Italian Prisoner of War Identity Card – Fresco, Luigi, PWI 57235
(National Archives of Australia Series J3118,64)
I was a child during WW2 and with my family: the Ivins, lived on Cooloolabin Road Yandina. Across the road from us was a racecourse that was converted into an Army Camp. My mum used to make tea and scones for some of the young Army fellows who should have been up in the heavily wooded area of our property undergoing ‘jungle’ training. There was a fair amount of army activity in the district at that time.
Our neighbour was Dan Mills and he had a banana plantation at Cooloolabin and he had Italian prisoners of war working on the farm.
I have clear memories of the Italians, not too many memories because we lived in town, but none the less clear ones. Dan Mills grew bananas on the side of the hillside and he had a flying fox set up which ran from the banana crop to the shed down on the flat. How we children loved to go up to the Mills’ farm. Dan would take me, my brother Brian and this two sons Billy and Charlie up to the farm and the best part was that the Italians would put us in the flying fox crate and send us down through the air to the shed: Italians, bananas and children. What fun! We loved the invitation to go with Dan Mills to his farm.
From the farm to town would have been 5 or 6 miles and I remember the Italians from time to time walking past our house and going in to town. They wore maroon uniforms and kept to themselves. I had always thought that they might be going in to town to get supplies but now I know that they were probably going to church on a Sunday.
I always had the impression that the Italians were a happy lot. They were just happy to be out of the war zone. Maybe content is a good word. We children always felt comfortable around them. They were like any other farm workers and they knew we loved to ride the flying fox. In a way they were like a ‘big brother’. One of my brothers, Clark was mortally wounded at the Battle of Milne Bay and he died in his 24th year. It was a very sad time for my family. On reflection, these Italians were the age of my brother.
I have always had a memory which associated the Italian prisoners of war with chocolate. Chocolate would have been one of those luxuries before the war and most definitely not available in shops during the war. I have since learnt that the Italians were able to purchase items from an army Canteen Truck and many of these products were not available in civilian shops. Chocolate was one of the items. Maybe my first taste of chocolate was when the Italians gave us children some. How special to think that these fellows, and they wouldn’t have had much money or access to money, would buy chocolates to share with us. A wonderful gesture of kindness and friendship.
“Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland 1943-1946” has given me the names of two Italians for my memories: Vincenzo Fusilli and Luigi Fesco and also a photo for Luigi. After 70 years, I am so pleased that these men have not been forgotten.
Lorna Akers (nee Ivins)