In 1995, a man called Antonio Lannutti walked into the British embassy in Geneva and said he was trying to get in contact with a British officer whom he knew only as Richard. The only other fact he knew about him was that he was the stepson of Field Marshal Montgomery. Antonio explained that his family, the de Gregorios, had protected Richard from capture during the war. Entranced by the story, an official of the Embassy managed to find the address for Lord Montgomery’s son, David Montgomery, in Debrett’s.

David Montgomery told Antonio that indeed he did have a half-brother called Richard and put the two in touch. That summer, Antonio made a video, reenacting the story of how his family from the mountains of the Abruzzi had looked after Richard in the winter of 1943. The video featured a man named Alfonso de Gregorio who was now in his seventies and at the age of 14 had been the one who discovered Richard hiding in the bushes and had brought him up to the family farmhouse.

The connection between Antonio and my father was broken by my father’s death. In 2008, two years after my father’s death, I managed to find Alfonso’s name in the Italian phone book and that summer I took my family to visit the de Gregorios and to see the cave where they had hidden him in the mountains of the Abruzzi.