This is the fourth part in a series of posts concerning Italians who served as agents for I.S.9 (Intelligence School 9 of the Central Mediterranean Force).

I.S.9′s chief mission was support and rescue of escaped POWs and evaders (E&Es) stranded in enemy territory. I.S.9 was a division of M.I.9 (British Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 9), a department of the War Office during WW II.

I am grateful to researcher Brian Sims for providing access to his collection of I.S.9 files from the British National Archives for this series.

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Antonio Stasolla

Born January 28, 1920 at Santeramo (Bari Province).

Antonio was a bricklayer at Castellaneta. He was called up to serve in the Army on March 12, 1940. He served in the infantry and joined the parachutists.

He held a parachutist’s Tessera di Riconoscimento (identity card).

He served in Italy, Croatia (for two months), and Sicily. At Armistice, he was in Calabria with the Nembo Division of the Italian Army. He volunteered for A Force service, and joined N Section at Palese in the capacity of para-guide on December 11, 1943.

He was issued a false Carta d’Identita for Foggia in the name Antonio Stasi, muratore.

He ceased to be employed on May 15, 1945 because of lack of work due to conclusion of hostilities. He was paid off by Field Headquarters and sent to Bari on May 16, and then to proceed to Taranto for four weeks leave. Thereafter he was to report to the Italian authorities.

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This is the third part in a series of posts concerning Italians who served as agents for I.S.9 (Intelligence School 9 of the Central Mediterranean Force).

I.S.9′s chief mission was support and rescue of escaped POWs and evaders (E&Es) stranded in enemy territory. I.S.9 was a division of M.I.9 (British Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 9), a department of the War Office during WW II.

Thanks to researcher Brian Sims for access to his archives of I.S.9 files from the British National Archives.

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Ernesto Petrucci

Born on February 27, 1915 in San Marcello.

Ernesto was a woodcutter at Abetone. He was called to the Italian Army in 1938, but left the army in 1939 because of a knee injury. He joined “Gino Bozzi” Brigade (a unit, apparently operating in the Apennines of Pistoia, of the “Garibaldi” partisan brigades)—Ospedale—in May 1944.

Ernesto had intimate knowledge of the region from Modena to Pistoia. He spoke French. He held a true identity card for Abetone.

He was employed by Captain McGibbon Lewis, No. 5 Field Section, as an agent/guide on January 10, 1945. His name during employment was Didon. No false identification was issued to him.

He ceased to be employed on April 27, 1945 because his services were no longer required due to the Allied advance. After being paid off, he returned to his home.

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This is the second part in a series of posts concerning Italians who served as agents for I.S.9 (Intelligence School 9 of the Central Mediterranean Force).

I.S.9’s chief mission was support and rescue of escaped POWs and evaders (E&Es) stranded in enemy territory in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. I.S.9 was a division of M.I.9 (British Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 9), a department of the War Office during WW II.

Thanks to researcher Brian Sims for access to his archives of I.S.9 files from the British National Archives.

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Giovanbattista Marcus

Born in Azzano Decimo (Udine province) on March 12, 1920.

Giovanbattista was raised in Azzano, where he worked on his uncle’s farm. He was called up to serve in 1940 in the 17th sector of the Guardia Frontiera (border guard). He transferred to the Italian Army parachutists in 1941, but did not serve outside Italy. He was in Calabria with Nembo division of the Paracadutisti at the time of the Armistice.

Giovanbattista volunteered for special service from the Italian Army in December 1943.

He knew the whole area of Veneto fairly well and Udine area very well. He served in the province of Vercelli for about a year.

His employment with N Section, Advance Headquarters of A Force began on December 7, 1943. He served as an agent/guide who whose name during employment was Battista.

He was issued the following false document: Carta d’Identita – Comune de Spilimbergo, Marcus G. Battista, agricoltore

His employment with I.S.9 ceased on October 31, 1944, and was returned to his regiment in Bari on November 2.

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Peter Grillo’s son Roy believes this photograph of 26 cheerful servicemen was taken shortly after their liberation from German captors on March 25, 1945. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Roy writes, “I had been looking for this for a while, but now I am trying to recollect where it was taken. If memory serves me correctly this is the group of POW’s in my dad’s building that were taken to the Army Medical Hospital for recuperation after getting free from the compound. I hope others might find themselves in this image.

“My father is bottom center with moustache and big smile.”

After his capture at Kasserine Pass, Peter Grillo was held on Sicily and then in Camp 59. The U.S. National Archives WW II POW database indicates he was repatriated from Stalag 2B Hammerstein. I assume the other men in the photo were also freed from Stalag 2B.

