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)


Arrested in Townsville

On the 18th June 1940 114 Italian crew from the Romolo were arrested in Townsville under a Warrant dated 18th June 1940, to be interned at Interment Camp, Gaythorne. Three women who were part of the crew were not arrested: Maria Cebin and Guilia Panzeletti worked as stewardesses, Elena Giovenale worked as a nurse.

Elena Giovenale: Nurse on the Romolo

(NAA: BP313/1, Giovenale E)

The Romolo an Italian merchant ship was berthed in Brisbane on 30th May 1940. On the 31st May 1940, the captain was ready to depart the Romolo at 21 hours but was delayed by Australian officials claiming a directive from Canberra: an inspection of the ship was required.

Between 31st May and 6th June 1940, the Romolo was delayed on claims for the need for ongoing inspections and searches.  Eventually on 5th June 1940, the Captain Ettore Gavino was notified that authorities were searching for “a package which the Allies did not wish to reach Germany.”

Captain of the Romolo: Ettore Gavino

(NAA: BP242/1, Q28607)

Captain Ettore Gavino chronicled the events:

Thursday 6th June 1940

At 1940 hours we received orders from Trieste to seek refuge in neutral waters, In consequence I called the Royal Commissioner, Chief Engineer and 1st Officer to a conference. We decided to alter our course.  We did this as soon as possible at 21hr.  We sailed without light.

Friday 7th June 1940

About dawn we sighted forward to the east a ship without lights, sailing in a convergent direction. … we discovered that the other ship was an auxiliary patrol cruiser, which was evidently detailed to watch us…

At 0900 hours I gather the crew and informed them of the decision agreed upon.  I recommended calmness, courage, economy of water, light, fuel and rations, and stressed that importance for each one to do his duty with the maximum of discipline, efficiency and conscience… I entreated them to show the pilot [an Australian] and the foreign woman passenger [Aida Senac] a correct and generous hospitality.  I reminded them of the duty of every good Italian to be ready to give all for the greatness of the Motherland.  We broke up cheering H.M. The King Emperor, and our Duce, the founder of the Empire.

Saturday 8th June 1940

We are still followed by the Auxiliary cruiser “Manoora” (carrying a hydroplane) sailing about two miles on our right and coming closer during the night.

Sunday 9th June 1940

This morning I signed Capt. R Lloyd Harry’s (the Torres Straits pilot) book…

At 1415 hours the auxiliary cruiser “Manoora” signalled us to disembark the Torres Strait Pilot…

We practiced ‘Abandon Ship” using the regulation siren and allotted the passengers their place in the life boats. Carried out trials with the wireless in the life boats.

Monday 10th June 1940

Rehearsed closure of water-tight doors.

In the morning I gave orders to the crew to paint the ship inside and outside so as to make her less visible…

Tuesday 11th June 1940

We are at war with France and England. We are sailing without lights. The crew is working and painting the ship to render her less visible.

Wednesday 12th June 1940

A few minutes before midday a ship is sighted on the S.W. horizon,… We identify her as the “Manoora”…. I give full instructions for the abandoning and sinking of the ship.  It is about 1215 hours. The “Manoora”… sends me the following radiogram : “Stop immediately or I fire at you.” Consequently, I stop the ship, hoist the Italian flag and send out an S.O.S.

I receive a second message from the “Manoora”. “Do not abandon your ship because I will not pick you up.” I give the order to abandon ship and have the eight launches, which for some days days been swinging from the davits, and ready for use, lowered to the water. This operation being carried out with the greatest of calm and punctuality.

I take every precaution to ensure that the ship will not be captured by the enemy. At about 1300 hours the ship is abandoned…

PACIFIC OCEAN, 1940-06-12. THE ITALIAN MOTOR-SHIP ROMOLO BEING SHELLED BY AN AUSTRALIAN ARMED MERCHANT CRUISER, HMAS MANOORA, IN THE PACIFIC SHORTLY AFTER ITALY ENTERED THE WAR. (AWM Image P00279.003)

The sails are hoisted in the various boats which are driven by the wind towards the “Manoora” – now stationary… lowered her gangways and signalled for us to approach.

