Author Archives: Joanne in Townsville

Escaped to Queensland

In May 1947 there were 100 escaped prisoners of war in Australia: 4 German and 96 Italian. Interestingly 92 had escaped in 1946 (and 8 in 1947).

The background history is that the Italians were taken off farms late 1945/early 1946 and told that they would be going home ‘soon’.  It wasn’t until December 1946/January 1947 that the majority of POWs were repatriated.

For young men who had already given 8 years to military service and as a POW, thoughts of delaying a ‘start of a new life’ back in Italy versus starting a new life in Australia would have been debated. Some would have wanted to start their new life in Australia sooner than later and thought repatriation would be a waste of another two valuable years of their working life.

Four escaped prisoners of war ‘hid out’ in Queensland: Harry Lugsch (Innisfail), Alberto Bandiera (Ingham), Giovanni Brisotto (Poziers) and Giuseppe Volpato (Poziers).  The authorities advertised the escapes in government and police gazettes.

Lugsch Harry 1947

Victorian Police Gazette Special Circular No. 7

NAA:A373, 11638D, 1946-1952

The journey of Harry Lugsch is an interesting one.  He was one of the sailors onboard the German raider Kormoran which sank the HMAS Sydney on 19th November 1941.  The 318 Germans who survived were captured off the coast at Carnarvon WA. Harry was captured 23rd November 1941. Once interrogated at Harvey WA, they were sent to Murchison and then a satellite camp at Graytown.  On 14th November 1946, a group of 300 German POWs were detached to V20 Wallangarra Hostel on the Queensland – New South Wales border, to undertake: preventative maintenance on dead storage Army Vehicles, 8,00 ‘B’ Army vehicles held by Ordnance Service. Included in this group were motor mechanics, paint sprayers, electricians, oxywelders, engineers, steam power cleaners and power greasers from the Kormoran.  Harry Lugsch escaped from PWCH Wallangarra on 25th December 1946 and was recaptured 5th January 1948 at Innisfail.

Lugsch Harry

SA Police Gazettes (1862-1947) 1946

(Ancestry.com. South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.)

Another prisoner of war to escape to Queensland was Alberto Bandiera. He escaped from N31 Hostel Glenfield: Army Ordnance Depots and Workshops, Ordnance installation at Moorebank. He was one of 455 Italian POWs sent to this hostel in January 1946. Joe Devietti from Ingham explains:

“Ingham has another link to Italian prisoners of war because an escaped POW cut cane in Ingham. His name was Alberto Bandiera and he had escaped in September 1946 and surrendered in Brisbane February 1950. The police questioned dad [Giovanni Devietti] about this but he denied any knowledge.  Bandiera was repatriated on the ship which brought out my cousins to Brisbane Surriento. They arrived 23rd February 1950 and Alberto Bandiera was repatriated onboard on the 24th February 1950.   In time, he returned to Australia and worked at Peacock Siding. Bandiera wasn’t the only escaped POW the police were looking for.”  Alberto Bandiera returned to Ingham in February 1951 and eventually took up farming and settled at Birkdale Queensland.

Bandiera Alberto

SA Police Gazettes (1862-1947) 1946

(Ancestry.com. South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.)

On 8th January 1946, Giovanni Brisotto and Giuseppe Volpato escaped together from N31 Hostel Glenfield.  They made their way to Angelo Vedelago’s farm at Poziers (via Stanthorpe).  Giuseppe Volpato surrendered in Brisbane on 8th May 1950, in time to be repatriated to Italy on SS Surriento on 11th May 1950.

Volpato Giuseppe

SA Police Gazettes (1862-1947) 1946

(Ancestry.com. South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.)

Giovanni Brisotto on the other hand remained ‘at large’ until 22rd March 1951 and surrendered in Brisbane.  He was granted an Aliens Registration Certificate which allowed him to stay in Australia.  Giovanni Brisotto’s story can be read in Echoes of Italian Voices.  He made Poziers his home.

Brisotto Giovanni

SA Police Gazettes (1862-1947) 1946

(Ancestry.com. South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.)

By 1952, 13 Italian prisoners of war had escaped repatriation.  Department of Army referred the men to Department of Immigration and once surrendered they were issued with Alien Certificates of Registration.  Among this group were two Italian POWs who had worked on Queensland farms: Pietro Daidone (Q10 Boonah) who escaped from Middle Head Hostel and Ottavio Brancatella (Q1 Stanthorpe) who escaped from Applethorpe while the Stanthorpe POWs were awaiting transport to Gaythorne.

Repatriation to Italy

A common question asked by families is: why did it take so long for our loved ones to return to Italy?

