Bull, Eric

Summary

Eric Bull escaped from Fara Sabina (PG 54). Of the 11 with him most got recaptured, some were killed.

He remained in the area for ten months, mainly living rough in caves, and he also took part in the liberation of Moricone and other action to harass the retreating Germans. The account includes dramatic depictions of encounters with enemy forces and praises the courage of his Italian partisan contacts. In one hasty escape from a German search party he left his pack with his letters received as a PoW. The pack was returned to him at the end of the war, having been found in a German Intelligence Office in Venice!

Eric Bull returned to Italy in 1949 and subsequently in the 1980s and this account includes some excellent contemporary and modern photographs to illustrate the story.


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.

ERIC BULL

[Digital page 1]

Escaped from Fara Sabina (PG 54). Of the 11 with him most got recaptured some killed. Lived mostly rough in caves etc. This is a section of his story (10 pages) and was written in 1989 for the area to which he returned and found the site of his hiding place in a ravine and the battle with the Partisans against a large force of Germans shortly before they retreated out of the area. In one such dash away he left his pack with his letters as POW etc. It was returned to him at the end of the war having been found in a German Intelligence Office in Venice. The battle was near Monterotundo and Moricone. EB remained in the area – not far from Fara Sabina for ten months and took part in the liberation of Moricone and other actions to harass the retreating Germans.

EB returned in 1949 and subsequently in the 80’s.

[Digital page 2]

To UGO ANGELINA – with my grateful thanks for your assistance on May 13th 1989 to find the ravine where I first made contact with the Monterotundo Partisans in March 1944.
Signed Eric Bull (Enrico)

On September 11th 1943, along with many hundreds of British and South African PoWs I had escaped from Campo PG 54 near Monte Maggiore, our hope was that as an armistice had been declared between Italy and the Allies, the troops who had landed at Naples and in Southern Italy would quickly sweep North and we would soon be happily repatriated. Alas for us it was not to be, the German High Command decided to hold Italy and poured in thousands of reinforcements in an effort to halt the invading armies. They also decided to transfer all Allied PoWs to Germany and a large scale operation was commenced on September 18th to round up all the prisoners who had left the camps and were roaming the countryside. Most were recaptured but thanks to the efforts of the local villagers and Partisans, who at tremendous risk to themselves fed, clothed and hid us, a few made the Allied lines some ten months later.

I, with eleven others, had found sanctuary in the heavily wooded heart of Montefalco, near Moricone, but because of the bad weather in October had been forced to abandon our comparatively safe hide-out and seek alternative cover in the vineyards on the other side of the village, where the people could get food to us more easily. Unfortunately, the German searches were becoming more frequent and intense and one by one we were all recaptured. On February 23rd 1944 I was caught (my hide-out having been disclosed to the Germans by a spy from Milan) and taken to Montelibretti for interrogation. Shortly afterwards I managed to escape and two days later returned to Moricone where I had been hiding previously, only to find that the Germans had traced the owner of the Capanna, arrived at his house with a lorry and taken all his store of food. I had to leave immediately and headed for Monterotundo where I knew a strong Partisan group was operating. For the rest of the day I laid low in some woods and as soon as it was dark continued to walk. I stumbled on past Aqua Sulphuro and as dawn broke I found myself on a large plain offering no cover at all. I noticed some flagstones nearby and was surprised to find underneath, some stone steps leading down to a large underground cavern. I decided to stop there for the day and rest as I was tired and cold. I must have dozed off as I awoke suddenly with a start to find a man staring down at me. He was a shepherd and he asked me who I was and where I had come from. He said the man who he worked for was the local farmer and was friendly with the leader of the Partisans and should be able to help me; I should remain here until he returned. Two hours later he was back, this time accompanied by a very well-dressed man in a dark suit. The man told me that he was the local landowner and lived in a big house not far away. After asking me many searching questions he said he could not help me himself as he had Germans billeted in his house but he would get in touch with his friend who was the Partisan leader in the area, meantime I should stay in the