Italian prisoners coming from the Italian motor vessel Romolo in life boats. The Romolo was set on fire and scuttled by its crew after being pursued from Brisbane by HMAS Manoora and finally intercepted, 220 miles south west of the island of Nauru.

Shortly before 1500 hours the passengers and crew of the “Romolo” were safe and sound on board the “Manoora”, who had salvaged seven of our launches. 

Italian prisoners from the Italian Motor Vessel Romolo in the bows of HMAS Manoora. The Romolo was set on fire and scuttled by its crew after being pursued from Brisbane by HMAS Manoora. Shells for the ship’s six inch guns are visible on the hatch way.

I, who was the last to climb aboard, was taken to Commander Spurgeon of the “Manoora”.

At about 1600 hours seven shells were fired along the “Romolo’s” waterline.. At 1815 hours my ship with the water up to her batteries, appeared to be breaking amidships.  Rapidly she listed to starboard, the tricolour flying from h er mast.

At 1820 hours only the railings, illuminated by the “Manoora’s” searchlight, were visible above water.

At 1825 hours the “Romolo” disappeared…

Unlike her sister ship the Remo, Romolo would not be seized as a war prize.

(NAA: MP1103/2 Cereseto, Giuseppe)

Under a Warrant, the Romolo crew was transferred from Townsville Jail to Gaythorne Internment Camp on 22nd June 1940. One hundred and thirteen crew were then transferred to Hay Internment Camp on 6th November 1940.

Pasquale Bottigliero, seaman, arrived in Gaythorne Camp on 22nd June 1940 but was directly transferred to General Hospital Brisbane. On 2nd July 1940 he was transferred to Goodna Hospital where he stayed until his death on 11th January 1941. 

From Hay Internment Camp the Romolo crew was transferred to Loveday Internment Camp on 11th June 1941. One document records that on 15th April 1942 the status of this group of men were changed from ‘internees’ to ‘prisoners of war’.

 On 5th May 1942 the crew was transferred to Murchison Prisoner of War Camp. Other documents identify the 22nd June 1942 as the ‘official’ date of status change.

Officers were sent to Myrtleford Officers’ Camp Victoria.  First Officer Tullio Tami is standing third from the left in the photo below taken at Myrtleford.

Myrtleford, Australia. 5 November 1943. Group of Italian officer prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 5 POW Camp. Back row, left to right: Bonifazio; Voltolini; Tami; Staiano; Donato; Rea. Front row: Migliore; Massimino; Talamanca; Maiolino; Bobbio; Bosi. (AWM Image 030152/05 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Natale Amendolia, one of the Romolo’s cooks was employed in Camp B at Myrtleford Camp. Other crew members were sent from Murchison Camp to farm placement in Victoria and Tasmania.

MYRTLEFORD, VIC. C. 1943-11-06. THE PRISONERS’ KITCHEN IN “B” COMPOUND, 51ST AUSTRALIAN GARRISON COMPANY, PRISONER OF WAR CAMP. SHOWN ARE:- PWI.47727 G. SEMINARA (1); PWI.7133 N. AMENDOLIA, SHIP’S COOK MV ROMOLO (2); PWI.47795 P. VITULLI (3); PWI.47664 G. ROMANO (4). (AWM Image 059303 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Francesco Lubrano was also a cook on the Romolo.  He was sent to work on the farm of Wilfred James Stuart at North Morton Tasmania.  He was remembered by Valerie Stuart for his cooking, particularly introducing the family to pasta. Read more about Francesco Lubrano on page 6 of the document following…

Go to page 90 of the following document to read more about the female crew: Maria Cebin, Guilia Panzeletti and Elena Giovenale.

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)

The Footprints Project

Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War Project is a community project supported by Australians in six states and Italian families in sixteen countries.**

Did you know?

The website operates as a ‘virtual’ museum and library.

Over 300 articles have been written for the website.

The website has a wide reaching readership to over 120 countries!

What makes this research unique and diverse?

Perspective.

Contributions have come from far and wide:  farmers, farmers’ wives, farming children, the town kids, families of Australian Army interpreters, children of Italians who were prisoners of war, Italians who were prisoners of war, the local nurse, the mother of an ex-POW, government policy and reports.

