A special event held in Gympie June 1944 involved Italian prisoners of war, the Apostolic Delegate Giovanni Panico and local Gympie residents.
Three versions of the event are reproduced: memories of Costanzo Melino, mainstream newspaper article under a section: Of General Interest and newspaper article from right wing Smith’s Weekly titled Fascist ‘Guard of Honor’.
The marrying of memories and primary sources is important in any historical research. Very little specific information about Italian prisoners of war was published in Australian newspapers of the time so to have three versions of the one event is extremely rewarding and enlightening.
Identity Card for Costanzo Melino PW57373
(NAA: J3118, 117)
- Appreciation for a Special Honour
Costanzo Melino had recounted a special event in Gympie while he was a prisoner of war working on a farm. His memories were recorded 30 years after the event; they were vivid and specific:
I even recalled the visit of the Italian Archbishop Giovanni Panéco.[Panico] We were all working on farms in those times and we gathered for Mass at Gympie. We even marched in our group in the procession around the church in his honour. It was a special occasion. There was a band of Australian women playing and we were allowed to celebrate by dancing with these women for the first time. I don’t recall any Australian men being present at this dance. We danced for a few hours and then we were allowed to return to our farms. It seemed to us to be a special honour. (Costanzo Melino)
- Spiritual Comfort
His Excellency the Apostolic Delegate, Most Rev. John Panico, has recently been visiting prisoners of war employed in various centres on the North Coast of Queensland. At Gympie he met a large number of them at St. Patrick’s Church, where he celebrated Mass. At 10 o’clock his Excellency addressed the people, speaking in Italian to the prisoners of war and tendering them excellent advice. The services of these men are greatly valued by their employers because of their good habits and their knowledge of rural industries. During his stay in Gympie the Apostolic Delegate was welcomed by the mayor and leading citizens and thanked for the interest he displayed in visiting the district. During his stay his Excellency and his secretary were the guests of Mgr. Molony. [1944 ‘Of General Interest’, Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), 7 June, p. 4. , viewed 02 Oct 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172213489%5D
Fascist “Guard of Honor”
At Gympie (Q) at a religious ceremony, Dago prisoners of war formed the “guard of honor” for the officiating cleric. There were afterwards entertained at a dinner and, to top it off, some of the local belles danced with them. Because of these Fascists, many of our young Australians like in the Libyan Desert. To parade them in an Australian town is just about the limit. “Pro Patria.” Gympie, Q. [1944 ‘LEADERLESS LEGION’, Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 – 1950), 28 October, p. 19. , viewed 02 Oct 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article235765732%5D
Here is Costanzo Melino: his music and his life philosophy…