At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Angelo Cerica - Carabinieri general

First job was to arrest Mussolini


General Cerica was hand-picked as the  Carabinieri commander to arrest Mussolini
General Cerica was hand-picked as the
Carabinieri commander to arrest Mussolini
General Angelo Cerica, the police commander tasked with arresting the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after he was deposed as party leader in 1943, was born on this day in 1885 in Alatri, in the Ciociaria region of Lazio, about 90km (56 miles) south of Rome.

Mussolini was arrested on July 25 as he left his regular meeting with the King, Vittorio Emanuele III, the day after the Fascist Grand Council had voted to remove him from power.  The monarch had informed him that General Pietro Badoglio, former chief of staff of the Italian army, would be replacing him as prime minister.

Cerica had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Carabinieri, Italy’s para-military second police force, only two days previously, succeeding General Azolino Hazon, who had been killed in a bombing raid.

He was hand-picked for the job by General Vittorio Ambrosio, who was party to secret plot among Carabinieri officers to depose Mussolini irrespective of the Grand Council vote.  They wanted a commander who would not oppose the anti-Mussolini faction and would carry out the arrest.

Cerica, in fact, shared their view of il Duce, blaming him for leading Italy into a ruinous alliance with Germany in the Second World War and eager for him to be removed, so that Italy could seek an armistice with the Allies.

He was comfortable, therefore, to position himself with a brigade of Carabinieri to arrest the dictator as he stepped out of the Palazzo Quirinale following the meeting with the King.

Cerica fought with partisans after German army swept into Rome
Cerica fought with partisans after
German army swept into Rome
He then instructed his officers to ready themselves for any public backlash against the arrest, although in the event the news was generally well received.

Later in the year, after the Badoglio Proclamation of September 8 informed the Italian population of the switch of allegiance, Cerica led a battalion of Carabinieri in a battle with German troops on the Via Ostiense in Rome.

The Germans’ superior firepower won the day but Cerica escaped and went into hiding, eventually joining up with partisans in Abruzzo and fighting on the side of the Italian Resistance movement.

Once the Allies had liberated the area, he rejoined the mainstream military, heading a department in the Army of the South, also known as the Italian Liberation Corps, until the end of the war.

In 1945, in Florence, commissioned by the Minister of War Alessandro Casati, he directed the liberation struggle against the Germans. After the war was over, he was presented with the Medal for Freedom Silver Palm by the US President, Harry S Truman. 

Cerica, born to Pietro Felice Cerica and Luisa Villa in Alatri, was set on a military career from an early age, entering a military academy soon after leaving school. In 1906, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and joined the 74th Infantry Regiment, being promoted to full lieutenant in June 1909.

During June 1912, he was transferred to the Carabinieri Corps. He participated in the First World War, attaining the rank of captain. In September 1920, he was promoted to major and became a lieutenant colonel in 1927.

Allied tanks arrive in Rome
Allied tanks arrive in Rome
During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Cerica was appointed commander of the Carabinieri Legion in Asmara, an office he held from September 1936 to June 1939, eventually promoted to colonel.

Due to exceptional merit, he received the rank of brigadier general later that year, becoming the chief of Carabinieri forces in Italian East Africa. He served in the same capacity in Italian North Africa from July 1940 until February 1941. Cerica was posted back to Italy, attained the rank of Divisional General in June 1942.

After leaving the Carabinieri, Cerica served as the President of the Supreme Military Court from May 1947 to September 1951. He was also a Member of the Senate for the Christian Democrats.  

He died in Rome in April 1961, aged 75.

The church of Santa Maria Maggiore
The church of Santa Maria Maggiore 
Travel tip:

Alatri is a town in southern Lazio in the Ciociaria region notable for its acropolis, a Roman citadel built on the top of a hill surrounded by polygonal walls.  The old town within the walls contains many churches and ancient architectural structures, including the Cathedral of San Paolo, which dates back to the 10th century.  Outside the citadel, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, in the main square, built on the site of an early Christian temple of the fifth century, has a facade in the Romanesque-Gothic style and hosts a number of works of art, including a wooden statue of the Madonna di Costantinopoli of the 13th century and a fine triptych by Antonio da Alatri (15th century), in the left nave.

Porta San Paolo, where Via Ostiense leaves Rome
Porta San Paolo, where Via Ostiense leaves Rome
Travel tip:

The Via Ostiense follows the route of the Via Ostiensis, an important road in ancient Rome that ran west 30km (19 miles) from the city of Rome to its sea port of Ostia Antica, from which it took its name. The road began near the Forum Boarium, ran between the Aventine Hill and the Tiber River along its left bank, and left the city's Servian Walls through the Porta Trigemina. When the later Aurelian Walls were built, the road left the city through the Porta Ostiensis (Porta San Paolo). The modern Via Ostiense is the main connecting route between Rome and Ostia, passing the important basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.


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