Category Archives: Q1 PWCC Stanthorpe

Why?

Why research Italian prisoners of war in Queensland?

Book Launch Joanne - Copy

Joanne Tapiolas – Accidental Historian

(photo courtesy of Michele Sinclair)

My research started with the Italian prisoners of war growing vegetables up river Home Hill.  As a Burdekin local, I had heard stories about these Italians who had come from North Africa after being captured.  Memories of the locals of the time are sketchy, ‘we knew about them’ ‘ we knew they were there but not much else’ ‘one didn’t talk about those things back then’.  In my mind, there must have been a barbed wire enclosure housing 20 – 30 Italian POWs to grow vegetables.

A puzzle for my young 10 year old self was the image of the map in my school Atlas.  North Africa was a long long way from Home Hill in northern Queensland. Questions beginning with WHY and HOW and WHAT stayed in my memory bank.  Not too much of this made sense.

Map of World

When I found the time to do some research, I consulted an excellent publication on the Burdekin history : Black Snow and Liquid Gold by John Kerr.  A section covering the years of the war provided me with the background and details.  I found the names of two Italian POWs who twice escaped the hostel BUT I became frustrated because in an editing error, the names of these men were printed incorrectly.  They are named as Pietro Di Vincenzo and Landolfi Pasquale.  Their names are Vincenzo DI PIETRO and Pasquale LANDOLFI.  The other Italians mentioned have their names correctly ordered.

My dad was as amazed as myself at the records I began to uncover. The research told a story of 250 Italian POWs who lived in barracks and grew vegetables for the armed forces in North Queensland. Now Q6 Prisoner of War Control Hostel Home Hill not only had a history but also a context.  It was one of 10 prisoner of war control centres in Queensland and it operated as part of the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture’s Vegetable Project : Home Hill and Ayr.

I became quite attached to MY Home Hill POWs especially when I could put a face to a name.  I left a copy of my research with the local historical society hoping that one day, the children or grandchildren of a Home Hill POW would pass through Home Hill looking for some information.  At least the list of POW names attached would verify that their father or grandfather had been at the hostel up river Home Hill.

I put aside other documents I found about the other nine centres in Queensland, just in case.  I felt that if the Burdekin locals had little knowledge about the Home Hill POW hostel, then did people in the other nine districts know about their POW history.

Curiosity got the better of me and so I began digging for information.  I found little bits of information BUT I was frustrated because the information in the public domain was scarce and incomplete.  The only photographic evidence of Italian prisoners of war in Queensland is three photos taken at Calico Creek.  They are housed in the John Oxley Library. Other records mention only six centres and there is no reference to the differences between a control centre: without guard and a hostel. Once such reference is: Prisoner-of-war control depots were established at Stanthorpe, Home Hill, Gympie, Nambour, Gayndah and Texas.(Fortress Queensland 1942-1945)

I believed that the history of Italian prisoner of war in Queensland needed to be more comprehensive,  contain various perspectives,  and include those who had a memory of the Italians an understanding of the context surrounding the placement of these men on the family farm.

It became obvious that this history was not found in the books of the libraries.  This history is found in the memories of Queensland locals and Italian families. Letters to editors, newspaper articles, letters to historical societies, Facebook posts, cold call letters, website development, oral history interviews, face to face interviews and radio interviews.

Slowly but surely, Queenslanders and Italians have helped write this history.

And just as I had hoped, the son of a Home Hill POW did come looking for the footsteps of this father.  Francesco (Ciccio) Cipolla was at the Q6 PWCH Home Hill from April 1944 to November 1945.  His son, Nino, on previous trips to Australia had visited the PW & I Camps at Hay and Cowra but the notation Q6 Home Hill had remained a mystery.  On a holiday to Melbourne in 2017, Nino searched yet again for some reference to this Q6 Home Hill. Nino found my research and Stepping Back in Time, Ciccio’s son was able to understand better his father’s time growing vegetables for supply to the armed forces in the north.

2017 Q6 36

Nino Cipolla Home Hill Railway Station April 2017

(photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

And back to the answer to the question: Why research Italian prisoners of war in Queensland?

Because it hadn’t been done… because if it wasn’t done now, the stories would be lost to time…because it needed to be done…Because it is a valuable part of Queensland history and this history should have a voice.

The rest they say is “HISTORY” and on these pages is this history.

