Giovanni Cavoli’s journey can be traced through his small collection of black and white photos.
[Photo courtesy of Diana Cavoli]
From Venagrande [Ascoli Piceno] his military service was undertaken in Bologna with Giovanni serving with the 6th Reggimento Bersaglieri.
The photo taken in Libya shows his desert accommodation. Giovanni is in the back row centre. If you look closely, you will see a wine flagon and the words ‘Il Duce’ written with stones.
[Photo courtesy of Diana Cavoli]
This identity photo taken in India, found its way to Australia and into his Australia file.
He departed India for Australia in February 1944.
Dressed in his magenta dyed Australian uniform, Giovanni is photographed at Mr H Crawford’s Tambellup farm in Western Australia. At the time of his return to Italy, he had not seen his family for almost 8 years.
[Photo courtesy of Diana Cavoli]
In May 1949, Giovanni, his wife Rosa and their two children arrived in Fremantle Western Australia on the Ugolino Vivaldi. Sponsored by his war time employer Mr H Crawford, he returned to Tambellup. In time the family settled in Katanning.
A mechanic from Bari, Giuseppe Loprieno was 21 years old when he was captured at Tobruk on 22nd January 1941. He served with the navy on San Giorgio which was stationed in Tobruk Harbour as offshore artillery to defend the township.
23rd January 1941 Tobruk – High Officers of the Italian Navy and Army led their men out of Tobruk to surrender to British forces. Although without guards, this column of prisoners marched with perfect discipline to the prisoners camp where they were handed over by their own officers. (AWM Image 005393, Photographer: Frank Hurley)
Giuseppe’s arrival in Sydney on the Queen Mary 15th October 1941 was reported in the newspapers:
His first camp was Cowra Camp New South Wales where he spent 20 months before being sent to Murchison Camp Victoria for nine months. Giuseppe was sent to wood cutting work at No. 6 Labour Detachment Graytown for just over five months: 30.3.43 to 3.9.43 before German prisoners of war replaced the Italian workers.
Giuseppe was then sent across Australia to No. 8 Labour Detachment at Karrakatta Western Australia. This labour detachment worked in an army project for the salvage of materials eg tyres and metal. He was then assigned to farm work in the Kendenup district. Giuseppe was repatriated on the SS Katoomba from Fremantle port 17th October 1946. He was 27 years old when he arrived home.
Giuseppe Loprieno NAA: K1174)
Giuseppe Loprieno Wedding Day 1949
(photo courtesy of Giorgia Paparella)
No. 6 Labour Detachment Graytown
Italian prisoners of war lived and worked at Graytown Camp from 30.3.43 to 3.9.43. The workforce was then replaced by German prisoners of war [from the Kormoran who were captured off the Western Australian after sinking the HMAS Sydney]
Giuseppe Loprieno was one of 253 Italian prisoners of war to work at Graytown.
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. PORTION OF THE BOUNDARY FENCE AND ONE OF THE GUARD TOWERS AT THE CAMP OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR GROUP. (AWM 061201 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
A May 1943 Red Cross Report states that the camp had been established for 15 weeks and that Italian prisoners of war had been in residence for 5 weeks.
The following information relates to the Italian prisoners of war, while the photographs were taken at the Graytown Camp when the German prisoners of war were in residence.
The situation of the camp was 60 kilometres from Murchison Camp. On the 26th April 1943 the men in charge of Graytown camp were: Ernani De Cesare a signaller with the navy for 30 years and Giovanni Acanfora a warrant officer in the army. Lieut. Giuseppe Amato a surgeon was appointed as the medical officer for Graytown Camp.
In total there were 253 Italian prisoners of war comprising of Army: 141 men and Marine: 112. One doctor and two orderlies (protected personnel) were part of this group. The group formed a fire brigade consisting of 20 men.
The camp consisted of barracks for communal purposes and tented accommodation. The barracks were made of timber and ‘fibro’ sheeting with a tin roof. The windows were made of glass and lighting was electric.
MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. GENERAL VIEW OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP (GRAYTOWN SECTION). (AWM Image 061128 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The kitchen barracks had six sections: three dry stores, one section of making macaroni, one section for meat, 1 section of ovens and cookers. There is no refrigeration.
The dining barracks is furnished with long tables and forms for seating. Table tennis is played in the refectory. Mass is held in this barracks every fortnight.
