“…one thing is essential, namely a stout heart.”

A bulletin of tips for escapers and evaders (E&Es) behind enemy lines in Italy was issued from the “N” Section unit of “A” Force C.M.F. (Central Mediterranean Force) in February 1944.

This “most secret” document was evidently intended for agents involved in directly assisting E&Es behind the lines. Agents were to read the document and later use the information in coaching E&Es one-on-one in how to avoid capture and find their way to freedom.

The following three paragraphs from the “I.S.9 History—Organization” post will help to clarify the organization of “A” Force as it evolved during the war.

“In order not to confuse the reader more than is necessary it is explained that M.I.9 [British Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 9] work in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations first started early in 1941 and was carried out by ‘A’ Force, commanded by Lt-Col [lieutenant-colonel] (later Brigadier) D.W. CLARKE, CBE. A few months later, ‘N’ Section was set up in Cairo as a separate Section of ‘A’ Force and Major (later Lieut-Col) A.C. SIMONDS, OBE, placed in charge of all M.I.9 duties in the Mediterranean Command.

“On the 1st November 1943 ‘N’ Section ‘A’ Force was divided into EAST and WEST, Lt-Col. A.C. SIMONDS being placed in charge of ‘N’ Section ‘A’ Force (EAST) and S/Ldr [Squadron Leader] (later W/Cdr [wing commander]) E.A. DENNIS, OBE, placed in charge of ‘N’ Section ‘A’ Force (WEST).

“On the 20th August 1944 responsibility for M.I.9 work in the Mediterranean Theatre passed from ‘A’ Force and became the responsibility of G-2 (P/W) AFHQ. ‘N’ Section ‘A’ Force title was changed and became I.S.9 [Intelligence School 9], the initials (ME) and (CMF) indicating (East) and (West) respectively.”

Therefore, “N” Section is essentially synonymous with I.S.9.

I am most grateful to researcher Brian Sims for sharing access to this bulletin from the British National Archives, as well as I.S.9 documents that give the bulletin fuller context.

There is the bulletin in its entirety:

MOST SECRET
OFFICER ONLY

‘N’ SECTION
Adv. H.Q. “A” Force
c/o No. 2 District H.Q.
C.M.F.

10th February, 1944.

BULLETIN NO. 21

The following are a few hints to Escapers and Evaders in Italy. They are the suggestions of an “A” Force Officer who, out of less than five months service in Italy spent more than three of them behind enemy lines. They are comments by an officer who spent many months with “A” Force patrols operating behind Rommel’s lines in the Western Desert and at one time he escaped from Tortorette Prison Camp after having been taken prisoner.

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During WW II, the British and American Red Cross societies recognized that families who received notification of their sons’ capture would be in need comfort.

In times of war, that comfort was best provided by straightforward information on the conditions in prison camps.

The following items from the August and October American Red Cross bulletins sent to families provide just that sort of information about Camp 59.

Thanks to Al Rosenblum for sharing these bulletins with me for the site.

Prisoners of War Bulletin—American Red Cross

August 1943

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Illustration: Bales and cases of clothing sent by the American Red Cross for prisoners of war are stored in bonded warehouses of the International Red Cross Committee awaiting rail transport from Switzerland to Axis camps.

Prisoner of War Camps in Italy—No. 59
By Frank Abbott

One of the largest prisoner of war camps in Italy is No. 59, situated near the ancient town of Ascoli Piceno, which before the war had a population of some 25,000. Ascoli Piceno lies in the valley of the river Tronto in mountainous country about 90 miles northeast of Rome in the direction of the Adriatic coast. Mountain peaks rising over 3,000 feet are visible to the north, west, and south of Camp No. 59. For many years before the war the Ascoli Piceno region was a popular one for tourists from other countries.

The latest information available, based on March of this year, shows that there were nearly 2,000 prisoners of war in Camp No. 59—mostly British, but including 445 Americans, of whom 77 were noncoms and 368 privates. All the prisoners had been captured in the North African campaign and had only recently arrived at Camp No. 59. The camp leader, at the time of the visit, was Sgt. Major Hegarty (British). Besides Camp No. 59, there is also a military hospital for American prisoners of war at Ascoli Piceno.

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The stunning Italian countryside near Servigliano.

Ed Cronin and his wife Susan of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, visited Servigliano in September in order to see the site of Camp 59, where Ed’s father, Clarence “Tom” Cronin, was a prisoner of war during WW II. (See “A Son’s Memories of Tom Cronin.”

Ed and Susan were guests of Anne Copley and David Runciman, who own a home in Montefalcone, not far from Servigliano.

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Left to right: David, Ed, Anne, and Susan heading for adventure.

I asked Ed to send me photos and to share some of his impressions of the visit for this site.

“The first thing that I was struck by was how isolated the camp was.” Ed told me. “It was way up in the mountain region. Even today, there is only one road that I know of that goes up the mountain and it is narrow and slow going. I can only imagine what it was like during the war era—probably little more than cart roads.