Walking in their boots JPEG

Home on the Farm

Prisoner of War Quarters on Queensland Farms

Living arrangements for the Italian POWs who worked on Queensland farms were inspected and approved by the commanding officer of the Prisoner of War Control Centre.  Recollections of Queenslanders mention a variety of living arrangements for the Italians ranging from: sleeping on the verandah in the farmer’s house, sleeping in quarters built within a shed or barn, self contained cottages which had previously been labourers’ quarters and a stand alone building specifically constructed for the POWs. One of the excluded arrangements was ‘living in tents’. Please keep in mind that the buildings below are over 70 years old and no longer used as accommodation.

Some of the quarters still stand and continue to be reminders of those days.

Boatfield.Goat Shed.jpeg

 Ol’ Goat Shed at the Boatfield Farm Amiens via Stanthorpe

(photo courtesy of Paula Boatfield)

Herbert William Boatfield’s farm was situated at Amiens and the farm had been Soldier Settlement plots of 55 acres.  Records show that he employed Andrea Lapa from Barletta Bari and Luigi Gardini Catanzaro. Paula Boatfield says that the shed was later used for angora goats, hence the nickname for the building.   Paula relates, “On our property is a building that we affectionately call the ol’ goat shed, because when Brett’s parents worked the property as a working orchard, they also had angora goats who lived in the goat shed and yards attached to it. The eastern wall of the ol’ goat shed has three doors (see photo) and the story was that when the Italian POWs were working on Harslett farm (our neighbour), when the authorities would visit the farm the POWs would come up here to our place and three of them each had a room in our ol’ goat shed. I don’t know how true this story.”

Prisoner of War Hut on the Sauer Farm Upson Downs outside of Gayndah

(photos courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

Colin Sauer had two farms: Upson Downs and Bananpan across the river. This cottage is situated on Upson Downs.  Documents record that he employed Antonio Iaccarino, a barber from Mondo di Procido; Giovanni Farina, a farmer from San Giovanni a Teduccio Napoli; and Fortunato Franco, a mason from Bovalino Reggio Calabria.  Due to its historical significance, Colin’s grandson, Colin Wenck stands steadfast that the cottage will not be pulled down.

Boonah.Harsant.Pintabona

Workers Cottage at the Harsant Farm Warrill View via Boonah

(photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

Roderick Harsant’s farm is at Warrill View via Boonah.  Francesco Pintabona from Taviano Lecce; Domenico Masciulli from Palmoli Chieti; Salvatore Mensile from Siracusa Sicily; and Vincenzo Nocca from Modica Ragusa all spent time at the Harsant farm.  Roderick’s son Ian says that the cottage used to be on the banks of the creek which is prone to flooding.  To preserve this special link to Francesco Pintabona, Ian had the cottage moved and raised to protect it from future flooding.  Ian’s grandson Jack muses,

“If only walls can talk!”

Jones.Janette.Dorothy

Janette and Dorothy Jones in front of Prisoner of War Accommodation

at Rural Retreat Severnlea 2018

(Photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

From Official Records

It is important to note that independent representatives eg Red Cross visited the POW camps and also the accommodation on farms. Reports were written and in March 1944, farm accommodation in N2 PWCC Parkes and N5 PWCC Canowindra were visited.  Italian POWs had been working on these farms for six months. Extracts from this report follows:

This farm has one prisoner of war. It has a maisonette with electric lights The bedroom includes an iron bed, a mattress, a pillow, pillow cases, bed sheets and four blankets. The room is furnished with a dresser, a chair and a rug. The prisoner takes his showers in the farmer’s house. He take all his meals with the farmer’s family.

This farm has two prisoners of war. They are lodged in a tin shack, lit by the oil lamp. The bedding includes wooden beds, mattresses, pillows, bed sheets and four blankets each. The hut is furnished with a table and stools. The meals are taken in the same house where a wood furnace is installed. Ablutions are done at the laundry.

This farm employs two prisoners of war. They are housed in a separate maisonette, including a bedroom and a veranda. The room is furnished with stools and shelves. The light is electric. The bedding includes wooden beds, mattresses, pillows and four blankets each. Ablutions are done at the laundry. Meals are taken with the farmer’s family.

This farm employs three prisoners of war. They have a small house furnished with tables, stools, cupboards and oil lamps.  The bedroom had iron beds, mattresses, pillows and four blankets each.  The ablutions are made in the kitchen of this house.  The meals are taken in a little room in this house.

