indigo-soldier_r72

I received word today about an excellent short film available online.

The referral was from my friends at Associazione Salerno 1943—a group of Italian volunteers who are dedicated to investigation of WW II Allied plane crash sites in Italy, and to preservation of the memory of the airmen who lost their lives.

The film, A Soldier of the Second World War, (youtu.be/JSD5eBH9cAE) concerns Lieutenant Cornelius Cecil Geldard, an pilot of the South African Allied Forces of the Royal Air Force. His Spitfire fighter was shot down over southern Italy on March 30, 1944. He died in the crash at the age of 32.

A Soldier of the Second World War was written, filmed, and directed by Vincenzo Campitiello and Letizia Musacchia, and was recently released by INDIGO sas.

The sensitively-crafted film is a beautiful tribute not only to Lieutenant Gelgard, but to all who lost their lives during the war, many of whom are buried far away in foreign soil.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cares for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations, in 154 countries.

There are many war cemeteries throughout Italy—ranging in size from Cassino, where 3,983 are buried, to communal cemeteries where a single soldier rests.

You can learn more about Lieutenant Gelgard and the recovery of the Spitfire in which he died on a page of the Salerno 1943 website, “Lo Spitfire JF879.” English speakers can access the page in English.

On this site, read also “Remembering Robert Dickinson.”

Robb-15-25-Jan-44

First page of Captain Robb’s seven-page periodic report

The transcription and notes in this post—a January 1944 “periodic report” filed by Captain Andrew Robb—are by Dr. Luigi Donfrancesco, nephew of I.S.9 agent Andrea Scattini.

Our original access to this document (from the British National Archives) was courtesy of researcher Brian Sims.

This document is a treasury of information, including details on operations and future plans, POWs and evaders recently brought across the lines, and a list of Italian agents at work for I.S.9 at the time.

In a remarkable passage of the report, Captain Robb refers to the outstanding service of these agents:

“In the performance of their extremely difficult and dangerous tasks, the incentive to turn back is great; the incentive to stay on the other side of the line is greater. And yet, of the nine most recently returned, two are hospital cases, three others are receiving daily medical attention. One walked for twenty-four hours through the snow, despite a case of malaria and a bullet wound; another crossed the [Mount] Maiella with a foot too swollen and infected to permit the wearing of a shoe. Only unusual loyalty and determination would produce such results, which, were it allied personnel, we believe would win them immediate military awards.”

Luigi Donfrancesco wrote, “This report gives a perfect idea of all the efforts and risks of rescue operations. It shows the excellent organizational capabilities of I.S.9 officers of the 8th Army and the tremendous job done by Italian agents and guides in helping and saving the POWs.

“We have to remember that winter 1943-1944 was particularly severe in that part of Italy and there was a lot of snow. That made harder the transfer at night and by foot of POWs across the front to the Allied lines.”

See additional I.S.9 reports at “I.S.9 Progress Reports for November 4–21, 1943,” “I.S.9 War Diary—November 17–20, 1943,” “I.S.9 Situation Report—November 3–4, 1943,” “I.S.9 War Diary—December 16–29, 1943,” and “I.S.9 Situation Report—November 12–13, 1943.”

For background information on Captain Andrew Robb, see “I.S.9 Officers—Biography.”

Some corrections in spelling have been made in the transcript below, including the corrected spelling of the comune of Paglieta for Paglietta; Alberto Pietrorazio’s name, which is spelled Pietrorazzo throughout the original document; and the comune of Manoppello, which is spelled Manopelle in the document.

MOST SECRET

PERIODIC REPORT OF No. 5 FIELD SECTION 15 Jan – 25 Jan [January 15–25, 1944].

Following the interrogation of my agent by 5th Corps on Jan 8, and the interest his information aroused, I have, whenever possible, supplied formations with such items of information as were of immediate interest to them. This finally culminated in 4 Ind. Div. [4th Indian Division] sending to me a Cpl. [Corporal] Bjorkman who was about to penetrate to find certain information required by them. Fortunately, as it happened I could give them some indication of where to look and a route through the enemy lines, one of those used by my agents. This was immediately followed by inquiries by 13th Corps; they were contacted. I returned to Lanciano. I was phoned and then told that some of my agents were at 13th Corps H.Q. [Headquarters] where they had been held for interrogation. This meant another visit to Corps at Paglieta and I foresaw that these calls for information, the holding back of agents for interrogation might get out of hands and seriously impede our only object – that of getting exP/Ws [ex prisoners of war] out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Luigi Donfrancesco, nephew of I.S.9 “A” Force agent Andrea Scattini, has discovered a number of online sites that offer information on six key I.S.9 officers.

