Volunteers in the Italian Armed Forces

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
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Allen Milcic
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Post by Allen Milcic » 09 Feb 2004 17:26

FB wrote:Hi all,

according to the Esercito Italiano www site there was a Generale di Divisione Giovan Battista OXILIA in the Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito (Royal Army General Staff). Unfortunately the site doesn't give any further info, apart from saying that he was in that position between 1925 and 1946.

Maybe the same person?

IIRC the Commanding general of the Garibaldi Division (the one that fought alongside with Tito's army post Sept, 8 1943, and formed with Units from Venezia Inf. Div. and Turinense Alpini Div.) was a General Oxilia.

Best regards
Hi FB!

Thank you for this valuable information - I suspect that the General Oxilia of the Garibaldi Division may be the individual in question!

As an aside - how common is the use of the letter 'x' in the Italian language? Oxilia seems like an unusual Italian surname.

Best regards from Canada!

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Post by DrG » 09 Feb 2004 19:12

Many thanks to Croat for his corrections and info and to FB for his post about gen. Oxilia.:)
croat wrote:Maybe the same person?
In the (as usual) very useful site http://www.generals.dk there are these info about gen. Oxilia:
Oxilia, Lieutenant-General Giovanni Battista (1887- ? ):
: Commanding Officer 6th Artillery Regiment
: General Officer Commanding Artillery Albania
: Chief of Staff 8th Army
: General Officer Commanding Artillery 4th Army
42 : General Officer Commanding 27th Division Brescia
43 : General Officer Commanding 19th Division Venezia, Yugoslavia
43-44: General Officer Commanding Division Garibaldi, Yugoslavia
44-45: Deputy Chief General Staff Army
44-45: Under-Secretary of War
45-47: General Officer Commanding Customs Guard
47 : Retired

As you can see, he was in Yugoslavia since 1943, as commander of the "Venezia". "Brescia" was fighting in North Africa. I know only that the Celere Corps of the 4th Army was in Yugoslavia, but I don't know if he was there too. :?
As an aside - how common is the use of the letter 'x' in the Italian language? Oxilia seems like an unusual Italian surname.
Common names with the "x" are extremely rare in Italian (pratically except the prefix word "ex-" there are not many other). Also surnames with "x" are very rare (I remember only the singer Anna Oxa, but her surname is Albanian). The surname Oxilia is present in 14 Italian "comuni" (municipalities), mostly in Liguria (see this site: Gens Italia, it is very useful if you want to find the geographic distribution of an Italian surname or name in Italy and the USA).
Last edited by DrG on 18 Mar 2004 14:30, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by DrG » 09 Feb 2004 22:24


(source: "Indiani e Arabi nei centri militari italiani" in "Storia Militare" n.23 ago.1995)

Since the 1930's Fascist Italy had started a pro-Arab policy in the Middle East with anti-British aims. During WW2 two important Arab leaders were in the countries of the Axis: the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, and the former prime minister of Iraq, Rashid 'Ali al-Gaylani. The Italian govern, thanks to the political support of those leaders, decided to recruit an Arab regiment.

