Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello

Many of the stories on this site concerning the protection of escaped POWs describe the brave actions of the contadini, the poor farmers of central Italy.

But people from other strata of Italian society were also involved in the rescue of escapees and evaders. Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello, the son of R. Ranieri Bourbon del Monte, Marquis of Sorbello, and of Romeyne Robert, an American, is one example of an aristocrat and scholar who lent his expertise and means to the cause of rescuing these stranded soldiers.

A document recommending an award for Uguccione, now in the British National Archives (provided by researcher Brian Sims), has this to say about Uguccione’s service:

“From early November, 1943 until June, 1944 this officer worked behind the lines organising the escape of Allied P/W and showed great personal courage and disregard of danger. On one occasion when the land escape route was disrupted due to enemy vigilance and activity he successfully arranged the evacuation by fishing boat of 27 P/Ws. He was constantly aware of the atrocities committed against P/W by the Germans and Fascists and did all in his power to alleviate the plight of these prisoners. Through the partisans he pursued the originators of these atrocities and saw to it that a number met a proper fate. His energy and extreme loyalty was an inspiration to the many Italian soldiers who worked alongside him.”

In 1945, Uguccione was decorated with a silver medal for valor—and, in 1949, a Ministry of Defense bronze medal—for his rescue and recovery involvement.

I am grateful to Uguccione’s son, Professor Ruggero Ranieri, for allowing me to share on this site the following paper about his father.

The role of Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello in the operations of the Ratline (Marche and Abruzzi)

1. Sources used

There are two main sources on the history of the Adriatic coast Ratline, which was active between December 1943 and June 1944. One consists of the documents of IS9 itself, which are kept at the NA in Kew Garden. The documentation is fairly vast, but there are two important files covering the key events: Major Fillingham’s report and the Newsletter of IS9 itself, printed every fortnight with news from the various battle fronts, or better from the various Field Section in which A-Force was divided.

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Spartaco Perini enters the Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo in Ascoli Piceno on the day of the Allied liberation of the city, June 18, 1944

Late last month I received from Pietro Perini, the son of I.S.9 agent Lieutenant Spartaco Perini, a short biography of his father. That biography is below, in Italian paragraphs alternating with English translation.

Nato in Ascoli Piceno il 23.12.1919.

Spartaco Perini was born in Ascoli Piceno on December 23, 1919.

Dopo aver terminato il Corso di Allievi Ufficiali a Bassano del Grappa, nel 1941 viene mandato in Grecia dove rimane per circa un anno e mezzo sul Canale di Corinto, con il compito di sorvegliare il ponte sul Canale. Faceva parte della Divisione Julia.

In 1941, after finishing the cadet course in Bassano del Grappa, he was sent to Greece, where he remained for about 18 months on the Corinth Canal, with the task of guarding the bridge over the canal. He was part of the Division Julia.

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Captain L.C. Giovanni Nebbia

Over the past several months, I have exchanged a number of e-mails with Annelisa Nebbia, whose father, Captain L.C. Giovanni Nebbia, was involved in the Adriatic coast rescue of Allied POWs during the war.

Annelisa explained, “My father was a sea-captain and his missions were mainly sea missions. His movements as a “helper” took place in the province of Ascoli Piceno and in Southern Italy, precisely in the area including the towns of Termoli, Manfredonia, and Vieste situated along that coast.

“According to his personal diary, I know that he came into contact with the Eighth Army stationed in Italy. In particular, on 5th October 1943 under the command of an American officer of the A.M.G.O.T. [Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories] he brought food and supplies to the Tremiti Islands off the south-east coast of Italy during an operation that’s aim was to save the fishing-fleet of my town, which would certainly be seized by the Germans who were due to arrive the next morning at 7 a.m.

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Sergeant Tom Lockett, posing while an ammunitions instructor for his parachute regiment

I heard this week from Robert Maddocks, the chairman of the Penkridge (Staffordshire, England) local history group. He explained that he was contacting me on behalf of Josie Shemwell, daughter of Frederick Thomas Lockett, a sergeant with the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment.

Tom Lockett was captured in North Africa on December 2, 1942 and he escaped from P.G. 59 in September 1943.

Tom’s repatriation record is given on “Detailed Accounts of 14 British Escapees.” After escaping, Tom was sheltered and fed by the family of farmer Francesco Vallorani of Montefalcone, Italy from September 20 to November 14.

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Actor Stanley Dawson (left), who played the role of General Archibald Wavell in Hands Up! For You the War Is Ended discusses a scene with artistic director Peter Cheeseman

I sent a note to the New Vic Theatre after publishing my initial post about their 1971 production of Hands Up! For You The War Is Ended.” I was interested in what had become of the interview tapes made during creation of the play.

