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TITLE
The Salerno Mutiny (4 of 15)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_HUGHFRASER_04
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
Hugh Fraser
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
1667
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.

Interviewer: To go back to your journey on the troop ship, Hugh, what was the mood of the troops? What was your reaction once you'd heard the news?

I had my mind made up; I was not going. Simple as that. We landed at Salerno. We were moved about there for several days - I don't know how long - but it was a bit of a shambles. Nobody seemed to be in charge of us; nobody seemed to know what was happening, until eventually we were formed up in a parade. The men of the 50th Division were kept to one side and those of us in the 51st Division were kept to another side.

Interviewer: How many troops were involved in this parade, Hugh?

I was led to believe there were about 1500 all told. Whether that's correct or not I don't know but that's what I was led to believe initially. The events are very, very hazy, of course. This thing happened fifty years ago but I can remember yet - again a name which springs to my mind - the captain who gave us an order - Captain Lee - he gave us an order three times and I can remember it yet, 'Pick up your kits. Fall out on the road, and march off to the 46th Division'. Now he give us this order three times. Many of the lads fell out of the parade and they went away. But eventually there were, as it turned out, 192 of us left on parade. There was no coercion - nobody tried to twist anybody's arms. In fact, I spoke to several of the chaps who were along with me and I said, 'If you want to go, you go. I'm not going'. So, it was an individual decision; each man made up his own mind.

Interviewer: Did it go through your mind at that time, Hugh, what charge you could be facing as a result of your attitude towards that order and did the other guys give any consideration to how severe circumstances could turn out to be for them?

Yes, I can remember that quite clearly. It was explained to us for the charge which we were alleged to be committing was in fact mutiny and the penalty for mutiny was death. And quite honestly my thought then was if the penalty is death well put us up - put me up against a wall now and shoot me. I was utterly and completely demoralised, and I was quite prepared to be stood up and shot if I weren't to be returned to my - to the 5th Camerons. Simple as that. It's perhaps diffi- it's perhaps difficult to realise that but, as I said, I and many of the others were so demoralised at that time - we had been treated rather roughly - and if that was the decision, if they were going to charge us with mutiny, if they wanted to shoot us, well, shoot me now

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The Salerno Mutiny (4 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 /> Interviewer: To go back to your journey on the troop ship, Hugh, what was the mood of the troops? What was your reaction once you'd heard the news?<br /> <br /> I had my mind made up; I was not going. Simple as that. We landed at Salerno. We were moved about there for several days - I don't know how long - but it was a bit of a shambles. Nobody seemed to be in charge of us; nobody seemed to know what was happening, until eventually we were formed up in a parade. The men of the 50th Division were kept to one side and those of us in the 51st Division were kept to another side.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: How many troops were involved in this parade, Hugh?<br /> <br /> I was led to believe there were about 1500 all told. Whether that's correct or not I don't know but that's what I was led to believe initially. The events are very, very hazy, of course. This thing happened fifty years ago but I can remember yet - again a name which springs to my mind - the captain who gave us an order - Captain Lee - he gave us an order three times and I can remember it yet, 'Pick up your kits. Fall out on the road, and march off to the 46th Division'. Now he give us this order three times. Many of the lads fell out of the parade and they went away. But eventually there were, as it turned out, 192 of us left on parade. There was no coercion - nobody tried to twist anybody's arms. In fact, I spoke to several of the chaps who were along with me and I said, 'If you want to go, you go. I'm not going'. So, it was an individual decision; each man made up his own mind. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: Did it go through your mind at that time, Hugh, what charge you could be facing as a result of your attitude towards that order and did the other guys give any consideration to how severe circumstances could turn out to be for them?<br /> <br /> Yes, I can remember that quite clearly. It was explained to us for the charge which we were alleged to be committing was in fact mutiny and the penalty for mutiny was death. And quite honestly my thought then was if the penalty is death well put us up - put me up against a wall now and shoot me. I was utterly and completely demoralised, and I was quite prepared to be stood up and shot if I weren't to be returned to my - to the 5th Camerons. Simple as that. It's perhaps diffi- it's perhaps difficult to realise that but, as I said, I and many of the others were so demoralised at that time - we had been treated rather roughly - and if that was the decision, if they were going to charge us with mutiny, if they wanted to shoot us, well, shoot me now