Category Archives: Murchison PW & I Camp

Impersonating an Officer

So many Italian prisoners of war, so many individual stories.

I found Giuseppe Spinelli by accident.

A solicitor from Rome, Giuseppe was with an artillery unit when he was captured in Bardia 4th January 1941.

Upon arrival in Australia on 13th October 1941, his rank was recorded as “Lieutenant”

It was 13 months before the authorities realised that the rank of Giuseppe Spinelli was sergeant.

I thought, did Giuseppe believe he could impersonate an officer?

Did the officers in the camps of Egypt and on the voyage to Australia not realise his deceit?

I offer the suggestion that Giuseppe Spinelli was suffering from a serious injury or medical condition. 

Groups of Italian prisoners of war were being sent to Australia and my suggestion is that an Italian medical officer claimed him to be a lieutenant to accelerate his chances of getting out of Egypt and to better medical care!

Giuseppe arrived in Sydney on the Queen Mary on 13th October 1941.  On this transport, there were 110 Italian officers. Giuseppe did not travel by train to Cowra with the other Italians. Instead on the 14th October 1941, Giuseppe was taken to 113 AGH (Australian General Hospital) in Concord Sydney.

CONCORD MILITARY HOSPITAL. PHOTOGRAPH PUBLISHED IN AUSTRALIA IN THE WAR OF 1939-45, MEDICAL, VOL 2, MIDDLE EAST AND FAR EAST, PAGE 431. (AWM Image 043228)

The newspapers reported that two ambulances ‘took away two stretcher cases and a few other men who were sick’.

1941 ‘Prisoners of War’, Glen Innes Examiner (NSW: 1908 – 1954), 14 October, p. 1. , viewed 20 Aug 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article178556884

Upon arrival in Australia, he had a box of medicine which was returned to him on the 9th December 1941.

Giuseppe spent from 14th October 1941 in the 113 AGH until 5th December when he arrived at Murchison Camp.

Two months later, on the 5th February 1942, his record states: Falsely stated Lieut. – his status is Sgt.  

Maybe one day, Giuseppe’s family will tell me more of his story.

Panico Visits the POW Camps

A special thank you to Rocco Severino De Micheli who has shared these photos of Dr Panico. The photos are taken from “Il Cardinale Panico e la sua terra”- Congedo editore – Galatina 1995.

As with the International Red Cross Delegate, Dr Panico was allowed to visit the prisoner of war camps in Australia. He was entitled to interact and speak freely with the Italians. The Italians could use the ‘Apostolic Message Service’: monthly messages not exceeding 25 words were permitted to be despatched by the prisoners of war via Dr Panico.

Some of those messages sent by Dr Panico were:

Am well. Kisses, regards to all.

Good health. Expect your news. Kisses.

Greetings, kisses. Best health. Best treatment.

Cowra March 1942

Murchison Easter 1942

Yanco December 1942

Murchison

Liverpool December 1945

Repatriation 1946

An Officers’ Camp

Prisoner of War Camp 5 Myrtleford was a camp established specifically for prisoner of war officers and their batmen*.  The site had two camps built to accommodate 500 men each: Camp A and Camp B. The camps were surrounded by barbed wire fencing and was set in a ‘delightfully wooded and green country at the foot of the mountains.  The climate is excellent and healthy with a cold winter and hot summer.’ (Dr Georges Morel June 1943)

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Vue du camp. War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. A view of the camp.

View of Myrtleford Camp July 1942 ICRC V-P-HIST-01883-01T

The men were accommodated in galvanised iron huts raised above the ground. They had glass windows and were lighted by electricity. The dormitories were lined inside.  The officer dormitories were divided into compartments: five compartments for 2 officers each or four compartments for four officers. Officers were provided with an iron bed, mattress, sheets, pillow and five blankets.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Les travaux de drainage. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. The labour drainage.

Drainage Installed between Dormitories Myrtleford ICRC V-P-HIST-01883-05

Batmen dormitories were not divided into compartments and slept 24 men.  Each dormitory had two doors and ten windows. 

Furniture made by the Italian prisoners of war included small tables, benches and wardrobes.

