Lett, Gordon

Summary of Gordon Lett

This document is an important addition to the archive. Not only does it describe – through diary entries – escape, evasion and Italian assistance, but it also describes Lett’s role in partisan activities. Letters in Italian reflect the intensive cooperation between Lett and General Daniele Bucchioni, a noted partisan, arranging guides and weapon drops. Other segments are: Lett’s introduction to his book about the period, ‘Rossano’, his description of the birth of ‘The International Battalion’ and a speech by Bucchioni to the participants in the Freedom Trail in 2004.

After capture at Tobruk in July 1942, Major Gordon Lett spent fourteen months in the notorious camps at Bari and Chieti. At the Italian Armistice he escaped from the camp at Veano and took to the mountains above the Cisa Pass. He founded and led an entirely non-political band of highly successful partisans, the Battaglione Internazionale. The group was key to the success of the Allied advance that permanent lines of communication with the Allies were established, supplies dropped by air and, later, SAS troops sent in to assist the group. The battalion enabled 500 Allied troops to escape to safety via Rossano. Lett was awarded the DSO and the Medaglia Argento al valor militare for his services.

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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[Handwritten notes by Keith Killby]

Gordon Lett’s proposed ‘Forward’ to a new edition of ‘Rossano’ and The Italian Resistance Movement Nov. 1971 allowing for an overall view after several publications to explaining events when to the participants at the time they were inexplicable.

‘Forward’ explains Lett’s encounter with Adrian Galleagos (from Capri to Oblivion)

Speech by General Bucchione Daniele To Freedom Trail on 2/6/2004

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Summary and Comment by JKK on DIARY of GORDON LETT Major, D.S.O. [Distinguished Service Order] See Book (ROSSANO)

[Note on right hand side]: Pages 35, 42 & 123 missing.

from 24th July 1942 Arrival in Bari as a POW.
to End Nov 1942 (Churchill’s speech heard in Chieti POW Camp.).
Then 10th Sept 1943 At escape from Veano Camp, south of Reggio
till end of 1943 As slowly the partisan group began to be put in place.

The original [diary] was buried in the garden of the Deluchi family at Rossano.

In the periods covered by the diary there are few events that are not covered by similar events in other accounts, but the detail and dates make it more valuable than other accounts, especially in certain respects.

First section shows behaviour of POWs and attitudes especially towards the Italian people. The Italians and their army had been despised in the Desert. This arose a) Very badly equipped, b) Very badly officered, especially at the Higher level, c) the average Italian had no interest in making war with the Germans and against the British. Lett despised them as much as others while a POW and yet later, like all POWs on the run he could not praise the Italian people enough for what they did for him and others whether they were contadino or partisan.

The second part, from just after escaping from Veano Camp until, four months later, contacts are being made, with great care, to set up the partisans, is full of endless encounters with other POWs, especially officers ‘on the run’ (Fontanellato was not far away) and the almost universal acceptance and help given by Italians.

The detail and repetitions highlight 3 aspects of the’ freedom’ which the POWs found.

1) The confusion of highly speculative rumours coming from the Italians often arising from wishful thinking of where the Allies had or were expected to land.
2) The indecision to which those rumours added of whether to hide until the Allies arrived, make for Switzerland, make for Allied lines – some 350 crow flight kilometres away (and therefore possibly more than 1000 in fact).
3) The spontaneous and almost incomprehensible generosity and courage of 9 out of 10 Italian contadini to help all those POWs, Italian disbanded soldiers, bombed-out refugees who were milling around in the countryside.

Other points: de Burgh, later to lead out the whole Camp at Fontanellato, was SBO [Senior British Officer] at Bari. GL was for some time at Chieti, which he says was opened after the fall of Tobruk when there was so many more POWs. GL mentions the menacing character of Croce whose name is often mentioned by others – see especially ‘Dinner of Herbs’ by John Verney.
10th Sept ’43 GL leaves Veano Camp with an Austrian Sergeant and Rifleman Micallef.

14th Sept. Radio announces that anyone helping POWs will be shot. Not until the end of September does GL reach and remain in area of Rossano.
Lett and all his helpers are very wary of all contacts, especially when he begins to link up with the resistance movement in Genoa. The constant concern for food and shelter is underlined by the detail and repetitions.

One wonders what happened to any Diary GL might have kept between Dec 42 and Sep 43. It is noted that once he joined the partisan movement GL buried the diary. Had it been discovered by Germans or Fascists it could have terrible consequences for many mentioned in it.

Keith Killby June 95
(After Rossano functions)

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(Gap Dec 42 to Sept 10th 43)

(July 24th 1942 to December 27th 1943
by GORDON LETT, Major, D.S.O [Distinguished Service Order]

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24th July, 1942
Bari was a large town on the coast with a good deal of shipping in the harbour. On arrival at the prison camp, we were thoroughly looted by the Italian guard and when we were at last allowed through the barbed wire barrier, I found several of the Company already there.

Life at Bari was very crowded and generally unpleasant. Food was bad, consisting of thin soup with grass-like vegetable floating in it which gave everybody stomach trouble, and that we were given twice a day with a few nuts or apples and cheese. Bread consisted of one small loaf, weight 120 grammes, daily. Also, half a cup of synthetic coffee which we could only have at half past six in the morning. The water shortage was acute and the water was only turned on for a few hours each day. Apparently, this was going to be the same all over Italy.

We were first placed in bungalows, wired off from the rest, officially for segregation purposes, and we were divided into groups of 48 field officers to each room. The beds were double-decker wooden bunks with straw-filled mattresses – “pagliaricchi” – and one wooden stool for each officer. The whole camp area was surrounded by a high barbed wire fence with strong electric lights on posts and sentries posted every 100 yards or so in wooden sentry boxes day and night.

There were few incidents worth noting during the

period ….

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August 12th
period at Bari. One was an attempt at escape which took place on about August 12th. There were two parties involved, one consisting of Colonel Gore of the Ordinance, Squadron-Leader Smith and a Pilot-Officer named Phillips and myself: the other party consisted of Pilot-Officer M.J. Jones (an Australian from Killara), and two New Zealanders, Lieutenants J. Burns and K. Phillips.

My job was to prepare the escape route for the second party which was leaving first. This was done by cutting a passage with wire clippers through the apron wire to the main fence at a spot where a deep shadow fell between the two electric lights and sentry boxes. The cutting of the final strands through the fence had to be left to the leader of the first party. We should, of course, all have left together but there was a difficulty owing to the fact that the New Zealanders wanted to go north on foot whereas we preferred to try our chances from a nearby aerodrome where we knew we could seize a plane and take off. To us the Swiss frontier seemed a very long way away, whereas with a couple of pilot officers to pilot the ‘plane the chance of a safe landing in Malta was pretty good. Therefore it was decided that our party would leave on the second night.

On the night of the 12th all went well. I cut the wires up to the fence and marked the track with sticks then handed over to Jones who led his party successfully through. I lay on the ground beside the last man and closed and

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camouflaged the gap after they had gone through. Whilst I was doing this the sentry walked past, he could not have been more than three feet from my head, paused a moment and went on. Camouflage completed we returned to the barrack room. No alarm was given which meant that the party had got away unseen. We reported to the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] (Colonel de Burgh) and everybody in the camp was warned that there might be a search by the sentries as a result and that they should hide all their important kit.

The point which we had prepared for escape through the fence was in the compound of the other ranks and next morning a rumour reached us from there – which I think now was probably quite untrue – that the Italians had posted a machine gun heavily concealed opposite the gap to wait for another attempt at escape at the same point. We watched the sentries that day and they did not appear to have discovered the break in the wire but one could never be sure; consequently, we did not make our attempt to escape that night, and the opportunity never arose again.

The Italian officials discovered the gap in the wire nearly two days later and then of course the balloon went up. There was a long-delayed roll call where the identifications of every prisoner were produced and carefully checked. The fact that the escapees had not been discovered before was due to the co-operation of three soldiers from the compound who came in and stood in their places during

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the daily roll call which consisted only of a check by numbers and not by names. When at last they found that three people were missing the Italian Commandant still refused to believe it and ordered a delayed search all round the camp, suggesting that perhaps they had gone to sleep somewhere. Finally, when they were satisfied, which was at 14:00 hours on the afternoon of the 15th, the guards were warned, the alarm was blown on the bugle and all the sentries were had up and given a severe lecture by the Commandant. The news was spread in the surrounding country and unfortunately the escapees were caught and brought into solitary confinement after they had been free for three days. Naturally nobody was allowed to see them, but we managed to communicate with them by means of a sentry who could be bribed with packets of tea. They said that they had found the civilians very helpful but the country was open and difficult to hide in; they were eventually caught whilst hiding in a fruit store belonging to a farm right at the foot of the mountain range. A couple of carabinieri brought them back and they said that they had something in the nature of a triumphal procession until they reached the prison, civilians waving to them and throwing them food and fruit. I never saw any of the party again and their next destination was probably Camp 5 near Genoa which was reserved for particularly bad boys.

There were some lighter moments at Bari and on the whole we gave the authorities plenty to think about. The

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roll call parades were always amusing simply by reason of the fact that the guards themselves looked so extremely comical, rather like a music hall team. As they marched on parade in single file, we used to whistle the Laurel and Hardy march in time to their movements, and it was most appropriate. The morale of the local troops was very low indeed. They were particularly impressed by the Red Cross parcels and there was one instance when a Calabrian sentry, seeing a label with “Made in London” written on it, on a tin of meat, remarked that that was impossible as London had been destroyed by bombing. However, the arrival of further parcels impressed them with the fact that perhaps London had not been so badly bombed. After that at least one sentry had to be arrested by the Italian Orderly Officer for rebellious talk about the war when he remarked extremely heatedly that his family had not got nearly as much to eat as the prisoners of war that he was looking after.

August 23rd
Bari was only supposed to be a transit camp so in due course the time came for us to be moved. On August 23rd we were herded together into a wire cage, searched and told to wait for the transport to take us to the station. The day will always be memorable because we noticed a flutter of excitement in the camp early in the morning and about nine O’ clock some of the prisoners outside our wire cage managed to pass the news over to us that something had

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happened in Europe. Somebody managed to get hold of a paper outside but when they tried to tell us what was in it the diminutive sentry brandished his rifle and looked very fierce, thereupon our would-be informer turned to him and proceeded to hold a long conversation with him in English at the top of his voice. As the sentry did not understand English the conversation consisted of a report of what was in the paper which we naturally could hear. It appears that our forces had carried out some sort of a landing at Dieppe, but exactly what sort of operation it was very difficult to say. The Fascist press described it as an attempt by the Allies to open a second front and they claimed that it had been repulsed with heavy loss. The local soldiery behaved in a most peculiar way in that they seemed to be hoping that it was an Allied landing and that it had been successful, yet at the same time they were doing their best to show the necessary enthusiasm about a so-called Axis victory.

Eventually we were put on the train. Surprisingly enough there were a lot of first-class carriages with, of course plenty of sentries patrolling the corridors, which were also full of wretched civilians who had to stand as the trains were overcrowded anyway. Most of the civilians however, made attempts from the first to be friendly and of course we co-operated, particularly where the more presentable young ladies were concerned by suggesting that

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they should come in and share our compartment with us. This naturally caused a mild panic amongst the sentries who were afraid that fraternisation might set in in a big way and so eventually all the civilians were cleared out of the carriages and the doors at the end of the corridors were locked. Our destination was Chieti and we passed through Foggia and Pescara. The sentries were very slack and lost interest in the journey after the first half-hour. Several of us, I think, thought of trying to escape but we were badly handicapped by having no knowledge of the country through which we were passing and also to escape from a train needed rather a lot of cooperation which unfortunately at the time was not forthcoming. There was also a possibility that the new camp might offer better opportunities – a point of view which, as we were to discover later, was entirely unjustified. The railway line passed very close to the sea as far as Pescara and there seemed to be plenty of wooden boats on the shore which would be useful in an attempt to escape by sea. The country for the most part was very open, consisting of ploughed fields and orchards of olive trees. The sentries took great care to pull down all the blinds when we passed through Foggia and Pescara but it was possible to see a good deal all the same. There were large factories on both places which advertised cement and sweets We passed several trains going south; one loaded with

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vehicles mostly of German make and one with troops. When the troop train stopped beside us our sentries laughed at their comrades and told us joyfully that they were on their way to Libya; our sentries thought that very funny indeed but the victims were not in the least amused. Talking of Libya, it was some consolation to realise that in spite of the lies that the Commandant at Lecce had told us and the glowing reports in the Press from the Axis point of view, about the fighting in Egypt, the enemy had not yet reached Alexandria. The Italians now seemed to be getting rather worried about it. We eventually arrived at Chieti at dusk. If only it had been half-an-hour later it would have been comparatively easy to escape on the way from the station to the camp.

Chieti camp – PG 21 – was bigger than any of the others which we had seen so far. It was originally organised as a concentration camp for civilians and had not been built very long. A large number of South Africans had arrived before us, also taken in the Tobruk disaster and they were the first prisoners of war to occupy the place. The Italian staff consisted of a Commandant, an interpreter – of whom more later – and five Italian officers, with a large garrison of carabinieri. Chieti became famous eventually for the frequency with which its Commandant was changed. When we first arrived, I think we were all prepared to behave more or less peacefully but the Commandant started off on the wrong foot by using distinctly aggressive tactics on the first roll call.

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He had one particularly irritating habit which was to ride up and down in camp on a bicycle, expecting all officers to stand up and salute him as he passed. Naturally it did not take long before feeling in the camp became more aggressive, especially when we learned through a friendly Maresciallo of Carabinieri that if the Commandant made one slip which drew upon him the attention of the authorities in Rome, he would be removed from his job and sent to fight in North Africa. At this period all the Italian troops had an unholy dread of North Africa as a battle area, mainly because of the hardships imposed upon them by Rommel and his controlling staff. So we looked for an opportunity of causing an incident which would remove the “trick cyclist” as we called him, from command, and the very foolish fellow played right into our hands.

At this stage it might be as well to give a description of the layout of the camp. So far as prisoners were concerned it consisted of five main blocks of buildings; each block was divided into two bungalows with a courtyard, and there was one separate building at the end of the main pathway which contained the cookhouse, the shower room (the showers of course, didn’t work) and an old dining hall which was eventually converted into a concert hall. The area enclosed by the bungalows was bisected by an asphalt road way which ran roughly east and west and through which asphalt paths branched off from each block. Two of the barrack blocks

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earned fame quite early on in the history of Chieti – one was known as South Africa House, for obvious reasons, and the other Number Five, which became known as the bad boys building, because it managed to give more trouble to the authorities than any of the others. Between Number Five and the outer wall were the buildings which housed the prison garrison and the Italian Officers’ mess and that was surrounded by a barbed wire fence of its own, with special sentries, in such a way that a really sensitive Italian soldier might be a little doubtful as to whether the garrison or ourselves were the prisoners. At roll call parades it was the custom for the members of each block to fall in outside with their backs to their respective bungalows, whilst the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] and his Adjutant stood on the centre roadway and received the Commandant on his arrival.

September 14th
One morning we had all fallen in, and roll call had been completed, when the trick cyclist decided to try out a new scheme for bringing us to attention by bugle call in order to impress future visiting generals. This was explained to us by the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] and naturally the explanation did not improve the atmosphere which was already sufficiently tense. After the announcement the trick cyclist, followed by his Captain Interpreter, then went and stood on the steps of Block Five. The bugler took up his position in the roadway, the order was then given by the Commandant to sound the call which was their equivalent to their “General Salute”. At

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this we stood more or less raggedly to attention. The bugler then sounded the “G” which was supposed to indicate that we could stand at ease. We did so.

Then, however, instead of leaving things as they were the Commandant thought he would like to improve upon the situation. Doubtless feeling triumphant at having for the first time in his life imposed his will upon 1,000 British Officers at the same moment, he apparently thought he would like to try it again. So, he explained that our movements were not sufficiently smart and gave the order for the signal to be sounded once more.

The second time our movements were more ragged than the first. He then foolishly gave an order to try a third time. And then the fun began. We deliberately shuffled to attention. There were one or two catcalls from the opposite side of the road. This resulted in a speech from the Commandant in which he said that if we would only please come to attention properly just once, he would be satisfied and would dismiss the parade. Otherwise, he threatened we would have to stay where we were. This remark was greeted with a spontaneous shout from Bungalow Three “We’ll stay”. The cry was taken up by the remaining bungalows and we then all stood at ease and began to talk. The wretched little Commandant then got really frightened, the alarm was sounded and the guards turned out with fixed bayonets and surrounded us.

Meanwhile the bungalow Commanders went up and spoke to

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the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] and then returned and told us that the wisest course to adopt would be for us now to follow the teaching of Mr. Ghandi and resort to passive disobedience. Whereupon we, of the “bad boys” building promptly sat down where we were and prepared to wait.

By this time a real pantomime had started on the top of the steps where the Italian Commandant was standing.

There was much waving of arms, and he began a long and very fierce speech which was directed mainly to an innocent and very frightened-looking sentry who was standing near him. He then pulled out his revolver and loaded it and we really thought for a moment that he was going to shoot the sentry who at this point began visibly trembling at the knees. However, he changed his mind after the interpreter had whispered something in his ear, and we then saw the interpreter go off to the South Africans who had paraded together outside their bungalow. When he reached them the interpreter made a little speech in which he pointed out that the parade was a disciplinary parade to punish us, but that of course, it did not apply to the South Africans as they were always much better behaved anyway and he told them that the Commandant had said they could fall out. The South Africans, to their everlasting credit, refused to move and their spokesman explained, somewhat luridly, that they would be only too happy to stay there until midnight if necessary. So the situation had reached an impasse and the Italian Commandant suddenly realised that he did not really know what to do next.

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Eventually, after the comedy had gone on for an hour and a half the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] announced that the Italian Commandant had agreed that perhaps there was no more need for us to stand to attention when he blew the bugle and that in future – in accordance with the rules of the Hague Convention – he would ensure that all orders would be given to us through the S.B.O [Senior British Officer]. This having been explained and having been greeted with cheers the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] then called us to attention, an order which everybody obeyed perfectly, and we dismissed. The unhappy trick cyclist slunk off parade and it was not long before he was removed from PG 21. – not however before he had committed several more blunders.

It was during this particular incident that we began, for the first time, to understand the interpreter, and see him in his true colours. As in most prison camps in Italy the officer interpreter was one who professed to be able to talk English or American (they all considered American to be a language of its own, which perhaps it is) and this particular specimen boasted that he had lived in New York before the war and had been an employee of the Lloyd Trestino Steamship Company. I got to know him very well indeed; for some reason he had a deep-rooted dislike of the English-speaking peoples and his position in the camp was equivalent to that of a Gestapo agent in German prison camps. As we learned later, he could overrule anything done by the Commandant and he had direct contact with the Special Service Intelligence people in Rome. He was extremely clever but fortunately

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he did not understand English nearly as well as he pretended.

On the occasion of what came to be known to the sentries as the “Rivolta” Captain Croce, the interpreter, for some reason which was not quite clear, walked up to an officer standing in the ranks of Bungalow Four and proceeded to rebuke him. The officer who was a British Lieutenant, told him bluntly that he had no intention of obeying any orders that were not given him by a British Senior Officer. Croce became very angry, and fixing his monocle in his eye, (incidentally he would have made a most perfect stage villain for beside wearing a monocle he wore a pointed black beard, was always immaculately turned out and used what must have been a most expensive perfume), made the rather inane remark “I don’t like nasty things, I like nice things” and then went and complained to the Italian Commandant, whereupon the officer concerned was placed under escort of five soldiers armed with rifles and bayonets and marched off to the punishment cell. This, of course, did not improve the situation from the point of view of the Italian authorities, for his departure was accompanied by shouts from his fellow prisoners of “Good Luck” and – “We’ll be joining you”. From that moment on most of us realised that the interpreter was the most dangerous customer with whom we had to deal.

September 17th
On September 17th another parade was held at about 10.30 hours in the morning. The Commandant, who was still our friend the trick cyclist, initiated a system of

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bungalow searches. All the personnel of the various bungalows were called out on parade and lined up, whereupon a squad of carabinieri – armed with the usual rifles and bayonets – marched up and fell upon the bungalow which had been selected, where they would proceed to carry out a thorough search of all the kit; mattresses, wooden bedsteads and so on. Only British Bungalow Commanders were allowed to be present, and they had no control over what the carabinieri did or what they removed.

On this particular morning a party of carabinieri marched up to Bungalow Three and then, turning off the road, proceeded to force their way through the ranks of the British Officers to the bungalow doorway, instead of going up the path. This was too much for the British Officers. One warrior put out his foot and the sentry fell sprawling on the ground. A second raised his rifle, and was about to bayonet or shoot the officer concerned, when one of the prisoners, a Captain Finch, intervened and grabbed his rifle. At this sentry number 3 then raised his rifle butt and hit Captain Finch on the back of the head, knocking him down. At this moment, fortunately, the Italian Commandant arrived on parade – just as the South Africans, who were lined up on the opposite side of the road, were about to fall on their Italian guard – and the bugle was blown for us to come to attention. The garrison troops at least obeyed the order, and the commotion died down. Finch was taken to the prison hospital. Later the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] revealed that, as we had acted unconstitutionally, in the light of the Hague Convention, nothing further could be done about it by us. Finch came out of hospital a few days later, apparently none the worse for the fracas.

Throughout the rest of September time passed slowly, which is about all that can be said. Gradually additional prisoners swelled our numbers, but none had much to tell us in the way of news. In one way we were fortunate – about the

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only advantage to be derived from a large camp as opposed to a small one – and that was in the large number of lecturers available. There were some very intellectual persons amongst the South Africans, with the result that we were able to listen to really good lectures on subjects such as Literature, History, Economics and Psychology. An amateur dramatic society was soon formed, which used for its props available materials such as sheets, ragged clothing and quantities of packing from Red Cross parcels. Our hosts, quick to sum up the financial possibilities of the situation, sold us musical instruments by slow degrees at exorbitant prices. Not that I wish to decry what little they did towards making life bearable, but there were people who were inclined to look upon anything which the Italian authorities did as a great favour, and did not stop to think what fabulous sums of money were going into the enemy’s pocket – more than ever they could have obtained for similar services from the gullible tourists of peace time.

For the rest, looking back over the month of September nothing stands out as being worth recording. Mail from home was scanty and irregular, food was inadequate, and Red Cross parcels – on which all prisoners initially depended for food – were few; clothing didn’t materialise at all, and water continued to be short and sanitary arrangements vile. The “trick cyclist” did all he could to make his presence felt – and a most objectionable presence it was – shadowed always by his fantastic interpreter. By October 7th, various petty

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restrictions had been imposed, not the least irritating of which was the rule ordering everybody to be indoors, and all the windows closed, by nine p.m. at night, for no particular reason except a vague precaution against improbable air raids. All the windows were blacked out.

October 7th
On October 7th however, we saw for the first time, that one being on whom all British prisoners of war pin their hopes, the representative of the Protecting Power. He arrived early in the morning (the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] had not been warned that he was coming of course, for obvious reasons) and turned out to be an elderly gentleman of Swiss nationality, who spoke good English, and insisted in speaking in English all the time, but was slightly deaf. He was given a full report of all our requirements, and was certainly impressed by the state of our clothing. It was indeed an impressive sight, to see British Officers of all ranks and ages walking about in tattered tropical shirts and shorts, some of them draped in blankets, and some of them with no footwear at all. I was a little better off than most, because by chance the clothes which I had put on, on that last fatal morning in Tobruk were fairly new, and I did possess a pair of stockings and desert boots which had been purchased in June. The weather was now growing cold which was another factor that helped our cause. There were dozens of other points which he noted, not the least of which was the fact that we were obliged to use empty biscuit tins as drinking vessels, as our warders were apparently incapable of producing cups and saucers. In fact, a picture

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of the members of the camp taking part in one of the two daily meals would have been of benefit to those delightful people in Cairo who fondly imagined that the life of a prisoner of war was a life of indolence and luxury, spent in large Italian villas by the Mediterranean. My own interest in the Protecting Power lay in passing on a detailed report of the murder of Private Conolly by the Commandant Tamianti in Tobruk. Fortunately, Major O’Neill, the doctor who examined him before he died, was also available to give evidence, and we both reported as well, the cases of flogging of Indian prisoners. The Swiss delegate appeared deeply interested, and took copious notes, promising to institute a full enquiry from the Legation in Rome, and inform us as to the result. He left the camp that evening with a suit case full of damning evidence against the Fascist method of observing the Hague Convention. The immediate result was that we were all issued with one extra blanket each next day, making our personal bedding up to two blankets in all. Again, I was luckier than most, as I still had one, modified for use as an overcoat, which I had managed to keep since my capture.

October 9th
On October the 9th there was another incident which broke the monotony of existence for a while. A lecture was being held in the courtyard of Bungalow 5, at 8’o clock in the evening, when an Italian orderly passed by carrying a cardboard box on his head, and walked down the steps to the main pathway. Shortly after a bearded Italian Officer followed. I was standing close to him and I was the only one I think who

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noticed that his complexion was not quite pallid enough and, though his head was tilted at the right angle one did not notice the usual aroma of rare perfumes as he passed. However, he passed for what was intended, and nobody near me showed any kind of emotion. Exactly fifteen minutes later the bugle sounded for a special roll call, and excited guards came rushing up to the bungalows and herded us out to various pre-arranged points under the searchlights. Bungalow Commanders checked their groups, and then waited for the Commandant. Nothing happened.

At last we became aware that the enemy had descended en masse on Bungalow 4 and were intent on searching one particular room – that from which our two “Italians” had departed. Of the rest of us, they took no notice at all. We waited and waited and then sat down where we were and began to sing extremely rude versions of Axis patriotic songs to the extreme confusion of the sentries ensconced in their pillboxes on the walls. Then it began to rain, so by a more or less simultaneous mass movement, we returned to our bungalows.

We found that the search was over, and nothing of value had been discovered. The Commandant had forgotten to give the order to dismiss owing to the confusion caused in one of the bungalows on the east side of the road. Whilst he was directing investigations an embarrassed Sergeant of militia called him away to a group of Officers who had been lined up on the other side of the road. On arrival he was horrified to observe, standing in the middle

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of the front rank what appeared in the semi-darkness to be two charming damsels, clad in the scantiest of undergarments, accompanied by a motherly peroxide blonde. These were three of the prisoners in that week’s theatrical show, which was an experiment in a cabaret play. When the bugle had sounded, the cast had rushed on parade as they were, and the arrival of the “ladies” caused so much ribald mirth from prisoners and warders alike that the Sergeant felt completely out of his depth and so ran to get help from the Commandant. The situation was also beyond his control and he took the easiest course by telling that particular group that they could go back and finish the performance.

We did not hear for certain that evening whether the two officers attempting the escape had been caught. It seemed clear however, that a good deal was known to the enemy concerning the attempt before it took place. When they arrived so quickly on the spot, we all felt that a “stooge” was at work. Within half an hour a rumour was circulating that the two officers concerned had been caught at the main gateway, then it was outside the main gateway, then at the railway station, and finally it transpired that they had got away altogether. The possibility of a spy being in the camp was one which worried everybody in all camps, and was always a very difficult thing to prove. In this case the whole matter was examined, in due course, but although suspicious acts on the part of some individuals were not satisfactorily

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accounted for no definite conclusion was ever reached. This was not the only occasion on which the possibility occurred to us that there might be an enemy agent in our midst.

October 11th
By the 11th October our escapees were still not caught, and the Commandant was registering distinct signs of anxiety, much to our delight. We hoped, and very soon our hopes were realised, that the remaining days of his reign would be few.

