Dedication in Comunanza

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A new memorial plaque

In the Italian village of Comunanza last Sunday, May 15, a plaque was installed to commemorate the killing of escaped Allied prisoners of war in 1944.

See “An Execution at Comunanza” on this site.

The men killed were English, American, and Scottish (Private Charles Gordon was from Gartochorn, Dunbartonshire, and Driver James Didcock was from Bridgend, Linlithgow—both in Scotland, although the official military inquiry into the case referred to them simply as “British soldiers.”

To the best of my knowledge, some of the dead to this day remain unidentified.

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Attendants at the memorial ceremony

For other photos of the dedication, visit the La Casa della Memoria Facebook post regarding the ceremony.

This event was on the final day of the Freedom Trails 2016 walk (May 11–15)—sponsored by Monte San Martino Trust, WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society, and La Casa della Memoria di Servigliano.

2 thoughts on “Dedication in Comunanza

  1. Ian McCarthy

    Manuel Serrano, in the interview elsewhere on this website, says he recognised the 4 unnamed men killed in Comunanza (he says in March but it was actually May 2, 1944) as “GIs from the 1st Division”. Is there any way of verifying this? Is there an official list of American prisoners in Italy and specifically in Camp 59?

    Reply
  2. Dennis Hill Post author

    Thanks for your note, Ian.

    As you know, Manuel Serrano said the six escaped Allied prisoners were caught and machine-gunned, and he went on to say that, after the fascists left, nuns recovered the bodies and took them to the convent in Comunanza.

    In the interview, Manuel said, “We went to the convent and there were the six bodies, wrapped in white sheets and lying on slabs of wood. The nuns had cleaned the bodies and wrapped them in the sheets. I lifted up the covers from the faces and recognized them all. Four were GIs from the 1st Division, the other two were British.”

    This does not match the 1945 Special Investigation Branch report on the executions—that two of the men killed were American and four were British (actually two English and two Scottish).

    The U.S. National Archives (aad.archives.gov) has offers complete online records for WWII POWs. From their database, I have copied records for all the prisoners listed for CC 59 Ascoli Picenzo Italy 43-13, a total of 253 men. (This number would not include any men who were recaptured after the escape from camp by Germans and fascists and sent north to German camps.)

    Of the 253, 250 are listed as “returned to military control, liberated or repatriated”, but three are indicated as having “died as prisoner of war.” The three are Edwin Majeski, Robert Newton, and Frank Powers.

    Ed Majeski and Robert Newton were killed together in March 1944 at the Aso River near Santa Vittoria. Both of these men were with the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division. Perhaps Manuel was referring to this execution when when he said the killings were in March and the men were from the 1st Division?

    I do not know what happened to Frank E. Powers, Jr. All I know about him was that he was a private in the U.S. Army Infantry and was from the state of Massachusetts. It is possible he was one of the Americans killed in Comunanza.

    Reply

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