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Gino Beer, with some girls at Farneta, near Montefiorino, 1944

I corresponded this week with Italian Michele Becchi concerning Gino Beer, who as a young man served in the fighting group headed by escaped POW Victor Styles. (See “Trooper Victor Styles—P.G. 52 Prisoner.”)

Michele Becchi researches WWII British Liaison Officers in Italy, ex-POWs, and downed pilots trying to reach the Allied lines. He is particularly interested in partisan warfare in his area of Italy, as well as Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) missions.

Michele knows and has interviewed Gino.

Michele wrote, “Victor Styles was leader of a special ex-POW fighting group working for the ‘TOFFEE’ mission. I’m trying to find the names of other POWs and Italian partisan members of that group. Gino served in the group.

“I meet Gino Beer years ago, when I was researching ‘Operation Tombola,’ an SAS [Special Air Service] operation against a German headquarters not far from my town.

“Gino was an Italian Jew from Genoa; he and his family was persecuted by the Nazis and fascists due to his origin. After a brief spell with the Ligurian partisans, Gino and his family transferred to Modena, in 1944, to avoid death. But the situation worsened, and Gino was forced to join the partisans of the Reggio-Modena mountains.

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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.”

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Trooper Harold George Knibbs

I heard earlier this fall from Don Knibbs, who lives in the village of Sheet, which is in Hampshire, in the south of England. He wrote:

“I came across the Camp 59 Survivors web site today. What a great shame my dad isn’t still here to have seen it. He was Trooper Harold George Knibbs of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC).

“He was captured in June 1941 in the desert, close to Tobruk. He was transported to Italy where he spent time at Campo Concentramento Prigionieri di Guerra N.73, and Campo Concentramento PG.59.

“I’m afraid I don’t know the dates for when he was at each of the camps. I know from his records that he was still in Italy in 1943, but be was transferred to Stalag IVB at some time before Christmas 1944. I’m guessing that will have been after the Italians capitulated in September 1943.

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“He had very few mementoes of the times, but amongst his many treasures was a currency note from Camp 59 (above).

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In 2013, researcher Brian Sims gave me access to his photographs of the complete contents of a booklet entitled Italy: Imperial Prisoners of War Alphabetical List, Section 1, British Army, which is archived at the British National Archives.

The Alphabetical List contains the names of thousands of British prisoners of war interned in Italian camps, apparently compiled in 1942 or the spring of 1943.

This post, which contains Alphabetical List soldiers N–Z who were documented as P.G. 59 internees, is the completion of the list, which I have been posting in installments on this site.

See also “The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers A–B,” “The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers C–F,” “The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers G–J,” and “The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers K–M.”

A key to acronyms and abbreviations follows the list.

Page 91
Nalty, T. – Cpl. – 56457 – R.A.S.C. – R.O. No. 29
Natt, A. E. – Pte. – 5509810 – Hamp. – R.O. No. 23
Neale, L. W. – Tpr. – 7879821 – R.A.C. – R.O. No. 3
Nelson, R. D. – Pte. – S/153793 – R.A.S.C. – R.O. No. 29
Nelson, A. E. – Gnr. – 1070139 – R.A. – R.O. No. 5

Page 92
Newman, C. E. – Pte. – 6285518 – Buffs – R.O. No. 23
Newman, C. W. – L/Sjt. – 6968938 – R. Bde. – R.O. No. 24
Nicholls, J. W. – Bdr. – 6100128 – R.A. – R.O. No. 5
Nichols, W. H. – L/Sgt. – 6842964 – K.R.R.C. – R.O. No. 24
Noble, A. P. – Gnr. – 1430659 – R.A. – R.O. No. 43

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I received an email recently from Adam Rolloff. He sent me photographs of a Bronze Star Medal awarded to William Kornrumph, as well as the American serviceman’s separation papers.

He wrote, “I enjoyed reviewing your site while researching William J. Kornrumph. The attached discharge papers should answer your questions about his escape and recapture.

“Unfortunately his military service file was destroyed in a fire at the records center in 1973 and I’ve been unable to find any additional information on his military service.”

I asked Adam is he is related to William Kornrumph.

“I’m not related to Kornrumph,” he answered. “I collect U.S. military medals and I’ve had his Bronze Star Medal in my collection for about 25 years. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to locate the citation with the specifics of what he did to earn the award. Based on the brief information in his discharge papers, he must have had some amazing stories about his service.

“Feel free to post details from the paperwork and how I contacted you. The discharge papers came from Kornrumph’s VA claim file. I was able to get a copy under the Freedom of Information Act.”

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Scotsman Tom Kelly

I hear this week from Linda Veness, daughter of R. J. “Jimmy” McMahon. Her father’s story is covered in two posts on this site, “R. J. McMahon, Part 1—Battle and Captivity” and “R. J. McMahon, Part 2—Escape and Beyond.”

Jimmy McMahon said in describing his escape from P.G. 59, “I suggested to my mates, one Scot and five other Aussies, that instead of digging our way out we should try going over the top. We nutted this plan out and thought there would be enough time while the guards, patrolling the wall, were having their halfway talk and smoke, giving us about five minutes.”

Linda wrote to me that the Scot was Tom “Jock” Kelly. According to Linda, four other Australians who made this break were Tom Alman (from Kalgoorlie) Jack Allen (Kalgoorlie), Les Worthington (Wiluna) and J. Feehan (Geraldton). The men went over the wall on a ladder constructed with nails smuggled into the camp by a visiting priest.

It seems most likely this escape occurred in early September 1943.

This week Linda sent me a photo of Tom that she found. She wrote, “It looks to me as though it has been taken at ‘home.’” Whether it was taken before or after the war is unclear.