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

Ablutions Hut at Myrtleford ICRC V-P-HIST-01880-15

There were three ablution huts for each camp.  One hut had 15 hot and 18 cold showers. Four hot showers were divided into compartments: two for superior officers and 2 for captains. There were another two huts for ablutions with 24 cold water taps.  The toilets and urinals were sewered.  Partitioned toilet compartments were for the use of superior officers and captains.  The laundry was in the hot shower hut containing eight troughs, four hot water taps and eight cold water taps.

Officers were allowed to go for walks on parole accompanied by two guides.  This happened two times per week for two hours.  N.C.O.s and privates went out under escort on an irregular basis.  Communication between the two camps was not allowed. 

MYRTLEFORD, VIC. C. 1943-11-06. THE ENTRANCE GATE INTO “B” COMPOUND AT THE 51ST AUSTRALIAN GARRISON COMPANY PRISONER OF WAR CAMP FROM THE GUARD TOWER. SOME PRISONERS, WHO HAVE BEEN OUT ON DUTIES AROUND THE CAMP AREA IN THE HORSE AND CART, ARE RETURNING FOR LUNCH. PRISONERS OF WAR AND INTERNEES (PWI) OFFICERS ARE SEEN PLAYING ON THE TENNIS COURTS CONSTRUCTED BY THEM. (AWM Image 059309 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

On 22nd June 1943, there were 440 Italian prisoners of war in Camp A: 308 officers and 132 N.C.O.s and privates.  In Camp B there were 254 Italian prisoners of war: 152 officers and 102 N.C.O.s and privates.

The customary duties of fatigues were carried out by N.C.O.s and privates for which there was no payment.  Opportunities for paid work was limited due to the fatigue duties and batman responsibilities taking up the majority of the men’s time.  On 22nd June 1943, from Camp A five men were employed inside the camp and three men were employed outside the camp.  For Camp B, five men were employed inside the camp and three men were employed outside the camp.  Paid work included gardening, woodcutting, road-making and carpentry and was paid at a rate of 1s 3d for skilled work and 7.5d for unskilled work.

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

February 1945 Myrtleford Camp Italian Prisoners of War with wallabies pictured in front of vegetable gardens ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-31

Officers and prisoners of war from the merchant marines were not obliged to work.

Each month Italian prisoners of war, excluding merchant marines, were given an allowance.  The monthly payment** was:

Fighting Forces: Lt. Colonel £16.14.0, Major £14.10.4 Captain £11.9.2 Lieutenant £8.17.10 2nd Lieutenant £5.8.4 Sergeant 15s 4d Corporals 10s 9d

Protected Personnel (Priests, Doctors, Dentists, nurses, orderlies): Captain £38.19.9 Lieutenant £30.2.00 Sergeant 15s 4d Corporals 10s 9d

Interior of Chapels at Myrtleford ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00313 and ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00314

Each camp had a chapel with a decorated altar made by the prisoners of war.  The service of mass was performed by a prisoner of war priest.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. La chapelle et le Padre. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. The chapel.

Chapel at Myrtleford ICRC V-P-HIST-01879-36

Each camp had three tennis courts and a bowling green. There was a football ground near the camps.  Officers played golf two times a week outside the camp where a golf course would be reserved for them.

MYRTLEFORD, VIC. 1943-11-05 TO 1943-11-07. OFFICER PRISONERS OF THE 51ST AUSTRALIAN GARRISON COMPANY PRISONER OF WAR CAMP PLAYING TENNIS ON COURTS WHICH THEY BUILT THEMSELVES.

Regular football, tennis, bridge and golf tournaments were organised between the two camps.  Each camp had provision for a wireless service, the wireless set was to be purchased by the prisoners of war. In June 1943, there was no wireless service.  There were regular movie shows held by a travelling company with Camp A paying 15 per session and Camp B paying 9 per session.

There were separate dining rooms for officers and ordinary ranks in each camp.  Trestle tables with bench seats furnished the dining rooms.  They could be heated in winter, as these huts were not lined. Officers were entitled to buy wine and beer.  When Dr. Morel, representative of the International Red Cross visited in June 1943, a delivery of 50 gallons of wine and 63 gallons of beer had been delivered to Camp A. [1 gallon = 4.5 litres]

Regular football, tennis, bridge and golf tournaments were organised between the two camps.  Each camp had provision for a wireless service, the wireless set was to be purchased by the prisoners of war. In June 1943, there was no wireless service.  There were regular movie shows held by a travelling company with Camp A paying 15 per session and Camp B paying 9 per session.

