Category Archives: Victoria Italian POWs

Arrested in Townsville

On the 18th June 1940 114 Italian crew from the Romolo were arrested in Townsville under a Warrant dated 18th June 1940, to be interned at Interment Camp, Gaythorne. Three women who were part of the crew were not arrested: Maria Cebin and Guilia Panzeletti worked as stewardesses, Elena Giovenale worked as a nurse.

Elena Giovenale: Nurse on the Romolo

(NAA: BP313/1, Giovenale E)

The Romolo an Italian merchant ship was berthed in Brisbane on 30th May 1940. On the 31st May 1940, the captain was ready to depart the Romolo at 21 hours but was delayed by Australian officials claiming a directive from Canberra: an inspection of the ship was required.

Between 31st May and 6th June 1940, the Romolo was delayed on claims for the need for ongoing inspections and searches.  Eventually on 5th June 1940, the Captain Ettore Gavino was notified that authorities were searching for “a package which the Allies did not wish to reach Germany.”

Captain of the Romolo: Ettore Gavino

(NAA: BP242/1, Q28607)

Captain Ettore Gavino chronicled the events:

Thursday 6th June 1940

At 1940 hours we received orders from Trieste to seek refuge in neutral waters, In consequence I called the Royal Commissioner, Chief Engineer and 1st Officer to a conference. We decided to alter our course.  We did this as soon as possible at 21hr.  We sailed without light.

Friday 7th June 1940

About dawn we sighted forward to the east a ship without lights, sailing in a convergent direction. … we discovered that the other ship was an auxiliary patrol cruiser, which was evidently detailed to watch us…

At 0900 hours I gather the crew and informed them of the decision agreed upon.  I recommended calmness, courage, economy of water, light, fuel and rations, and stressed that importance for each one to do his duty with the maximum of discipline, efficiency and conscience… I entreated them to show the pilot [an Australian] and the foreign woman passenger [Aida Senac] a correct and generous hospitality.  I reminded them of the duty of every good Italian to be ready to give all for the greatness of the Motherland.  We broke up cheering H.M. The King Emperor, and our Duce, the founder of the Empire.

Saturday 8th June 1940

We are still followed by the Auxiliary cruiser “Manoora” (carrying a hydroplane) sailing about two miles on our right and coming closer during the night.

Sunday 9th June 1940

This morning I signed Capt. R Lloyd Harry’s (the Torres Straits pilot) book…

At 1415 hours the auxiliary cruiser “Manoora” signalled us to disembark the Torres Strait Pilot…

We practiced ‘Abandon Ship” using the regulation siren and allotted the passengers their place in the life boats. Carried out trials with the wireless in the life boats.

Monday 10th June 1940

Rehearsed closure of water-tight doors.

In the morning I gave orders to the crew to paint the ship inside and outside so as to make her less visible…

Tuesday 11th June 1940

We are at war with France and England. We are sailing without lights. The crew is working and painting the ship to render her less visible.

Wednesday 12th June 1940

A few minutes before midday a ship is sighted on the S.W. horizon,… We identify her as the “Manoora”…. I give full instructions for the abandoning and sinking of the ship.  It is about 1215 hours. The “Manoora”… sends me the following radiogram : “Stop immediately or I fire at you.” Consequently, I stop the ship, hoist the Italian flag and send out an S.O.S.

I receive a second message from the “Manoora”. “Do not abandon your ship because I will not pick you up.” I give the order to abandon ship and have the eight launches, which for some days days been swinging from the davits, and ready for use, lowered to the water. This operation being carried out with the greatest of calm and punctuality.

I take every precaution to ensure that the ship will not be captured by the enemy. At about 1300 hours the ship is abandoned…

PACIFIC OCEAN, 1940-06-12. THE ITALIAN MOTOR-SHIP ROMOLO BEING SHELLED BY AN AUSTRALIAN ARMED MERCHANT CRUISER, HMAS MANOORA, IN THE PACIFIC SHORTLY AFTER ITALY ENTERED THE WAR. (AWM Image P00279.003)

The sails are hoisted in the various boats which are driven by the wind towards the “Manoora” – now stationary… lowered her gangways and signalled for us to approach.

Italian prisoners coming from the Italian motor vessel Romolo in life boats. The Romolo was set on fire and scuttled by its crew after being pursued from Brisbane by HMAS Manoora and finally intercepted, 220 miles south west of the island of Nauru.

