A page from the Ponte Dragone Special Investigation Branch (SIB) file

On May 16, 1945, Sergeant W. Mottram filed a formal report on investigations into the Dragone Bridge execution of three British soldiers and an I.S.9 agent (see “War Crime—the Ponte Dragone Executions”).

Twenty-two days later, SIB Captain E. Lister issued a memo concerning the event that is more concise, but offers additional details and clarifications.

Lieutenants Fischer and Rommel were identified as officers of the Montalto Marche detachment of the “Brandenburgers,” the group implicated in the crime. Fischer was officer in charge, and Rommel was his second in command.

A possible close family connection of young Lieutenant Rommel to Erwin Rommel was clearly of interest to the investigators, as twice in the report the lieutenant was referenced as a nephew of the late field marshal.

Decades later, this connection is just as intriguing. In 2001, a day after the release of the secret war crime file for this incident, the Guardian did a story entitled “Rommel’s nephew linked to war crime.”

A page from the crime file, entitled “Personnel of the Brandenburg Division” (above), offers information about a Lieutenant Theodore Fischer and Lieutenant Rommel.

However, a later S.I.B. document—from 1948—indicated that the Lieutenant Fischer in command at Montalto at the time of the executions was not to be confused with Lieutenant Theodore Fischer who served in a different detachment.

I believe the description below for Lieutenent Fischer is correct for the Montalto-based commander, but that he is was simply incorrectly called Theodore Fischer here.

FISCHER Theodore Lieut 16171/5 16171/51

Mar 44 OC [officer in charge] Montalto Det 3 Regt.
2 Bn 3 Regt. Aosta
Nov 44 SS Jagdeinsatz Italien Val Martello
Jan/Feb 45 SS Jagdkommando Fischer (“M” Bn on sabotage training) Brescia
Mar 45 Vienna Hospital TB [tuberculosis]
Apr/May 45 Val Martello (SOELDER OC) and Avelango (POW)
Sep 45 Merano – Goppingen – hospital train

Age 30-35, 1.66m [5’5″], Black chestnut hair, thin face, broad build, large shoulders, big eyebrows, dark eyes, friendly, spectacles, ? saurian accent.

ROMMEL Lieut 16171/33 – 5

Mar 44 MONTALTO and PETRITOLI (Armd Cars)
Aug/Sept 44 IVREA (Armd Cars)
10 Mar 44, BROWN, WHITE, HOLLINGSWORTH & MOOTIS [MOTTES]

6’2″ tall [1.880m], blonde, law student, good latin, some French, fair reddish hair, young & strong, big ears, approx. 24 yrs.

Home address:
Eva Maria ROMMEL (Wife)
CELLE/HANNOVER
SPORCKENSTR 16

This was the 1948 status for this crime, as previously reported in “The Brandenburgers—War Crimes Investigations“:

SEE/72.

The killing of BROWN, WHITE, HOLLINGSWORTH, and MOOTIS [MOTTES] near MONTALTO on 10 March 1944.

This is a good case and can definitely be brought home to Leut. FISCHER commander of the company of 2nd Bn. Stationed at MONTALTO. This FISCHER should not be confused with the Leut. Theo FISCHER of HETTINGER’s Group. Of the four victims, three were British Ps.W. and one an Allied parachutist agent in civilian clothes. Presumably the Germans would have some justification for shooting him, but none for shooting the Ps.W.

There is evidence to show that

The three Ps.W. were unarmed.

That they were captured early in the morning of 10 March in a different house to that in which MOOTIS [MOTTES], the agent was living.

That all four, together with an Italian boy, were taken to FISCHER’s HQ at MONTALTO.

That they were interrogated by FISCHER and his 2 i/c Leut. ROMMEL.

That they were sentenced to death at this HQ, for one of them on leaving FISCHER’s room announced that they were to die.

That all with the exception of the Italian boy who was released, were shot on the same night on a bridge, near MONTALTO, and their bodies thrown into the river bed.

