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28th January 1944

On 28 January 1944, an Allied bombing destroyed the Allerona railway bridge, near Orvieto, in Umbria.

At the time of the bombing, the bridge was occupied by a German train, carrying about 1500 Allied prisoners from the Fara Sabina prison camp to Germany. It was a massacre.

The local elders still vividly remember that terrible day, but it seemed completely forgotten in the larger history.

A year and a half ago, thanks to the lucky discovery in an auction of some photos taken just after the bombing by an Austrian soldier stationed in Orvieto in 1944, a new interest in the affair was rekindled, bringing it to the attention of national and international public opinion.

The back of the pictures shows the handwritten recollections of the soldier, an eyewitness of the tragedy; their documentary value therefore becomes very important.

You can find the pictures here, with several additional details.

Thanks to the initiative of the members of "Giugno 44" Cultural Association, with the support of the Italian Army General Franco Stella, a British veteran of Anzio landing, Harry Shindler, representative in Italy of the Italy Star Association, the association of the Second World War Italian Campaign British veterans, and Marco Patucchi, La Repubblica journalist and author of several books, have become interested in the story.

Shindler and Patucchi have done archival research in London to reconstruct the event, and this activity has produced a chapter of their book entitled "La mia guerra non finita" ("My War is Not Over"), published by Dalai Editore.

Along with the publication of the book, a page of La Repubblica has been dedicated to it and, in particular, to the story of the Allerona railroad bridge (click image to enlarge). You can read here the online version of the article.

Sue Finley is a journalist from New Jersey and she is the daughter of an American soldier, Richard Morris, who was on the train and managed to escape during the bombing. Hidden in the countryside of the area, he joined advancing Allies when the war front reached Umbria in June 1944. She has found online our research, and sent us a manuscript of his father with many interesting details about the story. Soon the book will be published, to collect funds for the monument to be placed on January 28, 2012 on the site of the tragedy.

Meanwhile other researchers, notably Claudio Biscarini and Janet Kinrade Dethick, gave further valuable contributions to the research on the event. In particular the work of Janet and her colleagues from the Association "Friends of Orvieto Cemetery", which encompasses many British citizens currently resident in Italy, is available here.

Janet's work in particular has allowed to track, in England, the United States and South Africa, the relatives of victims and survivors of the bombing of the train; she even recently met in England a survivor, now ninety years old.

28 January 2012

On January 28, 2012 a monument has been inaugurated to commemorate the 400 victims of the train. The monument has been placed on the site of the massacre.

The Art Institute of Orvieto worked on the design of the monument.

Representatives from the British, the American and the South African embassies were present at the ceremony; these were in fact the nationalities of the prisoners on the train.

Even the municipal governments of Orvieto, Allerona, Castel Viscardo and Montegabbione have joined the initiative.

Rai Storia

On October 19th, 2013 a nice documentary dedicated to the story of the Allerona railroad bridge bombing has been aired on Rai Storia (channel 54 on digital terrestrial platform or channel 805 on Sky) in R.A.M. - Ricerca, Archivio, Memoria, the new magazine on twentieth century.

Based on the testimonies of Harry Shindler, Marco Patucchi and Fabio Roncella, the brilliant director Matteo Berdini has done an excellent work. The documentary goes from minute 01:38 to minute 15:33 in the sixth episode of the magazine, visible below.

In the final part, Harry Shindler quotes with emotion the memorial phrase written on the monument; we join that emotion remembering the author of the phrase, professor Alfredo Roncella, greeted for the last time just the day before the airing of the documentary. Thanks, Prof!

Fabio Roncella


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[October 19th, 2013]
New documentary on RAI Storia!

[January 28th, 2012]
Monument unveiling at the site of the bridge! A report is online here.

[January 10th, 2012]
Presentation to the mayors of the selected project.

[December 24th, 2011]
The projects are online here!

[December 20th, 2011]
Presentation of the projects made by students of the Art School.

[December 9th, 2011]
Inspection of the bridge with students and teachers of the Art School.

[June 18th, 2011]
We remember the bombing of January 28, 1944 with conferences in Orvieto and Montegabbione.
You can find an abstract here.