Category Archives: Italian Prisoners of War India

A prisoner of war uniform

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:

Geneifa Egypt:

Geneiffa, camp N° 306. Une section du camps.

Camp 306 Geneifa Egypt ICRC V-P-HIST-00849-01

 Zonderwater South Africa:

Camp de Zonderwater. Inauguration du bureau de poste.

Inauguration of Post Office Zonderwater ICRC V-P-HIST-03363-19A

 Bangalore Camp 2 India:

Guerre 1939-1945. Bangalore. Camp 2. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Communion donnée par un délégué apostolique. Word War II. Bangalore. Camp 2. Holy communion given by an apolostic delegate.

Bangalore Camp 2 ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-19A

Cowra 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)

BUT…

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.

Prisoner of War Capture Tags US Government Issue

(photos courtesy of AC)

Prisoner of War Uniforms

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.

Guerre 1939-1945. Bangalore. Camp 2. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Communion donnée par un délégué apostolique. Word War II. Bangalore. Camp 2. Holy communion given by an apolostic delegate.

Italians Taking Communion in a British Camp in India 1943

(ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-19A)

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.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle-Galles du sud, camp de Cowra. N°12, Section D. La cantine. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, n°12, section D. The canteen.

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.

Geneiffa, camp N° 306. Fourneaux.

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)

Yol – Kangra Valley India

George Purves at Yol (photo courtesy of James Purves)

George Fraser PURVES served as an anaesthetist with the British Army at Yol Prisoner of War Camp in India. His son James from Georgia USA has contributed a number of photos taken by his father and three drawings painted by Capitano Luigi Socci.

The photos offer up a glimpse of the British Army Camp: its buildings and its staff; the landscape and geography of the Kangra Valley.

Yol Hospital Staff: George Purves top row centre (photo courtesy of James Purves)

It is invaluable to have this history viewed from different perspectives: the anaesthetist and the prisoner of war.

Thank you James for allowing these memories and items to be shared in our ‘virtual’ museum.

George Fraser PURVES studied medicine at Trinity Hall Cambridge. His photos date him at Yol in 1943. He left Yol in July 1944 and served on a hospital ship HMHS Karapara, then Kuala Lumpur Malaya, Bandoeng Java and IBGH Bareilly India.

George was married before he left England and was initially posted to Scotland to await his journey to India. While in his accommodation awaiting his orders, American war ships which had escorted a convoy across the Atlantic arrived into harbour. The American officers were billeted at the same accommodation as George. James recounts this war time story: “they [Americans] went inside and asked why there was no heat, as the place was so cold. On being told that all coal went toward the war effort, they said that they would fix the problem and left. They returned with a large truck half filled with coal from their ship as well as two boiler stokers. The front room windows were opened, the truck was backed up and the coal was shovelled onto the living room floor. Both alcohol and ‘real’ food was produced. Father said they all slept on the floor of that warm room, the flames from the open fireplace lighting and dancing around the ceiling and walls.”

Soon enough George was on a ship and on his way to India. James recounts, “Sometimes during the voyage the Captain called him [George] to the bridge. There was a telegram for him. In short, a question was put to him, “Is Dr Purves able and willing to join a parachute division as a Doctor?” The Captain apparently told father that there was no rush to make a decision, but father told him he would answer immediately. The wireless officer took down the reply… “Dr Purves is able but not willing.” It was a brilliant answer as father was frightened of heights.”

And so it was that Dr Purves did not spend the war jumping out of aeroplanes, but instead resided at Yol as an anaesthetist operating on Italian prisoners of war and British staff.

Swimming and Fishing: George Purves and friends Yol (photo courtesy of James Purves)

As with all prisoner of war camps, the British Command Staff lived separately from the prisoner of war camp. George’s contact with Italian prisoners of war was from hospitalisation for operations and post operative care.

British Camp Staff, Yol (photo courtesy of James Purves)

While in India and south-east Asia, George suffered heat stroke and malaria. He returned to England fatigued and gaunt. George’s wife walked past him on the railway platform, she barely recognised her husband.

George Purves (standing left) at Yol (photo courtesy of James Purves)

An amateur photographer, George Purves took many walks into the countryside of the Kangra Valley, taking photos of the mountains, the rivers and the valley. A glimpse into the past is the photo below of George in his room.

My Room Yol 1943 (photo courtesy of James Purves)

Milestone, Miracles and Magic

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.

Ciao

Joanne

NB New donations coming soon: Geneifa Eggito and Yol India

Was your father sent to India?

