Crescenzio RAVO was 18 years old when he was captured at Tobruk on 22nd January 1941. He spent his 19th birthday on the Queen Elizabeth as she made her way to Australia, arriving in Sydney 15th October 1941.
Crescenzio Ravo: 19 years old Cowra PW & I Camp 17.11.41
NAA: A7919, C100635
His 20th and 21st birthdays were celebrated in Cowra and his 22nd and 23rd birthdays at Q6 Home Hill hostel. Three weeks after his 24th birthday, he escaped from Murchison POW Camp.
While he was at Q6 Home Hill hostel, Sept 1944 to November 1945, he had spent 67 days in detention. He has escaped from Q6 and was found at Iona School and had also gone walkabout a couple of times while on work duty. Once in Murchison, he damaged property of the Commonwealth, used threatening language and then escaped again.
History is interesting. The full picture does not always reveal itself. In a moment of sentimentality, I reflect that Crescenzio was the age of my sons, while I have been undertaking this research. I wonder how they would act and react at being in such an unfamiliar environment. Both would endure their situation, very differently.
I think however angry Crescenzio was, however brazen and sullen, the final page in his file helps tell his story; he just wanted to go home.
Repatriation orders were for all Italian prisoners of war to transported to Italy. Those men who were Italian, but were residents of Libya or Eritrea or Ethiopia were placed in an uncertain situation. Home was not Italy, and therefore once in Naples, would transfer to their home in a ex-Italian colony be automatic? This is the situation Crescenzio found himself in: repatriation to Italy, but how would he get home to Tripoli? Did repatriation orders include directives for those Italians whose home was not in Italy? Would Crescenzio be stranded in Naples without the means to make his way to Libya?
The following entry answers these questions:
War Diary: 2 Sep 46 “Commands have been informed that except in exceptional circumstances Italian PW will not be repatriated to former Italian colonies.”
Letter by Ravo to PW Camp Authorities
NAA: A7919, C100635
What is known about this situation is that a return to Libya was difficult.
Here are the journeys of two other Italian soldiers who were Libyan residents:
From ‘A Father’s Love’: Liborio Bonadonna
But Liborio’s return to his family in Tripoli was further delayed. Once he arrived in Naples, he required an operation. Fighting bureaucracy, he tried to gain permission several times to reach Libya and his wife and parents.
Liborio’s grandson, Liborio Mauro says that “He told her [my grandmother] if I’m not able to join you, I would like to go back in Australia. After 3 times, he finally joined my grandmother in Libya where my father Carmelo was born in Tripoli in 1949.”
Abele Damini was also a resident of Libya. Valerio Damini writes, “After the war, Abele came to Afragola (Napoli province) identification center, he did not wait for official re-embarkation and, boarding clandestinely in an illegal ship, he tried to reach Libya coast by himself. He then be imprisoned in Libyan prison (for I do not know how long), where he got sick and died.”
After six years in captivity, these Italians who were residents of the colonies, deserved quick and free passage to their homes and families.