Felipe Botelho, Lecturer at SPLAS-KCL
The role of Brazil in WWII is one of those subjects that are often ignored in spite of its historical importance. The presence of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (BEF) in Italy fighting alongside the Allied forces is widely unknown to Brazilians themselves, let alone the English-speaking world. In this sense, the opportunity to go to Pistoia (Tuscany) and follow the tracks of Brazilian soldiers during the war was not only a great research trip, but also an opportunity to have an in-depth experience on the participation of Brazil in this watershed international moment.
The "King's Brazil Expedition", as we might call it, was very diverse, involving not only members of staff, but also undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as PhD researchers and postdoctoral fellows. Members of the Brazilian diplomatic service also joined the group and participated in the production of the short documentary that is available here.
From the visit to Monte Castello in the Apennine Mountains to the Brazilian Military Cemetery of Pistoia, from the exploration of the well-fortified machine casemates, bunkers, observation posts and artillery-fighting positions that Germans built to repel attempts to breach the Gothic Line to the lively stories told by people who witnessed the Brazilian presence in the region, the members of the "King's Brazil Expedition" learned not only the experience of the soldiers and their achievements (and the music they produced while resting from the combats), but also the legacy that is still greatly praised by the local population in the form of museums, monuments and memories.
The story of the 25.000 soldiers who crossed the Atlantic to make the snake smoke – as the BEF's iconic insignia says – is yet to be discovered and communicated to a wider audience, and this is precisely what our "King's Brazil Expedition" hoped to achieve with this short documentary.