Antonio Millozzi has represented the Monte San Martino Trust within Italy ever since the charity was founded in 1989, but before 3rd November, 2015, he had never been able to come over to London for its annual lunch. So it was entirely fitting that, on this occasion, Antonio and his wife, Andreina Ciaffoni Millozzi, were guests of honour.
They were among the 103 Trust members present for a heart-warming “family” occasion at the Royal Overseas League, off St James Street. There was in the air a feeling of celebration and of optimism for the future: the fundraising Appeal was drawing to a close, having reached its £1million target; a five-year strategy plan had been set in place, using Appeal money to fund projects; and congratulations were due for the lunch’s guest speaker , Miles Skinner, who earlier in the year had raised £20,000 by running 10 marathons in seven days.
Among guests present for the first time was Sonia Ashmore, the daughter of Eric Newby, the travel writer and Fontanellato prisoner of war, and his wife Wanda, who died in February 2015. Another newcomer was Steve Hill, who brought down from his Macclesfield home two paintings made by Fontanellato PoWs which were taken back to England at the end of the war by his father, the Rev. Richard Hill, a fellow prisoner. Another guest was Svetlana Hood, the widow of prisoner of war Stuart Hood, author of Pebbles from my Skull, the acclaimed account of his experiences in wartime Italy.
There were three “original” prisoners of war at the lunch: Major Michael Lacey, Frank Unwin and Keith Killby, the 99-year-old founder of the Trust. It was delightful to welcome two long-standing Italian friends of Keith Killby, both stalwart supporters of MSMT – Luigi Pighetti and Maurizio Pittacolo. The latter was one of the earliest recipients of a Trust bursary.
Welcoming the guests, Letitia Blake, the secretary, made a point of thanking Edward Gretton, the student organiser, for the great care he had taken of the 22 recipients of one-month study bursaries during the year. Several of these sent personal messages of thanks to Trust officials, besides completing the feedback forms requested of them. Letitia warmly thanked the members present who gave their time to greet students arriving at UK airports.
At the coffee stage, Nick Young, the Trust’s chairman, introduced Antonio Millozzi, summarising his enormous contribution in helping Keith Killby to set up the Trust as a legal entity in Italy, and in organising the bursary programme from his home at Monte San Martino in the Marche. Invited to say a few words, Antonio explained (in Italian) that, as a war-orphan himself, the principles of the Trust such as “kindness to strangers” were close to his heart.
Nick then summarised the objectives of the recently devised five-year strategy plan, which will be driven forward by three working groups. One is to concentrate on making the Trust better known within Italy; a second is to explore making the extensive archives more accessible; and a third is to consider ways of commemorating the bravery of Italian people in giving refuge to escaping prisoners, through both physical objects and educational and academic projects. Nick challenged individual members to use their skills to further the work of these groups.
Following Nick’s address, John Simkins, MSMT’s Administrator, introduced the guest speaker, Miles Skinner. He reported how he had pleaded in vain for Miles to take more than seven days to run from Lucca to Vatican City, the equivalent of ten marathons, at the end of April. Miles, who limped exhausted but triumphant into St Peter’s Square on the seventh day, in fact covered 263 miles, one more than the 262 miles comprising ten marathons. He had been worried that he might not hit the magic number because a police escort through Rome might take a short cut but “luckily” he had got lost earlier and added an extra mile or two.
When he rose to speak, Miles said that he had wanted to help MSMT in memory of his grandparents Stan and Jo Skinner. Stan escaped from Sulmona PoW camp but was initially recaptured and then injured at a railway station by an Allied bombing raid while waiting to be deported to Germany. Stan escaped again, and back in England after the war he met and married Jo, the sister of his best friend Peter Allcoat, who had been killed during the raid.
Miles gave an entertaining account of his run, which despite the under-statement, left listeners in no doubt about the scale of his achievement. He endured serious aches, strains and blisters but said that when he got a sore throat because he was so run-down this helped to mask the other ills. He thanked the Francigine Association, which promotes the Francigine pilgrimage route down which he ran, and paid tribute to his indispensable back-up team – two of whom, his mother Dominque and his great-aunt Lynda Chalker, were at the lunch.
Please click on the pdf of his presentation, below, to see images, and go to http://prod.msmtrust.org.uk/news/ten-marathons-in-seven-days/ to read more about the run itself.
The luncheon ended with Letitia Blake making the customary Toast to the Italian People. An enormous debt of gratitude is due to Christine English, a trustee and the chief organiser of the annual get-together. The Trust is also grateful to the many guests who made donations on this occasion.
The day before the luncheon, Antonio and Andreina Millozzi had the pleasure of being presented to Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano at the Italian embassy in London.