The canteen is installed in another barracks. It also contains an office for administration.
MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. GRAYTOWN SECTION OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061129 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The tents had wooden floors and accommodated six men. The prisoners of war could purchase a camp bed or make a camp bed from timber available. Bedding provided consisted of a light mattress and five covers. The tents were swept daily and cleaned with soap weekly.
MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. GRAYTOWN SECTION OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 61130 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The shower barracks consists of two sections with nine cold showers in each section. Hot showers are to be installed soon. There is another section containing six basins and six taps for washing.
The ablution barracks consist of 12 toilet cubicles and a urinal.
Graytown Camp. The Latrines 1.1.44 (ICRC V-P HIST-E-0030-8)
There is a large sports field situated outside the camp where the men play football. The camp has only been established for five weeks and does not have a library nor is there a school.
The workforce is divided into work inside the camp: 20 men and work outside the camp 190 men. There is a tailor, a bootmaker and two hairdressers/barbers. Ninety men work on timber cutting and the others work on camp infrastructure, drainage and building of roads and pathways.
An Australian priest from Murchison Camp holds Mass every two weeks. The Italians can go every day to the local church which is close to the camp.
Rations are supplemented by rabbits caught by the Italians. The men requested an increase in the sugar ration, but the same quota is applied to both Italian prisoners of war and Australian soldiers.
Requests were made for gymnastic apparatus, new kitchen utensils and a cinema projector.
Firewood Production at Graytown
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR SPLITTING A LARGE LOG INTO HANDLABLE SIZES TO BE USED AS FIREWOOD AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061192 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR FELLING A LARGE TREE FOR FIREWOOD FOR THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061190 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR UNLOADING LOGS FOR FIREWOOD, WHILE OTHERS CAN BE SEEN STACKING IT IN TIDY HEAPS AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061188 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. BOTH HORSE DRAWN AND MOTOR VEHICLES ARE USED AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP TO GET THEIR WINTER FIREWOOD IN. THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS A FINE TEAM OF HORSES HARNESSED TO A FOUR WHEEL LORRY. (AWM Image 061189 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. SMALL MOBILE SAW BENCH, OPERATED BY GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR WHO ARE CUTTING FIREWOOD FOR THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061194 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. PRISONERS OF WAR CUTTING FIREWOOD ON A SAWBENCH AT A CAMP OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061198 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. PRISONERS OF WAR OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP LOADING BLOCKS OF FIREWOOD ON TO A LORRY FOR DELIVERY TO OTHER CAMPS IN THE AREA. (AWM Image 061197 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. PRISONERS OF WAR CUTTING FIREWOOD ON A SAWBENCH AT A CAMP OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061199 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. FIREWOOD SAWMILL AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061195 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Salvatore Targiani’s journey as a prisoner of war is unusual.
He arrived in Sydney Australia on the Queen Elizabeth 15th October 1941 and departed from Sydney 29th March 1943.
When Salvatore was captured at Bardia, he had been serving with the 17th Hygiene Unit for 18 months.
This information is key to Salvatore’s arrival and repatriation.
When the Queen Elizabeth arrived in Sydney, a newspaper reported:
“Some of the prisoners were ill and they were carried in stretchers to military ambulances and taken to hospital”.
Salvatore’s experience as an orderly/health worker in Libya no doubt continued to be utilised in the camp hospitals in Egypt, on the Queen Elizabeth to Australia and on the repatriation ship.
Although Salvatore did not talk about his war years and he did not work in the health industry after the war, his grandson Salvatore Di Noia agrees with these thoughts about his nonno. Medical orderlies were classed as ‘protected personnel’.****
(photo courtesy of Salvatore Di Noia)
The Oranje left Sydney on 29th March 1943. Salvatore was on this ship, which arrived in Suez Egypt 18th April 1943.
Oranje had first arrived in Sydney March 1941. It was converted to a hospital ship and during the war made 41 voyages from Australia and New Zealand to the Middle East transporting Australian and New Zealand wounded. She was the largest hospital ship operating from Australia.
She was painted white with a green band around her hull. Three red crosses were painted on each side of the ship as well, red crosses were painted on her funnels.
