Commemoration of the Maiella Brigade
Commemoration of the Brigata Maiella (Maiella Brigade)
July 13th 2008 by Antonio Piccoli
There were many people in Torricella on Sunday, for the occasion of commemorating the Brigata Maiella. There were about twenty Mayors from the surrounding villages with their banners, the Alpinists of Torricella and Montenero who sang “Bella Ciao” accompanied by the Musical Band of Gessopalena and then there was the ex-President of the Senate, Franco Marini, the President of the Province, Sig. Coletti, the Shadow Minister of Justice, the Honourable Tenaglia, the Regional Councillor, Dr. La Morgia, the Secretary of the Brigata Maiella Foundation, Sig. Di Cosmo, other Honourables, the Mayor of Torricella and many Torricellans.
The present Administration had greatly desired that this event should take place and during the discussions, everyone had praised this, starting with Ettore Troilo’s son, Carlo, who stressed that in all these years there had been a gross lack of recognition of Torricella’s part in the Brigata Maiella.
This was serious. Too many years had passed by. In other places already years ago great merit and honour had been given to it, so it was totally illogical that in Torricella, where its Commander, Ettore Troilo had been born, where the first nucleus of this group of fighters had been formed, which had lost so many victims who at the same time had received the highest number of honours given to the Brigata Maiella, five silver medals out of fifteen, there had never been any commemorative ceremony of this level. On the contrary, it had almost been “hushed up”.
At last, with a great display, two large memorial tablets were affixed to the wall of the Police Station, in the place where Ettore Troilo had fled from the raid by the SS; one traces the life and character of the Commander, whilst the other lists those Torricellans of the Brigata Maiella who died; thus Torricella has removed this stain. The “excuse” was that on 13th July Troilo would have been 110 years old, but the truth was that they wanted to correct this “lack” as soon as possible.
Sixty-five years have gone by since that incredible winter, between 1943 and 1944, when Torricellans had to abandon their village because the Germans were shooting them. Ettore Troilo put himself at the head of a handful of men with the sole aim of liberating the territories occupied by the Nazi-Fascists who were plundering everything and put to death anyone who opposed them, who hid animals from them, or who gave refuge to the Partisans. It was not easy fighting alone, this was a difficult period, no-one had more faith than the Italians did, so they had to become accepted by the English. Almost two months of refusals and being kept waiting passed by, before Ettore Troilo received the go-ahead from Major Wigram, of the Allies at Casoli, to be able to fight alongside them and under their command. This was the foundation of the Partisan Unit of the Brigata Maiella. As the news spread, straightaway there were 350 new recruits, who wanted nothing else but to fight against the invaders. From January 1944 until June 1945 there were violent battles, starting with Pizzoferrato, long marches on foot, liberation of many villages and towns from Sulmona to Bologna, heroic gestures, all of which lead to the Brigata Maiella being honoured with the Gold Medal for Military Valour; it was the only Partisan Unit to receive honours, and its flag today is in the Flag Hall of the Vittoriano in Rome.
However, after 1945, the year in which it received its military honours, another 18 years went by before the flag of the “Patriot Group of the Maiella” was decorated with its Gold Medal. Here too the work required tremendous patience and pressure from Lawyer Troilo, who finally succeeded, against great political reticence that was even more difficult to deal with than all the numerous battles on the field of war.
As Patrizia Salvatore reminded us, the day before she was due to discuss the argument of her thesis “Women and the Maiella Brigade”, at 18 years of age, Ettore went to study in Milan and under the great men of Italian Socialism, amongst whom were Turati and Giacomo Matteotti, to whom Ettore was personal Secretary. He spent the years of his twenties in fighting against fascism in an open and courageous way. After 8th September 1943, when the war moved into Central Italy and the Germans created their defence line, the Gustav Line, joining Ortona to Montecassino, then Torricella too was right at the “Front” and Ettore made the choice to fight to build a better and free Italy.
On December 5th 1943, he came out of the Torricellan countryside, where he was in hiding to escape from the Germans and the Fascists and together with 15 men, he went to Casoli to persuade the Allies to intervene immediately at Torricella, before the Germans could get there and destroy it. He put his men at their service to repair the road between Torricella and Gessopalena to allow the motorised New Zealand troops to capture Torricella before the Germans could. However, nothing, they did not trust him: it might have been an ambush, a plot hatched up by collaborators of the Germans. At a certain point it did seem that they had agreed and that they were convinced. A platoon was organised for Torricella with two lorries and Troilo was with them, but at the last moment they received a counter-order and had to go into another zone. It was a disaster. Unfortunately the forecast was correct, after a few hours they began to hear the explosions of mines coming precisely from Torricella and that was the beginning of the destruction of our village and of the numerous civilian deaths.
