Captain Andrew G. Robb, Commander of No. 5 Field Section, I.S.9 or “A” Force
This resumé was prepared by Luigi Donfrancesco, nephew of Andrea Scattini, an agent of No. 5 Field Section, “A” Force.
The post is based on the following documents:
- Captain Robb’s No. 5 Field Section Progress Reports, Final Periodic Report, and other I.S.9 documents provided by the late British researcher Brian Sims.
- Captain Robb’s military records and vital records, which were kindly provided by Beverly Robb, wife of Murray Robb, Andrew’s nephew (son of Andrew’s elder brother, Alexander Robb).
- Capt. Robb is mentioned at pages 81–82 of the 2004 book Scritti scelti di Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello, by Elena Dundovich and Ruggero Ranieri (Uguccione’s son).
- He is also mentioned in the 2007 book I Diari di Babka, by Alessandro Perini, and in the 2012 book San Vito e la Guerra, by Pietro Cupido.
- Additionally, the “A” Force rescue operations organized by Capt. Robb (although he is not mentioned by name) are present in the 2010 book Il Memoriale di Don Carlo, l’eroe sconosciuto, by Giancarlo Giannotti.
- Capt. Robb is in the list of British Army Officers 1939–1945 at unithistories.com.
Andrew George Robb was born 20 March 1901 in Dunedin, New Zealand. He was the second of four sons born to Alexander Robb (a tailor by profession) and Isabella Simpson.
1915–1918 – West Christchurch District High School, New Zealand. Matriculation
University – Canterbury University College, New Zealand
Employed in 1928, age 27, as Registered Surveyor (in Italian, Topografo), New Zealand, Land Survey (Rilevamento Topografico)
Member of Town Planning Institute, New Zealand
In his 1945 Application for Registration in the Army Officers’ Emergency Reserve, Item 25, Andrew states he resided in Malaya from 1928 to 1942. His photo provided by Beverly Robb (above) was most likely taken before he left for Malaya.
Andrew was employed by the Colonial Office and served in Malaya from 1932 to 1942, age 31–41.
Beverly Robb found a 1933 article in a New Zealand newspaper stating Andrew had just completed a trip around the world while on furlough from his position with the Colonial Service in Malaya. The article originally appeared in a London paper.
Antonina “Nina” Schmit, born 10 June 1906, was a “White Russian” refugee from Estonia who had embarked in Vladivostok to escape the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and somehow had reached Hong Kong.
Andrew and Nina were married in Singapore on 15 April 1937. At marriage Andrew was 36 and Nina was 30. They had no children.
The couple probably traveled together to the United States in 1933, 1938, and 1945.
In his above mentioned 1945 Application for Emergency Commission, Andrew states that in 1940 he resided in Brunei Town and Seria (Borneo Island). Nina may have left Singapore to join him there.
December 1941–January 1942. Andrew was attached to a commando unit, Independent Corp of AIF (Australian Imperial Forces) in Malaya.
5 January 1942. While operating in the jungle, Andrew suffered a gunshot wound in his upper left arm, and a minor injury to his right leg, by a Japanese sniper. He recovered, but was left with a minor, lifelong disability in his left hand.
6 April 1942. Only three months later, Andrew was mobilized for war service at Caulfield (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia).
At medical examination, he was judged temporarily unfit for Class I and assigned to Class II. On 15 February 1943, after a three-month sick leave, his medical status was changed to “B.”
He was enlisted in the Australian Military Forces (Army No. V147996), and assigned to the Australian Intelligence Corps.
Mobilization Attestation Form
Here is information from Andrew’s Mobilization Attestation Form:
Place of birth: Dunedin, New Zealand
NBBS (National Born British Subject)
Date of birth: 20 March 1901
Normal trade or occupation: Colonial Survey Service
Present occupation: same
Previous military service either in peace or war:
1st Canterbury Regiment, New Zealand, 1918–1920
Johore Voluntary Engineers, 1932–1938
Federated Malay States Volunteers, 1939–1942
Reason for discharge: termination of service
Next of kin: Antonina Robb (wife)
Her address: c/o Thomas Cook & Co., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Your [Andrew’s] permanent address: as above
Religious denomination: Presbyterian
Educational Qualifications: Matriculation of High School
Other Diplomas: M.N.Z.I.S., M.T. 1 (New Zealand)
Never convicted by a Civil Court
10 April 1942. Four days after enlistment, Andrew Robb was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to General Headquarters “G” Branch Directorate of Military Intelligence, “in appointment as Intelligence Officer with pay and allowance of Lieutenant.”
30 April 1942. Transferred to Australian Intelligence Corps Land Headquarters.
Andrew Robb served as Lieutenant, “G” Branch, Australian Intelligence Corps, from 10 April 1942 to 1 February 1944.
We are unsure if, during that time, he served in the North African Campaign (which seems likely) or elsewhere. However, we know that, at least from autumn 1943 to late January 1944, he was in Italy with the British 8th Army, serving as Intelligence Officer of I.S.9 (Intelligence School 9), called “A” Force on that front.
In Italy, he had the temporary rank of captain, under Major John Francis Fillingham, and his job was to organize escape and evasion operations from enemy-occupied territory.
His main base of operations was Termoli, an eastern coastal town in the province of Campobasso (region of Molise). As the front advanced, he moved to Casoli and Lanciano (province of Chieti, in the region of Abruzzo).