21 August 1941 The Dutch hospital ship Oranje off the Western Australian coast in 1941, shortly after the completion of its conversion as a hospital ship. The red crosses and green stripes on the white hull were meant to be a conspicuous reminder to enemy vessels of its non-combatant role. The ship evacuated wounded Australian soldiers from the Middle East. (AWM 302809)
In 1943, the Italian prisoners on Oranje were part of a Mutual Repatriation Scheme.
This was a mutual exchange arrangement between Great Britain and Italy. At Suez, this group of wounded, sick and protected personnel was handed over to a British Escort. The group were then taken by train to Alexandria then ship to Smyrna Turkey.
Archived documents provide the following informing regarding the number of Italian prisoners of war on this transport:
Protected Personnel: 92 officers and 455 other ranks = 547
Medical Cases: 38 officers and 37 other ranks = 75
Total number repatriated: 622
The following items were noted regarding the voyage:
Concerned Italian prisoners of war were concentrated at Cowra before embarkation.
Funds are provided from Ship’s Imprest Account to enable Italians to make canteen purchases.
NSW Division of Australian Red Cross Society provided Red Cross stores for use on the journey.
Arrangements were made for free issue of cigarettes and/or tobacco to Italian prisoners of war other ranks at the same scale as camp issue.
One Chaplin (RC) was included with the escort to administer to the prisoners of war.
The Apostolic Delegate was permitted to inspect the prisoners of war after embarkation.
(NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1)
In June 1941, the Netherlands government officially handed over to the Australian and New Zealand governments, the ocean liner Oranje, for the duration of the war. It was fully equipped as a hospital ship and shown here is the interior of one of the wards showing rows of neatly made beds. (AWM 008035)
The following photos are from the 8th May 1943 exchange at Izmir [Smyrna].
Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-14A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-15A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03229-34A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-05A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War Izmir 8.5.43 (ICRC VP-HIST-03230 10A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War Izmir 8.5.43 (ICRC VP-HIST-03230 13A)
(NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1)
There were three Mutual Repatriation exchanges from Smyrna in 1943: 14-19th April 1943; c. 5-8th May 1943 and 2-3 June 1943. The April exchange is part of a facebook post for the ICRC: https://www.facebook.com/ICRCArchives/One Day in History 19th April 1943.
A gardener from Tursi in the province of Matera, Salvatore Targiani was in Australia for less than two years. He arrived in Sydney on the Queen Elizabeth on 15th October 1941 and departed from Sydney on the 29th March 1943.
His grandson Salvatore Di Noia has shared with us a wool embroidered portrait of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Portrait of Sacred Heart of Jesus
(photo courtesy of Salvatore Di Noia)
This is our ‘virtual’ museum’s first embroidered item sewn with the word Australia. Before Salvatore sent me this photo, it appeared that embroidery was only done in the camps of India. Every day, I learn something new about this history.
Salvatore has not only embroidered the words Benedico questa famiglia a me lontana: Ricordo della prigionia in Australia but he has also embroidered his Middle East prisoner of war number: 69876.
Queen Elizabeth disembarked 948 Italian prisoners of war on 15th October 1941. There were 25 Italian officers among the group.
The National Advocate (Bathurst NSW) reported the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth:
NERVOUS OF PLANE
WAR – WEARY ITALIAN PRISONERS
Another Batch in Sydney
War weary Italian prisoners thrust their heads nervously out of their train windows after they had been landed at Sydney when they heard a Brisbane-Sydney air liner overhead.
Ragged ill shod and with sullen eyes, they looked even more dejected and wretched than earlier arrivals who had also been rounded up by the AIF in Libya.
Some still wore their field grey uniforms. Others not so fortunate wore drill overalls and others still less fortunate were dressed in old trousers and odd coats or jackets.
Some stepped out boldly in their march from ferry to train in hobnail boots on which still lingered the dirt and grime of the Libyan desert.
Some wore sandshoes or sandals while others shuffled along in makeshift footwear.
Their headgear was also of a wide ranger, including sun helmets, caps, berets, and pieces of blanket fashioned into queer shapes.
Apparently to help pass the time on the voyage to Australia an artist had decorated his sun helmet with drawings of ancient Athens, the Acropolis, a woman’s face and two hearts.
Goatee beards were popular. One soldier sported an excellent moustache of 1900 vintage.
