Letter Written by Gregorio Ceccato
Summary, Transcription and Translation Composed by Kyra Bates and Sandra Parmegiani
In 2021, the Ceccato family of Guelph lent a family diary to the Italian Heritage Project. The diary was composed by Gregorio Ceccato, who was an infantry officer with the 8° Reggimento Artiglieria Terrestre “Pasubio”, the 8th “Pasubio” Land Artillery Regiment.
Born and raised in Asolo, an Italian city located just 60km north of Venice in the province of Treviso, Ceccato joined the army in 1917 in Vittorio Veneto, just 45km northeast of Asolo. As an officer, he fought in many significant battles, including the Second Battle of the Piave River, detailing his impressive knowledge of the army’s artillery in his handwritten notes.
Gregorio Ceccato wrote his diary while fighting on the North-Eastern front, and its pages chronicle what he learned on the front, the tools he used and the weapons he was required to operate. After the war, Ceccato lived in fascist Italy and he and his family experienced hardship and unemployment. In 1934 he wrote a letter to Benito Mussolini, asking for help. He recorded it in his 1917 diary and the letter constitutes an ideal continuation of his experience as a soldier, a patriot and a citizen serving his country. While the pages seen below were not sent, his family shared with us that Ceccato did formally compose the letter and send it to the Italian dictator. In it, he chronicles his life and experiences during the war, his patriotism to the Italian cause and his acts of heroism. Only after this account, at the end of the letter Ceccato asks Mussolini to assist him and his family. It is unknown if Mussolini ever received the letter. The Ceccato oral history records that an answer never came, nor the much hoped for help. The afterlife of this letter will be further examined in the future stages of the Gregorio Ceccato Diary Project .
Click the link below to view the handwritten diary pages. There are twelve pages in total and each image displays two consecutive pages. The original Italian language has been transcribed without alterations. Ceccato spoke a Venetian dialect and in his standard Italian one can detect the uncertain use of double consonant and some spelling alterations.
Sua Eccelenza il Capo d[el] Governo Duce del Fascismo Benito Mussolini
 Da otto anni dacché la mia famiglia decaduta a causa del commercio inesperto di mio fratello, nebbi le conseguenze d’ogni specie e ben tristi.
Sono nativo di Asolo nato il 2 gennaio 1898 ed avendo sposata la Della giustina Angela fu Domenico, qui di Vittorio V.to avendola conosciuta da soldato arruolato nell’arma del 8.o Art. da Fortezza che 29 mesi fra prima dopo la ritirata cioè dal 17-18 e 19 passai in questa onorata Città. Così dopo esser caduto in povertà, mi ricoverai  con la mamma sua ora ancora vivente che gentilmente mi dette asilo, benché avendo altre due figlie ammogliate.
Non mi perdette d’animo e di coraggio e per tre anni abbracciai l’arte di Rap.te [rappresentante] donde fui messo in libertà causa il ribasso preponderante della seta. e Non trovando altra occupazione, mi collocai a lavorare come falegname, avendo un po’ di ingegno, presso un Stab.to [stabillimento] che, pochi mesi dopo fallì.
Passato quasi un anno disoccupato con non poche sofferenze, trovai lavoro presso la società Della Coletta Giovanni e lavora come manovale per due anni, fino a che la polvere potente per la composizione del [a]sfalto mi indebolì e minacciava grave pericolo  di salute, e mi ritirai.
Ora [ho] avuto cinque figli, due maschi e tre femmine, il più vecchio ha già 12 anni e la più piccola ne a tre e causa di pochissimo lavoro, benché essendo tuttora, musicante del dopolavoro alla Casa del Fascio Arnaldo Mussolini, iscritto [nell] sull’elenco dei poveri che ebbi aiuto ma con dolore confesso che miei figli soffrono mancanza di pane, e noi genitori che molto si amiamo, il soffrire la fame non e la millesima parte di dolore, nel pensare alle nostre creature, le quali molte volte penso: se le cose non si cambiano non avrò la gioia di dare alla Patria cara Fascista dei fieri e valorosi soldati (come lo fui io) ma bensì deboli e paurosi.
 Mi sento spezzare il cuore ed impaurisco, nel saper la mia famiglia a codesta situazione. Con 4 mila lire di debiti e per conseguenza tutte le porte sono chiuse, e più importante il negozio di generi coloniali. Non ho più nulla di speranza in questo paese e nel mio nativo, ma bensì confido in Dio, che Ella Eccellenza Somma Carità e assistenza dei poveri, Voglia darmi una assistenza. Quanto lieto sarei se potessi avere un qualche impiego di qualsiasi specie, pur di veder vivere onestamente la mia famiglia.
