Italy 1943: the 'Stay Put Order'

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by vitellino, Dec 22, 2019.

  1. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Getting back to the annoying facts...:-P:D

    Sourced from the Eisenhower Papers, document 1088 (Vol 2 pp.1224 - 1228):

    On 29 June, 1943 Eisenhower signalled the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff his appreciation of possible courses of action after Operation HUSKY had commenced and once its result began to become apparent. This included the following remarks:

    "In event of HUSKY being successful but Italian resistance not collapsing, I have two alternatives:

    (a) To carry operations on to the mainland by mounting Operation BUTTRESS, followed by Operation GOBLET [Note 4: Projected British invasions of southern Italy at Reggio di Calabria and Crotone.] if Crotone area cannot be taken by an overland advance.

    [and/or]

    (b) To carry out Operation BRIMSTONE. [Note 5: Projected invasion of Sardinia.]"

    Clearly, then, when MI9 passed the "Stay Put Order" to the camps, there was indeed doubt as to whether an invasion of mainland Italy was imminent. Eisenhower went on:

    "Much will depend upon the number and location of German forces at this time and on the morale of the Italian Army. If my appreciation should show that even if German units are present, Italian morale is so low as to make effective and prolonged resistance by Axis forces unlikely, I shall recommend the former course.

    If Italian will to resist shows signs of collapsing completely in the early stages of HUSKY, it may be possible to exploit on to the Toe of Italy …

    In circumstances less advantageous to us it may be necessary to launch operation BUTRESS. If this caused an Italian collapse, I assume the German forces would be withdrawn northwards, in which event I would exploit to Naples, later executing a modified BRIMSTONE."

    Clearly then, at around the time that the MI9 order was sent, there was debate at a much higher level than Montgomery as to the possibility of either HUSKY or BUTTRESS leading to an Italian collapse and also, again at a higher level than Montgomery, expectation that an Italian collapse would probably lead to a German withdrawal.

    By 1 September 1943, however, Eisenhower recognised that the German forces in Italy had been significantly reinforced, especially those north of Rome and signalled the CCOS warning them of the risks involved in the invasion of Italy, especially in consideration of Operation AVALANCHE.

    It would be interesting to know whether MI9 re-considered their instructions to POW Camp commanders during the summer of 1943 as the German influx continued and, especially for those camps in northern Italy, they probably regarded the chances of successful escape and evasion as increasingly diminished by September 1943 given the much increased density of German forces in the area.

    As I continue to research the high (and low) level decision-making process that culminated in the launching of BUTTRESS and AVALANCHE I will be sure to look out for mention of orders to POWs and assessments of the likely speed of subsequent operations and come back here to update this thread.

    Regards

    Tom
     
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  2. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    It may also be worth considering the intelligence picture that the Allies had of German intentions in Italy. For example, on 13 August 1943 Ultra decrypts were received that suggested that the German plan was 'to withdraw to a line at Pisa-Fimini, denying the Allies the Po Valley'. This led to more ambitious plans being adopted for the subsequent invasion of Italy - i.e. the splitting of Allied resources into BAYTOWN, SLAPSTICK and AVALANCHE rather than a more concentrated landing solely in the "Toe".

    Again it would be interesting to understand if the late June 1943 'Stay Put Order' was reviewed in the light of changing intelligence being received by the Allies and particularly, as noted in my previous post, as the Allies began to track increasing numbers of German formations entering Italy as the summer of 1943 came to an end.

    Perhaps blaming a personality was easier than blaming ULTRA!

    Regards

    Tom
     
  3. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Tom,

    If the Stay Put order was a mistake, what do YOU think should have been put in its place, even at the last minute?

    Vitellino
     
  4. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi,

    You seem to misunderstand what I'm trying to say, I've obviously not been very clear, sorry.

    I'm just trying to clarify the context in which MI9 issued the order and trying to understand whether they, or anyone else at the War Office or at AFHQ considered it worth reviewing the order or even, in the case of the latter, understood that it had been issued.

    I'm also trying to understand why Montgomery has made such a convenient scapegoat!