[digital page 3]

cavern and on no account move. I waited for what seemed an age, darkness fell and it must have been near midnight when I heard voices at the entrance and saw a dim light from a shaded torch as two figures approached. The taller of the two introduced himself as Francesco and his friend, a short stocky tough-looking man, was Nevino. They would try and help me but I must do as I was told. We left the cavern, and after half an hour of walking arrived at a small house where I was given my first hot meal for many weeks by the owner’s wife – it was wonderful! Afterwards we continued walking and approached the outskirts of Monterotundo – I could just make out the tower of the municipal building. We moved on and although it was very dark I could see that we were on a narrow track and near several houses. Nevino walked up to one of them and knocked on the door. It was answered by a young man aged about nineteen, Edemondo, who asked us in. Francesco explained to me that this was a “safe” house but as the area was teeming with Germans T must not go out and should stay in the hayloft above with two other English PoWs who had been there for about six weeks. With that Francesco and Nevino left. Edemondo took me up a ladder into the loft which appeared to be full of bales of straw right up to the ceiling. One bale, by the wall, was missing and when I climbed through I met Vincenzo from Liverpool and Ronald from Montgomery; they had also come from Campo PG 54. The three of us lived in the hayloft for over a month and although it was dry and warm it was very boring. Edemondo gave us news from the battle fronts at Cassino and Anzio which he got from his small radio and kept us in touch with the activities of the local Partisans. He also told us about seven Russians who had escaped from a working party near Rome and were living under a waterfall in a ravine nearby. Towards the end of March, because the Germans were carrying out house to house searches, Francesco decided to move us away from the town. Late one night he and Nevino arrived at the house and took us to the same ravine where the Russians, led bv “Alex”, a captain in the army – a huge man, about six feet three inches tall with fair receding hair and aged about thirty-three or four. He and his friend, Ivano, took us to a cave very well hidden on the other side of the stream which was far better than the one we had stayed overnight in and then they showed us their grotto under the waterfall which was surrounded by mines and boobytraps and so cleverly camouflaged that no-one would have guessed seven men were living there. The ravine, bounded by a low wire fence, was heavily wooded with thick undergrowth, it must have been nearly a mile long and about four hundred yards across at the widest point. On the far side at the top was a long low building not unlike the sentries’ quarters at the PoW camp and this, said the Russians, was a dairy but it had been commandeered by the Germans and was now being used as a sheep farm, where a dozen soldiers guarded about a thousand sheep in pens outside the building. We settled down in the ravine and over the next month explored every nook and cranny in the area. We got to know the Russians very well and realised that, if the Germans did start searching the ravine, rather than hide they would stand and fight, they had plenty of guns and arms and they would use them. Francesco and Nevino visited us several times and we learned that British Intelligence had

[digital page 4]

landed an agent by parachute to organize operations of sabotage against the enemy when the time was right. Several nights later, whilst visiting a “friendly” house nearby, we noticed a “stranger” in the company and although he was Italian his English was perfect – no wonder, he owned a restaurant in South London – it was blatantly obvious we had now met the agent. His instructions were clear and exciting: on a night to be notified later we were to dig three holes in the ground one metre deep by one third of a metre across in the form of an equilateral triangle. When the engines of a plane became audible we should ignite rags soaked in petrol in the holes. When the plane spotted the flames it would drop a recognition flare, circle and drop supplies, we should collect the parachutes and canisters and get them hidden in the ravine as soon as possible. Francesco organized about twenty Partisans, the Russians and ourselves to be ready for the drop. The message came through – Monday at midnight be ready. We took up our positions and dug the three holes, put in the rags soaked in petrol and waited in the surrounding bushes. At one o’clock the drone of a plane coming from the South tensed us, and we prepared to ignite the rags. Then, to our horror, two German trucks rumbled up the road and stopped less than half a mile from our position. In the moonlight we could see troops dismounting – the plane was now almost overhead. We froze. “Keep under cover” hissed Francesco, “What the hell are they doing? We could not have been betrayed.” It seemed that the Germans were digging by the side of the road. The plane circled, the Germans continued to dig. The plane swept round the area and dropped a flare. The Germans stopped digging and got down by their trucks. The plane continued to circle for ten minutes and then made off in the direction from whence it had come. The Germans returned to their digging. We listened intently; it seemed as though they were laughing and talking oblivious to what had been going on. After an hour and a half they stopped working and remounted and drove off back to Monterotundo. We gave them ten minutes, then walked over to the spot where they had been digging and with our spades uncovered what appeared to have been a food store, lots of tins, boxes and even German sausage. We took as much as we could carry and replaced the earth as we had found it – our evening had not been entirely wasted. The agent contacted British Intelligence on his radio and explained why we had been unable to contact the plane and made alternative arrangements. The following week everything went according to plan and by three in the morning all the canisters were emptied and buried and the contents, consisting of a new sort of sub machine gun, were distributed amongst the Partisans and the gelignite, hand grenades and spare guns were taken to grottos deep into the ravine and camouflaged. We worked out how to use the sub machine guns and found that they could be quite dangerous if not handled carefully. With their new equipment, plus the weapons which they already had, the Partisans were becoming impatient and wanted more action against the Germans, but apart from sorties against bridges, ammunition dumps and soft trucks the agent insisted they should hold off until a major offensive would be launched which would really hurt the enemy. Meanwhile, the Russians were becoming restive and on one occasion waylaid two German soldiers who were off duty and walking round the countryside. They shot both of them, took their money and cameras and buried them in the ravine. Then Alex had an idea. A group of us should go up to the dairy and steal a sheep; if the guard saw us, we would shoot him,