On the reverse side of this photo is written: “Trooper T Kelly / 7904262 / Camp 59 (?) 8th 3300 / section 48 hut 14 / Italia.”

Tom Kelly is among the men recorded in the “Alphabetical List” (“The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers K–M“). His service number in the booklet matches the number on the back of the photo. He is identified as a trooper in the Royal Armoured Corps.

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1st Lt. Robert McIntosh (right), U.S. Army Air Force
Photo—Young-Nichols Funeral Home/family photo

Eddy Arnold’s Back Home Again in Indiana, one of the state’s most beloved songs, is an expression of sweet, sad longing for a return to the past—to youth and the comfort of a loving rural home.

The song has had a special resonance for me and many others here in Indiana this week, as the state welcomed home a native son, U.S. Army Air Forces’ 1st Lieutenant Robert McIntosh. Robert was killed in Italy during the Second World War.

The 21 year old pilot was on his way back to base from a strafing mission against an enemy airfield in Piacenza, Italy, on May 12, 1944 when his aircraft went missing.

Sixty-nine years later, during a crash site excavation in Santa Cristina, Italy, Robert’s remains were discovered by Archeologi dell’Aria, a group of Italian avian archaeology volunteers. U.S. government DNA testing confirmed the plane’s pilot was Robert McIntosh.

Robert’s remains were flown to Indiana on Tuesday.

A public funeral will be held today at the Tipton High School auditorium, and burial with full military honors will follow.

You can watch a memorial video that aired Tuesday on 13 WTHR Indianapolis on the channel’s website, wthr.com.

Also, read a story about Robert’s life and the return to Indiana by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

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Robert McIntosh was flying a single-seat P-38 Lightning aircraft, as shown here, before he was reported missing in action. Photo—United States Air Force

Listen to an arrangement of Back Home Again In Indiana by Straight No Chaser. The professional a cappella group began at Indiana University, where Robert was a student before enlisting in the Army.

See also “After 72 Years—Dewey Gossett Home at Last.”

city-florence

Recently, Luigi Donfrancesco—nephew of I.S.9 Italian agent Andrea Scattini—and I have been in touch with Nancy Lewis, the wife of Captain Richard W. B. Lewis, an American officer with I.S.9 POW rescue operations in Italy during the war.

Richard Lewis served his role during the war admirably, and was discharged from service in 1946 with the rank of major.

After the war, he had a long, distinguished career in teaching at Smith College, and Princeton, Rutgers, and Yale Universities. A profic writer, recognition for his work included a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for Edith Wharton: A Biography. He retired from Yale in 1988. He died in 2002.

Richard Lewis is mentioned in a number of posts on this site, including I.S.9 diaries, situation reports, and other documents.

Mrs. Lewis has kindly given permission for us to share a section of her husband’s book The City of Florence: Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings (1995, pp. 64-68), in which he recounts his experiences with the I.S.9 rescues.

We are very grateful to Mrs. Lewis.

Notes in brackets were written by Luigi Donfrancesco.

“My own knowledge of the Casentino [province of Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy] began in the autumn of 1944. The first stay in Florence had, after all, been a short one, and during it I housed our little headquarters – two American officers, two British sergeants, and half a dozen Italian agents – in a luxurious apartment on Lungarno [Riverside] Vespucci (it had belonged to the former Fascist mayor of Florence, who had fled with the Germans and was later brought back and tried). It was a time of curious contrast, for while the German shells whistled about the Bailey bridge being thrown up below our windows, we inside, having for the moment nothing to do, indulged in a mild and continuous orgy.

“In early September, the front line had sufficiently established itself across the Apennines to permit us to go back to work, and we moved to a farmhouse just beyond the village of Rufina, about fifteen miles northeast of Florence and a few miles into the hills above Pontassieve. From here we could dispatch agents through the relatively unguarded mountain areas north toward Imola and Forlì and east into the Casentino.

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Charlie’s brother Fred Standing (left) and Charlie in the doorway of their family’s home at 54 Lincoln Street, Brighton.

This month I received a note from Simon Hasler of Brighton, UK, addressed to Gillian Pink.

Gill’s father, Tom Ager, was a prisoner-of-war in Italian camp P.G. 82. Tom’s story is recounted on this site in several posts (read “Thomas Ager—Escapee from Italian Camp 82,” “On the Sheltering of Tom Ager,” “Unexpected Letter—News of Tom Ager,” and “Greetings Sent Via the Vatican.”)

Simon wrote, “your post really resonates with our family. My wife’s granddad was in the same POW camp as your father and left at the same time. His name was Charlie Standing. He was a private from Brighton, but in the Hampshire regiment.

“His story is almost identical, other than he stayed uncaptured.

“He lived in caves and was helped by locals near Viterbo. He even learnt Italian whilst on the run and mingled with locals whilst German soldiers were around.

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Coenraad Willem Frederik Stoltz

As mentioned in the previous post, I heard from Conradt Stoltz, Coenraad’s grandson, earlier this month. (Read “Coenraad Stoltz—the ‘War-Box.’”)

Concerning the photo above, Conradt wrote, “This is photo the oldest photo I have of grandfather. It was taken around 1963 when he was in his late 40’s.”

Here is a short history of Coenraad Stoltz’s military service that Conradt sent me:

Pte. Coenraad Willem Frederik Stoltz
Private, 1st Regiment Botha, South African Army
Force Number 40011

27 February 1941: On strength – 1st Regiment Botha, Alfa Company (Basic Training)

9 October 1941: Embark HMS Mauritania in convoy with HMAS Australia

21 October 1941: Disembark Suez, Egypt, North Africa

26 October 1941: On strength – Mersa Matruth, Egypt / 2nd Regiment Botha, Charlie Company

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