Sono rassegnato di non poter cambiar vita, dacché sono certo, non ebbi “nessuna soddisfazione plaudente.”
Ricordo spesso il 15  1918 trovandomi sulla vetta del M. Grappa con la 69.sa Batteria d’assedio mortai De Steffani calibro 210 12 Gruppo, che al mattino alle ore 3 inaspettatamente cominciò terribile l’offensiva nemica, con gas asfissianti che portò panico in batteria.
Mi presentai subito al posto assegnatomi di scelto puntatore caporale e trovai solo il sergente ed un soldato mancanti (cioè nascosti), 9 serventi. Io senza perder tempo con la maschera in faccia mi detti a cercarli e riuscii dopo innumerevoli pericoli e sotterrato da una granata senza essere ferito. Però solo uno mancava e dopo 29 colpi partiti, lo trovai nascosto, e dopo averlo ben scosso, lo portai in batteria come  tutti gli altri compagni (questo ebbe la croce per merito di guerra assieme degli altri premiati d’onore).
Circa alle 3 ½ dovendo servirsi il terzo ed il quarto pezzo in un fanale falso scopo a una debita distanza collocato in situazione molto pericolosa, ma senza esitare un secondo andai ad accenderlo.
Dopo poco morì dal scoppio di un 420 nemico. Ora toccava per turno l’altro cap.le che si mise a piangere disperatamente, tantochè il capitano comandante la batteria lo minacciò con la rivoltella, ma nulla ottenne.
Così vedendo io il fatto, corsi in soccorso che trovai il cap.le disperato a terra disteso ed il comandante disse queste parole con la  rivoltella alla tempia: se ti rifiuti la terza volta ti uccido; mentre il cap.le diceva: sono contento di morire qui, che andare in quella terribile posizione. – Così al terzo comando vai e il ripetuto no, partì il colpo; imperocché il suo sergente con destrezza toccò il gomito del capitano che il colpo andò a vuoto.
Voltossi contro il sergente minaccioso, ma io in quella mi feci arditamente avanti e dissi: Signor Capitano, ne muoiono abbastanza, senza che uccida Lei per cose da poter rimediare. Ebbene vai te.
Appena uscite queste parole, spiccai un salto, facendomi  il segno della croce, ed esegui l’ordine e appena acceso il fanale, balzai a nascondermi sotto un roccione, per riposarmi un istante. Cosa fatale, un 240 scoppiò a pochi passi sopra che fracassò il falso [falzo] scopo ed io sotto il vulcano di macerie; mentre il capitano chiamava Ceccato e si tirava i capelli. Uscì e nel vedermi ritornato incolume, mi promise un premio.
Passati alcuni giorni, un tenente Paiola Bolognese, mi disse premiato di medaglia d’argento e sergente per merito di guerra, per i due atti di valore compiuti.
Passato circa un mese con meraviglia e sdegno  fui nominato dal maggiore Righi comandante il gruppo, primo ardito della batteria e nulla più. A rapporto, che fui mi disse: Voi eravate in obbligo di fare quanto avete fatto, perché avete difeso realmente i vostri beni la casa paterna, cioè la famiglia.
Io le risposi che avrei fatto anche altrove, e di casa mia ricordavo che la cara Patria Italia.
Altro non ottenni!
Due anni fa, mi arrivò solo due medaglie commemorative e come semplice soldato, ma ero in quel tempo scelto caporal puntatore.
Potrei incitare [sic] molti altri fatti, ma basti questo, perché Ella Eccellenza possa fare un  concetto della mia povera e disgraziata persona.
Lottai contro i socialisti repubblicani e ebbi cinque giorni di vita (per ambasciata) perché difendevo il tricolore la nostra tanto amata bandiera e facevo riunioni e piccole conferenze patriottiche, e che oggi è bella e grande Fascista.
In quell’epoca mi trovavo a domicilio a S. Vito di Asolo comune di Altivole anno 1920.
Con mio padre conviveva mio fratello classe 99 che per essere invalido di guerra, percepiva una pensione di L 17 giornaliere le quali erano [erano] di aiuto al mantenimento familiare.
