One type of prisoner of war uniform is the light-coloured shirt with the black diamond patch on the back and the light-coloured trousers with black stripes down the outside leg. This uniform can be found in the photographic records:
Camp 306 Geneifa Egypt ICRC V-P-HIST-00849-01
Zonderwater South Africa:
Inauguration of Post Office Zonderwater ICRC V-P-HIST-03363-19A
Bangalore Camp 2 India:
Bangalore Camp 2 ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-19A
Cowra, NSW. 1944-02-03. Italian prisoners-of-war from No. 12 Prisoner-of-War Camp using a heavy duty pulley block and tackle to pull down a large tree in a paddock near the camp. (AWM Image 064137, photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
one uniform has survived the passing of time. The uniform was saved from a bonfire of disposal prisoner of war uniforms by a camp guard. It is now in the hands of Anthony who has graciously shared photos.
Prisoner of War Uniform: Trousers (photo courtesy of AC)
Prisoner of War Uniform: Jacket (photo courtesy of AC)
Anthony has also shared photographs of Prisoner of War Capture Tags. Printed by the US Government February 1942, they raise the question: Was a similar tag used for those Italian prisoners of war captured 1940 and 1941? Looking through archived photos of Italians captured at Sidi el Barrani, Bardia, Tobruk and on the move in Palestine, no capture tags are seen. Did the British forces in Libya, Eritrea and Ethiopia use capture tags?
It would be interesting to know if any Italians wrote about the capture tags in their journals or memoirs.
Giovanni Marzullo arrived in Australia on the Queen Mary 27th May 1941 and was repatriated on the Otranto 10th January 1947. He arrived into Sydney and departed from Sydney and in those five and a half years his travel in Australia was limited to Hay and Cowra Prisoner of War Camps.
Giovanni was in the group of the first 2006 prisoners of war to Hay Camp 28th May 1941. He was part of a small group of 200 who remained at Hay Hostel – a sub-camp/hostel and agricultural project- until 27th December 1946. Hay Camps 7 and 8 had been vacated on 28th October 1946.
So a little history about Hay Camp, Giovanni’s Australian home …
In a July 1941 report, two months after the arrival of the Italian prisoners of war at Hay, there were no Australian army interpreters on site. “There are no interpreters in this Camp and not one of the P.O.W.s can speak English… The need for interpreters was obvious from every angle of administration, discipline, medical, dental, control of working parties, etc. This lack of interpreters places a great strain on the effective administration and is one that calls for immediate adjustment.” In quick response to this report,two sergeant interpreters had been dispatched to Hay, but “the appointees are not Italians”.
There were other shortcomings:
“No pay is being made available to P.O.Ws though the bulk of them are actively engaged on road work, ditching and agriculture as well as camp administration work in connection with the running of the camp. In the absence of any pay for men the personnel have been unable to purchase tobacco, which at the moment seems to be the main hardship, and the supply of which would, no doubt, bevery helpful in the maintenance of discipline. Following a recent visit by the Apostolic Delegate, a cheque for £200 was received from him for the purchase of tobacco for the P.O.Ws. We also learnt that £66 had been donated by the late Civilian internees for the same purpose. Tobacco has now been ordered.”
“There was no reading matter for the P.O.W., but the Apostolic Delegate is arranging to supply several cases of books for their use. As books are not allowed to pass between the Compounds, the C.O. arranged with the donor to supply duplicates for each Compound.”
“ A large recreation hut is established and is controlled by the S.Army [Salvation Army]. This had a small stage, various games, and a three-quarter Billiard table was presented during our visit by the Local Welfare Committee. The C.O. realised the unsuitability of the hut (owing to height) for cinema which is desirable for the entertainment of the Garrison, and is making arrangements for increasing the height.”
Michael Lewicki, photographer, captured Giovanni on camera 9th September 1943. He is standing first on the right. The scheme to place Italians on farms had begun in June 1943. By September 1943, farmers in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria were being recruited to sign up to employ Italian workers. It was at this time that group photos of Italians were taken, like the one below.