Shortly before 1500 hours the passengers and crew of the “Romolo” were safe and sound on board the “Manoora”, who had salvaged seven of our launches. 

Italian prisoners from the Italian Motor Vessel Romolo in the bows of HMAS Manoora. The Romolo was set on fire and scuttled by its crew after being pursued from Brisbane by HMAS Manoora. Shells for the ship’s six inch guns are visible on the hatch way.

I, who was the last to climb aboard, was taken to Commander Spurgeon of the “Manoora”.

At about 1600 hours seven shells were fired along the “Romolo’s” waterline.. At 1815 hours my ship with the water up to her batteries, appeared to be breaking amidships.  Rapidly she listed to starboard, the tricolour flying from h er mast.

At 1820 hours only the railings, illuminated by the “Manoora’s” searchlight, were visible above water.

At 1825 hours the “Romolo” disappeared…

Unlike her sister ship the Remo, Romolo would not be seized as a war prize.

(NAA: MP1103/2 Cereseto, Giuseppe)

Under a Warrant, the Romolo crew was transferred from Townsville Jail to Gaythorne Internment Camp on 22nd June 1940. One hundred and thirteen crew were then transferred to Hay Internment Camp on 6th November 1940.

Pasquale Bottigliero, seaman, arrived in Gaythorne Camp on 22nd June 1940 but was directly transferred to General Hospital Brisbane. On 2nd July 1940 he was transferred to Goodna Hospital where he stayed until his death on 11th January 1941. 

From Hay Internment Camp the Romolo crew was transferred to Loveday Internment Camp on 11th June 1941. One document records that on 15th April 1942 the status of this group of men were changed from ‘internees’ to ‘prisoners of war’.

 On 5th May 1942 the crew was transferred to Murchison Prisoner of War Camp. Other documents identify the 22nd June 1942 as the ‘official’ date of status change.

Officers were sent to Myrtleford Officers’ Camp Victoria.  First Officer Tullio Tami is standing third from the left in the photo below taken at Myrtleford.

Myrtleford, Australia. 5 November 1943. Group of Italian officer prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 5 POW Camp. Back row, left to right: Bonifazio; Voltolini; Tami; Staiano; Donato; Rea. Front row: Migliore; Massimino; Talamanca; Maiolino; Bobbio; Bosi. (AWM Image 030152/05 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Natale Amendolia, one of the Romolo’s cooks was employed in Camp B at Myrtleford Camp. Other crew members were sent from Murchison Camp to farm placement in Victoria and Tasmania.

MYRTLEFORD, VIC. C. 1943-11-06. THE PRISONERS’ KITCHEN IN “B” COMPOUND, 51ST AUSTRALIAN GARRISON COMPANY, PRISONER OF WAR CAMP. SHOWN ARE:- PWI.47727 G. SEMINARA (1); PWI.7133 N. AMENDOLIA, SHIP’S COOK MV ROMOLO (2); PWI.47795 P. VITULLI (3); PWI.47664 G. ROMANO (4). (AWM Image 059303 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Francesco Lubrano was also a cook on the Romolo.  He was sent to work on the farm of Wilfred James Stuart at North Morton Tasmania.  He was remembered by Valerie Stuart for his cooking, particularly introducing the family to pasta. Read more about Francesco Lubrano on page 6 of the document following…

Go to page 90 of the following document to read more about the female crew: Maria Cebin, Guilia Panzeletti and Elena Giovenale.

War Prize

The Italian motorship Remo was in Fremantle harbour on 10th June 1940, the day of Mussolini’s declaration of war.

The ship was seized on 11th June 1940 under international rules. The 229 passengers were a diverse mix of nationalities: Italians, Hungarians, Poles, Greeks, Bulgarians Jugoslavs, Estonians and Finns. Italian women and children together with those of other nationalities were transferred to Melbourne.  The Italian men were interned together with merchant seaman onboard.

Remo was loaded with cargo for several Australia ports including new machinery for a factory in Newcastle and technical equipment for Postmaster’s General Department. The ship was awarded to the Crown as Allied prize after the matter was heard in the Prize Court. By early July 1940, the Australian flag was flown from the Remo.