On 1 May 1942 was founded the "Centro Militare A" (A for Arabs), placed in villa Tellus, at the km 13,6 of Via Cassia (near Rome). On 2 July 1942 was put under the command of the "Raggruppamento Centri Militari" (it included also the "Centro Militare I", for Indians, and "Centro Miltiare T", for Italians coming from Tunisia), led by col.Massimo Invrea (he had an excellent knowledge of Middle-East and had been a member of the Syrian detachment of the Italo-Frech Armistice Commission).
The "Centro A" was composed of Arabs and Italians from Middle-East countries.
July 1942: Italians: 5 officers, 3 NCOs, 55 soldiers; Arabs: 13 volunteers.
Aug. 1942: Italians: 15 officers, 12 NCOs, 80 soldiers; Arabs: 68 volunteers.
On 18 Aug. the Grand Mufti visited the "Centro A" and on 5 Sept. was created the "Reparto MS" ("Missione Speciale" = Special Mission) that had to be the escort of the Mufti during his planned trip in North Africa after the occupation of Egypt. This unit, under the command of capt. Tellini, had this strenght at the end of Sept.:
Italians: 21 officers, 8 NCOs, 133 soldiers (63 from the Middle-East); Arabs: 67 volunteers. Some of these volunteers were chosen by the Mufti for a special training as future officers in the Arab divisions that had to be raised after the victory of the Axis in North-Africa.
The Mufti visited the "Centro A" again on 7 Oct. and again on 11, when he gave the war flag to the unit.
On 23 Oct. the "Centro A" was renamed "Gruppo Formazioni A", whose strenght at the end of the month was: Italians: 25 officers, 39 NCOs, 271 soldiers; Arabs: 100 volunteers.
The Arabs were in the "1° Reparto Wahada" (5 platoons); instead the Italians were in the "Reparto Guide-Esploratori" (3 platoons, one was sent in N.Africa) and the "Reparto MS" (now without Arabs). The last unit was sent to Neaples to be transferred in N.Africa along with the Mufti, but the defeat in El-Alamein stopped the plan. The last visit of Amin al-Husayni was on 5 Dec.; at the end of the year 1942 the "Gruppo Formazioni A" reached its top strenght: Italians: 52 officers, 64 NCOs, 423 soldiers; Arabs 110 volunteers.
At the beginning of 1943 the Gruppo was transferred in Villa Marina and Ruderi del Calice, south of Rome. It was reorganized into:
- Italian units: command platoon, explorers company, assault company, complements unit, "Reparto MS"
- Arabs: fusiliers company "A".
On 15 August 1943 the Italian units were united into the "Motorized Assault Battalion".
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Post by DrG » 09 Feb 2004 22:59


(source: "Indiani e Arabi nei centri militari italiani" in "Storia Militare" n.23 ago.1995)

Italy had supported Indian independetis movements in the 1920's and 1930's, and during WW2 created a unit made only of Indian POWs.
On March 1942 about 15 Indian volunteers were placed in Villa Marina (near Rome), and at the foundation of the "Centro I" ("I" for "Indians"), on 15 July 1942, they were 44. Their instructors were Italian officers and NCOs speaking English and sometimes that had lived in India. There was an Indian political commissar and consulent: Mohamed Iqbal Sheday.
On 3 Aug. were formed a command squad and three fusilers platoon (but with the manpower of a squad), but in Sept., with the arrival of about 200 new volunteers, were formed:
4 fusiliers platoons
3 machineguns platoons
1 parachters platoon (55 men, sent to Tarquinia for training)
On 1 Oct. the platoons (except the para) were united into a fusiliers company and a machineguns company.
On 22 Oct. the "Centro I" (except the para) was sent to Tivoli for intensive training, and the following day was renamed "Battaglione Hazad Hindostan". Its strenght (without the 55 para) was the following:
Italians: 21 officers, 12 NCOs, 34 soldiers
Indians: 5 NCOs, 185 soldiers.
After the defeat of El-Alamein, and only a few days before the arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose (the Indian pro-Axis leader) in Rome, the Indians of "Centro I" (included the para) mutined. They were arrested and returned to the POW camps, except 8 Indians (not POWs) who continued their propaganda duties.
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Post by DrG » 09 Feb 2004 23:49


(sources: "Maquis", in Storia Militare n.131 ott.2003; "Vita e Tragedia dell'Irredentismo Corso", Storia Verità, n.4, 1997 and "Il Martirio di un irredento: il colonnello Petru Simone Cristofini", Storia Verità n.11, 1998, in "Gli Italiani Dimenticati" by prof.Giulio Vignoli, ed. Giuffè)

Before and during WW2 there were Corsican intellectuals making propaganda and cultural activities (like the "Gruppi di Cultura Corsa") in Italy, like Marco Angeli, Bertino Poli, Petru Giovacchini (he was later chosen as possible governor of Corsica if Italy had annexed it).