There was a small number of German prisoners all of whom were officers. They were well dressed and contrasted sharply with the Italians. [1941 ‘NERVOUS OF PLANE’, National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 15 October, p. 1. , viewed 19 Apr 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160507243%5D
All internees and prisoners of war were issued with uniforms coloured burgundy as part of the clothing kit. The same colour uniform was distributed regardless of nationality: Italians, Germans, Formosans, Japanese, Chinese, Austrian.
BALMAIN, NSW. 1946-03-02. THIS JAPANESE INTERNEE IS HAVING A BIT OF TROUBLE WITH HIS LARGE AMOUNT OF LUGGAGE AS HE STEPS DOWN FROM THE TRAIN THAT HAS BROUGHT HIM FROM HAY TO NO. 1 WHARF AT BALMAIN. HE IS ONE OF THE MANY JAPANESE ABOUT TO EMBARK ON THE JAPANESE REPATRIATION SHIP DAIKAI MARU OSAKU. THE POW ARE DRESSED IN AUSTRALIAN UNIFORMS.
The Big Picture
It is sometimes easy to see this history in small unrelated segments: to think that only civilian internees were forced to wear this colour; or that this uniform was to be worn every day; or that this indignation was reserved for only Italian prisoners of war. The ‘big picture’ is important.
The magenta uniform was to be worn when leaving a camp, a hostel or a farm placement; anytime the internees or prisoners of war were outside of their facility.
Photographs document that there was an Australian army salvage unit at Fishermen’s Bend in Victoria and another salvage unit at Loveday Internment Camp South Australia.
Loveday, Australia. 11 March 1943. Clothes which have been dyed a burgundy shade by internees at No. 9 Camp, Loveday Internment Group, hanging out to dry. The clothes are discarded Australian uniforms which have been cleaned, repaired and now dyed for issue to internees.
Confusion in Lismore
An interesting situation arose in the Lismore district of New South Wales in 1944. Lismore had a resident population of 700 – 800 Italians. Another 200 Italian prisoners of war were employed in the district to work on farms.
The newspapers reported farmers who breached rules of their employment contract for Italian prisoners of war. Some of the complaints and offences: alleged that Italian prisoners of war had been seen at the pictures, drinking in the pub, walking hand in hand with an Aussie girl, seen at the horse trotting races, talking excitedly in their own tongue with 12 civilian Italians and that two were left to run the farm while the boss lived 20 miles away in town.
As to how many of these allegations proved to be true is unknown.
What is known, is that Lieutenant Chester Snow, the Australian officer in charge of the Italian prisoners of war in the district, had been notified 12 times during August 1944, that prisoners of war were ‘at large’ in the town.
When Lieut. Snow or his control centre staff ‘hurried’ to various parts of town to make arrests, they found that the ‘alleged’ prisoners were [Italian] civilians.
While the prisoner of war uniform was a burgundy colour, it was reported that red clothes, including trousers and slacks were a popular form of dress amongst the Lismore civilians. In fact, many retail stores displayed red clothes in their windows.
I am sure that the Italian prisoners of war who read such newspaper reports could see a little humour in this situation.
One type of prisoner of war uniform is the light-coloured shirt with the black diamond patch on the back and the light-coloured trousers with black stripes down the outside leg. This uniform can be found in the photographic records:
Camp 306 Geneifa Egypt ICRC V-P-HIST-00849-01
Zonderwater South Africa:
Inauguration of Post Office Zonderwater ICRC V-P-HIST-03363-19A
Bangalore Camp 2 India:
Bangalore Camp 2 ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-19A
Cowra, NSW. 1944-02-03. Italian prisoners-of-war from No. 12 Prisoner-of-War Camp using a heavy duty pulley block and tackle to pull down a large tree in a paddock near the camp. (AWM Image 064137, photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
one uniform has survived the passing of time. The uniform was saved from a bonfire of disposal prisoner of war uniforms by a camp guard. It is now in the hands of Anthony who has graciously shared photos.
Prisoner of War Uniform: Trousers (photo courtesy of AC)
Prisoner of War Uniform: Jacket (photo courtesy of AC)
Anthony has also shared photographs of Prisoner of War Capture Tags. Printed by the US Government February 1942, they raise the question: Was a similar tag used for those Italian prisoners of war captured 1940 and 1941? Looking through archived photos of Italians captured at Sidi el Barrani, Bardia, Tobruk and on the move in Palestine, no capture tags are seen. Did the British forces in Libya, Eritrea and Ethiopia use capture tags?
