Category Archives: Tasmania Italian POWs

Tasmanian ‘Italian Farming Soldiers’*

There were seven prisoner of war centres in Tasmania including Brighton Prisoner of War Camp. Some of the boundaries for a centre changed as additional centres were established during 1944 to accommodate the increasing numbers of Italian POWs in Tasmania. I have put together a summary of this information.

Brighton Prisoner of War Camp

It was the PARENT Camp for all Italian prisoners of war in Tasmania. One of the Camp Commandants was Major C.R. Hawker. For serious breaches in discipline, a POW would be awarded 28 days detention. He would be transferred from his farm placement and sent to Brighton Camp for detention. Brighton Camp also had a hospital unit.

T1 Prisoner of War Control Centre Burnie

The centre’s office was in Jones Street Burnie and Captain G.D. Pollington was the commanding officer. Burnie farm placements included: Table Cape, Penguin, Leven, Circular Head, Burnie, Kentish, Devenport, Latrobe. An April 1944 report documents that there were 248 Italian POWs placed with 143 farmers. A May 1944 report documents that there were 161 Italian POWs placed with 106 farmers.

T2 Prisoner of War Control Centre Launceston (April 1944 Report)

The T2 Launceston district included: Beaconsfield, Westbury, Deloraine, Longford, Campbell Town, Ross, Evandale, St Leonards, Fingal. An April 1944 report documents that there were 145 Italian POWs placed with 92 farmers.

T2 Prisoner of War Control Centre Scottsdale (June 1944 Report)

The centre’s office was in the Drill Hall Scottsdale and Lieut. G.H. Napier was the commanding officer. Scottsdale farm placements included: Scottsdale, George Town, Lilydale, Ringarooma. A May 1944 report documents 86 Italian POWs placed with 55 farmers.

T3 Prisoner of War Control Centre Hobart (May 1944 Report)

Hobart farm placements included: Esperance, Huon, Cygnet, Kingborough, Glenorchy, New Norfold, Brighton, Clarence, Sorell, Tasman, Spring Bay, Richmond, Green Ponds, Bothwell, Hobart. A May 1944 report documents that there were 146 Italian POWs placed with 84 farmers.

T3 Prisoner of War Control Centre Glenorchy (June 1944 Report)

The centre’s office was in the Drill Hall Glenorchy and Lieut. A. Coulthard was the commanding officer. Glenorchy farm placements included: Hobart, Glenorchy, Richmond, New Norfolk, Kingborough, Sorell, Huon, Brighton, Esperance, Clarence, Tasman, Cygnet, Spring Bay, Green Ponds.

T4 Prisoner of War Control Centre Smithton (June 1944 Report)

The centre’s office was at 2 King Street Smithton with Lieut. E.W.D. Lacy as the commanding officer. Farm placements were at Smithton and Circular Head. A May 1944 report documents that there were 152 Italian POWs placed with 70 farmers.

T5 Prisoner of War Control Centre Deloraine

The centre’s office was at the Drill Hall Deloraine with Lieut. R.K. Lane as commanding officer. In June 1944, the area included Deloraine, Devonport, Kentish, Westbury, St. Leonards, Longford, Latrobe, Evandale, Fingal, Ross, Campbell Town, Beaconsfield. A May 1944 report documents there were 165 Italian POWs placed with 109 farmers.

By Sept 1944, some of these areas became part of T6 Conara.

T6 Prisoner of War Control Centre Conara

The centre is documented as “Conara Camp” and Captain A.A. Thompson was the commanding officer. The areas of St Leonards, Longford, Evandale, Fingal, Ross, Campbell Town became part of T6 with an addition of Oatlands, Bothwell, Green Ponds.

*Alan Fitzgerald coined the phrase “The Italian Farming Soldiers” as a title for his 1981 book about this history. It was the first work undertaken to document the history of Italian prisoners of war in Australia.

I pray for a special favour…

Giuseppe and Tarquinio Scatena spent the duration of the war together: 231 Leg. Blackshirts, capture at Bug Bug 11.12.40, processing in Geneifa (ME Numbers 30249 and 30243), arrival in Australia onboard Lurline 16.11.43, processing in Murchsion (PWI 56934 and 56935), transfer from Murchison PW Camp to Brighton Camp 17.2.44, allocation to farm work T2 PWCC Launceston 24.2.44, awarding of 28 days detention for disobeying a lawful command on 1.4.44.

