Clothing Inventory for Italian POWs in India
(NAA: A7919 C98988 Tripepi, Domenico)
Information about the prisoner of war camps in India is difficult to find. The British oversaw the operations of these camp sites, many of which had been used during the Boer War.
Italian Prisoners of War in India is a guide for ordering a copy of the record relating to Italians who spent time in POW camps in India.
It is thanks to a number of Italian families that we can see and read about some of the experiences of Italian prisoners of war who were then transferred to Australia.
Adriano Zagonara, Andriano Zagonara and a group of Italian POWs in India
(photos courtesy of Paola Zagonara)
Paola Zagonara remembers the stories her father Adriano Zagonara told her about working and living in India:
Paola Zagonara wrote, “Mio padre raccontava che erano nel campo di Bangalore,e che dovevano costruire I binari della ferrovia, che pativano la fame perche’il rancio era solo una scodella di riso integrale al giorno, e che era una festa quando riuscivano a catturare un serpente:lo arrostivano e se lo mangiavano sul posto, cosi’assumevano proteine della carne,e si mantenevano in salute.Me lo raccontava quando eravamo a tavola ed io non volevo mangiare, ma allora ero piccola e non capivo molto….un caro saluto!”
Ferdinando Pancisi and Reference from POW Doctor in India
(photos courtesy of Tammy Morris and Nicola Cianti)
Ferdinando Pancisi remembers:
[I was in India for ] 2 years. I was working in the camp hospital. The doctor there wrote a letter of reference for me, here is the paper…He (the doctor) said that when you go back to Italy and you want to work in a hospital, give this letter to the doctors and they’ll surely give you a job.
He (the doctor) said that when you go back to Italy and you want to work in a hospital, give this letter to the doctors and they’ll surely give you a job. I was fine, I didn’t want for anything. I was doing a lot, male nurse, pharmacist, I did most things, because the doctor would just visit and leave!
[The doctor was a prisoner] Yes, the whole camp was run by prisoners. We made a hospital there just for the prisoners…
The 2nd World War was over in Italy but Japan was still going. In fact, our ship which transferred us to Australia was escorted by British destroyer ships.
(Interview with Ferdinando Pancisi 21 October 2107: Interviewers: Tammy Morris and Nicola Cianti)
Salvatore Morello : Memories of India
(photos courtesy of Luigi Tommasi)
Salvatore Morello and Pietro Pepe were in India together and than transferred to work on a Boonah district farm.
They came to Australia on the Mariposa. Three ships came to Melbourne from India at that time. There were a total of 4056 Italians on the ships. Mariposa, SS Mount Vernon and Vernon Castle arrived in Melbourne 26.4.44. On board were 8 officers and 4048 ORs From Melbourne, the Italian POWs were put on trains and taken to Cowra for processing.
Sacred Heart of Maria was embroidered by Salvatore while in India. The words 1942 and India are sewn into the banner held by the angels.
Luigi Iacopini with a group of Italian prisoners of war in a camp in India
(photo courtesy of Raffaele Iacopini)
… life was monotonous and over time many of the men felt they were forgotten and became more desperate. Health was the most serious worry. At the camp, at Ramgarh many succumbed to beriberi and typhoid fever, ‘at an alarming rate’. The camp turned into a sea of mud and was filled with mosquitoes when the rains started. Several hundred Italians died while interned during the war in India, some from natural causes but the majority from illnesses caught while in confinement. For prisoners of war of all different nationalities, the war was characterised by a long, testing time of waiting in camps, longing for letters and hoping that their own news was getting through. (Khan, Yasmin, The Rah at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War)
Vincenzo Piciaccia from Pescara del Tronto (Ascoli Piceno) was captured 4th January a914 at Bardia. From Egypt he was transported to India. The photo below is of a young 23 year old Vincenzo at Bangalore 1943. He was transported to Australia and arrived in Melbourne 26th April 1944 onboard Mariposa.
Vincenzo Piciaccia Bangalore India 1943
(photo courtesy of Leo Piciaccia)
Filippo Granatelli from Sant’ Elpidio (Ascoli Piceno) was captured at Asmara 6th May 1941. He did not arrive in Australia until 13th February 1945. The group of Italians onboard the General William Mitchell departed from India and were the last group of Italian POWs to arrive in Australia. Despite searches, Filippo managed to keep hidden a relic from his time in India, a One Anna note from Prisoner of War Camp Bhopal.