Category Archives: Prigionieri di guerra italiani in Australia

Farmacista militare

An army has its medical and surgical unit, so it makes sense that it also has a pharmacy unit. This article honours those chemists who found themselves in the Chemist Reserve Unit in Libya. I would like to know further about these units and their operation as information remains elusive.

These chemists arrived in Australia on the Queen Mary 13th October 1941 and they departed on the Oranje 29th March 1943 as part of a mutual exchange arrangement with Italy.

They weren’t in Australia long enough to have their photos taken at the officers’ camp at Myrtleford and they returned to Italy before the Allies offence Operation Husky into Sicily in July 1943.

NB This list is not necessarily complete

Nicola Ferorelli from Molfetta [Bardia]

Giuseppe Allegri from Cassine (Alessandria) [Tobruk]

Mario Cassone from Alba (Cuneo) [Tobruk]

Mario Andreotti from Sorrento (Napoli) [Bardia]

Luigi Caione from Palena (Chieti) [Sidi el Barrani]

Rocco Giliberti from Avellino [Tobruk]

Romolo Lamberti from Roma [Bardia]

Valentino Mari from Torino [Agedabia]

Luigi Mutini from Mercatello (Pesaro) [Bardia]

Giorgio Polidori from Montemarciano (Ancona) [Halem Nibeua M.E. (9.12.1940)]

Celestino Riccardelli from Caserta (Napoli) [Agedabia]

Giuseppe Buono from Boscotrecase (Napoli) [Tobruk]

Vincenzo Troili from Genova [Bardia]

Raffaele Chiarelli from Torino [Agedabia]

Clerio Garrone from San Giorgio Canavese (Aosta) [Bardia]

Rocco Lo Faro from Favazzina (Reggio Calabria) [Tobruk]

Renzo Conti from Firenze [Bardia]

Attilio Tulimiero from Avellino [Tobruk]

a pastry chef from Genoa

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

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

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

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

The AWM records the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A first…

Sometimes, the little details get missed.

I have seen a letter dated XXII, a plaque for a Cowra fountain dated XXI but for the first time I have seen a date for the fascist calendar used on a REPORT ON PRISONER OF WAR: XIX.

Rocco Cariglia was with Maritime Command Tobruk when he was captured in Libya on 5th January 1941.  On 22nd October 1941, nine days after arriving in Australia, he signed and dated his Report on Prisoner of War.

Is this unusual? 

I doubt that the Australian army clerk processing the form or Lieutenant McCarthy who signed the form noticed these few strokes of the pencil/pen.

And if they did, did they realise the statement Rocco was making.

Rocco Cariglia from Gargamico [Foggia]

From Cowra Camp Rocco was transferred to Murchison Camp in Victoria before being transferred to Western Australia. He departed Australia on the Chitral in September 1946.

This discovery is a reminder that the prisoner of war forms are filled with little bits of information which helps create ‘the bigger picture’.

Baldo’s War

Baldo Valeri was with an infantry division when he was transferred from Italy to Libya.  He is seated in the front row, first right with his friends.

His time in battle was short; he was captured on the second day of the Battle of Bardia 4th January 1941.

When he arrived in Australia in May1941 he had been in the army for 40 months.

Libya: Baldo Valeri seated front row right (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Fortune was his. It is documented that 40,000 Italians were captured at Bardia. Like winning the lottery, Baldo was lucky to be directed to board the Queen Mary on 6th May 1941 for Australia. Only 2,016 Italian prisoners of war were on this voyage: the first group of Italians to be sent directly to Australia.

From Sydney Harbour he boarded a train for a journey to Hay Camp.

Then Yanco Camp became Baldo’s home for two and a half years.  Yanco Camp was home to 700-800 Italians growing vegetables, tending to a dairy herd and piggery as well as producing supplies of vegetable seeds for the Commonwealth Government.

Eight hundred men need feeding.  The supply of meat per 100 men per week was recorded as: 300 pounds beef, (136kg) 255 pounds mouton, (116kg) and 35 pounds sausages, (16 kg).  A quick calculation equates to 1088 kg beef and 928 kg mouton for 800 men per week. The photo below taken at Yanco Camp illustrates that butchers were important to the operation of the camps.

It seems reasonable to assume that Baldo, a butcher, worked in the meat room at Yanco Camp.

