2nd Lieutenant G.R. Paterson

Lieutenant George Robert Paterson


Unit : X Troop, 11th Special Air Service Battalion

Army No. : 130870

Awards : Military Cross and Bar


Lieutenant Paterson was twice decorated with the Military Cross for his actions in Italy. The first reads:


Lieutenant Paterson was captured on 12 February 1941 at Calabria, Italy, when returning from a special mission. Subsequently he was imprisoned at Sulmona, Pisa, Padula and Gavi (Camp 5). In May 1941, Lieutenant Paterson was one of eight officers who escaped from an organised walk; he was, however, recaptured the same day. Almost a year later, at Pisa, he participated in an attempt to break through into an adjacent church; this project was discovered before the officers emerged. Throughout his imprisonment in Italy, Lieutenant Paterson was in secret communication with the War Office.


When the Germans took over Gavi Camp at the time of the Italian Armistice, they transferred all prisoners of war to Germany. Immediately they had been locked in the train, Lieutenant Paterson and his companions began to break a hole in the side of the carriage. Lieutenant Paterson was the fifth to jump, and although the sentries fired, he was not hit. After swimming a river he continued for another three days until he was exhausted. Friendly Italians then cared for him, and upon his recovery, sent him to a partisan band near Brescia. Captured by Fascists early in January 1944, he was handed over to German custody. Although for three months escape was impossible because he was isolated, ultimately he was allowed to work in the prison itself (San Vittore). He and four other prisoners of war bribed one of the guards to loan them the key of the side door; a duplicate key was made and they escaped on 8 July 1944. Lieutenant Paterson made his way to friends, who arranged for his journey to Switzerland.



The citation for his second Military Cross is as follows:


Lieutenant Paterson after being a Prisoner of War for some time escaped on 18th September 1943 by jumping off a train north of Verona which was taking him to a Prisoner of War camp in Germany.


He immediately set about starting to organise a partisan group in the Brescia area and during this period he came into contact with an organisation responsible for the exfiltration of Allied prisoners of war from North Italy. Lieutenant Paterson volunteered to join this organisation in the Brescia area and remained there assisting the passage and safe exfiltration of some hundreds of Allied prisoners of war until the end of November 1943 when both houses he was using as transit houses for prisoners of war were raided and Lieutenant Paterson's assistant was arrested.


At the beginning of December 1943, Lieutenant Paterson moved into Milan dressed in civilian clothes when he again made contact with the same organisation and continued to work for them until 8th January 1944 when he was again taken prisoner and lodged in San Vittore, SS prison at Milan. On 8th July 1944 after 6 months in prison he succeeded in escaping with other members of the organisation and made his way successfully into Switzerland disguised as a Milan city fireman. After a month in Switzerland he made contact with Allied forces and returned to Italy in the Val Dossola area as liaison officer to the Italian partisans. For the next six weeks he remained in Malesio area organising, equipping and training the partisans and leading them into various skirmishes with the enemy. During this time his courage and leadership, together with his past experiences, made him almost a legendary figure with the partisan forces. Under his leadership the Val Dossola was liberated by the partisans, but a German rastrellamento immediately took place and Lieutenant Paterson was again taken prisoner on 14th October 1944. He remained a prisoner until the 26th April 1945 in Milan. On that date he delivered an ultimatum to the Commandant of the prison and succeeded in arranging the release of himself and all the remaining prisoners in his ward.


For the past 21 months Lieutenant Paterson has shown the greatest courage and ingenuity and a high sense of duty. Totally disregarding his own personal safety he devoted himself entirely to the furtherance of the Allied interests in Northern Italy and he is most strongly recommended for the Immediate award of the Military Cross.



The following transcript describes Camp 5, the removal of prisoners of war, their attempts to escape, and recommendations for awards.


        (1) This camp was an old fortress, formerly a civil prison, and was kept for such prisoners of war as had made previous attempts to escape, or were considered particularly dangerous, as it was almost escape-proof. After the Armistice on 8 September 1943, the Italian Commandant refused to see the Senior British Officer or cooperate in any way, and at dawn on 9 September the Germans arrived, disarmed the Italians and took over the camp, drawing a cordon right round it. On 13th September they gave prisoners of war one hour's notice to leave for Germany. About half the prisoners of war hid in the camp, in tunnels, cellars and roofs, but after reaching the railway station the Germans returned and made a thorough search, recapturing nearly all those who were hidden. Only a handful of prisoners of war got away successfully, and these by jumping from trains or lorries on the way to Germany.

        (2) I recommend the following officers for the awards shown, brief particulars being given in the enclosures stated opposite their names:-

                (a) Recommended for M.C.  Lieutenant George Robert Paterson (130870), No.11 S.A.S. Bn.

                (b) Recommended for M.B.E.  Lieutenant James Arthur Riccomini (137803), 286 Coy., R.A.S.C.

                (c) Recommended for "Mention".  Lieutenant John Muir (132493), 1 Bn. D.L.I.


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