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What does the research encompass?

Website: italianprisonersofwar.com

Facebook Page: Prigionieri di guerra Italiani in Australia

Music Book: Notations for songs and dance music by Ciccio Cipolla.

Farm Diary: daily notations regarding farm life during war time including information on Italian POWs and Land Army Girls.

Feature article in Corriere della Sera [Italy] in March 2021.

Memories in Concrete: Giuseppe Miraglia from Enna Sicily and Adriano Zagonara from Bagnara di Romagna Ravenna.

Donations to the Australian War Memorial of two artefacts made by Gympie Italian prisoners of war

Two publications: Walking in their Boots and Costanzo Melino: Son of Anzano (in collaboration with Rosa Melino)

Journey of two Italian families from Italy to visit Queensland and ‘walk in the footsteps of their fathers’: Q1 Stanthorpe and Q6 Home Hill

POW Kit Bags: Adriano Zagonara and Sebastiano Di Campli

The Colour Magenta: The Australian prisoner of war uniform for Italians, Japanese and Germans.

Handbooks: L’Amico del Prigioniero, Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War, Piccolo Guido per gli Italiani in Australia

Voices from the Pasttestimonials from Italian soldiers who worked on  farms.

Letters written by Italian prisoners of war to family in Italy, to their Queensland farmers and to the children of farmers, written by mother of an Italian POW to a Queensland nurse, written by the Italians to their interpreter, Queensland farmer to Italian, letters written between Italian POW places in different states.

Photographs of Italian soldiers in full dress uniform, Italian soldiers in Italian and Libya during training, Italians as POWs with their farming families, Italians on their Wedding Day and with their families, Italians in POW camps in India.

Handmade items: embroideries, wooden objects, cellophane belt, silver rings, paintings, cane baskets, metal items, chess sets, art work, theatre programs.

Contributions by twelve Italian families whose fathers and family returned to Australia as ‘new Australians’.

Identification of buildings used as prisoner of war accommodation.

Publication of three guides for Italian families to assist in their search for information about their fathers and grandfathers.

Collaboration with numerous Italian and Australian families; local museums and family history associations; journalists; translators; collectors of historic postal items; local libraries.

Discussion about our Queensland research at conference in Catania Sicily May 2019 on prisoner of war experiences .

My Wish List

In the beginning:

I had one wish, to find one Queensland family who remembered the Italians working and living on their farm. Thank you Althea Kleidon, you were the beginning with your photos and memories of Tony and Jimmy.

My adjusted wish list, to find three photographs of Italian POWs on Queensland farms. Then came Rosemary Watt and Pam Phillips with their collection of photos, a signature in concrete and a gift worked in metal.

….

Now:

To have the three Finding Nonno guides translated into Italian.

If I win Gold Lotto, to have Walking in their Boots translated into Italian or an upgrade to the website.

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**What does the future hold

Currently there are three Italian based projects in progress which will further enhance and promote this research.

After six years of research, over 300 website articles, two publications, thousands of emails, visits, interviews, cataloguing etc …

I plan to go at a slightly slower pace.  I will continue to work offline and in the background answering questions, assisting families and adding to this historical collection.

Background

What started out as a personal journey to read about the Italian POW Camp outside of Home Hill has resulted in a comprehensive, diverse and rich collection of stories, letters, photographs, testimonies, artefacts, music, newspaper articles spanning over 80 years: the battles in the Mediterranean and in Libya 1940 to the present.

Over the past six years, I have heard these words many times over, “but you have it wrong, there were no Italian prisoners of war in Queensland”.

And this became a focal point for the research: to record this chapter in Queensland’s history before it was completely forgotten.

But like ripples in a pond,  Queensland’s history of Italian POWs expanded across and was part of a greater history and so the project extended and expanded: to other Australia states and to Italian families in sixteen countries around the world.

Join the journey and follow the footprints of the Italian prisoners of war.

Contented prisoner of war returns

by Joanne Ciaglia

Angelo Marino Macolino was born in San Lupo on 31/3/1912 to Antonio Macolino and Filomena Cesare.  Angelo Marino worked on his family’s farm in San Lupo and did quite well on the land.  On 24/10/1935 he married Marietta Vaccarella in San Lupo.  Marietta was the youngest of five children and the only girl.

