Category Archives: Victoria Italian POWs

Dr Georges Morel

Georges Morel was a Swiss Doctor of Economics who was appointed to Australia as the officially accredited representative of the International Committee for the Red Cross, Geneva in February 1941.

Dr Georges Morel [1941 ‘HAS KEY TO CAMPS OF INTERNEES’, The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), 1 March, p. 2. (LAST RACE ALL DETAILS), viewed 07 Feb 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article231204582]

He was responsible for visiting internees and prisoners of war held in camps in Australia and to ensure that the conditions of the Geneva Convention regarding prisoners of war were upheld.

With an understanding of ten languages, Dr Morel was free to enter any camp at will, reside in a camp if so desired and leave without permission. Internees and prisoners of war were at liberty to speak freely with Dr Morel and communicate any complaints.

His comprehensive reports were shared with the Australian Government via the Minister of State for External Affairs. All reports were written in French, the language of the ICRC.

Copies of Dr Morel’s reports are archived in the National Archives of Australia and three files covering the period 1942-1944 are available for viewing: search terms to use – Red Cross Dr Morel.

In May 1944 on a visit to Western Australia, he was reported as saying, “My main task is to visit the camps whether the POWs are Germans or Italians…in addition I must keep in permanent touch with Australian Government departments, the Army and various branches of the Red Cross. However the first task is to see that the convention is being strictly applied and from my observations elsewhere [in Australia]I can say quite frankly that the conditions in Australian camps are very good. The treatment, food and clothing are in fact, excellent. Australian officers and guards have tried to help in many minor matters as well as in more important subjects, and I have received 100 per cent co-operation at Army Headquarters, Melbourne and from the Government.

Naturally there are complaints at every camp and these are quite minor matters. The complains have been rectified. Australia actually applies the International convention very generously in regard to POWs and internees, and in all my reports to the International Red Cross Committee I have stressed that conditions in Australia are good.” [1944 ‘VISIT TO P.O.W. CAMPS’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 19 May, p. 6. , viewed 07 Feb 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44809894%5D

Hand in hand with the written reports are the photographic records of Dr Morel’s visits. These photos can be found at : Archives of the ICRC . You will need to register as a user but this process is easy.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle-Galles du sud, camp de Cowra. Camp A, Série B. Groupe 24 avec le délégué CICR. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, camp A, serie B. Group 24 with the ICRC delegate.

Cowra Camp A September 1942 Dr Morel seated centre with officials of the camp including Padre Lenti (ICRC V-P-HIST-01881-02)

Dr Morel died in October 1945 and his wife Eugenia continued his work temporarily until the arrival of Dr Pierre Descoeudres in May 1946.

It is with thanks to the Red Cross and the work of their delegates like Dr Morel that there is a comprehensive and neutral record of the internee and prisoner of war camps in Australia.

Milestone, Miracles and Magic

Today it is 4 years since I launched this website/blog. It is an important milestone.

With 207 posts and 12 pages, Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Australia is the most comprehensive documentation of this chapter in Australia’s history.

We are an international research project with Australians and Italians in 14 countries contributing a diverse range of items, insights and memories. We have built a community where information is share freely. We are unique because of the diversity of perspectives portrayed.

There are moments of sadness; moments of elation and moments of quiet reflection.

It is important that we try to place ourselves in the boots of the soldier and prisoner of war and walk through this history.

Four years ago, I had no knowledge of website building and blogging. Four years ago, I did not think that “Google Translate” would become my best friend. Four years ago I did not know the history of Bardia or Matapan nor did I know the geographic location of many of the regional Australian farming communities in this history.

Nino Amante from Catania accidentally found a photo of his father on the internet and wrote to me about the “Miracolo di Internet”.

I also believe that your individual passionate searches for your father or grandfather’s ‘lost years’ is part of this ‘magic‘.

Families cannot always find specific personal information about and connections to Australia families for their father or grandfathers. But in the sharing of information, there is the possibility to reconstruct the journey for your loved ones.

My family wonder when I will stop!

My answer is ‘I don’t know’.

Regardless of when I run out of energy, this website serves as a ‘virtual’ museum: a museum which can add items to its collection at any time.

I patiently await the next donation to this museum.

