Cpl. Fraser Val'D'Isère November 1944

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by vitellino, Dec 30, 2018.

  1. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello everyone,

    6914033 Alfred Southon's Escape Report ( in which he describes himself as Trooper, 50 Recce, 22 Armd Bde. but in WO 392/ 21 his rank is given as Fusilier and his unit as Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) contains the following:

    In the late afternoon on 17 Nov. I heard men calling to one another and clambered to our air hole and called for help. I think I managed to actually move the snow, because the men came across and got me out. They carried me to the refuge hut about 15 mins. walk from where we had all spent the night, lit fires, gave me new clothes and food. One of them went off to fetch a doctor who arrived in the early hours of 18 Nov. More rescuers arrived. I remember with particular gratitude the coffee Cpl. FRASER gave me on the way down from the hut.

    Earlier in the report he mentions 277419 T/Captain Christopher Matthew Woods, MC, King's Royal Rifle Corps and 1 Special Force SOE, about whom I have a fair bit of information.

    Does anyone know if Cpl. Fraser was operating with Woods in Northern Italy? Or anything else about him, for that matter,

    Thanks in anticipation,

    CL1 likes this.
  2. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    The mission Christopher Woods was with was the Ruina Mission (HS6/848 has the reports) I think that Fraser was either an ex-POW or a member of 2SAS
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  3. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks Jedburgh 22. I will look into this,

  4. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I have checked WO 321/21 and there were two Cpl. Frasers being held in Italy when the Red Cross produced this report in August 1943. Both belonged to the Cameron Highlanders.

    One also appears in WO 392/1 as being held in Germany, but the other is not in that register so presumably he had not been recaptured after escaping at the Armistice and could well be the person Southon was referring to. He was 2927697 Cpl. E. Fraser, who had been at one time held in PG 53, as had Southon before the latter was sent to PG 112/V Castellamonte near Turin. When Cpl. Fraser offered the coffee to Southon they were across the border at Val d'Isère in France.

    The 2 SAS Fraser referred to by Jedburgh was probably 'Bill' Fraser who doesn't appear to have been operating in that area.

    Other than this I have drawn a blank, except to say that other than Southon an Italian partisan also refers to Woods, who must therefore have been in Piemont in November 1944 and no longer in the north east of Italy.

  5. Richard Lewis

    Richard Lewis Member

    See also this thread: Val d'Isère Tragedy - Allied POWs died at the Colle Galisia in 1944

    The party of British soldiers and Italians died on the Prariond plateau after having negotiated the 3034 metre high Col de la Galice with is on the French-Italian border. They died on the 9th November 1944. Was Southon still on the Col when rescued from the Italian side eight days later? Woods and Fraser are not on the list of the party that perished in the Gorges du Malpasset on the French side. They must have come from the Italian side as the Gorges were impassable.

    A couple of picture of the memorial to those lost.




    p.s. 4th Bn Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was redesignated 50th Bn Reconnaissance Corps in 1941 which would explain Southon’s two units.
  6. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks for the explanation of Southon's unit and also the link.

    I have discovered that the Woods was NOT Christopher Woods SOE, who was in north-east Italy, not north west. He can be ruled out. As to where Southon was when found, hehad been left in the shelter of a rock with another Britisher whom he calls John...and according to an Italian source was Walter Rattue, known to them as Gioni (Johnny). Carlo Diffurville, one ot the two partisans left with Southon and 'John', says this about the point where they took shelter (translated by me from the Italian) :

    We arrived at the Colle at night. It took us seven hours to cover a stretch of track that usually takes three hours. Vittorio (the group leader) was always at the head of the column because he knew the way. When he arrived at the Colle he waited for us in the shelter of a rock. Then he shouted something in the storm; and I realized that we had to descend for a few hundred metres the other side to find a refuge in which to spend the night.
    He said again, 'Tomorrow the storm will perhaps have abated and we will be able to reach Val d'Isère. Courage, partisans! tomorrow it will be over '.
    He carried on walking for half an hour; then we stopped behind a rock that appeared to provide some shelter from storm. We had stopped, but we could not remain still for a single minute in the same position for fear of freezing to death. We stamped our feet in the snow to get some warmth. We hugged each other, sometimes, in twos, to try to protect one another from the cold wind. And we lay down in a heap in the snow to make us feel closer, more united ...
    The British suffered the cold more than we did although they were better equipped than us. Then at a certain moment two of them could not longer feel their legs. They said that they felt stiff and cold like lumps of ice. We lay them down under a rock in a ravine which offered some shelter, and we covered them, as best we could with a few pieces of clothing and the blankets we had with us. They complained, but they managed to bolster up each other's courage...

    They were rescued from the French side, not the Italian side. Diffurville described in an interview given from his hospital bed a few days later that he and Giovanni Mina, the other partisan, found their dead colleagues and the Britishers as they descended from the Prariond refuge on 12 November. The alarm was raised at Fornet - just below the Gorges du Malpasset - from where the search party set out. On the conc. form CWGC gives the date of death as 10 November. the Milan War Cemetery detail (where the eight identified men are buried) gives the date as 12 November, as do the memorials (Alamein, Cassino and Medjez -el-Bab) for all casualtes except Rattue, whose date of death they give as 14 November. This is likely to be correct, acccording to Southon's E&E report.

    So, my search for Lt. Woods and Cpl. Fraser goes on.

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  7. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I have found Lt. Woods, though am still looking for Cpl.Fraser.

    Lt. Woods was operating with the OSS in the Isère area. He was specifically linked with a partisan named 'David' - probably a nom de guerre. 'David ' was mentioned by Renato Willien, who interviewd Carlo Diffurville and obtained the above account.

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