Category Archives: Q8 PWCC Kingaroy

Escaped P.O.W. at Bowen

I have intentionally left the stories of the Q6 Prisoner of War Control Hostel Home Hill to last.  The Q6 Home Hill centre was a purpose built hostel/camp to accommodate 255 Italian prisoners of war making it a very different situation to the Italian prisoners of war on farms in south-east Queensland.  The Burdekin: Ayr, Home Hill, Brandon, Jarvisfield, Rita Island, Clare, Millaroo, Dalberg is my backyard and it was the first prisoner of war centre I researched and my original motivation for this research.

I have known from an early age that Italian prisoners of war were brought to Home Hill  to grow vegetables. These POWs had been captured in North Africa and some of them tried to escape.  I also knew about the Italian Queensland residents who were arrested when Italy declared war and sent to Loveday South Australia.  My Aunty Dora’s father, we knew him as Nonno Jim, was one of those internees. So from my childhood I knew about these two historical events.  Funny the stories you remember.

Alan Fitzgerald, who wrote the first comprehensive book about Italian prisoners of war in Australia, explains that his book,  The Italian Farming Soldiers was inspired by his childhood memory of an Italian POW :  ‘As a child, I saw my first Italian prisoner of war at Coonabarabran, New South Wales, in 1944.  He stood out in his magenta-dyed uniform as he walked down a road in this small town of 2000 people.’

This project’s book Walking in their Boots has also been inspired by childhood memories, as told to me by my father Brunie Tapiolas.

I would like to introduce you to Vincenzo and Pasquale.  Their story provides an insight into the men who were encamped on the banks of the Burdekin River.  Their story gives a face to this Q6 Home Hill history.

Landolfi 1 Murchison

Pasquale Landolfi seated centre with accordian 2nd March 1945 Murchison

(from Australian War Memorial, Image 030230/04)

Vincenzo di Pietro and Pasquale Landolfi did not want to be at the Home Hill POW Hostel.  They really didn’t want to be in captivity.  Twice escaped from Q6 Home Hill Hostel, they were sent south to Murchison in Victoria.  Both escaped Murchison PW Camp. But that is another story.

During my research into this history I have become acquainted with several men in these photos:  Riccardo del Bo, Liborio  Bonadonna, Guglielmo De Vita,  Pietro Rizelli, Sabato Russo and Bartolomea Fiorentino.  Each man has a story. Liborio’s story is featured in A Father’s Love

Di Pietro Murchison

Vincenzo di Pietro standing second from the right  2nd March 1945 Murchison

(Australian War Memorial, Image 030229/02)

Enjoy this newspaper article from Bowen Independent(Qld: 1911-1954), Friday 6 October 1944, page 2 which is available to view online at

Notice the vague reference to ‘a Northern camp’. Very little was known by the general public in the Burdekin about the POW camp which was deemed a military zone.

Escaped P.O.W. at Bowen

Re-Capture Effected

The intelligence of a local resident was responsible for the re-capture of two escaped Italian prisoners of war from a Northern camp, on Thursday.

Noticing two strangers, obviously foreigners, at the new railway station, he recalled press and radio announcements on the subject of the escape of two prisoners he took more than ordinary notice of them.

But the fact that they were mixing freely with troops [Australian] from a train in the station, most of whom wore Africa Star ribbons and were therefore familiar with the Italian soldier, made him hesitate to voice his suspicions.

Later he again noticed them on the road near the Salt Works, resting under a pandamus tree.  They wore no hats, and the circumstances were very suspicious.

They later headed towards the Don [River] and passed under the small railway bridge, whereupon the observer decided to give the local Police a chance to investigate, which they did and rounded up the pair who turned out to be the wanted men.

The local resident is to be commended for his part in the re-capture.

Walking in their Boots




Walking in their Boots

Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland 1943-1946

Walking in their boots JPEG

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

Pre-Orders Only

$25.00 plus postage and handling

200+ pages

English version only

For further details and to place an order:

contact Joanne Tapiolas e.

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.


Footprints in Concrete

Farm of Ron Niebling Lake Moogerah via Boonah

(photo courtesy of Pam Phillips (nee Niebling)


POW Camps in Australia

There were three levels of camps or facilities for prisoners of war in Australia:

  1. Prisoner of War & Internment Camp (PW & I Camp)
  2. Prisoner of War Control Hostel (PWCH)
  3. Prisoner of War Control Centre: Without Guard (PWCC)

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.