[digital page 5]

there was a risk but our chances were good and we should get away with it. That night the Russians carried out their plan and arrived back in the early hours with a sheep. It had been easy, the sentries were not to be seen and even though the sheep had been noisy they had not appeared. The sheep was knifed and skinned and cut up into pieces, the Russians gave the bulk to the families who provided us with food and divided the rest between us and themselves. That evening we had a terrific meal, stewed lamb and thistles – what a pity we had no salt! Two nights later the Russians decided to visit the dairy for the second time and again they were successful. On the next occasion we went with them but this time it was not so simple; a guard was standing outside the dairy. Alex wanted to sneak up behind him and knife him, it would he one less German to worry about, but we managed to convince him that in this instance discretion was the better part of valour. We should wait until he returned to the guardroom and then quietly take the sheep. They would not miss a sheep but they would certainly miss one of their unit. Alex agreed, we thought rather reluctantly, and we lay low at the top of the ravine and waited for the guard to move. Sure enough, he finished his cigarette and went in. Ten minutes later we opened the gate, grabbed two sheep and returned to the ravine. The Russians suggested that one of the sheep should be shared between Francesco and Nevino and we asked Mikele to tell them both to meet us at the ravine. They came and were delighted with the gift but Francesco said to us before he left to be very cautious and not give the Germans any inkling that we escaped PoWs were in their area. Although the news from the battle front was encouraging there was no sign that the Germans were withdrawing and we should not become overconfident. It was getting towards the end of May when an unfortunate event nearly resulted in disaster for all of us. We had decided to pay another visit to the dairy and, having ascertained that there were no guards around, were crouching down at the top of the ravine awaiting the return of Alex and Ivan who were reconnoitering the gates to the pen. They returned saying that the usual gate was secured by a chain and therefore they would have to try the other gate further away from the ravine. We could just see the two figures in the pale moonlight bending over the gate which was giving them some trouble. Eventually, we saw the gate open and Ivan dive in after a sheep. Then, oh no! – we saw the whole flock move forward and knock the gate off its hinges. Ivan dashed out and raced back with Alex to where we were squatting, he had a rope round a sheep’s neck and was tugging at it. We all made off down the ravine, complete with one sheep. Alex called a halt and sent two of the Russians back to the grotto with the sheep. He then went back to the top of the ravine to see how many of the sheep had got out of the pen and where they were. His idea of course was to see if he could grab another one if it came his way. As he waited we could hear shouting; the Germans had realized something was amiss and were calling out to each other. Alex returned, laughing, There were sheep everywhere, they were all out of their pen and the Germans were chasing them trying to catch them. As he spoke a group of sheep appeared at the top of the ravine, we grabbed three and picked our way down the slope. We now had four sheep and decided to keep them in the cellar of a ruined house near the stream until we could get them out to the Italian families. Suddenly we realized we did not have four sheep, as behind us appeared seven more who had followed us down the ravine; they were also

[digital page 6]