It would be interesting to know if any Italians wrote about the capture tags in their journals or memoirs.
Giovanni Marzullo arrived in Australia on the Queen Mary 27th May 1941 and was repatriated on the Otranto 10th January 1947. He arrived into Sydney and departed from Sydney and in those five and a half years his travel in Australia was limited to Hay and Cowra Prisoner of War Camps.
Giovanni was in the group of the first 2006 prisoners of war to Hay Camp 28th May 1941. He was part of a small group of 200 who remained at Hay Hostel – a sub-camp/hostel and agricultural project- until 27th December 1946. Hay Camps 7 and 8 had been vacated on 28th October 1946.
So a little history about Hay Camp, Giovanni’s Australian home …
In a July 1941 report, two months after the arrival of the Italian prisoners of war at Hay, there were no Australian army interpreters on site. “There are no interpreters in this Camp and not one of the P.O.W.s can speak English… The need for interpreters was obvious from every angle of administration, discipline, medical, dental, control of working parties, etc. This lack of interpreters places a great strain on the effective administration and is one that calls for immediate adjustment.” In quick response to this report,two sergeant interpreters had been dispatched to Hay, but “the appointees are not Italians”.
There were other shortcomings:
“No pay is being made available to P.O.Ws though the bulk of them are actively engaged on road work, ditching and agriculture as well as camp administration work in connection with the running of the camp. In the absence of any pay for men the personnel have been unable to purchase tobacco, which at the moment seems to be the main hardship, and the supply of which would, no doubt, bevery helpful in the maintenance of discipline. Following a recent visit by the Apostolic Delegate, a cheque for £200 was received from him for the purchase of tobacco for the P.O.Ws. We also learnt that £66 had been donated by the late Civilian internees for the same purpose. Tobacco has now been ordered.”
“There was no reading matter for the P.O.W., but the Apostolic Delegate is arranging to supply several cases of books for their use. As books are not allowed to pass between the Compounds, the C.O. arranged with the donor to supply duplicates for each Compound.”
“ A large recreation hut is established and is controlled by the S.Army [Salvation Army]. This had a small stage, various games, and a three-quarter Billiard table was presented during our visit by the Local Welfare Committee. The C.O. realised the unsuitability of the hut (owing to height) for cinema which is desirable for the entertainment of the Garrison, and is making arrangements for increasing the height.”
Michael Lewicki, photographer, captured Giovanni on camera 9th September 1943. He is standing first on the right. The scheme to place Italians on farms had begun in June 1943. By September 1943, farmers in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria were being recruited to sign up to employ Italian workers. It was at this time that group photos of Italians were taken, like the one below.
Hay, NSW. 9 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 6 POW Group. In this group are known to be: 46181 Giuseppe Musto; 45685 Bartolomeo Fiorentino; 46799 Angelo Scoppettuolo; 46188 Giovanni Marzullo; 47941 Donato Cendonze; 45519 Giuseppe Dello Buono; 45174 Andrea Cavalieri; 45290 Carmine Cogliano; 45363 Pasquale Cappello and 47996 Mario Cioccolini. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030143/10 Photographer Michael Lewicki)
In November 1943 the Red Cross Delegate visited Hay Camps. There were 485 Italians in Camp 7 and 483 Italians in Camp 8. At that stage, “the camps did not have any organised schools which is mainly due to numerous arrivals and departures. However, many prisoners of war are studying privately or in small groups. For the purchase of the necessary books, they generally address themselves to the Red Cross Delegate. These purchases are made at the expense of the interested parties.”
On the 24th December 1943, Giovanni wrote on the inside of his Collins Italian-English Dictionary his details. The stamp on the inside cover of the dictionary is interesting: ‘Approved for Transmission’ . All books had to approved and in the light of the above information, Giovanni paid for his dictionary. Without organised schools, the learning of English was left up to the individual.
Giovanni Marzullo’s Italian-English Dictionary (photo courtesy of Daniele Marzullo)
Building and construction of facilities for Hay POW Camp was an ongoing process. Perhaps Giovanni’s skills as a carpenter were required and the reason for him spending almost all his time in Australia at Hay Camp.
