Category Archives: Q2 PWCC Nambour

Tinned Peaches

Montville Pineapples

Pineapple farm at Montville

(Picture Queensland, State Library of Queensland)

Much of the history of the Montville district has been lost as the farms have disappeared to make way for progress.

I was a young teenager during the war and remember well the Italian Prisoners of War on Cliff Dart and Artie Glover’s farms.  I am not sure if the Italians were billeted with Cliff Dart and then loaned to Artie Glover, but there were a number of them during that time.

Pineapples were farmed there and the Italians were good workers.  I suppose they did all the jobs around the farm including picking and packing.

I remember the Italians as being decent fellows.  They were docile and peaceful and never any trouble. Cliff Dart had a spare house on his farm so the Italians lived independently.  They had their beds and everything set up for cooking.  So they had it pretty good.  One fellow, I remember as being short and fat, probably the cook.  Sometimes, at night, they would come down to our farm. They seemed to be able to move around freely.

They liked to tell stories. I remember there were many conversations and the Italians made it clear that they did not like the war.  They were interested in learning about the history of the district and they would tell us stories about life in Italy. There was never a feeling that they were dangerous.  When the war ended and peace declared, they were very excited to tell us that the war had finished. They were good singers too.  It was like they were trained opera singers with their tenor voices.  You could hear their singing and music  from our farm.

Cliff Dart would take them to the Catholic Church in Nambour as there wasn’t a church in Montville.  I remember the orange coloured uniforms they had to wear and the Army Supply Truck that would come around to the farms about once a month.  The Italians could get lots of items that we couldn’t buy what with food rationing.  They would always say after canteen day, “we give you some” as they offered and shared chocolate with us kids.  The idea that Italian POWs could buy items like tinned peaches, did not sit well with the locals.  They had more than they could eat, so we would swap tinned peaches for bananas we grew on our farm.

I can’t remember exactly when they arrived, but it was almost like one day they were there and then they were gone.  It was a bit like that when the army set up camp with new recruits on the sports ground.  There was a lot of military activity during the war in the district.  An army camp would be set up, the soldiers would undergo their training and then overnight, they would disappear.  All tents and equipment just gone.

Montville had four guest houses at the time and army and air force personnel would come up to Montville for R & R.  They would come up with their girlfriends and then after they left, the pilots would fly over or buzz over Montville to say goodbye to their girlfriends.  I have the Yankees to thank for not becoming a smoker.  A couple of my mates and I obtained a packet of Camel or Lucky Stripes from the Yankees.  Between us, we smoked the whole packet.  I was crook.  I never had a cigarette again.  My parents didn’t say anything, but I am sure they knew what I had been up too.

The war had an impact on schools as well.  Slit trenches were built in the school yard and air raid drills were held.  There were about 70 pupils at the school and the younger kids would go in the morning and the older kids would go to school in the afternoon.  It might have had something to do with us going from two teachers to one teacher during that time.

Les Farmer

Montville Guest House

Manjalda Guest House outdoor pool and tennis court – Montville, 1930 – 1959

(Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 23235)

The Flying Fox and Chocolate

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Italian Prisoner of War Identity Card – Fresco, Luigi, PWI 57235

(National Archives of Australia Series J3118,64)

I was a child during WW2 and with my family: the Ivins, lived on Cooloolabin Road Yandina. Across the road from us was a racecourse that was converted into an Army Camp.  My mum used to make tea and scones for some of the young Army fellows who should have been up in the heavily wooded area of our property undergoing ‘jungle’ training. There was a fair amount of army activity in the district at that time.

Our neighbour was Dan Mills and he had a banana plantation at Cooloolabin and he had Italian prisoners of war working on the farm.

I have clear memories of the Italians, not too many memories because we lived in town, but none the less clear ones.  Dan Mills grew bananas on the side of the hillside and he had a flying fox set up which ran from the banana crop to the shed down on the flat.  How we children loved to go up to the Mills’ farm.  Dan would take me, my brother Brian and this two sons Billy and Charlie up to the farm and the best part was that the Italians would put us in the flying fox crate and send us down through the air to the shed: Italians, bananas and children.  What fun! We loved the invitation to go with Dan Mills to his farm.

From the farm to town would have been 5 or 6 miles and I remember the Italians from time to time walking past our house and going in to town.  They wore maroon uniforms and kept to themselves.  I had always thought that they might be going in to town to get supplies but now I know that they were probably going to church on a Sunday.

