Italian partisan movement in WW2 - SOE support ?

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#1
Some of the comments are hilarious :

( 'Bella Ciao' is a song of the Italian anti-Fascist movement, sung beautifully by the Red Army Choir - but it has been hi-jacked by the Internazionale mob. Used recently in a Spanish tv series called Casa de Papel about a bank robbery )


I am aware that SOE had a mission to the Italian partisan movement , just as they did to Tito's Partizans in neighbouring Yugoslavia.

I have read Fitzroy Maclean's 'Eastern Approaches' - but if anyone knows a good recent appraisal of SOE's activities, specifically in Italy please post details here.


Interesting perspective from a UK based Italian academic here :

Forgotten resistance: the Italian freedom fighters dropped from our history books

Like all conflicts, not so much the simple black & white so beloved of Hollywood - but more infinite shades of grey ?

Thanks.
 
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AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#2
I reviewed a biography for Arrse a few years ago. Not about Italian partisans but Greek.

Young lad commissioned into his family regiment (Wiltshires). Father was CO. Stationed in Tidworth. Not happy to be in a barracks South of Hampshire Cross and therefore not in his home county.

War kicks off, volunteers required for special operations. Spends the war in Greece supporting the partisans. When the Germans leave, he finds himself in the midst of a civil war between Commies and other groups.

It all gets settled, history rolls on. Laddo gets a shoe into the Foreign Office. All rather Ian Fleming (Fleming may have got a mention. It's been a few years...)

Then the past catches up with him. New breed of civil servant with no wartime experience reads his records, declares him a Communist.

Sadly that's about all I can remember about the book except that it was a good story.
 
#3
More about Yugoslavia, but try Major Louis Huot's account "Guns for Tito" which I haven't read. He was based in Bari at one point with OSS. I know he fell out with SOE but not why.
 
#4
Some of the comments are hilarious :

( 'Bella Ciao' is a song of the Italian anti-Fascist movement, sung beautifully by the Red Army Choir - but it has been hi-jacked by the Internazionale mob. Used recently in a Spanish tv series called Casa de Papel about a bank robbery )


I am aware that SOE had a mission to the Italian partisan movement , just as they did to Tito's Partizans in neighbouring Yugoslavia.

I have read Fitzroy Maclean's 'Eastern Approaches' - but if anyone knows a good recent appraisal of SOE's activities, specifically in Italy please post details here.


Interesting perspective from a UK based Italian academic here :

Forgotten resistance: the Italian freedom fighters dropped from our history books

Like all conflicts, not so much the simple black & white so beloved of Hollywood - but more infinite shades of grey ?

Thanks.
The late ,great prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith was a member of an Italian resistance group for several months after he was shot down over N Italy. One of his contacts in the group used to send him Borsalino hats every year as a token of admiration/comradeship.
 
#5
As far as I'm aware there was very little if any SOE activity in Italy except for at the very end of things as German forces were trying to leg it through the passes northwards, although most of the deployments were from SAS. I think the lack of SOE in Italy was down to Gen Clark & his distrust of SF types. Not 100% sure though.
 
#6
I reviewed a biography for Arrse a few years ago. Not about Italian partisans but Greek.

Young lad commissioned into his family regiment (Wiltshires). Father was CO. Stationed in Tidworth. Not happy to be in a barracks South of Hampshire Cross and therefore not in his home county.

War kicks off, volunteers required for special operations. Spends the war in Greece supporting the partisans. When the Germans leave, he finds himself in the midst of a civil war between Commies and other groups.

It all gets settled, history rolls on. Laddo gets a shoe into the Foreign Office. All rather Ian Fleming (Fleming may have got a mention. It's been a few years...)

Then the past catches up with him. New breed of civil servant with no wartime experience reads his records, declares him a Communist.

Sadly that's about all I can remember about the book except that it was a good story.
Got a title? Sounds good.
 
#7
I've not read any of them but here is a link to Amazon:

 
#8
@Goatman
I recall reading something about SOE in Yugoslavia/Albania including Anthony Quayles complete exasperation at the factionalism.
That Tito managed to effectively keep a lid on it and that Italy didn't succumb to something very similar are incredible really.

