Italian Researchers Locate Remains of British Second World War Soldiers Who Died In Action in 1943

British troops in  the Salerno area, September 1943.
British troops in the Salerno area, September 1943.

Italian researchers have found the remains of two British soldiers they believe were killed in a raid led by one of the Duke of Wellington’s descendants during World War II.

The remains were located near the site which Allied troops named Pimple Hill. The Allied forces ran into fierce resistance from the Germans when they tried to take the position after landing at Salerno in 1943.

Researchers used metal detectors to find bullet casings and metal buckles buried at the site. The human remains were found with the metal items.

The researchers belong to a group known as Salerno 1943. The group specializes in finding the remains of soldiers from both sides who fell during the campaign.

The researchers believe that the soldiers were part of a commando unit led by Captain Henry Valerian George Wellesley, the 6th Duke of Wellington. He was the great-grandson of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. The 1st Duke is known for defeating Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo.

The 6th Duke lost many men in his attempts to conquer Pimple Hill. During one  of these assaults, the duke was hit by machine gun fire and died from the wounds. He is buried in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Salerno, near where he died.

The researchers believe it is the remains of two soldiers based on the fact that they were spread apart. They acknowledge that it could be one man who was caught in the explosion of a shell or mortar.

The researchers informed the police who collected as many of the bones as they were able to find.

The Ministry of Defence was alerted. They have requested photos of the remains. DNA testing may be used to identify the soldiers and what unit they were with.

It might take months or even years to positively ID the men. That’s what happened in the recent situation with Lance Corporal Ronald George Blackham.

His remains were discovered in 2014. It took until January of this year to positively ID his remains. DNA samples were taken from surviving relatives, and military records were scoured before he was identified.

Lt. Corporal Blackham was 22 years old when he was killed in September 1943. About 20 of his relatives will attend the memorial service on March 16 in Salerno, The Telegraph reported.

The landings at Salerno were part of the Allied invasion of Italy. It came on the heels of the invasion of Sicily from North Africa.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE