S/Sgt. Robert Williams Guided to the Allied Lines by “Peter”

“Peter” is described in Robert Williams’ repatriation report as a “British agent dressed in civilian clothes,” typically “accompanied by an Italian civilian carrying a box of pigeons.”

The agent is mentioned three times in the official I.S.9 history of escaper/evader rescues in Italy. The first mention concerns I.S.9 Boating Section landings on the Adriatic coast, north of the Allied lines. The particular landing was accomplished in late February 1944, “during the non-moon period” (the new moon was on February 24): “The seas during February were again exceedingly rough and prevented all but two operations – ‘PETER’ and ‘JUG’, both of which were successfully carried out.”

Later in 1944, the agent was described as, “not only one of our most likeable officers, but he was thoroughly efficient and sincere in his work. He had previously been in command of our Boating Section based at BASTIA, in CORSICA, where he personally planned and took part in many hazardous landing operations on the WEST coast of ITALY.”

There is a final mention of the agent at the end of 1944—the history states, “‘PETER’ had joined the CLN and was now an active ‘saboteur’. W/Cdr DENNIS said he would deal with Peter later on for deserting the cause of ex-P/Ws.”

Here is Robert Williams‘ repatriation report:

S/Sgt. Robert H. Williams 

EX Report No. 96
12 December 1943

Escape by S/Sgt. Robert H. Williams, 7006809, 18th Infantry, 1st Division, from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 23 December 1942
Date of capture – 23 December 1942
Reported P/W – 9 February 1942
Escape – 14 September 1943
Rejoined Allied forces – 23 October 1943, near Campobasso
Previous in interrogation – Canadian Brigadier General, 8th Army; “A” Force, Algiers
Arrived in USA – 7 December 1943, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 1262 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Age – 24
Length of service – 3 years, 10 months

S/Sgt Robert H. Williams – 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division

Sgt. Williams, a member of Company A, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, was captured 23 December 1942 at Long Stop Hill, Tunis. Plans called for British Grenadier Guards to take the hill and the 18th Infantry to hold it. At the very last moment, the attack was cancelled, but word failed to reach the 18th Division Infantry. Accordingly, it attacked in ignorance of the change of plans and was surrounded, outnumbered, and dismembered.

Briefing

Sgt. Williams was never briefed on escape or evasion tactics.

Interrogation

Sgt. Williams’ instruction on resisting interrogation included movies on the subject and instructions to give only name, rank, and serial number. 

Interrogation was conducted at Tunis two days later. The German intelligence officer was polished and genial. He provided cigarettes and chatted easily on civilian life and unrelated matters, skillfully inserting military questions from time to time. Sgt. Williams was held for brief periods in Bizerte [Tunisia] and in Camp 98, Palermo, Sicily, before moving to Camp 59, 23 January 1943. 

Escape

Sgt. Williams left Camp 59, 14 September 1943, in a group of 150. The men hid in the mountains expecting to await the advance of Allied forces. One of them, who spoke Italian, obtained news over the radio reporting the position of Allied forces. This made it apparent that the Allied advance would not be so swift as had been expected and the 150 broke up into small groups and struck south on foot. While traveling with four other escapists, including a British major, Sgt. Williams met British paratroopers who informed the group of the planned embarkation of escapists from Francavilla [al Mare]. The group proceeded there but missed the rendezvous. They waited two days but increasing numbers of Germans were encountered in the neighborhood and the group decided to move on.

Meet “A” Force “Peter”

Traveling by day and avoiding roads and villages, the group moved in routine fashion to the north bank of the Trigno [River]. There they met “Peter,” the British agent dressed in civilian clothes, whose activities have been described in previous EX reports. As usual, Peter was accompanied by an Italian civilian carrying a box of pigeons. He provided an Italian guide who procured civilian clothes for the group and guided them across the Biferno [River] at 0200 hours, 23 October 1943. On the south bank of the Biferno, the group met a Canadian Patrol near Campobasso. 

Robert Williams‘ POW repatriation report was prepared by MIS-X Section, POW Branch, of the U.S. War Department. The report is courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

1 thought on “S/Sgt. Robert Williams Guided to the Allied Lines by “Peter”

  1. Roy Grillo

    Thanks Dennis, That is just remarkable to obtain that report. And thank you again for your time and effort, I know my dad would.

    Roy

    >

    Reply

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