I have heard one suggestion: that the Australian government wanted to use Italian prisoners of war as ‘slave’ labour for an extra year. This is incorrect. *

A ‘big picture’ approach must be taken to this complex issue.

The statistics:

559,000 held in captivity by the Allied Forces

650,000 held in German prisoner of war camps

60,000 held in Russian prisoner of war camps

TOTAL: 1,260,000 Italian prisoners of war to be repatriated to Italy

The logistics:

How does the Italian government and Italian military receive and process these numbers.

Each man repatriated had to be processed at the point of entry into Italy.  For the Italians in Australia, this was Naples. Each man had to present himself to the Accommodation Centre (referred to as San Martino in Naples) for the processing of his documentation and his arrival.  Financial settlement of accounts. Two months leave with pay was granted and documented and these individual files would need to be lodged centrally and also forwarded to the closest military centre for each man.

How will these men be transported and what are the logistics in returning 559,000 from the corners of the world by boat; 710,000 by road or rail.

The Australian Situation:

Shipping

The arrangement of shipping suitable to transport several thousand Italian prisoners of war at a time, together with an Australian Armed Forces Guard was not a simple process.

Safe Passage

Shipping passages had been heavily mined during the war.  Mine clearance was slow and tedious.

Geographic location

Australia was at the end of the line. One would think that shipping c. 18,000 was a simple task compared with shipping several hundred thousand from USA. 

*Australian Authorities wanted ‘slave labour’? NO.

At the end of 1945 and beginning of 1946, Italian prisoners of war were withdrawn from farm work. There were two reasons: to have the Italians ready for repatriation AND to free up jobs for returned Australian soldiers.

Farmers in some districts asked for a delay in the removal of the Italian farm workers until after the summer harvest.  This was the case in the Stanthorpe district of Queensland.

The Australian authorities had an accommodation problem.  Capacity for Cowra Camp 4000; Hay Camp 3000; Murchison Camp 4000; Marrinup Camp 1500; Sandy Creek Camp 600. Loveday Internment Camp SA was re-opened in 1946 for prisoner of war and Northam Army Camp WA was used as a prisoner of war camp.

The Australian authorities did establish small hostels at Australian Military sites which served two purposes: additional housing of Italians outside of the barbed wire camps AND utilisation of labour on camp maintenance. Psychological and physically this situation was more favourable than sitting in Cowra Camp or Murchison Camp…. WAITING….

Additionally, those families whose loved ones returned to Italy in February 1947 are probably unaware of the previous repatriations: 30.7.46 Moreton Bay, 24.9.46 Chitral, 6.10.46 SS Katoomba, 8.11.46 Strathmore, 30.11.46 Rangitata, 12.12.46 Empire Clyde, 14.12.46 Moreton Bay, 23.12.46 Alcantara, 31.12.46 Ormonde.  The 1947 repatriations: 10.1.47 Otranto and 21.1.47 Orontes.

The following newspaper article provides an insight into the situation.

Lack of Ships Holds Up Italian P.O.Ws

NONE REPATRIATED BEFORE 1946

Repatriation of 13,000 Italian P.O.W.s from Australia is expected to begin early next year if shipping is available.

A start is to be made within a few weeks on the return of 150,000 Italians from Britain but Australia will be slower because of transport difficulties.

Withdrawal of the 1800 prisoners on Victorian farms will begin within the next 10 days but will not be completed until March.  First to be withdrawn will be those who have been employed by the Department of commerce and have lived in hostels in vegetable growing areas. Next will be those who have been living on the farms in which they are employed. All the 13,000 when withdrawn will be returned to internment until they can sail. Their withdrawal was ordered by the Commonwealth because of fears that their continued employment might prejudice Australians, particularly servicemen, seeking work. [Herald (Melbourne, Vic.: 1981-1954), Saturday 10 November 1945, page 5.]

The Complexity of Repatriation

In December 1946, Commander Alfredo MORONE of the Italy Navy was sent to Australia by the Italian Government.

In a prepared statement Commander Morone outlines the administrative and financial aspects pertaining to repatriation.  His statement is comprehensive: Ufficio di Collegamente: Per I Prigionieri di Guerra Italiani in Australia.

The documents are in Italian and English and obtained from National Archives of Australia: NAAMP742/1, 255/18/591.

Searching for King George

My search for King George began when Malcolm Davis from South Australia sent me a document about Italian prisoners of war near Gladstone South Australia in December 2019.  And so a needle in a haystack treasure hunt began…

1. from Gladstone a meeting of creeks – a breaking of gauges. Published by The Gladstone Centenary Committee, 1980. Printed by Gillingham Printers Pty Ltd Adelaide SA.