In October and early November 1943, he was commander of Team “Ratberry Section A” (of “A” Force, No. 5 Field Section), a newly formed group of six carefully selected Italian agents, so named as they were going to operate from Post “A” Villa Vinci “Boccabianca” at Cupra Marittima (Ascoli Piceno, Marche), property of Count Zeno Vinci. The count’s wife, “Babka,” wrote the above mentioned “Diaries 1943–1944,” published in the 2007 book by Alessandro Perini, containing interesting information about daily activities of “Post A.”
The six agents of Team Ratberry Section “A” under Capt. Robb were:
Uguccione (“Ugo,” “Hugo,” or “Hugh”) Ranieri (Count of Sorbello–Bourbon del Monte), head of the team;
Catholic priest “Don Carlo” Domenico Orlandini;
Andrea Scattini (Luigi Donfrancesco’s uncle);
“Guido” – full name unknown.
One year later, in October 1944, in a letter to Princess Ruffo di Calabria describing the circumstances of the death of her 18-year-old son Augusto, Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello wrote this about Capt. Robb:
“There was Captain Robb (now Major), our Commander, always talented and full of brilliant ideas, a type of artist who had nothing of military, but who was able to inspire [in] the boys the pleasure of going to risk their necks.”
The text of this letter was published on pages 80–93 of the above-mentioned Scritti scelti di Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello.
22 October 1943. From Termoli, Capt. Robb landed agents Fausto Simonetti and “Guido” near Cupra Marittima.
2 November 1943. From Termoli, he landed in the same place the other four agents of Team Ratberry “A” (Uguccione Ranieri, “Don Carlo” Orlandini, Ermanno Finocchi, and Andrea Scattini).
At 2:30 a.m. on November 3, they reached Post “A” (Villa Vinci “Boccabianca” at Cupramarittima) where they joined agent Fausto Simonetti who was waiting for them. (Their arrival was described by “Babka” in her “Diaries.” See pages 83–84 of Alessandro Perini’s book).
Priest “Don Carlo” Orlandini traveled north by train to his area at Poiano, Villa Minozzo (Reggio Emilia). He then returned by Christmas with 11 prisoners of war. On 6 January 1944, he embarked with them at Martinsicuro (Teramo, Abruzzo) and on the next day they arrived at Termoli.
The other four agents (Uguccione Ranieri, Ermanno Finocchi, Andrea Scattini, and Fausto Simonetti) remaining in the Marche, gathered as many POWs as possible, and organized the transport of four successful boatloads from San Benedetto del Tronto to Termoli.
On 2 November 1943, about half an hour before departure of the LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) with Capt. Robb and the four agents, a Torpedo Motorboat, or “Moto-Silurante,” (MS 33 No. 74) had left from Termoli for Silvi (north of Pescara). On arrival, it was spotted by a German coastal patrol and fired upon by machinegun. The MS caught fire, exploded, and sunk.
Eighteen-year-old Augusto Ruffo “di Calabria” (elder brother of Paula, later Queen of Belgium), who was sitting in the boat’s lower deck, talking to U.S. Air Force Intelligence Captain Richard W. B. Lewis, in mid-sentence dropped dead on the floor in front of him. A bullet had perforated the boat’s wall and entered his back—as later reported by Capt. Lewis. Others were able to jump into the water and swim ashore. Many were captured by Germans.
French, naturalized British, Capt. Raymond “Lee” Couraud, commander of the “French Squad” of 2nd S.A.S. (Special Air Service) had a bullet embedded in each shoulder. Despite the injury, he was able to swim ashore, avoid capture, and return with others to Termoli 10 days later, on November 12, where he was hospitalized.
Capt. Lewis jumped into the water, swam obliquely to the beach, and avoided capture. He was helped by Italian families, and returned to the Allied lines six weeks later, on December 17.
Years later, Capt. Lewis described details of this episode, and of his adventure and survival in enemy territory, in a chapter of his memoir, The City of Florence.
Read “I.S.9 Captain R. W. B. Lewis.”
“A” Force Situation Report, November 1943
SITREP [Situation Report] “A” FORCE HEADQUARTERS, TERMOLI
by Major John F. FILLINGHAM
NOV. 3 
10:30 – Capt ROBB returned [to TERMOLI] in LCI [Landing Craft Infantry] having landed party of 4 Agents [Uguccione RANIERI, “Don Carlo” ORLANDINI, Ermanno FINOCCHI and Andrea SCATTINI].
12:00 – Report received that MS boat [“Moto-Silurante” – Torpedo Motor Boat] with Capt. LEWIS and RAYMOND LEE [COURAUD] party who sailed evening 2 Nov. for SILVI was off TERMOLI in sinking condition and that help had been sent.
06:30 – On return [of] MS [“Moto-Silurante”, Torpedo Motorboat] put into SILVI to investigate disappearance of MS which kept r.v. [“rendez-vous” – appointment] [on the] night of 2 Nov. and attempt to contact Capt. LEWIS and Capt. RAYMOND LEE [COURAUD] – no signals seen, weather and heavy sea prevented any landing in recce [reconnaissance] area.
[On same day arrived at TERMOLI the 1st boatload of Prisoners of War rescued by Agents of Team RATBERRY “A” – see Progress Report by Capt. ROBB below].