Meanwhile since our arrival in Chieti news of the outside world and of the war had been reaching us through the Italian newspapers. The British stand at El Alamein took the Italians, if not the Germans, completely by surprise, but we did not really know many details of the operation, or the arrival of General Montgomery in the Middle East, until prisoners began to arrive who had been captured after the establishment of the El Alamein line. The Fascist press did all it could to hide the real situation from the public, and that presumably was partly why they allowed us to have the newspapers. The Dieppe affair, for example, was splashed all over the papers for several days as a great Axis victory, and for as long as a month afterwards there were repeated references to the considerable disaster which our Forces had suffered. There were even descriptions and photographs of new Churchill tanks which had been captured at Dieppe, and an entire Canadian brigade taken prisoner. Later a German paper “Signal” – which had been smuggled into the camp (for some obscure reason

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the interpreter refused to allow any German publications into the camp) published photographs of what was reputed to be the captured Operational Orders in which were noted two paragraphs headed “Re-embarkation” and “Disembarkation and Dispersal in England”. This was particularly interesting because the Italian press had always staunchly maintained that the Dieppe raid was not a raid at all, but was a full-scale Allied attempt to open a second front in Europe. Other items of news which were much advertised as Italian victories during this period were the “Long Range Desert Group” raids on Tobruk, Derna, Barce and Bengazi, and the raid from the sea on Tobruk. Axis submarine warfare also received its share of publicity. Meanwhile from the Russian front came lurid reports of German victories – of Hun armies sweeping through the Caucasus towards the Caspian sea, and surrounding and filtering into Stalingrad and of Hun armies within shelling range of Moscow. Incidentally the only two newspapers which we were able to see were the Fascist Government rags “Popolo di Roma” and the “Messaggero”. By the 11th the news, on the surface, was depressing enough, on the other hand from what I had learnt from certain of our BBC news critics in days of freedom, it seemed to me that there was a great deal of interest going on under the surface and that if the news that they were trying to hide could be dug out, and reproduced in a comprehensive form, the result would be extremely encouraging. In this connection I found a twin spirit in Captain Jack White-Abbott and so the organisation which

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became known as the Central News Agency was founded. The object of this was to give a brief review each Sunday of the news of the week, with its correct interpretation as I believed it to be from the Allied point of view. Where possible, we had experts speaking about other countries in the world which figured in the news whilst I myself concentrated on affairs in Italy and North Africa. The first meeting took place on Sunday the 11th October. It was a great success. Our intention was to give our audience something to think about throughout the coming week, and to try to point out the flaws in the Axis propaganda in an attempt to dispel, to some extent, the awful depression which seemed to hang over the camp. Owing to one or two lucky forecasts members of the audience unfortunately began to look upon us as prophets – a point of view which was encouraged by the startling events which took place during late October and November – events which I tried to point out were already casting their shadows before (and which the Italians at least were doing their utmost to smother in the limelight of submarine warfare in the Atlantic, air battles in Egypt, and affairs on the Russian front), but our public did not seem to realise that fact until the events happened, and then of course, they regarded us almost as supernatural beings. Details of the more interesting of these meetings are on record elsewhere. Jack’s work was harder than mine, and as Chairman he handled the meetings superbly for more than six months. Sufficient to say, for the moment, that from

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October 11th onwards news from the outside world began to influence the general outlook in PG 21.

October 12th
On October 12th Commandant Number 2 arrived. I never learnt his name for, like his predecessor, he did not stay long. But in appearance he closely resembled a very prosperous pork-butcher. His most notable feature was a big cruel looking mouth. His looks were against him, however, and we had no cause to complain of anything particularly outrageous on his part during his brief regime.

The next day, an identification parade took place. It may have been due to the new broom, and in any case was long overdue; one of the bright specimens amongst our guards made the discovery that none of us could be identified in case of escape as there were no details on our papers other than our names, therefore we were ordered to attend at the administrative office. The procedure was reminiscent of a cattle or slave market. A creature in white overalls – presumably a doctor – proceeded to weigh each of us and whilst another menial entered the details on the official forms, he grasped each of us by the chin between finger and thumb and turned our heads this way and that reciting colour of eyes, hair, distinguishing marks etc. He even looked inside one’s mouth if one opened it, while the menial continued to make notes. The one thing they did not do at that stage was to take photographs. That came later on in true Machiavellian fashion.

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October 15th
It was not until the 15th that we heard that the two Officers who escaped had been picked up on the sea coast near Pescara, presumably whilst looking for a suitable boat. They were brought back to Chieti and locked in the punishment cell. On that date too, the first of a series of reprisals was imposed. It had been the custom, at the end of a band concert or theatre performance, for us to sing our National Anthem. The order was now given out that we were on no account permitted to sing any national songs in future. This order was said to have come from Rome and the explanation given was that it was a reprisal for the shooting of two Italian officers for singing national songs in an Italian prison camp in India. Further details were not available, as usual, but we were given to understand that the two officers concerned had been most brutally and unjustly murdered by their British warders, and we gathered that if we disobeyed the rule shooting would start at Chieti as well. That would not have been surprising, as our hosts were showing distinct signs of viciousness at the time, owing to what they believed to be the triumphal progress of their armies through North Africa.

The weather was by now getting colder, particularly at night. We were still wearing the remnants of clothing in which we had been captured and a sorry bedraggled company we looked. The only means of obtaining exercise was by walking up and down the centre pathway; day after day, officers of all ranks were to be seen in groups striding up and down some wearing boots, some with remains of boots tied up with

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wire and rags and some with no boots at all. There were several unfortunates who by now did not even possess a shirt, and spent their days swathed in the blankets in which they slept at night. The rest of the camp organisation was of the same standard. For example, there were insufficient cooking utensils in the cook house and we had to make use of old pudding and biscuit tins from Red Cross parcels, if any food was to be cooked. There was only one hot meal a day, mostly consisting of the detested coarse type of macaroni, known locally as “pasta”, but we did manage to get something cooked in a tin for morning consumption every third day or so. One’s drinking vessel continued to be an old tin with a wire handle attached, if one was lucky enough to find some wire. Such commodities as tooth brushes and tooth paste did not exist at all. The situation with regard to mail continued to be bad. It was soon clear to us that most of the postcards written at Barce when we were first captured in June never reached their destination and were probably never despatched and the same thing applied to mail sent from Bari. The first letter which I received arrived on the 18th of November and was dated July 15th by special Prisoner of War Air Mail from England, but at the time the writer only knew that I was missing, believed Prisoner of War, and nothing else. The same applied to the majority of prisoners in PG 21.

Towards the end of October some Red Cross parcels began to arrive regularly in such a way that it was possible to issue one for each Officer every ten days. It was just as well,

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as the Italian basic ration was at starvation standards, and there were fifteen hundred of us squeezed into a camp which had been built to accommodate 350.

October 20th
On the 20th October we were told that the South Africans would be leaving Chieti in the near future for another camp up north, where apparently, they were to be segregated from the other nationalities. On learning this, they duly purchased a quantity of the local wine at a high price and gave a cocktail party. I was invited by a Lieutenant Barnard – it was hard to realise that the last drink we had had together had been in my own mess at Tobruk, the night before the collapse. The party ended by their singing their National Anthem, which the Italians did nothing about because they did not recognise it. They left us on the morning of the 22nd and I sent my regards to the old gang whom I knew – Colonel du Flessis, Major Appleton, Major Nicholls, Captain Callard, Lieutenant Gordon Brown and Major Pienaar. We were sorry to see them go, because they had done a great deal towards helping the time to pass. The Italians had tried their hardest to cause hostility between us and the South Africans but they failed dismally. This fact was a great credit to the South Africans who already had a great deal to contend with because of the Tobruk disaster, which most of them deplored just as much as we did. The only South African left behind in the camp was the C. of E. (Church of England) padre, Jimmy Chutter.

The first winter snow appeared on the neighbouring hills

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on the 21st. It was now much colder but our hosts had still done nothing about issuing extra clothing, and our quota of blankets remained at two per officer. However, our spirits were very much cheered by the news of the outside world which gradually began to filter into the camp.

October 24th
By the evening of the 24th news reached us, for the first time, of the heavy bombardment of Genoa and Turin by the RAF [Royal Air Force] which took place on the 23rd and judging by what the papers did not say and our local gaolers did the results appeared to have been highly satisfactory for our airmen. Very soon after this, rumours began to circulate about the launching of a big Allied offensive at El Alamein.

This did a great deal towards counteracting the increasing unpleasantness of the conditions under which we were living, and unpleasant they certainly were. The great majority of Officers in the camp had never experienced the evils of prolonged hunger and increasing cold, and did not derive much consolation from the assurance given by a few Stoics that such a combination sharpens up the working of the brain.

With the first week of November the news became more interesting than it had ever been. We began to note the effect upon our hosts and derived a certain amount of sadistic pleasure from watching the sentries becoming more and more despondent as day succeeded day, and rumours increased concerning the reverses which their armies had suffered in the field.

November 6th
On the 6th November

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several carabinieri sentries volunteered the information that there had been 20,000 Italian casualties in the battle at El Alamein, which had begun on the 23rd October. Even Croce the interpreter apparently believed this, and his attitude became increasingly vicious in proportion, as the morale of the garrison went down. On the 9th the rain started but its ill-effects were counteracted by information which was brought in by one of the sentries from the local village that there had been 5,000 casualties following the latest bombing of Turin.

The day before, on the 8th of November, in the Sunday news summary, I had endeavoured to draw the attention of the audience to the obvious massing of United States troops at various places in Africa, such as Liberia and French Morocco, and suggested that some big move was therefore imminent in the Western Mediterranean “such as a landing at Dakar, or an invasion elsewhere from the sea”. On Monday evening, the ninth, we suddenly heard of the invasion of North Africa on the 8th. The result was exhilarating to say the least. I found myself being regarded as something of a prophet – a view which was entirely unjustified because the Fascist press had been committing itself so badly during the previous week that anybody who read the papers at all intelligently could not fail to see the trend of events, particularly after the very clear indication given by Marshal Smuts – and some of the more optimistic inmates of

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PG 21 began to lay bets on our being free by Christmas.

This news naturally caused a tremendous fluttering in the Italian dovecots. The immediate reaction of the authorities was to stop the circulation of newspapers in the camp, an act which resulted in increasing considerably the general interest in events. It was most gratifying, too, to see to what an extent the carabinieri and the soldiers of the garrison relied on our version of the news, and it was because they wanted to know what we thought, that throughout this period individuals continued to smuggle in newspapers for us in exchange for a little coffee or some tea from Red Cross parcels. This was a great advantage to the news agency, because they managed to produce for us amongst other publications copies of Swiss and Vatican newspapers. Thus, it quickly became apparent to us that in spite of the Fascist propaganda department’s efforts to hide the fact, the invasion had been a huge success, and we heard for the first time of the arrival of the British First Army in North Africa together with vast numbers of United States troops and aircraft.

November 11th
All this resulted in a very interesting development on the 11th November, which was one of the official dates for the birthday celebrations of the Italian King. A large photograph appeared of King Victor Emmanuel in several of the papers and it was announced that at a certain time the Rome Broadcasting Station would be placed at the disposal of the Royal Family for a broadcast to the nation – a most

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unusual event under the Fascist regime. We never found out what was said in that broadcast, which in itself was a significant fact but as the week went on and the rain continued carabinieri guards sheltering in the porticos of the various bungalows, began to whisper confidentially to isolated British Officers and orderlies whom they made great efforts to talk to that they were staunch Royalists, and that perhaps their King would pull their country out of the war – that they were sick of it all, for Italy had been at war for too long, and they wanted to return to their families and their farms.

However, the Italian temperament being what it is, this kind of talk did not mean a great deal and on the 18th there was a sudden swing in the other direction when some of the

guards told, us that Spain had declared war on the Allies.

November 18th
Within twenty-four hours we discovered that this was due to a misunderstanding, doubtless prompted by wishful thinking on the part of the Fascists. What had really happened was that General Franco had ordered large-scale mobilisation in Spain “as a precautionary measure”.

A representative of the Red Cross visited the camp about this time and although he did not manage to get the authorities to improve conditions his visit did result in the re-appearance of newspapers on the 18th. Finding we had no papers to read, and there being no library at all in the camp the Red Cross representative had informed the Italian authorities, in the presence of the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer], that he had just been visiting other prisoner of war camps during the

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week and in all of them newspapers were available every day, therefore he did not see why that should not be the case in PG 21. That was an argument which apparently even the interpreter, Croce, could not answer.

Meanwhile the Italian authorities began to show increasing signs of agitation, and the Administrative organisation suffered in consequence. The Commandant became completely apathetic; in spite of numerous promises, conditions deteriorated generally. The water shortage became worse than ever, the food ration decreased, hygiene was atrocious and necessities such as dental treatment simply did not exist at all. The overcrowding was nearly as bad as ever but it did help us to keep fairly warm in the barrack rooms. Protest after protest was put up by the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer], and neatly side-tracked by the interpreter, whose visits to Rome, at the same time became more frequent.

November 25th
News of events in North Africa, however, kept our spirits up. On the 25th the rumour reached us of an advance by the Eighth Army towards Tripoli (this later proved to be premature) and of a Commando raid on Sicily – the latter I think was correct though no mention of it was ever made of it in the press. Then one dark day to our huge delight all the sentries were suddenly issued with steel helmets. No explanation was given as to why this should be, but we made the most of it by telling them from time to time how dangerous it would be for them, sitting in their sentry boxes on the top of the walls, when our aeroplanes came over to

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machine gun them. Then the Commandant was removed on the verge of a nervous breakdown and a third new broom arrived. His entry into the camp coincided with the first rumour which we had, on the 30th, of a speech made by Winston Churchill. It was obvious by now that quite a number of the rumours which reached us originated from the BBC programme “Voce di Londra”, which were being listened to furtively by eager listeners from amongst the ranks of the camp garrison. These broadcasts generally took place about 02.00 hours in the morning, and there were several wireless sets in Chieti town which were able to pick them up. On more than one occasion we were brought fairly detailed reports of speeches made by Candidas and Colonel Stevens.

Eventually the Fascist press was obliged to make a reference to the speech of the British Prime Minister, but the reference consisted of a small article of approximately eleven lines which was printed on the 1st December, and of course all interesting details were left out. It was however from our point of view, a most momentous speech. Mussolini replied to it on the 2nd December and took great pains to chop it up into small paragraphs which he endeavoured to twist into such a form that it would assist Fascist policy rather than damage it, but there was no doubt at all that the man in the street remained far more impressed by what Winnie had said than by the complicated figures and flamboyant tirades forced upon him by the Duce.

I reconstructed the P.M.’s speech from rumours and the little material available. It is attached herewith.

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SPEECH BY MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (29th (?) November 1942)

The Prime Minister made a speech during the evening of the 29th November which was broadcast to Italy by the BBC. He began by referring to operations at present being carried out in the Middle East. After a review of the successes gained by the Eighth Army in Egypt, he praised the achievements of the units taking part which consisted of men from England, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, India and members of the American Air Corp who had been co-operating with us throughout, and those gallant Free French forces who had won honour for themselves for their famous resistance to the Axis forces at Bir Hakeim. He then probably said that the campaign had resulted in the capture of more than 80,000 prisoners – counting was still in progress – considerable war material, and the rescue of a number of our own men who had been held as prisoners of war in enemy hands. The condition of the greater part of these personnel was far from satisfactory, and provided yet another proof that the Axis powers do not intend to abide by the rules of the Hague Convention except when it suits them.

Turning to the United States Expedition to North Africa the P.M. probably said that although losses had been sustained, they had been very light in proportion to the size of the force committed, and he had every reason to suppose that our objective would be achieved in the near future. That objective was the removal of the Axis forces from North Africa once and for all. Concerning the action on the part

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of the French in giving their support to the Allied invasion he probably made some remark to the effect that they had once again resumed their place at our side as a valued Ally, and thereby won the respect of the free peoples of the world.

He then discussed the situation with regard to Italy. Since the beginning of the campaign in Egypt, we had been carrying out a programme of intensive bombing raids on the principal cities of Northern Italy. These raids had been highly successful, and had already proved a serious blow to Fascism, owing to the very heavy damage which they had caused. The Prime Minister continued-”

“Furthermore, the new air front which the Americans and the RAF [Royal Air Force] are building up along the shores of the Mediterranean will open up great possibilities in 1943. Our operations in French North Africa will enable us to carry the weight of war into Fascist Italy in a manner as yet undreamed of by her leaders, who are no less to blame for the misery of the Italian people than Mussolini, who has caused them so many defeats, and so much disgrace.

Already the centres of war industry in Northern Italy have been subjected to treatment more severe than that experienced by any of our cities during the winter of 1940. But when the enemy has been expelled from Tunisia, which event it is our intention to achieve without undue delay, all central Italy, all her naval bases, all her war factories and all her military objectives, no matter where they are situated will be subjected to prolonged, scientific, and

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annihilating attacks from the air. It is for the Italian people of 40,000,000 souls – and for them alone – to say whether they wish such a terrible thing to befall their country.

One man and one only has brought the Italians to this state. It was not necessary for him to enter into this war, and no one had any intention of attacking him. We did our best to induce him to remain neutral, and to enjoy peace and prosperity – exceptional gifts in a world at war. But Mussolini could not resist the temptation to stab a prostrate France in the back at a time when he thought that England was also without hope of victory. His dreams of imperial glory, the lust of conquest and loot, the arrogance of long unbridled tyranny, induced him to carry out this vainglorious and fatal action. In vain I warned him. He did not wish to reconsider the matter, and the wise appeal of the American President found no echo in his stony heart. His hyena’s nature over-rides every limit of decency and good sense. To-day all his Empire has crumbled. Anguish hangs over the unhappy land of Italy – what can the Italians show for his actions? A short journey, with the aid of the Germans, along the Riviera; a fleeting glimpse of Corsica; a bloody battle against the heroic patriots of Yugoslavia, records of everlasting shame in Greece, and the ruins of Genoa, Turin and Milan.

One man, and the rule which he has created, has brought these appalling calamities to the hard-working, genial and once happy people of Italy. The English

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speaking world greatly sympathises with the Italian people. How long will this misery last for them?”

The P.M. then went on to speak of events on the Eastern Front, which he said gave us every reason to be satisfied with the heroic/efforts which the Russians are making in their new offensive. In the northern sector they had advanced to Toropez, which lies behind the German winter line of 1941-42, and they had also opened up a new line of communication with the hard-pressed garrison of Leningrad. In the centre sector they were advancing towards Smolensk. North-west of Stalingrad, in the area between the Volga and the Don, they had penetrated the German lines, causing anxiety to the enemy on account of the serious threat to his communications with Rostov.

The offensive of Marshal Timoshenko, in which were engaged two new winter armies, had resulted in the recapture of the industrial area of Stalingrad and in forcing the Germans to retreat towards the Black Sea along the valley of the Don, and from the area of the Georgia road in the South Caucasus. Furthermore, the horrors of a second Russian winter were beginning to affect the hard-pressed German troops, whose only source of warmth lay in what they could derive from the inflammatory orations of their Fuhrer.

The speech ended with a warning to the British public against undue optimism and wishful thinking. The Allies, after three years of hardship and severe trial, had at last been able to launch an offensive on all fronts. But when

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the war in Europe had been concluded, and the United Nations had restored peace and tranquillity to those peoples at present groaning under the tyranny of the Nazi warlord and his Fascist lackey, they would then have to turn to the Far East. Years of bitterness and bloodshed might well lie ahead for the British people, until such time as the United Nations had crushed the barbarous and predatory ambitions of the Japanese. This would naturally take time.

So much for the reconstructed speech. It was amusing to us to note that when at length he did reply to it, Mussolini made the rather naive remark that he had actually heard Winston Churchill’s speech himself on the wireless, although he was not meant to do so. For some time of course, any Italian listening to the British radio has run the risk of being shot or imprisoned for life if he were caught by the Fascist police. Mussolini’s reply, which I have recorded elsewhere was outstanding only for the remarkable Hymn of Hate which it embodied.

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10th September 1943 Day 1.
Heard BBC news in the morning on camp wireless, announced by golden voice of Georgie Henschel. Major Hastings in commentary suggested Germans would try and hold a line in Italy from Genoa to the Adriatic. S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] held special meeting 10.30 hours and gave order to scatter as Italian Commandant had agreed to open the gates. Advised to be clear of camp by 14.00 hours as Germans in Piacenza. Officers told to take some other ranks in their parties. Left Veano camp by 12.30 hours with Sergeant Blackmore (2/45 Australian Infantry) and Rifleman Micallef (2 Rifle Brigade). Followed line of hills south approximately 12 km to village of Gussofame. Here welcomed by young lady in bright red dress who spoke English, and given tea. Changed uniform clothing for civilian. Continued walk at dusk into hills east of Ponte dell ’Olio. Objective Livorno where Allied landing is expected at any moment.

11th September 1943 Day 2.
After sleeping in woods – we each brought one blanket, change of clothes and stores from Red Cross parcels – continued at 06.30 hours via Quiraliano village. Contacted many other ex-prisoners on the way moving in various directions, also Italian guards from the camp. Continued uphill to village of Dodici di Travo where we rested, given bread and cheese and bought a chicken. Left 17.40 hours through woods. Hard going. Climbed to isolated house near Monte Pellio where we were given supper by a farmer, bread and cheese, and a hay loft to sleep in. Heard rumours from farmer of concentrations of enemy troops

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in Spezia and Germans in Rome. Also thought we could hear bombardment of Genoa. Germans are in the valley north and south of us, at Bettola, below Monte Santa in the north, and Ferriere and Bobbio in the south. News arrived from prisoners met on the way that Germans reached Veano camp at 18.00 hours on the 10th with four lorries and 30 armed men. They arrested the Italian doctor, and the Italian Lieutenant Bonatti, and also rumours that they caught one British officer. They took away all clothes and parcels left in stores and searched the woods near the camp.

12th September 1943 Day 3.
Continued walk through hills. Crossed road from Bettola to Perino just after German despatch riders had passed along it. Met peasant and his wife whose son had been killed in the Balkans Told us the BBC had announced the night before that the situation in Italy would be saved by the Allies within ten days. On to village, where we met our old host of previous night. He insisted on our having a drink of wine at local pub., then sent us on to priest at next village called Leggio. Heard BBC news on priest’s radio. Armistice terms read out. Eighth Army in Brindisi. Islands of Corsica and Sardinia etc. to be handed over to us but Italian troops in them not disarmed yet. Most interesting item was announcement that British prisoners of war in Italy were now under the orders of the Allied Commander in-Chief (like hell; I wish to God we were). Foreign news Italians and Yugoslavs both fighting against the Huns in the Balkans, some of the Greek islands were handed over by the

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Italians to the Greeks. Germans in full retreat in Southern Russia, with Russians in Dniepropetrosk, and a place approximately one hundred miles from Kiev. Allies have advanced a little further from Naples. News of other camps reached us. Apparently, gates were opened at Rezzanello, and one camp near Cremona which contained 4,000 other ranks including English, Greeks and Yugoslavs. Piacenza camp all captured by Hun.

Priest said two trains had passed that morning full of Italian troops taken prisoner in Genoa. Deserters from the Italian Army from Alessandria, Genoa and Bolsano, etc. are all moving south like us. Germans removed all grain from local villages, which is causing trouble. Priest confirmed news which I heard during recce from Veano to Rivagara on the 9th with Colonel May of Essex Regiment that Huns had arrested two batteries Italian Artillery on road between Rivagara and Piacenza on that day. There had also been fighting in Piacenza, the Italian Commandant was under arrest and twelve Itie soldiers had been shot. All town and aerodrome been taken over by Huns. This was not surprising as had noticed unusual air activity there when we left Veano.

Continued route up Monte Alliso – hard climb and had bit of a shock to see troops standing on the top when we were near there. Found these were members of the disintegrating Italian army homeward bound. Bivouacked in wood near village west of village of Monte Rosa. Learnt from other POWs (Major Evans, New Zealand, and Squadron Leader Perry RAF [Royal Air Force]) that four officers were on the same route ahead of us – Major Thomas R.E., [Royal Engineers]

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Major Tower (25th Field Re [Royal Engineers]), Major Swettenham (H.L.I. [Highland Light Infantry]) and Major Howard (R.A. [Royal Artillery]). Got useful tips for future journey. All local inhabitants say that the Allies have landed in Spezia, but we believe this to be wishful thinking.

13th September 1943 Day 4.
Spent morning resting. Other POWs passed through, including Colonel Knight (Worcester’s) and Major Dodd (ditto). Local village called Chiapa del Bosco. Met four Italians, fugitive from Spezia on way home from Piacenza, said Germans in Spezia in large numbers. We started off again 14.30 hours. Passed through village Pellacrini. Could hear what sounded like heavy bombardment of Genoa which continued for more than two hours. Rested in wood above river Trova at 14.30 hours. Recce. Blind alley down mountain and back. Returned to top very exhausted and found path leading down to a farmhouse at dusk. Decided to cross river by night, looked difficult owing big stone bridge, which was probably picketed, local inhabitants could not tell us anything about it. At farm, the farmers urged us to return to the hills and keep on mountain tops as Germans searching for us. Given fruit by farmer’s friends. Returned up hill in moonlight – hard sweat. Reached top 10.00 hours. About 11.30 hours saw Hun motor cycles moving along valley with full headlights on. Lost the cork on my water-bottle. Altogether a bloody day.

14th September 1943 Day 5.
Resumed the march at dawn, and continued up the hill back to village of Pellacrini, where an English-speaking inhabitant

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told us Huns had issued an order the previous night in Bettola by radio that anyone giving assistance to escaped prisoners would be shot. Were advised to keep moving in woods. Everybody very sympathetic. Continued to hear shelling direction of Genoa. Apparently three British and two Italians from Camp No. 52 near Chiavari passed this way yesterday. Halted at 13.00 hours in a wood. At 15.00 hours continued across saddle to east of village of Ferriere – where there are Germans – and at 15.50 hours reached village of Campagni. People very helpful, gave us bread and cheese. Spoke of an Irish General who had escaped from prison some months before and passed that way. We decided to spend the night in nearby wood. There was a strong rumour in the village that Fiume and Trieste have been occupied by the Allies and that Genoa had been bombarded for two days running. We also heard of 10 British hiding in the vicinity and of another party of British and Italians who passed through from Novara. Confirmed report put out by German radio the previous evening. On way to our camping place met five peasant girls dressed in their Sunday best who insisted on giving us pieces of bread left over from their lunch in the fields. Were warned that Fascist spies were now working with Germans to find prisoners. Found thick wood by stream and cooked ourselves supper of toast and margarine and tea. Ration situation not too bad — still approximately nine days hard scale rations in hand. Cold night.

15th September 1943 Day 6.
First cloudy day. Looked like rain. Made a small recce above the camp at 07.30 hours from top of local mountain.

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Mountain ranges spread as far as the eye could see, but could not pick out any isolated farms. Next valley to south-east was bisected by line of electric pylons and was very open -could only be crossed at night. Well wooded spur running south-south-east, but rather too close to Ferriere.

Six days had now passed, but as everybody seemed to think something dreadful would happen after ten days decided wisest course would be to stay where we were for two days to get news and recce possible route south-west. We still had hopes Allies would occupy Rome, or land on coast somewhere north. In any case Allied agents or paratroops should come to the rescue soon. Spent day washing clothes, bathing and shaving. Enemy plane passed overhead at 11.30 hours. Area seems full of Italian troops escaping to their homes in civilian clothes. General opinion of the Hun is very low indeed as he is removing all grain stores from villages near the road. Also talk of reprisals having been taken in Genoa for an attempted uprising in favour of the Allies in which one prisoner in every twenty-four was shot. Local population seemed confident Huns won’t come up into mountains and are very anxious for English to arrive.

Looked like rain 15.00 hours so began to find more sheltered place to sleep. Went into village at dusk and eventually found a farmer who gave us bread and cheese and soup and allotted us his barn to sleep in. Part of Italian troops also in village, on way home. Very friendly. Told us orders now issued that 5000 Lire will be given as reward for every escaped prisoner caught, and present of one month’s ration and tobacco. Two

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ex-prisoners said to have been captured by a Fascist spy at Bettola. At supper met Private T. E. Miller (The Buffs), Private Joyce (Essex Regiment) and Seaman Dixon (RN [Royal Navy]) who had been there for four days. Colonel Napier from PG 29 had passed through a few days ago. News received that Allies now in Bari, also Potenza and Salerno. Rome taken over by Jerries. Musso has been restored to power. No newspapers are being published, and everybody who has a radio listens in to the BBC programmes “Voce di Londra” to get news, if they are not too frightened of Fascist spies.

