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Lance Sergeant John Henry Jewell, Service Number 5495162, of the Royal Hampshire Regiment

I received a note a few days ago from Jackie Keenan of the village of Whittlesford in Cambridge, England.

She and her sister, Margaret, have been attempting to trace the details of their father’s wartime experience.

“Our father, John Henry Jewell, was taken prisoner in North Africa on 3rd December 1942,” Jackie explained.

“I have been through [accounts of] other prisoners taken in the same battle, on the same day, from the same regiment and it would appear that they were taken to Camp 98 in Sicily on 5th December where they stayed until being moved on 31st December to Camp 66 at Capua. On 2nd March 1943 they were moved on again to Servigliano where they remained until 14th September 1943.

“After the POWs escaped from Servigliano, my father was reported missing until being traced as a prisoner in Stalag 7 in Moosburg.” His prisoner number there was 130605.

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Detail of Joe Pojawis’ military identification card, issued in July 1942 before his overseas departure

I received a note this past week from Wally McCollum of Maryland.

Wally has a family connection to American soldier Joseph Pojawis, who was interned at PG 59 January 23–September 14, 1943. In his note, Wally related how he and his wife discovered new information about Joe’s combat and POW experiences just one week ago (over the U.S. Memorial Day weekend):

“This past weekend at a family reunion I came into possession of a diary kept by my wife’s uncle Pvt. Joseph E. Pojawis, who served in a light mortar squad, Company A, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He was captured on December 23, 1942 in the Battle of Tunisia. He was first taken to a POW camp in Sicily, but was transferred to Camp 59 in late January 1943. In addition to the diary I have ten letters he wrote while at the camp. He was among the mass escapees in September 1943. He eluded capture for several months, but was unable to get through the German lines to freedom. He linked up with Allied forces and was sent to the USA, where he was discharged in poor health in December 1944.

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Giovanni Nebbia with the football team he organized at his Marine School (Scuola di Avviamento Marinaro). The photo was taken in the year they won a championship. December 3, 1940.

In 2005, at a ceremony in Monte Urano, Italy, to honour Ken de Souza—a former POW and author of Escape from Ascoli, which Annelisa Nebbia translated from English into Italian—Annelisa shared an account of a rescue mission her father experienced that nearly ended in tragedy.

Annelisa’s speech is here translated into English:

“Missions to rescue escaping POWs from the Adriactic coast frequently failed due to the Italian captains’ lack of local knowledge, resulting in their being unable to find the exact point of the coastline where escapers were to be picked up.

“Allied Headquarters in Termoli asked Elio Tremaroli—who worked for them and crossed the lines [into enemy-occupied territory] continuously—if he knew somebody who was truly an expert on the Adriatic coast.

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Giovanni Nebbia’s partisan identification card, issued in 1950 by the Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d’Italia, or National Association of the Italian Partisans, acknowledges his involvement with the Banda Gran Sasso from September 25, 1943 to June 20, 1944

Captain Giovanni Nebbia’s activity as an I.S.9 “helper” took place along the Adriatic coast of central Italy, including the port towns of Termoli, Manfredonia, and Vieste.

In 1943 Captain Nebbia spearheaded an operation to save the fishing fleet of San Benedetto del Tronto, which was under threat of seizure by the Germans, who were due for arrival in the town the next morning. On completion of the mission, Radio Bari broadcast news of the successful event, today described in Italian history books as ‘Operazione Nebbia.’”

An account of “Operation Nebbia” in Giovanni Nebbia’s own words, translated into English by Annelisa, is below. The original document in Italian is at the end of this post.

To Major R. E. ITALO POSTIGLIONE
Commander 23rd and 24th Patriot Groups
GROTTAMMARE

Having returned home after my departure from San Benedetto del Tronto in the night of 4-5 October 1943, I hasten to give you notice of the mission entrusted to me by you and of subsequent events.

According to the orders that you had given to me, on that date I immediately proceeded with the help of other officers from the groups of patriots to steal the fishing boats/trawlers and minesweepers requisitioned for certain capture by the Germans; such vessels in the port of San Benedetto del Tronto were equipped with local elements, and we launched them for the ports of southern Italy that were already in the hands of the Allies.

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Farm building on a remote property owned by the Italian couple Gaetano and Maria Vaccarezza, where five escapees from P.G. 52 were sheltered

I received a note last month from Frank Vaccarezza. Frank explained that for a time during the war, his Italian grandparents had sheltered five Allied POWs, all escapees from P.G 52.

Frank who was born in Italy, has lived in the U.S. for most of his life. However, he is in communication with cousins in Italy, who live near his grandparent’s old property. Frank has asked that I post information about his grandparents’ assistance to the soldiers in the hopes of his making connections with the servicemen’s families.

Here is the information Frank sent:

I am trying to locate the families of several British Commonwealth soldiers who escaped during WW2 from P.G. 52 near Chiavari, Italy and hid from the German army in an old stone structure. Chiavari is a town on the Mediterranean Sea coast just about 25 miles south of Genoa. It’s believed these soldiers escaped some time in 1943, but I can’t really be sure of the year.

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I am pleased to have added today a new name, British Sergeant Arthur Page, to the master Prisoner List on this site. Information on Arthur was sent to me by researcher Janet Kinrade Dethick.

She wrote:

“I have just come across the translation into Italian of part of a book by Sergeant Arthur Page, 5501857, captured near Tunis on 3 December 1942, who after a period in a camp in Sicily and then PG 66 at Capua was sent to Servigliano. He escaped at the Armistice, was recaptured and put on a train for Germany.

“He escaped from the train and, passing through (or near to) Bologna, Florence and Città di Castello, he arrived in Nocera Umbra, where he met a young man who took him up into the hills where he was sheltered firstly by the family of Attilio Tulli at Verchiano and then by the Spuntarelli family at Croce di Rocca Franca.

“When the worst of the winter ’43–44 was past, he and a fellow escaper, South African Piet van Rensburg, left for the Allied lines. They met the Allied troops not far from Servigliano.”

Janet said the original English version of Arthur’s book is entitled A Walk in Wartime Italy. It was published in 1995 by Airforce Publishing Services, P.O. Box 236, Swindon, Wilts. UK.

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For author Robert A. Newton, publication earlier this year of a 360-page book entitled Soldiers of the Strange Night marked the culmination of many years of dedicated research.

Robert’s experience was a personal journey of first coming to understand, and now sharing, the full life story of his father’s brother—and Robert’s own namesake—U.S. Army Corporal Robert Alvey Newton, who was called Alvey by his family and friends.

Robert took the title of his book from a quote by Pulitzer Prize–winning American journalist and roving war correspondent Ernest Taylor “Ernie” Pyle (who, like Alvey, was born and raised in Indiana and attended Indiana University):

“Everything in this world had stopped except war and we are all men of a new profession out in a strange night caring for each other.”—Ernie Pyle, Brave Men

One way to understand war is to study it in terms of politics, power, strategy, and battles won or lost. Another way, which was Ernie Pyle’s way and Robert Newton’s approach as well, is to see it on a deeply personal level—of men serving together as brothers and caring for each other, while acting in a savage, tumultuous theatre.

This spirit of compassion and bravery was characteristic also of the Italians who sheltered Allied escapers—in the case of Robert and fellow escapee Martin Majeski, the Viozzi family, who are profiled in the book.

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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] my father took the fishing-fleet of my town to the Tremiti Islands, because it certainly would have been seized by the Germans who were due to arrive the next morning at 7 a.m. He told the fishermen and owners of the trawlers to bring as much food as they could, as nobody knew how long they would have to stay there. The food would help to ensure their survival.

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