Service and Casualty Forms for the Italian Prisoners of War make great reading. I have given up counting how many forms I have read since I started this research in August 2015 but there is so much information that can be gleaned from these forms.
And several thousand forms later I can give you an insight into the nature of the breaches in discipline and the punishments meted out.
Some make sense eg fine 1/- for fastening ground sheet to bed, while others seem harsh eg. 28 days detention for stealing a bunch of grapes.
And some, make me laugh eg stealing lettuce plants… maybe this Italian just wanted a few plants to add to his private garden outside his barracks; and what about the bravado of the Italian who was smoking on parade.
But military discipline was essential and indiscretions punished.
(NAA: MP1103/1 for DF)
For some Italian POWs, their breach in discipline resulted in formal investigations. The three incidents below are from Western Australia. Queensland POWs were much more meek and mild!
The following statement is made by a POW placed at the same farm as a Raffaele. The farmer also ran a boarding house: This family have always treated us with great courtesy and consideration but this rascal [Raffaele] for a long time has done nothing else but to annoy all the women who have stayed in this place… On another occasion [name redacted] and I were near our room when [ name redacted] came to us and asked the whereabouts of Raffaele. We told her we did not know as we never see him at night time as he goes away and returns after midnight. [ Name redacted] not taking any notice of us then stepped into [Raffaele’s] room and sat down and wrote a letter and left it on the table after leaving. On [Raffaele’s] return from his walk he read the letter did not even stop to finish meal went away and did not return until after midnight. If I had to tell all that [Raffaele] has done it would make a romantic novel. 11 October 1944.
An incident in the Northam area of Western Australia saw the award of 28 days detention: Conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline in that he behaved in an unsolicited manner by endeavouring to show Mrs C obscene magazine photos and by giving her a box upon which obscene drawings had been made.
Another incident reports reads as follows: At 17.30 hours the prisoner came to me and asked if he would feed the calf, to which I answered yes. He then asked me in his Pidgeon English if I would ? him the milk, I went through the house to the backdoor whist the Prisoner went around the side. When I arrived and opened the door he approached me with both his arms open and said “Oh, Missus.” plus other Italian phases which I did not understand. I could see the man was very excited and I slamed the door in his face… My husband had been away all day …During the lunch hour the Prisoner remained what I considered an unnecessary time in the kitchen after having had his meal, during which time he kept muttering to me in Italian, none of which i could understand. It appeared strange to me that this man should remain behind whilst the other Prisoner after having his meal went straight to his camp. No charges were laid on this matter and the POW was transferred to another farm.
Without a doubt, prisoner of war files make great and interesting reading.
Following are some of the ‘run of the mill’ type breaches in discipline and subsequent punishments:
14 days: stealing
2 days: stealing lettuce plants
5/- fine: failure to appear on parade
1/- fine: late to work
168 hours detention: wilful damage to CWG property
14 days detention: possession of prohibited article
21 days detention: taking employer’s car without permission
14 days detention – 3 days No 1 diet: refusing to work, inciting other POWs to slow up work
7 days detention: boots worn beyond repair
6 days fatigues: conduct to the prejudice of good order and disciplien
3/- fine – offence against good order and discipline
14 days detention: making unfound complaints about working
7 days detention: attempting to steal 1/2 lbs butter
14 days detention: removed 1 dz bananas from supply depot
1/- fine: failure to appear at inspection parade
28 days detention: communicating by signs with a person outside the complex, making a threatening gesture to officials.
72 hours detention: proceeding beyond boundary of place of employment
1/- fine: wasting water
3 days detention: pretending sickness to avoid work
7 days detention: attempting to evade censorship
168 hours detention: smoking on parade
7 days detention: failed to stand by kit during inspection
5/- fine: being in possession of government property
Admonished: carrying letters between compounds
28 days detention: failed to answer Roll Call
28 days detention: escaped from Hostel
28 days detention: unduly familiar with a female
3 days detention: breach of National Security Regulations
14 days detention: disobedience, violence
5 days detention: offensive behaviour
14 days detention: did adopt threatening attitude