Ancestral search for lost grandfather leads to Harpenden
- Credit: Archant
A history mystery has crossed international borders and led a determined Italian to the Harpenden History Society (HSS) to find out about his grandad he does not remember.
An Italian soldier during World War Two, Guido Pivetta, was fighting in Africa for Mussolini when he was captured by the Allies and taken as a prisoner of war.
Along with hundreds of other captives, he was moved to India and then onto England – to Batford prisoner of war camp 95.
After the fall of Mussolini in 1943 the Italian government signed an armistice with the Allies, and according to the HSS the 600 Italians housed in the camp were given more lenient treatment.
In 1944 the whole camp was re-designated as an Italian Labour Battalion Camp, and the captives worked in hostels or farms around Hertfordshire.
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Guido was taken in by a father and daughter, George and Audrey, who owned a farm, and the three developed a strong friendship.
After helping there for three years he moved back to Naples, married his wife, and started a family in Venice.
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His two daughters are called Rory and Onelia – the couple wanted to name their youngest after Audrey, but were blocked by the church where they lived because it is a foreign name.
Instead, Onelia was the closest Italian name they could find.
Every year, Guido received two boxes of toys from George and Audrey as Christmas presents for his daughters.
Rory’s son, Filippo Lorenzonetto, 28, was born in Venice but never got to meet Guido – but is determined to find and thank the kind family that took his grandfather in.
He said: “It started when I left Italy six years ago, and my mother found a letter from this Batford family, received during the 1980s.
“It’s the only letter left after my grandmother and mother cleared it all away, and that’s the only letter that I have – I haven’t got a lot of information regarding my grandfather.”
The letter mentions Baldock Road, which may point to where George’s farm was - the handwriting is difficult to read, but it seems to be signed from George and Olive Porter, who may have been George’s wife.
Guido died when Filippo was only one-year-old, before Filippo could ask him about his life and experiences of the war.
Filippo added: “I never met him, but everybody tells me what he was like, that he used to help everybody in the village and he was a great person, but I don’t remember anything.
“So I can at least try to know this family, after they treated him in a nice way, not like a prisoner.
“If I find them I would like to thank them for their treatment of him, after just asking them how he was.”
By Filippo’s calculations, Audrey should be alive – he is trying to get in contact with her with the limited information he has.
He said it would be “amazing” to meet the people that gave his grandfather a “very wonderful impression” of England.
A member of the Harpenden History Society, Rosemary Ross, is supporting Filippo in his search but believes it will be “very difficult” with the information available.
She said: “It’s a lovely story - it’s just going to be difficult.”
Anyone with information for Filippo should contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07454991238.