British Liason Officers and the Italian Partisans

Discussion in 'Special Forces' started by vitellino, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I am in the process of collecting the opinions of BLOs in Italy as regards the partisan groups they were allocated to. I would like to share the opinions of two of them - Maj. E.H. Wilcockson of the 'Silentia' Mission and those of Sir Tommy Macpherson.

    On page 8 of his book The War in Italy 1943—5. A Brutal Story (John Murray, London, 1993) Richard Lamb explains that by the end of 1943 in Italy two broad types of partisan group had developed, these being ''the non-Communist Green Flames, who were broadly based, made up of socialists, republicans, liberals and people whose only desire was to rid Italy of Fascism and the Germans, and the Communist Garibaldi Brigades''.

    Major E. H. W. Wilcockson, British Liaison Officer with the partisan Divisione Modena in Emilia Romagna was of the opinion that ''65 or 70% of the partisans in the Division were avoiding service in the Republican army and were not very interested in fighting to liberate Italy (Lamb p. 225) and that the leaders were 'out and out Communists, only interested in politics and no good at fighting'. (Lamb p. 223. Original Report on the Silentia Mission in TNA, WO 204/7301 1 Special Force: reports from missions)

    Sir Tommy Macpherson, SOE agent in north-east Italy near the border with Yugoslavia in the months running up to the end of the war, was billetted for a time in the temporary headquarters of the non- communist autonomous 'Osoppo' brigade of partisans, led by a man named Bolla whose vice was called Aenese. He recorded that the Osoppo was made up of 20 armed fighters, most of whom had fought with the Italian Army in the Greek campaign. He describes how they were massacred by their fellow countrymen on pages 170- 2 of his autobiography Behind Enemy Lines Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 2012:

    ''..there were many Italians who would have been glad to see the back of us, and that included the Garibaldi brigade and the Slovenes.

    Our destination was a small collection of derelict cottages above tiny village of Musi that were used periodically by shepherds for summer grazing... We had been forced to move to our mountain redoubt by the activities of either the Garibaldi team or the Slovenes, so, while I wasn't particularly blithered by political niceties, before we moved to our alpine meadow it seemed a sensible precaution to make contact with the red-scarved Garibaldi team. Up until the summer they had seemed reasonably cooperative and had been active against the Germans. But I had failed to appreciate just how ideologically driven they were, and just how far they would go to realise their political ambitions. Just how far included murder, collaboration and even trying to gift large tracts of their own country to a neighbouring state.

    During the winter, the Osoppo cut down their numbers because of the difficulties of supply and movement but continued hitting the Germans wherever they could. The Garibaldi, by contrast, simply hibernated, although we later discovered that they used the quiet period for intensive contacts with the Slovene 9th Corps of Tito's army, just across the Yugoslav border. The 9th Corps used to send out regular patrols in the border areas to intimidate villagers into declaring themselves Yugoslav, to forcibly requisition food and to become graffiti experts, writing on all the walls of border villages the slogan `Sloboda narodu, smrt fafizmu', which meant 'Long live liberty, death to fascism.'

    This was really like a dog lifting its leg round its territory: they were already thinking past the war to the peace, marking out what they considered to be Yugoslav territory. In the event, only the arrival of British troops in Trieste shortly before the Yugoslays rolled into town, plus our willingness to defend the border, stopped the Yugoslavs claiming a huge slice of Italy.

    We later found out that the Garibaldi partisans had even signed a formal written treaty with the Yugoslavs, whereby the province of Veneto, effectively the whole north-eastern corner of Italy, would become a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia provided the Garibaldi bigwigs could run it. They were, as I made clear when I named them in my final report on this mission, traitors to Italy. In late 1944 and early 1945 we didn't appreciate how low the zealots were prepared to sink. Had we known, then we might have able to stop a massacre that had many parallels with Glencoe. Early in February 1945 a party of Garibaldi and a couple of slovenes arrived at BoIla's headquarters, my former base, in bad weather and asked for a bed for the night. But they weren't looking for a bed; they were looking for me...when the couldn't find me and Bolla denied we were around, the Garibadi and their Slovene friends slaughtered the majority of the Osoppo, whose hosipitality they had so happily accepted. Bolla and Aenese were tortured before being killed: Aenese had all his teeth ripped out, and Bolla's mangled corpse bore the hallmarks of the most savage treatment. No wonder the Garibaldi ringleaders were tried and convicted in Milan in 1951 and served lengthy — and well-deserved — terms of imprisonment.''

    One of the Osoppo partisans killed in the massacre was Guido Alberto Pasolini, brother ot the film director, poet and author Pier Paolo Pasolini.


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