Morto mio fratello  nell’anno 1923 fu sospesa totalmente la pensione. Il mio genitore per consiglio stato dato dalle Amministrazioni Comunali, univa Certificato medico per [in] invalidità a proficuo lavoro, nell’intanto, non avendo raggiunto l’ettà [sic], per eccezione in causa del sopra indicato motivo attende un’assistenza Militare a pensione = Invane riuscirono le parecchie pratiche rivolte alla cassa pensioni di Guerra [Roma] Ora ha Raggiunto il 63o anno di età, le sue condizioni fisiche sono sempre più aggravate e ne avrebbe estrema necessità di qualche benigno soccorso.
Indirizzo: Ceccato Giuseppe fu Morando
Asolo Casa Vesava (fittavolo) P.a Treviso
Perdonerà Eccellenza un po’ lunga, ma sincera mia storia e confido nella sua grande Bontà.
Coi più ferrei Auguri Fascisti, mi firmo l’umilissimo Suo suddito.
Vittorio Veneto 19-3-34
To His Excellency the Head of the Duce Government of Fascism, Benito Mussolini
 For eight years since my family fell apart due to my brother’s inexperienced trade, I have faced all kinds of sad consequences.
I am a native of Asolo, born on 2 January 1898 and after having married Della Giustina Angela, daughter of the late Domenico, from Vittorio V.to1, whom I met as a soldier when I enlisted in the 8th Artillery2 from Fortezza3 29 months between before after the retreat that is from 17-18 and 19 I passed in this honoured city. After having fallen into poverty, I was taken in by  her mother, who is still alive and kindly gave me asylum, even with having two other daughters married.
I did not lose heart and courage and for three years I became a salesperson, and I was let go from this position due to the significant decline of silk4. Not finding any other job and having a little ingenuity, I set myself up to work as a carpenter at a factory that went bankrupt a few months later.
After almost a year unemployed with many hardships, I found work at the Della Coletta Giovanni company5 where I worked as a manual laborer for two years, until the powerful powder used in the creation of asphalt weakened me and threatened serious danger to my health , and I left.
Now I have [had] five children; two boys and three girls, the eldest being twelve years old and the youngest three, and because I have very little work, although I am still a musician at the Afterwork club Casa del Fascio Arnaldo Mussolini6, [and although] I am still inscribed on the list of poor people who received help but it pains me to confess that my children suffer from a lack of bread, and we parents, who greatly love each other [our family], suffering from hunger is not one thousandth of the immense pain that comes from thinking about what our children face, many times I think: if things do not change I will not have the joy of giving the dear Fascist homeland some proud and valiant soldiers (as I was), but rather weak and fearful ones.
 I feel my heart breaking and I’m frightened knowing that my family is in this situation. With 4,000 lire of debt and consequently all doors are closed, and more importantly [those of] the colonial general store. I have no more hope in this country [Vittorio Veneto] and in my native one [Asolo]7, but I trust in God that your Excellency’s Supreme Charity and assistance of the poor will provide me with assistance. How happy I would be if I could have some employment of any kind, just to see my family live honestly.
I am resigned (forced to admit) to not being able to change my life, since I am certain, I had “no applauding satisfaction.”8
I often remember the 15th (no month)  1918 when I found myself on the summit of Mount Grappa9 with the 69th De Steffani siege battery of 210 caliber 12 group mortars10, when at 3 o’clock in the morning unexpectedly began the terrible enemy offensive, with asphyxiating gases that brought panic to the battery.
I immediately presented myself to the place assigned to me by the chosen corporal [gun] pointer11 and found only the sergeant and one soldier missing (or rather hidden), and 9 in service. Without wasting time with the mask on my face I started looking for them and I succeeded after countless dangers and being buried by a grenade without being injured. But only one was missing and after 29 shots [were already fired], I found him hidden, and after shaking him well, I took him to the battery like  all the other comrades (this action received12 the cross of merit along with the other honorees).
At about 3:30am, having to use the third and fourth pieces [of the mortars] in a false aim, light them at a safe distance placed in a very dangerous situation, but without hesitating a second I went to light it.
Shortly after it was destroyed from the detonation of an enemy 42013. Now it was the turn of the other corporal who began to cry desperately, so much so that the captain in command of the battery threatened him with his revolver, but he got nothing.
Upon seeing this, I ran to the rescue and found the desperate corporal lying on the ground while the commander held a revolver to his temple and said to him: If you refuse a third time I will kill you; to which the corporal said to him: I am happy to die here rather than go to that terrible position. So at the third command with his repeated no, the shot went off; but the sergeant, with dexterity, touched the captain’s elbow and the shot missed the target.
He [the Captain] turned threateningly towards the sergeant, but I boldly stepped forward and said: Captain, enough people are dying without you killing them for things that can be remedied. [To which the Captain replied:] Well, you go then.