Family men from Capistrello L’Aquila, Tarquinio was 31 years old with a son and two daughters while Giuseppe was 34 years old with two sons and one daughter.

On 1.8.44, unfortunately Giuseppe and Tarquinio  go separate ways when Tarquinio was returned from Brighton to Murchison as medically unfit.  This separation lead Giuseppe to pen a letter to the Brighton Camp Commandant on 2.8.44.

Comandante

Translation

To Camp commandant

Dear Sir,

During five years of military life, of which four years have been spent as a prisoner of war, I have always been united with my brother SCATERA – Tarquinio.  In whichever command we have been under, we always have had the privilege of being together and I cannot understand the reason why we have been separated.  Therefore I beg you to let us re-unite at the earliest opportunity.

I pray, as a special favor, to take into consideration, the pain and desperation that two brothers would feel in being apart.

I would like to explain that we  have not received any news from our families for about 14 months, and the only consolation we have is to speak a word of comfort between us.

Thanking you in anticipation.

sgd SCATERA Giuseppe

PW56934

(NAA: P617, 519/3/159 Part )

In response, Captain Pearson wrote to Captain Tiege to inform Giuseppe that a transfer to Murchison PW Camp might not necessarily mean he would be reunited with his brother. The memo continues that while no promise could be made, the matter would be considered when the next draft of Italian prisoners were returned to Murchison Camp.

A year later on 28.8.45, Giuseppe was transferred to Murchison Camp.  This transfer resulted in the brothers returning to Italy, together onboard Ortranto 10.1.47.

Had Giuseppe remained in Tasmania, he would have been transferred to Sandy Creek then Loveday Camps in South Australia and repatriated without Tarquinio in 1946.

Someone somewhere in the chain of command had shown a little understanding and humanity.

Searching for Vito

Noel Frankham from Dulcot has drawn together memories and photos to document the history of two Tasmanian Italian POWs.

Tony, George Hanslow, Vito (Photo courtesy of Hanslow family Tasmania)

Noel’s cousin sent him two photos of great uncle George Hanslow with the Italians. He took the photos to show his mother Molly Frankham (née Hanslow) and his aunt Mavis Fitzgerald (née Hanslow) and recorded their memories:

Both remember the two Italians in the pictures. The taller was Tony, assigned to the Blackburn’s ‘Lauderdale’ farm and the other was Vito, assigned to ‘Milnathort’, the Murdoch farm, also at Dulcot. Mum clearly recalls a sing-a-long session at the Hanslow family home (former Dulcot Schoolhouse, and now my home).

Apparently, Tony had a lovely voice and mum accompanied him to ‘O Sole Mio.’ She retold the story noting that she – then 15 – had the audacity to suggest that Tony should up the tempo a bit. She is still embarrassed more than 75 years later that she, as an accompanist, should suggest the singer might change the tempo – and more particularly embarrassed that she was suggesting how a national Italian song might be better sung.

Mum and my aunt remember the two men fondly – mentioning that they had hot chocolate with Vito at his house at Milnathort. Apparently, their cousin, Aileen, corresponded with the sister of either Tony or his successor at Lauderdale for some years.

This history is a bit of a giant jigsaw puzzle. While Tony (Antonio) is a common Italian name, Vito however is not so common, so begins a search to find Vito. There were 5 Vito’s assigned to T3.

T3PWCC (Prisoner of War Control Centre) was referenced on the cards of the Italian POWs as T3 Hobart.  Other documents reference the district as T3 Glenorchy.  The Drill Hall at Glenorchy was the administrative office for the Australian Military Forces staff who was in charge of the prisoners of war in the district. It was from this office that farmers applied for workers, Italians were assigned to farmers, Italians were detained in a lock up room on the premises, mail for the Italians was distributed and collected, the canteen truck took provisions to the Italians on the farms.

Lieut. A Coulthard was the commanding officer of the centre which placed Italian POW workers on farms in the following areas: Hobart, Glenorchy, Richmond, New Norfolk, Kingborough, Sorell, Huon, Brighton, Esperance, Clarence, Tasman, Cygnet, Spring Bay and Green Ponds.

