I am yet to find a photograph taken at the Home Hill hostel. Military zones, such as this prisoner of war camp, were governed by strict rules and protocols regarding the taking of photos. According to the regulations, “Group photos of PW allocated through Control Centres for employment in rural industry were NOT permitted” (NAA:A7711) and while POWs allocated through PWCC had their photos taken by their host families, there is no photographic record of the POWs while working on the Commonwealth Farms, nor of the hostel. Or maybe there are photos of the POWs at Home Hill hostel that are yet to see the light of day.
The Australian War Memorial holds an amazing array of photographs taken of a number of POW Camp facilities in Australia and group photos of the prisoners of war. The group photos were taken so that the Italian POWs could purchase a copy to send home.
With so little information known about the Home Hill hostel, I searched the Australian War Memorial (AWM) records to catch a glimpse of my Home Hill POWs. I had the list of names: 272 but I was not satisfied with names only.
I did not want this group of men to be defined by the few trouble makers who refused to work or escaped and were recaptured. After all, they were men who were fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. By the time they walked into the hostel, it had been seven months since Italy had surrendered. The Allies were making their way north through Italy, but by 28th April 1944 there was a lull in Allied activity due to bad weather:
The first group of 115 Italian POWs arrived on 30th April 1944.
These men came from all walks of life. The requirements of the hostel meant that the following occupations were minimum requested and recruited: 1 x Medical Officer, 4 x orderlies, 190 x workers, 10 x cooks and fatigues, 50 x PW capable of driving tractors including mechanics.
Some of their occupations included: police, hairdresser, sculptor, brewer, bookseller, sailor, electrician, tinsmith, tiler, brick layer, linotypist, cyclist, tailor, miller, mason and blacksmith. Considering that the hostel had not been completed when the first 115 POWs walked into the hostel, men with trades would have been most welcome.
The photo below taken at Cowra shows three of the Home Hill POWs: Giuseppe Ippolito – labourer, Salvatore De Micco – farmer and Agostino Leto – postal clerk. All three men were in the first group of 115 to be sent to Q6 Home Hill Hostel.
Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49115 C. Trentino; 49354 G. Ippolito; 49592 A. Poggi; 49107 G. Zunino; 48833 R. Bartoli; 49212 R. Papini; 48863 S. De Micco. Front row: 48939 A. Leto; 49172 A. Mandrini; 57531 B. Protano; 49923 F. Carlone; 45196 A. Ciofani. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.
(AWM Image 030173/11 McInnes, G)