“I would think that being so far away could be very disheartening and challenging for a prisoner who wanted to escape. There must have been a tremendous contrast in weather from the hot summer season to the winter mountain weather. I can see why the local villagers played such a part in the survival of many who did escape.”

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In a 1976 interview I conducted with my father (American Sergeant Armie Hill, see “Recollection of Camps 98 and 59“), he spoke briefly of Cypriots in Camp 59 during the time he was interned there:

“This was a camp of mostly British men. There were some Americans and some ‘Cyps’—guys from Cyprus.”

It was a rare referral in a first-person account to Cypriots in the camp.

Red Cross reports, written following visits to the camp by inspectors, contain information on the Cypriot prisoners. As the last report I have access to is June 12, 1943, I can’t speculate on how many Cypriots were still in the camp at the time of the breakout on September 14, 1943.

International Red Cross Reports

Report of March 20, 1942—Cypriots are listed as present in the camp, however this report contains no numerical breakdown of the prisoners according to nationality

May 1, 1942 — 43 Cypriots of a total prison population of 1,931

June 3, 1942 — 43 Cypriots (4 noncommissioned officers and 36 men) of a total prison population of 1,927

July 10, 1942 — 43 Cypriots (1 noncommissioned officer and 42 men) of a total prison population of 1,850

September 11, 1942 – 43 Cypriots (1 noncommissioned officer and 42 men) of a total prison population of 1,859

November 16, 1942 — 41 Cypriots of a total prison population of 1,872

December 16, 1942 — 41 Cypriots (1 noncommissioned officers and 40 men) of a total prison population of 1,999

June 12, 1943 — 46 Cypriots (1 noncommissioned officers and 45 men) of a total prison population of 1,328

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Alberto Orlandi

On this website, there are several posts concerning Italians who served as agents with Allied I.S.9 operations (Intelligence School 9 of the Central Mediterranean Force) during the Second World War.

The case of Lieutenant Alberto Orlandi warrants special attention. Below is the description of his background from the I.S.9 files. Following that is a letter of recommendation from U.S. Army Air Force Captain R.W.B. Lewis for an American Bronze Star Medal for the Italian.

An I.S.9 response to the request follows his letter.

And, last of all, is the text of an unsigned memo of recommendation for a British decoration of M.B.E. [Member of the Order of the British Empire] for Lieutenant Orlandi. Although this letter does not bear a date, it does refer to the lieutenant’s service through July 1945 (whereas the Captain Lewis’ letter is dated January 1945.

I do not know if Alberti Orlandi in fact received either of these honors.

My thanks to Brian Sims for sharing this material from the British National Archives.

Alberto Orlandi

Lieutenant, Italian Army

Born November 2, 1919 at Citta della Pieve, Perugia Province

Alberto was educated at Citta della Pieve and Siena. He volunteered for service with the Italian Army in 1937 and served three years with the infantry, during which he was stationed on the French front. In 1940 he volunteered as a parachutist, received a course in parachutist training, and performed eleven drops. He served against the partisans in Croatia, and also in Sicily and Southern Italy during Allied invasion. Late in September 1943 he reported for service to Badoglio’s army.

In October 1943 Alberto volunteered for intelligence service and joined I.S.9 at Bari on December 2, 1943. He was employed by Captain R.W.B. Lewis (No. 5 Field Section, I.S.9) on January 12, 1944. He served in the capacity of an Italian staff officer. As he was attached to I.S.9 from the Italian Army, his pay was from the Italian Army.

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The following memorandum issued in April 1945 by A British deputy military secretary outline the types of awards that are available to foreign civilians.

Thanks to Brain Sims for access to this document, which is from the British National Archives.

CONFIDENTIAL

Allied Force Headquarters
April 11, 1945

Subject: Honours and Awards

Awards to Foreign Civilians

1. There are now 4 classes of Awards open to foreign civilians, as follows:-

(a) George Medal for outstanding and exceptional gallantry.

(b) OBE [Officer of the Order of the British Empire], MBE [Member of the Order of the British Empire], and BEM [British Empire Medal] for great gallantry or service.

(c) King’s Medal for gallantry or service.

(d) Certificate No. 17 (otherwise known as commendation).

Citations are required for all of the above.

2. The King’s Medal is a recent institution and is divided into 2 categories:-

(a) For courage in the cause of freedom, and

(b) For service to the cause of freedom.

These medals will not be struck until the end of the War, but ribbons will be made available at a later date.

3. Italians are not yet eligible for any of the Awards mentioned in paras. [paragraphs] above, but suitable recommendations may be forwarded and will be sent to the War Office to be held pending further decisions.

[signed]
G. H. Hunt,
Colonel,
A/Deputy Military Secretary.

The following letter recommending formal decoration of an Italian youth was sent to British authorities from “the field” of Italy in January 1944 by Captain B. G. McGibbon-Lewis, The Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment.

The letter is a moving tribute to 18-year-old Franco Scoletta, who valiantly served I.S.9 (‘A’ Force) in escaped POWs rescue operations.