NOV. 12 .
18:30 – The following party arrived by road, having been landed from fishing schooner 10 miles up the coast from TERMOLI. They had embarked on the previous night at SILVI [north of Pescara].
Capt. Raymond LEE [COURAUD] 2 SAS [2nd Special Air Service] (wounded in both shoulders and now in hospital).
POW [Prisoners of War] 3 South African and 2 USA.
Sgt [Sergeant] SCOTT, POW re-employed by “A” FORCE, 1st SAS [Special Air Service].
3 ITALIANS, evacuated by AMGOT.
NOV 13 .
08:00 – [2nd boatload of POWs] “HUGO” [Uguccione RANIERI “di Sorbello”] and agent [who?] landed by Capt. ROBB and the Senior Member of the “RATLINE” [Lieut. Virgilio “Nanni” GIOVANNETTI, in charge of Post in PORCHIA, Montalto Marche] arrived at TERMOLI in the fishing schooner MARIA which he had commandeered at S. BENEDETTO and sailed on to TERMOLI with the following:
15 POW [names omitted, most from Camp 59]
Pte. [Private] MAYBURY Rommel, 2nd SAS [Special Air Service]
Pte. MAYBURY has been returned to his Unit and the POW evacuated to the Sub-Commission, BARI.
In addition to the above “HUGO” gave a lift to 7 ITALIANS who had been evacuated as refugees.
The skipper of the MARIA has been rewarded with 1000 lire per head in full settlement.
“HUGO” is returning on another expedition immediately.
Signed: John. F. FILLINGHAM
Major G II (N).
In the Field
13 Nov 43.
“N” Section Situation Report, December 1943
SITREP [Situation Report] – MOST SECRET. “N” SECTION TERMOLI.
17 Dec 43.
17:00 hrs – Arrival of Capt. LEWIS on return through the lines after wreck of MS 74.
18 Dec 43.
9:30 hrs – Capt. LEWIS leaves for BARI.
Signed: PETER S. FOWLER, Capt. “A” FORCE
No. 5 Field Section Progress Reports, November 1943
PROGRESS REPORTS FROM No. 5 FIELD SECTION
by Capt. ROBB
NOV. 4, 1943 – [1st boatload]. A sailing boat, bringing 5 ex-P/Ws [ex-Prisoners of War] arrived at TERMOLI from SAN BENEDETTO [del Tronto]. This “coup” had been successfully organized by Agent FAUSTO [SIMONETTI] of this Section [No. 5], originally landed Oct. 22, one of the 6 Agents who were working as a team (see Plan RATBERRY Section “A”). They were guided by FAUSTO and accompanied by 2 helpers. They brought a letter from FAUSTO assuring me that all had arrived safely, arranged r.v.s. [“Rendez-Vous”, appointments] had been kept, and the Plan was going ahead. Good prospects are assured. The 2 helpers will be returned to FAUSTO as soon as possible.
[Two days later, Captain Robb became commander of the whole of No. 5 Field Section. See note below.]
NOV. 6. I took over officially from Col. WHYTE, and Section 5 now covers a 2 Division Front, 8th Indian Division and 78th Division; moved to SAN FELICE [DEL MOLISE].
[No. 5 Section operated east along the Adriatic coast, with the purpose of rescuing Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and other escapers and evaders, such as paratroopers and downed air pilots, from enemy occupied territory in the Marche and Abruzzi regions. Infiltrated agents gathered and rescued POWs and others, taking them south by boat to Termoli, or by land to the Allied lines, along the so called “Ratberry Lines” or “Ratlines.” Such missions were very dangerous and agents, if captured by Germans or Fascists, faced severe interrogations, torture and death. However, despite difficulties, No. 5 Section was very successful and rescued the highest number of POWs, when compared to other sections].
NOV. 13. Returned to TERMOLI.
My chief Agent HUGH [Uguccione RANIERI di Sorbello], head of the original Six put in at CUPRAMARITTIMA, reported back with full account of activities, Plan RATBERRY Section “A” and bringing with him 18 ex-P/Ws [ex Prisoners of War], 3 Helpers [his younger brother Lodovico RANIERI, Lieut. Virgilio “NANNI” GIOVANNETTI, Senior Member of the “RAT-LINE”, in charge of PORCHIA-MONTALTO MARCHE Post, and Agent ? landed by Capt. ROBB – see above report by Major FILLINGHAM], and the following story:
“Following successful get-away of the 5 ex-P/Ws on Nov. 4 [1st boatload organized by Agent FAUSTO SIMONETTI, see above] it was decided to try it again. To keep 2 sailing vessels, which were about to sail, ERMANNO [FINOCCHI], one of my original 6, circulated the rumor that fishing vessels arriving at British Occupied Ports without some British P/W, were suspect. This had the desired result, and a promise was extracted to wait until the night of Nov. 8. FAUSTO [SIMONETTI], another of my 6, set off to round up the ex-P/Ws. HUGH [RANIERI] and ERMANNO [FINOCCHI] also set off, with HUGH’s brother [Lodovico RANIERI] and a friend [Gianni DA CAMPO] to round up some more.