I always had the impression that the Italians were a happy lot.  They were just happy to be out of the war zone.  Maybe content is a good word.  We children always felt comfortable around them.  They were like any other farm workers and they knew we loved to ride the flying fox.  In a way they were like a ‘big brother’.  One of my brothers, Clark was mortally wounded at the Battle of Milne Bay and he died in his 24th year.  It was a very sad time for my family.  On reflection, these Italians were the age of my brother.

I have always had a memory which associated the Italian prisoners of war with chocolate.  Chocolate would have been one of those luxuries before the war and most definitely not available in shops during the war.  I have since learnt that the Italians were able to purchase items from an army Canteen Truck and many of these products were not available in civilian shops.  Chocolate was one of the items. Maybe my first taste of chocolate was when the Italians gave us children some.  How special to think that these fellows, and they wouldn’t have had much money or access to money, would buy chocolates to share with us.  A wonderful gesture of kindness and friendship.

“Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland 1943-1946” has given me the names of two Italians for my memories: Vincenzo Fusilli and Luigi Fesco and also a photo for Luigi.  After 70 years, I am so pleased that these men have not been forgotten.

Lorna Akers (nee Ivins)

18.2.17

 

Vince and Eugene at Image Flat

 

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Itys Hut Image Flat

(from the Collection of Martin Schulz)

The farm of my father AJ Schulz at Image Flat (Poona) in the Nambour district was home to three Italian Prisoners of War.  The three Italians were employed to work on my uncle’s farm because at the time a disease called ‘bunchy top’ had got into his crops.  The Banana Board Inspector suggested that my uncle get some help to save his crop by employing the Italians.

Our family background is German, originally settling on the Downs but then they came to Image Flat and grew bananas, pineapples, stock feed, citrus and small crops.  The land was virgin scrub and farming was hard work.  It was hard manual labour.  We didn’t have tractors and eventually had a horse and at times we borrowed horses from the neighbour who was very obliging.  Maybe our German background wasn’t a problem with us getting the Italians, because the Banana Inspector probably helped with the paperwork.  For many farmers having Italian and German heritage meant that you couldn’t employ a POW.

We had a saw mill and used to use the timber from our property to make cases for the crops to be sent to market.  Because of the saw mill, Dad was able to saw timber to build a house for the Italians.  We referred to it as the “Itys Hut” and it stood for decades but eventually fell down.

We had three Italians but one used to go visiting a local Italian family.  He would walk down to the Brisbane turn off where the family lived which is a long way on foot.  The officers from the Prisoner of War control centre would come out at night to check on the whereabouts of the POWs and this fellow was caught out and taken away.

I have a lot of memories about the other two.  Vince (Vincenzo Tigani) was well regarded by my family.  He was the older of the two and was in his late 30s.  To me, he was what you would think of as an Italian farmer dark complexion and sturdy build.  He told us how he hadn’t been home to his family for over 10 years and he had two sons.  He was a farmer from Vazzano (Catanzaro) and had been fighting in the Italian army in Abyssinia before World War 2.  The soldiers were put on a ship and sent home and had docked and were to disembark the next day.  Italy declared war and so they never got to go home and then were sent back to war.  His record states that he was in the 1st Batg, Speciale Genio dell Eritrea so he must have been fighting in the Eritrea war which started in 1935.  He was captured on 8th April 1941 at Massaua.  The Allied force took 9,590 prisoners and 127 guns at the capture of Massaua (Massawa).  After the War Vince came back to Australia with one of his sons.  He built a cart and started a business as an ice cream vendor in Brisbane.  When you think about it a good part of his working life was fighting in the Italian army and then being a Prisoner of War in India and Australia.

The other fellow, Eugene (Eugenio Mascaro) was much younger and would have been in his early twenties.  He was a farmer from Casabona Catanzaro and was much fairer and could speak better English than Vince and seemed to have been more educated. His record states that he was in the Bersoglieri Ottavo Regg (Marksmen) when he was captured 1 December 1941 at Gambut in Libya. If you think about it, he was 20 years old when he was captured.

Nambour 1Mascaro

Italian Prisoner of War Identity Card – Mascaro, Eugenio PWI 57359

(National Archives of Australia J3118/115)

I don’t remember too many things about the time, as we were busy working the farm and the POWs just became part of daily life.  They used to cook for themselves and sometimes ate meals with us.  An army truck used to come around about once a month with provisions for the Italians and I remember them buying chocolate which they gave to us.  Chocolate was not available in shops so this was a treat. I think they would have bought their spaghetti and such from the truck canteen.

I remember their red uniforms that they used to wear but after a while you didn’t notice this.  We would go to the beach and everyone would go swimming and they were just part of the group.  And then they would get dressed in the red uniforms and you just didn’t see them as different really.  I would also drive them to church.