Today I wish to share a few images of Italians in the British Camps in India. It is a way to highlight the archives of the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Many families are already applying for personal documents from the Red Cross for their family members. There is also an extensive audio-visual collection available for viewing.

The ICRC’s historical archives comprise 6,700 linear metres of textual records and a collection of photographs, films and other audio archives. Tens of thousands of documents are available in digital format on the ICRC audiovisual archives portal.

While it is improbable that you will find a photo of your father, you will however view photos which will highlight aspects of the daily life and routine of Italian prisoners of war.

A picture is worth a thousand words…

Was your father a….

BAKER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 21, aile 1. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Boulangerie Word War II. British India. Camp 21, wing 1. Italian prisoners of war. Bakery.

PASTA MAKER

Guerre 1939-1945. Bangalore. Groupe I. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens. Préparation de spaghetti. Word War II. Bangalore. Group I. Italian prisoners of war camp. Prisoners preparing spaghetti

TENNIS PLAYER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 21, aile 1. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Equipe de tennis. Word War II. British India. Camp 21, wing 1. Italian prisoners of war. Tennis team.

SHOE MAKER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 23, aile 3. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens. Cordonniers. Word War II. British India. Camp 23, Wing 3. Italian prisoners of war camp. Shoemakers.

TAILOR

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 16 de prisonniers de guerre italiens. Couturier. Word War II. British India. Italian prisoners of war camp 16. Tailor.

INSTRUMENT MAKER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 21. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Luthiers. Word War II. British India. Camp 21. Italian prisoners of war camp. Instrument makers.

ARTIST

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 23, ailes 1 & 2. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Prisonniers peignant des portraits. Word War II. British India. Camp 23, wings 1 & 2. Italian prisoners of war. Prisoners drawning portraits.

MUSICIAN

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 23, aile 5. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Orchestre. Word War II. British India. Camp 23, wing 5. Italian prisoners of war. Orchestra.

ACTOR

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 23, aile 5. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Troupe d’acteurs. Word War II. British India. Camp 23, wing 5. Italian prisoners of war. Theatre troupe.

CHESS PLAYER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 5. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Partie d’échecs. Word War II. British India. Camp 5. Italian prisoners of war. Game of chess.

BILLARDS PLAYER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Groupe II. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens. Partie de billard. Word War II. British India. Group II. Italian prisoners of war camp. Game of billiards.

BOXER

Guerre 1939-1945. Bangalore. Groupe I. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens. Groupe de boxeurs. Word War II. Bangalore, Group I. Italian prisoners of war camp. Group of boxers.

TEACHER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 14. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Salle de cours. Word War II. British India. Camp 14. Italian prisoners of war. Class room.

FOOTBALLER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 21. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Equipe de football. Word War II. British India. Camp 21. Italian prisoners of war. Football team.

JOINER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 22, aile 5. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Menuisier. Word War II. British India. Camp 22, wing 5. Italian prisoners of war. Joiner.

BOCCE PLAYER

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 23, ailes 1 & 2. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Partie de pétanque. Word War II. British India. Camp 23, wings 1 & 2. Italian prisoners of war. Petanque game.

Prayers, Priests and Chapels

The inspiration for this article began with a photo of the Cowra Chapel. After some research, I realised that this topic was much more complex.  Prayers, Priests and Chapels begins with the patron saints of villages and is a journey of the Italian soldier and prisoners of war through their faith.

Italy

There might have been exceptions but it was reported that all Italian prisoners of war were Catholic.  Evidence of their religious faith starts with the prayer cards they were given of the patron saint of their village. These prayer cards were taken with them to the battlefields, to the prisoner of war camps, to Australia and then finally returned with the men to Italy.

Domenico Feruilli’s Prayer Card (photo courtesy of Rossana Ferulli)

Libya

In Libya Roman Catholic Churches were built by the Italians before the outbreak of war. Did the Italian soldiers get an opportunity to visit these churches and pray? Did they light a candle for their safety in battle? Or maybe they made the sign of the cross as they passed by these churches on the way to battle?

