Graytown’s Italian Prisoners of War

Giuseppe Loprieno

A mechanic from Bari, Giuseppe Loprieno was 21 years old when he was captured at Tobruk on 22nd January 1941.  He served with the navy on San Giorgio which was stationed in Tobruk Harbour as offshore artillery to defend the township.

23rd January 1941 Tobruk – High Officers of the Italian Navy and Army led their men out of Tobruk to surrender to British forces.  Although without guards, this column of prisoners marched with perfect discipline to the prisoners camp where they were handed over by their own officers. (AWM Image 005393, Photographer: Frank Hurley)

Giuseppe’s arrival in Sydney on the Queen Mary 15th October 1941 was reported in the newspapers:


[1941 ‘ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR HERE’, Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 14 October, p. 1. (HOME EDITION), viewed 28 Apr 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48402593]

His first camp was Cowra Camp New South Wales where he spent 20 months before being sent to Murchison Camp Victoria for nine months.  Giuseppe was sent to wood cutting work at No. 6 Labour Detachment Graytown for just over five months: 30.3.43 to 3.9.43 before German prisoners of war replaced the Italian workers.

Giuseppe was then sent across Australia to No. 8 Labour Detachment at Karrakatta Western Australia.  This labour detachment worked in an army project for the salvage of materials eg tyres and metal. He was then assigned to farm work in the Kendenup district. Giuseppe was repatriated on the SS Katoomba from Fremantle port 17th October 1946. He was 27 years old when he arrived home.

Giuseppe Loprieno NAA: K1174)

Giuseppe Loprieno Wedding Day 1949

(photo courtesy of Giorgia Paparella)

No. 6 Labour Detachment Graytown

Italian prisoners of war lived and worked at Graytown Camp from 30.3.43 to 3.9.43.  The workforce was then replaced by German prisoners of war [from the Kormoran who were captured off the Western Australian after sinking the HMAS Sydney]

Giuseppe Loprieno was one of 253 Italian prisoners of war to work at Graytown.

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. PORTION OF THE BOUNDARY FENCE AND ONE OF THE GUARD TOWERS AT THE CAMP OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR GROUP. (AWM 061201 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

A May 1943 Red Cross Report states that the camp had been established for 15 weeks and that Italian prisoners of war had been in residence for 5 weeks.

The following information relates to the Italian prisoners of war, while the photographs were taken at the Graytown Camp when the German prisoners of war were in residence.

The situation of the camp was 60 kilometres from Murchison Camp. On the 26th April 1943 the men in charge of Graytown camp were: Ernani De Cesare a signaller with the navy for 30 years and Giovanni Acanfora a warrant officer in the army. Lieut. Giuseppe Amato a surgeon was appointed as the medical officer for Graytown Camp.

In total there were 253 Italian prisoners of war comprising of Army: 141 men and Marine: 112. One doctor and two orderlies (protected personnel) were part of this group.  The group formed a fire brigade consisting of 20 men.

The camp consisted of barracks for communal purposes and tented accommodation.  The barracks were made of timber and ‘fibro’ sheeting with a tin roof. The windows were made of glass and lighting was electric.

MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. GENERAL VIEW OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP (GRAYTOWN SECTION). (AWM Image 061128 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

The kitchen barracks had six sections: three dry stores, one section of making macaroni, one section for meat, 1 section of ovens and cookers. There is no refrigeration.

The dining barracks is furnished with long tables and forms for seating. Table tennis is played in the refectory. Mass is held in this barracks every fortnight.

The canteen is installed in another barracks. It also contains an office for administration.

MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. GRAYTOWN SECTION OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061129 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

The tents had wooden floors and accommodated six men.  The prisoners of war could purchase a camp bed or make a camp bed from timber available.  Bedding provided consisted of a light mattress and five covers.  The tents were swept daily and cleaned with soap weekly.

MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. GRAYTOWN SECTION OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 61130 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

The shower barracks consists of two sections with nine cold showers in each section. Hot showers are to be installed soon. There is another section containing six basins and six taps for washing.

The ablution barracks consist of 12 toilet cubicles and a urinal. 

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Graytown. Les latrines. World War 1939-1945. Graytown’s camp. The latrines.

Graytown Camp. The Latrines 1.1.44 (ICRC V-P HIST-E-0030-8)

There is a large sports field situated outside the camp where the men play football. The camp has only been established for five weeks and does not have a library nor is there a school.

The workforce is divided into work inside the camp: 20 men and work outside the camp 190 men. There is a tailor, a bootmaker and two hairdressers/barbers. Ninety men work on timber cutting and the others work on camp infrastructure, drainage and building of roads and pathways.

An Australian priest from Murchison Camp holds Mass every two weeks.  The Italians can go every day to the local church which is close to the camp.

Rations are supplemented by rabbits caught by the Italians.  The men requested an increase in the sugar ration, but the same quota is applied to both Italian prisoners of war and Australian soldiers.

Requests were made for gymnastic apparatus, new kitchen utensils and a cinema projector.

Firewood Production at Graytown

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR SPLITTING A LARGE LOG INTO HANDLABLE SIZES TO BE USED AS FIREWOOD AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061192 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR FELLING A LARGE TREE FOR FIREWOOD FOR THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061190 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR UNLOADING LOGS FOR FIREWOOD, WHILE OTHERS CAN BE SEEN STACKING IT IN TIDY HEAPS AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061188 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. BOTH HORSE DRAWN AND MOTOR VEHICLES ARE USED AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP TO GET THEIR WINTER FIREWOOD IN. THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS A FINE TEAM OF HORSES HARNESSED TO A FOUR WHEEL LORRY. (AWM Image 061189 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. SMALL MOBILE SAW BENCH, OPERATED BY GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR WHO ARE CUTTING FIREWOOD FOR THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061194 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)


GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. PRISONERS OF WAR CUTTING FIREWOOD ON A SAWBENCH AT A CAMP OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061198 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. PRISONERS OF WAR OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP LOADING BLOCKS OF FIREWOOD ON TO A LORRY FOR DELIVERY TO OTHER CAMPS IN THE AREA. (AWM Image 061197 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. PRISONERS OF WAR CUTTING FIREWOOD ON A SAWBENCH AT A CAMP OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061199 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. FIREWOOD SAWMILL AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061195 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Graytown Site Today

https://www.visitmelbourne.com/regions/Goldfields/Things-to-do/History-and-heritage/Graytown-Prisoner-of-War-Camp

http://livinginballan.blogspot.com/2014/01/graytown-and-pow-camp.html

https://walkingmaps.com.au/walk/4572

5 thoughts on “Graytown’s Italian Prisoners of War

  1. Bruna De Gasperis

    Very interesting the tale of Tobruck 1941, I hope to find as soon as the uncle RENATO birth’s date…

    Like

    Reply
  2. Christine Chudley

    Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea there was a POW camp so close to where I live and will certainly visit as soon as I can. Last week I visited the Ossario at Murchison.
    I love the newspaper comment that the prisoners looked “cheerful and happy to be in Australia.” Having just watched the excellent 2002 Italian movie El Alamein, I fully understand why!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Joanne in Townsville Post author

      Hi Christine, so pleased that you found the article on Graytown. I hope that the Italian POWs found a little serenity living in the Australian bush regardless of the watchtowers and barbed wire.
      I am yet to visit the Ossario (I am in Nth Qld) but it is a deserving resting place for the Italian prisoners and internees who died in Australia.

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      Reply
  3. Pingback: Camp 379 Qassassin | Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Australia

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