Western Australia. Prisoner of War Camps, Hostels and Control Centres

Victoria. Prisoner of War Camps, Hostels and Control Centres

Tasmania. Prisoner of War Camps, Hostels and Control Centres

South Australia. Prisoner of War Camps, Hostels and Control Centres

Queensland. Prisoner of War Camps, Hostels and Control Centres

New South Wales. Prisoner of War Camps, Hostels and Control Centres





Benair’s POWs

Q8 Kingaroy.Taabinga Village.Benair


Taabinga Village

(from the collection of Joanne Tapiolas)

Two of my uncles lived at Benair on the farm that my Grandfather selected in about 1907. My grandfather James McErlean was born in County Derry and sailed on the “Dorunda” in March 1887 to Australia, arriving in Brisbane on the 5th May 1887. He settled in the Benair district after land was opened up after the Taabinga Resumption.

My uncles, Peter and William, were asked by Government people of the day, as were other farmers, if they would plant a crop of cotton for the war effort as cotton was in short supply, they agreed to give it a try and I think they planted about five acres.

When it was ready to harvest the government or whoever were in charge brought some of these prisoners to their farm to hand pick the cotton. One of the uncles  didn’t think much of the idea as he had trouble trying to understand the Italians.

The farm was about 13 – 15 mile out of town and my uncle Peter Francis McErlean had two POWs billeted on his farm and I think they stayed on the farm because roads and cars weren’t the best in those days.  The records show that Leonardo Miresse from Montefalcone Valfortore and Rocco Poliseno from Castell Uccio Valmaggioce  were placed with PF McErlean on 7.8.44.

Apparently the cotton crop was not very successful, maybe dry weather or some other problem, I don’t think cotton had been planted as a crop in the Kingaroy district before that time.

Tom McErlean.


Italian POWs at Tingoora

My dad, Samuel Long had a farm at Tingoora and during the war, we had Italian POWs on the farm to help with the work. I would have left school by then and working on the farm.  We grew peanuts and corn mainly and farm work was pretty labour intensive, although farmers in the South Burnett district were pioneers in inventing and making purpose built farm machinery such as peanut harvesters and thrashers.  We worked with horses and also tractors so there was always a lot of general farm work to do.

An article in Queensland Country Life (23 May 1940) mentions my Dad, “Keen on labour saving equipment, Mr. Long has a McCormack-Deering tractor, and for handling maize, has an automatic husker, sheller and bagger, with capacity for 60 bags”.  Dad also had a system for conserving fodder whereby he had sheds built in three sections which could be raised and lowered as required to store lucerne.  It was an alternative method to silos and was more cost effective. “An adjustable roof is operated by pulleys and can be raised and lowered according to the quantity of material they contain,” was reported in  Queensland Country Life. Dad had a lot of projects going, always trying to improve productivity.

Long show

Farmer Mr S. Long excelled in the outstanding one-farm exhibits, as indicated by the great variety of farm produce and products on display from his farm at Tingoora. Exhibited at the Kingaroy Show, 1934.

(John Oxley Library Image Number 199695)

Two of our Italians were Mario Ferrone and Luigi Rubano.  The Italians were used as a workforce pool and would be rotated around the farms when needed.  From memory they would come to our farm and then go on to Jake Peterson’s farm.  My dad was an easy boss so didn’t work them that hard, or at least that is how I remember it.  Other farmers were much harsher with their expectations of the Italians.  We would have had more than just these two.

Kingaroy. Rubano

Prisoner of War/Internee; Rubano, Luigi

(National Archives of Australia NAA: MP1103/2, PWI49505)

They lived on a small house on our farm, might have been a workers’ cottage or the old house.  They would eat with our family.  Occasionally they would cook a meal for the family or often they would cook a certain part of the meal for mum.  They always had enough food because we had a house garden with vegetables and salad greens.

A provision truck would come around to the farm and the Italians would buy items they needed.  I think things like spaghetti and biscuits.

We lived about 14 miles from town and I can’t remember the POWs going anywhere.  Sometimes on a Sunday, the Italians from the neighbouring farms would get together and they would have walked.

I got the general impression that they were discontented with working, or maybe it was just that dad was an easy boss and didn’t push them.  They didn’t have much English, but they just learned as they went.  They would have learnt words for food and farming tasks and general pleasantries.

I also remember that during harvest time, we had some Aboriginal workers.  They probably came from Cherbourg.  Farm workers were in short supply especially during the harvest.  We never had Land Army Girls though.

Dudley Long



Tingoora Hall

Tingoora Hall

(from the collection of  Joanne Tapiolas)

‘Escarp’ with Me

My husband Dudley and his twin brother Lesley George Dickenson took over their mother’s farm at Haly Creek. I was 21 years old and  Dudley and I were newly married when Les arranged for Italian Prisoners of War to come and work on the farm.