Post War Years

It was at this time that 5 CAD became host to Italian prisoners of war… One POW told the then depot commander, Capt. L.E. Ash, that he was a painter before the war.  Paint was produced from depot stocks, and canvas, but no fine brushes were available.  The POW overcame this problem by using hair from his own head to fashion brushes, and the resulting portrait of King George IV [sic.] copied from the cover of the then current edition of Women’s Weekly, now hangs in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

I sat on this information, for two months, calculating my plan of action.  During this time, I used varying combinations of wording for searches in the Australian War Memorial online collection.  I had no luck finding the King George portrait.

2. Women’s Weekly: maybe I could find a portrait of King George on the cover of the Women’s Weekly.  Logically, I was looking for a 1946 magazine, as this is the time that Italian POWs were sent to Australian Army facilities to undertake maintenance work. Fifty two copies later, no luck.  I broadened my search to 1945.  And there King George was on the cover of the April 7 1945 edition.

1945 April Women's Weekly Cover

1945 ‘The Australian WOMEN’S WEEKLY’, The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), 7 April, p. Front cover. , viewed 07 Mar 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47117733

3.   Australian War Memorial: taking the philosophy of nothing ventured, nothing gained I sent an enquiry to the Australian War Memorial: “This is a long shot, but do you have in your collection a portrait of King George VI painted c. 1945-46 by an Italian prisoner of war?  I attached a copy of the Women’s Weekly Cover and also included the details from Gladstone a meeting of creeks – a breaking of gauges. I received a reply stating that my query had been forwarded to their Art Section.

I waited… and within two days, Hugh Cullimore Assistant Art Curator sent me an email. Yes, ART28179 is a portrait of King George VI painted by an Italian prisoner of war in 1946.  The artist’s name appeared to be ‘Godulo’.

ART28179

Portrait of King George VI

Australian War Memorial Art Collection ART28179

This was clearly not a portrait painted from the Australian Women’s Weekly. It was much more beautiful and detailed, a very regal portrait.

4. Godulo: a search of the National Archives of Australia came up blank.  BUT a little known trick is the wild card search:  first three letters followed by *  I found three Italian prisoners of war: GOD*  but only one had been in South Australia.  I had found our artist:

Alfredo Goduto from Roseto Valfortore Foggia; Occupation: Painter.  He was in South Australia from 9.4.46 to 14.12.46 having previously worked on farms in Tasmania.

Now I wanted to know more about our painter eg. Did he continue to paint when he returned to Italy?  But google searches for Goduto Roseto Valfortore Foggia came to zero.  I had come to a dead end.

5. Sydney Cape Breton Novia Scotia and the Goduto family.   Alfredo and his family migrated to Nova Scotia in 1952. He continued to paint and his house and its painted decorations are featured in Heritage Trust Painter Rooms of Nova Scotia. Take the time to click on Building Images at the bottom of the page for a walk through Alfredo’s home.

The last treasure has been the Goduto family’s recollections of  King George…

 “In Australia, someone noticed his paintings and wanted him to paint a fullsized portrait of King George V [sic.] to hang in a community hall.  It took Dad months to paint this life size portrait.  The Australians treated him like a king, at that point… they gave him anything he wanted because he was working very hard on this important project.  When he notified the official that he was finished, he was told that an art expert wished to see it.  Not expecting this, he panicked.  He was really worried about someone coming to critique his work, and he told them that he was not a real artist. But the expert came and spent a couple of hours examining the portrait of the king.  The expert was truly impressed with the work and could only find one problem.  He pointed to the king’s hands. “You made his hands too feminine; they should show his veins.”  Dad quickly touched up the King’s hands.  The expert offered Dad a job in Australia after the war, but Dad never did go back.  Much of his artistic ability was nurtured during that period because he had a lot of leisure time at his disposal.”

from Migliore, S., and E. DiPierro, eds. 2017. Italian Lives, Cape Breton Memories, 2nd edition. Sydney: University College of Cape Breton Press.

6.  The King George VI portrait Australia War Memorial

Hugh Cullimore AWM has been informed that the portrait requires restoration work. Once restored, a high quality digital photograph will be taken and uploaded to the digital catalogue of the Australian War Memorial.

Contact has been made with Alfredo’s son, Dominic and the family is very grateful to finally ‘see’ the King George portrait that they had heard about so much.

7. A community effort: Malcolm Davis, Hugh Cullimore and Dominic Goduto have been instrumental in writing this history of the King George Portrait.  My research is very much about connecting memories, stories, photographs and artefacts to their history and historical context, so this has been an absolutely amazing outcome. 

