WW2 MBE (Military) and Italian Veneto Military Command Medal Group - Major Archibald Colquhoun, Intelligence Corps

  • Product Code: MM-6500
  • Regiment: Intelligence Corps
  • Era: WW2
  • Availability: Out of Stock

  • Price: £1,450.00

A second world war MBE (Military) medal group awarded to Major Archibald Colquhoun, Intelligence Corps. 

Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) (Military Division) unnamed as issued 
1939-45 Star unnamed as issued 
Africa Star (with 8th Army Clasp) unnamed as issued 
Italy Star unnamed as issued 
WW2 Defence Medal unnamed as issued 
War Medal 1939-45 unnamed as issued 


Italy Veneto Military Command Medal suspension stamped “K18” i.e. 18 carat gold (17.5 grams)
Obverse the head of Medusa and sword, reverse the letters C.L.N. within a five point star and text COMANDO MILITARE REGIONALE VENETO C.V.L., medal  contained in fitted case by Cav. Antonio Gantilia Incisore Treviso

Silver Florence European Writers medal the obverse with fleurs de lys, reverse with text FIRENZE AGLI SCRITTORI DELLA COMUNITA EUROPEA 12 MARZO 1962 contained in case by S.R.I. PICCIANNI BARLACCEI FIRENZE

Comes with boxes of issue and WW2 medal entitlement slip as well as set of miniatures which are mounted for wear. 

M.B.E. London Gazette, 18th February 1943
The citation reads:
  “This Intelligence Officer is the greatest expert on the Italian Army in North Africa. His industry and brilliant interrogations have repeatedly provided information of essential value. He has been on the Staff of Eighth Army since the Siege of Tobruk and his work has been most fruitful and extremely painstaking, often in conditions where concentration has been most difficult. In spite of his long period in the Desert he has consistently maintained a high standard.”

The dozen or so entries in The Times give an outline of Archibald Colquhoun, who died at the age of 51 in 1964. In short: public school, water-colour artist, diplomat, active service during WW2 in North Africa and Italy, writer, translator and editor of many Italian Classics.

Born November 16th, 1912, the son of Arthur Phayre Colquhoun, educated at Ampleforth and Oxford (Christ Church) followed by the Royal College of Art. This was in the 1930s and afterwards, probably just a few years before WW2, he went to live in Ischia in Italy. The Times records [March 9th, 1938] an exhibition of his paintings, ‘Water-colours of Southern Italy’ at the Palser Gallery, King Street, St. James, London, SW1.

In early 1940 he was appointed acting director of the British Institute in Naples. When Italy entered the war he was soon made an Intelligence officer in the Western Desert, then chief Italian specialist at Eighth Army headquarters. He also took part in the Sicilian campaign. 
His real wartime work began on the mainland of Italy in 1943, when he was attached as an Italian interrogator to one of the divisions making the Salerno landing. Following the Italian surrender he played a key role in obtaining information from refugees, officials and the population inn general something not previously planned for. Its long term importance came from the insight which it gave him into the anti - fascist resistance. He carried it out with great dash and courage, and cleared up many mutual misunderstandings.
Archie Colquhoun photograph as a young man, and a self-portrait in later life.

Early in 1944 he took over a newly created post in charge of Civil Liaison for the Eighth Army. The specially picked Italian liaison officers, whom he found for many British units men picked from civil life as well as from the Italian Army, were a great success, both operationally and as representatives of their country; it was one of Colquhoun’s lifelong regrets that the War Office would not grant the decorations including at least one Military Cross, for which their units recommended then. He continued to organise Intelligence from civilian sources, and when the advance northwards brought the army into contact with formed bodies of partisans, many of them communist, did much to make for smooth and effective relations.

He did a lot of very effective work with the Garibaldi Brigade at Ravenna under Arrigo Boldnini (“Bulow”) for which he was made an honorary freeman of Ravenna. Colquhoun visited them behind the German lines and when Ravenna itself was captured helped arrange for their equipment and incorporation into the Eighth Army, with whom they took part in the last advance. This and similar experiences gave him a quite new view of the Italian character, which he did much to pass on to commanders and staff.

After the war he was briefly Director of the British Institute at Seville and thereafter concentrated on his writing, editing and translating.

Colquhoun’s major contribution to the English understanding of Italian literature was to write a biography of Alessandro Manzoni [Manzoni and his times, 1954] and translate Manzoni’s The Betrothed, the first modern Italian novel, though the translation is no longer the standard one. Bruce Penman, the translator of the currently available Penguin edition, notes that Colquhoun's translation 'contains a surprising number of mistakes of interpretation. It is also sometimes too literal, with extensive passages in the historic present - a device which never sounds right in modern English' [Penguin Classics, 1972].

The first five volumes of The Oxford Library of Italian Classics [see below for a full bibliography] were savaged in The Times [November 9th, 1961] for their horrendous misprints leading the anonymous reviewer to conclude:
“The fact that these volumes were printed in Italy is no excuse. The worst of them at least should be withdrawn for the honour of Oxford.”

Colquhoun’s translation of Lampedusa’s The Leopard which appeared two years after its posthumous publication in Italy in 1958 has faired better. It was reprinted in the standard Everyman edition in 1991. Colquhoun went on to be the dialogue consultant on Visconti’s filming of The Leopard.

A bizarre incident reported in The Times British Author Gaoled in Venice [October 9th, 1954] details an altercation in Venice’s Piazza San Marco with a policeman when ordered ‘not to cross the square while a film was being shot’. He was cleared the following April of the four month suspended prison sentence for being ‘found guilty of contempt of a State Official.

As a painter The Times describes him as in the style of Rex Whistler, and as a writer in the style of Norman Douglas ‘whom he knew well’ and ‘Like many painters he wrote a most vivid English’ writes his obituarist. At the time of his tragically early death he left two uncompleted works: a war novel and a history of Risorgimento.

He was married in 1935 to Elizabeth Joan Holford (b.1909) and they had one daughter – Mary Jane Grannina (b.1937) spelt in The Times Marriages column (April 16th, 1970) as ‘Giannina’. The marriage was dissolved.
Archibald Colquhoun, who died at the age of 51 in 1964.

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Tags: MBE, WW2 Medals, World War Two, Second World War, WWII, Military Medals, British Medals, Intelligence Corps

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