Category Archives: Hay PW Camp

Captured in Albania… where to next?

It is with special thanks to Vinicio Sigon that we know the answer to this question. Vinicio was captured in Nevizza Albania. He was transferred from Albania to Greece to Egypt to Australia.

 Possibly, this is a similar journey to other Italians who were captured in this theatre of war. Nevizza [I think] is Nevich or Neveçisht now on the outskirts of Korca [Korytza].

Vinicio Sigon served with ‘Alpine Troops’ when he was captured at Neviza Greece on the 30th December 1940. He was a 2nd Lieutenant and had served six years in the army. He is seated second from the left in the photo below.

Myrtleford, Australia. 5 November 1943. Group of Italian officer prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 5 POW Camp. Back row, left to right: Sambo; Rabusin; Fabiano; Papa; Marchi; Nebiolo. Front row: Vergani; Sigon; Lanza; Rosano; Socini; Bandirali. (AWM Image 030153/14 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Vinicio Sigon kept a log including his movements and dates.

Vinicio Sigon’s Journey

30.12.40 Captured at Nevizza

31.12.40 Agrinorasto [Argyrokastro]

1.1.41 Gianina [Janina/Ioannina]

5.1.41 Prevese [Preveza]

6.1.41 Patosso [Patras]

7.1.41 Atene [Athens]

11.1.41 Piseo [Pireas]

2.3.41 Creta- Canea [Crete- Chania]*

3.5.41 Alexandria**

17.5.41 Geneifa

26.7.41 Suez

27-28.7.41 Mar Rosso [Red Sea]

2.8.41 Selon [Ceylon – Trincomalee]

5.8.41 2 Antimeridiane passagio equatore

10.8.41 Porto Commerciale di Perth [Fremantle]

15.8.41 Arrivo a Sidney

*Italian prisoners of war Crete: Reported that 16,000 Italian prisoners of war including 576 officers were held in four camps: Heraklion sector, Agio Thomas sector, Chania sector and Rethymno sector.

** The date of Vinicio’s arrival in Alexandria Egypt on 3rd May 1941 is significant. 

***In the last week of April 1941, the British Commonwealth Forces were evacuated from Greece via Crete.

Allied Evacuation of Greece

Most likely the Italian prisoners of war held in Crete were evacuated under threat of a German assault on Crete. The German assault on Crete began 20.5.41.

Canea (Hania), Crete. 1941-04. Members of the 6th Division Signals stand on the wharf next to a ketch which is moored there. Two of these boats delivered 120 men from Greece during the evacuation to Crete. (Original print housed in AWM Archive Store) (Donor G White)

Khania (also known as Canea), Crete, photographed in May 1941 by Corporal Goodall.

1941-05. ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT. TROOPS OF 6TH AUSTRALIAN DIVISION ENTRAINING FOR CAMPS IN PALESTINE AFTER DISEMBARKING FROM CRETE FROM WHERE THEY HAD BEEN EVACUATED.

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT. 1941-05. DISEMBARKATION OF TROOPS OF 6TH AUSTRALIAN DIVISION AFTER EVACUATION FROM CRETE.

***Greek Campaign 1941

Australian and New Zealand troops (redesignated the ANZAC Corps) undertook some very successful local fighting [in Greece] but withdrawal was soon inevitable. The occupation of historic Thermopylae Pass by Vasey’s 19th Brigade was merely a respite in the retreat down to Athens. The evacuation began on 24 April and over 50,000 troops were removed over five successive nights. A number of small, isolated groups and individual Allied soldiers who had been cut off from the retreat were left behind in Greece. Many of these escaped largely owing to the bravery of the Greek people who assisted them.

Over 26,000 weary Allied troops landed on Crete in the last week of April 1941. They remained on the island for less than a month. In a brief, savage campaign, the Australians inflicted heavy losses on the German paratroopers. One German battalion lost more than two-thirds of its men. Another rearguard action by the 2/7th Battalion, AIF, and the New Zealand Maori battalion left 280 German dead and allowed the retreating forces to reach the evacuation point in Suda Bay. HMAS Perth was hit while carrying members of the AIF back to Egypt. The British admiral in charge of evacuation called it “a disastrous period in our naval history”.

