Not All the Parachutists Are Nazis!

British Paratroops in Italy! A Story (Unfinished) in Six Chapters

The War Illustrated, Volume 4, No. 78, Page 217, February 28, 1941.

Chapter 1

Minsk, 1936. At the Russian military manoeuvres there was a remarkable display of parachutists dropped from 'planes. Amongst the onlookers was a British Military Mission, headed by a certain Maj.-Gen. Wavell, who said: "We greatly admired the work of the parachutists. They demonstrated a brilliant spectacle of courage and good training."

Chapter 2

Rome, Feb. 11, 1941. The "New York Times" correspondent wired to his paper, "It is not permitted to write a word from Rome tonight about the big story passage censored]."

Chapter 3

Rome, Feb. 14. The Italian High Command issued a warning to the Italian public that during the night of February 10-11 enemy parachutists had descended in Calabria and Lucania...

Chapter 4

Rome, same date. The Italian News Agency, giving further details of the raid, states:

The parachutists, who carried automatic arms and explosives, certainly intended to damage the regional water-supply system, a magnificent achievement of the Fascist regime which made possible an agricultural revival throughout the district, together with railway lines, bridges, and roads.

Having landed in a clearing surrounded by forests, the parachutists occupied some farms and immobilized the peasants. One parachutist who had broken a leg was left in one of these farms, where he was later arrested by guards. The British parachutists deceived the peasant farmers by shouting "Duce!" and so inducing them to open their doors to them.

After abandoning their injured companion the British made their way to the springs which feed the irrigation system, guiding themselves by means of maps with which they were provided. But the alarm had been given in the region, and guards, cooperating with the military, police and the military organizations of the Fascist party, drew a cordon round the area. A search was instituted, making the position of the parachutists very precarious.

Speedily surrounded, they were unable to execute their plans and had to hide in the woods to avoid capture. To make capture more difficult they divided up into several groups, hoping that some at least would be able to break through the cordon and carry out a part of their plans.

Their plans failed, for while eleven parachutists were seized in one place seven others were arrested at the same time a mile or two away. The latter attempted to put up a resistance, tuning a tommy gun on the patrol, consisting of one guard, one police constable, and a shepherd who was guiding them over the mountain paths. Shots from the British officer's gun put the policeman and the shepherd out of action.

The guard, left alone, defended himself with his rifle, forcing the parachutists to remain behind a rock until other guards, hearing the shots, came up. Seeing that all resistance was hopeless, the parachutists surrendered.

Another group, which had taken to the scrubland, remained to be found. The search went on and the rest of the parachutists, including a captain, were seized without trouble. All of them were clothed in khaki-overalls and had Air Force caps. They were armed with tommy guns and automatic pistols and were provided with Italian money. They have been handed over to the regional defence command.

Chapter 5

London, Feb. 15. The Ministry of Information announced: "Soldiers dressed in recognized military uniforms have recently been dropped by parachute in Southern Italy. Their instructions were to demolish certain objectives connected with ports in that area. No statement can be made at present about the result of the operations, but some of the men have not returned to their base."

Chapter 6

Rome, Feb. 15. "The British parachutists captured will be treated as prisoners of war in the honourable and chivalrous manner which is characteristic of the Italian people. They will be lodged in a concentration camp, where representatives of the International Red Cross will be allowed to visit them."