As soon as these words were uttered, I leaped,  crossed myself, and followed the order and as soon as I lit the fuse, I jumped to hide under a rock, to rest for a moment. It was destiny that a 24014 exploded a few steps above that smashed the mortar and I was under the volcano of rubble; while the captain called Ceccato while pulling his hair. I came out and upon seeing me return unharmed, promised me a prize.
After a few days, a lieutenant Paiola Bolognese [from Bologna] told me I was awarded a silver medal and the role of sergeant for war merit, for the two acts of valor I had performed.
After around a month, with amazement and indignation  I was appointed by Major Righi as commander of the group, first ardito15 of the battery and nothing more. When I was summoned, I was told: You were under obligation to do what you have done, because you have really defended your possessions, the paternal house, that is, your family16.
I replied that I would have done it elsewhere too, and as home I remembered only my dear homeland Italy.
I did not get anything else!
Two years ago, I got only two commemorative medals as a simple soldier, but at that time I was a chosen pointer corporal.
I could incite [sic] many other facts, but this is enough for Your Excellency to make a concept  of my poor and wretched person.
I fought against the republican socialists [and received a five day disciplinary charge] because I defended the tricolor, our much-loved flag and held meetings and small patriotic lectures, and that [flag] today is a beautiful and great Fascist one.
At that time I used to live in the San Vito di Asolo17 municipality of Altivole – in the year 1920.
My father was living with my brother born in 99 who, because he was a disabled veteran, received a pension of 17 lire per day which helped support the family.
When my brother  died in 1923, his pension was totally suspended. Following the advice that the Municipal Administration gave my father, he added a medical certificate which attested his disability, meanwhile, having not reached the age [of retirement], due to the above reason he awaits assistance from the military to receive a pension. The several applications addressed to the War pension fund [in Rome] did not succeed. Now that he has reached the age of 63, his physical condition is increasingly aggravated and he is in dire need of some considerate help.
Address: Ceccato Giuseppe fu Morando
Asolo Casa Vesava (Tenant) P.a Treviso
Your Excellency will forgive my somewhat long, but sincere story and I trust in your great Benevolence.
With the strongest Fascist Wishes, I sign Your very humble subject.
Vittorio Veneto 3-19-34
1 Vittorio Veneto, an Italian city in the province of Treviso.
2 Though not perfectly clear, it is highly likely that Ceccato was enlisted with the 8th “Pasubio” Land Artillery Regiment. The artillery regiment was created in 1860 and was instrumental in the fights for the unification of Italy, as well as in many of the major battles of Northern Italy during the First World War. The celebration in honour of the regiment takes place on June 15th, which is the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Piave River, which the regiment took part in and which Ceccato details later in this letter (“8° Reggimento Artiglieria Terrestre ‘Pasubio’.”; “8° Reggimento Artiglieria Terrestre ‘Pasubio’: La Storia.”).
3 Now known by the German name of Franzensfeste. It is located in the North-East tip of Italy. It is named after the Franzensfeste Fortezza which is located in the village of Fortezza. Though the Fortress, whose construction began in the mid-1800s, was not completed as a fortress, it was used as ammunition storage. After the First World War, when the province of South Tyrol was annexed from Germany to Italy, Franzensfeste and its railway station became an important customs post. (“Franzensfeste.”)
4 The rise in foreign silk markets during the 1920s, such as those in Japan and China, caused Italian production to decline heavily as silk coming from the East was cheaper to produce, import, and purchase (Ma 331-335).
5 There is not much in terms of records pertaining to this company other than an official trademark record devoting the name “silex-bitum” to the mastin (resin) compound the company used to create asphalt and bitumen. It describes the company as being owned by Giovanni della Coletta and the trademark is dated February 4, 1927 (Coletta).
6 Located in Bolzano, the capital city of the province of South Tyrol, the building acted as the seat of the Italian Fascist Party and was built between 1939 and 1942. It is located in Piazza del Tribunale, which was formerly called Piazza Arnaldo Mussolini, after the brother of Benito Mussolini. These clubs are known by the name dopolavoro in Italian, meaning “after work”, as they would often be visiting places for those to go after work. These are similar to the YMCA or community centres, but had political associations during this time (Palmowski).
7 This is a free interpretation of the text which is unclear.
8 This might refer to a complaint that he expresses later on, when he says that he received no satisfaction for his act of heroism, although he was promised a prize or something worthy of satisfaction.
