Memories of Manuel Serrano

Manuel Serrano in an undated photo. Courtesy of Marie Galarza-Ruiz.

Manuel and friends. Courtesy of Marie Galarza-Ruiz.

One of the most interesting Camp 59 POWs by far is Manuel Serrano—a young paratrooper of Puerto Rican descent from New York City’s Brooklyn borough.

Even during the war, Manuel gained recognition as a tough, colorful character when his exploits behind enemy lines in Italy were profiled in Yank magazine. See “The Partisan from Brooklyn.”

I was so pleased to hear recently from Marie Galarza-Ruiz, who shed further light on, and a glimpse into a tender side of, this enigmatic character.

Marie wrote, “Manuel Serrano was a very close friend of my parents, Ignacio and Maria Galarza, and our family.

“I can’t tell you how surprised I was to find the clipping of him on your site. I have the same clipping in a scrapbook I keep of him to this day. He was such a special man and I absolutely adored him. His military service record is incredible and a testament to his strength and courage.

“He also led a very interesting life after leaving the military. He had small parts in a few Hollywood movies and lived most of his life in Europe, where he married his wife Adrienne in France.”

“He had a small part in the Valachi Papers and a larger role in Land of the Pharaohs, starring Joan Collins. He played her personal guard. He looked terrific in an Egyptian costume.

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Manuel Serrano—The Partisan from Brooklyn

In 1999–2001, Italian historian Filippo Ieranò conducted a number of interviews with Italians of the Marche.

The collection was published as Antigone nella Valle del Tenna, or “Antigone in the Tenna Valley” in 2002 by Consiglio Regionale delle Marche. The stories highlight the reception of fleeing Allied POWs and Jews after 8th September 1943 in the Tenna Valley—examples of nonviolent resistance against Nazi-Fascists.”

Filippo included a memoir by Manuel Serrano in this volume:

Il partigiano di Brooklin
The Partisan from Brooklyn

[…] Erano passati due mesi dalla tragedia di Pearl Harbor, quando mi arruolai volontario nel corpo dei paracadutisti e fui mandato al corso di addestramento di Fort Benning, nello Stato della Giorgia. Dopo qualche mese fummo inviati in Inghilterra per un po’ di tempo e poi partecipammo all’invasione del Nord Africa.

[…] Two months had passed since the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, when I volunteered for the paratroopers and was sent to the training course at Fort Benning, Georgia. After a few months, we were sent to England for a while and then we participated in the invasion of North Africa.

La nostra prima missione era di far saltare un ponte, ma il 27 dicembre 1942 fummo catturati e condotti a Tunisi, dove ci caricarono su una nave italiana di nome ‘Zeno,’ destinazione Palermo.

Our first mission was to blow up a bridge, but on December 27, 1942, we were captured and taken to Tunis, where they took us on an Italian ship called the Zeno, destined for Palermo.

[…] Dopo due ore, arrivammo col treno a Servigliano provenienti da Porto S. Giorgio. La gente sembrava più cordiale, ci offriva anche del pane, nonostante la contrarietà dei carabinieri presenti.

[…] After two hours, we arrived by train in Servigliano. Coming from Porto S. Giorgio, people seemed more cordial there—they even offered us bread, despite the opposition of the carabinieri present.

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Ron Streatfield—“Granddad”

This week, Tracy Streatfield sent me additional photos of her grandfather, Ron Streatfield. The photo above, she explains, “is likely to have been taken not long before his passing—in either 1985 or 1986, as my sister Heather (left) only looks 2–3 years of age and she was born in 1983.” Tracy is on the right.

Ron died in December 1986.

Above—Ron with his Royal Signals training squad. Printed on the photo is “71 SQUAD NO 2 COY 1st O.T.B. R. SIGNALS 1945 INST L/CL ADAMS.” Ron is seated fourth from the left—see an enlarged detail of Ron below.

This is one of several group photos Tracy sent me.

Read also “Ronald Streatfield in Switzerland.”

Sergeant Allan Lee Downed in Greece

Bristol Type 142m Blenheim I aircraft of the Royal Air Forces in flight. Image from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

I heard this week from Thanos Antonelos, who lives in Athens, Greece.

Thanos researches WW2 aircrews whose aircrafts crashed in Greece.

“On 13 December 1941,” he wrote, “Blenheim Z7800 (Squadron 107, Royal Air Force), was downed at Kefalonia Island, west of Greece. Most of the crew were killed. Three survived, were captured, and ended up in POW camps:

Sergeant Allan John LEE, RAFVR (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve), 925684 (Pilot), ended up in Italy, at P.G. 59

Sergeant Richard HAGGETT, RAFVR, 925435 (Navigator), was transferred to Stalag VII-A Moosburg (POW number 132004)

Sergeant Ambrose John COMEAU, RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force), R65203 (wireless/air gunner), was transferred to Stalag VIII-B/344 Lamsdorf (POW number 31613)

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Ronald Streatfield in Switzerland

Ronald Arthur Streatfield

The photos in this post were sent to me by Tracy Jayne Streatfield, whose grandfather, Ronald Arthur Streatfield, was a prisoner in Camp 59.

“Ron married Sylvia Shrubb and they had two children—Nigel and Jane,” she wrote. “I am Nigel’s eldest daughter.

“My granddad was in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. He was born 30th December 1919, and died 4th December 1986.

“Along with some fellow prisoners of war, he ended up in Switzerland before returning home.

“Most of the pictures are from Switzerland, as you will see.”

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Ronald Bertie Bones—An Album

“A portrait of Bertie from an unknown time,” says Jeremy Bones, “but given he looks young, it could be pre-WW2.”

I received an email last month from Jeremy Bones.

He wrote, “I am currently conducting research into my great-grandfather, Gunner Ronald Bones, who was held as a POW in Camp 59. I have noticed that Robert Dickinson, who wrote “Servigliano Calling,” was also in the camp but, more importantly, was in the same battery as my great-grandfather, 237 Battery of 60th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.”

Indeed, Ronald Bone’s address is one of 20 recorded in Robert’s journal. As such, it seems likely he and Robert were good friends. See “Robert Dickinson’s Address List.”

“My great-grandfather was born on 21st August 1910 in Grimsby and lived in Lincoln his entire life.” Jeremy said.

“I have a number of photos of him in my possession, and a good few are of him in POW camps. I know some of them are from Stalag VIIIA.

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Charles Stewart—Mediterranean and Pacific

Charles J. Stewart

I’ve been in communication recently with Donna Stewart Prato, whose uncle, Charles Stewart, was a POW in P.G. 59.

She wrote, “My cousin, Charles Stewart Jr, and I are researching my uncle’s army days.

“Charles J. Stewart [ASN 6973874] served in North Africa with Co. A, 15th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.

“We did not know any of my uncle’s army experience, especially that he was a POW. My father, Charles Sr, and their other brother took their information to their graves.”

Charles escaped from Camp 59 with Anthony Proto.

(See “American Escapers from P.G. 59,” Greg Bradsher’s “Stories of American Escapers from Prisoner of War Camp 59, Servigliano.”)

Greg explains, Private Anthony N. Proto, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, was captured near Tunis on December 23, 1942, when his unit was cut off without ammunition.

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