16th September 1943 Day 7.
Started off at dawn (05.45 hours) well-equipped with food and water. Climbed halfway up hill and halted in hazel-nut woods until 10.00 hours and had breakfast. A suspicious individual came upon us and we thought he might be a spy, so after a very brief conversation during which we misled him as to our direction, set off again. Told us that BBC had appealed to Italian population to help Allied prisoners as much as possible. Continued on over Monte Azure and down into saddle under electric cable pylons, then a long spur running south-west to Monte Carevole. At dusk went into small village where I found population very helpful. Spent an hour cleaning Indian corn and were then given supper of bread and ‘minestra’. Our host informed us Germans had claimed on radio they had driven back Allied forces at some place south of Rome – he was quite optimistic all the same. Confirmed that there had been fighting between Germans and Italians in Rome. As far as we know Allied line is still in the area Bari –

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Contenza. Spent night in loft on stack of clover.

17th September 1943 Day 8.
Started off again at 06.30 hours, up mountain. Blackmore and Micallef not feeling too good so hope to lie up for three days at next farm. According to hosts of last night our route is straightforward now. Hope to God something will happen about the 20th. Supplies good, given more bread, but boots wearing thin. Stopped 09.00 hours for breakfast; toast, tea and a baked potato, also opened one of our tins of salmon.

After that stiff climb up mountain. Reached saddle, and continued along path till we met two peasant women who showed us the path to Torreo, another two hours march below us. Then met a small boy who took us into the village. Arrived a little too early, because it was not yet dark and population were alarmed. Later had communal supper in the pub. and paid six and a half lire for vino. Then went to sleep in hay barn.

Our host was an English-speaking Itie, very helpful. Many soldiers in the zone all moving south, as apparently Mussolini has called them up to join the Army, and they want to join the Allies instead. Yesterday three English passed through and three British officers the day before that. Also met two Sicilians from Italian Army in France making for Calabria on foot. Am thinking of hiring one to guide us all the way to our lines if necessary, and offering him 5,000 lire to do it which is the same as the reward offered by the Duce.

18th September 1943 Day 9.
Started to rain early. Given breakfast of hot milk and bread. Started out at about 08.15 hours. Girl at the village

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inn had brother stationed at Pescara, where there was some fighting against the Germans. Again heard a report of Allies having warned Germans to clear out of Italy, which Huns had refused to do. General opinion seems to be that they will try to stand eventually on the line of the river Po.

Carabinieri now called back to work officially and some are reported to be in next village of S. Stefano, which must therefore be avoided. Heavy rain started at 08.30 hours, when we were on our way, and we were forced to shelter in ruined mill house on edge of village. Rain cleared at approximately 10.00 hours and we went on. Caught up a party of Italian soldiers whom we had met in the village last night, and they helped us to carry our kit up the next hill. Then branched off to San Stefano, which we heard has already been visited by Germans in a truck yesterday evening. We went on making long detour round town. We could see an impressive luxury hotel built in ultra-modern style, which appeared to be the local Fascist Headquarters, and not far from the church, what looked like a large Swiss chalet. We had reached a ridge overlooking the town when heavy rain began again. Found a small stone shelter which we soon saw was usually occupied by goats. It just held the three of us. Built a fireplace and made some toast. Decided it was useless to go on that day. Sun came out after lunch and we dried our clothes. In the evening we improved the fireplace, cooked a supper of roast potatoes, bully beef and toast and kept the fire going all night. Obvious we must lighten our kit still more at the first opportunity as the route is

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getting more difficult. During the afternoon Mick went to fill the water bottles and met a man and woman on the way back from S. Stefano. They said they had seen a newspaper in which Germans claimed a victory at Salerno with capture of 750 prisoners. No other news available. Informant did not take news very seriously and like everyone else hoped Allied forces would arrive soon. Confirmed that there were Carabinieri in S. Stefano, though they would probably say nothing if they saw us. They pointed out another route over the mountain.

Sunday 19th September 1943 Day 10.
Day dawned brightly. We toiled up the path and over the mountain above the cursed town of S. Stefano at 08.30 hours.

The climb was trying and arduous. Found a mule track at last, and crossed over the south side of the mountain, and along mule track going north-east. Met a peasant and his daughter, and asked the route to Spezia. Told us the route we were on led to Piacenza, and offered to take us home to his village. Accepted the invitation. Crossed another spur, leaving Monte Bue to south-east of us, and Monte Nero to south-west, then downhill through apple orchard to village of Selvela. The farmer had a brother in the United States and five nieces. Warmly welcomed, lodged in hayloft. Told us we were only two days’ walk from Rivagara, near Veano, so we have come round in a wide circle. News available was that yesterday Boche issued an appeal to everybody to come to the rescue of Italy, as situation critical and talk of a big battle going on somewhere, presumably south of Naples. All laugh at German and Fascist death penalty order. Communal supper of soup and bread, with

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large gathering of youths and girls – one very sweet little girl named Julia aged 2½ years. One of the young men had arrived from Gorizia last Saturday, said Partisans very active there and had captured a town and railway station from Germans. All young Italians we meet are unanimous in their dislike of Huns and say the sooner the English arrive the better. The Italian Army is melting away, in spite of new calling-up order.

20th September 1943 Day 11.
Slept very well and warm. Bad windy day with rain.

Accepted invitation to stay another night! Sorted out kit and gave surplus to our hostess – an extremely hard-worked lady. Went into house about 10.00 hours and sat round fire. Nephew came in later (who had been at Goriza) and we had a long talk about Ite. Said that Russians had captured Kiev last Thursday (to-day’s Monday), a London radio had said that Allies would use any means in their power to liberate the Ities from the Hun as soon as possible. Seemed doubtful about our future route through the mountains, and emphasised the intensity of Jerry traffic on road Spezia – Parma, near Pontremoli.

Pontremoli is 20 kilos from here only. There was also some talk about two other British Officers seen here, one tall and blond (Philip Tower) who, as far as we could make out, were thought to be “spies” at first, and were also involved in a long story about two pieces of bread which neither Mick nor I could follow. Blackmore and Mick both much better to-day.

Slept a little in afternoon. Sorted out kit and gave surplus – there was a good deal of it, including a greatcoat – to our hostess. In evening sawed wood to earn our supper. People

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very kind. Presented with two loaves of bread during the day and many cooked apples. House next door to our hostess (the Antonio Galli family is hers), where one spoke French, gave us supper. Our host returned in evening with fresh cut hazel branches for feeding sheep in winter. Helped stack them.

Evening, gossiped in dining-room. Galli fixed handle of suitcase for us and put a wire handle on a Klem milk tin to use for cooking, he also presented us with a small cooking pot. Latest news from radio appears to be that American and British forces in Southern Italy have now joined up.

21st September 1943 Day 12.
Morning dawned fine. Packed up and set off at 08.30 hours, after breakfast of coffee. Signora Galli insisted on giving us yet another loaf, and they both pressed us to return to their house if we should get into difficulties. The oldest member of the family, aged 87, took us up the hill and put us on our track. We were given six eggs before leaving, a great luxury. Were advised to make for village of Sporra, which lies east of Monte Penna, and stay the night there. Took it slowly, stopping for three hours at midday to cook eggs and bathe in stream. When nearing Sporra at approximately 16.30 hours met a peasant who told us not to go towards Monte Penna, but keep east of it, as the area dangerous. Took us to little farm on edge of village. Dear old lady, with two sons and three charming daughters, offered to put us up. Sawed wood and cleaned “Grano Turco” for our supper. Supper enormous, consisted of pasta. Mick a great success with the girls, joking about the work. Blackmore’s photos of wife and child,

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and my maps, are unfailing sources of interest. Our guide who brought us in said that “radio Londra” last night had said that Allies had given Germans three days to clear out of Italy, “or else”, and that Badoglio had made a speech to the Italian people, though what he said we couldn’t gather. It seemed to have something to do with urging all men and women to expel the invader by force. Only hope this news is true – though don’t expect for a minute Jerries will go. Allies should be in Rome by next Sunday, though, if our forces are as strong as they sound.

22nd September 1943 Day 13.
Raining again this morning. Slept well in usual hayloft last night. Our hostess urged us to stay on, although food very short. Morning, worked at shredding “Grano Turco”.

Family very sympathetic – three daughters. Apparently liked us. Told us some soldiers’ versions of Fascist songs, such as “Vincere, vinceremo, mangiare sempre meno”. Our hostess went to the village in the afternoon. In the evening a visitor arrived, a carabiniere escaped from Croazia on 4th. Said news was that Badoglio was in nominal command of American Fifth Army “for re-conquest of Rome” and that Allies had given Germans eight days in which to leave Italy, and Berlin would be burnt to the ground. Also said Germans had asked for Armistice with Russia, but no answer yet. Russians on old frontier of Germany (i.e. through Poland). When our hostess returned, she said there was some talk in village because of Fascist spy Perotti, an engineer of the village of Cosalporino

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nearby, who had taken four armed Germans up the slopes of Monte Tomalo and in the Salvola area, to look for English this morning. No news of any being caught. Heard that there are about 40 of our people in the woods in that area. Decided we must move on tomorrow whatever the weather. Advised to go east for a bit, as we are too near the sea and the area occupied by German troops.

23rd September 1943 Day 14.
Morning cloudy but fine. Started at 07.45 hours. Most touching farewell and all the girls wept. Little Mario guided us up to the top of the mountain to the east, and showed us the path for Monte Sasso, which marks our route. Passed through village with help of old lady whose son, an Italian soldier, had been taken prisoner by the Huns at Cremona a few days ago. Were advised to keep to the woods when approaching a main road which leads from Chiavari to Parma and to cross it at Ponte della Girana. Stopped for an hour in woods below Sussa for breakfast. Party of Ities passed us, from France on way to “Toscana”. Carried on at 11.30 hours approx. Came within sight of road and bridge. I went on, recced route across, towards village Tomolo, where advised stay night. Marked route with “fungi” on sticks, and returned for others.

Started off, and were passing house when called by someone from garden, went in, found English-speaking student of Parma University (“Georgio”), who invited us to lunch. Macaroni soup and wine. V.G. Also three soldiers there, also from France. News picked up was that Badoglio made declaration

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ordering all civilians to evacuate Spezia by 27th. Also how he had told them to take to mountains until liberated. Also Admiral Cunningham (?) said to be C.-in-C [Commander in Chief]. Itie troops fighting in Greece against Jerries. Allies landed in Greece some days ago. This looks as if intention to land at Spezia or thereabouts, next few days – hope to God it is. Appears no truth in report of German demand for Armistice from Russia

After lunch guided to road and across by Georgio, and shown route round Tornolo. Carried on, waded river below village and climbed up through outskirts. We were given grapes by a woman in the fields, and nuts by an Italian soldier who was also “intransito”. Saw a military staff car on the road, but no other traffic. At 18.00 hours climbed to a farm on ridge south-east of Tornolo where we asked for lodging which was granted. Three more Italians passed through, soldiers who had deserted from the Italian Army in France and were on their way to the Pontremoli area. We were told by our host that two Huns visited farms a few days ago, disguised as travellers, looking for prisoners.

As far as he knew none were caught. Italian soldiers now in exactly the same position as ourselves re escape. Also heard that two carabinieri and four armed Germans from nearby town of Bedonia were touring the area for the same purpose. Our host had been to the United States twenty years ago and enjoyed himself talking what he called American. He asked us if we knew American. Had good supper macaroni soup, bread and baked apples. Slept In usual hayloft.

Incidentally ….

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Incidentally our host told us in future not to say we were English, but just travellers – “soldati” – on the way to “Bas Italia”. Mick almost passed for an Itie already, but my accent was awful. Bob is getting on with it slowly. Also heard Allied Armies in the south reached Foggia some days ago.

24th September 1943 Day 15.
Started just before 08.00 hours. We were warned to keep clear of village and hill of Santa Croce as Jerries said to be there. Made towards Albareto. At 09.30 hours stopped for breakfast in thick wood in sight of Santa Croce. Met lone farmer who said Jerries were no longer there. We had been warned by our English-speaking friend yesterday that further south, especially in central Italy, the people were pro-Fascist; also that there were many Huns in the area of Pontremoli which is an important point on the road and railway from Spezia to Parma.

Therefore decided to go slow for next few days, and stay in the area moving from farm to farm. There seems to be growing belief that there will be an Allied attack on Spezia – this repeated again last night by a villager at Tornolo. Civilians are being evacuated from Spezia and therefore it would be foolish to move towards what may be a Hun evacuation area. Intend moving only by night, lying up in woods by day until we know more about situation.

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Heard a certain amount of air activity. Locals seem to think Allies will be in Rome by Sunday which would help a bit. Lay up in woods near Albereto for lunch and continued at 16.30 hours beside a stream, reached farmhouse at dusk on a spur north-west of town of Borgotaro. Owned by two brothers named Ricardi.

Received us very well stating that they were “pleased to have three English in the house”. Said wireless of yesterday had reported Allied troops only 60 kilometres from Rome. Knew nothing of Spezia evacuation order. Said Germans have taken over the Vatican City and there are two German tanks in the square of Saint Peters, and the Pope is virtually a prisoner. Had wonderful supper of mutton, and our first polenta made of “grano Turco”, also bread. We were very hungry indeed. Slept night in hayloft. The Ricardi brothers are both Alpini from Spezia and they had a mule with them which they also brought away from the Army. Said that BBC last Saturday again asked Italian population to help us. Also said that an English-speaking inhabitant had publicly exhorted the population to give the English everything they wanted. Our hosts disliked Mussolini and Huns very much, and said Jerries had burnt Naples before withdrawing and had committed many atrocities in Turin.

September 25th 1943 Day 16.

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September 25th 1943 Day 16.
Our host gave us breakfast with bread and milk and during the meal he told us that at the prison camp at Foggia in the south which held 800 other ranks the Commandant had opened the gates but it was difficult for anyone to escape as there were flat plains all round and Huns in large numbers.

We continued to walk towards Albereto. We reached the top of the spur, and crossed the road Parma-Chiavari – Genoa, which is being much used by the Germans. We stopped in a wood half way down to the river. A farmer told us two other officers had passed through yesterday making for Pontremoli. He also said 7,000 Germans were supposed to have been killed during an Allied air-raid on a big camp of tents near Livorno. He had not heard the wireless for some days and said that there were many Fascists in the Albereto area, but no Germans.

We continued downhill and crossed the river in daylight. This was the river Taro and it felt very open and exposed but the local population assured us that we would be safe. We passed another main road and climbed up towards the line of electric pylons which we had been advised to follow as far as Pontremoli. An old woman gave us lunch consisting of two apples and some pieces of bread and we then continued towards a little church we could see on the edge of the forest, where we hoped it might be possible to spend the night.

Many peasants spoke to us and many of the older women, who fortunately mistook us for Sicilians, asked us if we could tell them news of various units of the Italian Army in which

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their sons were serving. Italian troops are pouring south all day and every day in spite of German threats. We are quite often taken for southern Italians, but our boots generally give us away. It appears that good boots are impossible to buy and cost between 1500 and 2000 lire a pair on the black market.

We drew near the village at about 18.00 hours. A priest, who saw us coining, assured us that no Germans or Fascists were in this village, which was called Buzzo, and said that many people there spoke English. He then took us to the village pub. Presently an old man appeared, who spoke perfect English, and then the local inhabitants gathered round and gave us bottles of wine and bread and cheese. Our host, whose name was Lanzarotti, told us that four English sailors had passed through the previous day. He himself had lived in London for a long time, and had owned a restaurant near Notting Hill Gate. Four other people also had shops in London, and one of them named Cura, was most insistent that I should look up his relations when I got back. We were then given several loaves of bread and allotted a hayloft to sleep in. At 8 o’clock we went to Lanzarotti’s house to listen to the radio, which was apparently the village custom. His wife was charming and seemed very pleased to see us. They also had a son Gino who was 42, who talked the most perfect Cockney.

The wireless bulletins were most interesting. First of all we listened to the Fascist news broadcast from Rome,

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the principal item of which was a fiery speech by General Graziani, who had been made the new Minister of War, in which he urged all Italians to support the new Fascist Republican Government as the King and Marshal Badoglio had betrayed the nation. The Huns claimed successful attacks north of Naples, but gave no place names. Our host told us that the Germans had burned most of the city of Naples before they withdrew, and also that the Pope was a virtual prisoner in the Vatican. At 20.30 hours we then heard the British news in Italian, and later in English. It was roughly as follows:-

In the American sector, fierce fighting for the plains of Naples, with the Allies advancing slowly. On the Adriatic coast our forces are advancing north of Bari. In Corsica, the French have driven Jerries out except in the extreme north in the area of the port of Bastia, where the Germans are trying to evacuate.

The Russians have captured Smolensk, which was hailed as a victory as big as Stalingrad and have crossed the river Dnieper in five places. The Germans were also reported to be gradually withdrawing from the Balkans. The Italians are still offering resistance to the Germans in places throughout Italy end General Kesselring has had to call for more aircraft to protect his lines of communication. Our host also

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told us that Winnie had recently made a speech in reply to the Axis assertions that the invasion constituted the second front in which he declared that Italy was the third front, but that all is prepared for the second front, and it will be opened elsewhere than in Italy at the most opportune moment for us. The news was followed by a brilliant commentary by James Ferguson, in which he spoke of “corpses in the streets of Naples” left by the Germans, and pointed out that Hun propaganda had changed its tone once again and had tried new blandishments on the Greeks, Albanians, and Italians, by offering them independence and self-government, etc. etc. This sounded so odd coming from the Hun that even some of our audience laughed at it. Quite a number of the villagers listened to this broadcast; Buzzo is considered secure, but as our hosts told us one cannot really trust one’s nearest neighbour. The slightest reverse for the Allies at this stage would make some of them report their friends to the Fascists in order to gain the reward of 5,000 lire and a month’s ration which is offered for every British prisoner of war who is recaptured. The old man brought out a bottle of special wine for us after the news, and we retired to the hay feeling much more mellow than any of us have done for several years.

September 26th 1943 Day 17 (Sunday)
We were wakened by the sound of church bells. We went in to breakfast at about 09.00 hours and found that our hostess had prepared a wonderful meal of poached eggs, and

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several cups of tea made from tea which we had brought with us from camp. Afterwards, many people came in and talked, and one girl brought us a delicious blackberry cake. A sailor named Jones, who had been captured in a Commando raid with the Sherwood Foresters on the Island of Castelrosso, turned up during the morning. He had been in camp 49 where the S.B.O. [Senior British Officer] was Colonel de Burgh. They had all been released on the 9th, and included the 500 officers who were now wandering the mountains. Jones was being looked after by another Italian, Brattisani, who was also born in London, and who spoke English so perfectly that we at first mistook him for another prisoner of war. He had returned to Italy in 1939 to look after his small son, and could not get away again when war broke out. He wants to move down and join our forces when possible.

We did not realise until quite late in the morning, that the village was on the end of a road and any malicious minded person could have reached the nearby town of Borgo Taro in ten minutes and brought the Germans up to arrest us. After that we did not feel quite so secure. However, we were not allowed to leave again until we had had an excellent lunch of roast veal and potatoes, which was a meal which we shall always remember, for the fatted calf had literally been killed in our honour, which in itself was a breach of the Fascist law, as the population are not allowed to kill any animal for food without special permission.

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After lunch we listened to the news again. The BBC claimed that 19 German transports had been sunk trying to evacuate Bastia, they also said that the Italians were still fighting the Germans in Turin, Pavia, and three other places in the north. It is a tragedy that the Allies could not have invaded Genoa from the sea as had been expected. The BBC also made the interesting remark that “thousands of our prisoners have escaped to the mountains, and are armed”. This talk of arms intrigued us immensely, because we had not yet heard of anybody who escaped with any weapon more dangerous than a dinner knife. However, perhaps it was intended to alarm: the enemy.

We continued on our way about 14.00 hours after a most touching farewell from our hostess, who wept copiously. Gino came with us to show us the route, and we were advised to make for a district called Zeri, which was about three hours’ walk, and which we were told was quite safe. Our route lay along the line of the telegraph pylons. After two hours, it began to rain, and we found a wooden hut in the woods with smoke coming out of one of the windows. This proved to be the home of one of the forest workers who in that part of the world are employed in making charcoal for Government use. He was frightened of us at first, as he thought we were Germans, but eventually calmed down when we showed him a label written in English on one of our food tins. Apparently, they are trying to hide all their charcoal in the woods so that the Germans won’t get it. He directed

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us on our way. We reached the pass called Due Santi at the top of that mountain range and started the descent towards Zeri. A thick mist had descended by then and consequently we missed the right path. However, we found an isolated farm at dusk where the kind hearted farmer took us in and fed us on bread and cheese. He was extremely poor and had a large family. We slept on a pile of chestnut leaves, in a stable which we shared with a couple of cows. It rained steadily all night.

September 27th 1943 Day 18
It was still raining hard when we woke up. We were given a breakfast of bread and milk, and then went on our way, trying to find the village of Delana which was the place we had been advised to make for. Before leaving we gave our host a cake of soap, which he treated as if it were gold. Eventually the rain defeated us and we put up at another group of houses where the family allotted us another hay barn in which to stay until the next day. There was a Sicilian there who was optimistically waiting for the invasion of Spezia by the Allies, and has been here 16 days. All the stories we heard about a threat to Spezia by the Allies however appeared to be quite untrue. This does not prevent the local inhabitants all round here from getting up in the morning confident that they will hear the beginning of the Allied bombardment of Spezia at any moment. It rained all day. In the evening we sat round the fire in the communal kitchen and watched the peasant women weaving their flax into thread from forked sticks which they held between their

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September Day 19

knees, in almost the same way as the French peasants do in Brittany. They all wear wooden clogs on their feet, as shoes cannot be bought anywhere. We had an excellent supper of macaroni soup and vegetables. They don’t seem to eat the usual common “pasta” in this part of the world such as we had in camp.

September 28th 1943 Day 19.
We decided to move on to Delana, though it was still raining. On our way we met a peasant who took us into a little hut in the woods where we made some tea and toasted some bread. He had never drunk tea before, and didn’t know whether he liked it or not. All the trees round here are chestnuts and I gather that the chestnut industry is the only one of any importance in these mountains. Eventually we arrived at Delana, and made for the local school, where we expected to find shelter. The schoolmistress however, was very frightened of us and would not commit herself. She gave us a glass of wine each and sent us on our way downhill to another group of houses. Here at last a good lady came to our rescue and gave us a shed to sleep in with chestnut leaves on the floor. We sat round the fire in the evening and dried some of our clothing. Eventually the lady’s husband, our host, returned from a trip to Pontremoli which is about 20 kilometres away and is the biggest town in the district. He said the Germans had about two divisions there, and Ack- Ack defence on the railway. During the day several of our planes came over, apparently on recce flights, for we heard a certain

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amount of banging going on from the direction of Spezia and Sestri Levante but we couldn’t be sure whether it was due to anti-aircraft fire or naval bombardment from the sea. Everybody says that it would be difficult to cross the road and railway near Pontremoli, so it would be just as well to go slow for a while end see how the situation develops.

September 29th 1943 Day 20.
We slept well, in spite of the fact that there was an unbelievable number of thorny chestnut shells amongst the leaves. It began to rain hard again at eleven o’clock, and so our hostess insisted that we should stay here for another night. We spent most of the morning picking out chestnut spikes from our blankets. In the evening the old priest came along and invited us to drinks at the local pub. He was a dear old boy, with a remarkable red nose, and he advised us, if we were going south to cross the river Magra near a town called Villa Franca. That night we had another good supper. Bob appears to have made friends with the pub.-owner’s wife, for she whisked him away to dinner on his own. We went to bed at nine o’clock.

September 30th 1943 Day 21.
We woke early and found that at last the rain had stopped The sun was shining and there were no clouds in the sky at all We had the usual breakfast of bread and milk and after our hostess had pressed upon us several large pieces of “pattona, di castanaccio”(chestnut bread) we proceeded towards a village called Rossano.

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On the way we came to the village of Castello, where we found to our horror that the population seemed to know all about us and had no doubt at all that we were British escaped prisoners of war. We were warned several times that there were Carabinieri at the next village, Colloretta, and that they had arrested and imprisoned two of our comrades a few days before. We therefore took care to avoid the village but very nearly ran into a Marasciello of Carabinieri who was walking down a path through the woods on the other side.

A little later we saw the village priest and feeling that perhaps he would be a safe person to approach I sent Mick up to him – the fact that he is a Roman Catholic has come in very useful more than once – to ask for the local news. He proved to be a very friendly old soul, and embraced us all as his brothers in arms. Once he started to talk it was difficult to stop him and he felt very warmly about the Italian Army officers who had not stayed to fight the Germans but had gone home. He assured us there was no need to be afraid of the Carabinieri when he was about. He advised us to go on to a village called Alzerata, where we should be able to find a guide to take us across the river Magra. We went on our way, with his blessing. Our route now lay along a rough metal road which eventually led down to the city of Pontremoli. There were thick chestnut woods on both sides of us and we were assured that the road was hardly ever used by transport. Slowly we climbed up the side of another range of hills and reached a pass which showed us another

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deep valley in front of us. It turned out that this was the Valley of Rossano. There were a few people about and they all greeted us pleasantly and offered us fruit and bread. For a long time we followed the road until we reached another pass at the end of the valley and found ourselves looking down onto a large town some 2,000 feet below us. Just as we began to go on down the road, we met a civilian leading a mule. He asked where we were making for and when we told him he strongly advised us not to go anywhere near Pontremoli as it was full of Germans, and that they had pickets along the Magra valley watching for escaping prisoners of war. He also advised us not to stay in Alzelata but to turn back with him, as he said he would be very pleased to put us up in his house in a little village called Chiesa, which lay in the Rossano valley. It was now dusk. .We had nearly arrived at his house, when he informed us quite suddenly that he was a Brigadiere of Carabinieri. This came as something of a shock, but as he still appeared to be quite friendly, we decided to trust to luck. Eventually we reached the village which consisted of a cluster of dark-stoned peasant houses in which the ground floor was occupied by live-stock and the owners lived on the floor above.

We were given a good supper of bread and cheese and a glass of the local wine which we are now quite accustomed to. After supper our Carabiniere told us that we had no need to worry as he was a deserter. He then assured us that the Allies

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had landed at Livorno, and that the British Fourth Army was fighting there. There was no wireless available so it was impossible to check this news but in any case, we very much doubted the truth of it. We were allotted a comfortable hay barn to sleep in which was on the edge of the village.

October 1st 1943 Day 22.
We awoke early and were taken to breakfast to a house opposite the Carabiniere’s which belonged to a family named Deluchi. There were five in the family, the old father and mother, two sons, Tarquinio and Richetto, and a daughter Dina. Tarquinio was a tall fair Italian over 30 years old and he appointed himself my personal guide from the first moment we saw him. During the morning we were introduced to an individual who called himself Captain Adolphus who appeared to be a big noise in the locality. He seemed an interesting character, he was said to be a Socialist, and had worked for a time in France and then fought in the Spanish wars against the Fascists for which he had been interned for three years, and then released with various other political prisoners after the attempted Italian Armistice of the 8th of September. At least he appeared to be very pro-Allies. He took us along to meet three more English whom he was sheltering in his village, which was called Chioso. We found that these were three whom we had met hiding up a few days after we left camp. There were also three South Africans somewhere in the area who

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had escaped from the train on the way to Germany.

They were reported that a number of officers believed to be from a camp at Chiavri had taken over the train on which they were travelling, when it was somewhere north of Genoa, and had killed the German guards and escaped.

We were taken to another family for lunch and in the afternoon all six of us paid a visit to an inn in another village called Monte Delama where Adolphus ordered drinks to celebrate the occasion. Whilst we were there, another two men arrived, one an English soldier named Meadows, who had escaped from a camp near Turin, and the other a Frenchman who had got away from Toulon. The Frenchman said that in Toulon many of the German garrison had thrown away their arms and bolted into the hills with the Italians when they heard of the Armistice. These two were intent on continuing their journey at once to reach the Allied lines. We decided to stay where we were for a while as we did not believe the story about the British Fourth Army being at Livorno.

