I.S.9 agent Mario Raoul Mottes
Belgian-born Mario Mottes served as a parachutist and radio operator agent for Allied I.S.9 operations. His task was to locate escaped Allied POWs in enemy-occupied Italy and guide them across the lines—a mission known as Ratline evacuation.
However, on March 10, 1944, while performing his duty, he was arrested by the Germans and executed with three escaped Allied prisoners of war.
The two photos of Mario Mottes in this post were given to my colleague Luigi Donfrancesco by Dr. Lino Beber, a retired physician and historian from Pergine Valsugana (in the province of Trento, Northern Italy), the hometown of Mario Mottes’ mother, Pia Paoli.
The photos were provided to Lino by the the daughters of Mario’s cousin Gina Paoli, daughter of a brother of Mario’s mother. Today Gina Paoli is nearly 100 years old.
Mario Mottes with his cousin Gina Paoli at Lake Caldonazzo, near Pergine Valsugana, Italy.
For more on Mario Mottes, see “War Crime—the Ponte Dragone Executions,” “Ponte Dragone Deaths—A Second Report,” and “Honor Recommended for Mario Mottes.”
A rededication service for Private Lionel Brown, 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, and Privates Daniel Hollingsworth and Thomas White, 1st Battalion The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) took place this past week. The three, having escaped from Italian prisoner of war camps during WW2, were shot along with I.S.9 agent Mario Mottes, near the village of Montedinove, Italy.
Read an official Ministry of Defence news story about the event, “Bravery of 3 World War 2 soldiers shot for escaping from a POW camp finally recognised after nearly 75 years.”
Read also “Heros Honored” by The Sun.
On this site, read “War Crime—the Ponte Dragone Executions” and “Ponte Dragone Deaths—A Second Report” for the details on the Special Investigation Branch war crime investigation into the soldiers’ capture and execution.
A page from the Ponte Dragone Special Investigation Branch (SIB) file
On May 16, 1945, Sergeant W. Mottram filed a formal report on investigations into the Dragone Bridge execution of three British soldiers and an I.S.9 agent (see “War Crime—the Ponte Dragone Executions”).
Twenty-two days later, SIB Captain E. Lister issued a memo concerning the event that is more concise, but offers additional details and clarifications.
Lieutenants Fischer and Rommel were identified as officers of the Montalto Marche detachment of the “Brandenburgers,” the group implicated in the crime. Fischer was officer in charge, and Rommel was his second in command.
A possible close family connection of young Lieutenant Rommel to Erwin Rommel was clearly of interest to the investigators, as twice in the report the lieutenant was referenced as a nephew of the late field marshal.
Decades later, this connection is just as intriguing. In 2001, a day after the release of the secret war crime file for this incident, the Guardian did a story entitled “Rommel’s nephew linked to war crime.”
The River Aso between Petritoli and Ortezzano, in Fermo Province—a few miles downstream from Ponte Dragone, where three ex-prisoners of war and an Italian I.S.9 agent were executed in March 1944
In dark of night on March 10, 1944, three escaped British POWs and an I.S.9 agent involved in Ratline evacuations of POWs to Allied territory were executed on the Dragone Bridge. Ponte Dragone is three miles from the village of Montedinove. Earlier that day, the four men had been captured and interrogated by officers of the Montalto Marche branch of the German S.S. Brandenburg Regiment.
One year later, members of the Allied Forces’ Special Investigation Branch (SIB) conducted an investigation into the matter.
According to Italy: Imperial Prisoners of War Alphabetical List, Section 1, British Army, the POWs who were killed had been interned in two camps:
Gunner Lionel H. J. Brown (Parachute Regiment, Army Air Corps) had been interned in P.G. 70–Monteurano, near Fermo, Ascoli Piceno.
Private Daniel R. Hollingsworth (The Buffs, Royal East Kent Regiment) and Private Thomas White (also of The Buffs) had been interned in P.G. 53–Sforzacosta, Macerata.
These killings are referenced in the recent “Service in Italy for Three Soldiers” post on this site. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission announcement refers to the killings as having occurred at Ponte Del Diavolo. However, the official account references Ponte Dragone as the site of the killings.
Ancona War Cemetery
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.
First page of a letter from Major Luigi Stipa recommending that I.S.9 agent Mario Mottes be posthumously awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor (Medaglia d’Argento al Valore Militare)
In January 1944, Sergeant Mario Mottes was wounded in the area of Montalto Marche during a parachute drop, when his parachute opened too late to prevent a violent landing.
He continued on his mission, and two months later, on March 10, 1944, he was arrested by the Germans and shot with three escaped Allied prisoners of war.
Major Luigi Stipa proposed the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor (Medaglia d’Argento al Valore Militare) be awarded to Mario. His letter of recommendation details Mario’s valiant service.
Access to this document from the “Stipa Papers” came through Dr. Luigino Nespeca of Offida. Luigi Donfrancesco translated the Silver Medal nomination into English:
REPORT ATTACHED TO PROPOSAL OF SILVER MEDAL “TO MILITARY BRAVERY, IN MEMORIUM” to Sergeant Radio-Telegrapher Paratrooper of the Army Mario MOTTES
Name: MOTTES Mario
Born: Belgium, November 18, 1919
Degree: Sergeant R.T. Paratrooper
Unit: Royal Army, Battalion Paratroopers
Enrolled in force on January 17, 1944
Residence: PERGINE VALSUGANA (TRENTO)
Shot at MONTALTO (MARCHE) on March 10, 1944