About the Trust


The Monte San Martino Trust was founded in 1989 by J. Keith Killby, a former prisoner of war in Italy, and other ex-PoWs to “give something back” in recognition of the thousands of Italians, mainly peasant farmers known as contadini, who risked their lives to hide escaped PoWs. About 50,000 Allied servicemen were on the run from the occupying German army and Italian Fascists after escaping from prison camps following the Armistice which took Italy out of the war in September 1943. It is estimated that about 11,000 PoWs made it home in time to re-join the fight against Nazi oppression. For some, the journey took many months, through the Italian mountains in the depths of winter, before they rejoined the Allied army in south Italy or made their way to neutral Switzerland. They depended entirely on local people (who were risking their lives to help) for food and shelter.

“The courage of those Italians who were ready to risk their lives to help British soldiers in danger is a glowing example of the moral strength that allowed Italy to redeem itself from the tragedy of the Second World War.” – Giorgio Napolitano, President of Italy.”

We believe that the bravery of the contadini will stand for all time as a moving example of the power of the human spirit to withstand oppression, and of extraordinary kindness to strangers in need.


Our principal activity is to award about 35 English language study bursaries every year to Italians aged 18-25. The students visit England for four weeks at a time of their choosing and attend language schools in London or Oxford. They stay with local families found by the schools. A sizeable proportion of the successful applicants come from families whose ancestors hid PoWs but this is not a condition of the bursary. The students come from all over Italy but the majority are from Emilia-Romagna, le Marche and Abruzzo where large PoW camps were sited.

The Trust has an extensive physical library of PoW memoirs which are also accessible online through archives.msmtrust.org.uk. We also promote research into the Allied presence in wartime Italy and are co-founders with Istituto Nazionale Ferruccio Parri, in Milan, of the Allies In Italy website.

In conjunction with the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society we run an annual Freedom Trail in Italy. The Trust holds an annual lunch and produces an annual newsletter.


The Trust is almost entirely run by volunteers and is dependent upon the generosity of its supporters, many of them the descendants of escapers. Donations contribute to the cost of the student bursaries and help finance our other projects.

If you would like to make a donation, please go to our JustGiving page. Alternatively, if you would like to give by cheque, or in any other way, please write to our Hon. Treasurer: Christopher Woodhead, Follyfield House, St Mary’s Walk, North Aston, Oxfordshire OX25 6AA. Your generous support, however large or small, will be greatly appreciated.

If you would like to remember the Trust in your Will please email [email protected].

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