Ross Di Mauro’s dad had the farm on Block 182 Home Hill. Ross remembers his father’s story about how in the middle of the night, two Italian POWs who had escaped from the Home Hill POW camp came to their farm.
Ross’s dad gave them a meal, a bit of money and food and sent them on their way. But before they left, he did ask them why they thought that his house was a ‘safe’ house to visit. They replied that they saw clothes on the line and felt that the stitching had been done by Italians. There were a number of unsuccessful escapes from the Q6 Prisoner of War Hostel Home Hill. The furthest afield the escapees were found was at Bowen.
Another memory associated with prisoners of war is from the Stanthorpe district. Ross and his family spent some time during the war at a farm at Ballandean via Stanthorpe. One of the stories about the POWs there was that there were a number of POWs in the district and they would get together on a Sunday and this was against the rules. If a suspicious vehicle would be seen coming down the road, they would all scatter, hiding amongst the grape vines and fruit trees
Cowra, NSW. 16 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49354 A. Biagioni; 46612 P. Rossi; 49906 B. Rodofile; 45671 S. Felici; 45091 C. Bono; 48923 F. Carlone. Front row: 48942 G. Filippelli; 46085 D. Martinuzzi; 45627 B. Falchi; 46807 M. Salvini. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030147/14, Photographer: Lewecki)
Ross says of the Ballandean POWs, “There was this one fellow that stood out. He was quite imposing, he had a shaved head and a big beard and he had a stick/baton in his hand. It seemed like he kept the others in line, like he was a policeman.” Tracking down this POW was not difficult. Sesto Felici was from Pieve Sant Giovanni Arezzo and his occupation was ‘Military Police’. From February 1944, Felici was working on the farm of the Colvin Bros at Ballandean. The Cowra photo of Sesto Felici did not surprise Ross as this is exactly how he remembered the Ballandean ‘policeman’.
Ross also remembers that there was some trouble between the farmer and his POWs and it was written about in the newspapers. The words the Italian said stuck in Ross’s memory, “No like Calaboose”. As reported in a newspaper, Attilio Corgiolu spoke these words after he and his friend, Antonio Perduto emerged from a Military Court hearing held in Stanthorpe in January 1945.
(Truth (Qld.: 1900-1954) Sunday 28 January 1945, page 24)
It is interesting what one remembers and remarkable when a memory is given a context. Ross’s childhood memories highlight that the children of those times, have accurate memories which can be validated by photos, newspaper reports and government documents.