Trooper Victor Kensett Styles
I received a note recently from Vic Styles, a nephew of Victor Kensett Styles. Trooper Victor Styles, Royal Armoured Corps (RAC), was captured in North Africa and interned at P.G. 52 Pian de Coreglia (Chiavari).
“Like a lot of servicemen, he did not talk about his activities in Italy—we only got snippets of information,” Vic wrote.
“He was offered a commission, and later he resigned and went into teaching.
“He did not trust any politicians or whizz kid bosses. He was a very good manager in the flats where he lived in West Hampstead London NW6. He coached the tenants to buy their flats through the legal jargon. He was extremely clever in administration and with his hands.
“In the 1950’s my father fell out with him about a car deal, and they broke contact with each other. So I got info—but not much—second hand.
“Victor complained that when working with the S.O.E. [Special Operations Executive] he was never paid because he officially had been in a POW camp.
“He married twice and was divorced. He had no children.”
Victor was recommended for a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his acts, but he never got it because his file was kept secret for 85 years under the Official Secrets Act.
Victor was honored with an Italian Star in 2007, and Vic feels he should also be recognized with an Italian Garibaldi Medal for his work with the Italian partisans.
“In 2001, I applied to open his file,” Vic wrote. “They agreed, and that’s what you see on this report.”
Trooper Victor Kensett Styles
Unit: 4th County of London Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps, attached Headquarters 2nd Armoured Division.
Served: North Africa (captured).
Army No.: 7906218
Camps: P.G. 52
Trooper Styles was taken prisoner in North Africa, 1941. He was sent to P.G. 52 at Chiavari, but, following Italy’s capitulation in September 1943, he was aboard a train bound for Germany when he escaped. Until the end of 1944, Styles fought with several Partisan groups in Italy.
The following is a copy of his subsequent debriefing by the Special Operations Executive (SOE):
26.11.44 [November 26, 1944] – Dear McIntosh, The bearer of this note, Trooper V. Styles, 7906218, RAC, has been i/c [in charge] of a mixed British and Italian patrol for about 3 months; beforehand he fought with a Russian detachment in the Modena Area. Whilst in charge of his patrol, he took part in fifteen attacks against German motor vehicles; destroying over 10 trucks; his leadership and courage inspired the rest of his men and all partisans in our area. Trooper V. Styles has worked directly under the orders of the British Missions in the field; he has always been chosen for most difficult jobs and has always carried them out in spite of opposition and adverse weather conditions.
Trooper V. Styles, after going through a well earned leave, wants to volunteer either in a Paratroop Division or in a service like ours; could you please give him the maximum assistance. Signed: – R. JOHNSTON, Major, 188142.
Victor’s Movements in Italy during WW2
13th Sept 1943. On 13th September, once having escaped from the train, he made for the Allied lines.
Dec 1943. In early December he reached the neighbourhood of Castel di Sangro where he ran into a German trap and was recaptured. He was taken to CC.RR [Corpo dei Carabinieri Reali] barracks at Frosinone which had been taken over by the Germans. Four days later he again succeeded in escaping through a window.
March 1944. He then decided to try to reach France, so made off northwards, and hid for three months at the village of Tughacozzo [Tagliacozzo] near Avezzano.
April 1944. At Easter time he again struck off northwards, and at Gubbic [Gubbio] met his first band of Partisans. It was an international band of mixed Poles, Yugoslavs, etc. led by Sam PANICHE, an Italo-American, with an American wife. PANICHE was a small fat man who came from Caglia [possibly Caglio]. In April the Germans attacked the band and they all disappeared and decided to lie low, which did not suit source so he continued northwards to Modena.
May 1944. In May he contacted ARMANDO’s formation of Partisans, a large and well-organised formation. Here he also met Capt. NARDI, who was acting as Chief-of-Staff to the Partisan Army Corps of the Modena-Emilia area. He spent 2 weeks with the Italians, and then attached himself to a Russian band which was part of the above mentioned Army Corps. The Russians were led by a very capable Russian Captain, whose name source does not remember. He believes the Captain has since been sent to London.
June 1944. The Headquarters of the band was near Montefiorino. Here he met Major JOHNSTON, and from that time was more or less under Major JOHNSTON’s orders.
31st July 1944. When the big German offensive started, source was with a detachment of the Russian band at Monte Cantieri (map reference 3186). The only Englishman with him was A/C [Air Commodore] MACCORRY, R.A.F. They were all forced to disperse and source made for Major JOHNSTON.
2nd Sept 1944. Whom he met on 2 September with Captain DAVIES, WILKOCKSON, HOLLAND and LLOYD-ROBERTS at Montefiorino. By that time Villa Minozzo had been occupied by the Germans. Source was ordered to accompany Capt. DAVIES to Zeri to meet Major LETT. On their journey they met a priest who told them that the German offensive had also cleared Major LETT’s area, so they returned to Monte Tondo (Major JOHNSTON’s H.Q.)
August 1944. From mid-August onwards source was engaged on various small operations under Major JOHNSTON’s orders.