Ciao

Joanne

NB New donations coming soon: Geneifa Eggito and Yol India

Another Fountain – Wakool Hostel

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp Wakool. Vue d’un prisonnier de guerre italien. World War 1939-1945. Wakool camp. Italian prisoner of war view.

Fountain at Wakool Camp 1 May 1945 ICRC V-P-HIST-01881-40

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp Wakool. Prisonier de guerre italien. World War 1939-1945. Wakool camp. Italian prisoner of war.

Wakool Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-44

V3 Wakool on a Service and Casualty Form indicates that your father or grandfather, during 1943-1945 worked on ‘the largest and best equipped rice-growing farm in the Southern Hemisphere’.  This project was to grow rice on a large scale for military requirements.

The newspapers reported that ‘all prisoners of war, nearly 200 are on parole’ and that the place had no locks and the Italians worked under civilian supervisors.

The Italians arrived in September 1943, to prepare the ground for planting and to tend the crops. Another group of Italians were involved in construction work for the second 5000 acres to go under rice.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp Wakool. Prisonier de guerre italien. World War 1939-1945. Wakool camp. Italian prisoner of war.

Wakool Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-45A

“ The camp is conducted largely on the pattern of a military camp and is entirely self-contained, well-conducted and with a strict but reasonable discipline.  Some seventy men are engaged in various operations.  Much of the general labour of the farm is being done by Italian prisoners of war whom there are about 180 and mostly taken during the North African campaign. The men are on wages and working well.  The normal daily routine was first call at 6.30am, breakfast 7am and at 7.20am some 25 trucks carry the men to various jobs on the farm.  They return to headquarters at 11.45am and returned for the afternoon at 12.40pm  Work for the day ends at 5pm” (Wiluna Miner (WA: 1931-1947) Friday 8 December 1944, page 4 and 5)

Guerre 1939-1945. Wakool. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens.

Wakool Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-0329-18A

This rice farm was operated by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Trust of New South Wales with water for irrigation diverted from the Edwards River. It was the first rice production in the area and was situated on part of Tulla Station at Wakool near Barham.

The farm covered 5000 acres and by January 1945 was reported to have yielded 8000 tons of rice and 125,000 bales of rice straw. Rice straw was sent to paper mills. Bren carriers were borrowed from the Army to move bagged rice to storage.  About 100 acres were harvested each day.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Wakool. PG Italiens au travail. War 1939-1945. Wakool Camp. Italian PG at work.

Italians at Work Wakool ICRC V-P-HIST-01880-11A

As a government project, finances were available to purchase machinery.  This project was highly mechanised: 47 tractors of the bulldozer and caterpillar types, 24 header harvesters reaping 25 tons per header per day, 14 seed drills and 18 disc seed drills, rice cleaning plant.  It was reported that it took two men working seven days a week to keep the equipment supplied with fuel.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Wakool. PG Italiens au travail. War 1939-1945. Wakool Camp. Italian PG at work.

Italians at work Wakool ICRC V-P-HIST-01880-09A

Wakool Hostel

ICRC V-P-HIST-03290-16A; V-P-HIST-03290-15A;V-P-HIST-03290-14A; V-P-HIST-01882-02A

La Preghiera Del Legionario

This prayer is a patriotic poem inviting the Lord to save Il Duce’s Italy.

Dio, che accendi ogni fiamma e fermi ogni cuore rinnova ogni giorno la passione mia per l’Italia.

Rendimi sempre più degno dei nostri morti, affinchè loro stessi – i più forti – rispondano ai vivi: “Presente”!

Nutrisci il mio libro della tua saggezza e il mio moschetto della tua volontà.

Fa più aguzzo il mio sguardo e più sicuro il mio piede sui valichi sacri alla Patria:
Sulle strade, sulle coste, nelle foreste e sulla quarta sponda,che già fu di Roma.
Quando il futuro soldato mi marcia accanto nei ranghi, fa ch’io senta battere il suo cuore fedele.

Quando passano i gagliardetti e le bandiere, fa che tutti i volti si riconoscano in quello della Patria:
la Patria che faremo più grande portando ognuno la sua pietra al cantiere.

Signore! Fa della Tua Croce l’insegna che precedeil labaro della mia legione.