All her brothers went to America very young and they sent the family packages of clothes and money.  This would have made life a lot easier for the family in San Lupo.

Angelo Marino and Marietta had a daughter, Filomena Macolino, who was named after her paternal grandmother and was born in 1938.

Postcard sent to Marietta and Filomena when Angelo Marino was in training (photo courtesy of Macolino family)

Angelo Marino then went into WW2 fighting for Italy. While in the army he played a trombone.  He loved his music and dancing, although years later, Angelo Marino didn’t have time to go dancing as he was too busy working.

Angelo Marino Macolino with his trombone (photo courtesy of Macolino family)

Angelo Marino spent the first eight months fighting in Tobruk, Libya and then went to Bardia, Libya.  On 3/1/1941, during the Battle of Bardia, he was captured after hiding for three days in a fox hole.  He was sent from Libya to Sydney on the Queen Mary on 27/5/1941.

While in Australia Angelo Marino worked at Cook which was the No 3 Labour Detachment on the Trans-Australia Railway Line SA and WA.  He then returned to Hay POW camp in NSW. 

On 23/11/943 he left Hay by train and travelled to South Australia. He was allocated to farm work in four farming districts: Mount Barker 23/11/43, Mt Pleasant 14/4/44, Murray Bridge 18/7/44 and Clare 22/2/45.  Angelo Marino had one breach of discipline registered on his record card. While at his Murray Bridge farm, he left his place of employment without permission and was awarded 15 days detention. 

On 7/11/1946 Angelo Marino boarded the Strathmore for repatriation to Italy.  He arrived in Naples 6/12/46. Angelo Marino had spent five and a half years in Australia as a POW. 

During those years, Marietta had been left on her own with her three year old daughter.  She had to take over all the household duties and work the farm.  She lived in fear of the war and San Lupo was invaded by the Americans.  The American’s dropped a bomb near where she lived and her house was raided.  Food and clothes were scarce. 

After Angelo Marino came back to San Lupo, he and Marietta had Uliano born 1948, Tiziana born 1952, Lucia born 1955 and then he emigrated to South Australia with his family.  He thought so much of South Australia from his time spent there as a POW.  They went on to have one more child in Adelaide, Eduardo born in 1959. 

When his children were old enough, he asked them to help him find all the farms he had worked at while a POW.  He wanted to track them down to find the owners as they had been so good to him.  When they went to Murray Bridge and Gumeracha, they remembered him! Angelo Marino assisted his granddaughter Sandra with a school project and recounted his memories of his time as a soldier and prisoner of war. His memory was remarkably accurate when compared with his Australia prisoner of war card.

Sandra Mancini’s School Project: Grandpa’s Story (photo courtesy of Macolino family)

After arriving in Australia he got a job at British Tube Mills in Kilburn, Adelaide.  He was a storeman.  They were the only Australian factory making precision steel tubing for products such as hypodermic needles, milking machines, locomotives, golf clubs, vacuum cleaner pipes and bicycles.  He did shift work, working day shift for one week and night shift for the following week.  He loved his job and his nickname at work was Frederick.  He stayed there until he retired at the age of 65. 

Angelo Marino loved to dress like a gentleman all the time.  There was never a day that he never wore a necktie, regardless of the heat.  He even did the gardening well dressed.  He liked his children to dress well and he used to go clothes shopping with Marietta and would pick out amazing dresses for her to wear.  He loved fashion like all Italians do.  He also loved studying the world globe and would show his children where he had been.

Angelo Marino, Marietta and Tiziana (photo courtesy of Macolino family)

Angelo Marino sponsored paisani and friends from San Lupo to come over to Adelaide and they would spend a lot of time together.  They would live with Angelo Marino and Marietta until they found work.  His siblings also moved to Adelaide.

A year after arriving in Adelaide, Angelo Marino built a new house, with the help of tradies.  Angelo Marino had a huge garden out the back.  He grew grapes and tomatoes, amongst other fruit and vegetables, and used this to make wine and sauce every year.  His daughter Filomena still makes wine and sauce and his daughter Tiziana, still continues the tradition of making sauce with her children.

