Costantino in India

Rossella Petta is compiling a dossier of documents for her grandfather Costantino D’Agostino as she researches her grandfather’s journey as a prisoner of war.

Captured at Bardia Libya on 5th January 1941, he arrived in India on 20th February 1941. His transfers between camps in India are recorded on a card.

NAA: A367 C88345 D’Agostino Costantino

On 27th April 1944, Costantino had arrived in Melbourne onboard the Vernon Castle. His records from India also came to Australia and add extra details to everyday aspects of life in a prisoner of war camp in India. Unfortunately, these India records are not available for all Italians. But they do provide us with a few insights, applicable to all Italians.

Inventory for clothing and necessaries were kept for each man. And each item had to be accounted for. Some terms are unfamiliar: housewife is a sewing kit; chapplis/chaplies are leather sandals; mazri is a cotton fabric woven from grey and black dyed cotton; durrie is a flat woven rug, coir fibre is a material made from coconut husks; charpels wooden might be chappals a wooden clog.

NAA: A367 C88345 D’Agostino Costantino

A photo of Costantino and a friend taken in Camp 3 Bombay, show the men in their India issue clothing: vest-cotton, chapplis sandals, socks worsted, shorts cotton, and what looks like to be a beret or possibly a cap comforter. The shorts with a black band down the side might be the cut down long pants with black bands which were given to the Italians in Egypt during processing.

Costantino D’Agostino left in Camp 3 Bombai (Photo courtesy of D’Agostino family)

The photo of Costantino also gives credence to a report in his Australian File: “PW of somewhat frail build”. His farming boss, had indicated that Costantino did not give good service. His complaint was against a backdrop of an increase in money payable for Italian prisoners of war from £1 to £2 weekly. According to the Captain of the S10 Maitland prisoner of war centre in South Australia, the farmer did not want to give notice to terminate this contract to employ Costantino on the basis of an increase in payment, as he preferred for him to be returned for the reason of being an unsatisfactory worker.

Slowly all the pieces of Costantino’s story fall into place.

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