Yanco, NSW. 1944-02-01. Two Italian prisoner of war (POWs) butchers cutting up the day’s meat ration in the butchers shop of No. 15 POW Camp. (AWM Image 063945 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 46978 Baldo Valeri; 46655 Guido Rosato; 46688 Pasquale Montepara; 45351 Nicola Catalano; 46891 Ernesto Tamburino; 47902 Raffaele Blasioli; 45248 Donato Cipriani. Front row: 45585 Luigi Di Cioccio; 46271 Andrea Moscatelli; 48096 Emilio Grisanti; 45719 Antonio Fafone; 45043 Pellegrino Acquaviva. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.

The Yanco kitchen was situated within the barracks used  as a dining room.  The kitchen had a large oven and cookers, four rooms for provisions, a cold room and a bakery where four bakers baked bread daily for the men.

The photo of the kitchen at Yanco below, highlights the industry of the men. It must have been a sense of relief for bakers, cooks, pastry chefs and butchers to work in their field of experience.

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Italian prisoner of war (POWs) cooks at No. 15 POW Camp preparing a meal in one of the camp kitchens. (AWM Image 063915 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Baldo was also accommodated at Cowra and Liverpool Camps.  Upon his return to Naples on the Ormonde 27th January 1947, Baldo had been a prisoner of war for six years.

Baldo’s son Geremia writes about his father’s life after return to Italy, “La sua vita è stata difficile,ma una volta tornato in Italia ,ha dedicato tutte le sue energie sul lavoro, per il benessere di noi figli.

Le uniche cose che lui ha riportato dalla prigionia, sono una ciotola di alluminio,dove mangiava,un piccolo vocabolario inglese-italiano, e un pezzo di stoffa bordoeux, che usavamo come coperta. Mi raccontava sempre un episodio, dove lui cercava di sottrarre qualche patata dal magazzino, perché aveva fame. Il vigilante del campo se ne accorse e lo colpi con il calcio del fucile. Lui avrebbe voluto tornare in Australia per lavorare, ma non trovò nessuno che gli facesse l’atto di richiamo.”

Baldo Valeri outside his shop in Vittorito (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Baldo and Cesira celebrating 50 years of marriage with their son Geremia (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

un papa di Vittorito

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

c. 1942 Daughters of Baldo and Cesira Valeri

(photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figli di Baldo Geremia, Laura, Leda and Rosanna

(photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Uniform Regulations

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

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

What the records tell us

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

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

Clothing Issue

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

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

This group received a free issue of clothing and necessaries.

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

Prisoner of War Officers

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

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

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

Merchant Seamen Prisoners of War

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

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

What do the photos from Myrtleford Camp tell us

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

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

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

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

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

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

Handmade plaited belt?

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

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

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

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

Storia di un contadino italiano in Australia – parte 2: prigioniero in terra australe

by Elena Fortini

Vincenzo ha solo 21 anni quando parte per la Libia. Mai avrebbe pensato che, nei pochi anni successivi, avrebbe attraversato mezzo mondo, passando dapprima per l’Egitto, poi nei campi di concentramento indiani per, infine, raggiungere il misterioso e lontano continente australiano.

Nel gennaio 1944, insieme a qualche migliaio di altri prigionieri italiani, mio zio si imbarca a Bombay per l’Australia. A febbraio giunge nel porto di Melbourne e viene condotto al campo di Murchison, nell’entroterra australiano, per lo smistamento. Dopo la visita medica viene sottoposto ad analisi per la sospetta presenza di tifo, poi smentita dagli accertamenti. Da questo momento in poi verrà identificato con la dicitura PWI (Prisoner of War, Italian, vale a dire “prigioniero di guerra italiano”) 58070.

Il suo viaggio, però, non finisce qui. A Murchison viene decisa la sua destinazione: sarà nell’ancor più remota isola della Tasmania. Nell’aprile del ‘44 giunge nel campo di Brighton, vicino alla capitale Hobart, nel sud-est dello Stato insulare, per l’identificazione. Si tratta del campo centrale della regione, che si dirama poi in ulteriori campi sparsi per tutta l’isola.

Nel maggio 1944 viene trasferito a Burnie, più a nord, e il mese successivo a Smithton, nel nord-ovest dell’isola. Ricoverato per una sospetta appendicite nell’ottobre dello stesso anno, sarà rilasciato qualche giorno dopo senza essere operato, e rimandato al campo. Qui sarà assegnato a un agricoltore locale, Reginald Poke, e inizierà a lavorare come contadino nella sua proprietà agricola a Scotchtown, una località rurale distante circa 6 km dalla cittadina di Smithton. 16.397 sono invece i chilometri che separano Scotchtown dal paese natale di Soncino: una distanza incolmabile oggi, inimmaginabile all’epoca.