Kingaroy.dudley and joyce wedding 2 (3)

Dudley Dickenson and Joyce Vidler

1 December 1943

(from the collection of Joyce Dickenson (nee Vidler))

My husband Dudley and his twin brother Lesley George Dickenson took over their mother’s farm at Haly Creek. I was 21 years old and  Dudley and I were newly married when Les arranged for Italian Prisoners of War to come and work on the farm.

Our farm was a mixed farm: dairying, pigs, cash crops such as peanuts, maize, and sorghum.  We also kept barley and oats.

Giuseppe Lettera and Giovacchino  Luciente were driven the 20 mile out to the farm in an army truck and no doubt the driver briefed Les and Dud.  They arrived about 10am and I gave the Italians and the driver a cup of tea.  The Italians didn’t speak any English, but I suppose we took such things in our stride in those days.

Giuseppe and Giovacchino would help feed the pigs, bring in the cows from the lucerne (you couldn’t keep the cows on the lucerne for longer than 10 minutes) and other farm work.  They could ride horses and brought the cows in that way. Things were pretty easy going and I don’t think they were overworked and didn’t always work full days.  We had orange trees in our modest household orchard and the trees were never as well kept as when the Italians were there.  The two men pruned and tended to the orange trees.

My memories of the men are that they were young men, ordinary men with no will to fight or to be the enemy.  They were terribly homesick and would look forward to receiving letters which came on canteen day once a week on a Monday. The canteen truck also brought them cigarettes and replacement clothing.

Everything they wore was red. Red socks, red underpants, the lot. They did their own washing in the old boilers.  The red dye ran and by the time they left, their clothes were worse for wear and shabby looking.

We treated them as part of the family.  They slept in a room at the corner of two verandas of a Queenslander.  We ate together in the kitchen, there was no dining room in that house and they ate whatever was served.  I would cook spaghetti with tomato sauce as they did miss their own type of food.  At night, they would help wipe up the dishes and after tea we would talk.

Dudley and Les learnt how to count to ten in Italian.  It was a trick that Dud trotted out for the rest of his life.  Dud had quite a good accent and the kids who were born after the Italians left, knew about the counting but not about the source of knowledge.  Giuseppe had asked me to “escarp” with him and this was a good story we told with the accent “escarp” rather than escape.  The army took these things seriously and Giuseppe was moved to another  farm about 6 kms away.


Italian Prisoner of War Identity Card – Lettera, Guiseppe

(National Archives of Australia NAA: J 3118, 91)

Dud and I played tennis but the men weren’t interested in coming with us on a Sunday to our tennis games.  We left them at home, they were trustworthy.  One of the rules was that they weren’t supposed to have contact with other POWs but they did, from Bookless and Kearney farms.  The POWs were trusted.

They also weren’t allowed alcohol.  But they used the oranges to make liquor, making a still out of a 4 gallon kerosene tin.  I don’t think they had much success with the alcohol, so I don’t count the still as a breach in the rules, it was more giving the men something to do and I don’t think it tasted that good.

I remember that the Italians were scared of frogs.  The veranda where they slept was unsealed and so the frogs would get in.  The men would stuff rags into the corrugations of the roof to try to keep the frogs out.  They would catch the frogs and take them away but two days later they would be back.

Other memories of those days is that on a Sunday, they would walk 1 – 2 miles to church.  Dud set up a ping pong table for them, I suppose to give them something to do as they weren’t interested in tennis.  They were very particular with their shaving, Giuseppe had a moustache and then grew a small beard.

Giuseppe and Giovacchino weren’t with us long, but it seemed like a long time.  It was long enough for them to become part of our family and for me to have fond memories of those times.

Joyce Dickenson (Haly Creek)

Big Brothers

Big Brothers: Reminisces of our Italian POWs

 Jimmy Cutelle 33 and Tony Della Polla 27

( Michelangelo Cutelle and Antonio Della Polla)

(from the Collection of Althea Kleidon (nee Rackemann))

I remember very clearly our Italian prisoners of war because they became part of our family.  I was ten years old when they came to our farm and it was a sad day when they left.

My father Edward Rackemann had a mixed farm at Wheatlands situated on the Barambah Creek.  It is about 10 miles from Wondai our closest town and 25 miles from Kingaroy which is where the prisoner of war centre was.  At the time, Dad grew vegetables for the army camps, there were four around Murgon and also for the Brisbane markets.

Farming was labour intensive and all the family had to get involved with the jobs.  I milked my first cow when I was five years old and at night the family spent time washing the vegetables after they had been dug up during the day.  Mum and Dad worked a hard seven day a week because we also had 25 milking cows at that time.  One older brother was up in the islands on a supply ship, one brother was killed in action and two younger brothers were sick: one with polio and another with a kidney disease.  So Dad would have made application to have the Italian POWs work for us.  Their records state that they came to Q8 Kingaroy 1.5.45 and then they would have been brought out to us.