1940 ‘Australian Defence: Parachute Patrol: Britain’s Food Supply:’, Chronicle (Adelaide, SA: 1895 – 1954), 4 July, p. 25., viewed 04 Jun 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92396089

The crew of the Remo presented an interesting situation for Australian authorities. Were they prisoners of war or internees? In the first instant they were processed on 11.6.40 as ‘internees’. Officers were transferred to Fremantle Prison while the crew were transferred to an internment camp on Rottnest Island.  On 24 and 25th September 1940, officers and crew were transferred to Harvey Internment Camp.

The internment camp in Harvey where up to 1,000 Italians were detained during WWII. (Source: Harvey Historical Society)

In transit to Victoria, officers and crew were then sent from Harvey Camp 2nd April 1942 to Parkeston Transit Internment Camp.  This camp was situated 2 km north-east of Kalgoorlie on the Trans Australian railway line. It is recorded that the camp had accommodation for 20 internees in small cells.

The next stage of the journey was from Parkeston WA to Murchison Camp Victoria. One document records that these ‘internees’ were reassigned as ‘prisoners of war’ on 15th April 1942 as they departed for Murchison Camp. Other documents give the date 22nd June 1942 as the date of reassignment to POW.

The men arrived in Murchison on 18th April 1942.  The officers and their batmen from the Remo were sent to an officers’ camp at Myrtleford and the crew joined Italian soldiers at Murchison and other work placements in Victoria and Tasmania.

Cosmo Valente was an oiler on the Danish tanker Anglo Maersk when it docked in Fremantle Harbour. He was 60 years old when he was ‘arrested’ on 25.6.40 and sent to Rottnest Island Internment Camp.  As a lone Italian on the Anglo Maersk, he travelled with the group from the Remo.

The Remo was renamed the Reynella. It was used to transport foodstuffs and war materials from Australia to Great Britain. Some of the items on a 1940 run were jams, canned fruits, flour, wheat, tallow, hides and lead. In February 1949, the Reynella was no longer suitable for Australian services and the Federal Government offered the ship for sale to the Italian government for £1,875,000.

(1949).  Passenger-cargo ship Reynella anchored in Newcastle Harbour, New South Wales, 12 November 1949

By November 1949, newspapers report the ship had been sold to an Italian company and had returned to its original name Remo.

The Footprints Project

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

Did you know?

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

Over 300 articles have been written for the website.

The website has a wide reaching readership to over 120 countries!

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 and reports.

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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.

Feature article in Corriere della Sera [Italy] in March 2021.

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 two 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: The Australian prisoner of war uniform for Italians, Japanese and Germans.

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

Voices from the Pasttestimonials from Italian soldiers who worked on  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, letters written between Italian POW places in different states.

Photographs of Italian soldiers in full dress uniform, Italian soldiers in Italian and Libya during training, Italians as POWs with their farming 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, art work, theatre programs.

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

Identification of 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.

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

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 or an upgrade to the website.

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**What does the future hold

Currently there are three Italian based projects in progress which will further enhance and promote this research.

After six years of research, over 300 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.

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 over 80 years: the battles in the Mediterranean and in Libya 1940 to the present.

Over the past six 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 sixteen countries around the world.

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

Going for a Walk

On the 7th September 1946, at approximately 2200 hours, sixteen Italian officers from Myrtleford Prisoner of War Camp escaped.

The escape was executed by cutting away part of the wire encirclement. 

Two years before, two planned escapes were foiled.  On 22nd September 1944, Rolando Secondo and Allesandro Palamidessi were found ‘fully dressed’ after lights out. Then on the 28th September 1944, Cesare Scoccia and Laerte Crivellini were also found ‘fully dresses’ after lights out.

The Argus newspaper reported the 1946 escape on Monday 9th September 1946:

“Most of the escapees are typically Italian in appearance. Vicchi, however, is an exception. Aged 34, he is 5ft 9in weights 10st 7lb and has red hair. Gualtieri should be easily noticed among a crowd, as he stands 6ft 5 in in his socks and is of slim build. The manner of dress is not known. Some of the men may be wearing burgundy prison clothes; others are believed to be wearing sports clothes or uniform.  Only one of the escapees speaks good English. He is Walter Sabiano [Fabiano], who stands 6ft and has blue eyes and fair hair.” (1946 ‘SIXTEEN ITALIANS ESCAPE AT WHOROULY’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9 September, p. 20. , viewed 26 Sep 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22331454)

The reason for the 1946 escape was that the Italian officers were ‘going for a walk’. The authorities were concerned that the men might be heading for the Victoria/NSW border and military and civil police joined in the search for the men.

