The voice that rang out on the hillside in the Italian countryside caused the small group of Allied soldiers to stop dead in their tracks. It was 1943, and the soldiers were POWs (prisoners of war) who had escaped German captivity.
The voice, fortunately, belonged to a friendly resident of the town of Luco Ne Marsi. He was one among several locals from the central-eastern Italian town who wanted to help the escapees. Two locals who sheltered the POWs at great risk to their lives were Guiseppe Ivale and his wife Maria Iuvale. They plied the POWs with food and sheltered them in small huts dotting the vineyards on the mountains. Among the POWs was a young officer, Captain A.S. Naravane of the Indian Army’s 2nd field artillery regiment.
Naravane, who retired as Major General from the Indian Army in the 1970s, recounted this adventure in his 2004 autobiography A Soldier’s Life in War and Peace. He had been captured in the bloody battle of Bir Hachiem in North Africa and transported to a POW camp in Italy.
On July 8, 78 years later, Major General Naravane’s nephew, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane, made a trip of his own to Italy, visiting the historic town of Cassino, 80 km south of Luco Ne Marsi. Cassino was scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the Italian campaign in 1943.
General Naravane and his wife Veena Naravane met with Filomena Fatato, the grand-daughter of the Iuvales. Fatato told the Naravanes of how her grandfather often and very fondly spoke of the Indian POWs and the bond and friendship they had.