Although 15,000 men were evacuated by ships of the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, some 12,000 Allied troops, including 3,000 Australians, were left on Crete and most became prisoners of war of the Germans. As in Greece, some made daring escapes. Many were sheltered by the people of Crete.

 (https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/greek_campaign)


L’Amico del Prigionieri

Arthur Henry Patrick enlisted in the Australia Army 21st July 1941 and detached to Cowra Prisoner of War and Internment Camp. On 20th March 1942 he was detached to the 3 POW Labour Detachment. 

3 POW Labour Detachment is also known as No. 3 Labour Detachment Cook SA. A group of 300 Italian prisoners of war from Hay PW Camp were assigned to work in 6 railway camps along the Trans Australian Railway Line. This labour detachment was approved on 13th March 1942 and the first group of Italian prisoners of war arrived on 8th April 1942.

Arthur Henry Patrick was a young man of similar age to the Italian POWs, having been born in 1919*. He was assigned to Camp 1, also known as Camp 1 The Plains SA.

His family donated photographs and two items to the Australian War Memorial.  It is thanks to Arthur Patrick that we have photographs of one of the camps and an understanding of the impact this Australia soldier had on the Italians: “His family relates that he developed a good relationship with many Italian POWs while he was guarding prisoners helping to build the railway line across the Nullarbor Desert. Such was his rapport with the Italian prisoners that he was presented with two hand crafted items, a tank carved from part of a railway sleeper and a belt that had been plaited from 18 pairs of boot laces.”

1943 Studio portrait of NX148826 Private (Pte) Arthur Henry Patrick, 9 Works Company. Pte Patrick.

The plaited belt made from shoelaces is new information for this project.  The Australia War Memorial records: “This belt is associated with the service of NX148826 Private Arthur Henry Patrick. This belt was made from leather bootlaces by Italian prisoners of war working on the railways in South Australia during the Second World War. The belt was presented as a gift to Patrick as a sign of regard from the prisoners and is said to have been made from 18 pairs of their bootlaces. At the time, Patrick was stationed at ‘The Plains No.1’ internment camp six miles outside of Watson in South Australia, supervising prisoners working on the track there. He had enlisted with the Militia in July 1941 and initially served at the prisoner of war camp in Cowra. He was transferred to 3 POW Labour Detachment in March 1942 and served with them until September. It was probably during this period that he received this belt. Patrick transferred to the AIF in March 1943 and was discharged from service in March 1946.”

c1942 Brown leather plaited belt with brass buckle. There are six stud holes in the tongue of the belt which is crafted out of plain leather. On the inside of the tongue the wearer’s name – ‘ARTHUR PATRICK’ – is written in black marker.

The Italians were resourceful. With little in the way of possessions and money, they found ways to make gifts from everyday items.  This belt is one such example. 

I wonder if the Australian Quartermaster found it odd that 18 men were asking for new shoelaces.

*The records do not register a camp number for the Italians.  But the youthfulness of the group is evident by this sample: Gennaro Agrimi 1918, Luigi Agnello 1919, Armando Accica 1920, Natale Vitale 1920, Alfredo Mattero 1918, Sergio Barigarriz 1920, Giuseppe Bruno 1920.

A Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Every document, relic and memory relating to this history is special. Each item is invaluable.

A special thank you to Giuseppe Lutro’s family for sharing another ‘missing piece to our historical puzzle’.

Giuseppe was from Albidoni Cosenza and is seated third left in the photo below.

Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49640 Luigi La Favia; 47004 Luciano Zanon; 47915 Giovanni Bronzi; 49591 Pietro Perazzi; 49913 Quinto Spognetta; 49663 Carmine Ialongo; 48679 Angelo Tergorelli. Front row: 49858 Lorenzo Laurenti; 45570 Cesare De Angelis; 48160 Giuseppe Lutro; 46813 Pietro Salerno; 46889 Mario Paolocci. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030171/11 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

His Service and Casualty Card record his repatriation date: 31st December 1946 “Ormonde” but with thanks to Giuseppe we also know his arrival date in Naples Italy: 27th January 1947.