You would see some of them in town as well.  Some of the Italians were used as drivers.  They would go to farms and collect the wives and take them into town to do their shopping.  These were women whose husbands had enlisted and were away at war.  I suppose the C/O saw that  this was a good use of manpower.

I remember the POWs as being happy.  They were happy to be away from war.  They were good fellows and you would hear them singing as they walked the ½ mile up over the hill to work at my uncle’s farm.  They had cut a bit of a track through the scrub and made a track.  We never had any trouble really and like everything in those days, you just got on with things and made do.

Martin Schulz

December 2016

The Burys at Beerwah

Artefact made by Angelo Capone in Cowra 1942

(From the collection of Rosemary Ann Watt (nee Bury))

My parents, George Donaldson Bury and my mum Gwen had three Italians working on their pineapple farm in Burys Road Beerwah.  There were others possibly when my paternal grandfather came and stayed with us and helped work the farm. His name was also George Bury and I think a few “Land Girls” also worked the farm at times. Mum said the men did general farm duties i.e planting & chipping/ weeding pineapples. My Dad was one of the first to grow tobacco in that area too. My Mum said that the men always called my paternal Nan “Madame” and called my Mum “Mistress.”

nambour-angelo-capone-nicola-serracino-g-d-burys-pineapple-farm-burys-road-beerwah

Angelo Capone and Nicola Serracino on the Bury Pineapple Farm Bury Road Beerwah

(from the Collection of Rosemary Ann Watt)

Mum and Dad always spoke fondly of the men: Angelo Capone, Nicola Serracino, and Vincenzo Arenella. They were young single men in their 20’s.  Mum and Dad were especially fond of Angelo so we have often wondered where they went after the war or if they returned to Australia as migrants.

Dad built a hut for the men to live in. The hut had “push up” windows and one of their horses liked to poke its head through the window and would terrify poor Vincenzo.   They shared their meals with the family, except for Sundays which was their day to do with as they wished, I guess. Mum said they could attend church as long as they were accompanied.  In those days, Mum and Dad only had a horse and sulky and it was rare that they both left the farm at the same time.  There was a family who lived in Beerwah, by the name of “Biondi” with whom they all shared a friendship. Descendants of the family remain in the Beerwah area.

Mum remembers that every so often a van would come around to the farm with any provisions the men might need.  I expect it was a government van.

The men would kill a chicken for their Sunday lunch and Mum said for some reason, they always cooked them intact, except for feathers and head.  Nicola always liked to suck a raw egg from the shell with his breakfast.  My Dad always kept bees and Mum said they hated them and if a bee flew around them they’d lie flat on the ground to avoid it. They were often spooked by the call of the curlews in the evening, when they first went to the farm.  It must have been such an alien existence to them, initially.

I was a baby at the time the Italians lived with us and it’s amazing how one is influenced by very early memories. To this day I love to hear Italian spoken as a language and love the music. Even though Angelo & co had left the farm when I was a small child, memory must remain imbedded. Mum said that the men loved children. She recalls the day the men were leaving the farm.  Vincenzo was nursing me and the contents of my nappy ran down his shirt. She said she was mortified but he laughed and laughed and said, “Look Mrs, last one”.

I have two precious mementos from Angelo.  The first is a letter that he had written from Gaythorne. The letter is written after he left the farm and is dated 11.2.46.  In the letter Angelo mentions “Ann”, which is the name I was known as in infancy. He also asks after Jean and Beverley, two of my cousins who often visited the farm. Angelo wrote, “I should very much appreciate if I could see her (Ann) again.  Her clear image live, as it always will live in my memory”. (Letter from Angelo Capone to Bury Family) The other memento was an artefact Angelo had made while at Cowra, which he hand carved with a 6 inch nail. When he left us, he presented it to my Dad. It always sat in pride of place on every desk my Dad owned, until his death in 2010.

nambour-george-d-rosemary-known-as-ann-bury-1945-pineapple-farm-burys-road-beerwah

George Donaldson Bury and Rosemary ‘Ann’ Bury, Bury Pineapple Farm Beerwah 1945

(from the Collection of Rosemary Ann Watt)

Another interesting story about the war was the TC McIntyre’s Sawmill in South Brisbane. My mum Gwen Matthews was from Diddillibah but during the war went to work  in a sawmill which manufactured prefabricated huts for the USA Airforce. The company was run by two brothers and when mum left to marry, she was rolled in a heap of sawdust, as was the tradition. One chap named Dudley made her wedding cake and when I was born, the staff had made a lovely timber cot for me. The Sawmill closed down after the war.