WATCH THIS SPACE: Hugh Cullimore will write an article on the AWM website once the portrait is restored and photographed

Alfredo Goduto Alfredo Goduto: Self Portrait

Photograph by Leeann Roy, 2009

 

 

Attori e Artisti

A series of remarkable events has contributed to a greater understanding of the staging of a play at Cowra Camp June 1946.

Background

A special thank you to the following people and their contributions:

Hugh Cullimore: Assistant Curator- Art Section, Australian War Memorial Canberra, for his knowledge of Cowra artists Carlo Vannucci and Eliseo Pieraccini;

Francesca Maffietti: from Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano) granddaughter of  Ippolito Moscatelli for the photos of the Cowra Chapel;

Marco Lucantoni: from Napoli, son of Stefano Lucantoni for a program from the play ‘L’Antenato’ staged at Cowra 28th June 1946.

The Play

In Cowra POW Camp on the 28th June 1946, a group of Italian prisoners of war staged L’Antenato [The Ancestor] a Commedia in 3 Atti by Carlo Veneziani. This play was first staged in Genoa 1922 and in 1936 a film based on the play was produced. Click to read the script for the play.

The carefully designed and produced program highlights the efforts the men made for their production. If the quality of the program is a reflection on the efforts of the men in staging this play, then this production must have been excellent.

The play was directed by Guerrino Mazzoni, the sets created by Eliseo Pieraccini and Carlo Vannucci. Construction and equipment were by Stefano Lucantoni, Renato Bianchi, Felice di Sabatino, Luigi Proietti, Armano Mazzoni and Cesare Di Domenico. Program design (screenwriter) was by Giuseppe Carrari.

 Performers were Bruno Pantani, Guerrino Mazzoni, Carlo Vannucci, Tarcisio Silva, Bruno Dell’Amico*, Luigi Giambelli, Renato Bazzani, Marcello Molfotti, Alvise Faggiotto, Stefano Lucantoni.

The Actors

The roles were played as follows:

Il Barone di MONTESPANTO Bruno Pantani

L’ingegnere Guiscardo MONTESPANTO  Guerrino Mazzoni

La Signora LEUCI Carlo Vannucci

VANNETTA figlia della signora Leuci  Tarcisio Silva

GERMANA fidanzata di Guiscardo Bruno Dell Amico

FANNY nipote di Egidio Luigi Giambelli

Il Cavalier BERGANDI Renato Bazzani

SAMUELE GANGA l’usuraio Marcello Molfotti

Il domestico ASCANIO Alvise Faggiotto

Il custode EGIDIO Stefano Lucantoni

Reflections

Marco Lucantoni shared this program with me in October 2018, but its true value was not realised until the pieces of this historical puzzle were patched together.

Marco remembers, “My father [Stefano] often told me about his friend, this great artist who was Carlo Vannucci, creator of the Viareggio carnival floats.”  

Carlo Vannuci, Tascisio Silva, Bruno Dell’Amico and Luigi Giambelli played the female roles. Males playing the females is a recipe for a highly comedic and hilariously funny performance.

These men came from all walks of life; some were single, others were married; their ages ranged from 25 to 34 years; and two brothers were part of the group.

The historical context of the play’s performance is that the majority of Italian prisoners of war were withdrawn from farm work by February 1946 with a promise of ‘going home soon’. Italian prisoners of war from Queensland and New South Wales were brought into the camps at Cowra, Hay and Liverpool to await repatriation.

L’Antenato was performed in June 1946; a little reprieve from the boredom and angst associated with the wait to return home. It would be 7 months for most of the Italian prisoners of war before they landed at Naples.

Fourteen of the seventeen men sailed on the Alcantara, departing Sydney on 23.12.46. Renato Bazzani left Sydney on the Moreton Bay on 30.7.46 while Lugi Proietti and Luigi Giambelli departed on the Ormonde from Sydney on the 31.12.46.

A quiet reflection from the great bard Shakespeare:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts…

The Italians were sons, fathers, husbands, soldiers, prisoners of war, international travellers, letter writers, multi-linguists, diary keepers, actors, artists and eventually ‘FREE’.  

The Cast and Crew

I include the details of the cast and crew in the hope that their families will find this article and this personal connection to the past.