In spite of the usual difficulties; local persuasion; distrust etc., 11 more were got on the move. A march of 45 miles was successfully accomplished and a hide-out found; here the “Brother” [Lodovico RANIERI] arrived with 9 more. Agent FAUSTO [SIMONETTI] never turned up. The group came to SAN BENEDETTO [del Tronto] by night and conducted to the beach in order to be sent to the harbor in small groups. Unfortunately firing broke out just at the moment. Panic among the ex P/W was avoided but the boat crew had vanished. The get-away therefore was abandoned for that night.
Next day another group of ex P/W arrived, sent by ANDREA [SCATTINI] [one] of the original six [Agents], from further up the coast, the number was now 27; no word came from FAUSTO [SIMONETTI].
Then followed days of anxiety. On Nov. 11 five discouraged ex P/Ws left to attempt crossing the lines. Finally HUGH contacted an Italian Naval Captain, and together they finally persuaded a skeleton crew to attempt the get-away. Meantime a few more ex P/Ws had disappeared. The town was entered at dusk greatly aided by the fact that British planes were overhead and all the townspeople had taken cover. The motor fishing boat was boarded, the anchor was abandoned, as hauling it in would be too noisy, and the exit from the harbor was made in absolute quiet. The rest of the journey was uneventful, except for the jubilation of the ex P/Ws, and they arrived safely at TERMOLI. The course was approx. 14 miles from the coast.
This operation, carried out by the RATBERRY SECTION “A” of No. 5 Field Section, proves that the “putting in” of a complete working team into an area known to them, is fully justified. Similar “coups” will be attempted, but the main plan of land evacuation will be pushed. To further this, HUGH will return Nov. 15 to his area and continue working with the other five and their helpers. The Naval Captain (Italian) who assisted this last coup, will, as he is well known to many local fishermen on the coast, continue to organize boats and conduct the ex P/Ws to TERMOLI.
NOV. 14/15. Following arrival of the 2nd boatload of ex P/Ws on 13th Nov, HUGH [Uguccione RANIERI di Sorbello] gave me the picture of what is happening inside my area. 2 of the original 6 agents put in have lost contact. From Oct. 22 nothing has been heard of GUIDO, but HUGH is of the opinion that he will turn up eventually. The other missing agent FAUSTO [SIMONETTI], also will put in an appearance sooner or later. We have recent reports regarding his activities. The original idea, following HUGH’s arrival, was that he [HUGH] should return immediately, but it was decided to wait 24 hours, to tighten up at this end.
NOV. 16. Beach Party [Hugh, the Naval Captain and 2 others] left TERMOLI to be “put in” at CUPRA [MARITTIMA], the weather being considered suitable. With the arrival of McGIBBON LEWIS from ALGIERS, the RATBERRY PLAN was re-opened. It was decided, as I already had agents operating in my area, it would be better if I remained at this end of the RATLINE, W/T [Wireless Telecommunication] being limited to two sets, and this side of the front being already short of personnel. In fact that I should continue working on the 2 Divisions front [8th Indian Division and 78th Division]. The original RATBERRY [Plan] to go on.
NOV. 17. Beach party returned, unable to land due to bad weather. This at the time seemed fortunate, as all interested could discuss furthering RATBERRY [organization by Agents of escape lines called RATBERRY LINES (“RAT-LINES”), followed by land evacuation of POWs]. All sections would now be “put in” together.
NOV. 19. The 3rd boatload of ex P/W [ex Prisoners of War] arrived at TERMOLI in all numbering 21 persons, including 2 paratroopers. This boat load had been collected and dispatched by Agent ERMANNO [FINOCCHI], from SAN BENEDETTO [del Tronto]. Full list of ex P/W has been sent on from TERMOLI by Capt. FOWLER. The plan and route were the same as the 2 previous boatloads, and there was absolutely no hitch. Food and rest provided for all of the ex P/Ws en route, and they were in high spirits on arrival.
Got the story from the ex P/Ws, also some helpful devices for gaining the trust and confidence of others still remaining behind in the area (e.g. the torn prison chit, which when presented will fit the other half retained by remaining P/Ws). This sort of thing is being fully exploited where possible.
NOV. 20. The 4th boat load arrived with ex P/Ws numbering 11. The guide GIANNI [DA CAMPO, from Venice], supplied by ERMANNO [FINOCCHI], arrived but went at once to hospital. The M.O. [Medical Officer] in the party (an ex P/W) said that GIANNI had a temperature of 102 [about 39 centigrade] when they started across country. He brought them to the beach, but by that time was already in a bad state muttering in delirium “I must get them down now, I must get them down now”. He is in a B/M [British Military] Hospital with jaundice and suspected malaria. I mention this to give you some idea of the help we are getting.
The ex P/W on this boat were full of praise for the way everything worked. It took only 8 and a half hours with one break, food and rest, from their last hideout en route to boat sailing. They also brought with them a marked map of the coastal defences of interest to “G” Operators. A list of names of this party has already been sent on. RATBERRY Party still await permission to sail.
NOV. 21. RATBERRY still postponed. TERMOLI, Papers, Reports and Jeep trouble.
No. 5 Field Section.
About November 30, “Hugh” was finally landed above Pedaso (north of Cupramarittima) with Lieut. Virgilio “Nanni” Giovannetti (senior member of the Ratline, in charge of Post in Porchia/Montalto Marche), two British officers (Capt. Bridges George “Bunny” McGibbon Lewis and Capt. “Jock” Mckee), and two British sergeants.