Angelo Marino died in Adelaide on 6/10/2002 and Marietta died on 26/10/2013.

More than a photo frame

Memories can be easily forgotten. Tangible items are long lasting.

The Italian prisoners of war used paint, handkerchiefs, board, thread, wood and metal to create tangible items as a way of recording their time as a prisoner of war.

Anselmo Franchi from Tesogno (Parma) crafted his memories in wood.

At first glance you will see the obvious: a photo frame in the shape of Australia.

But this is more than a photo frame: it is a record of Anselmo’s journey.

Photo frame made by Anselmo Franchi (photo courtesy of Roberto Pardini)

The crest and crown motif – Crest representing the House of Savoia, the Kingdom of Italy

The date palms, minaret, and sand dunes – Libya, Anselmo was captured at Port Bardia Libya

The three-funnel ship – the Queen Mary which transported Anselmo from Egypt to Australia

The kangaroo – Australia

F A – Franchi Anselmo

While the photo frame represents the past, with the inclusion of a photo of Anselmo’s wife, it also represented the ‘present’ and the ‘future’.

Stand for Photo Frame (photo courtesy of Roberto Pardini)

Roberto Pardini, Anselmo’s son-in-law, shares further details, “Anselmo was very proud of his work, since, as you can imagine, the tools to make it were not many. He used an axe to bring the wood to the desired thickness and with a piece of blade from a table knife he made the bas-relief. Anselmo used the map of Australia on the 1941 YMCA Christmas card as a pattern for the frame.”

Front cover of Anselmo’s 1941 Christmas Card from YMCA (photo courtesy of Roberto Pardini)

Fratelli

Against all odds, brothers Luigi and Anselmo were reunited in an Egyptian Prisoner of War Camp.

Anselmo Franchi served with an artillery unit when he was captured at Bardia on 5th January 1941.

His older brother Luigi served with an infantry unit when he was captured at Tobruk on 16th April 1941.

With over 100,000 Italian prisoners of war under the control of the British Command, how do brothers find each other?

Anselmo’s son-in-law Roberto Pardini provides the answer, which was shaped by a series of unrelated and random events.

“On 28 May 41, Anselmo had been a prisoner for almost six months and he is loaded onto an English truck, along with 50 other prisoners, to go and set up tents. During the trip, due to the too high speed, the driver of the truck loses control of the vehicle. The vehicle overturns causing nine deaths and several injuries, including Anselmo, who is taken to the hospital for a head injury, and he will remain there for a month.


During his hospitalization, he sees other prisoners and sick arriving at the hospital, among these there are some who wear the insignia of his brother’s regiment and the battalion on their hats.

Anselmo tries to ask these men if they know Luigi, but being from another company, they don’t know who he was. Every now and then a sergeant of that battalion passed by, who came to see the wounded and the sick and not even he could give news to Anselmo about his brother, but the sergeant asked for his name and surname, promising that he would try to search.


The Italian prisoners were divided into 24 camps of 1000 people each, the sergeant spread the name, so Anselmo discovered that Luigi was a prisoner in camp 19.


After leaving the hospital, Anselmo returned to his camp and a few days later was able to see his brother in the other camp through the fences. At this point Anselmo turned to a marshal of the Italian Navy, who was the head of his camp, to ask if there was the possibility of having them reunite. This happened on 25 June 41. Since that day they were not separated.”

Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 46738 Guido Santunioni;46909 Giovanni Venturelli; 49725 Guido Tantini; 46788 Mario Salvini; 45698 Eugenio Ferrara; 46852 Archemede Montanari; 46087 Giuseppe Martari. Front row: 46904 Gino Uguzzoni; 46124 Olindo Magagni; 48050 Luigi Franchi; 48051 Anselmo Franchi; 45878 Adolfo Giottoli. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030171/03

The reuniting of Luigi and Anselmo is remarkable if you consider the many variables which could have kept the brothers separated: Bardia soldiers arrived in Australia in May 1941, Bardia soldiers were sent to India, there was more than one prisoner of war camp site in Egypt: Qassassin, Ismailia, Geneifa- Camp 306 (capacity 19,200), 307, 308, 309, 310 (capacity 10,000).

