How did 18,000 men of the Italian armed forces find themselves on the other side of the world in Australia?
The simple answer is ‘war’.
The politics of war is a complex subject. It does not matter which men chose to join Italy’s armed forces or who was conscripted; who was a fascist or who was a royalist; who became a ‘co-operator’ or who stayed firm in their beliefs and support of Mussolini.
A granddaughter of an Italian prisoner of war told me that she did not know how she would feel if she found out her nonno was a ‘fascist’.
Eighty years after the event, we must all remember to resist from overlaying our 21st century views on a war we did not live.
Our young Aussie lads ‘joined up’ in the armed forces with hopes for adventure and a chance to see the world. They fought, they endured hardships, some were captured, far too many lost their lives.
25th December 1940 Australian Troops NEAR BARDIA – THE COMFORTS FUND PROVED THEIR WORTH BY GETTING CHRISTMAS HAMPERS TO BOYS IN THE FRONT LINE ON CHRISTMAS DAY AND PARCELS CERTAINLY PROVIDED WELCOME CHANGE OF DIET BESIDES GIVING A PLEASANT SURPRISE. 2/2ND INFANTRY BATTALION, 15TH PLATOON, “C” COY. (Photographer: James Francis Hurley)
The Italians were also young men, full of hopes and dreams. They fought, they endured hardships, some were captured, far too many lost their lives.
Il Natale nel campo di aviazione di Scutari nel 1940
Christmas. Italian troops in Albania 25 December 1940.
The ‘Footprints Project’* is a community history project documenting a chapter in Australia’s history. Without the contributions from Italian and Australian families, this history was at risk of being lost.
It is with thanks to every individual who has made a contribution, we now have an understanding of the bigger picture for those Italian prisoners of war who came to Australia during WW2 and made significant economic and social contributions.
*Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Australia 1940-1952