One of the more neglected theatres of war in the Second World War was the Italian campaign of 1943. Italy surrendered in September 1943 but he Nazis fought on in their place relentlessly. There were some 60,000 allied soldiers in Prisoner of War camps. Their Italian guards fled. Rather surprisingly the allied orders were to stay put and be relocated in Germany. Many including Mark Bonham ignored this and escaped. Their flight to safety was aided by Italain peasants. The Nazis ordered any such assistance would be met by execution and destruction of the family house. Nonetheless help was given.
To acknowledge this, a charily known as the San Martino Trust was set up. Its mission is to bring over to England some 40 young students annually from areas of Italy who gave such support, brought to a English language school and provided with an English course. I was touched by the mission statement and gave a donation. This was matched by Stefano whose grand uncle fought win the partisans as did the film director Franco Zeffirelli.
Italians did not cover themselves in glory during the Second World War but this charity highlights that not all displayed blind obedience to fascism and the axis. Some Italians risked their lives to help the allies and it’s right that this is acknowledged and heralded for posterity.