SPECIAL OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE, 1940-1946
Series 1, Special Operations in Western Europe
Part 1: France: The Jedburgh Teams and Operation Overlord, 1944-1945,
Part 2: France: Political and Planning Files, Circuits and Missions, 1940-1947
Part 3: Germany, 1936-1945
Part 4: Holland, 1940-1949
Part 5: Italy, 1941-1948
Extracts from Documents - Part 5
Cipher Telegram to Maryland 26.11.43
“Following for J. from A/DE:
1. Saw Colonel Gore today recently escaped from Italy via Voltri and Corsica with help of PIZZONI (son of General) and Doctor Balduzzi Repeat Balduzzi respectively President and Vice President of Fronte Nazionale Liberazione Northern Italy.
2. He states these are first class men in touch with all the Resistance Groups in the hills behind CHIAVARI, GENOA, VOLTRI etc which are full of Resisters including 200 at TORRIGLIA repeat TORRIGLIA where is German HQ for Ligure and 200 at Voltri.
3. He left nine officers and O.R.’s behind at Cabanne (Rezzoaglio) where fair landing ground situated with instructions re. Fires for operational planes and can also contract above named men.
4. States also that these men are able and willing at anytime to cut lines Piacenza/Parma, Sepzia/Parma, and Genoa/Spezia.
5. They can also assist considerably any landing in Genoa district asserting to have 200,000 workmen from ANSALDO and other works in ligure all anti-German willing to act 6 states essential have one allied soldier as backbone to every nine Italians in the hills.”
Report on interview with Lieut. J. W. Younger of the Coldstream Guards ex POW.
“This officer, who spent several months with the Italian patriot bands . . . had well-balanced ideas of the potentiality of the bands, and had apparently also studied while he was with them, their political tendencies. He was with the 31st Garibaldi Brigade in the district of Salso Maggiore, Parma with HQ at Pellegrino, but had contact also with other Brigades in neighbouring districts. He considered that the patriots in this sector (Apennines) are excellent fighting material, providing they have sufficient arms and equipment. He stated also that although the Garibaldi Brigades were generally considered communist Brigades, this was not always the case: a large no. of men in the Garibaldi Brigade had no, or very little communist feeling. He stated also that the Demo-Christian party has a considerable number of followers amongst the patriots.”
Liaison with 8th Army: Operation Instruction No. 1 to Captain E R McDermott,
RE commanding No 1 Special Force Liaison Unit, 8th Army
Secret. 27 December 1944. Ref: MN/884.
1. 8th Army have requested that a small Liaison Unit be attached to them by No. 1 Special Force and 15th Army Group have approved this attachment.
2. Before departure you will ensure that you are acquainted with the location and potentialities of all patriot bands whose activities are of tactical importance to 8th Army.
3. You will command the No. 1 Special Force Liaison Unit attached to 8th Army and you will have the following tasks:
(a) To study the use made by 8th Army of Partisans on their front and behind the German lines;
(b) to examine the methods adopted and the organization required for this use;
(c) to advise 8th Army of the contributions that a No. 1 Special Force Detachment could make if attached to them.”
Secret and Personal: To: Major Macintosh, D.S.O. From: Capt. Clark.
J/2142. 23 November 1944.
“Just a few small points to add to your already manifold worries. We all know how harassed you have been and still are but I think that if the following can be attended to it would make life easier for both of us:-
(a) Some time ago a signal was sent to GORILLA and later a chaser to HOOLOCK asking whether you had any use for 10 trained Italian saboteurs who are tugging at the leash and ready to go anywhere and do anything. Neither signal, I regret to say, has been answered and unless you can take these boys on we will have to discharge them as there is nothing for them here. They are first-class material but rapidly deteriorating. Please let us have your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as soon as possible.
(b) We assume that you are now controlling all your operations to ENVELOPE BLUE over your own link with Holland. Please confirm.
(c) In spite of (b) we would still like to be informed daily whether or not the STRACHAN operation is on ”
Subject: Operations with 92 Div. Ref: 1SF/G./1.
To: Capt. Stewart. From: Major Macintosh. 13 November 1944.
“1. 92 Div. Asked if we could help with partisans on their immediate front.
