A Tribute to UK’s Worth
British soldiers freed my Country and the city I live in from the Nazi. With their blood.
Every year, on April 25, Italy celebrates its Liberation from the Nazi.
Seventy-three tears have gone past, but we still remember.
We, as numerous other European Countries, still remember how the oppression felt that came by having been invaded and by being forcibly ruled by another Country. Grandpas and grandmas sometimes still tell stories to the children of the new millennium, painting in their minds sugarcoated watercolor images depicting how terrible it was during the conflict. The most scaring thought for children seems to be the lack of sugar and candies. They cannot even fathom the meaning of concepts like “lack of food” or “atrocities”. Elder people of the WWII generation do not even attempt to narrate the horrors of the front line, not to tap what happened in the Camps.
These are the borders of humankind that we, lucky, wealthy young-ish people, can just perceive as a glimpse of faint afterimages, on a par with some fake Sci-Fi scenarios of our latest Netflix fav series.
The city I live in is in the North-East of Italy, a land bordering Austria and Slovenia (part of the former Yugoslavia), surrounded by the Alps no the North and The Adriatic Sea on the South.
This position made my Region one of the main areas of battles in Italy during WWI and WWII.
This all ended in April 1945. There had been the Italian resistance, with many heroic partisans, who strained the invader and paid their opposition with their blood.
There had been fierce citizens who paid with their own lives and with the lives of their children their public stance against the Nazi.
But we could not have managed on our own to liberate our Country from the invaders.
We had to rely on the help of military forces from other Countries.
Talking about “military forces” only gives half of the idea. It was not only tanks, aircraft, warships, cannons, rifles and bombs. There were no drones at that time.
We, or at least I, need to talk about the men who were behind the rifles, the men who piloted the aircraft, the men who were carried on the ships.
The men who died to liberate a land they did not even know.
My city, Udine, and my Region, Friuli Venezia Giulia, were liberated by soldiers from UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Other parts of Italy were set free thanks to the intervention of the US Army.
Numbers cannot tell the whole story, but around 70,000 allied soldiers died in the Liberation war, accompanying over 50,000 Italian Resistance fighters and 15,000 Italian civilians killed as a reprisal by the Nazi.
Most of them have been buried here, and their remains will be an eternal memorial of their sacrifice.
Every year I take my daughters with me to the British War Cemetery to say a silent thank you to those boys who immolated their lives for freeing us, foreign, unknown people.
My father used to take me to the same cemetery when I was young.
My grandfather used to take him when he was a child.
I hope my daughters will take their kids to say hi to these boys who will then have been dead almost for a century.
I hope the obligation of gratitude passes along the generations.
I am aware that the Allies did not come to Italy just to liberate our country, but because the front line was here. I am also painfully aware that before 1943 Italy was a fascist regime, under Mussolini’s dictatorship.
Nevertheless not only Italy, but also Europe and the whole world, would be much, much worse if the Allied Forces had decided to save themselves and not to care about other Countries.
These tombstones are mostly of UK boys, aged 18–23.
Today a person at 18 is still a teen-ager; before facing death, these young soldiers had been forced into the hardest adulthood they could expect.
Some graves are almost anonymous, aseptically carved with just a name and death date.
Some instead report the grief of mothers and fathers in whose mind the seed of mourning must have grown for as long as they survived their sons.
One of the few “older” soldiers, died 36 during the very last days of the war.
A personal appeal
I found this note near the grave of Peter David Knocker. His great nephew Peter Waddington from Dorchester, Dorset, England paid visit to him and is looking for information about the history and life of his grand uncle.
I was not successful to contact him, but if you know him, I would really appreciate if you could get us in touch.
After publishing this article, I started again my research, and was lucky to find Peter Waddington. If anyone has any information about that period and/or the incident occurred on Oct 8, 1946, please let me know, and I will route the info to the grand nephew of this valiant pilot.
For those interested, here is a Google Map link to the Udine War Cimetery
Based on a shorter version published at Quora on Oct 20, 2017.