In 1942, there is mention of ‘skilled Italian prisoner of war tradesmen’ building poultry runs, a piggery and a dairy. In 1944, tradesmen were needed to construct farm buildings at Hay Camp. Giovanni was transferred to the Hay Hostel: an agricultural project near the town of Hay on 30th August 1944. He remained at the Hay Hostel until 27th December 1946.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. FARM BUILDINGS IN THE COURSE OF CONSTRUCTION AT THE FARM OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063390 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
On the 9th January 1947, Giovanni boarded the Otranto in Sydney for Naples. His record card is stamped 10th January 1947: Repatriated. The event was reported in the newspaper:
“SOME ITALIAN P.sO. W. SORRY TO LEAVE
The 448 Italians who sailed in the Otranto yesterday were the last to leave New South Wales, apart from escapees who are still at large. They will be disembarked at Naples.
The prisoners appeared well fed and healthy. All of them carried suit cases with blankets strapped neatly to the sides, with bulging kit bags and other luggage. Many had musical instruments. Some of the prisoners said they were sorry to leave Australia and hope some day to return. The ship will pick up 3,000 more prisoners at Melbourne…
The run to Naples will take 27 days, then the Otranto after the troops have disembarked, will proceed to London…” (1947 ‘GUARD WITH ITALIANS ON OTRANTO’, The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales (Taree, NSW : 1898 – 1954), 18 January, p. 2. , viewed 15 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172278675)
Arthur Delves was a passenger on the Otranto and wrote to his parents about his voyage:
“ Very rough one day crossing the Australian Bight. The last point of vantage is Cape Lewis [Leeuwin] and that is closely watched as Aussie. fades from view. Ten days brought us to Columbia [Colombo] but did not stay, only delivered and received the mail. The day’s travel is put out on the notice board every morning, “Speed seventeen, sometimes eighteen knots an hour, distance travelled, time and date for the previous day, 380, sometimes 400 miles. Suez Canal is near and we go through at night, so will miss seeing one of the outstanding sights… the Pyramids. On one side of the sea is the River Nile and on the other the Jordan… I am a good sailor and finished one of my letters through the rough part of the trip in the Mediterranean. We were to have landed at Athens in the morning, but on arrival the signals were up that it was too rough to come into the pier. We landed our big army of soldiers [Italian prisoners of war] all right and the gangway was clear by 9 am…” (1947 ‘A TRIP TO THE OLD COUNTRY’, The Northern Champion (Taree, NSW : 1913 – 1954), 31 May, p. 6. , viewed 15 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162166470)
Giovanni had arrived in Italy. His short journey home from Naples to San Giorgio Del Sannio (Benevento) must have felt like one of his longest journeys.
The Australian War Memorial has a comprehensive collection of photos of Hay Prisoner of War Camp. I acknowledge photos in this article as being from the AWM Collection.
Pasqua 1943: Apostolic Delegate in Australia Giovanni Panico wrote the preface for his publication
L’Amico del Prigioniero
L’amico del Prigioniero was distributed to Italian prisoners of war in 1943. It contained prayers, hymns, service of the mass and the liturgical calendar. In 1946, 75 years ago, Easter was celebrated on 21st April.
Did the Italian prisoners of war see Anno 1951 and ponder: is the war going to last this long!
My research into Italian prisoners of war in Queensland has a number of public faces: the book Walking in their Boots, the website: italianprisonersofwar.com and the facebook page: Prigionieri di guerra Italiani in Australia
It was through the facebook page that I received notification from Nino Amante in Italy. On 23rd March 2018, Nino wrote, “Sono il figlio di Angelo Amante, il più alto nella foto.” Nino had not only found a photo of his father on the facebook page but he then found the website’s article, A Day in the life of … and comments about his father’s time working on a farm ‘Redslopes’ at Goomboorian via Gympie 72 years ago.
This was an accident. Nino had been searching the internet for an article about his son, named for his grandfather, Angelo Amante, and instead found his father. Nino was overwhelmed.
I believe that things happen for a reason. I do not know the chances of bringing together the son of an Italian prisoner of war and the son of a Goomboorian farmer. But a google search and a phone call* has brought together the two sides to this history.
Nino Amante’s words and contact has brought this story ‘full circle’. “E’ stata per me una grande emozione avere delle informazioni da aggiungere a quelle raccotle dall sua viva voce, quando mi parlava del period della sua prigionia,” Nino reflects. Nino not only has knowledge about his father’s time on this farm, but he has a connection to Jim and John Buchanan who were young boys at the time and who have fond memories of Angelo.
