On 26 February 1945 a statement is made in an Adjutant General Prisoner of War, War Diary:
6. Signal A13810 to AFHQ advising LHQ intention to transfer PWI SCANAROTTI and NATALE to Mideast on parole without escort, requesting concurrence and information as to place of reporting.
Italo Scanarotti and Pietro Natale were repatriated from Australia to the Middle East leaving Melbourne on 25 April 1945. There is no mention of the name of the ship the men boarded.
The event is unusual. The men were transferred on 23 April 1945 from Myrtleford Camp Victoria to “GDD Royal Park for embarkation as per instructions”. They are given necessary documents to take with them and ‘released’ to board a ship for movement to the Middle East. Documents handed to them also include details of their onward movements. They travel as passengers, not prisoners of war.
Their cases are ‘unusual’.
Captain Pietro Natale was rescued in the Mediterranean Sea after his ship Pola was sunk in the Battle of Matapan 28 March 1941. At the outbreak of war, he was assigned to a position in the Italian Navy, but Natale’s work as an electrical engineer highlights his true skills and strengths. Graduating from the University of Naples as an electrical engineer he become director of Intercontinental Radio Electrics in Mogadiscio from 1936 to July 1937 before setting up wireless stations in Harar and Jimma.
Whilst in Myrtleford Camp Natale made application to take a correspondence course at University of Melbourne. His application was declined but he continued studies under the direction of Lieut. Col. Alberto Stradelli, an engineer who had been a profession at Bologna University. Letters to his sister in Italy, confirm his passion for continued learning, as he asks his sister to take up subscriptions to journals Elettrotecnica and Alta Frequenza and ensure that they are forwarded to him via the appropriate channels.
In March 1943 he is assessed by the Mixed Medical Commission and his application for early repatriation is approved. But with the passing of months and years, no further medical repatriations take place.
Natale declares his loyalty to the King of Italy, moves to a ‘Royalist’ compound and advocates to be released for work in his field of expertise. He is content to undertake menial tasks such as radio shop repairs or a cinematograph operator. He writes to the Apostolic Delegate 22 April 1944, to advance his request and also the Australian Government via the Myrtleford Camp Commandant 21 March 1944. He also makes an application to join the Italian forces as a co-belligerent fighting the Germans.
His documents record that his behaviour is exemplary and that he is not a security risk.
Captain Pietro Natale PWI47048 (NAA:A7919, C103308)
Royal Commissioner for Immigration Italo Scanarotti’s journey is complicated. Scanarotti was onboard the merchant ship Romolo as it returned to Italy prior to the declaration of war. The crew and passengers of the Romolo abandoned ship on 12 June 1940 and were taken aboard the Manoora. Arrested as prisoners of war in Townsville, Scanarotti and other members of the crew are sent to Gaythorne Internment Camp in Brisbane.
On 18 July 1940, he applies for an is granted a Certificate of Registration of Aliens at the Roma Street Police Station Brisbane. Scanarotti is processed as an internee: a civilian Italian in Australia who is considered a security risk. He is sent to Hay Camp, transferred to Liverpool Camp, returned to Hay Camp before being moved to Loveday Camp South Australia.
Scanarotti applies to appear before a Tribunal at Loveday Camp to appeal his internment. His application is rejected. He makes an application to be treated as a ‘prisoner of war’ but on 20 June 1941, the Legal Officer at HQ Loveday refuses his application.
As an internee, Scanarotti is without financial aid. As a prisoner of war and an officer, financial support is guaranteed, as it better living conditions. On 5 May 1942 he is transferred to Murchison Camp. Within a month he is transferred to the officers’ camp at Myrtleford. By 25 August 1943 he is given the rank of a naval officer: Major. Financial payments are backdated and Scanarotti’s financial situation has improved.
Scanorotti then makes application to be repatriated as a civilian in service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and treated as other consular and diplomatic staff. Unfortunately his insistence on being given the status of a ‘prisoner of war’, cancels his ability to be considered as a employee of the Italian foreign services. He compared his situation to that of Filippo Vanzini, Ship’s Welfare Office of the Remo, who was also captured in Australian. While Vanzini was repatriated 29 March 1943 on the Oranje, Scanarotti was still held as a prisoner of war in Australia.
His loyalty to the King of Italy brought him in conflict with the fascist officers in Camp 5A. He is moved to Camp 5B, which became a ‘royalist’ supporters camp after Italy’s surrender. Scanorotti applied for farm work and asserted his pro-Allied sympathies. He was not considered to be a security risk.
Certification of Registration of Alien: Scanarotti, Italo (NAA:A7919 C104027)