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: 46181 Giuseppe Musto; 45685 Bartolomeo Fiorentino; 46799 Angelo Scoppettuolo; 46188 Giovanni Marzullo; 47941 Donato Cendonze; 45519 Giuseppe Dello Buono; 45174 Andrea Cavalieri; 45290 Carmine Cogliano; 45363 Pasquale Cappello and 47996 Mario Cioccolini. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030143/10 Photographer Michael Lewicki)
In November 1943 the Red Cross Delegate visited Hay Camps. There were 485 Italians in Camp 7 and 483 Italians in Camp 8. At that stage, “the camps did not have any organised schools which is mainly due to numerous arrivals and departures. However, many prisoners of war are studying privately or in small groups. For the purchase of the necessary books, they generally address themselves to the Red Cross Delegate. These purchases are made at the expense of the interested parties.”
On the 24th December 1943, Giovanni wrote on the inside of his Collins Italian-English Dictionary his details. The stamp on the inside cover of the dictionary is interesting: ‘Approved for Transmission’ . All books had to approved and in the light of the above information, Giovanni paid for his dictionary. Without organised schools, the learning of English was left up to the individual.
Giovanni Marzullo’s Italian-English Dictionary (photo courtesy of Daniele Marzullo)
Building and construction of facilities for Hay POW Camp was an ongoing process. Perhaps Giovanni’s skills as a carpenter were required and the reason for him spending almost all his time in Australia at Hay Camp.
In 1942, there is mention of ‘skilled Italian prisoner of war tradesmen’ building poultry runs, a piggery and a dairy. In 1944, tradesmen were needed to construct farm buildings at Hay Camp. Giovanni was transferred to the Hay Hostel: an agricultural project near the town of Hay on 30th August 1944. He remained at the Hay Hostel until 27th December 1946.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. FARM BUILDINGS IN THE COURSE OF CONSTRUCTION AT THE FARM OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063390 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
On the 9th January 1947, Giovanni boarded the Otranto in Sydney for Naples. His record card is stamped 10th January 1947: Repatriated. The event was reported in the newspaper:
“SOME ITALIAN P.sO. W. SORRY TO LEAVE
The 448 Italians who sailed in the Otranto yesterday were the last to leave New South Wales, apart from escapees who are still at large. They will be disembarked at Naples.
The prisoners appeared well fed and healthy. All of them carried suit cases with blankets strapped neatly to the sides, with bulging kit bags and other luggage. Many had musical instruments. Some of the prisoners said they were sorry to leave Australia and hope some day to return. The ship will pick up 3,000 more prisoners at Melbourne…
The run to Naples will take 27 days, then the Otranto after the troops have disembarked, will proceed to London…” (1947 ‘GUARD WITH ITALIANS ON OTRANTO’, The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales (Taree, NSW : 1898 – 1954), 18 January, p. 2. , viewed 15 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172278675)
Arthur Delves was a passenger on the Otranto and wrote to his parents about his voyage:
“ Very rough one day crossing the Australian Bight. The last point of vantage is Cape Lewis [Leeuwin] and that is closely watched as Aussie. fades from view. Ten days brought us to Columbia [Colombo] but did not stay, only delivered and received the mail. The day’s travel is put out on the notice board every morning, “Speed seventeen, sometimes eighteen knots an hour, distance travelled, time and date for the previous day, 380, sometimes 400 miles. Suez Canal is near and we go through at night, so will miss seeing one of the outstanding sights… the Pyramids. On one side of the sea is the River Nile and on the other the Jordan… I am a good sailor and finished one of my letters through the rough part of the trip in the Mediterranean. We were to have landed at Athens in the morning, but on arrival the signals were up that it was too rough to come into the pier. We landed our big army of soldiers [Italian prisoners of war] all right and the gangway was clear by 9 am…” (1947 ‘A TRIP TO THE OLD COUNTRY’, The Northern Champion (Taree, NSW : 1913 – 1954), 31 May, p. 6. , viewed 15 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162166470)
Giovanni had arrived in Italy. His short journey home from Naples to San Giorgio Del Sannio (Benevento) must have felt like one of his longest journeys.