Adolphus took it upon himself, with the assistance of Tarquinio, to find us a place to live in the valley. I went back to supper with my two companions to Tarquinio’s family in Chiesa and then we went to bed in the same hayloft as last night. The great event of the day was provided by the arrival of two British four-engine bombers which flew over in the morning and dropped what seemed like one big bomb on Pontremoli. We heard later that it just missed the big bridge over the river. There was considerable

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air activity and bombing heard throughout the day from the direction of Livorno and Spezia.

October 2nd 1943 Day 23.
We had breakfast again with the Deluchi family which consisted of warm milk and a ration biscuit each. These biscuits are the same as the Libyan troops had issued to them in North Africa and are now being given by the Fascists to the population in place of their original ration of grain. After breakfast we went off with Tarquinio to find a permanent place to live in. Eventually he contacted a cousin, who placed his ‘cascina’ at our disposal (a ‘cascina’ is a kind of barn divided into two stories; in the top story is stored hay or chestnuts whilst underneath live the sheep and goats. In the chestnut season large wood fires are lighted in the bottom story, the smoke of which dries the chestnuts on the floor above, which are then ground into flour). It was well hidden on a ridge overlooking the valley. After a large lunch with the family, Adolphus took us under his wing again and we did a tour of the valley. It is most impressive to look at, and is shut in on all sides by high mountain ranges. The slopes of the mountains are covered with thick chestnut forests.

There is only one way into it by road from Pontremoli, and three routes by mule-track. The valley itself is about 6 miles long as the crow flies and about 3 miles in width and it contains 9 villages of which Chiesa is the centre, as it contains a big church with a high clock

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tower. The ex-Mayor, who was extremely unpopular, lived in a little village at the end of the valley nearest the road leading down to the Magra valley. It was the most picturesque of them all, perched right on the top of a small hill.

As the following day was said to mark the beginning of the chestnut season, the population was holding a festival in the evening to celebrate it. We had quite a large dinner consisting of soup and incredible quantities of a very tough grey-looking tripe. Tarquinio then insisted that we should go to the local dance, so we set out, guided by somebody with a lantern and eventually arrived once more in the village of Monte Delarma. The dancing was most peculiar but a lot of “vino” was pressed upon us and we were certainly the centre of interest. I began to get a little anxious about security but everybody assured me that there was nothing to worry about, because the Germans would not dare to come up to Rossano at night, and the Carabinieri of Colloretta in the next valley were far too frightened of the population anyway. Incidentally that valley was known as Zeri and a good metal road led from a village near Colloretta, called Noce, right into Pontremoli.

The rumour about Livorno cropped up again; some optimist said that he had heard that the Allies had landed near there at 5 a.m. that morning, but I don’t believe this as there has not been very much noise today and little air activity. The dance brightened up about

11 p.m.

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11 p.m. when an Italian soldier who had arrived home rather hurriedly a few days before got very drunk and wanted to fight people. We were kept out of the way by Adolphus but everybody else seemed to join in and it looked quite exciting until he was carted away into the night by some of his friends. We left well after midnight and went to sleep in a nearby hayloft. The thing which impressed me most about that pub which was about as poor a dwelling as you could find in Europe, was the strange sight of two coloured pictures of scenes from Shakespeare’s “Othello” which adorned the walls. I could not quite see the connection between Rossano and Shakespeare or “Othello”.

October 3rd 1943 Day 24.
We woke up early. It was a glorious morning, with bright sunlight. We washed at a fountain, and then breakfasted off chestnut bread and cheese. I have almost got used to eating the live maggots that wriggle about the local cheese and which everybody insists form the most tasty ingredients. I got through it somehow and then we returned to Chiesa. We lunched with the Carab.’s family and then went up to our private barn to make up for a little lost sleep. In the evening we met an aunt of Tarquinio’s and her husband who had been one of the chauffeurs to the Italian Royal Family in Genoa. Their house had been destroyed in Genoa and their cars burned out in the raids of last November, but in spite of that, they bore no grudge against the Allies. Incidentally they said that the

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claims which the Fascists had made concerning Allied planes shot down in air raids were quite untrue. We retired to bed early.

Something of a stir was caused during the day by the arrival in Chiesa of a mysterious female whom the locals swore was worth well over 40,000,000 lire, and who owned shops in Genoa, Parma and Florence. Apparently, she is an evacuee from Pontremoli, and has rented part of an old building in Chiesa which is known as the Palace of the Slaves. The local population look upon her as a possible spy.

October 4th 1943 Day 25.
There was another dance last night at the Mayor’s village, Castoglio. I am glad we missed that. Tarquinio brought us breakfast to our shed, and then we went down with him to start work.

The Deluchi family are splendid. The old boy whom we all call Babbo, and the old lady have both decided to adopt me as their son, and so I have been given the name of Luigi Deluchi, and have been furnished with the necessary identity documents. Apparently, they have a son Luigi who went to France twelve years ago, and they have had no news of him since. This being the case, I feel that I must live up to the part and so today had my first lessons in cultivating the fields. This consisted in using a most awkward implement known as the zappa, which is a short hoe. To use it one has to bend almost double and remain in that position practically all day – most painful when one is not used to

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it. All the family work in line, except Mamma, and they work jolly hard. I was allowed to break off at 11 o’clock, and took advantage of the break to wash a shirt in the nearby stream. We carried on after lunch. In the evening, Adolphus looked in and said that he had heard the radio in Castoglio (the ex-Mayor has one) and that the American troops were said to be on the line Avellino – Capua, and that the Eighth Army was now well north of Bari, about 60 kilometres from Pescara. The rumours about Livorno were, of course, quite untrue. Auntie looked in too, and had a chat with us, again about Genoa. She said that there had been many English spies there, and also at Livorno where a munitions ship had been sunk near the entrance to the harbour, a few months before, by sabotage. One of the villagers spoke very warmly about Colonel Stevens, and his broadcasts on the “Voce di Londra” programme.

October 5th 1943, Day 26.
To work again, and finished our third field – oh! how my back aches. In the evening we were given supper by the Carab.’s wife. Two South Africans arrived during the day, from Camp 146, at Montare (?) near Milan. Their names were Private Brooker (Cape Town Highlanders captured at Gazala) and Corporal Meyer(F.F.B.) [? Field Force Brigade] both of them Second Brigade, First South African Division. Auntie looked after them and we later sent them along to Adolphus. Two English officers are said to have arrived in Castoglio.

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to be on the increase in Pontremoli.

The local Dollar Princess seems to have disappeared again.

October 6th 1943 Day 27.
Today we worked for another farm in the village, hoeing again. They have a peculiar system here whereby they sow all the grain first then plough up the land afterwards with two cows pulling a wooden plough. Our job was to fill in the furrows.

There was an air battle in the morning over Spezia and 21 of our planes flew high over us on the way back. All the population turned out and cheered, and waved at them frantically. There was a good deal of anti- aircraft fire from the Pontremoli valley.

After lunch with our farmer, somebody brought in a pamphlet which had been dropped by Allied planes yesterday in the Zeri area. It was signed by Badoglio, and gave in detail the reasons why he had agreed to the armistice, and urged the Italians to continue to resist and hamper the Germans, until the Anglo-Americans had brought them freedom, which would be soon. We sincerely hope it will be.

Tarquinio also told us that on the wireless yesterday evening somebody on the “Voce di Londra” programme said that our people knew that there were many British escaped prisoners in those areas not yet occupied by the Germans, and asked the Italians to continue to help us. They were to record our names and numbers, so that they could be rewarded later.

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I gave ours to Tarquinio’s family.

In the evening Adolphus arrived with the two English officers from Castoglio. They turned out to be Majors Selby and Goeschen from Veano Camp. They had also picked up an Australian, Number VX3034, Private Bartlett, of 92, Pescoe Vale, Essenden, Melbourne, who had escaped from a working camp near Milan. He had had a rather tough journey. They decided to stay in the valley for a while, as they had been given a place to live in in the Mayor’s village.

Apparently the radio at midday said that the American troops were now a hundred kilometres from Rome, the Eighth Army was 15 kilometres from Pescara (following a landing at Termoli two days ago), and Corsica was now clear of the enemy. There was also a rumour that the Germans were evacuating their heavy material from Pontremoli. In the evening another lorry load of furniture arrived for the “Dollar Princess”; it almost gave us a heart attack, because whenever a vehicle is heard on the road the people think it might be a Hun punitive expedition, and all those of military age scamper off into the woods to await the “All Clear”, ourselves with them.

We had supper with Adolphus. He is a strange character and I don’t quite know what to make of him. I learned today that he had been a sailor, and was expelled from England in 1919, after one month in Pentonville Prison under the Aliens Act for not being in possession of a passport. From all appearances, his one desire is to return ….

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return to England after the war.

The population of Chiesa village have now fed the three of us for a week, and the food shortage must be getting acute. It looks as if the Allies may get to Rome by Sunday – if they do we can make fresh plans.

October 7th 1943 Day 28.
Some amusement was caused in the valley today, by two Italians who turned up just about dusk last night – an Italian Second Lieutenant and a soldier who escaped from the Hun concentration camp at Aulla. The officer was dressed as a signora, and the other was travelling as her husband. The “lady’s” make-up must have been perfect, for apparently their host and hostess did not discover the plot until after supper. They would not have discovered it then had it not been for the generous offer of the old peasant lady to the soldier’s “wife” that she should share her bed with her at night. Then of course, the truth had to be told, and was soon known all over the valley. The couple left again this morning in an effort to reach their homes in Piedmont.

Babbo received a letter today demanding the payment of three sheep to the Fascist authorities in Pontremoli by the 12th. This is a Government tax. Tarquinio says they are not going to produce them – they are only given a 150 lire for each animal in any case, and they are now worth much more than that. I asked him what would happen if he did not send them in, and he said that some carabinieri would

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probably come round and take names as usual. Nobody has sent any animals in from Rossano for a long time, which is why the carabinieri regard the population as being unusually Bolshie.

In the morning we went down to the mill to collect some grain which had been ground into flour for the family. The food shortage is acute, as they have run out of macaroni, and have used all their spare flour, on our account. They are awfully good about it and say that we won’t starve now that the chestnuts have begun to arrive, but we shall have to relieve the situation somehow.

It rained hard in the afternoon so we went up to our hayloft and slept. We are all feeling rather tired, and Micallef is not looking too well.

There was no news today from the radio, though there is talk of the Germans evacuating certain areas near here, and either burning or removing all food and stores.

October 8th 1943 Day 29.
Another fine morning. After breakfast we went into the woods to look for “fungi” – the only other industry in the Rossana valley. These things are really a type of fungus of the mushroom variety, which the Italians use a great deal in their cooking, and which, in peace time, are dried for export and sold in Europe. I was not at all successful in finding them. In the afternoon we helped Tarquinio digging one of his fields.

A rumour started to circulate during the morning

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that the Allies had landed at Ancona.

The day was made notable mainly because we were able to obtain some coarse tobacco leaves which it was possible to chop up and smoke in a pipe. I still have the pipe which was sent me in a Red Gross parcel during the first six months in prison. The locals are badly in need of tobacco, and for lack of anything better, dry and smoke the leaves of selected weeds which grow in the fields.

Supper that evening consisted mainly of soup – it seems a long time since we had any solid meat to eat.

We went to bed early and there was rain and a strong wind most of the night.

October 9th 1943 Day 30.
We finished our digging task in the morning, Unfortunately Mick is feeling ill and so the family put him in the kitchen of their house beside the smoky stove.

I hoped to go to Castoglio in the afternoon to listen to the radio, but our plans were upset by an alarm early in the afternoon to the effect that the Germans were coming. The women folk were a bit frightened, but Tarquinio behaved splendidly. We fled for the door to make for the woods under his guidance, and when we got outside, we found that the alarm had been due to a German vehicle having been seen going along the road high up on the side of the mountain range towards Zeri. The situation was not improved by the fact that an individual who was passing through from another valley had spread abroad a story to the effect

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that in a village not very far away a certain family has given a night’s sleep and food to two English; the Germans found this out, and sent an armed party up to the village who shot the entire family.

However, things calmed down, especially after Tarquinio’s uncle had rebuked the local women for panicking. Tarquinio and I then went to the top of a nearby mound to watch for the return of the mysterious vehicle, for it had to return the same way, there being only the one road.

At about 14.00 hours two vehicles returned, one was a small car and the other a German 3-ton lorry, but it appeared to be empty. The vehicles went on towards Pontremoli. We then went along to the village of Chioso to see what Adolphus had to say about it. All the villagers seemed alarmed, and some had already taken their livestock into the woods to hide them. However, the general decision was that the Huns would be far too nervous to come and look for us, unless they had spies to guide them. Thereupon we returned to Chiesa.

We found on arrival that all was calmness once again. A report had come in (news travels amazingly quickly in these mountains) that the vehicles had only contained a Lieutenant of Carabinieri, and four carabinieri police, with two German soldiers, probably their guards. They went to Zeri to collect some property from the barracks at Colloretta. The general opinion is, that most of the

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carabinieri have deserted into the hills as they have no desire to work for the Fascist Republic, and the Fascists are having considerable difficulty in keeping the few remaining ones at their jobs.

After dinner we went over to the village of Castoglio to listen to a radio which they have there in the local inn. The “Voce di Londra” programme spoke of the capture of Caserta south of Capua, and said that the Eighth Army had repulsed a heavy German attack on Termoli. There appears to have been no truth in the story about Ancona.

We returned to bed in our hayloft. We hope to find a new abode in the woods tomorrow.

October 10th 1943 Day 31 (Sunday)

Old Father Deluchi wants us to stay in their ‘cascina’ alongside the cow which is named Bionda Maria. I don’t like the idea of it very much, as it is rather near the motor road.

We all had a shave in the morning – a rare event in these days – and after the usual breakfast of bread and milk Bob and I went off to search for fungi with Tarquinio. Mick is still not very well.

We are not very good at finding these mysterious growths and eventually gave up the search and sat on the hill in the sun, and watched the population of Chiesa go to church. Tarquinio has no love for church, and says all the priests are propaganda merchants, and that they always brought Fascism into their sermons when they had a chance. We had

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lunch with Auntie and went to sleep in the afternoon. In the evening, we sat talking in Ma’s house – they all treat us like members of the family now.

There are a number of extraordinary rumours in circulation, the most persistent of which is that the Allied forces are only 60 kilometres from Rome. London does not mention this, nor has it mentioned the bombing of Bologna and Pisa, yet the rumours contain so much detail that they must come from some authoritative source; perhaps it is one of the neutral countries such as Switzerland or Turkey who are responsible.

Adolphus had threatened to take us to another dance in Castollio, but we heard later that he got mixed up in a fight in one of the other villages, so we went to bed early. We all three seem to be suffering from extreme physical inertia, which must be something to do with the food. It would be quite easy to sleep all day. Supper consisted of the usual soup and a few beans and potatoes floating in it.

October 11th 1943 Day 32.
There was a report, circulated by the ex-Mayor of Castollio, that Badoglio made an announcement on the radio some time ago in which he promised that the Allies would be in upper Italy by the 20th of this month. There are nine more days to go.

After breakfast we went out to begin our new job of collecting chestnuts, which is another back-breaking occupation. I now understand why none of the female population of Rossana are fat; they have too much stooping to do in their lives.

When we returned at the end of the morning’s work, we

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found the village in something of a stir. It appears that a party of 20 Huns and Fascists came up by lorry from Pontremoli last night, and when they reached the point where the road enters the Rossana valley, they left their vehicles and proceeded on foot to the village of Colloretta in Zeri, with the object of taking the inhabitants by surprise. They were looking for English ex-prisoners whom they had heard from a woman spy were in the town. They found nobody, but a party of Fascists was sent this morning to collect Adolphus from Chioso village, in order to put him back in a concentration camp after questioning. Fortunately he had been warned and escaped into the hills. The local population say that this is due to the visit of a woman stranger who of course they are quite sure was the spy concerned, who passed through the valley a few days ago and who is known to have spoken to Adolphus, and who let fall the information that she was interested in the whereabouts of “English or French” prisoners. Harsh as it may seem to think so, this rather serves friend Adolphus right, as he has given far too much publicity to our presence here. Anyway it was decided that we had better take to the woods for a bit. We packed up our kit after lunch, and Tarquinio took us to a very well hidden little hut, which is somebody’s wood store, well up on the south side of the valley, and about an hour and a half’s walk from Chiesa village. It was decided that we should return to the village for supper after dark; meanwhile the story would be spread that we had already moved on our way to another area.

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Apparently the other parties of ex-prisoners have scattered, and all the other “wanted personnel” are keyed-up and tiptoe for flight, so that if a Hun appears anywhere near Chiesa, the countryside will become black with soldiers in civilian clothes, farmers, cows, pigs and sheep, all streaking in different directions to take shelter in the woods. The trouble is that the Germans are still known to be at Colloretta. The carabinieri have been given strict orders to round us all up, but they are at present behaving very nicely, and there is no fear of our being taken by surprise by them. If only we had arms it would be possible to do quite a lot of damage, and it would be the simplest thing in the world to block the road up from Pontremoli. As it is, however, one can only behave like a hunted animal, and in any case, the problem of what to do with the women and children of the population, if we were armed, is a big one.

We duly returned for our supper after dark. We crept into the house as silently as possible, and the door was locked and bolted behind us. It really is queer to be living in a house where literally every footstep heard in the street after dark is a matter for concern, and a knock at the door requires an explanation from the visitor before it is opened. After the usual soup of macaroni (dear old Ma has got some more from somewhere – doubtless she has been hoarding), we were given an unusual dish which I had never seen before. It looked a bit odd, but fortunately I did not find out until after I had eaten it that it was cow’s lung, which apparently

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is considered an extremely tasty morsel in this part of the world. It was certainly tough. Such opulence, we then learned, was due to the fact that Auntie’s cow had suddenly burst that afternoon (literally), owing to it having eaten too much of a certain kind of clover, so the whole village has benefited by the disaster. Although they told us this in all seriousness, I noticed that nobody seemed very distressed about it, and imagine that in reality this is just another method of overcoming the Fascist regulations which forbade the killing of livestock.

Nobody takes the “Republics Fascista” seriously, in spite of the fact that they have gone to the trouble of producing a special postage stamp with the head of Julius Caesar on it, and the face is printed in the corner. Another thing which has caused extreme disapproval in the valley is a manifesto issued from Pontremoli, which the carabinieri nailed onto the door of the church, saying that in future the population must accept the German mark in payment for goods, as well as the lira, at the rate of 10 lire to the mark. Before, the rate was 7 lire to the mark. The interesting result of this is that the people of Rossano are now refusing to sell any of their goods, such as chestnut flour, grain and dried fungi until the Allies arrive as even they realise that the mark is worth even less than the lira. I also saw today a small booklet called “Il Popolo – something-or-other”, printed by the U.S. Government which had been dropped by plane over Villa/Franca a few days ago.

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It is a story of the freedom of the peoples of the United States, but unfortunately ends on a very religious note. This does not go down at all well with the poor people of these mountains.

We climbed back to our hide-out by moonlight. Ma insisted on our taking away a sack of boiled chestnuts, and some bread and cheese to eat in the morning.

October 12th 1943 Day 33.
We slept well, on dry chestnut leaves. We found just after dawn that there were quite a number of people round the hut, searching for fungi but they did not see us. When the coast was clear we emerged and cooked some chestnuts over a small fire. During this process, a solitary man who had also been collecting fungi came upon us unexpectedly, and was so concerned by our appearance that he produced his lunch from a sack and insisted on our taking it. He told us that he was a Carabiniere who had managed to escape from the Germans in Turin.

Tarquinio arrived just after 12 o’clock with a lunch consisting of bread and liver from the famous burst cow. We received the startling news that the “Dollar Princess”, who has now taken up residence in Chiesa, has amongst other things a wireless set and unfortunately for her Tarquinio has designs on it.

We spent the afternoon collecting chestnuts with the family. In the evening we did a recce of the woods behind us and climbed to the top of the ridge. There is only one village behind it – which is included in the Rossano area


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called Bosco, and it looks wonderfully secluded. Tarquinio told us today that the English soldier Meadows and his French companion were captured by a German patrol whilst crossing the river Magra somewhere near Villa Franca, and this seems to have woken the Huns up to the fact that there are English and French in the neighbourhood. He also spoke of two Russian prisoners who had been seen somewhere near the area today.

October 13th 1943 Day 34.
We were a little disturbed to hear shots in the night, which seemed to come from the direction of Chiesa village. However, Tarquinio arrived at about 08.00 hours, and told us that it was only due to certain venturous spirits hunting hares by moonlight. Giuseppe, the brother of Adolphus, arrived after breakfast and told us that Adolphus was safe in the hills. He told us that a Fascist and two Germans in civilian clothes had been to Chioso village (there is a direct path to it from Colloretta) looking for “Malachina Adolfus and his English”. The Germans who were at Zeri have returned to Pontremoli, and their Commander is supposed to have remarked before leaving that they had more important things to do than search the surrounding woods on foot for escaped Englishmen. Apparently the local population think we have left the area, and are deeply concerned for our welfare.

Tarquinio came back again at lunch time, bringing us tripe from that same remarkable cow. We spent the afternoon collecting chestnuts with him. The lack of wireless news is most irritating – it seems as if our people are purposely

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October Day 35

keeping things quiet, for a good reason of their own, but something must brew up soon.

October 14th 1943 Day 35.
Spent a restless night. These dry leaves are awfully noisy to sleep on, and spiders appear to be hatching out in them now. The faithful Tarquinio arrived about 08.00 hours, as usual with our breakfast, and with some small items of news.

Apparently the “Dollar Princess” has of a sudden, gone all anti-Fascist, and she turned on her wireless last night, which Dina, Tarquinio’s sister, listened to. According to her the London radio announced (a) that Badoglio had said that Italy had been obliged to declare war on Germany, on account of the outrages which had been committed by the Hun since the Armistice and (so what we used to say in jest at Chieti, about the Ities being our future allies becomes true!)

(b) the Eighth Army is about 100 kilometres from Rome, on the Adriatic coast – which means that it should be somewhere about Porto San Giorgio (c) that the Brenner Pass has been closed again, following a heavy Allied air raid which tore up approximately 40 kilometres of railway and (d) the Yugoslav partisans, from the area of Fiume, have occupied Bolzano.

Tarquinio seems to be under the impression that the Bosch are clearing out of Pontremoli. Meanwhile we still cannot move from here until we get more definite local news. I hope we shall be able to hear the wireless ourselves on Sunday, and then start moving again if possible. We have been out for five weeks today.

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We heard some firing from the direction of Spezia again today. Tarquinio says that the Germans have a gun “25 metres long” near Pontremoli station, which they boast can be used against Spezia, in the event of a landing there. It has been doing some practice shoots lately, and all the windows in Pontremoli had to be opened first. If this is true, it must be very powerful. There is news also that the Germans have established a strong garrison at a place called Cisa, which is the main mountain pass commanding the main road Spezia – Pontremoli – Parma.

October 15th 1943 Day 36.
During the morning we met A.B. [Able-Seaman] Dickson, Private Miller and Private Joyce who had refuge during the scare at Bosco and were on their way back to Chioso. I went off by myself to explore the valley a bit more. At the end of the valley, where it narrows before opening out into the Pontremoli plain, there is a very big dam in which all the waters are collected from the surrounding mountains. I found a path leading through the woods above this, and this brought me to a point below the village of Alzulata This village is in a most wonderful position for observation purposes; It is on the crest of an out jutting spur and there is a perfect view of Pontremoli, which lies some 1,500 feet below it. A metal road – the same one which leads through Rossano to Zeri – leads from it by means of various hairpin bends down to the city. To reach Alzarato from Pontremoli by this road takes more than half an hour in a

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really fast vehicle. Furthermore, it winds through chestnut forests most of the way, and is in bad need of repair.

Below the dam, to which it is connected by a metal motor road there was the important electrical centre of Taglia. – a vast building made of reinforced concrete, in which are housed the dynamos and electrical controls which distribute the supply of electricity along the Magra valley, and to certain towns in the north. There is an electric railway along the Magra valley, which is controlled from Taglia, and it also supplies the lighting for all the Rossano area, for one of the strange things about this area is that in spite of the poverty, all the houses have electric lighting.

Alzulata possesses a church with an unusually high tower, from which it should be possible to see a long way down the Magra valley.

I turned back after midday, and it began to rain. An old farmer and his son, working by the side of the path, told me that the guard at the dam was provided by German troops, but that as from today they were to hand over to the Fascist militia.

Returned to Chiesa after dark and had the usual macaroni supper. The family insisted on our sleeping in a ‘cascina’ belonging to Tarquinio’s uncle from Genoa, which saved us a long walk back in the rain.

October 16th 1943 Day 37.
Ma insisted on commandeering my trousers this morning, which she decided could be washed and darned, so I was lent

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a pair of Tarquinio’s. We spent the day collecting chestnuts. Richetto brought us our lunch, which consisted of vast quantities of cold grey tripe – really the last of the burst cow, I hope. We returned to the village after dark.

There were a few items of news available. The Allies are still 80 kilometres from Rome, and Livorno has been steadily bombed throughout yesterday and today by Allied planes – maybe there is something in the story of Badoglio’s promise concerning the 20th. Local reports say that German tanks are moving along the road towards Livorno from Parma. The Fascist news bulletin of the previous night admitted successes by Russians, end Yugoslav partisans. The Brenner is still said to be closed.

The carab.’s wife gave us supper, and we slept in the village again. I hope something will happen soon, as this life is getting awfully tedious.

October 17th 1943 Day 38 (Sunday)
Today being Sunday there was no work in the chestnut woods. We heard explosions going on in the direction of Spezia all the morning, which may have been shelling. A German 6-engine plane passed over about 10.30 hours.

The atmosphere is a little uncomfortable in the village this morning, owing to a report brought in by a “foreigner” (anybody who lives outside the Rossano valley is regarded by the local population as a foreigner), to the effect that yesterday the Germans arrived unexpectedly in a village below Alzurato, and carried off two lorry loads of men of all ages,

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with no explanation as to why they were doing it, or what the fate of those unfortunate individuals would be. It is a popular belief that the Huns are pushing the Italian troops into the front line, opposite the English positions in the south.

After lunch we went to find Adolphus whom none of us had seen since the alarm of some days ago, but he was not at home. We then wandered about in the woods until dark. Tarquinio told us that a Brigadiere of Carabinieri in the Zeri valley had warned certain members of the population that there were two Germans wandering about disguised as fugitives, whose object was to track down British ex-prisoners.

There was not much radio news available. I did see a newspaper today however, published last Thursday in which the German bulletin admitted that the Russians were on the line approximately Nevel – Gomel – entrance to the Pripet river – east of Kiev – Zoporoje – and Melitopol (not far east of Odessa). In Southern Italy, the line was roughly Termoli – Campo-basso – Capua. The paper also said that the operations in Southern Italy, on the part of the Allies, were “not yet on a grand scale”.

October 18th 1943 Day 39.
It was raining hard at dawn. Breakfast was cheered up by a rumour brought in to us to the effect that the Allies were now only 30 kilometres from Rome, and all civilians were being evacuated. I don’t suppose this is true, but somebody or other’s sister who brought the news, was very excited

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about it.

The population are still worried by the persistent stories of spies in the area, and we have to keep out of sight all day. Therefore we spent the morning in Tarquinio’s ‘cascina’ in company with the cow Bionda Maria. We are getting awfully tired of creeping about like criminals, though our friends are doing all they can to help. The other day one of the British other ranks lost his wallet which contained 400 lire. That is a lot of money to these people but it was returned to him within 6 hours, having been found on a path in the woods by a small child.

A black-market agent arrived in the valley today, and tried to buy eggs at 5 lire each, and “fungi” at 130 lire a kilo. He did not receive a very friendly welcome. The locals refused to sell him anything, especially as it was his intention to trade with the Germans at a profit, and he left again more hurriedly than he had come.

After lunch, Adolphus appeared in Tarquinio’s house.

