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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] 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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hands-up-3-31-95_r72

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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