Con mia grande sorpresa sono riuscita a contattare i discendenti di Mr. Poke. Alcuni hanno sentito parlare dei prigionieri italiani nei racconti dei rispettivi antenati, altri ricordano di averli visti e conosciuti, durante l’infanzia. In particolare, un nipote di Reginald ricorda Vincenzo come un uomo forte, che spesso si allenava nella fattoria. I prigionieri vivevano in baracche separate nella proprietà, e un’altra nipote ricorda che da bambina, negli anni ’60 e ’70, vi entrava per gioco e che le sembravano sufficientemente spaziose per essere adibite ad abitazioni. Dopo la partenza degli italiani queste costruzioni vennero destinate a baracche degli attrezzi, e successivamente demolite. In generale, i soldati italiani hanno lasciato un bel ricordo alle famiglie locali: sulla sua lettera di dimissione si può leggere che è stato un bravo prigioniero.

Nel marzo del ‘46 Vincenzo viene finalmente rilasciato e torna nell’Australia occidentale, a Loveday, da dove il 3 dicembre dello stesso anno sarà rimpatriato sulla nave neozelandese Rangitata diretta a Napoli. Sbarcherà infine nella città partenopea il 31 dicembre 1946, nello stesso porto da cui era partito otto anni prima. Una leggenda di famiglia vuole che, nel periodo trascorso in Australia, mio zio si sia innamorato di una donna del posto e che volesse perciò rimanere e sposarsi. Non sappiamo se sia tornato per rispettare la convenzione internazionale sui prigionieri di guerra, che voleva che fossero tutti rimpatriati una volta terminato il conflitto, o per sua decisione, conscio che la sua famiglia lo aspettava e aveva bisogno di lui. Gli anni della guerra sono stati duri, infatti, anche nello sperduto paesino di campagna che per Vincenzo era ormai solo un lontano e caro ricordo. Con il figlio primogenito in Australia, il secondogenito, Giulio, anch’egli prigioniero degli Alleati in Albania, il lavoro nei campi e nelle stalle era affidato ai restanti membri della famiglia: il padre Bortolo, la madre Genoveffa, le sorelle Gina, Maria, Cila e Carla e il fratello minore, Miro, che allo scoppio del conflitto aveva solo sei anni, e che Vincenzo ricorda nella lettera inviata dall’India e mai ricevuta dalla famiglia come il “piccolino” di casa.

Ambrogi Famiglia : late 1940s

Back row: Vincenzo second from left. Front row: Mama Genoveffa on far right (photo courtesy of Elena Fortini)

Si racconta che, dopo il suo ritorno, ogni volta che mio zio parlava di quanto aveva visto in guerra veniva preso per pazzo. Metteva in guardia sugli effetti nefasti delle droghe quando la maggior parte dei compaesani non sapeva nemmeno cosa fosse uno stupefacente. Parlava di tutto ciò che aveva visto, della convivenza di molteplici religioni e confessioni che nella cattolicissima Italia del tempo era solo un lontano miraggio. Portava sei anni di prigionia sulle spalle che l’avevano segnato profondamente, e non solo sul viso che il rovente sole australiano aveva bruciato per sempre: avvertiva il bisogno di parlarne, ma si sentiva incompreso. Forse per questo poi si chiuse in sé stesso e smise di raccontare, lasciando correre anche le domande curiose dei nipoti che, anni dopo, gli avrebbero chiesto della sua esperienza in guerra: ne parlava solo con i commilitoni, uomini che, come lui, avevano lasciato tutto alle spalle e che vivevano gli anni della guerra come un voraginoso e incolmabile vuoto.

Vincenzo Ambrogi 1970s standing at left (photo courtesy of Elena Fortini)

Al funerale di sua madre, Vincenzo chiese alla famiglia di non lasciarlo mai più solo. Spero che questa mia ricerca renda giustizia alla sua storia e al suo ricordo. Non ho avuto il piacere di incontrare lo zio Vincenzo, che ci ha lasciati ben prima che io nascessi ma, dopo le tante ore trascorse a ripercorrere il suo passato, posso forse dire di conoscerlo un po’ anch’io.

Elena Fortini

What a journey!

Today I introduce you to Pasquale Landolfi from Frattaminore Napoli. Pasquale was 20 years old when he was captured at Tobruk 21.1.1941.