Marcello Molfotti 1912 Mechanic Quesa Lucea (Quiesa [Lucca]) [Navy]

Stefano Lucantoni 1914 Plumber from Roma

Eliseo Pieraccini 1914 Clerk from Viareggio (Lucca)

Renato Bazzani 1915 Milano Policeman

Tarcisio Silva 1916 Clerk from Milano

Renato Bianchi 1917 Carpenter from Milano

Guerrino Mazzoni 1917 Clerk from Bologna (brother to Armano)

Alvise Faggiotto 1917 Verona Farmer

Cesare Di Domenico 1917 Farmer from Capistrello (Aquila)

Luigi Proietti 1919 Butcher Roma

Giuseppe Carrari1919 Clerk from Piombino (Livorno)

Felice di Sabatino 1919 Blacksmith Roma

Bruno Pantani 1919 Butcher from Roma

Luigi Giambelli 1920 Mechanic Milano

Bruno Dell’Amico* 1920 ELETTROTECNICO Carrara

Carlo Vannucci 1920 Decorator from Viareggio (Lucca)

Armano Mazzoni  1921 Clerk Bologna (brother to Guerrino)

*Bruno Dell’Amico: soldato, prigioniero di guerra, sindacalista e politico socialista, cineaste. Bruno’s son Evandro has written 3 books about his father: L’Uomo Tornato da Lontano, Il Viaggio Australe, L’Artigiano dell’Immagine and 1 book about his uncle Evandro who was a prisoner of war in Germany: In Mio Nome, Mai Piu

A Travesty…

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One of the questions often asked, is ‘why were the Italian POWs taken off farms to then sit idle in Prisoner of War and Internment Camps for over 12 months?’

Another often asked question is ‘how valuable was the contribution of the Italian POWs to agricultural production?’

The following ‘Letter to the Editor’ addresses both of these questions…

Italian P.O.W.

To the Editor

Sir- some of us can raise a lot of sympathy for those of the Indonesians who have co-operated with the Japanese but what of that poor underdog, the Italian POW? Six months ago two POW (Sicilians) assisted by an old man harvested, without tractor, 140 tons of hay, besides routine jobs of milking, tending sheep &c. One of these men was so outstanding that I left him in charge of my farm and took an extended rest in Melbourne.  On my return everything was in order – house painted, winter’s wood supply split and stacked, &c. On March 13 most POW were again barbed in, a precaution recognised as necessary before repatriation: but the call-up was because of AWU pressure.  Many are married and my two have families not seen for over six years.  Their greatest worry is the dreariness of the dragging days of enforced idleness after the free busy life on a farm.  War against Italy ceased 18 months ago, so maintenance of torture to men’s souls at this stage is a travesty of British justice. In spite of the AWU attitude, farm labor in the Naracoorte district is unavailable, through either the RSL and stock firms, and I am being forced off the land.  My neighbor has been without help since his POW was taken away, and was so run down that his doctor insisted on his going to the seaside with his wife and three children, leaving over 1,000 ewes uncared for in the midst of lambing.

I am, Sir, &c.

H.S. Naylor

Kybybolite S.E.

from Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931-1954), Thursday 27 June 1946, page 8

For Queensland farmers, withdrawing Italian POWs from farms resulted in an acute shortage of workers for the summer harvest….

Disbandment Queensland

 

“FARMS HIT BY P.O.W. TRANSFER” The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954) 12 November 1945: 3. Web. 21 Oct 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50269952&gt;.

Two Artists and a Cowra Chapel

Eliseo Pieraccini and Carlo Vannucci are names on the lists of Italian prisoners of war sent to Australia during WW 2.  Individually, they were just a number and a name; their details were recorded and notated on multiple Australian Military Forces forms.

But there are invisible threads that connect the two men.  They were both from Viareggio (Lucca) a seaside town on the Tuscan coast.  They arrived in Australia from India onboard the Mariposa. Their only placement in Australia was Cowra: 27.4.44 until repatriation onboard the Alcantara 23.12.46. They both left a lasting legacy.

Vannucci’s occupation is recorded as ‘decorator’ and Pieraccini’s occupation is ‘clerk’. They are names that remain forever connected to this history and Cowra, because during their time in Cowra, they painted ‘renaissance’ style Altar Panels for Cowra Camp 12 (C).

Cowra Altar Compound 12 (C) c. 1946  (photo courtesy of Francesca Maffietti)

The coloured photo of the chapel at Camp 12(C) was one of three photos Ippolito Moscatelli took home to Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano)  with him; souvenirs of life as a prisoner of war in Australia. At first glance, granddaughter Francesca  Maffietti thought this was a chapel in Italy.  Her grandparents made pilgrimages to many chapels in Italy, taking photos along the way. At first glance this chapel could be mistaken for an Italian chapel; the decorations are undoubtedly Italian in style.  Eliseo and Carlo through their art, brought a little of Italy to Cowra.

The wooden floor, corrugated iron roof, exposed beams and gaps between walls and roof: this is the chapel in 1946. The altar is painted in a fashion to appear like marble. The details are beautiful: the motif of the Holy Ghost represented as a dove above the crucifix, the cross on the front of the altar, the paintings of Mary and Jesus, the backdrop painted in burgundy, whites and shades of black. In contrast is the November 1941 chapel for Cowra Camp 12 (C). It consisted of an outdoor altar. Quite possibly this original altar eventually found a home inside a hut and bit by bit, decorative paintings were added as were religious items.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle Galles du Sud, camp de Cowra No 12, section C. Autel en plein air. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, camp 12, section C. Outdoors altar.