E salva l’Italia, l’Italia nel Duce, sempre e nell’ora di nostra bella morte.
Così sia.

Myrtleford, Australia. 5 November 1943. Group of Italian officer prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 5 POW Camp. Back row, left to right: Zubiani; Mantovani; Pellisetti; Gauthier; Pane; Primiano. Front row: Buonaventura; Di Grazia; De Rosa; Tocco; Morra; Misitano. (AWM Image 03152/10 Photographer: Geoffrey McInnes)

Virgilio Zubiani was an Italian army chaplain who arrived in Australia as a prisoner of war in 23rd August 1941. He was sent directly to Murchison Camp. From Murchison Camp he was sent to Myrtleford Camp:- a camp for Italian officers, but also spent time at V29 Puckapunyal Hostel, V12 Broadford Hostel and V3 Wakool.

When he left Myrtleford Camp in October 1944, a number of documents were found in his possession and the authorities were concerned:
“16 typed copies* of the “Legionnaire’s Prayer” and an original copy of same printed by hand in exactly the same style as that used in the extreme fascist camp newspaper “Patria”. The typed copies had obviously been prepared for distribution among ORs. An annotated map of the layout of Murchison camp.” (NAA: A7919 C98944)

Map of Murchison drawn by Virgilio Zubiani (NAA: A7919 C98944)

Per non dimenticarlo

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” George Elliot

Vito Eliseo has a passion for local history and undertakes research trying to reconstruct the stories of all those from his village who died during WW II. Vito believes that is important to make these stories known to future generations. He is concerned that in Italy there are still children who do not know what happened to their parents.

One of the Italian prisoners of war who died in Australia during WW2 was  Martino D’Aniello, a relative of Vito. 

Vito explains, “Unfortunately no one is left of Martino’s immediate family, there were 2 brothers and a sister… I could not find any grandchildren.” Vito has written, In memoria di Martino D’Aniello which you can read at the end of this article.

Martino, a waiter from Serre (Salerno), was 20 years old when he was captured at Tobruk, Libya on the 22nd January 1941.  He was 24 years old when he died at the Waranga Hospital [28 Camp Hospital], Murchison Camp Victoria on 3rd December 1944.

This is the sadness of war; regardless of where a soldier died: Libya, Egypt, India or Australia; regardless of whether the man died in battle, in a field hospital or in a prisoner of war hospital; the death of a young man is a tragedy.

List of Italians laid to rest at The Ossario (Photo courtesy of Alex Miles)

The government records offered up a little information about Martino’s death.  Martino died 3 days after being sent to hospital for “Acute Nephritis” and then he was buried at the Murchison Cemetery on 5th  December 1944. In 1961, his remains were exhumed and he was re-interred at The Ossario* Murchison on 6th September 1961 and his name is on a bronze plaque at its entrance.

There is some comfort in knowing where Martino now ‘rests in peace’. There is no comfort though knowing that your loved one died on the other side of the world without family and friends.

A series of extraordinary and unconnected circumstances, has brought to light an invaluable insight into the funeral of Martino.  Martino’s funeral was photographed by a representative from the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Guerre 1939-1945. Murchison. Enterrement du PG Daniello Martini. War 1939-1945. Murchison Camp. The funeral of prisoner of war Daniello Martini.

Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944 (ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-10)

On the 5th December 1944, under an Australian summer’s sky; surrounded by Cypress pines and eucalyptus, Martino’s compatriots stand solemnly at his graveside. He was far from home, but Martino was not alone.

Guerre 1939-1945. Murchison. Enterrement du PG Daniello Martini. War 1939-1945. Murchison Camp. The funeral of prisoner of war Daniello Martini.

Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944 (ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-11)

Australian soldiers from the Murchison Camp together with Italian prisoners of war respectfully farewelled Martino.  Vito reflects, “it is a consolation for his family to know that Martino did not die alone, he had the comfort of his companions and the generous people near him who considered him a guest and not a prisoner.”

Guerre 1939-1945. Murchison. Enterrement du PG Daniello Martini. War 1939-1945. Murchison Camp. The funeral of prisoner of war Daniello Martini.

Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944 (ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-13)

Guerre 1939-1945. Murchison. Enterrement du PG Daniello Martini. War 1939-1945. Murchison Camp. The funeral of prisoner of war Daniello Martini.

