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Rossano - A Valley in Flames (Hardback)

An adventure of the Italian Resistance

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: WWII Military > SAS & Special Forces WWII

By Maj Gordon Lett, Foreword by Brian Lett, Introduction by James Holland
Frontline Books
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781848326217
Published: 31st October 2011



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In July 1942, Major Gordon Lett was taken prisoner at the fall of Tobruk. After fourteen months in the notorious prison camps at Bari and Chieti, he escaped at the Armistice of September 1943 from the camp at Veano and took to the mountains above the Cisa Pass. Rather than return to England, he founded and led an entirely non-political band of highly-successful partisans, the Battaglione Internazionale.

The group fought and harassed the Brigate Nere and the Germans along the Magra valley from North of Pontremoli to La Spezia for 18 months. They were so influential to the success of the Allied advance that permanent lines of communication with the Allies were established, supplies dropped by air and, later, SAS troops sent in to assist the Brigade. 500 Allied troops escaped to safety via Rossano.

In the first few months of peace, Lett became a liaison officer of No 1 Special Force, SOE and twice crossed the lines. He was the first Allied officer to enter La Spezia in April 1945, together with the partisans. He was awarded the DSO for his services and received the Medaglia Argento al valor militaire from the Italian government. Today there is still a strong bond between many of those mentioned in the book and the Lett family. This edition of the work includes a foreword by Freya Stark.

Lett's account is a fine mix of high adventure (with occasional farce), balanced with an understanding of the horrors of war, and the price the thousand or so people of the valley paid for supporting him and his partisans. This book is a valuable reminder of the part played by the people of Italy in their own liberation.

History of War Website

When Major Gordon Lett escaped into the mountains from a prisoner of war camp after the Italian surrender in September 1943, he did not, as did many others, attempt to reach the Allied lines, but instead remained in the area of the Rossano Valley, recruiting what would soon become an extremely successful partisan group comprising men from numerous nationalities. Commencing with his escape, the book provides a thorough description of the creation of the International Battalion and the exploits of this unique unit over the next 18 months, during which time they had so brilliantly harassed the enemy forces in the area that they were incorporated into the Allied advance plan, supplied with equipment by the air and even reinforced with a detachment of SAS troops. This is a quite remarkable account of an episode of the Second World War which has received scant attention outside of Italy and certainly deserves to be brought to a wider audience.

Pegasus Archive - Mark Hickman

This fascinating book tells of Major Letts' experiences of the Second World War in Italy. It covers his time in (and his escape from) Italian prison camps, but focuses on his time in the mountains, and the bond he formed with the people of the area as he founded and led the successful band of Battaglione Internazionale partisans. An interesting and important first-hand account of 20th-century history.


About Brian Lett

Brian Lett is an author of World War Two history, who has seven books currently in print. He has lectured extensively upon irregular warfare in World War II, including to the British Army. He is a recently retired Queen's Counsel who practised at the Bar of England and Wales for forty-seven years.

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