Unknown British soldier's body found on Monte Spaduro

Discussion in 'Italy' started by vitellino, Jun 4, 2015.

  1. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello everybody,

    A friend sent me an article which was published on 21 May in the Italian newspaper Corriere di Bologna and here it is translated:

    soldato-kAkC--180x140@Corrieredibologna.jpg Discovered - The body of an unknown British soldier who fell on the Gothic Line 70 years ago.
    Other than his remains his helmet, water bottle, spoon and toothpaste have been found.

    BOLOGNA. The human remains found amongst the hills of Casalfiumanese, near Bologna, probably belong to an unknown British soldier. The body was discovered in farmland at Monte Spadaro by a 46-year-old man with a metal detector who was looking for wartime relics. As well as the remains he unearthed a helmet, water bottle, spoon, part of a belt and some toothpaste belonging to well-known British brand. According to the carabinieri, who visited the site with a pathologist, the person concerned is likely to have been a British soldier who fell on the Gothic Line. The remains have now been transferred to the mortuary at Imola hospital to await further investigation.

    Unfortunately the article led to a diatribe of comments in readers' posts - the usual civil war stuff of Partisans versus Fascists (which those of you who don't live here in Italy will hardly be able to imagine) which had nothing whatsoever to do with the discovery of these remains. The vehemence behind the comments of one reader, a partisan sympathiser, made me think that there's something to hide and that this isn't a battle casualty at all but something much more sinster...I hope that the serviceman's dog-tag was found too and that it will be possible to identify him for his family's sake. If his dog tag is missing...who would have had cause to remove it before he was buried?


    BarbaraWT, Neilh1549, brithm and 5 others like this.
  2. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    You mean communist foul play, mate?

    Believe me, we went through a 36-year civil war down here, so I know exactly what you are referring to.
  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Interesting... As a slight bit of casual "research"... Of course, 78th Division and other British divisions were up in that area for several weeks from October 1944 onwards..within that period, I note, for example, that there are four men from 38 (Irish) Brigade (3 Faughs and an Irish Rifleman) who were killed on 20th October 1944 (a day of a major thwarted assault on Monte Spaduro) and who are on the Cassino Memorial.. No doubt there must be tens of other men from other battalions, who were not found in those grim winter conditions.

  4. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    You've got the gist, Warlord.

    I knew the 78th were on Monte Spaduro and I'm now going to try and see what I can find out about the exact spot - Casalfiumanese - where the serviceman was found. I'll start with the Irish Brigade War Diaries and see what co-ordinates are given for 20 October.

    I'll also check on which partisan bands were operating in the area.

    I hope there will be something else in the local press when his remains are released from hospital and he is finally laid to rest.

  5. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

  6. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks Kyle. I've had a look at the Irish Brigade's diary for 20 October and there's a possibility that he could be one of the missing men but I now need to find out exactly where the discovery was made. I've tried the local press office so we'll see what turns up from that line of enquiry.

  7. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Excellent and good luck with finding out more detail of the recent find.

    No doubt finding out the location of the discovery would help, but without the ID, precise identification may well prove pretty difficult... Just off the top of my head, there are also men from the Lancs Fusiliers and other infantry battalions who were not found during that autumn battle period near Spaduro....to give an idea of some of the difficulties, it was noted that it was only in late April 1945 that Father Kelleher found three London Irishmen, who had been killed near Casa Tamagnin on 6th January.

    No doubt you've read them already, so you'll know there are some other very evocative personal accounts of some of the fighting near Spaduro including (inter alia) those written by John Horsfall, Colin Gunner and Nicholas Mosley,

  8. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    If I don't get any joy from the press I'll try the carabinieri. Other than that, my nephew is a Police Inspector here in Umbria and they can find out almost anything anywhere in Italy....
  9. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I've phoned the Carabinieri at Casalfiumanese and managed to speak to the Commander.

    He gave me the following information, (the first bit of which takes me back to my first post):

    The soldier was found face down. He was tall and had beautiful white teeth. Oddly enough (Commander's expression), he had a small partial denture.

    I have emailed him the map references in the Irish Brigade War Diary for 20 October and he is going to look on Google Maps and see whether any of them correspond with the place where the soldier was found.