Vito Di Tello only had 1 week in the T3 district. Vito Buragina spent from June 45 to Oct 45 on a T3 farm; he was 43 years old with a dark complexion. Vito Lombardo a bootmaker from Trapani worked on a T3 farm/s from May 44 to March 46; he was 30 years old with a ‘sallow’ complexion. Vito Rescinito worked on a T3 farm from Sept 45 to March 46; was 40 years old and had a ‘fresh’ complexion.

And then there is a young 24 year old Vito Monteleone a farmer with a dark complexion who spent February 44 to March 45 on T3 farm/s before spending some time in detention and being sent to T4 Smithton farm/s.

Unfortunately, few questions are answered. Maybe Vito Monteleone is the Vito in the Hanslow photo. A Vito Monteleone returned to Australia in 1949 and registered his address with immigration as Hobart.  This Vito can later be found working as a waterside worker and living in 12 Falconer Street Fitzroy North, Melbourne.

If only it was possible to give a a background and name to Tony the singer!

Vito Monteleone (NAA: P1184, Monteleone V)

Public Perceptions

History needs to be written with balance and perspective.  War is complicated.

The system which placed Italian prisoners of war to work and live on farms was a necessary strategy to keep ‘food on the Australian table and in the bellies of US and Australia military’.  As our young Australians joined the military services, farmers were left without a farm labour workforce.  The labour shortage situation was dire.  War Cabinet documents convey this view.  It was imperative to keep farms operational.  With 18,000 Italian sitting idle in camps,  allocating the Italians to farms, was a matter of supply and demand.

BUT more importantly,  placing the Italians on farms, was a major benefit to their physical, emotional and metal health. With no barbed wire, these men settled into a familiar routine in a family environment: there was work to be done, attention to keeping their accommodation clean and orderly, cooking of meals, growing of vegetables in small plots, new skills to be learnt and new farming techniques to be mastered.

The other side of this history is the resentment and prejudice of many Australians. Criticism ranged from Italians being treated favourably in local hospitals to resentment that the POWs could buy items from the canteen truck that were unavailable to the civilian populations eg. canned peaches, chocolate.

The following report highlights some of the complaints in Smithton, Tasmania.  This is an example of ‘name and shame’…

NAA P617, 519 3 151 PART 2 Page 116

(NAA P617, 519 3 151 PART 2)

The newspaper Smith’s Weekly was well known to headline anti-Italian and migrant sentiment from 1919 through to 1950. Its criticism was therefore not only aimed at Italian prisoners of war but Italians in general. The below article highlights one of Smith’s Weekly’s complaints.  The full article is available via the link below:

Petrol f or Luigi

1944 ‘PETROL TO DRIVE LUIGI TO CHURCH’, Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 – 1950), 18 November, p. 1. , viewed 06 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article235761465

Prisoners Eat; Guards Starve relates to the Italian prisoners of war who travelled by train to Sydney December 1946. They were in transit to board the Alcantara for repatriation to Italy.  I think that the Italians POWs would have been able to see the humour in this situation.

1946 Dec 23 The Telegraph

1946 ‘Prisoners Eat; Guards Starve’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 23 December, p. 7. , viewed 06 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187263650

POW Camp Order No. 13

February 1944

  • Prisoner of War Camp Order No.13 is published and circulated
  • Mariposa transports 1014 Italian prisoners of war from India to Melbourne
  • Ruys transports 2028 Italian prisoners of war from India: a group disembarks at Fremantle and the the remainder disembark at Melbourne.
  • Italian prisoners of war in Australia total 11051 plus a group of merchant seamen from Remo and Romolo who were first processed as internees and then reassigned as prisoners of war.  In 1941, 4947 had been sent directly from Middle East to Sydney. During 1943 and 1944 transports brought Italian POWs from India.

I have been blessed with much luck while researching Italian Prisoners of War.

I might be researching a topic or a PWCC or a specific POW and one statement or one document will lead me to another and then another and then another.

105

(National Archives of Australia)

The booklet ‘ Prisoners of War Camp Order No. 13’ is one such find. Dated 18th February 1944  it contains eight parts:

  1. Preliminary
  2. Prisoners of War Camps
  3. Maintenance of Discipline
  4. Health and Hygiene
  5. Communication by and with Prisoners of War
  6. Privileges of Prisoners of War
  7. Prisoners of War Awaiting Trial
  8. Unguarded Prisoners

The previous Prisoners of War Camp Orders No. 1 to 12 were repealed upon publication of No. 13.  These orders are of a general nature, as they are the guidelines for the operation of all prisoner of war camps in Australia.

