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How did photos of Mussolini's execution end up in Armagh attic?

By Sophie Inge

Published 02/11/2016

Helen McComb holds the original photographs showing Mussolini’s fate
Helen McComb holds the original photographs showing Mussolini’s fate

An Armagh woman was stunned to discover in her attic photographs of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini after his execution.

The six photos - which show the dead fascist leader hanging by his ankles from a steel girder - were discovered by Helen McComb at her home in Glenanne earlier this year.

She found them in  a biscuit tin along with photos of her great uncle, his parents and their birth certificates, the Ulster Gazette reported.

"I thought: 'Oh goodness, what's this, with all these people hanging and bodies lying at the bottom'?" said Ms McComb (56).

She showed them to her friend Eric Nesbitt, who immediately realised what they were.

But she said she only realised their historical significance when she took them to a coffee morning at Glenanne Orange Hall last month, where there was a display of First World War memorabilia to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

There, local solicitor Hilary Singleton told her that they were originals and could be valuable.

Miss McComb is hoping that a historian will be able to shed more light on where they came from.

"I would like to get them looked at but I don't have a clue where to go or what to do," she said.

Il Duce, who was dictator of Italy from 1922 until his downfall in 1943, was executed by partisans in northern Italy on April 28, 1945, after a failed attempt to flee the country with his mistress, Clara Petacci.

Their bodies, along with those of other fascists, were taken to Milan and left in Piazzale Loreto to be abused by the public. They were then hung upside down on meat hooks above a service station on the square.

This is the second historical discovery made in Miss McComb's home.

Earlier this year she came across a diary belonging to her great uncle Private Thomas Chambers, who was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme at the age of 17 while fighting with the 36th Ulster Division.

Pte Chambers - known as Tommy - was among almost 20,000 British soldiers killed on July 1, 1916, little more than three months after he had arrived in France from Ireland on what he described as his "adventures".

Speaking at the time, Miss McComb said she had been moved to tears by the diary, which had been kept in a box under a bed.

"I got goosebumps reading it. I just felt really emotional," she said.

"I actually cried reading the last page." The leather-bound 16-page diary is currently on display at the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum in Armagh as part of its Somme exhibition.

Miss McComb suspects there may be more historical artefacts in her home.

"There's lots more stuff in the attic - I don't know what I'm going to find next!" she said.

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