Researching Italian prisoners of war on farms in Queensland was my primary research focus. With over 1500 Italians living and working in Queensland, it was difficult not to get kidnapped by peripheral topics.
But I soon realised I couldn’t research the Queensland Italians without knowing where they had been fighting and captured. And with thanks to the families of Angelo Amante, Francesco Cipolla, Stefano Lucantoni, Ermanno Nicoletti, Adofo D’Addario, Luigi Iacopini, Antioco Pinna and Nicola Micala we have the images below of the Italians as soldiers.
I was overwhelmed by the statistics for Italians captured at Battle of Bardia so I spent some time reading newspaper articles for the Australian soldiers’ perspective, books in the James Cook University for detailed military and strategy information and personal memories of Italian prisoners of war.
Delving into the battles of Beda Fomm, Sidi el Barrani, Wolkefit, Buq Buq, Keren, Tobruk, Gialo Oasis and Giarabub Oasis happened as I assisted Italian families with their research on their fathers and grandfathers. Appendix 2 in Walking in their Boots is a comprehensive list of places of capture for Queensland Italian prisoners of war.
Additionally, Libya.Egypt.Eritrea.Ethiopia is a photo story of a number of battles together with personal photos of Australia’s Italian prisoners of war.
Left photo: Vincenzo Piciaccia Right photo: Vincenzo Piciaccia on right
(photo courtesy of Leo Piciacci)
Vincenzo Piciaccia was 19 years old when these photos were taken in Libya. The photo on the right shows the bravado of young men from Ascoli Piceno with Vincenzo holding his dagger in one hand and another man holding out his rifle. Side by side with weapons of war are the everyday items: a food container which Vincenzo holds in his left hand and the man on the left also holds a billy can. Vincenzo was 20 years old when he was captured at Bardia 4.1.41 and 26 years old when he returned to Italy: a youth stolen from him by war.
A report written by Major A.E. Reed C.C. No. 3 Reinforcement Group in June 1941, records a little information about the captured Italians soldiers:
“There is a large internment Camp for prisoners of war on the road from Gaza to Jeruselem and another near Ismailia. I was informed that there was also one near Suez, but I was unable to get any reliable information regarding the capacity or other detials of these camps. They are brilliantly illuminated at night and can be seen for from many miles away. On one night, however, an unidentifited plane machine-gunned the camp at Suez, and since my return there has benn a report of the bombing of the camp on the road to Jeruselem. From enquiries I made, I was informed that large numbers of prisoners had been sent to India and some to South Africa. … prisoners are also being sent to Ceylon, where, I was informed, a large number are alreay located. The shortage of transport was stated to me to be a reason for the delay in sending prisoners to Australia, and while I was at Suez two large ships which, it was understood, would be bringing prisoners here, [Australia] were diverted to South Africa, one of them taking women and children who were being evacuated.” AWM2018.8.411