Luigi Tommasi is researching his grandfather’s journey as an Italian soldier and prisoner of war during WW2 and his search has brought him to Boonah.
Luigi’s grandfather Salvatore Morello together with Pietro Pepe, both from Castri di Lecce were captured in the Battle of Bardia: 3 – 5th January 1941. Together on 29th July 1944, they were sent to the Q10 Prisoner of War Control Centre for allocation to farm work.
Their first placement was on the farm of G. Bartholomew. In the first week of September 1944, both men were sent to the Boonah Hospital. It is possible that Salvatore and Pietro were reassigned to another farmer after their release from hospital.
Luigi remembers, “My grandfather said he had worked at a large farm in Boonah, which used the tractor to reap the hay and a horse to gather the cattle. If I remember correctly the horse was white, to which he was very fond of. His work also included milking dairy cows and raising cattle, sheep and pigs. He also told us that the owner of the farm was lame.”
Salvatore’s time on Boonah farms was barely eight months as due to ongoing medical issues and chronic appendicitis he returned to Hay Prisoner of War Camp and further hospitalisation. “My grandfather spoke with fondness about his time working on Australian farms, I always thought that he was on farms for much longer. I think he was well treated because he had good memories. We had no idea where in Australia he was sent, but with thanks to Joanne Tapiolas, we now know this place was Boonah,” Luigi said.
Pietro Pepe, unknown, Salvatore Morello c. 1942
British POW Camp in India
Salvatore and Pietro spent three years in POW Camps in India and the only photos of Salvatore and Pietro during their time as prisoners of war were taken in India. Possibly the photo above combined with Salvatore’s memories of farm life, might jog the memories of a few Boonah locals.
Luigi has contacted researcher Joanne Tapiolas, to assist him with his quest. “This journey is an emotional one for Salvatore’s daughter, Antonia. Her father left home in 1939 and did not return until 1947. Eight years, is a very long time for a little girl. Helping Luigi and Antonia is an extension of the research project into the history of Italian prisoners of war in Queensland. There is an increase in the number of people in Australia who are tracing their family history, so it comes as no surprise that Italian families are also interested in the history of their family members,” explains Tapiolas.
If Boonah locals can assist Luigi Tommasi in any way, Joanne Tapiolas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Further information on the research project can be found at italianprisonersofwar.com