Walter Fabiano and Giuseppe Zappia were found 78 km from Myrtleford at Tallangatta on the 9th September 1946. They said that they had walked the entire distance.

Vinicio Sigon, Giovanni Vicchi, Alberto Vissani and Eriodante Domizioli were ‘captured’ at Buffalo Creek 16 km from camp on 11th September 1946.

Scipione Bobbio and Rolando Secondo were located at Moyhu 40km away from camp on the 11th September 1946.

Giovanni Battaglia, Gualtiero Gualtieri, Salvatore Scaffidi and Bonaventura Matera were located on the 11th September 1946 at Bobinawarrah, 28 kms from camp.

The last four Italians were captured at Wodonga, 65 km from camp: Cesare Soccia, Giorgio Cerio, Laerte Crivellini and Allessandro Palamidessi.

Six of the Italian officers who escaped on 7.9.46 are in the photo below.

Myrtleford, Australia. 5 November 1943. Group of Italian officer prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 5 POW Camp. Back row, left to right: Gualtiero Gualtieri; Ortali; Giunta; Laerte Crivellini; Cesare Scoccia; Allessandro Palimedessi; Mercurio.                        Front row: Giovanni Vicchi; De Gianni; E. Zingone; Benso; Eriodante Domizioli.        (AWM Image 030153/06 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

The men represented the navy, army and airforce and had varied backgrounds:

AIRFORCE

Lieutenant Eriodante Domizioli a student from Macerata; captured 14.9.41 Marmarica and served with the airforce.

Lieutenant Laerte Crivellini a pilot officer from Senigallia Ancoma; captured 14.9.41 South Sollum.

2nd Lieutenant Alessandra Palamidessi a student from Pisa; captured 14.9.41 Sidi Omar and served with the airforce.

NAVY

Lieutenant Giorgio Cerio an engineer from La Maddalena; captured 25.6.41 Beach North Libya.

ARMY

2nd Lieutenant Vinicio Sigon an army officer with the Alpine Troops from Gorizia; captured 30.12.40 Neviza Greece.

2nd Lieutenant Giovanni Vicchi a lawyer from Faenza; captured 20.1.41 Kala Albania.

2nd Lieutenant Alberto Vissani an accountant (attorney) from Macerata; captured 22.1.46 Hani Balaban Greece.

2nd Lieutenant Giuseppe Zappia an electrician from Lecce; captured 11.3.41 Albania

2nd Lieutenant Cesare Scoccia a doctor from Fornova Taro Parma; captured 4.3.41 Klisura Albania.

2nd Lieutenant Giovanni Battaglia a teacher from Palermo; captured 11.12.40 Buq Buq.

2nd Lieutenant Salvatore Scaffidi an agricultural expert/student from Reggio Campi Rione Reggio Calabria, captured 21.1.41 Tobruk.

2nd Lieutenant Rolando Secondo an expert electrician from Catania; captured 21.1.41 Tobruk.

2nd Lieutenant Walter Fabiano an accountancy student from Genova; captured 22.4.41 Dintorni Tobruk serving as a Bersalieri sniper.

2nd Lieutenant Scipione Bobbio a student from Napoli; captured 16.5.41 Tobruk.

2nd Lieutenant Gualtiero Gualtieri a chemist from Firenze; captured 6.2.41 Agedabia.

2nd Lieutenant Bonaventura Matera a student, clerk from Napoli; captured 7.2.41 Agedabia.

Going for a walk unescorted

Interestingly, is part of a document relating to Compound B No. 5 PW Camp Myrtleford.

It is specifically an agreement form between Italian officers and their Camp Commandant which outlines the rules for freedom of movement without an escort, outside of the camp.

B Compound  No 5 PW Camp Myrtleford

Dichiaro che il comandante il mio camp d’internamento mi ha spiegato che, suboratamente al suo consenso, potro avere liberta di movimento, dietro parola d’onore, durante le ora stabilita dal Comandante, sia per uscire ed entrare il mio camp, sia per passegiate, senza scorta, entro la distanza di miglia 3 da tale campo d’internamento.