In the days that followed there were interrogations and misunderstandings, but when, during a discussion, an English Captain defined all Italians as “thieves”, Troilo reacted by greatly offending the English, oblivious to the risk of being thrown out and of compromising all the work he had done until then. At that point, however, things turned around, the Captain, assessing that those heavy words indicated the good faith of Troilo and his men, offered him apologies and so gave rise to the collaboration between the Partisans and the Allied Forces.
It is certainly a long and impassioned story to tell of all the heroics and the times of those facts. Patricia has tried and she did it very well. At the end of her talk, she even made us cry when she begged us to reply, “PRESENT”, when the roll-call was made of the names of the seven listed dead on the memorial stone and also the name of Ettore Troilo.
The other speakers on the platform touched on various aspects of the story, of the significance of the Partisan War in Abruzzo. I am happy to point out that everyone stressed how important it was that on the memorial stone, next to the names of the dead, their profession as Partisan was also listed: labourer, tailor, farm worker. This gave the sense that this was a war of freedom that had come from the people, not from the military hierarchies. Moreover, a phrase of di Marino’s struck me forcibly, when, in addition to saying that the Brigata Maiella was the greatest experience of Partisan War of Central Italy, he also said that no-one else had the “right” of the war, but only the Partisans.
During the ceremony, a personal thought of my own went out to Antonio Manzi, officer of the Brigata Maiella, great President of the Amici Di Torricella (Friends of Torricella), a great mover and organiser of events and recurrences to do with the Partisan Unit. It would have been wonderful if on this particular day, full of significance, he too could have been there upon that stage.
After the ceremony, on setting out for Rome, I felt that it was only right and proper for me to go to the cemetery to take greetings not only to Antonio Manzi, but also to my father, who had been one of the first to join the Brigata and who was taken prisoner by the Germans at the battle of Pizzoferrato.
One last thing, Franchino Teti lives in Torricella and he was one of the survivors of Pizzoferrato; he too was taken prisoner but did not manage to escape from the prison at Teramo, like my father had done. Unfortunately Franchino was captured during their flight and was transported, first on foot as far as Mantova, and then on a troop train to Germany. He suffered outrageous wickednesses at the hands of the German torturers.
It would be interesting this summer to organise an excursion to Pizzoferrato and to get him to tell us all about it, there, at the very place where it happened on the night of 3rdFebruary 1944. I have already had this experience and you can be very sure that it was emotional. It sent shivers down my spine.
Antonio Piccoli. N.B.
If you wish to learn more about this specific War of Liberation, I suggest you read “I Banditi della Libertà” by Marco Patricelli, UTET Editions – 2005. It is full of news, places of battles, geopolitics and history. It is worth reading. One cannot not know about it, one must not forget.
  At the end of the war, the following year, there were 15,000 soldiers in the Maiella Brigade.
 Vittoriano – The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II) or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) or “Il Vittoriano” is a monument to honour Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. It is located in Rome, Italy. It occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill. The monument was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1895; sculpture for it was parcelled out to established sculptors all over Italy. It was inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1935.
The monument, “chopped with terrible brutality into the immensely complicated fabric of the hill”, is built of pure white marble from Botticino, Brescia, and features majestic stairways, tall Corinthian columns, fountains, a huge equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas (chariot drawn by four horses abreast). The structure is 135 m (443 ft) wide and 70 m (230 ft) high. If the quadrigae and winged victories are included, the height is 81 m (266 ft). The base of the structure houses the museum of Italian Reunification.The Monument of Victor Emmanuel II
The Monument of Victor Emmanuel II
English Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca
To the Torricellans who died with the Maiella Brigade
Torricella Peligna, To whose Patriots Five of the Twelve Silver Medals awarded to the Maiella rigade were given, is the Abruzzan Village that had the greatest number of deaths in the Sixteen months of fighting:
Di Luzio Giosia, 44 years old, Farm Worker;
Fantini Giuseppe, 18 years old, Labourer;
Piccoli Mauro, 22 years old, Farm Worker;
Piccone Alfonso, 21 years old, Tailor;
Giancaterina Giuseppe, 22 years old, Bricklayer;
Persichetti Antonio, 21 years old, Farm Worker;
Cicchini Nicola, 37 years old, Farm Worker.
The Village and Citizens honour their memory, remembering with affection the nobility of soul of these sons of the people.
Lawyer Ettore Troilo Square
Commander of the Maiella Brigade
In Memory of Ettore Troilo
On 19th October 1943, Ettore Troilo escaped
in this Square from the SS who
had captured him and he reached
the Command of the Allies at Casoli,
where, on 5th December, he founded
the first Unit of the Maiella Brigade, of which
he was the Commander. The Brigade freed
most of Abruzzo, the Marche,
Romagna and Emilia.
The “Maiella” suffered 55 dead, 36 mutilated
and 115 wounded, and was the only
Italian Partisan Formation to be decorated with
the Gold Medal for Military Valour.
|English Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca
Photos courtesy of Angela Di Berardino