9. Farewell to Polverara

Eraldo Manfroni sent another letter dated 8th December 1945 to Stephen's father. This can be viewed here. There are in fact, two versions of this letter. The second version is in Italian and intriguingly has faint handwriting on its reverse "14, Three Kings Yard, W1". This, it transpires, is the address of the Italian Embassy in London. Perhaps Stephen's father was asking the embassy to help translate.  Eraldo acknowledges their earlier letter to him and then explains that the "bodies of English, who were killed in the skies of Polverara have been collected and transferred to the cemetery at Milan." (They were, in fact transferred to the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa). He explains that the operation was carried out by Allied military specialists at mid-day on October 29th 1945. Again it would seem that the citizens of Polverara participated, by transporting the bodies to Riccò del Golfo.

Sig Manfroni expresses his disgust of the fascist dictatorship before describing that on November 2nd he assembled his "undernourished" pupils at Polverara cemetery to lay flowers and to pray for the dead aviators and dead partisans.

"For the suffering of those who are alive, for the martyrdom of those who are dead - let God send his benediction to this suffering Europe, to give wisdom to the Governments, so that good understanding and harmony between the peoples prevails and all menace to peace disappear.  I predict to you and your wife all the best, consolation and comfort. Let your wish to visit the grave of your beloved son become real.

Happy Christmas.  Yours sincerely Eraldo"

Sgt Smith's father replies to Eraldo on 31st January 1946. The letter [24] can be viewed here. The content is as follows:

Dear M. Eraldo,

I send you my best thanks for the further information about the removal of the bodies from Polverara. We have not heard from our Air Ministry about this removal. My wife and I are grateful for your interest in these brave men. If we did ever come to see the graves, it would also be our intention to see you and your friends to offer gratefully our personal thanks.

Yours very sincerely Wm.H Smith

It was to be another eight months before Stephen's parents received confirmation that Stephen's remains had been re-buried. The letter from the Air Ministry is dated 21st September 1946 and can be viewed here.  It was then another year before they received a letter enclosing a photograph of the temporary wooden cross which marked Stephen's final resting place.

 

 

The delays in receiving official documents from the Air Ministry can be explained by the huge task they had at that time.

Regrettably, it would seem that neither Stephen's mother or father were ever able to make the trip to Italy. It is clear, however, that they had formed a distant friendship with Eraldo. They sent two parcels containing chocolates. Eraldo retained two labels [24] from the packaging. The first label which can be viewed here bears a stamp indicating it was posted in Ilkley on 16th December 1946. The sender is identified as Stephen's brother, Bill. The second label, which can be viewed here, was posted by Stephen's mother at an indeterminate date in '46. It was processed in Genoa on an indeterminate date in '47.

It is apparent from a letter, which can be viewed here, to Stephen's mother that Eraldo had received two parcels, one on 28th January (1947) containing 16 chocolates and a second on 31st January containing a further 18 chocolates. He explains that he no longer teaches at Polverara having been transferred to Spezia. Never-the-less he returned to the village on 3rd February and distributed the chocolates to the children.

"For those poor children it has been a day of joy (and they owe it all to their nice English mother). Certainly we don't deserve so much consideration because your sons have already given too much for us, to help us regain our liberty. I, my lady, thank you so much for your kind gift with which you have (....) memory of your dear son. And also those children in my name send you their thanks and affection in a special way and in reflection towards your people who in the past have always been friendly towards our dear country."

(The notes on this letter suggest that it is, in fact, a translation by someone other than Eraldo)