The Story in a Photo

In April 2017, Luigi Pinna sent me some photos belonging to his father Antioco Pinna who was a prisoner of war in South Australia.  They were photos of children, families and friends and while there were names on the back of each photo: AE Warren, John, Milton, Ross, Terry and Mark the identities of these South Australians remained a mystery. Antioco Pinna’s story can be read at : Exceptionally Good and A Portable Gramophone 

To help solve this mystery, Luigi and I needed the assistance of someone on the ground in South Australia, and in the vicinity of Millicent and Mt Burr. Colleen Hammat: Researcher for South East Family History Group was up to the challenge. Many phone calls, visits and follow ups by Colleen and slowly a little of the history of the Mt Burr Italian prisoners of war emerges.

Pinna 6

Greetings for Jimmie (Antioco Pinna)  from AE Warren (Ted)

(photo courtesy of Luigi Pinna)

A bit more digging and Colleen located a biography of Ted and Hilda (nee Bowering) Warren in the Meyer History Book:

“After being married Ted and Hilda living in Millicent where sons John and Ben and daughter Ina were born.  Ted went to work on the Mt Burr Forest.  He worked in the nursery growing pines for the plantation.  A piece of uncleared land was bought between Rocky Camp and Mt Muirhead.  The family built a house on this block and the children attended the Mt Muirhead School.  Reta, Ronald and Keith were all born while the Warrens living at Mt Murihead.  Most of the land was sold to the Forests Department for the plantation and Ted bought another uncleared block the other side of Mt Muirhead.  He retained the house.

Ted and Hilda lived at this home until all the family married.  During the time of the Second World War they cared for daughter Ina and her daughter, also John’s wife Audrey and their son.  John served overseas in the army. Ted and Hilda retired to Millicent selling the house block to the Forest Department.”

The mystery of the photo from AE Warren is solved.  The two ladies in the photo are Ted’s daughter Ina (Jim Simpson’s mother) and Ted’s wife Hilda as confirmed by grandson Jim.  The connection with Jimmie (aka Antioco Pinna) and Ted Warren is also confirmed, as both worked on the Mt Burr Forest, Jimmie as a POW labourer and Ted as a nursery man.

Pinna 5

Ina Simpson and Hilda Warren 1946

(photo courtesy of Luigi Pinna)

But there is more to this history…

Following many leads, Colleen has also found a gentleman who worked for the Mt Burr butcher when he was a young fellow. He remembers delivering to the camp and he told Colleen that the mess hut from the camp was later moved from the site into Mount Burr and used for a rec. hall.   Colleen’s 84 year old friend, “Remembers the POWs walking into Millicent from Mt Muirhead where the camp was for the Catholic Church meetings – they were called the Red Coats because they wore Red Jackets and berets. She said they sang in the choir and all had beautiful voices.”

Photos taken back to Sardinia from a Prisoner of War hostel at Mt Burr forestry in South Australia, not only survived the passage of time, but have helped an Australian community reconnect to its history and Luigi Pinna to write his father’s story.

In December 2018, Luigi Pinna wrote and published Arrastus in Sa Storia relating the journey of his father Antioco from Italy to Ethiopia… India… Australia… Italy.

Pinna Antico

Arrastus in Sa Storia by Luigi Pinna

(photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

3 thoughts on “The Story in a Photo

  1. Pinna Luigi

    Sono Luigi figlio di Antioco, ringrazio infinitamente Joanne per il grandissimo aiuto e consigli che mi ha dato nel trovare notizie che oltre a internet, altri enti, biblioteche straniere. ai suggerimenti di figli o nipoti di prigionieri di guerra io e mio fratello siamo riusciti a fare questo fascicolo di ricordi sulla vita di nostro padre, ma questo fascicolo non è stato pubblicato è stato solo per interesse personale.

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  2. BRENTON Thorogood

    This is very interesting ,I was born in Millicent and lived there until I moved to Adelaide in 1988 ,my dad worked in my burr in his young days ,my grandfather bill widdison and two of my brother’s also use too work at the my burr mill years ago.in all the years I never really new that rocky camp and mt burr were pow camps during the second world war.is there any books out about these camps? Also if there is where can I purchase them?

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    1. JoanneinTownsville Post author

      Thank you Brenton for your comments. The other article about Antioco Pina is at :
      https://italianprisonersofwar.com/2018/07/17/exceptionally-good/
      In 1941-43, the forestry workers were Australian resident Itaians who were interned. As they were released for other work in Australia, the next labour force to be utilised was the Italian prisoners of war. S13 Prisoner of War Control Hostel Mt Gambier-Mt Burr-Penola were the three forestry areas worked by the Italian POWs. From what I have found: Rocky Camp was the Hostel site for the Mt Burr workers, Nangwarry was the Hostel site for Penola workers and Wandilla was the hostel site for the Mt Gambier workers. I have a couple of pages with photos and newspaper articles I can send you which I have sent through to the Nangwarry and Forestry Museum for their records. The prisoner of war history is an almost forgotten chapter.
      While my book ‘Walking in their Boots’ is Qld focused, the same themes and operations throughout Australia were similar. Email me your email address: joannetappy@gmail.com

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