A warm response came from Romy Cheesemen, who was married to creative director Peter Cheeseman. Since his death in 2010, she has been acting as honorary archivist of the Victoria Theatre Archive held at Staffordshire University’s Thompson Library (Special Collections).

She wrote, “Peter would be so gratified to know that his documentary work with local people still has resonance today. He always believed that people’s personal stories and experiences were important and that a theatre subsidised by its own community should find ways of valuing local people and celebrating their stories. Having lived through the war as a boy, Hands Up was Peter’s favourite of the 11 documentaries that his company created. For him it was an unforgettable experience meeting and talking with those ex-POWs and their families, and one that he valued all his life.”

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This is the last of three news articles from the Evening Sentinel (Stoke-on-Trent, England) covering a 1995 revival of the New Vic Theatre’s 1971 original musical documentary, Hands Up! For You the War Is Ended.

See also “Hands Up—For You the War Is Ended!,” “More on the Camp 59 Theatre Subjects,” “Prisoners of Experience,” and “Revived Play ‘the Voice of a Community’.”

Captions for newspaper photos.

Bill Armitt of Scholar Green in captured by Rommel at Fort Mechili in North Africa (top image), and Laura Beckford and Nicola Wainwright as the fortune teller and Gladys Bayley (above left) Neil Hulse, photographer

Jack ‘Jock’ Attrill (above right)

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This is the second of three news articles from the Evening Sentinel (Stoke-on-Trent, England) covering a 1995 revival of the New Vic Theatre’s 1971 original musical documentary, Hands Up! For You the War Is Ended.

See also “Hands Up—For You the War Is Ended!,” “More on the Camp 59 Theatre Subjects,” and “Prisoners of Experience.”

Captions of newspaper photos:

Daniel Tomlinson and Stefan Marling, who are to play the parts of Bill Armitt and Frank Bayley.

Bill Armitt as he is today. “Even though Bill is now 78, I can see how he was by the way he stands and what drives him,” says the actor who plays him as a young man.

Frank Bayley in uniform in 1940. Sadly, the Hartshill newsagent died a few years after the original production.

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The grave of Private William Edwards, Assisi War Cemetery

In May 1944, British Gunners Leslie Wilkins, Ernest Bellinger, and Kenneth Howarth; Private William Edwards; and two other POWs who had escaped from a camp near Spoleto hid together near the village of Roselli, Italy.

In time the fugitives were discovered and the hut where they were sleeping was raided in the night by a band of fascists and German soldiers. William Edwards, was killed during the attack, and two others were wounded.

On June 3, 1946, Leslie Wilkins was interviewed by the Criminal Investigation Department of the Birmingham City Police, apparently in cooperation with a Judge Advocate General’s war crimes investigation into the case. That testimony was presented in an earlier post on this site, War Crimes—the Killing of William Edwards.

Late last week, I received a note from Janet Kinrade Dethick, a WW II researcher who lives in the Italian region of Umbria. She wrote, “I would like to update you on the research I have been doing on Private Edwards, who is buried in Assisi War Cemetery.

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A recent post on this site was dedicated to a 1971 theatrical production of the Victoria Theatre (Stoke-on-Trent, England) entitled Hands Up! For You the War Is Ended.

The musical documentary was based on the real-life experiences of several Staffordshire WW II ex-POWs.

Nigel Armitt’s father, Bill Armitt, was one of those veterans, and my access to the playbill for the production was courtesy of Nigel.

Nigel has since brought to my attention that in 1995 the theatre, now called the New Vic, staged a revival of the play to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE Day. Nigel sent three news clippings, from March and April 1995, which revisit the former troops’ stories and cover the play itself.

Here is the first of the three articles:

real life exploits of the brave PoWs who won their freedom

News In Focus
Evening Sentinel [Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England]
March 23, 1995

the prisoners of experiences…

A KNOCK on the door of a Gillow Heath house announced the return of a young, emaciated soldier.

It was the final leg of an amazing journey for Bill Armitt who escaped from a PoW camp by walking over the Alps – in a pair of dancing shoes strapped to his feet with string.

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Gino Antognozzi at age 24, July 27, 1950


The transcript of an interview with Gino Antognozzi that makes up this post is courtesy of Gino’s nephew Alfredo. The interview comes to me by way of Anne Copley, who translated the transcript from Italian into English.

Last summer Anne located the family of Sydney Harold Swingler, known to Gino’s family only as “Antonio” when they sheltered him during the war, and put the two families in contact with each other.

See “Swingler and Antognozzi Familes United.”

Gino Antognozzi lives with his wife Annunziata in Montelparo, a small town about 30 km. from the city of Fermo. He is 89 years old today.

Last summer, on being shown a photograph of Sydney Swingler, Gino immediately recognized him, saying: “It’s him, it’s Antonio.”

“Why Antonio didn’t write a letter, a postcard?” he asked. “I thought he had been killed in war, and he could not go back to England.”

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