There is no evidence to show who actually carried out the execution, although the ammunition used was German.

It would appear therefore that FISCHER gave the order for the shooting and that there is a case against him. Also to a lesser extent against Leut. ROMMEL.

My colleague Luigi Donfrancesco has generously translated Captain Lester’s memo into Italian. The Italian version immediately follows the memo in English below.

Once again, I am grateful to the late Brian Sims for our access to these S.I.B. files from the British National Archives.

Captain Lister’s Memo

60 Section,
H.Q. Special Investigation Branch,
Corps of Military Police,
c/o Provost Marshal’s (British),
Allied Forces Headquarters. CMF.

SUBJECT : –

ALLEGED WAR CRIME AGAINST THREE BRITISH EX PRISONERS OF WAR AND ANOTHER, BELIEVED AN ‘A’ FORCE AGENT, WHO WERE SHOT AT MONTEDINOVE, ON THE 10/11 MARCH, 1944.

DECEASED PRESUMED TO BE :-

A. L.H.J. BROWN [Lionel Herbert John Brown].
B. DANIEL HOLLINGSWORTH.
C. THOMAS WHITE [Thomas William White]
and
D. MARIO MOOTIS [MOTTES], (BELGIAN SUBJECT.)

HEREWITH a Precis of War Crime, Reference No. S.I.B. HQ./X/44/25, commenced by this Section on the 12th February, 1945, completed the 16th May, 1945.

The initial inquiry was instituted by the No 60 Section S.I.B. and the following is briefly the case as it appeared when first received.

An ‘A’ Force Agent, named MOOTIS [MOTTES] Mario together with three British ex-Prisoners of War, had been arrested by the Germans and Fascists on or about, the 10th March, 1944, and taken to the German Command Post at MONTALTO where after interrogation, [they] were transported to a place in MONTEDINOVE, Province of ASCOLI PICENO and murdered.

The suspects in this case were stated to be, the German Unit stationed at MONTALTO, the Maresciallo of Carabinieri named CRIMI [Filippo], same area (in office at the time of the offence) and a notorious fascist, named ROSCIOLI Settimio.

Information was also contained in a report from the National Liberation Committee and from a statement made by a Sign. [Signalman] MYERS, ex-Prisoner of War, however the facts in both cases were so distorted, as will be seen by subsequent inquiries, that they had to be entirely disregarded.

The true facts of the case appear to be as follows :-

Shortly after the Italian Armistice on the 8th September, 1943, a British ex-Prisoner of War arrived at the home of LUZI Bruno of ORTEZZANO, and was known to them as GIACOMO, his real name being L.H.T. Brown, of Hampton, Middlesex, England.

About the end of January, 1944, a further two ex-Prisoners of War arrived in the same district, and the home of the witness, ROSSI Nazzareno. They were known to the family as DANIELE and TOMMASO, their full particulars being Daniel HOLLINGSWORTH, 59 Weston Road, CANNING TOWN, London, E.16, and Thomas WHITE, 189 Cooper’s Lane, LEYTON – LONDON, E.10, respectively.

On the 14th February, 1944, a parachutist dressed in civilian clothes landed in the area of PORCHIA but owing to the failure of his parachute to open he sustained injuries to his ribs. He was found by a Patriot who took him to the house of the witness where he was cared for by the family, because of his condition. He stated that his name was MOOTIS [MOTTES] Mario, a Belgium subject, native of PERGINE [Pergine Valsugana, Province of Trento], Northern Italy and that he was a member of ‘A’ Force. He remained in the house in PORCHIA until the time of his arrest, the details of which are shown later in this report. It will be noted that VECCHIARELLI with whom he was residing was pro-Allied and that with his family was active in assisting ex-Prisoners of War to return to their own lines and expeditions were organised to that end.

