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TITLE
The Salerno Mutiny (13 of 15)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_HUGHFRASER_13
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
Hugh Fraser
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
1680
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 what was the next event to happen?

I was taken to prison, as were the other NCOs. I didn't see any of them thereafter. They were probably taken to the same prison as me. I was taken to a prison in Bone, North Africa - Number 1, Military Prison & Detention Barracks (No. 1 M.P. & D.B.). I was there. None of the men in that jail, as far as I know, had as - such a high sentence. They were mainly in for three years, five years and what have you. I was there to do my ten years and I'll never forget the first task I was given - taken outside, given a big sledgehammer, and told to break rocks in a quarry, with armed guards standing over us all the time. That was the start of penal servitude for me, so that was my - that's what - that's what I thought my life was to be for the next ten years, ten years in prison, something which I couldn't - I just couldn't contemplate at all, you know? But there I was, as I said, initially breaking rocks at a quarry, for how long I can't remember - two or three weeks perhaps - and then outside doing various menial tasks, being taken back into the prison, searched. By that time I was becoming - I was being brought down to the same values as some of the men who were in there, some of the real criminals, you know, the murderers and the rapists and the robbers and all other kinds and I was beginning to speak in their language, speaking about screws, and snout, you know? Oh dear, this was terrible, this was going to be me for ten years. I was utterly and completely demoralised.

Interviewer: Were you still able to write home, or -?

We could write home but of course our letters were censored. My parents at home - we weren't allowed - we weren't allowed to say - I wasn't allowed to say why I was in jail, or for how long. But - so the state of mind that my parents were in I just don't know. My present wife, who was my fiancé at that time, she must have been completely shattered as well but how my parents must have felt I just don't know. They were getting a letter from me now and again from - with the address, the prison address, and how they must have felt, I just don't know - I can't - I just can't think on how - They just don't why I was in there or for how long, you know?

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The Salerno Mutiny (13 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 what was the next event to happen?<br /> <br /> I was taken to prison, as were the other NCOs. I didn't see any of them thereafter. They were probably taken to the same prison as me. I was taken to a prison in Bone, North Africa - Number 1, Military Prison & Detention Barracks (No. 1 M.P. & D.B.). I was there. None of the men in that jail, as far as I know, had as - such a high sentence. They were mainly in for three years, five years and what have you. I was there to do my ten years and I'll never forget the first task I was given - taken outside, given a big sledgehammer, and told to break rocks in a quarry, with armed guards standing over us all the time. That was the start of penal servitude for me, so that was my - that's what - that's what I thought my life was to be for the next ten years, ten years in prison, something which I couldn't - I just couldn't contemplate at all, you know? But there I was, as I said, initially breaking rocks at a quarry, for how long I can't remember - two or three weeks perhaps - and then outside doing various menial tasks, being taken back into the prison, searched. By that time I was becoming - I was being brought down to the same values as some of the men who were in there, some of the real criminals, you know, the murderers and the rapists and the robbers and all other kinds and I was beginning to speak in their language, speaking about screws, and snout, you know? Oh dear, this was terrible, this was going to be me for ten years. I was utterly and completely demoralised.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Were you still able to write home, or -?<br /> <br /> We could write home but of course our letters were censored. My parents at home - we weren't allowed - we weren't allowed to say - I wasn't allowed to say why I was in jail, or for how long. But - so the state of mind that my parents were in I just don't know. My present wife, who was my fiancé at that time, she must have been completely shattered as well but how my parents must have felt I just don't know. They were getting a letter from me now and again from - with the address, the prison address, and how they must have felt, I just don't know - I can't - I just can't think on how - They just don't why I was in there or for how long, you know?