Sunderland man who fought with the Italian resistance publishes amazing life story in time for 100th birthday

[Sunderland Echo] Sunderland man who fought with the Italian resistance publishes amazing life story in time for 100th birthday

Hendon-born Tom Barry spoke to the Sunderland Echo alongside his wife Ann from his Queensland retirement home in Australia.

He described how he’d had an ‘eye opener’ of a life which included fighting with the Italian resistance against the Nazis.

Tom’s book is called A Prodigious Leap. It has heartbreaking tales about the reality of war and it is on sale on Amazon.

Tom Barry on his 100th birthday with his newly published book.

But Tom’s life story started in Sunderland.

Despite coming from a ‘poor family’ Tom was a well-educated student who won a scholarship to a private school.

This Hendon lad, and son of a dock worker, was called up to serve his country in Africa in the Second World War with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment when he was just 18.

When that was over, he spotted an advert which said recruits were needed for the British intelligence service in Italy.


Hide AdTon's book tells the story of his remarkable life.

"I saw that all the people were being smashed up and killed and I thought ‘Tom, that’s the job for me’.”

He spent the next 6 months in Cairo where he was taught how to speak fluent Italian before he was parachuted into the Italian mountains to join the resistance fight against the Nazi war machine.

Tom worked covertly in the Italian Alps alongside 13 locals who he recruited and they came out to blow up railway tracks and bridges during 10 months under cover.


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But two of his Italian friends were captured and killed and Tom was taken prisoner, interrogated and tortured. He has dedicated his new book to his lost comrades Pietro and Giovanni.

Tom cuts the cake on his 100th birthday.

It was only when the advancing British and Canadian forces reached his part of Italy that Tom was saved. A Canadian soldier found him locked and in very poor health in a windowless hut.

He was in such a bad state that he spent six months in hospital in Frascati, Italy, recovering from his injuries and unable to do anything for himself.


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But when he did recover, he renewed his duties with the British intelligence service and played his part in Italian life to help the country during the Cold War years.

Tom had a great time on his 100th birthday in Australia.

He eventually got back to England where he spent 8 years, before he returned first to Italy where he worked as a translator and then went on to Australia where he found work with a passenger shipping company.


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He was so good at it, he became general manager.

That was his last job and Tom, who is married to Ann, now has time to reflect on his life which was shaped by his childhood, he said.

"We were a poor family so I learned how to fend for myself very early on. That helped me in Africa and Italy.”

His 375-page paperback book, priced at £16.61, or £6.21 on Kindle, is described as a no-holds barred ‘warts and all’ memoir of a life which was remarkably lived.


Hide AdThe book which tells the life story of Tom Barry.Tom on his 100th birthday.