The Trust often receives requests for information from the families of both PoWs and their Italian helpers. These frequently provide fascinating glimpses of wartime experiences. One of the most interesting approaches came from Dr Luigi Donfrancesco, of Rome, who has researched the story of his uncle, Andrea Scattini, who was enrolled by the British 8th Army as an A-Force agent and who operated along the “Rat Line”, taking PoWs from the German-occupied Marche in northern Italy to areas controlled by the Allies in the south.
Below, is Luigi’s account of his uncle’s courageous – and ultimately ill-fated – adventures.
“In 1943, Andrea, then aged 26, was a medical student working at Celio Military Hospital in Rome. After the Armistice, while outside the hospital with an ambulance, he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned with other men in a building: they were going to be deported to Germany. He escaped by jumping from the 2nd floor and running away as the Germans shot at him.
He set out for his home town of San Vito Chietino Marina, on the Adriatic coast, to join his mother Lucia, his sister Carla (my mother), who was expecting her second baby, and me, aged two. By the time he arrived, we had ourselves returned to Rome.
Andrea wanted to contribute to the liberation of Italy, so he went south and reached the 8th Army. At Termoli he was enrolled as an Italian A-Force agent, in a group under Captain Robb that included Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello and Augusto Ruffo di Calabria, brother of Paola, now Queen of Belgium.
On their first mission, in November 1943, they left in two boats from Termoli and went north to land in the Marche, to rescue prisoners of war hiding there. At Pescara the first boat was hit by enemy fire and caught fire. Augusto Ruffo di Calabria was shot and died on the boat, while the others, despite being wounded, swam ashore.
Andrea and his comrades on the second boat landed successfully on the coast of the Marche and made their way to “Babka’s” house.
We know about the mission and the group’s subsequent activities from The Diaries of Babka, published in 2007. Further information comes from a letter provided by the Uguccione Ranieri di Sorbello Foundation in Perugia that Uguccione wrote to Princess Ruffo di Calabria in October 1944 about the death of her son.
In the following months, Andrea operated along the “Rat Line”, crossing the German lines by sea and by land and taking PoWs to Allied-controlled areas. On 8 March 1944, returning from a mission to Abruzzo, where it is probable he had taken some PoWs, he was killed in Force, a town just north of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche, where he had gone to visit his wife and four-months-old son. We suspect somebody called for him at home and that he was then ambushed by a fascist band.
In later years, his mother (my grandmother) gave me his medical books, so I felt an obligation to complete what he was unable to finish because of his premature death. I graduated in medicine in Italy and then went to the US to specialise, living there for nine years. My son Andrea (named after my uncle) is also in the medical profession.
We know that on 20 July 1944, after the Marche was liberated, the Allied Military Command paid tribute to Andrea’s memory, but we would like to discover more details about his courageous activities and about the circumstances of his tragic death.”
Photos of Andrea Scattini:below right, he is holding his son, who was only four months old when he was killed