In November 1942 the VII Army Corps of the Regio Esercito pacifically occupied Corsica, still under the formal sovereignity of Vichy France.
Because of the lack of partizan resistance and to avoid problems with Petain, no Corsican units were formed under the Italian control (except for a labour battalion formed in March 1943).
Some Corsican militars collaborated with Italy, as the retired Major Pantalacci (and his son Antonio) and col. Petru Simone Cristofini (and his wife, the first Corsican female journalist Marta Renucci).
Col. Cristofini was born in Calenzana (near Calvi) on 26 May 1903; in 1939 he was a captain of the 3rd Algerine Fusiliers rgt. (I don't know its exact French name); after the Allied occupation of French N.Africa he commanded the Phalange Africaine. In Tunisia he was wounded in an eye and, before returning in Corsica (where he supported pro-Italy secessionists), met Mussolini in Rome.
He was put on trial for treason after the Allied occupation of Corsica and sentenced to death. He tried to kill himself, and was executed while he was dying in Nov. 1943.
99 collaborationists or autonomists (included the intellectuals) were put on trial in 1946 and found guilty, 8 of them were sentenced to death, but only Cristofini was executed.

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Post by Gyenes » 10 Feb 2004 01:04

I am still trying to dig up some info on Hungarians in the service of Italy but I found this article about Cossack volunteers in Italian forces.
The volunteer cossack units of the German armed forces are very well known. What is not that well known is, that the Italian army had its own cussack unit, the “Gruppo Autonomo Cossacchi “Savoia””.
The first cossack volunteer sotnia (a Cossack term referring to a cavalry formation of 120- 160 men) was set up by the command of the 8th Italian Army in Millerovo, a city on the Don river, on 25 September 1942. Its name would indicate, that the unit was in some way attached to, or part of, the Savoia Cavalleria Regiment, that itself again was part of the “Barbo” Cavalry Brigade at the time.
The formation of this unit was initially met with some resistance according to the testimony of one of its officers, Vladimir Leonow, above all due to the language difficulties. Any doubts were soon overcome, though, and the mission of training the unit was given to capitano Stavro Santarosa. In a document signed by colonel Golovko and Starshi Captain Maligin, respectively president and secretary of the rejoined circle of the Kuban and Don anticommunist armies, it was affirmed that, that the Italian 8th Army formed its first volunteer cossack sotnia (a cossack term for a cavalry formation of 120-160 men). This happened on 25 September 1942 in the town of Millerovo on the river Don.

According to the same document the commander, Captain Santarosa, was enlisted as honorary cossack of the Kamiscevatskaja stanitsa (i.e. cossack village) of the Eisk's Departement, Kuban's District.

The very first actions by the sotnia raised esteem and entusiasm in the italians. The unit wore italian uniforms with regular collar's stars. Subsequently they were nevertheless gotten cossackian uniforms and the Group could finally present himself complete with Shashqa and Kubanka (saber & busby), as a proper cossack formation. The command was assegn. to Maggiore Count Ranieri di Campello, who were to be decorated by Generale Gariboldi with the Military Gallantry Medal in silver for ''having issued, being wounded, wise dispositions to escape the encirclement of his unit'' the 15-19th Jan. 1943 at Rossoch-Nikitowka.
After the fall of Stalingrad, mixed with the fleeing italians, germans, rumanians, ungarians as well as the Ostreiter units, the cossacks confronted themselves with the inner controversity of partisans' attacks, and the cohesion of the formation began to waver. Count Ranieri himself was saved by some captain Vladimir Ostrowsky, which swiftly managed to stop the arm of a cossack who had came close to the count to shoot him point-blank with his pistol.

Disregarding the defeat, the unit was expanded to form a Gruppo (battalion strength) with two cavalry squadrons, taking the name "Gruppo Autonomo Cosacchi "Savoia"". This name would indicate some sort of relationship with the "Savoia Cavalleria" regiment, that was at this time part of the "Barbo" Cavalry Brigade. Nothing solid is known to me, though.

The unit reached Italy in May 19'43, and was billeted in a farm known as 'Jacur', in the vicinity of Maccaccari Gazzo[Verona, Lombardia, North Italy]. At the time, the unit consisted of two sotnias (a colonel, four officers and about 360 cossacks), and was subordinate to the “Lancieri Novara” Cavalry Regiment, under the the command of marquis Cavarzerani. According to the Podestà (Mayor) of Gazzo Veronese, the cossacks -which usually would be prone to be invovled in cases of rustler and plunder- were not disliked by the local population. Their bahaviour reminded him the atmosphere of traditional cossacks' novels.

In the August of 1943 general Gariboldi reviewed the Group and praised the cossacks. After Italy switched sides on 8 september 1943, the germans, to whom the existence of the Group was known, spared them from internment. In return they agreed, on their word, that the Group would retaining weapons and horses, would not take arms against the Wehrmacht.