Tony Della Polla and Jimmy Cutelle would have been in their twenties when they where captured in North Africa.  They both fitted in very easily with our family.  Some farmers kept their Italians at arm’s length as this was what was encouraged by the captain that brought them out to home and I think then that these families would have different memories of the POWs.

Dad however saw things differently.  My grandparents were German and had come out to Australia before 1900.  My grandfather was a Baron and my grandmother was Jewish, so even then the tide was changing against the aristocracy and Jews.  I think that my grandparents would have taught their children tolerance, understanding and a wisely perspective about politics and prejudice.  I don’t think Dad ever saw them as ‘the enemy’ and he would have treated them with respect as they were good workers and never really complained.

Tony Della Polla (Antonio) came from Naples and from a big family and Jimmy Cutelle (Michelangelo) was from Florence and had a sister.  Jimmy was much quieter and I think that a difference in rank maybe had something to do with that.  Tony would tell me that when he returned to Australia, he was going to bring his brother Faust(o) back with him, to marry me.  Tony’s nickname for me was Mary, I don’t remember why, maybe they just found Althea a hard name to pronounce.

The crops we grew were wheat and cotton, peanuts and then carrots, potatoes, parsnips, silverbeet, peas, beans and lettuce.  Jimmy and Tony did the digging and harvesting, the tractor work and the running of the irrigation pumps which operated off the tractor.  Tony was very good with mechanics and this was a benefit because in those days, parts were hard to come by and you just had to make do and repair parts.

The original house on the property was an old slab hut and this became home for them.  Mum was a very good cook and Jimmy and Tony had their meals with us.  Once I remember they got hold of some spaghetti and cooked up a meal for our family.  They often talked about how they missed eating spaghetti.

There was always conversation over the dinner table what with Dad taking about the work to be done the next day or Tony teaching us kids some Italian words.  Dad got by with the dictionary and they learnt English so we got by.  I can still count to twenty in Italian and know a few other words like sugar, why, thank you in Italian.

I remember well the red clothing that they had to wear, but they only had to wear them when they were away from the farm.  Otherwise they had ample clothing which they had with them.  I remember their clothes being green and grey.  And they had these wonderfully made heavy woollen coats which were probably their Italian army coats.

About once a month the army canteen truck would come to the farm.  I think that might have been also when they received mail but I would have been at school.  But they always bought lollies for us kids and treats which you couldn’t buy in town and they always gave Mum and Dad some of the cigarettes that they were issued with.

They were like ‘big brothers’ and they really did fit into the family well.  My sister had a baby and they would often walk the baby in the pram.  It was just all those normal everyday things.  Dad set up a ping pong table and set up some teams from the neighbours and their POWs, just to give them some activity on their day off.  Sometimes Dad would take them to a neighbour’s home at night, but only one at a time, to listen to the radio as we didn’t have one.  They would listen to the Tenor Hour.  Dad was  a trained singer: baritone with a tenor range and loved his music.  Jimmy was the one who I would hear singing sometimes.  Dad would also take them fishing, we lived on the river and he would take them to visit other POWs on nearby farms.  And Dad would sometimes take them to town on the Cream Carrier or the train.  Maybe he had business in town and would take them in, for something to do.  We didn’t go anywhere much in those days as the petrol was rationed and we needed the petrol for the tractors.

There was the incident when Tony got bitten by a black snake. He had gone down to check on the fuel in the tractor which ran the irrigation pumps.  Dad did what he could by sucking out the venom and called the ambulance which took a long time to get to us.  He was very sick and I think that after that he became a bit sad.  Maybe being sick made him a bit melancholy and made him think more about his mum and home.

When the time came for Tony and Jimmy to leave we felt like we were saying goodbye to our family.  It was a sad time.  They both would have preferred to stay in Australia, but at the same time wanted to get home to their family.  So it was bitter sweet.  My brother was given a Geometry Set as a goodbye present and they inscribed some words and the date on the back of it.  They also made a ring for mum.  They somehow managed to keep quiet the work they did on another gift as they had been busy etching and carving a pattern and design over a metal milkshake cup.  Mum must have got hold of one for them and they had set to and engraved a pattern around it.  They didn’t have much, but these gifts were very special and meant a lot to us.

They got taken away back to Kingaroy and then when Dad found out when they were leaving the district, Dad and Mum walked in to Murgon so that they could say a final goodbye as they were leaving on the train.  Dad and Mum kept in touch with them and we had a number of letters that my sister had kept.  There was talk of Dad sponsoring them, but I think once they got back home, circumstances were different and so they didn’t return.

Althea Kleidon (nee Rackemann)

Wheatlands via Wondai