2. We explained Major OLDHAM’s position as follows:
(a) He commands the widely scattered and ill-armed LUNESE Div. of approx. 3500 men.
(b) He, through Major DAVIES, has expressed himself capable of co-operating with the regular forces if these were to advance.
(c) He was, at the time (7 November), concentrating some 500 men due East of CASTELNUOVO. He could concentrate more men of the Appuani Bde in the area given 4 days’ notice.
(d) His daylight dropping ground was given by another courier (Lt. Bruno).
(e) It was estimated that he might cut the route used by the enemy for the supply of his troops in the MONTE ALTISSIMO area for 4 hrs with his present amn. supply, and that, with more amn. He could hold for some 24 to 48 hrs.
3. The information concerning Major OLDHAM’s ground was passed to BASE on 6 November.
4. We informed Div that Major OLDHAM’s forces might assist them to the degree shown in para. 2 above making the distinction between his possible action armed and his present limitations. We informed them that stores were ready always at BRINDISI for operations of this nature and that it might be possible to get a drop through Army. We also told them that we had requested a drop in the usual way but that there were many priorities to be considered...”
From Operation Instruction No 102 by Commander No. 1 Special Force
Top Secret. Ref: MN/930. 13 February 1945.
This document deals with the possibility of a German withdrawal from Northern Italy and discusses what the role of No. 1 Special Force in liberated territory will then be:
“(i) to establish Report Centres for mission personnel in the principal cities of the north west evacuated by the Germans. Such personnel would advise the local CLNs on the restoration of order and maintenance of public services pending the arrival of AMG and would then place themselves at the disposal of the military authorities...
(ii) to continue tactical work with 5th and 8th Armies during their advance towards the AUSTRIAN frontiers...”
Brief for Commander Italian Special Air Service, 29 March 1945
“QUATTROCASE and MAGNACAVALLO areas. Working mainly by night, with the special object of creating traffic jams which might make favourable targets for the air forces next day.
1. You have been nominated by HQ SOMTO to command a force of Italian parachute troops being raised by HQ Eight Army for Operation HERRING.
2. Outline of scheme: The force will consist of F RECCE SQN and volunteers from the NEMBO Regt. of the FOLGORE Gruppo organised as a company. All operational personnel will be volunteers and have already received parachute training. The number of volunteers likely to be available is not yet known.
3. For political reasons, these two sub-units will retain their identity and be self- supporting. A small BRITISH HQ which you will command, is being formed for the equipment administration, training and planning of the force. This HQ is purely temporary and will exist for a period of not more than six weeks or two months. No establishment exists for it against which promotions or increases of pay could be authorised.
4. The force is being formed by Eighth Army, which has delegated responsibility to 13 Corps. When formed it will come under command 15 ARMY GROUP for all purposes, though a call may be made on Army for any special assistance.
5. Operational Tasks:
Outline plans for alternative tasks for this force are being submitted to Army Group by Armies. A copy of the Eighth Army outline plan will be given to you as soon as possible.
6. In general, the proposals are that the forces shall be dropped in small parties of three or four men behind the enemy lines when he is withdrawing in disorder after a major defeat at the hands of 15 ARMY GROUP. Tasks of these parties will be to harass and delay the enemy’s withdrawal by all possible means. It is accepted that, once dropped, parties must exist and operate without any further assistance living on and fighting with the equipment they take with them, and whatever they can find in the country. Parties would not be dropped unless the battle is fluid and there would be a reasonable expectation of their being over-run by our own troops within a few days.”
File on the RANKIN brief in the event of withdrawal of German forces.
How should missions respond? There are documents relating to the following Missions: ANTIGUA, BANTRY, BARSTON I, BARSTON II, BEACON, BALLONET, BERGAMO, BEEBE, BERGENFIELD, BERIWIND, BESSEMER, BIGFORK, BIGBUG, BIGELOW, BILBRIGGS, BITTEROOT, BLACKFOLDS, BLANCHARD, BLATCHFORD, BOSS, CHARTERHOUSE, ENVELOPE, FLOORLIGHT, CHARLTON, LITTLEPORT, MAYO, RADLEY, SERMON, and WELBECK.
