One of the questions often asked, is ‘why were the Italian POWs taken off farms to then sit idle in Prisoner of War and Internment Camps for over 12 months?’
Another often asked question is ‘how valuable was the contribution of the Italian POWs to agricultural production?’
The following ‘Letter to the Editor’ addresses both of these questions…
To the Editor
Sir- some of us can raise a lot of sympathy for those of the Indonesians who have co-operated with the Japanese but what of that poor underdog, the Italian POW? Six months ago two POW (Sicilians) assisted by an old man harvested, without tractor, 140 tons of hay, besides routine jobs of milking, tending sheep &c. One of these men was so outstanding that I left him in charge of my farm and took an extended rest in Melbourne. On my return everything was in order – house painted, winter’s wood supply split and stacked, &c. On March 13 most POW were again barbed in, a precaution recognised as necessary before repatriation: but the call-up was because of AWU pressure. Many are married and my two have families not seen for over six years. Their greatest worry is the dreariness of the dragging days of enforced idleness after the free busy life on a farm. War against Italy ceased 18 months ago, so maintenance of torture to men’s souls at this stage is a travesty of British justice. In spite of the AWU attitude, farm labor in the Naracoorte district is unavailable, through either the RSL and stock firms, and I am being forced off the land. My neighbor has been without help since his POW was taken away, and was so run down that his doctor insisted on his going to the seaside with his wife and three children, leaving over 1,000 ewes uncared for in the midst of lambing.
I am, Sir, &c.
from Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931-1954), Thursday 27 June 1946, page 8
For Queensland farmers, withdrawing Italian POWs from farms resulted in an acute shortage of workers for the summer harvest….