Biagio di Ferdinando wrote, “During my travels from Tobruck to Bengasi, after Derna and Barce there were many beautiful villas, towns, schools, churches, all new.”  (Odyssey by Biagio di Ferdinando)

1st March 1941 BENGHAZI. EXTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED NAME OF JESUS. SMALL BOMBS HAVE FALLEN IN THE COURTYARD BEFORE THE CATHEDRAL AND THE BLAST FROM HEAVY GERMAN BOMBS HAS SHATTERED MOST OF THE WINDOWS. (AWM Image 006539, Photographer Hurley, James Francis (Frank)

Egypt

In 1941, the Apostolic Delegate for Egypt and Palestine had ‘Libro di Preghiere’ published in Palestine, with the permission of G.H.Q. Middle East. It was a prayer book distributed to Italian prisoners of war. 

It included Preghiera Del Prigioniero as well as part of a prayer for the prisoners by Pope Pius XII. For many, this would have been their only book but it was a book to give the men spiritual guidance and comfort.

Libro di Preghiere (photo courtesy of Daniel Reginato)

India

In India, the men were given materials to paint and sew with. The men drew inspiration from their faith. Filippo Granatelli’s ‘Last Supper’ is one example.

Filippo Granatelli 16.11.42 (photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)

Many of the embroideries are religious in nature: the patron saint of a village, Jesus, The Sacred Heart, Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Giuseppe Polito: Rappresenta la Madonna degli Angeli, protettrice di Sacco (SA) il suo paese. (photo courtesy of Silvio Masullo)

Carved Wooden Statue of Madonna made by Isidoro Del Piccolo in Yol Camp India (photo courtesy of Ermanno Scrazzolo)

The Italians brought a little of Italy to the chapels in the British camps in India with elaborate decorations: paintings, statues, frescos and altars.

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 22, aile 4. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens. Prisonniers se recueillant devant un autel. Word War II. Bangalore. Camp 22, wing 4. Italian prisoners of war camp. Prisoners meditating in front of an altar.

Prisoners Praying Camp 22 Wing 4 Bangalore (ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-10A)

Guerre 1939-1945. Indes britanniques. Camp no 23. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens. Altar. Word War II. Bangalore. Camp 23. Italian prisoners of war camp. Altar.

Camp No 23 Bangalore Altar (ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-16A)

Worthy of note are the details of Our Lady of the Prisoner. The hat, the shirt with a black diamond patch, the shorts with the black strip; items which identified the men as prisoners of war have been meticuoulsy represented.

Guerre 1939-1945. Bangalore. Groupe I. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens. Monument “Notre-Dame du prisonnier”. Word War II. Bangalore. Group I. Italian prisoners of war camp. “Notre-Dame du prisonnier” monument.

Our Lady of the Prisoner Bangalore Group I 12.12.1941 (ICRC V-P-HIST=03474-05A)

Guerre 1939-1945. Bangalore. Camp 2. Prisonniers de guerre italiens. Autel dans la chapelle. Word War II. Bangalore. Camp 2. view of the altar in the chapel.

Bangalore Camp 2 View of the Altar in the Chapel (ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-20A)

Australia: In the Camps

The first group of Italian prisoners of war arrived at Hay Camp New South Wales in May 1941. A 1943 report and a 1944 photo records information about how the spiritual needs of the Italians were catered for at Hay Camps 7 and 8:

The prisoners of war of these two camps are all Catholics. Camp 8 has a chapel adorned with a beautiful altar carved in wood and having a harmonium. The chapel of Camp 7 is located in one of the refectories; it also has a beautiful sculpted altar and a harmonium. Each camp has a prisoner of war priest who provides regular worship.

Camp priest, Virgilio Iacobelli featured below arrived in Australia on 27th May 1941 with the first group of Italian prisoners of war.  He served at both Hay and Cowra camps.

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. 45005 LIEUTENANT PADRE I. VIRGILIO IACOBELLI AN ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, AT THE ALTAR IN THE CHAPEL OF NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. ALL THE CRAFT WORK IN THE CHAPEL WAS DONE BY THE PRISONERS. PLAYING THE ORGAN IS 45192 SERGEANT MAJOR VINCENZO COMMARATA. (AWM Image 063360, Photographer McInnes, Geoffrey)

To make way for new arrivals of Italian prisoners of war to Australia, Italians were transferred from the established camps at Hay to the tented camps of Cowra.  Cowra Prisoner of War Camps for the Italians were under construction.  In November 1941, photos and reports record the temporary chapel and arrangements for church services:

Each section has a large tent serving as a chapel, containing a pretty altar built for prisoners. The sacred candles, bread and wine are provided once a week by the local priest of Cowra.  Religious duties are carried out by three prisoner of war priests. Recently, Cowra had a visit from the Archbishop of Sydney, representing the Apostolic Delegate in Australia.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle Galles du Sud, camp de Cowra No 12, section D. Autel en construction. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, camp 12, section D. Altar under construction

