Last weekend was spent in Tuscany as the guest of the local government and ex pat community.
I was asked over to commemorate two George Cross awards from WW2, and to represent Great Britain.
The plaque on the village wall in Monterchi has always had its wreath laid by the village mayor. It was my honour, to be the first non Italian to lay a wreath for almost 70 years, in fact since the plaque was placed there. I was also honoured by laying the first wreath, normally in the gift of the local mayor.
The region was the scene of fierce fighting and the area was strewn with German “shoebox mines”
The Schu or Shu-Mine is a small wood box fragmentation mine. It measures six-inch by six-inch and contains a detonator and a solid charge. Another name or spelling of this mine is “Shoe Mine” or “Shoe Box ” mine. The “Shoe Box” was a favourite among the Germans. Small in size and constructed primary of wood, the Schu is next to impossible to discover with a normal metal mine detector. It seldom kills instantly, instead the sinister device mutilates the unfortunate victim.
The citation in the London Gazette for 20th July 1945, states that the posthumous award of the George Cross was made “In recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner.” Lieutenant Young, in charge of night patrol realised that they were in a middle of an enemy minefield. Lt. Young received the full force of a blast and both his legs were shattered. Despite the terrible pain he continued to give such great encouragement to his men that the majority of them managed to reach safety in the early light of morning. One of Lt. Young’s soldiers, Sowar Ditto Ram, Central Indian Horse was also awarded the George Cross for actions in this same incident. Both died of their wounds on the following day.
I was welcomed by the entire village and the local Bersaglieri. The Commandante il Carabinieri invited me for coffee with him in his office, and the after the remembrance service-very much like our own here in Britain-most of the village attended a large meal at a a local restaurant. here the band of the Bersaglieri entertained us with songs and tunes.
At the end of the meal I was surprised to be included in the presentations by the Bersaglieri, and given a book on the history of this famous unit of Light Infantry.
My thanks to Debbie, Roger, Chunky, Trevor et al involved 🙂