put into the cellar. We did not sleep that night and at first light Alex and Ivan cautiously climbed to the top of the ravine to see what was going on. Everywhere they looked were sheep. A couple of lorries were standing outside the dairy where the custodian of the sheep had obviously called for assistance. During the day the whole area was a hive of activity and we kept very quiet and well out of the way. Not only were Germans searching for sheep but Italians too. The only difference was that if the Germans found a sheep it went into the pen but if the Italians found one it was taken into Monterotundo. In fact, so serious was the disappearance of the German sheep that notices were pinned up in Monterotundo to the effect that anybody caught stealing sheep would be severely dealt with. For us, however, our eleven sheep became a bit of a problem; we somehow had to feed them and so we took it in turns to walk them up and down the footpath where there was grass – and then had the indignity of removing the tell-tale droppings in case the Germans came to the ravine to search for lost sheep. This went on for four days and we were beginning to think that the crisis was over, nobody had been down the ravine and we reckoned that the Germans had thought that the sheep had just pushed the gate down and broken out by themselves. Then it happened! It was about three o’clock on a beautiful afternoon. Vincenzo and I were basking in the sun outside our grotto, Ronald was along the path exercising the sheep. Suddenly on the path twenty feet below us were two German officers walking along. We froze – but no good, they had seen us. They looked at us and we stared back at them; they seemed just as surprised as we were. “Quick” I said to Vincenzo, “Run for it” and we dashed off up the ravine through the undergrowth as fast as we could. We split up; I hid in thick bramble, my legs and arms badly scratched by the vicious thorns. I stayed there, straining my ears for any movement. It seemed too quiet and I did not fancy taking any chances so remained under cover. Eventually the light faded and darkness fell, I heaved myself out of the brambles and cautiously made my way back to the grotto. There was no sign of Vincenzo or Ronald. Our grotto was in an awful mess, the Germans had found our personal kit and taken everything; amongst my belongings were all my letters from home which were addressed to Campo Concentramento No. 54; this of course bad blown our identity and I felt utterly depressed. As I sat dejected in the grotto wondering how the other two had fared I heard a faint sound. I crept out of the grotto and crouched in the bushes straining my eyes to see who it was. I was overjoyed to see, by his hulk, that it was Vincenzo who, like me, had hidden in the undergrowth and waited until it was dark before venturing back. But where was Ronald? Had they caught him and the sheep? An hour later Ronald crept back. He told us he had just pushed the sheep back into the cellar when he heard German voices coming from the grotto; he had backed into the cellar with the sheep praying they would not start bleating and draw the Germans’ attention to him. So, we were all intact even if we had no kit. Our main concern now was how long it would be before the Germans returned in force to search the ravine thoroughly now that they knew we were here. Our first thought was to warn the Russians of the imminent danger. That day they had all gone to one of the houses and were totally oblivious of what had happened, and when we related the events of the afternoon they were of the opinion that the Germans would not trouble to come back to the ravine and search for us. We could not share their optimism and decided that at first light we would leave the ravine and hide in the big cornfield at the top. To be on the safe side

[digital page 7]

we moved that night from our old grotto to another on the other side of the stream. Ronald felt it would be better to hide in one of the haystacks in the vineyards nearer to the town and he set off that night. The next thing I remember was waking up with a start. The sun was streaming in. I shook Vincenzo; we both realized we had badly overslept and we would have to move fast. We hurried out of the grotto and started to climb the steep gradient to the top of the ravine. I led the way up the narrow path then suddenly, to my horror, a figure in grey-blue uniform appeared in front of me; he had a rifle in his hands and swung it in my direction. I had no alternative, I just pointed my revolver at him and pulled the trigger, as it went off he looked startled and fell over right in front of me. I leapt over him and Vincenzo followed. Two seconds later, over to the left someone shouted. We were almost to the top of the ravine and dived off the path to the right. Again we heard a shout to the left. We were now level with the top and could see the wire fence two yards in front of us through the long grass. We dropped to the ground and wriggled forward and as we did so we could see several figures running along the path outside the wire fence from right to left. We thought they had seen us, but luckily they hadn’t, even though they had passed within six feet of us. We moved back again from the wire into some tall grass and lay perfectly still – sweating profusely! We were now fifty yards from the spot where the German soldier had confronted us – his mates appeared to be going down the ravine assuming his assailant had made off in that direction. Next we heard the sounds of trucks being driven round the perimeter of the ravine and we could hear vehicles passing us. One stopped within ten feet of us and we could hear Germans talking loudly. It sounded like pieces of metal being thrown around and then we realized what was happening; they were assembling machine guns all round the ravine at intervals. We were scared to death and frightened to breathe. The Squad of three or four men finished putting their gun together about eight feet from us just outside the wire and lit cigarettes and the smoke wafted through the grass to us. Five minutes passed and the German soldiers had picked their way slowly down to the stream. Suddenly, we heard Alex’s voice call “Who is it?”. A German voice shouted a reply, an automatic rattled, sounding like a Sten gun, several single shots followed then a couple of large explosions – somebody had set off the booby trap. More Germans rushed along the path and down the ravine and the firing increased. It was clear to us that a fierce battle was raging and the Russians, true to their word, were using their guns! Intensive firing went on for ten minutes and then petered out. The Germans were still shouting to each other and began to return up the ravine. “Why are they coming back,” we thought, “have they finished off the Russians?” Shortly afterwards we found out. As the Germans reached the top of the ravine all hell was let loose; there were explosions from all round the perimeter, followed by a “crump” as each missile exploded round the stream and waterfall. It was, of course, a concentrated mortar attack – not only had the Germans mounted machine guns around the perimeter but heavy mortars too. It went on for what seemed an age, the ravine was filled with smoke and the smell of exploding bombs. All sorts of thoughts were going through our heads – would we ever see the Russians again? What terrific guts they had to take on a German regiment and we could not do much to help them with a loaded machine gun eight feet from us. The mortaring finally ceased and

