Author Archives: Always a Mum

Captured at Bardia

Melino family 3 - Copy

Costanzo Melino: Italian Soldier: 20 years old

(from Anzaro: The Home of my Ancestors)

Costanzo Melino’s memoirs are part of ANZANO – The Home of my Ancestors, written by his daughter Rosa Melino.  From Anzano he was conscripted and sent to Libya to fight Mussolini’s war. His recollections are invaluable in providing the personal experiences of a shepherd who was captured at the Battle of Bardia and shipped to Australia as a prisoner of war.

Special thanks to Rosa Melino for allowing for her work and the words of Costanzo  to be reproduced here as part of this project. Her assistance is invaluable as these memories provide depth and perspective for this history.

Costanzo Melino was captured at Bardia 4th January 1941

I didn’t want to fight.  I always wondered ‘Why me?’ We were rounded up and taken to army barracks where we were given our uniforms…. I was appointed to the 21st Artillery Regiment of the Army Corps and then we were sent to the front.  You can imagine the effect upon a young man who had never seen or learnt much.  I was taken out of school aged seven and sent to look after the sheep with my grandfather.  My grandfather died in March 1935, but in 1921 Mussolini had made a law that all children had to go to school until the age of 15, (that’s one good thing the dictator did), but it was too late for me. 

 We were sent along with other boys from my class in Anzano on the Julius Caesar to Bengazi in Libya. This took us two days at sea.  Bengazi was an Italian colony in those days.  We had to drink sterilized sea water which was salty and hot.  I was very sick. I was called up on 2nd February 1940 and sent to fight in Benghazi in Libya.  Our Commander was Annibalo Bergonsoli.  He used to have a long beard and we nicknamed him ‘Barba Elettrica’. We certainly met war and we did not recover from the shock.

 We ate bread and water and were covered in fleas and sand from the Sahara Desert.   I had to learn to wash my own clothes once a week.  We were woken and were marched and exercised and then we were lined up and given coffee at 7 a.m. in the morning.  We were instructed until lunch time and then we were line up for lunch at 1 p.m. Then we were instructed again until 4 p.m. and again we were lined up and given our meal of ‘pasta asciutta’ or ‘minestrone’ or ‘risotto’.  We were also given some meat, half a litre of wine and two rolls of bread per day.  We had to be respectful to our superiors, and if we weren’t we were placed in confinement by our Colonel Commander.  Water was rationed.  From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. we were free and we could go to the city of Bengazi.  We would go and look at the shops and if any soldier had some money he would buy what he needed. We were always watched by other soldiers doing the rounds – usually in groups of three.  We could not speak with the Arabs and we had to return at the right time.  We had to salute our officials.  Italo Balbi was the Italian Governor at the time.

Bardia P05182.051

North Africa: Western Desert.  Developed from a film taken from captured Italian prisoners at Bardia. c. 1940

(Australian War Memorial, Robert Otto Boese, Image P05182.051)

When the war broke we were commanded by Colonel Mario Bombagli to go to the Egyptian border between Bardia and Tobruk. One hundred thousand Italian soldiers of the various Infantry, Bersaglieri, Engineering and Artillery were killed there.  It was called the ‘Front Cerinaico’. There were so many men and so little equipment.  It was a desert with no water. It was hot during the day and freezing at night.  Bombs fell frequently upon us from overhead planes.  We were given orders to attack only when the enemy fired first.

In August 1940, we were given the order to advance into Egyptian territory. The Italian forces won ‘Siti Barrani’ in Egypt, but that too was a desert.  The desert winds would blow the sand and we could not even see.  We had to stay until the tempest passed.  At night we slept in the ‘trincee’ or tunnels that we built ourselves to protect us from the enemy bombardments.  We were given two litres of water and little food.

In October 1940, we were surrounded by the English and we lost ground and had to return to Bardia where after many battles we were defeated.

Bardia 0084113

Two captured Italian carro veloce CV22 tankettes on the road overlooking Bardia Harbour. Bardia can be seen on the far hill. (Negative by B.M.I.)

(Australia War Memorial, Image 0084113)

Target Practice

We lived about three mile out of town and my dad operated the Monto Aerodrome on our property.  During the war, the VDC (Volunteer Defence Corps) gave dad a 303 and told him that if the Japanese landed on the airfield, he had to shoot them.  I think we kids, used up the box of bullets that came with the 303.  Lucky the invasion never happened because dad wouldn’t have had the bullets to defend the airfield.