From 13.10.41 and his arrival on the Queen Mary into Sydney NSW until his departure on 28.6.1949 from Sydney NSW on the SS Surriento Pasquale travels through five states of Australia.

Tracing his journey Pasquale went from NEW SOUTH WALES: Sydney to Cowra Camp to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp. He transited through SOUTH AUSTRALIA on his way to WESTERN AUSTRALIA: No 8 Labour Detachment Karrakatta and Marrinup Camp.

Pasquale then crossed Australia again and returned to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp and then NEW SOUTH WALES: Hay Camp.

The next stage of his journey took him to QUEENSLAND: Gaythorne Camp and Home Hill* Hostel. After escaping from the Home Hill Hostel, he briefly ‘visited’ Bowen until his arrest and return the Home Hill Hostel.

He returned to Gaythorne Camp before a return to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp and the Dandenong after he escaped from a Murchison working party. Upon capture he was sent to NEW SOUTH WALES: Holdsworthy Military Barracks for detention.

Three Italian prisoners of war boarded the SS Surriento in Sydney on 28.6.49: Pasquale Landolfi, Giacomo Tagliaferri and Isidoro Cammaroto. The ship sailed from Sydney to Brisbane QLD before departing for Italy.

The newspaper article below records this unusual situation of a passenger liner carrying three prisoners of war and two political deportees.

Brisbane Telegraph (Qld. : 1948 – 1954), Thursday 30 June 1949, page 8

1949 ‘Line­­r Has Unwelcome Quintette’, Brisbane Telegraph (Qld. : 1948 – 1954), 30 June, p. 8. (CITY FINAL), viewed 20 Jul 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article212190014

*Home Hill is 97 km south of Townsville. Bowen is 104 km south of Home Hill and 84 km north of Whitsundays.

Nonno Peppino

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Financial Situation

The purpose of this article is to present the facts.

I have purposely avoided this topic because it is complicated.

Money is always a difficult topic because lack of money equates to hardships. Additionally, emotions are attached to discussions on money.

I present the information about the financial situation for Italian prisoners of war to provide the facts.

These facts are from primary source documents:

Dr Georges Morel’s reports for the International Committee for the Red Cross

Pay Sheets for Queensland

Camp Order No. 13

Various documents from the National Archives of Australia and personal records.

  • Pays for Prisoners of War

There were three levels of income for prisoners of war:

  1. Prisoners of war were paid on behalf of their government at a rate agreed to by relevant countries.

This meant that on a monthly basis, Italian prisoners of war received a stipend [allowance]. This was deposited to the cash accounts of each man.

As of March 1945, the rate set was:

£-/15/5 for combatants (N.C.O.s) (fifteen shillings and five pence)

£-/10/9 for ordinary ranks (ten shillings and nine pence)

£37/14/1 for doctor (thirty seven pounds, fourteen shillings and one pence)

How do we verify this?

Pay records for Italian prisoners of war in Queensland have survived.

The extract from the March 1945 Pay Sheets for Home Hill Hostel displays the rate per levels of prisoners of war.

(NAA:  J2255, 12)

2. Prisoners of war would be paid for work duties (other than fatigues while in camp)

In camps, work details were offered inside and outside camps.

This rate per day was £-/-/7 (seven pence) for unskilled work and

£-/1/3 (one shilling three pence) for skilled work.

For farm work and on government projects

The rate set was:

£-/1/3 per day

How do we verify this?

When a prisoner of war control hostel was approved, documentation was submitted which included the rate of pay. The example used is a document for the establishment of the Hume Hostel in Victoria.

NAA: A373, 6221

3. Income from the camp canteen profits.  

This was used to purchase communal items for the use of men inside the camps.

This money was used for special foods for Christmas, books, records, musical instruments and sport equipment.

For the month of: December 1942 canteen proceeds for Camp 7 Hay was £232 and for Camp 8 Hay £188

January 1943 canteen proceeds for Camp 7 Hay was £135 and for Camp 8 Hay £102

  • Debit charges

Money debited was also debited from individual accounts. This could be for a breach of discipline [a fine] or damages to Commonwealth property (buildings and boots). 1946 saw fines for ‘boots beyond repair’. The authorities perceived this as a deliberate action to obtain a new pair of boots before repatriation as opposed to genuine ‘wear and tear’.

Umberto Liberto escaped, and the Department of Army had drawn up an invoice for money owed for his army issue clothing and kit. Presumably, if he was not ‘found’ or surrendered, then he would be charged for government property.