These officers—Andrew Robb (New Zealand), Richard W. B. Lewis (United States), Bridges George McGibbon-Lewis (UK), Major John Francis Fillingham (UK), Major John Alec McKee (UK), and Raymond Lee Couraud (France)—are mentioned frequently in the official I.S.9 history and in I.S.9 situation reports and war diaries on this site.

The men were active in I.S.9 No. 5 Field Section operations along the the Adriatic coastline of Italy.

Captain Andrew Robb

An entry for Andrew Robb is included in unithistories.com, “British Army Officers, 1939–1945”:
http://www.unithistories.com/officers/Army_officers_R02.html

Here are a few details from that entry:

Born March 20, 1901 in Dunedin, New Zealand

Employed by the Colonial Service and lived in Malaya

Read the rest of this entry »

SITREP-Nov-12-13-1943-r72

A one page I.S.9 “SITREP” (situation report) for November 12–13, 1943

The transcription and notes in this post are by Dr. Luigi Donfrancesco, nephew of I.S.9 agent Andrea Scattini.

Access to this document (from the British National Archives) was courtesy of researcher Brian Sims.

See additional reports at “I.S.9 Progress Reports for November 4–21, 1943,” “I.S.9 War Diary—November 17–20, 1943,” “I.S.9 Situation Report—November 3–4, 1943,” and “I.S.9 War Diary—December 16–29, 1943.”

This report is particularly interesting in that it contains lists of POWs rescued on these two dates, including several from P.G. 59.

Read the rest of this entry »

IS9-report-Dec-16-29-1943-r72

First page of the I.S.9 “progress report” for December 16–29, 1943

The transcription and notes in this post are by Dr. Luigi Donfrancesco, nephew of I.S.9 agent Andrea Scattini.

Access to the war diary (from the British National Archives) was courtesy of researcher Brian Sims.

See additional reports at “I.S.9 Progress Reports for November 4–21, 1943,” “I.S.9 War Diary—November 17–20, 1943,” and “I.S.9 Situation Report—November 3–4, 1943.”

Here are a few abbreviations that occur in this report:

2 Para Bde – Second Paratroopers Brigade
8 Indian Div. or 8 Ind. Div. – Eighth Indian Division
A/Q – acquisition
AMGOT – Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories
Bde – brigade
B.M. – brigade major
DADOS – Deputy Assistant Director, Ordinance Services
ex P/W – ex-prisoner of war
F.S.S. – Field Security Service
H.Q. – headquarters
I.O. – Intelligence Officer or Information Officer
L/Cpl. – lance corporal
N.Z. Div. – New Zealand Division
Re – regarding
S.I.B. – Special Intelligence Branch/Bureau
sd – signed
Sect. – section

MOST SECRET
PROGRESS REPORT – No. 5 ‘A’ FORCE FIELD SECTION
16 DECEMBER – 29 DECEMBER, [19]43

Dec. 16: Visited DADOS at VASTO and on to CUPELLO. Contacted DADOS 8 Indian Div. Sgt. Gillespie maintained daily contact [with] H.Q. 8 Indian Div.

Dec. 17: LANCIANO: picked up agent ZOPITO [di Camillo] at CASALBORDINO. Visited 406 F.S.S. and AMGOT and S.I.B. re. civilian clothing. This was satisfactorily arranged. Sgt. Gillespie brought the news that Capt. LEWIS [Richard W. B. Lewis, U.S. Army Air Force] had come through.

Dec. 18: Clothing hunt. “Made my number” with G.III (I) 5 Div now in this area. Daily contact by Sgt. Gillespie with H.Q. 8 Indian Div.

Read the rest of this entry »

alphabetical-list-sm-r72

In 2013, researcher Brian Sims gave me access to his photographs of the complete contents of a booklet entitled Italy: Imperial Prisoners of War Alphabetical List, Section 1, British Army, which is archived at the British National Archives.

The Alphabetical List contains the names of thousands of British prisoners of war interned in Italian camps, apparently compiled in 1942 or the spring of 1943.

This post contains Alphabetical List soldiers K–M who were documented as P.G. 59 internees.

See also “The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers A–B,” “The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers C–F,” and “The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers G–J.”

A key to acronyms and abbreviations follows the list.

