As a boy, Italian historian Tullio Marcon lived through the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. This is the background to his story of that eventful summer.
Tullio Marcon was 13 in 1943, and living in Augusta, an important Italian naval base. He was there when Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, began. In later life Tullio was a civil engineer and also a leading historian of World War 2 in the south-east corner of Sicily. His book “Assalto a Tre Ponti” (“Attack on Three Bridges”) was the first book in Italian to tell, in a popular and accessible way, the story of the British part of the invasion. The three bridges referred to in the title were those attacked by British airborne and commando troops: the Ponte Grande bridge (Operation Ladbroke), the Malati bridge and the Primosole bridge. Over the course of 35 years he also published three editions of the story of his beloved home city, Augusta, during the war.
He was one of the founders of the excellent Museo dello Sbarco, the Museum of the Landings (the invasion), in Catania. It was here that I met him in 2004. After showing me and my wife around the museum, he guided us to other wartime sites in the area. He was very kind, and very knowledgeable, and very passionate about his subject.
He asked me if I would try to tell, in English, the story of the invasion as he experienced it in Augusta. He hoped some British regimental magazine might be interested. Later that year he sent me his account in Italian, with notes to help me in making the translation. He jokingly said that he hoped, as a result of his story being read by British veterans, that he might get a letter announcing the discovery in the UK of his Balilla uniform (apparently taken during the invasion by a British soldier as a souvenir).
My Italian at that time was almost non-existent, and I was translating Tullio’s account one word at a time with a dictionary, while trying to teach myself Italian. The work went slowly, fitting in between other projects and personal distractions. I made preliminary investigations with some journals, but without luck.
Then, to my tremendous shock, I learned that on 14th October 2006 Tullio had died, not long after seeing the final edition of his Augusta book to the presses. That day Augusta lost a favourite son, Sicily lost a great historian, and the world lost a gentleman.
Unable to give him the pleasure of seeing his story published in English, to my regret I then set the work aside for over ten years. Now, in his memory, here it is.