Afterwards a number of them moved in Camporosso in Val Canale, the remnants, after having hidden weapons and ammo, scattered themselves, finding shelter in civilian clothes at some farms (it is possible that some of them if not all could have joined bands of partisan, at least to survey -hy ipothesis). Vladimir Leonow, after having remained for some time in Camporosso, is said to have joined the the Special Cossack Corps of general Timofey Ivanovich Domanow, thatmoved into N-Italy and established a "Cossackistan", a new homeland for the many Cossacks that had fled with the Germans, when they retreated from the USSR. A number of other cossacks from the former Italian battalion also seems to have finally ended up here.

The valourous captain Ostrowsky, which with an action probably never recognized with a commendation, saved major di Campello's life, embarked himself after the war on a private fleet flying Panama's flag and dispelled his path. He escaped the deliver to the soviets to die in Argentina, by the friendly Axis' Ratline.

This being told, it also has to be said, that there is substantial disagreement over the specifics of the unit. Various sources tell of them clad in Soviet, traditional cossack or regular Italian uniforms. There is also considerable disagreement as to where the unit went after the Italian switch in 1943.

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Ivan Bajlo
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Post by Ivan Bajlo » 17 Feb 2004 19:21

DrG wrote:(just a note: in that article the Italian governor is called Pirzia Birolia, his correct full name was gen. Alessandro Pirzio Biroli).
That is the reason why at the bottom of each page there is form which is difficult to miss and states:

Send in additions, new information's or corrections you have!

If you have updates, new info, you have found factual error, error in translation, grammar error or only simple typing error. Please let us know! Fill in the form and send it back. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Since most of my information are from Yugoslav literature which has nasty habit of changing foreign names I'm counting on visitor to correct such errors.

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Post by K.Kocjancic » 18 Feb 2004 21:06

Ivan Bajlo wrote:Since most of my information are from Yugoslav literature which has nasty habit of changing foreign names I'm counting on visitor to correct such errors.
This applys only for Croat and Serb literature: "Piši, kao što govoriš."

This is the one of the major problems when you're reading something in Serbo-Croatian Language. When I was reading some books on WWII, I always found some new names: like Göring became Gering.... :lol: :wink:

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Ivan Bajlo
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Post by Ivan Bajlo » 19 Feb 2004 12:37

K.Kocjancic wrote:This applys only for Croat and Serb literature: "Piši, kao što govoriš."

This is the one of the major problems when you're reading something in Serbo-Croatian Language. When I was reading some books on WWII, I always found some new names: like Göring became Gering.... :lol: :wink:
Only Serbian writers do that, most of the Croatian try to avoid Vuk Karadzic whenever they can and as oxymoron they even started inventing new words that "sound less Serbian" 8O despite the fact that that particular word was Croatian since day one and Serbs never used it. :lol:

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Post by DrG » 21 Feb 2004 00:21

I've found a photo of the badge of the Croat Legion posted in this old thread: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=28449.
USAF1986 wrote:The badge had “Legione Croata” in Italian and "Hrvatska Legjia” in Serbo-Croat inscribed at the top and the mottos “Per l’Italia alala'” and “Za Dom spremni” in the respective languages diagonally across the center. The Italian and Croat shields are joined by climbing ropes symbolic of the fact that the Croat Legion served under the Italian Alpine Corps.

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Post by DrG » 01 Mar 2004 13:33


I've just read this passage of a post by the historian Enrico Cernuschi in this old thread of the Feldgrau.net forum: http://www.feldgrau.net/phpBB2/viewtopi ... h&start=15.
Some Irishmen (not many, of course, no more than 10 according my sources) proofed to be good camrades during the 1940-1943 war working together with the Reparto Informazioni of the Regia Marina Staff and at least three of them (the three musketters) with the Raggruppamento Centri Militari (then Raggruppamento Frecce Rosse) Indian Battalion Azad- Hindoustan. The only effective intelligence missions on 1942 perfomed by the men of this special paratrooper battalion were made by them.

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Post by FB » 01 Mar 2004 15:21

Absolutely by chance, today I stumbled in the Guardia di Finanza website and there I found a picture (a drawing) of General Oxilia. In the site I learned tha he was the Guardia di Finanza 12th CO.

