Short History of Barbarigo Bn.'s Military Cemetery Memorial Field (Campo della Memoria), Anzio-Nettuno Beachead
The idea of dedicating a little piece of land to the Soldiers of the Italian Social Republic, fallen at the front of Nettuno in 1944, whose remains had been gathered up and buried in a sacellum at the Verano Monumental Cemetery, whose names are actually remembered only by the Cippus of Campoverde, came to their comrades, the “unintentional survivors”.
The chosen area covers a surface of circa 3.600 sq. met., and was initially bought with a subscription promoted by the veterans of Barbarigo Bn. and by Associazione Xa and extended to donations of all those who would like to honour this initiative with their consent.
It rests on the combat zone, near to the German, English and American monumental war cemetery, as to restore the position held by their units during the war.
The history was namely that one, and we strived for it.
The project has no monumental structures in plan but one element, a rising Saint Andrew’s cross, a symbol both of Xa and Christian faith.
On the four level grounds of the access the names of all Italian Social Republic units who took part in the defence of Rome will be carved.
The architect’s idea is to decorate only with a tripod and a flagstaff the whole plant, limited by vegetation (cypresses) on the sides of the mount and Latina, and by a masonry fence, with a wide parking. Internal paths will be made of porphyry and the remaining spaces will become watered grass.
On the right side and outside a dedicatory plaque will be placed:
"Dulce et decorum est pro Patria mori"
"Dying for the country is sweet an honourable"
To the Fallen of Italian Social Republic – Front of Nettuno
February – June 1944
Ceremony at the Memorial Field, 7th October 2001
Includes a short history of Barbarigo Bn., Xth MAS Flottilla
Today, we are gathered here to properly celebrate the achievement of the goal we kept in our minds seven years ago, after the building of the “Memorial Field”, when we decided to keep on fighting with the aim of turning it to a Memorial Building-Ossario of the Fallen of Bn. “Barbarigo”. It was only thanks to human mercy and to the abnegation of the Auxiliary of the Female Auxiliary Service (Xth Mas) Raffaella Duelli that the remains of them had been picked on the battle fields of Agro Pontino (near Rome) and then temporarily entombed in a private grave at the Verano Cemetery. Last year the 20th of June was a very important date for us, so that our Association chose to underline it with a plaque on the entrance, explaining to visitors that, after the translation of the first seven boxes, containing the glorious remains of unnamed Marines surely enrolled in Bn. “Barbarigo”, the Field has become a War Cemetery in every respect, in addiction to the other Armies Cemeteries, present on this Front in 1944, as to restore their disposition [in 2005 other 65 boxes, containing the remains of the same number of Marines, were translated by the Italian Army War Graves Commission. The Memorial Field is now a War Cemetery, owned by Italian Army War Graves Commission]. In this way, not only has been restored the historical truth of past events and it is also acknowledged to our Fallen the same dignity of a Soldier as every other warrior on this front, but now it is also been filled an absurd gap; it was absurd because it has last more than fifty years, and it was shameful, too, because people who died for the Country had been discriminated! Those dead belonged to the “Barbarigo” Bn., and I’m going to talk to you about them. They belong to the group of eight thousand very young people, who did not accept to surround without conditions and without Honour and, after the sad date of 8th September 1943, chose to risk their life for a Country that seemed not to exist anymore. Without hoping for reward, fighting with everyone to achieve it, they fought to defend Italy and surely not regimes or dictatorships, although they knew the war was lost. The “Barbarigo”, so, could be defined a collective miracle, made of faith, enthusiasm and also of will, tenacity and strong resolution, shown particularly in their hardest times. The history of “Barbarigo” is characterised by three moments of glory: Nettuno, Gorizia and the South Front, from Senio to the sea, and, even if it missed the fourth, defending Trieste, that was not their fault, but the event came to a head. Its epos began in Nettuno, when thousand young men, who were part of it, most of whom had no military drilling, were placed between the lake of Fogliano and the Mussolini canal, plunged in narrow, stinking holes, full of insects, forced to eat rarely at night, under the accurate fire of Anglo-American artillery: that was the so called “positional warfare”. For three months those beardless boys managed to resist and were able to bravely fight up to the outskirts of Rome, where at the last moment an attempt was made by a small combat group, in charge of Ensign Alessandro Tognoloni, to stem the unstoppable swarming of opposing AFVs. Ensign Tognoloni, then, hurling himself against the enemies, who rolled everywhere, disappeared in the turmoil of the fight, and so he was awarded the highest Award for Valor (Golden Medal for Bravery). Fortunately for him and for us, he survived and now, as a famous architect, he has designed this temple of love and mercy, that embraces the sacrifice not only of our Marines, but of all the Soldiers of Italian Social Republic fallen in the Second World War.