The situation concerning Adolphus has become rather embarrassing. Since the attempt made by the Fascists to get him, he has avoided the English until the other night, when he met Private Miller and his friends in Chioso. Adolphus, whose nerve appears to have been badly shaken, told them to go away because the Germans might come, whereupon one of the English lost his temper and told Adolphus that he had Germans on the brain. They refused to take any further notice of him,

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which annoyed him considerably. His point of view is that if the Huns know that the English are back in Chioso, he will be caught and shot whereas the English prisoners would only be sent to a prison camp “for a few months”. I can sympathise with his feelings, but at the same time he hasn’t been exactly discreet about our presence here.

It was decided that we should move out of Chiesa for a while, and find another ‘cascina’ which we could use as a permanent headquarters. Tarquinio took us over to Castoglio in the afternoon, where we met the Mayor’s son who led us to quite a superior kind of barn, which contained a hayloft as well as a room with a fire in it for drying chestnuts. The new position is a very good one, in the woods east of Castoglio and with a commanding view of the only way of approach to the village from the road. It rained all the afternoon.

October 19th 1943 Day 40.

We heard quite a good story yesterday, symptomatic of the attitude of the population towards the Fascist regime. A certain woman had three small children, two sons and a daughter, named respectively Vittorio, Benito, and Italia. A friend came to see her and asked her if they were in good health. “Not very”, she replied, “Vittorio is sleeping, Benito is shouting, and Italia is weeping”.

We had a comfortable night in the hayloft and were awakened by our host, who is the local miller and bought this property with its chestnut trees from the Mayor. After

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the usual breakfast, Tarquinio arrived with the rest of our kit, and some more dry rations contributed by our friends in Chiesa. He told us that the wireless news was much the same; the Fifth and Eighth Armies were still moving towards Rome. It looks as if the Allies may be slowing everything up in order to prepare something spectacular for October 28th, which is the anniversary of Mussolini’s march on Rome. We should know tomorrow too, whether there is anything in the Badoglio story about the Allies reaching “alta Italia” by the 20th. Incidentally, – a fact which has been given extensive publicity by the Fascists – the Japs claimed to have bombed Madras in India for the first time since war began.

It rained hard most of the day. Managed to get a bath in the morning in the local stream. Spent the day sewing socks, sleeping, and reading a copy of Pocock’s Selected English Essays which I managed to bring away with me from camp. It had been sent out in one of the few next-of-kin parcels which reached me from home.

Have been thinking a lot about England lately, and the comforts of that little cottage down at Eype. I daren’t contemplate the faint chance of spending Christmas with them there – as things are at present it seems likely that we shall still be here. No sounds of battle in any direction today.

October 20th 1943 Day 41.
So here we are at the 20th. We had the usual breakfast of bread and milk, and then all had a shave to celebrate the occasion. We spent most of the day collecting chestnuts.

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Our host suggested that one of us should go each night and listen to the Mayor’s wireless in the village, so Mick went this evening – he seems to have recovered from his chill and Bob and I supped off boiled potatoes. We were relieved to hear a certain amount of noise from the direction of Spezia during the day.

October 21st 1943 Day 42.
The BBC news was disappointing. “Voce di Londra” said that the Fifth Army had advanced 8 kilometres (it is now somewhere near Casino, which is approximately 80 kilometres south of Rome – it is most irritating the way that figure 80 remains unchanged) and Eighth Army has suffered a slight reverse north of Termoli, somewhere near Montenero.

Apparently, they have not yet reached Pescara. The German forces in the Crimea, are in danger of being completely cut off by the Russians. There was also talk of strong partisan activity in Yugoslavia. It looks as if the Badoglio story was a myth after all. It is my turn to go and listen to the radio tonight, so I washed my only khaki shirt in honour of the occasion.

We have been at large six weeks today, and I would like to know how the others are getting on. Majors Selby and Goeschen left during the excitement the other day, and they are thought to be somewhere near Aulla. The Australian who was with them went off on his own, and the locals say that he was captured by the Germans at a place called Succia, on the other side of the Pontremoli valley.

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In the evening I went to the Mayor’s house with Luigi the miller. The Mayor himself whose name is Mori, was not there, so his wife tuned in the set. Just as the news began she started fiddling about with it, irritating female, and so we heard nothing except that the Russians have gained some victory or other which in the words of the American commentator has caused Hitler to call the second conference of his generals in the last fortnight.

After that, I was taken to the house of Luigi’s aged mother and father, known as Granny and Grandpa, who put me up for the night. They gave me an old newspaper dated the 19th, which spoke of the successful Allied air raid on Ancona, on the 17th, and an Allied conference which is going on in Moscow, with Anthony Eden and Cordell Hull present. There was an air raid on Spezia in the evening, and the planes flew quite low over us, but we could not see them because of a heavy mist.

October 22nd 1943 Day 43.
There was a strong wind all day and it was quite cold. Mick decided that he could not wait any longer, and intends going off with a Sicilian to try and reach the front line. We collected chestnuts most of the day. There was the sound of gunfire in the Pontremoli valley, where the Germans were trying out their big guns. Rumour has it that they are using a cemetery as their practice target.

Tarquinio turned up last night with my trousers, which have been duly washed and patched by Ma. Bob cooked the

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supper in the evening and we went to bed early.

October 23rd 1943 Day 44.
The day dawned fine at last. We continued to collect chestnuts in the morning and a Sicilian turned up to assist. After lunch we did some more work, and in the evening, I went for a stroll by myself to the top of the nearby ridge. The scenery was glorious. All the chestnut leaves are gradually turning to their autumn colours, and the sight is very reminiscent of the New Forest at this time of the year. I returned to the ‘cascina’ in the evening, just before Mick left. He says he is fed up with waiting and, although everybody in the area has advised him against it he is determined to get moving again.

October 24th 1943 Day 45.
Bob and I collected chestnuts in the morning, during the intervals between frequent storms of rain. Contributions of food arrived all day, from the people in Castoglio, Mori, the Mayor also came to see us. In the evening, after a supper of potatoes and milk, I went to his house in the village, led by Giovanni, who is Luigi’s small son, aged 11, whom we had nicknamed “The General” as he seems to have quite a lot of authority about the place. Luigi met us in the entrance to the village, and came with us to the “casa Mori”. He went inside to see if all was clear, and then came out again in a furious temper. Apparently, the Mayor’s wife had said that she didn’t want us in the house because she was afraid of spies. (I thought the “interference” on their radio the other night was not entirely atmospherics.) Luigi took us to his house, where, over a fiasco of very good vino he cursed the whole

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the whole of the Mayor’s family for several generations, and said that he would see to it that we heard the news all the same in the village inn, which also had a wireless set, at 10.30 hours. He was most anxious that we should not feel offended at what had happened, and he said that the people of the village were most anxious that we should not go away, like the other two Majors did. There were 38 families in Castollio and they had all arranged to take the responsibility for feeding us in turn.

We duly went along to the inn and for once the set worked well. There is a “Brigadiere of Carabinieri” here, who has deserted from somewhere in the north and wants to get back to his home in Palermo in Sicily. He listened in to “Voce di Londra” with us. The programme was well worth listening to.

It appears that the Russians have achieved a big victory at Melitopol, and completely cut off the Huns in the Crimea; they have also surrounded the German Sixth Army in Kiev, which is once again in the same situation now as it was at Stalingrad. The Russians are now advancing rapidly towards Bessarabia.

In Italy, the Fifth Army has advanced a few kilometres and there have been heavy bombing attacks on the Hun lines of communication. Admiral Legnani, who is Fascist Navy Minister, in the New Republic, was assassinated on the 20th, in Rome. The Fascist Colonel commanding the Republican Militia has also been murdered.

Towns in South-east Germany and Bavaria have been heavily

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bombed, and Yugoslav partisans have smashed up the main l. of c. [Lines of Communication] into Croatia where fighting continues. In a summary of the week’s news, the commentator said that our forces in Italy were re-organising, whilst continuing to push the Germans back, and that now we had received sufficient reinforcements to carry out the attack on Rome “from north and south, at the appropriate moment”. I hope to God that will be soon.

Slept the night with Grandma and Grandpa – or rather perhaps I should say in their house.

October 25th 1943 Day 46.
Returned to ‘cascina’ in the morning, and Bob and I each had two eggs for breakfast, which was a marvellous luxury. A torrential downpour began during the morning, so there was no more work to be done. Our Sicilian friend, and “The General” could not get back to the village, so we cooked a communal supper, and all went to sleep in the hayloft together.

October 26th 1943 Day 47.
The rain had stopped when we woke up this morning. After the usual breakfast of bread and milk we collected chestnuts all day. Grandpa arrived after lunch, with two newspapers for me but there was nothing of interest in them. Newspapers are sent up to this valley from Pontremoli, but they do not arrive very regularly. Bob went off to Chiesa in the evening, to see Ma whilst I went to bed early as I have a sore throat and don’t feel very well.

October 27th 1943 Day 48.
Bob returned early. Was very relieved to hear from him that Mick has settled down at Chiesa again, and apparently

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Ma is keeping strict watch on him to see that he doesn’t start wandering away. Bob said Auntie has returned safely from a trip to Genoa, which is very much an adventure these days. She came back with some very lurid remarks to make about the Germans, who had treated her extremely roughly on the crowded railway station at Spezia. At about 09.30 hours we were surprised to see Adolphus, with the fugitive Brigadiere of Carabinieri. Apparently Mrs. Mayor has now got in to such a state of nerves about German spies that she sent them over to move us out of the ‘cascina’. Adolphus was very anxious not to say anything to Luigi but he found out from ’’The General”, who scuttled off to tell him all about it, and met us as we were going down to the valley below the village. Adolphus looked somewhat shamefaced when he saw him, and said that Mori had ordered us to be moved out of the ‘cascina’. Luigi was furious, and told us we must come back to his mill if we did not find a comfortable ‘cascina’ and then he went off to have it out with Mori. We eventually left Adolphus, and went down into the valley to find a place for ourselves. Quite by chance we met Richetto and Babbo gathering chestnuts, and Mick was helping them. They insisted that we sleep for that night in a dilapidated wood store which they owned. However, the roof leaked badly so we decided to do our cooking there and sleep in another ‘cascina’ nearby.

The wood shed was near a very fine old bridge, appropriately named the Ponte Vecchio, which spanned the mountain stream running down to the dam at Taglia. We made our fire

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cook soup and whilst we were in the middle of it a party of old women and girls from Chiesa passed by with their sacks of chestnuts, on their way home after the day’s work. The sight of us had the usual effect – there were cries of “Poveri ragazzi” and “Che brutta vita” – and donations of bread and apples were showered upon us from them all, in spite of our protests. By nightfall we had collected enough bread to last us throughout the next day, and a large piece of potato pate from a sweet young thing in a red jumper who promised to bring us some more in the morning. Our old friend the carab.’s wife also passed by and she too said she would bring us something for breakfast.

October 28th 1943 Day 49.
Shortly after dawn the faithful Tarquinio arrived, and told me that he had found us a better place to live in. True to her word Mrs. Carabiniere arrived with a bundle of bread and apples. Then Tarquinio – who doesn’t seem to trust her very much – took us under his wing and we crossed the stream and walked through the woods for half-an-hour to a very well-hidden little ‘cascina’ on the opposite side of the valley to Castoglio. The owner, who was also one of our Chiesa friends, was waiting for us with a key and he did all he could to make us comfortable.

There was no further news of the fighting in the south, but it seems that the big battle should be starting soon.

We were invited to go into the village of Chiesa on Sunday, as Tarquinio’s uncle has decided to open a pub. The idea

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seems to be that all his friends should come to the christening. I don’t particularly want to go, on account of the publicity, as I don’t altogether trust Adolphus, now that his attitude had changed so very obviously. Tarquinio confirmed a rumour that I had heard before that the Brigadiere of Carabinieri at Zeri had sent a warning to Rossano to the effect that the Germans intended coming up to the valley at the end of the month, to collect cattle, and recruits for the Fascist armies, as the population had refused to pay their taxes for so long. Nobody seems to be worrying however, except the Mayor’s wife.

October 29th 1943 Day 50.
After breakfast, Bob and I went off to see Luigi at his flour mill. He greeted us warmly. He said he is anxious for us to come and live in the mill with him as long as we like, and especially to celebrate All Saints festival. Luigi insisted upon our staying to lunch with him, and he climbed up the hill to Castoglio village to collect it. Arranged for Bob to move in tomorrow, whilst I go back towards Delana to see if there are any English in the neighbourhood, as it might be useful to know where they all are.

We sat in the little room at the mill until three o’clock, warming ourselves by the iron stove. The weather is much colder, and there was a good fire. Luigi produced part of an Italian cigar (“a Toscana”) which we made into cigarettes and smoked. Then he made the suggestion that, if we wanted to hide any kit, we could put it in the box bench on which we were sitting, as he had quite a lot of things in there

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already. He accompanied this remark with a broad grin and then insisted on lifting up the lid. From the depths thus revealed he produced first of all an ancient piece of lard, vintage about March last year, this was followed by a large lump of salt, then a length of fuse wire, two detonators, and then two large sticks of dynamite which he assured us were there solely for the purpose of blowing up some Germans when they came. The articles were then put back again, except the lard and lump of salt, which he confessed had no particular part in the scheme and we sat down again. This incident was typical of Luigi – he is a most goodhearted fellow, and delightfully irresponsible and his hatred of Germans and Fascists alike is very genuine.

We returned to our ‘cascina’ in the woods just before nightfall.

October 30th 1943 Day 51.
I seem to have caught a cold, so will have to postpone the trip to Delana for a day or two.

Tarquinio arrived just after breakfast, with a bottle of milk and some bread and cheese. After he left us, we went back to the mill, and found Luigi waiting for us. It is an excellent spot for a hideout, as it is completely hidden from all angles, and can only be reached by one narrow path.

After lunch we went off to the ‘cascina’ that Adolphus had turned us out of so hurriedly and collected some chestnuts for him. Grandpa turned up during the afternoon, and was delighted to see we had come back again. He is an amazingly active old chap, and well over 85. We went back to the mill together,

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enjoyed himself telling me all about it. The building is centuries old. It is worked by water, guided to it by a channel cut from the nearest mountain stream. The water turns a wooden wheel, which causes the big grindstones to revolve. These grind the corn which is dropped on to them, a few grains at a time, from a Heath Robinson contraption erected above them in the form of a kind of wooden funnel. These stones are made of slate, and the old boy told me that there used to be a man in the village who manufactured them, but he died last year. “He drank too much”, added Grandpa, quite seriously, “and died a youngster – he was only 65 when they buried him.”

In the evening I returned to Luigi’s ‘cascina’ to sleep, and arrived just before his wife and “The General” shut up the animals for the night. She gave me some milk, especially for my cold, and then they went back to the village. I boiled some water and, having discovered an old tin feeding tub, indulged in the first hot bath since last April. Then went to bed in the hayloft. Bob has gone back to Chioso for a while.

Incidentally Tarquinio said this morning that there had been another announcement by “Voce di Londra” that we were to give our names and numbers to those Italians who helped us, and this time it added that we were to leave written certificates where possible.

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31st October 1943 Day 52 (Sunday).
Slept very well, and woke late. Rain stopped and it is a fine day. I left the ‘cascina’ early, and walked down to the mill. Bob me on the way as Luigi thought I might be ill, and had sent him out to look for me. Still not feeling very well.

At the mill there were several of the villagers, friends of Luigi. They said that the BBC had reported the Russians having reached Poland; very little change on the Italian fronts, but there was a report that Italian partisans had started a revolution in Milan and Turin, and cut the railway between Spezia and Genoa. If this is true I only wish we could have helped them.

To-day being Sunday we had a special lunch, and to-morrow being 1st November is a big festival (All Saints’ Day). Luigi has detailed off various members of his large family to look after us during the festival, and one of the sisters-in-law arrived with some very fine veal cutlets cooked in the village, for lunch. This was accompanied by a fiasco of vino. It was a grand afternoon, and after our large meal we lay in the sun, and I longed more than ever to find myself in a deck chair on the lawn at Eype Cottage, amongst English roses.

In the evening Bob went to Chiesa to visit Uncle’s new Inn. I hope he will hear some wireless news from Tarquinio’s sister, who is very good at listening to the wireless of the “Dollar Princess”. Luigi and I stayed talking until the evening. He is very interested in the British Colonies, and would make a good settler. He has brought a carbide lamp for us, so I hope to be able to read for a while to-night. The main subject of

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conversation amongst the population of the local village at the moment is to-morrow’s holiday, the high spot of which is the mid-day dinner, and then they drink vino steadily until they reach a state of sweet oblivion, and the party ends any time after midnight.

There is a story which I have heard several times, that there are a number of English prisoners hiding in Pontremoli City itself, which may be true, but it seems an unnecessarily dangerous place to hide in.

Luigi told me yesterday, incidentally, that Mori the Mayor had apologised to him for his behaviour regarding us the other day – possibly this denotes a new change of policy towards us – but I will certainly not accept any hospitality from him in the future. He is the type who will become more and more friendly as the Allied Line nears Rossano.

November 1st 1943 Day 53 (Monday).
Luigi arrived early with a brother and a friend. He brought a pencil with which to continue the diary, and a pair of Italian bootlaces (I have been using string for a long time now), and then all three of them took part in cutting my hair with a very blunt pair of hair clippers. They all assured me that nobody would be coming near the mill that day, and then they went off with two shotguns to look for the peculiar type of rabbit which they have in these mountains.

Just before 10 o’clock Tarquinio, Bob and some of the lads from Chioso arrived. They brought an Australian who has just reached the valley from a camp at Vicelli near Turin. His

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name is Gunner Alan Garbutt, Number NX17211, 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment, 6th Division, A.E.F. [Australian Expeditionary Force]. Apparently, he knows Sydney, and the North Shore line well. He started out from the north with two other Australians, but the Huns captured his two companions somewhere near Alessandria.

Garbutt had an interesting story about an Italian Artillery Lieutenant, whom he met near Chioso village. Rumour has it that this Lieutenant wants to get in touch with a British Officer, and that he has a wireless transmitting set with him. He has, of course, been checked up by the local villagers, and has the necessary identification papers on him. From the first he took a violent dislike to Adolphus. Adolphus on the other hand – probably because of that – is going about the country saying that the Lieutenant is a Fascist, and at the same time saying that he wants to introduce me to the Lieutenant. Adolphus, of course, does not know where I am at the moment, which has rather taken the wind out of his sails. However, I have arranged for Garbutt to meet this mysterious stranger to-morrow at 11 o’clock at the cemetery below Chioso village. It appears that he lives somewhere in the woods on Mount Pichiara, and is very careful not to tell anybody much about himself. He has some friend in Chioso village who is satisfying all enquiries by saying that this officer comes from Genoa, and that he wants to start guerilla warfare with the co-operation of British ex-prisoners-of-war. If this is genuine, then at last we shall have the situation that we have been waiting for. The guerillas are getting very active all over Northern Italy, and the time seems ripe for us to take part.

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The only other news was that Genoa has been heavily bombed and shelled again from the sea.

Tarquinio was laden with messages of condolence – old Ma was sure that I was seriously ill, and she and her sister sent over cough lozenges, sugar, milk and a great deal of advice, and some other complete stranger sent a plate of cold meat. Tarquinio was most anxious that I should go over for the big feast, and went away about 11 o’clock really disappointed, but I did not feel up to the walk, and a night in a very cold hay loft.

The villagers of Castoglio certainly gave us a great lunch. They sent us down veal and macaroni, and two fiascos of very good wine. It being a special occasion I was also presented with a bit of Italian cigar, so I shall be able to smoke my pipe again for the first time since the big scare.

We were all cheered this morning to hear thirty Allied planes go over to Spezia, and bomb it just before mid-day. I saw another nine twin-engined bombers flying over again at about 17.30 hours, but they may have been Huns as they seemed to draw no anti-aircraft fire. Altogether it has been a very cheering beginning for the month.

November 2nd 1943 Day 54 (Tuesday)
As a result of the “Festa dei Tutti Santi” heads were very sore to-day. Luigi arrived with our bread and milk for breakfast, and then lay down on the bench groaning sadly, and decided that he could not do any more work that day. I left him about 09.00 hours, and went to our meeting place arranged yesterday, where I found the rest of our party. Garbutt then went to find the Italian

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Lieutenant. He was not in the village, and some of the locals said he had gone towards Montedalama with Adolphus. Garbutt was away some time, and when he came back he said he had gone up to the pub at Montedalama, and did not realise until he got inside that there were four carabinieri there. One of them insisted on his sitting down and having a drink. Garbutt no doubt looked rather anxious, because one of the carabinieri remarked, “You need not worry, we know you are a prisoner-of-war, but to-day our official job is to make a list of livestock in the valley, so of course we do not worry about prisoners-of-war”. These four carabinieri had already been to Chioso – which generally seems to be in a panic anyway, due, I think to Adolphus’s alarmist reports. Eventually I decided to try to contact the Lieutenant through his friend in Chioso, who happens to be the local shoemaker. Garbutt knows him quite well.

We still have to keep out of sight as much as possible, because one does not quite know what the carabinieri will do. In any case their barracks at Calloretta has a telephone in direct contact with Pontremoli, so that it would not take long for any malicious individual to call up a squad of Germans.

I therefore spent the afternoon in the woods, and cooked a few chestnuts for lunch. After dark went to Chiesa to have supper with Ma. She was very worried, and said I looked thin. Whereupon I had to eat three large helpings of “minestra” and two fried eggs; after which I was taken almost by force to Auntie’s new pub., and made to drink vino, both red and white, until late into the night. Furthermore, they insisted on my sleeping in

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Auntie’s house. I therefore shared a bed with Richetto, Tarquinio’s brother, which is the first bed I have slept in since we left camp.

3rd November 1943 Day 55 (Wednesday).
I heard last night that there was another Englishman seen in a village near Dolce, quite near here, overlooking the Colloretta Valley, so I decided to go and find him. This caused much consternation amongst the Deluchi family, who were quite sure he was a spy (on the principle, of course, that nobody was to be trusted who did not live in the Rossano valley), and I was only allowed to go on condition that I took two Italian hand grenades in my pocket to use as self-defence, and that Tarquinio’s sister Dina, who was given strict orders to go on ahead, saw that the road was clear. We climbed numerous hills, and then Dina told me to wait whilst she went on and spoke to the lady of the house where the Englishman was supposed to be.

Eventually she came back and, as I had half suspected, it turned out that there were no English there; but the house had got a radio, and she said that every night the Sicilians in the area go there to hear the news. There are a good many Sicilians hiding about here, and the population make them work extremely hard for their keep. This wireless set might be useful in the future.

We came back to Chiesa, and ran into Adolphus before I could avoid it. He said he had a very urgent and secret matter to speak to me about. None of us trust the man now, so I decided to go with him towards Castoglio, where Luigi could come to the rescue if there were any need.

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We started out, and after his usual rigmarole about how much he was being persecuted by the Germans, and a few more groans about how dangerous it was for the population generally to have English ex-prisoners in the valley, (he has continually been sending out panic messages to us, which, of course, we all ignore) he suddenly got down to the real object of his request to speak to me. He said that he wanted me to go to the Mayor’s house to meet an important personage. I replied that I had no intention of going into the Mayor’s house again until such time as I was in a position to requisition it, if necessary, for the use of the Allied troops. He then said that the person whom he wanted me to meet was an Italian Colonel, who wanted to organise a force of partisans in Rossano. In the end I agreed to wait at a certain place on the edge of the village whilst he went in to see if his Colonel was really there, and, if he were, then I would agree to meet him in the village pub. Eventually he returned, and said that the Colonel was not there, but might be in the next village of Piagna.

Eventually he remembered that his appointment had been for twelve o’clock, and so we returned to Castoglio at mid-day. This time he found them at the Inn, and he returned to tell me that they were waiting. The local population had, of course, noticed their arrival, with the result that, in spite of Adolphus being with me, at least seven people stopped me on the way to the Inn to tell me that there were two Germans waiting there, disguised as Italian civilians. By the door of the Inn I found most of Luigi’s family, including the old grandfather and grandmother, who had even brought some iron cooking utensils with them to use

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as weapons in case of necessity, in my defence. With such a strong bodyguard there was no difficulty about going into the room and talking to the two mysterious strangers. I asked for their papers, which seemed in order, and then one of them, a tall grey-headed man who was certainly a city dweller, spoke to me in English. He spoke English very well, and said that he had a business in Genoa which had had very good contacts in the British Empire and in London. His companion was the Italian Lieutenant of Artillery, whom I had already heard about. I learned that his name was Basevi Eduardo, and that the older man was his cousin. The Lieutenant had been employed in the Marconi Chemical Industry at Pistoja, and had taken to the mountains as soon as it had become obvious that the attempted Armistice had failed.

The introduction having gone off all right, we then ordered lunch in a separate room. The conversation was very interesting to listen to, because it was soon clear that the two visitors did not trust Adolphus, which put me more at my ease. In the middle of struggling with the “pasta asciutta” the Lieutenant got up suddenly and walked to a small balcony overlooking the street; then he asked in a loud voice who the military looking person was wearing riding boots, and with a shotgun over his shoulder, who was standing in the street near the balcony. I went and had a look, and found that this was none other than our friend the fugitive Brigadiere: not only was he there, but various other people, including the lady who owned the pub., the Mayor’s son, and grandpa and grandma, had been posted in strategic positions

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all round the building. I found later that they were quite sure that an attempt would be made to carry me off and give me to the Germans in Pontremoli.

At the end of lunch I invited the Brigadiere in to talk to the strangers. He played up very well indeed, and before long they found themselves being very carefully cross-examined by him. He certainly knows his job well. Eventually he was satisfied. Then, for some extraordinary reason, Adolphus had to go away and bring back the Mayor. Another fiasco of vino was produced, and everybody having seen that the door was locked and there was nobody outside, they then began to let themselves go. Adolphus was at his very worst. The conversation, of course – as conversations always do in Italy – became political, which gave the opportunity for our little Adolf to hold forth with violent gestures on the blessings of Communism. The Mayor contributed, when he got a chance, with the usual platitudes about how much he disliked the Fascists, and what a difficult position he was in, and then went on to say that the population did not like him, and wanted to do him as much harm as they could. The Lieutenant concentrated on arguing with Adolphus, and it became very clear before long that he certainly was not a Communist. His companion had little to say, and the Brigadiere and myself sat back and listened to the other three. Time passed, and I realised that the two visitors had no intention of talking about the object of their visit in the present company. I therefore suggested that we should return to Chiesa, and they seemed very relieved to go. All six of us left the Inn, followed at a discreet distance by the bodyguard, and on the edge of the

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village the Mayor and the Brigadiere said “Goodbye”. That left four of us.

I was very anxious to get rid of Adolphus, but he was now feeling buoyed up by the wine which we had at lunch, and went on talking harder than ever. Eventually, when we drew near Chiesa, the two visitors, having skilfully refused his invitation to enter the pub there, insisted that they must go back to Mount Pichiara that night. In order to get rid of Adolphus I told him that I would see them on their way, and come back and tell him all about it later on. The plan worked, and at last I had the visitors to myself. We went off towards Chioso, and then the Italians started to talk about the things that really mattered.

The Lieutenant did most of the talking, and his cousin translated where necessary. He asked what I thought of Adolphus. and I told him in a few brief words. Thereupon he was rather relieved, because apparently, they had both decided that he was not to be trusted.

Eduardo Basevi said that he was very anxious indeed for me to help him form a group of partisans in the area, and that he was connected with the Italian Secret Service. He had contacted other partisan leaders in the Genoa area, and would place all the information he had at my disposal. He said that he thought it would be possible to obtain funds for any ex-prisoners whom I could recruit, through the organisation in Genoa. He had not got a radio, but he thought that he could get one, and also a certain number of arms.

Their Headquarters had been established at the other side

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of Mount Pichiara, and they said that they would find me a suitable place so that I would be near them. They also spoke of a party of 200 Italian soldiers who had come into the mountains three weeks before with their arms, and whom they wanted to try to bring into our area. In the end it was arranged that I should go along to see them the day after to-morrow with Garbutt, and we would talk things over. As a sign of good faith they lent me a very valuable book of maps of the area. So we parted at dusk, having arranged to meet on the 6th.