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Peter Grillo shown after liberation and much later in his life.

See also and “Peter Grillo—Surgery ‘Sans Anesthetic’” and “Peter Grillo—Captive.”

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Patrick F. Shea, Jr. (left) with a fellow sergeant.

I heard from David Shea, Staff Sergeant Patrick F. Shea, Jr.’s youngest brother, last month.

Pat died at the age of 19 when the B-24 bomber he served on, the Fyrtle Myrtle, was shot down over Pietragalla, Italy on July 16, 1943. See “B-24 Bomber Fyrtle Myrtle Discovered.”

David sent me a packet of photos, letters, and other documents to scan, which I am sharing here. I am pleased to offer this post as a tribute to Pat.

Here are comments from David:

“My brother, S/Sgt. Patrick F. Shea, Jr. was born on March 15, 1924 in Lowell, Massachusetts. He and my dad shared the same birthday.

“My dad, mom, Pat, and Charlie lived in Billerica, Massachusetts, and later moved to Boston. Then the family moved to Easton, Massachusetts.

“Pat and I were very close. Even though there was a six-year age difference, he used to carry me around on his shoulders almost wherever he went.

“In Easton, we lived about six miles from the nearest town and had 50 acres of land. There were no houses within a mile. It was a great place for hunting and fishing. When it came to hunting, I thought I was a fair shot but Pat could hit more from the hip than I could from my shoulder.

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This is the first of what will be a series of posts concerning Italians who served as agents for I.S.9 (Intelligence School 9 of the Central Mediterranean Force).

The chief task of I.S.9 was support and rescue of escaped POWs and evaders (E&Es) stranded in enemy territory in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. I.S.9 was a division of M.I.9 (British Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 9), a department of the War Office during WW II.

I am grateful to researcher Brian Sims for allowing me access to his documentation of I.S.9 files from the British National Archives.

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Emidio Liverani

Born in Faenza on October 14, 1920.

Before the war, Emidio worked with his father in agriculture. In 1941 he was called up for service in the Italian Army and served in the Italian-Yugoslav frontier. In September 1943 he returned home, and in November he joined the partisans in Romagna.

In October 1944 Emidio joined I.S.9 No. 5 Field Section. The name he used while working for I.S.9 was Antonio Fadolfi.

He was employed by Captain McGibbon Lewis in the capacity of guide from October 9 to December 22, 1944. At that time he was paid off and given a pass to return home.

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Private First Class George A. Payne

I received an e-mail on May 27 from Julie Payne Williams. Julie wrote she began an archive of the WW II experiences of her father, George Payne, in spring 2003. He passed away in December 2003.

George Payne was a prisoner in Camp 59.

Julie sent me a transcript of an interview she did with her father, photos of him, and documents pertaining to his capture and internment as a POW.

Julie asked whether I might be able to provide information on the Italian civilians who helped her father, the Tirabassi family.

“The Tirabassi family lived in Comunanza,” Julie wrote. “Dad could only remember the name of the father (Francesco, called Paco) and the oldest daughter, Maria. Paco had a wife and a younger daughter also. Maria was around 18—only a year younger than my dad—and a younger (blonde) daughter was around 11.

“Dad always wondered which members of the family, if any, survived the war. He carried around a lot of guilt his entire life from not knowing if they survived or, if they didn’t, if they were killed for helping him.

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Raimondo Illuminati at the site of the Sidney Seymour Smith memorial plaque.

Tenna Valley Freedom Trail Walk activities last month included the installation, on May 10, of a plaque in memory of British soldier Sidney Seymour Smith on the road outside the village of Montelparo where Sidney was shot to death. Sidney was known to the Italians as “Giorgio.”

See “Sidney Seymour Smith—A Mystery Solved” and “Sidney Seymour Smith—the Interviews.”

Just prior to the unveiling of the plaque, Raimondo Illuminati, who as a boy knew Sidney, spoke about his memory of him at the Montelparo town hall.

I am grateful to Anne Copley for her translation of the speech from Italian into English. Anne’s comments are in brackets.

Raimondo Illuminati’s Speech

“8th September 1943; church bells were ringing in all the villages, the Armistice had been declared between Badoglio’s Italy and the Anglo-American troops. In our district, at Servigliano, there was a concentration camp; the gates were opened and the prisoners were free. It seemed it was over, the war which had not touched us, which had taken place far from our peaceful lives. But it ended up in our houses, with the immediate occupation by the Germans, endorsed by the Salo Republic. The prisoners, once free, took refuge in our countryside, welcomed with love into our homes. And indeed our own soldiers were prisoners in their lands.

