Following the landings at Salerno in September 1943, in what was known as Operation Avalanche, British Commandos came ashore on the flanks of the British beaches and then moved inland to secure the roads and mountain passes in the direction of Naples, the vital port the Allies would need to resupply their troops as the advance through Italy continued.
The Commandos were drawn from a number of Army Commando units, one of which was commanded by Captain Henry Valerian George Wellesley, the 6th Duke of Wellington. A descendant of the first Duke of Wellington who had achieved victory at Waterloo in 1815, Henry’s father had actually been a vocal supporter of the Nazis and he died in 1941 with Henry become the 6th Duke of Wellington. He was mortally wounded by machine-gun fire in the fighting in the hills above Salerno, and this is where some of his Commandos may have been found by the Italian group working in this area.
The Daily Telegraph reports that,
” The remains of two British soldiers thought to have been killed in a Second World War commando assault led by a descendant of the Duke of Wellington have been found in Italy.
The remains were found near a German stronghold that was nicknamed Pimple Hill by Allied forces, who encountered fierce resistance as they tried to take the position after landing at nearby Salerno in 1943.
The human bones were discovered after researchers equipped with metal detectors found bullet casings and metal buckles buried beneath the soil.
The researchers are members of a group called Salerno 1943, which specialises in searching for the remains of German and Allied soldiers who died in the campaign.
They believe the British soldiers were part of a commando unit, led by Captain Henry Valerian George Wellesley, the 6th Duke of Wellington, that attempted to take the hill. He was the great-great grandson of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon Boneparte at Waterloo.
In the attempt to take the position the British commandos, led by the Duke of Wellington, lost many men during several assaults,” the historians said in a statement.
The researchers said that while they thought it likely the remains belonged to two soldiers, there was a possibility that they belonged to just one man. They were widely dispersed, suggesting he could have been blown up by an explosion from a shell or a mortar.
The amateur historians informed local police, who collected as many bones as they could find.
The Ministry of Defence has been notified of the discovery and has requested photos of the human remains. A spokesman said DNA testing could be used to identify the soldiers and the unit they were fighting with.”
While it could be some time before any positive identification is confirmed, this is the second time the remains of British soldiers have been found in this area, enabling a proper burial to take place at Salerno War Cemetery.