On the 5th March, 1944, HOLLINGSWORTH and WHITE visited the house of LUZI and when they left the P.O.W. BROWN, went with them. LUZI was not informed of their intentions and did not hear of them again until four days later, the 9th March, when they visited the farm of the witness VEROLI who had staying with him a P.O.W. named ERNESTO, Ernest CHAUNTRY. (Not subject to this report and since repatriated to ENGLAND.) [Ernest Chauntry survived the war, married in 1945, and went on to have seven children.]

After conversation the four prisoners left the farm together, but for reasons unknown, CHAUNTRY returned to the home of VEROLI and the remaining three prisoners of war continued on their way to PORCHIA, finally arriving at the house of the witness, VECCHIARELLI, accompanied by another P.O.W. they met en-route, who was known to them only by the name of ADRIANO.

Here they asked for particulars respecting the next expedition through the enemy lines but no information was available to them at that time so they left the house and went to the farm of CARLINI Camillo where ADRIANO (whom it was believed, was a P.O.W.) asked permission for the other three men to spend the night. This request was granted and ADRIANO left the farm stating that he was going to sleep at another farm near-by. (later inquiries proved this to be untrue, and there is little doubt that he was a soldier of the Branden-Burg Regiment.)

About 5 a.m. the following [day,] 10th March, 1944, a party of German soldiers numbering about 30 visited the home of CARLINI and arrested HOLLINGSWORTH, WHITE and BROWN. They immediately went from there, surrounded the house of VECCHIARELLI, whom they arrested, together with the ‘A’ Force Agent, MOOTIS [MOTTES].

Arriving in the street it was observed that ADRIANO was in company with the Germans and that he was not under arrest. The prisoners were then marched to MONTALTO, the German Command Post where they were questioned by the Officers there, Lieutenant[s] FISHER [FISCHER] and ROMMEL, and finally placed under guard. From that time (it then being late afternoon nothing more is known of them until 11 p.m. when a motor vehicle believed to contain the Prisoners, passed along the VAL D’ASO road finally stopping at the DRAGONE Bridge, 3 miles from MONTEDINOVE. Bursts of machine-gun fire were heard and then the noise of the vehicle starting up and returning along the route it had first come.

The following morning the 11th March, 1944, four bodies were found on the banks of the stream which flows beneath DRAGONE Bridge (subsequent identifications proved these bodies to be the four Prisoners of War arrested by the Germans the previous day.) The middle of the road-way, on the top of the bridge, showed pools of blood, cigarette ends and spent cartridge cases.

That same afternoon the bodies were conveyed to the Cemetery at MONTEDINOVE and placed in the Church there. Two days later, the 13th March, the bodies were photographed by a photographer, named BAFFONI, (not traced) in presence of the witness, PORLETTI. [Carlo Baffoni, who was from San Benedetto del Tronto, was called to take pictures of the four bodies by Ferdinando Vecchiarelli, Francesco’s brother, as stated in the handwritten report by the latter.] On the 14th March, a Post mortem examination was conducted by the witness, Dr MIRZABEK and the bodies were finally buried on the 15th March, 1944, at MONTEDINOVE in the graves numbered 241-243-271 and 275.

The identification of the deceased persons was greatly assisted by the photographs (Ex. A1 to A6) but much more difficulty was encountered attempting to identify the Germans and the names of others, of that Unit, held responsible.

Father LEIGHT and VECCHIARELLI give valuable information in this direction and both furnish the names of the German Officers at the MONTALTO Detachment as being Lieutenant FISCHER and Lieutenant ROMMEL (Nephew of the late Field Marshal ROMMEL) and that the officer in charge of the Head-Quarters of ASCOLI PICENO was Captain KESTRING or KESTING. Sergeants GRILLE and ONDENBERG were also referred to, as being from the same regiment which was stated to be the BRANDEN-BURGH Regiment, however information obtained from G2 Section OI/CS (W&C MED.) gives the following. Captain KESTING, Lieutenant ROMMEL (nephew of the late field Marshal Rommel) and Lieutenant FISHER [FISCHER] are all listed as belonging to the Second Battalion, 3rd Brandenburgh Regiment, all known to have been operating in that part of the country at that specific time. This regiment has since been reported disbanded and incorporated into the 5th Mountain Division. However the Department concerned is endeavoring to obtain further details through 5th Army Channels which on completion will be circulated for their arrest when they will be interviewed by this Section. The other Ranks are not listed and only by arresting the Officers can we hope to trace the other suspected persons and obtain their particulars.