Outside Altar Cowra Camp 12 C 12.11.41 (ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00217)

The Altar panels of Mary and Jesus are stored at the Cowra Regional Art Gallery. Details about the panels can be found at: https://www.cowraguardian.com.au/story/6550175/council-seeks-heritage-listing-for-italian-pow-art-works/

The Virgin Mary painted by Eliseo Pieraccini (left) and Jesus painted by Carlo Vannucci (right) (photos from The Cowra Guardian December 24 2019, Council Seeks Heritage Listing for Italian POW Art Works)

Carlo Vannucci

In addition to this little know history is the close connection between Sergeant Robert Dunlop Burge and Carlo Vannucci. Hugh Cullimore, Art Curator at the Australian War Memorial provides the following information:“Sergeant Robert Dunlop Burge (N386934) was in charge of the Engineering section at Cowra prisoner of war camp from 15 May 1942 to 29 April 1947. During his service as a guard, Sergeant Burge formed friendships with several of the prisoners, including Italian artist Carlo Vannucci. Vannucci had been captured in Libya and transported by the US Navy to Australia, where he was interned in Cowra. Sergeant Burge organised paints and canvas from old flour bags for Vannucci and other artists in the camp. Sergeant Burge’s wife, Jenny Catherine Burge, regularly travelled on the train to visit her husband serving at the camp. Vannucci painted [a] portrait of Jenny for Sergeant Burge, as a gift.” And the same initial descriptor with this quote: “Sometime later on a routine workshop inspection Vannucci took me by surprise with a gift of a framed painting which he had signed” Burge said in 1975, in an article published in the local paper at the time, as reported by the ‘Cowra Guardian’, 5 June 2014. “It was an impression from memory of a sea view in his home town Viareggio, an Italian well known seaside resort…The painting was an expression of Vannucci’s thanks.”

Colleen Hill, daughter of Sergeant Burge visited Carlo in Italy in 2014 as reported: https://www.cowraguardian.com.au/story/2332256/a-new-generation-of-friendship/

Carlo Vannucci on return to Italy continued his artistic passion with his involvement in the Carvevale di Viareggio: https://2017.gonews.it/2015/09/30/viareggio-carnevale-morto-carlo-vannucci-decano-dei-carristi/  The facebook group: Carnevale di Viareggio highlights a number of Carlo’s works. 

“La vacca capitolina” di Carlo Vannucci (Carro di prima categoria)terzo premio al CarnevalediViareggio 1979

Eliseo Pieraccini

In the Relic Collection of the Australian War Memorial, there is a sculpture that is attributed to Eliseo Pieraccini.  Hugh Cullimore Art Curator provides the following information: The two [photos] titled CR25408 are of the Pieraccini work we have, with scant details on its creation. I note its strong Art Deco appearance, a style that was sliding out of fashion by the time of the War.

Statue made by Eliseo Pieraccini (AWM CR25408)

What works of art did your father bring home from Italy?

Did they create an item in wood or metal?

Do you have a painting or sketch made by your nonno?

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
― 
Pablo Picasso

A special thank you to Francesca Maffetti, granddaughter of Ippolito Moscatelli and Hugh Cullimore, Art Curator Australian War Memorial for their contributions to this article.

POST SCRIPT: The history of the Cowra Camp is complicated.  It consisted of 4 compounds: A, B, C and D each capable of accommodating 1000 people. It housed prisoners of war: Italian, Japanese, Korea and Formosan; and internees: Italian, Indonesian and Javanese.  Which group lived in which compound changed during the years of its operation : 1941-1946.

In 1942 Compound D was named: Special Camp 12 (D) for Italian prisoner of war Dysentery Carriers [amoebic and bacillary carriers].

Cowra Camp also housed children. Indonesian families were interned at Cowra in September 1943.

By 1944 Compound D housed Japanese Officers, Formosans and Koreans.

Such was the complexity of the prisoner of war and internment camps in Australia. 

1946 Gladstone Ammunition Depot

This situation in 1946 was that there were 18,000 Italian prisoners of war in camps awaiting repatriation.  At the same time, the Department of Army had army bases scattered around the country needing a workforce for clearing, maintenance, reconditioning, repairs, salvage work, improvements, revegetation.

A very special thank you to Malcolm Davis for providing this information.