In her “Diaries” [see page 94 of Alessandro Perini’s book], “Babka” explains that the group arrived at Villa Vinci “Boccabianca” (Post “A” in Cupramarittima) on 1 December 1943. Then the two British officers “in perfect uniform, armed to the teeth and accompanied by 2 Sergeants equally armed, left in direction of Umbria to look for POWs. Only Englishmen can have the chutzpah to do such a thing, in a country infested with Fascists and Germans!”
See “I.S.9 Officers—Biography.”
Also, read four reports written by Capt. Robb as Commander of No. 5 Field Section: “I.S.9 Progress Reports for November 4–21, 1943,” “I.S.9 Progress Reports for November 4–21, 1943,” “I.S.9 War Diary—December 16–29, 1943,” and “I.S.9—Periodic Report for January 15–25, 1944.”
Unfortunately, three of the original six Italian agents of Team Ratberry Section “A” lost their lives while on duty in enemy territory: Andrea Scattini, Fausto Simonetti, and Ermanno Finocchi.
Andrea Scattini was shot on the cold, snowy evening of 8 March 1944 in Force (Ascoli Piceno, Marche) by a young and nervous partisan from a nearby village.
On 18 September 1943, 10 days after the September 8th Armistice, Andrea, age 26, a medical student serving in the Medical Corps of the Italian Army at Celio Military Hospital in Rome, while transporting in an ambulance to the hospital a wounded patient, was stopped and captured by Germans, and slated to be taken to Germany, to either agree to fight on the Germans’ side, or be harshly detained in a concentration camp. Two days later, during transfer northward, Andrea evaded; as he fled, the Germans shot at him from behind but, luckily, they did not hit him.
Andrea went east to Porto San Giorgio (Marche, on the Adriatic coast) to contact his wife and, from Marina San Vito Chietino (his birthplace), by boat he went south beyond the front lines and reached the Allies in just-liberated Termoli.
In Termoli, Andrea was enrolled as an agent of “A” Force, No. 5 Field Section, Team Ratberry “A” under Capt. Andrew Robb.
In his March 21, 1945 report, Uguccione “Hugh” Ranieri states:
“Before leaving [by boat on 2 November 1943, see above] for the main mission, SCATTINI was entrusted with a short mission, which he carried out brilliantly behind the lines in 3 days and 3 nights of sleepless walk, with help of [a] high dose of Benzedrine.”
He probably refers to the mid-October 1943 rescue by Andrea Scattini, in German occupied Lanciano, of Polish Jewish Physician Dr. Herman/Hermann Datyner, Professor of Urology at Warsaw University Hospital, who had escaped to Italy after invasion of Poland by the German Army. Details of the rescue are described at pages 50–55 of above mentioned book San Vito e la Guerra by Pietro Cupido.
On 2 November 1943, Andrea and three other agents of Team Ratberry “A” were landed by Capt. Robb near Cupramarittima, Marche (see above). They reached Post “A” (Villa Vinci “Boccabianca”), where they joined Agent Fausto Simonetti, previously landed with “Guido” by Capt. Robb on October 22.
Then, Andrea and fellow agents of Team Ratberry “A” looked for POWs hiding in the area and rescued them, organizing four boatloads from San Benedetto Del Tronto to Termoli. (See reports by Capt. Robb and Major Fillingham.)
On 15 November 1943, Andrea was present at the birth of his first and only son, Ettore, in Force (Ascoli Piceno).
Incoming winter and rough sea made difficult rescue of POWs by sea with rather small and open fishing boats. It was decided to continue the rescue by land, and Andrea was entrusted with the mission to organize a “Ratberry Line,” or Ratline, from Marche southbound, across the German lines, to the Allied lines.
On the second half of November, he left (see reports by Capt. Luigi Stipa and Sergeant Donato Fantacuzzi “il Calabrese,” both in the “Stipa papers”) and successfully accomplished his mission.
The following report by Capt. Robb states he arrived at the Allied lines of the New Zealand Division about one month later, on 21 December 1943:
Progress Report for December 16–29, 1943
PROGRESS REPORT – No. 5 “A” FORCE FIELD SECTION
16 DECEMBER – 29 DECEMBER, 1943
Dec. 17: LANCIANO: Sgt. Gillespie brought the news that [U.S.] Capt. [Richard W. B.] LEWIS had come through.
Dec. 21: Left TERMOLI on urgent call from New Zealand Division. Meanwhile Sgt. Gillespie had contacted New Zealand Division and picked up ANDREA [SCATTINI] and ex P/W [prisoner of war] L/Cpl. [Lance Corporal] SPIRO. They were brought to LANCIANO and kept for interrogation on my arrival.
Dec. 22: ANDREA [SCATTINI] and Lance Corporal SPIRO gave full story as directed by HUGH [Uguccione RANIERI di Sorbello]. The facts were told to HUGH by FRANCO [SCOLETTA, collaborator of] Capt. McGIBBON LEWIS. Signals and reports sent to Headquarters BARI.]
Concerning Franco Scoletta, read “Courage of the Very Highest Order.”
In the seventh and last page of his 28 January 44 final Periodic Report of No. 5 Field Section, Capt. Robb states:
Ratberry Agents on This Side [of the front lines]:
returned from HUGO [Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello]; presently acting as Intelligence officer for briefing etc. One of the original planners of MILKY WAY [Plan to extend RATBERRY Line north and possibly east, in order to take Prisoners of War to Switzerland and/or Yugoslavia].
same as above.
awaiting immediate return to Ratberry.
returning with Faust.