Monto Airport

View of Monto Aerodrome October 1951

(John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Negative number: 204178)

There were ten children in my family, so dad had us to help him on the farm, so he didn’t apply for Italian POWs.  But our neighbour Rupert Dowling had Italian POWs.  I thought about them the other day, and their names came to me straight away: Pace and Morelli.  Farming was hard work in those days as you had to use horses and a three furrow plough to get the land tilled.

Monto.DowlingWarren.Pace.Doug

Warren Dowling, Vincenzo Pace and Doug Groundwater Monto 1944

(from the Collection of Judith Minto (nee Dowling))

I was about ten years old at the time but I remember the reddish orange uniforms that Pace and Morelli had to wear.  We kids called them ‘Itydykes’. You would see them being taken to Mass in town on a Sunday, four of them in the back of Dowling’s ute.  He must have picked up two others from another farm.

My brothers and I would go out shooting ducks, dad was a World War 1 Veteran and made sure that we all knew how to handle a rifle.  Pace and Morelli came out shooting with us once.  We were shooting tin cans.  All a bit of fun.  Dad was none too pleased when he found out that we had given the rifles to the POWs.  I supposed we didn’t see any problems with it.  It was just something to do.

Neighbours, the Anderson’s also had POWs. A young fellow from their farm would sneak over to our house at night.  My brother Bill played the banjo and mandolin and so did this fellow so that had many jam sessions together.  Probably, we younger kids were supposed to be asleep. Wouldn’t have been right to have us go to school the next day and talk about the POWs over at our place.

I remember Mrs Dowling going crook about having to cook for the POWs.  I think it was more that she had to cook up meals of spaghetti for them, and it wasn’t something that she was used to doing.  They didn’t eat in the house, but there was a table set up outside under loquat tree where they would eat their meals.  If two Italians went to a farm, then the farmer fed them.  If there were three at a farm, the third one was the cook.

The van used to come to the farms with items for the Italians.  It upset a lot of people that they could buy items that we couldn’t get in the shops.  I remember sardines, cigarettes, tomato sauce and spaghetti.

I think there was mention of Rupert Dowling sponsoring Morelli after the war.  But I think by then, Rupert had retired or had leased out his farm to share-croppers.

One day, going home from school, I saw what seemed like hundreds of the ‘Itydykes’ in the showgrounds.  It was the end of the war and the POWs were there waiting to board the train to Brisbane.  Pace and Morelli must have seen us and came over to the fence to ask us something or tell us something.  I remember all this spaghetti that was being cooked up there.

 

Pratola Peligna home of Vincenzo Pace and Cansano home of Nicola Morelli

Doug Groundwater

Monto

12 June 2017

 

Tinned Peaches

Montville Pineapples

Pineapple farm at Montville

(Picture Queensland, State Library of Queensland)

Much of the history of the Montville district has been lost as the farms have disappeared to make way for progress.

I was a young teenager during the war and remember well the Italian Prisoners of War on Cliff Dart and Artie Glover’s farms.  I am not sure if the Italians were billeted with Cliff Dart and then loaned to Artie Glover, but there were a number of them during that time.

Pineapples were farmed there and the Italians were good workers.  I suppose they did all the jobs around the farm including picking and packing.

I remember the Italians as being decent fellows.  They were docile and peaceful and never any trouble. Cliff Dart had a spare house on his farm so the Italians lived independently.  They had their beds and everything set up for cooking.  So they had it pretty good.  One fellow, I remember as being short and fat, probably the cook.  Sometimes, at night, they would come down to our farm. They seemed to be able to move around freely.

They liked to tell stories. I remember there were many conversations and the Italians made it clear that they did not like the war.  They were interested in learning about the history of the district and they would tell us stories about life in Italy. There was never a feeling that they were dangerous.  When the war ended and peace declared, they were very excited to tell us that the war had finished. They were good singers too.  It was like they were trained opera singers with their tenor voices.  You could hear their singing and music  from our farm.

Cliff Dart would take them to the Catholic Church in Nambour as there wasn’t a church in Montville.  I remember the orange coloured uniforms they had to wear and the Army Supply Truck that would come around to the farms about once a month.  The Italians could get lots of items that we couldn’t buy what with food rationing.  They would always say after canteen day, “we give you some” as they offered and shared chocolate with us kids.  The idea that Italian POWs could buy items like tinned peaches, did not sit well with the locals.  They had more than they could eat, so we would swap tinned peaches for bananas we grew on our farm.