The Australian War Memorial has a comprehensive collection of photos of Hay Prisoner of War Camp. I acknowledge photos in this article as being from the AWM Collection.
Sometimes it is the little items which catch my eye.
Prisoner of war uniforms has left me quite perplexed.
For a few years now, I had noticed the black stripe down the side of trousers. This however only seemed to be for Italian POWs who had time in India.
This was confirmed by Domenico Ferulli’s recollections:
Ad Ismailia, località al centro del canale di Suez, sono cinque giorni chiusi un un recinto nel deserto. Sono spossati fisicamente e con il morale a terra. La notte è talmente freddo che molti sono costretti a bruciare la giacca o le scarpe per riscaldarsi. Per cucinare si usa la paglia. Fatti spogliare e fare una doccia tutto il vestiario è ritirato e bruciato in alcuni forni. Periscono incenerite anche le migliaia di pidocchi, che da mesi hanno tenuto fastidiosa compagnia! Assegnano a ciascun prigioniero: una giacca leggera color cenere con una toppa di stoffa nero quadrata cucito dietro le spalle, pantaloni lunghi con banda nero, scarpe nuove, sapone per la pulizia e persino dentifricio con spazzolino da denti.
Italians Taking Communion in a British Camp in India 1943
Suddenly, everywhere I looked, I saw the black diamond sitting squarely between the shoulders of a light colour jacket and shirt, as well as the black stripe down the leg of shorts and trousers.
Many of the clothing items the Italian soldiers brought into the camps in Egypt were infested with lice or fleas. It makes sense that these uniforms were burnt and new ones issued.
In May 1943 it was reported that Italian casualties (deaths, missing and prisoners of war) were 400,000.
Logistically, how did the Allied Forces procure 400,000 replacement clothing and find staff to sew on patches.
And what did these patches represent! Was there a code relating to intended destinations for the prisoners? Or was the allocation of uniforms random?
Prisoners of war in England wore a dark coloured uniform with either a pale coloured circle shaped patch sewn on the right leg or a diamond patch on the right leg.
Emilio Clemente is standing on the right of the photo
Prisoner of War Uniforms with patch on right trouser leg
English Prisoner of War Camp courtesy of Mimosa Clemente
Then I noticed an Italian prisoner of war in November 1941 at Cowra camp wearing a black diamond shaped patch on the backside of light coloured trousers.
The Italians who arrived in Australia during 1941, was transferred directly from Egypt to Australia. Did they receive these pants in Australia or Egypt? Answer: Egypt, because once in Australia, the Italians were issued with their Australia POW uniform.
The strap is taken from a uniform jacket issued to enemy prisoners of war and civilian internees held in Australian camps during the Second World War. (AMW Relic 32594)
The official Australian prisoner of war uniform was disposal Australian Army khaki uniforms which had been dyed burgundy as is illustrated in the above photograph. The men were allowed to keep other clothing to be worn only inside camp or for farm work, this included their national uniforms.
Canteen at Cowra Camp November 1941
(ICRC V-P-HIST-01879-32B 1941)
At Campo 306 Geneifa Egypt prisoners of war were photographed wearing the black diamond pants with dark shirts and there are groups of Italians wearing the black stripe pants and black diamond shirts. A pattern seems to emerge: prisoners once processed in Egypt were given clothing: 1. pale coloured pants with a black stripe and pale coloured shirt with a black diamond OR 2. dark coloured shirt and pale coloured pants with a black diamond on the backside of the pants.
The Kitchen at Geneifa Camp 360 Egypt (ICRC VP-HIST-00851-25)
The photo below was taken in 1943, Italian prisoners of war in Melbourne after arriving from India….black stripe on pant!
(1943). Italian Prisoners of War – Italian prisoners of war on their way to a prisoner-of-war camp, following their arrival in Australia.
