On Saturday 8th September, 2013, Christopher Prentice, the British ambassador to Rome, travelled to Monte San Martino in the Marche to present the award of honorary MBE to Antonio Millozzi, the Trust’s organiser within Italy, for services to charity. The event coincided with a Freedom Trail staged in the area by the Trust and the Escape Lines Memorial Society.
Here, Letitia Blake, the Trust’s secretary, gives an account of the award ceremony.
September 8th in Monte San Martino is a busy day – the small theatre above the main square is a hive of activity. In one corner below the stage three men are bent over a table with a computer sprouting multi-coloured wires that trail down onto the floor. This is the technical team: Antonio Millozzo’s son-in-law Giovanni, the Trust’s archivist Luigi Pighetti and Maurizio Pittacolo, an old friend from Rome of Keith Killby, the Trust’s founder.
They talk intermittently with another Italian in London, Omar Bucchioni, a former student of the Trust. They are trying to set up a Skype connection so that Keith can deliver a message of congratulations “live” to Antonio during the award ceremony. The audio is no problem and I can hear Keith’s voice quite clearly, but the picture is elusive.
As plugs and wires are transferred and rerouted, Christina Millozzi, Antonio’s daughter, and I are trying to decide how to hide some areas of peeling paint on the walls and where to put some large photos of Keith and information about the Trust. Her little girl, Gaia, runs round the seats laughing. A friend from the village arrives with crimson tablecloths for the long table on the stage. Stapled copies of the main speeches translated into English are laid out at the entrance and large items on stage are draped with curtains and pushed into the wings.
Then we all go back to the Millozzis’ house to change in order to be ready for the arrival of Christopher Prentice, the ambassador, and Nina, his Italian wife, at 4pm. As we stand outside the theatre in the sunshine, more and more people arrive, including Signor Valeriano Ghezzo the mayor, assorted photographers, local Brits and, of course, many Italians. The ambassador and his wife arrive on time, accompanied by Dr. Anita Krol, who works in the defence section at the embassy and has been a key person in organising the day. Her Italian partner, Luigi, is with her.
After a stroll in the village we adjourn to the Pinacoteca where a plaque marking the event is unveiled by the ambassador. Then we move to the theatre next door and I take my place on the stage, along with the mayor, Anita Kroll, Antonio and the ambassador. The latter opens proceedings with a speech in which he refers to Antonio’s “great efficiency, boundless energy, unflagging dedication and modesty”. He then takes the silver MBE medal from a blue velvet cushion held by Anita Krol and pins it onto Antonio’s lapel, to great applause. Antonio himself speaks of his pride in the 460 bursaries awarded to young Italians since the Trust’s inception in 1989 and points out the important message transmitted by the Trust – one of brotherhood, solidarity and non-violence.
Invited by Giuseppe Millozzi, Antonio’s son, who is master of ceremonies, I express my profound gratitude to Antonio on behalf of the Trust, citing his abiding friendship with Keith Killby as the cornerstone of our success. I present Christopher Prentice with a copy of Keith’s wartime experiences, In Combat, Unarmed, and, as the applause dies down, I look hopefully at the technical team. They press a button and conjure a clear picture of Keith, who delivers in perfect Italian his message of congratulations to the person he calls “Monte San Martino’s number one citizen”.
Speeches follow from the mayor and from Giuseppe Millozzi, who quotes several prisoners of war who escaped in the Marche. There are also a few words from three former recipients of our bursaries: Elisabetta Marziali, Irene Miconi and Jerusalem Baleani. The formal part of the afternoon is concluded by Dr Pepe Ragoni, president of the International Centre of Gentili Studies.
After a guided visit to see the famous Crivelli paintings in the village church, everyone walks down to the former convent under the bell-tower for a delicious meal – large platters of local meat, cheese and, of course, wine! Representing the Trust are Caroline Gavin, a founding trustee, with her husband Alistair, and Nicholas Gent, the treasurer, and his 18-year-old son Charlie. After several hours of conversation, the ambassador and his wife pose for photos with Antonio and Andreina Millozzi and numerous local people, before being waved off into the balmy night at around 9.30pm. Gradually, after many emotional farewells, everyone finally disperses and we retire to the Millozzis’ home, happy and exhausted.
Everyone is thrilled with how the day has gone and there is a consensus that one of the biggest excitements has been the technical triumph of transporting our founder from north London into the heart of his beloved Monte San Martino to express in person his enormous respect and appreciation for Antonio Millozzi, our deservedly decorated colleague!