At the last minute…

The last main repatriation ship to leave Australia was the Orontes which left Melbourne 21st January 1947.  The official records document that there were 779 Italian prisoners of war onboard: 19 officers and 760 ORs. German prisoners of war were also onboard to be disembarked at Cuxhaven.

The Italians arrived at Station Pier [Port of Melbourne] on six special trains which had come from Sydney, Adelaide and Victorian country centres.

Station and Princes Pier Port of Melbourne 1939 from Victorian Places (https://www.victorianplaces.com.au/node/64947)

An Argus newspaper article reported that “a few Italian prisoners who had been missing, surrendered to Russell Street police station [Melbourne]” at the last minute.

Another two escapee Italians ‘surrendered at Station Pier Port of Melbourne’ on 21st January 1947.  Nicola Boraccino (b. 1916 Barletta (Bari)) had escaped from Liverpool Camp in NSW on 20.4.46.  Pasquale De Masi (b. 1912 Oppido Mamertino (Reggio Calabria)) escaped for a second time from Liverpool Camp NSW on 10.10.46.

1947 ‘LAST CALL FOR ORONTES’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1955), 24 January, p. 4. (CITY FINAL), viewed 26 Jul 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78552469

A Perth newspaper published the above cartoon in Daily News on the 24th January 1947. In the bottom corner of the cartoon, you can see a man hiding with another man hiding in the trees at top right.  The Australian military, in an effort to get escaped prisoners of war to surrender to authorities emphasised this was a last opportunity for a ‘free’ trip home to Italy. Additionally, if they surrendered, they would still be considered for migration to Australia at a later date.

The newspaper article on 24.1.47 explains that the majority of escaped Italian prisoners of war were in Western Australia. These men were given the opportunity to return to custody to board the Orontes.

1947 ‘LAST CALL FOR ORONTES’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1955), 24 January, p. 3. (CITY FINAL), viewed 26 Jul 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78552469

An additional three escapee Italian prisoners of war did surrender themselves to military police at Karrakatta Camp WA on 23.1.47 to be boarded at Gages Wharf Fremantle Harbour. 

They were Antonio de Matteis (b. 1917 Cubertino (Leece)) : escaped 22.7.46; Desiderio Greggio (b. 1918 Possonovo (Parma)) : escpaed 23.10.46 and Carmine Buonocunto (b. 1920 San Giovanni a Teduscio Napoli): escaped 23.10.46.

Carmine Buonocunto NAA: K1174

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