Page 72
Kaye, J. R. – Tpr. – 7885909 – R.A.C. – R.O. No.3
Keddie, D. J. T. – Cpl. – T/192321 – R.A.S.C. – R.O. No. 29
Kelley, J. P. – Cpl. – 552447 – R.A.S.C. – R.O. No. 3
Kelley, T. – Tpr. – 7904262 – R.A.C. – R.O. No. 3
Kempton, W. G. – Pte. – 5512026 – Hamp. – R.O. No. 23

Page 73
Kilby, V. Pte. – 7519659 – R.A.M.C. – R.O. No. 30
Killeen, C. – Pte. – 6012148 – Essex – R.O. No. 21
Kimpson, L. W. – Tpr. – 7885915 – R.A.C. – R.O. No. 3
King, A. G. – Gnr. – 1678811 – R.A. – R.O. No. 6
King, M. I. – Pte. – 2754828 – Bk. Watch – R.O. No. 16

Page 74
Kinsey, R. – Fus. – 14209862 – Innis. F. – R.O. No. 17
Kirby, J. – Drv. – T/121147 – R.A.S.C. – R.O. No. 29
Kirkland, R. – Tpr. – 7935537 – R.A.C. – R.O. No.3
Kitchener, A. E. – Gnr. – 1503096 – R.A. – R.O. No. 5
Knapman, P. A. – Tpr. – 7897305 – R.A.C. – R.O. No. 3
Knibbs, H. G. – Tpr. – 7912314 – R.A.C. – R.O. No. 3
Knowles, J. – Gdsm. – 2659152 – C.G. – R.O. No. 12

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elvira-lucci-r72
Roberto Lucci’s grandmother, Elvira Lucci (center), was 19 years old when her father sheltered a prison camp escapee in their home.

Roberto Lucci is an Italian who is attempting to find the family of an escaped prisoner who was sheltered by his grandfather in 1943–44.

Given the close proximity of his grandfather’s village, Petritoli, to Servigliano, Roberto believes the POW likely escaped from P.G. 59.

Roberto wrote (translated here into English from Italian), “I’m a young man from Petritoli, a village 15km from Servigliano.

“I have started to ask some of the elders who have fragmentary recollections of this man [for help]. I know that William and David are the first or last names.”

Roberto explained that the man’s last name might have been something similar to David—such as Davidson, Davison, Davis, or Davies.

Read the rest of this entry »

simmons-article-r72

I received a note early this month from Katy Bochetto, who wrote, “My grandfather was Charles K. Simmons.

“My Aunt, Trish Harper, submitted copies of the address book and calendar he kept while a POW.” See “Charles Simmons’ Calendar and Address Book” and “Charles Simmons’ 1943 Calendar.”

Katy’s mother, Margaret Simmons, was Charles’ oldest daughter.

In her note, Katy told me about Charles’ gold “300 game” bowling ring that was confiscated by Italians after his capture, but was later surprisingly returned to Charles.

In a follow-up email I received today, Katy said, “The family was together for Christmas and more information was found about my grandfather—specifically the story I was telling you about his bowling ring!”

Read the rest of this entry »

wilcher-dogtag_r72

Edwin A. Wilcher’s dog tag, missing for over 70 years in Italy, which was returned to Edwin’s family in November

rinaldo-luigia-r72

Chiara Allevi’s grandfather Rinaldo and grandmother Luigia assisted Edwin Wilcher after his escape from P.G. 59 in 1943

In May 2009, I received a note from John Garner, who lives in Temple, Georgia.

John wrote, “My great grandfather by the name of Edwin Attaway Wilcher was a POW at camp CC 59 Ascoli Picenzo Italy 43-13. Have you ever heard anything about him? His number I believe was 34352271 and he was captured December 29, 1943. Thanks for any help that you may provide.”

John explained in a follow-up note that Edwin was born in Georgia on September 27, 1912. He was a private in the U.S. army and he served as an infantrymen after reporting for duty on March 10, 1943. He served in the North African Theatre—in Tunisia.

I wasn’t able to help John at the time.

Then last April I received a note from Chiara Allevi, an Italian woman.

Chiara explained, “Sorry for my poor English…. My uncle found a military plate named EDWIN A. WILCHER (34352271) Augusta Georgia, on my grandmother’s hamlet “AGORE” near ASCOLI PICENO town.

“My grandmother told us that Mr. Wilcher was hiding in a cave in the mountains near her hamlet together other American soldiers.

“She and other villagers brought food to them.”

Read the rest of this entry »

j-drum-r72

Pte. J. Drum

I received a note last month from Del MacPhail, whose grandfather was captured in North Africa in 1940.

J. Drum was interned in P.G. 59 for a time. He is listed in “The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers C–F.”

Del wrote, “I have recently came across your site and would like to thank you for creating it. My Granda was a POW in this camp. He was transferred out of this camp and moved to Poland near the German border.

“Attached is a photo of him. That is an Australian’s hat he is wearing—his mate’s hat. He was a Cameron Highlander.

“He didn’t ever say anything about the war at all. So all I have are his records. My Granda passed away October 1989.

“He married Mary after the war, had five children—three boys and two girls—and 10 grandchildren. He was a scaffolder after the war, he just never spoke about it ever. I think it was too hard for him.”

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