Prometto e m’impegno sul mio onore di ufficiale che, fino alla revoca dei summenzionati privilegi da parte del Commandante il Campo, oppure fino a specifica revoca di questa promessa ed impegno da parte mia. (Nel ultimo caso, sette (7) giorni prima della data della revoca, prometto che avvertiro per iscritto al Comandante del Campo della mia intenzione di revocare l’impregno)

  • Non tentero di fuggire o di prepare una fuga per me or per qualsiasi altre persone,
  •  non faro acquisti tranne presso lo spaccio del mio camp d’internamente e non ricevero ne daro qualsiasi articolo ad alcuno
  • Non entrero ne mi avvicinero a qualsiasi zona militare o stabilimento della forza armate, locale di divertimento fuori del mio campo d’internamento, osteria edificio pubblico o privato, veicolo pubblico o private ne entrero la zona abitata de una citta o commune. (NAA: A7919, C104007)

Impersonating an Officer

So many Italian prisoners of war, so many individual stories.

I found Giuseppe Spinelli by accident.

A solicitor from Rome, Giuseppe was with an artillery unit when he was captured in Bardia 4th January 1941.

Upon arrival in Australia on 13th October 1941, his rank was recorded as “Lieutenant”

It was 13 months before the authorities realised that the rank of Giuseppe Spinelli was sergeant.

I thought, did Giuseppe believe he could impersonate an officer?

Did the officers in the camps of Egypt and on the voyage to Australia not realise his deceit?

I offer the suggestion that Giuseppe Spinelli was suffering from a serious injury or medical condition. 

Groups of Italian prisoners of war were being sent to Australia and my suggestion is that an Italian medical officer claimed him to be a lieutenant to accelerate his chances of getting out of Egypt and to better medical care!

Giuseppe arrived in Sydney on the Queen Mary on 13th October 1941.  On this transport, there were 110 Italian officers. Giuseppe did not travel by train to Cowra with the other Italians. Instead on the 14th October 1941, Giuseppe was taken to 113 AGH (Australian General Hospital) in Concord Sydney.

CONCORD MILITARY HOSPITAL. PHOTOGRAPH PUBLISHED IN AUSTRALIA IN THE WAR OF 1939-45, MEDICAL, VOL 2, MIDDLE EAST AND FAR EAST, PAGE 431. (AWM Image 043228)

The newspapers reported that two ambulances ‘took away two stretcher cases and a few other men who were sick’.

1941 ‘Prisoners of War’, Glen Innes Examiner (NSW: 1908 – 1954), 14 October, p. 1. , viewed 20 Aug 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article178556884

Upon arrival in Australia, he had a box of medicine which was returned to him on the 9th December 1941.

Giuseppe spent from 14th October 1941 in the 113 AGH until 5th December when he arrived at Murchison Camp.

Two months later, on the 5th February 1942, his record states: Falsely stated Lieut. – his status is Sgt.  

Maybe one day, Giuseppe’s family will tell me more of his story.

With Honour

Giuseppe Pierro a clerk from Rionero in Vulture (Potenza) died on 4th July 1945 at the 115 Heidelberg Military Hospital Victoria. As per requirements*, he was honourably buried at the Springvale War Cemetery.

He was the first Italian prisoner of war buried at this Commonwealth War Graves cemetery. His burial on 6th July 1945 was photographed by Henric Wingfiled Brammall.

Roman Catholic Chaplain JC English of the 115 Heidelberg Hospital lead the funeral cortege along the road to the cemetery and conducted the funeral service graveside. The funeral cortege consisted of a gun carriage carrying Giuseppe’s coffin. The coffin was covered by the Italian flag.  The pall bearers were Italian prisoners of war.

A solemn procession which acknowledged the life and death of Giuseppe Pierro was dignified and honourable.

Giuseppe Pierro is now laid to rest in peace at the Ossario Murchison Cemetery Victoria.