Here's the link to the gallery of (small) portraits of all the COs of Guardia di Finanza, with short bios (General Oxilia's is towards the end of the page).

The following is a translation of part of Gen. Oxilia bio:

"The 12th Corp Commanding General, General Corpo d'Armata Giovanni Battista OXILIA, begun his carrer in 1910 when he was nominated Lt. at the end of the Course at the Artillery and Engeneer Academy.

He attended, as Major, the School of War; he was then Chief of Staff at the Command of the Division of Milan, Military Attachè c/o the Italian Embassy of Budapest and then Chief of Staff of the Italian Contingent in the Saar region during the 1934 plebiscite.

He later commanded the 6th Artillery Regiment and the Artillery in Albania, was Chief of Staff of the 8th Army and Artillery Commander of the 4th Army, then he was put in charge of a mission Croatia.

Promoted Division General, he commanded firstly the "Brescia" Div. on the front of El Alamein and then the "Venezia" Div. in Montenegro.
Afetr Sept 8, having rejected to accept impositions from the Germans, he formed the heroic Partizan Division "Garibaldi", which he commanded in truly dificult conditions: for his behaviour he was awarded the Savoy Military Order.

Returned in Italy in 1944, he was nominated Assistant-Chief of Staff of the Army and Undersecretary of War with the 1st Bonomi Gov, then on March 16, 1945 he assumed the command of the Regia Guardia di Finanza, a command that he kept untill june 15, 1947... (omissis)"

Best regards

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Post by DrG » 18 Mar 2004 12:30


Theodore Schurch was born in England by a Swiss father and an English mother in 1918. Because of his fascist sympaties, he started to cohoperate with the Italian intelligence since the mid-30's. He even joined the British Royal Army, as suggested by the Italian agent that commanded him, with the aim of giving information to the SIM (Italian Army intelligence service).
Summary of Schurch's Life

But let him tell us his life and his missions, as he confessed during an interrogation before his trial in 1945 (he was then hanged):

(from: http://www.stephen-stratford.co.uk/hisstatement.htm)
The Statement
Carcere Minorenni Aristide Gabelli Prison, Rome.

27 May 1945.

STATEMENT OF: No. T/61711 Pte. SCHURCH, Theodore John William,

432 Company, Royal Army Service Corps, 201 Guards Brigade,

8th Army, 2nd Echelon, M.E.F.

I am a Swiss subject and was born on the 5th May 1918 at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London. I was baptised at the Swiss Church in London and was registered as a Swiss citizen by my Father Theodore Schurch in his village of ROHRBACH, Canton Berne, Switzerland. From the time I first remember I lived with my parents at in WALFORD ROAD, STOKE NEWINGTON, LONDON N16; from there we moved to CASTLEWOOD ROAD, Stamford Hill, London N16 and from there to WEST COURT, North Wembley, Middlesex, which is my last address in England. After leaving school I worked for several firms in the Wembley area, as a costing accountant.

On the 8th July 1936, I went to the Recruiting Office in WHITEHALL, LONDON, to join the Army, as it was put forward to me by a Mr. BIANCHI who had previously enrolled me in the Fascist Intelligence Service, and who definitely asked me to join the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver. After certain formalities I signed my attestation papers and joined the British Army on 8th July 1936, for six years with the colours and six years with the reserve, in the rank of driver and was allotted the Army number of No. T/61711. I was posted to Buller Barracks, Aldershot, to No. 2 Training Company, Royal Army Service Corps Training Depot. I was there for three months until I completed military training, after which I was sent to the Royal Army Service Corps Driving School at Feltham for eight weeks. I was then posted to Aldershot Service Companies, Clayton Barracks, and later posted to No. 9 RASC Coy. at Borden.

During this time the Fascists had been in touch with me through Mr. Edward KING, I think his name was King, who worked at Messrs. SPINKS, Curio Dealers, Regent Street, London, and according to his instructions I volunteered for overseas service in the Middle East. I eventually embarked from LIVERPOOL on the H.T. CALIFORNIA, on the 11 November 1937 for PALESTINE, with a draft including the Border Regiment. We arrived at HAIFA on the 19 November 1937 and went to 14 Coy Detachment RASC, JERUSALEM. After a short while I was posted to HQ 14 Company, at SAFAFAND, where I stayed for two months, then being posted to the detachment at Jerusalem, to take over a Staff Car of the GHQ Palestine and Trans-jordan, then under General WAVELL. About this time 14 Company was split into two companies, 68 Company and 14 Company. I was posted to 68 Company still at JERUSALEM whose job was the Staff Cars, RODEXES (RAF Wireless Trucks) and petrol for the JERUSALEM area.