One can only image the reaction of Anselmo and Luigi’s mother when she received news that her sons had been reunited. 

Throughout their journey from Egypt to Naples, Luigi and Anselmo remained together except for Anselmo’s 14 days detention in 1943 and his 10 days hospitalisation in 1946.

Luigi and Anselmo were transferred to Hay Camp then to Yanco Camp. Roberto continues the story with memories from Australia, “They were in a team of woodcutters of about 20 people and every day they went to the woods to cut wood.  Anselmo said they were eucalyptus trees.”


It happened that during the tomato season they were destined for harvesting these fruits on farms. The problem in this case was that Luigi, being colour blind, exchanged the colour green with red, so Anselmo had to keep an eye on him, otherwise he only picked unripe tomatoes.”

Yanco, NSW. 1944-02-01. Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from No. 15 POW Camp harvesting Tatura Dwarf Globe tomatoes on the Leeton Experimental Farm. These tomatoes are a special seed crop and will be distributed throughout the Commonwealth. On horseback is Private G. A. Lawless, a guard of the 15th Garrison Battalion. No POWs have tried to escape from this camp. (AWM Image 063935, Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Close to sixty years later Anselmo and Luigi were reunited with one of their friends from their days at Hay and Yanco Camps. Roberto relates, the circumstances and events,

“In 2003, the granddaughter of Camillo Lazzeroni, another of Hay’s prisoners, made a search for those men with whom her grandfather had made friendships with.  Two of these men were Anselmo and Luigi. After a great deal of work, she managed to get in touch and my wife and I accompanied Anselmo, not Luigi because it was a too long journey, to San Sepolcro, in the province of Arezzo, for them to meet after 57 years.

You can imagine the emotion!!!! Even now, while I’m writing, I have shivers thinking about that day.”

Camillo and Anselmo 2003 (courtesy of Roberto Pardini)

About two years later, Camillo returned the visit and accompanied by his daughter, came to visit Anselmo, and was able to hug Luigi again.”

Anselmo, Camillo and Luigi 2005 (photo courtesy of Robert Pardini)

…a remarkable and emotional series of events…

No 3 Labour Detachment Cook SA

This post is an update on the information already published about the Italian prisoners of war who did maintenance work on the Trans Australia Railway Line in South Australia and Western Australia.

A young Australian, Arthur Henry Patrick had been a guard at Cowra Camp before he was detached to No. 3 Labour Detachment.  Several photos and two gifts from the Italians were donated to the Australia War Memorial in Canberra.  His photos are invaluable because they allow Italian families ‘to see’ the camps their loved ones lived in and catch a glimpse of the vastness of the Australian landscape beyond the camp. Patrick’s photos illustrate Camp 1 which is referred to as Camp No. 1 The Plains SA.

Camp No 1 was one of six camps along the Trans Australian Railway line.  It was 515 miles from Port Pirie and situated between the railway stations of Watson and Fisher.  The map below illustrates its situation.

From NAA: B300, 8247 Part 2 Employment of prisoners of war

The table below gives a further geographic location of being 54 miles from the township of Cook.

Location of camp and subcamps for No.3 Labour Detachment Cook

2nd June 1942 Secret Report

From NAA: B300, 8247 Part 2 Employment of prisoners of war

The three photos following are labelled: View of the barracks that housed Italian prisonersof war (POWs) inside the barbed wire compound at Camp No 1, The Plains, SA.

The last photo provides the faces of the Australian servicemen who were detached to Camp No. 1.  The group consists of 15 men and three dogs.

Unfortunately, individual Italian prisoner of war records do not give the camp number they were attached to. 

For more of this history: https://italianprisonersofwar.com/2019/09/19/italian-pows-on-the-nullabor-plain/

1943 Group portrait of servicemen stationed at Prisoner of War (POW) Camp No 1, The Plains, SA. NX148826 Private Arthur Henry Patrick (seated front row, right) is holding a dog as are two other unidentified men in the group. The servicemen were detached to No. 3 Labour Detachment Cook SA.

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.