The withdrawal of the survivors up to the logistic base of La Spezia was long and difficult and, unluckily, there were many losses, due to air attacks; then, for the preparation of the units the area near Ivrea and Cuneo (in Piedmont), but that was e wrong and rash decision, because in both areas there were many guerrillas, belonging to various political parties. These young were not ready for a situation like that; they didn’t expect to be shot at by fellow countrymen. So they were forced to start a civil war, which is the worst thing that could happen in a country, as long as the people who took part in it are still alive. So for the first time in Italy, a unit that came from the front with more than one third of fallen marines, had to cope with the worst cowardliness: the ambush. So, in Ozegna, its commander, Captain Umberto Bardelli, was killed with his escort, after having tried, maybe naively, to talk about patriotism with his killers. This episode was crucial for the future behaviour not only of “Barbarigo”, but of the whole Decima: from that moment on the main target would have been fighting against the Anglo-American enemies, not against other Italians, notwithstanding this, there could be no mercy for everyone who had killed the defenders of Honour and the Country: we had to revenge our Dead and we did it. Luckily, the period spent in Piedmont was short, because Commander Borghese understood the great importance of defending Venezia Giulia, with the aim of preserving this region from being annexed on one hand to Germany and on the other hand to Slav countries after the War.
The Battalion that came to Gorizia was really different from the one that was sent on the front of Nettuno: it was strengthened by adding a 81mm Mortar Coy and a HMG Coy, the command was improved by the arrival of a group of Italian Alpine Troop Officers and of Bersaglieri, all of them were seasoned veterans. Moreover, veterans from Nettuno were present, commanding the young and unexperienced recruits, all volunteers. The result of those efforts was a steady and extremely disciplined unit, so that this time the losses were far less than in the past battles.
Two battles have to be mentioned: the first one was held in Chiapovano, where, in a situation like the one occurred to the “Fulmine” Bn. In Tarnova, the “Barbarigo” managed to fight outside built-up areas, without being surrounded and inflicting many losses to the enemies; the second one, far more important, was the battle of Monte San Gabriele. On that mountain, while the “Fulmine” was sacrificing itself in Tarnova, the “Barbarigo”, during an horrible night, in rockiest climatic conditions, crushed down an attack of a whole Slav brigade and, thank to the heroic sacrifice of the most loved of its officer, Alpine Troop Lieutnant Alberto Piccoli, saved the town of Gorizia. Mount San Gabriele was the last bulwark to defend Trieste. And now we come to the last glorious page written by the “Barbarigo”, the South Front against the Allies, the withdrawal with duties of rearguard and the surrender with full military honors by the English Army.
At that time, the “Barbarigo” had to cope with serious difficulties: the enemy was numerically far stronger, the Bn. had no logistical support, no vehicols and means of transmission, constantly under air fire, but it was capable of sustaining successfully rearguard combats on a wide front, that would have required at least a whole Division to be filled, and not just a Battailon! And precisely this disproportion between the low number of marines and the dimension of the space to be controlled makes this venture of the “Barbarigo” exceptional, it was really heroic because it was desperate. An example of this is that German General von Schwerin wanted to express all his admiration for the value of the “Barbarigo” Marines: while he was passing one of our Rifle Coys, he stopped his car to get down and, standing at attention, greeted each of the Marines who were marching in front of him. And, when everything was over, the military honors given by a picket of the English Army near Padua the 1st of May 1945 sealed their epic odyssey.
The man who is talking to you is an Officer in s.p.e. of the Italian Army, who has had command functions for 43 years, da Sottotenente a Generale di Divisione avendo alle sue dipendenze, in pace ed in guerra, soldati di tutte le Armi, Specialità e Servizi. After the 8th of September 1943, I had the privilege to command during a combat the “Barbarigo boys” and I can assure you that I have never had better soldiers under my command, for their generosity, self sacrifice, utter devotion to the Duty, love for their Country, concern for those Ideal Values that allow a man to offer even his own life, being capable, at the same time, to preserve the enthusiasm, joy and easygoing youth exuberance.
In conclusion, I would like to ask a question to you: how many boys and girls in our Country today would really be ready to risk their own life to defend it the way Marines and Auxiliaries of “Barbarigo” did?
This difficult answer is up to you.
The President of the Association
General Giorgio Farotti