Signed: Capt. Andrew ROBB, No. 5 Field Section.
Plan “Milky Way”
Andrea Scattini and Ermanno Finocchi were entrusted by “A” Force Command in Lanciano with the mission to go respectively to Bologna and Milano and organize another “Ratline” extending northbound from Marche to Switzerland.
Priest “Don Carlo” Orlandini was going to take care of the southern part of it, from Villa Stipa (Capt. Stipa’s post in Appignano del Tronto/Offida, Ascoli Piceno) to Sassoferrato (Ancona).
Andrea Scattini was going to take care of the middle part.
Ermanno Finocchi was going to take care of the northern part.
“Don Carlo” Orlandini was convoked at the 8th Army Command in Bari, to confer about his work and to receive further instructions.
On 4 February 1944, he was air dropped with parachute near Porchia/Montalto Marche, the post of Lieut. Virgilio “Nanni” Giovannetti.
On 20 February 1944, he stopped at Villa Stipa, Appignano del Tronto/Offida, the post of Capt. Luigi Stipa, who wrote in his report:
“Il 20 Febbraio 1944 è arrivato Don ‘Carlo’ [Domenico] ORLANDINI, che procedeva per recarsi a SASSOFERRATO [Ancona] per costituire una linea da allacciarsi al mio caposaldo passando per FORCE [Ascoli Piceno]. La linea doveva servire per far rientrare circa 25 persone ma non prigionieri.
Diedi a Don ‘Carlo’ lire 2000 (duemila) (vedi allegato) e con la ricevuta mi lasciò un biglietto da dare a Ermanno [Finocchi]”.
From Lanciano, Ermanno Finocchi and Andrea Scattini together crossed the German lines, bound northward—while passing, they had to resist a gunfight with a German patrol—and about 7 March 1944 arrived at Villa Stipa. (See report by Capt. Stipa.)
Lieut. Virgilio “Nanni” Giovannetti was called for briefing, and promptly arrived from his Porchia/Montalto Marche Post. Incidentally, that saved his life. On March 10, while he was away from his post, it was raided by German Gestapo and S.S.; his collaborator Diego Vecchiarelli was seriously wounded, and Paratrooper Mario Mottes was arrested and shot the next day with three English POWs.
For more on Mario Mottes, read “Honor Recommended for Mario Mottes.”
While waiting for the arrival of Lieut. Uguccione “Hugo” Ranieri from Post “A” (Villa Vinci at Cupramarittima), Ermanno Finocchi and “Nanni” Giovannetti remained at Villa Stipa, while Andrea Scattini went to Force to see his wife and the newborn son he had never seen, and had no news of, for about three-and-a-half months.
Circumstances of Andrea Scattini’s death
On the evening of 8 March 1944, a group of young rascals from nearby villages, attached to the partisan band headed by Lieutenant Paolini, had arrived to Force and was sacking houses. Andrea was called to intervene and stop them. He interrupted his supper and, with his brother-in-law, walked rapidly to the center of Force. He met the group in front of Villa Verrucci, described himself as a partisan captain who knew their commander, and disapproved of their actions, saying that partisans should act as patriots, not as thieves. They got nervous and hostile (they probably thought they had been discovered and were going to be reported to their commander) and, at arm point, ordered him to say the password of their partisan band.
Their new password for that day was “Asburgo”, but Andrea, who had just arrived through the front lines after a long absence and had not had contact yet with members of the “Paolini” band, obviously could not know it and answered with an old password (“Stella Rossa,” or “Red Star”). At this point, a young partisan suddenly shot him with his submachine gun. A bullet went through Andrea’s neck and lacerated his carotid artery, with subsequent hemorrhage and death.
The killer was later arrested and tried for murder. He tried to justify himself by saying he mistook Andrea for a Fascist and, as Andrea kept his hands inside the pockets of his parka (it was a cold and snowy night), he thought he was holding a pistol inside his pocket and could use it to shoot them. He asked to be graced, considering his young age—it seems at the time he was 18—and the war time, and begged Andrea’s parents not to pursue his punishment.
He was not executed, as Andrea’s mother (Luigi Donfrancesco’s grandmother), after a sleepless night of weeping and prayers, conceded him the grace, saying his death would not give her back her son, and another mother would have suffered the same pain and anguish she was suffering.
After Andrea Scattini’s death, the message by Ermanno Finocchi to “Don Carlo” Orlandini indicates that the latter, after completing his southern part of the new Ratberry Line (from Marche to Switzerland, Plan “Milky Way”), was going to take over from Andrea the organization of the middle part as well.
Fausto Simonetti (age 23 and a medical student) was captured on 10 March 1944 near Ponte Maglio (between Force and Montalto Marche) and imprisoned in Fort Malatesta, Ascoli Piceno. After three months of severe interrogations and awful torture, he was shot on 6 June 1994—the same day as the “D” Day invasion of Normandy.
Ermanno Finocchi was killed in late August 1944, in just liberated Fiesole (on the outskirts of Florence) by a mine left by the retreating Germans.
See “Monument to Valiant Rescuers.”
Request of Discharge
Capt. Robb ceased his service in the Intelligence Corps of the Australian Military Forces on 1 February 1944.