I can’t remember exactly when they arrived, but it was almost like one day they were there and then they were gone.  It was a bit like that when the army set up camp with new recruits on the sports ground.  There was a lot of military activity during the war in the district.  An army camp would be set up, the soldiers would undergo their training and then overnight, they would disappear.  All tents and equipment just gone.

Montville had four guest houses at the time and army and air force personnel would come up to Montville for R & R.  They would come up with their girlfriends and then after they left, the pilots would fly over or buzz over Montville to say goodbye to their girlfriends.  I have the Yankees to thank for not becoming a smoker.  A couple of my mates and I obtained a packet of Camel or Lucky Stripes from the Yankees.  Between us, we smoked the whole packet.  I was crook.  I never had a cigarette again.  My parents didn’t say anything, but I am sure they knew what I had been up too.

The war had an impact on schools as well.  Slit trenches were built in the school yard and air raid drills were held.  There were about 70 pupils at the school and the younger kids would go in the morning and the older kids would go to school in the afternoon.  It might have had something to do with us going from two teachers to one teacher during that time.

Les Farmer

Montville Guest House

Manjalda Guest House outdoor pool and tennis court – Montville, 1930 – 1959

(Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 23235)

Benair’s POWs

 

Cotton

Cotton Growing Australia

(National Archives of Australia: NAA: B4498, IE5)

Two of my uncles lived at Benair on the farm that my Grandfather selected in about 1907. My grandfather James McErlean was born in County Derry and sailed on the “Dorunda” in March 1887 to Australia, arriving in Brisbane on the 5th May 1887. He settled in the Benair district after land was opened up after the Taabinga Resumption.

My uncles, Peter and William, were asked by Government people of the day, as were other farmers, if they would plant a crop of cotton for the war effort as cotton was in short supply, they agreed to give it a try and I think they planted about five acres.

When it was ready to harvest the government or whoever were in charge brought some of these prisoners to their farm to hand pick the cotton. One of the uncles  didn’t think much of the idea as he had trouble trying to understand the Italians.

The farm was about 13 – 15 mile out of town and my uncle Peter Francis McErlean had two POWs billeted on his farm and I think they stayed on the farm because roads and cars weren’t the best in those days.  The records show that Leonardo Miresse from Montefalcone Valfortore and Rocco Poliseno from Castell Uccio Valmaggioce  were placed with PF McErlean on 7.8.44.

Apparently the cotton crop was not very successful, maybe dry weather or some other problem, I don’t think cotton had been planted as a crop in the Kingaroy district before that time.

Tom McErlean.

 

Local History, the Lock Up and Musical Soirees

Q7 Staff

Q7 PW Control Centre Kenilworth and Staff

(from the collection of Kenilworth Museum, donated by Tony White)

The Q7 PW Control Centre in Kenilworth is a well-known landmark. Situated on Elizabeth Street, Margaret and Tony White called the property home from 1993 – 2015 and operated it as a Bed and Breakfast. Margaret White’s interest in local history extends to her researching the history of the building. “The house was prefabricated in Brisbane and erected after the establishment of the Kenilworth town.  The area was ‘Kenilworth Station’ and after the owner Hugh Moore died, the area was gazetted as a town. It was one of the first houses built on land purchased at auction by Patrick Sharry in 1921. The Sharry’s operated it as a boarding house which was disproved of by Mrs Duggan, mother-in-law and financer for the Sharrys.  She took possession of the house and converted it into 3 – 4 flats. Mrs Duggan’s daughters Mrs ER Fritz and Mrs MA O’Connell were bequeathed the house which was then leased as Q7 PW Control Centre during the war. The Purdon family were the next owners, followed by Kevin and Gloria McGinn then us. Now it has a new life as a family home. The L shaped area under the house was known to be the ‘lock up’ for POWs, most likely caught for fraternizing with the local girls. The house is across the road from the local Catholic Church and the prisoners used to come to church and stand at the back and at the sides in their red ‘pajamas’.  Some of them biked in from Cambroon to attend church”, Margaret reminisces.

And there were many other stories about the house and the time when Italian Prisoners of War worked on farms in the Kenilworth district. “We often received visits from people who had a connection to the house: ex Army staff, families of ex Army staff.  I did also hear that at least one Italian ex-prisoner came back for a visit. The driver was Mr Thomas Dwyer, a Caloundra local and the Army staff were referred to as ‘officers and gentlemen’. We also had a visitor who happened to have attended the autopsy in Gympie of a Kenilworth POW who had drowned in the Mary River.  The locals and prisoners were having a picnic on the Mary River at the end of the war when the Italian drowned.  He was buried in Gympie and his remains were transferred to Melbourne” relates Margaret.