[digital page 8]

once again groups of soldiers started to descend into the ravine at different points, they appeared to be sweeping from right to left in the direction of the stream. They were still shouting to each other but the voices became fainter as they moved further away down the ravine. More firing started but it was spasmodic. By midday it was all over and the gunfire stopped. For us, the danger had not passed as the machine gun and its crew were still in position; for them, however, the tension had ceased for they were laughing and talking to each other and to other groups further down the track. They stayed until late afternoon when the lorries returned and, by the sound of it, started to dismantle and pack up their guns. We still did not move as we thought it highly likely that the Germans would post sentries around the ravine to make sure any prisoners returning would get caught. Darkness fell and it was deathly quiet, we waited until it was very late and then I wriggled closer to Vincenzo; should we stop here or venture into the cornfield? We agreed that we had had a miraculous escape and that, rather than take any chances at all, should stay where we were until we were absolutely sure that all the Germans had left. We remained in that spot all night and throughout the next day. We were praying for the dark as we were now in a pretty poor state – cold, hungry, thirsty and cramped. At dusk it was still very quiet, we were convinced that nobody was around and we crawled out of the long grass into the cornfield. We had to get to the house for food and water and, most important, news of the Russians. We cautiously picked our way along by the cornfield until the three houses came into view. We crept up to the front door of the first one and listened. We could hear Mamma talking to her husband. We knocked and heard Mamma call “Who is it?”. We replied “Vincenzo and Enrico.” The door opened and the little lady, no more than four feet tall, threw her arms round us and embraced us. “We didn’t know what had happened to you” she said. “But what had happened to the Russians?” we asked, “They’re next door,” she replied, “drinking lots of wine to celebrate their victory!” We rushed to the house next door and could hear sounds of merriment. We knocked and the door was opened by the owner who was in a very happy state. Inside was nothing less than a party. Alex jumped up and lifted me off my feet, we were hugged and patted on the back and were a trifle overcome. In the excitement, we had not noticed that Alex had a bandage round his head – a German bullet failed by half an inch to kill him! Ivan had been shot in the arm and one of the others had been shot in the leg. It transpired that our one and only shot at the first German had alerted the Russians and they had got themselves into strategic positions ready for the soldiers coming down the ravine. As soon as the Germans reached the stream where it was comparatively open they were sitting targets and the Russians reckoned they had killed and wounded at least a dozen. When the Germans started to withdraw out of the ravine the Russians had left the waterfall area and moved downstream to try to get out of the ravine further down – which apparently they did. Meanwhile the Germans had plastered the waterfall with mortar bombs – all to no avail, the birds had flown. There was some bad news; the Huns had discovered the grotto containing the hidden arms and ammunition and had taken the lot and destroyed the grotto. Francesco and Nevino called in at the house to congratulate the Russians on their amazing achievement and to get the story first hand. The news that was going around Monterotundo about the ‘Battle of the Ravine’ and the Russians were heroes! Francesco told us that the

[digital page 9]

