The Armistice 8 September 1943
In a radio broadcast which went on the air at 19.42 (some sources say 19.45) on 8 September Italian Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio informed the nation that an armistice had been signed with the Allies. Ldg. Stoker Flood describes what happened in the camp:
On the evening of September 8th 1943, we heard the sound of gunfire. We couldn't believe our own ears, or understand the significance either, but we were all very interested, especially since it caused so much confusion among the guards, who seemed as much in the dark as we were. Later in the evening, around ten o'clock, our two German interrogators came into our room looking very excited, and one had his Luger in his hand. They said that they had some news for us and said: 'Italy has surrendered and the gunfire you can hear is the Italians celebrating the occasion by firing their guns.' He went on: 'We must return to the Reich and burn all our documents before leaving, so we wish you all the best of luck, and I expect Monty will be here for you in the morning.' They gave us a wave and left us. Unbelievable, and not prisoners for a month yet.
The Camp commandant came into the room to congratulate us on our good fortune, and explained to us that he had only been doing his job in interrogating us. We told him that we realised this, and asked him: 'What is our position now, and what is all the shooting about?'
He replied, 'You are no longer my prisoners, but I would advise you to spend the night inside the compound for your own safety, as the Italian soldiers have been celebrating and are shooting at shadows, and if you should go down to the road you might get shot by accident.' This sounded quite feasible, so we decided to do what he had suggested, and after drinking a bottle of beer that was our part of the celebrations, we retired to spend our last night as prisoners of war behind barbed wire.
This was true for Ldg. Stoker Flood but not for three-quarters of the crew. For outcomes see my website on HM Submarine Saracen
What happened at Manziana on the morning of 9 September 1943 was not typical of what was taking place in other Prisoner of War camps throughout Italy: Capitano Cuneo led the submariners to safety himself.
Several of the crew make reference to this fact, and in his Escape and Evasion report A.B. Arthur Melling wrote:
The Italian captain in command of the naval camp at Brecciano (Bracciano) opened the gates on 9 Sept 43 and allowed all the P/W out.
A.B. Currie explains that not only did he open the gates, he personally led the men away. E.R.A. Morris gave the his name as Captain Cuneo as did A.B. Sheldon, the latter commenting that he was an officer in the Italian Army and was very pro-British.
Janet Kinrade Dethick
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