Service in Italy for Three Soldiers

Ancona War Cemetery
Image—Wikimedia Commons

The following graveside rededication service announcement is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

A rededication service for three soldiers who were killed in Italy in the Second World War will take place on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 in Ancona War Cemetery, Italy. Private Lionel Brown of the Parachute Regiment and Privates Daniel Hollingsworth and Thomas White of The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) were Prisoners of War and whilst being transported with Sergeant Mario Mottes (an Italian soldier) were shot on March 10, 1944 at Ponte Del Diabolo [Ponte Dragone]. They were originally all buried as unknowns in Montedinove Cemetery. However, the soldiers were later transferred to Ancona War Cemetery and now have individual named headstones.

The service has been organised by the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre and will be attended by family of Privates Brown and Hollingsworth. The Parachute and Princess of Wales Regiments will provide support.

Mario Mottes was an I.S.9 agent who was working with Allied forces in the rescue of escaped prisoners when he lost his life. See “Honor Recommended for Mario Mottes.”

Identification of the British soldiers who were shot at Ponte Del Diabolo [Ponte Dragone], as well as work on confirming the identity of Mario Mottes, seems to have been due to the work of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Huggan, OBE.

A news story by Mariella Falduto on, dated 2005 (originally published in l’Arena), relates Thomas Huggan’s ongoing research into confirmation of Mario Mottes’ identity.

Here is that story, translated into English:

ISOLA DELLA SCALA. Eighty-year-old English Colonel Thomas Huggan tries to give an identity to a soldier killed in ’44, who might be Mario Mottes, the son of two original emigrants from Pellegrina

A name for the Italian who was shot

l´Arena—May 28, 2005

Isola della Scala. Who is the soldier shot by the Germans on March 10, 1944 and buried in Mondragone, in the province of Caserta? Is he really Mario Mottes, son of Belgian emigrants from Pellegrina?

Octogenarian Thomas Huggan, an English colonel of the British Embassy in Rome, has worked with patience and passion for years to confirm the story of the young man, about whose identity there is doubt and about whose history there are still many unanswered questions. “I want to give him a decent burial,” he says, “but we cannot do it without ascertaining his identity. For this I seek help.” His research has taken place between Belgium and Italy, and he now has arrived in Isola della Scala.

Huggan says, from what he has been able to reconstruct, Mario Mottes was born in Belgium, on November 18, 1919, to parents who had emigrated 20 years earlier, and that he returned to Italy at the beginning of the war to serve in the military. As a sergeant paratrooper, he was sent by the Italian authorities on a British plane on a mission to help IDPs (internally displaced persons) after September 8, 1943; he was perhaps forced to bail out, and was wounded along with three British soldiers. They were helped by a family that hid them. His presence, and the presence of the enemy soldiers, however, was reported to the Germans and the four young men were shot and buried in Ponte Dragone in the cemetery at Mondragone. Their bodies have now been retrieved for transferral to the Ancona War Cemetery; but while the three English were identified with certainty and it was possible to reconstruct their history, regarding the history of Italian soldier there remain gaps and uncertainties, starting with with his identity.

“The only sure trace of [the identity of] this man,” continues Huggan, “is the witness of the family who helped him when he was injured. He told them that his family had emigrated to Belgium from a little village called Pellegrina of Isola della Scala in Veneto. When he was captured and interrogated by the Germans, he declared himself to be Belgian, but its traces [the ability to confirm what was said] are lost.” The Colonel’s search through consulates and embassies has not yielded great results to this point, so he thought perhaps he could find useful information here [in Isola della Scala]. For this he turned to the library, and research is now directed to the archives of the local comune and to the Pellegrina parish archives for what little, if any, testimony may exist.

Huggan adds that, to complicate matters, he has found in some related documents the young sergeant with the surname of Mootis, perhaps due to a clerical error, or perhaps linked to the pronunciation of the name through different languages. “Do not forget,” he continues, “that in southern Italy sixty years ago there were Italians, Germans, British, and Americans.”

An initial search of the comune registry produced neither the name Mottes nor Mootis. Officials, however, explained the name might also have been translated, and that we must keep in mind that not all those who emigrated in the late nineteenth century were registered, because the fact [that they were emigrants] was not always pointed out. Also, part of municipal archive was destroyed in fire caused by shelling on January 28, 1944.

In anticipation of confirmation [of his identity], the sergeant’s remains are waiting in Mondragone, a reminder of the fact that although wars end officially with the signing of peace treaties, they continue to leave their mark. And for the longest time.

Mariella Falduto

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