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TITLE
The Salerno Mutiny (3 of 15)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_HUGHFRASER_03
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
Hugh Fraser
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
1666
KEYWORDS
mutinies
World War II
Second World War
Territorials
audio

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Hugh Fraser, a native of Inverness, was one of the soldiers involved in the Salerno Mutiny in September 1943, when 192 men refused to take orders during the Allied invasion of southern Italy. The mutineers had become separated from their units in North Africa. After being told they would be returning to their own regiments in Salerno, they discovered they were being grouped with American troops fighting for the city. The soldiers refused to comply, claiming they had been lied to, but they were subsequently tried and found guilty. Three sergeants were initially sentenced to death - subsequently commuted to twelve years' imprisonment. The corporals received sentences of ten years and the remainder, seven years. However, all sentences were subsequently formally suspended, dependant upon no further misconduct. An official pardon, however, was never received.

In this audio extract, originally recorded in the 1990s for 'Moray Firth People', Hugh relates his experience of the mutiny.

'We were embarked on ships - I can't remember which one I was on. There were - I can remember the names of the three of them - there was the 'Scylla', the 'Euryalus', and the 'Charybydis', or something like that. So we were embarked on these ships and, as I've said, we were - I was told definitely that we would be returned to our own units and I told other lads this. However, we were halfway across the Med when, all of a sudden, a stark, cold announcement came over the tannoy system, 'You're not being - you're not going back to your own units, you're being transferred to the 46th Division. You're going to Salerno, to the 46th Division.' I had no idea what the 46th Division was; I'd no idea where Salerno was. There was a hushed murmur throughout the whole ship. It was obvious then that some of us - someone had told us a lie; we'd been deceived. From that moment on I was determined I was not going to any other unit and when I think of what we had all been through prior to that I was really upset that persons in authority could have told us such a blatant lie. And that is something which sticks in my mind and it has done for the past fifty years. We'd been blatantly deceived. It eventually came to light that those in authority at the camp - those in high authority at the camp - were well aware where we were going but instructions had been given not to tell us where we were going. So there's no doubt - there's no doubt in my mind - that we were very, very, profoundly deceived. If I'd been told at the camp that I was going to the 46th Division, my reactions would have been the same. I would have said to whoever was in charge, 'I'm not going there, I'm going back to the 5th Camerons.'

Interviewer: Had you already been told, Hugh, by your own C.O., by General Wimberley, that in the event of you getting separated, you should make the utmost effort to rejoin the 5th Camerons?

Oh, that's correct. Each of us belonged to the best section, the best platoon, the best regiment in the British Army and this was - this went throughout the whole division and the 50th Division as well. There was great rivalry between the 50th and the 51st but there was a kind of friendly rivalry. Each of us belonged to the best unit in the British Army and it had been instilled in us that if ever we should become parted from our units, make all efforts to return to them, no matter how difficult it would be. General Wimberley himself, of course, he was a Cameron and being a Cameron myself I could - I was well aware of his feelings towards the Cameron Highlanders'

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The Salerno Mutiny (3 of 15)

1990s

mutinies; World War II; Second World War; Territorials; audio

Moray Firth Radio

MFR: The Salerno Mutiny

Hugh Fraser, a native of Inverness, was one of the soldiers involved in the Salerno Mutiny in September 1943, when 192 men refused to take orders during the Allied invasion of southern Italy. The mutineers had become separated from their units in North Africa. After being told they would be returning to their own regiments in Salerno, they discovered they were being grouped with American troops fighting for the city. The soldiers refused to comply, claiming they had been lied to, but they were subsequently tried and found guilty. Three sergeants were initially sentenced to death - subsequently commuted to twelve years' imprisonment. The corporals received sentences of ten years and the remainder, seven years. However, all sentences were subsequently formally suspended, dependant upon no further misconduct. An official pardon, however, was never received.<br /> <br /> In this audio extract, originally recorded in the 1990s for 'Moray Firth People', Hugh relates his experience of the mutiny.<br /> <br /> 'We were embarked on ships - I can't remember which one I was on. There were - I can remember the names of the three of them - there was the 'Scylla', the 'Euryalus', and the 'Charybydis', or something like that. So we were embarked on these ships and, as I've said, we were - I was told definitely that we would be returned to our own units and I told other lads this. However, we were halfway across the Med when, all of a sudden, a stark, cold announcement came over the tannoy system, 'You're not being - you're not going back to your own units, you're being transferred to the 46th Division. You're going to Salerno, to the 46th Division.' I had no idea what the 46th Division was; I'd no idea where Salerno was. There was a hushed murmur throughout the whole ship. It was obvious then that some of us - someone had told us a lie; we'd been deceived. From that moment on I was determined I was not going to any other unit and when I think of what we had all been through prior to that I was really upset that persons in authority could have told us such a blatant lie. And that is something which sticks in my mind and it has done for the past fifty years. We'd been blatantly deceived. It eventually came to light that those in authority at the camp - those in high authority at the camp - were well aware where we were going but instructions had been given not to tell us where we were going. So there's no doubt - there's no doubt in my mind - that we were very, very, profoundly deceived. If I'd been told at the camp that I was going to the 46th Division, my reactions would have been the same. I would have said to whoever was in charge, 'I'm not going there, I'm going back to the 5th Camerons.'<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Had you already been told, Hugh, by your own C.O., by General Wimberley, that in the event of you getting separated, you should make the utmost effort to rejoin the 5th Camerons?<br /> <br /> Oh, that's correct. Each of us belonged to the best section, the best platoon, the best regiment in the British Army and this was - this went throughout the whole division and the 50th Division as well. There was great rivalry between the 50th and the 51st but there was a kind of friendly rivalry. Each of us belonged to the best unit in the British Army and it had been instilled in us that if ever we should become parted from our units, make all efforts to return to them, no matter how difficult it would be. General Wimberley himself, of course, he was a Cameron and being a Cameron myself I could - I was well aware of his feelings towards the Cameron Highlanders'