Sept ’44. In early September he was sent to Captain WILKCOCKSON at Lama di Monchio for 14 days, where he was put in charge of a squad of 8 men and attacked German traffic on the roads. He then returned to Major JOHNSTON, who sent him to Capt. DAVIES at Musiara (9553). During September he operated with a squad of 10 men along the Pontremoli road destroying 5 or 6 enemy trucks and engaging various enemy patrols. Source states that Capt. HOLLAND can give a full report on these activities.
October 1944. During October he continued operating under Capt. HOLLAND.
23rd Nov 1944. On 23rd November, owing to the impossibility under prevailing conditions of successfully operating throughout the winter, source asked Major JOHNSTON for permission to cross the lines, which was granted.
26th Nov 1944. He made his way south via Ligonehio [Ligonchio], Ospitaletto, Sillano, Cureggia [Careggine], Colli, where he met Major OLDHAM and stayed for two days.
30th Nov 1944. From there, with the help of a local guide, he crossed the lines about the 30th November by way of Pania Della Croce. He was taken to Pietrasanta, Vis Reggio [Viareggio], Leghorn [Livorno, traditionally known in English as Leghorn], from where he managed to get to Florence, where he contacted Special Force, who sent him down to Rome. He is now staying at P/W [prisoner of war] Collecting Post on Highway 7 just outside Rome.
Just before source was captured in December 1943 he had been in the company of Capt. Alfred Ralph NOYES, Adjutant to 21 R.H.A. [Royal Horse Artillery], captured at El Alamein. He escaped from Moden [Modena] P/W camp on 8 Sept 43. Source met him near Pistois [perhaps Pistoia], and they came south together. Source left him at Capistrello, but heard later from other British Ps/W [prisoners or war] that Capt. NOYES had been shot by a German patrol early in December, and had been buried at Civitella Roveto near Avezzano.
ARMANDO. Source described him as 45 years of age approximately, height 5 ft. 9 ins. Grey hair, well built. Source considers him lacking in personality and not a good leader.
DAVIDE. ARMANDO’s commissar in July. Communist. A lawyer of Bologna and believed to be quite a rich man. His attitude tended to be anti-British, especially before the arrival of the B.L.Os, after which he refrained from anti-Allied speeches.
Source has served under Major JOHNSTON in the Field for some months. In view of the copy of a reference from Major JOHNSTON (attached) a personal impression by the interrogator on a snap judgment would be superfluous. Source has been mentioned in the Field traffic by Major JOHNSTON (26th July and 1st Nov. 1944). The latter message reads:-
“STYLES would certainly have been commissioned had he not been captured so early with the 2nd Armoured Div.”
ENVELOPE BLUE (28 Oct) reports:- “STYLES’ leadership, courage and keenness are an example to all and most unusual in P.O.W. We recommend him for B.E.M. [British Empire Medal]. Please refer to JOHNSTON.”
Source is keen to return to Major JOHNSTON’s area with picked, trained squad of 8–10 men to harry German road communications in the area throughout the winter. He would prefer to take trained men with him rather than pick up and train individuals in the Field, where ammunition is so precious. I told him I would present his application to the appropriate authorities, without expressing any opinions on its likelihood of acceptance.
There are no security problems arising from this interrogation. END.
Following his return to the UK in January 1945, Lance-Corporal Styles was mentioned in Despatches for his conduct in Italy, and attached to 161 Reconnaissance Regiment. In September of that year he was posted to 100 Officer Cadet Training Unit. He was released to the Army Reserve in June 1946. His military conduct was recorded as exemplary; “A very capable man of excellent appearance and character. He is meticulous in his work and thoroughly honest and sober.”
7906218 Lance Corporal William Kensett STYLES Royal Armoured Corps
Deemed to have been enlisted into the Royal Armoured Corps embodied Territorial
Army and posted to 4th County of London Yeomanry – 12.12.39 [December 12, 1939]
Posted to Headquarters 2nd Armoured Division – 14.06.40 [June 14, 1940]
Reported missing – 08.04.41 [April 8, 1941]
Confirmed Prisoner of War – 08.04.41 [April 8, 1941]
In allied hands reached South Italy – 12.12.44 [December 12, 1944]
Repatriated to United Kingdom and attached to 161 Reconnaissance Regiment – 09.01.45 [January 9, 1945]
Posted to 161 Reconnaissance Regiment – 12.04.45 [April 12, 1945]
Posted to 100 Officer Cadet Training Unit – 30.09.45 [September 30, 1945]
Released to Army Reserve – 01.06.46 [June 1, 1946]
Discharged from Reserve Liability – 30 June 1959.
Auth: Navy, Army and Air Forces Reserve Act 1959.
Service with the Colours – 12.12.39 – 01.06.46 [December 12, 1939 – June 1, 1946]
Overseas Service: Middle East – 13.11.40 – 07.04.41 [November 13, 1940 – April 7, 1941]
Italy (Prisoner of War) – 08.04.41 – 11.12.44 [April 8, 1941 – December 11, 1944]
Allied Army Italy – 12.12.44 – 08.01.45 [December 12, 1944 – January 8, 1945]
Military Conduct: Exemplary
Testimonial: “A very capable man of excellent appearance and character. He is meticulous in his work and thoroughly honest and sober.”
Medals issued etc:
Mentioned in Despatches London Gazette 20.09.45 [September 20, 1945]
1939–45 Star, Africa Star and War Medal 1939–45