A WW2 Italian Family Photo

Discussion in 'Italy' started by SteveDee, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    I've been intrigued by this photo of an Italian family for some time.

    Why did my dad bring this back from Italy at the end of WW2 and keep it safe, with all his other WW2 stuff? Did he stay with this family, or maybe they ran a restaurant that dad used?

    This photo is printed with a simple 'post card' outline on the back, but this was not unusual at the time. And in any case, if this was a simple 'hand out' photograph, why did dad keep it?


    It is extremely unlikely that this family will ever be identified. However, does the text on the model plane mean anything; i.e. was "Beruno 97" the name of an Italian plane, or maybe the name of the family?

    And its a bit odd that the symbol on the tail was not painted out when the Allies arrived.
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  2. Bruneval

    Bruneval Well-Known Member

    Do you have your father's War Records as this would possible identify where in Italy he served? You could then get in touch with the local museum and see if they could help by publishing the photo in the local newspaper/online? Long shot I know, but it all depends on how far you want to take the search.


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  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Beruno is a not too rare Italian family name. Strangely enough it is also a Japanese one - there is a well known manga author and publisher with the name
    The symbol on the toy aircraft tail is not the Nazi one but is the older other handed one used as a symbol of good luck all over Europe, India and even North America for millennia.
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  4. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    That would probably be the most sensible approach. I have a reasonable over-view of dad's locations, but these include (among others) several AA sites around Naples, which currently has a population of around 1 million residents.

    Thinking about this some more, I can't imagine that the soldiers in a Regiment would have stayed with local families, would they?

    I know that dad's Battery HQ was moved into a requisitioned villa in the village of Bacoli (the Bay of Naples). It was a luxurious place which belonged to an Italian film producer. {Not sure if the sergeants in a Battery stayed with HQ or with the troops}.
  5. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    I'd noticed that it was the wrong way around, but didn't think anyone would be displaying it (for the other meaning) once the Nazis had 'hijacked' the symbol for their own use, given that the two are so similar. Is that symbol still in use, or is it taboo?
  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    They could well be billeted in whatever large buildings were in the locality and such buildings probably had live in concierges
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  7. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Billeting could be an interesting, and possibly profitable, experience, as recorded here by BSM John Kemp of 76th HAA Regt, location unknown, but probably southern Italy :

    "Today has been a very typical Sunday. Strangely enough I was awake quite early, and though I felt it might be nice to “lie in” I really had no wish to do so. There were one or two things I had to do first thing. There was a lorry to fix up with Jimmie Brown (Sgt No. 4 gun) to try to get some wine. They were lucky. Even though it was a long journey it was worth it, because they did bring back a big quota to keep our flagging spirits up for the next five or six days. So tonight there’ll be beaucoup singing to the clanking of the piano. Did I ever tell you how we came by the “Johanna”? One place we went to not 24hrs after Jerry had gone, near the gun site, was a typical long two storeyed farmhouse with a surrounding of tall poplar trees. The people were most moved at our coming and gave us all they had, which consisted of “vino rosso”, the Hun having taken the white. We were asked in to spend an evening with them. “In” consisted of a rather glorified farm barn with an immense fireplace, a glowing red brick floor, and a long low table white after generations of scrubbing. An interesting thing about that table. At the top right hand corner where Mamma sat there was a deep groove where from years ago the lady of the house had cut the bread. Hanging from the smoke encrusted beams were neat bunches of onions and a red plant rather like a chilli in taste, but as large as a tomato. On one wall stood a beautifully plain dresser on which were arranged gleaming white plates, and copper and gleaming white saucepans. Everywhere was so orderly and clean. Doesn’t have a lot to do with the piano, but right in the corner of the room was a magnificent Bechstein. So out of keeping with the puritanical surroundings, and more fitting to a drawing room in Berkely Square. I was rather taken aback, and then not speaking a word of the lingo asked them through an interpreter how they came by it. They said the Germans who’d been there – for a long while apparently – had brought it in one day. They had a Tiger beside one of the outbuildings. We saw its tracks, still fresh in the mud when we got there. It further appeared that the Allied aerial might made it unsafe for the German Wehrmacht to use the roads in daylight for motor transport. At any rate petrol was difficult to come by. They left in carts taken from farms and pulled by oxen and horses they’d taken. Some even left on stolen bicycles and on foot. So der piano stayed, and they said they wanted us to have it because some of the lads played it. Had a good sing song, and they were aghast to hear us sing Lilli Marlene and one or two other German airs. Since then the Bechstein has become part of our equipment."
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  8. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Beruno.....my Italian husband has never heard of this surname, and we've just checked the White Pages - not one.

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  9. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    It appears to be an alternative spelling for Berrino and today more common in Italian American and South American Italian communities.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
  10. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    I did quite a bit of internet searching last night and found a few instances of "Beruno" as a first name, and in at least one instance this was a male. So one possibility is that this is the name of the little boy in the picture. Also wonder if this is a variant of "Bruno", but here it may be that I'm being influenced by the search engines wanting to suggest "bruno" for "beruno".