Giuseppe kept his arrival card Nave “Ormonde” 27-1.47. This card also confirms that part of the process upon arrival in Naples was to report to the Accommodation Centre in Naples (San Martino).

Recognition of Landing 27-1-1947 (photo courtesy of Nicola Lutro)

Logistically, I have always wondered how the Italian prisoners of war were processed upon arrival in Naples.  How did the Australian guard unit convey to the Italians the next stage of the process?  The Ormonde landed 2231 Italians. 

Now I know. With thanks to Giuseppe Lutro, I now know that the Italian military officials had printed cards, to be distributed to each man as he disembarked.  The card provided information for the next stage of the journey: to report to the Accommodation Centre.

This was most likely the first official document written in Italian the men had read in seven years.  Finally, they were almost home.

a pastry chef from Genoa

Adolfo Allaria was on the Italian ship Romolo which was on a return voyage from Australia to Italy when Mussolini declared war on 10th June 1940. Rescued in the Coral Sea, he was transferred to Townsville Gaol and Gaythorne Camp Queensland, Hay Camp New South Wales, Loveday Camp South Australia and Murchison Camp Victoria.

In October 1943 he was transferred to a farm placement with the Kurrle family in the Leongatha district.

Adolfo Allaria on the right with Lynette and Frank Kurrle and an unnamed Italian prisoner of war (AWM Image P95423.002)

The Kurrle family donated three items to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) Collection: the photo above, a model house and Adolfo’s letter to the children.

The AWM records the following:

Informal portrait of two Italian prisoners of war (POW) on the Kurrle farm at Korumburra with Lynette and Frank Kurrle and a model house which was gifted to the children. The man holding Frank Kurrle is Adolfo Allaria (PWIM7134) a ship’s pastrycook in civilian life, who made this model house and presented it on 8 February 1944 to Lynette and Frank as a keepsake of his time with the family. The children are dressed in their Sunday best and have just returned from church; Sunday was also the day on which prisoners were allowed to visit other prisoners.

Model House gifted by Adolfo Allaria to the Kurrle children (AWM REL35288.001)

This unique item is a reminder of the special friendships formed between an Italian sailor and Australian farming children. Details of the house describe it as, “Two storey model Italianate style house with elaborate decoration, a small garden, open windows and doors, and interior furnishing details, made from a composition material – possibly plaster and sawdust. Mounted on a wooden base. A small plaque on the front of the roof reads ‘7134 P of W’ and an illegible placename.

Model house made by Italian prisoner of war (POW) 7134 Aldolfo Allaria for Lynette (born 1940) and Frank (born 1939) Kurrle, the son and daughter of Edith and Jack Kurrle of Korumburra, Victoria. Jack Kurrle owned and ran a 300 acre dairy and pig farm situated approximately three kilometres from Korumburra.”

Rarely do we see such a poignant collection of related items.

Adolfo’s gesture was clear, as indicated in his letter: a keepsake so that Frank and Lynette would have something to remember him by.

Letter written by Adolfo Allaria to Lynette and Frank Kurrle (AWM REL35288.002)

The AWM notes that, After the war he [Adolfo] returned to working aboard ships as a patsrycook, including between Italy and New York aboard the ship ‘Saturnia’ in the mid 1950s.”

un papa di Vittorito

About the time Baldo Valeri was transferred from Hay Camp to Yanco Camp, Baldo’s wife Cesira sent her husband a photo of his two daughters.

c. 1942 Daughters of Baldo and Cesira Valeri

(photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Baldo arrived home to Italy in January 1947. During those five years since capture, his daughters had grown up. His wife and children had endured the bombings by the Germans, hunger and misery.

During the war, the Royal Air Force Baltimores were active in the area.  They bombed a chemical factory and road networks during February 1944 at the foot of the mountains near Popoli.

