Walking in their Boots in now an eBook.
Published through kobo.com copies are now available for purchase.
At present Walking in their Boots is only available in English.
Read more about the book: Walking in their Boots
Fletcher Italian Prisoners of War
The orchards on the east side of the New England Highway at Fletcher are a distant memory. During the 1940’s the Horan’s Gorge Road was bordered by prosperous orchards owned by William Laird, Sydney Dent, John Barker and Henry Stanton. It was also a time when due to labour shortages, orchardists employed Italian prisoners of war.
Long gone, Shirley Stanton remembers clearly the crops grown by her father Henry Stanton. Her dad had almond trees growing as the bees were attracted to the blooms. These flowered first, attracting the bees which were needed to pollinate the fruit crops: quinces, nectarines, apples, apricots, plums and pears.
Shirley’s memories of those times are through the eyes of a four-year-old. To her, the Italians didn’t appear to belong to any one farm as there was movement between farms. Possibly during hectic harvests, the Fletcher workforce was fluid with Italians working on neighbours’ farms. The Stanton farm was the place for the POWs to congregate on a summer’s Saturday night to socialise and play cards. There was no harm done breaking the army’s rule that POWs from one farm were not to congregate with POWs from other farms as this isolated corner of the Granite Belt was away from prying eyes.
“Barney and Sav are the two men I remember with fondness. But I don’t know what their proper names were. Their accommodation was made with VJ walls. To keep the cold out, they lined the room with newspapers. At eye level, there was a border of comic strips like Ginger Megs. This was memorable, as was the washing area they made down at the creek. They dammed the creek with concrete to form a washing/swimming area. They also grew vegetables on a plot down near the creek and they carted water from this pool to their garden. I don’t remember any trouble. They came to our farm to play cards and would walk home before midnight. Mum must have told me this as I am sure I was fast asleep,” Shirley reminisces.
The Italians made an impact. Children learn new languages easily and Shirley, her twin brother Alan and older brother Peter, took to the Italian language. “My mother was horrified when Alan and I were reported for swearing. Once we were overheard saying ‘Basto, basto’. Basto means enough in Italian but a neighbour thought we were saying bastard, bastard. The misunderstanding was soon sorted out. Peter went to school speaking Italian, and the teacher made it clear to mum that he had to stop Italian and only use English. Off the top of my head I can remember ‘cavalli’ for horses,” Shirley recalls.
Other memories of those days are of the three pence chocolate the Italians would buy for the children, the army captain who would come out, very serious looking with a black and red hat and a stick under his arm and the rollies. Shirley says that the rollies were the best: pasta that were rolled into spirals filled with mince, fried and then served with a tomato sauce.
But the most poignant memory for Shirley is having to say goodbye to the Italians. “I was four years old and we took them to Applethorpe. Mum told me to say goodbye because they weren’t coming back home. They were like family. Mum was crying, I was crying,” remembers Shirley.
Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 45603 V. Esposito; 45011 S. Amato; 57534 G. Quintiliano; 45953 G. Lo Russo; 45930 V. Landriscina; 57254 C. Giannini; 49877 L. Miele. Front row: 57521 A. Vezzola; 46282 A. Merante; 45155 M. Coppola; 46863 V. Termine; 49732 S. Piccolo. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (Australian War Memorial, Image 030173/14, Photographer: Geoffrey McInnes)
Fletcher Italian Prisoners of War
Pietro Sorvillo from Striano Napoli (R Dent)
Luigi Gesualdi from Panne Foggia (SH Dent)
Giovanni Di Pasquale from Vietri di Potenza (SH Dent)
Riccardo Zingaro from San Ferdinando di Puglia (WHC Laird)
Cosimo Giannini from San Ferdinando di Puglia (WHC Laird)
Angelo De Rosa from Fagnano Castello Cosenza (JC Barker)
Cosimo La Rosa from Palme Reggio Calabria (JC Barker)
Salvatore Miceli from San Marco Argentano Cosenzo (JC Barker)
Mario Salerno from Torrano Castello Cosenza (JC Barker)
Domenico Venditti Frosinone (H Stanton)
NB This list is not necessarily complete
I am reposting this article in memory of Angelo Valiante. Interviewing Angelo in 2017 was truly an honour. My sincere condolences to Angelo’s family. One of life’s true gentleman.