SOE policy is set out in detail in long briefing documents. One of these notes as follows (see folio 96):
“In future, some arrangements with ACC and AMG should be made by which the SOE mission has power to issue temporary circulation passes, car permits, and assume certain other alternative functions pending the arrival of the appropriate authorities. A firm policy for dealing with liberated partisan forces is necessary. This policy must provide for the disposal of large numbers of young men without home, work, or resources and must take into account that these men have in many cases been risking their lives during the enemy occupation.”
A further note in parenthesis records: “This question has to a large extent been solved by the setting up of the patriots branch of ACC to which two SOE officers have been lent.”
Another file on the RANKIN brief covering the following Missions:
FERRULA, PIEDMONT, CLOVER, CHARTERHOUSE, AMBLESIDE, CRESTON, CLARION, and BANDON. This material covers instructions to SOE officers in the field in the event of German forces withdrawing from area in which they are operating before the arrival of Allied troops. The possible scenarios would be largely dependent on local conditions and the state of order and discipline which had been maintained up to the arrival of Allied troops.
Observations from JQ dated 17 October 1944 comment on the Rankin brief as follows:
“Fully comprehend need for refraining activities in spheres which require handling by experts. Agree on difficulty exercising control without means backing it up. Also agree even if control were recognized in view of eventual arrival Allied troops Missions would find themselves in morass of problems to solve and decisions to make...”
There is also material on North Italian concentration camps at Fossoci (Carpi), Monte Chiarugolo, Castello, Gonars and Monegro.
Partisans in Northern Italy.
This file mainly contains cipher telegrams including codename missions Pulpit North, Pulpit West, Pulpit South and Pulpit East. Much of the material covers the treatment of Partisans in Northern Italy:
Appendix 1 to 15 Army Group Operations Instruction No 5, 12 April 1945.
Treatment of Partisans in Northern Italy.
“On their entry into Northern ITALY ALLIED troops will make contact with Partisans in numbers considerably larger than any hitherto encountered. These partisans have in large measure loyally obeyed the orders of the Allies and have caused very concrete losses and embarrassment to the enemy; they have thus earned as good treatment as can reasonably be afforded them. In addition, in the absence of fair and yet firm treatment and, in the absence of positive and constructive employment, they might form a disillusioned and dangerous element under the disorganised conditions likely to exist during the period immediately following the withdrawal of the Germans and the arrival of the Allies . . .”
This six page document (see folios 113-118) goes on to address a number of issues: Disarmament of Partisans, Independent Action by Partisans, Care of Partisans, Establishment of Partisan Centres, Food, Clothing, Pay, Hospitalisation, Rehabilitation, Collecting of Partisans, and Yugoslav Forces.
This file covers SOE/Soviet relations and the Pickaxe mission.
A Memorandum of 17 April 1944 (see folio 4) sets out the background details:
“As you are probably aware, an agreement exists between SOE and its Russian counterpart for mutual assistance in the fulfilment of their respective roles...
The principal way in which the agreement operates on our side is the offer, from time to time, by SOE of its facilities for the infiltration of Russian agents into various areas of Europe... SOE, in carrying out such operations, is executing the policy of HMG under the immediate guidance of the Foreign Office...”
SOE/Soviet relations; infiltration of Russian agents into Italy.
Covering SOE/Soviet relations again, this file focuses on two Russian agents and their proposed infiltration into Italy; the main details being set out in a memorandum of 11 January 1943 (see folio 238) under the heading:
Andrei KALIAIEV and Alexandre FILIPOV
“...The following are the details of these agents’ cover story for this country:
Andrei KALIAIEV, now known as Alberto ROSSI, an Italian Swiss, born at Bellinzona, Ticino, on 16 May 1898, a single man and an engineer by profession (this last is genuine).
Alexandre FILIPOV, now known as Alessandro FLORO, born at Capolago, Ticino, Italian Swiss and date of birth, 4 November 1910, a single man and an engineer by trade.
Both these men will enter Italy as engineers. They are both at present accomodated at 25 Cropthorne Court, Maida Vale.”
Such agents were infiltrated into Northern Italy, originally via the south of France, later through Gibraltar, with delivery by air or submarine.