Grave of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944 with temporary marker front right (ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-12)

As men, we are all equal in the presence of death.

Publilius Syrus (Roman Writer c. 100 BC)

In memoria di Martino D’Aniello by Vito Eliseo

Martino D’Aniello nasce a Serre il 13 ottobre 1920 da Valentino e Michelina Mennella, un ragazzo come tanti altri, frequenta la scuola fino alla V elementare, e come tutti i suoi coetanei viene chiamato alla visita di leva il 6 giugno 1939, ed essendo di sana e robusta costituzione, per di più patentato, viene arruolato per poi essere chiamato alle armi il 1 febbraio 1940.

Viene assegnato al 1° Reggimento Fanteria G.a.F. (Guardia alla Frontiera) del XX° C.A. in Napoli, dopo la vestizione ed il necessario addestramento il giorno 8 marzo si imbarca per arrivare a Tripoli il giorno 11 marzo 1940.

Assegnato al XXXV° Settore di copertura, già dal successivo 11 giugno, viene a trovarsi in “territorio in stato di guerra”, la successiva assegnazione al 6° Autogruppo di Manovra lo condurrà a Tobruk, ed è su tale città che si stà concentrando l’attenzione degli inglesi per l’importanza strategica del suo porto.

La città cinta d’assedio dovette capitolare e fu occupata il 21 gennaio 1941, con la conseguente cattura di tutti i militari italiani che vi si trovavano, ed è in tale data che inizia l’odissea di Martino, con la sua tragica conclusione.

Gli inglesi a seguito delle positive vicende belliche in nord-Africa si ritrovarono a gestire alcune centinaia di migliaia di prigionieri che dovettero inevitabilmente smistare lontano dalle zone di guerra, e Martino, in questa moltitudine, si ritrovò prima a Ceylon e poi a Bombay in India, da qui ancora un altro trasferimento, a bordo del piroscafo Mount Vernon, che lo vede sbarcare il 26 aprile 1944 nel porto di Melbourne in  Australia.

In Australia viene internato nel campo prigionieri di guerra di Murchison nel distretto di Vittoria, dove ai prigionieri è permesso anche di andare a lavorare fuori presso terzi, cosa che, dal 27 giugno 1944, inizia a fare anche Martino andando a lavorare presso mr. Kyneton, un allevatore di ovini,  questo lavoro durerà poco, fino al 2 settembre, perché si ammala di una grave forma di nefrite, e rientra al campo.

Per l’aggravarsi delle condizioni il 30 novembre viene ricoverato nell’ospedale di Waranga, però il male è incurabile e muore il giorno 3 dicembre 1944 ed il giorno 5 dicembre viene sepolto nel cimitero della città di Murchison, poco dopo i compagni di prigionia provvidero a costruire una tomba più dignitosa che non il mucchio di terra che si vede nella foto.

Purtroppo le sue traversie ancora non erano finite, infatti il settore del cimitero dove era sepolto negli anni 50 subisce un allagamento, e questo episodio fece si che un italiano, che viveva nelle vicinanze, desse inizio ad una colletta tra i tanti italiani emigrati e con i fondi raccolti fu costruito un MEMORIALE, ove nel 1961 furono trasferiti i resti mortali di tutti i prigionieri italiani deceduti durante la prigionia.

Ogni anno il tale MEMORIALE, la domenica prossima all’ 11 novembre vi viene tenuta una cerimonia di commemorazione.

Welcome… Benvenuto

Welcome to Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War a comprehensive archive of documents, artefacts, testaments, photographs and research relating to this compelling chapter in Australian history. This is a community history involving Australian and Italian families from fourteen countries who have shared their stories so that this history is not forgotten.

Sneath Murray Bridge

Over 18000 Italian Prisoners of War came to Australia from 1941 – 1945. Captured in theatres of war in North Africa, East Africa and Europe, they were transported to Australia  via staging camps in Egypt, Palestine and India.

There is much written about internment in Cowra, Murchison and Hay the main Prisoner of War and Internment Camps in New South Wales and Victoria, but only snippets of information are recorded about  Italian prisoners of war in other states.