Doing some WW2 research into mi dad, and being a bit of an Italophile with brilliant Italian friends, has resulted in my small 'libretti' on things Italian, there's knowledge on the subject but no major work I can think of!

I'll try dig out a map (there are a few available from HOEPLI.it) which amused me because it showed the AORs of various Garibaldi/partigiani Bdes alongside US 5th/British 8th Army formations with what looks like equivalency. It's a good reference for their activities though, regionally the various factions and formations are quite well documented in local museums and history books, e.g. I'm hoping to get 'Gemmano: la Cassino dell'Adriatico' by Montemaggi as mi dad was there and I believe there's a dedicated museum.
Similarly, the Italian co belligerent army, organised into Gruppo Di Combattimento, included Folgore and other elite formations that fought hard against us at El Alamein now fighting equally hard against their comrades (similar to the FFL in N.Africa and Syria) depending on whether they were fascist, communist, royalist or republican - yet still primarily patriots (IMO, probably why Italy didn't become like FYR - 'gli Italiani' identity)
It helps understand post war Italy, Gladio, anno di piombo and even contemporary politics (keep trying to read Tobias Jones 'The Dark Heart of Italy'). It's hard to understand how the, ostensibly, more cosmopolitan northern Italians could descend to the primitive barbarity lynching the Mussolini retinue.

Crap at links but find the Modena City Ramblers version of 'Bella ciao' - much better IMO - although I'm not sure how it segues into 'Cam ye oer fra France'.
 
#9
As far as I'm aware there was very little if any SOE activity in Italy except for at the very end of things as German forces were trying to leg it through the passes northwards, although most of the deployments were from SAS. I think the lack of SOE in Italy was down to Gen Clark & his distrust of SF types. Not 100% sure though.
Are you sure you're not thinking of Gen Schwartzkopfs distrust of SF?

US SF effectively originated in Italy. After the rather farcical participation in the Aleutians, 1st Special Service Force gained their reputation as the original 'Devils Brigade' in Italy, were distinct from Rangers, and their insignia is retained by current US SF.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#10
Got a title? Sounds good.
You're in luck. After lunch, nothing pressing. My Arrse history threw up nothing. Ask Google, "Wiltshire Regiment SOE", second or third hit is the book, which was easily recognisable.

 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#11
More about Yugoslavia, but try Major Louis Huot's account "Guns for Tito" which I haven't read. He was based in Bari at one point with OSS. I know he fell out with SOE but not why.
Being a Yanqi probably....thanks I'll have a butcher's .

Seems like everybody fell out with SOE at some point. Like most outfits they had more than a few disasters as well as the odd triumph.... the Abwehr's Englandspiel comes to mind.

Thanks to all for pointers.

@GoatmanIt helps understand post war Italy, Gladio, anno di piombo and even contemporary politics
I was going to mention << Op Gladio >> and the Brigate Rossi too......sometimes I get the impression that people think the impact of WW2 in Europe all miraculously stopped in May 1945....it ain't necessarily so.

I did get a bit peeved at the saps on Youchoob appropriating ' Bella Ciao' for the meshuganah Soviets and their legions of ignorant fanbois.

You'll be aware that there are both Spanish and German language versions of 'Bella Ciao' - I'll have a listen to the Modena Ramblers version. I'm guessing the Comintern adopted it as a worldwide song for the Comrades.

It's an inspiring rebel song - anti-Authority rather than anti-Fa

This is a beardy sandal-wearing Ossie giving the version Mutti Merkel probably grew up with....considering its origins in der kampf anti-Faschismus the irony is not lost on some....


( It's a marching song....Hannes Wader must have been a bloomin' Rifle :) )


Edit: Found the Modena Ramblers version - bit like how The Dubliners would have done it ! LINKY
 
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#12
Being a Yanqi probably....thanks I'll have a butcher's .

Seems like everybody fell out with SOE at some point. Like most outfits they had more than a few disasters as well as the odd triumph.... the Abwehr's Englandspiel comes to mind.
Yup, my boss was constantly blocked by them much to his annoyance.
 
