POWs camp Vercelli and escape to Switzerland

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Lucky Gunner, May 22, 2011.

  1. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

    Welcome to WW2Talk Mike
  2. Jenn Pak

    Jenn Pak Member


    That would be wonderful. Thankyou. I actually studied Italian in my youth and have begun to revise my knowledge now. However it is pretty basic and I think it would be wise if you translated a letter to the mayor for me. Should I post it here or send it to you direct?

  3. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Jenn,

    Please send it to me via the messages we which are using already.


  4. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello MIke,

    Have you read the War Crimes files regarding your relative? Two are held in the National Archives London :

    Biella, Italy: shooting of New Zealand and Australian POWs

    Reference: WO 310/65

    Bella, Italy: killing of three re-captured allied POWs (NOTE MISSPELLING of Biella)
    Reference: WO 311/338

    They can't be downloaded but must be ordered. Check out this site for researchers who will do this for you.

    I am interested in the case and found this material which I have translated from the Italian::

    The three servicemen were killed at Cascina Casinei on Monte Casto near the small town of Tavigliano in the province of Biella. They were operating with the local partisans. A memorial plaque has been erected in their honour near to the town hall in Miagliano, a small settlement near Tavigliano.

    I also found this but couldn't find a photo of the memorial stone



    Here's my translation (apologies to any English-speaking Italians who might read it)

    What does it matter if in time
    The wind makes fade the names of our partisan dead
    Engraved upon this marble?
    Let the love of freedom remain engraved on your hearts
    Today, tomorrow and for eternity

    Clark C.I. New Zealand
    Batt Leslie George “
    Smedley Douglas Australia


    Bruce Cavanagh likes this.
  5. Michael76

    Michael76 New Member

    Hi there. I am looking for any information about my grandfather who was a POW in Camp 66, Camp 57 and Camp 106. His name is Alexander John Campbell VX52786 2/24th Battalion AIF. From the small amount of details I have he was captured on 09/12/1942 and eventually escaped but from which Camp I am unsure. I believe he was taken in by a family due to poor health during his escape also. Any information or pictures that anybody has would be greatly appreciated.
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  7. Michael76

    Michael76 New Member

    Hi TD,

    I have requested them on Thursday but have kept looking at any other potential sources in the meantime as I was more hoping to come across some stories or pictures perhaps rather than straight out military records
  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  9. Bruce Cavanagh

    Bruce Cavanagh New Member

    Sorry I can't help with a photo but thought you might like to know that my uncle was Leslie George BATT, the other NZ'er executed that fateful day 24 April 1944.
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  10. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Michael76,

    You can now download POW records from Melbourne Archives. I suggest you look up Maureene's post of 1 June 2017 by putting her name in the search box at the top of the page. It contains the necessary links and instructions .

  11. bear.cub

    bear.cub Member

    What an incredible thread! I'm researching escape and evasions from Italy into Switzerland with the intention of mapping and then replicating routes, particularly over the high mountains.

    I would also like to understand the stories about those who tried to cross the mountains but were overcome by the conditions in order that when I make a crossing appropriate respects are made. I'd appreciate any advice on how to trace Italian and Swiss national records of these events.
  12. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Bear Cub,

    Crossing the Alps was a clandestine affair, carried out under the noses of the fascists and the occupying German Forces. The local guides who took the POWs to the frontier along the mountain tracks at huge risks to themselves were not needing any maps, indeed having such a map on their person would have been extremely dangerous should they have been captured. I have never heard of the Fascists or Germans taking the trouble to map such routes and have no idea where such maps might have been/still be stored.

    When they crossed into Switzerland the POWs were interned. I cannot see why the Swiss would have needed to know that actual escape routes taken in another country (Italy) in order to arrive at the Swiss border, but perhaps I am wrong. Is there anyone on the forum who has obtained his/her father's records from the IRC who has come across any reference to escape routes in Italy and the mapping of such routes? I know however that the crossing place was recorded on the POW card.

    Last edited: Sep 19, 2018
  13. bear.cub

    bear.cub Member

    Thanks Vitellino
  14. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Sorry if I sounded so negative - there are some accounts of these escapes on line, for example in the BBC's People's War Series - though there aren't any maps.

    BBC - WW2 People's War - An Italian adventure

    BBC - WW2 People's War - A British PoW becomes a Partisan, 1943-1945

    You might also like to contact Trevor Smallman on this forum by sending him a private message. His father made it across into Switzerland on his own. Trevor has been collecting information for a long time now on escapers from Plemo work camp in the Valcamonica, who used a variety of routes.


