Salvatore Di Noia has sent me photo of a grey blanket with light grey stripes. This blanket is his nonno’s blanket from his prisoner of war days in Australia.
Nonno’s Blanket (courtesy of Salvatore Di Noia)
Salvatore Targiani departed Australia on the Oranje, a medical ship, on the 27th March 1943. The Oranje was the first repatriation of Italian prisoners of war, under special arrangements. Salvatore worked in the 17th Hygiene Unit in Bardia. His skills as a medical orderly is most likely the reason for his early repatriation.
In Australia, the Italian prisoners of war were issued with 4 blankets for their bedding. An extra blanket was issued in winter.
The topic of blankets is interesting.
Italians at Sandy Creek Transit Camp in South Australia complained about the quality of the blankets they had been issued. It was claimed that the blankets were made India and were of poor quality. They requested that these blankets were substituted for Australian made blankets which were of a better quality.
On 27th September 1946, a newspaper reported that the Italians being repatriated on the Chitral from Western Australia, had been given army blankets at Northam Camp but they were to return them to the Australian guards upon arrival in Naples. I see a logistical problem in this directive. There were up to 3000 Italians repatriated on ships: 4 blankets x 3000 men = 12,000 blankets. Was it possible that the Australia guards could count every blanket?
Pasquale Landolfi and Vincenzo Di Pietro from the Home Hill Hostel in north Queensland used their army blankets for suits. They were found 110 south of Home Hill outside the town of Bowen. They were dressed in grey suits made from blankets. There were five Italian tailors at the Home Hill Hostel.
Italian officers in Myrtleford Camp in Victoria made coats from blankets. The photo below shows a rather stylish yet practical coat. Myrtleford is in the alpine country of northern Victoria: winters have maximum temperature 12 degrees C and minimum temperature 3 degrees C.
1-6-43 Myrtleford Officers Camp (ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-27)
Domenico Modugno’s souvenirs from Australia were blankets. Domenico was sent to Tasmania for farm work and then was sent to V25 Hume Hostel to await repatriation. His daughter Lucrezia recalls, “From captivity, my father brought home grey-black blankets date 1945 which we used as children in the cold winters.”
A report on a group of Italians from Liverpool Camp mentions that the men were taking home items such as soap, cotton and wool goods purchased from the canteen. These items were in short supply in Italy. Wool army blankets would have been an appropriate and practical item to ‘souvenir’.
The men boarding the Moreton Bay repatriation ship in 1946 found many ways to strap their blankets to luggage or to make a swag to hang from shoulder to waist.
4-8-46 Repatriation of Italian prisoners of war on the Moreton Bay