There were separate dining rooms for officers and ordinary ranks in each camp.  Trestle tables with bench seats furnished the dining rooms.  They could be heated in winter, as these huts were not lined. Officers were entitled to buy wine and beer.  When Dr. Morel, representative of the International Red Cross visited in June 1943, a delivery of 50 gallons of wine and 63 gallons of beer had been delivered to Camp A. [1 gallon = 4.5 litres]

MYRTLEFORD, VIC. 1943-11-05 TO 1943-11-07. INTERIOR OF PRISONER OF WAR OFFICERS’ MESS IN “A” COMPOUND 51ST AUSTRALIAN GARRISON COMPANY PRISONER OF WAR CAMP WITH THE ORDERLIES AT THE TABLES.

*A batman or an orderly is a soldier or airman assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant.

** Australian currency £= pound s=shilling d=pence.  There were 12 pence = 1 shilling and 20 shillings = £1

La Preghiera Del Legionario

This prayer is a patriotic poem inviting the Lord to save Il Duce’s Italy.

Dio, che accendi ogni fiamma e fermi ogni cuore rinnova ogni giorno la passione mia per l’Italia.

Rendimi sempre più degno dei nostri morti, affinchè loro stessi – i più forti – rispondano ai vivi: “Presente”!

Nutrisci il mio libro della tua saggezza e il mio moschetto della tua volontà.

Fa più aguzzo il mio sguardo e più sicuro il mio piede sui valichi sacri alla Patria:
Sulle strade, sulle coste, nelle foreste e sulla quarta sponda,che già fu di Roma.
Quando il futuro soldato mi marcia accanto nei ranghi, fa ch’io senta battere il suo cuore fedele.

Quando passano i gagliardetti e le bandiere, fa che tutti i volti si riconoscano in quello della Patria:
la Patria che faremo più grande portando ognuno la sua pietra al cantiere.

Signore! Fa della Tua Croce l’insegna che precedeil labaro della mia legione.

E salva l’Italia, l’Italia nel Duce, sempre e nell’ora di nostra bella morte.
Così sia.

Myrtleford, Australia. 5 November 1943. Group of Italian officer prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 5 POW Camp. Back row, left to right: Zubiani; Mantovani; Pellisetti; Gauthier; Pane; Primiano. Front row: Buonaventura; Di Grazia; De Rosa; Tocco; Morra; Misitano. (AWM Image 03152/10 Photographer: Geoffrey McInnes)

Virgilio Zubiani was an Italian army chaplain who arrived in Australia as a prisoner of war in 23rd August 1941. He was sent directly to Murchison Camp. From Murchison Camp he was sent to Myrtleford Camp:- a camp for Italian officers, but also spent time at V29 Puckapunyal Hostel, V12 Broadford Hostel and V3 Wakool.

When he left Myrtleford Camp in October 1944, a number of documents were found in his possession and the authorities were concerned:
“16 typed copies* of the “Legionnaire’s Prayer” and an original copy of same printed by hand in exactly the same style as that used in the extreme fascist camp newspaper “Patria”. The typed copies had obviously been prepared for distribution among ORs. An annotated map of the layout of Murchison camp.” (NAA: A7919 C98944)

Map of Murchison drawn by Virgilio Zubiani (NAA: A7919 C98944)

Three Distinct Del-Bo Paintings

Hugh Cullimore Assistant Curator: Art Section at the Australian War Memorial has uncovered another painting by prisoner of war Riccardo Del Bo.

A caricature of Lt Colonel Brown is housed in the Australian War Memorial.  It was attributed as a caricature painted by an Italian prisoner of war which,  “depicts a profile portrait caricature of Lt. Colonel Montague Ambrose Brown (1899-1975) wearing a cap and uniform, who served as Group Commandant of the Cowra prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. During his time at Cowra, Lt. Colonel Brown became friendly with a number of the Italian POWs interred there, before returning to civilian duties in 1947. The Cowra prisoner of war camp was constructed in 1941-42 to house Italian POWs captured by Allied Forces during the war. By December 1942, some 2000 mainly Italian prisoners and internees were housed in the camp.”

