, this was very critical to the objectives of Military Security and to the effective functioning of the Services.
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CAPT. A.C. SOAMES (later LORD SOAMES)
Bom in 1920. Educated at Eton and at Sandhurst Military College. He entered the Coldstream Guards as a lieutenant in 1939. He served in North Africa, Italy, and Normandy. He was transferred to the Free French Forces (De Gaulle) and awarded the Croix de Guerre (the highest French military decoration). Wounded in the leg by a mine explosion in the Western Desert. Promoted to captain in 1942.
In 1948 he married Mary (born in 1922 and still living), the younger daughter of Winston Churchill. They had three sons and two daughters. The eldest son, born in 1948, is the Hon. Nicholas Soames, M.P.
After the war Christopher Soames was Conservative Deputy (MP) from 1950 to 1966, ambassador to Paris 1968-72, vice president of the European Commission 1973-76, and finally, governor of Southern Rhodesia 1979-80. For his years of public service, he was awarded the title of Baron Soames. He was awarded all these other British honors: PC, GCMG, GCVO, CH, CBE.
He died in 1987
In the months after the May 10, 1944 Offensive, Capt. Soames military activities took place along the Italian-French border, in collaboration with the northern Italian Resistance partisan movement (of which he had a high opinion). He succeeded in establishing some escape routes across the Alps for British prisoners. He operated in person in enemy territory (Piedmont or Liguria) in civilian clothes and with a false Italian identity document which his wife, Lady Soames (Née Mary Churchill), still preserves.
Therefore, he himself ran all the risk that missions in enemy territory involved in case of capture: torture and death; and we know well the tenacity with which the enemy hunted escaped POWs, and the punishment that was inflicted on anyone who helped them.
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When I met Capt. Soames (April 1944), he had arrived in Italy not long before, for the first time. He knew little of this country and even less about those Italians who, having strong motivations for being anti-fascists, chose spontaneously to fight. For him, “the Italians” were those poor peasants of the southern province whom he saw around him, or those soldiers, ragged and badly armed, whom he had fought against in North Africa.
He was, as I said, only 24 years old, and he had never been on a war mission in enemy territory. He knew only from a map the highly inaccessible geographical area of the operations that he commanded, and more serious than anything else, he was the victim of the prejudices of the social class to which he belonged. He needed, as anyone else, to gain some experience. There is no doubt that he was a person of good nature, cultured and intelligent. I am certain that, having acquired some experience, he revealed himself to be a courageous officer.
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NOTES ON THE CONTEXT. Spring 1944
At the moment of the Allied offensive on May 10, the enemy forces in Italy consisted of 23 divisions. Nine or ten were spread out along the Gustav Line and five or six were in the perimeter of Anzio, with one division in immediate reserve; two mobile divisions were in the outskirts of Rome; the other four or five were in the rest of Italy north of Rome. In central-north Italy the armed resistance movement (known as partisan) was becoming ever more organized and consistent, estimated by the Allied commands as 100,000 active men, formations organized for the most part by social-communists and men of the Action Party. The Allied prisoners of war (and shot down aviators) in hiding in enemy territory were estimated at about 30,000, of which a few thousand were just behind the German front line.
PRISONERS OF WAR, POWs (“Elks.” in code)
In the chaos of September 8, 1943, about 50,000 British POWs left the prison camps in various ways and dispersed throughout the country to live in hiding, convinced that they’d be returning home by Christmas. About the same amount, if not more, remained in the camps to wait, and were captured without any effort by the Germans and deported to Germany. Only a few were retaken after their escape. Fewer than 10,000 of the fugitives succeeded in reaching the Allied troops in the south, especially before the front consolidated along the Gustav Line, or in passing over the Swiss border. All of the others were aided, sheltered, and hidden by the Italian people for the rest of the war. About a thousand united with the partisans. It was the greatest mass evasion/escape recorded in history. Relatively few were able to be assisted and recovered by the “A” Force, the organization in charge of this task. The immediate, spontaneous, unselfish help (with the risk of death or deportation) given by the common people to the great numbers of Allied prisoners of war was the determining factor in their escape and survival. Together with the Resistance (but perhaps it was part of the same phenomenon), the conduct of the Italian people represented, among so many shameful things, a positive page, perhaps the only one, in the history of the Italian State in the course of its 83 years of life. It would be worth knowing and remembering. Instead, it is willingly forgotten. One continues as always to
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remember the shameful facts of the Unitary Italian State (which is now 137 years old), passed off as glories. This highly positive page of recent Italian history is better known and appreciated in Great Britain than in Italy, where these events took place, and where many protagonists of these events, since they are recent, are still living.
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Document sources consulted on the Operation Bee
Cassino battle line, April 1944.
“A” Force News Letters:
Pages 2 and 3 of a N. L. of December 1943 first fortnight – exact date and number illegible, WO 208/3416
No. 8 of 12/01/1944, page 4 WO 208/3416-48669
No. 9 of 18/01/1944, page 3 WO 208/3416-48669
No. 16 of 18/03/1944, page 1 WO 208/3416-48669
No. 19 of 08/04/1944, page 2 WO 208/3416-48669
No. 20 of 15/04/1944, pages 1 and 2 WO 208/3416
No. 21 of 22/04/1944, pages from 1 to 5 WO 208/3416
No. 22 of 30/04/1944, pages 1, 2 and 4 WO 208/3416
No. 23 of 06/05/1944, page 1 WO 208/3416
No. 24 of 15/05/1944, pages 1, 3, 4 and 5 WO 208/3416
The information that I related about the military activities of Captain Christopher Soames (later Lord Soames) following April 1944 was courteously provided to me by his wife, Lady Soames, the youngest daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, Mary.