Cowra Camp No 12 Section D Altar under Construction 12.11.41 (ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00216)

Giuseppe Raimondi from Amaroni (Catanzaro) served as priest at Cowra Special Camp 12 D before being sent to Victoria: V28 Attwoods, Myrtleford Camp, Puckapunyal and V22 Rowville. Raimondi was called as a witness to an inquiry into Captain JM Waterson and the fatal shooting of Rodolfo Bartoli at V22 Rowville.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle Galles du Sud, camp de Cowra No 12, section D. La chapelle. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, camp 12, section D. Chapel

Cowra Camp No 12 Section D The Chapel 12.11.41 (ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00215)

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle Galles du Sud, camp de Cowra, camp A, série A. Autel dans un réfectoire. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, camp A, serie A. Altar in a dining hall.

Cowra Camp A Altar in the Dining room 3.9.42 (ICRC V_P-HIST-E-00218)

Faustino Lenti from Milano had been a Missionary Father in India and served at Cowra Camps.  Lenti was a charismatic and colourful character and by April 1944, it was reported: It is alleged that he controls a ‘basher gang’ composed of PoW… and that he employs a personal bodyguard for his protection. The latest information about him is that he fears an attempt will be made on his life. (NAA: SP196/2 443/1/5280)

Reports were conflicting.

Cowra Prisoner of War Camp Information Board (photo courtesy of David Ackers)

The Apostolic Delegate for Australia, Monseigneur Giovanni Panicio published ‘L’Amico del Prigioniero’ in1943.  It is a prayer book written in Latin and Italian containing the service of the mass, important prayers, Catholic Calendar of Holy Days from 1943 to 1951 and hymns.

Having the book written in Italian and Latin is significant.  Mass was said in Latin until the Second Vatican 1965. This book ensured that the Italian prisoners of war had a prayer book in Italian. This gesture was a significant show of concern for the spiritual welfare of the Italian prisoners of war in Australia.

Ermanno Nicoletti carved a piece of wood and turned it into a profile of his mother, while praying. Granddaughter Alessandra contemplates, “News of prisoners of war were scarce and at some point my grandmother almost lost faith that her son was still alive.” On the other side of the world in Australia, Ermanno ‘knew’ that his mother was praying for him and carved his thoughts in wood.

Wood Carving by Ermanno Nicoletti (photo courtesy of Alessandra Nicoletti)

Australia: Life on the farm

By the middle of 1943, the first Italian prisoners of war were sent to farm placements in the Hamilton district of Victoria and Coonabarabran district of New South Wales.  This trial was successful and was implemented throughout Australia: Prisoner of War Control Centres: Without Guards [PWCC].  In the Notice to Employers of Prisoners-of-War given to the farmers as part of the employment contract there is this statement:

5. You will be required to see that the following rules are obeyed:-

          (a) P.W. must not leave your property except-

(i) to attend religious services, for which special arrangements will be made by the Military Authorities; (NAA: D2380)

There are many memories of the Italians attending local churches. All manner of transport was used to get the men to church; bikes, horse and sulky, truck, car, on foot.  It was remembered the Italians would go to church with the Catholic family on the neighbouring farm, as the host family were not Catholic. Children of the time remember the Italians walking to church in their ‘red pyjamas’ a reference to the burgundy coloured uniform the men wore. Some Australians remember with shame that the Italian POWs had to stand at the back or sides of the church and had to leave the mass before its conclusion. Others recall the beautiful singing voices of the Italians during mass.

Italians in the Boonah district of Queensland attended a Mission Church because they learned that the pastor, Dr Dwyer spoke Italian. The Italians would enjoy conversations with Dr Dwyer after service.  Members of the congregation knew this was against the ‘rules’ and wondered if they would get arrested for their compassion. Father Steele from Beaudesert Queensland, assisted and nominated Paul Raffa with his application process to return to Australia.  It was Father Steele who welcomed Raffa when he disembarked from the ‘Napoli’ at Brisbane in May 1949.  

In June 1944, a special event was reported in the Gympie news:  His Excellency the Apostolic Delegate, Most Rev. John Panico, has recently been visiting prisoners of war employed in various centres on the North Coast of Queensland.  At Gympie he met a large number of them at St. Patrick’s Church, where he celebrated Mass.  At 10 o’clock his Excellency addressed the people, speaking in Italian to the prisoners of war and tendering them excellent advice.  The services of these men are greatly valued by their employers because of their good habits and their knowledge of rural industries. (1944 ‘Of General Interest’, Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), 7 June, p. 4. , viewed 12 Jan 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172213489)

However this event drew the ire of Smith’s Weekly whose headline was:  Fascist “Guard of Honor” and made mention of ‘dago prisoners of war’.