He was replaced at command of No. 5 Field Section in Italy by Capt. Richard W. B. Lewis, Intelligence Officer of the United States Army Air Force.
On 28 January 1944, before departing from Italy, Capt. Robb:
Completed and signed his final comprehensive and very interesting Periodic Report for January 15–25, 1944.
Read “I.S.9—Periodic Report for January 15–25, 1944.”
And he filed memo 13087 of 28 January 1944—a Request of Discharge and Placement in the Retired List—which was approved by Land Headquarters and forwarded to the headquarters in Melbourne, Australia.
Soon after, Andrew Robb must have left for Australia by plane, as his Discharge Form says that only three days later, on 31 January 1944, “ROBB, Andrew George, No. V147996, Rank: LIEUTENANT, Unit: LAND HEADQUARTERS INTELLIGENGE CORPS, underwent [Chest] X-Ray and Examination by the Medical Board at CAULFIELD, suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA.”
Medical Particulars of Discharge, compiled by the Examining Medical Officer, were:
Age: 43, Height: 5 ft 11 [180-181 cm], Eyes: Grey, Hair: Brown, Complexion: Medium, Distinctive Marks: Appendical Scar and 2 Gunshot wounds in Upper Left Arm and Right Leg.
Discharged in CAULFIELD [Melbourne, Australia] on 1 February 1944.
Reason for Discharge: TERM OF APPOINTMENT.
Intended place of residence after Discharge, to which D/C [Discharge Certificate] may be posted:
Flat 8, 135 Grey Street, St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia, or:
Union Bank, 351 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Destination Area: White Cliffs [Whitecliffs], Canterbury, New Zealand [where his parents and elder brother Alexander lived].
Document No. 19742 of 2 February 1944 by Australian Military Forces issued to V.147966 Lieut. A. G. ROBB – AUSTRALIAN INTELLIGENCE CORPS, states:
“Approval is given in L.H.Q. [Land Headquarters] [of] memo 13087 of 28 Jan. ’44 for the placement of the above named officer on the Retired List.”
Andrew Robb was placed on the Retired List on 2 February 1944.
On 15 April 1946 he was issued the following Certificate No. 37453. It was mailed on 17 April 46 from Lieut. A. Firth, for Lt-COL. Officer-in-charge, Victoria Echelon & Records, 339 Swanston Street, MELBOURNE. C.1.
To: Mr. A. G. Robb, (Ex-V147996),
Flat 8, 135 Grey St.
ST KILDA [Melbourne, Australia]
AUSTRALIAN MILITARY FORCES, CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE OF AN OFFICER
This is to Certify that V147996 Lieutenant Andrew George ROBB – Australian Army Intelligence Corps – Served on Continuous Full Time War Service in the Citizen Military Forces from 10 Apr. 1942 to 1 Feb. 1944 –
Honours, Decorations and Awards during that Service
— NIL — (??)
War Badge (??)
Full Time War Service as an Officer in the Citizen Military Forces ceased on 1 February 1944
(Signed) A. Firth, Lieut.
Date: 15 Apr. 1946
for Officer in Charge Southern Comd. Ech. & Rec. [Southern Commander Echelon & Records]
Description of Officer on Completion of Service
Height: 5 ft. 11 ins. Eyes: Grey, Complexion: Medium, Hair: Brown
Marks or Scars: GSW (Gunshot wound) left upper arm and right leg, appendical scar.
After Discharge from Australian Army on Feb. 1944, Andrew and Nina probably spent some time in New Zealand with his relatives. Andrew had left New Zealand in 1928 or 1932]. Beverly says that Andrew and his wife sailed to New York from New Zealand in 1945. Then they moved to London, England, U.K.
On May 1945, at the Recruiting Center of CROYDON [South LONDON, U.K.], Andrew ROBB applied for Registration in the Army Officers’ Emergency Reserve for re-employment in or appointment to an Emergency Commission in his Majesty’s Land Forces. Answering various questions in the application, Andrew states:
Rank on leaving the Army: LIEUTENANT (AUSTRALIA)
Personal Number: V157996
Permanent Address: c/o 98 Downton Ave, Streatham Hill, SW2 [London]
“I am a British subject by birth”
“I am of pure European descent”
Father at date of applicant’s birth: “Alex. Robb”, Nationality: “British”
Mother at date of her birth: “Isabella Simpson”, Nationality: “British”.
Present occupation: “Colonial Survey Service”
PREVIOUS SERVICE IN H.M. [His Majesty] FORCES:
“Johore Voluntary Engineers, from 1932 to 1938”;
“Fed. Malay State Volunteers, 1st Perak Battalion, from 1939 to 1942”;
“Australian Intelligence Corps, from Apr. 1942 to Jan. 1944”.
Other useful information concerning your military service:
“Attached to Commando Unit Malaya (Independent Corp of A.I.F) Dec. 1941 and Jan. 1942”.
“1915-1918: West Christchurch District High School (N.Z.) Matriculation”.
University: “Canterbury University College”.
Are you a member of any recognized Technical Institution:
“Registered Surveyor (N.Z.) 1928”;
“Member of Town Planning Institute (N.Z.)”
Knowledge of Foreign Languages:
MALAY (Romanized), Fair.
Have you an intimate knowledge of any parts of the British Empire other than Great Britain, and/or Foreign Countries? Give dates and places of residence:
MALAYA (except a few areas), 1928-1942.
