Trust reaches £1m Appeal target

The Trust’s £1m fundraising Appeal has proved an enormous success, hitting its final target in November 2015.

Building on the money that the Trust had before the Appeal was launched, in November 2011, the total of funds in the trust is now approximately £1.4m. This is seen as the level necessary to fund the Trust’s student bursaries, which are awarded in gratitude to the help given by Italian citizens to escaping prisoners in the second world war, for a long time.

Vanni Treves CBE, the Appeal chairman
Vanni Treves CBE, the Appeal chairman

The final surge towards the £1m target was acknowledged by two receptions that Pasquale Terracciano, the Italian Ambassador, hosted at the embassy in Grosvenor Square in November 2015.

The bulk of the money was generously donated by major grant-giving bodies, but many of the Trust’s individual supporters also sent in cheques or made online donations, for which the Trust is extremely grateful.

Cavaliere Ufficale Vanni Treves, CBE, the Appeal Chairman,  said: “With £1m we can be confident that, for generations to come, the Trust will continue to recognise, through its bursaries to young Italian people, the unforgettable bravery and generosity of the Italian contadini who sheltered Allied PoWs during the second world war. A great number of individuals have made substantial gifts and we are so very grateful to them.

“We also recognise the generosity of many large and smaller charitable trusts. These include: the Swire Charitable Trust; the Garfield Weston Foundation; the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable trust; the Mercers’ Company; the Band Trust; the Eranda Foundation; the 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust; the Peter Stebbings Memorial Trust; and the Pears Foundation.”

Events in 2013 included a supper hosted by the Italian embassy in London to thank donors. This was generously subsidised by Smeg, the Italian domestic appliance manufacturer. The ambassador kindly hosted a similar event in October 2014. And, in the spring of 2014, Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie gave a magnificent dinner in the Peers’ Dining Room of the House of Lords. This was kindly sponsored by Macfarlanes and Maisto & Associates, the English and Italian law firms.

Events in 2014 came on the back of highly successful initiatives in 2013, the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice in September 1943, which led to thousands of Allied prisoners of war flooding out from their camps to the countryside. In their attempts to reach the Allies fighting their way up from south Italy, or to reach safety in neutral Switzerland, they threw themselves on the kindness and generosity of the Italian country people (contadini), who bravely gave them refuge despite the risk of terrible reprisals.

Every year since it was founded in 1989, the Trust has brought over approximately 20 Italian students to study at language schools in London and Oxford for one month, and to experience the British way of life. They often come from small villages in mountain areas where escaping prisoners of war found refuge after the Armistice. Many of the students experience life away from home for the first time. Many, too, come from families that sheltered PoWs.

Each Italian student costs the Trust nearly £2,000 in tuition fees and accommodation. The bursaries have always been funded by the great generosity of donors to the Trust, many of whom have been former prisoners of war. Their support has been continued by second and third generations of their families, who have often stayed in contact with Italian families who rescued the original escaper. But, as the surviving escapers pass away, it becomes ever harder to keep up the fundraising year-in, year-out.

The Trustees were, therefore, determined to establish a permanent fund, so that the future of this living gesture of thanks and appreciation can be assured.

Over the years, the Trust’s former students have gone on to have successful and worthwhile careers. One of them – Eleonora Diamanti, who had a bursary in 2001 and whose grandfather helped a soldier hidden near his home – said: “Learning English was essential as I’ve worked in several places abroad. A bursary enabled me to start this process of internationalisation that is really important, especially in small villages such as mine. I hope you’ll keep on running this great initiative.” (See our Students section.)

Wishing the Appeal success at the outset of fund-raising, Signora Raffaella Del Greco, the daughter of Michele Del Greco, the Abruzzo shepherd shot dead in 1943 for helping 56 Allied prisoners of war, said: “I thank the Trust for the great commitment it shows in keeping alive the memories of those courageous Italians, like my father, who sheltered and befriended prisoners of war.”

The Appeal was directed by a steering committee drawn from among the Trustees led by Mr Treves, who is a former chairman of Equitable Life (2001-09) and former chairman of Channel 4. He is currently chairman of the National Council for School Leadership and of several other organisations. He was appointed CBE in the 2012 New Year honours for services to education and, in 2014, received the honour of Cavaliere Ufficiale from the Italian presidency.

The other members of the Appeal Committee were: Sir Nicholas Young (chairman of Monte San Martino Trust); Hon. Letitia Blake (Trust secretary); Justin de Meo (Trust treasurer); Christine English; and John Simkins (Trust administrator).

Support MSMT on Just Giving

The Trust will continue to depend on donations, for which we are extremely grateful. Besides the Just Giving facility, cheques may be sent to:

Mr Justin de Meo, Hon. Treasurer, MSMT, Cottrells, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, Wilts, SP3 5HN.