One South Australian project where Italian prisoners of war were employed was the Gladstone Ammunition Depot in the Beetaloo Valley.  Known as the 5 CAD (Central Ammunition Depot), it “became host to Italian prisoners of war, but it was not a gaol like atmosphere.  These men were set to work cutting wood and doing other menial tasks, and from all accounts their stay was not a harsh one.  

The only reminder of the POWs stay left today is a stone wall, which enclosed the then parade ground.  the stone was quarried from the depot area, and as cement was unavailable, lime was burned for mortar.  The POWs also took up gardening and produced prolific crops of all types of vegetables which went to supplement the rations.  Some were also purchased by the married quarter members at nominal charges…With the assistance from the POWs, the billboard room was built, also from local stone which was shaped by a monumental mason stationed here at the time.  The POWs were paid for their work and had to buy their own cigarettes etc. but it was mainly a transit camp for them as most of them returned to Italy from 5CAD.”   from “Gladstone a meeting of creeks – a breaking of gauges“. Published by The Gladstone Centenary Committee, in 1980. Printed by “Gillingham Printers Pty Ltd Adelaide. SA”.

Gladstone and the Aerial of 411 Supply Company base

( from Gladstone a meeting of creeks – a breaking of gauge and https://location.sa.gov.au/viewer/)

Are there any remnants of the 411 Supply Company base?  Can you help pinpoint the location of this site?

I have found a number of terms used for the Gladstone Ammunition Depot:

No 4 Advanced Ammunition Depot

5 Central Ammunition Depot

411 Supply Company Gladstone

4AAAD Gladstone: Abbreviation used on Service and Casualty Forms  

So far we have the following Italians at the 4AAAD:

Giovanni Soppelsa bricklayer from Cencenighe Belluno (18.7.46)

Bruno Angelini, mason from Sala Bolognese Bologna (7.8.46)

Giuseppe Armanini, farmer from Storo Trento (7.8.46)

Michele Di Bari farmer from Montesantangelo Foggia (7.8.46)

Alfredo Goduto, painter from Roseto Valfortore Foggia

 

Verified is that Italian prisoners of war were sent to 4AAAD from July 46 until repatriaton.  But not all paperwork was completed as we know Alfredo Goduto was at the 4AAAD but there is no notation on his Service and Casualty Form.

Were there other South Australian army bases where Italian prisoners of war were employed in 1946?

 

 

 

 

Bomb Blast kills 5

I was working with the granddaughter of Nicola Capitummino to trace the journey of her grandfather in Australia when I read about the bomb blast at N33 Bathurst Hostel in June 1946.

There were a number of POW hostels set up at Australian military complexes in 1946.  The role of the Italian prisoners of war was to assist with ‘general duties at AMF
Camps and Schools, clearing and maintenance of ammunition depots etc.’

One such hostel was at Bathurst where 3 Australians and 2 Italians were killed by a bomb blast.  Adelmo Rondinini’s legs were severed above the knees and he also lost his left eye in the explosion.

In reference to the burial of Sapper Michael Freeman in Bathurst,  the following was written:

The Italian prisoners of war from the Bathurst Army Camp on Limekilns Road made a large V-shaped wreath of greenery which was placed at the Military Cemetery. Their card read: “Michael Freeman from your Italian friends. For the kindness and understanding shown to us”…There was a single cortege for both the soldiers and the Italian prisoners.

 

Bathurst

Solemn: Sapper Michael Freeman’s Funeral passes onto Steward Street from Keppel Street on June 5, 1946.

(www.westernadvocate.com.au/story/4004852/yesterday-today-alan-mcrae/)

5 Die in Bathurst Camp Explosion

Bathurst, Monday. – Three Australian soldiers and two Italian prisoners of war were killed in the Bathurst military camp today when a fragmentary mortar bomb exploded amongst a working party of Australians and Italians.

At Bathurst Hospital to-night doctors were battling to save the life of a third Italian who lost both legs and has little chance of survival.

The victims of the explosion were: –

Sgt. Thomas Dickenson, AIF

Sapper Arthur Murray, AIF

Sapper Michael Joseph Freeman, AIF

Pietro Monfredi, POW

Stefano Mola, POW

The injured man is Adelmo Rondinini a POW.

Sgt. Dickenson, Freeman and Stefano Mola were killed instantly while Murray and Monfredi died in hospital hours later.  Ronlinini’s legs were severed above the knees and he was rushed in a critical condition to hospital, where blood transfusions were given him throughout the day and to-night in an effort to save his life.

Luck favoured Cecil Snudden, of Bathurst, who was standing about 10 yards from the working party when the explosion occurred.  Fragments of metal passed between his legs, carrying away portions of his trousers near the knees, but he was not injured.

Bathurst police investigating the tragedy have been told the explosion occurred at 10.30 a.m. while the six victims were working on the site of an ash dump at the camp. 