    As for the implications of it being rescinded, I would tend to agree with you and several others on this thread that, as Frank stated:

    On the other hand, the release of 50,000 Allied personnel would undoubtedly have caused considerable disruption in the (very) short-term due to the need for German units to expend resources rounding them up. This would, however, seem unlikely to have any significant impact on the front-line fighting in the south of Italy as there was simply insufficient amphibious shipping available to land overwhelming forces quickly enough to force the Germans to retreat north of Rome quickly. The release of large numbers of unfit prisoners would also likely have created circumstances in which German brutality towards both the prisoners and the local Italian population would have increased.

    It also seems to me that the GIANT TWO airborne plan generated at AFHQ threatened to add around 10,000 highly trained American airborne troops to the existing number of Allied personnel being moved as prisoners north into Germany.

    It is also true, however, that some prisoners defied the order and did evade capture and others who wanted to try were prevented by senior camp officers. It might be that an order that gave the senior officers greater latitude to allow escapes by personnel who appeared likely to be fit enough (mentally and physically) to have a reasonable chance of successful evasion would have been more appropriate to the changing situation.

    Regards

    Tom
     
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  5. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Tom,

    Thanks for your reply. I didn't misunderstand you, it's just that the 'what might have been' scenario is what interests me rather than who was to blame. I agree that the SBOs should have had some leeway - which a number of them took, in any case.

    Regards,

    Vitellino
     
  6. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi,

    I've just received a copy of Richard Lamb's 'War in Italy 1943-1945: A Brutal Story' and he throws interesting light on the origins of the 'Stay Put Order' which contradicts much of the account given by Foot and Langley; whilst calling it an 'atrocious order'.

    His research is impressive, and he identified that the signal issued by the War office on 7 June 1943 was copied to AFHQ Algiers and GHQ MEF in Cairo telling them that they were going to send to the Italian camps 'orders that they were not to make mass break-outs but in event of invasion to try and send escapers to give our forces information … we cannot authorize [mass break-outs] owing to possible danger mass reprisals'.

    He goes on to describe an exchange of signals from the Middle East to MI9 arguing that the 'Stay Put' order was mistaken. For example, on 1 Aug 43, the ME Defence Committee in Cairo cabled the Foreign Office and the War Office that in their opinion escapes should be encouraged as 'Temporary dispersal of latter [Allied POWs] all over countryside would prevent wholesale deportations to Germany and create difficulties for Germans.' A proposed plan was sent back to the War Office containing ideas for supporting escaping POWs and tentative plans for extracting them from the Italian coastline; and Crockatt was asked to signal anew to the POW Camps detailing the plans; Crockatt refused.

    Lamb goes on to quote a signal back from Crockatt, dated 23 August 1943, stating that 'the War Office considered opinion was that … no plans can be co-ordinated with those of invading forces. Possibly certain camps will disobey our instructions and organize mass break-outs but we cannot authorize them owing danger possible mass reprisals.'

    Clearly, therefore, debate about the POW issue was being held at a higher level than that of Eighth Army, with direct lines of communication on the issue between AFHQ and GHQ MEF dating back to June and continuing through July and August, whilst the debate at a Grand Strategic level over the intention to invade Italy rumbled on.

    Given the date of the final reply from the War Office, with final planning for both Eighth Army's invasion at the 'toe' of Italy and of Fifth Army's invasion at Salerno now well advanced and therefore the context of this order being completely different from that of June, attempts to identify Montgomery as the "culprit" for the 'stay put' order seem ridiculous and clearly call into question the integrity of the MI9 history.

    In addition, and given our knowledge of German responses to the surrender of Italy and to the 'great escape', I personally would not argue that the War Office's considered opinion that mass escape would have led to mass reprisals was wrong. Whether the 'difficulties' thereby imposed on the Germans would have justified the casualties suffered by the POWs and Italian population also seems highly doubtful, notwithstanding subsequent historians' opinions.

    Incidentally, on 8 September, Crockatt signalled to the Middle East that 'the whole question action POWs in event Italian collapse' was under consideration by the Chiefs of Staff!