Popoli is five kilometres from Vittorito and suffered a tragic and direct hit from the Royal Air Force bombs on 22nd March 1944 at midday. On that day, people gathered in the town centre outside the town hall to collect rations.  Women and children were lined up waiting for rations in a long queue when the city hall was bombed.  The day is remembered as a day of sorrow when many people were killed or wounded.

How emotionally and mentally difficult it must have been for Baldo to know what was happening in Italy. How helpless he must have felt; unable to protect and comfort his wife and little girls.

Baldo and Cesira Valeri with a grandchild (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Baldo’s youngest child Geremia [born after his father’s return to Vittorito] explains the situation of his mother and father, “Per loro sono stati anni molto difficili, e senza la presenza di mio padre.Quando mio padre è tornato,si sono rimboccati le maniche,e lavorando duramente si sono creati un avvenire. Dopo la guerra  hanno avuto altri due figli….io sono l’ultimo.”

Figli di Baldo Geremia, Laura, Leda and Rosanna

(photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Uniform Regulations

Article 12 of the PW Convention, inter-alia, reads:-

“Clothing, underwear and footwear shall be supplied to prisoners of war by the detaining Power. The regular replacement and repair of such articles shall be assured.  Workers shall also receive working kit wherever the nature of the work requires it.”

What the records tell us

All prisoners of war were allowed to wear their badges of rank and insignia on their uniforms.

Clothing items, except for pyjamas, could not be purchased from the Canteen.

Clothing Issue

1 hat (a)1 hair brush
1 overcoat (a)1 shaving brush
2 coats, medical detachment (a)1 toothbrush
2 pairs of trousers, medical detachment (a)2 pairs of short cotton underwear (b)
1 pullover, labour detachment (a)1 comb
1 pair of trousers, labour detachment (a)2 pairs of woollen and cotton underwear (c)
1 pair of shorts (a) (b)1 jersey pullover (c)
1 pair of shoes1 safety razor with blade (d)
1 pair of laces2 flannel shirts
1 pair of braces2 cotton singlets (b)
2 pairs of woollen socks2 wool and cotton singlets (c)
2 towels3 cotton handkerchiefs
  • (a) Dyed burgundy
  • (b) Summer
  • (c) Winter
  • (d)One new blade a week in exchange for old blade

N.C.O.s and other prisoners of war

This group received a free issue of clothing and necessaries.

All articles were replaced free of charge when necessary.  Facilities were provided for repairs to shoes and clothing and prisoners of war employed as bootmakers, tailors, cobblers.

Prisoner of War Officers

Officers and men of equivalent rank must provide their own items and paid for at their expense. The clothing was manufactured in Australia and issued by authorities. Replacement officer uniforms were made after measurements were taken.  Completed uniforms were made in a venetian grey material, and cost approx. £5 each. The exception was for Japanese officers who were supplied with magenta dyed Australian Military Forces uniforms only but were allowed to wear any national uniforms they had in their possession.

Guerre 1939-1945. Myrtleford. Camp 5 B. Prisonniers de guerre italiens.

Camp 5B Myrtleford June 1943 ICRC V-P-HIST-03290-33A

Merchant Seamen Prisoners of War

Both officers and other ranks merchant seamen were provided with clothing and other items free of charge. Merchant Seamen officers and other ranks did not receive a payment as did other prisoner of war. When arrested, they had been in the employment of shipping companies. There was no agreement with the Italian government to provide a stipend (payment) for merchant seamen.

For this group, the seven first articles on the above list were replaced by a peaked cap, an overcoat, a vest and a pair of trousers suitable for merchant marines.  The material used was a dark green cloth.  The two flannel shirts were grey and had two collars each.  A blue tie was also issued.

What do the photos from Myrtleford Camp tell us

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Groupe numéro 27. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. Group number 27.

Non regulation overcoat possibly made from government issue blanket (centre)

Group Number 27 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-27

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Groupe numéro 23. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. Group number 23.

Non regulation fleecy winter vests Group Number 23 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-32

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp.

Handmade plaited belt?

February 1945 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-19A

Guerre 1939-1945. Myrtleford. Prisonniers de guerre italiens.

