Cosimo Papadia had served with a Tank Corps for 29 months when he was captured at Sidi Barrani 11th December 1940. He had sustained a major injury and was hospitalized from the 12th December 1940 in a Cairo hospital until 22nd December 1941. From Cairo he was then sent to Campo di Ismailia. On 22nd January 1941 he was sent to the concentration camp 4 (Egypt).
14th December 1940 SIDI BARRANI – THE ITALIANS WERE WELL EQUIPPED AND HAD TANKS AND OTHER MOBILE EQUIPMENT EVERYWHERE…EVEN ON THE BEACH AT SIDI BARRANI. THIS ONE IS IN FAIR WORKING ORDER & WILL SOON BE FOLLOWING ITS ORIGINAL OWNERS – BUT WITH A DIFFERENT FLAG FLYING. (AWM Image 00416, Photographer Frank Hurley)
Cosimo arrived in Sydney 27th May 1941 on the Queen Mary with the first group of Italian prisoners of war to arrive in Australia. He departed on the Andes, an early repatriation ship on3rd August 1945.
He had three Australian homes: Hay Camp NSW, Murchison Camp Victoria and Kinglake Hostel Victoria. Known as V18 Kinglake, this hostel accommodated 151 Italian prisoners of war from September 1944 to July 1945. Employed by the State Forests Commission, the Italians were involved in wood cutting and forestry work.
Cosimo’s son Francesco Vincenzo was quick to recognise his father in the photo below at Hay Camp. He is standing second from the left with the hat.
Hay, NSW. 9 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 6 POW Group. In this group are known to be: 46963 Giuseppe Veronesi; 45802 Vincenzo Gaudiero; 46161 Alfredo Masacchia; 46362 Cosimo Papadia; 45203 Alberto Ciattaglia; 36759 Michelangelo Spina; 45971 Emilio Larini, and 46864 Francesco Tuppy. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030142/06, Photographer Michael Lewicki)
Mal McKInty from the Forestry Commission Retired Personnel Association has provided invaluable information about the prisoner of war hostel site at Kinglake West. For more information, click on the line: https://www.victoriasforestryheritage.org.au/community/alien-workers-pow-camps.html
A painting by D.W.Murray Paine illustrates the type of trees the Italians worked amongst.
D.W.Murray Paine 2008 (photo courtesy of https://www.victoriasforestryheritage.org.au/)
A photograph taken by J.D. Gillespie shows the Kinglake site in 1952. Most likely some of the buildings were remnants from the prisoner of war hostel.
1952 Kinglake Forestry Camp (photographer J.D. Gillespie, photo courtesy of https://www.victoriasforestryheritage.org.au/)
Mal McKlinty has also been able to identify the exact location of the Kinglake West camp: Latitude: -37.458115 Longitude: 145.227849 The Google Earth photo shows the modern buildings on the site, which have been used for many years for youth group camps.
Site of V18 Kinglake Hostel (Google Earth)
Cosimo was at V18 Kinglake from 10th December 1944 until 21st July 1945. Within two weeks of leaving Kinglake, Cosimo had embarked the Andes in Sydney for his voyage home.
There were several reasons for being on the Andes: ten were requested by the Italian Government, 389 were medically unfit, 156 were recommended by the Mixed Medical Commission, eight men were over 60 years of age, 22 were sent home early on compassionate grounds and 133 were aged between 50 and 60.
Francesco Vincenzo provides the details for his father’s early repatriation, “He [my father] was repatriated early because he was disabled due to being hit by a DUM DUM bullet with consequent damage to the muscle of the left arm, forearm and hand, so much so that on his return to Italy he was assigned an annuity amount provided to him until his death.”
The voyage home to Italy was unpleasant. Food was scarce and of poor quality; water was scare and men were ill with dysentery. The prisoners spent much of the time locked in their cabins. Francesco Vincenzo adds, “Le paure maggiori, durante le traversate erano comunque legate alle possibili incursioni aeree ma, per fortuna, tale evento non si verificò mai.” Naval mines were also a major concern for shipping post WW2.
Once landed in Naples, Australian guards delivered the Italians to the Army Headquarters.
After almost 5 years, Cosimo was free.
Francesco Vincenzo reflects, “ Mio padre ricordava sempre il suo soggiorno in Australia e, ad un certo punto aveva preso in considerazione l’idea di tornarvi per cercare una vita migliore rispetto a quella del dopoguerra in Italia.”