Dr Ugo's Plans to Penetrate the Allied Intelligence Service in Switzerland in the Summer of 1944. Extract from the Second Detailed Interrogation Report
on SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Saevecke, Theodor, 24 June 1945, provides details of Ugo's original plan.
“...UGO submitted to source a plan whereby it was hoped to achieve a penetration of Allied Intelligence rings in SWITZERLAND. The plan involved the employment of MONTANELLI, Dorothy GIBSON and General ZAMBON, three anti-Fascists then in prison at MILAN.
MONTANELLI, GIBSON and ZAMBON were to be released, ostensibly through the influence of UGO, and to be conducted into SWITZERLAND. When they were there UGO was to enter SWITZERLAND himself, pose as their liberator and as an enemy of the Germans, and state his willingness to work for the Allies. He hoped in this way to secure an introduction to Allied intelligence circles.”
Dorothy Gibson was an American. Both Ugo’s original plan and his second plan failed.
Translation of an article appearing in the Italian Patriot paper
“The Rain has ceased”… October. (see folio 78).
“General Alexander has sent another wireless message to the Italian partisans inviting them to arise and act, to hinder “by every means” the retreat of Germans.
“By every means . . .” But with rifles – when there are any – is it possible to fight against canon – with hand grenades – when there are any – can we hope to overcome flame throwers. Let the technicians reply, the war lords; let Alexander, Clark and that other Brazilian General who has now taken up his post, reply. Without adequate means it is not possible to make war and not even guerrilla warfare. Faith enthusiasm, will are not sufficient: arms are necessary, munitions are required. Many arms, much ammunition. It is possible to remain several days without bread, thirst can be supported, as can also the cold and the rain. But when the ammunition is exhausted one dies. How many brave youngsters have died thus with arms in their hands shouting their cry of Italy! How many patriots have been captured because it has been impossible for them to defend themselves been for lack of munitions...”
Interrogations regarding the fate of the British officer, Captain John Armstrong, and other British prisoners.
This file comprises papers regarding the fate and whereabouts of a number of different individuals. Included are case papers and interrogations regarding the fate of the British officer, Captain John Armstrong, and other British prisoners, Cooper, alias O’Mally, and Simpson. The following extract is from folio 74:
Report of a Conversation with Father O’Snedden of the International Prisoner of War Information Bureau in the Vatican Radio, now employed unofficially as chaplain to the New Zealand Forces Club, Albergo Quirinale, via Nazionale, Rome.
"15 August 1944.
1. Father SNEDDEN knew the British prisoner COOPER alias O’MALLY very well and on account of this Major Derry asked him to go to the Santo Spirito Hospital Mortuary to try and see if the unidentifiable body amongst the 14 persons murdered in the via Cassis was COOPER.
2. Father SNEDDEN states that he went along to the mortuary sometime between 5th and 12th June. There he spoke in the first instance to the custodian of the mortuary . . . SNEDDEN says that it was impossible to recognise any features, but that he was of the opinion that the body was slightly taller and a little more robust than that of COOPER as SNEDDEN had known him.
3. In a subsequent conversation with the second custodian (of the mortuary) father SNEDDEN was informed that on 3rd June two Englishmen were in via Tasso. One of them had been there all the time, and this was quite definitely COOPER. The other had been brought from some other place on 2nd or 3rd June, and it was generally understood that this second Englishman had come from Regina Coeli.
4. In Via Tasso on those dates there was a Capucin father, who was either a prisoner or a visitor. It was thought however, that he was a prisoner. It is said that one Englishman was loaded on the tumbril, the occupants of which, to the number of 14, were subsequently murdered in the Via Cassia. This Englishman, either whilst he was being taken from his cell, or when he was being loaded on to the truck, gave his real name and home address to the Capucin monk, so that his parents might be informed.
5. Father SNEDDEN told me that he had repeated this information to Major Derry.
6. Father SNEDDEN also told me that the second custodian had said to SNEDDEN that the Capucin monk was in a bad way and was unable to speak at that time, as he had been beaten up.”
Top Secret. Memorandum from ISLD c/o 59 Area HQ, CMF
to Brigadier C E R Hirsch; Copy to Major de Haan, No. 1 Special Force.