I went back to Chiesa, and found Tarquinio, to whom I explained a few of the less secret details of the affair, and then, after supper, we went along to Auntie’s pub.

Incidentally, our visitors brought a few items of news with them. They said that Badoglio had asked the King to abdicate, owing to the difficulty which he had in forming a Government on account of the fact that the people feel that the King is as much to blame as anybody else for the present situation. The German Commander Kesselring is said to have been removed from his command in Italy on account of the increase of partisan activity in the north. Genoa and Ancona have been bombed very heavily again.

It has been a very successful day, and I hope something useful will come of it.

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4th November 1943 Day 56.
After breakfast I explained the situation to Bob, who was also at Chiesa, and then went to Chioso to collect the other British ex—prisoners of war. I gave them a rendezvous for that evening, and then went to Luigi’s mill at Castoglio for lunch. Our meeting place for the evening was a ‘cascina’ near the Ponte Vecchio, and on arrival I found that our host, who was one of the oldest inhabitants of Castoglio, had himself prepared vegetable soup, and brought two special fiascos of vino for the occasion. He returned home at dusk after assuring me that somebody would bring us our breakfast in the morning.

At the meeting it was arranged that whilst Garbutt and myself went to meet the Alpini Lieutenant, Miller should go to the village of Mulazzo in the next valley, and also recce a big dam at Teglia, at the end of the Rossano valley. Bob and Able-Seaman Dixon would go back through Zeri to the village of Buzzo, to contact the Lanzarotti family, and ask them to send any English to us who might come their way in future. We were all to leave together in the morning.

5th November 1943 Day 57.
The various parties left as arranged. As we climbed up to Mount Pichiara the woods became thicker, and we could not see Mount Gottero – which, by the way, is the highest mountain in Liguria – as it was hidden by rain clouds. There was a cold wind.

We were very late getting to the meeting place, as we

took ….

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took the wrong path. We could see our two friends waiting for us in the distance, but when we reached the top of the path after a steep climb, they had disappeared. We went along a ridge marked by boundary stones which divided the province of Appuania from that of Spezia. Presently two women appeared out of the mist, one of whom I recognised from Montedalama, and they told us that there were two spies nearby, one of whom was watching us through field glasses. When they had described them, I realised that these were our two friends, who carried a small pocket telescope which they had shown me the previous day. When I insisted on trying to find them and asked which way they had gone, the peasant women were so sure that they were spies that they pretended they did not know, so afraid were they that we might be captured or shot. We went on along the path, which then turned down into another valley, but we could see nothing of the strangers. Eventually we returned to the two peasant women, who were now sitting beside a small fire, whilst their sheep munched the grass not far away. Further questioning, however, was of no avail. I felt quite sure that they knew which way the two strangers had gone, but nothing would make them speak. So there was nothing for it but to return at dusk, and we eventually reached the village of Chioso again, very cold and very hungry, about an hour after nightfall.

After supper of the usual ‘minestra’ from a friendly family, I went to see the shoemaker, and left another message ….

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message for the Lieutenant asking him for a guide. We have wasted a lot of time to-day, which is most annoying.

6th November 1943 Day 58
Garbutt and I spent a very cold night in a ‘cascina’ near Chioso. Miller got back about mid-day with a very good report, including a sketch of the main buildings at Teglia Dam. The locals say that there is a German guard of seven men there, under a Sergeant. He also heard that Majors Selby and Goeschen are supposed to be in a village called Pozzo near Mulazzo. There are also reported to be many Fascists in a village called Parana, which is in the first of the two valleys between Rossano and Spezia.

Garbutt went off at mid-day to see if there was any answer to our message at the shoemaker’s house.

In the afternoon there was slight alarm in the valley, on account of a rumour that two lorries had arrived in Chiesa carrying German troops who had been sent up to search for escaped soldiers. This was a perfect example of what we now call the “Mountain Rumour”, for it turned out that these two lorries were really loaded with wood, and driven by civilians, and the logs had been mistaken for German troops! Tarquinio came to see us in the evening, and told us all this.

I went to the shoemaker’s house at Chioso after dusk, and met his father, who was a dear old man, and a last war veteran. We conversed in French. Garbutt and I had supper there, and afterwards it was arranged that I was to meet the Lieutenant to-morrow, using as a guide a carabiniere ….

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carabiniere who knows him, and who is living near his headquarters.

7th November 1943 Day 59 (Sunday).
Alan Garbutt and I left early, and reached the ruined house over the ridge of Mount Pichiari, at about 11.00 hours. We met the carabiniere as arranged, and he took us down to the house of his brother, one Rinaldo, which is in an isolated spot at the end of a valley I have not seen before. He gave us lunch, and then took us down by a devious route to a village called Torpiana, where at last we met the Lieutenant and his cousin in a house in the middle of the village. Our entry caused comment in spite of our covert approach. Rinaldo and other such lads of the village stood guard outside the doors, whilst we sat down to discuss the organisation of the guerilla forces, and to study the maps.

Eduardo, the Lieutenant, seemed very intelligent, and had quite a good idea of organisation. I gave him a list of the arms and equipment which I felt would be necessary for a band of about thirty English and other Allied ex-prisoners of war.

Later his wife arrived, and insisted on giving us tea and toast. She was very sweet, and struck me as having lots of courage.

We left just as it began to snow, and returned to Rinaldo’s house for the night. We lost our way up, and wandered for two hours around the crest of Mount Pichiara in a thick snow blizzard, frequently falling into snow drifts up to our waists. It was very cold indeed, especially as we had no warm winter clothing. Eventually, by sheer good fortune, we found the right path, and reached Rinaldo’s house, where we soon dried ourselves in

front of ….

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in front of his kitchen stove. We then went to sleep in a very draughty hay barn.

It has been arranged that to-morrow we will visit a cave close by, which may be a very good Headquarters for us.

8th November 1943 Day 60.
Eduardo and his cousin arrived about 09.00 hours – after we had had our usual breakfast of bread and milk. We then went up to see the cave, Signora Basevi accompanying us.

The cave is known as “The Ancient Cave of the Wolves” – apparently wolves did inhabit it once – and is on the South side of a spur which overlooks the Torpiana valley. It might make quite a good headquarters with a few improvements, and if we can get some kit.

After that Alan and I returned to Chioso, arriving in the evening. I decided that we would move up to live in the cave to-morrow, and the others would join us the day after. Incidentally, Eduardo told me yesterday that we would be able to obtain money, and even gold if we wanted it, from the Genoa organisation. Apparently this organisation is backed by one of the principal banks in the city.

I went down to Luigi’s ‘cascina’ near Castoglio for the night.

9th November 1943 Day 61.
Alan and I moved off as arranged, and reached the cave about 10.00 hours. Miller and Joyce, who were coming to have a look at it, left after us, and very nearly ran into a patrol of Fascist militia who were on their way to the village of Bosco. A peasant girl warned them in the nick of time, and

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they fell flat behind a pile of logs near the path up which the patrol was marching.

Alan and I levelled the floor of the cave, and we decided that the roof needed a little support, as it was cracked in places. Alan went back to get Dixon, if he had returned with Bob, as he is an ex-miner, and knows something about the use of pit props. I cooked a supper of ‘minestra’ on the fire in the cave, and then went to bed in Rinaldo’s draughty ‘cascina’ again.

Gaetano, Eduardo’s cousin, came up to see me in the afternoon, and brought with him a letter from an agent in the organisation who, for reasons of security, we called Number One. He wrote that he was very pleased to hear of us, asked for details as to our names and numbers, and confirmed that we would be able to obtain all the help necessary from Genoa.

10th November 1943 Day 62.
Dixon arrived with Bob. Apparently, there are no English at Buzzo, and their reception by the Lanzarotti family had been a little frigid, owing to the fact that a daughter is staying with them who is married to a Fascist Militia Officer in Piacenza, and they unfortunately feel that she is quite capable of spying on her own family. We continued to work in the cave. Before lunch Eduardo and his wife arrived, and I gave them the answer to the letter received yesterday from Number One, which included the names and numbers of all of the seven of us for the information of our next of kin; I

also ….

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I also asked for kit and rations for 300 Italians, 300 rifles, 6 mortars, 8 machine guns, and the necessary ammunition. I gave them the map reference of our cave, and asked for a wireless transmitting set with a British officer to work it; also that a senior Italian Officer be sent to command the Italian troops, as I did not feel that it was politic at this stage for me to command Italians. I also asked for some winter kit for ourselves which is urgently needed. They seem to think that we shall see some results within a week.

11th November 1943 Day 63.
The weather is very damp. It is difficult to get on with work in the cave, as the necessary tools are not yet available. I decided to go down to Rossano for the week-end, for a rest as conditions in the cave were very trying.

12th November 1943 Day 64.
Nothing particular to-day. A saw, axe and shovel were brought up in the morning, and some food supplies from Torpiana village, so we were able to carry on reconditioning the cave. The weather was very bad.

We have not had any radio news for some time, but it appears that the Russians are still doing well. Progress remains very slow in Southern Italy.

13th November 1943 Day 65.
Eduardo came up in the morning, and said he had found another cave, which might be useful as an ammunition store. When we went to look at it afterwards, he could not find it again. He also brought us a pair of boots for Alan, so that his can be repaired. Bob, Dixon and Miller remained in the cave, and I went down to Luigi’s mill. I had a warm welcome

and big ….

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and big supper, and they insisted that I should go up to the village to their house for the night. Slept on a wooden bench in the kitchen. I did not leave the cave until dusk, and there was thick fog; the walk down the slopes to Pichiara was foul, and I fell off the path twice.

Have decided to let Luigi into the secret, as he will be very useful in helping us to organise the administrative arrangements for the partisan forces.

14th November 1943 Day 66 (Sunday).
Had a conversation with Luigi in the morning, and asked him to come up and help us next Thursday. I then went to find Tarquinio, as I also wanted him to be included, but found him in a very sad state. The “Dollar Princess” having at last moved all her worldly wealth – or what seems all of it – into the “Palace of the Slaves”, has gone off for a holiday. It so happened that the local population found out that amongst the articles brought to the house during the week was a large jar of rum. This knowledge was too much for Tarquinio, and so last night he collected one or two of his bosom pals, and they broke into the building and removed the rum. Between them they managed to drink the lot, and as a consequence were quite insensible by dawn. Later, with the help of Ma, we brought him round somehow, and I managed to get him to Castoglio to talk to Luigi. It rained hard all day.

15th November 1943 Day 67.
I returned to the cave in the morning with Tarquinio and a mule loaded with rations and an old oil tin of Luigi’s which we could turn into a stove. The other lads were there, and

work ….

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work got a move on. Tarquinio built a wall across the entrance to the cave, as a protection against hand grenades being thrown in, as he was quite certain that one day somebody will want to throw them in. Poor Tarquinio doesn’t approve of this cave at all; his attitude is fatalistic, but all the same he carries out without complaint all that these mad English ask him to do. We also made a large wooden platform on which four of us could sleep at a time. Signora Basevi arrived in the afternoon, and told us that two more English had arrived at Torpiana. Eduardo was with them, but as he could not speak English, he was bringing them up to be questioned, as he was quite prepared for them to be Germans in disguise. Joyce, Alan and Miller went down to cross-examine them, carrying their Italian rifles which they have acquired during the past week, and Tarquinio went with them. He insisted on taking an axe with him, though I do not know what he expected to do with it in the case of trouble. The two newcomers proved to be genuine. Their names are Gunner H. H. Anchen, an Australian (Number VX33008) of the 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Unit, AIF [Australian Imperial Force]. His home town is Melbourne. The second was a South African – Number 55786, Corporal J. D. M. Vivier. They were in Calvari Camp (PG 52), near Chiavari, and escaped at the Armistice. They have been living in that area for two months, but are now in search of partisans, or a chance to get to Rome. I am sending them down to Rossano tomorrow to think over whether they want to join us or not.

16th November 1943 Day 68.
Our two new arrivals went down to Rossano. We continued work in the cave, and Tarquinio finished his masterpiece, which

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is a communal bed made of the trunks of trees, with branches of hazel nut bushes placed on top as a mattress. The weather was horrible all day.

17th November 1943 Day 69.
I realised with faint surprise that I am 33 to-day; feel more like 60.

Eduardo and his cousin came up in the afternoon and brought with them another Lieutenant of Alpini who has just escaped from Croazia. He is a local landowner, and has a big house in Torpiana where the Basevi’s are now living. They invited me down to the house at 9 o’clock in the evening to celebrate the occasion, and to sleep there. They brought with them some more rations, and a few tools for carpentering purposes.

At 21.00 hours I went down to the village, and was met by Gaetano in the woods outside, and guided to the house. He had fixed up an intricate system of signals with lamps at the window. I was taken to the sitting room, and found the new Lieutenant and Eduardo, and both their wives, waiting for me.

They were all very charming. They produced some special white wine to drink my health, and then we had quantities of buttered toast and honey, cherry brandy and grappa – this is a local gin which I had not drunk before.

Eventually I was taken to my bedroom, and given a real bed to sleep in, with clean sheets and blankets; there was a carpet on the floor, and it was difficult to believe that all this was really true. It was a lovely room, and I shall always remember the old books which were on the table, one printed in 1665 and another in 1760, which must have been worth a fortune to a book collector ….

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collector. Also, wonder of wonders, I was given a pair of pyjamas to sleep in! This is the first time I have not slept in my clothes since September 8th.

18th November 1943 Day 70.
My hostess brought breakfast to my room. I learned afterwards that they had not dared to order an extra breakfast in case the servants asked questions, so the unfortunate Gaetano had to sacrifice his. They gave me a bundle of clothes to take up to the other lads, and I left after breakfast. It was a foul day again, with drizzling rain.

I reached the cave just before lunch time, and found that it was leaking badly. Luigi had arrived with some more stores from Rossano, and replaced Tarquinio; he did not like the conditions at all.

We at last found the other cave which might be useful as an ammunition store, but I realised that this could only be in very dry weather, as it was leaking badly. We therefore decided to build a shelter of tree trunks not far from the cave, and Luigi set to work accordingly. He is a clever woodsman, and he got quite enthusiastic about that particular job. The rain never stopped all day.

We improved the fireplace in the cave, but it smokes badly, and we all had a very uncomfortable night.

Luigi’s opinion of our new Headquarters cannot be set down in print.

19th November 1943 Day 71.
We breakfasted off toast and tinned fish, and then continued work on the log hut. At mid-day we had got up the

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main supports and part of the roof. Then the rain began, and we had to stop work.

The cave is now leaking badly. As there are still no blankets even to use at night, we decided to evacuate it for a ‘cascina’ on the Rossano side of Mount Pichiaro, which has a stove in it, until such time as some kit arrives. Luigi went down to Torpiana to tell Eduardo that we were moving to-morrow.

20th November 1943 Day 72.
Eduardo, Gaetano and Rinaldo arrived early in the morning and helped us to pack up our kit. We then moved over the mountain, and into the little ‘cascina’ owned by one Rossi, from the village of Valle, in Rossano. Our host was a dear old boy, about five feet high with amazing rosy cheeks, and he made us very welcome. The stove is a good one, and works very well. The hut held two of us nicely.

Eduardo said that there was a shooting lodge not far away in another valley owned by a friendly Admiral of last war fame, and that he could get the key of it for us, so that we can move in there.

I sent the others down to Rossano for a rest, and decided to stay in the new hide-out myself for a few days to keep in touch with our friends at Torpiana. There has not yet been any reply to the letter sent to the organisation in Genoa on the 10th November.

Luigi returned to Castoglio.

21st November 1943 Day 73 (Sunday).
After a breakfast of toast and water, went down to

Castoglio ….

[Editor’s note: the following page (Gordon Lett Page No 123) is missing from the original].

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one of the greatest Stoics – and there were not very many – amongst the 1,300 officers of PG 21.

I arranged for them to be looked after in a ‘cascina’ nearby, and fed daily by one of the farmhouses on the estate of the Lieutenant from Croazia, whose name, by the way, is Fenati.

In the evening I took them up with me to the Rossi ‘cascina’, whilst preparations were being made for their new hide-out. We cooked our usual ‘minestra’ at the stove, and had a long talk.

Just as we were thinking of settling down for the night – about 22.00 hours – Joyce arrived from Rossano, and told us in some alarm that the Fascists had apparently descended on the Rossano valley, and were searching all the ‘cascinas’, with the use of torches. When he had left they were in the area of Montedalama, and he thought they were working their way up the mountain to us. We therefore packed up and departed hurriedly for the deserted farmhouse in the woods near Torpiana again, as it was too far away for the Fascisti to reach it if they were carrying out a really systematic search.

Gaetano came up in the morning before I received the message about the Colonels, and gave me another 200 lire for the British ex-prisoners. This makes 450 lire that I have had up to date.

26th November 1943 Day 78.
We woke up to hear a heavy bombardment going on along the coast.

It was not until mid-day that we learned that the alarm of last night at Rossano was not due to the Fascisti at all.

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Apparently two of the lads of Montedelama had drunk well but not wisely, and had set off home with torches to guide them, and lost their way. They then wandered round the woods looking for somewhere to sleep, and that was what had alarmed the population. Consequently we moved back to the Rossi ‘cascina’ after lunch.

A messenger also arrived from the Zeri area. On the night of the 24th there was a thunderstorm, and just before mid-night we heard a terrific explosion from that direction. The messenger told us that this was due to an Allied plane which had been flying back from a bombing raid, and had crashed into the mountains just above the village of Noce. There was an American crew, and all were killed. The bodies were still lying near the wreckage, but the Fascisti militia had arrived from Pontremoli, and were guarding it with the help of the carabinieri from Collaretto. They had not arrived in time, however, to prevent the boots being removed from the feet of the dead. There was apparently some discussion going on as to whether they would be allowed a proper burial or not.

27th November 1943 Day 79.

The Colonels moved off to their new hide-out under the guidance of Carletto of Torpiana.

In the morning a certain Sergeant Kuhn arrived, also from Chiavari area. He is an ex-prisoner who was in the Coldstream Guards, and there was a little batch of British ex-prisoners with him who want to take part in partisan activities. We conferred together, and decided that as soon as I can be sure

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of a place for them to live in, and there are sufficient rations, they would come over here and join us, as their area is becoming very dangerous.

The Sergeant met the rest of the gang, and stayed with us for the night. He is leaving again to-morrow for Chiaveri, and is due to return within ten days.

1st December 1943 Day 83.
In accordance with a plan made with Eduardo, Miller and I went off to Mount Gottero to recce a place where we could build a camp for our future partisan forces. We were to meet Eduardo above the village of Chiusola, which lies under the mountain on the opposite side of the Adelana valley.

It took us four hours to get there, but it was not a bad walk. We found what looked like a good position for the camp in some thick pine woods, and then came down to an isolated farmhouse where we met Eduardo and Carlino. The farmer gave us a good meal, though he was rather frightened. We decided to carry on our recce next day.

When the time came for us to go to bed, we found to our horror that the farmer was far too frightened to let us sleep in his hay barn. This was due to the fact that a Fascisti spy was living in the nearby village of Chiusola, and only a few days before had caused the arrest of a family who had given food and shelter to two British ex-prisoners passing through the area. The family had been deported to Massa, and nothing had been heard of them since.

However, Eduardo managed to persuade him that nobody knew

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of our presence there, and the farmer eventually took us down the hill to a very small sheep pen, and said we could sleep in that. It was a little distressing to find that we were to share it with the sheep, and, as the building was so small that we could not stand up in it, one could only hope that the sheep were sufficiently domesticated to remain quietly to their portion of the accommodation provided. There was a pile of dry leaves to sleep on, and, feeling rather tired, we settled down. Before long Carlino let out an oath, and kicked lustily about with his feet. He then relapsed into silence.

I must have dozed off for a while, because I woke to find that my bedding, consisting of dry hazel leaves, was gradually slipping away, and I then realised that the sheep were solidly eating it. Eventually all the other sheep joined in, and when they had eaten through the leaves at our feet and begun to take an interest in our socks, we felt that it was time that hostile action was taken. We found, however, that the only solution was to sit up and light a small fire in the corner, over which we slept until dawn.

2nd December 1943 Day 84.
We left our uncomfortable sleeping quarters at dawn, and went on up the slope to Mount Gottero. The crest of the mountain was still covered in snow, which remained from the storm in which Alan and I lost ourselves in November. Eduardo, whose hobby was mountaineering, insisted that we would enjoy a walk to the top, so up we went. There was a biting wind, but when we got there the view was well worth the trouble.

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On the top of Mount Gottero there is a cross on which is written the height of the mountain in metres. The view was absolutely superb. It was a clear day with no mist, and we could see undulating ranges of mountains stretching away to the north beyond Genoa, where the Swiss Alps were clearly visible. To the west lay the coast, and the Bay of Spezia, and it was possible to see the Island of Corsica far away on the horizon. To the south one could see the big curve of the coast line where Livorno is situated, and the high mountains of the Abruzzi area. To the east we could see beyond the plain of Piacenza.

It was too cold to stay on top for long, so we started on our journey home. The pine woods above Chiusola seem to be the best place for our camp, and Eduardo decided to arrange at once for the building of it. He spoke of its being possible for us to obtain small wooden huts which were being manufactured in sections, and which the Resistance Organisation had already managed to distribute to some of the partisan formations in the north by means of German lorries, with partisan agents in German uniform acting as drivers.

We reached Pichiara just before dusk, and Eduardo went back to Torpiana whilst I returned to Castoglio. We agreed to meet again in a few days’ time.

24th December 1943 Day 106.
From the last week in November onwards it became very clear that the problem of Allied ex-prisoners, and their potential danger as resistance groups, was giving the Nazis and the

Fascisti ….

[Editor’s note: the following page (Gordon Lett Page No 129) is missing from the original].

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recapture us, and to hand us over to the German Command. He made frequent visits to the valley from Collaretto, and intimidated the population to such a degree that by the middle of the month of December the “Rossanesi” were beginning to feel very jumpy, and to spread alarm when there was often no grounds for it. This was particularly the case in the village of Chioso, which suffered from two distinct drawbacks. One was the presence in it of Adolphus who, when he was at home, spent his time putting the population into a state of panic, and the other was the fact that it lay at the end of the shortest direct road on foot from. Collaretta to the Rossano valley, and therefore visiting carabinieri or Germans could always reach it before any of the other nine villages of the area.


Meanwhile, it soon became clear to us that our friends in the Organisation at Genoa were meeting with difficulties which prevented them from sending us the help we wanted. Genoa was beginning to suffer from continual attempts by the Gestapo to find the ringleaders of the resistance movement. This resulted naturally, in complicating communications between that city and the Spezia area. Our only means of communication was by courier, and the courier had to walk almost all the way to Genoa by mountain paths. Then again, although there were many eager young men who wanted to become partisans, most of them were completely without any kind of military training, and the Italian Army Officers who would have been the right people to have taken the responsibility of training them, did not take

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any active part in the movement, but instead, went home and hid in their houses, with the exception of one or two exceptionally gallant spirits, such as Edouardo and a Sardinian by name of Franco Coni. Owing to this lack of leadership, and to the danger of communicating with the big cities, the flow of arms and material which we had hoped for practically dried up. The result of all these factors was that by Christmas week the partisan movement was still represented by a few poorly armed and under-clothed Allied prisoners of war, and approximately 150 youngsters, very few of whom had been in the army, who had taken refuge in the villages; nobody was in a fit state to give any kind of battle to even the smallest enemy patrol.

Efforts had been made by us, and by our friends in Genoa, to make contact with the home government through Switzerland. I wrote a letter regularly each month, and these letters were passed on oy one of the most active workers in the resistance movement, a certain Colonel Giulio Bertinelli from Genoa, whose family lived in the area. The Colonel made the journey frequently into the mountains, and took considerable interest in us as British ex-prisoners of war. Some difficulties arose, of course, with regard to finding aid, and the money which we received during the first three months was all paid out of his own pocket.

23rd December
On the 23rd December we were still at the Headquarters in the Rossi ‘cascina’ on Mount Pichiara. At about 10.30 in the morning, I saw a small party making their way towards us from the direction of Torpiana, led by one of the men whom Eduardo

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had employed as a co-operator. I went to meet them, and found with considerable pleasure that the courier had brought with him three Poles, one a Sergeant known as Antonio, one a Corporal known as Paolo, and a Lance-Corporal called Edmundo. They had been sent to us from Genoa, and they had deserted from the German organised Labour Battalion immediately after the Armistice. This was the first contribution which we had towards the International Battalion, which Colonel Bertonelli was very keen that I should command. None of them could speak English, so I questioned them in doggerel Italian, which from then on was our common language. Joyce and Micaillef were in the ‘cascina’ to welcome them, and in the evening took them down to Rossano where they were soon provided with lodgings.

24th December

The weather was cold, and we were feeling rather weary of living as fugitives on the top of the mountain. I therefore decided that we should all move down to the Rossano valley for Christmas. This idea was encouraged by Tarquinio and Luigi, who insisted that we should take part in the festivities, in spite of the fact that the population was by this time extremely nervous. Tarquinio had arranged for Mick and myself to stay with his family in Chiesa village.

I informed Eduardo of the arrangements, and then went down in the evening, to be received with the usual warmth by our friends in the valley.

By this time, we had selected certain key men in all the main villages, with the exception of Piagna, all of whom were keen to collaborate and get the partisan movement going.

[Editor’s note: the following page (Gordon Lett Page No 133) is missing from the original].

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action. Each of these three individuals was kept under continual observation.

Christmas Eve passed off quietly, and there were great preparations for a big feast at mid-day on Christmas Day. We slept in the village that night, and the rest of the British and the Poles were divided between Castoglio and Chioso.

25th December Saturday
Christmas Day dawned fine and sunny. We saw the old painter in the morning sitting in the sun outside the ruined cottage in which he lived, and which was beside the Deluchi’s house.

Lunch was a tremendous affair; there were “pasta asciutta” and meat, and lots of fruit; there were several kinds of mountain wine, and also a little of the famous rum, which Tarquinio had saved up for the occasion. After lunch we made our way to Castoglio, where the eating and drinking had to be done all over again. The day passed in visiting the houses of all our friends, and in the evening I came back to Chiesa feeling a little the worse for wear. After supper, however, Tarquinio insisted that we should go to Auntie’s pub. as there was a visitor from the next village to whom he wished to introduce me. Tarquinio by this time had reached the merry stage, a fact which Ma and Pa deplored, but could not do anything about.

We went into the pub., and Auntie showed us into the little room which she always reserved for us. She made furious signs as I went in, by which I inferred that she did not approve of

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the visitor, and warned me that Tarquinio was doing a very dangerous thing in introducing us. The visitor was a youngish looking fellow who had been wounded in the leg during the war in Greece and sent back to Italy to his home, which was in the village of Dolce, in the Zeri valley. It was difficult to say whether or not he had drunk as much as the others, but he began the conversation by asking questions about ex-prisoners in the area, which showed that he was taking an unusual interest in us. Tarquinio talked volubly, but I noticed that he did not give away any really vital information. I, meanwhile, parried his questions as best I could, pretending most of the time that I could not understand what he meant. However, when he eventually gave up the inquest, he did know that our Headquarters was in a ‘cascina’ somewhere near the summit of Mount Pichiara.

The situation was saved by the arrival of Pa, who hustled Tarquinio home, and treated the visitor very coldly – so much so that shortly afterwards he left the Inn to return to his house. Auntie then came in, and explained with deep distress that he was the ex-Fascist Secretary of the Zeri Area, and that all the villagers were quite sure that he had only come to spy. She was furious with Tarquinio, and it was in vain that I endeavoured to assure her that he had not given away any important details.

That night I slept in the Inn.

26th December Sunday
The effects of the feasting on Christmas Day were so severe that I decided that it would be better for us to stay where we

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were until the morning of the 27th. This decision was partly due also to the attitude of our friends, who were horrified at the thought of our returning to the mountain top before all the festivities were over. Also, there was to be a dance that night, which they were very keen that we should attend. When I suggested that it might be dangerous, they assured us that the Carabinieri and the Fascisti would all be drunk anyway for the next three days, and they would not waste their time by coming up to the mountains to look for us.

