May 2020

Italian Beretta 6.35mm

Tito's biography and movie The Lord of the Rings could be quite different ...

Italian Beretta 6.35mm or Mod. 418 was created shortly after World War I, and with minor modifications remained in production until the 1950s. Today, most weapons enthusiasts recognize the pistol primarily as the first weapon of Fleming's fictional character James Bond, Agent 007, which is replaced in later works and in most films by Walther PPK. Due to its small size and weight, the little Beretta was not only popular with "civilians" but also with officers, especially among senior officers of the Italian army – from whom during the World War II some pieces came also to Slovenia.

This year will mark the 76th anniversary of an event that, if the plan worked, would surely change the history of Southeast Europe. On 25 May 1944, the main attack of Operation Knight's Move (Unternehmen Rösselsprung) had begun. The aim of the Special SS Parachute Battalion (SS-Fallschirmjägerbataillon 500), which descended with parachutes and gliders, was to capture or destroy the Supreme Headquarters of Yugoslav partisans with Tito and Allied military missions located in and around Drvar. It is rumoured that one of the British mission members there was the later well-known film actor Christopher Lee, who is now widely recognized mostly by his role as Saruman in the film trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Rivalry between various German intelligence services that did not share information and strong partisan resistance were the main cause of the practically complete failure of the operation.

At that time there were quite a few Slovenes in Drvar. Due to specific circumstances, probably the most famous was a Slovenian tailor whose product – the new Tito's uniform –became the most important German trophy of the operation. In addition to members of the political leadership, there was a smaller group of partisans who accompanied Ivan Maček -  Matija to Drvar shortly before the attack. Years ago, one of them described the course and events of that day in an interview.

Unfortunately, the Beretta Mod. 418 kept in our museum does not have a thoroughly documented and researched history. According to its markings, it probably belonged to one of the Italian officers during 1941-43 and was then captured by the partisans. It belonged to Milan Zabukovec - Miloš, one the Slovenian partisans of the aforementioned group, who found himself in Drvar in May 1944 and participated in the fighting in defence of the Supreme Headquarters.