Regardless of being a prisoner of war, the officers wore their uniforms with pride

Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-03290-36A

Nonno Peppino

Memories from Ippolito Moscatelli (Messaggero di Sant’Antonio July-August 2021)

A special thank you to Sara Bavato for her continued support of the Italian prisoner of war research project and her article in the latest publication of Messaggero di Sant’Antonio. Click on the link below to read the article…

Every Italian prisoner of war took something small home to Italy. It might be a memory of flying fish and dolphins, a button from the POW uniform, a dictionary, a theatre program or a chess set.

The history of Italian prisoners of war is enriched by these items. Each item adds new understanding to the life of the Italian prisoner of war in Australia.

Ippolito’s granddaughter Francesca continues to discover bits and pieces of her nonno’s collection and each one brings new meaning to her nonno’s life.

Pastel by Ippolito Moscatelli 11 November 1945 (courtesy of Francesca Maffietti)

Captured at 20

Antonio Ciancio, a chauffeur from San Giovanni a Teduccio Napoli was one of many thousands of Italian prisoners of war to reside in Hay Prisoner of War Camp.

Having arrived in May 1941, a nominal roll places him in Camp 7 Hay [11th November 1942].  There were three camps at Hay: Camp 6, Camp 7 and Camp 8. Each camp was built to house 1000.

The camps were designed in an octagonal layout and were separate from each other. The history of Hay Prisoner of War and Internment Camp began in July 1940, when the Australian War Cabinet agreed to build two camps at Hay to accommodate 1000 persons per camp. Camps 7 and 8 were filled with internees sent to Australia from Great Britain. On 2nd November 1940, Camp 6 opened with Italian civilian internees.

Italian prisoners of war from Egypt arrive in Hay 28th May 1941. Antonio Ciancio was in this group.  They were accommodated in Camp 7 and Camp 8. The next major development was the commencement of the River Farm in April 1942. I have used a 1962 aerial photo to highlight the positions of the camps and River Farm. If you look at Hay NSW on google maps and choose satellite view you will see an octagonal outline for Camp 6 and the extent of the River Farm.

Rough Location of Camps and River Farm Hay New South Wales

In August 1942, the newspapers reported that Hay Prisoner of War and Interments Camps had become a “model of what such a camp should be like in all countries.” In particular the produce from the farm/s were praised for its ‘experimental area of cotton which yields over 900 lb to the acre, the prison has 308 acres of vegetable, 20 acres of poultry, 16 for pigs, and 740 for mixed stock and crop farming.’

Dr Georges Morel reported in March 1943 that the Italian prisoners of war worked inside and outside the camp. Work outside the camps in addition to agriculture, consisted of building roads, erecting water pumping plants and fences, construction irrigation channels and sewerage works.

Prisoners of war were encouraged to be engaged in work parties.  Dr Morel recorded that for Camp 7, 94 men worked inside the camp and 320 men worked outside the camp and for Camp 8 87 worked inside the camp and 470 worked outside the camp.  The total number in residence for Camp 7 was 651 and for Camp 8 646.

1942 ‘War Prisoners Grow Cabbages’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 3 November, p. 6. , viewed 02 Jun 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article132815787

It was reported that the Italians at Hay Camps in three months had grown 193,500 lbs of vegetables on 1000 acres of virgin soil. The men had also gained a stone in weight since arriving in Australia [during 1941]. 

Antonio was transferred to Cowra Camp on 13th August 1943.  The placement of Italian prisoners of war on farms was gaining momentum in New South Wales and Queensland. The movement of Italians from Hay to Cowra was based on geography and the need to have men available for easy transfer into districts north of Cowra.

Cowra, NSW. 16 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49305 E. Alunni; 46486 F. Palladino; 48249 G. Olivares; 46433 G. Polise; 49690 A. Rea; 45169 C. Catuogno. Front row: 49310 A. Argento; 49566 A. Di Pala; 49670 G. Joime [Ioime]; 45256 A. Ciancio. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030148/10 Photographer Michael Lewicki)

Antonio was sent to a farm in the Coonabarabran district of New South Wales on 31.10.43. A newspaper report positively describes the Italian workforce. They were performing remarkable work, conduct was excellent, manners were most impressive, most were learning English very quickly and with guidance they were operating agricultural machinery.