However, more comprehensive and detailed explanations of the operations of prisoner of war and internment camps in Australia can be found with the links below:

The ‘History of Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees 1939 – 1951‘ is an invaluable document regarding this period of history as is the section Employment of Enemy PW and Internees.

I have also compiled a list of Further Reading  with links to information for India, UK, Zonderwater South Africa, Egypt  and Australian states.

 

Storia di un contadino italiano in Australia – parte 2: prigioniero in terra australe

by Elena Fortini

Vincenzo ha solo 21 anni quando parte per la Libia. Mai avrebbe pensato che, nei pochi anni successivi, avrebbe attraversato mezzo mondo, passando dapprima per l’Egitto, poi nei campi di concentramento indiani per, infine, raggiungere il misterioso e lontano continente australiano.

Nel gennaio 1944, insieme a qualche migliaio di altri prigionieri italiani, mio zio si imbarca a Bombay per l’Australia. A febbraio giunge nel porto di Melbourne e viene condotto al campo di Murchison, nell’entroterra australiano, per lo smistamento. Dopo la visita medica viene sottoposto ad analisi per la sospetta presenza di tifo, poi smentita dagli accertamenti. Da questo momento in poi verrà identificato con la dicitura PWI (Prisoner of War, Italian, vale a dire “prigioniero di guerra italiano”) 58070.

Il suo viaggio, però, non finisce qui. A Murchison viene decisa la sua destinazione: sarà nell’ancor più remota isola della Tasmania. Nell’aprile del ‘44 giunge nel campo di Brighton, vicino alla capitale Hobart, nel sud-est dello Stato insulare, per l’identificazione. Si tratta del campo centrale della regione, che si dirama poi in ulteriori campi sparsi per tutta l’isola.

Nel maggio 1944 viene trasferito a Burnie, più a nord, e il mese successivo a Smithton, nel nord-ovest dell’isola. Ricoverato per una sospetta appendicite nell’ottobre dello stesso anno, sarà rilasciato qualche giorno dopo senza essere operato, e rimandato al campo. Qui sarà assegnato a un agricoltore locale, Reginald Poke, e inizierà a lavorare come contadino nella sua proprietà agricola a Scotchtown, una località rurale distante circa 6 km dalla cittadina di Smithton. 16.397 sono invece i chilometri che separano Scotchtown dal paese natale di Soncino: una distanza incolmabile oggi, inimmaginabile all’epoca.

Con mia grande sorpresa sono riuscita a contattare i discendenti di Mr. Poke. Alcuni hanno sentito parlare dei prigionieri italiani nei racconti dei rispettivi antenati, altri ricordano di averli visti e conosciuti, durante l’infanzia. In particolare, un nipote di Reginald ricorda Vincenzo come un uomo forte, che spesso si allenava nella fattoria. I prigionieri vivevano in baracche separate nella proprietà, e un’altra nipote ricorda che da bambina, negli anni ’60 e ’70, vi entrava per gioco e che le sembravano sufficientemente spaziose per essere adibite ad abitazioni. Dopo la partenza degli italiani queste costruzioni vennero destinate a baracche degli attrezzi, e successivamente demolite. In generale, i soldati italiani hanno lasciato un bel ricordo alle famiglie locali: sulla sua lettera di dimissione si può leggere che è stato un bravo prigioniero.

