A name on a war memorial and a cryptic comment in a soldier’s army service record led Jonathan Falconer on a journey that revealed a war crime committed in a snowcovered Italian hilltop village in 1944
Ihave sometimes wondered what Sergeant Joseph Groves of the 2nd Royal Horse Artillery would have made of me, a total stranger, raking over the embers of his life, looking for clues to piece together the story of how he met his violent end in 1944. It was in 2009 that I first came across Joseph during research for a book I was writing about the 42 World War Two servicemen commemorated on the war memorial in my hometown of Bradford-on-
Avon, Wiltshire. At the time I was unable to discover much about who he was and what had happened to him, but a cryptic comment in his record noted he was “shot whilst escaping from the enemy on the orders of the German military authorities in Italy”. In the 14 years that have elapsed since, more archive records have come to light, and I have tracked down members of Joseph’s family, as well as making contact with other researchers in Italy and the United States. This has enabled me to piece together a story that began in a Cheshire village in 1911 and ended with bursts of gunfire in the night on a snow-covered Italian hillside.