(National Archives of Australia)
Cowra, NSW. 1944-02-03. Italian prisoners-of-war from No. 12 Prisoner-of-War Camp using a heavy duty pulley block and tackle to pull down a large tree in a paddock near the camp. (AWM Image 064137, Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Was the allocation of clothing random?
Was the use of stripes and diamonds random?
Did your father or grandfather mention the POW uniforms?
Has anyone else noticed these uniforms with patches or stripes?
Have a look at photos taken of nonno or papa in the camps of India?
The USA appear to have adopted a completely different approach as is indicated by the P.W. stamped on both shorts and shirts of these German prisoners of war.
German Prisoner of War Uniforms
(from Military Law and Vigilante Justice
in Prisoner of War Camps during World War II
Mark M. Hull, PhD, JD, FRHistS January-February 2020 MILITARY REVIEW)
Evandro Dell’Amico’s passion for this history is obvious. He has published two books relating to his father: Bruno Dell’Amico’s time as a soldier and prisoner of war.
Scheda descrittiva “IL VIAGGIO AUSTRALE” – The Aussie Journey
Ne “IL VIAGGIO AUSTRALE – The Aussie Journey”, prima edizione 2017 e seconda edizione nel 2018, con il logo del Consiglio Regionale della Toscana ed altri Enti Pubblici ed Associazioni private, l’autore, Evandro Dell’Amico, nato a Carrara il 21/5/1952, descrive
(photo courtesy of Evando Dell’Amico)
il lungo epistolario di guerra e di prigionia del padre Bruno.
Carrista dell’Esercito Italiano, nella seconda campagna d’Africa, il 7 febbraio 1941, viene ferito nella battaglia di Beda Fomm nei pressi di Agedabia in Cirenaica (LIBIA).
Fatto prigioniero degli Inglesi, resta in Egitto sino al dicembre 1941 e da qui viene trasferito in Australia, ove, come PIW n.49833, resterà, prevalentemente nel Cowra Camp nel New South Wales sino all’imbarco il 23 dicembre 1946 a Sydney, sulla nave della Regia Marina Inglese “Alcantara”.
Avendo scoperto, alla morte del padre Bruno, una “valigia dei ricordi” ove erano state raccolte foto e lettere del periodo bellico e della prigionia nel secondo conflitto mondiale, dopo la pubblicazione del primo libro “L’uomo tornato da lontano” e dopo contatti con la Presidente dell’Associzione di Amicizia Cowra-Italia, Maria Baron Bell ed il Vice Presidente della Cowra Breakout Association, Harvey Nicholson, Evandro Dell’Amico decide di tornare sulle orme del padre, 70 anni dopo la prigionia subita in Australia.
Nel frattempo avviene, prima, la pubblicazione, da parte di un giornalista australiano, John Madden, di una foto di una famiglia australiana con cui Bruno aveva fatto amicizia, durante i lavori agricoli prestati in una fattoria e poi, il successivo ritrovamento dell’unico superstite della famiglia, Eris Hackett.
In pochi mesi viene organizzata un viaggio in direzione Cowra ed una missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia tra i popoli, con il sostegno della Regione Toscana, la Provincia di Massa Carrara, il Comune di Carrara, di Massa e varie associazioni private.
Un’esperienza intensissima, con partenza da Milano il 2 agosto 2016, soggiorno a Cowra per partecipare a commemorazioni e manifestazioni, con scambio di doni e ritorno a Milano il 10/8. Successivamente, nello stesso mese, vengono recati i doni del Sindaco di Cowra Bill West e delle Associazioni di amicizia sopra ricordate, a Firenze, al Presidente della Toscana Enrico Rossi ed al Sindaco di Carrara, Angelo Zubbani ed al Sindaco di Massa, Alessandro Volpi.
Il libro “Il Viaggio Australe” è stato presentato pubblicamente a Carrara l’11/5/2018, dall’autore e dal prof. Giancarlo Tassinari, medico, docente dell’Università di Verona che era stato protagonista della “missione australe” nel 2016. La presentazione si è potuta avvalere di uno short fotografico realizzato dai due compagni di viaggio.