After a short while in Jerusalem I was approached by an Arab who asked me who I was. On telling him he asked me to get in touch with a Mr. HOMSI of Jaffa Road, Jaffa who was a friend of Mr. BIANCHI's. I went to see HOMSI, receiving from him instructions to supply all movements of General WAVELL and other Staff Officers Heads of the various departments at GHQ, which was quite easy for me to do as all my friends in the Barrack Room, were their drivers and I knew where they were going and for how long by their Transport Work Tickets and what they told me. At this time General WAVELL's drivers were Cpl HURRELL and later Dvr HEATH. I supplied all the information he desired about such movements and military information that he needed about location of troops. I did this because I thought that in my small way I was helping the Fascist Movement in which I believed.

About the beginning of 1940 I was sent to SARAFAND and I changed my trade from Dvr. to Technical Mechanical Transport Clerk, under the instructions of Mr. HOMSI. I was still with 68 Company. Whilst in this department HOMSI wanted information of material and equipment being supplied to the theatre which I was not able to supply then as I was in the wrong department.

In early 1941 I was compulsorily posted to Egypt, Base Depot at GENEFA and from there to No. 6 MT Supply Depot, TEL-EL-KEBIR, where I found I could give the information HOMSI needed as this was the MT Supply Depot for all the Middle East. Upon arriving at my new unit, and leave being refused me, I went AWOL for the purpose of seeing HOMSI and telling him where I was. For this I did Field Punishment. As a result of seeing HOMSI, I later received a letter from BIANCHI, telling me to meet him at GROPPI's Cafe Cairo, which I did. After this I tried to contact BIANCHI according to his instructions, but I was unable to.

Italy had then entered the war and I lost contact with all Fascist Agents in Egypt. With the idea of getting across the line to contact Italian Intelligence, I began agitating my unit for a posting to a front line unit. After about eight months I finally managed to get a posting to 432 Company RASC, in the TOBRUK area in June 1942. I was only there a couple of days when the Germans took Tobruk and I became a POW.

After a couple of weeks during which the confusion settled down I approached an Italian Officer at BENGHAZI, to where I had been transferred, and asked to be put in touch with the Italian Intelligence who were under the control of Lt. Col. Mario REVERTRIA. Eventually I got in touch with Col Revertria who got in touch with ROME, checking my statements, after which I came under his control, doing such work as getting information from Prisoners of War, particularly Officers, and also crossing the lines getting specified information of the British, according to instructions.

My first job under Colonel REVERTRIA was on 13 September 1942, at AIN-GAZALA where he asked me to go immediately to TORBUK where two British Naval ships the SIKH and the ZULU had been sunk when trying to land troops at TOBRUK. The Germans and the Italian Intelligence had had previous information concerning this movement, and had prepared for it. I went to TOBRUK in the uniform of a British soldier with my own A.B 64's Parts I and II with instructions to get the information from prisoner's from these two ships, as to their units, and what the object of the operation was. I stayed with the prisoners all that day mainly mixing with the officers: that evening being transferred with all the other prisoners to DERNA, the whole time getting the information as ordered, under the guise of a British Private which I actually was. The next morning an Italian Captain who was responsible to Col. REVERTRIA for DERNA had me taken out of the POW Cage, and asked me if I had got the information required. I told him "Yes" and he immediately got in touch with Col. REVERTRIA who came and took me to his office in DERNA.

After giving him the information Col. REVERTRIA asked me to go to Benghazi with him and one other Italian who spoke perfect English, having lived at Victoria, London, all his life whose name was GIOVANNI ANTONIASI. Colonel REVERTRIA explained that some British Prisoners had been captured on the night of 13 September 1942, at BARCHI and BENGHAZI and he wished to know what their unit was and all the information respecting this type of unit. ANTONIASI dressed himself in the uniform of a Flight Lieutenant of the Fleet Air Arm, and I dressed myself as a British Captain of the Inter Service Liaison Department giving my name as Captain John RICHARDS. This was on 14 September 1942 and the prisoners were brought into a room where we were and we stayed together for approximately six hours, after which we gave the signal to be taken out as we had the necessary information. We found out that they were special units of the Long Range Desert Group latter called the Special Air Service.