Also criticized was a decision by Commonwealth Authorities to give a petrol allowance [petrol was rationed in Australia during WW 2] to farmers to take Italian prisoners to church. The question was asked as to ‘why such benevolent treatment was accorded “these dagoes”.’

A kindly gentleman, Cyril Blacket of Pinery South Australia met an Italian prisoner of war at his local church.  With good intentions, Cyril tried to communicate with the Italian farm worker, via the Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War booklet the Italian had, but with little success.  Blacket applied to the Department of Army for a copy of the booklet, only to be warned: PW are not allowed to fraternise with members of the public, PW Camp Order No. 13 Sec 68 (c). (NAA: D2380)

1946 Cowra Camp

In 1946, the Italian prisoners of war were withdrawn from farm placements and brought into the camps to await repatriation. It was during this time that two altar panels for the chapel were painted by Cowra Italian POWs.

Cowra Chapel 1946 (courtesy of Francesca Maffietti)

Back to Italy

Ippolito Moscatelli from Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano) returned to Italy with photos of the Cowra Chapel.  It is with special thanks to his granddaughter Francesca Maffietti that there is a record of the Cowra Chapel in 1946.

The altar panels survived. However they deserve a more detailed article.

How many other copies of this photo returned to Italy?

Have you seen this photo in your nonno’s collection?

Maybe you thought this photo was of a church in Italy?

Life as a soldier and as a prisoner of war was difficult.  Some Italians were absent from their families for ten years. Those years saw the men always on the move.  Life was a continual cycle of change.

One aspect of the men’s lives that did no change was their religious faith.

… prayer books, churches, chapels, paintings, frescoes, statues, embroideries, priests, photos, prayer cards, memories…

Welcome… Benvenuto

Welcome to Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War a comprehensive archive of documents, artefacts, testaments, photographs and research relating to this compelling chapter in Australian history. This is a community history involving Australian and Italian families from fourteen countries who have shared their stories so that this history is not forgotten.

Sneath Murray Bridge

Over 18000 Italian Prisoners of War came to Australia from 1941 – 1945. Captured in theatres of war in North Africa, East Africa and Europe, they were transported to Australia  via staging camps in Egypt, Palestine and India.

There is much written about internment in Cowra, Murchison and Hay the main Prisoner of War and Internment Camps in New South Wales and Victoria, but only snippets of information are recorded about  Italian prisoners of war in other states.

This research features Italian prisoners of war and their farming families in Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. Articles cut across a range of topics: the battles in Libya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Greece; the movement of prisoners from the place of capture to prisoner of war camps in Egypt and Palestine; interment in the camps of India; transport to Australia; repatriation from Australia and arrival in Naples.  

The stories and memories of Italian and Australian farming families gives this history a voice.  The diversity of photos and relics shared personalises what would otherwise be a very black and white official report.

The articles featured on the project’s website brings colour and personality to this almost forgotten chapter in Australia’s history.

List of Articles July 2020

The Italian prisoners of war were more than just a POW.  They were fathers, brothers, sons and husbands from across Italy and from diverse backgrounds and occupations.

Follow their journey…. Walking in their Boots

Nonno Ermano Nicoletti’s Journey

(Photos and documents from: AWM, Red Cross, NAA, Trove, Alessandra Nicoletti, Nambucca Guardian: Ute Schulenberg, David Akers)

 

The Footprints Project

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

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

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 79 years: the battles on the Libyan/Egyptian border December 1940 to the present.

Over the past four 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 fourteen countries across the world.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

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.

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

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 three 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

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

Voices from the Past: five testimonials from Italian soldiers who worked on Queensland 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.

Photographs of Italian soldiers in full dress uniform, Italian soldiers in Libya during training, Italians as POWs with their Queensland 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, theatre programs.

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

Identification of five 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.

Did you know?

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

The website has a wide reaching readership to 118 countries!

Over 185 articles have been written for the website.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

****What does the future hold… After five and a half years of research, over 185 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.

I have published articles in a chronological order starting with the soldiers and their battles. And I will slot in new articles and add new information along the way. Hopefully this will convey ‘the journey’ of the Italian soldiers from capture through to repatriation and for some Italians, a return to Australia.