Il libro è stato oggetto di premi speciali / segnalazioni da parte di prestigiose giurie in Premi Letterari Europei, il “San Domenichino” e “Massa Città Fiabesca di Mare e di Marmo“, a Massa e “Thesaurus- Città della Rosa” ad Aulla.
“L’uomo Tornato Da Lontano” is Evandro Dell’Amico’s tribute to his father Bruno Dell’Amico: soldier, prisoner of war, film maker and advocate for the rights of workers. Evandro shares a little about his book and his father…
Evandro Dell’Amico has only recently learnt that his father Bruno performed in a play in June 1946 in the prisoner of war Camp Cowra, New South Wales. A precious memory from the past and a reminder that it is never too late to learn something new about your parents.
Scheda descrittiva sintetica dei libri “L’uomo tornato da lontano” di Evandro Dell’Amico
(Photo courtesy of Evandro Dell’Amico)
I libri di memorie familiari sul padre Bruno, scritti da Evandro Dell’Amico, nato a Carrara il 21 maggio 1952, prendono l’avvio nel 2013. Gli studi e la raccolta di materiale documentale e fotografico, affluiscono in una tesi laurea in lettere, discussa all’Università di Pisa, in data 7 luglio 2014. In parallelo a questa ricerca universitaria, gli eredi di Bruno Dell’Amico (Carrara, 1920-1998), Evandro e Lia, hanno realizzato un progetto culturale di digitalizzazione delle oltre trenta pellicole realizzate dal padre tra gli anni ’60-80. I risultati di questo progetto vengono presentati a Firenze, in data 7 aprile 2016, presso la sede del Consiglio Regionale della Toscana.
Nel giugno 2016 viene pubblicata la prima edizione de “L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO –
The man who came back home from afar Carrara (ITALIA) – Cowra (AUSTRALIA)
“L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO –
The man who came back home from afar Carrara (ITALIA) – Cowra (AUSTRALIA)
L’opera pubblica foto e documenti sulla vita del padre BRUNO DELL’AMICO che, nel dopoguerra, fu segretario del sindacato dei metalmeccanici FIOM CGIL, uomo politico di fede socialista, assessore al Comune di Carrara dal 1956 al 1970, sindacalista dei lavoratori ospedalieri di Carrara, Presidente dell’Associazione Diabetici di Carrara, sino alla morte, avvenuta il 1°maggio 1998. Nella sua veste di cineasta ha prodotto oltre trenta documentari girati prevalentemente nella provincia di Massa Carrara.
La prima parte del libro racconta la vita militare, l’addestramento da pilota carrista in Italia e la successiva partenza, nella 1^ campagna nell’Africa Settentrionale del 1940 e la 2^ del 1941. A seguito della disfatta della X Armata dell’Esercito Italiano, (comandata dal generale Giovanni Tellera, caduto sul campo), il 7 febbraio 1941, nella battaglia di Beda Fomm, presso Agedabia. in Libia, Bruno viene ferito e catturato dagli Inglesi. Dopo una breve prigionia in Egitto, il P.I.W. N. 49833 viene traferito in AUSTRALIA Sosterà prevalentemente nel Cowra Camp (New South Wales), 5 mesi a Canowindra e 10 mesi a Taree, tra il dicembre 1941 al dicembre 1946.
I flashback riportano all’attualità vissuta dal narrante, con ritorno su luoghi ove avvennero proiezioni di film di Bruno Dell’Amico
La quarta parte , “Il ritorno da lontano”, riprende la storia della prigionia in Australia ed avviene la “chiusura del cerchio”, ovvero attraverso i contatti del figlio Evandro con Associazione di Amicizia italo australiana, avviene la risoluzione di un “mistero”..che trova la sua conclusione nel secondo libro “Il viaggio australe” (ove viene pubblicato il corposo epistolario di guerra e di prigionia e viene descritta una missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia, ovvero il viaggio di ritorno del figlio, 70 anni dopo, sulle orme del padre, nel Cowra Camp nel New South Wales e dintorni).