Local historian Lenore Meldrum recalls that living next door to the centre were her aunt and uncle.  They often talked of the Italians attending mass with the locals  but also about welcoming the Italians into their home: “Aunt was a skilled pianist and my cousin tells me that it was not unusual for the men (both soldiers and Italians) to come to their home on a Sunday evening with their musical instruments and join in a sing along around the piano”, Lenore relates.

Other Kenilworth memories collected by Kenilworth & District Historical Assn. Inc. for publication in The Mary Voice include that of Ivy Loweke as retold by her daughter Margaret Pickering: “Arthur Hughes* accommodated two of the Italian detainees, who worked on his farm (near Moy Pocket) on the Gheerulla to Brooloo Road. Normally, detainees were kept in pairs and monitored. They were fed and accommodated.  Dave Ower also accommodated two detainees. Dave’s farm was between the farms of Cope Loweke and Arthur Hughes. Cope Loweke declined having detainees on his farm, because he had two daughters (Thelma and Ivy); and didn’t feel it would be appropriate.”

*NB Guido Crocetti and Giuseppe D’Ambrosio were assigned to Arthur Hughes at Moy Pocket. 

George Pearce also remembered the Italian POWs in the Kenilworth district and recounts this memory in Ducks on the Noosa River.   The Leo mentioned is most likely Pantaleo De Carlo (farmer from Vernolle Lecce) who went to work at DE Pearce’s farm Oakey Creek, Eumundi 25th May 1944 together with Salvatore Maci  (farmer from Squinzano Lecce).

 

 

Memories of Italian POWs at Eumundi

 The Ower Farm, Kinnoull

My parents, David and Eva Ower developed a dairy farm, a little smaller than others locally (320 acres) with a dairy herd of about 25 to 35 milkers, with usual pigs, calves, and horses: 2 riding and 2 draft for operating the farm utensils.

 

ower3

Hector and Pom Mustering a Pig Litter

I had an older sister Beverley, and we rode our horses 3 ½ miles to a small one teacher school at Brooloo, terminus of the Mary Valley Rail Line from Gympie.  We were about 8 & 7 y.o.

As much of the land was hilly, there was only a small area for tilling and growing crops and, this was done without a tractor by hand using draft horses.  Crops grown included corn, potatoes, pumpkins, and oats for feeding the animals.

Dates are uncertain but Dad was allocated 2 Italian P O W’s who we knew as Hector (probably Ettore Pizzirani) from Bologna district in Northern Italy, and Pom (probably Pompeo Cervellati) from Southern Italy.

 

ower1

POWs Residential Humpy Kinnoull

Near to our home, there was an old humpy on stumps, which was weatherproof, tiled timber roof, timber floor, and covered side verandah as this had served as an early residence.  This then was the residence of the 2 P O W’s who had table, chairs and single beds with corn husk mattresses.   Meals were served to them in the humpy, frequently spaghetti.  They used the downstairs shower in our house and a common separate single earth closet.

The main tasks allocated were to assist in the milking, building new and repairing timber post wire fences, cutting down regrowth small trees to create more grass areas, digging out unwanted weeds and foreign growth (lantana), drafting and dipping the cattle, and clearing old trees from paddocks.

Both were taught to handle the draft horses and the hand implements, and to ride horses.  Hector did this well but there were some problems for Pom.

ower2

Hector and Pom on Horseback

As they derived from different backgrounds and areas in Italy, there were a few personal problems and so Pom was returned to Kenilworth for further allocation.  Hector integrated well into our life activities and with our visiting friends, and we were sorry to lose him eventually.  We used to sing songs with him, teach him some Australian customs, and learn some from him.

Because of Hector’s departure about 1946, Dad bought a milking machine system to assist with the milking and cream separation process.

John Ower

14 December 2016

 

Capture.Surrender.Imprisonment

North Africa.QueenMary.Australia

The North African Campaign began in June 1940. The Italian soldiers were in the main conscripted who had undergone the most basic of training.  Not only were food and water in short supply by weaponry was inferior to that of the  Allies, tactical attacks not supported by aerial and navy divisions and provision of armaments was slow to appear.

Antonino Lumia has had his memories of being a soldier in the Italian army and prisoner of war in Australia recorded for posterity.   Lumia’s words were recorded by his grandson Damiano and can be heard via YouTube,  Antonino Lumia POW in Australia 1941-1946.

