A young Romolo Dorinzi is at the centre of this picture, with his family.

He lived to the south-west of Rome, close to the road that connects the city to the coast.

In those days, the road was Via Imperiale, now it is called Via Cristoforo Columbo.

If, today, you drive from the centre of Rome to the beach at Ostia, it will take about twenty minutes along this road.

On 8 September 1943, the 2nd German Parachute Division was south of Rome, near to the coast. The Division comprised approximately ten thousand men.

That evening, they were ordered to advance on Rome.

In the early hours of 9 September, the German troops began their assault. The initial fighting was around Ponte Magliana to the south-west, a key bridge that would allow access for armoured vehicles. The Italians fought fiercely but were outnumbered, and the Germans advanced towards the centre of Rome.

Romolo Dorinzi remebered the day well:

I was fourteen years old. I lived in via delle Statue 10 with my mother, Assunta, and my sixteen-year-old sister, Luciana. My father had died and my three brothers were fighting in the war.

It was the morning of 9 September, approaching midday, and Luciana had gone out. A bombardment began and I was afraid that the roof would fall in on us.

My mother said: ‘We’ll go to the church; the Lord will help us.’

I went with her, intending to return home afterwards and wait for my sister.

On the way to the church, we saw wounded men and overturned carts. The German soldiers were positioning a howitzer towards the fort on the other side of Via Cristoforo Columbo. Our soldiers, grenadiers, were over there, and I knew a lot of those men. I realised that they would not be expecting an attack to their rear.      

[The Italian soldiers formed the 21st Infantry Division, the Granatieri di Sardegna. They had taken up position around Forte Ostiense, one of the strongholds identified in the city’s defence plan.]

The howitzer must have been heavy, as the German soldiers were struggling to set it up. I thought that I should do something and ran towards the fort, leaving my mother. She called to me but I don’t remember what she said.

I shouted back: ‘They want to kill them.’

Behind me, the Germans were shooting, I think at me. I heard machine gun fire. Every so often, I threw myself on the ground, trying to recover my breath; it was about seven hundred metres to the fort, and it seemed such a long way.

I thought: ‘My God, they want to kill me!’ and then I felt a burning sensation in my left arm. The shirt sleeve was ripped and I saw blood, but the fort was close and the howitzer still not firing.

I reached the fort and blurted out what I had seen. The soldiers were not expecting an attack like that and took me to an officer, where I repeated everything. Thank the Lord, they believed me and the officer gave the order to vacate the fort.

[The Granatieri continued their fight: the surviviors were combattants in one of the final engagements, at Porta San Paolo.]

One of the soldiers saw my wounded left arm and said: ‘But what are you doing – do you want to lose your arm?’ I tied it tightly with a handkerchief and, as the others left, I started to wander around the courtyard.

I didn’t want to turn back straight away under machine gun fire and so I approached the nearby baker, Guarino Roscioni. He reg