London: A leading French historian has suggested that Winston Churchill ordered the assassination of Benito Mussolini as part of a plot to destroy potentially compromising secret letters he had sent to the Italian dictator.
Pierre Milza, an expert on fascist Italy, theorises that the wartime prime minister may have wanted Mussolini dead to prevent the letters, in which Churchill expressed his admiration for his Italian counterpart before the outbreak of the Second World War, coming to light.
“There is no doubt, judging by his public declarations back in the 1920s and early 1930s, that Churchill was a fan of Mussolini. Roosevelt too,” the Telegraph quoted Milza as saying.
“Churchill even once said: `Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world... If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely’.”
“But that was understandable in 1927, as then a fascist did not mean a friend of Hitler and accomplice to genocide. But when you are head of state and legitimate war hero of the British people, you don’t really want all that put up in lights.”
Officially, Italian Communist partisans near Dongo on Lake Como seized Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci, as they tried to flee to Switzerland in April 1945.
Despite disguising himself as a drunk German officer in a mixed Italian and SS convoy, he was spotted. Both he and Petacci were shot and their bodies subsequently trussed up upside in a square in Milan the following day.
Writing in his book, ‘The Last Days of Mussolini’, Milza says that this may explain why Churchill chose to holiday under a false name only a few miles from the spot Mussolini was seized.