This recording is an invaluable insight into the personal experiences of the ordinary men who were caught up in the politics of war.  Lumia had his 28th birthday in the north African desert and was captured at Tobruk.

Special acknowledgement to Damiano Lumia for allowing for his work and the words of  Antonino to be reproduced here as part of this project.  His  assistance is invaluable as these memories provide depth and perspective for this history.

Antonino Lumia was captured at Tobruk 22nd January 1941

Antonino Lumia reminsices :

We took a white sheet. Sign of surrender. We hijacked our guns. Unlike the enemy.

Very soon after the tanks …… we could hear: “come! Come! Come! We are there, prisoners!

Everyone took his things. One can. A piece of bread. The captain shared the stocks.

They surrounded us like sheep. A tank in front of us … another behind. And we all, prisoners, in column. When the English and the Australians arrived … … to our captain … … they confiscated the watch, its binoculars …… his belt, his weapon. All our watches were confiscated.

To some soldiers their wallets, personal photographs. We walked towards their lines.

We were locked up in an airport. Not food. No water.

POW cage 3955959

Tobruk, Libya. 1941-03 to 1941-06. Originally an Italian ammunition storage area this section was converted into a prisoner of war cage after the first battle.  It held as many as 15,000 prisoners at a time.  Litter in the picture includes cast-off clothing and empty ‘bully-beef’ tins.  Two members of the ‘Olds and Bolds’, 1st Australian Corps Guard Battalion, in their temporary camp in the area.

(Australia War Memorial, Image 020079)

Encircled by tanks …

… if one of our soldiers approached the barriers he risked being killed. When we walked … dead on the side of the road. Close to me a corpse. Lying on the side of the road. Forbidden to approach it.

If we dared to do it, from the top of their tanks … a shot …… our turn to be killed.

They shut us in at this airport. 140000 men. No place to sleep. 140000 men … 140000 men …

No food. No water. The next day, some cried. Others said, “I shall never see my wife again.”

“I will never see my daughter again.” Discouraged. One of our Sergeant Major …… only son …

… born in Vittoria …… his mother treated him like a young lady. He was crying. “If my mother knew it.”

“In what condition I am”. He was wearing a scarf. Sand everywhere on him.

There the sand flew very high. When some of us started dying … … the British collected seawater in petrol cans. The drinking-water cisterns had been destroyed by us, Italian.

They were all made to explode, so as not to give them to the enemy. They brought sea water.

They lined the barrels of oil, full of sea water. A hundred barrels. Threatened by their weapons, they were grouped together. “First line, kneeling!” We walked on our knees.

“Line number two, on your knees!” They formed about fifty lines. I did not have a container.

I got near the barrels. In my throat bits of sand. I began to drink despite the oil that floated on the sea water. An armed Australian was looking at me. “No good! No good!”

Not good … I just stood up. Regardless of oil, sea water … … I had a saucepan … … I fill it and go back to those who had drunk. I detached my military insignia. Two green and red bands.

I made a cross on my clothes with the insignia. I wanted to make them believe I was a nurse.

“This one can pass …” “He will help us, transport the sick …”

POW medical station6053463

Bardia, Libya. 1941-01-04. An Italian prisoner of war (POW) posing with a stretcher bearer at a dressing station operated by the 6th Division. (Original housed in AWM Archive Store)

(Australian War Memorial, Image P02038.080)

I crossed their lines thanks to the badge of the red cross. Again I approach the barrels. I take an Italian soldier over me. “Pretend to be dead”

We’ll drink again! I lifted this stranger on my shoulders. With this stratagem, I made several round trips. I drank and gave drink to the “sick”. I made three trips.

I’ve never had so much water. I was overjoyed. Despite the traces of oil.

At night we lay down on the ground. If it was raining or cold … … with a blanket we gathered to four …

… our breaths warmed us. Eight days of this life. Bitter as the poison. Lice … … our clothes were filled …… our flesh were bloody … scratching lesions.

One morning, very early, they woke us up with their weapons. I said to my cousin, “Standing, let’s see where they take us.” A group of 2,000 soldiers came out. Again a march, framed by soldiers.

Head towards the port of Tobruk. In the port there were their kitchens. On the ground there were orange peel. Lemon peel.I fill my pockets.It’s always there to feed me. From time to time I ate a peel.

I ate everything. The sand, the bark of fruit. On a boat, we joined the ship, 20 soldiers at a time.