I had arranged with Eduardo to have a meeting with all our colleagues in Castoglio in the evening. He arrived just as it was getting dusk, and went straight to the ex-Mayor’s house where he decided it would be a good place to stay because we should then compromise our friend Mori to such an extent that he would not dare to talk too much about us with his Fascist acquaintances. The conference that evening went very well, assisted with quantities of Luigi’s wine, and we all went to bed feeling entirely pleased with ourselves.

27th December
I arrived in Castoglio early from Chiesa, and met Eduardo at Luigi’s house, where we had another talk about what we would do as soon as the much-hoped-for arms arrived. Our total armament at this stage consisted of 5 Italian rifles, a number of hand grenades, and a few red and white signalling strips which we hoped to wave to our planes when they came over, and quite a large amount of dry rations which had been given to us by the population of the valley. All this kit had been left in the

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Rossi ‘cascina’, where the arms had been well hidden before we came down to the valley for Christmas.

It must have been about 10 o’clock in the morning when a breathless youngster from Montedalama – the village nearest to Mount Pichiara – burst into Luigi’s house, and told us that a large force of Carabinieri and Fascisti, of whom one of the leaders was “Rosso”, was in his village, and that they had attacked the Rossi ‘cascina’. At first, I did not believe this, but then others arrived, and Eduardo and I decided that it was time to make ourselves scarce. This information was extremely disquieting, because the Poles and the rest of our little gang were due to return to the ‘cascina’ at dawn, and therefore, if they had done so, there was a chance that they were now in enemy hands.

Eduardo and I, led by Luigi – who in spite of the general panic kept assuring us that the enemy could not harm us in Castoglio – scuttled out of the village, and down to the woods near Luigi’s mill. By this time there was a general exodus, and people were to be seen scurrying away in all directions, carrying bundles and leading sheep, goats and cows to hide them under the chestnut trees. Eduardo had to get back to Torpiana as quickly as he could, but the enemy was strung across the valley in the path which he should use. However, one of the lads from Castoglio, a certain Giovanni, volunteered to guide him up a path which he knew, and off they went.

There was nothing left for it but to hide up and to wait for news. So I climbed up to a small wooded hill, whilst Luigi went back to Castoglio for the latest situation report.

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Introduction, to the Third Edition

“Rossano” was first published in 1955 and was then recommended by the Book Society. The British and Italian press gave it an encouraging reception, except, of course, for the Communist newspapers. A pocket edition was published in Holland.

The original aim of this book still applies, to record the fact that the Italian Resistance movement was not the creation of the Communist Party. To make this doubly clear I have added Part V which largely consists of an historical outline of one of the outstanding epics of the War of Liberation in Europe, comparable in many ways to the tragic sacrifice of the French Maquis on the Plateau de Glieres in the Haute Savoie in March 1944. That epic was the creation of the Republic of Domodossola, a story scarcely known among the English-speaking peoples. The post-war generation of Italians have every reason to be proud of their deep-rooted Spirit of Resistance and independence that has served civilisation so well throughout the ages. The time could come when Europe will have need of it again.

This edition contains footnotes designed to reveal in more accurate perspective the role performed by the men and women of the “International Battalion” and of the S.O.E. [Special Operations Executive] “Blundell Mission” that grew out of it, in the Italian

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theatre of war. Much that was restricted material twelve years ago concerning the exploits of Special Operations Executive in the field is now common knowledge embodied in Professor K.B.D. Foot’s “S.O.E. in France” and E.H. Cookridge’s “inside S.O.E.”. both published in 1966. Unlike the French, the Italians had to fight alone for nearly a year. It was not until mid-summer of 1944 that S.O.E. came to their support.

One particular remark of Professor Foot’s applies as well to the Italian theatre of operations as to the French. He writes of there having been generated “a tremendous potential of Anglo-French amity by a myriad practical demonstration…. that the British did care about setting them free from the Nazis. This stock of Anglophile feeling has been dissipated by inattention and neglect…. This is true of Italy. A few of us have tried to keep the friendship alive and make it flourish among the subsequent generation but our efforts are not enough.

Since 1955 few books have been published in English about the Italian wartime resistance. I am glad to this opportunity of paying tribute to Commander Adrian Gulleagos’s “From Capri to Oblivion” published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1959. My meeting with the author in the Rossano Valley could not be acknowledged before. It was a memorable occasion because he was oblivious of the fact

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that he was regarded as a German naval officer sent into the 4th Partisan Zone to spy on us. Human life was worth little in those days. The gallant Adrian, carefully guarded by Mick Micallef, was saved from execution by a message that confirmed his identity. It was from Commander Gerry Holdsworth, our mutual chief at Special Force Headquarters in Florence in answer to a detailed description sent over the “Blundell Mission” radio. As a result Adrian was despatched through the enemy lines with the best we could provide in the way of VIP treatment. The roving German naval officer was real enough and was never caught.

At the time this edition is going to press a book is in preparation about the Italian partisans in the marble quarries of the Carrara mountains, the area between the 4th Partisan Zone and the Gothic Line. It is the work of Brigadier George Chatterton, author of the best seller “Winged Pegasus”, and is the result of exhaustive research throughout recent years. It will be a valuable addition to the history of that part of Italy about which Italian authors have so far had little to put on record.

Finally this edition is dedicated to contemporaries of my own children, the sons and daughters of Partisans whom I still have the honour to count among my friends, The children of Dani, of Avio, of Aldo, Gordon Monducci, Santino

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Orioli, Victor Gozzer, Gianni Panciroli. It is especially dedicated to Antonio Deluchi, the son of Tarquinio and Amelia, my adopted “nephew” now about to complete his military service as a radio operator. His parents will always be a shining example of courage and fortitude to him in the years to come.


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Al Tenente Buchione

Cario Buchione,

Vi prego di aiutare questa squadra di tre persone; essi portano informazione e documenti importantissimi per il Quartiere Generale, 5a Armata, e hanno bisogno di una guida da voi.

Una squadra di 7 Russi e un Siciliano arriverà Domenica, colla stessa richiesta.

Sono molto riconoscente a Voi per tutto l’aiuto che mi avete dato, per i ex-prigionieri. Se possibile vorrei avere i nomi della guida chi lavorano, cosi bene, in tale modo che, appena Io ho qualche soldi (che deve arrivare fra pochi giorni) posso dargli un premio per il lavoro che hanno fatto.

Abbiamo avuto notizie che, la notte del 16, c’era un lancio di 59 paracaduti, fatto per noi – ma non si sa dove! Certamente non è arrivato su Pichiara, o su nostro campo No 2 di sopra Borgo Taro. Mi hanno detto che un altro è pronto. Dirmi subito se voi non avete avuto qualche cosa dall’ultimo lancio; dovete avuto almeno qualche scarpe.

Auguri, e sempre buona fortuna.
Gordon Lett, Major
Rapp: Comando Alleato, 1 Div, Liguria.
25. Nov. 44

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Al Tenente Buchione                  4 Dec. 44

Caro Buchione,

Vi prego a mandare queste tre persone (un americano e due inglesi) verso le linee, con una guida alla vecchia Quartiere Generale di Tullio, se voi sapate che tutto è tranquillo in quella zona.

Vi prego di non lasciarli partire da voi, al fino arriveranno due altri ufficiali italiani, dalla Brigata Virgola, che devono arrivare da voi domani (mercoledi) mattina. Se non arriveranno domani sera, [illegible] queste due persone partire giovedi. Devono essere da Tullio la sera del giorno, per incontrare la staffetta chi li porterà laggiù.

Mille grazie, e saper che tutto rimane calmo in nostra zona.
Buona fortuna sempre,
Gordon Lett, Major

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Caro Buccioni,

Il latore della presente unitamente ad altre tre persone deve recarsi oltre le linee per portare messaggi importanti al Quartiere Generale Alleata.

Lr sarà se Lei vorrà provvedere una staffetta che lo guidi fino al Comando di Tullio.

Ringrazio anticipatamente e cordialmente il salute.

Maggiore Gordon Lett.

Caro Bucchioni,
Il latore del presente è una guida speciale, chi porta squadre di persone da altri passi attraverso la linea.

Vi prego, se possible, ad aiutarli, al fine io ho altri guide qua, mandate da Voi, da laggiù. Vi prego di dirmi se sarà possibile a combinare un pasto in vostra zona dove tali squadre possono fermare, se necessario, per mangiare e dormire.
Mille grazie, e auguri.

Gordon Lett, Major.

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Tenente Buchione

Caro Bucchioni
Ecco sono i due Ufficiali Italiani, chi devono andare attraverso la linea coll’Americano, ed i due Inglesi, chi sono arrivati da Voi ieri sera.

Spero che le notizie dalla zona di Tullio siano buone. Devono partire domani (mercoledi) mattina.
Gordon Lett, Major.

5 Dec. 44

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Ti prego communicarmi subito se nel Castello di Calice ci sono uomini e armi. Inoltre mi necessitàuna pianta perfetta del Castello spece del primo piano.

MAGGIORE Gordon Lett

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Caro Buchione,
Buon Natale a Lei, e suoi uomini.

Come regalo di natale, vi mando gli armi seguente:-

1 Mitralliatrice Bren
1 Fuccile Mitra ‘Marlene’. Per Lei personalmente
3 Fucilli Americani
Con un po’ di munizione.

Auguri a tutti.
Gordon lett Major.
23 Dec. 44

Caro Buchione,
Ecco la Missione. Lei prego di fare tutto possible per darli le ottime guide, per raggiungere Carlo il più presto possible.

Auguri. Ci rivedremo prestissimo.
Gordon Lett Major
23 Dec. ‘44

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Caro Buchione,
Grazie per vostro biglietto.

Ecco un’altra squadra per passare le linee – sono tutti Francesi, un Siciliano.

A proposito Tullio, è vero che lui è morto?

Abbiamo ricevuto notizie oggi che ‘Boia’ è stato ucciso a Firenze, in un incidente di automobile.

Al fino adesso, 2 squadre di quelli chi passano le linee sono andati male – una di Inglesi, e una Italiana. Per qualche ragione che Io non capisco, sono andati finire a Massa. Une era attaccati dai Tedeschi, l’altra tentava a traversare un campo di mine nella notte; 2 sono rimasti morte, uno ferito, e uno arrivati cogli Alleati.

Tanti auguri.
Gordon Lett Major.
28 Nov. 44

Si tratta di due gruppi avviati dalla Cisa. Dopo tale esperienza negative tutte le ‘missioni’ vennero convogliate su Calice i cui itinerari erano ormai collaudati.

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8 Feb 1945
Caro Buchione,
Spero che tutto va bene.

Il Capitano Inglese pensarà a un lancio per Lei, quando Lei crede che il momento sarà opportuno.

[illegible] anche io a Borsada fra dieci giorni, ma prima ho molto da fare in un’altra zona.

Tanti auguri.
Gordon Lett Major.

Al Tenente Buchione.

Caro Buchione,
Vi prego di aiutare questa squadra di tre persone; essi portano informazione e documenti importantissimi per il Quartiere Generale, 5a Armata, e hanno bisogna di una guida da voi.

Una squadra di 7 Russi e un Siciliano arriverà Domenica, colla stessa richiesta.

Sono molto riconoscente a Voi per tutto l’aiuto che mi avete dato, per i ex-prigionieri. Se possibile vorrei avere i nomi delle guide (che deve arrivare fra pochi giorni) posse dagli un premio per il lavoro che hanno fatto.

Abbiamo avuto notizie che, la notte del 16, c’era un lancio di 59 paracaduti, fatto per noi – ma non si sa dove! Certamente non è arrivato i Pichiara, o su nostro campo No 2 di sopra Borga Taro. Mi hanno detto che un [illegible] pronto. Dirmi subito se voi non avete avuto qualche cosa dall’ultimo lancio; dovevate avuto almeno qualche scarpa.

Auguri, e sempre buona fortuna.
Gordon Lett Major.

25 Nov. 44

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X, 3 marzo 1945

Egr. Sig. Colonnello,

Di ritorna dalla mia gita nel Calicese, la quale ha avuto carattere esclusivamente personale non ufficiale, sono lieto di comunicarLe che i reparti incontrati hanno suscitatio in zona negli altri ufficiali inglesi la più viva ammirazione.

Ciò valga per i reparti nostratezi(?) in Calice dal Ten. Buchione e per quello comandato da Tigre di stanza a Montereggio.

Le sarò grato se vorrà far perveni a i nominati Comandanti il Suo personale elogio, tanto più ambito, in quanto è a Lei chi si deve riconoscere il merito di aver tanto ottenuto.

Desidero anche informaLa che poiché ho potuto personalmente contattere che tanti i reparti incontrati a Calice tanto quello comandato da Tigre, presentono deficienza di [illegible] vesti [illegible] rio, provvederò a richiedere per ciascuno di questi un lancio, che sarà effettuato, non appena lo stato d’allarme in zona avrà[illegible] diessere.

Resterà naturalmente immutata la richiesta di lancio per [illegible] e per la VI Compagnia G.L., lancio che [illegible] le ha spiegato il Cpt. Lang, avverrà contemporaneamente a quello destinà [illegible] Comanda di Zona.

Cordiali saluti
Gordon Lett Major

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Caro Cm/te Bucchioni
Ho ricevuto la sua lettera e la ringrazio per l’interessamento e per gli auguri da Lei formulati per la sollecita guarigione del mio piede. Effettivamente va meglio e ancor meglio andrà ora che avrò la possibilità di usare la pomata che, cortesemente, come sempre, Ella mi ha fatto pervenire.

Mi è molto dispiacuto per l’incidente occorso tra Lei e Tullio.

Effettivamente anche Tullio aspettava un lancio a Borseda, come già Le ho comunicato. I bidoni a lui destinati dovrebbero essere sigliati con il suo nome, ma sarà anche possibile che il personale addetto al servizi del carico del materiale da lanciare dimentichi di effettuare tale siglatura.

La ringrazio di aver usato tanta intelligenza e buon senso e

La prego di dimenticare l’incidente dell’altro giorno.

Cordiali saluti.


Major Gordon Lett

P.S. In ogni per l’avvenire Tullio avrà un campo di lancio diverso.

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Rapporto informativo del Comandante BUCCHIONI DANIELE di Salvatore e di Cecchi Albina nato a Calice al Cornoviglio il 10/10/19

Sin dal 1943 sono entrato in collegamento col Comandante Bucchioni Daniele che organizzava nel calicese le squadre armate per la resistenza.

Si è fin dall’inizio dimostrato Ufficiale di spiccato spirito Patriottico: serio, attivo, audace.

Egli godeva grande ascendente sugli uomini che portava vittoriosi a quasiasi azione rischiosa. Ha partecipato a molti combattimenti insieme ai Reparti Alleati in aiuto dei quali é intervenuto ogni qualvolta se ne é presentata la necessità: spesso egli ha diretto Reparti alleati e partigiani nella lotta ottendo il piano risultato dell’azione.

Dietro incarico del Comando Inglese di Rossano ha organizzato un servizio di collegamento colle linee per ex Prigionieri Alleati e ricercati Politici in cui dimostrava non comune capacità organizzativa, perizia ad assoluto sprezzo di interesse personale.

Centinaia di Alleati e di ricercati politici devono a questo servizio la Loro salvezza.

Per la sua attività la brigata nera di La Spezia distruggeva ogni suo avere, egli, malgrado ogni avversità continuava imperterrito la sua missione.

Nella battaglia di Liberazione il Comandante Bucchioni Daniele attaccava audacemente il nodo stradale di Aulla e dopo due giorni e due notti d’aspra lotta, la mattina del 25 aprile 1945 consegnava la Città e numerosi prigionieri, fra cui Ufficiali Superiori Tedeschi alla colonna Alleata avanzando in quel settore.

Per la sua opera il Comandante Bucchioni ha bene meritato dagli Alleati, e perciò lo propongo per il passaggio in Servizio permanente effettivo col grado di Capitano.


F.to Gordon Lett
La Spezia, il 30 aprile 1945

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[Marginal note] Correspondence between Dany Bucchioni and Gordon Lett from July ’44 to April ’45.

Speech by BUCCHIONI DANIELE at Freedom Trail

Aulla 02/06/2004

Rinnovo il più cordiale salute ai ospiti inglesi ed un ringraziamento alla laboriosa città di AULLA che non smentisce la sensibilità che l’ha sempre caratterizzata onorando oggi i reparti speciali inquadrati nel battaglione Internazionale creato e comandato dal Maggiore GORDON LETT i quali operarono nella nostra zona.

La loro presenza e quella dell’Avvocato BRIAN (LETT) risvegliano nella mia memoria un turbinio di ricordi, un affastellarsi di volti e di luoghi che caratterizzarono la Guerra di liberazione. Ho conosciuto il Magg. GORDON LETT alcune settimane dopo l’armistizio: eravamo entrambi impegnati nella creazione dei propri reparti. Egli mi impressionc per l’eccezionale senso pratico: doveva creare una unità disciplinata e cobattiva con uomini di estrazione sociale, di lingua e di nazionalità diverse.

Con la sua grande intelligenza, la sua esperienza e conoscenza degli uomini, con paziente costanza realizzò in modo superbo il suo programma.

I nostri rapporti, inizialmente furono quelli di buon vicinato. Lavoravamo per la stessa causa, assillati dagli stessi problemi organizzativi e di sopravvivenza.

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E allorché l’organizzazione ebbe raggiunto un buon livello di efficienza, la collaborazione si intensificò tramutandosi da sentimenti di reciproca stima e fiducia in amicizia leale che non si è affievolita col trascorrere degli anni.

Nelle numerose azioni condotte insieme, a cominciare dall’attacco al Castello di Calice effettuato il 18 giugno di 60 anni or sono, sparimentai la sua eccezionale preparazione militare, il suo coraggio, la sua tenacia.

Egli fu non solo il Comandante di una unità che infliggeva pesante perdite al nemico, ma fu anche un emblema sia per i partigiani che per la nostra gente. Veniva considerato l’avanguardia dagli eserci Alleati i quali, sbarco dopo sbarco, battaglia dopo battaglia, risalivano la Penisola fino ad obbligare il nemico ad attestarsi sulla linea Gotica, lungo l’Appennino Tosco-emiliano, fra il Cinquale di Massa e Rimini. E dal settembre ’44 fummo retrovia del fronte. LETT costituiva quindi una spina sul fianco sia per i Tedeschi che dei loro alleati nostrani.

La sua cattura divenne obiettivo primario. Sul rastrellamento del 20-25 genn. 45 scrive infatti il prefetto TURCHI: ‘Il maggiore Gordon Lett che all’inizio del rastrellamento si trovava a Coloretta di Zeri, ancora una volta è riuscito a sfuggire alla cattura.”

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Come si evince da questa amara delusione del Turchi, il pericolo era sempre in agguato.

Ma Egli non temeva per la propria vita: sapeva di esporla per una causa nobile e giusta. Il bene, la libertà, la giustizia avrebbero trionfato sulla tirannia, sui suoi soprusi, sulle sue stragi.

Il prestigio e la stima di cui gode tuttora fra la gente, è dovuta non solo al coraggio dimostrato nei numerosi combattimenti, ma anche alla signorilità, al tattoo con la gente comune, alla disponibilità ad alleviare le sofferenze.

Ē quindi doveroso e giusto rendere omaggio a questo Ufficiale valoroso, generoso e onesto ed ai Suoi Collaboratori delle forze Speciali che tanto hanno combattuto e sofferto per la loro Patria e per la nostra Libertà.

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APUANIA. Sept 1943 – April 1945


Gordon Lett

(Approx: 9,000 words)

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APUANIA. Sept 1943 – April 1945


Gordon Lett

The Birth of the “International Battalion”

On escaping from prison some of us decided to make our way to the Mediterranean coast rather than to the north to cross the Swiss Frontier, or south to cross the Allied lines, for we believed that there might be an Allied landing from the sea.

Prisoners-of-war knew nothing at all about the Italian people, having been incarcerated in such camps as Bari, Chieti and Veano. We had only come into contact with those who acted as our gaolers under the control of the Nazi Gestapo. For fifteen months I had listened to news and commentaries blaring from loud speakers erected on high poles throughout the camp compounds and they continually poured out hymns of hate against the “Anglo-American Bandits”. The Allied Forces were accused of atrocities towards Italian soldiers, and of the deliberate murder of women and children and the bombing of churches by the RAF [Royal Air Force]. Newspapers sent into the camp for our “education” contained endless horror stories. On the 23rd of August 1942, for example, they advertised reports of the raid on Dieppe. It was described as the failure of the opening of the 2nd Front in Europe. On the front pages was the reproduction of an order, supposed to have been found by the German garrison ruling that all prisoners captured by the Canadian Forces at Dieppe must be chained together and if necessary, shot. This kind of venom continued until the overthrow of Mussolini on the 25th of July 1943.

On the 8th of September the Italian Commandant of prison camp No 29 at Veano switched on the BBC radio programme from London for us to hear. A commentator stated his opinion that the Germans would establish a line of defence in Italy stretching from Genoa on the west coast to somewhere on the Adriatic near Ravenna. Camp 29 lay well south of that line but there were no signs of evacuation by German forces. From our prison on the top of a hill we could see considerable activity by Nazi planes above the Piacenza aerodrome.

The Commandant informed us that all telephone communication with

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Rome had been cut and he advised us to scatter into the hills. Thus, it was that we were pitched into the unknown, conscious that not long before, there had been an outburst on the Fascist radio which described the Italian people as anxious to cut the throats of any “Anglo-Saxons” they encountered in revenge for a naval bombardment against the port of Genoa.

After trudging through the foothills for some hours we came to a little village named Gussafame and saw a group of villagers waiting for us. I expected the worst. The villagers ran forward and surrounded us. Vividly I remember a young woman in a red dress who thrust a piece of bread into my hand. In a few moments, others brought a fiasco of wine and bunches of grapes. They produced articles of clothing so that I and my two companions could discard our army uniforms which bore tell-tale coloured patches marking us as prisoners. The villagers of Gussafame were reluctant to let us go on our way and warned of German patrols searching towns and villages in the valley below. They directed us to a path leading into the mountains. On that day, although we did not know it at the time, the same thing was happening to hundreds of escaping prisoners all over northern Italy.

As we continued our journey, we began to collect news from other escaping prisoners whose paths crossed ours. The diary I kept at that time records that on the 13th of September, four Italian soldiers on their way home to Piacenza told us that a large garrison of Nazis had been drafted into the port of La Spezia on the Mediterranean coast. It was thought that the Allies would attempt to stage a landing from the sea. They told us that a proclamation had been broadcast by the Nazi/Fascist Command that anyone caught assisting escaped prisoners would be shot. On the 22nd of September we learnt that the British and American Armies had consolidated their front in southern Italy. The Russians had captured the city of Kieve in their advance to the west, and the BBC “Voce di Londra” service had reported that the Allied Forces would do all in their power to liberate Italy from the Nazi invaders as soon as possible. Marshal Badoglio had been appointed nominal Commander of the American 5th Army for the liberation of Rome. By this time, I was approaching the valley of the River Taro in Parma province, and there was widespread movement of escaped prisoners and Italian Army soldiers in the mountains.

Then came a report that Marshal Badoglio had warned the civilian population to evacuate the city of La Spezia and to take refuge in the hills

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outside it before the 27th of September, which implied that there would be an Allied landing about that date. This turned out to be a rumour but by that time we were prepared to believe anything.

On the night of the 23rd of September, I had crossed the River Taro and been given shelter in the village of Roncola hidden in the chestnut forest above Borgo Taro. That night and next morning the entire population seemed to be listening to BBC announcements. Graziani had been appointed to the new Fascist Socialist Republic as Minister of War. Kesselring now commanded the German forces in Italy. There was a long description of the resistance in Naples. Nazi propaganda suddenly changed its tone to what sounded like bribery directed at Greeks, Albanians, and Italians, with promises of independence and self-government after the war with the assistance of the Third Reich. The Italians listening to the radio with me burst out laughing. We also heard that there was still open resistance to the new Fascist Government in Turin, Pavia, and other cities in the north.

At the end of September, I reached the Valley of Rossano in the Commune of Zeri in Massa-Carrara province which was to become my base throughout the war of liberation.

I stopped there because the situation on the southern battle front seemed to be fluid and it was the general opinion among the population that there might be an Allied landing at any time on the coast somewhere between Livorno and Genoa. Other prisoners arrived in Rossano. The people of the Valley who gave us shelter began to think about the defence of their possessions.

In post-war literature insufficient credit has been given to the courage of the civilian population, and especially to the ‘contadini’, once they realised that the war had not ended on the 8th of September. Without that courage the national Resistance Movement could never have been born.

[Footnote by Gordon Lett]

The best book I have read about the evolution of the Resistance after the 8th of September is “La Repubblica di Montefiorino” by Ermano Corrieri, published by Il Mulino of Bologna in 1956.

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Unlike other Special Force officers, I can claim to have been involved in the growth of the Resistance Movement from the beginning, living among Italians whose lives were as much in danger as my own. I had been a ‘Partigiano’ for nine months before I became a member of No 1 Special Force.

During the first month, like other ex-prisoners, I intended to re-join the British Army once we knew more about its position in the south. This I would have done had it not been that towards the end of October 1943, a young Lieutenant of Alpini came to see me. He had escaped from Pisa. Eduardo Basevi represented the newly constituted Committee of Liberation of Genoa and he had been sent into Apuania to discover whether Resistance could be organised on a national scale. Geographically the Valley of Rossano was a promising area for the purpose and a further asset was the character of its population that numbered more than a thousand souls living in seven small villages. Their sentiments were at that time purely defensive. As early as September 1943 they were already conducting a passive disobedience campaign against the Carabinieri police to prevent them arresting youngsters who had been called up for service in the Fascist army, and from requisitioning their agricultural products demanded by the Government as a contribution to the State.

Escaped prisoners of war were regarded as being in the same category as those eligible for Army service. It was largely due to this factor that the entire population evolved into a Resistance force and throughout the period of the War of Liberation their opposition to the enemy had very little to do with the ideology of any political party.

The spirit of resistance was active in the valley by the time Edoardo arrived. And so, the idea emerged that I should build up an International Battalion recruited from ex-prisoners who wanted to repay the people who were giving us shelter by helping them to defend themselves; this force would be in close liaison with the Committee of Liberation in Genoa and through that Committee would establish communication with the Allied Command.

It is sad that after the war ended in Italy writers on the subject of the Resistance have so often presented their story as the triumph of one particular political party or another. Few histories seem to have been written that give an objective view of the Resistance as a whole.

[Footnote by Gordon Lett]

Again, in my opinion, one of the best is “Storia dell’Italia Partigiana” by Giorgio Bocca, Edizione LaTerza, Bari, 1966.

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I have been accused, since the publication of my book, ’’Rossano” in 1957, of hostility towards some of the partisan brigades formed by the Communist and Socialist parties. This is not true. I have always had the greatest admiration for the Partisans, but not always for some of their individual leaders. In Zeri and its neighbouring Comunes, Resistance existed long before the political element. It was only after the beginning of 1944 that it began to make an impression, but it is an indisputable fact that political parties of all colours made a great and lasting contribution to the Resistance Movement. There had to be leaders for the youth of the country to follow and those leaders were anxious to ensure that the Government in post-war Italy would be very different to that which had dragged them into war. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that ideological differences between some of the political parties, which at times verged on open warfare, damaged the reputation of the Resistance as a whole in liberated Italy.

It is not for any foreigner to criticise the action of Italian politicians, although we can have our opinions. In particular, no Englishman has the right to criticise. We in England, having been free of a “nemico in casa” for the last thousand years, cannot begin to understand the differences of temperament and outlook, the subconscious fear of dictatorship or foreign invasion, that exists among the citizens of those countries such as Italy and France who have seen their territory occupied by a foreign power three times in three successive generations.

Throughout the first half of 1944, political formations began to assemble in the valleys adjoining Rossano. The first to become established early in the year were brigades of the Action Party, Giustizia e Libertà. In the month of May, Communist brigades materialised. All worked hard by means of especially appointed Political Commissars to indoctrinate their partisans with the ideology of the Party.