The conclusion of the report includes recommendations:

In general, we have found that prisoners of war enjoy working on private farms. Their lodgings varies according to the possibilities of each employer, but the food is  good and abundant, and the relations between the employers and the prisoners of war are cordial.

Problems of language are difficult, with employers only knowing English, and prisoners of war generally making little progress in the study of that language.

We believe, therefore, that Prisoners of War have a great need for Italian books and periodicals. However, it is not possible to procure them in Australia now. We have taken this up with the Apostolic Delegate who, while assuring us of his entire sympathy, informed us that he saw no way of finding Italian books on the spot.

We have obtained from the Red Cross 150 English periodicals which we have sent to the centres of Parkes and Canowindra. On the other hand, the National Secretary of the YMCA  has just informed us that he has placed at our disposal 500 English periodicals to be distributed in the centres of control in Victoria. This effort will be continued, and we hope to be able to provide illustrated English periodicals in all Australian control centres.We have also consulted the Military Authorities, who have given their approval that small libraries of these illustrated periodicals be set up in each control centre.

Another important problem concerning Italian prisoners of war is that of family news. Indeed, in recent months, the number of letters received from Italy is extremely low. We offered our services to the prisoners of war to forward any request for family news.

Mittagong, 27 May 1944 (NAA: A989)

Nambour.Schulz. Itys Hut 5 (2)

Schulz Farm Image Flats via Nambour

(photo courtesy of Martin Schulz)

 

 

 

 

Tribute: The Ossario

During World War II 4,000 Italian, German and Japanese POWs were detained at Murchison. Those who died at Murchison were buried in the local cemetery but floods in 1956 did major damage to the graves.

The Italian families in the municipality were persuaded by Luigi Gigliotti to pay for the building of a mausoleum – the Ossario. Luigi also convinced authorities to bury all the Italian POWs and detainees who died in Australian prison camps in the mausoleum. The Ossario is a fitting tribute to those Italians who were never to return home from Australia and each year on Remembrance Day there is a mass and service in recognition of these men.

The Ossario, as is shown below, is also the final resting place of the five Italians who died in Queensland:  Giovanni Ciccocioppo (Q1 Stanthorpe); Nicola Evangelista (Q2 Nambour); Agostino Naibo (Q3 Gympie); Francesco Leone (Q4 Gayndah) and Francesco Primiano (Q7 Kenilworth). They were reburied at the Ossario on 6 September 1961.  (National Archives of Australia NAA: A8234, 13A, 1915-1961)

Ossario.jpg

Ossario Murchison 

(Murchison and District Historical Society Inc., 2014)

A special thank you to Kay Ball from Murchison and District Historical Society. Kay lay the wreath for the Evangelista family from Cassino Italy at the ceremony and service 11th November 2018.

IMG_7202.JPGKay Ball Murchison: Laying Wreath for the Evangelista Family

(photo courtesy of Kay Ball)

 

 

Rememberance Day 11th November 2018

Ossario Murchison

(photos courtesy of Kay Ball)

Just 19

Umberto Liberto was just 19 years old when he was taken prisoner of war on 7th February 1941 at Benghazi Libya.

These photos were taken in 1941 and 1943.  The photos combined with Umberto’s letter to his mother, gives credence to his words “You will not recognise your son – five years has been a long time.”  Umberto Liberto’s  mother last saw her son when he was 18 years old.  By the time he returned to Italy, he was almost 26 years old.

Umberto’s letter is shared in the article Cara Mamma

Listen to his letter:

Follow Berto’s journey as a soldier and prisoner of war: Berto Liberto

Voices from the Past

The Unexpected

At the beginning of this project, I had a wish list.  It was a simple list: to find one Queenslander who remembered the Italian prisoners of war and to double the number of photos of Italian prisoners of war in Queensland.  The only three photos in the public domain which feature our Queensland POWs  are housed in the John Oxley Library.

My wish list  for one story and three photos has been exceeded many times over.

BUT  I had never expected to find the testimonies of Italians about their time as prisoners of war. This project is honoured to have these testimonies as part of its collection.

 Antonino Lumia’s  story is told in more depth in A Voice from the Past, Fighting in North Africa and Capture.Surrender.Imprisonment .  His grandson Damiano Lumia recorded his grandfather’s memories over 40 years ago ensuring that the voice of the Italian soldier can be heard and that his experiences are not forgotten.