The Ossario Murchison (photo courtesy of Alex Miles)


*The Geneva Convention requirements relating to the deaths of prisoners of war state:
PART V

DEATHS OF PRISONERS OF WAR

Art. 76.
• The wills of prisoners of war shall be received and drawn up under the same conditions as for soldiers of the national armed forces.
• The same rules shall be followed as regards the documents relative to the certification of the death.
• The belligerents shall ensure that prisoners of war who have died in captivity are honourably buried, and that the graves bear the necessary indications and are treated with respect and suitably maintained.
(ICRC Archives)

Farmacista militare

An army has its medical and surgical unit, so it makes sense that it also has a pharmacy unit. This article honours those chemists who found themselves in the Chemist Reserve Unit in Libya. I would like to know further about these units and their operation as information remains elusive.

These chemists arrived in Australia on the Queen Mary 13th October 1941 and they departed on the Oranje 29th March 1943 as part of a mutual exchange arrangement with Italy.

They weren’t in Australia long enough to have their photos taken at the officers’ camp at Myrtleford and they returned to Italy before the Allies offence Operation Husky into Sicily in July 1943.

NB This list is not necessarily complete

Nicola Ferorelli from Molfetta [Bardia]

Giuseppe Allegri from Cassine (Alessandria) [Tobruk]

Mario Cassone from Alba (Cuneo) [Tobruk]

Mario Andreotti from Sorrento (Napoli) [Bardia]

Luigi Caione from Palena (Chieti) [Sidi el Barrani]

Rocco Giliberti from Avellino [Tobruk]

Romolo Lamberti from Roma [Bardia]

Valentino Mari from Torino [Agedabia]

Luigi Mutini from Mercatello (Pesaro) [Bardia]

Giorgio Polidori from Montemarciano (Ancona) [Halem Nibeua M.E. (9.12.1940)]

Celestino Riccardelli from Caserta (Napoli) [Agedabia]

Giuseppe Buono from Boscotrecase (Napoli) [Tobruk]

Vincenzo Troili from Genova [Bardia]

Raffaele Chiarelli from Torino [Agedabia]

Clerio Garrone from San Giorgio Canavese (Aosta) [Bardia]

Rocco Lo Faro from Favazzina (Reggio Calabria) [Tobruk]

Renzo Conti from Firenze [Bardia]

Attilio Tulimiero from Avellino [Tobruk]

a pastry chef from Genoa

Adolfo Allaria was on the Italian ship Romolo which was on a return voyage from Australia to Italy when Mussolini declared war on 10th June 1940. Rescued in the Coral Sea, he was transferred to Townsville Gaol and Gaythorne Camp Queensland, Hay Camp New South Wales, Loveday Camp South Australia and Murchison Camp Victoria.

In October 1943 he was transferred to a farm placement with the Kurrle family in the Leongatha district.

Adolfo Allaria on the right with Lynette and Frank Kurrle and an unnamed Italian prisoner of war (AWM Image P95423.002)

The Kurrle family donated three items to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) Collection: the photo above, a model house and Adolfo’s letter to the children.

The AWM records the following:

Informal portrait of two Italian prisoners of war (POW) on the Kurrle farm at Korumburra with Lynette and Frank Kurrle and a model house which was gifted to the children. The man holding Frank Kurrle is Adolfo Allaria (PWIM7134) a ship’s pastrycook in civilian life, who made this model house and presented it on 8 February 1944 to Lynette and Frank as a keepsake of his time with the family. The children are dressed in their Sunday best and have just returned from church; Sunday was also the day on which prisoners were allowed to visit other prisoners.

Model House gifted by Adolfo Allaria to the Kurrle children (AWM REL35288.001)

This unique item is a reminder of the special friendships formed between an Italian sailor and Australian farming children. Details of the house describe it as, “Two storey model Italianate style house with elaborate decoration, a small garden, open windows and doors, and interior furnishing details, made from a composition material – possibly plaster and sawdust. Mounted on a wooden base. A small plaque on the front of the roof reads ‘7134 P of W’ and an illegible placename.

Model house made by Italian prisoner of war (POW) 7134 Aldolfo Allaria for Lynette (born 1940) and Frank (born 1939) Kurrle, the son and daughter of Edith and Jack Kurrle of Korumburra, Victoria. Jack Kurrle owned and ran a 300 acre dairy and pig farm situated approximately three kilometres from Korumburra.”

Rarely do we see such a poignant collection of related items.

Adolfo’s gesture was clear, as indicated in his letter: a keepsake so that Frank and Lynette would have something to remember him by.

