Buchanan Brothers purchased land on Webster Road and established ‘Redslopes’ at Goomboorian outside of Gympie in 1937. The partnership consisted of Malcolm (Boy), Neil, Eric and Ivon but by 1944, Malcolm was a pilot with the RAAF based in England, Eric had joined the AIF and was serving in New Guinea, Ivon had moved to East Palmerston and Neil was responsible for keeping the farm going.
A remarkable insight into farming during World War 2 is written in the hand of Neil Buchanan who wrote daily entries into the farm diary. This diary offers up the details of a day in the life of: a war time farm, a farmer and his family, the Italian POWs and the Land Army girls (LAGS). Each page reveals invaluable first hand information written of the time.
Margaret Goodall (nee Buchanan) and Neil Buchanan 1962
Time fades the memory, but the Redslopes diary offers a window into the past. It recounts daily life on a farm during war time: the list of jobs, rationing, the arrival and departure of Italian POWs and LAGS, the hardships, machinery breakdowns, the weather, important war time events.
The first two Italian prisoners of war to arrive at Redslopes were Angelo Amante and Vincenzo Cannavo on 7th March 1944. Antonio Ruscio joined them on 5th April 1944. The diary tells of trouble amongst the POWs and Antonio left and was replaced by Salvatore Scicchitani (Schichitano) on 26th September 1944. Vincenzo (Vince) became lead hand at catching the horses and ploughing as the diary mentions this many times.
Irrigation at Redslopes 1944-1945
The POWs routine was guided by the seasons of farming life. They attended to the jobs of chipping, hoeing, hilling, thinning, pruning and propping. They thrashed and graded seed, they planted seedlings and they made cases. Papaws, beans and cucumbers were the main crops, but they also tended tomatoes, pineapples, a trial of bananas. They shifted irrigation pipes and cleared fence lines. They assisted with packing and loading crates and going to town to unload produce and get haircuts. Their home ‘Coogoolum’ looked out onto the red dirt slopes of Goomboorian in a quiet and idyllic setting.
The Italian POWs arrived at Redslopes on 7th March 1944 and departed on 1st January 1946. And because of Neil Buchanan’s daily entries during this time, a detailed picture emerges about ‘A Day in the Life of an Italian Prisoner of War on a Queensland Farm’.
March 7 1944
Spent half a day preparing Coogoolum for reception of POWs. Made trip to Gympie, taking in parts of tractor for repairs, & bringing out a load of empty case in addition to POWs. The new men are causing great confusion so far and no headway has been made in grasping their language. Hot fine day.
Redslopes looking out from the site of the POW Home Coogoolum 2017
March 8 1944
Boss & two new men chip most of new papaws near mangoes. Two men make fair impression, but are obviously very soft after years off work. Language difficulty partly overcome. Fine & warm, clouds. Started up irrigation engine. Luc brought down cows & took some home.
March 9 1944
Today broke rainy & activities had to be confined to case making & reassembly of tractor. Two POWs prove quite satisfactory on case making. Tractor now ready for service again. Turned off irrigation engine when tanks were nearly full. Perrys put in about 7 hours again doing can enclosed area and parts of six acre. Measured 21 pts rain.
March 10 1944
Perrys put in another six hours ploughing but were paid off, thus finalising a very costly experiment £12-9 for practically nothing. One POW continues case making, 48 cases for the day. Other introduced to disc plough, proving fairly satisfactory. Boss does some ploughing, puts tractor over proposed sec 1 beans, but a mishap real or imaginary caused returned to shed. Fine, measured 11 pts.
March 11 1944
Further attempts to have ploughing done by POW prove his inability to use mouldboard so Boss used same half day. POWs finish chipping mango, papaws make cases and use pole disc on site of possible section 3 beans. Boss reassembles tractor, proving trouble imaginary. Hosed out radiator tubes and did 2 acres of ploughed ground in, tractor not boiling and being greatly improved. Westerly wind.
March 12 1944
Sabbath. Spent hour or so conferring with POWs. Visit from Blackwoods occupied most of day. Also visit from Rosslynites and from F Hinds to purchase circular saw. Still hot and dry, high drift presaging rain.
March 13 1944
Furrowed nearly an acre of ground for tomatoes and more than an acre for beans. Fertilised much of same. POWs ploughing & case making. Visit from POW Control with interpreter. Fine and very hot and dry.
March 14 1944
Finished fertilising 56 rows of beans to be planted in a week or so. Dragged rolled and started to plant half an acre of carrots. Vince does another half day on plough, Angelo on case making, two on chipping during evening. Fine, dry & very hot.
The diary continues… work… allocation of jobs… coming and goings of casual staff and LAGs…visits to town… quantity of produce taken to town… trouble with the POWs… LAG demands and unrest… POWs requiring medical attention… crops grown…irrigation and machinery breakdowns…
Major events are also recorded
April 7 1944 Good Friday. Correctly observed by POWs
April 12 1944 … Men continue and finish chipping papaws. Unloaded truck of case timber brought out yesterday. Visit from POW control, men start to batch with some repercussions on their behaviour…
June 20 1944… Redslopes diary is being written by electric light at last.
July 21 1944 Signed up for a new 3 ton V 8 truck
Sept 1 1944… Had enjoyable half hour of cricket at POW headquarters. Took delivery of new diesel engine.
Sept 11 1944 Reached 2000 cases of beans for season.
Sept 20 1944 had a lamentable row with a couple of girls (LAGS) following last night’s trouble. After a shake up all around things seems to be okay.
Oct 9 1944… 90 cases papaws, 42 beans, 20 cucumbers, the biggest tonnage ever sent in produce
Nov 25 1944 … news of brother’s death
Dec 4 1944 Highest papaw price 50/- per case
Jan 14 1945 Eclipse of the sun…
Jan 17 1945 Shifted radio from Dwyers house to PWs…
Feb 16 1945 Bought shirts for prisoners
March 7 1944 PW Birthday today, second year…
March 16 1945 prisoners day in town marred by being left at barbers shop too long.
March 17 1945 Boss & one POW spent whole day assembling and erecting pump head at well. Captured a porcupine for benefit of Ities.
May 8 1945 Day of great announcement of cessation of hostilities in Europe
May 9 1945 VE Day. Today we observed a holiday in honour of VE Day.
July 5 1945 News of PM John Curtin’s death this morning
Aug 7 1945 Dramatic news today of first ‘Atomic Bomb’ being dropped on Japan.
Aug 10 Made 2 trips today for first time in history
Aug 14 1945 Japan is still keeping the world guessing.
Aug 15 1945 The great day that has been waited for for years. Japan announced acceptance of surrender terms early this morning and all Australia has gone wild today. 2 days holiday has been declared.
Sept 24 1945 … POWs in town today for monthly haircut, unpleasant experience of getting caught with them in restaurant…
Nov 26 1945 Took in load as usual, PW going as well. Canteen day for latter, news of departure for Italy being made public.
Dec 25 1945 Xmas Day. Made presentation of watches to POWs
Dec 28 1945 Took Ities for last haircut.
Dec 31 1945 Last day of old year. Four men for half a day. POW then finish up, much to sorrow of Boss. Had final talk with Ities at night.
Jan 1 1946 New Year’s Day but a sad day at Redslopes. Took the three POW to town and said goodbye. Farm is now badly understaffed with no prospects of further employees.