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

Friendship down the generations

Alessandra Garizzo stumbled across the article on Marrinup Prisoner of War Camp Western Australia; and was amazed to see her father’s Prisoner of War Identity Card.  I had a number of identity cards to choose from for this article but I was drawn to Giuseppe Garizzo for two reasons: he was tall – 6 ft and he was from Venice.  There is a  generalisation that all Italian POWs were short peasant farmers from the south of Italy, and I wanted to counter this myth as not only was Giuseppe tall, he was also from the north of Italy.  The second reason is a little closer to home for me: my nonna and nonno migrated to Australia for a small village, Palse near Pordenone north of Venice.

Garizzo Identity Card 1

(NAA: K1174 Garizzo, Giuseppe)

However, there is another reason, which is less tangible, for I sometimes think decisions are made for me; that maybe Alessandra’s father touched me on the shoulder and in that moment I chose his card.  Now Alessandra via ‘The Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War’ project has new background knowledge of her father’s time in Australia: Marrinup, the repatriation voyage on Chitral,  details of the Battle of Bardia, photos and stories from the camps on India.

Garizzo 1

Gino* and Giuseppe Garizzo with Graeme Stewart at Rocky Glen 1944-45

(photos courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

Alessandra grew up with her father’s stories of  Jack Stewart and his family on Rocky Glen via Muradup.  Four precious photos of Giuseppe’s time at Rocky Glen are kept close and in Alessandra’s mobile gallery.  The connection between the Stewart and Garizzo families is a story that spans over seven decades with Stewart family members visiting Giuseppe Garizzo in Venice several times.

Garizzo 2

Giuseppe Garizzo and Gino  with Graeme Stewart at Rocky Glen 1944-45

(photos courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

In September 2014, Alessandra journeyed to Australia and Muradup to visit Graeme Stewart and his childhood friend Max Evans.  Both men shared memories of ‘Joe’ [Giuseppe’s Aussie name]. The local newspaper captured this special connection and history in: War friendships endure

Garizzo Reunion - Copy

Sandra Garizzo with Max Evans and Graeme Stewart.

Picture: Marcus Whisson d426086

Jack Stewart’s grandson David Carlin has written about the special relationships between the two families and Joe’s prisoner of war journey in The Bronzista of Muradup   The article is a beautiful and poignant tribute to the special friendship of Jack Stewart and Giuseppe Garizzo.

* There were two men named Gino who arrived in Western Australia on board Ruys** and were sent to W4 Kojonup on 11.3.44, the same journey as Giuseppe Garizzo.  Gino Appetito [PWI59376] was from Rome [5′ 6″]  and Gino Lucchini [PWI 59103] was from Verona [5′ 9″].

**Ruys was the only transport which disembarked Italian prisoners of war at Fremantle, before sailing to Melbourne and disembarking the remainder of Italians.

 

India: Sacrario Militare Italiano

Cemetery for Italian Prisoners of War in India: Sewri Mumbai

Fabrizio Turchi is looking for information on two family members who died as prisoners of war in India:

1) Soldier Gallegati Enrico: born 30/06/1909, died 29/09/1941. Camp n°6.

2) Sergeant Turchi Guerrino: born 25/12/1916, died 21/09/1943. Camp n°3.
And so began the search to find the final resting place for Enrico and Guerrino and some 800 other Italian prisoners of war who died in the camps of India.
At the time of their deaths, they were buried in camp cemeteries.  In 1953, their bodies were exhumed and buried in a central place: the Catholic Cemetery of Bombay: Sewri Cemetery Mumbai. The memorial was opened in 1954.
sacrario-militare-italiano (2)
The Consolato Generale d’Italia Mumbai arranges a yearly ceremony every November:
“As per tradition, we will remember with a religious ceremony, Italian citizens, who died as prisoners of war in India during the Second World War and are buried in the Military Memorial of Sewree.”
“Su un’altura del camposanto, a destra rispetto all’ingresso, sorge il Sacrario militare italiano eretto nel 1954 dal governo di Roma per onorare i circa 500 prigionieri di guerra italiani deceduti tra il 1941 e il 1947 in India. E’ una costruzione in mattoni rossi con decine di loculi con il nome dei soldati, la data e il luogo del decesso.”

Inside the Sacrario Militare Italiano is an altar and on either side are plaques and niches for each Italian:

Name in Memorial

The story of one Italian prisoner of war buried in India: Lo Zio Mori in India

(photos from TripAdvisor)