German regiment which had taken part in the battle had moved out of the district and gone South, as had several other units billeted in the town. It would be safe, therefore, for us to return to the ravine as searches in the immediate future looked doubtful. But, best of all, was the news from the battle front. The Poles had taken Cassino and the Allies were advancing up the coast and the British and American Armies had broken out of Anzio. We should now prepare to strike at the enemy. The Agent was confident that the Germans would not attempt to defend Rome itself but would try to establish a line further North. Where? He had no idea, but we would be kept in touch and we could be in action in a week. It was a great night and we left the house late – leaving the Russians in more than high spirits – and slept in a haystack nearby. The next morning we returned to the ravine to see how the sheep had fared after the bombing and to see if Ronald had turned up. What a shock we had on descending the ravine – no sign of Ronald, all the sheep gone, and the whole area for fifty yards around the waterfall completely devastated. Somebody had used our grotto – there were spent cartridge cases everywhere and it had been set on fire. The smaller grotto, the one which we had hurriedly left on that fateful morning, had had similar treatment. Trees were laying twisted and the whole area looked a sorry mess – we would have to look elsewhere for somewhere to live. It was now the first day of June, the weather was becoming warmer and we were in an optimistic frame of mind – surely only a matter of a few days before the Allied troops would reach the Town. The big build-up of activity in the air indicated that the Germans were coming under heavy attack. The next evening, while we were in one of the houses, Sergeant “Whitey” Langford came in. He was a South African policeman in civilian life and had been in our camp. He had just left Francesco’s where senior Partisans had been planning a campaign of harassment against the Germans starting tomorrow night. Small groups of six or seven men would ambush vehicles, others would lay mines on the road. For our part we should be ready with other Partisans to man a machine gun on the track near the three houses, at dusk, and attack anything German that came our way; we would be informed when to take up our position. The following two nights we watched and waited, we could see the odd flash followed by an explosion and every now and then the rattle of a machine gun but the heavy gunfire from the South was becoming much louder and we could hardly contain our excitement. On the evening of the fifth of June the signal came from Francesco to get into our position on the track and attack any enemy vehicle which came our way. One of the Partisans produced a Breda machine- gun which had been in the cellar of his house since the Armistice. We carried it to the spot which we had some fifty yards away from the track, assembled it, set the magazine in position and waited. Nothing happened that night and at first light we took it apart and returned to the house feeling a little frustrated, especially when we heard from one of the runners that some of the Partisans operating South of the Town had destroyed a tank and some vehicles. Later that morning, a Panther tank and armoured car rambled down the track and stopped near the house. We thought at first that they had come for us and waited with baited breath to see what the next move would be. We needn’t have worried, the tank manoeuvred into a position in line with the front of our house; there was a sudden ‘Whoosh” as the tank began to fire racks of rockets. I had never seen this type of weapon used before and watched in amazement as more rockets were fired, they seemed to be in groups of six and

[digital page 10]

after releasing about four sets the tank turned and lumbered off in the direction from which it had come with the armoured car following. Later on, in the afternoon, we could hear the noise of vehicles moving on the Via Salaria a couple of kilometres away and we hoped that this was the German armour withdrawing Northwards. Early in the evening a runner arrived from the Partisan headquarters to tell us to take up our position again – the Partisans were going to mount an all-out attack on the enemy. We set up the gun and waited. Over in the town things were starting to happen in a big way, there were lots of flashes, explosions and small arms fire mainly coming from the direction of the Municipal building in the centre of the town – suggesting that the Partisans were giving the Germans a bad time. What in fact was happening was that some of the Partisans had positioned themselves on the tops of buildings in the town and, as the German tanks were moving back, were throwing a variety of grenades and petrol bombs on top of them, whilst other groups were out of sight in barns and houses and were hurling petrol bombs and firing tracer bullets at the tanks’ tracks. Every now and then we saw a flash followed by a sheet of flame and we reckoned that another enemy vehicle had been destroyed. Suddenly we heard the throb of motor cycle engines and we tensed. Two riders came into view and our gunner aimed and pressed the trigger. Spurts of flame came from the barrel and the two motor cyclists appeared to ride off the road into a ditch and collapse. The engine of one of the machines was screaming but both riders were lying motionless. I ran over to the bike and wrenched off the plug lead to stop the engine. I looked over towards the two riders and saw Vincenzo standing over them, his revolver in his hand. “Both dead” he said. We pulled the two bodies further into the ditch so that they could not be seen from the road and pushed the motor cycles into some long grass nearby. The Partisans were delighted with their work – 1 just hoped that the two motorcyclists were not the forerunners of an armoured regiment that would take up a position in this area. Meanwhile, in the town the battle was hotting up, the machine gun fire was increasing and the sound of exploding grenades filled the air. As the light faded the battle seemed to subside and we wondered anxiously what was happening; we were still crouched over our gun, waiting. Suddenly one of the Partisans shouted and pointed to the Municipal Building and we watched – almost in disbelief – an Italian flag being hoisted up the tower. The Germans had decided that the Partisans’ action was more than enough for them and had withdrawn from the town and regrouped outside. They had not finished with Monterotundo, however, and for the next hour unleashed their vengeance on the town by way of a fierce bombardment. The Municipal building was the target and shell after shell crashed on it or near it, but it withstood the onslaught and as the smoke cleared the Italian flag flew proudly at the top. Shortly after the shelling stopped one of the runners came from the town and told us that the Germans had withdrawn and were retreating, also that American tanks had been sighted in the vicinity. We dismantled the gun and went back to the house; everyone was excited and out came the vino. I left the house; I felt a little bewildered – all the strain of the last ten months had suddenly lifted and I was a little overcome; I just wanted to be by myself for a little while. I found one of the haystacks, which only a few hours ago had been a hiding place, and lay down in the straw with my thoughts, I pondered over all the events from September last – what of my eleven