Nel marzo del ‘46 Vincenzo viene finalmente rilasciato e torna nell’Australia occidentale, a Loveday, da dove il 3 dicembre dello stesso anno sarà rimpatriato sulla nave neozelandese Rangitata diretta a Napoli. Sbarcherà infine nella città partenopea il 31 dicembre 1946, nello stesso porto da cui era partito otto anni prima. Una leggenda di famiglia vuole che, nel periodo trascorso in Australia, mio zio si sia innamorato di una donna del posto e che volesse perciò rimanere e sposarsi. Non sappiamo se sia tornato per rispettare la convenzione internazionale sui prigionieri di guerra, che voleva che fossero tutti rimpatriati una volta terminato il conflitto, o per sua decisione, conscio che la sua famiglia lo aspettava e aveva bisogno di lui. Gli anni della guerra sono stati duri, infatti, anche nello sperduto paesino di campagna che per Vincenzo era ormai solo un lontano e caro ricordo. Con il figlio primogenito in Australia, il secondogenito, Giulio, anch’egli prigioniero degli Alleati in Albania, il lavoro nei campi e nelle stalle era affidato ai restanti membri della famiglia: il padre Bortolo, la madre Genoveffa, le sorelle Gina, Maria, Cila e Carla e il fratello minore, Miro, che allo scoppio del conflitto aveva solo sei anni, e che Vincenzo ricorda nella lettera inviata dall’India e mai ricevuta dalla famiglia come il “piccolino” di casa.

Ambrogi Famiglia : late 1940s

Back row: Vincenzo second from left. Front row: Mama Genoveffa on far right (photo courtesy of Elena Fortini)

Si racconta che, dopo il suo ritorno, ogni volta che mio zio parlava di quanto aveva visto in guerra veniva preso per pazzo. Metteva in guardia sugli effetti nefasti delle droghe quando la maggior parte dei compaesani non sapeva nemmeno cosa fosse uno stupefacente. Parlava di tutto ciò che aveva visto, della convivenza di molteplici religioni e confessioni che nella cattolicissima Italia del tempo era solo un lontano miraggio. Portava sei anni di prigionia sulle spalle che l’avevano segnato profondamente, e non solo sul viso che il rovente sole australiano aveva bruciato per sempre: avvertiva il bisogno di parlarne, ma si sentiva incompreso. Forse per questo poi si chiuse in sé stesso e smise di raccontare, lasciando correre anche le domande curiose dei nipoti che, anni dopo, gli avrebbero chiesto della sua esperienza in guerra: ne parlava solo con i commilitoni, uomini che, come lui, avevano lasciato tutto alle spalle e che vivevano gli anni della guerra come un voraginoso e incolmabile vuoto.

Vincenzo Ambrogi 1970s standing at left (photo courtesy of Elena Fortini)

Al funerale di sua madre, Vincenzo chiese alla famiglia di non lasciarlo mai più solo. Spero che questa mia ricerca renda giustizia alla sua storia e al suo ricordo. Non ho avuto il piacere di incontrare lo zio Vincenzo, che ci ha lasciati ben prima che io nascessi ma, dopo le tante ore trascorse a ripercorrere il suo passato, posso forse dire di conoscerlo un po’ anch’io.

Elena Fortini

Brighton PW Camp: December 1943

Brighton Military Camp has an interesting history.  A military camp for training recruits, it became a prisoner of war camp during WW2 and then after the war it was a migrant hostel for newly arrived migrants from Europe. Details of this history has been written by Reg Watson: Brighton Army Camp History

But from December 1943 to 1946 (April/May) the complex was known as Brighton PW Camp No. 18. Army records state that it had a capacity of 600: two compounds of 300 each. It was the parent and administrative camp for all Italian prisoners of war sent to work on farms in Tasmania.

Professor Ian McFarlane’s research into the Italian POW workforce adds further details and personal experiences to this history: Italian POWS in North West Tasmania

Below is a diagram of the PW Camp drawn in October 1944.  With some concern over the security of the camp, changes to the boundaries had changed as resident numbers decreased. The original compound is indicated by the outer blue line.  The compound was reduced in size to the red line.  The second reduction saw the compound decreased in size to the a to b line.  The October 1944 proposed reduction of the compound at night was to the inner blue line.  This last proposal was rejected by Camp Commandant Captain A Pearson.  In a letter he reports that due to the number of years the Italians had been in captivity c. 3.5 years, they had developed ‘barbed wire complex’ and would struggle mentally if they were fenced in, in a small compound as many were becoming ‘mentally deranged.’  Captain Pearson wrote, “In conclusion, it is desired to emphasise that the forgoing is not submitted to molly-coddle PW, but with the sole purpose of keeping them mentally and physically sound and thereby have the maximum number available for employment and at the same time comply with intention of regulations issued relative to the control of PW.” NAA P617 519.3.159 PART 1 

 