“L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO” è stato presentato :
-il 7 aprile 2016 , a Firenze, presso il Consiglio Regionale Toscano, assieme al “Progetto Cineteca”
-nel Luglio 2016, a Carrara, durante la Festa Provinciale CGIL di Massa Carrara;
-il 5 Agosto 2016 ,in occasione della missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia in AUSTRALIA, con il patrocinio di Regione Toscana, Comune di Carrara, Massa ed il sostegno di ANPI e CGIL MS, nella città di COWRA (New South Wales) ove nel 1941 era stato aperto un grande campo di concentramento. Lì, ed in altre zone dell’Australia, Bruno, assieme a migliaia di militari Italiani fu imprigionato o sottoposto a lavori agricoli in fattorie.
Il libro ha ricevuto premi speciali dalla giuria anche in Concorsi Letterari Europei
come il “San Domenichino e “Massa Città Fiabesca di Mare e di Marmo”, edizione 2017. Massa, 19 febbraio 2021 Evandro Dell’Amico
He was responsible for visiting internees and prisoners of war held in camps in Australia and to ensure that the conditions of the Geneva Convention regarding prisoners of war were upheld.
With an understanding of ten languages, Dr Morel was free to enter any camp at will, reside in a camp if so desired and leave without permission. Internees and prisoners of war were at liberty to speak freely with Dr Morel and communicate any complaints.
His comprehensive reports were shared with the Australian Government via the Minister of State for External Affairs. All reports were written in French, the language of the ICRC.
Copies of Dr Morel’s reports are archived in the National Archives of Australia and three files covering the period 1942-1944 are available for viewing: search terms to use – Red Cross Dr Morel.
In May 1944 on a visit to Western Australia, he was reported as saying, “My main task is to visit the camps whether the POWs are Germans or Italians…in addition I must keep in permanent touch with Australian Government departments, the Army and various branches of the Red Cross. However the first task is to see that the convention is being strictly applied and from my observations elsewhere [in Australia]I can say quite frankly that the conditions in Australian camps are very good. The treatment, food and clothing are in fact, excellent. Australian officers and guards have tried to help in many minor matters as well as in more important subjects, and I have received 100 per cent co-operation at Army Headquarters, Melbourne and from the Government.
Naturally there are complaints at every camp and these are quite minor matters. The complains have been rectified. Australia actually applies the International convention very generously in regard to POWs and internees, and in all my reports to the International Red Cross Committee I have stressed that conditions in Australia are good.” [1944 ‘VISIT TO P.O.W. CAMPS’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 19 May, p. 6. , viewed 07 Feb 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44809894%5D
Hand in hand with the written reports are the photographic records of Dr Morel’s visits. These photos can be found at : Archives of the ICRC . You will need to register as a user but this process is easy.
Cowra Camp A September 1942 Dr Morel seated centre with officials of the camp including Padre Lenti (ICRC V-P-HIST-01881-02)
Dr Morel died in October 1945 and his wife Eugenia continued his work temporarily until the arrival of Dr Pierre Descoeudres in May 1946.
It is with thanks to the Red Cross and the work of their delegates like Dr Morel that there is a comprehensive and neutral record of the internee and prisoner of war camps in Australia.
Today it is 4 years since I launched this website/blog. It is an important milestone.
With 207 posts and 12 pages, Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Australia is the most comprehensive documentation of this chapter in Australia’s history.
We are an international research project with Australians and Italians in 14 countries contributing a diverse range of items, insights and memories. We have built a community where information is share freely. We are unique because of the diversity of perspectives portrayed.
There are moments of sadness; moments of elation and moments of quiet reflection.
It is important that we try to place ourselves in the boots of the soldier and prisoner of war and walk through this history.
Four years ago, I had no knowledge of website building and blogging. Four years ago, I did not think that “Google Translate” would become my best friend. Four years ago I did not know the history of Bardia or Matapan nor did I know the geographic location of many of the regional Australian farming communities in this history.