Additional information was obtained from G2, C.I. respecting Captain KESTING, who it was again verified, belonged to the Branden-Burgh Regiment and an additional description of him was obtained. (See descriptive form).

Recent information from G2, C.I. (2) states that their records show the Fascist ROSCIOLI Settimio as being still at large. Immediately he is interned, arrangements will be made for his interrogation.

(signed)
Captain E. Lister, D.A.P.M. [Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal]
60 Section, Special Investigation Branch.

7 June 1945.

In Italian:

Sezione 60, Quartier Generale Branca Speciale Investigativa,
Corpi di Polizia Militare
c/o Capo della Polizia Militare (Britannico)
Quartieri Generali delle Forze Alleate. Forze del Mediterraneo Centrale.

OGGETTO:
PRESUNTO CRIMINE DI GUERRA CONTRO TRE EX PRIGIONIERI DI GUERRA BRITANNICI E UN ALTRO, RITENUTO UN AGENTE DELL’ “A” FORCE, CHE VENNERO FUCILATI A MONTEDINOVE [Ascoli Piceno] IL 10/11 MARZO, 1944.

SI PRESUME CHE I MORTI SIANO:
A. L.H.J. BROWN [ Lionel Herbert John BROWN ]
B. DANIEL HOLLINGSWORTH
C. THOMAS WHITE [ Thomas William WHITE ] e:
D. MARIO MOOTIS [ Mario MOTTES ], (SUDDITO BELGA).

Con la presente un Sommario di un Crimine di Guerra, Riferimento N. S.I.B. H.Q./X/44/25, avviato da questa Sezione il 12 Febbraio 1945, concluso il 16 Maggio 1945.

L’inchiesta iniziale fu istituita dalla Sezione 60 della S.I.B. [ Special Investigation Branch ] e quanto segue è in breve il caso come è apparso quando inizialmente ricevuto.

Un Agente dell’ “A” Force , di nome MOOTIS Mario [ MOTTES Mario ] e tre ex-Prigionieri di Guerra Britannici furono arrestati dai Tedeschi e Fascisti il o attorno al 10 Marzo, 1944, e portati al Posto di Comando Tedesco a MONTALTO [ Montalto Marche, AP ] dove dopo interrogatorio furono trasportati in un luogo a MONTEDINOVE, Provincia di ASCOLI PICENO e assassinati.

Fu affermato che i sospettati in questo caso fossero, l’Unità Tedesca di stanza a MONTALTO, il Maresciallo dei Carabinieri di nome CRIMI [ CRIMI Filippo ], dello stesso luogo ( in carica al tempo del reato ) e anche un famigerato fascista, di nome ROSCIOLI Settimio.

Informazioni erano anche contenute in un rapporto dal Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale e in una dichiarazione fatta dal Segnalatore MYERS, ex-Prigioniero di Guerra, comunque i fatti in ambedue i casi furono così distorti, come si vedrà nelle successive inchieste, che dovettero essere del tutto ignorati.

I veri fatti di questo caso sembrano essere i seguenti:

Poco dopo l’Armistizio Italiano dell’8 Settembre 1943, un ex-Prigioniero di Guerra Britannico arrivò a casa di LUZI Bruno di ORTEZZANO [ AP ], e fu da essi conosciuto come GIACOMO, e il suo vero nome era L.H.T BROWN [ Lionel Herbert John BROWN ], di Hampton, Middlesex, Inghilterra.

