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TITLE
The Salerno Mutiny (6 of 15)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_HUGHFRASER_06
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
Hugh Fraser
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
1670
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: Now, when you were asked, Hugh, to join the 46th Division did anyone have any idea of what was expected of them, or where they had to go?

No, we just expected to join an infantry battalion, simple as that. It wasn't a case of refusing to fight; we'd have fought anywhere, provided we were back with our own units again; if I was back in my 5th Camerons, if others of us were back in the Seaforths or back in the DLI (Durham Light Infantry),we would have gone anywhere with them. But I don't know what was expected of us at all but that's all - we were told to fall out and join the 46th Division.

Interviewer: How did events progress from there, Hugh?

Well, we were, we were disarmed - those of us who had arms - we were disarmed. We were put under arrest. Somebody - the Mutiny Act was read out to us, of course, the appropriate section of the Mutiny Act was read out to us. Those of us who were armed were disarmed and those - and then we were placed under an armed guard, taken to a prisoner of war cage nearby - just a big barbed-wire enclosure - we were put inside that, adjacent to a bunch of 'Jerries' who were in the adjoining prisoner of war cage, and here again was the ultimate degradation. These Germans started miscalling us - cowards, and refusing to fight. Those - some of the Germans could speak English and I think it was most degrading to be called cowards by German prisoners of war. For these blokes to say such a thing to such a fine body of men I think was utterly degrading.

Interviewer: But yet, throughout all that there was no physical violence at any time?

None whatsoever, no.

Interviewer: So they showed remarkable restraint.

Finest body of men - some of the finest body of men I've ever been associated with. I would particularly mention three of them who were sergeants - I was a corporal at the time - but there were three sergeants. I've never met finer men than them. I didn't get to know, you know, the whole 192 of them; I got to know very many of them, of course. But, as I've said, some of the finest men I've ever come across

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The Salerno Mutiny (6 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: Now, when you were asked, Hugh, to join the 46th Division did anyone have any idea of what was expected of them, or where they had to go?<br /> <br /> No, we just expected to join an infantry battalion, simple as that. It wasn't a case of refusing to fight; we'd have fought anywhere, provided we were back with our own units again; if I was back in my 5th Camerons, if others of us were back in the Seaforths or back in the DLI (Durham Light Infantry),we would have gone anywhere with them. But I don't know what was expected of us at all but that's all - we were told to fall out and join the 46th Division.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: How did events progress from there, Hugh?<br /> <br /> Well, we were, we were disarmed - those of us who had arms - we were disarmed. We were put under arrest. Somebody - the Mutiny Act was read out to us, of course, the appropriate section of the Mutiny Act was read out to us. Those of us who were armed were disarmed and those - and then we were placed under an armed guard, taken to a prisoner of war cage nearby - just a big barbed-wire enclosure - we were put inside that, adjacent to a bunch of 'Jerries' who were in the adjoining prisoner of war cage, and here again was the ultimate degradation. These Germans started miscalling us - cowards, and refusing to fight. Those - some of the Germans could speak English and I think it was most degrading to be called cowards by German prisoners of war. For these blokes to say such a thing to such a fine body of men I think was utterly degrading.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: But yet, throughout all that there was no physical violence at any time?<br /> <br /> None whatsoever, no. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: So they showed remarkable restraint.<br /> <br /> Finest body of men - some of the finest body of men I've ever been associated with. I would particularly mention three of them who were sergeants - I was a corporal at the time - but there were three sergeants. I've never met finer men than them. I didn't get to know, you know, the whole 192 of them; I got to know very many of them, of course. But, as I've said, some of the finest men I've ever come across