This research features Italian prisoners of war and their farming families in Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. Articles cut across a range of topics: the battles in Libya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Greece; the movement of prisoners from the place of capture to prisoner of war camps in Egypt and Palestine; interment in the camps of India; transport to Australia; repatriation from Australia and arrival in Naples.  

The stories and memories of Italian and Australian farming families gives this history a voice.  The diversity of photos and relics shared personalises what would otherwise be a very black and white official report.

The articles featured on the project’s website brings colour and personality to this almost forgotten chapter in Australia’s history.

List of Articles July 2020

The Italian prisoners of war were more than just a POW.  They were fathers, brothers, sons and husbands from across Italy and from diverse backgrounds and occupations.

Follow their journey…. Walking in their Boots

Nonno Ermano Nicoletti’s Journey

(Photos and documents from: AWM, Red Cross, NAA, Trove, Alessandra Nicoletti, Nambucca Guardian: Ute Schulenberg, David Akers)

 

The Footprints Project

Join the journey and follow the footprints of the Italian prisoners of war

Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War Project is a community project supported by Australians in six states and Italian families in fourteen countries.****

Background

What started out as a personal journey to read about the Italian POW Camp outside of Home Hill has resulted in a comprehensive, diverse and rich collection of stories, letters, photographs, testimonies, artefacts, music, newspaper articles spanning 79 years: the battles on the Libyan/Egyptian border December 1940 to the present.

Over the past four years, I have heard these words many times over, “but you have it wrong, there were no Italian prisoners of war in Queensland”.

And this became a focal point for the research: to record this chapter in Queensland’s history before it was completely forgotten.

But like ripples in a pond,  Queensland’s history of Italian POWs expanded across and was part of a greater history and so the project extended and expanded: to other Australia states and to Italian families in fourteen countries across the world.

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What makes this research unique and diverse?

Perspective.

Contributions have come from far and wide:  farmers, farmers’ wives, farming children, the town kids, families of Australian Army interpreters, children of Italians who were prisoners of war, Italians who were prisoners of war, the local nurse, the mother of an ex-POW, government policy.

What does the research encompass?

Website: italianprisonersofwar.com

Facebook Page: Prigionieri di guerra Italiani in Australia

Music Book: Notations for songs and dance music by Ciccio Cipolla.

Farm Diary: daily notations regarding farm life during war time including information on Italian POWs and Land Army Girls.

Discussion about our Queensland research at conference in Catania Sicily May 2019 on prisoner of war experiences.

Memories in Concrete: Giuseppe Miraglia from Enna Sicily and Adriano Zagonara from Bagnara di Romagna Ravenna.

Donations to the Australian War Memorial of two artefacts made by Gympie Italian prisoners of war

Two publications: Walking in their Boots and Costanzo Melino: Son of Anzano (in collaboration with Rosa Melino)

Journey of three Italian families from Italy to visit Queensland and ‘walk in the footsteps of their fathers’: Q1 Stanthorpe and Q6 Home Hill

POW Kit Bags: Adriano Zagonara and Sebastiano Di Campli

The Colour Magenta

Handbooks: L’Amico del Prigioniero, Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War, Piccolo Guido per gli Italiani in Australia

Voices from the Past: five testimonials from Italian soldiers who worked on Queensland farms.

Letters written by Italian prisoners of war to family in Italy, to their Queensland farmers and to the children of farmers, written by mother of an Italian POW to a Queensland nurse, written by the Italians to their interpreter, Queensland farmer to Italian.

Photographs of Italian soldiers in full dress uniform, Italian soldiers in Libya during training, Italians as POWs with their Queensland families, Italians on their Wedding Day and with their families, Italians in POW camps in India.

Handmade items: embroideries, wooden objects, cellophane belt, silver rings, paintings, cane baskets, metal items, chess sets, theatre programs.

Contributions by ten Italian families whose fathers and family returned to Australia as ‘new Australians’.

Identification of five buildings used as prisoner of war accommodation.

Publication of three guides for Italian families to assist in their search for information about their fathers and grandfathers.

Collaboration with numerous Italian and Australian families; local museums and family history associations; journalists; translators; collectors of historic postal items; local libraries.

Did you know?

The website operates as a ‘virtual’ museum and library.

The website has a wide reaching readership to 118 countries!