Letter written by Adolfo Allaria to Lynette and Frank Kurrle (AWM REL35288.002)

The AWM notes that, After the war he [Adolfo] returned to working aboard ships as a patsrycook, including between Italy and New York aboard the ship ‘Saturnia’ in the mid 1950s.”

A first…

Sometimes, the little details get missed.

I have seen a letter dated XXII, a plaque for a Cowra fountain dated XXI but for the first time I have seen a date for the fascist calendar used on a REPORT ON PRISONER OF WAR: XIX.

Rocco Cariglia was with Maritime Command Tobruk when he was captured in Libya on 5th January 1941.  On 22nd October 1941, nine days after arriving in Australia, he signed and dated his Report on Prisoner of War.

Is this unusual? 

I doubt that the Australian army clerk processing the form or Lieutenant McCarthy who signed the form noticed these few strokes of the pencil/pen.

And if they did, did they realise the statement Rocco was making.

Rocco Cariglia from Gargamico [Foggia]

From Cowra Camp Rocco was transferred to Murchison Camp in Victoria before being transferred to Western Australia. He departed Australia on the Chitral in September 1946.

This discovery is a reminder that the prisoner of war forms are filled with little bits of information which helps create ‘the bigger picture’.

Uniform Regulations

Article 12 of the PW Convention, inter-alia, reads:-

“Clothing, underwear and footwear shall be supplied to prisoners of war by the detaining Power. The regular replacement and repair of such articles shall be assured.  Workers shall also receive working kit wherever the nature of the work requires it.”

What the records tell us

All prisoners of war were allowed to wear their badges of rank and insignia on their uniforms.

Clothing items, except for pyjamas, could not be purchased from the Canteen.

Clothing Issue

1 hat (a)1 hair brush
1 overcoat (a)1 shaving brush
2 coats, medical detachment (a)1 toothbrush
2 pairs of trousers, medical detachment (a)2 pairs of short cotton underwear (b)
1 pullover, labour detachment (a)1 comb
1 pair of trousers, labour detachment (a)2 pairs of woollen and cotton underwear (c)
1 pair of shorts (a) (b)1 jersey pullover (c)
1 pair of shoes1 safety razor with blade (d)
1 pair of laces2 flannel shirts
1 pair of braces2 cotton singlets (b)
2 pairs of woollen socks2 wool and cotton singlets (c)
2 towels3 cotton handkerchiefs
  • (a) Dyed burgundy
  • (b) Summer
  • (c) Winter
  • (d)One new blade a week in exchange for old blade

N.C.O.s and other prisoners of war

This group received a free issue of clothing and necessaries.

All articles were replaced free of charge when necessary.  Facilities were provided for repairs to shoes and clothing and prisoners of war employed as bootmakers, tailors, cobblers.

Prisoner of War Officers

Officers and men of equivalent rank must provide their own items and paid for at their expense. The clothing was manufactured in Australia and issued by authorities. Replacement officer uniforms were made after measurements were taken.  Completed uniforms were made in a venetian grey material, and cost approx. £5 each. The exception was for Japanese officers who were supplied with magenta dyed Australian Military Forces uniforms only but were allowed to wear any national uniforms they had in their possession.

Guerre 1939-1945. Myrtleford. Camp 5 B. Prisonniers de guerre italiens.

Camp 5B Myrtleford June 1943 ICRC V-P-HIST-03290-33A

Merchant Seamen Prisoners of War

Both officers and other ranks merchant seamen were provided with clothing and other items free of charge. Merchant Seamen officers and other ranks did not receive a payment as did other prisoner of war. When arrested, they had been in the employment of shipping companies. There was no agreement with the Italian government to provide a stipend (payment) for merchant seamen.

For this group, the seven first articles on the above list were replaced by a peaked cap, an overcoat, a vest and a pair of trousers suitable for merchant marines.  The material used was a dark green cloth.  The two flannel shirts were grey and had two collars each.  A blue tie was also issued.

What do the photos from Myrtleford Camp tell us

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

Non regulation overcoat possibly made from government issue blanket (centre)

Group Number 27 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-27

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Groupe numéro 23. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. Group number 23.

Non regulation fleecy winter vests Group Number 23 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-32

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp.

Handmade plaited belt?

February 1945 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-19A

Guerre 1939-1945. Myrtleford. Prisonniers de guerre italiens.

Regardless of being a prisoner of war, the officers wore their uniforms with pride

Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-03290-36A