The next job that Col. REVERTRIA gave me was round about October 1942, to cross the British Lines to get any important information I could get hold of. In consequence I went as an English Private using my own documents. I crossed the lines at ALAMEIN, reporting to a British Officer that I was an escaped POW and was sent to a Transit Camp not far from ALEXANDRIA. I stayed there four or five days and having obtained the information desired, I re-crossed the lines into Italian hands, where after giving the password, I was sent to AIN-GAZALA to Col. REVERTRIA to whom I gave the information I had acquired.

The next time I went to work as an agent was when I stayed behind at BENGHAZI when the British took it, and after obtaining information, particularly as regards the state of lines of communication, I returned to the Italians via the front line. I reported to Col. REVERTRIA and a few days afterwards he again asked me to go through the lines at EL AGHELIA which I did again as a British Private.

At this time the lines were static at EL AGHELIA and Col. REVERTRIA had his HQ at HOMS. During this time two or three patrols of the Special Air Service were captured and by this time Col. REVERTRIA had made it my responsibility to get information from all prisoners of the Special Air Service. I mixed with three officers and also other ranks of these captured patrols again as Captain John RICHARDS and from information received in this manner and from documents captured we found where other patrols were located, and also their strength. From this information received we were able to capture two other patrols and acquired information as to the operations of other patrols in that area in the near future.

Also about this time a Major CHAPMAN of the ISLD was also captured, who was working behind Italian line getting information re troop transports and lines of communication. Just after this, owing to the British advance, Col. REVERTRIA changed his Headquarters to VILLAGIO BIANCHI and I went by Hospital Ship from TRIPOLI to NAPLES, and then to SIM HQ which is at ROME. This was at the end of January or the beginning of February 1943.

I was then asked to try and locate a British wireless station operating in the VATICAN CITY, and for this purpose I operated in Civilian clothes without success.

I was then sent to a special prisoner of war camp in ROME to get information from a British Colonel. I was put in with Colonel STIRLING, CO of the SAS whom I found to be the Colonel referred to and whom I recognised from a description of his badges. I was posted as Captain John RICHARDS of the RASC, and as the necessary information respecting the SAS had already been obtained, I was told only to obtain the name of Colonel Stirling's successor. This I found out to be a Captain "PADDY" MAYNE.

Later on, on Easter Sunday 1943, I again went to this Camp in ROME on behalf of the German Intelligence to whom I had been loaned, for the purpose of gaining information off all British submarine activities, etc. in the Mediterranean from Lieut. BROMAGE of the Royal Navy Commander of the British submarine SAHIB and from Lieut. HARDY RNVR Navigational Officer of the British submarine SPLENDID, both these vessels having been sunk. I again went as Captain John RICHARDS of the RASC and was dressed in British Battledress with Captains pips. From these two officers, unknown to themselves, I obtained information that "S" Squadron submarines were operating from certain bases in the Mediterranean, the names of submarine commanders, and that the Squadron Commander, at that time was BEN BRYANT.

About April 1943, I again went to this POW Camp to get information from three naval officers and one Army officer of the Special Boat Service. One of the Naval Officers was Lieut. HART the Scottish Third Lanark footballer, and the Army Captain was a Captain Lee, who had been at one time a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers. I got the information and handed it to the Italians. For this purpose I was again Captain John RICHARDS of the RASC.

About a month later, again as "Capt. RICAHRDS", I got information from a Sergeant of the Special Boat Service, whom I learnt in peacetime was a Metropolitan Policeman.

About September 1943 I was sent to PERUGIA in civilian clothes with my British Pay Book to get in touch with people who were supposed to be working for British Intelligence, but owing to the Italian Armistice being signed, I was arrested by German Troops who believed me to be an escaped prisoner of war. Whilst in transit by rail, to Germany with other British POWs I escaped with others and made my way to ROME where I was taken to Col. HELFRICH, Head of the Ober, by the German Military Police, to whom I had given my history. After being in hospital for some time for injuries to my ankle sustained when escaping from the train, I was collected by Major SCHNEEWEIS, who was the Head of Colonel HELFRICHS'S Departments, and from that time I commenced to work for the Germans under the Ober and later the SD.