NAA P617 519.3.159 PART 1 Page 35

Brighton PW Compound 1944

NAA P617 519.3.159 PART 1 Page 35

In  February 1944, the scheme of employing prisoners of war on Tasmanian farms had received the ‘thumbs up’ from farmers and further recruitment of farmers was sort from Department of Manpower.

nla.news-page000001867187-nla.news-article26018382-L3-2d4170b0224f0f19d6badbf4beb926a1-0001

1944 ‘ITALIAN WAR PRISONERS’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 14 February, p. 2. , viewed 30 Jul 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26018382

nla.news-page000025422766-nla.news-article235765497-L3-6b2ee59ca476d7d28b771057852b1086-0001

But by June 1944, right wing racism was being reported by ‘Smith’s Weekly’ which seized on any opportunity to discredit the Italian prisoners of war and their treatment.

1944 ‘PREFERENCE TO DAGOES’, Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 – 1950), 3 June, p. 1. , viewed 30 Jul 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article235765497

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following two photos were taken of the Brighton PW Camp site in April 1943 when it was under the direction of Department of Army as an army training camp.  Little would have changed when it transitioned to a PW Camp.

3908726

BRIGHTON, TAS. 1943-04-23. A SECTION OF BRIGHTON CAMP IS BEING CONVERTED BY MEMBERS OF NO. 19 MAINTENANCE PLATOON, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS, INTO BARRACKS FOR A TRAINING UNIT OF THE AWAS. THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS A GENERAL VIEW OF THE NEW QUARTERS FOR THE TRAINING UNIT.

 

3957764

BRIGHTON, TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA. 1943-04-28. GENERAL VIEW OF BRIGHTON MILITARY CAMP.

By June 1944, Brighton PW Camp Tasmania had been abandoned and the Italian prisoners of war were transferred to Loveday PW Camp South Australia.

ShowImage (5)

Prisoners of War. Italian. Loveday (S.A.) & Northam (W.A.) Camps. NAA: A1067, IC46/32/1/9

 

 

L’Amico del Prigioniero

It is thanks to Costanzo Melino that I know about L’Amico del Prigioniero. His daughter Rosa wrote Anzaro: The Home of my Ancestors which included her father’s memoirs of his time as a prisoner of war.

Costanzo said, “In 1943, Italy surrendered but we had to go to Australia [from India] to work on the farms.  We boarded an English ship which took us to Melbourne and then eventually by train to Cowra and Hay.  At that time we had an Apostolic Delegate who was from Lecce, also Pugliese, and he gave all the prisoners a book that I still have called the ‘Amico del Prigioniero’ (‘Friend of the Prisoner’’).”

The Apostolic Delegate was Monseigneur Giovanni Panico and he published this book through Pellegrini, Sydney, 1943.  It is a prayer book written in Latin and Italian containing the service of the mass, important prayers, Catholic Calendar of Holy Days from 1943 to 1951 and hymns.

Holy Days.jpeg

The book being written in Italian and Latin is significant.  As mass was said in Latin until Second Vatican 1965, ensuring that the Italian prisoners of war had a prayer book in Italian was a significant show of concern for  their spiritual welfare.

Also, while the Italians had access to books in Italian in the libraries of Hay and Cowra, when they were on the farm, a book in Italian was an important gesture on behalf of Giovanni Panico.

L'Amico.jpeg

There are six copies of L’Amico del Prigioniero are held in museums and libraries in Australia.  I spent a morning in the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW and felt honoured to view this special relic pertaining to Italian prisoners of war and internees.

To understand the importance of this prayer book in Latin and Italian, a little background is necessary, “…the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (also called Vatican II) to discuss how the Catholic Church would face the modern world. Until 1965, all Catholic Mass was said in Latin, and the Church realized that may alienate parishioners who spoke Latin only in church. So the Church had to translate the Catholic Mass into a variety of different languages. from http://www.dictionary.com/e/catholic/

(photos courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

Pidgin English for Italians

July 1943

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War

There are many references to the Italian-English language booklet that the Italian prisoners of war were issued with.