Lumia.JPG

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR HAVING A MEAL IN THEIR MESS AT NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. PICTURED ARE: 46007 ANTONIO LUMIA (1); 45824 BRUNO GALLIZZI (2); 46734 ALMO STAGNARO (3); 48355 GIUSEPPE ARRIGONI; (4); 45087 ANTONIO BACCIGALUPO (5); 46620 MICHELE RIZZO (6); 46626 EMILIO RUOCCO (7); 46635 FRANCO RONDELLI (8); 45900 ALESSANDRO IANNOTTA (9).

(AWM, Image 063371 McInnes, Geoffrey)

Costanzo Melino’sstory is part of a book written and published by his daughter Rosa Melino “Anzaro: The Home of My Ancestors”.  Captured… On the Move and Captured at Bardia share the everyday details of life as a young Italian soldier.  Costanzo returned to Australia after the war with his family following later. Life as a soldier was difficult but life as a ‘new’ Australian presented many challenges for the Melino family.

Q3 Gympie Italian prisoner of war Melino Costanzo

Costanzo Melino c 1940

(photo courtesy of Rosa Melino)

Ferdinando Pancisi is 100 years old and living and working in a tiny village Civorio in Alta Romagna.  Tim Dwyer (ex Boonah) arranged for Tammy Morris and Nicola Cianti to visit Ferdinando (Ferdy) in October 2017.  His memories were recorded on 21st October 2017. They offer a stoic perspective on life, war, death and imprisonment.  Ferdy had worked on the farm of Pat Dwyer Fassifern via Boonah and for over 70 years the Dwyer family have corresponded with Ferdy.  At first it was Pat Dwyer, then his wife Joie and recently son Tim.  This is a special family connection and legacy.  Against all odds, Tim arranged for Ferdy to be interviewed so that his ‘voice’ will never be silenced.

Ferdy.Anna.Tim.Ferdy

Anna Pancisi, Tim Dwyer and Ferdinando Pancisi

(photo courtesy of Cathy Dwyer)

Angelo Valianteis a well known and much respected resident of the Stanthorpe district.  His story is recorded in a book, newspapers and a mural painting.  Seizing an opportunity and an offer to have an interview filmed, I travelled with Ann Megalla to Stanthorpe in October 2017 to talk with Angelo about his time as a prisoner of war.

Stanthorpe.Valiante

Angelo Valiante – Mural by Guido van Helten : Stanthorpe

(photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

Escaped to Queensland

In May 1947 there were 100 escaped prisoners of war in Australia: 4 German and 96 Italian. Interestingly 92 had escaped in 1946 (and 8 in 1947).

The background history is that the Italians were taken off farms late 1945/early 1946 and told that they would be going home ‘soon’.  It wasn’t until December 1946/January 1947 that the majority of POWs were repatriated.

For young men who had already given 8 years to military service and as a POW, thoughts of delaying a ‘start of a new life’ back in Italy versus starting a new life in Australia would have been debated. Some would have wanted to start their new life in Australia sooner than later and thought repatriation would be a waste of another two valuable years of their working life.

Four escaped prisoners of war ‘hid out’ in Queensland: Harry Lugsch (Innisfail), Alberto Bandiera (Ingham), Giovanni Brisotto (Poziers) and Giuseppe Volpato (Poziers).  The authorities advertised the escapes in government and police gazettes.

Lugsch Harry 1947

Victorian Police Gazette Special Circular No. 7

NAA:A373, 11638D, 1946-1952

The journey of Harry Lugsch is an interesting one.  He was one of the sailors onboard the German raider Kormoran which sank the HMAS Sydney on 19th November 1941.  The 318 Germans who survived were captured off the coast at Carnarvon WA. Harry was captured 23rd November 1941. Once interrogated at Harvey WA, they were sent to Murchison and then a satellite camp at Graytown.  On 14th November 1946, a group of 300 German POWs were detached to V20 Wallangarra Hostel on the Queensland – New South Wales border, to undertake: preventative maintenance on dead storage Army Vehicles, 8,00 ‘B’ Army vehicles held by Ordnance Service. Included in this group were motor mechanics, paint sprayers, electricians, oxywelders, engineers, steam power cleaners and power greasers from the Kormoran.  Harry Lugsch escaped from PWCH Wallangarra on 25th December 1946 and was recaptured 5th January 1948 at Innisfail.

Lugsch Harry

SA Police Gazettes (1862-1947) 1946

(Ancestry.com. South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.)