The bomb, it is believed, lay hidden under some ashes and according to one report the explosion resulted when an Italian cutting wood struck the bomb with his axe.

“5 DIE IN BATHURST CAMP EXPLOSION” Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954) 4 June 1946: 1. Web. 11 Oct 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article99118261&gt;.

 

No More Pasta

Doug Wilson was a child when his father, Vernon Wilson at Lagoon Pocket took on two Italian prisoners of war.  The farm grew beans, tomatoes, bananas and beetroot and as well, had a dairy which was leased to another farmer. It was war time, and labourers had gone off to fight in the war, so the Department of Manpower promoted the employment of the Italians.

Doug’s memories of that time centre mainly on food and children.  Doug recalls, “Living on a farm, the Italians were well fed.  Mum would have a leg of ham hung up and the POWs took a liking to having a thick piece of ham with their eggs.  Eggs was another luxury, but because we had chooks, we had lots of eggs.  There was also fresh milk.  Two buckets of milk would be collected from the dairy each morning as part of the lease arrangement dad had. These items were in short supply in town and there were also ration cards.”  But Doug’s most memorable food story is about pasta.  His mum would cook up the pasta as that is what they were used to.  Doug says, “I was so sick of pasta, that after the war I refused to eat pasta.  To this day, I still won’t eat pasta.”

The two Italian prisoners of war were family men. Francesco Nicoli had a son and a daughter and Bernardino Patriarca had three sons. “I remember the men treated us very well.  They treated us like their own.  They were always around us and played with us.  One of the funny memories is how they were worried that mum bathed the baby every day. ‘Why wash bambini day?’  I suppose things were different in Italy,” Doug muses.

Treasured letters from the Italians explain the bond they formed with children.  It has been suggested that Italian POWs were more settled when there were little children on the farm and the words of these men tell of the special memories they would carry with them to Italy.

Bernardino wrote on 4th May 1946, “…Glad to hear that your children have not forgotten us yet.  You can’t imagine how hard it is for us to leave this country without seeing your lovely children once again.  Last night in my dream I was with your children to play to, but it was a dream only.”

Wilson.Bernardino.Francesco with children 1

Vernon Wilson Farm Lagoon Pocket Gympie

Men: Bernardino Patriarca, Vernon Wilson, Francesco Nicoli

Children: Wayne Choy Show, Leonie Choy Show, Douglas Wilson, Myra Wilson, Frances Wilson

(from the photographic collection of Doug Wilson)

Francesco wrote from Hay on 29th May 1946, “…thank you so much to your children for their remembering to us.  Please, will you send me some photos of your children and family as I want to see you and keep them as a remembrance of my Australian friends. When I get back to Italy I will send you some of mine too.”

Written by camp interpreters, Francesco and Bernardino wrote letters of their time at Gaythorne Camp, the delay in departing for Italy, the weather at the Hay Camp and the special connection between themselves and the Wilsons. The letters also tell of wanting to be free men once more.  Unfortunately, these men were taken off the farms on 4th January 1946 but it was almost a year before they boarded Alcantara on 23rd December 1946 to return to Italy. They were prisoners of war for over five years.

 

 

 

I wanted to go to Italy

Man Posed as Italian P.O.W. Police Allege

Francis Allen Allenby, of no fixed address, who allegedly posed as an Italian prisoner of war because he wanted to go to Italy, was committed at the city court today for trial on a charge of having created a public mischief. Sergeant J. S. Kirkbride, of the military police, said that on the night of May 15 he intercepted Allenby after a chase in Elizabeth Street.

When asked if he were an escaped P.O.W. from Balcombe Allenby said “Me no prisoner.” He made out that he could hardly speak English. Senior Detective H. J. Egerton said that Allenby told him his name was Camello Miano, and that he had escaped from Balcombe two days before. He had been brought out to Australia as a prisoner. He had a mother and four brothers in Italy. He wanted to go home.

Later he admitted that he was not an escaped P.O.W. and that his name was Allenby.”I get that way sometimes,” he told the police. “I would give anything to go to Italy.”

Allenby had said that, as a result of posing as an Italian, he had been interned in South Australia in 1942, but he got tired of that.

[1946 ‘Man Posed As Italian P.O.W. Police Allege’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 21 May, p. 5. , viewed 19 Oct 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245403959]

Carmelo Miano who is mentioned in the article remained at large for almost three years. He was not recaptured until 15th March 1949.  Carmelo was repatriated on the SS Napoli on the 21st May 1949.

What is obvious from this event, is that the Victoria Police, Special Circular re: Escaped Prisoners of War was effective publicity strategy.

(National Archives of Australia)