Laurie Dwyer from Aratula via Boonah remembers Paul bringing out his book and asking Laurie to help him with learning English: “Paul used the dictionary to try to improve his English but decided that English was stupid.  There were a lot of problems with miscommunication. Paul would wait for me to return home from school and then get out the yellow book they had for English.  Pronunciation was mainly the problem. Paper and pepper sounded the same. He also had difficulty with tree and the.  They had trouble with slang like ‘give it a burl’. One morning dad and the Italians were doing some fencing.  It was time to go home for lunch so dad told them to leave the crowbar there.  The word leave was a problem and they thought dad wanted them to carry it away with them.  Dad would have raised his voice and they thought that he was angry with them.  Paul told the interpreter the next day, ‘boss got mad, I got mad’.  He thought that he would be taken away.  Things were sorted. Another time, the Fordson tractor wouldn’t start so dad went to get the draught horses.  The horses wouldn’t get into the yards and dad would have blown off steam and whatever he said, or it might have been the way he said it, Paul and Peter thought they had done something wrong.  They had a great deal of respect for dad and they didn’t want to get into trouble.  So the next time the interpreter came to the farm, they asked to find out ‘what they did wrong’.  They would explain what had happened and the interpreter would explain what had happened.” (Don’t Run Away)

Dorcas Grimmet in “We Remember: The Italian Prisoners of War 1944/45” a publication about the Italian POWs on farms in the Kingaroy district includes a page from an Italian and English Book for Italian POWs.

And we know that language classes were held in camps like Cowra and Hay.

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War was specifically published  and given to Italian POWs being allocated to farm work under the Prisoner of War Control Centre : Without Guard scheme.  Some of the sections were: Tools, Machinery, Farm Produce, Animals, Hygiene and Medical, Family, House and Conjugation of Verbs.

Nonno’s Blanket

Salvatore Di Noia has sent me photo of a grey blanket with light grey stripes. This blanket is his nonno’s blanket from his prisoner of war days in Australia.

Nonno’s Blanket (courtesy of Salvatore Di Noia)

Salvatore Targiani departed Australia on the Oranje, a medical ship, on the 27th March 1943.  The Oranje was the first repatriation of Italian prisoners of war, under special arrangements. Salvatore worked in the 17th Hygiene Unit in Bardia.  His skills as a medical orderly is most likely the reason for his early repatriation.

In Australia, the Italian prisoners of war were issued with 4 blankets for their bedding.  An extra blanket was issued in winter.

The topic of blankets is interesting.

Italians at Sandy Creek Transit Camp in South Australia complained about the quality of the blankets they had been issued. It was claimed that the blankets were made India and were of poor quality.  They requested that these blankets were substituted for Australian made blankets which were of a better quality.

On 27th September 1946, a newspaper reported that the Italians being repatriated on the Chitral from Western Australia, had been given army blankets at Northam Camp but they were to return them to the Australian guards upon arrival in Naples. I see a logistical problem in this directive.  There were up to 3000 Italians repatriated on ships: 4 blankets x 3000 men = 12,000 blankets.  Was it possible that the Australia guards could count every blanket?

 Pasquale Landolfi and Vincenzo Di Pietro from the Home Hill Hostel in north Queensland used their army blankets for suits.  They were found 110 south of Home Hill outside the town of Bowen.  They were dressed in grey suits made from blankets.  There were five Italian tailors at the Home Hill Hostel.

Italian officers in Myrtleford Camp in Victoria made coats from blankets. The photo below shows a rather stylish yet practical coat.  Myrtleford is in the alpine country of northern Victoria: winters have maximum temperature 12 degrees C and minimum temperature 3 degrees C.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Groupe numéro 27. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. Group number 27.

1-6-43 Myrtleford Officers Camp (ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-27)

Domenico Modugno’s souvenirs from Australia were blankets. Domenico was sent to Tasmania for farm work and then was sent to V25 Hume Hostel to await repatriation.  His daughter Lucrezia recalls, “From captivity, my father brought home grey-black blankets date 1945 which we used as children in the cold winters.”

A report on a group of Italians from Liverpool Camp mentions that the men were taking home items such as soap, cotton and wool goods purchased from the canteen.  These items were in short supply in Italy. Wool army blankets would have been an appropriate and practical item to ‘souvenir’.

The men boarding the Moreton Bay repatriation ship in 1946 found many ways to strap their blankets to luggage or to make a swag to hang from shoulder to waist.

4-8-46 Repatriation of Italian prisoners of war on the Moreton Bay