More importantly, Angelo’s story before and after ‘Redslopes’ emerges. At 19 years old, Angelo Amante began his military training, first in Turin and then in Bolzano. He was a member of the 7th Reggimento Bersaglieri(marksmen). He was then transferred to Taranto and in 1941, he left Italy by ship for Libya. He was lucky to survive the journey to Libya, as many soldiers died after the fleet was bombed by the British.
Angelo Amante: 19 years old
(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)
Angelo was captured at Gialo, a Libyan oasis town on 25th November 1941. Gialo was taken by British and Punjabi troops on 24th November 1941, but a small group of Italian soldiers continued fighting in the north east El Libba sector. After four hours of combat, two Italian had been killed and 27 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner.
Possibly the photo below of a relaxed Angelo was taken at Benghasi, his first experience of Libya. Like many of his generation, Angelo spent ‘his youth’ in foreign and difficult circumstances. He returned home to Italy when he was 25 years old. Nino explains, “Sei dei suoi anni piubelli trascorsi fra guerra e prigionia.”
Angelo Amante in Libya 1941
(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)
Angelo’s journey is like many of his peers. Italy to the battle field to Egypt to India to Australia to Italy. Angelo arrived in Melbourne Australia 29th December 1943. The next day he was in the Cowra PW & I Camp. His time there is recorded in a group photo Cowra 6th February 1944. Ten days later, Angelo was sent to Gaythorne Queensland 16th February 1944.
Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 57037 A. Amante; 57273 G. Guarnaccia; 57288 G. La Iacona; 57252 S. Giambusso; 57051 C. Avola; 46957 S. Vizzini; 57257 G. Giarratano. Front row: 57268 M. Gordini; 57070 L. Bloisi; 57046 R. Armentano; 57038 S. Amoroso; 57226 D. Foringo. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (Australian War Memorial Image 030173/15)
Before Nino’s internet search, he had one photo and the stories about his father’s time in Australia, but he did not know dates or places. Nino says, “Sapevo che mio padre era stato in Australia, ma in quale parte di Australia? Che era vissuto in una fattoria, ma quale fattoria?” But his time in Australia was always remembered with fondness, a place to which Angelo wanted to return. In 1956, Angelo made preparations to emigrate to Australia with his wife and family. During a medical visit, it was discovered he had a small heart problem and his dreams of going to Australia ended. But his family kept safe a small photo of three men and two boys, knowing that it was an important part of Angelo’s memories of Australia.
Angelo Amante , Salvatore Scicchitani (Schichitano), Vincenzo Cannavo with John and Jim Buchanan at Redslopes Goomboorian via Gympie
(courtesy of Nino Amante)
For over seven decades, this photo did not have a context. Nino knew that the photo was from his father’s time on a farm, but he did not know where in Australia this farm was located. Angelo told his family a story about chilli plants he had grown on this farm and now he knows it was Jim, a little boy who tasted the chilli with severe repercussions. Angelo told his family about a trip to the city, to undergo a medical visit at the hospital and the wonder of seeing so many kangaroos on the way.
Jim’s memories and Angelo’s stories to his family are being slotted together. Nino writes that his father arrived in Australia from POW camps in India with very poor health. Angelo had contracted malaria and Nino remembers the story of an old lady on the farm who realised the seriousness of his condition and encouraged him to eat and the need for him to regain his strength. Jim knows exactly who this lady was, his Aunty Mag [Margaret], who was the matron (supervisor) for the Land Army girls on the farm. Angelo’s visit to the Gympie Hospital is recorded in the farm diary: August 21 1944 – Angelo going to hospital. And the stories travel back and forth between Italy and Australia and across the decades.
Upon Angelo’s return to Italy, he made his way home to Fiumefreddo di Sicilia and his widowed mother. Angelo married in 1953 and moved to Mascali, his wife’s home town. He continued to work the land and raised his family: Nino and Giuseppina. In 1984, Angelo passed away at the age of 63.
(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)
The sharing of stories and memories, the answering of questions and the ‘Miracoli di Internet!’ is like finding those missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle and finally being able to put them in place.
*In September 2017, I telephoned Jim Buchanan in Gympie. I had been told that he was the person to speak to about some of the Italian prisoners of war in the Gympie district. Jim’s words to me were, “I think you will be surprised with what I have to tell you. I don’t think you will have found another one like this.” And surprised I was!
