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Saturday, 20 July 2013

Monty, Richard & Milford!

Almost six years to the day Milford on Sea lost a highly regarded resident and a person with a fascinating life history; Colonel Richard Carver OBE RE.
 
The below account of Richards life is a combination of research from The Times Obituaries, the Daily Mail, MilfordonSea.com and online interviews with Tom Carver.

A full account of Richard’s life and war exploits are also available in a book called ‘Where the hell have you been?’, which is written by Richard’s son, Tom Carver, who is a writer and former BBC foreign correspondent. The book is published by Short Books.
 
Colonel Richard Carver OBE RE, also known as Dick Carver, was born on 26th May 1914. He lived in Milford on Sea for 28 years of his later life and died in the village on the 24th July 2007 at the age of 93. A Service of Thanksgiving was held for him at All Saints' Church on Friday 17th August 2007.
 
click image to enlarge
Richard was a stepson of Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. After reading engineering at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was influenced by Montgomery to apply for a commission in the Royal Engineers in 1936.

When Montgomery was appointed to command the 8th Army (Commonly known as The Desert Rats) in the Western Desert in 1942, Richard joined him as one of his forward liaison officers at HQ.

After the breakthrough of Rommel's WW2 positions was finally achieved at El Alamein in November 1942, Montgomery sent Major Richard Carver forward to reconnoitre a new location for his tactical HQ. On a desert track believed to be within the British forward area, he drove into a German patrol and was taken to Rommel's HQ. Although interrogated, his name prevented discovery of his relationship with Rommel's arch opponent.
 
As prisoner of war for 14 months he was sent to Italy, where he was moved from camp to camp until finally held at Fontanellato, near Parma.

When Italy surrendered in July 1943, after warning the prisoners that the Germans would arrive in a few hours to take over, the Italian commandant, Eugenio Vicedomini opened the gates and told them they were free to go. Many of the ex-PoWs decided to put distance between them and the camp, but Carver stayed nearby, reasoning that the Germans would concentrate their search further afield. He and some 600 others hid in an overgrown drainage ditch three kilometres away and, for two days and nights, listened to search parties driving by.
 
Once the search slackened, Richard Carver and several companions headed south to meet the 8th Army advancing up the Italian peninsula. They walked by night and hid in barns or woodland by day. The Italian farmers were usually glad to share with them what food they had and, on one occasion, he was given meat wrapped in a poster warning Italians that the penalty for harbouring PoWs was execution.
 
One morning,  near Gessopalena, in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, a boy stumbled across the two men hiding in some bushes. Some Germans had stolen his pet pig and the boy planned to try to snatch it back, but the pig was forgotten when he saw Carver and his companion. For six weeks the boy's family, the de Gregorios, looked after the two ex-prisoners, Richard and South African infantry officer Jim Gill, by then they were malnourished and suffering from dysentery. If a German patrol approached, a neighbour across the valley would hang a sheet from the window and the pair would be hustled into a nearby cave.
 
In December 1943 the two crawled across the shattered tracks of a railway bridge over the River Sangro to reach the Allied lines near Paglieta in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Despite his withered leg, Carver had walked more than 500 miles. Montgomery was delighted to discover that his stepson was alive, having not seen him for more than a year. When reunited with his stepfather, with whom he had been serving as a liaison officer, the great man simply asked: "Where the hell have you been?".
 
After recuperating in the UK, Carver took part in the Normandy landings and was wounded in the leg during a mortar attack outside Caen, but recovered in time to take part in the advance across Germany and the liberation of several concentration camps, including Belsen. He posted up cuttings from British newspapers in German villages through which he passed showing pictures of these camps, but the locals dismissed them as propaganda. He was mentioned in dispatches for his wartime service. 
 
In 1958 he was awarded an OBE for work at the Ministry of Defence and promoted colonel to take command of the Christmas Island base where Britain's first H-bombs were being dropped, but with a nuclear testing moratorium approaching, tests were suspended after September. After leaving the Army in 1966, he taught mathematics at Marlborough and Radley for a while. When the MoD invited him to write Royal Engineer manuals, he accepted with delight and continued until his final retirement to Milford on Sea in 1979.
 
Italy Revisited
 
Fontanellato PoW Camp
 Today it is a rehabilitation centre
Pic: www.consorziozenit.it
In September 2003 Richard Carver returned to the camp in which he had been held as a prisoner of war in Fontanellato, near Parma. The prison was a large brick building next to the Sanctuary of Beata Vergine del santo Rosario, originally intended as an orphanage, but it was never used as such. Today it is a medical rehabilitation centre.

 He was accompanied by a handful of other survivors to commemorate the 60th anniversary of their escape from the PoW camp. Fifty years after his escape, he received a video from the De Gregorio family which reenacted the incident over the pig, with the boy played by the original boy's son.
 
In July 2013 Tom Carver and his wife, Katty Kay Anchor for BBC World News America in Washington, made a trip to Italy to visit some of his father’s war-time history and to launch the Italian language version of his book: Where the hell have you been?
 
Below is Katty’s account of their trip as she posted on Twitter. 