#13
I have a number of books about SOE in WW2, The ones that cover Italy are:

A Spur called Courage, SOE heros in Italy
By Alan Ogden

Mission Accomplished, SOE in Italy 1943-1945
By David Stafford

The Bandits of Cisternia, SOE in Italy
By William Pickering and Alan Hart

Target Italy, The Secret War against Mussolini 1940-1943. The Official History of SOE Operations in Fascist Italy.
By Roderick Bailey

From Cloak to Dagger, An SOE Agent in Italy 1943-1945
By Charles Macintosh
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#14
Thanks for that Simroy.. will keep an eye out for one of those titles....which is the most recent?

The reason I ask that is because the first hand accounts tended to be written without the benefit of information we have subsequently learned.

eg Ultra, which only became widely known after the R V Jones book was published?

There was also, I'm told, a similar bit of post war myth-making by the Italian government to that which the French government pushed out.

( De Gaulle for example notoriously ignored the contribution of his allies, declaring ' France has liberated itself' - and the preferred narrative said that every patriotic Frenchman and woman who wasn't a victim was a modestly heroic Resistant. The reality was somewhat different )

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Paris liberation 'myth' erases Allies

I'm told it suited post-war Italian governments to play up the contribution made by the Italian partisans and play down the strength of the pro-Fascist groundswell that existed in Italy ?
 
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#15
I have a number of books about SOE in WW2, The ones that cover Italy are:

A Spur called Courage, SOE heros in Italy
By Alan Ogden

Mission Accomplished, SOE in Italy 1943-1945
By David Stafford

The Bandits of Cisternia, SOE in Italy
By William Pickering and Alan Hart

Target Italy, The Secret War against Mussolini 1940-1943. The Official History of SOE Operations in Fascist Italy.
By Roderick Bailey

From Cloak to Dagger, An SOE Agent in Italy 1943-1945
By Charles Macintosh
Thank you.
 
#16
Thanks for that Simroy.. will keep an eye out for one of those titles....which is the most recent?

The reason I ask that is because the first hand accounts tended to be written without the benefit of information we have subsequently learned.

eg Ultra, which only became widely known after the R V Jones book was published?

There was also, I'm told, a similar bit of post war myth-making by the Italian government to that which the French government.

( De Gaulle for example notoriously ignored the contribution of his allies, declaring ' France has liberated itself' - and the preferred narrative said that every patriotic Frenchman and woman who wasn't a victim was a modestly heroic Resistant. The reality was somewhat different )

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Paris liberation 'myth' erases Allies

I'm told it suited post-war Italian governments to play up the contribution made by the Italian partisans and play down the strength of the pro-Fascist groundswell that existed in Italy ?
The reinventions are well documented.
 
#17
Accounts of Italian assistance in the campaign are more usually ordinary people hiding and alerting British PW escapees as well as the individuals allying themselves to partisan groups.
Despite photos of Gruppo Di Combattimento Cremona riding on tanks of mi dad's Bde, he never mentioned Italian assistance (he did mention the Gurkha elements of one of the Indian Divs and Popski).
Realistically, I guess it was more sensible to allow Italian manpower to rebuild destroyed infrastructure, maintain order and LoCs.
I guess the inspired idea of employing Lucky Luciano Mafia to be the grease that oiled AMG showed how desperate the situation was - winning maybe but far from won - with Stalin's shadow growing longer and longer. Any evidence that Italians made a massive contribution to their own liberation would, understandably, be seized on - whilst at the same time averting a cohesive communist front (as started in Greece).
I suspect SOE knew they were doing most of the running to fight Hitlers fascism almost exclusively for the benefit of Stalin's communism.
 
#18
SOE never get the credit for inventing partisan cheese , which was dropped by parachute to stank the Germans out of Italy, later on after the war it became a delicious topping grated over a pasta dish.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#19
< sigh>

Pecorino is infinitely preferable - lower fat content and significantly less eye-watering on the wallet.

...and now , back to the records.
 
#20
I quite enjoy the "Forgotten Voices" books.
They don't give a detailed in depth history of the SOE (I think it's F V of the Secret War) and all the clandestine ops, but it's interesting to read the experiences of those that took part. It's quite grounding, interesting and a times sad to hear of their experiences. Puts a human face on it.
 

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