Gwen Matthews working at McIntyre’s Sawmill manufacturing prefab huts for the USA Airforce 1944

(from the Collection of Rosemary Ann Watt)

Rosemary Ann Watt (nee Bury)

Acknowledgements

There are many people who have been part of this project and  I would like to publicly acknowledge those who have:

  • shared with me their story and entrusted me with their memories, photos, letters and mementos,
  • assisted me in  promoting my research,
  • done a bit of  local ‘digging’ on my behalf by searching local publications, sending out letters and emails, making telephone calls to ‘find’ locals who have a memory, making suggestions as to where to look next, providing me with my next lead,
  • answered my ‘cold call’ letters that I have sent to municipal councils, local historical societies and most importantly relatives of Italian POWs who returned to Australia.

Without your assistance, this project would have been a ‘black and white’ history of Italian POWs in Queensland as army and government records are by nature, factual.

Your stories and memories and mementos have added ‘colour’ to this history as you have told stories of the every day life of the Italian POWs but told these stories as emotional and personal memories.

Q1 Stanthorpe: Mary Puglisi, Tony Hassall, Paula Boatfield, Alec Harslett, Morwenna Arcidiancomo

Q2 Nambour: Martin Schulz, Nev Townsend,  Lorna Akers (Ivin), Rosemary Watts (Bury), Barbara Want (Nambour Museum), Audienne Blyth, Di Brown (Sunshine Coast Heritage Library Officer), Franceschina Tigani, Maria Rosa Allan (Tigani)Nambour: Remember When! Facebook Site, Sunshine Coast Daily, Paul Cass, Yvonne Derrington, Maxina Williams

Q3 Gympie: Allan Blackman (Gympie District Historical Society), Ian McConachie, John Huth, Ian Bevege, Ernie Rider, Beth Wilson ( Gympie: Local History Officer), Mike Butler, Patrick Rodney, Gloria Rodney, Damiano Lumia, Rosa Melino, Dianne Woodstock, Mal Dodt, Dr Elaine Brown, Kathy Worth, Peter Van Breemen, Gympie Times

Q4 Gayndah: Avis Hildreth (Robinson Family)  Thea Beswick (Robinson),  Adrian Azzari-Colley, Joe Devietti,  Central and North Burnett Times, Colleen Lindley

Q5 Texas: Zita Hutton (Rodighiero), Darryl Hutton, Frank Yeo, Barbara Ellis (Texas Historical Society). Heidi Dawson (MacIntyre Gazette)

Q6 Home Hill: Nino Cipolla, Christine Morriss, Doug Kelly, Tom Durkin, Rhonda Mann, Glenis Cislowski, Julie Chapman (Tapiolas), Isabel Stubbs (Fowler) Kelsie Iorio (The Burdekin Advocate), Jack Cipolla

Temporary PWCC Atherton: David Anthony (The Tablelander), Jack Duffy, Dick Daley

Q7 Kenilworth: John Ower, Lenore Meldrum (Kenilworth Historical Museum), Margaret and Tony White

Q8 Kingaroy: Joyce Dickenson and Robyn Bowman, Althea  Kleidon(Rackemann), Dudley Long and Lorraine Giollo, Tom McErlean,  Shannon Newley (South Burnett Times)

Q9 Monto: Janice Joyce (Pownall), Peter Pownall, Assunta Austin ( D’Addario Family), Doug Groundwater, Judith Minto, Lurline Graving (Harsant)

Q10 Boonah: Christine Titmarsh (Historical Society and Templin Museum),  Michael Joyce, Pam Phillips (Niebling), Eric Behrendorff, Ian Harsant, Laurie Dwyer, Carmel Peck (Dwyer), Murray Maudsley, Graham Neilsen, Carmelo Ierna, Joe Indomenico, Penny Wright, Antonio Ragusa, Judith Lane (Rackley), Billy Jack Harsant

Others: Peter Dunn @ http://www.ozatwar.com,  Rebecca Donohoe (Queensland Farmers’ Federation), Seniors News,  Paul Stumkat (re: Wallangarra German POWs), Gray Bolte (West Wylong), Fraser Coast Chronicle, The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), Australian War Memorial Facebook Site, Queensland History Network Facebook Site, Alex Chambers @ 630 AM  ABC North Queensland, Sara Bavato at Il Globo and La Fiamma, Annie Gaffney @  90.3 Fm ABC Sunshine Coast, Carlo Pintarelli, Reinhard Krieger, Torsten Weller,  Liborio Mauro Bonadonna, Vitoronzo Pastore,  Enrico Della Mora, Ann Megalla, Trudy Brown (Herbert River Express), Susan Mulligan (Oral History Queensland)