Verso la fine di Gennaio 1944, altri due ex-Prigionieri di Guerra arrivarono nella stessa zona, a casa del testimone, ROSSI Nazzareno. Essi furono conosciuti dalla sua famiglia come DANIELE e TOMMASO, e i loro dati completi erano Daniel HOLLINGSWORTH, 59 Weston Road, CANNING TOWN, Londra, E.16, e Thomas [ William ] WHITE, 189 Cooper’s Lane, LEYTON – LONDRA, E.10, rispettivamente.

Il 14 Febbraio 1944, un paracadutista vestito in abiti civili atterrò nell’area di PORCHIA, ma a causa della mancata apertura del paracadute riportò lesioni alle costole. Fu trovato da un Patriota che lo portò a casa del testimone [ VECCHIARELLI ] dove fu curato dalla famiglia, a causa delle sue condizioni. Egli dichiarò che il suo nome era MOOTIS Mario [ MOTTES Mario ], suddito Belga, di “PERGRINI”, Nord Italia [ PERGINE Valsugana, Trento ] e che era un membro dell’ “A” Force. E’ rimasto in quella casa a PORCHIA fino al momento del suo arresto, i cui dettagli sono descritti più tardi in questo rapporto. Si noterà che VECCHIARELLI con il quale stava abitando era pro-Alleati e che la sua famiglia era attiva nell’assistere ex-Prigionieri di Guerra a ritornare alle loro linee e spedizioni venivano organizzate a tal fine.

Il 5 Marzo 1944, HOLLINGSWORTH e WHITE visitarono la casa di LUZI e quando andarono via il P.O.W. [ Prigioniero di Guerra ] BROWN andò con loro. LUZI non fu informato delle loro intenzioni e non ebbe loro notizie fino a quattro giorni dopo, il 9 Marzo 1944, quando essi visitarono la fattoria del testimone VEROLI che aveva ad abitare con lui un P.O.W. di nome ERNESTO, Ernest CHAUNTRY. (Non oggetto di questo rapporto e da allora rimpatriato in Inghilterra). [ Melvyn Pack ci ha informati che CHAUNTRY si è sposato nel 1945 ed ha avuto 7 figli ].

Dopo una conversazione i quattro prigionieri lasciarono la fattoria insieme, ma per ignoti motivi, CHAUNTRY ritornò a casa di VEROLI e gli altri tre prigionieri proseguirono nel loro cammino verso PORCHIA, arrivando finalmente a casa del testimone, VECCHIARELLI, accompagnati da un altro P.O.W. [ Prigioniero di Guerra ] che avevano incontrato durante il tragitto, che era noto solo a loro con il nome di ADRIANO.

Qui chiesero dettagli sulla prossima spedizione attraverso le linee nemiche ma non vi erano informazioni disponibili in quel momento così lasciarono la casa e andarono alla fattoria di CARLINI Camillo dove ADRIANO ( che veniva ritenuto essere un Prigioniero di Guerra ) chiese il permesso per gli altri tre uomini di rimanere per la notte. Questa richiesta fu accolta e ADRIANO lasciò la fattoria affermando che andava a dormire in un’altra fattoria vicina. ( Successive indagini hanno provato che questo non era vero, e non v’è dubbio che lui era un soldato del Reggimento [ S.S. ] Brandeburgo. )

Verso le 5 del mattino seguente, 10 Marzo 1944, un gruppo di circa trenta soldati Tedeschi, visitarono la fattoria di CARLINI e arrestarono HOLLINGSWORTH, WHITE e BROWN. Poi andarono subito via da lì, circondarono la casa di VECCHIARELLI, che arrestarono, insieme all’Agente dell’ “A” Force MOOTIS [ MOTTES ].