30 June 1944.
“1. A full investigation of the clandestine organisation RUDDER (which operated on behalf of the Allied and Italian High Commands during the German occupation of ROME) has now been completed.
2. It reveals that Colonel MONTEZEMOLO (pseudonym APLINO) and Captain VASSALLI (pseudonym RUDDER), were largely responsible for the development of this organisation.
3. Captain VASSALLI took the RUDDER code through the lines to ROME immediately after the declaration of Armistice. To him, therefore, is due the credit that the wireless sets in the capital were ever brought into operation. He thereafter devoted himself wholeheartedly to collecting Intelligence, under the orders of Colonel MONTEZEMOLO.
4. The latter, a senior Italian staff officer, formerly on KESSELRING’s staff, was entirely responsible for the intricate system by which all informants were directed by one leader (in the first place himself) to whom all information was sent and by whom it was sifted before being transmitted to the Allies.
5. The activities of these officers finally led to their being, one after the other, arrested. Both were imprisoned in the VIA TASSO and submitted to gruelling interrogation. It is known that MONTEZEMOLO, at least was tortured. Neither betrayed his collaborators. Had either done so the organisation would certainly have been wiped out. Both were eventually shot.
6. It is felt that recognition of the services of these two officers to the Allied cause should be made to their families, and it is suggested that the most appropriate form would be letters of appreciation from General ALEXANDER...”
Enemy double agent: Benuzzi.
To: D/CE. From: J.
J/IT/7702, dated 23 July 1945.
“Benuzzi has long ceased to be of interest to SOE except in so far as he might throw light on the double agents whom we might otherwise continue to trust. As Hoyer-Millar rightly says, we have now many other founts of information. There remains the question of his disposal. Undoubtedly the Italians can best deal with him, but there remains the question of the means employed to get him to the south. Several Italians already know all about this, but that is different from having it aired in a public court… As far as I see, therefore, our only concern is the avoidance of publicity of our part in his abduction. Are we more likely to succeed in this by handing him to the Italians for “Justice” in the hope that the Italian Authorities can be primed in advance, so as to keep this matter quiet, or is it better just to let him go free and leave it to chance whether the Italians subsequently run him in, and make a case against him? This, I am afraid, I must leave to you.”
From Preamble to the Interrogation Report on the double agent OSTERIA,
Ugo Luca, alias PARODI, Giovanni. 15 March 1945.
“Subject is an Italian of humble origins, and who may be described as largely self-educated. He was employed by the OVRA from 1928 until the fall of Fascism, and under the auspices of the Pubblica Sicurezza has been engaged in work of a very confidential nature for the enemy until his departure for Switzerland on 24 February 1945. He was employed by the Germans in detecting anti-German activities, but claims that he used his position to help the Allies. His work during the past few years brought him into touch with hundreds of individuals who are now engaged in resistance activities in Northern Italy and he is known to have interrogated many important prisoners...”
Coup-de-main operations. Railway sabotage. Operation Potato.
This file contains the story of Operation POTATO or PATATA, with various photographs relating to the mission:
Operation “POTATO”. 8 June - 4 July 1944.
“This is the story of one of a series of some 50 coup-de-main operations carried out in the months of June and July 1944. At that time the 5th and 8th Armies were just beginning to push forward rapidly towards the Gothic Line. Enemy regrouping was taking place on quite a considerable scale and there was a great deal of movement of men and material from the North down towards the front and a great deal of cross-country movement as troops were switched from the East to the West and vice-versa.
The Allied Air Forces were concentrating on the interdiction of enemy lines of communication in the APENNINES, from the front just NORTH of ROME as far as the line of BOLOGNA. At the request of 5th Army Group a series of about 50 parties of Italian saboteurs were prepared to be dropped in the APENNINE area to attack targets which, because of their geographical situation, were difficult to strike from the air by fighter or by bomber.
