Above left: the formerly unidentified Italian, now revealed to be Romano Maglioni, who lived in Premilcuore, Italy
Above right: Tom Ager, after war and imprisonment
See “Thomas Ager—Escapee from Italian Camp 82” for the story of Tom Ager’s escape from captivity.
When Gill and I were working together on her father’s story last February and she sent me the photo of Romano Maglioni, she wrote, “There is a bit of a mystery about this last photo. It was amongst the letters, and has a name and address on the back. As far as I can read it: Maglioni (and I cannot read the other name, something like Oronuoso) No 1, Via Roma H10 Premilcuore Forli Italia. I wonder if it was someone who helped him when he was on the run.”
Soon after that, I discovered online the name of a woman named Annarita Maglioni at an address on Via Roma in Premilcuore. “Maybe she is a relative,” I wrote to Gill, “Perhaps you should write to her (in Italian) and send a copy of the photo and scrap of paper with the address.”
Gill did just that. She drafted a letter, my friend Anne Copley lent her skills as a translator, and the letter—in Italian—went into the mail.
Several weeks later, Gill received an e-mail from Cristina Tassinari:
“I am the cousin of Annarita Maglioni (Annarita’s mom and my dad are brothers) and Romano Maglioni, who is a relative who lived in Premilcuore during the war.
“Romano Maglioni died a few years ago, but we are trying to contact his brother Carlo, who is still living. My father (Vincenzo Tassinari) remembers Tom Ager well—and also another soldier who was with him (English or Canadian?). They were hidden in a hut and my father, together with Romano, Carlo, and other village boys, in turn, brought food to the two soldiers so they might eat in secret, because they were afraid of the Germans.”
She ended her note, “As soon as I can, I will let you have more news.”
Then, after a wait of several weeks, Cristina wrote again:
“A little while ago, I went with my uncle Vincenzo (Cristina’s father and Lisa’s grandfather) [to Modigliana, Italy] to meet with Carlo Maglioni.
Carlo told us this:
“After the armistice’s signing between Anglo-American forces and the Italian army (September 8, 1943) and after the hostilities stopped, the camps where prisoners were held were left unattended.
“Before German soldiers organized themselves, the prisoners had run away.
“In our little town, called Premilcuore, located 500 meters above sea level in the Appennines between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, some disbanded soldiers passed through: Italian soldiers who wanted to come back home, and Allied prisoners who wanted to reach the Anglo-American forces in the south of Italy. Everyone needed a place to stay, food, civilian clothes, and some information on how to cross our mountains.
“One day, in the centre of our village (Borgo delle Balducce), came two or three English soldiers who needed help. They were in good health, but tired and hungry. We helped them with food and recovery in a small hut where the Maglioni family kept some hay and small animals (like rabbits). Every evening Carlo Maglioni (age 18) brought them food and everything they needed, meanwhile Carlo’s brothers (Romano, age 16, sadly dead some years ago, and Pasquale, age 14) kept guard. Other families and friends of the Maglioni’s also took care of the English soldiers.
“They stayed in Premilcuore for about 20 days, but because many people knew that they were hidden and some German soldiers arrived in town, it was decided to transfer them to a place that was safer. With their assent, they were accompanied into the forest of Campigna (6–7 hours of walking through our mountains) where there was a command of partisans of the “Brigade Garibaldi” that was connected with the “Eighth Army of Montgomery”. The Maglioni brothers— Romano, Pasquale, and Don Bruno (a seminarian, age 20)—went with them.
“After that we had no more news from them.
“The brothers that helped your father are:
“Don Bruno (age 89, living, a priest)
Carlo (87, living, retired)
Pasquale (83, living, retired)
Romano (who died some years ago)
“We are really pleased to hear from you that your father returned back home safe and sound in 1945.
“Romano’s family (the family of the Maglioni brother in your photo) and we send you a hug and we all hope to see you one day in Italy.”
Con un pò di ritardo, con mio zio Vincenzo (padre di Cristina e nonno di Lisa), sono andata a far visita a Carlo Maglioni che ha raccontato quanto segue:
Dopo la firma dell’armistizio fra le forze anglo-americane e l’esercito italiano (8 settembre 1943), con il cessare delle ostilità, i campi, dove erano rinchiusi i prigionieri di guerra, furono lasciati incustoditi.
Prima che i militari tedeschi si organizzassero, i prigionieri si erano quasi tutti allontanati.
Nel nostro piccolo paese, Premilcuore, che è posto a 500mt di quota, nell’Appennino fra le regioni Romagna e Toscana, in quel periodo transitavano diversi “sbandati”: sia militari italiani che volevano ritornare alle loro case al Sud, sia molti ex-prigionieri alleati che speravano in qualche modo di collegarsi con le truppe anglo-americane che erano già al Sud dell’Italia. Tutti avevano bisogno di cibo, alloggio, abiti civili e indicazioni per attraversare le nostre montagne.
Un giorno, in paese (Borgo delle Balducce), arrivarono 2 o 3 soldati inglesi che chiesero aiuto. Di salute stavano bene ma erano molto stanchi e affamati. Fu dato loro cibo e assistenza, furono nascosti in una piccola capanna dove la famiglia Maglioni teneva il fieno e piccoli animali. Tutte le sere venivano riforniti di quanto avevano bisogno da Carlo Maglioni (18 anni), mentre i fratelli Romano (16 anni) e Pasquale (14 anni) facevano la guardia. Al mangiare provvedevano anche altre famiglie vicine dei Maglioni.
I militari inglesi rimasero a Premilcuore per circa 20 giorni. Poi, visto che molti sapevano dei militari inglesi nascosti, e con l’arrivo in paese di militari tedeschi e fascisti, fu deciso che era più sicuro spostarli in un altro luogo.
Con il loro accordo, furono accompagnati nella foresta di Campigna (6-7 ore di cammino attraverso le nostre montagne), dove c’era un comando di partigiani della “Brigata Garibaldi” che era in collegamento con il comando dell’ “Ottava Armata” del generale Montgomery. Ad accompagnarli andarono i fratelli Maglioni: Romano, Pasquale e Don Bruno (seminarista di 20 anni).
Dopo ciò non abbiamo più avuto loro notizie.
Con tanto piacere apprendiamo dalla sua lettera che Tom è ritornato a casa sano e salvo nel 1945.
I figli di Romano (quello di cui lei ci ha inviato la foto), i fratelli Maglioni e tutti noi, ti mandano un abbraccio, con la speranza di poterci un giorno incontrare.