Arrivando in strada fu notato che ADRIANO era in compagnia dei Tedeschi e non era in arresto. I prigionieri furono poi fatti marciare fino a MONTALTO, al Posto di Comando Tedesco dove furono interrogati dagli ufficiali di lì, Tenenti FISCHER e ROMMEL, e finalmente posti sotto custodia. Da quel momento ( era tardo pomeriggio ) non si sa più niente di loro fino alle ore 23, quando un veicolo a motore ritenuto contenere i Prigionieri, passò lungo strada della VAL D’ASO fermandosi finalmente al PONTE DRAGONE, 3 miglia da MONTEDINOVE. Furono udite raffiche di mitra e poi il rumore del veicolo che veniva riavviato e che ritornava per la strada dalla quale era venuto.

Il seguente mattino dell’11 Marzo 1944, quattro corpi furono trovati sulle rive del torrente [ ASO ] che scorre sotto il PONTE DRAGONE ( La successiva identificazione ha provato questi quattro corpi essere i quattro Prigionieri di Guerra arrestati dai Tedeschi il giorno prima. ) Il centro della carreggiata, sopra il ponte, mostrava pozze di sangue, mozziconi di sigarette e bossoli vuoti.

Quello stesso pomeriggio i corpi furono portati al Cimitero di MONTEDINOVE e ivi posti nella Chiesa. Due giorni dopo, il 13 Marzo, i corpi furono fotografati da un fotografo, di nome BAFFONI ( non rintracciato ) in presenza del testimone PORLETTI [il fotografo era BAFFONI Carlo di San Benedetto del Tronto ]. Il 14 Marzo un esame Post Mortem fu eseguito dal testimone Dr. MIRZABEK e i corpi furono infine sepolti il 15 Marzo 1944, a MONTEDINOVE nelle tombe numero 241-243-271 e 275.

L’identificazione delle persone defunte fu molto aiutata dalle fotografie ( Reperti da A1 a A6 ) ma s’incontrò molta più difficoltà nel cercare di identificare i Tedeschi e i nomi di altri, di quell’Unità, ritenuti responsabili.

Padre LEIGHT e VECCHIARELLI danno preziose informazioni in quella direzione e ambedue forniscono i nomi degli Ufficiali Tedeschi al Distaccamento di MONTALTO che erano Tenente FISCHER e Tenente ROMMEL ( Nipote del defunto Feldmaresciallo ROMMEL ) e che l’Ufficiale responsabile del Quartiere Generale di ASCOLI PICENO era un Capitano KESTRING o KESTING. Fu riferito che anche i Sergenti GRILLE e ONDENBERG erano dello stesso Reggimento che fu affermato essere il Reggimento BRANDEBURGO, comunque l’informazione ottenuta dal G2 Sezione 01/CS (W&C MED.) riferisce quanto segue. Il Capitano KESTING, il Tenente ROMMEL ( nipote del defunto Feldmaresciallo ROMMEL ) e il Tenente FISHER [ FISCHER ] sono tutti elencati come appartenenti al 2° Battaglione del 3° Reggimento [ S.S. ] BRANDEBURGO, tutti noti per aver operato in quella parte del paese in quel momento specifico. Questo Reggimento è stato riferito da allora sciolto e incorporato nella 5^ Divisione di Montagna. Comunque il Dipartimento interessato si sta adoperando per ottenere ulteriori dettagli attraverso i Canali della 5^ Armata che al termine verranno diffusi per il loro arresto, allorché essi verranno intervistati da questa Sezione. Gli Altri Ranghi non sono elencati e solo arrestando gli Ufficiali possiamo sperare di rintracciare le altre persone sospettate e ottenere i loro dati.

Informazioni aggiuntive furono ottenute da G2 sul Capitano KESTING, ed è stato di nuovo verificato che apparteneva al Reggimento [S.S.] BRANDEBURGO e fu ottenuta anche una sua descrizione. ( Vedi modulo descrittivo ).

Recente informativa dal G2.CI. (2) afferma che i loro documenti dimostrano che il Fascista ROSCIOLI Settimio è ancora in libertà. Appena viene arrestato, verrà disposto il suo interrogatorio. (Firma)

7 Giugno 1945. Capitano E. LISTER, D.A.P.M. Sezione 60, Branca Speciale Investigativa.

Advertisements