  • Accountability while in Australia

Camp Order No. 13 sets the following rules regarding the financial accountability of prisoner of war accounts:

16.–     (1) As soon as practicable after the arrival of a prisoner of war at a prisoners of war camp a cash account shall be opened in his name by the Camp Paymaster in accordance with regulation 13.

            (2) The Camp Paymaster shall be responsible for seeing that each cash account is kept in accordance with a proper system of accountancy and is kept up to date.

            (3) Prisoners of war shall be informed as soon as practicable of the receipt of moneys sent to them and shall be informed from time to time upon request as to the state of their cash accounts.

            (4) A prisoner of war shall be permitted to withdraw from his cash account (several provisos were provided regarding permission and limits)

 How do we verify this?

Financial accountability was integral to the custodial situation for Italian prisoners of war.  The Australian Department of Army held prisoners of war on behalf of the War Office in Britain. Every penny spent or claimed was accounted for. An example is the request for supply of Italian prisoner of war labour to work on army sties.  This expense had to be costed and approved.

(NAA: SP196/1, 19 Part 3)

Another document highlights the income earned from the sale of lettuce which had been produced by Italian prisoners of war at Liverpool Camp.

NAA: SP196/1, 19PART 1

Dr Georges Morel makes note that Italian prisoners of war were able to access a statement of their account.

  • Money held in accounts at time of repatriation

At the time of repatriation, prisoners of war were issued with credit receipts for amounts in cash account. This would have included money relinquished at the time of arrival in Australia as per Property Statement. A copy of the Property Statement for Salvatore Fuino is attached.

(NAA: MP1102/1, PWI48983)

Arrangements were made by the Australian Department of Army to transfer all moneys held on their behalf to the War Office in the United Kingdom.  The War Office in the UK then had the responsibility to transfer these funds. Eventually these funds were transferred to Italian authorities. The Italians then presented their credit receipts.

How do we verify this?

Statement of Account documents for Stefano Lucantoni and Umberto Cofrancesco have survived.  It was not unusual to balances to be zero. Some Italians purchased items from the canteen which they knew to be in short supply in Italy eg boots, clothing material, soap, toothpaste, tinned food.

Statement of Account for Stefano Lucantoni (photo courtesy of Marco Lucantoni)

Property Statement for Umberto Cofrancesco (Umberto’s War
by Pacifico Cofrancesco)

It is assumed that amounts were transferred to Italian prisoners of war when they returned to Italy and/or at some part of their discharge process.

Documentation exists regarding German prisoners of war having not received their money. An investigation was held by United Kingdom authorities.  The issue was finally resolved in 1950.

  • Rate of Exchange from Pounds Sterling to Italian Lire

It appears that this rate was set via negotiations between the UK War Office and the Italian government. 

The only reference found is from Australian War Diary log for a ‘cable’ received from War Office, London dated 15.7.44. “rates of pay converted to Stg. (pounds sterling) at 400 lire equals £1 Stg.; this rate having been officially accepted by Italian Government for general purposes and expenditure, out of date rate of 72 lire equals £1 cannot be permitted.”

Another reference is:

After the Allied invasion of Italy, an exchange rate was set at US$1 = 120 lire (1 British pound = 480 lire) in June 1943, reduced to 100 lire the following month. In German-occupied areas, the exchange rate was set at 1 Reichsmark = 10 lire. After the war, the value of the lira fluctuated, before Italy set a peg of US$1 = 575 lire within the Bretton Woods System in November 1947.

  • Money paid upon arrival in Italy

At the Military Housing Centre in Naples, the POWs were registered and given two months leave together with a payment of 10,000 lire.  Technically, they were still soldiers of the Italian Armed Services.

How do we verify this?

Paolo Santoro wrote to his war time farmer Jim Fullerton in February 1947: “Italian government gave me 10,000 lire not for all my captivity but for 2 months leave in army.”

Post War, high inflation rates, lack of basic necessities and black racketeering devalued the value of ‘money’ the Italian prisoners of war returned home with. 

Some Italians thought ahead. They used the money in their Australian accounts to purchase necessities to take home to Italy. Some farmers also understood the situation. Australians remember their dad sending a suit or shoes to the men once they returned to Italy. One Western Australian farmer wrote to the newspaper explaining the need to send food parcels to their ex-workers

There could never be compensation for loss of personal earnings as a result of war and imprisonment.