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Fording the River Tenna

This post is an account by Anne Copley of the September 5–8 “memorial walks” based out of Camp 59 in Servigliano. The walks were arranged jointly by the Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS) and Monte San Martino Trust (MSMT).

Here is Anne’s story:

“A Syrian photojournalist, a very famous Italian photojournalist (being filmed for his own life story), a Canadian woman seeking information about her father, and the CEO of the UK Red Cross mingled with Italian students, retired soldiers, a Jack Russell dog and others with various connections to Italy at the start of three days of walking through the Southern Marche countryside.

“The reason? to commemorate the date on which Italians signed the Armistice and many of the fathers and grandfathers of those taking part escaped singly or en masse from prison camps across Italy.

“Emanuela Pompei has captured perfectly the mood, landscape, and events on the way in her photographic record to be found on the Casa della Memoria Facebook site.

“I took part in a walk each day, but did not have the stamina for the whole stretch.”

Day Minus One

Ceremonies at Casa della Memoria

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A handsome sign marks the entrance to the newly-renovated Servigliano train station. Today the station serves as a museum and educational center for Associazione Casa della Memoria (the House of Memory Association). The converted building itself now bears the name Casa della Memoria.

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An educational display in Casa della Memoria

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One of many historic photographs on display

“On Wednesday, 5th September, officials of the Monte San Martino Trust arrived (Letitia Blake, Christine English, Sir Nicholas and Lady Helen Young, and John Simkins and his daughter Katie) from London to mark the rebirth of the old railway station at Servigliano as a museum to PoWs and their helpers. Speeches were given by Giuseppe Millozzi, Ian McCarthy, The Mayor of Servigliano, Nick Young (President of the MSMT) Mike Davidson (president of ELMS) and Roger Stanton (ELMS secretary).

“In the dusk we walked over the road to the camp and Giuseppe explained how Keith Killby escaped through the hole in the wall and others went out the front gate after negotiations between Dr. Millar and the camp commandant. Ibrahim, our photographer, took some wonderful photos of our shadows against the repaired hole in the wall. They looked like the shadows of the escapers preparing to make their escape. We went on to have a meal at the Hotel San Marco in Servigliano.”

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Publicity for the memorial walks

Day One

Servigliano, Monte San Martino, and Servigliano

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Wreath-laying in Servigliano

“After laying wreaths on behalf of ELMS and MSMT at a memorial in Servigliano, Giuseppe Millozzi (whose father Antonio was, on Sunday afternoon, to receive an MBE from the British Ambassador at a ceremony in Monte San Martino) led us off across the river Tenna. Having forded the river, we walked through the woods along its banks, as the escapers would have done 70 years before.

“As we walked Giuseppe told us stories about local Italian helpers, and we visited houses where Allied soldiers had been hidden and fed. We were also provided with wonderful local refreshments en route. Giuseppe showed us a house with a Fascist slogan still clearly visible. As he said, propaganda was a very important tool for the Fascists, and decorative declarations of their political agenda were everywhere during the period.

“Most of the morning was level walking but, as always in this part of Italy, a steep climb was inevitable in order to get to our destination. I am afraid that at that stage I took advantage of the support cars for a quick ride up to Monte San Martino! I cannot overstate my admiration for those who walked the whole way, particularly given the heat and overhead sun, which was unusually strong for September.

“We were welcomed by the Mayor of Monte San Martino, and laid wreaths again. Then a lunch of very welcome pasta and wine in the commune. The pull of a cooling swim brought me home at that point, but the stalwarts walked back to Servigliano after lunch.”

Day Two

Servigliano, Montelparo, Monteleone, and Servigliano

“This time I decided to join the walk once it had climbed up to Montelparo. Ian McCarthy, who lives in Servigliano, was our guide. We rested in the shade at Montelparo whilst Ian told us the story of “Robert” who hid in the bell tower whilst the Germans searched below (recounted by Amelia Antidicola in Filippo Ieranò’s book Antigone nella Valle del Tenna, pages 99–102).”

See also “A Hiding Place”—a post describing the bell tower sanctuary.

“Before I met up with the group, Ian had told me that they intended to go to a small memorial of an unknown PoW who was shot by the Germans. He gave me some vague directions, but at first I couldn’t find it. Eventually, I used the tried and tested method—namely if you ask enough old men in enough bars you will eventually get the information you are looking for!

“That information took me down a side road by the cemetery, but still no sign of a memorial. We continued to a tiny and very pretty church where it appeared preparations were under way for a festa. On my asking one of those present, he said he knew exactly what I was looking for and jumped on his scooter. We followed him in the car and were not surprised when he showed us the memorial—it was a simple iron cross by the side of the road which was very easy to miss. There were some dead flowers tied to it. Our guide was very keen to point out that actually there were always fresh flowers there and due to the heat they had dried out too quickly. He was at great pains to point out that the young lad killed here had never been forgotten. He was also quite sure his name was George, despite Amelia’s account to Filippo Ieranò where she referred to him as David. We were told that there are several versions of the story—of what exactly happened to him. Our guide favoured the version that said he was betrayed by a spy and on running away he ran into the ‘Nazifascisti’ who shot him.”