    I'll try to follow up some of Lamb's references next time I'm up in Kew.

    Regards

    Tom
     
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  7. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks for this. I read Lamb twenty years ago before I became involved in the POW issue-.

    Vitellino
     
  8. Crosbygirl

    Crosbygirl Junior Member

    Hello Viteliino,
    My name is Ann and I have just recently re-joined the Italy Forum. Presently I am transcribing in excess of 1,000 Italy Campaign Memoirs for a book that I hope to have published a bit later this year (I have been working on this book for 10 years on and off.) Amongst the memoirs I have received are some very detailed accounts as to how a Veteran just walked out of their particular camp when the Italian Military disappeared overnight leaving their prisoners to defend themselves - some were later recaptured by the Germans whilst others were most successful in getting away - thought you might be interested.
    Regards
    Ann
     
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  9. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    How interesting, Ann.

    When you say you are transcribing Italian campaign memoirs what is your source of information?

    I have been rersearching prisoners of war in Italy for a long time now and have four websites and have written a book (in English and Italian) on Pows in Umbria, where I used to live. I have used both official documents, both Italian and Allied, and personal memoirs of the prisoners and those who helped them.

    I have just finished a book on deaths behind the lines - POWs and Special OPs. - and am hoping to publish shortly. Good luck with yours,

    Vitellino
     
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  10. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Vitellino,

    Is your book still in print? In English though, as sadly my Italian is very poor (in fact: qualità molto scadente). :unsure:

    Ann,

    The memoirs sound interesting...I've got the IWM book of Italian campaign, are your memoirs sourced from elsewhere?

    Regards

    Tom
     
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  11. Crosbygirl

    Crosbygirl Junior Member

    Hello Vitellino,
    Thank you for your response.
    After a visit to Monte Cassino with Italy Campaign Veterans several years ago, in the evenings over a glass of vino, I listened to some of the experiences these young gentlemen described and suggested that they should be recorded for future generations, especially as the Italy Campaign is very much forgotten here in the UK. Word spread and within months I started receiving veterans' memoirs from all over the world - absolutely amazing!
    My late father served with the Royal Artillery from the UK, North Africa and then landed at Taranto and went right through to Austria.
    Let me know when your book is published please, my library on Italy has taken over one room of my house! Also your website address.
    Kind regards
    Ann

    PS Have a contact who runs an Association totally devoted to escaping POW's in Italy and other occupied countries. Send me email address and I will forward his details.
     
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  12. Crosbygirl

    Crosbygirl Junior Member

    Hello Tom.

    Thank you for your reply and interest.

    The memoirs I am transcribing are all from genuine veterans who took part in the Campaign.
    My book isn't finished yet, it will be in English, haven't had the time to learn Italian yet but have Italian on my IPOD and try to listen when I have the time.

    When I first started my research I found nothing written about the Italy Campaign but with a lot of further research I now have my own little library that takes up all walls in my study.

    I have added this book list to my book in case anyone else wants to source books.
    Kind regards
    Ann
     
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  13. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
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  14. Lucky Gunner

    Lucky Gunner Adult user

    Stay put, head south toward Allied lines, or head north to the Swiss Alps?
    Newly released book 'Shooting Through: Campo 106 Escaped POWs after the Italian Armistice' weaves first-hand accounts of escaped Australian and New Zealander POWs (and some British) from camp to various locations and outcomes into 1944 and 1945. Working from interviews, memoirs and archival records sourced from Australian and UK archives, Shooting Through reveals the decision-making by POWs, the Italian men and women who assisted and befriended them, and the tragedy and humour that this shared history between nations brought forth and which resonates to the present day. Book was launched at Tobruk House, Melbourne, earlier this month, on invitation of Rats of Tobruk Association.
    Foreword by Professor Peter Monteath (author Escape Artist; POW:Australians in Hitlers Reich).
    Two appendices in the book:
    1. Campo 106 Australian POWs (790 me; the Swiss arrivals, and the deaths, are annotated)
    2. New Zealander POWs who reached Switzerland
    Book can be purchased through international online booksellers. For Australian buyers, contact me by FB, my website, email (katrinakittel9@gmail.com for signed copies which can be promptly posted to you.
    I am part of the research team behind my late friend and research colleague Bill Rudd's website Welcome Letter | ANZAC POW Free Men in Europe
    Best wishes to all,
    Katrina Kittel
    Katrina Kittel – Historian Author
    Katrina Kittel: Researcher of POW in wartime Italy
     