By the time Antonio boarded the Alcantara to return to Italy on 23rd December 1946, he had spent 5 years and seven months in Australia.

His home city of Naples had been heavily bombed during 1944.

Naples Harbour 1944 (Imperial War Memorial)

Antonio would have been able to see San Giovanni a Teduccio on the journey into Naples harbour: a bittersweet moment.

Saluto alle amicizie

Ermanno Nicoletti and Agostino Marazzi were brought together by war.

Together they arrived in Australia on the Queen Mary 27th May 1941 and were transported by train to Hay Prisoner of War Camp.

While at Hay, Agostino Marazzi (standing 2nd left) is photographed beside Ermanno Nicoletti (standing 1st left).

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: 45513 Francesco Del Viscio; 46331 Ermanno Nicoletti; 45852 Italo Gramiccia; 46320 Natale Nunziati; 46207 Valerio Mezzani 45498 Giovanni Di Pinto; 45496 Giuseppe Di Pilla; 46199 Agostino Marazzi; 46511 Alfonso Patrizi and 48922 Sergio Galazzi. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.

Not long after the photo was taken Ermanno Nicoletti was transferred to Cowra Camp and farm work in the Macksville district of New South Wales and Agostino Marazzi was transferred to Wayville South Australia and to farm work in the Mt Barker district.

But they stayed in contact.

Recently Amedeo obtained a copy of his father’s extra Australian file. Another connection between Agostino and Ermanno is realised. 

On 12th February 1944, Agostino wrote a letter to Ermanno and a section of the letter was kept in his file. Agostino wrote, “Here I have found all that I desired; solitude a beautiful little house surrounded by trees and a splendid garden… the food is very good.”

Decades later in Italy Agostino Marazzi and Ermanno Nicoletti reconnect.

Agostino Marazzi and Ermanno Nicoletti (photo courtesy of Amedeo Marazzi)

Agostino shared with the Nicoletti family the memory of Ermanno Nicoletti’s kindness and concern for other Italian soldiers. Ermanno was a talented artist and he would exchange sketches for food and medicines for other prisoners.

Family celebrations brought the two families together.  On the occasion of Amedeo Marazzi’s confirmation, Ermanno Nicoletti was his sponsor.  

Ermanno and Amedeo (photo courtesy of Amedeo Marazzi)

Alessandra Nicoletti remembers that her nonno, Ermanno and Agostino were close friends. The Marazzi family attended the wedding of Ermanno’s daughter, while Ermanno and his wife Maria attended the wedding of Amedeo Marazzi, Agostino’s son.

Wedding of Maria Luisa and Amedeo Marazzi 8th June 1981.  

Maria Luisa, Amedeo, Maria, Ermanno and Agostino. (photo courtesy of Amedeo Marazzi)

Seventy-five years later, the Marazzi and Nicoletti families continue to be connected to a shared history.

You have a deeper connection with people who you have shared experiences with and shared pain. Negash Ali

Il calzolaio di Grottaferrata

Somewhere in the vicinity of Sidi el Barrani, Agostino Marazzi abandoned his machine gun at the suggestion of a lieutenant. He was captured by the British on 11th December 1940. He had served with an infantry unit for 17 months.

On 24th March 1940, Agostino was photographed with a friend at Martuba Libya. Martuba was an important Italian airbase but also had numerous staging camps for newly arrived Italian soldiers.

Agostino Marazzi and friend Martuba Libya 24.3.1940 (photo courtesy of Amedeo Marazzi)

Agostino’s next stop was Tobruk which is 150 km south west of Martuba.His son Amedeo recalls that the two photos of his father with a machine gun were taken at Tobruk.

Agostino Marazzi at Tobruk (photo courtesy of Amedeo Marazzi)

Commander-in-Chief of the Italian army, Rodolfo Graziani had advanced Italian troops from the Libyan-Egyptian border to Sidi el Barrani from 13-16th September.  Field Marshal Wavell’s offensive to reclaim Egyptian territory began on 9th December 1940.

