Category Archives: Q8 PWCC Kingaroy

Benair’s POWs

 

Q8 Kingaroy.Taabinga Village.Benair.JPG

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

18.2.17

 

Q8 Kingaroy.Tingoora.JPG

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.

Dickenson.Dudley and Joyce wedding 1943 (1)

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.

kingaroy-lettera

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

Tony Della Polla 27 and Jimmy Cutelle 33

(Antonio Della Polla and Michelangelo Cutelle)

(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

Further Reading

India

A very good reference to life for Italian Prisoners of War in India can be found at Maddy’s Ramblings  Maddy also relates the story of Filippo Casella who had been imprisoned in India, returned to Italy then made his way to Australia.  The purchase of a small vineyard in 1966 was the beginning of Casella Wines and its well known brand Yellow Tail.

List of Camps in India

India and UK

Italian Prisoners of War and Internees in India

Indian Camp Currency

Bangalore

Italian POWs arrive in Bombay

Bairagarh

India: Ramgarh

Australia

The Italian Farming Soldiers by Alan Fitzgerald  published in 1981, it is the first comprehensive book on the subject of Italian prisoners of war in Australia

When Italian Prisoners of War Were in Australia

History of Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees

Employment of Enemy PW and Internees

Remo and Romolo

South Australia

From Tobruk to Clare  is the story of Luigi Bortolotti as recorded in this diary manuscript.

Campbelltown

Victoria

GippslandColacFrancesco PonzoniNorth East VictoriaBete Bolong Orbost,

Victorian POW CampsBroadfordLeongatha and Adolfo AllariaMurchison,  Northcliffe, Graytown

Leongatha and Warragul

Umberto Cofrancesco’s biography covers fighting in North Africa, capture and treatment, life in POW Camp India, transfer to Australia, working in Victoria and repatriation.

Tasmania

North West TasmaniaQuamby BrookLulworth the story of Augusto Silvestri, West ScottsdaleBrighton Army CampLuigo Pezzotti

Queensland

Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt : Echoes of Italian Voices Family Histories from Queensland’s Granite Belt edited by Francesco and Morwenna Arcidiacono (a chapter on the Stanthorpe POWs)

Kingaroy: We Remember, Italian Prisoners of War 1944/45 by Docas Grimmet (collection of Kingaroy residents’ memories)

Q6 Home Hill Francesco Cipolla

Wallangarra German POWs from Kormoran

New South Wales

Don CaprezioNorth and North WestCowraMick CamardaIngleburn Hostel,

Bathurst Hostel Funeral and DeathsSt Ives Hostel and Rick Pisaturo,

Toogimbie / Riley’s BendFrank Foster and POWsCanowindra Bruno Dell Amico,

Lismore Koonorigan Wallace Jackson,

Western Australia

NorthamPrisoner of War Hut West Bruce RockRosemary Johnston ResearchNorthcliffe HostelKarrakatta

A book by Bill Bunbury, Rabbits and Spaghetti, tells the story of  Internees and Prisoners of War using local stories, experiences and memories.

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)