 10:56 UK time, Monday, 8 July 2013: The Italian family who fed & hid my father in law risked being shot by the Germans but they never suggested turning Dick away. Huge courage

10:54 UK time, Monday, 8 July 2013: Final photo from our WW2 trip. Tom crouched in the same cave where his dad hid for 3 months. Cold and wet. http://t.co/cNd7wsEqhZ

15:12 UK time, Sunday, 7 July 2013: Celebrating 'Montgomery Day' in Paglieta Italy and the Italian publication of 'Where the Hell have you Been'. http://t.co/MfOPmeSqhq

15:10 UK time, Sunday, 7 July 2013: Lunch in Paglieta where my husband's dad was reunited with his stepfather Monty after escaping POW camp. http://t.co/lfFDWp5uVa

17:22 UK time, Friday, 5 July 2013: The book tells of Dick Carver, hidden from the Germans by brave Italian peasants for 2 months in a cave at huge risk to themselves.

17:18 UK time, Friday, 5 July 2013: In Pescara Italy for the launch of my husband's book about his WW2 POW dad and Monty in Italian - v proud! http://t.co/4E2VLMB5Oh
 
Montgomery Day | Paglieta

On Saturday the 6th July the town council of Paglieta, a small town near the Adriatic coast in central Italy, staged a Montgomery Day, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the "Battle of the Sangro."
 
Montgomery Day | Paglieta 2013
- Pic Katty Kay
The day included a gathering at the English cemetery Torino di Sangro, a visit to the Montgomery’s allied battle headquarters at Torre Paglieta, and the Svelatura Plaque (Memorial to the fallen) in Piazza Roma, Paglieta. Richard’s son, Tom Carver, was also in attendance and the day ended as he launched his book "Where the Hell Have You Been" in an Italian language version. (Published by Lanieri.)
 
 
 
Richard Carver Afternoon | Gessopalena
Tom Carver in Gessopalena Cave
-Pic Katty Kay

On Sunday 7th July 2013, the town of Gessopalena, in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, dedicated an entire afternoon to Richard Carver.
 
This was to commemorate the refuge he took in a cave in Gessopalena in November 1943 whilst escaping a German PoW Camp. A visit to the ‘Cave of English’ took place, as did a visit to the ruins of the farm of the family de Gregorio, who saved the Richard’s life. This was followed by a brief religious ceremony at the cemetery at the tomb of de Gregorio.
 
 
 
 
 
Richard Carver Family History
 
Richard Oswald Hobart Carver came from a family of wealthy cotton-mill owners in Cheshire. His father, Oswald Armitage Carver, rowed for Great Britain in the 1908 Olympics in London, and was killed at Gallipoli during WW1 when Richard was a year old. His mother, Betty Carver, an accomplished artist, had a wide circle of aesthetic and literary friends, including Augustus John, A. P. Herbert and the Poet Laureate, John Masefield. In 1925 she took her two sons on a skiing holiday in Switzerland where she bumped into a British colonel on an ice rink. He was called Bernard Montgomery.
 
Despite their opposite temperaments, the couple fell in love and Montgomery's proposal of marriage was accepted in a squash court at Charterhouse where young Richard Carver was at school.

On June 25th 1927 the following announcement appeared in The Times: "Lieutenant-Colonel B.L. Montgomery and Mrs. Carver. The marriage arranged between Lieutenant-Colonel B.L. Montgomery, DSO, of the Staff College, Camberley, and Mrs. E.A. Carver of 2, Riverside, Chiswick Mall, London W4 will take place very quietly in London on July 27."

From school Richard went on to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read engineering before gaining a commission in the Royal Engineers in 1936. After being posted to the Madras Sappers & Miners in India, he contracted polio but escaped with only a slightly withered left leg. In 1937 his mother was stung by an insect on a Devon beach and died shortly afterwards from septicaemia, leaving Montgomery grief-stricken.
 
Richard married Julie O'Brien in 1947 but she died in childbirth the following year, leaving him with their only son. In 1950, he re-married to Audrey, a widow who had two children, a son and a daughter. Between them, a son and two daughters were born, and it is said they used to joke happily about their large family including Rex, Chris, Kate, Elizabeth, Alice and Tom as being 'his, hers and ours'! 
 
click image to enlarge
In 2009, Richard's son, Tom Carver, wrote a full account of his father's life in the book; 'Where the Hell Have You Been?’ 
 
After retirement in 1979, Richard lived in Milford on Sea for 28 years until he passed away in 2007, and he was recalled by those that knew him as a charming and endearing man. He was a long-time member of Milford Art Group and also a fundraiser for the United Nations Association, for whom he held an annual fair in his garden on a number of occasions.
 
 
 
 
 
About the Book: ‘Where the Hell Have You Been?’ 

Richard's son, Tom Carver, has written a book with the title reflecting Montgomery's humerous welcome.

The book documents Richard's extraordinary life and many amazing adventures. Sounds like it could be a good read, as it has great reviews and a five star rating on Amazon. View or buy book here.

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Read Roger Moorhouse of History Today in conversation with Tom Carver on 9th October 2009: click here

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Other Famous Milford on Sea Village Residents

Milford on Sea has connections with a number of famous faces past and present to find out more please click here.

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We are interested to know anything you might know about Richard Carver, particulary his life in Milford on Sea?

If you can help please e-mail me at: david@milfordonsea.org


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