    Attached Files:

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  15. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    I came across this extract from the British Chiefs of Staff papers dated November 1943 today which throws new light on the "stay put" order and casts further doubt on the version in the MI9 book (source CAB80/76/3):

    CAB80-76-3 - Italian POW order.JPG

    So that suggests that the 'stay put' order was sent out to both German and Italian POW camps 15 months before Nov 43. So clearly nothing to do with Montgomery, on leave or otherwise.:D

    Regards

    Tom
     
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  16. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I know of a few instances where the camp commandant did supply the men with food and did release them - PG 115 Morgnano (Umbria) being one. On other occasions the commandant or another official led the men out himself - Santo Rocco at PG 146/1 Mortara and Mario Cuneo at PG Marina no.1 Manziana. From the evidence available the latter two would seem to have acted upon their own initiative rather than upon any instructions from above.

    Vitellino
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2021
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  17. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Some interesting accounts from two of the above named camps:

    PG 115 Morgnano

    BBC - WW2 People's War - Bill Clark's War 3 of 8 Chapters, He was Captured 4, Released 1, Escaped 3

    The full story of what happened at PG115 Morgnano can be read in my book The Long Trail Home

    PG Campo Marina No.1.Manziana

    Events here are very well documented in the Escape Report of A.B. Arthur Melling, and several liberation reports:

    A.B. Melling wrote:

    The Italian captain in command of the naval camp at Brecciano (Bracciano) opened the gates on 9 Sept 43 and allowed all the P/W out.

    A.B. Currie explains in his liberation report that not only did he open the gates, he personally led the men away. E.R.A. Morris gave his name as Captain Cuneo as did A.B. Sheldon, the latter commenting that he was an officer in the Italian Army and was very pro-British.

    Ldg. Stoker Flood describes the run-up to their abandoning of the camp in his unpublished memoirs Thanks are not enough (Catalogue no. A1996/190 Submarine Museum Gosport) :

    On the evening of September 8th 1943, we heard the sound of gunfire. We couldn't believe our own ears, or understand the significance either, but we were all very interested, especially since it caused so much confusion among the guards, who seemed as much in the dark as we were. Later in the evening, around ten o'clock, our two German interrogators came into our room looking very excited, and one had his Luger in his hand. They said that they had some news for us and said: 'Italy has surrendered and the gunfire you can hear is the Italians celebrating the occasion by firing their guns.' He went on: 'We must return to the Reich and burn all our documents before leaving, so we wish you all the best of luck, and I expect Monty will be here for you in the morning.' They gave us a wave and left us. Unbelievable, and not prisoners for a month yet.

    The Camp commandant came into the room to congratulate us on our good fortune, and explained to us that he had only been doing his job in interrogating us. We told him that we realised this, and asked him: 'What is our position now, and what is all the shooting about?'

    He replied, 'You are no longer my prisoners, but I would advise you to spend the night inside the compound for your own safety, as the Italian soldiers have been celebrating and are shooting at shadows, and if you should go down to the road you might get shot by accident.' This sounded quite feasible, so we decided to do what he had suggested, and after drinking a bottle of beer that was our part of the celebrations, we retired to spend our last night as prisoners of war behind barbed wire.

    Captain Cuneo supervised the issuing of food parcels, one to each man, along with twenty Players cigarettes.

    For more detail see my book Twixt the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, written in collabroation with E.R.A. Morris' daughter Anne M. Corke

    Vitellino

    Edited to say that I will send the above document to Captain Cuneo's grandson
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2021
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