The document, from the British National Archives, is courtesy of Brian Sims.

Franco Scoletta

This Italian boy of 18 has worked with me since September 15th, 1943, up until December 1st, 1943. I picked him, whilst escaping from German-occupied ITALY, on the train from ANCONA to PESCARA. He told me he was disgusted with ITALY and the inhabitants and his one object was to reach and work for the BRITISH in whatever capacity they saw fit. When I was enrolled as a temporary member of ‘A’ Force I brought him with me. I arranged he should be paid 2000 Lire a month and he could receive 1000 Lire per P/W as arranged for all ITALIAN agents on operation SIMCOL. He has refused to accept any of this on the grounds that his motives are not financial. He accompanied Major McKEE, M.C. and myself on our first operation for 14 days and proved himself to be of invaluable assistance. He showed no fear when crossing the lines and was willing to do anything we asked of him. Frequently he had to approach ‘doubtful’ ITALIANS and he never refused any order or request given him. On our return we went to GULIONESE to pull thorough the lines the P/Ws we had left on the other side. SCOLETTA went through again and was responsible for some twenty to thirty getting through safely. He was captured by the GERMANS with 5 P.O.Ws, and by driving into a WADI not only escaped himself but enabled the P/Ws to do so as well. He then returned with a sprained knee to me with four P/Ws. Within two days he was back the other side again and succeeded in liberating the remains of an American Bomber crew. On each of these occasions he brought back Military Information of great use which I handed on to 36 Brigade, this included details of gun positions and mines on that front.

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This is the fifth 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 allowing me access to his collection of British National Archives I.S.9 files.

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Ezio Terrizzano

Born November 2, 1913 at San Bartolomeo del Cervo, Imperia Province. Ezio was a lieutenant in the Italian army (artillery) in Libya until April 1942, and thereafter he served in Italy until the armistice. He spoke French and English fairly well. (He could make himself understood).

Ezio was attached for duty with I.S.9 by the Italian High Command. He was employed by Field Section No. 1 in the capacity of liaison discipline at the Bari headquarters.

He ceased to be employed on May 22, 1945, as his services were no longer required due to conclusion of hostilities. He proceeded to Milan on May 23 for 21 day’s leave, after which he was to report to the Italian authorities.

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This news article from the London area Ham&High newspaper is provided by Anne Copley. It’s the touching story of a contact made between the family of POW Sydney Swingler, known to the Italians as “Antonio,” and his Italians protectors, the Antognozzi family.

Family trace Italians who sheltered their father from fascists
Brave peasants risked their lives to help soldier Sydney

By Tom Marshall
Ham&High, London, UK
hamhigh.co.uk

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The familes of a Second World War soldier from Kentish Town and the Italian peasants who risked their lives to save him have been united after 70 years.

The children of Sydney Swingler have made contact with the Antognozzi family, who protected their father for several months during the war, after an amateur historian and the Ham&High helped bring them together.

Sydney was among the thousands of fighters who fled prisoner-of-war camps after Italy signed an armistice with the Allies in September 1943, then took refuge with Italian peasants as the countryside remained in turmoil.

Delighted

He was sheltered by the Antognozzi family in the Italian village of Montelparo, where they still live, before eventually making it back across Allied lines and returning to his Kentish Town home.

Sydney’s son Colin Swingler, 64, one of four siblings born at the former family home in Highgate Road after the war, said he was delighted to make contact with the Antognozzi family, who had risked their lives to look after his father.

He said: “If the Germans or Italian fascists had found dad, they could have been killed along with him.

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Exhibit G.4 in a report of the British military’s Special Investigation Branch inquiry into the execution of six servicemen at Comunanza, Italy, is captioned, “Photograph at Comunanza showing alleged scene of crime.”

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Exhibit G.2 is captioned, “Photograph showing position of Communal Grave where six deceased were originally buried.”

This post contains a draft report of the British Special Investigation Branch (SIB) into the deaths of six Allied servicemen (four English and two American) in Comunanza on May 2, 1944.

The creation of the draft followed an extensive investigation by the SIB. It traces a likely scenario of events that preceded the killings, and speculates on who the soldiers were.

After the draft report is an October 1944 special report of the Graves Registration Unit (GRU). The six bodies were removed by the GRU from the vault where they had been buried and carefully examined in an attempt at identification.

More information on the Comunanza incident and the activities of the Brandenburg Division will follow on this site. Once again I am grateful to researcher Brian Sims for drawing my attention to these and other important documents from the British National Archives.

See also “The Brandenburgers—War Crimes Investigations.”

The Draft Report

SECRET. DRAFT.

H.Q., ‘A’ Group, 60 Section.
Special Investigation Branch,
c/o A.P.M’s Office, 61 Area,
Central Mediterranean Forces.

SUBJECT:- Alleged War Crime against six allied escaped prisoners of war at COMUNANZA on 2 May, 1944.

Two of the deceased believed to be:
(a) No.2935269, Pte. GORDON, Charles.
(b) No.T/3052152, Dvr. DIDCOCK, James.

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