Nino Amante from Catania accidentally found a photo of his father on the internet and wrote to me about the “Miracolo di Internet”.
I also believe that your individual passionate searches for your father or grandfather’s ‘lost years’ is part of this ‘magic‘.
Families cannot always find specific personal information about and connections to Australia families for their father or grandfathers. But in the sharing of information, there is the possibility to reconstruct the journey for your loved ones.
My family wonder when I will stop!
My answer is ‘I don’t know’.
Regardless of when I run out of energy, this website serves as a ‘virtual’ museum: a museum which can add items to its collection at any time.
I patiently await the next donation to this museum.
NB New donations coming soon: Geneifa Eggito and Yol India
Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 57063 A. Belsito; 57300 G. Lettera; 57314 A. Limongi; 57317 G. Lucente; 57478 D. Ruggiano; 57363 L. Mastrota; 57120 A. Chiaradia. Front row: 57473 G. Rocco; 45281 M. Coiro; 57386 V. Messuto; 48003 G. Di Fazio; 57208 G. Farina. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Francesco Chiaradia was showing his friend photos and information he had uncovered for his grandfather Antonio Chiaradia and friends Lorenzo and Domenico. His friend was amazed, in the photo is also his great uncle Giovacchino Luciente: an ‘accidental’ connection.
Then another coincidence emerged.
In February 2017, I interviewed Joyce Dickenson in Kingarory Queensland. Joyce was newly married to Dudley Dickenson when they employed two Italian prisoners of war in 1944: Giuseppe Lettera and Giovacchino Luciente who are both in the photo above.
Identity Card for Giovacchino Luciente (NAA: J3119 98)
Joyce remembered: “they were young men, ordinary men with no will to fight or to be the enemy. They were terribly homesick and would look forward to receiving letters which came on canteen day once a week on a Monday… They slept in a room at the corner of two verandas of a Queenslander [typical house style]…. they were scared of frogs. The veranda was unsealed and the frogs would get in. The men would stuff rags into the corrugations of the roof to try to keep the frogs out. They would catch the frogs and take them away but two days later they would be back…Dud [Dudley] set up a ping pong [tabletennis] table for them. I suppose to give them something to do… They weren’t allowed alcohol but they used the oranges to make liquor, making a still out of a 4 gallon kerosene tin. I don’t think they had much success with the alcohol, so I don’t count the still as a breach in the rules… they weren’t with us long, but it seemed like a long time. It was long enough for them to become part of our family and for me to have fond memories of those times.”
Identity Card for Giuseppe Lettera (NAA: J3118 91)
A special thank you to Joyce and her daughter Robyn for sharing these memories and being part of this historical journey.
Hugh Cullimore Assistant Curator: Art Section at the Australian War Memorial has uncovered another painting by prisoner of war Riccardo Del Bo.
A caricature of Lt Colonel Brown is housed in the Australian War Memorial. It was attributed as a caricature painted by an Italian prisoner of war which, “depicts a profile portrait caricature of Lt. Colonel Montague Ambrose Brown (1899-1975) wearing a cap and uniform, who served as Group Commandant of the Cowra prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. During his time at Cowra, Lt. Colonel Brown became friendly with a number of the Italian POWs interred there, before returning to civilian duties in 1947. The Cowra prisoner of war camp was constructed in 1941-42 to house Italian POWs captured by Allied Forces during the war. By December 1942, some 2000 mainly Italian prisoners and internees were housed in the camp.”
Caricature of Lt Colonel Montague Ambrose Brown 1943 by Riccardo Pietro Edwardo Del Bo (AWM ART92902)
The signature of the artist appeared to be RDel-Bi, which was thought to be an abbreviation and not identifiable.
A little luck; a little magic and RDel-Bi is Riccardo Del-Bo. Confirmation came from grandson Riccardo Del-Bo in Italy, “..it is confirmed that the technique used is that of my grandfather and also the signature I found on other works. I always thank you for your interest.” The Del-Bo family is planning a ‘Retrospective Exhibition: Maestro Riccardo Del-Bo’ and is always interested in finding more evidence of Riccardo’s art. Other examples of his work can be found at this link :Maestro Riccardo Del Bo – 1914/1997
Riccardo Del-Bo’s legacy in Australia is two portraits and one caricature.