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Ettore Damini, born 1927
My war record with the British Forces – 1943/45.
Fled from my home in the Veneto region of northeast Italy immediately after the Armistice (Sept. 8, 1943), as the Germans were about to occupy the country; my objective was to meet the Allied troops in southern Italy. I made contact with the 8th Army at Lucera (Foggia) in early October (1st or 2nd ).
Engaged by the PSYCHOLOGICAL Warfare Branch (P.W.B.) in Bari, under Maj. Greenless, from mid-October to the end of November, 1943.
Transferred to the “A” Force (M. I. 9), in Termoli, under Maj. J.V. Fillingham, on Dec. 1, 1943.
Participated in a mission behind enemy lines (Operation Sassoon) commanded by Capt. James Edmund Cameron of the 2nd S.A.S. Regiment, commencing December 15, to rescue escaped P.O.W.s hiding in the Ascoli Piceno and Macerata provinces. Returned to base at Termoli on Jan. 21, 1944, at the successful completion of the mission.
Remained in the S.A.S. camp at Noci (Bari) until the end of February 1944, when the regiment was transferred to England for operations in France.
Assigned to “A” Force “N” Section at Manfredonia for several weeks training in March, under instructor Ted Kemp from Redhill.
Assigned to “A” Force No. 2 Field Section at Ailano (Caserta), under Capt. Christopher Soames, in early April 1944. At that time this unit was attempting to establish a new so-called “ratline” through the Cassino front, to provide British P.O.W.s with an escape route from the German occupied side. The objective of my second mission was to explore this route. My attempt in mid-April to cross the Gustav Line via the Valle del Secco near Cassino – believed to be no-man’s land – and reach the Belmonte Castello area, failed. As it turned out, the valley
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floor was held by the enemy, and I was lucky that I was able to get out and return to the advanced British trenches.
Transferred to the F.S.S. in Bari on May 12, 1944, which was commanded by Capt. Kennard and Capt. Perkins. Worked for the American Red Cross in Bari from June 3rd to August 6th, 1944.
Reengaged by P.W.B. Bari on August 7, 1944, in the Monitoring Section, British Military Wing under Mr. Fishbach and Capt. Robertson, until Feb. 20, 1945.
Transferred to P.W.B. Rome on March 8, 1945 as a sub-editor in the News Section (UNN) until May 30.
Resigned in early June 1945 to return to my home in northeast Italy, after 21 months.
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To: Capt. Kennard F.S.S.
From Capt. E. Howard
The bearer of this note Ettore Damini of Venice has been working in our office for the nearly two months. He is an excellent type of boy and we would like to teach him to do active work and to fight if possible. His is keen to cross the lines and do any official job there might be for him. He knows Venice, Belluno the Piave area, Feltre very well. Will you vey him and see if he can be of any use.
Psychological Warfare Branch – Bari
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ST HELEN’S COURT
GREAT ST HELEN’S
[A handwritten note as transcribed on Digital Page 52]
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This is to certify that Ettore Damini acted as interpreter with me in a S.A.S. operation in the Marche in December 1943 and January 1944. His services were invaluable and his conduct throughout was exemplary.
He carried out a number of missions in German infested territory which involved considerable personal danger, and his actions deserve recognition.
J. E. Cameron, Major, Special Air Service, 12/3/1946.
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315 Field Security Section.
This is to certify that CAMINI Ettore di Italo, born at CAVASO on 1 July 1927, was employed by the British Military Authorities at BARI from 1 December 1943 to ‘ 2 June 1944.
22 July 1944.
315 Field Security Section
Servizio di Sicurezza e d’Informazione Militare Inglese.
Si certifica che DAMINI Ettore di Italo, nato a CAVASO il 1 luglio 1927, é stato impiegato presso le Autorità Militari Britanniche a BARI dal 1 dicembre 1943 al 2 giugno 1944.
22 luglio 1944.
‘Servizio di Sicurezza e d’informazione Militare Inglese
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P.W.B Unit No 9 (Brit Mil wing)
28th February 1945
To:- WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
This is to certify that Ettore Damini has been employed by this unit as Interpreter from 7th August 1944 to 28th February 1945, and has worked in a satisfactory manner duringhis employment.
He is leaving this Unit on his own accord so that he can get nearer to his home which is in the North of Italy.
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[References for Ettore from the Headquarters of the Psychological Warfare Branch, 1945]
[English version]: This is to certify that Mr Ettore Damini was an employee of this Organization (Psychological Warfare Branch) from March 9th 1945 through May 30th 1945, as a sub-editor in the News section.
[Italian version]: Si dichiara che il Sig. Ettore DAMINI ha lavorato per questa Organizzazione (Psychological Warfare Branch) dal 9 Marzo 1945 al 30 Maggio 1945 in qualità redattore nella sezione Notizie.
[Both are signed by Louis K. Benjamin, Chief Personnel Officer]