The Monte San Martino Trust

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Keith Killby points to a breach in the wall at Servigliano PoW camp in the Marche, eastern Italy, where he was imprisoned. On 14th September 1943, many of the camp’s prisoners escaped through this hole. To read about Killby’s wartime experiences, go to Escape Stories/In Combat, Unarmed

The Monte San Martino Trust was founded in 1989 by J. Keith Killby, a former prisoner of war in Italy, together with other veterans of the Second World War. The Trust awards English-language study bursaries to Italians, aged 18 to 25, in recognition of the courage and sacrifice of the Italian country people who rescued thousands of escaping Allied PoWs after the Armistice in 1943. The Trust is a registered charity, number 1113897, and is supported by PoWs, and the second and third generations of their families, many of whom research their ancestors’ stories and keep in touch with Italian families who gave refuge to the escapers.

The bursaries are usually granted for four weeks’ study at language schools in Oxford and London. The students come from schools in Italian regions where prisoners were on the run. The Trust relies entirely on donations to fund these bursaries, and is currently running a £1m Appeal to secure their long-term funding. Good progress is being made, with £775,000 raised so far. (Click on Fundraising in the Contents panel to find out more, or on the banner above to support the Appeal).

The Trust also supports Freedom Trail walks in Italy, the most recent of which took place in the Marche, eastern Italy, in May 2014. This followed a trail in the same Tenna Valley location in September 2013 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Armistice. Both trails were organised jointly with the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society. The Trust’s trails all run along routes taken by escaping prisoners aiming to reach Allied armies in south Italy, or neutral Switzerland.

The Trust holds an annual Fontanellato luncheon, named after the PoW camp near Parma from where 600 officers escaped. In 2014 it will be held on November 19th. MSMT issues an annual newsletter and its archive contains more than 300 books and manuscripts by those who were “on the run”. Keith Killby has received the awards of OBE and, from the Italian presidency, Cavaliere Ufficiale. Vanni Treves, chairman of the Trust’s Appeal, also received the award of Cavaliere Ufficiale, in 2014. Signor Antonio Millozzi, who has been the Trust’s organiser within Italy since MSMT was founded, was awarded an honorary MBE for services to charity in 2013.

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On May 10th a memorial stone and plaque were placed at Montelparo, in the Marche, to honour Signalman Sidney Smith, an escaping PoW shot dead in 1944. His identity has only recently been discovered.

Click here to read Anne Copley’s account of an emotional event, and of the research that has uncovered Sidney’s story