Caricature of Lt Colonel Montague Ambrose Brown 1943 by Riccardo Pietro Edwardo Del Bo (AWM ART92902)

The signature of the artist appeared to be RDel-Bi, which was thought to be an abbreviation and not identifiable.

A little luck; a little magic and RDel-Bi is Riccardo Del-Bo. Confirmation came from grandson Riccardo Del-Bo in Italy, “..it is confirmed that the technique used is that of my grandfather and also the signature I found on other works. I always thank you for your interest.” The Del-Bo family is planning a ‘Retrospective Exhibition: Maestro Riccardo Del-Bo’ and is always interested in finding more evidence of Riccardo’s art. Other examples of his work can be found at this link : Maestro Riccardo Del Bo – 1914/1997

Riccardo Del-Bo’s legacy in Australia is two portraits and one caricature.

 Riccardo was at Cowra Camp from October 9141 to October 1943 and Lt. Colonel Brown was at Cowra Camp from March to August 1943. This is the period when he painted Lt Colonel Brown. How many other caricatures did Riccardo paint while in Cowra?

Riccardo then left his mark at his next placement: a farm outside Stanthorpe, Queensland. He painted a young Janette Jones. The portrait of Janette’s sister Dorothy, unfortunately has been lost. Click on the link for this article: Del Bo the painter

Portrait of Janette Jones (photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

The third Del-Bo portrait was rescued by Jennifer Ellis at a second hand shop in country Victoria and purchased for $2.00. Riccardo spent almost two years at the Murchison Prisoner of War Camp in Victoria; pointing in the direction that this portrait was painted in this camp. Click on the link for this article: Another Del-Bo

Portrait of a Lady by Riccardo Del-Bo (photo courtesy of Jennifer Ellis)

Three distinct prisoner of war placements; three distinct portraits.

The Italian prisoners of war were more than captured soldiers in burgundy coloured uniforms; they were individuals who amongst the backdrop of ‘imprisonment’ found a way to shine.

Per non dimenticarlo

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” George Elliot

Vito Eliseo has a passion for local history and undertakes research trying to reconstruct the stories of all those from his village who died during WW II. Vito believes that is important to make these stories known to future generations. He is concerned that in Italy there are still children who do not know what happened to their parents.

One of the Italian prisoners of war who died in Australia during WW2 was  Martino D’Aniello, a relative of Vito. 

Vito explains, “Unfortunately no one is left of Martino’s immediate family, there were 2 brothers and a sister… I could not find any grandchildren.” Vito has written, In memoria di Martino D’Aniello which you can read at the end of this article.

Martino, a waiter from Serre (Salerno), was 20 years old when he was captured at Tobruk, Libya on the 22nd January 1941.  He was 24 years old when he died at the Waranga Hospital [28 Camp Hospital], Murchison Camp Victoria on 3rd December 1944.

This is the sadness of war; regardless of where a soldier died: Libya, Egypt, India or Australia; regardless of whether the man died in battle, in a field hospital or in a prisoner of war hospital; the death of a young man is a tragedy.

List of Italians laid to rest at The Ossario (Photo courtesy of Alex Miles)

The government records offered up a little information about Martino’s death.  Martino died 3 days after being sent to hospital for “Acute Nephritis” and then he was buried at the Murchison Cemetery on 5th  December 1944. In 1961, his remains were exhumed and he was re-interred at The Ossario* Murchison on 6th September 1961 and his name is on a bronze plaque at its entrance.

There is some comfort in knowing where Martino now ‘rests in peace’. There is no comfort though knowing that your loved one died on the other side of the world without family and friends.

A series of extraordinary and unconnected circumstances, has brought to light an invaluable insight into the funeral of Martino.  Martino’s funeral was photographed by a representative from the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Guerre 1939-1945. Murchison. Enterrement du PG Daniello Martini. War 1939-1945. Murchison Camp. The funeral of prisoner of war Daniello Martini.

Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944 (ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-10)

On the 5th December 1944, under an Australian summer’s sky; surrounded by Cypress pines and eucalyptus, Martino’s compatriots stand solemnly at his graveside. He was far from home, but Martino was not alone.