BRUNEI TOWN and SERIA, 1940.
“Slight Disability in Left Hand result of War wound. Condition improving”.
Each applicant must give below the names of two referees who can vouch for his moral and professional integrity and who have known the applicant for the past 4 years. Andrew wrote:
Lieutenant Colonel M.C. Hay
Major P.C. Bonnett.
Andrew Robb was judged “SUITABLE” by the War Office Selection Board.
4 July 1945. In EASTBOURNE, he signed Army Form B199A, completed with the following information:
Personal Number: 348222
Regiment or Corps: General List
Christian Names: ANDREW GEORGE
Recorded Address: c/o Union Bank of Australia, 71 Cornhill, London EC.3
Schools: West Christchurch District High School (New Zealand).
University: Canterbury University College (New Zealand).
Religious Denomination: Presbyterian.
Officer’s Father: British
Officer’s Mother: British
If married, Wife’s Name and Wartime address:
ANTONINA ROBB, c/o Union Bank of Australia, 71 Cornhill, London EC3.
Date of marriage: 15 Apr. 1937. No children.
Name and Address of relative or other person for use in emergency (additional to wife in case of married officers):
A.[ALEXANDER] W. ROBB, Whitecliffs, Canterbury, New Zealand – [elder] Brother.
Name and Address of Officer’s Bankers or Agents:
Union Bank of Australia 71 Cornhill, London EC3
Army Schools and Courses of Instruction:
CASC, Place: Wimbledon [south-west suburb of London], from May to June 1945.
MALAY. Degree of proficiency, speak: Fair, read: Fair.
Knowledge of Foreign Countries:
MALAYA – except Kelantan and Trengganu – BRUNEI.
REGISTERED SURVEYOR (New Zealand) LAND SURVEY, employed by Colonial Office.
Professional qualifications or Membership, etc.:
MEMBER OF NEW ZEALAND INSTITUTE OF SURVEYORS.
Wounds and Nature: Gunshot Wound Left Arm.
Place and Date: Malaya, 5 Jan. 42
Pension or Gratuity: Nil.
I do hereby certify that to the best of my knowledge and belief the statements of particulars contained in my record of service are in all respects correct and true,
Place: EASTBOURNE, Date 4 July 45, Signature: A. G. Robb
Countersigned by: W. M. Raffe, Major.
Item 10. PARTICULARS OF SERVICE.
Units, Movements, Appointments, Etc. [notes difficult to read and understand]:
14 May 1945: Granted W.E. Commission. Station: EASTBOURNE
[on the coast south of London, on the “English Channel” – in Italian: “Stretto della Manica”].
14 May 45. Posted No. 3 C.A. Pool. Station: same.
6 Aug 45. S.O.S. No. 3 C.A Pool on emplaning U.K. for Malaya.
7 Aug 45. Posted from ex U.K. to H.Q. [Headquarters] B.M.A. [British Malayan Army?] (Malaya) S.E.A.C. c. affairs staff. – P.II o 151/ALFSEA 14.11.45 [?]
7 Aug 45. To be S.C.C.A. an op Gp C: affairs Staff [Burmer]+returns or retains [?] act. [active?] roster [?]
20 Aug 45. To be S.o. III CA Survey Dept. [Department] in new appt. [appointment] gtd [granted?] A/maj [Adjunct Major?]
2 Nov 45. To be S.o. II CA Survey Dept. [Department] in new appt [appointment] gtd [granted?] A/maj [Adjunct Major?]
26 May 1946: Relinquished Commission. [Age 45].
Seal: War Service Reckons From 14 May 45.
Item 12. Rank during this Service ranged from Lieutenant to Major.
Item 13. Medical Category “A” on May 45 by Recruiting Centre Croydon [South London].
[From above notes is not clear if Andrew’s Commission Service was entirely in Eastbourne, England, U.K. or if he also went to Malaya].
“I am fairly sure that Andrew did not stay in England past 1945,” Beverly Robb wrote, “but went back to Malaya while still in the British Army, as he talks [in letters] about Nina not being allowed to be there with him. He also describes the looting going on and taking relatives of Allied soldiers into the jungle to where their loved ones had been murdered by the Japanese soldiers after capture. He mentions [on] 29th March 1946 that there is no word of Nina coming to join him as Commanding Officer General Hone had given an order that no wives of Colonial Office persons are allowed in. Last letter, written 21st Sept 1947, Nina is now with him but he also talks of Bandits and Gangs.”
In 1957 they moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, where Andrew, then age 56, worked for the New Zealand Lands and Survey Department.
After Andrew returned to Christchurch, his nephew Murray spent several weekends helping him surveying his land, in preparation for the building of his house.
Murray always talked warmly of him to family members.
Beverly said, “When Andrew built his new house 1957, he included a special room where he used to teach young scholars. As we understand, some were young surveyors and also commerce students. He excelled at mathematics.”
On 5 December 1974, at age 73, Andrew died at Princess Margaret Public Hospital, Cashmere, Christchurch, New Zealand, of septicemia, as a complication of surgery, pancreatic duodenectomy for cancer of the pancreas.
He was survived by his widow, Antonina “Nina,” aged 68 at the time of his death.
Nina never remarried, and she died in Brisbane, Australia, on 19 December 1997 at age 91.