Info request - Major H. Robert Mac Donald Military Corps I. S.

Discussion in 'Italy' started by Varasc, Jun 5, 2018.

  1. Varasc

    Varasc Senior Member

    Good evening,

    I am trying to find more info on an Allied officer, named by a local history source as "Major H. Robert Mac Donald Military Corps I. S.". Hereunder, the already available data:

    1. He fought with Italian partisans in North-West Italy, Piemonte (Piedmont), in the Biella and Vercelli provinces.
    2. On August 22nd, 1944, he took a picture of a partisan commander, Giovanni Gremmo (Battlename Adrien or Adrian, "Aldo Brina" Battalion) in Buronzo, near Vercelli.

    Since the partisan commander was my girlfriend's late father, and due to my previous researches on Allied POWs in Piemonte and Aosta Valley, I would be really interested in finding Maj. Mac Donald's nationality, personal history, fate and so on. Just for instance, I would like to know if he was a special forces operator, an Intelligence Service member ("I.S."?) or an escaped prisoner of war, like many others here after the Armistice.

    Thank you in advance for your kind help, and my best regards.

  2. Varasc

    Varasc Senior Member

    Hello, any possible news?

  3. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    If there is nothing posted I can only suggest those who know about Italian-held POW missed this or it led to a fruitless Google search or the records they have access to. We do have expertise on Italian POW camps: You may need to contact member Vitellino - as she is our Italy POW camp expert and issues.

    Anyway, I think you Major was serving with the South African Native Military Corps, who from previous reading were non-combatants and often were stretcher bearers. A renewed and quick look found this article: “We fought as one, black and white”; the South African Native Military Corps ‘at arms’

    Within is this passage which could explain the Major being an Italian POW:
    There are other threads on the NMC and this one appears to explain more: Skin colour is irrelevant in a foxhole!

    I cannot readily identify a H.R. MacDonald with the NMC; South African records are not my area.

    From DianeE in late 2020 on how to access SANDF Records:
    There was a Canadian officer H.R. MacDonald in WW2, who was a POW in Germany.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2021
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  4. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Nothing on him, sorry. Are we sure he WAS a major?

  5. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    Have you not had a look at a file you sent me a while back? I think it may give a answer?

    WO 392/1 Germany & German Occupied Territories. Imperial Prisoners of war. MacDonald, I.H. Capt. Personal No 108209. Camp No 079. P.O.W. No 1126. Regt or Corps, Cam.H. The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.

    I could be way off the mark?

    Edit: Is there not a book, or a file on escaped P.O.W.s.? I was going to buy it.. I went back to buy it, but it had gone.

    Last edited: Apr 14, 2021
  6. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Could you tell me where you found that? Canadian POW lists were issued with full names, next of kin and hometown so I'm presuming that's not the source.


  7. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    WO-373-59-288-page-001.jpg WO-373-59-288-page-002.jpg Edited

    Could this be him? The date August 1944 doesn't tally.

    Another edit - I should have said, though, that some things do fit in:

    - Surname and Rank
    - He was parachuted into Piemonte
    - He liased with the partisans

    In reply to Stu, file WO 392/1 refers to POWs in held in Germany , not in Italy. Their file is WO 392/1
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2021
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  8. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Alien Eyes,

    I didn't make a note of the Canadian traces, but Google throws out a few pointers to a Canadian POW. Such as this:

    As there was no indication of the subject being Canadian I moved on.
  9. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    The HR Macdonald referred to above fought in WWI. From the above link:

    November 8, 1917

    Dear Father...
    The wound in my right hand is getting better, but my left arm will take quite awhile yet. H.R. MacDonald, my old pal got shot through the jaw.

    Also, no feedback form Varasc. I will now send him a PM,

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  10. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    More on Major Macdonald.

    He headed up Mission Cherokee.

    According to information from Laura Berbotto, a a woman in Piemonte who gave hospitality to the mission, it was headed up not by a Major Macdonald but by a Major Roberts (see original post by Varasc) - possibly a pseudonym. Her testimony is in the ISTORETO Archves, Turin. Will check out this testimony in full and edit later.
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  11. Varasc

    Varasc Senior Member

    Dear Vitellino,
    grazie mille!, really interesting. I read your reply to the mother of my girlfriend, wife of the partisan commander photographed by Maj. MacDonald. It would be great to discover more about him. Thanks a lot!
    JimHerriot likes this.
  12. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Varasc,

    I've found another reference by a Sig.ra Carlotta Bosa to the fact that she sheltered Maj.Macdonald and other members of the Mission Cherokee.

    I've attached them both

    P1010955 Berbotto Luisa MacDonald Cherokee.jpg P1010986 Bosa Carlotta - Macdonald - Cherokee.jpg

    Edited to add.

    Ex.- Pow George Ernest Evans worked with Macdonald. His account is in the BBC's The People's War series
    BBC - WW2 People's War - A British PoW becomes a Partisan, 1943-1945


    Private Papers of Captain J P S Amoore MC | Imperial War Museums (

    Content description
    Photocopied ts account (8pp) of his experiences as a member of Special Operations Executive (SOE) No.1 Special Force serving with the CHEROKEE Mission in northern Italy (November 1944 - May 1945) with details of the organisation and activities of partisans around Biella, north of Turin, his desperate attempts to avoid being taken prisoner, the capture of Major Alistair Macdonald (leader of the Mission, and co-author of the account), savage reprisals on civilians and partisans by enemy forces and the surrender of General Schlemmer's 75th Corps at Biella (2 May 1945); together with original and photocopied documents in English and Italian concerning the official recognition of his war service, photographs, papers and articles, mainly in Italian, concerning the partisan movement in northern Italy and official reunions and commemorations, a reproduction of the surrender document signed at Biella by General Schlemmer's Chief of Staff, and photocopies of other papers, including 48 photographs all relating to Italian partisans, both during the Second World war and at the liberation ceremonies which followed the German surrender.

    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
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  13. Varasc

    Varasc Senior Member

    Dear Vitellino, that's really interesting, thank you indeed.

    May I ask if you know how to access to the private papers of Capt. Amoore at the IWM?
    I have been there twice, but with the current pandemic I'm afraid it will not be possible to come back there for a while.
    Thanks so much, meanwhile, for your info.
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  14. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    For unrelated to ww2talk matters I have read the IWM's policies, though not an expert, there are two main categories of permission: commercial e.g. a book to be published and non-commercial, i.e. for limited use, which can include online access if free and all subject to their conditions. Try viewing: IWM Non-Commercial Licence and there is an email address to ask questions.
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  15. Varasc

    Varasc Senior Member

    Thank you!
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