Guerre 1939-1945. Murchison. Enterrement du PG Daniello Martini. War 1939-1945. Murchison Camp. The funeral of prisoner of war Daniello Martini.

Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944 (ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-11)

Australian soldiers from the Murchison Camp together with Italian prisoners of war respectfully farewelled Martino.  Vito reflects, “it is a consolation for his family to know that Martino did not die alone, he had the comfort of his companions and the generous people near him who considered him a guest and not a prisoner.”

Guerre 1939-1945. Murchison. Enterrement du PG Daniello Martini. War 1939-1945. Murchison Camp. The funeral of prisoner of war Daniello Martini.

Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944 (ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-13)

Guerre 1939-1945. Murchison. Enterrement du PG Daniello Martini. War 1939-1945. Murchison Camp. The funeral of prisoner of war Daniello Martini.

Grave of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944 with temporary marker front right (ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-12)

As men, we are all equal in the presence of death.

Publilius Syrus (Roman Writer c. 100 BC)

In memoria di Martino D’Aniello by Vito Eliseo

Martino D’Aniello nasce a Serre il 13 ottobre 1920 da Valentino e Michelina Mennella, un ragazzo come tanti altri, frequenta la scuola fino alla V elementare, e come tutti i suoi coetanei viene chiamato alla visita di leva il 6 giugno 1939, ed essendo di sana e robusta costituzione, per di più patentato, viene arruolato per poi essere chiamato alle armi il 1 febbraio 1940.

Viene assegnato al 1° Reggimento Fanteria G.a.F. (Guardia alla Frontiera) del XX° C.A. in Napoli, dopo la vestizione ed il necessario addestramento il giorno 8 marzo si imbarca per arrivare a Tripoli il giorno 11 marzo 1940.

Assegnato al XXXV° Settore di copertura, già dal successivo 11 giugno, viene a trovarsi in “territorio in stato di guerra”, la successiva assegnazione al 6° Autogruppo di Manovra lo condurrà a Tobruk, ed è su tale città che si stà concentrando l’attenzione degli inglesi per l’importanza strategica del suo porto.

La città cinta d’assedio dovette capitolare e fu occupata il 21 gennaio 1941, con la conseguente cattura di tutti i militari italiani che vi si trovavano, ed è in tale data che inizia l’odissea di Martino, con la sua tragica conclusione.

Gli inglesi a seguito delle positive vicende belliche in nord-Africa si ritrovarono a gestire alcune centinaia di migliaia di prigionieri che dovettero inevitabilmente smistare lontano dalle zone di guerra, e Martino, in questa moltitudine, si ritrovò prima a Ceylon e poi a Bombay in India, da qui ancora un altro trasferimento, a bordo del piroscafo Mount Vernon, che lo vede sbarcare il 26 aprile 1944 nel porto di Melbourne in  Australia.

In Australia viene internato nel campo prigionieri di guerra di Murchison nel distretto di Vittoria, dove ai prigionieri è permesso anche di andare a lavorare fuori presso terzi, cosa che, dal 27 giugno 1944, inizia a fare anche Martino andando a lavorare presso mr. Kyneton, un allevatore di ovini,  questo lavoro durerà poco, fino al 2 settembre, perché si ammala di una grave forma di nefrite, e rientra al campo.

Per l’aggravarsi delle condizioni il 30 novembre viene ricoverato nell’ospedale di Waranga, però il male è incurabile e muore il giorno 3 dicembre 1944 ed il giorno 5 dicembre viene sepolto nel cimitero della città di Murchison, poco dopo i compagni di prigionia provvidero a costruire una tomba più dignitosa che non il mucchio di terra che si vede nella foto.

Purtroppo le sue traversie ancora non erano finite, infatti il settore del cimitero dove era sepolto negli anni 50 subisce un allagamento, e questo episodio fece si che un italiano, che viveva nelle vicinanze, desse inizio ad una colletta tra i tanti italiani emigrati e con i fondi raccolti fu costruito un MEMORIALE, ove nel 1961 furono trasferiti i resti mortali di tutti i prigionieri italiani deceduti durante la prigionia.

Ogni anno il tale MEMORIALE, la domenica prossima all’ 11 novembre vi viene tenuta una cerimonia di commemorazione.

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.

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 fifteen 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 over 80 years: the battles on the Libyan/Egyptian border December 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 fifteen countries across the world.

