Liberating History

Plane pieces
Plane pieces

On 4 September 2019 I received an email from Venice Italy from a young Italian named Alessandro Cianchetta. He and others in the Verona area volunteer to research military planes shot down over Italy during WWII. Their aim is to return to family members any items belonging to the airmen.

“About 2 years ago I started researching aircraft that fell in Veneto (a region in north-eastern Italy) during the Second World War with other people and two non-profit associations, Aerei Perduti Polesine and Historica Legio. “In January 2019 a friend of mine from Verona told me about a plane that crashed under her restaurant during the war and I started to investigate. The plane had fallen at night, had four engines and its eight airmen died in the crash. “So with Matteo Zamana, vice president of Historica Legio we went down into the valley of the stream and started to recover small parts of an airplane. In some of these parts appeared the code ‘32’ which indicates a B-24 bomber. “The Aerei Perduti Polesine association took care of the documentary research of the aircraft and discovered that it was a B-24 of the RAF of the 178th Squadron called EW106 ‘U’, shot down on 10 October 1944.

“The mission was started from the Amendola airport, in the south of Italy and its goal was the Verona railway station. “I heard some witnesses of the time, like Mario Avesani who was 11 years old in 1944 and picked up the pieces of the plane to sell them (there was little to eat and the aluminium of the plane paid well). He also remembers the poor aviators, six were transported to the Verona cemetery and two were buried on the spot. Only after the war were they exhumed and buried in Padua at the British military cemetery. “Another witness, Fasoli Bruna, wife of Cipriani Mario (deceased), told me that her husband had seen the plane, which came from the railway area, coming towards his house, it was already on fire and crashed on the slope of the stream. “I started a search on crew members:

  • RAF FO Morrison, N L Captain (Pilot)
  • RAAF 418398 WO S A Hamilton, (Pilot)
  • RAF Sgt R A Steel, (Flight Engineer)
  • RAF PO Newman, L C (Navigator)
  • RAF Sgt G I Rees, (Air Bomber)
  • RAF Sgt S Ashmore, (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • RAF Sgt R W Ames, (Air Gunner) – RAF Sgt T A Lawless, (Air Gunner)

“The idea is to inform relatives of the location of the crash site, so I sent many emails to various local newspapers from the crew’s countries of origin.”

“And that’s how I came to contact you. I can tell you that Hamilton’s father was called Alfred J.S. Hamilton and in 1944 lived in Warrigal Road 328, Burwood E.13 Vic. “These are the photos I recovered from a forum where his nephew Rowan was looking for news of his uncle.”

Warrant Officer Stewart Alfred Hamilton, born 8 December 1923, was the pilot of a B-24 Liberator. He died, aged only 20, when his aircraft was shot down over Verona Italy on 11 October 1944. He was attached to the No.178 (RAF) Royal Australian Air Force. Stewart’s official record states: “Liberator EW106 took off at 2131 hours on 10th October 1944 to attack the marshalling yards at Verona, Italy. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base. Verona was a heavily defended target and it was considered that the aircraft may have been shot down in the target area.” On his service application Stewart listed his place of birth as Malvern East and his parents’ home as 328 Warrigal Road, Burwood (now Glen Iris). The family relocated to Phillip Island and that is where we located them – thanks to our first President, Mary O’Keeffe who moved to the island. Thanks, Mary. Then, via the local Phillip Island. RSL branch, everything had to be verified by the Australian authorities. Apparently, after WWI, relatives of deceased Somme soldiers were contacted with offers of random items – for a price. Now everything is authenticated first.

On 5 September I lodged an item in Desperately Seeking of the Herald-Sun newspaper – it appeared on 20 October. Within hours I had direct contact from Stewart Hamilton’s nephew, Stewart (named for him). He runs the local caravan park and general store, and in 1976 visited Stewart’s grave in Padua. He and Alessandro are now in direct contact. (After I told Alessandro about Phillip Island’s fairy penguins he said he’d like to visit them in the future.) Roll of Honour Name Projection: The names of our war dead are projected onto the walls of the Australian War Memorial. Stewart’s name was projected at 4:20am on 18 November and the next time will be 1:07am Monday, 2 March 2020.

The Argus Thursday, 12 October 1944

Weather Hampers Bombing in Italy

LONDON, Wednesday, AAP. — Although adverse weather restricted operations yesterday, our heavy bombers attacked enemy communications and supply lines in Northern Italy, states today’s Mediterranean air communique. Light bombers, fighter-bombers, and fighters were also active in Northern Italy, attacking railway-lines and bridges. Coastal planes attacked shipping in the Northern Adriatic, while other planes carried out offensive sweeps over Yugoslavia, striking against enemy supply lines and shipping. Other military targets attacked by our bombers last night included the rail yards at Verona. Three enemy planes were destroyed, and five of ours are missing.

Unexploded Bomb in Verona

On Sunday 14 June 2015 a 500lb World War II bomb was detonated in Verona. The bomb was discovered during excavation works for the construction of a new car park.
The city was in put lockdown with some 27 000 residents within a 700 metre radius (the Zona Rosa) being evacuated while military bomb disposal experts defused the device. Local newspapers reported:
“This being Italy, there are of course those who intend to ignore the evacuation order. The local media has already reported that the elderly of the zone are particularly reluctant to leave their homes. Their attitude seems to be that they didn’t leave the city during the war and won’t evacuate now. They’ll simply close their shutters tight and hope for the best.”
Geographer and journalist Eugenio Turri Veronese, only a child at the time, described the Allied planes’ arrival:
“You could hear a distant rumble that made the windows vibrate and the objects on the dresser rattle. All of a sudden, life is awakened, with a shock. The panic reaches a peak with women weeping and the old reciting the rosary.”

About Raine Biancalt 28 Articles
Raine Biancalt has a Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing & Editing) and a background in both government and corporate worlds. She enjoys art, history, writing and old movies.