After this on several occasions I posed as a British POW in civilian clothes, and also as a British Agent contacting Italian Agents working for the British Intelligence. This was to obtain information for the Germans.

At the end of March 1945, I was detailed by General HASLER Chief of the German SD in Italy, and Senior Officers of the Department 6 of the SD to come to ROME and the Vatican to get political information concerning England, Russia, France, Spain, countries occupied by Russia, and what the Vatican was doing concerning these things such as Pacts, etc., especially on the Religious viewpoint of the countries occupied by Russia, and also about DE GAULLE and FRANCO, and what was Archbishop SPELLMAN doing for the Americans.

Whilst at LA SPEZIA en route for ROME, the Allies occupied LA SPEZIA and whilst waiting to get transport to go to ROME I was apprehended by an American Officer of the CIC.

Having become too deeply involved in the Axis Intelligence Services I was unable to return to the British Army although my faith in the Fascist Movement, at one time deteriorated owing to the fact that the Heads and important people of the German and Italian Commands were living in a manner directly opposite to the policy of Fascism which was my cause. In October 1944, I received from the Swiss General Consulate at COMO, Italy, my Swiss Passport solely for my own use if at any time I should need it, this being the first Swiss Passport I have had.

I quite realise, from what I have done in these past years, the consequences and I am quite willing to face them, but if in any way I can help the British Authorities in whatsoever manner they want me to, I am quite willing to do so. As I am still a British Soldier I wish to be treated as such and be dealt with by the British Government.

(Sgd.) T.J.W. Schurch.

I have read over the above statement, and have had the opportunity of making any alteration or addition where necessary. It is made voluntarily and is correct and true.

(Sgd.) T.J.W. Schurch.

Statement taken down by Captain R.A. Archer, DARM, 76th Section SIB, CM Police, at the Carcere Minorenni Aristide Gabelli Prison, Rome, on 27 May 1945.

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Arab volunteers

Post by Antonio_mrz » 19 May 2004 21:37

A small unit of Arab volunteers, recruited among political opponents of
the British Empire from Iraq, Palestine and Syria, was formed in Rome in
may 1942. It had to operate as escort of the "Great Mufti" of Jerusalem,
which was going to go to Egypt a soon as the Axis troops had
completely seized it.

Of course things went differently, and the unit (that counted up to 110
Arab voulnteers as well as 347 Italian soldiers, the latter partly recruited
among people coming from the Middle East) remained in Rome and was
never employed in battle, being disbanded after the Armistice


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Location: Italia

Post by DrG » 20 May 2004 19:43

Yemenite and Saudi Arabians

(source: "Storia del Novecento" n.37, apr.2004)

Several Saudi and Yemenite Arabs joined the "Gruppo Bande a Cavallo dell'Amhara", a cavalry unit created in Feb. 1940 in Italian East Africa and led by Lt. Amedeo Guillet.
The flag of the Gruppo had a cross and a crescent (to symbolize the Christian and Muslim faiths of the men), the Latin motto of the noble family of Lt. Guillet Semper Ulterius (Always Further) and four horse tails.
The "Gruppo Bande a Cavallo" was composed of 8 Bands for a total of 1,700 men: 800 cavalrymen, 200 meharisti (camel riders), 400 infantrymen, a machine gun coy, an anti-tank guns coy and supplyes.
It's not reported how many of those 1,700 men were Yemenite or Saudi Arabians, in fact the unit included also Erithreans, Amhara (2 peoples living in Italian East Africa and thus not foreign volunteers) and Italians.
At the end of the campaign in Erithrea (April 1941) the streghth of this heroic unit was reduced to only 176 men, having suffered 826 KIA and about 700 wounded.
For further info about Lt. Guillet and the "Gruppo Bande a Cavallo":
in English: http://www.comandosupremo.com/Guillett.html
in Italian: http://www.friulanidimarina.org/pagine/guillet.htm.

In Italian East Africa there were also other cavalry units (usually called "Gruppo Squadroni Cavalleria Coloniale...") that included volunteers from the Arabic peninsula, but I haven't details about them.

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