Over 185 articles have been written for the website.

My Wish List

In the beginning:

I had one wish, to find one Queensland family who remembered the Italians working and living on their farm. Thank you Althea Kleidon, you were the beginning with your photos and memories of Tony and Jimmy.

My adjusted wish list, to find three photographs of Italian POWs on Queensland farms. Then came Rosemary Watt and Pam Phillips with their collection of photos, a signature in concrete and a gift worked in metal.

….

Now:

To have the three Finding Nonno guides translated into Italian.

If I win Gold Lotto, to have Walking in their Boots translated into Italian.

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****What does the future hold… After five and a half years of research, over 185 website articles, two publications, thousands of emails, visits, interviews, cataloguing etc …

I plan to go at a slightly slower pace.  I will continue to work offline and in the background answering questions, assisting families and adding to this historical collection.

I have published articles in a chronological order starting with the soldiers and their battles. And I will slot in new articles and add new information along the way. Hopefully this will convey ‘the journey’ of the Italian soldiers from capture through to repatriation and for some Italians, a return to Australia.

Join the journey and follow the footprints of the Italian prisoners of war.

Ossario Day 2018

Sombre and reflective, Kay Ball from Murchison Historical Society has written an article about the remembrance service at The Ossario 11th November 2018…

Murchison and District Historical Society Inc.

The Ossario, located in a quiet corner of the Murchison Cemetery was completed in 1961 and is a beautifully crafted Mediterranean style building. It contains the remains of Italian Prisoners of War and Internees who died on Australian soil during World War 2.

Murchison Ossario

Every year, on the second Sunday in November, hundreds of people gather to remember the 129 men and one woman for whom the Ossario is their last resting place.

On Sunday 11th November this year, a warm sunny day with a lovely clear blue sky, the occasion was again well attended by over 300 people. Mostly of Italian descent, they travel from Melbourne, interstate, overseas and across Victoria and are joined by locals who appreciate this special occasion. The ceremony is moving, suitably reverent and also colourful with many Italian Military Service uniforms, banners, flags, floral wreaths and bouquets in abundance.

Lining up at beginning…

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Lasting Friendships

We lived on a farm 35 mile outside of West Wyalong, New South Wales. I would have been eight years old when Ernesto Armati and Angelo Airoldi came to stay with us. They became part of our family and to this day, I am in contact with their families.

Ernesto and Rosa Armati (married 1 January 1948)

Dad had sheep, wheat, pigs and milkers on the farm and the Italians did a lot of work around the farm.  They built chook yards, dams and horse yards and I suppose general farm work.

They lived in a hut built for them which was basic.  They ate with the family and became like brothers.  We had a big dining room table and they would jostle and joke with us kids and try to push us off the bench seats we sat on.  They cooked pasta meals for us.  Watching them ride horses was funny and they would sometimes have a bit of a race.  The closest church was 12 miles away and Dad bought a green and blue bike for them so that they could go to church.  My sister was very upset because Dad never bought her a bike. Both Ernesto and Angelo had fiances in Italy and upon return were married: Ernesto to Rosa 1 January 1948 and Angelo to Angelina October 1947.

I clearly remember the canteen truck visiting the farm.  They would get their cigarettes : three threes, brylcream, shaving cream stick and razors.

They had come to Australia on board “Mariposa” and arrived at Melbourne.  They were then transported in open cattle trucks to Cowra.

Dad was a staunch Methodist: no smoking, no drinking but Dad made exceptions for Angelo and Ernesto. Dad brought in a big barrel for them and they used the table grapes to make grappa.  They did it by stomping the grapes with their feet which became purple.

We cried when they left.  I don’t know why they didn’t leave the POWs on the farms until they were taken back home, but they had to wait a long time in the POWs camps and it would have been better for them to stay with us.

Dad kept in contact with them over the years and when I was in my twenties I went to Italy for the Olympics: 1960.  Dad encouraged me to go visit Ernesto and Angelo which felt awkward because 15 years had passed since I last saw them.  They welcomed me into their homes with open arms.  Lavish meals were prepared and eaten and I was taken around and shown the sites.  I travelled a little of Europe and then returned to spend Christmas with them.