“One of these prisoners was called, or at least he gave himself the name GIORGIO. He was an English soldier. He took refuge in the contrada Santa Maria di Montelparo with the family “Ndunucciu” [Italian peasant families had a real name and then a nickname—it seems likely this was the nickname for the Mazzoni family], adjacent to the Tirabassi elementary school. I was seven years old and went to the primary class, I remember Giorgio because sometimes he came to our school when the master was away, and he read us books and stories. Giorgio was “a boy” [I’m not sure how to translate ragazzo, which literally means “boy” but here seems to have a deeper significance], about thirty-six years old, tall, slender, blond with blue eyes. He was always smiling and he was very dear to us, we always behaved well and kept quiet whilst he was reading to us. But one day the brutality of war took him away. One day in March he received a visit from three individuals—“friends” they called themselves, but they were two Germans and a local Fascist and they slaughtered him, unloading into him forty machine-gun bullets. This unhappy event happened north of the contrada Santa Maria and right next to the house of Paolo Traini (Cucurre). I passed that way the next morning and saw signs of his blood and fragments of his body on the edge of the road. He was accompanied to the cemetery by a large cortege, and by all us schoolboys to give him a final farewell.”

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A wreath-laying ceremony in Monte San Martino, Italy, during the Freedom Trail Walk in September 2013.

A Tenna Valley Freedom Trail Walk sponsored by WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society and Monte San Martino Trust is scheduled for May 7–12. The annual walks, begun in 2001, retrace routes taken by Allied escapers and evaders caught in enemy territory in Italy during World War II.

The last Freedom Trail walk was held just seven months ago, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the September 1943 Italian armistice and the subsequent escape of prisoners from camps across central and northern Italy.

The walks are dedicated to the people of the Italian countryside, the contadini, who, at great risk to themselves and their families, provided shelter, food, clothing, and medical assistance to the young Allied servicemen.

This year’s walk will cover approximately 80 kilometers and include visits to the villages of Monte San Martino, Massa Fermana, Montappone, Montelparo, Montalto delle Marche, Monte Urano, Fermo, and Porto San Georgio.

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A shady rest during the Freedom Trail Walk last September.

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Program cover for the first Freedom Trail Walk, 2001.

An interesting report from the British National Archives documents investigations carried out in January 1948 by Captain C. Hillman and a second investigator referred to only as Mr. Suesserott.

The report contains recommendations for further action, including interviews that might lead to crucial new evidence and war crimes prosecutions.

Much of the Hillman/Suesserott report concerns the execution of four British and two American escaped prisoners of war in Comunanza, likely by members of the “Hettinger Group” of the Brandenberg Regiment.

The rest of the report lists seven instances of killings possibly attributable to the “Bansen Group” of the same regiment. These incidents include the killings of Sidney Seymour Smith, and Robert Alvey Newton and Martin Majeski.

My access to this investigations document is courtesy of researcher Brian Sims. I asked Brian about the “SEE” listing of these war crimes. He answered, “As with most series of UK files each department had their own particular set of references. These were later rationalised when gathered together in the WO series.”

Here is the full report:

The Investigations Report

Report on investigations carried out by Captain C. HILLMAN and Mr. SUESSEROTT covering the period from 8 Jan 48 till 29 Jan 48.

On 8 Jan 48 we proceeded from this H.Q. to investigate the deaths of Allied PoWs who were shot in Italy in May 1944. (SEE/88 and SEE/72). On 10 Jan 48 I contacted the British I.O. [Intelligence Officer] at MUNICH in an effort to get a certain REISCHEL, a former police officer in CARINTHIA who is wanted by the Austrian Authorities for various crimes committed by himself and his men against Austrian Partisans, arrested and extradited. This was met with some difficulty which was finally overcome by Mr. SUESSEROTT and the arrest of REISCHEL was effected approx. 14 days later by German Police acting on U.S. Mil. Govt. [Military Government] instructions. By way of MANNHEIM, FRANKFURT and HANNOVER I reached HAMBURG where I immediately started to make inquiries regarding the whereabouts of the former members of the BRANDENBURG Regt., such WEHLAN, LIEBHARD (or LIPPHART) and UNRAU. I was able to obtain particulars, of several persons whom I later interviewed. With the exception of WEHLAN and Hans ULRICH all persons were not identical with our traces and were set free after a short interrogation.

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