photo: Claretta Coda
The above tombstones are those of the members of the Silica Mission and the air crew which was taking them to the 'drop zone' in Piedmont.
Milan War Cemetery is unique among the British and Commonwealth War Cemeteries in Italy in that of the 396 known casualties,* apart from 171 airmen, only six members of the armed forces died in battle, and all of these behind enemy lines:
- one was a member of the Special Operations Executive,
- four belonged to the SAS (Special Air Service)
- another was a member of the Royal Navy.
Five other servicemen, belonging to the Special Operations initiative known as the Silica Mission, died when the aircraft on which they were travelling crashed into a mountain: two were Italians, two were Czechs and one was British.
To understand how the others lost their lives it is necessary to divide the period of their burials into three phases:
- the period before the Italian armistice of 1943
- from the armistice to the end of hostilities
- the postwar period
Overall, 150 of the victims were prisoners of war, all but three captured during the North African campaign in the western desert who had been interned in Italian prison camps and hospitals.
Of these, up to the time of the armistice
- Fifty-five died in the Prisoner of War hospitals (H 202 Bergamo and H 207 Milan) and the others in hospitals in Chiavari, Parma, Piacenza, Modena and Pavia
- Three died in their camps (PG 146 Mortara, PG 73 Carpi, PG 47 Modena)
- Three were victims of war crimes
No further details are available online for the other twenty-four.
From 9 September 1943 until the end of hostilities - 2 May 1945 - all but three of the dead were escaped prisoners of war - THE ESCAPERS
- The three captured by the Germans, referred to above, died in a Feldlazarett and were temporarily buried in the German cemetery of Gardone
- Thirty-four were victims of war crimes or aggression by the Nazi-fascists
- Six were killed in action with the partisans
- Eight with known graves died in the Galisia disaster as they attempted to cross the French border to freedom
- Four died in hospital
- One was shot whilst escaping from a POW train
-Two were shot by the partisans
- Eleven died in circumstances unknown to the compiler of this website.
After the end of hostilities there were another 62 victims.
- There were nine deaths in hospital, at least three of them at the British General Hospital 64 in Milan. It is very likely that physiotherapist Margaret Fielden, who died of polio, also died in this hospital
- Six died in road accidents, four of whom belonged to the 592 Army Troops Company, Royal Engineers and another in a train accident
- A member of the Bomb Disposal Unit ( Royal Engineers) died of wounds caused by the detonation of a Schu mine
- One died from wounds caused by a firearm
- Six died from unspecified accidents, nine more as a result of accidents
- There were six accidental deaths
- Sadly, two committed suicide
- The cause of the deaths of twenty others is unknown to the compiler of this website.
N.B. The 'banner' photo of this site is that of the tombs of the Silica Mission. See the Aviators page.
* There were in fact 394 casualties - two of them had an alias - see text.
JANET KINRADE DETHICK
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