It was a food transport ship. They grouped us in 3 holds. No water. No toilets.

Everyone went to the toilet in front of the others. Luckily they kept the light. The ship went away.

arrival in Egypt. Ready to disembark.

We were on deck. The Egyptians insult us: “Mussolini … Mussolini .. to death!” The English intervened. They beat them with their truncheons. “Leave them alone … they are hungry, are full of lice …”. We got off the ship.On trucks, we traveled inside the country. They grouped us in tents.

Near the sea. Meat arrived in their kitchen. Their military doctor said: “This meat is infected …

… forbidden to share with the prisoners “.They buried everything. I and my cousin have observed everything. A semi-raw meat, potatoes … That night, cousin … At nightfall, kneeling, in the sand, …

A potato was found. It’s here, cousin. We filled our towels, headed for the tent.

The next day, it was washed 20 times. Sand …It was cooked with a little water …

We mixed everything with our daily pasta. That was delicious.

I had received 35 cigarettes for a week. I am not a smoker. You smoke? Here’s this. Give me your bread.

After 8 days, in Egypt, passage to the baths.The goal was to decontaminate us. We changed clothes.

We went back to the canal. Mussolini paid very dearly for the passing of his people. Indian soldiers arrived.

Indian soldiers

An Indian soldier guards a group of Italian prisoners near El Adem aerodrome, during the pursuit of Axis forces westwards after the relief of Tobruk.

(Imperial War Museum, Image E7180)

8 of us had been designated to clean up their garrison. Clean the toilet, pass the brush, collect garbage …I say to my cousin: “Let’s go …… maybe we could eat. I took a big wipe. Around my belt. Cousin, let’s see if there is food.

When we had finished cleaning, the guard gave us a cigarette each. As I did not smoke, I gave it to my cousin. We observed that they threw their waste into a barrel. I stretched my wipe.

I plunge my hands into their trash. I plunge my hands, and lifts this mud. Very acid.

He was warmed up between soldiers. We were hungry. Each day eight pasta and a piece of bread were received. I ran away with the towel. The guard said, “That’s not good!” … Shut up.

For you it is not good. For me it is excellent. In the tent I cut this mud with my knife.

I stirred up all this with our meal.

After eight days. Head towards the Suez Canal. We embarked (Queen Mary)

I asked, “Where are we going?” … “we do not know, perhaps in the United States, or in India …”.

I’ll see where we’ll end up. On this ship they ate.

A ship carrying 15,000 men. Each had his bed.I got on deck. I was walking. When my cousin came. He wore a towel filled with bread.He had cleaned the beautiful walls of the boat. He took all the loaves. I saw him on the deck of the boat: “come cousin …”We sat on the floor. And we ate.

Order was given to walk barefoot on the boat.The shoes damaged the floor.

It was a luxury ship. A captain came to meet us. “Come, come.” What does this man want? Lets go see… We needed follow-up. We went down the stairs. A commander was waiting for us, as well as an Italian interpreter.

The commander tells us: “I have ordered you to walk barefoot, and you, abusively, wear your shoes!”

But I can not walk barefoot. Give us sandals … The sergeant major thought I was standing up to the interpreter. He shouted, “Shut up!”

 

Queen Mary

In the main mess hall on board the SS QUEEN MARY (formerly the First Class dining saloon) where more than 2,000 troops can be fed at one sitting. In peacetime it used to take 800 First Class passengers but now sittings go on from 6 am till 9 pm.

(Imperial War Museum, Coote, R.G.G. (Lt) Image A25924)

Give us our sanction. If it’s impossible to express why we drove here? We were following the sentinel. They gave us white blankets. Beautiful covers with silk edges. He leads us to the front of the ship, where the chimney is. He locked us in a room full of soot. We lay down on our blankets.

We’ll see tomorrow morning … The next morning they brought us a half bucket of coffee.

No bread, nothing else.We split the bucket.

After 24 hours of confinement … … we went out …

My cousin looked at me and said, “you are blackened from head to toe”

My dear cousin, if I am blackened, you are in a totally indescribable state!

We slept in the soot.The blankets had become black …We went back to our beds.

One day a prisoner died on board. They packed it in a bag and thrown it into the water.The priest took his papers. Queen Mary.

We arrived in Australia.

POW boat

Italian Prisoners of War – Italian prisoners of war bound for a prisoner-of-war camp, disembarking following their arrival in Australia.

(National Archives of Australia, NAA: A11663, PA 189)