Prisoners of war continued to reach Rossano and found shelter until they moved on towards the Allied lines. By May 1944 an organisation known as “A. Force” had been established in the island of Corsica. Its purpose was to send especially trained Italian agents on to the Italian mainland to collect escaped British prisoners and evacuate them from the coast of the Cinque Terre between La Spezia and Sestri Levante. It was through an A Force mission with the code name of “London”, which reached me on the 1st of May, that the

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existence of my “International Battalion” was signalled to the chief of No 1 Special Force, Commander Gerry Holdsworth, whose headquarters had recently arrived in southern Italy.

The International Battalion began at the end of October 1943 as a small group of British and Polish fugitives. The Poles were sent to us by a member of the Genoa Liberation Committee after they had escaped from ships in the port requisitioned by the Nazis. Soon, other nationalities joined us. It is impossible to give an accurate figure for the Battalion’s strength. Although the arms with which we had been provided in November consisted of only half a dozen antiquated Italian rifles and a few of their “Red Devil” hand grenades, the whole population of the Rossano Valley considered themselves as belonging to it. In critical moments when the Police were searching for recruits for the Army, our ranks were swelled by all the youngsters of sixteen years old and upwards. Eventually most of them learnt to use weapons dropped to us by parachute and they played their part magnificently. But more valuable than anything else was the food and shelter provided by the older generations.

The War Office in London had ordered that British prisoners-of-war were not to remain behind in Italy unless they were on special duty. Our Internationals consisted of Poles, French, Danes, Dutch, Yugoslavs and Russians, many of whom had escaped from ships in the port of Genoa and the Todt forced labour organisations in Italy. By May 1944 the weapon situation had improved and the International Battalion numbered about 130 combatants organised on the old Volunteer system. The soldiers lived at home but could be rallied at short notice in the event of a crisis, “home”, in the case of the international personnel, being various ‘cascinas’ scattered throughout the chestnut forests of the Valley. Our unit badge consisted of a miniature Union Jack and Italian flag sown on the right shoulder of shirt or jacket.

The International Battalion had begun to make itself known as an operational unit by the time that Special Force headquarters got to hear of it. We had carried out successful ambushes of Nazi and Fascist patrols on roads leading to Pontremoli, had expelled a number of Fascist sympathisers from neighbouring valleys where they had tried to intimidate supporters of the Resistance. On the 15th June we disarmed the Fascist garrison at the Teglia Dai that provides electric current for the Magra Valley. Rumours began to circulate among the enemy of a large British force that had been dropped into the mountains by parachute.

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A. Force Mission “London” decided that our base would be a suitable rallying point for all escaped prisoners they might discover in the mountainous regions south of Genoa and the Po Valley. The International Battalion was given the responsibility of allotting safe houses and providing guides for them to the sea coast.

In June 1944 the enemy began to take a greater interest in what became known as the 4th Partisan Zone because it lay directly behind the area to the south of the Magra Valley where the complex of Gothic Line fortifications was under construction. There had already been a. number of minor ‘rastrellamentos’ which we had survived with few casualties and our intelligence sources warned us of more to come.

By that time the Resistance forces had grown considerably, with bases outside the Valley of Rossano. To the north were the “Beretta” Divisions of Guglielmo and Gino Cacchioli above Borgo Taro. To the west and south-west on the slopes of Monte Gottero and in the Comune of Zignago were the “Justice and Liberty” Brigades, to the south in the Comune of Calice, the Brigades commanded by a young Army Lieutenant Dani Bucchioni, and to the east, above the City of Pontremoli, an outpost located in the village of Arzelato under the command of Nereo Giumelli, known as “Falco”. The nearest danger point was the city of Pontremoli for it housed a German and Fascist garrison which was dependent on the district headquarters at Massa, and was ruled by a Fascist Vice-Prefect.

On the other side of the Magra Valley, directly behind the Gothic Line, Resistance Forces were established in the mountains north of the cities of Massa and Carrara, to the west of Monte Tondo, and in the Fivizzano area. My fellow ex-prisoner of war from Veano, Major Tony Oldham, was operating with a Partisan brigade. His theatre of activities was more dangerous than mine but an effective courier service was gradually being created directly with units of the American 5th Army. Yet despite information sent through by radio and courier the Allied Command in June was still ignorant of the potential capabilities of the Partisan units spread out behind the German fortifications.

Post-war literature and reports suggest that the judgment of the General Staff was clouded by what they learnt about political dissension. Unfortunately, in June 1944 the tension between political parties in the areas concerned had reached danger point, and when in the Comune of Zeri one Communist Partisan leader “executed” another because of a squabble over supplies and weapons dropped in by Allied planes, it was not surprising that confidence in the

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Resistance Movement as a whole should have been undermined.

[Footnote by Gordon Lett]

For a Communist version of this incident see “Canta Il Gallo” by Renato Jacopini, Edizione Avanti I960, p70-74.

What intelligence officers at Allied Headquarters could not know was that, despite differences among their leaders when a crisis arose, the rank and file of the Partisans worked together with courage and determination and ignored ideological differences.

Special Force Mission “Blundell”

As a result of the reports sent from “A” Force Mission “London”, on the 27th of July 1944 I learnt from Special Force Headquarters that I had been appointed to control a military mission with the code name of “Blundell”, and two Italian radio operators named Alfonso and Bianchi arrived in Rossano that day with their transmitting sets. This meant that the International Battalion had now come under direct Allied Command.

In addition to assisting with the collection and evacuation of prisoners of war we had four other duties to perform. They were:-

(a) The gathering of information through Partisan intelligence sources about enemy movements within the 4th Operative Zone, and any other information that might be of value to the Allied Command.

(b) Encouragement and guidance where required to partisan units in activities aimed at sabotaging the enemy war effort and undermining the morale of Nazi and Fascist troops, and particularly in carrying out attacks on lines of communication or nerve centres of which details were sent to us by Allied intelligence headquarters.

(c) To obtain reinforcements of weapons, clothing, and supplies for those Partisan Brigades which Special Force officers felt could be relied upon to make the best use of them.

(d) To act as a liaison link between Allies and Partisans when forces such as the Special Air Service or Marine Commandos were sent into enemy occupied territory to carry out an operation requiring special knowledge, and which might be too difficult for the Partisans to carry out alone.

Alfonso and Bianchi carried out their tasks with great courage until the end of the war; the fact that they survived was largely due to the protection given them by the “Beretta” Brigades of the Cacchioli brothers in

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the Taro Valley. They particularly owed a debt to one of the Brigade Commanders, Federico Salvestri, better known as “Richetto”, who was a Maresciallo of Carabinieri when the partisan war began.

The month of July represented a milestone in the progress towards better organisation of the national Resistance Forces. The Partisan higher Military Command in Milan headed by General Raffaele Cadorna decided that a unified military headquarters must be established in the various Partisan Regions to coordinate the activities of Brigades and encourage a degree of military training among Commanders. This was essential in order that they could make the best use of the weapons, equipment, and supplies that were descending on them with increasing frequency from Allied aeroplanes. The newly formed C.L.N. [National Liberation Committee], in La Spezia, which had been created to control the 4th Partisan Zone, sent Colonel Mario Fontana into the mountains to establish his headquarters in the Comune of Zeri. He was an infantry officer with long and distinguished service. We first met shortly before the “Blundell” wireless operators reached me. He was fully aware of the difficult task ahead of him. He asked me to attach the International Battalion to his headquarters in the village of Adelana and to provide a radio link with Special Forces in the south. We were also to help with the security problem and supply special couriers to maintain communications between the scattered Partisan units under his Command.

This arrangement had only just begun to work when early in August the area was subjected to the most severe ‘restrallamento’ of the whole war and the entire Partisan system of defence was demolished. Brigades broke up and scattered to countless safe areas outside the Comune of Zeri. In September the International Battalion returned to the Rossano Valley and in due course Colonel Fontana set up his command in the Comune of Zignago where I rejoined him.

The reaction of the Partisans to this ‘rastrallamento’ provided a classic example of the resilience of the Resistance Movement. Large units were forced to break up into small and compact groups of men under chosen leaders. They had to keep on the move to avoid capture in the same way that we prisoners-of-war had done when escaping from our prison camps. After the initial shock of being forced to run for their lives, it gradually dawned on the Partisans that, with effective weapons and the superior knowledge that they possessed of the terrain, the speed with which they could move from one place

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to another was a weapon that they could use to inflict damage on the enemy.

The post-war wisdom of writers on guerilla tactics from Mao Tse Tung to Che Guevara was not inspired by any particular genius on their part. The principles laid down in their much-advertised text books were learnt from experience by us as Partisans in Italy, and were universally adopted by the end of the year 1944.

A serious weakness of the Resistance organisation was the lack of a rapid means of communication between formations combined with a reluctance, generally for political reasons, to act under the orders of a central command. This was a cause of friction until the end, but perhaps it is not regarded as so serious a fault in the view of the historian as it was to those of us who were commanding in the field.

During the second half of 1944 contact with the Allied Forces in the south increased and there was a continual stream of couriers through the Gothic Line or parachuted into the 4th Zone from British and American planes. Unfortunately, liaison was not very good with the vital area of Garfagnana south of the Magra Valley; Major Tony Oldham was also involved in the Partisan war having acquired a radio transmitting set and two Italian operators by accident in the month of July. The pilot who was flying them to the north dropped them in the wrong place. [&]

The journeys of special couriers sometimes created friction between “A” Force and me. Partisans were considered a dangerous addition to parties of escaping prisoners because if the group was captured there was a possibility that all would be shot. This precaution was justified but there were occasions when we received information or persons of such importance that the risk had to be taken.

In one instance a female spy was infiltrated into the 4th Operative Zone to collect details about the strength and locations of Partisan brigades, and she was responsible for the capture of the Partisan leader ” Richetto” of the Beretta brigades. Luckily, he escaped from the Fascist convoy on his way

[Footnote by Gordon Lett]

& See “Un Uomo Un Partigiano” by the late professor Roberto Battaglia, published by “Edizione U”, Rome, in 1945. This is the best work available to-day on the Resistance in the Garfagnana area. It is more factual than Battaglia’s “Storia della Resistanza Italiana” published in 1957.

Professor Battaglia’s Partisan name was Renzo Barrocci.

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to the interrogation centre, but the circumstances were such that I sent a message by radio giving details of the lady to the Italian organisation S.I.M [Servizio Informazioni Militare]. It transpired that they knew her well and had been searching for her for some time. I was instructed by Special Force Headquarters to send her across the lines as soon as possible and by the safest route. I learnt that her instructions also included a report on escape routes into southern Italy. Posing as a refugee, she begged me to be allowed to cross the Gothic Line so it was not difficult to send her off with a guard of Partisans who were ignorant of her identity. She believed they accompanied her for her protection, as indeed they did! She arrived safely in a transit camp for persons who had to be interrogated before they could be released to circulate among the general public. She used her feminine charms so well on the American authorities in charge of it that she escaped, to the great annoyance of Special Forces Headquarters and of S.I.M [Servizio Informazioni Militare]. No more was heard of her.

By the end of 1944, therefore, Staff Officers concerned with the planning of the Italian campaign had sufficient information available to enable them to assess the strength of the Resistance Movement in the areas immediately behind the Gothic Line. In consequence during October and November we received evidence of what in the present day would be called a psychological warfare campaign. Leaflets dropped down through the clouds with titles such as “Frontpost”, edited in German and English to give the latest advances of the Allied Armies on the 2nd Front, “Italia Libera” in Italian, and bogus pamphlets produced by the Fascists, one series of which was cunningly entitled “Giustizià e Libertà” and ridiculed the Resistance Movement as a whole. At the end of the year a plane that had lost its way dropped upon us a number of Safe Conduct passes printed in English, German, Italian and Polish assuring the recipient that “the soldier who carries this Safe Conduct is using it as a sign of his genuine wish to give himself up” and assuring him that he would be well looked after if he did so. It was signed by General Alexander. Radio London broadcasts in Italian did a great deal to keep up the morale of the Partisans, particularly when they denounced criminals whose particulars had reached them through Special Force missions in the field. Two local examples were the Fascist Prefect of La Spezia and his henchman, the notorious “Maggiore Carità”. To counter this, disconcerting rumours were spread by the enemy of the collapse of the

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2nd Front in Europe and the use of secret weapons by the Nazis guaranteed to bring victory to the Axis Powers.

On the 13th of November General Alexander, as he then was, issued his proclamation warning the Partisans that the Allied attack on the Gothic Line had come to a standstill and would not be resumed until the new year.

This action has been distorted since the war to serve the needs of political party propaganda, especially, alas, by Communist Party members. To anyone capable of reading and understanding the English text of that proclamation there can be no doubt that the decision was forced upon the Higher Command because of the unexpected obstacles that the Allied Armies had to face in their attempt to occupy the city of Bologna and to break into the Po Valley before Xmas. It was ridiculous to pretend that the proclamation was part of a dark plot to eliminate the Resistance Movement. [@] The Director of Special Force operations was particularly distressed at the prolongation of the Resistance war behind the Gothic Line. He knew better than any of his fellow officers how dangerous life had become for the Partisans owing to the efforts Nazis and Fascists were making to destroy them before a general offensive could begin once more. The greatest obstacle the Allies had to overcome was the appalling state of the weather, with tanks and artillery floundering in a sea of mud. [&]

The enemy redoubled their efforts to render the Partisan brigades harmless with a series of widespread ‘rastrellamentos’ aimed at making safe their lines of communication along the Gothic Line, and to the north. They invaded the 6th Partisan Zone, between the 4th Zone and Genoa, swept through the Province of Parma and, using a battalion of S.S. [Schutzstaffel] to commit the most fiendish atrocities of the whole war, they made a determined effort to gain complete control of the valleys south of the River Magra. In that area the Partisan Brigades felt the full blast of an enemy attack on the valley of the Serchio in December which forced the American 92nd Negro Division to retreat. Major Oldham and his Partisans crossed into Allied territory to escape annihilation.

[Footnote by Gordon Lett]

[@] For this suggestion see “La Resistenza e Gli Alleati” by Secchia and Frassati published by Feltrinelli of Milan in 1962. p 152.

[&] See “The Campaign in Italy” by Eric Linklater, published by H.M.S.O. in 1951. p.402. “.. the weather… was a defensive factor of the utmost value to the enemy who found a most welcome reinforcement in the rain when his numbers were diminishing. “

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In my opinion, writers on the Italian Resistance have not given sufficient importance to the fact that the Partisans were fighting for survival throughout the whole period of the war. Individual commanders had to make sudden decisions without the help of a higher command and often without knowledge of what was happening in adjoining areas. Some of those decisions were brilliant, others disastrous. Life as a Resistance fighter was tough; there was none of the glamour and romance and silly self-criticism so often displayed on British and American television networks twenty-five years later. When Partisans were not engaged in operations at the request of Allied intelligence, they were on the alert for attempts by the enemy to infiltrate their territory, and for enemy agents sent to collect information or to assassinate Partisan leaders.

By the middle of December, we in the 4th partisan Zone were left in no doubt that the enemy were preparing for a combined attack on us from all directions. Our friends in the cities warned of the gathering storm, of Nazi and Fascist troops concentrating at strategic points on the coast road from Genoa and in the Magra Valley, as well as beyond the Cisa Pass. The C.L.N. [National Liberation Committee] in Milan and Special Force Headquarters in the south were aware of the threat and it was with some relief that I received a message by radio shortly before Xmas stating that a squadron of the Special Air Service was to be dropped into Rossano. Their tasks would be to attack any roving enemy patrols in the area and disrupt communications on the coast road, the Via Aurelia known as “Route 1”, and in the Magra Valley. These actions were to be conducted where possible in cooperation with Partisan volunteers.

Operation “Gallia”

The squadron of S.A.S. [Special Air Service] led by Captain (now Lieut. Colonel) Walker Brown was dropped into Rossano on the 27th of December to carry out what was known as “Operation Gallia”. They were to remain with us until the 11th of February. There is no doubt that the arrival of the parachutists was of great encouragement to the Partisans, for their armament included a British 3″ H.B. [Heavy Bomber] mortar and several Vickers machine-guns. There were thirty-three men altogether and both types of weapon were used with considerable success. Heavy equipment and ammunition was transported to the assembly areas before each attack on mules led by their Rossano owners, At the end the total S.A.S. [Special Air Service]

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casualties were six, all of whom had formed part of a section captured during the first few days by an enemy patrol. It was not until after the war that we learnt they had not been shot in La Spezia prison as we feared but had been taken to Germany, and survived the war.

A number of attacks were carried out, particularly on Route 1, and it was not until the 20th of January 1945 that the enemy was able to raise sufficient forces to counter-attack. The inevitable ‘rastrallamento’ began at midnight on the 19th whilst the parachutists were engaged in an ambush against an enemy convoy in the Magra Valley. We had a valuable ally in the thick snow that covered the mountains. Mongol ski troops were employed against us, and in addition to the garrisons of the Massa and Parma military commands the 285th German Grenadier Battalion was sent from Genoa as additional reinforcement. The crisis lasted for five hard days. It provided a classic example of the vital contribution that the unarmed population could make towards the Resistance against an enemy invading force.

A “secret weapon” which we all possessed was our knowledge of almost every metre of the territory in which Partisans had been operating for the. past sixteen months. The enemy were unwelcome strangers in a strange land. They had already burnt most of the villages and massacred some of the population the previous August and they needed what shelter remained and the help of the villagers to achieve their task of finding the British parachutists whose numbers, owing to rumour, they believed to be well over a hundred. This time elderly men and women remained in their houses. When the enemy patrols arrived, they gave the impression that they were prepared to cooperate with them. The more agile volunteered as “guides” and proceeded to take them by the longest routes to the most distant mountain gorges and caves. The “guide” generally rode on a mule while the soldiers trudged through the snow behind him. They would reach their destination as it grew dark, and then the “guide” would vanish and the invading force was left to find its way back to base as best it could. The result was that on the sixth day such confusion prevailed among the scattered patrols that they were withdrawn from the area. On the way they burnt more houses in the area of Calice, but several groups were ambushed by Partisans prewarned by the villagers. This resulted in a number of Germans and Fascists being captured, and led to an exchange of prisoners under the supervision of the Bishop of Pontremoli by which the lives were saved of Partisans condemned to death in Pontremoli prison. The

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enemy never again attempted to over-run the 4th Partisan Zone.

This event stands out in my experience as a typical example of the support that Partisans were given by the population all over northern Italy. Resistance could not have been victorious without it.

The parachutists continued their operations when the ‘rastrallamento’ ended and they were given valuable support from some of the Partisan brigades, especially those of Lieutenant Dani Succhioni and “Richetto”. They left Calice on the 11th of February to return to their Allied base across the Gothic Line and Dani Bucchioni provided them with guides to cross the River Magra. So impressed were the S.A.S. [Special Air Service] with the Partisan brigade commanded by Lieutenant Franco Coni, an Armoured Corps officer who had escaped to the mountains from Piacenza, that their Commander sent a request to Colonel Fontana that they might be allowed to take part in another S.A.S. [Special Air Service] operation near Reggio Emilia. The Colonel reluctantly refused the request as he had need of all his units for operations within his own zone.

The “Gufa Nera” brigade took their place in an attack against the Villa Rossi at Albinea occupied by the Nazi High Command, where there was a vital communications centre having direct contact with Berlin. The Commander of the Gufa Nera, Glauco Monducci, was wounded with a Special Forces officer (both were later evacuated by plane to an Allied hospital), and three of the parachutists who had been in Rossano were killed. They were Lieutenant Riccamini, Sergeant Guscott, and Corporal Bolden. After the war the Partisans had the names inscribed on a slate tablet which was fixed to the wall of the villa. The house is still private property, but the owners arrange that every year the Mayor and corporation of Reggio Emilia can hold a commemorative ceremony in the courtyard.

On the 15th of March 1945, Major Henderson of No 1 Special Force having been sent in to relieve me, I departed from the Valley of Rossano to cross the Gothic Line accompanied by my Adjutant, Lieutenant (now Lieutenant-Colonel) Braccini and other Partisans, We were about the last group to travel along the route used so often by all nationalities. Dani Bucchioni’s brigade provided us with guides for part of the way. My purpose in leaving was to discover what Allied plans might be as little information had reached us from the battle front for some time. We crossed the Gothic Line on the outskirts of the town of Barga, then occupied by an American Negro battalion.

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In due course I was instructed to return to the 4th Operative Zone.

By the time I reached Castelnuovo Magra on the 20th of April it was clear that the enemy opposition was weakening. The Partisans under their leader Walter of the Muccini brigade had occupied the city of Sarzana. They indicated a crossing over the river. I entered La Spezia that evening with one partisan as guard and the driver of my Special Force jeep. We discovered that we were the only Allied representatives in the city.

On the 21st of April a Combat Platoon of the American 92nd Infantry Division arrived and I was attached to their headquarters as Liaison Officer for Partisan affairs.

The 4th Operative Zone Partisans came down from the mountains on the 23rd of April after a final battle at La Foce on Route 1 in which several were killed. Led by Colonel Mario Fontana they entered La Spezia in triumph.

Today the flag of the International Battalion is still preserved in the Town Hall of Pontremoli.


Following the Armistice in Europe I was attached to the Allied Military Government (A.M.G.) in La Spezia for three weeks as officer responsible for Partisan affairs. I was then transferred as Allied Military Governor to Pontremoli to assist in the resettlement of Partisan brigades and to restore the civil administration of the ‘circondario’. I thereby gained experience of the difficulties that my Partisan colleagues had to face after the war. The Italian Resistance has always been of special interest to me and I have maintained contact with many of my old comrades in arms.

1. In the 4th Partisan Zone a characteristic stands out that might amount to an inherited Spirit of Resistance. The famous historian Giovanni Sforza has recorded that as far back as the 15th century, the Comune of Zeri boasted that it produced its own food and clothing and was virtually self-supporting. The influence of various branches of the medieval Malaspina family was strong and in the Rossano and Zeri valleys there are known to have been at least seven fortresses each of which created a village that exists to-day. Before 1943 the last demonstration of open Resistance in that area was a battle against a force of Napoleon’s invading army that was attacked and chased out

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of the valleys of Zeri and Rossano on the 25th of May 1799 led by a village priest. The French never returned. [&]

Perhaps the spirit of Resistance shown so strongly from 1943 to 1945 was inherited by the population from the time when the territory stretching from the Roman city of Luni along the valley to the Cisa Pass was divided into a number of independent States, each controlled by an overlord with his own army. Sforza tells us, for example, that in 1581 when travelling from the town of Sarzarna, which had replaced Luni, to Pontremoli one passed through five States. They were San Stefano Magra which was part of the Republic of Genoa, Capriliola at that time a fortress commanded by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the city of Aulla protected by the Fortezza della Brunella which was owned by the Genoese Centurioni family, Terrarossa and Villafranca which belonged to different branches of the Malaspina family, Filletiera which also belonged to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and finally Pontremoli, then under the rule of King Philip II of Spain. To-day the same journey takes about half an hour by car.

Sforza records a reference to the Valley of Rossano dated as early as December 1486. It is included in a report sent to the Grand Duke of Milan by his Ambassador and mentions ”le novità al presente occorente a la val di Rossano”. What “le novità” were we do not know as the details seem to have been lost. So the people of Rossano and Zeri have a reputation of fighting for their independence stretching over at least 500 years.

2. Having witnessed every stage of the wartime Resistance in Italy it is my impression that subsequent historians have not given emphasis to the essentially national character of the Italian Resistance. It was not confined to any one class of society or any one political party. Members of the Italian Armed Forces worked with my International Battalion throughout, and they had a magnificent record for courage and endurance – officers such as Major Adriano Oliva, now a retired General, Colonel Mario Fontana who commanded the 4th Partisan Zone and died after the Liberation, Lieutenants of the Air Force Otello Braccini and Aldo Berti and Army Lieutenants Dani Bucchioni and Gambarotta, all of whom are still serving with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and the Lieutenant of Alpini Edoardo Basevi who left the Army after the war.

[Footnote by Gordon Lett]

[&] See “Memorie di Pontremoli” by Giovanni Sforza, published in Florence in 1904.

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There were priests who joined the Partisans or collaborated with us to the full, such as Monsignor Giovanni Sismondo, Bishop of Pontremoli, the priests in the mountain villages of Montereggio, Torpiana, and Albareto outside the Rossano Valley, and Don Guiligotti of Adelana and Don Grigoletti of Colloretta in the Comune of Zeri, both of whom were brutally murdered by the Nazis in the ‘rastrallamento’ of August 1944 because they had given refuge to Partisans and escaping prisoners-of-war, including myself. Nor is it correct to maintain, as some ill-informed commentators still do, that the Partisans were all rebellious factory workers or peasants.

In the International Battalion from 1943 to 1945 we had representatives of all classes, either living in the woods as combatants or acting as agents to bring important news from the towns about enemy movements. I recall to mind a barrister, two doctors, a lawyer, an ex-Consul-General of the Diplomatic Corps, several fishermen from a trawler that had been requisitioned by the Fascists in the port of La Spezia, an Arab merchant seaman from Eritrea, a couple of artists, a musician, shop-keepers and cafe owners some of whom owned cafes or shops in London and Scotland, a butcher, a theological student, a dentist who managed to keep open his surgery in Pontremoli most of the time, a Professor from the University of Genoa, students from universities as far distant as Bologna, carpenters, two railway station masters, several railway employees, a Maresciallo and two Brigadieri of Carabinieri as well as several Carabinieri policemen. Many were farmers, and the sons and daughters of families in Rossano and the adjoining valleys.

3. Again, in my opinion, writers about the Italian Resistance, and especially outside Italy, often overlook the essential differences in the background to the Italian Resistance compared with that in other countries of Europe.

For instance, there was never at any time the prospect of creating a “Secret Army” on the Belgian or Dutch pattern. The war was conducted by small and compact groups, and this policy was encouraged by Special Force advisers. Events proved that it was the right policy because whenever Partisan brigades tried to adapt themselves to conventional methods of warfare and created large military formations to defend an area they were

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soundly defeated. Clear examples of this are provided by the last stand of the Partisans in Garfagnana on the Gothic Line in December 1944, and the epic defence of the Republic of Domodossola.

The Italian Resistance, unlike that in other countries of western Europe, was alive and flourishing when the Fascist regime was overthrown. It was born in the Spanish Civil War of 1936 as part of the Republican forces, and it continued to exist as a nucleus in exile in France or underground in Italy until it burst into the open in September 1943. [@]

4. The psychological structure of political parties in Italy that effected their aims was different to the political parties in other countries, and especially in Britain. Italian Liberals and British Liberals had nothing in common. Socialists were divided into various extremes, their common ideology strongly influenced by the murder of the secretary of the United Socialist Party, Giacomo Matteoti, by the Fascists in June 1924. The vast majority of Italian Communists – but not all – wanted a revolution in Government administration after the war, but they were by no means all lackeys of the Kremlin. Members of the Action Party were the fervent heirs of that uncompromising Republican Giuseppe Mazzini and his “Young Italy” party of 1832. Twenty years of Fascist suppression of freedom of debate and the persecution of their opponents had created what amounted to an aura of sanctity around the political party.

Sometimes the young were inspired to die for it. Nobody in Britain would be prepared to lay down his life for a political party!


In my opinion the War of Liberation from 1943 to 1945 remains a glorious page in the long and colourful history of Italy. Young Italians should be proud of it.

[Footnote by Gordon Lett]

[@] There are two classics particularly relevant to this subject, and the war in Spain. Randolfo Pacciardi’s “Il Battaglione Garabaldi – Volontari italiani nella Spagna. Reppubblicana” published in 1938 by Nuove Edizioni di Capologo Lugano.

(Contrary to general belief the “Garibaldi” brigades of 1943-1945 were NOT all dominated by the Communist Party), and Pietro Nenni’s “Spagna”, a collection taken from essays and newspaper articles published by Edizione Avanti of Milan in 1958.

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For hundreds of years past generations have defended their country, their homes, and their possessions against foreign mercenaries and invaders. If ever Italy should again be threatened, the Spirit of Resistance will blossom forth once more among the sons and daughters of the Partisans.

It is their natural heritage.

Gordon Lett.


1 Nov: 1971.

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