An excerpt from ...

'PRISONERS AND PARTISANS:
ESCAPE AND EVASION IN WORLD WAR II ITALY.'

by Malcolm Tudor
..............................................................................................................................................................

THE MOST TRAVELLED ESCAPERS

    The officer who obtained the axe for the prison train breakout was Major Hugh Fane-Hervey. He had won the Military Cross fighting the Italians at Sidi Barrani aged 24 and led the 'Other Ranks' company during the escape from Fontanellato.
     The major had also taken the road to Rome. He was accompanied by Flight Lieutenant Garrad-Cole, whom we last encountered in the Apennines in November. One of the priests helping the Allied escape organisation persuaded the caretaker at the Swiss Legation to let the officers use an apartment in a closed off section of the building, which was formerly the British Embassy. The major again used his ingenuity in breaking into the sealed off wine cellar and the two friends celebrated the Christmas of 1943 in some style. They moved later to avoid compromising the diplomatic status of the British Minister, Sir D' Arcy Osborne.
     The two officers stayed in a variety of private billets. Early one morning, at the flat of Renzo and Adrienne Lucidi in Via Scialoia, Major Fane-Hervey was awoken by a German trooper shouting 'Light! Light!' When the soldier demanded to know who he was the Englishman muttered the first thing that came into his head, which was 'Paula.' The German nodded, looked around for a moment or two, and left. The troops were also taken in by another lodger, Lieutenant William Simpson, who told them he was Adrienne's nephew. When the confused Germans returned, the officers had fled.
     After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to cross the lines at Anzio, Flight Lieutenant Garrad-Cole returned to Rome. At six foot four inches tall and blond he stood out in a crowd. One day the airman was followed off a tram and along the street by two uniformed Germans. They demanded to see his identity card, which was forged, and gave him an order. The airman understood only two words, Via Tasso,' the location of the Gestapo headquarters. As they marched along, the officer stuck his leg out and tripped one of the guards. The other released a random shot as Garrad-Cole fled around a corner and into a familiar block. On the top floor was the Lucidi's flat. The fugitive re-emerged some time later, with a change of coat and hat and hand in hand with the family's eleven-year-old son, Maurice, who chattered away to him in Italian. They passed the German soldiers unchallenged.
     The commander of the British network in Rome, Major Sam Derry, remarked that this was 'an example of something we had always believed: that if the Germans were told to look for a tall man in a light raincoat and a dark hat, they would never think of stopping a tall man in a dark raincoat and a light hat.'
     Major Fane-Hervey adopted the alias of Count Paolo Fattorini. He regularly attended the Rome Opera House and hired a box next to that of the German Commander. On one occasion the major even obtained the German's autograph on his programme.
     When the capital was freed in June 1944, Hugh Fane-Hervey captured five Germans and handed them over to the Allies. He was awarded a Bar to the Military Cross that he had won in the deserts of North Africa.
    During the previous nine months Rome and the Vatican City had been a magnet for escapers and evaders from all over central and northern Italy. The official British Organisation in Rome for Assisting Allied Escaped Prisoners of War is the topic of the next chapter.

..............................................................................................................................................................

Please close this window to return to the main site