[digital page 11]

friends who had left the PoW camp with me, probably now in Germany, and I realized I had been exceptionally lucky – maybe someone, somewhere, had been looking after me! I returned to the house, only to find that everybody had gone into the town – I set off to see if I could find some of my friends. It was well after midnight and as I neared the town the evidence of action by the Partisans was apparent, smouldering remains of vehicles and tanks were all over the place. The Germans had left their mark too – piles of rubbish and damaged buildings caused by the shelling. Rumours were going round that, in all, twelve tanks had been put out of action. Everywhere people were outside celebrating the German withdrawal. I found Edemondo at his brother’s butchers shop in a very merry state and I met up with the Russians – it was a night I will never forget. As dawn broke, the townsfolk were collecting the German dead and wounded. I was amazed to see the number of corpses – there must have been well over fifty. A group of Partisans who had followed the Germans when they had retreated North discovered that their engineers had laid wooden box mines on the road. They had managed to diffuse some but not all, consequently the advancing forces must be warned accordingly. Suddenly a shout went out “The Americans are here” and everybody rushed to the road to see Sherman tanks rumbling up towards the town. As they approached, the crowd went mad, cheering, shouting, crying and throwing flowers at the tanks. As the leading tank came up I could see by the badge on the front that it was none other than the famous King’s Royal Rifles and I flagged him down. As it stopped a young lieutenant looked down at me from the turret. “Hold it,” I said, “there are wooden box mines half a mile up right across the road. The Jerries laid them last night before they left.” “Are there, by Jove,” he replied, adding “you speak bloody good English”. “I should Sir, “I said, “I lived in England for twenty years!”

And so it was all over. I owed a lot to Francesco, Nevino, the Partisans and the people of Monterotundo; neither could I ever forget the Pasquarelli family of Moricone and all my friends there who had done so much to help me from September to March. I returned with my wife to Italy in September 1949 to renew acquaintances, sadly too late – Francesco had died from cancer two weeks previously. We called on Nevino and his family – he was delighted to see us and he insisted we stopped for the rest of the day at his house when lots of people who remembered me came in to see us. We visited the ravine and saw the grotto, which brought back many memories for me. Again in 1987 we returned. Nevino, now 83 and living with his wife in retirement on the outskirts of the town was so pleased to see us and we spent the whole afternoon chatting over old times. I am now almost seventy and I felt I must go once more to Moricone and Monterotundo whilst I was still fit to travel, so, in May 1989 we came again. Alas, Nevino had had a heart attack in March and had died. I was very upset and I wondered just how many people in the town really knew what sort of man they had lost. He with his friend and leader, Francesco Zuccheri, surely must be recorded in the annals of Monterotundo as two of the greatest men of the Century.

[digital page 12]

[Map covering area of PG54 and Moricone and Monterotundo.]

[digital pages 13-14]

[Photo with caption]
At 8 am on November 18th 1943, I with two other PoWs was sitting in this capanna (hut) about three miles from Moricone. Suddenly three German soldiers burst in and collared us. Whilst they were searching the capanna we ran for it – John and Percy, up the hill, making for the nearby woods and me hurtling across the vineyard, making for a river bed offering cover. The Germans opened fire on us, hitting Percy in the shoulder. John turned and surrendered. I carried on running and whilst under cover of the vines, dived into this fig furnace. Ten seconds later, I saw through the hole a German running down the hill yelling ‘Halt!’. I got away with it that time!
Photo taken September 1949.

