The Fallen Soldiers who rest in the Ancona War Cemetery

Mr. Ambassador, you have a very deep connection both with the Marche Region and with WWII. The Ancona War Cemetery recently became a source of interest for you. Could you tell us why?

As you say, I have been living part of my life in the Marche Region. With the help of several sources, I was able to find out about the Veterans buried in the Ancona War Cemetery with rather astounding details about some of them. As an example, one man survived the sinking of the Titanic and his story is still in part a mystery. I became interested in finding answers to some questions. For example, why did so many of those who rest there die on Dec. 8, 1943.

Could you give us some general information?

There are 1,021 Soldiers buried there. Sadly, not all identified. They are from many different Countries, from Canada to India, from New Zealand to Cyprus, South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles and many others. They were serving with the 8th Army in Europe with the huge responsibility of eradicating the Nazi fascist regime. The price, in terms of human lives and destruction was immeasurable.

Your attention was drawn to a date that appears on over 60 headstones.

Indeed. About 60 Soldiers lost their lives that very day. They were South Africans, New Zealanders, British. They were prisoners of war who had been brought to L’Aquila from different Italian camps and loaded on a train that was bombed December 8, 1943. They were brought to Ancona after having been temporarily buried mainly in Macerata and in Fermo. It is disheartening to read the age carved on their headstones: 19, 20 and among the “older”, 37.

Two are from Countries one would never expect to find

The majority are British. But there are two fallen Soldiers from the Seychelles, also with the British Army: Joseph Estilico and Renald Athanase.

You were mentioning a Titanic survivor who became a British Soldier

His is an incredible story. His name is Thomas Arthur Whiteley. He had found a job on the Titanic. He survived her sinking, clinging on pieces of the ship in freezing temperatures. He spent some time in the United States. Became an actor. Returned to England. In 1943, he was Warrant Officer with the Royal Air Force and in August/September 1944 he was on the Adriatic coast. October 11, 1944, at age 50, he died perhaps of a heart attack while being carried to a local hospital

One of Italian origin

Among the 161 Canadians who rest at Ancona there is one of Italian origin. Vincent Di Falco. His parents were from the Molise region and had migrated to Montreal. He was born September 8, 1912. Served with the Hastings and Prince Edwards Regiment, also known and Hasty P’s. He was killed near Isola del Piano, Metauro River area, August 25, 1944

There are 57 headstones with no name. They are Known but to God.