Along the fifty-miles-wide battlefield and astride the road leading west lay a fantastic litter of abandoned trucks, guns and tanks, piles of abandoned arms and ammunition, of food stores and clothing, and of the paper which a modern army spends so profusely. It was some days before all the enemy dead had been found and buried. Long columns of dejected prisoners in drab olive-green and khaki streamed eastwards. In the whole battle 38,300 prisoners, 237 guns and 73 tanks were captured . Four generals were taken: Gallina of the Group of Libyan Divisions, Chario of the 1st Libyan Division, Piscatori of the 2nd Libyan, Merzari of the 4th Blackshirt.

12 December 1940 SOME OF LATEST BATCH OF 4000 PRISONERS FROM AREA BETWEEN BARRANI AND Buq Buq. ALL ITALIAN TROOPS WERE WELL-CLOTHED & ARMED & IN GOOD PHYSICAL CONDITION BUT SEEMED IN NO MOOD FOR FIGHTING AFTER THE FIRST FEW HOURS OF THE ENCOUNTER. (PHOTOGRAPHED BY F. HURLEY).

The Italian prisoners’ journey begins: Sidi Barrani to Mersa Matruh to Alexandria. Some were taken to Palestine while others were taken to camps along the Bitter Lakes/Suez area.

Agostino Marazzi boards the Queen Mary bound for Sydney Australia. The ship leaves Suez on 7th May and arrives at Trinomalee (Ceylon) 14th May. She departs Trinomalee on 15th May and arrives in Fremantle Australia 21st May.  Queen Mary departs Fremantle on 21st May and arrives in Sydney on 25th May 1941

The Queen Mary had been in service as a troopship since May 1940 after she had been fitted out to accommodate 5000 troops. Towards the end of the war, Queen Mary was carrying 15,000 American troops in a voyage.

Amedeo Marazzi remembers his father’s story about the Queen Mary: “The Queen Mary was the largest ship in the world at the time and had 3 swimming pools, a theatre and a cinema. My father said that when they passed the equator at night, it was so hot some men jumped into the water of the pools for relief but the temperature in the pool was worse in than out.”

The Australian army identity photo was taken on 4th November 19411. Amedeo reflects, “To see the young face of my father was a unique wonderful emotion.”

Marazzi, Agostino NAA: A367, C85443

Agostino’s brother sent him a picture postcard of his mother, Celeste Vinciguerra, on 16th December 1942.  Mention is made of Sergio Galazzi, a radio mechanic from Rome. 

Sergio had arrived at Hay Camp 26th March 1942.  News must have reached the Marazzi and Galazzi families that Agostino and Sergio were now in the same camp.

Ecco la foto di mamma che tanto desideri. L’abbiamo fatta in questi giorni. Ti saluta e ti bacia. Tanti saluti dalla mamma di Galazzi Sergio. Tanti saluti da noi.

Elide Arturo

Celeste Vinciguerra (photo courtesy of Amedeo Marazzi)

Amedeo reminisces, “My father and his friends once they arrived in Australia  realized that this was a wonderful place. He settled immediately and became a labourer on a farm. He would talk about breakfast where he could have coffee or milk, honey, fruit, bread, butter and jam.  He has never felt like a prisoner of war.”

My father had good memories of Australia. He always told us that if he won the lottery, he would take us all on a holiday to Australia,” reflects Amedeo.

Carnivale 1950s Adele, Rossella, Amedeo, Agostino (photo courtesy of Amedeo Marazzi)

Recently Amedeo obtained a copy of his father’s extra Australian file. 

Little details emerge from this file: Agostino was captured at Buq Buq, west of Sidi Barrani; while in Hay Camp he worked as a bootmaker; in Hay Camp he was awarded 24 hours detention for possession of a prohibited article but this was not officially recorded.

Other documents record that he worked on the farm of Mr LE Peacock at Oakbank together with Sebastiano Aiello.

Upon return to Italy, life returned quickly to a familiar routine surrounded by family.

Adele and Agostino Marazzi (photo courtesy of Amedeo Marazzi)