Jim’s father Neil Buchanan had kept a farm diary for ‘Redslopes’ at Goomboorian. Peppered through the entries from 7th March 1944 to 1st January 1946 are references not only about farm life, but also to the Italian prisoners of war at ‘Redslopes’. This diary offers a very unique and firsthand account about the employment of Italian prisoners of war.
On 24th March 2018, I telephoned Jim again. I told Jim that I had some extraordinary news for him. Angelo’s son had sent me an email. It took a few minutes for the news to sink in. Jim is rarely lost for words. I said to Jim, I wonder if Angelo took any photos home to Italy with him. Nonplussed, Jim felt that this is not probable as very few photos were taken in those days. Like Nino Amante, this journey for the Buchanan family is emotional and remarkable.
In a beautiful tribute to his nonno, Damiano Lumia recorded the voice of Antonino Lumia telling his story as a soldier and a prisoner of war.
Hay, NSW. 9 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 6 POW Group. In this group are known to be: 46032 Raffaele Lomonaco; 46627 Giuseppe Restivo; 46007 Antonio Lumia (front row second left); 45586 Isidoro De Blasi; 46206 Gaetano Mineo; 45360 Giuseppe Cannata; 45103 Leonardo Barbera; 45997 Pietro Lomonte; 46221 Antonio Rondi and 47999 Leonardo Ciaccio. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.
(Australian War Memorial Lewecki Image 030143/33)
Antonino’s journey begins in Sicily and listening to his voice, we follow in his footsteps from his home town of Bompensiere to Toburk and Benghazi, then Australia. Finally, Antonino takes us back to Italy and his family.
Antonino Lumia begins his story with,
“My dear grandson, I had a lot of trouble. When they called us…”
and ends with…
“I saw your grandmother. I came down. I came home. I rushed to your father. Here is my story, dear grandson. The sufferings were severe, dear grandson”.
Damiano’s video Antonino Lumia POW in Australia 1941-1946 combines images of Bompensiere with photographs and documents from Australian War Memorial and National Archives of Australia to take the viewer on an intimate journey through time.
Antonino’s memories are told with humour and melancholy. English subtitles combined with Antonino’s voice, makes this accessible for those who only speak English. More importantly for those Queenslanders who have memories of ‘their’ Italian POW, it brings back to life their voices: the timbre and musicality of the Italian language.
“Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland” has always been about connectivity between people, with the past, between Italians and Australians, with memories and history.
I am honoured and humbled that Damiano Lumia’s video has become part of this project for the oral histories of Italian prisoners of war are paramount to adding depth and perspective to this project.
Another aspect of the project has been to connect people with information. Research has provided Damiano with details about Antonino’s time in Queensland. Antonino Lumia was assigned to Q3 PWCC Gympie along with Giovanni Adamo. They were employed by Mr R – Mr Kevin John Rodney of North Deep Creek from 14 March 1944 to 4 January 1946. Miss Gloria, mentioned by Antonino is Miss Gloria Davis from Auchenflower. Mr R and Miss Gloria were married in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane on 6th May 1944.
Antonino remembers with clarity when he first met Miss Gloria. “The farmer was back. You could hear the horn of his car in the distance. His wife was with him. I had planted very beautiful flowers near the hut. I mad a bouquet of flowers. When they arrived near us… I offered flowers to his wife. He introduced us to his wife: Miss Gloria. They went home. For us the work continued. The next morning Madame served us the meal. A very nice woman. Every morning I brought wood to this woman for cooking”, speaks Antonino.
Antonino Lumia’s testimony is not only a voice from the past but also an important window into the past. Click on the above link and take a walk with Antonino through history.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR HAVING A MEAL IN THEIR MESS AT NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. PICTURED ARE: 46007 ANTONIO LUMIA (1); 45824 BRUNO GALLIZZI (2); 46734 ALMO STAGNARO (3); 48355 GIUSEPPE ARRIGONI; (4); 45087 ANTONIO BACCIGALUPO (5); 46620 MICHELE RIZZO (6); 46626 EMILIO RUOCCO (7); 46635 FRANCO RONDELLI (8); 45900 ALESSANDRO IANNOTTA (9).
(Australian War Memorial, Geoffrey McInnes Image 063371)