Angelo and Angelina Airoldi and family Bagnatica 1960

Years later, Ernesto’s granddaughter came to Sydney for her honeymoon.  I felt very privileged to take her and her husband around for 5 weeks showing them the sights.

Memories from West Wyalong

Graydon Bolte

Brisbane

February 2017

 

 

Stranger in a Strange Land

The complexity of  the war time policy of interment in Australia is mirrored by the backgrounds of  the Italian men, woman and child who have been laid to rest in The Ossario.

The list below informs visitors to The Ossario of the Italians buried in the complex. Lists are important but their purpose is limited. Feeling that every Italian laid to rest deserves more than their name on a list, I have delved into each person’s story. What I found while researching these names is  that there is a history lesson in the details.  I have learnt more about the complexity of war.

Tunnel vision, saw me focus on the five Italian prisoners of war who died in Queensland.  The Ossario however is the final resting place for 130 Italians: 128 men, one woman and one baby. Furthermore, one Italian prisoner of war drowned and his body was never recovered; therefore there is no public acknowledgement of this man’s death.

The Ossario List of Italians

Italians Buried at Murchison

(photo courtesy of Alex Miles)

From the names on the list, I have learnt about  Italians, residents of the British Isles, who were interned and sent to Australia on the infamous Dunera.  I have read about the Remo and RomoloItalian passenger ships in Australian waters when Italy declared war and scuttling of the Romolo in the Coral Sea. Italian internees were also sent to Australia from Palestine and New Guinea.

Details of Italian Internees who died in Australia 1941-1946 provides a little of the history for each internee resting at The Ossario.

Details of Italian Prisoners of War who died in Australia 1942-1946 provides a little of the background for each prisoner of war resting at The Ossario.

Three Italians whose freedom was taken from them and died in Australia deserve a specific mention:

MR Librio is Mario Roberto infant son of  Andrea and Giuseppina Librio. His parents were interned in Palestine and they arrived in Australia onboard Queen Elizabeth 23rd August 1941. His life was short: he was born 4th May 1942 and died 12th May 1942.

Librio Family

Mario Roberto Librio’s Family

Tatura, Australia. 10 March 1945. Group of Italian internees at No. 3 Camp, Tatura Internment Group. Back row, left to right: 20091 Andrea Librio; 20092 Giuseppina Librio; 20094 Concetta Librio; 20093 Giuseppe Librio. Front Row: 20095 Umberto Librio; 20096 Maria Librio. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM 030247/03 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)

Cafiero Veneri was an Italian soldier captured at Sidi el Barrani on 11th December 1940.  He arrived in Australia from India on the Mariposa 26th April 1944. He was the son of Aldreo Veneri and Maria Fabbri from Porto Fuori Ravenna.  He was 32 years old when he drowned at Mornington on 23rd December 1945; caught in an undertow at Point Nepean, his body was never recovered.

Attilio Zanier was an Italian soldier captured at Asmara on 28th April 1941.  He arrived in Australia from India on the Mariposa 5th February 1944. He was 42 years old when he was gored by a bull on a farm in the W12 PWCC Narembeen district.  His death notice was advertised in The West Australian, a tribute from the Hall family:

Zanier (Attilio) – Accidentally killed on Frimley Farm Narembeen, on September 3 1944.  Attilio Zanier (prisoner of war). A stranger in a strange land. Husband of Erminia de Comun, fond father of Alcide of Ravascletto Udine Italia. Deeply regretted by the Hall family. (1944 ‘Family Notices’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 5 September, p. 1. , viewed 25 Feb 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44976920)

There has been an overwhelming generalisation that there were many POWs who committed suicide especially during 1946 when the men were desperate to return home to Italy. The nature and/or cause of death for the 95 Italian prisoners of war is illustrated in the graph below.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Deaths 95 updated

 

PS The main focus of my research has been Italian prisoners of war in Queensland. Their history is one small part of the bigger picture.  War is complicated and complex as were the groups of men, women and children who were interned in prisoner of war camps in Australia: Italian and German prisoners of war in other Australian states; Australian residents who were German, Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, Polish, Japanese, Spanish … who were interned; German and Italians who were resident in United Kingdom and interned in Australia; Italian families who were living in Palestine and interned in Australia;  and Italian and Austrian merchant seaman who were interned in Australia.