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laying wreath at the small iron cross that marks the spot outside Montelparo where an as yet unidentified Allied escaper—variously known as George or David—was shot by Germans and Fascists.

“On meeting up with the group I was able to take some of them to the site of the cross. Many of them, being old soldiers themselves, were keen that the memorial was secured and if possible the name and details of the person concerned were discovered. It was suggested that if his family came to collect his body after the war, the commune should have some papers.

“We walked on to Monteleone di Fermo, where more wreaths were laid at the war memorial. This memorial included, as usual, the names of all those who had died during the war but also those who survived and have died since. The mayor’s father’s name had recently been added. A sad reflection of the times was alluded to in the Mayor’s speech, in that the pasta factory that had been the main source of employment in the area had recently closed.

“I started walking downhill back towards Servigliano but my hips got the better of me and I caught the support car again. We dined again at Hotel San Marco in Servigliano. We were joined by Italian technicians who had arrived to start setting up for the Sunday ceremony to honour Antonio Millozzi. Keith Killby was to be beamed in from London (so long as the techie stuff all behaved).”

Day Three

Servigliano, Santa Vittoria in Mantenano, Montefalcone Appennino, and Smerillo

“I joined the walk at Santa Vittoria. Ian McCarthy was our guide and he stopped us several times on the walk to Montefalcone to read parts of the story of Robert Newton and the Viozzis. We passed an inscription on a house wall in memory of a David Viozzi. Ian said that was one of the boys who had been playing on the German vehicles and was shot as a result. It became clear that the Germans were at their most dangerous when they were retreating in June 1944.”

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This memorial to David Viozzi—on the wall of a house on the Santa Vittoria/Montefalcone road—reads: “Here, 14 June 1944 / David Viozzi / (next line illegible) / was assassinated by German soldiery / Thus, / O wayfarer / Did barbarianism try to overwhelm civilisation.” David may be one of the boys shot by the Germans for playing on their vehicle, a story told by Cesare Viozzi in Filippo Ieranò’s Antigone della Valle del Tenna.

“More wreaths and a speech from the mayor at Montefalcone. I missed it because the last part of the walk was up a medieval cobbled “mule track” which was almost vertical. I was very grateful to Mike Davidson, operating as the back marker, for keeping me company as I stopped for breath many times!

“After taking in the delights of the new bar (‘The Sphinx’—because a rock formation viewed from the Belvedere looks like a Sphinx—so they say) and the fantastic views, and more stories from Ian to conclude Robert Newton’s story and a coda from me about his friend returning in the 1960s, we set off through the woods to Smerillo. We passed the “caves” in which many PoWs hid.

“Dinner that night was at Le Logge in Smerillo, together with music and the wonderful sight of several ex-soldiers doing some excellent ’embarrassing dad’ dancing!”

Day Four

Bus trip to Monte Urano Camp 70 and Ken de Souza Trail

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This entrance arch to the camp at Monte Urano is exactly like that at Camp 53 in Sforzacosta. At Sforzacosta the building was built as a sugar-beet factory. At Monte Urano it was a leather factory. Neither were purpose-built PoW camps, unlike the camp at Servigliano. The man in the foreground wears the scarf of the Associazione Nazionale dei Partigiani Italiani—a powerful society in remembrance of Italian partisans.

“In the morning we were bussed to Monte Urano Camp 70. It was before and after the war a leather factory, recently closed. Ken de Souza described it in his book Escape from Ascoli and also his escape after hiding for 17 days under the weighbridge, with a companion who insisted on smoking!

“Ken frequently returned to his Italian friends who looked after him, and a walk through a park by the river is named the “Ken de Souza Trail” in his honour. Ken died recently, but his son Ian took the opportunity to sleep the night in the building in which his father was imprisoned. We met the girlfriend of the son of the house in which Ken was sheltered. Said son was a prisoner of the British at the time, and Ken’s book ends with his return to the UK and a visit to the son who was still a PoW awaiting repatriation to Italy.

“We were also taken to a remote villa near the coast, which became a collection point for PoWs before being taken off by boat. The Italian family had intermarried with the Emglish and were very cultured, speaking several languages. They were always anti-fascist and under suspicion, but it didn’t stop them doing their bit. There were perhaps slightly protected by their status and education—an option not open to the contadini.

“In the afternoon we returned to Monte San Martino for a ceremony with the British Ambassador giving the MBE to Antonio and a successful live message via Skype from Keith Killby in London. Many speeches later and a tour of the Crivellis in the church, and the whole thing was over. I felt bereft for several days. It had been fantastic to be able to astonish so many with the beauty of Le Marche, a region none of them knew and most of them wish to return to. Many also went away with a far deeper understanding of the role played by the most humble of the local people in the saving of lives. Indeed, several people present would not be alive today if it hadn’t been for the help given to their fathers and grandfathers.”

Anne Copley
September 2013
Oxford

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Letitia Blake, secretary of Monte San Martino Trust, presents a copy of Keith Killby’s memoir to British Ambassador Christopher Prentice. Antonio Millozzi, wearing the MBE (Member of the British Empire) medal on his suit, stands behind them. To the left of them are Valeriano Ghezzi, mayor of Monte San Martino, and Antia Krol of the British Embassy.

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Monte San Martino Trust founder Keith Killby joined the ceremony from his home in London via Skype

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