9 Referring to the Second Battle of the Piave River, fought between 15th and 23rd of June, 1918. Also known as the Battle of the Solstice, the battle was fought between the Austrian Army and the Italian (which was assisted by other Allied forces). The battle was planned by the Austrians as a final offensive to hit the Italian Army, one they predicted would bring about the collapse of the Italian military. Italy was fortunate enough to gain intel on the plans for the battle and was able to launch into action half an hour before the Austrians had prepared to start. After nine days of hard fighting, Austria was forced to retreat. To read more about the Battle and its consequences, please see Marcuzzi.
10 The term battery refers to the grouping of the mortars (cannons) together. Not sure what “69th De Steffani battery” refers to specifically. Possibly the name for the unit he was a part of during this time, but nothing by this name comes up when researching.
11 Gun pointers are those who would position the cannons for firing. The added designation of corporal suggests this position was one of importance. Their role was likely to order the positioning of the guns and commanding those in charge of firing them, like Gregorio Ceccato himself.
12 Unclear if referring to the man he retrieved or to himself.
13 Here he is likely referring to the “Big Bertha”; a 420mm howitzer gun which was used by the German and Austro-Hungarian armies during WWI. When first used in 1914 they were the most powerful artillery weapons in any of the fighting armies, being able to fire projectiles weighing just under 1,800 pounds up to 9 km away. The most commonly used shells in these guns had delayed action fuses, meaning they could explode after penetrating up to 12 meters of ground on enemy territory (Romanych).
14 Potentially the 240mm howitzer M1 used by the American army during WW1. This does not appear to have been used by the Italian army however, so it is unclear if this is what he refers to. Likely a writing error and he is referring to the 420mm howitzer mentioned above.
15 Arditi were shock troops in the Italian army during the First World War. The name means “the brave ones” and was used by the Royal Italian Army to describe the elite special force of shock troops. They were not units within the infantry division, but rather regarded as their own separate combat branch. They were created to be a group of explorers who would travel beyond enemy lines with the objective of overrunning enemy positions. To be appointed as an ardito would have been a significant honour as only the bravest of volunteers were chosen. Their motto was “O la vittoria, o tutti accoppati”, meaning “Either victory or everyone is killed”. He may be minimizing this achievement as he was hoping for more of a reward (Salvante).
16 Asolo is very close to Mount Grappa, so could be signifying he protected the city, his own family, and his possessions nearby. If he had found somewhere else, therefore not so close to home, he says he would still protect it the same way. Italy to him is his homeland and he would protect it all.
17 Formally known as San Vito di Ativole, it is located within the province of Treviso. It is just 6 km south of Asolo.
- Ceccato, Gregorio. Diary. 1917-1934. Ceccato Family Collection.
- “8° Reggimento Artiglieria Terrestre ‘Pasubio’.” Ministero Della Difesa. Esercito Italiano, 2021. http://www.esercito.difesa.it/organizzazione/capo-di-sme/comando-forze-operative-sud/divisione-acqui/brigata-garibaldi/8-reggimento-artiglieria-terrestre-pasubio. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.
- “8° Reggimento Artiglieria Terrestre ‘Pasubio’: La Storia.” Ministero Della Difesa. Esercito Italiano, 2021. http://www.esercito.difesa.it/organizzazione/capo-di-sme/comando-forze-operative-sud/divisione-acqui/brigata-garibaldi/8-reggimento-artiglieria-terrestre-pasubio/Pagine/la-storia.aspx. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.
- “Franzensfeste.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franzensfeste. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.
- Ma, Debin. “The Modern Silk Road: The Global Raw-Silk Market, 1850-1930.” The Journal of Economic History, vol. 56, no. 2, 1996, pp. 330–355. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2123969. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.
- Coletta, Giovanni Della. Marchio o Segno Distintivo di Fabbrica e di Commercio: per Silex-Bitum. Photograph of Patent. ca. 1927. MR029999 34716. Commercio/Prodotto. Archivio centrale dello stato, Udine, Italy. http://dati.acs.beniculturali.it/oad/uodMarchi/MR029999.
- Palmowski, Jan. “Dopolavoro.” A Dictionary of Contemporary World History, 3 ed., 2008, Oxford Reference. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095727963. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.
- Marcuzzi, Stefano. “Piave, Battles of.” 1914-1918 Online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, edited by Marco Mondini, 2016. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/piave_battles_of. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.
- Romanych, Marc. “Big Bertha.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/technology/Big-Bertha-weapon. Accessed 19 August 2021.
- Salvante, Martina. “Arditi.” 1914-1918 Online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, edited by Marco Mondini, 2016. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/arditi. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.