Smoking Snakes..Brazilian Heroism in the Appenines

The Brazilians have an expression :”A cobra via fumar” It means a snake will smoke (a pipe.) 

It’s the equivalent to Pigs will Fly and is used to express extreme scepticism.

Surprisingly some of my Brazil friends – even if they are aware of the expression – don’t know it’s origin.

Yesterday -.the  second day of my Via Francigena Odyssey-  I passed through a quiet Italian village where the origin of that expression was bloodily played out.

But 1945 the right wing govt of Brazil could no longer ignore attacks on its shipping by German forces and to general disbelief ordered the Brazil Expeditionary Force to embark for Europe.

So cynical was the Brazil populace about the likelihood of actual involvement,  that the saying was coined :It was more likely that a snake would smoke a pipe before the BEF would get involved in fighting 

When the Brazilians turned up in Italy as part of a hotch potch multinational force they cheekily wore arm patches depicting a smoking  cobra.

I walked through Fornovo di Taro a sleepy village which became the focus of fierce fighting.

The Brazilians,  including some of their elite mountain troops , defeated the Germans at Fornovo , capturing some 13,000 German and Italian fighters 

But they paid a heavy price. More than 400 were killed and buried nearby. In 1960 their remains were returned to Brazil.

So if anyone suggests that all South Americans safely sat out WW2…..

Well , you can tell ’em stick that in their  pipe and smoke it.



















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