Riccardo was at Cowra Camp from October 9141 to October 1943 and Lt. Colonel Brown was at Cowra Camp from March to August 1943. This is the period when he painted Lt Colonel Brown. How many other caricatures did Riccardo paint while in Cowra?
Riccardo then left his mark at his next placement: a farm outside Stanthorpe, Queensland. He painted a young Janette Jones. The portrait of Janette’s sister Dorothy, unfortunately has been lost. Click on the link for this article: Del Bo the painter
Portrait of Janette Jones (photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)
The third Del-Bo portrait was rescued by Jennifer Ellis at a second hand shop in country Victoria and purchased for $2.00. Riccardo spent almost two years at the Murchison Prisoner of War Camp in Victoria; pointing in the direction that this portrait was painted in this camp. Click on the link for this article: Another Del-Bo
Portrait of a Lady by Riccardo Del-Bo (photo courtesy of Jennifer Ellis)
Three distinct prisoner of war placements; three distinct portraits.
The Italian prisoners of war were more than captured soldiers in burgundy coloured uniforms; they were individuals who amongst the backdrop of ‘imprisonment’ found a way to shine.
Antonio Chiaradia, Domenico Rugiano and Lorenzo Mastrotta were soldiers with the 16th Fanteria Reggimento when captured at Sidi Omar, Libya on 22.11.41. They were from the same area of Cosenza: Antonio and Lorenzo were from San Lorenzo Bellizzi and Domenico was from Cerchiara Di Calabria.
They were together when processed at Geneifa Egypt with their Middle East Numbers being: 175100, 175247 and 175238. They were part of a group of 507 Italian POWs who left No. 12 POW Camp Bairagarh India for Australia, departing Bombay on 9th December 1943. They arrived in Melbourne, Australia onboard the Mooltan 29.2.43 and ‘marched in’ to Cowra Prisoner of War Camp 12 (a) on 30.12.43.
It is not surprising that Domenico, Lorenzo and Antonio are standing together in a Cowra photograph taken 6th February 1944. They are the three men standing on the right. Six days later, the three men were placed on a farm in the Canowindra district of New South Wales.
Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 57063 A. Belsito; 57300 G. Lettera; 57314 A. Limongi; 57317 G. Lucente; 57478 D. Ruggiano; 57363 L. Mastrota; 57120 A. Chiaradia. Front row: 57473 G. Rocco; 45281 M. Coiro; 57386 V. Messuto; 48003 G. Di Fazio; 57208 G. Farina. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.
Antonio’s grandson, Francesco is researching his grandfather’s time in Australia and discovered a newspaper article about Adriano Zagonara who worked on a Canowindra farm in 1945.
Swiping through the photographs in the article, Francesco found a photo titled “Jock Davidson at Mooroonbin with Antonio, Lorenzo and Domenic”.
Jock Davidson at Mooroonbin with Antonio, Lorenzo and Domenic
(photo from Cowra Guardian April 17, 2018)
Was this a coincidence that the names of the trio of Italian prisoners of war matched that of Francesco’s grandfather and his two friends? Lorenzo was not a common name and there was only one ‘Lorenzo’ who was assigned to a Canowindra farm in 1944.
Francesco contacted Paola Zagonara, daughter of Adriano and Paola put him in contact with Robert Davidson. Francesco has been able to confirm that the trio of Italians are Antonio Chiaradia and his two friends: “Buona sera, volevo ringraziarla e farle sapere che sono entrato in contatto con la famiglia Davidson, il signor Robert mi ha confermato che in ha confermato che in quella foto era mio nonno, mia ha anche detto che sua zia di 93 anni se lo ricorda, spero presto di condividere con loro ulteriori informazioni, vi rigrazio molto, a presto.”
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Italian families from 14 countries have helped make this magic happen.