Another prisoner of war to escape to Queensland was Alberto Bandiera. He escaped from N31 Hostel Glenfield: Army Ordnance Depots and Workshops, Ordnance installation at Moorebank. He was one of 455 Italian POWs sent to this hostel in January 1946. Joe Devietti from Ingham explains:

“Ingham has another link to Italian prisoners of war because an escaped POW cut cane in Ingham. His name was Alberto Bandiera and he had escaped in September 1946 and surrendered in Brisbane February 1950. The police questioned dad [Giovanni Devietti] about this but he denied any knowledge.  Bandiera was repatriated on the ship which brought out my cousins to Brisbane Surriento. They arrived 23rd February 1950 and Alberto Bandiera was repatriated onboard on the 24th February 1950.   In time, he returned to Australia and worked at Peacock Siding. Bandiera wasn’t the only escaped POW the police were looking for.”  Alberto Bandiera returned to Ingham in February 1951 and eventually took up farming and settled at Birkdale Queensland.

Bandiera Alberto

SA Police Gazettes (1862-1947) 1946

(Ancestry.com. South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.)

On 8th January 1946, Giovanni Brisotto and Giuseppe Volpato escaped together from N31 Hostel Glenfield.  They made their way to Angelo Vedelago’s farm at Poziers (via Stanthorpe).  Giuseppe Volpato surrendered in Brisbane on 8th May 1950, in time to be repatriated to Italy on SS Surriento on 11th May 1950.

Volpato Giuseppe

SA Police Gazettes (1862-1947) 1946

(Ancestry.com. South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.)

Giovanni Brisotto on the other hand remained ‘at large’ until 22rd March 1951 and surrendered in Brisbane.  He was granted an Aliens Registration Certificate which allowed him to stay in Australia.  Giovanni Brisotto’s story can be read in Echoes of Italian Voices.  He made Poziers his home.

Brisotto Giovanni

SA Police Gazettes (1862-1947) 1946

(Ancestry.com. South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.)

By 1952, 13 Italian prisoners of war had escaped repatriation.  Department of Army referred the men to Department of Immigration and once surrendered they were issued with Alien Certificates of Registration.  Among this group were two Italian POWs who had worked on Queensland farms: Pietro Daidone (Q10 Boonah) who escaped from Middle Head Hostel and Ottavio Brancatella (Q1 Stanthorpe) who escaped from Applethorpe while the Stanthorpe POWs were awaiting transport to Gaythorne.

A Travesty…

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One of the questions often asked, is ‘why were the Italian POWs taken off farms to then sit idle in Prisoner of War and Internment Camps for over 12 months?’

Another often asked question is ‘how valuable was the contribution of the Italian POWs to agricultural production?’

The following ‘Letter to the Editor’ addresses both of these questions…

Italian P.O.W.

To the Editor

Sir- some of us can raise a lot of sympathy for those of the Indonesians who have co-operated with the Japanese but what of that poor underdog, the Italian POW? Six months ago two POW (Sicilians) assisted by an old man harvested, without tractor, 140 tons of hay, besides routine jobs of milking, tending sheep &c. One of these men was so outstanding that I left him in charge of my farm and took an extended rest in Melbourne.  On my return everything was in order – house painted, winter’s wood supply split and stacked, &c. On March 13 most POW were again barbed in, a precaution recognised as necessary before repatriation: but the call-up was because of AWU pressure.  Many are married and my two have families not seen for over six years.  Their greatest worry is the dreariness of the dragging days of enforced idleness after the free busy life on a farm.  War against Italy ceased 18 months ago, so maintenance of torture to men’s souls at this stage is a travesty of British justice. In spite of the AWU attitude, farm labor in the Naracoorte district is unavailable, through either the RSL and stock firms, and I am being forced off the land.  My neighbor has been without help since his POW was taken away, and was so run down that his doctor insisted on his going to the seaside with his wife and three children, leaving over 1,000 ewes uncared for in the midst of lambing.

I am, Sir, &c.

H.S. Naylor

Kybybolite S.E.

from Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931-1954), Thursday 27 June 1946, page 8

For Queensland farmers, withdrawing Italian POWs from farms resulted in an acute shortage of workers for the summer harvest….

Disbandment Queensland

 

“FARMS HIT BY P.O.W. TRANSFER” The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954) 12 November 1945: 3. Web. 21 Oct 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50269952&gt;.