Targets were chosen in consultation with the Army and Air Force Intelligence Branches and blind dropping grounds selected as near as possible to the target area. Parties consisted of 2, 4, 6, or 8 Italian saboteurs, volunteers from the Italian Forces. Each team was given a name (in Italian) such as “SOUP”, “APPLE”, “POTATO”. Each had as its primary objective the cutting of railway track in one or several vital places such as junctions, culverts, small bridges, embankments, level crossings. As a subsidiary task, each group was required to attack main and secondary roads and enemy transport being used for the movement of personnel and material. On completion of their tasks groups were briefed to join neighbouring partisans...”
From Report on Operation Blundell Violet in Spezia Province after 15 March 1945.
Major Henderson and Captain F. Williams were ordered to proceed to the field on 6 March 1945 for the purpose of:
(i) Relieving Major G. Lett.
(ii) Liaising with and assisting Command IV Zone.
(iii) Collecting and communicating intelligence
(iv) Passing on to patriots the directives of the 15th Army Group.”
Report on the “Blundell Violet” Mission by Major Lett, 5 April 1945. (see page 11).
“January 1st 1945:
Attack on Borghetto successful though few enemy casualties owing to fact that many had moved out of town before dawn owing lack of secrecy on part of partisans concerned in the attack. Returned to Rossano in the evening, found considerable confusion and terrorised population owing to bad behaviour of partisans, especially G. and L Colonel. Gave orders immediately for expulsion of all patriots from area for military reasons and closed frontiers of Rossano Valley to all persons without special passes made out by Colonel at Command, or self. Colonel moved back with command to VARESE.
January 2nd 1945:
Funeral of 7 US Airmen who crashed at Zeri 30th. Buried in cemetery Rossano; military honours paid by SAS. This crash made Huntsville very unpopular with RAF who refused to drop further re-supplies on that DZ...”
(The above is only a very brief extract from a very long and detailed document; however it serves to give a flavour of the material.)
Report by Captain J P S Amoore.
“Mission CHEROKEE was parachuted on night 16/17th November 1944 to DZ ADSTONE, near ZIMONE (BIELLA), and consisted of the following:
OC Major A Macdonald
Captain J Bell
Lieutenant (now Captain) Amoore
Sergeant (now Corporal) A W Birch…
Our drop was successful, though I landed in the middle of a pig-sty between two large pigs which climbed over the wall in their excitement; I had dropped fourth and last which accounted for my narrowly missing the roof of a farm-house situated outside ADSTONE DZ-this being achieved by pulling on the right-hand lift web which pushed me a yard to the right in time. DZ ADSTONE is not ideal for body dropping being rather too small. All other members of Mission landed well.
The DZ was attacked two hours afterwards by the FASCIST garrison of CERRIONE but the thrust was beaten off...”
Mission to Eastern Tirol and SW Carinthia, 18 August - 27 November 1944.
Two Extracts from Top Secret Report by Major G R H Fielding.
Local Italian background:
“As the mission was compelled to operate from Italian soil and it was entirely dependent on the good will of the Italian Partisans, it is necessary here to give an idea of Partisan organisation in the area. The Partisans are divided into two groups, the Garibaldis and the Osoppo. The Garibaldis are communist and an undisciplined rabble led by ambitious politicians who were not primarily interested in fighting the Germans but in founding and welding a strong political weapon for use after the war. They were extremely unhelpful and were never of the slightest assistance to the mission.
The Osoppo on the other hand comprised all shades of political opinion, and intended first to assist in ejecting the Germans from Italy and then to talk politics. Their officers were drawn mostly from the commissioned ranks of the Army, and their troops from the plains around Udine. The Osoppo were more than helpful and it was entirely due to their co-operation the mission was able to carry on at all.”
First German Offensive and capture of Major Smallwood and WTO:
“On 12 October a German drive started in Carnia. The Partisans, who were very ill equipped, resisted for three days, and then melted to the hills or to their homes. Major Smallwood and his WTO were crossing the hills from Forni Avoltri to our dropping ground due south of Sauris to join me. Unfortunately Smallwood, in crossing the mountains slipped and in falling broke his left forearm and sprained his right ankle very badly. As he was being carried down the mountain he was spotted by a German patrol and compelled to surrender. His WTO, Sergeant Barker, very gallantly refused to leave him. All reports are to the effect that certainly their initial treatment was very good. Smallwood was last reported in hospital in Udine, but Sergeant Barker was presumably taken direct to Germany.”