The Trust and its Officials

TO CONTACT THE MONTE SAN MARTINO TRUST: EMAIL Correspondence should be addressed to John Simkins (Administrator) Letitia Blake (Secretary) or Christine English

The Monte San Martino Trust is a registered charity operated by MSM Trust Ltd, number 1113897, a company limited by guarantee. Based in London, it has a representative in Monte San Martino in the Marche, Antonio Millozzi, MBE, who co-ordinates activities in Italy and handles applications for study bursaries. The Trust’s students’ organiser in the UK, responsible for the welfare of the Italians awarded one-month bursaries to study at languages schools in Oxford and London, is Edward Gretton.

The Trust’s officials are:

Sir Nicholas Young (Chairman and Trustee)

Former Chief Executive of British Red Cross and knighted for services to cancer care. Nick is the son of Fontanellato escaper Major Leslie Young, who got through Allied Lines near Anzio. He was awarded the Italian honour of Cavaliere Ufficiale in 2016.

Justin de Meo (Treasurer and Trustee)

With an Italian father, he was brought up in Italy and the UK. He is a frequent visitor to Italy from his home in Wiltshire. He has retired after a career in business, specialising in the acquisition and development of residential buildings.

Hon. Letitia Blake (Secretary and Trustee)

Daughter of historian Lord Blake who escaped from Sulmona and reached Allied Lines after nine weeks. Her many duties include selecting the students. Letitia visits Italy frequently and speaks Italian.

John Simkins  (Administrator)

John, a former Trustee, is an Italian speaker and frequent visitor to Italy. He is the son of Anthony Simkins, a PoW at Sulmona, Montalbo and Fontanellato, and in Germany. John handles communications and the website.


Anne Bewicke-Copley

The niece of a Fontanellato PoW, Anne is a lawyer and divides her time between homes in Oxford and the Marche. She researches PoW history and was guest speaker at the annual luncheon in 2014.

Omar Bucchioni

A London-based lawyer, Omar is the nephew of General Bucchioni, OBE, who led a group of partisans.

Christine English

Organiser of annual MSMT/Fontanellato luncheons and daughter of Major Ian English, a PoW at Fontanellato who was the author of Home by Christmas?

Caroline Gavin

Instrumental in getting the Trust off the ground in her capacity as a founding Trustee. She has a house in Tuscany.

Nicholas Gent

Nicholas, who has an Italian mother, served as Treasurer of MSMT for nine years until early 2014, when he stepped down from the post but remained a Trustee. He is a former fund manager with Rathbones.

Ian Laing, CBE

Chairman of several science-based companies and of Stanhope, a property development company. He is a Governor of London Business School and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Son of Anthony Laing, a PoW who escaped from Fontanellato.

Christopher Prentice, CMG

Christopher retired from the Diplomatic service in 2016 after five years in Rome as Ambassador. Formerly he was Ambassador in Amman and Baghdad. He joined the Trust’s board in 2016 and was guest speaker at the luncheon that year.

Miles Skinner

Miles is the first grandson of a former PoW to  become a Trustee. A chartered surveyor, Miles was guest speaker at the 2015 luncheon when he related how he had run from Lucca to the Vatican (the equivalent of 10 marathons in seven days) to raise money for the Monte San Martino Trust.

Vanni Treves, CBE
Chairman of the Trust’s Appeal Committee,  which reached its £1m target in 2015. He was born in Florence, the son of an Italian partisan who was killed in 1944. He came to England in 1946. A solicitor, Vanni’s posts have included non-executive chairman of Equitable Life and chairman of Channel 4 and London Business School. An Italian speaker, he holds the Italian honour of Cavaliere Ufficiale.

The Students

The Monte San Martino Trust grants about 20 bursaries a year to Italians between the ages of 18 and 25 to study English for a month at selected language schools in London or Oxford during the summer. The students come primarily from areas where most help was given to PoWs on the run, including the Marche, Molise, Tuscany, the Abruzzoi and other regions. Although it is not a condition of the bursaries to be a relative of a family who fed and hid Allied PoWs while they were attempting to reach safety, many applications do come from descendants. Fascinating stories of wartime courage and generosity often accompany these applications, together with copies of official certificates of gratitude awarded to the family (Alexander Certificates issued by the Allied Screening Commission). About 500 bursaries have been awarded since the foundation of the Trust. In 2007, a special award of one three-month bursary was awarded to mark the 300th bursary. The Trust frequently receives expressions of thanks from the students’ teachers and parents. It is clear that the pupils value the role that the bursaries play in strengthening their English language skills, thereby improving their prospects in today’s job market.

In addition, the students gain an increased understanding of British people and culture, thus reinforcing the strong bond between the two countries as reflected by initiatives such as the Monte San Martino Trust.

The bursaries are entirely funded by donations. Each one costs about £2,000.


Second World War

The Monte San Martino charity is a permanent reminder of the great courage, generosity and humanity shown by the Italian people in aiding escaped prisoners of war and political and racial refugees from 1943-45. Its name is taken from a village in the Marche, the north Italian region – one of the many regions containing the camps that held the 80,000 Allied prisoners who had been captured during campaigns in the Mediterranean and North Africa in the Second World War. The International Red Cross reported that there were 52 main camps in Italy, served by 18 hospitals, and a number of work camps. Despite the transfer of many prisoners to Germany at the Italian Armistice on 8 September 1943, up to 50,000 men set out to reach freedom: north to Switzerland or hundreds of miles south towards the Allied troops. Italian citizens – among them many contadini (country people) – gave the escaping men food, clothing and shelter and guided them through the lines to safety. They did so often in spite of their poverty and at great personal risk: many paid the ultimate price and were shot or had their houses burnt down. In addition to awarding one-month language study bursaries to young Italians in England during the summer, the Trust supports various Freedom Trails within Italy to commemorate the sacrifices made by their Italian hosts and which retrace the routes taken by escaping prisoners of war.


“The courage of those Italians who were ready to risk their lives to help British soldiers in danger is a glowing example of the moral strength that allowed Italy to redeem itself from the tragedy of the Second World War.” – Giorgio Napolitano, former President of Italy.