Angelo Valiante is well known in the Granite Belt of south-east Queensland for his contribution to the region.
He is so well respected that a mural by Guido van Helten was commissioned by the Stanthorpe Art Gallery in 2016 to celebrate his 73 year involvement in the community and his 100 year milestone.
Soon to turn 101, Angelo has also been captured on canvas for Jacques van der Merwe’s exhibition “New Arrivals” and his story is part of Franco and Morwenna Arcidiacono “Echoes of the Granite Belt” which details the history of Italians and their contribution to the area.
Life goes a little more quietly now for Angelo but a morning spent with him showed that he is a keen and animated story teller and willing to talk about some of his experiences as an Italian soldier in Libya, his treatment as a prisoner of war and his memories of incidents in Cowra and Q1 PWCC Stanthorpe.
What I learnt from Angelo was not only details of his journey as a prisoner of war. With a wily wisdom and experience that comes with being 100 years old, Angelo gave me much more than facts. I found out about determination, endurance and perspective. A youth stolen from him by war. Starvation and deprivation as a Mussolini soldier. Prejudice experienced as a migrant family in the 1950s. Success with hard work. Strong family connections. A proud legacy.
Carmel Peck (Dywer) from Boonah told me that her family’s Italian POWs enriched their lives. This reflection holds true on so many levels and for so many Queensland families who welcomed the Italian POWs.
After interviewing Angelo in September 2017, I can honestly and humbly say that Angelo Valiante has enriched my life.
Walking in his Boots: Angelo’s Prisoner of War Journey
North Queenslander, Joanne Tapiolas, has been delving into the history of Italian prisoners of war in Queensland and slowly the stories and memories of this chapter in Queensland history have emerged.
Walking in their Boots incorporates the facts and the personal narratives from the ten districts where the POWs worked and lived. Queenslanders and Italians sharing their memories, artefacts, photos and letters have added a richness and diversity to this chronicle.
Walking in their Boots is a record of this history and a valuable reference to the background and context of Italian POWs in Australia.
Book now available
$25.00 plus postage and handling
English version only
For further details and to place an order:
contact Joanne Tapiolas e. firstname.lastname@example.org
Precis of Walking in their Boots
Over 1500 Italian prisoners of war, captured in the battlefields of North Africa, came to Queensland during World War 2. The Italians provided a much-needed workforce for farmers throughout nine south-east Queensland districts. Additionally, 250 Italians worked at the Commonwealth Vegetable Farm on the Burdekin River, to supply fresh produce to the north’s military forces.
Queensland farming families welcomed the Italians onto their farms and into their homes. A temporary refrain from life behind barbwire fences, friendships were forged, and lasting memories remain clear over seven decades later.
The Italian prisoners of war left their footprints in the landscape and in the memories of Queenslanders. Walking in their Boots traces the history of Italian prisoners of war in Queensland and tells the stories of a time when POWs worked on our Queensland farms.
There were three levels of camps or facilities for prisoners of war in Australia:
Reading a Service and Casualty Form for an Italian POW can be difficult if one can’t read the abbreviations.
The documents (links below) list the Prisoner of War facilities by State. The information has been reproduced from NAA: A7711 History of Directorate of Prisoners of War (PW and POWS) and Internees.
Clarification on certain data has been sourced from individual Prisoner of War Service and Casualty Forms.
Service and Casualty Forms often list an abbreviation eg Q6 but NAA:A771 does not give the identifying numbers for a PWCH or PWCC eg Q6 PWCH or V1 PWCC.
Information in A771 has been cross referenced with service records to build up a profile to make individual searches easier.