  15. bear.cub

    bear.cub Member

    No problem, some incredibly interesting info is coming to light. Thanks for the links.
    Bear cub
  16. Stuc

    Stuc Member

    Dear Marco,
    I am trying to track down what happened to my grandfather who escaped from an Italian POW camp with several others and was hidden by an Italian family for a prolonged period. William Wyllie never discussed the war with anyone and hated anyone even mentioning it. He did however keep in touch with the family who risked their lives by hiding him under their floorboards. My mother seems to recall that one of the family was a professor. William Wylie (Waggie) was in the Cameron Highlanders No 2937054. His POW war records show he was at first missing in action then confirmed as POW in PG60, no further British war records exist. I managed to get his IRC records which state he was transferred to PG106 on the 21/05/1943. This seems quite unusual as PG106 was mainly NZ and Oz POW's . From searching I was able to discover that PG60 was only open for a matter of months due to terrible conditions and a large number of inmates dying from malaria. The IRC shut it down and most inmates were transferred to other POWs in Italy or Germany however no records exist for Waggie being anywhere else which makes me wonder if he actually escaped prior to the armistice. Last and only letter we have from family is from:

    Paul Dennis

    Corso Gal. Ferraris 143

    Turin, Italy

    May 20, 1945 (as sent across to you)

    At least one of the families who sheltered my grandfather were from Montelupo. The family (as confirmed in the photos) are the Rigordo family. We are unsure who Paul Dennis is that sent the letter but it appears that although the letter is from Turin his wife at least must have stayed in Montelupo at some time. My mother is quite sure for some reason that one of the Rigordo family members was a Professor, this being the case it should hopefully narrow down our search considerably.
    From what records I can research of the Cameron highlanders postings it would appear that Waggie was captured at Tobruk, but I have no clear evidence yet.
    The letter from Paul Dennis (who we dont know), was posted from Turin to Waggie after the war congratulating him on getting married. He says in the letter that he hopes he will come visit and says that he and his wife will be happy to go down to Montelupo and revisit the places where he and his two friends were hidden. I don’t know if Paul was one of them and got married to someone in the family of the Italians who sheltered them or if Paul is Italian and married one of the family who sheltered Waggie. I tracked Montelupo to Fiorentino, Florence which is very close to the region of Capannori where PG60 was. This makes me wonder did he escape from PG60 before it was shut down and well before the armistice?
    My mother (waggies only child) seems to think that they were in a group of 6 and split up 3 going over the Alps and my grandpa and two other through Italy. One of the guys going over the Alps we think suffered from frostbite and maybe even had a limb removed. He apparently wrote a book of their escape?? My mother seems to think that this gentleman may have appeared on "this is your life" or similar BBC program at one time? Waggie refused to point blank ever discuss the war with anyone so no one in the family ever knew much or asked anything.
    Any help or direction of where I can find out more would be greatly appreciate to find out my Granda's story and also thank the Italians who risked their lives for him.

    Thanks and regards

  17. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    The soldier on 'This is your Life' was Trooper Alfred Southon - the only survivor of a group of POW escapers and partisans caught in a snowstorm as they tried to cross the Galisia pass into the Val d'Isère in November 1944. The POWs had been held in PG 148 before the armistice and from then until November '44 had been in hiding with families on farms

    He did write a book about his experiences. I have a copy of his Escape Report.

    Stuc likes this.
  18. Stuc

    Stuc Member

    Hi Vitellino,

    Thank you for your continued support and help.

    I suppose it is possible that my grandfather met up with Alfred whilst hiding out in Italy after escaping the POW camps despite them being held in different POW camps (PG106 my Granda and PG148 for Alfred) From what little info we had (rightly or wrongly) as my Granda never ever spoke of the war, his imprisonment or escape, we seem to think that of the group of escapees he was in, a group decided to go over the alps and he and other didnt and decided to remain hiding out in Italy. Of the group that decided to go overseas one person lost a leg from frostbite?? I have no idea how much of this is fact or fiction and that is what I am trying to find out. I have also discovered that the family who harboured my Granda was the Garibaldi family in Monteluppo (not Rigardo as previously thought at regardo translates to memory). There are unfortunately nearly 50 Garibaldis in the phone book in the Piemont region. How would I get my hands on or read about Alfred Southen's book?

    Thanks & regards
  19. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    vitellino likes this.
  20. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Here's the cover:

    alpine-partisan book cover.jpeg


    PS - he did lose part of his leg due to frostbite.
    Tricky Dicky likes this.

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