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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 .

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 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: 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 Past: six 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, art work, 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 270 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 or an upgrade to the website.

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****What does the future hold… After six years of research, over 270 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.

Ossario Day 2018

Sombre and reflective, Kay Ball from Murchison Historical Society has written an article about the remembrance service at The Ossario 11th November 2018…

Murchison and District Historical Society Inc.

The Ossario, located in a quiet corner of the Murchison Cemetery was completed in 1961 and is a beautifully crafted Mediterranean style building. It contains the remains of Italian Prisoners of War and Internees who died on Australian soil during World War 2.

Murchison Ossario

Every year, on the second Sunday in November, hundreds of people gather to remember the 129 men and one woman for whom the Ossario is their last resting place.

On Sunday 11th November this year, a warm sunny day with a lovely clear blue sky, the occasion was again well attended by over 300 people. Mostly of Italian descent, they travel from Melbourne, interstate, overseas and across Victoria and are joined by locals who appreciate this special occasion. The ceremony is moving, suitably reverent and also colourful with many Italian Military Service uniforms, banners, flags, floral wreaths and bouquets in abundance.

Lining up at beginning…

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I want to go home…

Crescenzio RAVO was 18 years old when he was captured at Tobruk on 22nd January 1941.  He spent his 19th birthday on the Queen Elizabeth as she made her way to Australia, arriving in Sydney 15th October 1941.

Ravo 1

 Crescenzio Ravo: 19 years old Cowra PW & I Camp 17.11.41

NAA: A7919, C100635

His 20th and 21st birthdays were celebrated in Cowra and his 22nd and 23rd birthdays at Q6 Home Hill hostel. Three weeks after his 24th birthday, he escaped from Murchison POW Camp.

While he was at Q6 Home Hill hostel, Sept 1944 to November 1945, he had spent 67 days in detention.  He has escaped from Q6 and was found at Iona School and had also gone walkabout a couple of times while on work duty. Once in Murchison, he damaged property of the Commonwealth, used threatening language and then escaped again.

History is interesting. The full picture does not always reveal itself.  In a moment of sentimentality, I reflect that Crescenzio was the age of my sons, while I have been undertaking this research.  I wonder how they would act and react at being in such an unfamiliar environment. Both would endure their situation, very differently.

I think however angry Crescenzio was, however brazen and sullen, the final page in his file helps tell his story; he just wanted to go home.

Repatriation orders were for all Italian prisoners of war to transported to Italy.  Those men who were Italian, but were residents of Libya or Eritrea or Ethiopia were placed in an uncertain situation.  Home was not Italy, and therefore once in Naples, would transfer to their home in a ex-Italian colony be automatic? This is the situation Crescenzio found himself in: repatriation to Italy, but how would he get home to Tripoli? Did repatriation orders include directives for those Italians whose home was not in Italy?  Would Crescenzio be stranded in Naples without the means to make his way to Libya?

The following entry answers these questions:

War Diary: 2 Sep 46 “Commands have been informed that except in exceptional circumstances Italian PW will not be repatriated to former Italian colonies.”

Ravo 2

Letter by Ravo to PW Camp Authorities

NAA: A7919, C100635

What is known about this situation is that a return to Libya was difficult.

Here are the journeys of two other Italian soldiers who were Libyan residents:

From ‘A Father’s Love’: Liborio Bonadonna

But Liborio’s return to his family in Tripoli was further delayed. Once he arrived in Naples, he required an operation.  Fighting bureaucracy, he tried to gain permission several times to reach Libya and his wife and parents.

Liborio’s grandson, Liborio Mauro says that “He told her [my grandmother] if I’m not able to join you, I would like to go back in Australia. After 3 times, he finally joined my grandmother in Libya where my father Carmelo was born in Tripoli in 1949.

Abele Damini was also a resident of Libya.   Valerio Damini writes, “After the war, Abele came to Afragola (Napoli province) identification center, he did not wait for official re-embarkation and, boarding clandestinely in an illegal ship, he tried to reach Libya coast by himself. He then be imprisoned in Libyan prison (for I do not know how long), where he got sick and died.”

After six years in captivity, these Italians who were residents of the colonies, deserved quick and free passage to their homes and families.