N. Browne (Royal Tank Regiment) was a prisoner in Chieti and Fontanellato. This brief extract describing his adventures after the Armistice was written in a letter to Keith Killby. He spent time with partisans but became tired of the lack of discipline and continued to walk South, passing through the lines in November 1944 without difficulty.
There is also a brief description of his returns to Italy to visit the Pieve area where he stayed for some months.
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.
(Extract from letter to Keith Killby, dated 7th October 1992)
… I heard of the Monte San Martino Trust and you from Robert Williams with whom I recently stayed in Dorset. He and I were in the same battalion in N. Africa and ended up in Camp 49 in Fontanellato together. Eric Newby was also there.
Stuart Hood was in the same room as I was in Camp 21 Chieti, but I’ve not seen him again since the early 50s when I ran into him in London.
My personal experiences between September 1943 and November 1944 are too boring to record, but roughly here goes. With others I arrived in Pievi di Gravago, Provincia di Parma. At first we moved round freely. The Fascists and Germans in Bardi became a threat. Rifles and limited ammunition were produced for us and we tried to lay an ambush to deal with our opponents. Our prey did not turn up but soon afterwards we realised we were being hunted in earnest and had to hide our weapons and split up. Three of us wandered together and hoped to move on South but by then such places as Borgo Val di Taro, the Cisa Pass and Pontremoli and surrounding parts were unhealthy, to say the least.
Thereafter I suppose it could be said we ‘chickened out’, gave up the idea of walking South and returned to the area Pieve/Tedoli, where we were known and had many friends.
To avoid reprisals we lived for some time in a charcoal burner’s hut, which was fine till the first snow.
At that stage 2 women from Pieve arrived and said we would not survive and they would hide us in their houses. Two of us accepted. The third refused and only days later was betrayed and recaptured. I remained hidden apart from panics when I had to leave the village but I was always invited back.
With the New Year and better weather, I started wandering again and for a short time I joined a band of partisans. They were a danger to many and security meant nothing to them. To soothe my nerves, I volunteered for almost permanent sentry duty and was even bodyguard to the leader! But all too soon I couldn’t stand the lack of discipline and left to resume my wandering. This went on till about October 1944 when I joined a party moving South to cross the lines which we did without difficulty around Monte Corvara. Then home, some leave and out to Burma where I arrived just as the war was ending.
I’ve been back to my mountains 3 times. The old people are nearly all dead. Pieve is a ghost village, mainly pulled down. The children of my family all came to England to begin with but later returned to Italy….