[digital pages 15-16]

[Photo with caption]
Paso Carese
The station of Fara Sabina
The gates of the level crossing are up
In 1949 they had just started rebuilding the village
In 1989 Paso Carese is a big town and a large motorway -part of the Via Salaria – bypasses the town.
September 1949

[digital pages 17-18]

[Photo with caption]
Just behind where these women are standing was the entrance to No. 1 compound. Just further on was the parade ground and beyond that, down the steep slope, were the huts erected between March and July. When we returned in September 1949 there was no sign of any of our huts. Soon after Rome was relieved the locals knocked them down and pinched all the bricks to rebuild Caro Carese which was totally destroyed by bombing in 1943-4.
September 1949

[digital pages 19-20]

[photo with caption]
November 18th 1943
My fig furnace!!
(About 200 yards from the capana)
(No sign of it – or the capanna – when we returned in 1987)
Photo taken September 1949]

[digital pages 21-22]

[Photo with caption]
PG 54 Fara Sabina, No. 1 compound
In the foreground, the footpath between the two wires where 2000 hungry PoWs used to tramp twice a day on roll call.

[digital pages 23-24]

[Photo with caption]
PG 54 Fara Sabina, No. 1 compound
The sentries’ quarters and the magazines – these are now all gone.
And the new town of Santa Maria stands here.
September 1949

[digital page 25-26]

[Photo with caption]
PG 54 Fara Sabina, No. 1 compound
Just the foundations remain – but, believe it or not, we found some punctured ‘Klim’ tins lying around.
September 1949

[digital pages 27-28]

[Photo with caption]
PG 54 Fara Sabina, No. 1 compound
The sentries’ quarters.
Still standing and in a good state of repair – and occupied by civilians.
This whole area is now been developed and called Santa Maria.

[digital page 29-30]

[Photo with caption]
The station of Fara Sabina.
Situated in the village of Paso Carese (nearly 5 miles from the town of Fara Sabina) all PoWs in PG 54 thought this was Fara Sabina!
The original station was flattened by flying fortresses in 1944 and slowly rebuilt in 1949.
See the station name board ? – Fara S.
May 1989

[digital pages 31-32]

[Photo with caption]
Monterotundo (May 1987)
The building on the right is the new police station. In June 1944 the partisans destroyed several ‘Tiger’ tanks in this main road by tossing ‘Molotov’ cocktails on the tanks from the top of the buildings.
May 1987

[digital pages 33-34]

[Photo with caption]
Old Moricone – some of these buildings are nearly 2000 years old. I knew my way around here in 1943/4!!)
May 1989

[digital pages 35-36]

[Photo with caption]
Monterotundo
Nevino and his wife. The Town Hall in the background – target for German artillery June 6th/7th 1944.
Sunday October 4th 1987
Nevino de Angelina and his wife – died of a heart attack in March 1989.
He had been Mayor of Monterotundo and Chief of Police.

[digital pages 37-38]

[Photo with caption]
From Monteflavio – Moricone Road (new town built after 1960) on left.
Monte Libretti on right.
Friday October 2nd 1987
October 1987

[digital pages 39-40]

[Photo with caption: October 1987]
The Bridge. Just outside Moricone on Monteflavia Road.
Friday October 2nd 1987.
The villagers from Moricone brought food to the hungry PoWs and met them at the bridge. On Sunday September 19th 1943 suddenly lorryloads of Germans turned up – panic stations! They searched around for about three hours and caught loads of PoWs.

[digital pages 41-42]

[photo with caption]
The monastery of Santa Maria della Grazie seen from the Nerola-Montorio road.
The village of Scandriglia in centre, the Monastery front right.
2nd October 1977

[digital pages 43-44]

[photo with caption]
Angelino’s house about a couple of kilometres from Monterotundo and not far from the ravine
Bert – came for the ride!!
Remo – Interpreter
Angelino – Ex-partisan
Me – Enrico!
Ugo – Newspaper reporter
May 1989

[digital pages 45-46]

[photo with caption]
The Dispersal Point September 11th 1943.
The ‘Bridge’ was near the quarry which was not there in 1943!)
Montefalco – where hundreds, if not thousands of PoWs dispersed on September 12th. A couple of miles up the river bed was the small, very poor village of Monteflavio. The Germans started rounding up the PoWs on Sunday September 19th.
October 1987

[digital pages 47-48]

[Photo with caption]
The level crossing at the station Fara Sabina in the now town of Paso Carese.
“There’s a train load of parcels down the station – Wunnaman!!”
May 1989

Connect with us via Facebook or email - info@msmtrust.org.uk