    Another possibility is that beruno is 'BerUno' which is either an alternative for Berlino or its just some internet character set playing tricks on me (e.g. some non-English character that is being translated/displayed as a "U").

    Taking a closer look, the swastika and letters are painted on by hand, and although done to a higher standard than I would probably achieve, they are still pretty crude.


    Despite the orientation of the swastika, I believe it was drawn to represent a Nazi swastika, rather than some symbol of spirituality. And it could be that the letters spell out "BERLINO" rather than "BERUNO". There is some indication that the artist started to reduce the size of the letters for fear of running out of space (...again, that's what I tend to do). There is a small break in the 'U' but this could be due to a defect in the paint job or a spec of dust on the negative or a genuine space between 'L' and 'I'.

    I couldn't find anything significant about 'Berlino 91 or 97' (or Berlin 91 or 97). So its really just a hand-painted kid's toy.

    Well, that was fun, even though it does not get me anywhere!

    My thanks to you all for showing an interest in this picture.
  11. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I think it's Berlino, Steve. The search engines were also telling me that what I was looking for was Bruno and not Beruno.I looked up the Berrino family name and most of the occurrences are in Piedmont, a good distance away from where your father was based.

    I think the photo predates the Italian Armistice of '43 and that it was given to your father despite the swastika as it was the only decent photo of the family that they possesed. I also think it was a studio photo and the plane could well have belonged to the photographer and not the little boy.

    How frustrating that there's nothing written on the back!! Will now have a look for the film producer at Bacoli.

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  12. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Many thanks Vitellino.

    Dad was based in the north during 1945/6 in a Military Police role, but in the eastern areas like Pola and Trieste. Other sites included Brindisi & Leghorn (Livorno), so there were quite a few possibilities outside the Naples area to meet a family like this one.
    I think you are right about it being a studio shot. What (at first glance) appears to be a fancy doorway into another room, is in fact a kind of 'garden centre' wooden archway placed against a wall or screen.
  13. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member


    I couldn't find the film director at Bacoli.

    I live 20 minutes drive from Livorno. Where exactly was you father based ?

  14. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    According to the Regiments DRAMA Report; On 31 Mar 164 Bty moved to the Pozzuoli area to relieve 305 HAA Bty of 100 HAA Regt which was leaving the area... BHQ was established in a nearby house.

    But according to a written account by G.W.Johnson, the villa was in the village of Bacoli (although this is only 4-5 miles from Pozzuoli) where they had far too much fun: Sergeant ACK-ACK: Italy

    According to the Regiments DRAMA Report, my dad was in/around Livorno from 1st/2nd January 1945 until June/July when he went back to the Naples area for Police Training at Ottaviano.

    In Livorno;
    - Dad's Battery, 164 Bty BHQ at Villa Marina
    - 167 Bty BHQ at 22/23 Viale Ugo Fescolo
    - 265 Bty BHQ at Villa Diana, Via D'Serlupi
    - Regimental HQ Villa Mibelli

    I found Viale Ugo Fescolo on Goggle Maps.

  15. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Interesting, Steve,

    I will find all these other places for you and will post a 1943 Map of Livorno in the next day or so.

    Shall I send the photo to the local paper?

  16. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Hi Vitellino, I don't want anyone to waste their valuable time on this, as the chances of identifying this family must be wafer-thin.

    However, if you are also interested in the identity of these people and happy to do this, please feel free to send the photo.

    The photo below is my dad in 1944/5. If there is anything else you need, please PM me.

    And thanks once again for your help!

  17. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I will contact the local paper Il Tirreno but first I am looking for a bit more information.

    - This is no. 23/23 Viale Ugo Foscoli - Street view. It would have been right on the edge of Livorno in 1945.
    - Nobleman Domenico Serlupi was a Fascist martyr killed in a scuffle in 1921, and the street where 265 Bty's HQ was set up on was named after him. Its name would have been changed in the post war period and so I can't find it.
    - There's no trace of Villa Diana. Lots of villas in the countryside outside Livorno int 1945,though.
    - The Reg. HQ would have been at Villa Mimbelli, now a museum/art gallery.

    Will post map later.

    Last edited: Nov 19, 2019
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  18. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    The great Italian film director Luchino Visconti lived in Paris in the 1930s, but returned to Italy in the early 1940s and joined the communist party. He had a summer residence on the Island of Ischia (Gulf of Naples) which is now a museum.

    But I guess if he had ever had a villa in Bacoli, Bacoli would have added it to their list of tourist attractions.
  19. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Steve, do you have any map refs. for the locatons of these addresses? I have just found another Villa Mimbelli, out in the countryside.
  20. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    No, I'm sorry.

    The gun site have references but they are no help as they are just alpha-numeric (e.g. LH7, LH10).

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