Raimondo Illuminati at the site of the Sidney Seymour Smith memorial plaque.
Tenna Valley Freedom Trail Walk activities last month included the installation, on May 10, of a plaque in memory of British soldier Sidney Seymour Smith on the road outside the village of Montelparo where Sidney was shot to death. Sidney was known to the Italians as “Giorgio.”
Just prior to the unveiling of the plaque, Raimondo Illuminati, who as a boy knew Sidney, spoke about his memory of him at the Montelparo town hall.
I am grateful to Anne Copley for her translation of the speech from Italian into English. Anne’s comments are in brackets.
Raimondo Illuminati’s Speech
“8th September 1943; church bells were ringing in all the villages, the Armistice had been declared between Badoglio’s Italy and the Anglo-American troops. In our district, at Servigliano, there was a concentration camp; the gates were opened and the prisoners were free. It seemed it was over, the war which had not touched us, which had taken place far from our peaceful lives. But it ended up in our houses, with the immediate occupation by the Germans, endorsed by the Salo Republic. The prisoners, once free, took refuge in our countryside, welcomed with love into our homes. And indeed our own soldiers were prisoners in their lands.
“One of these prisoners was called, or at least he gave himself the name GIORGIO. He was an English soldier. He took refuge in the contrada Santa Maria di Montelparo with the family “Ndunucciu” [Italian peasant families had a real name and then a nickname—it seems likely this was the nickname for the Mazzoni family], adjacent to the Tirabassi elementary school. I was seven years old and went to the primary class, I remember Giorgio because sometimes he came to our school when the master was away, and he read us books and stories. Giorgio was “a boy” [I’m not sure how to translate ragazzo, which literally means “boy” but here seems to have a deeper significance], about thirty-six years old, tall, slender, blond with blue eyes. He was always smiling and he was very dear to us, we always behaved well and kept quiet whilst he was reading to us. But one day the brutality of war took him away. One day in March he received a visit from three individuals—“friends” they called themselves, but they were two Germans and a local Fascist and they slaughtered him, unloading into him forty machine-gun bullets. This unhappy event happened north of the contrada Santa Maria and right next to the house of Paolo Traini (Cucurre). I passed that way the next morning and saw signs of his blood and fragments of his body on the edge of the road. He was accompanied to the cemetery by a large cortege, and by all us schoolboys to give him a final farewell.”