    What is needed now is a relative to enable a DNA test to be carried out. Would it be worth trying to contact the families of the four missing men from the Irish Brigade remembered at Cassino? And perhaps something on the Irish Brigade website? The Commander has handed this bit over to me as Italain burocracy is likely to hold things up for a long time!!!!!


    PS: no identity disc!!
  10. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Dental Records from those recorded as missing?

  11. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Kyle,

    Thanks for the suggestion - I hadn't thought of it. Where would I go about finding them?

  12. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Oh dear I knew you were going to ask me that :)
    I don't know but I`m sure these will be able to advise you;-

    Army Medical Services Museum
    Keogh Barracks
    Ash Vale
    GU12 5RQ


    01252 868 820


    01252 868 832



  13. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    My father requested his own Army records under the Freedom of Information act which means they are more comprehensive than normally supplied - i.e. everything has to be included. They include full dental charts.

    It was the policy of the British Army dentists to remove any teeth which could possibly cause problems on active service. My father's front two had been chipped in an accident and they were removed upon enlistment....Army Dentists, as with Army Doctors were all officers so they didn't make give consultations or make recommendations - they gave orders so extraction was often compulsory !

    I'm sure enquiries through the official channels will include dental record analysis.
    dbf likes this.
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Has the unit been identified or are you working at Brigade level?
  15. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thank you Mr. Jinks and Rich Payne. Perhaps I am getting nearer to sending for a few of them.

    I have read the War diaries of the Irish brigade and the three component regiments for the period 19-31 October and also have consulted the CWGC website for men missing and recorded on the Cassino Memorial for the period 20-24 October when the battle for Monte Spaduro took place. I noted from the diaries that 8 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and 2 Lancashire Fusiliers were also involved.

    The results from CWGC are as follows:

    20 October 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers - 3 missiing 2 London Irish Rifles - 1 missing 2 Inniskilling Fusiliers - 1 missing

    22 October 8 Argylls - 1 missing

    23 October 2 Lancs - 4 Missing

    The missing man from the Skins is 6983712 Fusilier Henry McCabe, of Castle Clayney, Co. Monaghan, Irish Republic. Here is a slight problem - he is recorded as missing on 20 October but the Skins weren't in action. They didn't go into combat until 2330 hrs on 23 October. The war diary reads:

    20 October Apollinare

    0800 RIrF on objective but cut off by enemy. Two coys lost. 2 LIR go to Crows Foot tonight. No move for us (my italics)

    Might it be assumed that Fus. McCabe should have been recorded as missing on the 23rd or 24th and that the CWGC got the date wrong (it wouldn't be the first time)? Alternatively, if the date is correct......any ideas welcome.

  16. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    The CWGC date for Fusilier McCabe's death may or may not be mistaken .. my war diary appendices are not with me at the moment so I can't immediately check if this was the date reported by the Skins...

    The 19th/20th disaster for the Faughs was when they were under command 36 Brigade. You would have read Pat Scott's detailed narrative about that night's events and he also added a map to add to the various map references to hand....his descriptive account is extremely detailed.

    You will know that only 40 men from A and B Coys of 1 RIrF returned after the attack on Spaduro - men being captured as well as being killed. John Horsfall describes his memory of watching the German SBs at work after the remnants of the Faughs had withdrawn.. So the process of men being buried over those few days and their final resting places being accurately recorded may have been a little haphazard.

    With all this being said, once we know the location of the recent find, further evidentiary support can then be produced.

  17. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I have sent the map references from the diaries to the Commander of the carabinieri and hope he will get back to me with the location where the solder was found.
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Have you considered the Missing Men files for these battalions?
  19. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks for the suggestion, Drew. I have looked the MIssing Men files up on the National Archives website but they are all prefaced with the words British Expeditionary Force France. I presume I should be looking elsewhere.

    The good news is that the Carabinieri have sent me a map showing exactly where the soldier's remains were found. He fell just ahead of Pt 416 (GR 028248), the point on which the Faughs were 'to move forward and take over positions preparatory to attacking Mt. Spaduro.' (Quote from Irish Brigade War Diary, 1900 hrs 19 October 1944) At 2100 hrs the attack went in.

    So, perhaps it is now possible to suggest that our man is one of the 3 missing soldiers from the Faughs.

    remains of British soldier found near Casalfiumanese.jpg
  20. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member



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